§ Debate resumed on the Motion moved yesterday by the Lord Lucas of Chilworth—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".
§ 3.9 p.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Young)
My Lords, it was my privilege yesterday to congratulate the Mover and Seconder of the Address for their excellent speeches. Today I rise to make my own speech on the humble Address and the subject of today's debate is, of course, home and social affairs.
But before I begin my speech I would like to say a word of congratulation to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, who for the first time this afternoon sits on the Front Bench opposite as Leader of the Opposition. He has not been a Member of your Lordships' House for all that many years but I think I can say that in the time that he has been here he has gained the respect and affection of all parts of your Lordships' House. I look forward very much to working with him, and 1 am sure the whole House will wish to join me in wishing him well as the Session begins.
I should like also to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, who appears for the first time as Opposition Chief Whip. I hope that, both through the usual channels and at other times, we shall enjoy many discussions on our business. We wish him every success and happiness in his job.
My Lords, I should also like to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Peart. As the House well knows, he has been Leader not only of your Lordships' House, but of another place. I so well recall the time that he came to this House as Leader in 1976. That was not an easy time and I think all of us admired the way in which he learnt our customs and procedures so quickly. He has been Leader of the party opposite in this House for six years. I would like to thank him for all that he has done, not only for the Benches opposite, but for the House as a whole.
§ Baroness Young
At the general election three years ago the Conservative Party set out clearly the aims and purposes which it would pursue in government. We spoke then of our determination to bring to an end the long decline which our country had suffered at home and abroad in both material and moral terms. Attitudes, particularly, and values had to be reappraised and reshaped not just on the factory floor and in the boardroom, but in the home and in school. Our economic policy plays a very large part in providing a basis for recovery. But the fresh spirit of endeavour, responsibility and initiative that this policy is designed to encourage is by no means limited to that one department of our domestic affairs. It forms a common thread running through all our policies at home.
21 The tasks which this Government have set themselves are immense—the restoration of real prosperity, self-respect and stability to our country. None of these tasks is easy. Yet the very size of our task reinforces our determination to succeed. And in pursuing our goals, we carry with us the support of all those, the great majority of our country, who in 1979 showed that they recognised the need for a clear reaffirmation of the standards and values that had for too long been overshadowed and obscured by transient and passing fashions of the last generation which undermined our faith in ourselves. At the last election, we gave high priority to the maintenance of the rule of law. It is all to easy to lose sight of the simple truth that crime is committed by individuals; that acts of lawlessness are not carried out by "environmental and social factors "; nor can responsibility be shuffled off on to the police force or on to the Government. Upholding the law cannot be left to someone else. We believe that all our citizens share a direct personal responsibility for ensuring that the law is respected and maintained.
It is in that spirit that all our legislation concerned with law and order has been framed. There must be a true and lasting partnership between the community at large and the police force who are not, and never should be, an arm of Government but a part of a wider community, belonging to the people, in tune with the people and drawing their strength from the people. Without such a concept of policing, we shall not have in society that commitment to the law which alone can give us the vital framework that binds a society together.
We shall underline the importance of mutual confidence between the police and the community they serve in our legislation this Session. The gracious Speech made reference to the Government's intention of bringing forward a Police and Criminal Evidence Bill. Its principal sections are based firmly on Part I of the report of the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure to modernise the powers of the police, and at the same time to safeguard the rights of citizens.
The essential task of binding together the police and the community they serve will also be carried forward by the other provisions of this legislation. Where the police are believed, rightly or wrongly, to be at fault in any set of circumstances, grave damage can so easily be done if complaints that are made, whether frivolous or serious, are not dealt with efficiently and authoritatively. In order to strengthen the confidence of the community in its police force, an improved system for handling complaints against the police is to be instituted.
When the complaint is of a minor character, it is our firm conviction that it should be dealt with as informally as possible, without resort to a huge array of formal regulations. On the other hand, however, when the complaint raises a really serious issue, there is a real possibility that public confidence in the police may be fatally impaired, if justice is not seen to have been done in the clearest possible terms. For that reason, we are proposing that more serious complaints shall be investigated by an independent assessor. The task of the assessor will be, in the words of our recently published White Paper, to ensure that complaints are investigated "expeditiously, thoroughly and impartially".
22 The police force needs and deserves public support and public involvement springing from a clear acceptance by the public of its duties and responsibilities. But it needs more than that. If it is to do its job properly, it must have a full and sufficient range of powers to respond to the many problems it encounters. The Philips Commission recommended that gaps which exist in the law at present—for example, in such areas as search and arrest—should be closed. Therefore, the commission's recommendations that the police be given adequate powers to stop and search for offensive weapons and stolen goods will be given effect under the Bill. Furthermore, these new powers will be standardised, taking exactly the same form throughout all areas of the country. And the police will also be given new powers to help them search for evidence where they believe that a serious offence has been committed.
It is because we recognise what crime means for individuals, for the innocent people on the receiving end, that for this Government the maintenance of law and order will always be among the first of our priorities. Since 1979, we have enormously strengthened the ability of the police force to face the serious challenge of rising crime which Britain, in common with almost every other country, has to tackle. At the same time, we have laid great stress on the contribution that all law-abiding members of the community can make. We inherited a criminal justice system that failed to provide the courts with the wide range of powers that they need to deal adequately with the great variety of offenders—especially young offenders—who come before them. Our criminal justice legislation in the last Session altered the balance. In our legislation this Session, the task of reshaping our system of criminal legislation will be continued.
The development of rights and duties for members of our community should go hand in hand. In our forthcoming Data Protection Bill we shall be providing members of the community with new rights to protect them against the misuse of information held on computers. We seek to provide reassurance that personal information held on computers will not be abused or misused. It will put the United Kingdom in a position to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Data Protection.
The Bill will give effect to the proposals in the White Paper published in April, 1982. It will establish an independent registrar—the key figure in these new arrangements—who will maintain a register of all users of automatically processed personal data (subject to certain exemptions). The Bill will not apply to data held in manual form, and it will be limited to information held about individuals. It will become a criminal offence to use automatically processed personal data without being registered. Through the register, it will become possible to know the extent to which personal data is processed and enable citizens to discover who may be processing data about them.
The registrar will be charged with the task of ensuring that users comply with certain general principles on data protection which are included in the European Convention. These principles concern the collection, use and disclosure of data, their accuracy and relevance and the measures taken to keep them secure. The registrar will be empowered to issue notices against a user breaching any of these principles, and non-compliance with such a notice will be a 23 criminal offence. The Bill will also provide a right for individuals to have access to data held about them, and to have the data corrected or erased if they are held in breach of any of the general principles. In addition, certain new civil remedies will be created by the Bill to enable a person who suffers damage to obtain compensation.
It is increasingly important that the United Kingdom should make provision for data protection because of the action being taken among our trading partners. Eight European countries now have data protection legislation in force, and two have recently ratified the Council of Europe Convention. In some countries there may develop a reluctance to allow personal data to be sent for processing in any other country which does not have comparable safeguards. The British information technology industry, to which the Government attach such great importance, could therefore suffer if data protection legislation is delayed in the United Kingdom. Thus the Bill has an important role in protecting an aspect of privacy on which there has long been public concern. It has also considerable commercial significance. Once in force it will bring the United Kingdom into conformity with international standards on data protection, will enable the United Kingdom to ratify the European Convention and will safeguard this country's increasingly valuable trade in data processing.
Many Members will be personally interested in the important National Heritage Bill, which will start in your Lordships' House. This Bill will establish a Commission for Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings which will assume responsibility in England for a number of functions currently carried out by the Secretary of State for the Environment—in particular the preservation of ancient monuments in the Government's care, their presentation to the public and the conservation of historic buildings and areas by means of grants. The commission will bring together a number of organisations in this field, including the Historic Buildings Council and the Ancient Monuments Board for England, and will provide a central and dedicated voice for conservation. The Government see a major role for the new body in tapping the undoubted goodwill that exists towards this part of our heritage through private donations, sponsorship, voluntary assistance and other means. The new body would also be able to achieve better presentation of sites for educational and recreational purposes, and would be able to use private sector expertise in this area. The National Heritage Bill will also transfer responsibility from Government departments to new independent boards of trustees for the management and control of institutions charged with the care of some other parts of our national heritage—the Science and Victoria and Albert Museums, the Tower armouries and the Royal Botanic Gardens. As a result, they will be brought into line with other national trustee museums in England and Wales, acquiring a more satisfactory framework for their management and accountability. They will thus be better placed to play their part in preserving and extending the fabric of the country's heritage—a resource of great richness and diversity.
There will also be two Health Bills. One, the Mental Health Amendment (Scotland) Bill, will extend to 24 Scotland the new arrangements now in force in England and Wales. The other, the Health and Social Services Bill, will have as its principal objective the introduction of more effective arrangements to permit more care to be provided in the community, rather than in institutions, for groups such as the mentally ill, mentally handicapped and the elderly. It will also provide the best possible services for children, particularly those most vulnerable or at risk.
This represents an important development of our new approach to community care, which was discussed in our recent consultative document. Here again we are seeking to emphasise the responsibility of individuals by enabling people who do not need to be in hospital to be cared for in the community. We believe that the community should be able to exercise a greater degree of responsibility. Many friends and relations want to look after those in need of help whom they know personally. They must be encouraged and helped to do so.
The aim of our housing policy has been to give as many as possible a direct stake in the community by owning their own homes. So far over 350,000 council houses have been sold, and over half a million tenants have applied to buy their own houses. Such figures demonstrate the success and popularity of this policy which we now seek to extend.
Early in the Session we shall be introducing the Housing and Building Control Bill, which will extend the right to buy (already conferred on most local authority and other public sector secure tenants by the Housing Act 1980) to those whose landlord does not own the freehold of their dwellings. It will turn some 50,000 secure tenants of municipal leasehold property along with 80.000 housing association tenants in England and Wales into potential home-owners.
So far I have talked about the need for individual and collective responsibility within the community. But there is a need for government to be responsible in its own operations, and that means being efficient and giving good value for money. And so I should like to conclude by drawing your attention to a small but significant part of the gracious Speech in which I have a particular interest. This is where it says that the Government "will promote efficiency and good management, especially in their own operations".
The fact that it is mentioned in the gracious Speech is itself an indication of the importance and priority we attach to improved efficiency and better management throughout the Civil Service as a Government policy in its own right. This task involves identifying, supporting and spreading good management practice and systems in departments, as well as monitoring, questioning and auditing performance in securing them. We have made considerable progress since we took office. But we still have a long way to go. We need to sustain the momentum by building on the work we have done and extending it to new areas.
First, we shall maintain tight controls over the total resources available. This is essential to provide the spur and pressure for greater economy and efficiency. Thus we shall continue to apply strict cash limits and ensure that our overall target of a Civil Service of 630,000 by 1st April 1984 is met. We are well on course for achieving this.
Second, we have launched the financial management initiative. This is designed to ensure the 25 systematic application of higher standards of financial management across all departments by building on the work which many of them are already doing. The main aims here are to give managers at all levels a clear view of their objectives with appropriate means of measuring whether they are meeting them, coupled with well-defined responsibility for the use of the resources they control and the information they need to exercise their responsibilities. All departments are now drawing up their plans to give effect to this initiative, and these are due to be completed by the end of January next year.
Third, we shall continue our programme of studies of particular functions and operations of Government. Experience has shown that, in pursuing greater efficiency, there is often no substitute for a detailed on-the-ground look at what actually goes on and why, to see whether it is necessary or could be done in a better way. The aims are to get down to the essentials, to streamline procedures as much as possible and to secure greater value for money and an improved service to the public. Such studies are not just concerned with immediate improvements, important though they are. They are also about bringing in arrangements for the efficient management of the operation in the longer term and contributing to general lessons on best practice which can be disseminated and applied more widely. As I have said, departments do much of this themselves. But we also initiate studies from the centre through our programme of Rayner scrutinies, service-wide reviews and other efficiency studies.
Fourthly, we are vigorously pursuing the implementation of the completed work. Finally, and very importantly, we are tackling the personnel side of all this. Without the right managers in place and in prospect, we shall fall well short of what we want to achieve. We are therefore developing a more formal system of succession planning in the Civil Service, targetted on getting people with the right skills and experience into key jobs. In making such moves and, in particular, in filling the very top posts in the service, we shall be placing more emphasis on an individual's track record and abilities in management. We are also putting more effort into our arrangements for identifying and bringing on the potential senior managers of the future from amongst our younger and more junior staff. Linked to this is the question of training, where we are expanding our courses in management skills and techniques, particularly in financial management. But I would like to say this. The progress we have made so far is largely due to the civil servants themselves, both in carrying out the programmes I have outlined and in translating them into action on the ground. Future progress will similarly depend in large measure on their efforts, and I know that they will not be found wanting, and we are very grateful to them.
Some of our political opponents believe that the institutions of the state should direct and control the social and economic affairs of our country. This Conservative Government have a different view. We believe that the state and its citizens should work together in close harmony with a common sense of purpose accepted by both but not imposed from above. Towards the old, the sick and the deprived, the state has a very direct and special responsibility; it must and will be retained. But in our view the state is 26 one constituent element—a vital one, certainly—of the wider community with which it must at all times be associated. The state has no exclusive responsibility. It must be shared by members of the wider community who wish to accept and discharge responsibilities for themselves.
That view of our society has directly influenced the shape and content of the domestic measures announced in this gracious Speech. Those who think that this Government are concerned only with a narrow range of economic questions mistake our fundamental purpose. We seek a new spirit of responsibility and determination throughout the community; only when they have been achieved will the purposes for which we were elected in 1979 be accomplished.
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
My Lords, I would like to begin by thanking the noble Baroness the leader of the House for her characteristic courtesy in referring in such amiable and generous terms to my noble friends Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede on undertaking the great offices in Opposition, which I am sure they will conduct with relentless propriety as time goes on. May I also thank the noble Baroness for her appropriately generous tribute, in which we all shared, to my noble friend Lord Peart.
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
His service to the state and to Parliament, to the people and to my own party has been quite unique. He has been Leader of both Houses and holder of some of the great offices of state. We owe him a great deal and we rejoice, of course, in the knowledge that he will continue to be among us and no doubt will continue to take part in our future proceedings.
This is the first day of the debate on the Queen's Speech in its consideration of home and social affairs. We note among the list of distinguished speakers the name of my noble friend Lord Rea, and we all look forward to hearing his maiden speech.
The paragraphs in the Queen's Speech dealing with home affairs begin:My Government are deeply aware of the anxieties and distress caused by unemployment".I have no doubt that that is so; what we find disturbing is how little that concern is reflected in positive steps to deal with the problem. What is said is:My Government will maintain the monetary and fiscal policies necessary to achieve these ends, including continued restraint in public spending".The Opposition case, which will no doubt be developed in detail by my noble friends during the economic debate on Wednesday, is that those very policies have in large part been responsible for creating the present deep economic depression and have contributed substantially to creating the continuing rise in the levels of unemployment.
Overall, we submit that the proposals in the gracious Speech appear to do little to bring relief to the jobless up and down the country. In September of this year unemployment rose to a record 3.34 million people—or 14 per cent. of the workforce. This is the 27 highest total ever recorded in the United Kingdom. According to the OECD standardised figures, Britain's unemployment rate is higher and has risen faster during the recession than that of any other major developed country. In the first quarter of this year the percentage out of work in the United Kingdom—then 12.5 per cent. and now 14 per cent.—was far higher than that of Germany at 5.5 per cent., France at 8.2 per cent., Italy at 9.1 per cent. and the United States of America at 8.6 per cent.
Long-term unemployment is also growing rapidly. The number of people who have been out of work for more than a year rose to more than 1 million in July of this year compared with 627,000 in July 1981 and 364,000 in July 1980. The real job shortage, which takes into account the unregistered unemployed and those kept off the register by short-time working and special job measures, is now more than 4 million and can be expected to continue to rise, according to the forecasts, to 5 million. There are now 31 people registered as unemployed for every notified vacancy.
The pattern of unemployment is spread unevenly. There are marked disparities between social groups, occupations, industries and regions. Tragically, Northern Ireland consistently has the highest unemployment level in the United Kingdom—now more than 20 per cent. In the North it is more than 18 per cent. and in Wales it is more than 17 per cent. While unemployment is rising faster in manufacturing industry, it is still proportionately higher in the construction industry and related industries. One in four construction workers is unemployed, at a time when housing conditions in some of our big cities are appalling.
All this is happening while in June of this year manufacturing output fell to its lowest point since 1967. Production of industry as a whole has been stagnant since the beginning of 1981. Sir Terence Beckett, the director-general of the CBI, said on 30th July:Things look decidely worse than they did a few months ago. Bumping along the bottom is no longer a fair assessment of what is happening. The evidence of no upturn is overwhelming".I make no apology in a debate on home affairs for emphasising this part of a sombre story because it lies at the root of a great deal of the other problems and difficulties we are facing as a society. Some social groups have proved to be more vulnerable than others. Over past years the number of women unemployed has increased three times as fast as that of men. Incidentally, in this connection I welcome the reference in the Queen's Speech to proposals to amend the law on equal pay, in the light of a judgment of the European Court, and to introduce the concept of equal pay for work of equal value. I am sure that will give particular pleasure to the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, who indeed does work equal to that of any of us.
Perhaps even graver than the damage done to the position of women at work has been the damage caused by unemployment to young people. The number of young people under 25 constitute 40 per cent. of the total of jobless. More than a quarter of a million of the young have been out of work for longer than a year. Unemployment among the ethnic minorities has risen even faster than the national average, with dangerous potential consequences. 28 Discrimination against job applicants from the ethnic minorities makes the position worse. The resultant racial tensions and feelings of alienation among the young blacks are facts of life which we would be unwise to brush aside or ignore.
This is a witches' brew. All of those who, like myself, were brought up in working class homes in the '20s and '30s in industrial South Wales will remember unemployment as a grim social evil. It can tear families apart, unemployed father from employed son or unemployed son from employed father. Few things are more destructive of family life than unemployment. Yet the health, security and indeed holding together of the family as a unit is crucial to the sustaining of our society, and above all to that consensus that the Leader of the House was referring to as a hoped-for achievement. Unemployment is humiliating, an affront to a man or woman's self-respect and dignity.
In the debate on the Address two years ago, at a time when unemployment in Wales stood at 12 per cent.—it is now 17 per cent.—I ventured to draw the attention of the House to the warning given by the House of Commons Select Committee on Welsh Affairs, the majority of whose members, incidentally, were Conservative. It 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 condemed to suffer the worklessness of the 1930s Wales is unlikely to respond with the apathy and despair of those days.Happily, it is not in Wales that the deplorable outbursts of social disorder, like those in Brixton and Toxteth and other places, have occurred. But the need to heed the warning still applies in Wales, as elsewhere in the country.
Now I come to the theme of law and order, upon which the Leader of the House very properly concentrated. Already unemployment has made its impact on law and order in our society. As to whether it is justifiable to lay the whole of the blame on the Government is a proposition about which there will obviously be different views in different parts of the House. But may I venture to draw attention to what was said in February 1978, when the Labour Government was in Office. Mr. Whitelaw, the present Home Secretary, said then:There has been a dramatic rise in unemployment among boys and girls. That is the responsibility of this Government.No qualifications, no courteous generous possibilities that other factors may have been at work, no world recession, no economic depression over which this country had no full control, were raised. Then this statement continued:Let no one have any doubt about the danger that that has created in terms of crimes of all sorts, violence and vandalism. If boys and girls do not obtain jobs when they leave school they feel that society has no need of them. If they feel that, they do not see any reason why they should take part in that society and comply with its rules. That is what is happening, and wherever we sit in this House that is what we have to recognise.At that time there were only 1 ½ million unemployed men and women; today there are more than twice as many. Earlier, in October 1976, Mr. Whitelaw—he is a man of normal generosity—said when both crime and unemployment were even less prevalent than they are today,A Government that cannot protect its own citizens from attack in the streets of its towns and cities, that cannot protect property 29 from damage or homes from intrusion has failed to live up to the basic duties of government.It was a fierce indictment addressed to those of us who then had the responsibility of Government. But the scene is far darker today. The number of serious crimes committed has increased year by year since this Government have been in office, and it began before that. After the reduction in crime recorded and welcomed in 1977 and 1978, the figures rose from 557,000 in 1979 to 631,000 in 1981. These were serious crimes. At the same time the number of arrests fell, and there was a big reduction in what the police call crimes cleared up, from 119,000 in 1977 to 106,000 in 1981. There was a serious decline in the detection rate.
Last week the Home Office figures of criminal statistics for England and Wales showed that in 1981 almost 3 million notifiable offences were committed, 10 per cent. up on 1980, and the highest figure recorded since such statistics were first published. The Select Committee of the House on Unemployment, in its report of May 1982, said this:We believe unemployment to be among the causes of ill-health, mortality, crime or civil disorders.The Home Secretary recognised that certainly it was a key factor in the volume of crime that was existing in those far less troubled days. The Select Committee added this:From the evidence we conclude that it is unrealistic to confine the costs of unemployment to those which directly affect the economy, to Exchequer costs or to losses of output and personal deprivation. We must seek to include some notional sum to reflect burdens laid on the National Health Service, the social services, the police and the judicial system, not to mention damage to persons and property.They estimated an additional charge to the Exchequer amounting to at least some hundreds of pounds for every person employed, that to be added to the cost of keeping men and women on the dole.
