§ Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Tuesday last by Lord Colnbrook—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".
§ 3.7 p.m.
§ The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern)
My Lords, we today resume our debate on the gracious Speech with particular reference to home and social affairs. Before I say a little about the Government's proposals, perhaps I may apologise in advance for the fact that a prior engagement will not make it possible for me to stay to the end of the debate. I also congratulate my noble friends Lord Colnbrook and Lord Henley for their graceful and accomplished speeches in moving the humble Address. Between them they cover a wide range of experience in the public life of this country. My noble friend Lord Colnbrook was a most distinguished Chief Whip in another place. As the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition observed, there are now a number of former Chief Whips in your Lordships' House, together of course with our distinguished present Chief Whips.
I sometimes wonder what the collective noun for Chief Whips would be—perhaps a pride of Chief Whips, as with lions. But Chief Whips are by nature modest and self-effacing, and, in another place, take vows almost trappist in nature. Perhaps then we 104 should refer to a silence of Chief Whips, or, at best, a murmuring of Chief Whips. But, on balance, I believe that the most appropriate term would be a persuasion of Chief Whips.
I also congratulate my noble friend Lord Henley on his speech. He addressed your Lordships in the uniform of the Honourable Artillery Company, and, as you can imagine, the appearance of another Member of your Lordships' House wearing a uniform is always a comfort to me. We look forward keenly to further contributions from him during the Session. His familiarity with both the law and local government will find plenty of scope in discussing the measures that will come before us.
Perhaps it will not surprise your Lordships that the first measure I wish to refer to is the Children Bill, which I introduced into your Lordships' House yesterday. It will be the first major piece of legislation which your Lordships will have to consider. It will be a major overhaul of child care law to provide a fairer and more effective framework. Children are entitled to protection from harm and abuse, and innocent families are entitled to protection from unnecessary intervention by the state. The Bill will improve the procedures governing the removal of children from their homes in emergencies, while strengthening parents' rights to challenge court orders. It will also deal with local authorities' responsibilities towards children in need, and address the vexed questions of parental access and medical examinations.
The Bill also gives substantial effect to the Law Commission's recent report on custody and guardianship. Its effect will be that the existing fragmented and in some respects obscure provisions about the care and upbringing of children which are scattered across the statute book will be amended and gathered together in a single place to form a coherent regime of rules. They, in turn, are designed to mesh with the other proposals in the Bill dealing with local authority care and supervision of children and together will form a consistent code of law in this area.
In addition, the Bill will allow for the creation of a concurrent jurisdiction in child care cases in the High Court, and county and magistrates' courts, with powers to transfer cases between courts of co-ordinate jurisdiction and from tier to tier of court. This will enable the more difficult care cases to be heard in the higher courts.
In the aftermath of Lord Justice Butler-Sloss's report on the events in Cleveland there can be no more important work than getting the law about children right. There is much expertise on this subject in all parts of your Lordships' House and I look forward with interest to our debates. I am confident that though there may be differences of view on some of the detail of the Bill the whole House will be united on our aims in proposing this legislation.
Another vital function of government is to try to make our community as safe as possible a place in which to live and work. We wish to see increasing freedom from crime and increasing freedom from the fear of crime. Recent crime figures have provided a little comfort but it would be unwise to rely too heavily on one set of statistics. What they do show, 105 however, is that crime prevention measures, neighbourhood watch and the Home Office's safer cities programme are beginning to work. It would be tedious to list all that the Government have done in the area of reducing crime. In this Session there will be a number of important measures which will carry this task forward.
The Government introduce today in another place the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Bill. This Bill will be published tomorrow and noble Lords will have an opportunity then to study its provisions in detail. There are essentially three aspects to the Bill. First, it will replace the existing provisions in the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984, which is due to expire on 21st March next year, and in doing so it will take account of a number of the recommendations made by my noble friend Lord Colville in his review of the Act which was published last year. In particular, we agree with my noble friend that the life of the Bill should not be limited like that of its predecessor. This is because it is unfortunately not possible at the moment to forecast when the powers in the Bill, exceptional as they are, will cease to be needed.
While the threat from the men of violence remains, we must take the strongest possible measures to prevent the outrages with which we have sadly become all too familiar. At the same time the relevant provisions in the Bill will continue to be subject to annual renewal by Parliament. This is in recognition of the fact that the Bill affects civil liberties in ways which at other times would not be justified. Because there is a difficult and delicate balance to be drawn in this respect it is right that the operation of the legislation should continue to be subject to the closest scrutiny each year to ensure that its powers are exercised in a fair and reasonable manner.
Secondly, the Bill introduces important new provisions aimed at the funding of terrorism. The Government are determined to cut off the lifeblood of terrorists: to stop the flow of money which enables terrorist organisations to sustain their pointless and destructive campaigns. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary recently announced, therefore, that the Bill would contain new and widely drawn offences concerned with the giving of financial assistance to terrorism; new powers to help the police track down terrorist funds, including powers to search for documents or order their production in court; provisions to enable banks and other financial institutions to disclose suspicions about possible connections with terrorism, notwithstanding their normal contractual duty of confidentiality; and, finally, powers for the courts to order the restraint and forfeiture following conviction of money or property which is the resource of a proscribed organisation or which is destined to be used in connection with acts of terrorism. These provisions are defined to cover financial assistance for acts of international terrorism, provided they are triable in the United Kingdom, as well as those connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland. This is a comprehensive set of measures which will enable the 106 police to mount a vigorous attack on the resources of terrorists. I hope that they will meet with the full support of all sides of the House.
Finally, the Bill contains certain new provisions to apply in Northern Ireland only. In particular, it will reduce the remission granted to prisoners serving sentences of five years or more for terrorist offences from one-half to one-third. It will also provide that anyone released on remission from a custodial sentence of longer than 12 months who is then convicted of a terrorist offence before the full sentence including allowed remission has expired will have to serve the unexpired portion of his earlier sentence first before starting any new sentence for the fresh offence. These provisions will not apply retrospectively. I hope that the House will welcome these measures along with the rest of the Bill.
The gracious Speech set out the broad lines of the Government's policy towards Northern Ireland. One important strand in that policy is continued firm resistance to the attacks of terrorists and their supporters upon our democratic way of life. The terrorist organisations strike at the very heart of the state. Violence offered by some of those who hold office in the council chambers in Northern Ireland causes, quite justifiably, the deepest offence to law-abiding councillors there. As the House will know, we have consulted widely on this problem and have now decided to introduce a Bill which will require candidates to sign a declaration against terrorism.
That Bill will also bring the local government franchise in Northern Ireland into line with the parliamentary franchise, except for overseas electors, and will preserve the right of your Lordships resident in Northern Ireland to vote at local elections. It will also strengthen the rules on disqualification for council office. We hope that the Bill may become law in time for its provisions to operate for next May's district council elections.
We shall introduce for England and Wales the Football Spectators Bill, which will address the problem of football hooliganism. The Bill will provide for a national membership scheme for spectators at professional football matches in England and Wales. It will permit football clubs to admit spectators to designated matches only if the spectator produces a valid membership card and the ground is licensed. Membership of the scheme will be withdrawn from those convicted of relevant offences to be defined in the Bill.
There is one crucial area in which we shall be narrowing the scope of the crminal law because in the past it has been too broad. It is one of the most important pieces of legislation with which the House will be dealing in this Session; namely, the Bill which we shall be bringing forward to reform Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911. The Government set out their proposals for reform in a White Paper last June which was debated in this House on 29th July last. The objective of the Government's proposals was to narrow the scope of the criminal law so that it penalises only those unauthorised disclosures of official information which are likely to cause unacceptable harm to the public interest. That will be the objective of the Government's Bill.
107 In preparing the Bill we have been considering the comments we have received on the White Paper, including the points raised in the debate in this House. However, I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I do not discuss the contents of the Bill more fully today. There will be ample time for debate when the Bill is before the House. I cannot say when that might be but I know that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary hopes that it will not be too long before he can introduce the Bill in another place.
Your Lordships will know that in another place yesterday my right honourable friend the Home Secretary had the opportunity to present the Government's proposals for legislation on the security service. The Bill has now been introduced and your Lordships will have the opportunity to scrutinise the details of its proposals in due course. But I should like to take this opportunity briefly to present the Government's proposals to your Lordships' House.
I believe it is common ground that this country must have a security service in order to protect us from those who would threaten our safety, our way of life and indeed our lives. The security service has faithfully carried out this remit of protection for almost 80 years. In introducing the Security Service Bill it is our intention to ensure that the security service can continue to serve this country well.
But the important job of the security service cannot be done in the centre of the public eye or against an unsettling background of misunderstanding about the way in which the security service is accountable for its work. The legislation that we have introduced will end this uncertainty. It will also meet the concern that people who wish to complain about security service actions against them should have a recognised way to do so.
When the Bill comes before the House your Lordships will be invited to consider the framework within which the security service must operate. You will be invited to agree that there should be clear arrangements for ministerial control of the security service, and you will be invited to support the establishment of a system for complaints to be investigated without damaging the lines of responsibility or the security of the country.
Finally, and on a very different subject, I mention education. As we have often said, the Government are committed to raising standards in education. But we shall only make progress towards better education for all our children by involving parents and the whole community in the crusade for better standards. That was the central purpose of the Education Reform Act. Now we are putting it into action. Artificial barriers to parental choice are already being dismantled. Parents are already responding to the new choice afforded them and to the opportunities to take their schools out of local authority control.
Starting first with the core subjects, we are introducing the national curriculum supported by a national system of tests from next September. Schools and colleges throughout the country are being given direct management responsibility for their own budgets and staff.
108 The Education (Scotland) Bill will extend the freedom of choice for parents within the Scottish education system by granting a right for the parents at a school to vote for its removal from the central management of an education authority.
Legislation will provide that a self-governing school will: remain publicly funded by direct government grant and will not be able to charge fees; be run by a board of governors representative of parents, teachers and the wider community; not select its pupils on the basis of ability and have to admit those applying under the arrangements for parental choice; and retain its denominational character.
The Bill will apply much general education legislation to grant-maintained schools but leave them free to develop distinctive approaches tailored to the wishes of parents and local circumstances. The aim will be to ensure that creation of grant-maintained schools through the support of parents leads to great diversity of provision and wider choice available to all.
Our aims are freedom, choice and opportunity, under the rule of law. I hope that the Government will in the coming Session be able to convince your Lordships that our programme and our policies are valuable contributions to those aims.
§ 3.24 p.m.
§ Lord Elwyn-Jones
My Lords, when Mr. Gladstone introduced one of his budgets he said that he did not call the task Herculean because Hercules could not have done it. I confess that in approaching the wide range of matters arising on home and social affairs one has a similar feeling of despair; but it has not been marked in the lucid speech of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor—we could have done with far more from him. However, no doubt we shall have the benefit of his wisdom at later stages when dealing with the Bills that have been announced.
One passage in the mixed bag of measures—if I may so describe it without discourtesy—is the provision that the Government,will vigorously pursue their policies for reducing crime".With respect, it is high time that they did. The crime rate has risen massively since the Government came into power in 1979. In 1979 there were 2,536,700 notifiable cases. In 1987 there were 3,892,200—a rise of 53 per cent.
When one examines the breakdown of these offences the grim picture emerges of a considerable increase in some of the gravest categories of crime—those which cause the public the most alarm and, indeed, cause an increasing number of our people not to venture out of their homes at night. Crimes of violence against the person rose from 95,000 in 1979 to 141,000 in 1987. There has been a continuing growth in sexual crimes, in violent crimes and especially in robbery. There were 12,500 robberies in 1979 but 32,600 robberies in 1988. Burglaries too have risen massively, from 544,000 in 1979 to 931,000 in 1986. Happily, there was some reduction to 900,000 in 1987, but it is an intolerably massive number.
109 A government who cannot protect their citizens from attack in the streets of towns and cities and who cannot protect property from damage or homes from intrusion have failed to face up to the basic duties of government. Those are not my words but those of the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw; but they apply sternly and plainly today.
It is disturbing that, in some directions at any rate, government policy is actually resulting in an increase in crime. One important element is the fact that there are still 2,160,000 unemployed in this country, leaving all, and especially the young, with a sense of alienation. Cuts in social security have aggravated the social scene, again especially among young people, who are the most crime prone group, and have created an increasing temptation to steal.
Proposed cuts to those in hostels will, if they are carried out, have a serious effect because they could result in several hostels having to close and their occupants being thrown out to join the sad throng of the homeless that we see in our streets, on our pavements and at our railway stations in this country of wealth and prosperity today.
