§ Bill pro forma, read a first time.
§ ADDRESS IN REPLY TO HER MAJESTY'S MOST GRACIOUS SPEECH
§ The Queen's Speech reported by the LORD CHANCELLOR
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Lord Colnbrook
My Lords, I beg to move, 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".
Your Lordships will know that this is the first time that I have had the privilege of listening to the gracious Speech from the Benches of your Lordships' House, although I have heard many from behind the Bar. I have always found this occasion moving, this year perhaps more so than usual. I use the word "moving" deliberately. I do so not because this morning's ceremony was a colourful and great one—although it was and it was seen and enjoyed, thanks to the television services, by thousands of people—but because to me it has a much deeper and greater significance than that.
Everyone in the United Kingdom knows that our laws are made by Parliament. However, it is my belief that many people if asked what they understand by 5 that word would reply, "The House of Commons". Some, I am sure, would say, "The House of Commons and the Lords" We of course know that neither answer is correct and that the Monarch has an indispensable part to play in making the laws of this country. Every law that we make starts with the same words:Be it enacted by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows".Therefore to me the coming together under the same roof once a year of all those responsible for making the laws which govern our lives is an occasion of great significance. If serves to remind us that, although we have never had a written constitution, as so many other countries have, nevertheless the checks and balances so dear to the hearts of constitutional theorists exist here and neither the Monarch nor any of the other three estates of the realm can act totally independently. In my belief that goes a long way to explain why we have been spared for so many centuries that most dreadful of all scourges, a revolution and a civil war.
There is another reason why I found this morning's proceedings so moving and that was the presence in our Chamber of Her Majesty. We are blessed, and have been blessed for nearly 37 years, with as conscientious and hardworking a sovereign as this country has ever known.
My Lords, I refer not only to the laborious task which Her Majesty sets herself of keeping herself right up to date with everything that goes on so that she may exercise her right when consulted to encourage and to warn, as I feel sure she does; nor just to the hundreds of public engagements which she undertakes in this country every year; but also to her engagements in the other realms and territories of which she is Queen or Head, and her visits to foreign countries where she does, without doubt, far more for us all than any professional ambassador could hope to do.
Last week in the Prorogation Speech we heard of the visits which Her Majesty and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh made abroad last year. The most recent of those was to Spain only a few weeks ago and is fresh in our memories. We know from the press and television reports how successful that visit was and how much her presence in that country did to enhance the esteem in which our country is held there—an esteem which is unhappily not as high everywhere as we should all like it to be. I have no doubt that the visits of the coming year, about which we heard this morning, will do an equal amount of good. I know that your Lordships will agree that we have every reason to he extremely grateful to Her Majesty.
The gracious Speech went on, as is customary, to refer to what most people regard as the prime duty of any government; that is, the defence of our people against any aggression or threat of aggression. We are entering—indeed we arc in—a peculiarly difficult period in that field. For decades it has been clear that 6 there has been only one real threat to ourselves and to the other democracies in the West; namely, that from the USSR and its allies in the Warsaw Pact. That was clear not only from what they said—the doctrine of the form of Communism practised in Russia has always envisaged that in the end the spread of that system might he brought about by force—but also from what they did, from the blockade of Berlin 40 years ago to their attempt to subjugate Afghanistan by the bomb and the bullet.
Further, all this time they have devoted an enormous proportion of their national resources to building up their military capability. Their forces on the ground in Europe and on the borders of Europe outnumber the North Atlantic Treaty forces many times in the numbers of men, of guns and of tanks, and so do their air forces in fighters, bombers and transport aircraft. At sea they have built a navy of formidable size and strength; it is far in excess of anything that they could conceivably need for their own defence. In nuclear weapons they have constructed an armoury of a size which, if it was ever used, could destroy the whole of Europe and a good deal of the United States of America.
Under those circumstances, the duty of the British Government was crystal clear. In concert with our allies, steps had to be taken and resources devoted to seek to provide a level of defence which would deter attack. Successive governments have done that in spite of the fact that there are always other highly desirable items on which to spend money. It is my firm belief that that is the reason why we have been spared a major war for 43 years.