A further problem to which I think it right to refer is that young unemployed offenders are at a disadvantage in getting a job. A vicious circle is created—conviction makes it difficult to get a job; unemployment leads to further offences. Furthermore, perhaps understandably, magistrates are more inclined to pass custodial sentences on young people who do not have a job to go to.
To turn to perhaps a parallel and certainly relevant matter, I note that the Queen's Speech makes no reference to the crisis in prisons. There are now about 44,000 prisoners. We discussed this festering sore in our penal system at length during the debates on the Criminal Justice Bill. I understand that the Home Office forecasts that on present assumptions the prison population will reach 52,000 by the end of this decade. I shall not traverse again the ground that was covered in debates on the Criminal Justice Bill and the exposure then of the intolerable and inhuman conditions prevailing in so many of the prisons for so many of the prisoners. But I should like to ask the noble Minister, who so nobly bore the heat and burden of the Bill, to tell the House when he winds up whether the Government are to use the power to lower the period which a prisoner must serve before release on parole is possible. It is now 12 months. The exercise of that power could make a contribution, however modest, to relieving the intolerable prison pressures and limit the risks of disorder in our prisons.
I note the reference in the Queen's Speech to the 30 support of the work of the services for the prevention of crime. This touches upon the fact that the major problem of crime is not so much the inadequacy of sentencing power given to the judges and the magistrates—they have plenty, particularly in the matter of fines, since the passing of the Criminal Justice Act—but that criminals are too often confident that they will neither be caught nor punished. The surest way to reduce the crime rate is the certainty of the criminal being detected, caught and convicted. For that the police need as much help from the public as they can get. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who opened the debate, that tackling crime is not just a problem for the police or the courts but for all of us in society—families, schools, churches and voluntary societies. It is a struggle to which we must all contribute.
We certainly await with interest to learn of the new arrangements for consultation between the police and the community, to which the Queen's Speech referred, and what is proposed by way of reform of the police complaints procedures. One of the difficulties of debating the Queen's Speech is that the Minister knows what the detail of the provisions are, or many of them, knowing the industry of the noble Baroness, but, on the whole, we have to wait and see. But there is probably common ground that too big a gap has grown in many places between the police and the public and it is excellent that a new attempt is now to be made to bridge that gap.
Before I end I shall refer to one constructive proposal in the Queen's Speech which appears to me and the Leader of the Opposition, as a Welshman, to be a positive proposal to reduce unemployment. That is, the proposed Bill to provide for the construction of a road tunnel across the Conway Estuary, where that great castle was built by Edward I who was, I regret to say, a king that no Welshman ever has loved for reasons of sordid detail that I shall not this day enter into. At any rate, the building of that road tunnel will not only relieve greatly the congestion in the Colwyn Bay-Conway area but will also provide much needed employment there. I hope I may express the wish that preference will be given to the local unemployed.
In this connection, the Leader of the House referred to the passage in the Queen's Speech about the protection of our cultural heritage. I did not notice any reference to the cultural heritage of Wales or Scotland. They have it. My goodness, they have it in a big way. Therefore, when there is time to deal with equally important aspects of the preservation of our culture, Wales and Scotland are entitled to consideration.
I end by returning to the theme on which I began. We believe that the only real remedy for the rise in unemployment, poverty and destitution in Britain, and for the increase in crime which has in part resulted, is to take steps to put the unemployed back to work and not to rely on temporary palliatives. We do not accept the attitude of despair that nothing can be done to stem this dark tide.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ Lord Wigoder
My Lords, my noble friends on the Liberal and SDP Benches would, I know, want me to begin by offering my congratulations to the noble Lords, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos and Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, on their election. They will make 31 formidable associates as we attack together from time to time, I hope constructively, the policies of Her Majesty's Government. They will make formidable oppponents as we attack, equally frequently, the policies, or lack of them, of Her Majesty's Opposition. We wish both noble Lords well in their uphill task. We also associate ourselves with the tributes that have been paid to the noble Lord, Lord Peart, who has held such high offices of state, always with distinction, charm and courtesy.
Perhaps I might at the same time say to the noble Baroness the Leader of the House how grateful we are to her for the indication that she gave yesterday that a number of measures are to be introduced into your Lordships' House. I think she named three. There has now been some elucidation as to what they are. I know that we are all eagerly looking forward to spending many stimulating hours discussing the issues, first, of mobile homes, secondly, of ancient monuments, and, thirdly, of international transport conventions.
I want to devote my observations this afternoon to two Bills which will be introduced and are foreshadowed in the Queen's Speech, both of which affect, and are affected by, the relationship between the police and the community. I think that that relationship is one of the fundamental issues with which we must deal if we are to create a law-abiding society. Those are the two Bills extending the powers of the police in relation to stop and search and, the other, dealing with the complaints procedures against police officers. I think that it is self-evident that confidence between the public and the police is at a all-time low. The reasons for that, I suppose, are first the comparatively small number but very well publicised cases in which there has been substantial misconduct by police officers relating either to corruption or, sometimes, to perjury and the creation of evidence. Unhappily, the result of that, as anyone who practices in the courts knows, is that there are grave difficulties in persuading juries to accept police evidence unless it is substantially corroborated from other sources. That is one cause of the difficulty.
The second cause—one must face up to it—is the fact that something of a minor industry has grown up of people who are quite deliberately fabricating complaints against the police, and the media are deliberately publicising those complaints. I have no doubt there is a section of our community who are indulging in that sort of activity because they regard that as a helpful way, from their point of view, of attempting to overthrow one of the basic components of our society. Indeed, there was a particularly bad instance of that only a few weeks ago when one of our more distinguished Sunday papers devoted a vast amount of publicity to an appalling complaint alleging misbehaviour by police officers, which subsequently turned out to be completely fabricated from start to finish. That fact was dealt with by only a small notice in the corner of the newspaper withdrawing totally what had been given such publicity a few weeks earlier.
The third problem perhaps—I mention it with a little hesitation—is that individual police officers are intelligent, restrained and disciplined individuals, yet when they come together under the auspices of their federation only too often they appear to behave in a way which would arouse the curiosity of any peace- 32 loving member of the Manchester United Supporters' Club. These are all issues which I believe must be faced. We must take positive steps—there is no short-term solution—to try to get the atmosphere right as between the police and the public.
The noble Lord, Lord Scarman, in his report stressed the importance of community policing and in particular of setting up statutory liaison committees between the police and local authorities and local organisations. I know that the Government have taken that message very much to heart and I am delighted that they have done so. I do not think that we should accept that simply to set up a structure of organisation in that way, will in itself solve the problem; it will take many months of very hard work by everybody concerned before we can seriously increase the confidence as between police and public. It will require an on-going programme of contact at all levels between the police and the public, starting I think in the schools and extending outwards and upwards so that we can reach a stage—and we certainly have not begun to do so at present—where the police are accepted by the community as being members of the community and where there will be full, active, happy co-operation between them in the interests of law and order and of combating the increase in the crime rate.
There is one other way in which I believe that confidence in the police can be very much increased; that is by the Government pressing forward—and I know that they are taking steps in this direction—to consider how an independent prosecuting solicitor service can be set up which will cover the whole of the country, and which will take away from the police the burden that at the moment they have, of not merely investigating offences but also of prosecuting them. That seems to me to place a wholly unnecessary burden—not only a manpower burden, but a burden in general terms—on the shoulders of the police. I doubt whether they want it, and I think that it gives rise to a great deal of mistrust and misconception as between the public and the police. I know that there is a committee sitting at present to consider the extent to which such a national service can be implemented, and it may be that in due course the noble Lord, Lord Elton, will be able to say a little about how that is going. At present the absence of such a system very much sours relationships with the public.
The stop and search measure that is proposed will require consideration against that background, because if the powers of the police to stop and search are increased in an atmosphere of hostility between the police and the public, it will do nothing but harm. That is why I believe that it is absolutely essential that we get the atmosphere right first, before we begin to proceed to extend those powers.
I do not think that, in themselves, the proposals to extend the powers can seriously be challenged. Beyond any question the present powers are ineffective. On the last figures which I saw there is no doubt that as regards those cases where people are stopped on suspicion of having stolen property about them, in some 10 per cent. of the cases that turns out to be correct. There is no doubt that on the figures as regards people who are stopped on suspicion that they have drugs in their possession, in something like a third of the cases that turns out to be correct. I do not think that it would be responsible to suggest for one moment 33 that those powers could or should be diminished.
The problems with which I hope the legislation will deal are, first, that the present powers are very patchy—they are not uniform throughout the country and depend very much on local by-laws; and secondly, for what may be reasons of historical accident, although there is power to stop and search for stolen property, for drugs and various other odd things such as stolen birds eggs, that there is no power to stop and search in relation to the possession of offensive weapons, and that I should have thought is clearly a power which ought to be in the possession of the police.
However, all those powers—and I hope that the legislation will provide for this—must of course be exercised only where there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the offence has been committed. It is important, and I hope that the legislation will make it clear, that the test is to be an objective test, decided by the courts, as to whether the grounds were in fact reasonable or not. Obviously, it should not be sufficient for a police officer simply to say, "Well, I honestly believed it". There really must be reasonable grounds decided in an objective way. Thirdly—and again in a sense this comes back to what I was saying earlier—if those powers of stop and search are tidied up and somewhat extended, as I think there is a strong case for doing, then it is absolutely essential that they should, so far as possible, be exercised in a reasonable way and not in an aggressive, bullying or oppressive way.
The other measure which relates very much to the position as between the community and the police, is the reform of the existing complaints procedure. I think that it is common ground that the great criticism of the present system is the commonly made one that it is only the police investigating themselves. However well they do it—and there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that usually they do it very well and very thoroughly—it is quite inevitable that many citizens would take the view that that system is in itself simply not fair. In those circumstances, obviously there must be an increase in the independent element involved. Again, I am a little sorry—and I am reverting back once more to something that I said earlier—that this legislation is coming forward before we have set up our national network of independent prosecuting authorities, because I believe that that would be of enormous assistance and could be worked into the scheme for the investigation of police complaints. At present we shall be very much handicapped by trying to build up such a system without having that assistance by such people.
I would welcome of course the proposal that the noble Baroness indicated, of maximising the conciliation process between the citizen and the police officer. I can see, too, the force of the suggestion that is apparently going to be made, that some independent supervisor, probably the chairman of the Police Complaints Board, should have an active role in the investigation of the more serious complaints. Obviously that will help. Equally obviously, it will not remove the main grievance of those who allege that it will still be essentially one police force at best investigating the activities of another police force.
When we reach that Bill we shall no doubt want to give careful consideration to the suggestion that there 34 might perhaps be some totally different investigative force and that it should not be police officers who investigate allegations of malpractice by other police officers. I say that we shall no doubt want to discuss the matter because I see at once that there are problems. There are problems as to who will comprise that other investigative force. If it is to be, as is the obvious suggestion, ex-police officers, then perhaps it will not do very much to remove the main complaint that is being made about the present system. I can see that there are problems about resources, too, that will need careful consideration. I can see, indeed, that there will eventually, I suppose, be problems as to who is going to investigate the complaints against the new investigative force as regards the way in which they carry out their duties. I suppose that the process can go on almost indefinitely. These are matters that we shall want to consider when, in due course, that Bill comes before your Lordships' House. But, again, I think it comes back to the situation that the greatest step forward we can take in dealing with the investigation of complaints against the police is to build up the confidence that exists and should exist between the public and the police.
Just as we have to build up that confidence, so I believe we also have to build up confidence in our trial procedures. I want to conclude by raising very briefly two short matters about that, which I have already indicated to the noble Lord, Lord Elton. First, some five years ago, in 1977, we passed the Criminal Law Act, under Section 48 of which the Minister was given power to make rules by which in magistrates' courts the prosecution evidence would be made available in advance to the defence. This is not only a matter of elementary justice; I believe it is a matter that would save a great deal of expense, because it would mean that a very large number of defendants would not then exercise their right to go for trial. That was five years ago, and it may be that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, could indicate that there are prospects of some movement in that direction, at least before the end of the next five years.
The other matter that I should like to raise again deals with our trial procedure. It is manifestly wrong that criminal cases should be tried by criminals. It is I think clear, first, that in the result it distorts the whole process and, secondly, that the existence on juries of people who would, in ordinary parlance, be called criminals, is an inducement to various people in the course of a case to indulge in what is generally known as jury nobbling, with the most disastrous results. Can the noble Lord, Lord Elton, say whether the Government are proposing to take any steps this Session to bring forward any such legislation—they made noises to that effect only a few months ago—and secondly, if the answer to that is "no", what attitude the Government would take towards a Private Member's Bill, such as, indeed, was the one that, by a happy chance, was introduced only two hours ago into your Lordships' House?
This is the first effective day of the debate on the Queen's Speech. It does not always happen that we take home affairs first. I think that this is rather more than a happy chance on this occasion. It may be that the measures that deal with home affairs will be the most important and significant ones as we approach this Session. We on these Benches will look forward to 35 the introduction of these and to scrutinising them, I hope carefully, sensibly and constructively as the Session goes on
§ 4.14 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester
My Lords, I am sorry to have to disappoint your Lordships that you are not to hear my noble friend and distinguished namesake Lord Rochester, as a misprint on the list of speakers might suggest. I hope that your Lordships will be ready to accept that anyone speaking from these Benches at the beginning of a new Session of Parliament, when the gracious Speech directs our attention to the future, naturally hesitates before first looking back to the events of the summer and to the "silly season" in the media and the press which followed it. But those of your Lordships who have followed the attempts to suggest that Church and state are moving towards a confrontation may even be surprised that I still speak from these traditionally independent Benches and not with my back to the wall on the opposite side of the House. If the Church of England is not the Tory Party at prayer, it is also not the Alliance at Communion or the Labour Party in meditation. The delicate balance that a proper relationship between Church and state requires is certainly not helped if entirely unrelated, if unhappily coinciding, events are magnified out of all proportion to their importance.
It is no new thing for bishops to be berated by Members of Parliament or for archbishops and politicians to be engaged in lively debate. I recall listening to Archbishop William Temple 40 years ago proclaiming the right of the Church to lay down principles for great corporations of people as well as principles for the government of individual life, and arousing intense hostility in certain quarters. But he, like all the four Primates who have succeeded him, was a zealous trustee of the unique inheritance that is ours in this country in the relationship between Church and state.
In the era of rapid change, from which no one should expect the Church of England to be exempt, it is quite inevitable that from time to time there should be matters which strain relationship and give grounds for concern. But these are offset by creative developments, such as the very signficant modification in the system of Crown appointments which the leaders of all the political parties and successive Prime Ministers agreed to five years ago in response to the Church's request.
I believe that we must do everything possible to avoid unnecessary confrontation between Church and state because both Church and state have more important things to do in the demanding days of 1982. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, has suggested this afternoon, we are all of us equally involved and concerned in the grievous matter of unemployment.
There is one area of our national life which—sadly, I believe—finds no mention in the gracious Speech; namely, that of community and race relations (unless it be thought to be covered by the final paragraph referring to the police). I find this particularly sad since the British Nationality Act will come into operation on 1 st January next year and its effect on community relations will call for great care and understanding. 36 Your Lordships will recall that we on these Benches did our best to take a full part in the long discussions which preceded the passing of that Act. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury concluded the second speech he made in this House on the Bill with these words:The Churches, for reasons that I have referred to, remain profoundly unhappy about this Bill . . . If, and when, this Bill becomes law, we shall seek to help people to understand it and to claim their rights under it".He went on:The test will come in the way in which the legislation is operated. I pray that Ministers, and the officials who operate in their name, will bear this in mind, for this is an area where sensitivity and humanity are desperately needed".—[Official Report, 20/10/81; col. 718.]I say at once that we are grateful to the Government for the proposed changes in the Immigration Rules published in the recent White Paper, and particularly for the change that will make it possible for the husbands and fiancés of women who are British citizens to enter Britain for the purposes of settlement. This change will enable such people to pursue their married and family life together in Britain, and it removes the rule which was seen to be discriminatory against women. I hope that the Government will stand by this proposed change and will consider extending the provisions to women settled in this country but who are not citizens. If they do not do this, they will be perpetuating a rule that is discriminating on the grounds of sex, for it does not also apply to men. Moreover, it will be a cause of deep disappointment and no little hardship to a number of women in this category. Indeed, it may put some of their marriages at risk, and surely not only Christians will be concerned at such a threat to the stability of legally and properly contracted marriages.
I believe that unless these rules are amended they are likely to cause anxiety to minority groups in our country, and not just to those of Asian origin. I would urge the Government to remember that members of the ethnic groups who will have to apply for citizenship are often to be found among the most disadvantaged groups in our society. High levels of unemployment, of people in low income employment and thereby of people affected by poverty, are all to be found in these communities. It will be a matter for great regret if application should be inhibited because of the difficulty of finding the charge of £70 per person payable at the time of application. There is considerable anxiety about this, and I would hope that discretion will be permitted that will enable this charge to be reduced in certain circumstances.
I hope it is not too late to remind the Government of the Archbishop of Canterbury's hope that the British Nationality Act will be carried out with sensitivity and humanity, and that they will see this as an important contribution to the strengthening of relations between the races in countless communities up and down the land.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ Lord Rea
My Lords, I am most honoured to be given this opportunity to speak so soon after I have taken my seat. Yesterday I listened to the gracious Speech and was relieved in more senses than one, considering my topic, that legislation was to be introduced to improve the health and social services. 37 This legislation was outlined by the noble Baroness the Leader of the House just now, and I welcome the fact that the Government intend to strengthen community care because this makes good sense on both economic and humanitarian grounds.
This afternoon I want to talk to your Lordships about the National Health Service, and about the nation's health—something which you will realise, as I continue to speak, is a rather different matter and dependent upon a lot more factors than simply good health care alone through the National Health Service. Governments tend to be so preoccupied with how to feed this large, voracious beast, the National Health Service, that they have not always been aware of the direction in which it has been going, and perhaps not even sure of the direction in which to lead it in any case. But as health beasts go it has a smaller appetite than comparable beasts of the same species in other developed countries.
Here I should say that outside this House I have a special interest in health matters in that I am a National Health Service general practitioner working in a busy inner city practice; in fact, I held a normal, full surgery this morning before coming on to the House. I have also worked in a developing country, Nigeria, for about three years looking at the health problems of young children. I have also spent another three years in social and preventive medicine in this country, mainly working in the august institution across the river, looking into the health of whole communities rather than caring for individuals.
The health problems of the children of Nigeria, where one child in four may die before reaching the age of five, make ours, where only one out of 60 or 70 dies before reaching the age of five, seem perhaps trivial. Nevertheless, things in this country are not as good as they should be. But there is one thing in the health field in this country of which we can be very proud, which is that we have the most useful set of health statistics in the world. A particularly useful aspect of this is the analysis of births, deaths and some illnesses by occupational class. Class I consists of those in professional occupations; Class II, managerial; Class III, skilled; Class IV, semi-skilled; and Class V, unskilled workers.
Those who scrutinise these returns have noticed that the greatest improvement in health over the past 30 years has been among those at the top of the social scale. In fact, "to those who have shall be given". Those at the bottom have also improved but not so rapidly, so that discrepancy between Social Classes I and V has remained constant and in some cases has even increased during the lifetime of the National Health Service. This disturbing finding has prompted much interest and research and led to the setting up by the last Government of a working party on inequalities in health, of which many of your Lordships will have heard, though you may not have been able to read its report because it has been difficult to obtain. It was only printed in mimeograph form and in the first place a relatively small number of copies were printed. It is also very expensive at £8.
Because of the considerable interest in this document, however, a Pelican paperback edition has now been printed on the instigation of some of the members of the working party. It was chaired by Sir Douglas Black, the president of the Royal College of 38 Physicians, with three other eminent academics; one a professor of social medicine, another a professor of social administration, and the director of the Social Science Research Council. They reported in April 1980 with this impressive document, which has 400 pages and contains 234 references to learned works on this topic. This report has become known as the "Black Report" after its chairman. The Minister of Health at the time did not welcome the report, which is a pity since it is a remarkably helpful document which should be welcomed by those of all parties, or none.
I should like to give your Lordships a few examples from the report. Here you must bear with me because I am afraid I am going to give some statistics. I should have liked to be able to use some visual aids here, but I am afraid the only visual aids that seem to be available in your Lordships' House are spectacles. This country has fallen from the eighth to the 15th position in the world with regard to the infant mortality rate, commonly used as a most useful statistic for measuring the health of nations; that is, the number of children who die within the first year of life for every thousand that are born. This fall from the eighth to the 15th position took place between the years 1960 and 1978. Your Lordships may be interested to know that Hong Kong and Singapore have now overtaken us. Japan has been ahead of us for some years.