The noble and learned Lord referred to the steps taken by way of crime prevention. We welcome the steps that have been taken but they are considerably limited by public expenditure cuts. Many local authorities have had to shelve or defer plans on their housing estates in order to install stronger doors, frames and locks and to improve street lighting. Many other factors are increasing crime, particularly inner city poverty, and poverty in the midst of plenty makes it even more intolerable to sustain.
The Queen's Speech is silent with regard to the crisis in our prison system, to which noble Lords on all sides of the House have been constantly referring in recent years. With over 50,000 prisoners, we lock up a greater proportion of our people than any other country in Europe. Overcrowded cells, decrepit and unhygienic conditions and barren regimes are the every-day experience in many of our gaols. It is high time, I submit, that a code of minimum standards for penal establishments was introduced, with a timetable for achieving it.
Is not the need to introduce statutory restrictions on the use of imprisonment for adults similar to those in the Criminal Justice Act 1982 restricting the use of custody for young offenders also pressing? That has had a beneficial effect in reducing their numbers.
In the field of public order the Queen's Speech states that legislation will be brought forward, and the noble and learned Lord has referred to it, to provide for a national membership scheme to control admission to football matches. It will need very careful examination, in my submission, lest it aggravate and worsen disorder rather than improve the situation. Most of the trouble, unfortunately, arises outside football grounds and not inside them. So we shall have to give that matter most careful thought, especially as to carry out what is proposed may well ruin many football clubs which ought not to face that fate.
110 As is the case—and the noble and learned Lord has indicated this, which accounts for the brevity of his speech—with several aspects of the Queen's Speech we shall await the relevant Bills and the full opportunity of discussing them when they arise. That applies to one of the Bills to which he referred in some detail; namely, the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act. We shall of course give our support to effective measures to deal with the terrorism of the IRA, while avoiding proposals which may be counter-productive. We certainly welcome this and support the Government's intention to take powers that will enable them to seize funds intended for terrorist organisations.
Security has a very large and important place in the Queen's Speech. We debated the White Paper on the reform of Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act, which I now understand from the noble and learned Lord is to be the basis of the government Bill in this field, in July of this year.
There was I think agreement on two major matters: first, the need to keep secret material that even might be of real benefit to an enemy or a potential enemy; and secondly, we all agreed on the need to remove from the provisions of the Official Secrets Act the catch-all section, the notorious Section 2, which, as the House knows and has been reminded on many occasions, makes it a criminal offence to disclose or receive any official information at all without prior authorisation. It has, as has been said on more than one occasion, left the law in a mess.
However, we protested during the debate as to the intentions of the Government and we protest now that the proposed reform of the Official Secrets Act does not apparently become part of a much wider package extending the range of information on public affairs. We shall examine the Bill carefully when it appears to see whether it provides a necessary balance between consideration of the need to protect the type of secret material which I have mentioned on the one hand and the rights of free expression for people to be informed and for the press to print the information on the other. The public interest in the right to know has rarely been as strong as it is now.
I ask in regard to what is contemplated, is it the case, in accordance with the Government's proposals, that neither civil servants nor the media will be able to argue that disclosure of information relating, for example, to fraud, threats to public health or malpractice was made in the public interest—the public interest defence? Is it the case that that is going to be provided for or not provided for? If the answer is in the negative, we shall strenuously resist that approach.
It seems that there is to be a blanket ban on disclosure by members or former members of the security services of information regarding interception of communications and of certain categories of information obtained from foreign governments. In those cases the Government, the prosecution, will not have to prove any harm done from the disclosures; they will be absolute offences. In my submission there are far too many of them and they are far too wide.
111 I ask what part parliamentary accountability plays, or is to play in the way the secret services work. How does parliamentary accountability come into the proposed schemes? There is a distinct absence of reference to it in what I have so far seen.
There is no doubt that there has been serious concern about the arrangements under which the security service operates, and particularly about the fact that people who complain about the security service actions find themselves powerless to deal with the situation in which they may be placed. One such victim, a distinguished Member of Parliament of impeccable character, has spoken to me of his own sense of helplessness when he was unjustly branded as a security risk to the grave detriment of his career. He told me that there was no one to whom he could turn for help in order to remedy his grievance. That is a deplorable state of affairs. Therefore we welcome the right of complaint which is to be given in the Security Service Bill to individuals by virtue of the provisions of Clause 5.
I hope that I am not carping in drawing attention to the narrowness of the right of complaint which the Bill contains. Under paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 the complainant must be:Aggrieved by anything which he believes the Service has done in relation to him or to any property of his".So far so good, but in my submission it does not go far enough. There is no scope for complaint about security service misconduct of a more general character; for example, that it is seeking to undermine a duly elected government—if that were to happen—or seeking to spread misinformation about the nature or objectives of a particular organisation.
One wonders whether the Secretary of State should be authorising the issue of search warrants under Section 3 of the Bill, subject to the commissioner (under Section 4) keeping under review the exercise by the Secretary of State of his powers under Section 3. I ask, would it not be a better system if the courts themselves had to authorise the issue of these warrants? I recognise that the argument against this proposal is that security problems are said to be too complex and subtle for the courts to evaluate. That is a strange lack of confidence in the capacity of the courts, if I may say so. The argument was emphatically repudiated by a unanimous United States Supreme Court decision in 1972 which said:If the threat is too subtle or complex for senior enforcement officers to convey its significance to a court, one may question whether there is proper cause for surveillance".I submit that the best way to ensure public trust in our security services is to have both under the law and subject to parliamentary scrutiny of a suitable character. As long ago as 1976, the United States Senate established a permanent Select Committee to oversee intelligence activities. A joint parliamentary committee and an independent inspector-general oversee Australia's equivalent of MI5. When I was in Australia recently, I heard that it works well.
In Canada, an independent review committee with members chosen by the leaders of all political parties oversees the Canadian security and intelligence 112 services. It has access to all the agency papers and publishes an annual report to Parliament. There is no indication that its operation has damaged the security of the state or its people. When in due course we come to the Bill, we shall invite careful consideration of those possibilities. At the moment any reference to parliamentary answerability in what we have read of what is proposed is eloquent by its silence and absence.
Happily, there is one measure about which the noble and learned Lord spoke with enthusiasm which we also support; namely, the proposal to bring in a Bill to rationalise the law governing the care and protection of children. As recent cases have shown, it is high time to bring that law up to date. I remember vividly a recent case on which I had the honour to sit with the noble and learned Lord when it became clear that the legal position in that field is a jungle. It is high time that the law was simplified and clarified.
It is disappointing in what has been said so far by the Government that there are no plans for the introduction of a family court. The noble and learned Lord will be under continuing pressure from all sides of the House to take steps in that direction. We shall see what can be done about it when the Bill comes before the House.
There is much to discuss in the Bill. I have endeavoured to face the herculean task; at least I shall be pardoned if it is a brief attempt.
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, I should like to follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, by agreeing with everything he said about the Bill relating to the security services. The Government have dodged the central issue: the question of parliamentary accountability is central. I do not believe that the Bill is in any way satisfactory.
Secondly, I follow the point made by my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Hillhead on Tuesday. The football spectators Bill is probably one of the silliest little Bills we shall have in the forthcoming Session. It will damage a number of small football clubs and probably some larger ones as well. It will make a negligible contribution to improving security at football grounds. Its effects could be totally counter-productive by increasing the level of violence in the streets and at railway stations. I can think of no Bill that has been outlined to us that is less deserving of mention in the gracious Speech.
Lastly, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor referred to the Education (Scotland) Bill. It is a highly controversial Bill. I shall be interested to hear what form of mandate the Government have for the Bill. They have 10 seats out of 72 in Scotland and a pitiably small minority of the total vote. Such highly controversial legislation, for which the Government have no mandate in Scotland, only damages the union. That is deeply regrettable.
The series of issues of particular relevance today relate to the criminal justice system to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, devoted most of his speech. I should like to pick up one reference in the gracious Speech. The aim, it says, is 113 to ensure that public expenditure falls as a proportion of national income,thus providing scope for further reductions in taxation".The Government of course maintain that despite their restrictions on the overall level of public expenditure they have given absolute priority to the law and order services. That was emphasised in 1985 when the Prime Minister, speaking at the Conservative Party conference, used the striking words, "If they", that is the police,need more men, more equipment, different equipment, then they shall have them. We don't economise on protecting life and property.".I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, who is to wind up, will tell us exactly how, in the context of that statement, he justifies the substantial reduction in expenditure in respect of the Royal Ulster Constabulary announced only this week. How can it possibly be right to allow 50 officers to be taken out of the Royal Ulster Constabulary traffic division in an area of the United Kingdom where road traffic deaths are the highest? Twice as many people die on the roads of Northern Ireland as in terrorist violence. How can it be right for the Government to impose such cuts? The noble and learned Lord referred to the importance of crime prevention schemes. They too are to be cut in Northern Ireland. I ask again: in the light of what the Prime Minister said, how can that be justified?
Let me now turn to the rest of the United Kingdom, not solely to the position of the police but to the other services directly involved with the police in bringing alleged offenders before the courts. I shall deal first with the police themselves. The noble Earl will no doubt tell us of the increases in police manpower since 1979. What he may not be so eager to talk about is the vast increase in crime which has taken place since then, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, pointed out—from street robberies to drug trafficking. That has undoubtedly caused the deepest level of public concern.
As the House will be aware, in the same period there has also been a massive increase in the importation of heroin and cocaine. In the first nine months of 1986, heroin and cocaine with a street value of £41 million were seized by the Customs. In the first nine months of this year, the quantity seized by the Customs just about doubled—from £41 million to £81 million.
The United States authorities assume that they intercept about 10 per cent. of the heroin and cocaine destined for the United States' market. And, as a working proposition, it is assumed that we may be equally successful. If true, it means that this year alone about £1 billion worth of illicit drugs is destined for the United Kingdom market. That is a massive criminal enterprise. The sophisticated criminals involved in that trade move easily from the importation of drugs to complex fraud, to armed robbery, to counterfeiting and to money laundering. That huge business was little more than a cottage industry when the Government came into power. It imposes a massive additional burden on the police. They have to organise complex surveillance operations with scores of specially trained officers 114 involved for periods—in some cases of many months—to secure the conviction of two or three targeted criminals.
Then, there has been the substantial increase in robbery, to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, referred. Let me discuss for a moment the position in London. In his last report, the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis said that opinion surveys conducted by his force showed that street robbery was probably the crime most feared by members of the public. In 1986 robberies rose by 7 per cent. compared with 1985 which in turn had shown an 11 per cent. rise compared with 1984. Last year there was a further 12 per cent. rise. Again, heavy additional police resources are necessary in order to deal with that.
Perhaps I may now turn to a matter which we have discussed in this House on many occasions and no doubt will discuss next week on the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale. Remands in police custody were unknown before 1981. In the last few weeks the numbers remanded in police custody have swung from a maximum of around 1,900 to 1,300. In mid-October, every single police force in England and Wales was holding significant numbers of Home Office prisoners, with the single exception of a small force in Wales, Dyfed Powys. The effect was to take hundreds of police officers off the streets to act as prison officers. As I have said before in this House, in a number of cases they are acting as mental nurses. A significant number of those who have been remanded in custody have backgrounds of mental instability. Many have been discharged from mental hospitals into what the DHSS is pleased to describe as "treatment in the community", or "care in the community". Yet in many areas these facilities hardly exist or if they do, they are inadequate.
When these people are arrested, sometimes for relatively trivial offences, they often find it impossible to give coherent instructions to their solicitors. So they find themselves remanded in custody and sucked either into prisons or into police cells. This is just one more effect of the Government's determination to cut public expenditure at all costs, irrespective of the consequences.
Finally as regards the police, perhaps I may raise the position of the London Underground. As many of us, I think, know, this has become increasingly dangerous. I find in my own circle that quite a number of people now refuse to use the Underground at night and there is justification for their anxieties. In the first six months of this year, robberies on the London Underground more than doubled—an astonishing level of increase. What precisely are the Government going to do about this? I think it is right to ask the Government that, because they produced a Blue Book sometime ago, Crime on the London Underground, prepared by the Department of Transport and by the Home Office, dealing with a number of these issues. Crime is rising at an alarming rate on the Underground. What are the Government planning to do?
The effective strength of 'L' Division of the British Transport Police, who are responsible for policing the Underground, is somewhere around 325. If one 115 takes account of sickness and leave, this means that at any hour of the day there is a maximum of 75 British Transport police officers policing the whole of the London Underground system. That seems to me a ridiculously inadequate level of manpower.