Now however it begins to look rather different. Mr. Gorbachev has been in power in the USSR for three years and has shown himself to he a very different man from his predecessors. There are many changes afoot in his country. Modest criticism of the government is allowed. The discussion of alternative political ideas is permitted to a limited extent. Even the idea of working for oneself rather than for the state—that is, private enterprise—is beginning to be put into practice.
Two developments affect us directly. The first is the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. That appears to indicate that the USSR have recognised the fact that the spreading of their political system by force—at any rate, in Afghanistan—is not as simple as they thought. We could have told them that because in all the years that we ruled India we were never really able to stop the Afghans from doing much as they liked on the border.
The second development of course is the INF Treaty. That agreement between the United States and the USSR to reduce the level of forces between East and West the first such agreement since the war—must be a great landmark in history. Everyone hopes that the discussions which are going on in various places will result in a further agreement for further reductions. But here precisely lies the difficulty. Many voices will be raised calling for reductions in our defence effort, telling us that there is now no reason to spend billions of pounds on items which we do not need and that instead we should spend them on other items which we should all like to 7 have. Is it right to listen to those voices? Is it safe to do so? How genuine is the apparent change of heart in the Russian leadership? How secure is Mr. Gorbachev in his new role as President of the USSR? I do not know the answers to the last two questions, but it is upon them that the answers to the first two questions hang. All I know is that over the coming months those matters will engage a great deal of the Government's wisdom and time; and I have no doubt that they will be the subject of much discussion in your Lordships' House.
Unhappily, there is another threat which we must face; it is that of terrorism. We are only too well aware of the murderous activities of more than one organisation in the United Kingdom. Week after week—sometimes almost day after day—we hear and read of atrocities committed by one group or another in pursuit of their political aims. The problem is not confined to our shores but it is almost worldwide. Some countries are in an almost worse position than we are.
The difficulties in dealing with the evil are many. It is said that one cannot change a persons' political aims by locking him up, and that one cannot change an organisations political objectives by removing some of its members from circulation. That is true, one cannot do so. However, one can demonstrate beyond a peradventure that society is so resolute in its view that violence should not he allowed to change our society that those responsible will seek other more peaceful ways of trying to achieve what they want.
We have approved more than one law designed to deter the terrorists. I was glad to hear in the gracious Speech that a new Prevention of Terrorism Bill is to conic before us. We do not yet know its precise terms. but I hope that they will serve to strengthen our determination—which is so frequently expressed by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister with the support of your Lordships—that terrorism must never succeed.
The other major difficulty in dealing with terrorism is that in these days of speedy travel and communication it is easy to move men and weapons from one country to another. Above all, the murderer wants a safe hiding place. If he can find that beyond the reach of the arm of the law in another country where he has committed no offence, he will be more emboldened to continue to commit his crimes.
I know that the Government have made tremendous efforts to enlist the active support of other countries in dealing with that international problem in addition to setting a good example. It is well recognised that it is no use hijacking an aeroplane and directing the pilot to land in this country because if he does so the hijacker will never get out. I wish the Government well in what I am sure will be their continued efforts to persuade other countries to be as firm.
I am sure that everyone will agree that a great deal of the work of frustrating terrorists must be carried out in secret. However, that does not apply to everything which the Government do. For that reason I was glad to hear in the gracious Speech that 8 a new Official Secrets Bill is to come before us. Over many years there has been much dissatisfaction with the wording of the Official Secrets Act—which was passed 11 years before even I was born—and with Section 2 of the Act in particular. Over the past 17 years successive governments have tried to find ways of improving the Act. I do not know what will be in the Bill but it is safe to assume that it will follow the lines of the White Paper published during the summer.
That White Paper did not command universal support, but I do not believe that any proposal ever will. The gulf between those responsible for running our affairs (who understandably want to have most of their deliberations conducted in private in the belief that if they were not so conducted they could not take place) and those who believe that every detail of what is discussed and done by members of the government at every level (Ministers and civil servants alike) should be exposed to public scrutiny comment, is very wide. I forecast that we shall have a great deal of discussion, and probably division, about the Bill. But I believe that in the end we shall arrive at that most British of all conclusions: a compromise. That will fail to embody everything that everyone wants but it will be one which everyone, even with some reluctance, will be able to accept.