From 1930 to 1970 the infant mortalitv rate in Social Class I fell from 32 per 1,000 to 12 per 1,000 live births. In Social Class V the rate fell from 80 to 31 per 1,000 in the same period. The ratio between the two groups has remained constant; in fact it has slightly increased from 2.5 to 2.6. In Sweden the infant mortality rate for the country as a whole is very similar to that which prevails in Social Class I in this country, and there is little difference between the occupational groups in that country. It is thus clear that the way back to achieving our former leading position is to decrease infant deaths in the lower social groups.
It is not only with young children that the inequalities are to be found. Mortality rates among adults show a similar contrast. For example, among men of working age between 25 and 44, those in Social Classes IV and V—semi-skilled and unskilled workers—had a mortality rate 45 per cent. higher than those in the professional and managerial classes in 1950. But in 1970 they had a rate 85 per cent. higher than those in Social Classes I and II. In this period the mortality rate for those in the top two social classes fell by 30 per cent., but those in Social Classes IV and V by only 15 per cent. This pattern is found not only with deaths as a whole but with many individual causes of death, in particular with diseases of the respiratory system, cancer and accidents, where the social class gradient is even greater. Rates for serious disabling illness not resulting in death show a similar pattern, with many more manual workers having to take early retirement on health grounds than in Social Classes I and II.
The causes of these persisting differences are complex but are analysed carefully in Sir Douglas Black's report. Unequal distribution and use of health care is important, but it is only part of the story. The root causes go further back—to the social circumstances in which people live and work. Those of us 39 fortunate enough to be in the professional classes eat better quality food—not more, but better—smoke less, live in better heated and ventilated homes, in nicer, less polluted districts, and we have more resources with which to care for our children. We also have more pleasant places in which to work and are less likely to be exposed to poisonous fumes or dusts, (although sometimes we may have a hot air problem in this House.)
There are important differences in the use of the National Health Service by the different occupational classes. Manual workers and their families more often land up in hospital, which is scarcely surprising since they carry a larger burden of serious illness. However, they make no more use of general practitioner services despite their greater need and they make considerably less use of the preventive services. This is not due to stupidity and fecklessness but because powerful social factors prevail against their making full use of the services available and make them persist in habits which are socially acceptable within their own group. In addition, it is true that the services are less easy to obtain for those in working-class areas. Here I quote a colleague, Dr. Julian Tudor Hart, who works in a South Wales former mining village; (the mine has been closed). He wrote:In areas with most sickness and death, general practitioners have more work, larger lists, less hospital support and inherit more clinically ineffective traditions of consultation than in the healthiest areas, and hospital doctors shoulder heavier case loads, with less staff and equipment, more obselete buildings and suffer recurrent crises in the availability of beds and replacement staff. These trends can be summed up as the 'Inverse Care Law'—that the availability of good medical care trends to vary inversely with the need of the population served".That was written in 1971 and it is possible that things have improved a little since then, but the general statement still applies, and my own experience bears this out.
There is a need for much more information on these matters, both on the social and environmental causes of illness, about the use of the health service by various sections of the community, and one of the recommendations of the report is that much more research should be funded. The report ends with a set of imaginative and practical plans for action under three headings. The first is that children should have a better start in life. This includes an improvement in the child allowance, provision of school milk and meals for every child as a matter or right and incereased preschool provision, and there are other useful recommendations for children.
The second is that disabled people should be able to improve their quality of life and be less dependent on institutional care. For that reason I welcome the remarks of the Leader of the House about the Government's proposed legislation. The aged are not mentioned as such, but are included in this category of the disabled, since most old people are perfectly able to manage on their own resources; it is only those who are disabled, physically or mentally, who need help. They do not need help because they are old but because they have a higher proportion of disability. By the time the age of 75 is reached, about 25 per cent. of the population can be classified as disabled.
The third heading proposes that more preventive and educational action should be promoted. Again, practical examples are given as to how this should be 40 done. In all, there are 37 recommendations. If all of these were to be adopted, the package would indeed be expensive—upwards of £2 billion per annum—which is one of the reasons the Government gave for taking no action on the recommendations of the report. But, as the authors are at pains to point out, the measures could be introduced in phases, and in any case, 20 of the 37 recommendations would not require additional funds and a number of others could be achieved by diverting resources.
I commend this document, which not only demonstrates clearly the health problems we in this country face but explains their multiple causation and sets out a battery of practical measures to cope with them. It is by bringing measures such as are outlined in the report to the attention of Government that Parliament is most likely to be able to improve the quality of life and decrease the unhappiness of many thousands of people on whom we depend for our basic comforts; in other words, to turn a disabled. Disease Service into a true National Health Service.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ Lord Perry of Walton
My Lords, it is my first and pleasant duty to congratulate, on behalf of noble Lords in all parts of the House, the noble Lord, Lord Rea, on a very notable and erudite maiden speech. It is a particular pleasure for me to welcome another medical man into this House and to note the happy coincidence that I am welcoming another medical man who shares with me experience in Nigeria. I am sure we all look forward to hearing him on many future occasions.
In undertaking to speak for my party in today's debate, I confess that I found myself in some difficulty, for the gracious Speech sets out aims in the fields of home and social affairs that are, for the most part, unexceptionable. Who could possibly cavil at the proposal to introduce legislation to enable improvements to be made in the health and social services', or to modernise police powers; or to protect personal information held on computers? And who, indeed, for centuries has not remained,determined to create conditions for a peaceful and prosperous society in Northern Ireland"?Even after the explanations offered by the Leader of the House, we still do not know the details. One can criticise such laudable aims only if one assumes that the Government will try to implement them in unacceptable ways. I shall not criticise the aims at all, but I must make it clear that my restraint does not stem from a belief that the Government will come forward with wholly acceptable proposals. They have given little indication in the past that that is probable. Rather does my restraint stem from a belief that to attack hypothetical situations is always a mistake; it leads to confrontation that may turn out to have been unnecessary.
We have far too much confrontation in our lives already. Politics always involve some confrontation. In the equivalent debate on the Address last year, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said:There are times when the electors must choose between mutually exclusive alternatives and not seek a fudging of issues or a meaningless compromise between them".Of course that is true. Certainly there are such times. But we must not run away with the idea that because there are some such times, there are necessarily many 41 such times. I contend that, in most cases, issues are not fudged by seeking a meaningful compromise between alternatives. However apparently irreconcilable two attitudes may seem, rational exploration often reveals larger areas of agreement between them than the areas of disagreement.
The public has not seen either from Conservatives or Labour much evidence of such rational exploration. They are tired of mindless confrontation and they are bewildered by it, and that is why they rallied to the vision of the Social Democratic and Liberal Alliance. Last year in the speech from which I quoted, the Lord Chancellor was able to poke fun at the Alliance, and at the Social Democrats in particular, when he said:I do not think it is a coincidence that they have achieved these successes without a leader, without a policy, without a party and are thus admirably placed to follow the divine injunction to be all things to all men".At that time we had offered a vision of sweet reasonableness. It may not have been all things to all men, but it was certainly a great deal to a great many who were tired and bewildered by confrontational politics.
Things have changed in a year. We now have a leader, we have a constructive policy spelled out in great detail, we have a party. During the year we have been indulging in introspection, and the vision that we offered has misted over a little for lack of time to polish it—if one can polish a vision. But I give warning that we in the Alliance have raised our eyes from the contemplation for a year of our own navel and that we shall be polishing away at our vision, so that it shines out brightly once again, as it already shows signs of doing.
And how badly society needs sweet reasonableness and tolerance! In these days of instant communication it sees the mindless and violent intolerance and cruelty of unholy holy wars; it sees the violent intolerance of minority groups campaigning for apparently worthy causes; it sees the intolerant violence of football crowds and of players; and, I fear, it listens to the increasingly violent intolerance of debates in another place.
The media thrive on violence and on confrontation. It is also regrettable that all too often when they do try to provide reasoned debate, they still end up with confrontation. They never have enough time for rational argument. It is easy and quick to make an assertion—however outrageous. It takes a very long time patiently to refute step-by-step any assertion, and it often takes longer the more outrageous has been the assertion. So since there is not any time to refute, the only available answer becomes an equally outrageous counter-assertion; and we end up with more confrontation.
More and more people have become weary of it all and long for someone to show them a middle course, a sensible compromise. It is in this spirit that for a moment I should like to look at the one issue that dominates—as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, has said—all home and social affairs: unemployment. As the gracious Speech makes clear, the Government are of course,deeply aware of the anxieties and distress caused by unemployment",and undoubtedly seek,a lasting reduction in the numbers out of work".42 So do we all.
But, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, spent a long time pointing out, and apportioning blame for, the public also knows that in tackling the problem of inflation, the Government deliberately chose as one of their tactics to let unemployment rise. On the other hand, the Labour Party promises to reduce unemployment by enormous increases in public spending. But the public already knows that that must promote further runaway inflation.
Neither party will admit that there is any solution other than the one that it advocates. However, in a report entitled, Back to Work, the Alliance has produced a policy that is a constructive compromise between the two apparently irreconcilable extremes. There is no slick slogan that can be invented to describe that policy. It is very difficult indeed to explain it in simple terms, because it involves a complex series of steps. But we believe that the electorate is sufficiently sophisticated to get the message. It is a public that is certainly fed up with slick slogans.
Let me end by looking still a little further ahead. While I wholly endorse the short-term policy in Back to Work, I think that we are all—in every party—working against a longer-term trend that is quite relentless. Technology and automation will progressively reduce the amount of work that has to be done, even for greatly increased output. That will be true of both the productive and the service industries.
In the long run we shall have to redesign society in a radical way. For example, if there is full-time work for only half the workforce, society cannot tolerate a situation where half the people work full-time and half remain perpetually unemployed. It is barely tolerating the current situation in which one in seven is unemployed. In those circumstances, we must find a way—possibly by later recruitment and earlier retirement, by job-sharing, or by other means—whereby all the workforce work for half the time. It is a challenge that we shall have to meet—and have to meet soon. We, too, shall await with great interest the detailed plans of the Government to implement the aims set out in the gracious Speech. Until then we shall reserve our judgment, while commending the aims.
§ 4.46 p.m.
The Earl of Halsbury
My Lords, in addressing your Lordships this afternoon I should like to offer my apologies to the noble Lords who are set to follow me in the course of the debate. I am in somewhat difficult domestic circumstances through illness and must be home by six, which means that I must leave here at about a quarter past five. I shall not be able to stay throughout the course of the debate, but I can assure those who are to follow me that tomorrow morning I shall read their contributions in Hansard with double attention.
I have always thought that this Chamber is increasingly becoming a life senate of the professional classes, and what an admirable addition thereto is represented by the noble Lord, Lord Rea, whose maiden speech I listened to with the very greatest of interest, albeit with some apprehension, because having looked him up in Who's Who, I realised that he would be talking about medical affairs, which is what I, too, was going to address your Lordships about. But mercifully our two speeches are complementary, and 43 there will be no cause for either of us to disagree with the other when I have sat down.
I wish to refer to the difficulties that the Government at the moment are in over the pay policy regarding the National Health Service. I feel that I speak with some knowledge of the matter because in 1974—that is, eight years ago—it so transpired that I was chairman of the Doctors' and Dentists' Pay Review Body, and at the same time was asked to take on the chairmanship of the Departmental Committee of Inquiry into pay of nurses and midwives in the National Health Service.
No sooner had that started, than Mr. Clive Jenkins put on his devil mask and started dancing around, making fierce noises at the Government and calling strikes in hospitals among the professions supplementary to medicine. So I was asked to take on that, too, and for a brief period I had the entire salary structure of the National Health Service under one hand. If I occasionally speak in the first person singular, it is not the indulgence of vanity, but is for the avoidance of prolixity. I cannot explain from moment to moment as I go on just exactly how the work was divided between myself and my colleagues, all of whom had different terms of reference in the three different types of inquiry. It was of course a collective effort by people who were working closely together and who were unanimous on all issues.
The tempo of the investigation into the nurses, midwives and professions supplementary to medicine was formidable. The Secretary of State was a lady who does not take '"No" for an answer, and when she said that she wanted the answer yesterday, I realised that there was only one way to give her what she wanted. That was to give up our holidays, if the committee was willing to do so, and dedicate them to the nurses, midwives and paramedical staff in the National Health Service. That we did, and the knowledge that we had done so went through the service like wildfire. Wherever we went—we visited about 50 hospitals in the course of the August holidays—the news that at last they were being visited by somebody with power to recommend something that the Government had pledged themselves to accept, raised morale through the service as nothing else could have done.
Time and again we were told by the nurses, "Never before have we been visited by anybody with power to do anything or listen in an effective way to what we have to say. Yes, we get Royal visits when a new wing is to be opened. Yes, it's delightful to see members of the Royal Family. Yes, we get ministerial visits, and it's delightful to know that Ministers realise that we exist. But nothing ever happens as a result of all this".
Let me give your Lordships an example of the kind of nonsense that we found out in this egg-bound bureaucracy that we were investigating. I refer to only one hospital. It had two nurses' hostels. One was built approximately in the period of the Boer War, the other was built after World War II, and so the architecture and styling of each was quite different. Because of that it was felt appropriate that the toilet paper issued to the nurses in the two hostels should be different, and that one should represent the toilet paper of the Boer War and the other the modern, tissue toilet paper. Nobody could accept the fact that you were dealing with nurses with a common training and with a common pay scale. Death is said to level all men, and you would 44 think that the loo did the same—but not a bit of it. If you are a nurse, it depends on the particular hostel in which you are living. There is a tradition that what passes between public servants and Ministers within the four walls of a private office should remain private, and I will not tell you what the Secretary of State said when I reported this to her as a matter of fact.
The first thing you have to do when tackling a problem of this kind is to try to get an approximate scheme of differentials and then start fixing it into other differentials. You have a certain latitude here. You look at the pay of doctors, and you look at the pay of nurses and midwives. You obliterate the distinction between nurses and midwives, as we did; and you have, as it were, a certain amount of latitude, because it is right, I think, that an experienced ward sister should earn more than a junior houseman. Eventually, he will catch up and overtake her, but the actual age and date at which he does that builds a little element of elasticity into your judgment.
The next thing you have to cater for is the teaching salaries in colleges of higher education, because sooner or later you must provide some nurses, at their salary levels, with an incentive to leave the practice of nursing and enter the practice of teaching other nurses how to nurse. So you have three scales that you have to work into one another. I was lucky in that my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby was engaged in an investigation into the salary scales at colleges of higher education at the same time as I was doing the nurses and midwives, and because we were working through the same secretariat, the office of manpower economics, we were able to correlate all this in a satisfactory way. I am very glad to see that the noble Lord has joined us. I do not know whether he heard me pay him a compliment a moment ago, but I hope it was a satisfaction to him. We do not always agree, but on this occasion we worked together very harmoniously indeed—and not for the first time.
Finally, you have to choose how you are going to level-peg this structure that you have built up into the salary structure of the rest of the community. This is an act of judgment. You have to look at a lot of job descriptions, and at some level in the hierarchy that you are trying to settle you have to ask: How does this compare with some other profession altogether? What is the justice of all this? We decided, after looking at many professions other than nursing, that we would do justice if we equated a ward sister in a hospital with a station sergeant in the police force.
It took us a lot of time and trouble to reach this equation, but we felt it was right; and it gave universal satisfaction. There was not a single complaint by the police that, "If that is what you pay the nurses, we want some more for ourselves". No; they were content. The nurses got a rise out of all proportion to anything they had ever had before, and they were content. In addition, the public were delighted that we had come up with a solution that seemed to make sense. Having done this, I had to give some informal advice to the machine that had inspanned me into it and say, "The mess I have got you out of is one that you will get back into unless you reform the entire system".
The reason we got it right is that we were independent of the Treasury, and the Government had pledged themselves to abide by what we said. The 45 reason the thing is wrong now, that it has gone wrong again, is largely because of the attempt to use the Whitley Council system, which is designed for one purpose, to settle salaries in the National Health Service, which are an entirely different problem because the National Health Service is a man of straw in between the hospital staff and the Treasury. It is exactly like a Dickens novel. The great task of the Treasury is to say, "No", nicely. They are the only body of men in the country dedicated to the proposition that Her Majesty's Government should spend less. Everybody else wants them to spend more provided they spend it on their pet hobby, and the Treasury is there to say, "No". Alas, they get into the frame of mind where they do not care what you do not spend money on so long as you do not spend it; and from time to time this lands them in trouble, and the nation with them. They are an admirable body of people without whom we would all be bankrupt, but this particular matter must be taken out of their hands.
Ever since we equated the nurses with the police force the nurses have gone steadily backwards and the police have gone steadily forwards. One reason for this is the importation into the police structure of the concept of the X factor. If you are stormed at by shot and shell you have a high X factor, and it is thought that you should be paid more in peacetime because of the hazards you may be running in wartime. If, instead of being stormed at with shot and shell, you have beer bottles filled with petroleum and pieces of cotton wool being thrown at you, so that your clothes catch fire, then again, you have a high X factor.
But nobody thinks about the X factor of the nurses. What about the haematological unit that was wiped out in Edinburgh through virus hepatitis as a result of having to treat patients with infected blood? What about bubonic plague in Birmingham University? Has anybody looked at the X factor for nurses? No. They had better inspan Sir Harold Atcherley, who understands all about X factors and has been doing the armed forces of the Crown for years and years, and get him to have a look at the X factor for nurses and put a figure on it.
I have reached the end of my 10 minutes, and think I have said as much as I want to say, with one exception. Let us have a look at what has happend to my equation. The figure in those days for a police sergeant and a ward sister was £3,000 a year. That was the equation. The present figures for a police sergeant, minimum and maximum, are £8,493 and £9,744, and for a ward sister they are £6,050 and £7,756. Relatively speaking, they have gone back to before the mess I got the Government out of eight years ago, and the Government are now in the mess which I predicted they would get into unless my advice was followed, the Whitley Council system was abolished and some kind of independent review body was introduced.
The question now is how to finance all this. The Government are committed to economy and to no pay rises. I have no sympathy at all with purely inflationary wage claims enforced by industrial muscle. I have every sympathy with wage claims consequential upon the injustice that they produce . The Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he is a hawk—and I hope he is—has a perfectly simple remedy for all this, which is to put a whacking surcharge on the National Health stamp payable by the employee, not by the employer, as a 46 deduction to finance proper pay for the nurses. That is the remedy the Government have in their power if they choose to use it, and I hope they will.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Lord Ferrier
My Lords, there are two particular mattters arising out of the gracious Speech to which I seek to draw attention tonight. The first is in regard to the proposed measures to reform the Telegraph Acts, read with the paragraph in the gracious Speech referring to the improvement in social services. Some of your Lordships may recall that in March 1977, in a debate on an Unstarred Question, I urged that the telecommunications authorities review their policy regarding installation and standing charges. These two gravely concern the aged and the retired and handicapped people who may live at a distance from a village or the like—the shops, a post office, the doctor, et cetera. Let me refer to the cases that I have in mind as "granny up the glen".
The virtual disappearance of public rural transport, the high cost of petrol and the absence of regular contact with tradesmen's vans, et cetera, have meant (and we have said this several times in this House in the last month or two) that the telephone is today's lifeline. Since that debate some years ago the telegram has disappeared. One cannot send a telemessage unless one has a telephone; yet the cost of installing a telephone is very, very substantial—the more so the further one gets away from civilisation.
I have urged in correspondence with the Government, that financial assistance should be made available so that this form of deprivation is minimised. Their reply has been that, whereas Telecom services should be priced at levels related to the cost of supply, there is a provision in the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 for local authority social services to help in cases of need.
It seems to me—and I imagine that a number of your Lordships on all sides of the House will agree—that this is no longer good enough. When the telephone service is knocking up profits on the scale that exists today, I suggest that considerations which the gracious Speech forecast should accept that. As matters have developed since 1977, a new opportunity now presents itself to bring the telephone, today's lifeline, within the reach of everybody. Indeed, the debate to which I referred is deserving of study for various technical reasons if only for the informed speech by my noble friend Lord Redesdale with his comparisons with what happens in other countries in the world. I beg to contend that the forecast from the gracious Speech that there will be legislation to enable,improvements to be made to the health and social services",must contain some arrangements to meet this need.
§ It is not only in the field of installation charges that the telephone is out of the reach of "granny up the glen". The standing charge structure must be changed because, as it is, it bears more and more heavily upon the user who makes fewer and fewer calls. It must be changed because it bites so hard. The telephone which is used only on occasions is very expensive to use and sometimes, one must remember, such an occasional call may be a lifeline one. Ask the doctor; ask the police; ask the electricity supply people. They all know what it means. I was talking to a noble Lord opposite who is extremely knowledgeable on the problem of 47 social services and, in supporting what I am saying, he said, "Do not forget that there may be an economy in seeing to it that potential invalids have the telephone available to them; for there may well be an occasion when, not having a telephone, they may find themselves involved—and involving the state—in expense quite beyond what may arise from this provision".
My Lords, so much for that. The other matter that I have in mind comes under the heading:
Other measures will be laid before you".