Again, how do the Government propose to deal with this, following the recent report by one of Her Majesty's inspectors of constabulary? 1 am bound to say that I had some discussions with the senior management of London Transport only a few months ago on this matter. I found their attitude extremely depressing. Their only concern appeared to be a desire to pass their policing bill on to the Home Office. It seemed to me, just as Mr. Fennell said in his report, that they had a blind spot so far as safety was concerned. Equally, they have a pretty substantial blind spot as regards crime on their own Underground system.
I turn now to the other front-line law enforcement services. Let us look for a moment at the position of the magistrates' courts. There are well over 100 vacancies at the moment for legally qualified clerks, mostly caused by the private sector recruiting underpaid lawyers from the public sector. That is the reason. What is the consequence of losing so many legally qualified clerks in our courts? It is further delays in our criminal justice system and still more people being held on remand, either in prison or in police stations.
The Crown Prosecution Service was created with strong all-party support. I think that all parts of this House welcomed it. Yet what has happened? The service in inner London alone is now 25 per cent. below establishment and in other parts of the country too there are serious shortages. We have had the extraordinary spectacle in recent weeks of the First Division Association taking the Director of Public Prosecutions to court because of the attempt to use legally unqualified executive officers to make decisions on prosecutions.
I welcome the fact that a settlement of this action was reached during the hearing in the Court of Appeal. But what an extraordinary way to run a service. From the outset it has been scandalously under-resourced. It was a service which the Treasury obviously considered could be established on the cheap. I believe that no serious person could have considered for a moment, when taking into account the highly sensitive issues with which they were dealing, that this was a sensible approach. As a result, I think we all recognise that there is now a serious morale problem within the Crown Prosecution Service. There is also the belief among quite a substantial number of CID officers that plea bargaining is now taking place on a considerable scale because the service is so anxious about its current workload. Again, I do not believe that this does anything except to poison the relationship between the police and some parts of the Crown Prosecution Service.
I should like to ask one specific question of the noble Earl when he comes to reply. Will the report of Sir Robert Andrew on the Government's legal services be published or not? I asked a question recently about 116 it and was told that the Government were considering the matter. What is their final decision?
Perhaps I may now turn to the Serious Fraud Office, set up as a result of a report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Roskill. The real level of fraud is always a matter of debate; a great deal of it is not reported at all. However, cases that have been reported are now running at a menacingly high level. In London last year, cases involving £1.5 billion were carried over from the previous year. Another 590 cases were added to the workload, involving cash at risk of over £3.25 billion. According to the commissioner's last report,demand consistently exceeds investigative resources".I wonder whether that is acceptable when we consider the critically important role of the City of London in our invisible earnings.
Again, it seems to me deeply regrettable that our resources are as inadequate as they are. The Serious Fraud Office problem looks strikingly like the problem of the Crown Prosecution Service. Last July, according to a reply I received in this House, it was 40 per cent. below a lamentably inadequate establishment for established public servants. Astonishingly, nine of the missing posts were then filled by agency staff, yet the Serious Fraud Office deals with the gravest allegations of commercial malpractice, involving matters of the highest degree of sensitivity. It is odd that a government who spend so much time talking about security in other respects are as relaxed as they appear to be as regards some of the issues dealt with by the Serious Fraud Office.
In another area to which the Government have devoted a great deal of attention, social security fraud, there appears to be no shortage of resources. In a Written Answer I received only a few days ago the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, informed me that no fewer than 3,335 officials were now hard at work tracking down the miscreants. I regard social security fraud as deeply objectionable. But could we perhaps be told why it is right to have over 3,300 officials working in this area of crime, and yet be unable to recruit the full establishment of 79 in the Serious Fraud Office?
The situation that now confronts us is this. Even in law enforcement, an area which the Government themselves have identified as one of their priority areas of expenditure, we are witnessing the consequences of savage restraint of public expenditure. Despite the fact that they face an increasingly dangerous situation regarding both drugs and violent crime, several of our key police forces are grossly under-resourced, as are the Government's two new services, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Serious Fraud Office. The magistrates' courts and the Forensic Science Service, on which the police depend so much, are similarly under-resourced.
It is simply pointless for Ministers to continue to congratulate themselves by pointing out the increased provisions made since 1979, when the crime situation now is incomparably worse than it was then. I have little doubt that the overwhelming majority of our fellow citizens welcome tax reductions. But they also care about peace in our 117 streets, safety when they travel on the Underground and the belief that the police are adequately provided for in their struggle against serious crime. Unless the Government change their priorities, and unless they accept that the public services involved in the struggle against crime deserve higher priority than still futher tax cuts, I believe the consequences for our country could be severe. In the past decade Britain has become a more dangerous place in which to live. Our streets are dirtier and our public services have deteriorated. Let us now turn back before the situation becomes still worse.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ The Earl of Perth
My Lords, it may come as no surprise to your Lordships that I intend to speak this afternoon about Scotland and the significance of Govan. That happening was not perhaps foreseen at the time of the drafting of the Queen's Speech. The result was an extraordinary one. It should he read as a protest vote and, as such, is nothing new.
Over the past century, again and again, the Scottish nation—I underline the word "nation"—has shown that it wants to run its own show, and to have the right to do that. In the early 1900s that demand was so strong that we saw the creation of the Scottish Office. It was hoped that that would be enough. Events since then have shown quite clearly that we are not satisfied with the Scottish Office, however hard it may try to escape the control of Whitehall.
The devolution Bill of five years ago is a proof of that. Now there is the resurgence of the Scottish National Party. As your Lordships may know, its policy is for independence within the European Community. I do not think that is a well thought out plan. It must depend on the good will of the United Kingdom and of the Community. That is in no way likely. All the same, it shows that we want something more than we have now. We must find the solution to this demand from the nation. As I have said, this demand is nothing new and it will not go away.
Scotland is a nation different from England in its day-to-day life. It has its own legal system. I bow to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor when I say that the Scottish legal system is often superior to the English one. We in Scotland have our own education system. There is the Church of Scotland, with its General Assembly. In sport we play our own national part, be it in the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games or anywhere else.
But in economic affairs we are ruled by Parliament and by Whitehall, or perhaps I should say by Whitehall and incidentally by Parliament. We do not like that. I shall give some examples of why we do not like it. I suppose I should begin with the poll tax. What we minded about the poll tax more than anything else was the fact that we were used as guinea-pigs. The Government decided to try the tax out in Scotland to see how it worked there. We in Scotland did not like that. It may be argued that that was just an accident of timing, but we do not like such accidents.
There is also the example of rates. Industrial and shop rates in Scotland are far higher than those in 118 England. I believe, for example, that the rateable values of shops on Princes Street are higher than those in Oxford Street. This happens because the English gave themselves a valuation moratorium. That was not the case for Scotland.
There is the example of the Scottish Development Agency, a body of which we in Scotland are very rightly proud for all that it has done for the development of Scotland. That body does a great deal in attracting overseas investment from all over the world. But what happened? Several years ago there was a very real attempt to stop it having its own representation abroad. Happily, with the help of the Scottish Office, that was defeated. But the taste of that remains.
Recently the Treasury stated that it did not like the way the Scottish Development Agency was acting. The Treasury thinks the Scottish Development Agency should pay more attention to the Treasury and should pay the Treasury dividends. The Treasury thinks the Scottish Development Agency should provide it with some return for the money that has been invested. It considers the agency should not keep the money that has been invested for further investment. The SDA had to give way.
Many of your Lordships will recall what happened with Guinness. There were promises that the headquarters would be moved to Edinburgh and that an eminent Scot would be chairman.Those promises of Guinness were broken. The Governor of the Bank of England gave Guinness a lecture and left it at that.
We have tolls almost everywhere in Scotland. There are tolls over the Forth, over theTay and over virtually all our rivers. It is rare to find tolls in England. As far as I am aware, there are no tolls at all on the Thames. Why does that discrimination exist? I could give further examples of discrimination, but I shall not. I hope that I have shown a little of why we in Scotland feel restive about how things are going. People may say that we should not grumble because we get more per capita from central funds than is our right by numbers. My answer to that is that we are handicapped by distance. What about our—and I underline "our"—North Sea oil?
What do I suggest—self-government along the lines of the Ulster model or a block grant to spend as we like, with smaller representation in Parliament? I do not think that either of those alternatives is necessarily a good idea. I do not know at this time what the answer is.
I recall that at the time of the devolution Bill the noble Lord, Lord Home, was against it. He was against it not so much, as I understand it, on the basis of the principle of devolution but because he felt that it was a bad Bill and therefore one should either abstain or vote against it. I agree that it probably was a bad Bill but I campaigned for all I was worth in its favour because I felt that a Bill of that kind could be changed, and anyhow it was a start. However, noble Lords will recall that although there was a majority in favour of the Bill, it failed because of the provisions introduced in Parliament at the last moment. We were not very happy about that.
119 So we are again faced with the Scots asking for more opportunity to run their own affairs. It is clear that that is not a flash in the pan and the problem will not go away. If we do not make a move now, I am fearful that civil disobedience may raise its ugly head. I do not want that, and nor does anyone else in this Chamber.
What do I suggest? I think that it is very well worth considering whether or not the Government should set up a working party with terms of reference along the following lines: within the Act of Union (and I stress within the Act of Union) to recommend how the Scottish people can best run their own economic and home affairs. I shall not go into much detail on the composition of any such working party. Clearly it must have members from both Houses and it must not be too large. It might include eminent outsiders from, for example, the law, the Church, business—including the unions—or the universities.
Perhaps a working party is not a sufficiently solemn affair. One could call it a conference just as long ago we had a conference on Malta. One might even go so far as to consider a Royal Commission to study the question and make recommendations. A Royal Commission would have one great advantage, which is that it would take time. It would have a second advantage, namely that it would be authoritative.
I beg the Government seriously to consider that idea because it would give us a chance to fashion our own lives in the way that we want. I am sure that we should rise to that challenge and the outcome would be to the advantage not only of those of us in Scotland but also of the whole of the United Kingdom.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Lord Kilmarnock
My Lords, I hope that the House will forgive me if I do not follow previous speeches on the very important series of Home Office Bills which were mentioned in the gracious Speech, nor indeed the noble Earl, Lord Perth, in his very natural concern with Scotland.
Although this is not a day allocated to economic debate, budgetary and fiscal policy on the one hand and social policy on the other are so inextricably entwined that I want to start with perhaps the most important statement in the gracious Speech. It runs as follows:My Government…will maintain firm control of public expenditure so that, while allowing for further improvements in priority services, it continues to fall as a proportion of national income, thus providing scope for further reductions in taxation, as and when prudent".Part of that statement has already been quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich.
The Government have already congratulated themselves on bringing public expenditure below 40 per cent. of GDP for the first time in 20 years. Now they say that they are determined to continue that trend. A glance at the Autumn Statement confirms that. It shows the intention to secure further reductions from 39.75 per cent. this year to 39.25 per cent. next year and 39 per cent. in 1990–91. That is 120 feasible while maintaining what the Government call "priority" services, thanks to privatisation receipts which are not counted in those figures. However, in the nature of things those will in due course dry up.
To my mind that raises the whole question of the appropriate level of public expenditure in this country. It was clearly far too high when it peaked at 48.5 per cent. in 1975–76. It remained very high during the first years of this Administration and did not seriously begin to fall until 1985. As the Government propose to keep it on that downward course, it is of some interest to speculate where it will settle. We can presumably rule out a reversion of government spending to its level in the days of George II and Walpole when it stood at about 10 per cent. of national income. Perhaps the United States level is a gleam in the Government's eye, though at 36.9 per cent. in 1986, taking federal and state expenditure together, that is in fact higher than might have been expected.
If the growth rate in the economy is high, clearly there is some room for a relative reduction while maintaining a high standard of public services. If growth slows and inflation rises, and as privatisation receipts dry up, the Government's commitment to reducing the percentage of national income devoted to the public sector will be more difficult to maintain in the face of demand for services which, rightly or wrongly, people believe are best publicly provided, as has been shown by endless opinion surveys.
That presents us with a difficulty. A little later I shall suggest some ways in which it might be overcome or at least partly circumvented. But first we have to face, or the Government have to face, pressures for spending which will undoubtedly increase in a number of fields. Let us take the National Health Service first. I do not believe that there will be a radical departure from a tax-based service free at the point of use. It is quite clear that that is what people want. In a curious way it is the British people's substitute for the war: the one remaining area in which we—or most of us—are still together.