I have touched on only a few of the matters mentioned in the gracious Speech. If I were to comment further. I should only weary your Lordships. I shall content myself with drawing attention to a final aspect of the gracious Speech. It involves disclosing to your Lordships one of the total failures of my political career.
When I was seeking election to the other place—which I did on 10 occasions—I did what every candidate always does. I tried to find and express reasons why the electors should vote for me rather than for any of my opponents. I thought that I had found a good reason of my own. Everyone I spoke to—lawyer, doctor, businessman, farmer, butcher, baker and candlestick maker told me that the one thing they found most difficult to put up with was the sheer volume of legislation pouring out from Parliament year after year. They simply had not the time to digest it and, as a result, from one day to another did not know where they were. I seized on that difficulty and stood on platforms promising that if those people present voted for me and I was elected I would do everything I could to reduce the flow of legislation. Fortunately some instinct held me back from promising results because time after time my efforts resulted in utter failure. The flood continued unabated.
This year however I believe there is a small gleam of hope. Your Lordships will remember that under the infinitely courteous and wise guidance of my noble friend the Leader of the House—whose approach to his first anniversary in that office we all welcome and on which we congratulate him—last Session we were invited to consider, and did consider most conscientiously and thoroughly, no fewer than 19 mainline government Bills. The list in the Speech today, although long, is shorter than that. However, hope must be tempered with realism. The gracious 9 Speech ends, as all gracious Speeches always do, with the phrase:Other measures will be laid before you".Perhaps those "other measures" will not be so numerous as they were last year. If that turns out to be the case, I know your Lordships will join me in saying,For this relief, much thanks".My Lords, I beg to move the Motion for a humble Address to Her Majesty.
Moved. That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty in the following terms:
"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".—(Lord Colnbrook.)
§ 4.1 p.m.
§ Lord Henley
My Lords, I beg to second my noble friend's Motion for a humble Address in reply to Her Majesty's most gracious Speech.
Perhaps I may start by thanking my noble friends, the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip, for asking me to second this Motion. I am fully aware of the very great honour of being so asked and deem it to be a very great privilege. Perhaps I may also say how pleased I am to be able to follow so distinguished a speaker as my noble friend Lord Colnbrook.
Her Majesty's presence here this morning, together with His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, is, as my noble friend has already said, a constant reminder to us all of the unstinting service that she gives to this country and to its people. We are also reminded of the service of other members of the Royal Family. Only two weeks ago their Royal Highnesses, the Prince and Princess of Wales, visited France. I think on all sides that visit has been judged to have been a great success, and a tremendous boost to our mutual relations. I am sure that all of your Lordships will have been reminded of the visit of the great-great-grandfather of the Prince of Wales over 80 years ago, which was swiftly followed by the entente cordiale. I am sure that this recent visit will in turn lead to a greater understanding between our two nations.
Sitting here in one of the finest chambers in one of the finest buildings of the 19th century, we must also be grateful to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales for initiating what I trust will be a stimulating new debate on architecture in this country. I think many of his comments have clearly struck a chord of sympathy with the general public, and I am sure that the lively discussion now being enjoyed will be of lasting benefit to us all, in particular to architects.
Everyone here greatly welcomed the announcement in the summer of the birth of a new grandchild to Her Majesty. I refer of course to Princess Beatrice, the daughter of their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York. As another who entered the parental stakes for the first 10 time this year. I myself was particularly pleased to hear this news.
I stand here in the uniform of the Honourable Artillery Company. As a former member, for me it is a very great honour to be able to wear the uniform on this occasion, for Her Majesty is our Captain-General. The HAC is the oldest regiment in the British Army. It is also the senior unit in the Territorial Army. My noble friend has already spoken on the defence of the realm Lild our armed forces. If I may, I should like to say a few words on our reserve forces and in particular on the Territorial Army. Every week, up and down the country, thousands of people give up a considerable amount of their spare time to serve in the TA, That amounts to one or two evenings a week, a week-end or so per month and a summer camp of about two weeks which quite often has to be taken out of people's holiday entitlement from work. There are some in the TA, such as doctors and nurses, who are there to provide the expert services in which they are already proficient. But most of them are there in order to train to the same standard as the regulars and be ready in time of war to provide up to 40 per cent. of the front line forces of the British Army on the Rhine. We owe them a tremendous debt.