§ I want to know what is going to be done to insist that the broadcasting services report the proceedings of Parliament adequately and impartially to the people. This is a necessary commitment, in my view of the world we live in, if Parliamentary democracy as we know it is to be sustained today. As one who has for years supported the "Today in Parliament" and "Yesterday in Parliament" programmes broadcast on radio under the obligation imposed upon the BBC by the terms of its licence and agreement, I have been amazed at the sudden change which took place only a week or so ago whereby "Yesterday in Parliament" is no longer a programme on its own. It used to come on at 8.35 a.m. and last for something like 25 minutes—admittedly a few minutes less than "Today in Parliament", but nevertheless a substantial period at a fixed time. But now it is no longer at a fixed time. It is merged with the "Today" programme, which has a chatterbox character of its own far removed from the serious task which Sir John Reith visualised in the years gone by. It is similar to what traders call a "loss leader" in a general store. This morning the parliamentary section started at 8.37 and ran for 15 minutes. Coverage for the two Houses was very fair, but it was only 15 minutes; and it had been a busy day. The other day, just before the end of the Session. I timed it at 14 minutes, of which 10 minutes went to the Commons and four minutes to the Lords. We had had a busy day the previous day and the only reference made to this House was a useful and interesting Answer by my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale to a parliamentary Question but there was no reference to the debate that we had carried on.
§ But that is not the point. It is an altering of the system which has worked fairly well for years to which I feel we ought to draw attention. Has this change arisen from the new incumbent of the "throne" at Broadcasting House? Is it realised that whereas "Today in Parliament" has a limited rating due to it being broadcast at the late hour of 23.30, "Yesterday in Parliament" used to attact a rating of more than one million listeners—far more than ever were attracted to "Today in Parliament". This is because "Yesterday in Parliament" attracted commuters, it attracted women in their kitchens, it attracted all those, whereas there are many who like to be in bed by eleven at night.
§ My Lords, I should like to know—and I think we are entitled to ask—whether the usual channels had been consulted before this change was made. Do they approve? Have they any powers, in any case, to ensure that the BBC interprets its obligation in a matter satisfactory to the Secretary of State? It is because I have these questions in mind that I mention this matter in connection with the gracious Speech, where, if other people agree with me that this is a matter of 48 very grave importance in terms of supporting our parliamentary democracy as we know it today, opportunities may arise to consider whether such powers might be established. I am not talking about censorship. Far from it. That is quite another matter—although, of course, the BBC operates its own censorship. But I will not go into that.
§ My contention is that the arrogance of the BBC should be controlled. I use the word which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, used not only in his speech on 9th December last year but on 20th May this year—an attitude which eventually culminated in the now famous scene where Her Majesty's Minister of Defence was compelled to walk out on the redoubtable Sir Robin Day, throwing his "mike" on the table. My patient, tolerant wife said: "Robin deserved that". That was her comment. However, that may be another matter and we may hear more of it in the debate on Tuesday. But how dare journalists take on themselves as of right to hector other citizens? In saying that, I wonder how some journalists—particularly the photographers—dare go on the way they do interfering with the life of ordinary people?
§ Has anyone ever heard a BBC interviewer call a Minister of the Crown, "Sir"? I have not. Is there any wonder that people say: "I never listen to BBC television news now; I have changed to ITV"? Ever since I crossed swords with the late Lord Normanbrook on the broadcasting of Parliament I have been in trouble with the BBC. However, I shall not be surprised if this problem of the news media comes up again before the debate on Her Majesty's gracious Speech is concluded.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
My Lords, I should first of all like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Rea on an extremely interesting maiden speech. It brought great knowledge to one, at any rate, and luckily also for me bore some relation to what I am going to say. When one starts to think about what is fundamental to a debate on home affairs, surely one immediately thinks of the family—the family unit—which, after all, must be the ultimate focus to all home policies. Remembering, as I am sure we all do—and will never forget—the claim of the Government before their election of being the party who championed the rights of the family, we had every justification in waiting to see what there would be in the gracious Speech for this country's least favoured families.
Now we know that we waited in vain. There was no mention of either the family or indeed the child throughout the gracious Speech. We ask ourselves whether this could be because the Government feel that all is well with Britain's families. If that is so, I should like to take the opportunity of this debate to try to point out that this indeed is not always the case. As so many of your Lordships know, there is undeniable proof of the plight of many families in this country today. Evidence of this comes from all those social workers and those organisations concerned with family problems, and the final confirmation of the continued and increasing existence of these cycles of deprivation comes from the findings, recently published under the title of Despite the Welfare State, of a research programme into aspects of deprivation carried out over the past 10 years by the Department 49 of Health and Social Services and the Social Science Research Council.
So may I point out to your Lordships how in my view Government policies are failing to accommodate changes in the family structure, while pointing out what I feel are some remedial actions that could be taken to relieve the plight of some of the children in the categories of families which are suffering most at the moment. First, do the Government really recognise what constitutes a family these days? Do they realise that in ever-increasing cases the sterotyped family group consisting of the breadwinning father, the full-time housewife mother and at least two or three residing young children is entirely misleading in contemporary Britain? Instead, a majority of family households in Britain now consist of other combinations: couples (married or unmarried) without accompanying offspring; single-parent households; dual worker families; no-worker families and a variety of kinds of "reconstituted" families.
So, what provision, I wonder, do the Government make for these new categories of families. I also wonder whether their social policies are really focused on the true needs. First, I should like briefly to look at the one-parent family and see how it is faring. Sadly, the number of one-parent families in this country has now risen to nearly 1 million. Out of these, nine out of 10 are headed by a lone woman. Ever-increasing numbers of separations and divorces account of course for a very great number of these families. England and Wales have the highest divorce rate in the European Community, and present trends indicate that one in three marriages in the United Kingdom will end in divorce. Another group of single parent households is headed by widows and a further group is headed by young mothers who elect to stay single to bring up their child or children.
The children coming from all these categories of families will undoubtedly suffer in varying degrees from greater financial restrictions than other families. The children of young, single mothers are the most likely to suffer from extreme deprivation, bad housing and child abuse, while running the major risk of being put into care. But the weight of evidence suggests that the children of separate and divorced parents suffer considerably from anxiety and emotional upset brought on by their parents' conflict and the disruption of their home. These children often feel alone and very frightened. Indeed, one of the tragedies of divorce is that, although it dissolves marriage, it does not dissolve parenthood.
So what can be done to counter some of the cruel effects of divorce on the major victim, who is of course the child? In my view, there is overwhelming evidence that one important framework to operate in the interests of the child is the conciliation service. In the first place, embattled couples are sometimes actually reconciled through these services. But failing this, the conciliation services play a crucial role in effecting a smooth transition from marriage to divorce and to single parenthood. In the interests of the children the service provides invaluable advice on custody, access and maintenance, and so on. Finally, from an entirely practical and economic point of view, these services in many cases avoid the expensive legal confrontation which is so harmful to all those 50 concerned and which costs the taxpayer so much.
On the question of conciliation services, I should like to ask the Government whether a decision has yet been taken as to the publication of the report by the Interdepartmental Committee on Reconciliation. The Solicitor-General, in a Written Answer to a Question in another place in June, said that no decision had yet been taken. But with the ever-growing scale of divorces the Government should allow publication of this report to enable public debate on the proposed measures to take place.
On another more precise and urgent point, I should like to ask about the future of the Bristol courts' family conciliation service, which is threatened with closure at the moment. Would the noble Lord not agree that, with the present scale of divorce and the fact that this scheme is not intended to be parochial but more to serve as a prototype for the development of conciliation services nationally, it should be safeguarded? In 1981 one in six of the cases referred to this Bristol service moved from conciliation to reconciliation even though in many cases solicitors were filing divorce petitions at that time. I am sure that noble Lords will agree that that is a very impressive record. What can be the purpose of closing a service which is in some cases saving marriages and in others helping to bring about civilised divorces with the minimum pain and upset for the children, and in all cases avoiding the astronomically expensive legal confrontation between warring spouses? May I put it to the Government that the recommendation in the Finer Report most helpful to the interests of the children involved, though disregarded by successive Governments, would be the one regarding family courts and the establishment of a national conciliation service funded by central Government. The scale of present divorce and the ensuing pain to children demands a new structure such as this in which to try to deal with the problem.
Regarding economic benefits to one-parent families, with the exception of widows the lone mother seems to lose out all round. The system fails to provide for her situation. If she goes out to work and earns more than £12 a week, she will lose her supplementary benefit and if she stays at home, thus denying herself the important remedial and therapeutic effect that a job has on a lone parent, then there is no real financial recognition in tax or benefits of her vital role in child rearing.
Surely, in order to remove the disincentive to earn provided by supplementary benefit and in order to stabilise these family incomes a little, it should be recognised that all one-parent families have a special financial need and they should receive one-parent family benefits, non-contributory and non-means-tested, and in line with widowed mothers. This would remove some of the dangers of falling into the poverty trap, would provide some small measure of security, and would also leave undisturbed the incentive to go out to work and in this way somewhat redress the balance for all the children involved. At the present time there are 392,000 one-parent families, involving 660,000 children who are dependent on supplementary benefit. Thus, there are getting on for three-quarters of a million children in this country who suffer the penalty of having a lone parent.
My final point relates not only to children in one-parent families but to all the other children who are 51 suffering from social hardship, either through their fathers being out of work or because they belong to big families where the mother is prevented by the lack of pre-school provision from going to earn a little extra. In my view, and I believe many noble Lords would agree with me, the best method to relieve that poverty is, first, to raise the child benefit. This was put forward in very strong terms by the publication Despite the Welfare State. Secondly, we should restore free school meals. The Government, when in Opposition, were in favour of child benefits. It was, the said, the best way of helping the families, of easing the poverty trap and of helping poor families in work. They also said at the time that the cost of higher child benefit should be accounted for in the same way as a reduction in direct personal taxation, and not as public expenditure at all. Now their views have changed, despite the fact that, resulting from so many of their policies, the most vulnerable families have lower incomes and lower real benefits and are either paying for school meals of a lower nutrional value or having their children suffer the stigma of claiming free school meals. Surely there is a gap between the rhetoric used by the Government when talking about the family and their refusal to put money into redressing the balance for our least privileged families and children.
One can refer to social justice and the aspiration of a more equal society in either moral or practical terms; but, using practical terms, may I put it to the Government that, when we hear of an upsurge of violence by white and coloured youths in Brixton, do we not wonder how many of those young people are alienated by the brutality of a deprived childhood? When we hear of the young Catholic youth in Belfast's ghettos voting for the Provisional Sinn Fein—in other words, voting in as extreme a manner as possible—do we not wonder what his home was like in a city that is reputed to have the worst housing in Europe? Putting morality aside, is there not a very real possibility that the lack of additional provision for Britain's least fortunate families might well result in even more embittered young people wishing to get their own back on society in a way which is most destructive to that society?
§ 5.23 p.m.
My Lords, it is difficult to follow the previous speaker when the subject is as wide as home and social affairs. However, I believe I have found a link in the field in which the noble Baroness has been working. I have talked about the voluntary and professional elements which are needed to help one another in this field, because neither can work alone without the help of the other. I must again say that in these many services we need professionals and volunteers. We want to narrow the gap between the two fields if we can do so. We want to avoid the professionals looking down on volunteers and amateurs, which all too often happens, particularly in this technical age in which we live.
I would mention just one field—civil defence. I mention it because we spoke about civil defence in another debate and we did not get many answers from the Home Office then. So I am hoping that perhaps in the fullness of time we might get rather more full answers. We may have to depend on water dropping 52 on the stone, which is one of the methods that we have to adopt if we cannot get more progress. Dropping water on a stone is something that we employ frequently, and it often works.
The uncertainties in organisation for civil defence are big. We do not know the nature or the time when we may have to go into action. There are weaknesses in our organisation and I am sure that the organisation is less good than that which is taught at the Staff College at Camberley. In any case, we need men and women who are disciplined and, as far as possible trained; but all too little is happening in this field, and I would emphasise that.
Recently I saw a reference in a work of reference to Scotland. I do not live in Scotland but I followed certain references and thought I would ask several questions and see what replies were received, not from the Home Office but from the Scottish Office. I asked first this question of Her Majesty's Government; How many special constables have attended the appropriate police home defence courses at Tulliallan over the last convenient year? None, was the reply. It appears that courses held at the Scottish Colleges on home defence matters are attended only by regular police instructors. Even two should be plenty if they have the qualifications and can benefit from it. I could ask many more questions but will ask only one more, and that is how many special constables were there in Scotland in the year 1960? They fell from the figure of 7,315 in 1960 every year to 1982 when the number dropped to 2,791. That situation really cannot be healthy.
The field also shows that the numbers in England have been dropping. It could well be that the demand for volunteers is considerable. There is the question of pay but considerable training and increasing duty are becoming less popular. But I did have an idea a few days ago, which I am going to suggest to the Home Office, which is the revival of an old idea. Special constables have been used as a back-up for regular men and there were others who enrolled principally for limited duties in states of emergency or war. Those men could easily be trained in a narrower field. They would not be expected to do duty except for refresher training in their field, and they could live in their homes and not be moved. They would not be an expensive corps; the uniform could consist of an arm-band when required. They would have a warrant card which could be kept in the relevant force headquarters and issued only on occasions when needed.
Surely there is an opportunity here of capitalising on these vast resources of goodwill and giving men the opportunity of service in this narrow field. Furthermore, when necessary they would be given the powers of a constable. These powers are required beyond those in so many different fields at different times. I should like to suggest again to the Home Office that they should hold a reseve of useful men who have the powers of a constable. This small amount of training would make it much more attractive for many older men living and working in their own area. The importance of volunteers applies everywhere, as was shown by the noble Baroness in her last speech. We need them in all parts of our governmental sevices and, most important of all, volunteers and professionals must work together for a happy and successful result.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Lord Kilmarnock
My Lords, when the present Government came to power, their social policy could have been scribbled on the back of an envelope. Rolling back the frontiers of the state included—and, indeed, largely depended on—rolling back the welfare state. Welfare was seen as mollycoddling and general enfeeblement, through "handouts", of personal initiative. Personal responsibility and self-help were to be applauded and encouraged. The dispensing of welfare does not, in the neo-classical economists' view of the world, create wealth. First, we need more wealth and then can we afford the frills. That, broadly speaking, is what was scribbled on the envelope and the message has not changed much, though there have had to be certain adjustments to emergency conditions, such as the temporary short-time workers' scheme and the expansion of special programmes for the young unemployed. And the cost of unemployment has, of course, risen inexorably all the time.
The back of an envelope approach, which extends to all the big spending departments other than defence, has its origin not only in neo-conservative philosophy, but also in a cold economic climate. I am not going to deny that there are economic constraints on public spending, but I am going to insist that the Government's analysis is faulty, and that their dangerous over-simplification of our problems is leading to an increasing polarisation between "haves" and "have nots" which is quite at variance with their claim to be a party of national unity.
In 1950, Titmuss defined social policy as,those acts of Government deliberately designed to improve the welfare of the civil population"."Deliberately" is the important word, because the action or inaction of Governments is at the centre of social policy. It cannot be argued, as some people do over economic policy, that there is little that Governments can do, other than set the tone or hold the ring. Nor can it be argued that any social policy is an undesirable form of interventionism. The Elizabethan poor law was exclusively concerned with social policy; so was the less charitable law of 1834.
The British welfare system has grown slowly in a piecemeal fashion. In 1908, we had the Old Age Pensions Act, in 1909 the Employment Exchange Act—to promote mobility and pay the dole—in 1911, the Health and Unemployment Insurance Act, and so on. The present framework derives very largely from the Beveridge Report, with its contributory pension scheme. The 1960s saw the growth of a more complex superannuation scheme, in partnership with occupational pensions. In 1966, national assistance became supplementary benefit, on which so many people now have to live. In 1971, family income supplement was introduced for those with families in low-paid work. In 1976, family and child allowances were subsumed into a universal, non-means-tested child benefit.
The social policy of a modern state is not confined to social security; it also embraces the health service and personal social services—which, in combination, are the next biggest spenders—and it is deeply affected by the fiscal régime, by the housing, environmental and recreational services of the local authorities and not least, by the education system.
54 Through the nature of its growth, the system has become very expensive to administer; that is one of the Government's fundamental quarrels with it. It is also one of the fundamental arguments for devolution. The Government have no hope of significantly reducing the Civil Service as long as they seek to exert a stranglehold on local government. The noble Baroness mentioned an aspiration of a reduction to 630,000, but some people would feel that that was still very high. It is a paradox of the present Government's position that, while striving to roll back the frontiers of the state, they are pursuing a highly centralist approach which quite simply defeats that end.
I sometimes wonder why the Government have wanted to take all the reins into their own hands. I suspect that it is partly due to their distrust of the "caring society" approach of some Labour councils, which it is felt will sap some natural vigour or vitality on which we depend for national survival. It is, of course, true that the beneficiaries of the system are, in the main, passive recipients—clients, patients, tenants and consumers of the state's services. The Government seem to have noted this passive role with distaste, but not to have drawn the right conclusions.
As in their approach to industry, they tend to draw an excessively rigid distinction between the evils of public finance and the virtues of the market place. But, just as it is absurd that a mixed economy should be characterised by a political frontier between the private and the public sectors, each constantly raiding the other's territory, so it is absurd that there should be a rigidly fixed frontier between public and private services in the welfare state. I was interested to hear the appeal of the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, for a closer approximation of statutory and voluntary services, with which I fully agree.
We have issued a Green Paper called Fair Treatment, which I hold in my hand. It is certainly not gospel, but it contains some ideas which I should like to put to the House. First, the separate organisation of the health authorities and the local authorities' personal social services, which are so intimately connected, has long been the subject of criticism. Health authorities should be encouraged to contract out certain community and other services to the local authorities, and local authorities, in their turn, to the voluntary services. It should be made easier for the voluntary services to raise funds through VAT exemption, and all covenants to charities should receive a median rate of tax relief at 60 per cent.
More generally, improved primary care should aim to keep people out of the expensive hospital sector. The independent status of family practitioner committees reflects the fierce independence of GPs. But there is a certain dislocation between their efforts and the hospitals; and there is a good case for experimenting with salaried GPs in inner city areas and, also, for rewarding those doctors who commit full-time to the National Health Service.
Here I cannot help referring to the notable maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Rea, with whom I am sure we shall have some very useful debates in the House on these and related themes. Prevention of disease and promotion of health at an early stage could make a big dent in the 350 million working days lost per year through backache, bronchial disorders and mere depression—17½ days per year per person in 55 work. Our whole tendency has been towards crisis welfare and crisis treatment. We must shift towards prevention.
How do we go about it? In this area, I want to make two proposals which are drawn from this document. The first is for an employment and innovation fund for the welfare services. These services are notoriously labour-intensive and, with an increasingly ageing population, will need to become more so. The funding would come from my party's general economic and employment strategy proposals, not from the DHSS Vote, and when fully established would amount to some £500 million a year. The main thrust would be to strengthen those primary care and community services designed to prevent the need for institutional care. Bids for grants from the fund could be made jointly by health and personal social service authorities or by bodies outside the statutory public sector. Bids could be accepted both from major national voluntary agencies, such as, for example, Age Concern, and from grass roots community councils wishing to take on another worker. One of the objects would be to encourage pilot schemes and to learn from their successes or failures.
Another proposal which came up at one of our conferences, and which I warmly endorse, is for the establishment of a new breed of small district family centres, which could include a crêche and a play-group for three- to five-year olds, and could also provide after-school and holiday care for slightly older children, while 15- to 16-year olds from local schools could put in some time at the centre as part of a course on parenthood or even as holiday jobs. The centres would be run by parents, who would employ some professionals. Here, again, there is the linking of the voluntary and the statutory sectors. These, also, should be eligible to bid for support from our employment and innovation fund.
A cry might go up that "community care" is merely a euphemism for privatisation and would simply increase the burden on poorer families. This might well be the case without a deliberate act of public policy designed to assist and support self-help groups and voluntary organisations. This is a point on which we shall particularly want to scrutinise the Government's new Health and Social Services Bill, which the noble Baroness mentioned in her opening speech.
Another objection which might be advanced is that most of these "mixed economy" initiatives would run into opposition by the professional interests concerned with the existing statutory provision. That is a possibility, but I repeat that what we are proposing is an enlargement of activity in this field; not a curtailment of what already exists. Rather than averting our faces from the "distressing" level of unemployment—I think that that is the Government's rather genteel word—we have seen unemployment as providing a real opportunity to involve people in their own welfare and the welfare of their neighbours and their communities, at a much closer and more intimate level than is possible at the moment. We seek to shift the balance from paternalistic provision to enablement and support.
Before sitting down, I want to revert briefly to the question of social security. There can be no doubt that the greatest of all deprivations is the basic lack of cash to finance even the most mi nimally rewarding or self-
56 respecting existence. Social security benefits of one kind or another are the main source of income for several million potentially active people. If old age pensioners and the low paid are also taken into account, we are faced with something like one-third of the population hovering near or often well below the Government's official poverty line. Therefore it is going to be incumbent on us to redesign our creaking social security and fiscal system in such a way as to provide every person in this country with a bedrock security for which he or she does not have to come cap in hand, and to eliminate the poverty and the unemployment traps.