That does not give it a licence to be cumbersome or inefficient. The social market approach, with which the SDP is associated, while maintaining the original NHS principle would introduce market mechanisms and disciplines into its heart by such means as delegated financial management, an internal market in beds between districts, and greater co-operation between the public and private sectors. That is in fact already happening in a piecemeal way for the very good reason that 190 separate all-purpose districts catering for every conceivable specialty are simply not on. There will have to be more trading of skills and patients across borders.
Even with such rationalisation the Government will have to put in a minimum of 2 per cent. in real terms over and above any efficiency savings and income-generation schemes if any of the improvements of which they speak are to be achieved. The cornucopia announced recently by the Secretary of State was boiled down to 1.5 per cent. in real terms by the Financial Times and to 1.4 per cent. by the British Medical Journal. That was when 121 inflation was still estimated at 5.9 per cent. and not at the 6.4 per cent. it reached last month. which is widely predicted to continue upwards to 7 per cent. and beyond. The health increases are thus fast eroding virtually to zero, so trouble is brewing there.
Let us turn to education, another vital national concern which the Government have not addressed adequately, although the noble and learned Lord referred to it briefly in his speech. Mr. Baker's Act loosens things up a bit and provides some alternatives to a system adminstered exclusively by LEAs. Very well, let us have more different types of school. Let us give the CTCs a run for their money. But apart from experiments of that kind, the Government's general approach seems to be based on the extraordinary assumption that as between now and the end of the century young people are going to decline in number by 25 per cent. substantial savings can therefore be made in education, whereas the opposite is the case. If one has a declining age group and one wants to increase the age participation rate in further and higher education both proportionately and absolutely, one obviously has to spend more money, particularly as every responsible voice says that the current skill gap is alarming and getting worse.
What is the prospect? On the present course, according to today's Independent, we are faced in fact with a shrinkage in new graduates from 124,000 in 1992 to 113,000 in 1998. If that is true, it is an appalling situation. The Government may point to over 700,000 vacancies as an indicator of the strength of the economy. But who will fill those vacancies?
One of the most important steps of all is to increase the staying-on rate at 16-plus in order to produce the increased intake which universities and polytechnics must have. The Government completely missed the bus on this matter when they floated their new proposals for student support. They should have started with a means-tested educational maintenance allowance for the 16 to 19 age group as the first launching pad into higher education. For example, attendance at a London sixth-form college can easily cost £20 a week in meals and fares if one's child lives within three miles of the school. That is a huge disincentive to families on low incomes. The new student support scheme is also a disincentive to such families. We are not against students making a contribution to the cost of their careers; indeed, it is hard to see how participation can be widened without some form of repayment. However, a full grant system to be recouped in part through a graduate tax, as has recently been introduced in Australia, would have been fairer and less offputting than the Government's proposals.
In general, cheeseparing on education is a bad mistake. That some expenditure on maintenance should be recouped is now widely accepted but it has to be there in the first place. If the Treasury's intention is to reduce educational spending as a proportion of GDP, many skilled vacancies will remain unfilled and indeed we may be reduced to exporting unskilled labour to the Continent in much the same way as was done by Spain, Greece and Turkey in the 1960s. I am pretty sure that that is not the vision of 1992 of the noble Lord, Lord Young. 122 One must hope that he will use his influence in the Cabinet to ensure that such a thing does not happen.
There are many other areas of social policy which require urgently to be addressed, not least among them homelessness, housing for the elderly, community care and childcare. In our view they all demand an imaginative mix of inputs from a number of agencies, not all of them governmental. I am sure that we shall debate those matters fully in this new Session. I do not want to weary your Lordships with a long speech, so I shall not go into them today. Instead, I want to go back to the point at which I came in. If the Government are to pursue successfully their policy of bringing down public expenditure as a percentage of GDP, how are the services that people seem to want to be financed?
As I have suggested, there are ways of providing them more efficiently and perhaps more cheaply by increased subcontracting and franchising to the private sector. No doubt that will continue, but ultimately the bill will come back to the taxpayer. The question therefore remains of how to ensure good services while reducing taxes. Part of the answer lies in the revenue buoyancy which undoubtedly results from lower taxes, as is demonstrated by the Treasury's overflowing coffers at the moment. But that in itself is not enough, particularly if the Government continue to pursue their policy of public sector debt reduction.
Let me go back briefly to the last Budget. The Chancellor reduced the standard rate of income tax to 25 per cent. and no doubt it will go lower still. He also reduced the upper bands to 40 per cent. All that would have been perfectly acceptable had he not missed the glorious opportunity to align the national insurance contributions with income tax so as to remove the absurd and amorally high marginal rate of tax on very low earners and those moving out of unemployment. At the same time he should have removed the upper earnings limit and run employees' national insurance contributions right up the scale so that 9 per cent. would in effect have been added to the top rate of tax. That would have been vastly more equitable and taken a bit of steam out of the domestic spending spree, the consequences of which he is now facing. If he had also made a move to freeze the married man's tax allowance so that it withered gradually on the vine and had restrained mortgage interest tax relief to the basic rate, he would have saved a lot of money for some of the things about which I have been talking and cooled the economy.
In relation to the last point of mortgage interest tax relief, he may well reflect as inflation pushes toward 7 per cent., requiring higher interest rates, which are bad both for business and the homeowner, that in June this year the figure for mortgage borrowing was in the region of £200 billion—I repeat, £200 billion—much of which feeds through or has been feeding through into not only property but also current personal consumption. This has been a large contributory factor to the inflation crisis that he is now facing.
The error of the Government is that they have been and remain overly respectful of fiscal privilege and, for that matter, monopoly privilege. One of the main 123 objectives of the social market programme is progressively to remove the many tax breaks that still distort our fiscal policy and make Parliament the prisoner of pressure groups for pensions, home loans, private health insurance—you name it. That policy is either enshrined or seeking to be enshrined in a system of fiscal privilege about which the Government have done very little other than nibble at the edges.
The way ahead is to remove these privileges. Then there can be decent services and lower taxation. Above all what is wanted is a neutral tax regime with which the social security system is amalgamated. Can the noble Earl say whether there is any technical impediment now in the way of a computerised tax/benefit system? Is it held up just by Civil Service resistance or simply by lack of political will? If the latter, does this not call into question the Government's commitment to targeted benefits reaching their destination? The current take-up of family credit, estimated at well under 50 per cent., would rise to almost the 100 per cent. enjoyed by child benefit if the payment were automatic. That may be a cost that the Government do not want to invite, but it is pretty shabby to devise benefits in the certain knowledge that half of them will not be claimed because of social stigma or complexity. If the Government want a targeted system—for which there are some good arguments—will they cease to be cynical about it and see that their aim does not miss the target half the time? Would the noble Earl not agree that they have the technical means at their disposal if only they choose to use them?
As the Government enter the second Session of their third Parliament, enjoying sufficient but not massive public support, I have cudgelled my brains to decide what is the main gravamen against them. I do not think that it is the handling of the economy, despite the Chancellor's present troubles. I do not even think that it is that they have let the supply side rip at the expense of social programmes. Public expenditure needed to be brought into a reasonable balance with private consumption: it is still higher than it was in the 1950s and 1960s. I think that it is lack of respect for equity and a failure to secure equitable treatment for citizens across the board in so far as that is within the Government's power. I think of the wretched lot of those who are striving to climb out of the poverty or unemployment trap only to be clobbered by hugely regressive and punitive rates at the bottom end of the scale. I think of the failure to respect equality of opportunity in education, even though that has been common ground not only of progressive but of moderate or even centre-right opinion since the end of the ancine régime. I think of the massive tax privileges, some of which I have mentioned. None of these things will bring the Government down in the short run but they will further sour society and worsen social relationships until they are remedied.
However, those who criticise must be prepared to put forward their alternatives. I have endeavoured to indicate some elements of the social market approach advocated by the SDP. As regards publicly funded services, we do not share the Government's 124 ideological aversion to them, but we lay strong emphasis on greater diversity and accountability in their delivery. As for social security, we are convinced that it should he integrated with the tax system and that where benefits are targeted (as some must be) they should reach their targets. Ours is a much stronger commitment than is the Government's against monopolies, whether public or private. We have a far stronger commitment to equality of opportunity within a market economy. It is against those benchmarks that we shall shape our response to legislation during the current Session of Parliament.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, much of what the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, has just said will no doubt receive a reply on Tuesday when your Lordships' House proceeds to discuss financial and economic matters. I hope therefore that the noble Lord will not think it discourteous if I revert to the general subjects for today's debate.
Today's debate has brought out, as did the gracious Speech for which this Motion thanks Her Majesty, the extraordinary reversal of roles of the political parties that has taken place in the last nine and a half years. Under the dynamic leadership of a great Prime Minister we now have in this country a radical and reforming government who seek to challenge accepted ideas and customs, to examine whether they stand up in the circumstances of today and, if they do not, to change them. On the other hand, the so-called Labour movement is one of the most static objects within sight. It seeks to resist change and reform with the same vigour and determination that the Conservative Party did 30 or 40 years ago.
There is therefore in the situation a certain element of paradox which to the observer is not without its entertainment value. The gracious Speech contains considerable measures of reform. However, apart from replying to one or two points that have been made by the other side, I wish to say something about matters which could come under the heading "other measures will be laid before you". There are some other measures the absence of which from the gracious Speech I regret.
I am very sorry indeed that the Government have not come forward with proposals to scrap the dock labour scheme. That scheme is redolent of the worst side of trade unionism in the 1940s. One has a statutory closed shop. Where one is in a port to which the scheme applies—and, mercifully, it does not apply to all—one is not allowed to employ anyone other than a registered dock worker. That has had unhappy consequences. Some of your Lordships know the grave difficulties that have resulted in respect of the Grimsby fishing fleet. There are not sufficient registered dock workers in Grimsby to unload the trawlers when they come in with their loads. An offence is committed if the trawler crews unload or if their owners employ other labour. As a result, many of the trawlers have to go to other ports, with the fish getting a good deal less fresh on the way and with their costs and prices going up. At the same time, the dock labour scheme involves paying people who are not working.
125 It has also an element which may perhaps appeal to some Members of your Lordships' House. It has a considerable hereditary element. But again there is an element of paradox about that. It has done so much harm. It played a considerable part in the decline in the Port of London, which even up to the war was the greatest port in the world. The vivid contrast is to be seen today between the dock labour scheme ports, where there is this restriction, these high operating costs, and the general difficulty of operating, and the non-dock labour scheme ports such as Harwich which are going successfully ahead.
I believe that the Government have not tackled this because, rightly or wrongly, they suspect that to do so might cause a dock strike. Perhaps I may point out to them that if they were to have a partial dock strike it would probably do more than anything else to restore the balance of payments because of the inhibition that it would put on the flow of imports of domestic consumer goods from Europe.
However, in all seriousness, it is a blot on the record of a government who have gone so bravely and so successfully for freedom of enterprise, freedom to work and freedom to employ whom you wish that this archaic, damaging scheme should continue in being and that there should be no proposal to abolish it in the gracious Speech.
Noble Lords have listened, I am sure, with the respect they always do to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, in particular when he speaks about Scotland. However, with great diffidence and deference, I would counsel him to be a little cautious about this. The advocacy of Royal Commissions is apt to stimulate excitement, to raise anticipations, and to produce a mass of perhaps somewhat inflammatory evidence. I would counsel the noble Earl to be a little cautious, with the aid of a reminiscence of my own. At the time when the previous devolution Bill was going through Parliament in my then capacity as chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority in the Shetland Islands, I had the great privilege of entertaining the Shetland Council to a little hospitality. Over our discussions I asked them what they thought about Scottish devolution. One of them said to me firmly, "We do not very much like being run from London, but we're damned if we'll be run from Edinburgh". That is the kind of reaction which too many demands for devolution, and too many demands of the kind to which the noble Earl referred, could well stimulate. The process of devolution may not stop at Edinburgh.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, referred, rightly and properly, to a matter that concerns us all: the steady increase in crime. There is no difference between members in your Lordships' House regarding the deep anxiety to which it gives rise. However, the noble and learned Lord was not quite fair when he seemed to suggest that this rise in crime had started in 1979. It had been growing for a great many years before that. It has been a continuing process under all governments.