While at one end of the spectrum we in this country are most fortunate in having some 80.000 people giving their service through the TA, and many, many thousands more giving voluntarily of their time and talents to a whole myriad of excellent causes, at the other, over recent years a tiny minority have brought shame to this country. I refer of course to the spectre of football hooliganism. The current trial in Belgium in consequence of the Heysel Stadium riot is a timely reminder of the horror and tragedy it has brought. The banishment of English clubs from international competition underlines what the rest of Europe thinks of our so-called fans.
Obviously I should not argue that it is the sole cause of the declining numbers who pay to watch professional football; but it must be a very great factor in discouraging the large mass of law-abiding people from peacefully enjoying a match on a Saturday afternoon. I greatly welcome the reference in the gracious Speech to changes in the law governing admittance to football matches.
The gracious Speech also refers to changes in housing and local government legislation. I am an elected member of Cumbria County Council, representing a division which covers almost the whole of the Anglo-Scottish border within that county. In fact, I believe it, in terms of acreage, to be one of the largest in England, and I suppose I might add that if sheep were given the vote the turn-out at our elections would be considerably higher.
As an elected member of Cumbria County Council, obviously I have great interest in matters relating to local government. I am sure that many in some parts of this House would argue that there has been something of a plethora of local government Bills over the past few years; but much still remains to be done. We still have the problem of officers being politically active with one council while being employed by another. We still have the problem of 11 too many political advisers being appointed to assist the party groups at the ratepayers' expense. There is still too great an involvement by elected members in appointments to relatively junior posts. In some areas too many people are still co-opted onto decision-making committees with the same full voting rights as elected members. Those are all matters which should be pursued in line with the suggestions in the government White Paper issued in July in response to the Widdicombe Report.
The gracious Speech also referred to the privatisation of water. There has been considerable discussion of that issue for some time now and many fears have been raised. I believe that those will be seen to be unfounded, for I consider that a privatised water industry will be in a better position to deliver that vital service to the public and it will certainly be possible to ensure that adequate provision is made to safeguard environmental concerns.
There is mention in the gracious Speech of new child protection legislation. During the past year we have seen the publication of the report by Lord Justice Butler-Sloss on the Cleveland affair. It highlights the problems and points to solutions. I hope that its very publication will he instrumental in improving practice in that field. There is nevertheless a need for more, and accordingly I welcome the commitment in the gracious Speech for new laws to protect children.
My noble friend Lord Colnbrook has mentioned the spectre of terrorism. He knows a great deal more about the subject than I do and speaks accordingly with greater authority. I can only endorse what he said and also remind your Lordships that today is the 25th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. We all remember that day well. I certainly do because it was my 10th birthday. Even without that assistance I recall, as I am sure do all your Lordships, the events of that day. In some symbolic way that event seems to have begun what might be termed an age of terrorism. Terrorism in all its forms and from whatever source remains the most fundamental challenge to our peace and security. The fight against it remains of overwhelming importance and I welcome Her Majesty's Government's steadfast commitment to that fight.
It would be remiss of me to end without referring to the major change that we have seen in this House over the past year. My noble friend has mentioned the particularly heavy legislative programme that we have just completed—probably a new record. My noble friend the Lord Privy Seal has led us admirably through that ordeal and I trust that he suffers no scars from that initiation.
However, the Session began with my noble friend Lord Whitelaw in the driving seat, if that is the appropriate metaphor for your Lordships' House. This is the first debate on a humble Address since his most untimely resignation from the leadership of the House. Noble Lords in all parts of the House regretted his standing down after four-and-half years.
§ Lord Henley
My Lords, as a neighbour and fellow Cumbrian I particularly regret it. However, I am sure that we all look forward to his memoirs, which I understand are in preparation, and are grateful for his continued advice and presence amongst us.
Finally, I thank noble Lords for listening to me with the patience and forbearance that this House always accords to speakers.
My Lords. I beg to second my noble friend's Motion for a humble Address to Her Majesty.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, I beg to move that this debate he adjourned until tomorrow.