If it is objected that this would be very expensive, there are three simple answers. The first is that the present jumble of ad hoc measures is extremely expensive to administer. It is also one of the reasons for the size of the Civil Service which the Government are finding it so difficult to reduce on any significant scale. The shift to computerisation of both tax and benefits provides a golden opportunity for reform here which we should be working on right now rather than waiting until the present system collapses about our ears. The second answer to the excessive expense argument is not a technical but a moral one. I quote here from page 280 of a book, published by the Department of Health and Social Security in conjucntion with the Social Science Research Council, called Despite the Welfare State:Social policy . . . is primarily concerned with redistribution, with directing some of the benefits of growth towards the vunerable and needy, and sharing the prosperity around, or alternatively with sharing the privations more evenly when there is less to go round".It is the second half of that sentence which presents itself as a moral imperative in the situation in which we find ourselves today. The Government will ignore it only at their peril.
Finally, there is the economic argument, which is simply that the demand side of the economy will break down if we allow millions of people to languish in poverty. Any genuine break-through on the lines I have just indicated would require an imaginative and coherent social policy which simply cannot be scribbled on the back of an envelope. The Social Democratic Party has, I believe, taken important steps towards such a social policy in its Green Paper on health and social security and in one which is shortly to emerge on poverty, taxation and social security. I commend them to your Lordships.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, there was no mention of education in the gracious Speech. One can be relieved that there is no promise of legislation to enable student loans or a voucher system to be set up. There was an article by Mr. Edward Heath in Tuesday's Mirror which might well have been written, it seemed to me, by a Labour education spokesman. Mr. Edward Heath referred to "this crackpot scheme by those who think they can sell education with vouchers like canned spuds in a supermarket". I am entirely in agreement with him. But I had hoped that there would be a promise of legislation on further and adult education and on the youth service. In both cases, working parties have been set up by the Government to review the existing state of the law and to assess the case for amending it.
In June 1981 a working party composed of officers from the Department of Education and Science and 57 from local authorities presented their report, The Legal Basis of Further Education. It pointed out a number of anomalies in the law as it stood, particularly in relation to the 16 to 19 year-olds: that much of further education as at present practised is ultra vires and that satisfactory provision for the special educational needs of those up to 19 was inadequate and highly necessary. It pointed out that certain sections of the 1944 Act were out of date and, indeed, had never been acted on and that these should not be left on the statute book.
Interested bodies and organisations were asked to respond to this document by the end of October 1981, a year ago. Since then, silence. On 21st October last I asked an oral Question about when we could expect a response from the Government. I was told by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that there would be an early Statement. I am sorry to see that the noble Lord is not present. This made me hope there might be a promise of action in the gracious Speech. I was disappointed. It had been possible that the Government might have decided not to pronounce on the legal basis until the report of the review group on the youth service was published. The youth service report was published last week—Cmnd. 8686—and it was submitted to the Secretary of State in August. With it went a note from Alan Thompson, its chairman, which ended with the words:We trust that the publication of this report will lead to specific action along the lines recommended".More of this report later.
First, I should like to say a little more about the need for changes in the law where further and adult education are concerned. The 16 to 19 year-olds in further education are at present at a disadvantage compared with those in school. No fees can be charged for any pupil in a school. There is no legal restraint on the freedom of authorities to charge fees for those in further education. If a pupil is accepted for a school in a neighbouring authority, the home authority is obliged to pay the fee, whether it approves or not. If a further education student is accepted for a course in a neighbouring authority, the home authority is not obliged to pay the fee.
These anomalies were pointed out by the Opposition while the 1980 Bill was in this House. The Minister, the present Leader of the House—who also is not present—admitted that they were anomalies but she did not accept amendments to remove them. There is a need for flexibility in the appointment and use of staff between the two sectors—school and further education. Tertiary colleges have to be under further education regulations, as some staff might not be qualified to serve under school regulations. The hours of attendance of teachers in a school are different—and, indeed, of students, too. And it is not clear whether students can attend part-time at schools, as they can at further education or tertiary colleges. This is very important when we are considering the provision which is going to have to be made under the youth training scheme. Some of it may well have to be in sixth forms of schools. We do need clarification.
The legal basis document proposes the abandonment of the requirement under the 1944 Act that schemes of further education should be submitted to and approved by the Secretary of State. It is obsolete. 58 Because authorities have neither the duty nor the power to make provision except through schemes endorsed by the Secretary of State, much of the existing further education is almost certainly ultra vires. "It would be inadvisable", the authors say, "to allow such a situation to continue".
Similarly, they ask for the repeal of Sections 43 to 46 of the 1944 Act, which provided for the setting up of county colleges. These sections have never been implemented. Sections 41, 42 and 53 of the 1944 Act, which give the statutory basis for providing adult education, are widely drawn and have stood the test of time pretty well. They give flexibility. But the savage cuts which education authorities have made in this area because of financial pressures from the central Government have caused people to ask what are the obligations they have under the Act. Section 41 says:It shall be the duty of every local education authority to secure the provision for their area of adequate facilities for further education".The word "duty" is there, but what constitute "adequate facilities"? The obligations of local authorities need to be made clearer. Some authorities have withdrawn almost all provision and there have been threats of legal action against them.
All those who work in this field of adult education know about the formidable needs of adults. They ask that it shall be a positive duty to make provision. At a time when more and more adults are unemployed and need the variety, refreshment and retraining which adult education can give, this is no time for delay and inaction. It shows a disrespect, I consider, for those working in that area. Their morale is low. The report, they think, is ignored. They feel that the Government are not really interested in that sphere, while the need is much greater than it has ever been. I ask, what are the Government going to do?
The report of the review group on the youth service—Experience and Participation, it is called—was published only last week. The third of its terms of reference was to assess the need for legislation. It is interesting that during the 1970s there were four separate attempts by private Members to attack the statutory basis of the youth service and to make it more comprehensive and mandatory. The last attempt was that of Mr. Trevor Skeet in the 1979–80 Session, it attracted a good deal of attention, interest and support, but in the end it failed to win the Government's support. However, in a debate in July 1980 the Minister promised that a review would be set up to study this provision, including the need for statutory change.
This report is the result of that review. There is a chapter titled The Need for Legislation. It surveys the past and shows that the term "youth service" is in no statute. It was first used in a Board of Education Circular No. 1486 issued at the beginning of the war, in 1939. That covered children up to the age of 14, which was then the school-leaving age. In November 1944 there was another circular, No. 13, which extended the concept of the youth service to cover those in full-time education, drawing authority for this from Section 53 of the 1944 Act. It is from two sections, Sections 41 and 53 of the 1944 Act, that local authorities take the power to provide a youth service. The review group recommends legislation, and proposes in Chapter 1 a possible clause. They say: 59it seems to us that all the essential objectives, as set out in the annex, could be comprised within a single (admittedly long and fairly complex) clause.They suggest that this could be incorporated into a Bill which would clarify the position of LEAs in respect of the provision of further education, and this I would strongly support.
The press release issued a week ago underplayed the group's demand for legislation, which occurs not only in Chapter II but throughout the report, as the press release also underplayed the group's demand for adequate resources. The press release made much of the fact that perhaps better use could be made of existing resources with better planning, but in the chapter on resources the authors say that the youth service should be funded at a high level, and they stress the importance of local authority input. I would like to quote a few words from the report:Although the local authority contribution constitutes only a small part of the Service's total resources, it is the keystone which provides strategic support for the voluntary initiatives which sustain the wider edifice. It would be wrong to assume that if local authority support were reduced, new voluntary effort would take up the slack: on the contrary, much of the current voluntary provision would fall.At the press launch the group's chairman, Alan Thompson, said that of every £1 of public money going into the youth service, there is £9 on the voluntary side—but that the public money was crucial. It might be appropriate to comment here on the effects of the changes the Government made in 1980 to the way in which capital building projects of local voluntary youth organisation could get capital grants.
Before 1980, the DES would meet 50 per cent. of the cost budgeted, the LEA 25 per cent. and the voluntary organisations 25 per cent. Between 1975–76 and 1980–81 the total sum allocated by the department in capital grants decreased by about 45 per cent. in real terms, and there is reason to suppose that the decline has continued since. The DES has transferred funding to the RSG. As no part of this can be earmarked for specific purposes there can be no guarantee that funds are reaching local voluntary organisations, and responses suggest that they are not doing so in most cases. This emphasises the need for an injection of Government money to encourage and help the voluntary sector.
While on resources, there is a recommendation that mandatory grants should be available to those taking initial training courses in youth work, and the importance of in-service training and proper standing for those working in the service is emphasised. The report proposes an advisory council as part of the national structure, which could advise the Minister who had responsibility for these affairs on the action to be taken, the allocation of resources and the monitoring of performance. It could provide a focus for policy-making and for certain of the management functions which need to be carried out at national level. It is amusing to remember that the Youth Service Forum was axed by the Government in one of their early quango-killing operations. The proposal for the advisory council, not surprisingly, was therefore made little of in the press release.
The report places the responsibility for the youth service firmly in the hands of the DES at national level and of the local education authorities at local level, and it proposes that LEAs should be given a statutory 60 duty to create machinery to ensure regular and effective communication and consultation with voluntary youth organisations over the whole field. The need for this and for co-ordination of the many services that the agencies contribute to the youth service provision—social services, probation, police, churches—is important because of the varied and fragmented nature of the overall provision.
I have concentrated on legislation, resources and structure, but it would be unfair to the report if I did not mention some of its other very positive recommendations. The service has a duty to help all young people and the report makes particular reference to the over-16s and to the handicapped. The age range it thinks right to cover is 11 to 20 years. The service should provide social education and social development and the report criticises the patchy and incomplete response to social needs in the past.
I would like to give another short quotation from the report, in referring to what the MSC is now doing:If young people were to retain employability through periods of unemployment and be able to respond to unforeseen job requirements, then vocational training would have to be complemented by a corresponding personal and social development to provide the necessary maturity for employment and the confidence and coping skills needed to retain this employability. It is in this area that the youth service has, in our view, a crucial role to play.The report says that there needs to be more political education and that there is very little; the majority of responses from local education authorities suggested very little activity. A typical comment was, "We have to be wary of that." The review group's response was:We believe that this is dangerous. What is required is experience of such a kind that the young people learn to claim their right to influence the society in which they live and to have a say in how it is run. It is active participation in some form of political activity, formal or informal, which really counts. We have not found that such participation is at all widespread. . .Youth workers should be aware of the international context of their work, and the needs of ethnic minorities and of girls should be paid more heed. That goes not only for those at the receiving end of the service, but also for those working in it—who in fact are predominantly male and white. That should be changed and the young should have far greater participation in decision-making, which could indeed form part of their political education.
I have spoken at some length on this new report—and I should like to stress that it is a unanimous report—which I think is a very important report in these times, when there is so much anxiety about the alienation of youth and about youth unemployment. The report asks very firmly for legislation, as did the earlier report on the legal basis of further education. I hope, not only for the sake of the young people but also for the sake of the many hardworking and dedicated people in both the youth service and in adult further education (who often feel themselves underrated and under-valued partly because the service does not have a satisfactory statutory basis) that among the other measures which will be laid before us there will be a Bill—if only an amending Bill to the 1944 Act—which will show that the Government attach the importance and seriousness to this sphere of education that we on these Benches do. We have very grave doubts, to say the least, about the Government's attitude and the Government's intentions.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Lord Hooson
My Lords, from these Liberal benches, it is my first happy duty, which I discharge in his absence, to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Rea, on his maiden speech. His distinguished predecessor and uncle was held in great affection and respect by this party, of which he was the parliamentary Leader in the House, and the quality of the contribution made by his successor to today's debate leads one to believe that he has in him the means of rivalling the respect and affection gained by his uncle over the years in this House.
I should like also to mention in passing—I had not intended to do so—the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ferner, when he referred to the necessity in rural areas for a telephone, which has become the lifeline. I live in a fairly remote rural area and I know how very important the telephone is. I entirely agreed with every word the noble Lord said on that subject. In passing I should say, as I am also a farmer, that farmers are able to get telephones because it is a natural business expense, and the cost to them is not as great as it is to, say, a farm worker or someone employed as a roadman in the area, though it is equally important because of the remoteness of their situation so often. I think the noble Lord called attention to a very important social matter in this country.
However, I want to devote my very short contribution to this debate to that part of the gracious Speech which can be dealt with broadly under the heading The relationship of the police and the community. When I started at the Bar in 1950, I was a circuiteer and I still remain so to a very considerable extent, and it is right to say that the relationship between the police and the community varies in different parts of the country. In my experience, the police are held in much higher general respect in many of the rural areas, and certainly outside London, than they are in the metropolitan areas. Much of the difficulty has arisen in the metropolitan areas, particularly in London. But if 30 years ago one had canvassed the possibility that in the 1980s we would be actively debating, both in this House and elsewhere, the setting up of an organisation to police the police, which is virtually what we are talking about when we talk of complaints procedures and so on, it would have been unthinkable, because in those days I think it is right to say that there was mutual respect between the police and the community. I think it behoves us to look at the reasons why that mutual confidence has ebbed away in the intervening 30 years.
Many reasons have been given, but I think that one of the chief reasons has been the mistaken police policies in many areas. I can see signs of it happening, and it has been happening now for the last two decades, in much more rural areas of the country. I remember as a young barrister once calling the attention of a very distinguished chief constable, alas now dead, to a piece in a newspaper, I think it was the Guardian, saying that a new chief constable had said in his opening address to the police authority that within two years he was going to have every officer in the force in motor cars, motorised. The very distinguished chief constable of who I speak said, "Silly fool; where will they get the gossip?" It was a very penetrating remark, because, when one thinks of it, so much crime is solved by gossip, and you tend to gossip to people you know. 62 If the person in uniform is remote, as he inevitably becomes when he is charging around in a motor car, you probably find that less crime is solved in those areas, even though they have all the modern electronic technological and other means to assist in the solution of crime.
I should have thought that one of the bad aspects—and there are many good aspects—of policing in our generation has been the fact that police forces have tended because of police policy to become more remote. It is, I think, just as well if we are seeing signs of a reversal of this policy. Community policing is not a new thing at all. It used to be the accepted norm. It is now that its value is becoming recognised. In Devon in particular, and in the rest of the country, we are seeing signs of a return to community policing. The duty of the police in relation to the community is recognised now as being of equal importance to the need to develop all modern technological devices to enable them to undertake their undoubtedly great task of combating modern crime.
One would like to feel that public opinion was still in the state today where we could leave the discipline of police forces entirely to the chief officer. That is the ideal state of affairs. One would have thought that any chief officer in any police force would be very glad to get rid of any officer who fell by the wayside and indulged in any form of crime or any form of serious disciplinary offence. He would be very glad to get rid of him. But such is the state of public opinion, particularly in the metropolitan areas, that it is no longer feasible, no longer possible, as the Government recognise in the gracious Speech, to leave it entirely for the police to investigate matters within their own ranks. This is highly regrettable, and I think the sooner we set upon the course of restoring mutual confidence between the police and the community the better it will be for this country.
I entirely subscribe to he views which my noble friend Lord Wigoder suggested in his speech, that a very considerable contribution to this would be to relieve the police of the duty of prosecuting and that we should in some way emulate the admirable system that they have in Scotland of having a procurator fiscal in charge of prosecutions, so that this duty is discharged by an independent body and the police are relieved of that matter.
Of course, we on these Benches are maintaining an open mind and not committing ourselves in any way to the view we may take of detailed legislation which is put before us to discharge the broad outlines of the matters suggested in the gracious Speech. But I think we ought to recognise the great dilemma which faces a modern police force and indeed the community in its relationship to the police. We have ancient privileges in this country, strengthened over the years, so that a man's personal freedom cannot be threatened by the kind of dubious police procedures we see in other countries. It would be a sad day for this country if the basic principles upon which our freedom in this country is based were to be eroded in any way. But whether those principles are properly discharged by dependence upon rules which were framed perhaps in the last century in totally different social conditions is another matter. We have to recognise, for example, that organised crime today is very often carried out 63 with a great deal of expertise, a great deal of organisation and a great deal of capital investment by those indulging in it. I have only to refer to the international drugs organisations to indicate immediately the kind of organisation I have in mind. Therefore, such crime has to be met by an equally sophisticated or a more sophisticated and adequately equipped police force. Of course, when people are arrested who are really big-time national or even international criminals it is very odd indeed that they are able to take the maximum advantage of our ancient rules which prevent people from incriminating themselves. This is a dilemma, a dilemma that I do not think we have yet sufficiently regarded in the legal profession or had a sufficiently open mind about. We want to look very carefully at the Judges Rules in a modern context. It is very important, in view of the disrepute in which verbals are now held in so many courts, that there should be adequate means of recording what a man says to a police officer. With modern technological developments surely we are able to do that. No one is suggesting that the police should be handicapped in any way in combating big crime by unnecessary restrictions on their right of search, question and so on. But there must be adequate safeguards, otherwise we can be quickly on the short and slippery slope that often leads to the destruction of our traditional values in this country.
I illustrate for one moment the problem that arises. Nobody can say rationally that the police in our modern sophisticated society should not have the right to stop and search in certain circumstances. Obviously they need that right when they have proper and reasonable suspicion that a person is carrying drugs, stolen property, arms, and so on. It is right that we should rationalise that law. Nevertheless, bearing in mind the many allegations of harassment made against certain police officers in inner city areas, it is equally obvious that this power could be grossly misused. Therefore, the safeguards that the Government are to provide for this undoubtedly needed power—a power that must be rationalised—are all-important. If the safeguards are not sufficient, the power may do more harm than good in the long term.
These are only some examples of the way in which the House must look very carefully at the legislation that is put before it. It is right that any Government should embark on the long overdue task of restoring police confidence in the community, the community's backing of the police and the community's confidence in the police itself. Until we restore the harmony that once existed, we are in for troubled times on this front.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Lord Auckland
My Lords, the gracious Speech envisages some very important legislation in what could be the penultimate Session of this Parliament. The legislation itself is in some cases far-reaching. Certainly the legislation regarding relations between the police and the community is of great importance. So, I believe, is the legislation envisaged on the youth training scheme. I comment on this particular item of legislation because we do not know what form it is to take, but much will surely depend on the jobs available, on what we can sell and, as a result, where we can send apprentices and those who are to learn, 64 particularly in industry. The idea of a youth training scheme is certainly an excellent one.
I just add that we must not only look at the very distressing subject of unemployment among youth. Those in their mid-40s and early 50s who are declared redundant or who may leave Her Majesty's Services and are unable to find a composite job also require some form of training. I hope that when the legislation is published attention will be given to that aspect of the matter as well as to the youth of this country.
I want to concentrate a few words on the passage in the gracious Speech that states:Legislation will be introduced to enable improvements to be made to the health and social services".I particularly refer to the health service.
Now that the noble Lord, Lord Rea, is back in his place, I should like to add my congratulations on his most notable maiden speech, particularly as he has spoken with all the experience of a general practitioner, not only in this country but in the third world. I believe this is most important and his contributions on this topic, and on other topics, will be awaited with much enthusiasm.
The wording of a gracious Speech is inevitably rather vague and we do not yet know what this legislation regarding the health service will be. All I can say is, let it come soon because it is vitally important. It is not my intention to make any comment on the current dispute in the health service because that would be improper on an occasion of this kind. All I hope is that some consideration in the envisaged legislation, whatever it may be, will be given to the construction of the National Health Service. We have had many inquiries, many blue papers, and other coloured papers, on the health service. We had a notable speech from the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, who contributed a great deal in his own survey on the pay structure in the health service. That is an extremely important matter.
Another very vital aspect is the staffing in the health service. I do not know whether my noble friend who is to reply will have any comments to make on the very vexed problem of administration within the health service. Anyone who has served on a hospital committee—and many noble Lords have given much more distinguished service than I have myself—will know that administration there must be. No organisation can be run without administration. But there seems to be a disturbing lack of cohesion (if that is the right word) between the therapeutic aspect of the health service and the administration. For example, I read of a well-known London teaching hospital in Hampstead where—I think I have my facts right—about 200 doctors cannot be taken on because the money for them cannot be found. They are skilled people. Again, this is not a matter for detailed comment in a debate on the gracious Speech. There will be other opportunities to look into this and at other hospitals where the same situation may exist. In some cases nurses are virtually being declared redundant.
Of course, this is not the case throughout the country and it is not necessarily the fault of this or any other Government. But the fact is that priorities within the National Health Service seem to have gone somewhat astray. This is bound to cause problems to morale. Some of the conditions under which our 65 nurses and doctors work in National Health Service hospitals are, frankly, quite appalling. However, I must say that this is not the only country in which these conditions occur. Moreover, a brand new hospital is not necessarily more efficient than a very old one, because in most of the very old hospitals all the staff give very devoted service.