I would also remind him of this; it may have some significance. The rise in crime has coincided with the reduction in the length of time that sentences are now served. Apart from the length of sentence imposed by 126 courts, the growth of parole has had the effect of ensuring that when a judge says to someone, "You will go to prison for 14 years" the man knows perfectly well that he will be unlucky if he serves half that period. That has done quite a bit to undermine the deterrent effect of criminal convictions when the people concerned are caught. Over the years I think that it has begun to be appreciated by the criminal classes—I do not claim to speak for them—that sentences are not what they sound, and that some kindly person will undoubtedly liberate them long before the end of any sentence which is imposed.
If your Lordships will allow me to say so, it has also coincided with the period in which capital punishment has been abolished. I think that I made the last speech in another place against abolition when the five-year experimental period was over. Nothing that has happened since has convinced me that I was wrong in warning another place at that time that the abolition of the traditional and historic penalty for the taking of life would lead not to an alleviation or improvement but to a deterioration in the situation.
We had a fairly vivid illustration of this the other day. Your Lordships may recall the case of the serious criminals who kidnapped a bank manager and his family in order to obtain entry to a bank to rob it. They threatened to kill the bank manager's wife and daughter if he did not open the bank for them. One of them said to the police—it was published—"Yes, and we would have killed them. It would only have meant five years extra on a 20-year sentence".
Whatever view noble Lords may tiake on this subject, and whatever view the majority of our fellow countrymen may take—which may be a quite different matter—one cannot get away from the fact that the rise in crime has coincided (I do not put it more strongly than that) with the lowering of penalties, in particular for the most serious offences and in terms of the amount of sentences served.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, before the noble Lord continues, I wonder whether he would edify the House with some information that backs what he is saying. Is he saying that statutes have amended the maximum penalties and made them less; or is he saying that that is not so, but that the judges are imposing lesser sentences than they did?
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I said neither, if the noble Lord had been kind enough to listen to me. I said that the sentences were eroded by the grant of parole. I hope that the noble Lord has taken the point now.
In the series of matters that I should like to see included in the gracious Speech—and I shall be brief about them—there are several measures of considerable importance. I should have liked to have seen legislation to deal with Sunday trading. All your Lordships know that the present law is—to use the phrase of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, in another context—a jungle. A law under which someone can lawfully sell a pornographic magazine on a Sunday, but commits a criminal 127 offence if he sells a bible is so silly and so contrary to the wishes of our fellow countrymen that it simply is not enforced. I know that the Government's intentions on this are very good.
The noble Earl said that the Government would like to see complete deregulation. I know that they are a little frightened of what might happen in another place, nonetheless courage is sometimes a very rewarding virtue. The experience of the last few years may have softened opinion there. I say with great conviction to the noble Earl that the omission from the gracious Speech of any reference to tidying up this ridiculous relic of the past is unfortunate.
Your Lordships' House duly carried the Bill two years ago despite one occasion when 23 right reverend Prelates, I think on a three line Whip, turned up—a higher proportion of their total strength than any of the efforts of any of the Whips of any party in your Lordships' House have ever succeeded in obtaining. Despite that, the House carried the Bill and the House is very experienced in these matters. Experience since then has shown that the present law is a nonsense and I hope that the Government will pay some serious attention to it.
I have an enormous regard for the present Secretary of State for Education. He has done an extremely good job with the recent Bill. The freeing of the polytechnics from local authority interference is a matter of the greatest importance; the opportunity of schools to opt out of local authority control is equally valuable, but I must express a doubt about his latest idea of student loans. I doubt whether socially or in principle it is a good thing to start young people in their adult life after graduation with a debt round their necks. I also have the gravest doubts as to the practicality. What is to happen, for example, with foreign students who will go away? What is to happen in the many cases of girl students who promptly marry, produce children and will not be working for many years? I am more concerned—indeed it is a matter which I put as a Question to my noble friend when he made the Statement—whether we are not at risk of creating an incentive for graduates who graduate in this country to go to work abroad.
One of the criticisms which I have often made of our high levels of taxation is that able young men and women are tempted to live and work abroad because they can keep a larger proportion of what they earn. But if it is made clear that if they go abroad to work they will not be caught up with for repayment of the loan, that will add a further incentive which surely must work against our interests at a time when Members in all quarters of this House are pointing out the great importance of having highly trained, highly educated people working in this country and it is surely harmful to do anything which even in a minor degree stimulates them to work abroad.
I realise that banks who are quite prepared to lend enormous sums of money to bankrupt and rickety South American republics will probably lend money to anybody. Nonetheless I gather that for those kind of reasons there is a certain reluctance to go into this exercise and I really wonder whether my right 128 honourable friend is wise in pursuing this matter, or whether he might do better to think again. I know it will be said—no doubt the noble Earl will say it—that the practice is followed in certain foreign countries. But one cannot reason wholly from that, because human nature and human tastes differ, and this is certainly a country from which people are more enterprisingly inclined to work abroad than is the case in some countries where this practice is followed.
I should like at this early stage in the Session to beg my noble friend to give some further thought to this matter and to discuss it with his right honourable friend. I fear that it may be something of a fiasco which will have the unfortunate effect of damaging the extremely good reputation which has been built up for the Department of Education under the present Minister.
The only other point I want to refer to relates to social security. The horrible word "targeting" is used. It is a horrible word for a very good thing; the concentration of public help on those who need it, securing that relief is given to the poor and not across the board to those who do not need it. That does not refer to contributory benefits: the national insurance scheme benefits to which we are all entitled having contributed, such as retirement pension, sickness benefit and unemployment benefit. But it does apply to many of the other income supports such as housing benefit and to child benefit as well.
One cannot really secure an adequate body of relief for those who need it if payments are spread out to people who do not need them. It is slightly ridiculous for millionaires' children to be entitled to child benefit. There has been some criticism even of freezing the level. I wonder whether this is not an area on which there could be more concentration not on targeting, which is an odious phrase, but on need which has been part of the tradition of our social service departments in this country for many years. I speak with some recollection of this. It was a tradition of the late National Assistance Board which your Lordships may remember did a wonderful job in exactly this area in helping only the poor. I regret its abolition and the incorporation of its functions into the Department of Social Security. However, that is over the dam. I hope that something of the assistance board approach—sympathetic, considerate of the individual, considering the special needs of individuals in special cases—may be brought back into the system and help to make it more effective.
We shall have a great deal to do this Session. I cannot help recalling and adapting the words which Cecil Rhodes used when he was dying:So much to do, so little done".We can translate them in this context to:So much done and so much more to do".
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ Baroness Phillips
My Lords, one of the difficulties about following the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, is that one is tempted to move away from the comments that one had hoped to make in order to enter into debate with him. I merely tell him that I follow his arguments both concerning shops and 129 student loans. However, I would remind him why we needed a dock labour scheme. In the 1930s—we are rapidly moving back to the days of the 1930s when people had to pay for medicine and education—I remember working in the docks when men used to come in at five o'clock in the morning having been turned down for work by someone who stood there and said "I will have you, and you, and you and the rest can go home". It was obscene and must never return. Anybody who wants to work has the right to work. That is one of the reasons why we had the dock labour scheme.
One could spend a long time discussing the gracious Speech because there is so much material in it. I shall support all that is done by the Labour Front Bench as the Bills move through the House. There appears the lovely phrase:Other measures will be laid before youto which I shall refer later. There is another phrase to which I should like to draw attention. It is:A Bill will be introduced to remove unnecessary obstacles to employment, particularly in relation to women and young people".I am not clear about why it is that 50 per cent. of the population is classed with young people. In Britain we have a peculiar habit of putting people into sections. There are the women, ethnic minorities, the young, the adolescent, the middle-aged, and so forth. It is upon the subject of age that I wish to direct my comments.
One of the obstacles to employment is age. In an advertisement an employer may not state that he wants a person of a particular colour, creed or sex. We must now be more delicate and use the word "gender". However, he may state, and does, that he wants someone between the ages of 30 and 40 years or 30 and 35 years. We have a positive obsession with age. If anyone wishes to be insulting, he will say, "He is old". It is the worst thing you can be—
§ Baroness Phillips
My Lords, personally I find that it has many advantages. I can now go out with younger men without there being any danger to my virtue.
We have a peculiar obsession with age which shows itself in the labour market. It is used as an insult about your Lordships. The other place which wants to get rid of us (at least some of them do) refer to us as a "geriatric institution". The word "geriatric" is a definition used in the medical sense, but it is now being used as an insult.
People are forced to retire when they are in full possession of their mental and physical vigour. They are then referred to as "a problem". It is a problem which is created by the system. It is said, "The old are a problem". Why is that? It is because they are forced not to take full participation in society. It is also said, "They are a burden". I suppose that that is why we shall eventually have euthenasia. We are recommended to knit woolly hats and to wear long-johns. That is an interesting solution to the problem of being old. I was recently at a charity meeting and 130 I offered someone the chance to go outside to look at my long-johns for the sum of £1. How can we waste so much skill and talent?
Ironically the Government will be forced to introduce legislation dealing with this issue because—surprise, surprise—there is a shortage of school leavers. Who do we come back to? Just as in a war it is the women—an un-named group—and the 50 and even 60-year olds. They will be coming into their own. Let us come into line with the Common Market. Age is not permitted to be mentioned, and it must not be used as discrimination.
I turn to deal with another issue about which I am interested. It comes under the statement:Other measures will be laid before you".If I have anything to do with it, this matter will be laid before you. The Government are most keen on crime prevention. That is splendid and I applaud what they have done. However, they are constantly turning to commerce and industry for its funding. Crime prevention is the business of us all. Therefore every citizen has the right to expect the government of the day to carry out full measures of crime prevention.
One then comes to the private security industry. I am delighted to see that at last the police constables have wakened up. Some of us have been talking about this matter for the past 10 years but you cannot help being ahead of your time. They have carried out a review of the private security industry. I remind noble Lords that there are approximately 250,000 people in private armies. Most of them are sensible and good. However, they are totally unregulated and I shall ask that they be properly licensed. That is suggested in the ACPO Report.
I was recently asked to speak at a meeting and gave the title of my talk "Who guards the guards?". Imagine the irony in employing guards in uniform and bringing in someone who, it finally transpires, has just left prison because no-one has investigated his background. When you consider the rate that they are paid (£1.59 per hour) you ask yourself what kind of guards are you going to get.
The issue may seem unimportant but it is a growing security industry and it must be licensed or regulated in some way. It is a growing industry and if any of your Lordships wish to invest money it is the industry to invest in. I hope that the Government will not suggest that we go to the British Industry Securities Association which is headed by splendid people. It will be self-regulating, but that is very limited. It has certain impositions on who can join but it is not the answer to this serious problem.
I can find no mention in the gracious Speech, but I appeal to the Government to look more carefully at the question of safety. We have terrible examples such as the capsizing of the "Herald of Free Enterprise", the King's Cross fire and many others. We must have more legislation dealing with safety and it must be enforced.
I recently watched some young men working on a building site and they were flouting all the safety instructions. I went out and lectured them but they did not take much notice. However, they gave me the title of Our Lady, and because they were all Irish I 131 took it to have a certain Apostolic connection. Safety and security is vital to our industry and our lifestyle.
There is a great deal in the gracious Speech to debate and to discuss, but I should like to make a small plea to the Government. I ask them to include the two issues which I have raised this afternoon.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ Lord Grimond
My Lords, when I determined to speak about Scotland in the debate, I feared that I might be a voice crying in the wilderness and that I should be on a different railway line from everyone else. I find that that is not so. Many of the points which have been made by the noble Baroness will arouse echoes of pleasure in Scotland.
We heard a fine speech from the noble Earl, Lord Perth, to which I give applause. I have only one criticism: it is that I do not believe that we need another Royal Commission. I have come to the conclusion that we can bring the Kilbrandon Report up to date and I shall refer to that matter.
We heard a speech from the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock. He has the distinction of being one of only two Peers in the House whose ancestors lost their heads in a bid for some form of Scottish freedom. I am not clear why the noble Earl's ancestor did not also lose his head but I dare say that he was away at the time.
Then we heard a speech from the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. I must point out the fact that one of the Peers who lost his head was a Boyd if not a Carpenter. We may have hopes that he too will come round in favour of Scottish independence—
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, one of the Peers to whom the noble Lord has referred is an ancestor of mine. I have an extremely good print of the scene of his execution on Tower Hill. I also have the consolation that he drew an enormous crowd which filled the spectators' stands and the whole of Tower Hill to watch the ceremony and to listen to his farewell speech.
§ Lord Grimond
My Lords, I am most glad that I made the point. It also accounts for the noble Lord's extraordinary adoration of capital punishment. No doubt he is in favour of public hangings with etchings available afterwards.