It is a pleasure to congratulate both noble Lords upon the thoughtful and well-delivered speeches with which they have opened the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Colnbrook, is very well known to us as a former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and as a Lord Privy Seal with special duties in the Foreign Office. But it is his long tenure in the Whip's Office that I remember best. The noble Lord ascended the Whips' ladder to the top and succeeded in becoming a popular Chief Whip. That in itself is no mean achievement. Incidentally, there are a number of former Chief' Whips in this House—I find that there is a certain aura about them.
The noble Lord covered a number of topics in his speech. When we come to legislation affecting Northern Ireland he will be able to give advice from his experience there. Also I am sure that his contribution on defence matters in particular will be relevant to other parts of our debate over the next few days.
We also very much appreciated the speech of the noble Lord. Lord Henley, whose many interests were reflected in what he said. His experience as a member of the Bar and as a member of the Cumbria County Council make him a very valuable Member of this House. His remarks on local government were particularly interesting. His speech on this day is especially felicitous because it is his birthday and we all wish him many happy returns of the day.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, turning to the gracious Speech itself—and I am bound to say that it came as no surprise to me because I had read it in detail in the newspapers over the past two or three days—I must say that I read it with a sense of disappointment both as to its quality and quantity. As to the latter I had hoped that the Government would have applied the brakes, as both noble Lords have indicated in their speeches. However, as they said, Ministers seem to have a voracious appetite for legislation.
I should think that the hardest working section of the population of our country over the last few years has been the parliamentary draftsmen. I have been expecting to hear any day now that they have applied to amalgamate with the Transport and General Workers' Union. After all we have just completed an 18-month Session during which we worked on 218 13 days and on many of those, as we recall, we worked late into the night. As a Chamber mainly of voluntary unpaid Members, I think that noble Lords have performed an outstanding public service.
Although I believe in reform, I also think that this is something that needs to be said. In a Session that starts later than normal the Government have once more overloaded the legislative programme. I need not remind the House of the implications that that has for us as the year progresses and especially when we come to the spring and summer of next year.
We noted with interest the reference in the gracious Speech to the economy. We shall of course be dealing in detail with that crucial subject on the last day of our debate. Whatever may be claimed about a healthy economy—and we are all in favour of that—there are certainly worrying aspects to be faced and dealt with. I am thinking especially of our rising inflation figure. Will it be up to 7 per cent. sooner than we thought? Again there is the balance of payments deficit. We shall certainly come back to those problems later in the debate.
We have known for some time that this parliamentary year will be dominated by legislation on electricity and water privatisation. On this side of the House we believe strongly that both those Bills arc doctrinaire and totally unnecessary. We shall be looking at them very carefully at every stage. It is sometimes overlooked that both utilities have very important security implications for this country. Is it possible that power stations and reservoirs in Britain can fall into the hands of foreign companies? I have asked this question but I have not received a satisfactory reply from Ministers. I shall certainly expect a satisfactory reply when these Bills come to Committee and Report stage in this House. I can tell Ministers now that even if there are no worries in Cumbria there are profound apprehensions in Wales about the privatisation plans for water. Water has always been regarded as an inflammable subject in Wales.
We shall look very carefully at the Bill to replace Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act and the very important Bill giving the Home Secretary important new powers in relation to M15 and the security services. This is something which the House will need to consider very carefully. I think that it is to the advantage of the country that there are probably more experts on the subject in this Chamber than anywhere else in the country.
There are to be new Bills on social security and child care, and yet another complex Bill on housing and local government. I have mentioned the heavy legislative package on a range of Northern Ireland subjects, which again will call for the most careful scrutiny in due course. We on this side must of course reserve our position on these Bills; but where we think the legislation introduced by the Government is necessary and where we believe it to be in the public interest, we shall give it our support. Where it falls short of that, we shall seek to amend it as is our duty.
Bearing in mind the weight of this programme, we on this side hope that it will be possible for a good part of the proposed legislative programme to start its course in this House. That always makes a 14 difference as the Session progresses. We accept without question that contentious Bills must start in another place. However, there are Bills which can well commence their passage here, and this will help both Houses, especially as we reach the spring and early summer. Perhaps the noble Lord the Leader of the House will say a word about this in due course.