Nevertheless, I would hope that the Government will have something to say—if not this evening, then when this forthcoming legislation reaches Parliament—as to what will be spent on new hospitals and on upgrading hospitals, because that is very important particularly for those who work in hospitals. At this point I declare an interest because I have a younger daughter who is a staff nurse at a hospital in Surrey. She is very devoted to her job, as are all nurses whether they are at times angry over the conditions under which they work—and many have a perfect right to be angry. This has been going on for many years. However, it does not need me or anybody else to remind your Lordships that we are, of course, under considerable financial restraints at present, as are most other countries in the world. Whenever I visit any country or whenever I talk to people from another country, one of the first questions I ask, if they are likely to know the answer, is: "What are the conditions in your hospitals? What are the conditions as regards pay for nurses and doctors?" It is a very strange and rather sad commentary that in the vast majority of cases the same pay problems—and I am talking about net pay—apply in countries besides our own.
In conclusion, I point out that the National Health Service has come under criticism from the very day that it was founded. Much of the criticism has been justified, and that is no reflection on the devoted people who work within it. But whatever views one might have on private medicine—and I support private medicine to a certain extent—I believe that the National Health Service has an enormously important role to play. The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, in his final comment made a suggestion as to how the pay of nurses and doctors should be financed. While I would not off-the-cuff go the whole way with the noble Earl, he has at least put forward an idea. The fact of the matter is that these increases cannot be financed out of thin air. If we are to have a really efficient health service, and if we are to pay doctors, nurses and all within it the remuneration which they so richly deserve, then the money has to be found. However, we can discuss that and other vital aspects within this great service on another occasion.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Lord Hylton
My Lords, on two occasions this year I spent some weeks visiting Northern Ireland and I am therefore very happy to see that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, with his experience in the Northern Ireland Office, will be replying to this debate. The point that has struck me most forcefully, both this year and in previous years, is the great amount of absolutely normal life that one sees in the Province. I hope that is something which will encourage many noble Lords to visit Northern Ireland. If they do so they will find a most friendly and welcoming people, a highly creative people in a place where unemployment and economic 66 difficulties pose problems perhaps even worse and more complicated than those that arise from violence and terrorism. In this context I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government to study with every possible care the document simply entitled Unemployment, recently published by an ad hoc group working from the Ulster Polytechnic.
In July this year I spoke in your Lordships' House of the importance of widening the common ground and strengthening the creative minorities in Northern Ireland. British Governments in the past have shown some sensitivity to this, and on many occasions have been able to adopt a non-sectarian stance—for example, over the matter of children's summer holidays. Today I should like to welcome publicly Circular No. 21 of 1982 from the Department of Education in Northern Ireland. This concerned the contribution of schools to the improvement of community relations. There is surely scope for co-operation not only between schools in Northern Ireland, but also between schools in the North and the South of Ireland and between Britain and Ireland.
There has in the past been much controversy about segregation and integration of schools. I should therefore like to quote the experience of Tanzania, where all the schools were nationalised and integrated in 1966. Ten years later a spokesman for the Education Secretariat of the Roman Catholic Bishops wrote;My experience of integration in Tanzania is that now all denominations are happier than before the takeover of the schools".He went on to say:There is more friendliness among individuals of different denominations. They respect one another, and this is so among both the student body and the members of staff".So much for that. In 1972 Mr. David Bleakley, a former Minister for Community Relations, wrote:Without such a system"—that is, integrated education—the men and women of the Province will continue to be a people who do not really know one another".I hope that all who are concerned with the administration of schools in Northern Ireland will ponder most seriously those two quotations.
Turning now to higher education, I gather that the universities in the South are bursting at the seams while some university places both in Northern Ireland and in Britain are underfilled. I ask the Government whether they will make sure that fees which are in their control are not raised to prohibitive levels and that national grants are fully portable across frontiers, so that in this way the spare places may, perhaps, be taken up.
I come now to the politics of the current situation in Northern Ireland. We have heard much lately concerning terror and violence and we have heard a good deal about the relative—and I stress the word "relative"—electoral success of Provisional Sinn Fein. I want to emphasise today that there exists, and has always existed, a large nationalist and republican tradition in Northern Ireland that is totally nonviolent in its approach/This is the tradition that goes back to O'Connell and emancipation, to the Land League, to Parnell and to such bodies as the Gaelic Athletic Association, the Gaelic League and the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society. This tradition has 67 no time whatever for the "physical-force men". It does not approve or condone terrorism: it condemns it as wrong in itself and as sterile because it leads to prolonged violence. This non-violent nationalist tradition is alive and well, and I have met it personally.
Any Northern Ireland Government, however, must be well aware that within the Catholic community there still exists a strong sense of economic and social injustice. This, of course, varies from place to place and from person to person. But it is still widespread and strong in 1982 despite the O'Neill/Chichester-Clark/Faulkner reforms and the continued attempts at fairness through direct rule. I am bound to agree that there is evidence for continuing injustice in the proportionately, higher unemployment existing among Roman Catholics and in the proportionately longer waiting lists for housing and the lesser choice in housing, for Catholics. Even among those in employment, there is a tendency for Catholics to have the unskilled and clerical posts, while Protestants occupy the more skilled and responsible jobs.
Will Her Majesty's Government make a full statement in reply to the report presented by Dr. McCrudden in February 1982 to its own Fair Employment Agency? Will the Government ensure that Roman Catholics have encouragement and equality of opportunity throughout the Northern Ireland public sector, especially in the electricity, shipbuilding and aircraft industries? Such affirmative action is the exact parallel of that asked for in this House only last week in respect of black citizens in Britain.
Professor Lyons in his recent Ford lectures on Ireland wrote of:Irreconcilable cultures, unable to live together or to live apart".It is in this context that I have spoken in the past of the necessity for new attitudes. Whether we are British or Irish, Unionist or Republican, we all need to accept our total poverty and bankruptcy. We are all incapable of solving the problem. To say, "If only they would do so and so", is no good in my view, because we are all equally involved. Even if Her Majesty's Government were tomorrow to come out in support, say, of shared Christian schools or full equality of opportunity in Northern Ireland, we should still be faced with problems of allegiance, sovereignty and culture. We would still have to discover how the majority and the minority can peacefully co-exist within the same territory, remembering of course the "double minority" in Ireland as a whole.
What we need are enabling attitudes. We need, for instance, liberation from partisan history and false myths. Whatever our background we need help to come to terms with the appalling crimes and injustices that our own side has committed either in the past or in the present. We need help to come to terms with fears and mistrust, fears sometimes so deep in Ireland as to be paralysing. We need courage to apologise on occasion to the other side. We need vision to see that Catholics actually need Protestants and vice versa, or that Anglo Saxon and Celts are complementary to one another.
It is easy enough to see that some strident voices on either side of the conflict in Northern Ireland need each other—and here I shall mention no names—just indeed as the Dubliner needs the Kerryman. But more fundamentally the British and the Irish need each 68 other. They should recognise their interdependence and find appropriate ways of expressing it in institutions. If only we can all be humble and forgiving enough, perhaps we will learn how to handle the complexity of inter-Ulster, inter-Irish, and British-Irish relations. Unless we can do this, the ending of violence will not mean the creation of lasting peace. I would, therefore, like to adapt the words that Cardinal Hume recently used in a European context and say of Ulster, as of Britain and Ireland, that:Conversion of heart is the necessary condition of peace if we are to construct a society where violence is unthinkable".
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, it is an ungracious act when debating the gracious Speech, a fortiori if you are speaker No. 16 on the list, to make any sort of long speech, and accordingly I propose—I hope with your Lordships' approbation—to make three short points. The first point relates to race relations. Scarman has come: I hope Scarman has not gone. Your Lordships have debated the Scarman Report and what flows from it at some considerable length and in a very incisive way. But the only oblique reference to race relations, which is such an important part of the social condition of our country today, is contained in the words:to introduce new arrangements for consultation between the police and the community".Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, who made a most interesting speech, referred to those words, not really in the context of race relations at all, but in the context of the relationship between members of the public generally and the police force.
I was very interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, has just said about the contribution which, in his view, education and integration of schools could make in regard to the problems of Northern Ireland. Is there not a very great contribution that could be made by educational legislation and regulation in regard to race relations in this country? One remembers the rhyme which was in an old musical called "South Pacific":You've gotta be taught to hate . . . at six or seven or eight".One wonders whether it should not be obligatory or mandatory that in our teacher training colleges teachers should be given a course on minority cultures and, indeed, on comparative religions, so that the teachers themselves in our schools—and I refer, if I may use that phrase only for shortness, to our state schools—are, in fact, equipped to deal with some amount of respect with the minorities who are contained in their school population. Indeed, I would very much hope that by regulation or otherwise at least in the sixth forms of schools some subject should be compulsory on the contribution of the great races of the earth and the great cultures to civilisation, which I think would give not only a feeling of tolerance but also a feeling of mutual respect, which is so important.
I turn immediately to the second point I want to make. It relates to something which my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones made a fundamental part of this speech when dealing with the question of law and order. He posed the query—and it is a very forceful query and we ignore it at our peril—that it is all very well to speak of law and order when so many of our young people find little to respect in the social and political order that they find when they are not 69 even able to get the dignity of a job. The figure was quoted of 40 per cent. of the unemployed being under the age of 25. In another place last night, and in a maiden speech, an honourable Member referred to his own constituency. He described it as a beautiful constituency from the point of view of so much of its area. He spoke about the blight upon the young men; he said that one in four of 18- and 19-year olds were without a job.
Therefore, I do not think that we can lightly talk in terms of law and order and respect for society, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, said, without in fact concentrating our attention on the great need to deal with this terrible problem. I wonder whether the historian of the future will equate with any amount of eulogy the fact that we managed to depreciate our rate of inflation, be it to 8 per cent. or 7 per cent,. but increased by so much the risk that many of our young people would find their regard for democracy and for ordered government to be of little consequence because it did so little for what they themselves could respect.
I hope I shall as briefly deal with my third and last point as with the other two. It has no real connection with the other two points. So many little firms of suppliers in this country are being made responsible for unemployment which they cannot themselves control by virtue of the fact that they are literally being cheated by those who are wrongly using the powers of going into liquidation and going into receivership. The Cork Report—your Lordships may have the burden of listening to me later in the Session when I try to move a Motion to call attention to that report and to move for Papers—was the result of six years of detailed consideration, and has in fact been before the Government now for some months. I had hoped to find in the gracious Speech a reference to some part of that report, at least, being carried into legislation, although I know it was the wish of the Committee that their recommendations should be dealt with as a whole by legislation. My Lords, my three points are completed, and speaker No. 16 on your Lordships' list sits down.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Baroness Fisher of Rednal
My Lords, my noble friend has just said how difficult it is to be no. 16 on the list. How much more difficult it is to be No. 17 on the list, and to follow the advocacy of my noble friend. I apologise to the noble Baroness that I was not in my place when she addressed the House. I was attending what I thought was an important committee to do with the blind handicapped, but I shall read what she had to say and digest it.
I want to start by saying how much I welcome in the gracious Speech the point about equal pay as advocated by the European Court. At that stage we have recognition by the Government of women. I feel that the Government's policy on social affairs is a real example of discrimination against women. It has been surprising this afternoon, listening to the various speakers, to hear the various ways in which they have pointed this out. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester, speaking about the British Nationality Act, brought to our attention the disadvantages to women, and even said at one stage that women were being placed at risk.
We had the noble Lord, Lord Rea, in a very fine 70 maiden speech, drawing attention to the anomalies in the health service and the different social classes. Let us remember that the biggest users of the National Health Service are women and children. The Black Report—and my noble friend did not go into detail on that as much as he would have liked—shows quite clearly that in many parts of the country the antenatal, the pre-natal, care for women is deplorable. Deaths in the West Midlands, as recorded in the Black Report, should give grave concern to the Government. From the Benches behind me the noble Lord, Lord Perry, said that their party was all things to all men. I should have liked him to say all things to all men and to all women.
§ Lord Kilmarnock
My Lords, would the noble Baroness allow me to intervene? It was not my noble friend who said that our party was all things to all men, it was the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor in the debate on the Queen's Speech at the previous Session, and the noble Lord, Lord Perry, was making the point that this was no longer the case.
§ Baroness Fisher of Rednal
My Lords, I should like to say that I feel that I belong to a party that embraces men and women. Then we get to the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, when he spoke about nurses' pay. It is true that the problems of settling the health service pay dispute is a problem that the Government will have to face up to. There again, the labour force employed by the health service is predominantly female. Then we had my noble friend Lady Ewart-Biggs, who again made special mention of one-parent families, drawing attention to their difficulties and pointing out that it was predominantly mothers who had to go through these difficulties.
I hope I have got it right that the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, drew our attention to social security payments. The biggest receivers of social security payments are again women. Practically everybody who has spoken this afternoon has drawn the attention of the Government to how they are discriminating against women. Though it might be true to say that the Prime Minister and the Government have said clearly that it is not their intention to destroy the National Health Service, there is great disquiet and concern as the Secretary of State sniffs around in a menacing fashion to find out what can be cut.
One was tremendously pleased last week to see that the Government have found £100,000 to halt the cuts at the Great Ormond Street Hospital. I ask the Government now, is it possible for them to dig into that same underspent central health fund to make sure that the Royal Marsden breast screening unit can also continue? I say very sincerely—and I feel sure that the noble Baroness the Leader of the House will agree with me—that this service, which has been encouraged not only at the Royal Marsden but at hospitals up and down the country, is important for women. It took a long time for these units to gain the confidence of women so that they would go to be examined when it might prove that they were suffering from a very serious complaint. This confidence that has been built up is going to be destroyed if places like the Royal Marsden Hospital have to suffer closure.
It is not just a question of the London area, to which perhaps noble Lords have their attention drawn more frequently than other parts of the country. According 71 to the Wirral Health Authority report, other economies will have to be made by reducing beds in some hospitals and slowing down the planned opening of geriatric and psychiatric beds. I am not convinced that the Government clearly understand the demands made upon the health service by the elderly. In 1951, and not long after the introduction of the national Health Service, retired people made up only 13.6 per cent. of the population. By the end of last year the figure was 17.7 per cent. These are the only figures I shall be giving. The over-75s in the community occupy one-third of all our hospital beds, and over one-half of the mentally and physically handicapped are elderly.
Not just the hospital services are involved. The growth in the number of elderly people—my noble friend Lord Rea spelt this out clearly—means more strain on general practitioners, health visitors, district nurses and all the other community services. If those services are cut—if the number of beds in hospitals are cut—a heavier burden is placed on one section of the community, and that will normally be the daughter or daughter-in-law, because the community service will not be able to carry the extra strain. The Government can praise to the highest private hospital care, but what the private hospital sector fights against and is very shy of is the long-term care associated with mental health and geriatric service. In my view, it should be the responsibility of the Government to ensure there is enough growth in the NHS to cope with the growth in the elderly population.
I switch subjects to ask what has happened to the Education Act 1981. The present Leader of the House piloted that measure through with great expertise and we all admired the sincerity lying behind the Act. What concerns me, however, is that, while the original date for bringing the measure into force was October 1982, which. I understand, was delayed till 1st January 1983, a later date has now been suggested. It is 1st April, a rather unfortunate date for the Government to be considering for the introduction of such an Act: perhaps 2nd April might have been a better suggestion.
There is great disquiet about how the reorganisation process can get under way until the Government decide actually to bring the Act into force. Noble Lords in various parts of the House spoke at length and with great concern about the way the needs of the handicapped must be furthered. As my noble friend lady David said on the legal basis for education, it is important for that matter to be resolved so that those young people whose education is now provided under special school provision are able to have the benefits of further education until they are 18 or 19. One hopes that among the other measures that the Government will be introducing as a result of the examination of the legal basis for further education, will be further education for the handicapped.
I hope the Government will accept my final comment in the spirit in which I make it. I am greatly concerned about the way in which Ministers in their speeches are today constantly expressing the view that the problems facing the country are not of their making. They try to place the blame on all sorts of people—on previous Labour Governments, on the rest of the world and on the pretext that circumstances are 72 completely beyond their control—and they seem to be saying repeatedly that it is no good turning to the politicians to provide the answers. I am convinced that that is a very dangerous philosophy to be advocating. It means that what the Government are saying and are getting the people to believe is that the democratic vote and the political system are irrelevant in helping to solve the problems which surround people's daily lives. For that reason, apathy creeps into people's minds, and that is not the way to solve any of this country's problems.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Lord O'Hagan
My Lords, I have flown from Rome today to take part in this debate, and my noble friend the Chief Whip has rewarded me by putting me eighteenth in the batting order. Of course it is not his fault; I blame it entirely on the new Deputy Chief Whip. I have shredded most of my more general observations, but there is one topic on which I wish to dwell before remarking more specifically on some of the proposals included, and some of those not included, in the gracious Speech; that is the topic to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, devoted a considerable part of their remarks; namely, youth unemployment.
Youth unemployment, especially chronic semipermanent youth unemployment, is the same destructive social phenomenon whether it occurs in Railton Road, Toxteth, the Falls Road, Barnstaple, Bideford or Camberwell. It is a pervasive and corrosive social evil and I applaud everything that is being done by the Government to take steps to deal with the problem; like other noble Lords, I urge that more should be done, and I hope we will all encourage the Government to take further steps in that direction.
It was a pleasure to hear the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Rea. Not only were his remarks most penetrating—he had no need of visual aids; his oratory was quite suitable to the occasion with his spectacles only—and I hope we shall often hear from him, not only on this topic but on many others.
I shall group my remarks on the gracious Speech under three heads—good inclusions, good omissions and bad omissions; and under the head of good inclusions I would particularly commend the measures on data protection and, generally, those on law and order. On the marketing of food, I would urge Her Majesty's Government to take this subject extremely seriously. Some of our difficulties in commanding a net balance of payments credit with other Community countries is due to our lack of skill in marketing our very good agricultural products. We produce wonderful food but are bad at selling it; I therefore commend the efforts of my honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture to set up a new organisation to promote British food. I hope it will be taken very seriously, that he will get at least the .£20 million he is asking for, that all British Embassies in Community countries will serve British food—including, I hope, British cider—and that we really stop laughing at the idea of selling food. As I say, we are good at producing it but up until now have not been nearly so good as many other countries in the Community and elsewhere at promoting its export and consumption elsewhere.
73 I was sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, felt it was worth a cheap laugh to decry the fact that a Bill concerned with the heritage is to be introduced in your Lordships' House. I congratulate my noble friend the Leader of the House for having secured the Bill for us to consider first because we are uniquely equipped to deal with it, and I am sure we shall be able to improve it. I have not been able to study the measure in its full detail. From the reports I have seen, what might be called the earlier, or more ideological, phase of quango-hunting under this Administration has come to an end, and we have in this Bill a reasonable balance between voluntary and private bodies, between freedom and diversity of choice in the nurturing of our heritage, and centralisation and proper administration. Therefore, I would give the Bill a general welcome.
However, I would say to my noble friends on the Front Bench that when we in this country, and in this House, comment on what is, or should be, the British achievement, one of the facts that we overlook, because we see it so often—I was in Rome, but most of your Lordships participated here yesterday in the Opening of Parliament—is that the strength of the tolerant and gentle civilisation which we all enjoy in this country flows very much from the independence of our local associations, our cultural societies, our self-regulating professions, and from the diversity of the way in which we run our own affairs freely, without too much interference and administration from the state. It is one of the glories of the British way of life, and, I would say to my noble friends on the Front Bench, it is something that we should seek to export to other member states of the Community, rather than verge towards their over-centralised systems.
There is one other point that I should like to mention which, strictly speaking, does not relate to a Bill referred to in this gracious Speech, but I should like to commend wholeheartedly the new immigration rules. I hope that in another place my right honourable friend the Home Secretary will stick to what he has proposed so far, and that my noble friend Lord Elton will do the same in this House.
There are one or two omissions from the gracious Speech for which I should like to give thanks. I should like to record my pleasure that the measures to do with the National Health Service, in so far as I have grasped their general import, do not live up to some of the more thunderous expectations that were created in the media during the summer. I fully endorse the right of the Central Policy Review Staff to conduct the kind of inquiry into the National Health Service that was undertaken. Such a body as the CPRS is essential for the highly complex task of modern government. I hope that in due course there will be a publication, perhaps in the form of a Green or White Paper, that will look at the long-term financial and fiscal consequences of the rocketing costs of all parts of governmental activity, in which the full cost of the National Health Service and everything that goes with it could be set alongside that of all other departments.
Equally, I do not always agree with Mr. Heath, and I certainly rarely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady David. Probably it is the fault of my inadequate education, but I have never been able to understand the alleged advantages of the introduction of a voucher system into education. I hope that I never have to learn 74 in practice, because the concept frightens me considerably, and I am grateful that its introduction was not referred to in the gracious Speech.
There are some bad omissions from the Speech. I support the general thrust of the gracious Speech that we have heard repeated in this House, and I endorse the remarks made by my noble friend the Leader of the House. But I am shocked that, so far as I can tell, no steps are to be taken to give the vote in European elections in this country to British citizens resident in other member states of the European Community. I feel that this is a shocking let-down of British citizens working on our behalf in the institutions of the Community and in the countries of other member states. I hope that my noble friend Lord Elton will be able to ask me to withdraw those remarks and will confirm that the Government will soon introduce legislation. If he is not able to do so, I hope that he will give a general welcome to the idea that a Member of your Lordships' House, or of another place, could introduce a Private Member's Bill on these lines, to which the Government would give favour.