The noble Lord also made the valuable point that his is a Government of enterprise which seeing that a system does not work is anxious to change it. The Scottish system does not work. I wholly agree that it would be good if the Government moved its enterprise out of the economic sphere into the political and constitutional sphere and looked at the Government of Scotland.
We last discussed this matter some nine months ago on a Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna. The noble Lord has since been dispatched to be a judge of the Court of Session. We must congratulate the Court of Session on achieving a very great benefit. I am bound to say that I think 132 that your Lordships' House has sustained a serious loss. Personally I regret the noble Lord's departure even though it is for the benefit of Scotland.
Since that time there have been important and rather dramatic developments in Scotland. I do not intend to go once again into the Govan by-election, but certainly the matter has not died away. My purpose is to continue the debate which was initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Morton. Whatever one may think as to whether they are right or wrong, or whether they dislike Edinburgh lawyers or Glasgow trade unionists, Scotsmen do not like the Government in Scotland at present. They do not like the system and they do not like the Conservative Government. There is no doubt about that, whatever else may be in doubt.
It is only possible to defend the present situation if you deny that the Scots are a nation. If they are not a nation but merely north Britain, then all their grievances can be explained within the framework of the United Kingdom. I should like to give two illustrations. During the debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, the Minister said that the Labour Party could not complain that while it had 50 seats in Scotland the Conservatives ruled with 10 seats, because there had been times when the Scottish and Welsh Labour votes gave the Labour Party a majority in the House of Commons. That is to misunderstand the situation absolutely. It is the equivalent of saying that Scottish Labour Members do not matter much because Labour Members from Manchester, Wessex or anywhere else can speak for them. That is not the position of the Scots. They wish their own Labour Members to have some control of their own affairs. That is what they have voted for. To tell them that it does not matter is to affront their nationhood.
Secondly, it was openly said by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry that when one looked to the national interest, what was meant was the national interest of Great Britain and not the national interest of Scotland or England. When it comes to matters like Guinness or, for that matter, Scottish and Newcastle Brewers, the Scots feel that they have a very strong national interest in maintaining the power of those companies in their own country.
I must also say that because Scotland claims to be a nation, that does not mean that it is in the least hostile to England. I know that there have been suggestions from Scotland occasionally that the troubles from which it suffers are English. I wholly repudiate that. Nearly all the Scottish troubles are Scottish. They are a very difficult people; but part of their difficulty is the system. If the Conservative Party believes that people should take hold of their own destiny and stand on their own feet, that is what the Scots want to do. I think that they will get on much better dealing with their own troubles than having them dealt with exclusively at Westminster.
However, on previous occasions when devolution has been raised Members of Parliament from the North of England have raised doubts on the grounds that this would mean that Scotland was too favourably treated. I may point out that that is a 133 great compliment to devolution. I think that that has changed and that now there is common feeling in the North of England, in Wales and no doubt in other parts of England that we all have a common interest in slackening the hold of London and having more general devolution and less centralisation in this country. Therefore I look upon the English as allies, and the sooner we get round to discussing with them how this devolution is to be carried out, the better.
At present the English are inclined to say, "We do not understand why you mind so much because the whole thing is a great success and, after all, you are a long way off, and why do you trouble?" We want them to trouble and we should like to get down with them to reforming the constitution of this country, which in my view is not working. It is not providing a balanced constitution in which there is adequate protest, in which the free institutions are kept free and in which Parliament is not simply run by an elected dictatorship, as has been suggested by the noble Earl, who I see for some reason rightly has moved on to the Cross-Benches. That is a very good sign indeed, if I may say so—one almost equal to the beheading of the Boyd-Carpenters!x0021; However, the noble Earl coined this phrase and in his book he made some very pungent comments about the danger of too powerful central government. That is the sort of thing that we should like to see tackled.
Here again I turn to the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. We should have liked to see some proposals in the gracious Speech to deal with this type of political and constitutional matter, which we regard as more important than, for instance the privatisation of water.
Your Lordships may have noticed curious events at To[...]bay. The local council held a vote, as it is bound to do, among tenants. Two thousand two hundred and ten tenants voted against the sale of council houses and 787 tenants voted in favour. Who do you think won? The 787 were declared victorious under the Government's legislation because all those who did not vote were counted as voting content or whatever it was. I need not comment on this, but the situation is too ludicrous for words. It shows on the part of the Government a curious cynicism about the democratic process. We should like to get together to make this process more effective, not only giving a greater say for the Scots but also giving a greater say for the English. I believe that it would benefit the whole of the United Kingdom if devolution were brought in for Scotland; and not least would it benefit England and Wales.
I myself once introduced a Bill for devolution. It is not all that difficult so long as one bears three things in mind. I admit that they are formidable hurdles. First of all, you have got to give the devolved authorities some power over taxation. You cannot give an effective assembly various rights and duties but no responsibility for tax. Secondly, you have to reduce the size of the United Kingdom Government. The Scots cannot expect to go on having 70-odd Members in Westminster and their own Parliament in Edinburgh; nor should they want it, because a third great need is to reduce the amount of bureaucracy and government. To my mind, if you 134 bring in devolution you must abolish the regions in Scotland.
Given those three essentials and given the prospect of smaller taxation, not larger taxation, I believe you will get a great consensus about the form of devolution. We would have to have proportional representation, partly to guard against the danger to which attention has been drawn, and partly because Orkney and Shetland are not too keen on the Scots. It was they who said that they did not wish to be ruled by Edinburgh lawyers or Glasgow trade unionists. I must say that they are even less keen to be ruled by London Tories, so I do not think that that is insuperable.
There have also been important developments with regard to the EC. While the Government have taken a great deal of trouble and time in examining the economic effects of this, it does not seem to me that they have given the same time to educating the people in the political possibilities. They are now saying that the way out for Scotland lies in becoming a totally independent country within the EC. The noble Earl, Lord Perth, has pointed out that there may be difficulties about that, not least that the EC might not like it. Nevertheless, it will change the situation. It could change the situation for Ireland too. To my mind it should be examined. There must be developments in our constitution.
Until a year ago the Secretary of State for Scotland was strongly in favour of devolution. The noble Lord, Lord Home, the senior Scottish politician of all parties, was in favour and is in favour, so far as I know, of Scottish devolution, given certain conditions. That is not a revolutionary or absurd idea. The question is how it is to be brought about with good will and not simply with quarrelsomeness.
I have been thinking very much along the same lines as the noble Earl, Lord Perth: that we need to bring up to date the Kilbrandon Report. We should like to know now what the financial implications are. We should like to know what the possible implications of Europe are. I do not think we want to go back for another Royal Commission. We have the Kilbrandon Report. I think the Government might well bring it up to date by a working party. That would be a valuable educational exercise, whatever became of it. It would show whether the Scots must face more taxation or less, what happens after oil has disappeared, what happens when we join Europe, and so on.
I turn for a moment to the Scottish institutions. While we do not have a parliament of our own these are absolutely vital. They have been the protectors of our life, our history and our character throughout the ages, and they still are. I refer first, of course, to the law. There we have no complaints. We have, under the Almighty, I am glad to say, a Scottish Lord Chancellor on the Woolsack. He has already threatened the English with some highly desirable reforms. We also welcome the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie-Stuart, who is, or was, the leading European lawyer. All we want to be sure of is that the Scottish system of law, which is so superior to the English system, is not swamped and that the highly desirable habit of appointing Scottish judges and 135 lawyers to top posts will be continued. We also intend that Scottish law should play its full part in Europe.
However, the situation is not so bright when we come to other institutions. Scottish education has a long and honourable history. It does not suffer from many of the troubles of English education but it has been treated as though it does. I do not altogether like the thinking behind some of the English reforms; I should not like to see them applied to Scotland.
As for the universities, the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, has pointed out that although we have many distinguished representatives of universities in this Chamber we have none from Scottish universities who are active at the moment. Surely that is something which can be put right. There are other fields, such as the financial centre of Edinburgh, which are not represented in this Chamber.
I come now to the Church. It is not for me to speak about the Church as I am hardly an active churchgoer. Perhaps it is unsuitable that any Church should be represented in Parliament. Perhaps we should disestablish them all. At the moment that is not the case. We have here many representatives of the established Church of England. We have one very distinguished representative of the Church of Scotland—but only one—and he is rather advanced in years. We cannot expect him to attend very often. That must appear wrong to everybody. If we are to have such institutions represented in this Chamber, that could be put right, too.
Finally, there is Scottish industry and finance. It is essential that in deciding whether mergers and takeovers should be permitted the interests of the local people, and the social life and the economy of the area concerned should be taken into account. That should be written into law. It is a serious matter for any country if it loses control over its main industries. After the Guinness affair and the Scottish and Newcastle affair, we see that it has been going on in Scotland ever since the First World War. It has done Scotland no good.
I do not want to make predictions of woe for the sake of causing alarm. I do not suggest that the situation in Scotland is in any sense dangerous, or that it is the fault of the English. However, I do suggest that there are grievances and strong feelings that we should have more right to our own government. To ignore those feelings for too long is to ignore them at your peril. How much we must all wish that some of the Irish grievances had been attended to, as they could have been a hundred years ago. If only Mr. Gladstone had been listened to, the woes of Ireland would never have come about.
I do not suggest that Scotland is like Ireland. But all over the world there are people who think that democracy is not working, who see what one might call Torbay situations and who feel that they do not have the power to protest or have power over their own lives. If that process continues it will build up an undesirable alienation from democracy—a feeling that it is not for ordinary people. That may lead anywhere. Therefore, I urge that at the very least your Lordships keep this matter under constant 136 review. There are certain simple steps which should be taken now to reassure the Scots. In the long run, what you do now to encourage the Scots to run their own affairs and to play their full part in Europe and the United Kingdom will strengthen, not weaken, the union.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Lord Ferrier
My Lords, I am the third Scot among the last four speakers and before I turn to the subject on which I intend to speak it is only right to say that the noble Lord, Lord Grimond, is correct in saying that the Scots are difficult people because I disagree with both the noble Lord and the noble Earl, Lord Perth.
The gracious Speech indicates that the Government are committed to strengthening the National Health Service and to improving its efficiency in a way,that offers choice to patients".We shall see later exactly what that means. Meanwhile, it is many years since the House urged the Government to include manipulative therapy in the National Health Service. Now appears to be the time to overcome the suggestion that all forms of complementary medicine are quackery. I refer particularly to chiropractice and osteopathy, to which professions the term "quackery" does not apply. It has been established beyond doubt that considerable savings could accrue to the health service from manipulative therapy in some circumstances. That has been pointed out in past debates in this House. There could be savings not only of money but also in respect of "time off", medication, hospitalisation, sometimes involving surgery, and any amount of daily suffering in terms of chronic backache, sciatica, lumbago and even migraine.
In most civilised countries chiropractic science is a recognised part of the health service. Now, the Council for National Academic Awards has accepted that graduates of the Anglo-European College of Chiropractic at Bournemouth, established only five years ago, can put BSc. after their names. That brings this country more into line with Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. I suggest that no time should be lost in introducing this economical proposal here.
I am not grinding an axe. I am not a chiropractor or an osteopath but an old, happy and satisfied customer of manipulative therapy over a long life.
Your Lordships will be aware that I was among those who protested last week at the proposal for eyesight tests. In the debate I pointed out that if the Minister grudges the cost of such charges—no matter how limited by exceptions—there are other ways of saving money. I mention that again only because here is one way in which money can be saved in the NHS.
Another saving to which reference was made in the debate on 8th November is to reduce the losses which arise from the failure of patients promptly to take up beds when they fall vacant—an attempt to reduce the waiting lists. Recently a neighbour of mine (a retired naval captain) was visiting a patient who was one of 137 two in a ward with 14 beds. When he inquired why the other beds were empty he was advised that it was because the weather was so good. The waiting patients had been notified but they did not want to go to hospital while the weather was so fine. That is all very well but it is adding to the costs. I suggest that it is one of the aspects which should be examined in terms of hospitalisation and people being independent about it. As regards the health service this kind of thing is not only a wasted bed but wasted theatre time and medical or surgical preparation, all of which are costly.
I refrain from mentioning the existing impasse in the Minister's dealings with the nursing services and their unions. It would be quite out of order for me to do so while negotiations are in train. However, I am tempted to draw attention to a letter of mine published in the Independent yesterday in an attempt to mitigate the effect of the charges on some individuals who deny themselves a test because of the expense. I am not alone in this because The Times published a letter in somewhat similar terms suggesting that those who willy-nilly receive a Christmas bonus of £10 might disburse a like sum to some charitable organisation which could give it to someone who needs it.