Subject to our duty to press for revision where we believe it to be in the public interest, we will co-operate to enable this House to perform its work effectively. Both noble Lords who have spoken have set the scene for a good debate and we are grateful to them.
Moved. That this debate be adjourned until tomorrow.—(Lord Ciedivrii of Penrhos.)
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Hillhead
My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to support the Motion which has been so wisely moved and so agreeably propounded by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn. I also join with enthusiasm in congratulations to the two noble Lords who have moved and seconded the Address. That enthusiasm is, however, tempered with a sense of the presumptuousness of my attempting to play a senior role in this House. At the beginning of the last Session I had not even taken my seat, yet last week I found myself one of a Commission for Prorogation and this week I am attempting to be a prefect welcoming the new boys. However, I comfort myself that the noble Viscount, Lord Whitclaw, had an even more meteoric rise five years ago when he was precipitated straight to the headmastership and achieved remarkable success in that role.
It is all very different from my experience in the Commons where I served for sixteen-and-a-half years on the Back-Benches without anybody asking me to do anything very much. But I did not then have the benefit of a predecessor so exceptionally generous as my noble friend Lady Seear. who has pushed me forward with a degree of self-abnegation that I have rarely encountered in politics, or indeed in any other aspect of life.
I turn to the two speeches which have greatly pleased us today. I begin in reverse order, with the seconder, the noble Lord, Lord Henley, and leave the speech of my contemporary, the noble Lord, Lord Colnbrook, until later. The noble Lord, Lord Henley, bears a title that was first created by Pitt in 1799. Pitt's policy on creations has not always earned the respect or agreement of traditionalists in regard to the House of Lords. Certainly he had an open hand at the till in this respect and left a House of Lords with more Peers in proportion to the population than there are today. As Disraeli subsequently wrote in Sybil:He made peers of second rate squires and fat graziers. He caught them in the alleys of Lombard Street and clutched them from the counting houses of Cornhilr".However, the ancestor of the noble Lord did not come from these squalid surroundings. He was ambassador to Vienna and probably Britain's foremost diplomat—a kind of forerunner of my noble friend Lord Gladwyn, whom we are so glad to see restored to sufficient health that he proposes to speak to us tomorrow.
15 The noble Lord, Lord Henley, has exhibited diplomatic skill this afternoon worthy of his ancestor and has spoken with a felicity which increases my regret that he did not feel able to follow the political affiliation of his father, who was President of the Liberal Party in 1966. I hope that he will realise that those who have occupied his slot in previous Sessions and have spoken with anything like his skill have tended to find themselves very quickly on the Government Front Bench. There was the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, in 1987 who had inherited the wide-ranging territorial title from his grandfather but whose father was perhaps even more entitled to the limited acreage of the title of Hillhead than I am. I welcome him to his present position. There was the noble Earl. Lord Arran, in 1986. I hope that the noble Lord is prepared for that.
The noble Lord, Lord Colnbrook, is almost my contemporary, we having been in the House of Commons over a span of 32 years and having come to this House as part of the same creation. He has spoken eloquently and with penetration this afternoon about defence and constitutional matters, and in particular the part of the Sovereign in our constitution. He has occupied many important offices of state, including Northern Ireland, where I well recollect his welcome and hospitality to me when I came to Hillsborough on an official visit as President of the European Commission in 1980. But he also has, as the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, reminded us, a formidable reputation as a former Chief Whip. On his form this afternoon, and despite his age—only 18 months younger than me—perhaps he too may be asked to reinforce the Government. But in view of the spate of voting Peers that the noble Lord. Lord Denham. has been producing recently, perhaps two Whips in Westminster would be a work of supererogation. even an embarrassment.
I turn for a few moments to the gracious Speech, although there will be several days of further opportunity for that. It begins with the visit of Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands. We all look forward to that and we hope that Mr. Bernard Ingham will not cause too much trouble.
We note that there is to be official secrets legislation and hope that the first to he caught within its restrictive Provisions will not be those who have leaked the gracious Speech on a scale that I have never previously encountered. The Government are very keen on preventing other people from revealing things while practically bursting the boilers of the Whitehall leak factory.