I have telescoped my remarks as far as possible because there is one topic on which I wish to dwell for a few seconds before the nineteenth speaker takes his turn. I am particularly sad—though it is a bit much to expect at this stage in the Parliament—that there were no proposals in the gracious Speech for reform of your Lordships' House. Of course it is always a difficult topic. Of course it is something that nobody wants to face. But I would hate it to be the case that at a later date the historians should say that it was the present Conservative Government who were responsible for the House of Lords no longer having a place in the constitution. That could happen.
Noble Lords opposite are committed to the abolition of this House—maybe not personally, but as part of a party which is. It is the Conservative Party, in the present Government, which should have the responsibility for ensuring that this country, without a written constitution, without a supreme court, without a Bill of fundamental rights, can securely look forward to the future with an Upper House to iron out the difficulties of legislation and to protect the citizen against an over-mighty and overweening House of Commons.
We all know that such proposals have met with great difficulties in the past, and anyone who had studied Mr. Crossman's diaries or other works of—how shall I say?—scholarship or romance, depending on how one looks at them, will know that the perplexities facing anyone dealing with the subject of Lords reform are enormous. But it must not be the case—this is following directly from the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal—that problems become so intractable that they are considered to be beyond the reach of politicians. Once we have reached the state of mind that the difficulties of running our democracy are so intractable that mental fossilisation takes place, then we have begun to give up as democrats.
I have warned my noble friend Lord Beloff of what I am about to say. I had been feeling somewhat despondent for some months. For two years running the Conservative Party conference has chosen as its first topic for balloted debate reform of your Lordships' House, and for two years running my noble friend has had the difficult task of coming and saying 75 with great grace, courtesy, and distinction, as she always does, nothing at all to the conference. Earlier in the week I saw in The Times that my noble friend siting in front of me had published an article describing "Why we need the House of Lords". I thought that maybe the light had dawned, that maybe in the midnight hours in the research department of the Conservative Party a new scheme was about to be unveiled, and we were to leap forward to a new constitutional settlement securing the future of our Upper House into the next century.
My Lords, need I say more? There was nothing in the article—nothing, except some minor corporatist remarks about incorporating various elements not yet represented. If that is the case, we have ourselves in this House a great burden of responsibility to look at our own future, because all-party talks are not going to get anywhere any more. The party opposite needs all-party talks within itself. To achieve an all-party agreement with Mr. Chris Mullin on the one hand and Mr. John Golding on the other will require them to agree, and they never will.
Someone has to take the leap into the dark. I fully commend the speech earlier tonight of the noble Lord, Lord Perry of Walton—statesmanlike, interesting. I make no complaint about a year of introspection in the SDP. I wish that it had not been a year of retrospection—because many of their remedies are recycled suggestions and failed policies of the 'sixties and 'seventies. It is the restrospection that I complain about, not the introspection. Yet their constitutional proposals could only be described as by Dr. Who, out of a space invader machine. They will not work, whether they are old or new. They are totally fanciful. We have one team of wreckers; we have another team of theorists.
It is up to the present Government and to the Conservative Party to do something about the future of this House. It is a bad outlook at the moment, and I urge my noble friends on the Front Bench in this House and my right honourable friends on the Front Bench in another place to look again at this question. The Conservative Party must take up its constitutional responsibilities; only by doing so can it act continuously as a force for social cohesion, so that the political pressures to which the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal, was referring, can be responded to by a supple, flexible, modern and responsive series of institutions representing the people in Parliament. When we have a gracious Speech putting forward a scheme to preserve this House and, with it, the rights of the subjects of this country in a modern society, then I shall be really pleased. As it is, I fully support the proposals which are included; I wish that some of the omissions were rectified; and I hope that one day soon even my noble friend Lord Beloff will agree with me that it is the responsibility of this party to come forward with some radical, workable, positive ideas for reforming and securing the future of your Lordships' House.
§ 7.10 p.m.
My Lords, as the anonymous 19th speaker referred to by the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, I noted the prefatory remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, who I think surprised all noble Lords, 76 including myself, in setting an admirable example by speaking for exactly seven minutes. I am now the 19th speaker, and it would be nice to think that each succeeding speech, as the choice of subject decreases, would be of diminishing length. I am going to do my very best to follow the admirable example of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon.
I propose to touch briefly on four matters, two of which are implicit or explicit in the gracious Speech and two of which are notable by their omission. Turning first to the final paragraph of the Speech, I was glad, as was the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, to note the reference to "prevention of crime". This should have priority over all other measures to deal with the threat to law and order in this country. Sometimes the blindingly obvious needs to be said again and again, and the most important thing is to prevent crime from occurring in the first instance. In no small measure this is a community responsibility. It is a responsibility collectively in industry and commerce; it is a responsibility on the housing estates; and individually it is the responsibility of us all, in and outside our own homes.
But government, central and local, has an important role to play. I will not elaborate on this beyond saying that the All-Party Penal Affairs Group, of which your Lordships have heard all too much, believe that more should and could be done, and that money spent on the prevention of crime is money saved on the whole process of detecting offenders, bringing them to court and then dealing with them subsequently, to say nothing of the cost in terms of damage to property and the cost in the sense of security of members of the public. We intend to present a report to the Home Secretary before Christmas, and my reference to it now is by way of a trailer to that report.
Before leaving crime prevention, I should like to join with the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, and others, in pointing to the obvious, and to say that one of the most effective ways of reducing crime is to improve the opportunities for employment. This really requires no argument. It has been gainsaid, but it is completely unarguable. Here, I am referring to the third paragraph on page 3 of the gracious Speech, with its reference to "special employment measures" and "A new Youth Training Scheme". I should like to commend the Government for both these initiatives. I like particularly the youth training scheme, with its accent on more meaningful programmes and the extension of training in order to make it more effective.
But the message I get from all young people currently and previously employed under the Youth Opportunities Programme, and from adults involved in work under that scheme, is that jobs must be "for real". Supernumerary jobs and training schemes are simply no answer so long as they end with no job prospects whatsoever. Indeed, they tend to abet a sense of frustration and hopelessness; and to reinforce this point I can add to the statistics given to your Lordships by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, and the noble and learned Lord. Fifty-four per cent. of young people between the ages of 16 and 18 were out of work as at last July, and inevitably, predictably, a number of these will be prone to acts of lawlessness.
I am disappointed by the omission of any reference 77 to one of the most serious social problems which the nation continues to face and in which the Government's record to date is conspicuous by its failure. I am referring to the disgrace of overcrowding in our prisons, to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, referred earlier. The Government will say that their intentions are already enshrined in the new Criminal Justice Act, but many of your Lordships, and many more people who are involved in our penal system outside this House, are most concerned that the opportunity to set a new course in penal policy by measures which would have effectively kept the prison population at a manageable and socially acceptable level were missed, were spurned, by the Government. What we so badly need is a new concept of sentencing which retains an appropriately short punitive element but also includes rehabilitation. Apart from parole, which affects only a minority of prisoners, we do not have that, and it is badly needed as a sentencing principle.
In his concluding speech on an amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich, Lord Elton said that the Government were looking at the proposition to lower the threshold of parole. I do not myself think that this is a sufficient solution, but we know now that its implementation is at the discretion of the Home Secretary under Section 33 of the new Act. My plea is that in weighing up the means to implement this step the Home Department will not drag their feet. The Home Office review of parole, which was announced in 1978, had a gestation period of nearly three years. It appeared in the middle of 1981. I hope they will not proceed at such an elphantine speed in implementing this new measure.
My next point is the need to increase the use of non-custodial measures to deal with offenders, and young offenders in particular. Here, I should like to commend the Government for their continuing support of such measures as community service orders and intermediate treatment. Both forms of noncustodial treatment are on the increase—for instance, CSOs have increased by 23 per cent. in the last two years—and both require to be exploited in the public interest. As far as intermediate treatment is concerned, I note that the DHSS has increased its grants under the health service and the Public Health Act 1968 to a number of agencies, including the intermediate treatment fund committee of the Rayner Foundation.
We who are members of that committee have disbursed about £1 million during the four years that we have been in business. There is no doubt that the development of IT has now reached a point where my committee alone could easily and with public benefit make grants to a total of £1 million in 12 months rather than four years. I understand from the Central Council of Probation and After-Care Committees that CSOs could not be made in a number of suitable cases last year because of insufficient resources, and this is just another way of making the same point of demand exceeding supply in terms of non-custodial sentences.
I have dwelt on IT (as it is known) because of my own involvement but more importantly because of one most heartening aspect, and that is the existence of another kind of funding; that is, the fund of goodwill and of local voluntary, as well as statutory, initiatives to help young people who are at risk or are already in 78 trouble with the law. From my own contacts and observations this aspect of community involvement in what is essentially a community problem is most heartening.
I urge the Government, as a logical consequence of their professed support for non-custodial measures wherever appropriate, to consider most seriously the document called A Case for Growth, prepared by the National Association of Probation Officers, which is supported by the chief probation officers and by the Central Council of Probation and After-Care Committees. Their case is based on the increase by no less than 17 per cent. in the last two years in the number of persons supervised by the probation service. There is no doubt that the increase in clients and the diversity of jobs demanded of them cause most probation officers to be overstretched. They do such a splendid and largely unsung job and this is a tremendous tribute to their sense of social responsibility. The Home Secretary has more than once expressed his wish to shift the balance from custodial measures to alternative methods within the community. To carry conviction and make that intent a practical proposition, he should increase the probation service, so as to increase its clients and to increase the diversity of its programmes.
The other surprising omission from the gracious Speech was any reference to the inner cities situation. It has been referred to briefly already by the right reverend Prelate and others in terms of the ethnic minorities. Of course, it was raised once again during the debate on the Scarman Report. The debate made it very clear that this was not a situation affecting only the ethnic minorities living in the inner cities and not only the younger generation. It affects the lives and the attitudes of the whole populations of our inner city areas, and not just of the inner city areas. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, asked what the Government were doing to develop a co-ordinated programme covering activities at all levels of society to bear on this problem. Earlier in the debate I myself had asked the same question and suggested that so serious was it that it justified the appointment of a Minister of Cabinet rank whose sole responsibility it would be to co-ordinate action overall, to set the pace and to provide incentive all the way down the line. Understandably, the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, with a great deal to answer, did not answer either Lord Scarman's question or my suggestion. It may be that he will have a moment this evening to do that.
Like some of your Lordships, I have seen the conditions in our inner cities at intervals during the last 25 years and, despite all that has been said about them and despite the large sums of money that have been spent on them, progress is depressingly slow. Let me remind your Lordships that such obscenities as Railton Road in Brixton—which is now being dealt with, as your Lordships know—exist in many other inner city areas. They are places—I would almost say "Heaven sent" if it were not totally inappropriate—where professional anarchists reign supreme. So I should like to add my voice to the greater authority of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, in pressing for action in the inner cities. If the Government really mean, as the noble Lord, Lord Elton, assured us in that debate, that they are commit- 79 ted to a policy of one nation, then they must give proof of that intention by deeds, by dealing more urgently and more drastically with the situation in our inner cities.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Lord Kagan
My Lords, at this late hour I will endeavour not to detain you too long. I should like to make a few observations which have already been better made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. We have heard about the desirability of improving the penal reform system and the prison system, and on all sides it is assumed that, largely because of lack of resources, it cannot be done. But more resources, desirable though they are, are not the key issue. It is a completely new concept, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has said.
The background of many of the young prisoners who come into prison is the deprived community where the parents did not or could not give any guidance. Some of them, from the age of five, have had to fend for themselves on a survival course which in that context meant the survival of the fittest or, perhaps, the toughest. In school they were not under control, they could not be controlled. Then, after repeated infringements of the law they eventually landed up in prison at perhaps the age of 17 or 18. Up to that point, they will have had to fend and provide for themselves, to make all their own decisions; society will not have provided them with anything. They go through a prison gate and, inside five minutes, their life changes completely. From that moment onwards, everything is provided for them down to the last toothbrush, and no decision is allowed them.
For the first time, they are under control, if one chooses to have them under control. And what happens? When they finally learn to fit into the system, they are ignored, they are subjected to mindless tasks and kept there for six months or a year or whatever the period may be. Then, at that point when they have finished their sentence, they are allowed out—and suddenly their life changes again. From that moment onwards, nothing is provided for them and they again have to make their own decisions. It would be kinder to take a diver from a thousand feet down and raise him to the surface without a decompression chamber! The sin of omission here is that, whereas the parents could have no control and therefore could not successfully guide them, whereas the school and the headmaster had no control and failed in their education, when in prison, these young men were for the first time under control and, if they would be, could be influenced. To influence them would require a considerable calibre of person. The prison officers are not trained for it and, although some of them enter the prison service very enthusiastically, they cannot perform that task. It is an anomaly that the average prison officer, although his basic pay is fairly low, finishes up with an income of between £14,000 and £18,000 a year. What kind of person could one get from the social and educational services for that kind of money? This is the missed opportunity. When these young men come into prison, having broken the law, they are subjected to the influence of fellow prisoners who have been there many times and for whom, as a deterrent, prison has ceased to exist. They come out 80 convinced that they now know even better how to commit crime.
My Lords, the second anomaly is this. The average prison officer, by virtue of overtime and special expenses, can augment his salary until he finishes with £15,000, £16,000 or £17,000 a year. But the moment he gets promotion overtime does not exist and the situation arises where a Governor, for all his responsibility, finishes up with less money than does the average prison officer. If ever a formula were required for an institution to fail, then this is it. Can nothing be done about this?
Instead of more resources, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has said, the community should be involved. The probation service is too thin on the ground to be effective. In some prisons, an experiment has been started to try to involve people from the community, people who are qualified by virtue of their background in education and so on, to act as perhaps moral bailees. If each prisoner had access to a civilian under the guidance of the probation service, a civilian who would have access to him, then a link would be provided between him and society, a link would be provided between him and his family. If, while in prison, he wanted to prepare for the life awaiting him when he came out of prison, they could help him. They could either steer him into some educational facility in prison or they could try to provide him with a job when he came out. At least it would give him hope. Such people are available and they would not cost the taxpayer any money. All they would ask would be for their expenses to be reimbursed. The quality would be very high indeed because there are many retired schoolmasters, bank managers and clergymen who would gladly take on one or two prisoners. This is an opportunity which should not be missed and would be an extension of the probation service which would not require more resources.
I believe it now costs between £7,000 and £20,000 to keep a prisoner in prison for a year. I think that is three or four times the fees for Eton. If cost-effectiveness is looked at seriously, one will see what a failure it is. Each time we fail to take the opportunity to help to rehabilitate a prisoner, we effectively punish society to the tune of £20,000 a year. My Lords, thank you.
§ 7.32 p.m.
Lord Wallace of Coslany
My Lords, we have had quite a wide-ranging, extremely interesting and facinating debate today on home affairs. Quite a number of people have put their points of view from their own experience. One of the highlights of today's proceedings was the maiden speech by my noble friend Lord Rea who, in a very short maiden speech, poured out facts and figures which are bound to impress us and make us think. I hope that the noble Lord, who is in general practice in an area which calls for a lot of hard and intensive work, will be able to spare us some of his very valuable time, because frankly we need his help, his advice and extensive experience.
We have been paying tributes today, but yesterday was a very heavy occasion for our staff and I want to express at least my personal appreciation of the way in which they carried out duties yesterday under extreme pressure. I refer particularly to the catering staff—and especially those concerned with the buffet. They had a 81 seething mob of starving Peers and guests and they coped with this with complete calm, kindness, consideration and courtesy. I hope that words of thanks will go to the appropriate quarter from those noble Lords concerned with the administration of the House.
Regarding the Queen's Speech, there are one or two points that interested me very much indeed. One matter that gave me some cause for concern was the reference to the fact that legislation will be brought forward to extend the right to buy and to reform the system of building control in England and Wales. Any move to speed up planning procedures and approvals will of course be very welcome, and certainly building inspection is in need of tightening up. But the extension of the right to buy needs further explanation. Everyone has a right to buy provided that they can afford the financial implications of a mortgage and the cost of keeping the property in good repair in future. In passing, may I say that it is very wrong to discount council house values in order to attract people to involve themselves in house purchase. Of course, I am not against house purchase. The proposals in the gracious Speech—and I rely a great deal on what the noble Baroness said and what the press have said this morning—will extend the right to buy to.80,000 tenants of charitable housing associations. This is a matter for very careful consideration when it comes before us because the move would possibly seriously deplete the stocks of houses provided by voluntary associations for the elderly, disadvantaged, deprived and young newly-weds.
Housing continues to be a problem calling for radical solutions. Far too many houses remain empty and derelict, yet in very many cases they are capable of restoration and modernisation. One of the most urgent needs of newly-weds is accommodation of a simple standard at a reasonable rent. Very little has been done to meet this need. While I am in favour of and strongly support, home ownership—after all, I own a house myself—it is wrong to force people into house or flat purchase, to scrape money together to provide a deposit and to incur a mortgage. To saddle a young couple with a millstone of debt in their early married life is a factor leading to breakdown of marriage. For a husband and wife, both forced to continue working to meet commitments, unemployment—and, yes, even a pregnancy—can spell economic disaster.
My Lords, whether you like it or not, these are the facts of life today for many people. As a result of Government policy on housing, concentrated as it appears to be on the sale of council houses—in other words, their obsession with privatisation—stocks of accommodation available for letting have been seriously reduced. In addition, as people get older and children grow up, the opportunity to transfer to smaller or more suitable accommodation is becoming increasingly difficult.
There is far too much dictatorship from Whitehall so far as local government is concerned. I am afraid that the proposals in the gracious Speech will extend it. On the subject of housing development, be it public or private, there has been over the past few years a tendency to economise on land by, at a minimum, providing a tiny handkerchief of a plot called a garden. In blocks of flats little or no such provision is made of any kind, even for recreation. There is an urgent need 82 for developing recreational areas for people in great blocks of high rise flats. That in a small way will ease some of the social problems that we are facing today. Incidentally, that would provide employment in those areas.
There is also a need to provide plots of land for the growing of vegetables—and noble Lords will say, "Here comes his hobbyhorse!"—to help the family with their budget. Local authority allotments meet this need but face severe restriction as economy measures are forced on local authorities. Yet it is a social need and, properly planned and developed, can provide a great amenity asset.
Two factors enforce this need: widespread unemployment and an ageing population. From a health and welfare angle alone the advantages are obvious. It is without doubt a valuable recreation; but there is no mention in the gracious Speech for consolidation and up-dating of allotment legislation. That is something that has been promised by Government after Government, but nothing ever happens. Perhaps even now the Government will show some degree of benevolence, even if a Private Bill is introduced.
The house is the home. It is said that the home is an Englishman's castle. The home is the centre of family life. The seven-day unpaid worker without a union is obviously the mother. In the majority of cases she deals with the weekly budget. Now the Government tell us—and I accept their word—that inflation is coming down. But for the average family budget it is a missing factor. If noble Lords doubt me, they should ask my wife, because she reminded me that I have to say this. I entirely agree with her anyway because we do shopping jointly.
Food prices seem to continue to go up. Gas and electricity bills—aided by Government measures—have sharply increased. They are still going up. Prescription charges keep on rising as do the charges for teeth and spectacles. Fares are a constant economic problem for the family. Let us face up to this. Reference was made today to a divided nation. It is the small wage-earner, the unemployed, the disabled and the sick who carry the main burden of Tory monetary policy today, there can be no doubt whatever.
I now turn to something on which I agree with the Government and I also can receive approbation form the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, who is so concerned about this Chamber.
The gracious Speech says,Legislation will be introduced to encourage improved and better co-ordinated marketing of British food and agricultural produce".This I welcome very warmly and in my early days as a Member of Parliament I frequently advocated this when I represented a partly rural constituency. For far too long British producers have suffered from Common Market systems, competition and dumping. We have to meet competition, and this move will help. I welcome it very warmly indeed. Any move in this direction indicated in the gracious Speech will be to the advantage of producer and consumer alike. I hope and expect it to be based on co-operative lines of marketing, production and selling.
Another point arose on the gracious Speech, and noble Lords will probably expect me to make some comment on it. It is as follows:Legislation will be introduced to enable improvements to be made to the health and social services.83 I must be honest and confess that when I heard those words yesterday I feared the worst, because, as I will indicate later, actions by the present and previous Conservative Governments have been a disaster to the National Health Service and the allied social services. However, it would appear from what the noble Baroness, Lady Young, has said and from today's press that the proposals are for stricter safeguards for the elderly and better services for the handicapped and the mentally handicapped. If that is the case, I welcome it. Such proposals, in my view, cross party lines and they would receive our constructive support, provided that adequate finance is made available and also provided that this will not mean a reduction of national health financial support in the process.