I put it that way because the real object at the back of my mind is to help to reclaim the loss that occurs where a number of people are not tested because of the cost. They are deterred from taking tests because of the absence of money. A similar proposal was mentioned in The Times on 22nd November. I am one of those who supports our National Health Service of which the country is proud. In supporting it, it is our duty to do all in our power to augment the proposals in the gracious Speech. The inclusion of manipulative therapy would contribute to the object of "choice to patients"—the words used in the gracious Speech.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Lord Moran
My Lords, there can, I think, be no doubt that in many areas the policies of the present Government have been remarkably successful; for example, in increasing the general level of prosperity, in reducing the previously excessive power of the big unions, and above all perhaps in giving the people of this country a new sense of pride and confidence. In one field, however, there has unhappily been less progress. That is the area of law and order.
I listened with care to what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said about crime when opening the debate. I listened also to the powerful case for more effective policies on crime put forward by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich. Since 1979 large sums of money have been spent on the police; the whole system of prosecutions in England and Wales has been changed; a quarter of a billion pounds has been set aside to build prisons; and a barrage of criminal legislation has been passed which has daunted many lawyers, if not their clients. Yet the crime rate remains obstinately unresponsive and 138 many people are still frightened to walk the streets of their own cities.
Our whole environment has become more dangerous. The criminal statistics for 1987 record an increase in violence against the person of 12 per cent. and an increase in sexual offences of 11 per cent. I submit that this is an unacceptable rate of annual increase. The noble Earl who is to reply to the debate told us when responding to an Unstarred Question from the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, that it needed,a conscious effort by everyone if we are to return to a more reasonable and ordered society".He said:Fear has become an important part in the make-up of people",adding,Thirty per cent. of women are reported as being very worried about being rapedand that,20 per cent. of the population is reported as being very worried about being mugged or robbed".—[Official Report, 9/11/88; cols. 717, 722.]I believe that few of us would dispute those remarks made with the authority of a Minister.
Not long ago my wife and I went to see an old lady who lives in Battersea. She has lived and worked in London all her life but she said that she was now afraid to go out after dark. She told us, "We are the forgotten people". Those words made a deep impression on us. We all know that parents can no longer let their children go out alone as they used to do as a matter of course when I was young; that women going around on their own are very much at risk; and that the rapist, the mugger, the violent robber are an increasing menace in many parts of the country.
The noble Earl made clear on 9th November that the Government recognise the increasing fear of crime; and so did the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor this afternoon. But they have not told us what the Government are doing about this state of affairs. Just as in Northern Ireland they have seemed, at any rate until very recently, to accept the inevitability of a high level of IRA terrorism. So, in all parts of the United Kingdom they have seemed resigned to a growing level of violent crime despite the dreadful anxiety and misery it creates.
But just as we should not accept continued terrorism in Northern Ireland and should make it our aim to stamp it out, so we should set out to make our streets and homes a great deal safer. I therefore welcome the statement in the gracious Speech that the Government:will vigorously pursue their policies for reducing crime".I hope that those words will be translated into effective action. The noble Earl was surely right to call for all sections of society to make a conscious effort, but I wonder if he did not underrate the power and influence of the Government in this area. As it is often said, government is about priorities. I ask the Government whether they cannot now. in the light of what has been said in the gracious Speech, make the securing of a safer and more ordered society a much higher priority.
139 Having been a public servant for many years, it is my belief that to get things done one needs to make a single Minister responsible. The Home Secretary is of course the senior Minister concerned, but he is responsible for much else, like broadcasting policy. I suggest that if one of the other Ministers at the Home Office—perhaps the noble Earl himself (who better?) or one of his colleagues in the other place who wishes to make his reputation—were given by the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary the task of co-ordinating and focusing a government drive to reduce violent crime and with authorisation to consider every aspect of the problem and to go for results, as Governor Dewey once did in New York, then there might be a real change for the better.
A Minister in charge of the government machine, able to call on help and advice from outside bodies, could clearly achieve far more than any of us. There are one or two aspects of the problem that merit his early attention. First, the root of the difficulty is social problems. By this I do not simply mean unemployment and the lack of facilities for young people, important though those are, but above all the appalling increase in illegitimate births. They were 10 per cent. of the total in 1978; 12½ per cent. in 1981; 18.9 per cent. in 1985; and 22.9 per cent. in 1987. This results inevitably in a reduction in family ties and restraints. It may be argued that there is not much that the Government can do about this, and that may be so. But I believe that it needs to be studied.
For example, it is often reported that some women have a baby in order to get a house or flat allocated to them and then they get priority in the housing queue, displacing young couples who may have waited a long time. Then, when they get accommodation, a boyfriend moves in who may abuse or maltreat the child. In any event it is difficult for a single mother to control an active young boy or girl. I believe that the Government should look at all these matters and perhaps consider whether we should focus help more on the child rather than on the mother to prevent this kind of abuse.
Another contributory factor is, I believe, the British divorce rate which is the highest in Europe. It was 13.2 per 1,000 in 1985 compared with less than 9 per 1,000 in France and Germany. It is curious that, while recognising the growth of violent crime, the Government—and, I regret to say, this House—have taken steps to make divorce easier, and the Law Society, I see, is still on this tack. We surely need to do everything we can to bolster the family, not facilitate its disintegration. Indeed I often have some difficulty in understanding the logic and consistency of the Government's social policies. They make a fuss about drinking and driving and football hooligans, but at the same time extend drinking times in public houses.
Perhaps I may go back to matters at which our Minister might care to look. An obvious one, central to any drive against crime, is the role of the police. I wonder whether the Government cannot do something to improve the management structure of the police. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, mentioned the cuts recently announced in the RUC in Northern Ireland. At this time it cannot he a good thing that such cuts should be 140 made. With different management arrangements perhaps they could be avoided. Management is a difficult art. A good detective may not necessarily be a good manager, or vice versa. It also seems somewhat bizarre that the RUC should have to advertise for a new chief constable. After all, we do not advertise when we appoint a new ambassador to Paris or a new commander of the British Army of the Rhine.
I do not believe that the solution to the problems of the police is simply to provide more money and more manpower. We need to consider recruitment, training, cost effective management and how to bring the efficiency of all branches and stations up to the standard of the best. I was surprised to read in today's press that a policeman cannot be dismissed after his two years' probation if he is inefficient, bad at his job or unsuitable. Only now are we to look at that problem, as we clearly should. The police service is huge in terms of manpower and expenditure and therefore there is a real need for first rate police management throughout the United Kindom.
I should like to say a brief word about sentencing in the courts. I speak as a layman, and if I go astray perhaps my noble and learned friend Lord Simon of Glaisdale, who is to speak later in the debate, will put me right. I listened with interest to what the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, said on this subject. It seems to me that there is a need for sentences for each crime to be less capricious if they are to have the proper deterrent effect. Secondly, there is a need for penalties for different kinds of crime to be related more accurately to each other. It is surely for society, and society through Parliament, to decide which it believes are the most serious crimes and which should be treated most seriously.
There has been a problem over this matter because of the loss of rapport between the public outside and the other place, especially over the death penalty. That has made difficulties all across the board. However, I still believe fundamentally that public opinion must guide us in Parliament on this question.
What we surely require is an overall reassessment of all sentences. I wonder whether crimes cannot be divided into those which are vicious, threaten society and make life frightening for potential victims, and the rest. Most of the former are offences against the person and should surely attract prison sentences to deter, to punish and to give society a breather from the company of' the offender. To make the likely consequences of serious crime known to every offender, cannot we have a bracket, including a minimum sentence, within which the courts can judge a particular crime against the circumstances? Can we not have aggravating features on a similar rough and ready scale—so many years for robbing a bank, double for using a gun and so on? It is not fair for Parliament to give judges unlimited discretion and then to complain when they use it. However, there is a problem when sentences are too finely tuned to the facts of each case to be properly predictable or widely understood.
For the crimes which do not threaten society, cannot the Government be far bolder about clearing 141 out the prisons and experimenting with other forms of sentence? Does anyone need to go to prison for non-payment of fines when some other action could be taken to recover the money? Will it ever be right that people should be imprisoned for such an offence while more serious offenders are freed? On a longer view, if a schedule of offences were widely discussed and then put to the public in some way—perhaps in a referendum—judges applying the new sentences would have the right to demand the public support for their actions which is sometimes absent today.
I believe that a balance needs to be maintained between crimes against the person and crimes against property. As a layman, I believe that the balance has been tilted sometimes too far in favour of heavy sentences for crimes against property and that we need to redress it somewhat. It does not seem to be necessary always that people who commit crimes of the kind which Lester Piggott committed should have to go to prison, while people who commit frightful crimes against women or young children receive comparatively light sentences.
The Minister might also take a more imaginative look at the knowledge within the Crown Prosecution Service. It must have a unique knowledge of the extent, the nature, the distribution and causes of violent crime. I believe that at present the service plays a relatively small part in crime prevention. I wonder whether the service undertakes comprehensive research and analysis of crime. Interviews on the files of the service must often contain information on the reasons why people commit crime. Is that information collected systematically and put to use? If not, I contend that it should be.
The growth of violent crime is one of the most serious problems we now face. It would be a reassurance to the public to know that the Prime Minister had turned her mind to it and that the Government were conducting a real new drive to reduce it. I greatly hope, therefore, that the noble Earl will be able to hold out to us some hope that action will be taken along the lines that I have suggested.
§ 5.37 p.m.
Lord Wallace of Coslany
My Lords, the gracious Speech states that the Government will introduce a Bill to provide that football supporters must carry a membership card; I presume, with a photograph. We are told that this will reduce violence at matches. The Football Association is against it, as are many thousands of football supporters. The proposals will hit the overwhelming majority of visitors to matches who go for enjoyment, not the minority who cause trouble. The cost will be considerable to the clubs and to individual spectators. The idea is put forward mainly by people who have no interest in the sport. It will certainly hit many football clubs, particularly those in the third and fourth divisions. What is not clear at the moment is how clubs in other leagues, such as the Vauxhall Opel league, will be affected. If they have to issue identity cards they might as well pack up now. These clubs have low attendances and their finances are small.
142 I suppose that I should declare an interest. I am president of the Capital Canaries. Noble Lords may well ask: who on earth are the Capital Canaries? They are the London-based supporters of Norwich City. We have a number of overseas members. At the moment Norwich City leads the first division. Occasionally, we have the pleasure of welcoming a Dutchman to our home matches. Will he and others like him have to hold a membership card?
What about cup finals at Wembley where quite a lot of people attend who do not normally watch the sport? It occurs to me that the Prime Minister might even have to hold a card. In which case, I should like to know which club she supports.
Lord Wallace of Coslany
My Lords, we are now told by the Minister that banks and post offices are likely to issue the cards. So far we do not know the cost of such cards but, initially, it is quite fair to say that anyone can obtain one, whether it is a possible troublemaker or otherwise. The cost of the card, the heavy cost of computers and the problem of delay to crowds, are a threat to clubs like Norwich City which do not have very large attendances. All those matters, and many others, will be raised when we get the legislation. As a political gimmick, I forecast a rough journey for the Bill.
One item not mentioned in the gracious Speech—and it is indeed a very serious matter which may come under other legislation—was the railway link from London to the Channel Tunnel. A decision is to be reached early next year by British Railways and eventually a Bill will be put before Parliament during next year. But, whatever decision is reached, it will mean considerable devastation to the most beautiful parts of Kent.
Route 1, the favourite, will seriously affect Sidcup, where I live. Recently completed is a new railway station at a cost of £700,000. If the proposal for Route 1 goes ahead, as is most likely, that will have to be demolished and the station sited elsewhere. British Railways said that it was not aware of the Channel Tunnel proposals when they decided to alter the station. Well, I do not know! It is also estimated that the scheme would cost, locally, 75 houses and 100 businesses. It is estimated that altogether 3,500 properties would be affected, 110 gardens ruined and 30 community facilities would either be damaged or lost. Whatever scheme is adopted, there will he considerable loss to the community and devastation of a beautiful part of the Green Belt.
British Rail will have to go to Parliament with its plans for a rail link to Dover and the Channel Tunnel. This is a major issue and I assume that the matter will be dealt with by the Commons and the Lords as a whole, and not through a Select Committee. There is already considerable anxiety being expressed by people, and it is a matter of considerable importance that the rights of these people should be respected and the matter dealt with not as a narrow party issue, but with considerable concern.