There are a number of other measures which certainly do not merit a ringing of the Liberty Bell. I suspect that the football ground scheme is ill thought out, will impose much trouble upon others and is designed for display rather than for effect. Speaking as the original author of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act, I do not like it being made permanent. I will always support necessary renewal, but I do not believe that it is either wise psychologically or prudent for justice to make it permanent.
16 On MI5, we wait to see the legislation, but my view is that in order to strengthen and make fully effective ministerial control, it will be necessary to give a single Secretary of State control over both security services; otherwise there will be a lacuna between the two. I cannot take the fictional inadmissibility of MI6 very seriously.
The paradox of this Government is that their devotion to freedom and the rolling back of the frontiers of the state is almost entirely confined to matters of profit. On anything to do with liberty of expression or freedom of individual conduct they are one of the bossiest governments that I have ever known. The only rather tentative note struck in the gracious Speech is where it is announced that firm financial policies will bear down on inflation. I find that an interesting euphemism.
Then we come to water. This measure certainly will not do much hearing down on inflation; but it is equally a rolling back of the frontiers of the state in the interests of the relentless search for profits and way beyond what many people in all political parties believe is reasonable. There is no question of the measure making water cheaper. It is merely a question of how much more expensive it will be made. There is no question of the legislation improving the quality of conservation in the vast water catchment areas, many of them areas of outstanding natural beauty. It is merely a question of how great the damage will be. It has all the classic features of a doctrinaire measure. Just now I deplored doctrinaire measures of nationalisation, so I deplore doctrinaire measures of privatisation which create excesses and will promote reaction.
However this is not a day for too many ungracious thoughts. Let us hope for the best, even from this Government and this legislation programme. Let us give thanks for the gracious Speech and for the two excellent speeches which have moved and seconded the Address.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Baroness Stedman
My Lords, from the SDP Benches we would also like to support the Motion proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, in his usual engaging manner and express our thanks to the two noble Lords who have proposed the Motion for the Address this afternoon. We congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Colnbrook, and the noble Lord, Lord Henley, on their contributions today. The noble Lord, Lord Colnbrook, failed to mention that he had a naval history as well, and that came out in the Bristol and shipshape manner in which he delivered his address to us this afternoon. The distinction with which he served in another place, particularly in his job as Chief Whip, must have given him a feel for parliamentary procedure and a feel for this House which was also evident in what he had to say to us today. All those qualities were evident and we are grateful to him for sharing them with us.
The noble Lord, Lord Henley, is one of our younger Members. It was delightful to see him given this very prestigious job to do and doing it so well and so competently. As he said, he has his roots in 17 Cumbria. Therefore I have no doubt that we shall he hearing his concerns on the privatisation of the electricity industry, especially concerning nuclear power, and we also hope that he will be keeping a watchful eye on the privatisation of water to see that nothing is done to destroy the beauty of his native Cumbria from which so much of our water comes.
We on these Benches are sorry that again there is to he so much emphasis on privatisation, so much emphasis on profit and money to fill the Chancellor's coffers. I had hoped that it might have been accompanied by some indication that there will be a much more gracious attitude to and better action on behalf of the elderly, the needy and the poor in this country and that they might be given a share of the booming economy which we are told we are all living in. But these are matters that we shall be discussing during the next three days in this House. They are matters which will exercise our minds, I have no doubt, through the weight of legislation and the long nights of the spring and summer. We must wait for the major decisions until then, but in the meantime we on these Benches offer our congratulations to the two noble Lords who have moved the humble Address and we wish them well.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Belstead)
My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to support the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, that this debate he adjourned until tomorrow. It will not have escaped your Lordships' notice that, following the changes we have seen in party leadership in this House during the past year, the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, is now what I think the diplomats would call the doyen of the leaders of the parties in this place. I should like to thank him and the other party leaders for their co-operation and on occasions for the good advice that they have given me since the beginning of this year. I much appreciated the generous words which were quite rightly spoken not only from this side of the House but from the other side of the House this afternoon about my noble predecessor.