On Monday, 25th October, in reply to a Question put by the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, said, at col. 321:Last year we spent over £11 billion. This represents growth in services of about 5 per cent. in real terms and there will be further growth this year".Following the announcement of a freeze on spending by the Secretary of State for Social Services, economies in the National Health Service announced by five of the 14 English regional authorities total nearly £50 million, and when all regional authorities have completed their discussions the total figure is likely to exceed £100 million. Oxford Regional Authority, faced with a cut of £12 million per year over two years, have already made preliminary proposals for drastic cuts in services, and this pattern could be followed by other regional authorities in varying degrees. They will have no option. Already in my local hospital the allocation from the district health authority to the particular hospital in which I have an interest this year for equipment will be nothing. This is the pattern which is emerging all over the country. So much, my Lords, for "real terms". If this extra 5 per cent. is being spent, where on earth is the money going?
The reorganisation of the National Health Service under the previous Tory Government headed by Mr. Heath was a financial disaster, imposing intolerable financial problems on the service, together with a costly bureaucratic structure, at the expense of patient care. The present Government have recognised this in their consequent reorganisation down to a two-tier authority. This reorganisation, reverting, as I have said, to a two-tier structure, for some time must provide additional financial strain because of past mismanagement by Whitehall. Here I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, and others who referred to administration. What is needed is a drastic up-dating of administration at all levels in the National Health Service. There must be some common method of administration carried out and I would suggest also the introduction of modern office equipment, centrally purchased and maintained under contract, which would save considerable work-hours. It would increase efficiency and save considerable amounts of money in the process.
I must declare an interest: I am president of the league of friends for a hospital and only last Monday we received a request from the maternity department for special computerised labelling equipment—which would save hundreds of hours and a number of staff—for writing labels for a woman in the first stages of pregnancy. They cannot get the money elsewhere 84 and they are trying to persuade us on this. We are doing our best to raise the money.
In passing, in this difficult period of the National Health Service—I know that I am an interested party, as are many others, including the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod—I should like to pay a tribute to the many leagues of friends throughout the country who are working hard to raise money from the public to provide equipment which, quite frankly, should be provided by the Government for the health service as it originally was; because originally we were not allowed to buy this sort of equipment. Now the only way consultants and others can get some badly-needed equipment is to ask their league of friends to hold fetes and go round raising money. I do not object to doing this, but the point is that the Government have been leaning on leagues of friends far too much in the last two or three years.
In a debate on medical care in the National Health Service held on 10th March last—the noble Lord, Lord Elton, will remember this because we got into a little difficulty afterwards—I drew attention to the considerable unrest, especially among senior nursing staff, at the widespread advertising of senior posts and its effect on morale. Since then I have had some more experience of this. Some senior nursing officers can apply for five posts and others only one, depending on their seniority—and that one is their present job, which they have probably done with great expertise for several years. To my knowledge, one person applied for five posts, including her own job. She was interviewed by five different committees and failed to get a post. Another was only allowed to apply for her own post. The committee failed to make an appointment and now this lady, having applied again, has been interviewed and is still awaiting a decision on her future in the hospital world.
Another one, although successful after five committee interviews, was so drained by her experience that she took a week's leave and went out to Malta to recover. I met her there by chance and she poured out her story to me about the tremendous strain imposed on these experienced people, often being questioned by those without the slightest experience of nursing, although officials are present. This is a very serious matter. I would say—and I do not apologise for my words—that this is a pretty callous and inhuman way to treat highly trained and experienced staff, after years of devoted service. It is having a serious effect on morale right down the line and I would say, quite definitely and deliberately, that it is one of the contributory factors to the present unrest in the National Health Service. Senior nursing officers have responsibility for ancillary workers and, when they see their senior nursing officers being kicked around while they themselves are getting a raw deal, it is small wonder that there is unrest in the National Health Service.
Finally, I know that the Government are very keenly interested in the private health sector and are, indeed, actively encouraging its expansion—I wish that the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, were here, because I believe that he is chairman of BUPA—but the private sector is quite capable of looking after itself, prompted as it is by the profit motive which the Conservative Party so warmly supports. The Government should apply all their time, energy and attention to the 85 National Health Service, and ease some of their obsession with privatisation, particularly in that field.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Elton)
My Lords, my noble friend the Leader of the House introduced this long and deeply interesting debate on a theme—the recovery of our nation. I should like at the outset to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Rea. I shall have occasion to refer to him again, but I shall refer to him then as though he were an old Member of your Lordships' House, because that seems appropriate to the quality of his submission. At the start, I should like to pay him the compliment which is his due for an admirable embarkation upon the waters of this House, upon which I hope we shall see him sailing with equal equanimity on many occasions in the years to come.
The theme to which my noble friend addressed herself was the recovery of our nation. We are all aware of the economic context in which we speak. The gracious Speech itself touched on the anxieties and distress of those who experience unemployment—a theme reverted to time and again during our debates. But, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, himself said, this matter will be given proper attention in your Lordships' House next Wednesday. It is the Government's conviction that sustainable growth alone will rescue us from our present position, and it can be founded only on a contiuing fall in the rate of inflation and the regaining of our industrial competitiveness at home and in the world markets.
The fundamental problem is not the lack of money demand in the economy, but the lack of a supply of goods which can compete on price and quality with those produced overseas. It is the Government's task to set the conditions under which competitive industry can thrive. But the economic context is not the only context and, as I say, that will be the subject for much closer scrutiny next week. Nor, in some respects, is it the most important context. There is also the context provided by the fabric of society itself, by the traditional categories of authority and of acceptable behaviour which, since time immemorial, have provided the framework within which all of us live and which, together, pronounce the character of our nation to those who observe it.
This fabric is made up of many things, and your Lordships have touched upon a number of them in the past hours. One, which is immediately and obviously relevant, is our police service, and your Lordships will be aware of much public concern about the policing of this country, some of it voiced eloquently by your Lordships. It was heightened by several serious outbreaks of public disorder in the summer of last year, by the publication of a penetrating report by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, and, indeed, by a useful discussion in this House in the closing days of last Session. These and other events threw into sharp relief one of the most essential axioms of policing a democratic society: that, to be done successfully, it must be done with the community concerned.
I say "in a democracy", because that is an essential consideration in understanding the role of our police forces. In a dictatorship, or in a totalitarian state, the 86 people are a threat to authority. In a democracy, the people are the source of authority. That is the difference of concept and from it flows a whole world of difference in conduct and attitude, for when one of our police forces sets out to counter a breach of public order it is not the Government of the day that they are defending. What they are defending is that fabric of society which itself provides the authority for every Government. It is that which is under attack and which they seek to preserve.
The police, therefore, are not an élite imposed upon the community. They are a body drawn from it, and what they do is not done to the community; still less is it done against it. It is done for the community, and that, of course, is essential to their treatment of individuals, as it is to their handling of crowds. Our intention, therefore, is to assist the growth in public confidence—something in which, in particular, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, encouraged us—and the growth, also, in the efficiency of every police force in the country.
To that end, we shall be bringing in the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill, which was mentioned in the Royal Speech. Those parts of the Bill which are most clearly concerned with the relationship between the police and the community will be that which provides a statutory requirement for consultative arrangements in each force area and that which will implement the arrangements for dealing with complaints against the police. On the statutory duty to consult, I will say only that it will be so drafted that different solutions can be tailor-made to suit the different circumstances that prevail in different areas. As the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, pointed out, this will take a considerable effort by very many people.
The duty will rest on police authorities, except in London. There, because both the City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police have their own special legislation, the duty will be placed on the two Commissioners to make arrangements with the Common Council and with each borough and district in the Metropolitan Police district. This is but one aspect of a policing policy which is designed, once more, to pick up what the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, called the gossip, as well as the confidence, of the people.
Our proposals for dealing with complaints, which closely follow the recommendations of the Select Committee of another place, were set out at length in the White Paper which was recently published, and also by my noble friend in her introductory address this afternoon. As the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, again rightly said, we shall be considering this more closely in the processes of legislation when the Bill comes before your Lordships. That is a consideration which I must have in replying to every point; and your Lordships will understand that I am under great constraints not to exceed my ration of time by the amount that I did when I last addressed your Lordships.
The bulk of the provisions of this Bill rest largely upon the report published last year by the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure. Its intentions are to modernise and rationalise the powers of the police and to introduce clearer safeguards for the citizen. It will cover the powers of stop and search, of entry, 87 search and seizure, arrest, the way in which people are questioned, and their treatment generally while they are in custody. It will also deal with the way in which people suspected of crime are identified.
Those are the principal provisions of the Bill relating to the police. They do not include a specific offence of racially prejudiced behaviour. Prejudice or discrimination against any section of our society, whether distinguished by race or by any other characteristic, is entirely reprehensible. Discrimination based on race is, of all kinds, the most repugnant. The Police Advisory Board was unanimous in the view that it is entirely unacceptable in the police service.
On criminal procedure, the Bill will reform the law of evidence in criminal proceedings. It will render certain computer and other documentary material admissible as evidence, provide for proof of convictions and acquittals, for the competence and compellability as a witness of the accused's spouse, for the advance disclosure of expert evidence in Crown Court cases and for the admissibility of confessions. This latter provision will replace the relevant provisions in the Judges' Rules. It will also make minor amendments to the Police Act 1964.
Many of your Lordships referred to the absence from the Bill of a proposal for an independent prosecuting service. As I told your Lordships' House in the summer, the Government recognise the strong case in principle for introducing an independent element into the arrangements for prosecution but there is no consensus on the form that such a service should take. We therefore asked a working party of officials to examine and advise us on this question, on the problems that might arise, how they might be solved and the resource implications.
Work is also in hand on the interim measures which I announced at the same time, including the Attorney-General's criteria for prosecution and the request from the Director for cases to be referred to him where the police wish to continue proceedings, contrary to the advice of the solicitor having the conduct of the case. This request, as well as the Attorney-General's guidance, will be made public in the near future. These interim measures, taken together with our policy of favouring the establishment of prosecuting solicitors' departments in all forces, represent a significant step in the direction which the Royal Commissin wanted, but we cannot devise the next step without further consideration of the form that an independent service should take and the practical implications of its introduction.
In discussing matters of confidence, the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, raised the question of Section 48 of the 1977 Act. At the time that that provision was enacted it was estimated that its implementation would cost £4 million per year. A working party was established to attempt to obtain a closer estimate of the likely cost. It concluded that a disclosure scheme, based on summaries of the prosecution case, would cost between £1.5 million and £4.5 million, while a scheme based on the provision of copies of witness statements would cost between £3.5 million and £16¼ million. Earlier this year, representatives of the Law Society and the Bar Council joined the working party. An agreement was reached that pilot projects should be established to test various assumptions made about the costs of implementation, its likely effect also on 88 defendants' behaviour in court and on police resources. The first experimental project began in Newcastle on 1st November. It is hoped to establish a second one in another area and the experiments will last for a year.
As to stop and search, where stop and search powers exist there is no doubt that they are an important aid in controlling crime—and street crime in particular. In London, a large number of arrests are made each year as the result of stops and searches in the street. Without these powers, many offences simply could not be cleared up. The power to stop and search for offensive weapons which was introduced in Scotland by the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 is already proving its worth there. At the same time, we are fully conscious of the anxieties which have been expressed about these proposals and about the fears of damage to relations between the police and the community. We are determined that this should not be allowed to happen and that these powers should be used, and should be seen to be used, as both the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, and the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, emphasised, responsibly. The new powers would therefore be subject to additional safeguards on the lines recommended by the Royal Commission.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, referred to a forecast (I am moving beyond the police now to the area where some of the fruit of their work is sadly garnered: the prisons) of the future prison population, indicating that on current assumptions the population would rise to over 52,000. I thought I had been at sufficient pains to put that in its proper perspective when it was raised last in your Lordships' House. However, I can tell the noble and learned Lord that last year's forecast, which is the most up to date available, indicated that the population will rise to 49,000 in 1990. Current work suggests that this year's forecast will be about the same, so there is an end, at least temporarily, to the rising trend. I would add that the Criminal Justice Act provides alternatives to custody, that the resources of the probation service have increased by 3 per cent. in the last year and that we are aiming at a further 1 per cent. increase in the next.
I listened with great interest and respect to the views of the noble Lord. Lord Kagan, on the prison service. His description of the process by which prisoners first have all responsibility taken from them and then, when they have become unaccustomed to the process of decision, have it all thrust, willy-nilly, back on them was. I thought, illuminating. I shall read tomorrow with renewed interest the noble Lord's views on possible ways of restructuring the prison service and its finances.
On another matter touching the prisons, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, referred to a debate on the Criminal Justice Bill in the last Session, during which I discussed the use of the power to reduce the minimum qualifying period for parole. I pointed out that there would be additional administration for almost twice as many parole reviews as at present and that the transfer of more people from prison to supervision outside prison has obvious consequences for the probation service. But we are, as I have told your Lordships, starting consultations in depth with all those concerned—the prison and probation services staff associations, the probation authorities and our own responsible staff in 89 the prison service—about a possible change. A reduction in the qualifying period is feasible, but such a change would be substantial and we have to get it right. We must be certain that what we do is to help the local prisons and not accidentally to make things there more difficult.
May I now turn to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester, whose speech—none of your Lordships found it disappointing because it was a spiritual rather than a temporal oration—made it clear that the differing concerns of Church and state in no way caused them to fall out. The right reverend Prelate was also concerned with the confidence which is a necessity for the rebuilding of our community: confidence in our society on the part of its minority members. To him I would say, as I said in a debate in your Lordships' House only last week, that my party is founded upon the principle that we are one nation. The Government remain unshakeable in their support of that principle.
To the right reverend Prelate and to my noble friend Lord O'Hagan I would say that my right honourable friend published recently a White Paper setting out his proposals for changes in the immigration rules. These are drafted with a view to application to decisions taken on and after 1st January next year. There will shortly be a full opportunity for your Lordships to discuss these proposals. I look forward with great interest to the right reverend Prelate and to my noble friend taking advantage of that occasion to expand their views beyond the admirably succinct confines within which they kept themselves earlier this evening.
I shall not, I suppose, gain much additional support from my noble friend Lord O'Hagan when it comes to the matter of uniform European electoral processes. The Community treaties require the European Parliament to draw up proposals for a uniform electoral procedure under which its elections would be held in each member state. To legislate ahead of the agreement of the Council of Ministers would be to dedicate invaluable parliamentary time to work which would almost certainly have to be undone once the decision of the Council was made.
§ Lord O'Hagan
My Lords, is that all that my noble friend has to say on the topic? He has not answered the point which I made. There will be no uniform electoral procedure for elections to the European Parliament before the next European elections. In those circumstances, are Her Majesty's Government still willing to disfranchise British citizens living in other member states of the Community?
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, the noble Lord is very trenchant on the matter, but the fact remains that your Lordships' time, and the time of another place, is extremely valuable. Your Lordships become increasingly aware of it as I proceed. There is no point in building castles in the sand below the high water mark.
If I may return to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, he was interested, as were others of your Lordships, in the inner cities. I cannot embark upon a dissertation on that subject at this late hour but would refer him to the fact that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment recently announced important initiatives aimed at urban regeneration—and, in particular, to his urban development grant 90 which aims to use public sector monies as leverage for private sector investment. It now looks as though it will attract more than £500 million worth of private sector money for £200 million worth of public money. There is a great deal more to be said about that, but I am not going to say it.
The noble Lord, Lord Rea, who has so much relevant experience and such a confident command of his material, also concentrated on the matter of confidence; the confidence of the less fortunate among us in health, and indeed in life itself. He referred extensively to the Black Report, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal. The noble Baroness referred to the report more in passing in a sally which leads me to say in sole response to her attack that, for as long as she is in this House, the ladies of this world need have no fear that their case will go by default. The Black Report brought together a mass of information about inequalities in health between social classes, but it did not explain how social class or factors relating to social class actually cause inequalities in health. The report made 37 recommendations, some of which would involve expenditure on a scale which cannot be contemplated, but others aim at objectives similar to those already identified in the handbook for health and social service authorities, Care in Action, which sets out the Government's policies and priorities in this field.
Authorities are expected to follow this guidance as circumstances permit. Some recommendations have been overtaken by current action by the Department of Health and Social Security and much that is in the report does not require legislation. With regard to telephones, which, as the noble Lord. Lord Ferrier, pointed out, also give confidence to the elderly, infirm and distantly located, I would say that local authorities have powers already to assist with the provision of telephones to elderly and disabled persons in cases of need. The Government believe that these arrangements are working well. However, I will draw your Lordships' comments to the attention of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Security.
Confidence in the family is essential, as the noble Baroness. Lady Ewart-Biggs, made clear. She referred to conciliation, and my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor has established an interdepartmental committee to advise Ministers on the nature and scope of matrimonial conciliation services, and to consider whether they can produce savings and other benefits to the individuals concerned and public resources. The committee is expected to report early next year. I am afraid that my noble and learned friend has made no decision yet on the question whether or not he should publish the committee's report. The Government have recently received a request for further funding from the trustees of the Bristol Courts Family Conciliation Service to which the noble Baroness referred, and we will of course give that request full attention.
The noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, also raised the subject of child benefit. In July 1980 my right honourable friend the then Secretary of State for Social Services gave an undertaking that, subject to economic and other circumstances, the value of child benefit would be maintained at its November 1980 value, and that remains our intention. The real value 91 of child benefit has been retained since the November 1980 uprating. From 22nd November this year the rate will be increased to £5.85p in line with our forecast rise in the Retail Price Index from November 1980, thus restoring the 2 per cent. shortfall in the value of the benefit which occurred between November 1980 and November 1981.
The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury—whom we regret is unable to be with us—drew upon experience gained in the course of his own distinguished public work to illustrate the theme that Government bureaucracy is inflexible in dealing with the services they control. In this instance—and I refer to it because other noble Lords addressed the same theme—I believe that the boot is rather on the other foot. The Government have moved three times on National Health Service pay since the 4 per cent. factor was set for the public sector as a whole last December. Our most recent proposals, made in September, offered agreement on both the money to be made available for pay next year and on discussions on the timing of the two-year package worth almost £1,100 million. The options included a higher percentage increase at an earlier date as well as a substantial element of back pay. A settlement would have paved the way for the introduction by 1 st April 1984 of the new arrangements for the determination of health service pay which the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, so eloquently pressed us to adopt. Talks on these proposals continue with the Royal College of Nursing and other professional bodies. We all hope that they will be successful. In contrast, the TUCs health service committee refused even to meet Ministers to discuss them, even thought the proposals were prepared in close consultation with the chairman and secretary of that committee. They did not move at all from their claim for a 12 per cent. pay increase and asked constituent unions to seek a mandate for all-out industrial action. However, contact was at last made, in the last two days, between the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service and representatives of that committee. ACAS has reported on these discussions to the department and the department is urgently considering what the next step shall be.
There are many other points, some of which I will have to gloss over. Where appropriate I will write to your Lordships—but that is not the principal purpose of this debate. I shall not deal with the reporting of Parliament on "Yesterday in Parliament", but I will listen with interest tomorrow to hear which parts of my noble friend's speech the service thinks are fit for broadcasting! I will write to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, and will only say that the question of the integration of different religions in education services in Northern Ireland is a subject of horrendous and dangerous difficulty—and those who think it is easy to resolve are playing with the lives of others.
I will conclude with reluctance, and I know that the reluctance is only mine, by saying that I have tried to answer as many of your Lordships' points as possible. I have made no attempt to match the depth of your Lordships' insight. This has not been a time for the close inspection of legislation; that comes at Second Reading and Committee stages. I will only say that our approach is careful of resources because the lesson of recent history is that we cannot spend our way out of 92 troubles. This evening, I heard from the Benches opposite the idea that in some way less unemployment now is worth galloping inflation in the future. It is not. That would be to go back to a vicious cycle. We do have a vision; unlike with the noble Lord, Lord Perry of Walton, it does not need polishing. It is clear. Our ultimate objective is to create the conditions in which the country will emerge from the recession with renewed vigour; in which our people's peace and safety can be secured; and in which we all have confidence in the unity and stability of the society in which we were raised and in which we hope eventually to die.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, before the noble Lord the Minister sits down. I believe that I am the only person to whose speech he did not refer in his reply.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, the noble Lord was in fact absent from the Chamber during the first part of my speech, and so possibly he will honour me with a letter responding to some of the points I made.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I have three disjointed but joined manuscript pages of notes of what the noble Baroness said in my presence and of what my admirably diligent noble friend Lord Glenarthur wrote of what the noble Baroness said in my absence. I hope that she will be in no way slighted by the measure of attention I gave her, although I was distracted a little by my urgent need to take on a little fuel before attempting this flight.
§ Lord Wigoder
My Lords, with apologies and before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him whether the Government have any plans for dealing with the question of eligibility for jury service?
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I fear that that also was a page that I turned over, which I regret. The position is that we have that under close review. I am aware of the noble Lord's interest, which now takes the form of a Bill which he has tabled. It remains our view that the best chance of success in that context would be a Bill placed high on the Private Members' List in another place; but that does not mean that we are hostile to him.
§ Lord Denham
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Trenchard, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned until next Tuesday, 9th November.
§ Moved, That this debate be now adjourned until Tuesday, 9th November.—(Lord Denham).
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.
§ House adjourned at twenty minutes past eight o'clock.