In this House we are the guardians of good order in our proceedings. I am very much aware that we are able to maintain this largely because of understanding and support given to successive Leaders of the House by the leaders of the other parties and by the noble Baroness, the Convener of the Cross-Bench Peers, for which I am most grateful. I should also like to thank the noble Lords, Lord Cledwyn and Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, for the kind things that they have said in congratulating my noble friends Lord Colnbrook and Lord Henley on their speeches this afternoon.
My noble friend Lord Colnbrook came to this House last year after a distinguished career in another place in the Whip's Office, the Northern Ireland Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He represented his constituency for over 30 years, so it should come as no surprise that he rapidly came to know the customs and the ways of your Lordships' House and has adjusted to membership of it, as I am sure your Lordships will agree he has most certainly demonstrated by the speech he delivered this afternoon.
18 From time to time we have lively discussions here about the effect which the size of the government majority in another place ought to have on our deliberations. But my noble friend has the right to say that one is enough; for it was he, as Opposition Chief Whip, who on the evening of the 28th March 1979 won by just that margin the vote in another place which was to lead to the subsequent general election. My noble friend went on to become Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at a particularly testing time. I was thus very interested in his remarks about security matters, and about the Prevention of Terrorism Bill which is included in the gracious Speech.
My noble friend, who is a former chairman of the all-party Select Committee on Defence in another place, also spoke eloquently about the defence of the realm. I know that noble Lords on all sides of the House will have listened with considerable interest to what he had to say. I should like to thank my noble friend for his speech this afternoon. I very much look forward to hearing from him again when some of the Bills to which he referred arrive in your Lordships' House.
Many of your Lordships will remember the father of my noble friend Lord Henley, who was an able and popular spokesman for the Liberal Party over many years; and so it was a particular pleasure to hear my noble friend second the Motion for a humble Address today. My noble friend has a good deal of experience of the House and of the unsung but very valuable work of our Select Committees. However, since 1986 he has become fully involved in local politics in Cumbria where he is a county councillor. This makes it less easy for him to take part in our proceedings. I was especially interested to hear his remarks about the Widdicombc Report and its recommendations for the conduct of local government, an area which my noble friend is well-placed to evaluate. I am absolutely certain that we can look forward to hearing from him again on this and other areas of this Session's programme. I should like to congratulate him most warmly on celebrating his birthday today with such an excellent speech.
§ Lord Belstead
My Lords, I should like to say a few words about the Session which lies before us. The gracious Speech contains a programme which promises to be vigorous and wide-ranging, including, as it does, some 15 major Bills. A number of substantial measures will be introduced in your Lordships' House. Tomorrow my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor proposes to introduce the Children Bill. In the coming weeks the Road Traffic Bill the Companies Bill and the Football Spectators Bill will also be introduced here, as will some other smaller measures, including a Miscellaneous Provisions Bill on the law of property. However, the fact remains, as my noble friend Lord Colnbrook reminded us, that this is a full programme.
At the end of the war I remember coming to sit on the steps of the Throne to listen to a debate when the House was still meeting in the Robing Room. Although I recall some very famous names in the Chamber on that day, there was, comparatively 19 speaking, no more than a handful of Peers attending. Times have changed; but what has not changed is the manner in which your Lordships exercise with never failing enthusiasm the undoubted right of this House to scrutinise and revise Bills received from another place; and the legislation finally enacted is usually all the better for that. All this places progressively greater demands upon the House, and calls for even greater vigilance from all sides of the Chamber to ensure that the essential character of our proceedings is retained. In this context I am conscious that the Leader of the House has the duty to act in the interests of the House as a whole; and this I shall certainly endeavour to do.
Finally, I should like to say a few words about the arrangements made through the usual channels for the rest of the debate on the Motion for a humble Address. Tomorrow the debate will concentrate on foreign affairs and defence. My noble friend Lord Glenarthur will open for the Government and my noble friend Lord Trefgarne will reply. On Thursday we will concentrate on home and social affairs. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor will open and my noble friend Lord Ferrers will reply. The debate will end next Tuesday with economic affairs and the environment. My noble friend Lord Caithness will open the debate and my noble friend Lord Young of Grafiham will reply on that occasion.
I am delighted to support the Motion of the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition that this debate be adjourned until tomorrow, and to join him and the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, in congratulating my noble friends who moved and seconded the Motion for a humble Address.
On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly until tomorrow.