143 Those who gloried in the achievement of a Channel tunnel must now face the consequences to the people of Kent, particularly those people who moved there for peace and quiet but now face considerable disruption, anxiety and expense.
Finally, I come to a matter which is a little personal but which I feel must be raised. At the time when I made my notes I was not aware that the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, had tabled a Motion for 8th December next. In another place the Government had a large majority given them by the voters of the country; Members attend sittings often to a late hour and vote. The House of Lords is different. We are freer than another place and occasionally the Government faces defeat—all part of the revising of legislation we are constantly involved in. Under normal circumstances, this is accepted; but, in particular, last Session on the poll tax the Bill was carried by a large majority and we were treated to the spectacle of many Peers one hardly ever sees turning up to support the Government—many of whom had never heard a word of the debate.
Later, on the issue of spectacle charges, a similar episode took place but the majority was smaller. I should like to see changes to avoid such a situation arising again this Session, and others to follow. This is certainly no question of an attack on the noble Lord, Lord Denham. He has a job to do and he does it well. After all, he has just been crowned as the Whip of the year. But the fact remains: is this really true democracy?
Last Session's incidents have done much damage to your Lordships' House as a revising Chamber. I feel that the time has come to give noble Lords a degree of responsibility for their voting power. I believe that at each new Parliament noble Lords should give a written undertaking to attend, say, 12 times each Session—subject, of course, to the production of medical certificates if they are unfit at any time. That would run closely to local government procedure and does not in any way threaten the Government majority.
The fact is that to anyone who attends the House with any degree of regularity the advent of large numbers of strange faces on certain occasions is a challenge to sustained interest by those who loyally, and in a sense of duty, attend the House. I sincerely hope that it will not arise this Session.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, would he not agree that a great number of Peers apply for leave of absence for the Session? I do not know the exact number who applied this Session; but I believe that it is usually about 230 to 250, or sometimes even more. Therefore none of those Peers can come in to vote; they cannot play any part in the proceedings in your Lordships' House.
There is a committee, as we know, that sits every two or three months to which they can apply in order to attend. But I must say that this idea of strange faces suddenly coming in and overturning or flooding the votes, so to speak, for the Government is exaggerated. As I said, there are many Peers who do not attend because they have applied for leave of absence and therefore they are not allowed to do so.
Lord Wallace of Coslany
My Lords, that is all right for noble Lords who have leave of absence; but I was referring to others. It is a fact that quite recently one asked me the proper way to the Division Lobby; while others were asking the attendants where the toilets were. That sort of thing gets into the press and is bad publicity for the House.
§ 5.48 p.m.
The Earl of Stockton
My Lords, I must first apologise to your Lordships' House because I shall be unable to stay until the conclusion of the debate due to a prior engagement to raise funds for retired printers.
I feel very strongly that while we are welcoming the introduction of the Children Bill in the House, there are a number of important points to be made which should not wait until Second Reading. I should first like to endorse the concern expressed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, about the absence of a family court in the provisions of the Bill.
It is also vital to realise that the Bill is a response to a problem that affects not just one region of the country but all regions. While I accept that events in Cleveland during the past three years have effectively focused our attention on the problem of proper child care, and brought it to light, the reform of our public and private child law is something which is called for nation-wide.
The radical, crusading, but sadly not very commonsensical approach taken by Dr. Marietta Higgs in Cleveland, which in due course led to the Cleveland inquiry, while highlighting the problem of child sexual abuse was responsible for exposing not only the extent of the abuse but also the considerable procedural differences between social services, the police, hospital doctors and family practitioners. In Cleveland's case, some of those differences were due to personality clashes while others were caused by the inadequacies inherent in the structures and institutions that have grown up piecemeal over the years with the intention of helping and protecting children in need. But whatever the local situation, it is to the benefit of those institutions, as well as the parents and of course the children, that the Government are introducing the Bill.
The law as it is currently framed provides for the protection of children physically under the provisions that allow for them to be removed from any danger. But current law does not protect a child's individual rights; it merely transfers to the local authority the obligations which should be exercised by the parents. The Bill will modernise the private law on parental responsibility, guardianship and custody. It will replace the orders which courts may make in family proceedings in respect of children. At the same time, the proposals in the White Paper will mean that both child care and family services will be affected. That is also encouraging.
It must be made clear that the Butler-Sloss report not only analysed the events of the past three years with remarkable frankness and went a long way towards apportioning responsibility; it pointed the way for the future in a series of telling recommendations which must also be kept in mind 145 when the Children Bill comes before your Lordships' House for detailed consideration.
A great many of those recommendations have been implemented in Cleveland. I am pleased to be able to tell your Lordships that, notwithstanding the high emotional temperature on this matter which prevailed in the region, there has been a large measure of reconciliation and agreement between the authorities and agencies concerned.
It would be too easy to use the Butler-Sloss and subsequent reports and recommendations produced internally—not to mention the departmental inquiry already begun by my honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health in another place—as a political weapon, especially in the forthcoming council elections. The temptation will be for all political parties to blame one of the other groups of local politicians merely because the problem was starkly highlighted during its term of office. Such opportunism, however tempting in the heat of the moment on the hustings, would have terrible consequences for the future of the community in Cleveland.
The people of Cleveland have been turned against one another. Parents now look at their friends, and even relatives, with a new and suspicious perception. Members of the community with a long-standing and genuine interest in children's welfare are finding their motives being questioned. There is a serious risk that a lack of self-confidence will further exacerbate the economic and social deprivation from which the area is just beginning to emerge.
The Bill will need to provide for children in private foster placements, in homes and other institutions. It will also introduce concurrent care jurisdiction in the High Court, county and magistrates' courts to restrict access to wardships by local authorities. It will also reorganise the guardian ad litem service, looking particularly to reconsider the basis upon which a guardian is appointed when a lawsuit is imminent.
I do not believe that the incidence of sexual abuse in Cleveland is higher than that in many other parts of the country, nor do I believe that the people of Cleveland care less for their children, as parents or as a community, than do parents anywhere else. Clearly those problems exist. I would not be one to minimise their gravity, but I hope very much that when the Children Bill comes before your Lordships' House it will clarify and rationalise local authorities' responsibilities towards children in need, and make care proceedings in court fairer to both children and parents.
I share the confidence expressed by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor that the House will be united in supporting the broad thrust of the legislation.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Lord Aylestone
My Lords, there is no mention of broadcasting in the gracious Speech but the publication of the White Paper Broadcasting in the 90s at the close of the last Session set out the 146 Government's proposals on broadcasting and must have left the BBC and the IBA in a state of great uncertainty. The several thousand employees of the two broadcasting authorities are naturally concerned about their future livelihood—let us hope unnecessarily.
I hope that the Government will arrange a full-day debate on the White Paper, preferably before Christmas, so that some of the outstanding questions may be answered. In that hope, I propose to mention just two aspects of the White Paper and to ask the noble Earl to pardon me if I have to leave before his wind up speech. I may make a similar point when we debate the White Paper. No doubt the noble Earl will be in his place on that occasion.
The White Paper makes it abundantly clear that the control of radio and television by the BBC and the IBA is to change radically. It would appear that, at least for the time being, the BBC will continue to be responsible for the transmission of its programmes, but we are told that at the same time it is expected to look around for a company, or several companies, which would be prepared to take over transmission from it eventually. In a sense, the BBC would be asked or invited—the words in the White Paper refer to testing the market—to officiate as undertakers at its own funeral.
It is clear that the IBA will come to an end and at its demise hand over to a newly created authority to be called the independent television commission. Before the electronic transmission of programmes is finally removed from the BBC and the IBA and is handed over to profit-making private contractors, we should pay a tribute to the great work of electronic engineering carried out by the engineers of both organisations in public broadcasting.
We should perhaps remember and consider the considerable changes that have been made. We think back perhaps to television and the transfer from VHF and black and white to the UHF system and colour. Teletext, which we usually regard as Oracle or Ceefax, is relatively new and a great help and interest to those who want the latest information. In a sense it is a newspaper with over 100 pages. It gives information about weather and share prices or whatever we may want. The new MAC system of transmission to be used internationally for satellite broadcasting is a product of the IBA engineering department. It is now generally accepted as the best for its purpose in satellite broadcasting. Those are just a few of the inventions and innovations of the BBC and IBA engineers.
I am concerned to think that the excellent training scheme based at the Crawley Court engineering department of the IBA in Hampshire may have to be closed. I hope not. It is of course currently financed from advertising revenue. I very much doubt whether private companies, when taking over transmission, will continue or be able to continue to fund that standard of training. Currently, the BBC and IBA cover over 90 per cent. of United Kingdom households. To split up the transmission into some regional form could well be disastrous.
When introducing the White Paper in another place the Minister said that transmission should be 147 separated from programmes. The IBA has been doing just that since its inception, and was so instructed in the first Act of Parliament. So there is nothing new about that. It will be difficult to split up the ownership—which is often mutually that of the BBC and IBA—of sites, of masts and aerials. But I suppose if it must be done, it can be done.
The White Paper, in recommending the abolition of the IBA and replacing it with an independent television commission, refers in a number of places to the importance of a "lighter touch". A lighter touch on what—programmes, organisation, transmission, engineering? Just to make it clear: everything and anything the BBC and IBA do at present is covered by and is instructed in the BBC charter and the broadcasting Acts.
One reason which the Government advance for the wind-up of the IBA is the introduction of this "lighter touch", or, as the Minister in another place described it:the substantial liberalisation of the IBA system".With the introduction of the Broadcasting Standards Council under the noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg, it would appear that the so-called "lighter touch" will give place to a much harder touch. I find all of this somewhat difficult to understand and I am certainly not the only one who does. The IBA apparently needs a lighter touch, but will this new British Broadcasting Standards Council introduce it?
The IBA, in carrying out the interpretation of the broadcasting Acts over the years, as I have said, has been meticulous in the organisation it has set up. Does this lighter touch mean the end of the IBA advisory committees? They are national and local, and are composed of distinguished people, many of whom are well known to this House and have been members of this House as well as of another place.
Is the IBA Religious Advisory Committee to be abolished in the interests of the lighter touch? There can hardly be a more genuinely ecumenical committee than this one. What of the highly qualified Medical and Pharmaceutical Committee which advises on the television advertising of medicines and drugs? Is it to disappear in the interests of the lighter touch as well? Are our Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland advisory committees to disappear? On numerous occasions when the IBA either completely bans or maybe cuts a programme, it is immediately accused of censorship. Apparently the new Broadcasting Standards Council under the noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg, is to adopt this role as regards television. The council can be assured, even before it starts, that in the eyes of the general public it will never do anything right!
British broadcasting is universally recognised as the best in the world thanks to the BBC and IBA control and not to any government. I am fearful that if the proposals contained in the White Paper are firmly adopted in legislation, then our broadcasting standards may finish up on a par with the system in the United States where both standards of engineering in television and programmes are generally regarded as less than good.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Lord Ashbourne
My Lords, I intend to speak very briefly this evening, as time marches on. I was disappointed that no steps are to be taken by the Government to strengthen the family. It is my perception that one of the problems of modern society which most concerns the ordinary British citizen is the state of law and order in this country. That point has already been focused upon by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, the noble Lords, Lord Harris of Greenwich, Lord Moran, and others, so it is well understood in this House.
As your Lordships know, many people, especially the elderly and those least able to protect themselves, feel vulnerable going out at night. Many are afraid to venture forth and run the risk of being raped or mugged. Noble Lords will of course judge for themselves, but it seems to me to be quite appalling that we have sunk to this state of affairs. No government should be content until the situation has been corrected.
However, are not the deteriorating crime statistics a clear indication of the state of the family in Britain today? We now have the highest divorce rate in Europe and an abortion rate which has increased hugely over the past 10 years. TV fans can watch an unending cocktail of sex and violence which sickens many of us. It was good to hear Her Royal Highness, the Princess of Wales, speak out boldly last month in her capacity as President of Barnados about the pressures on the family today.
In a recent survey carried out by the Jubilee Centre, people were asked to state the primary cause of the breakdown of their marriage. Only 15 per cent. stated sexual incompatibility of one sort or another while 63 per cent. gave financial pressures as the primary cause of the breakdown. The temptation to borrow has never been greater than today. We are bombarded from every direction by those who want to lend, often at extortionate rates of interest. Many people do not fully understand what APR means, and many more do not know what a secured loan implies. This is one area where the Government could act to tighten up credit regulations and restrain the activities of plausible loan sharks.
The working group on the family in the United States reported as follows in 1986:Crime is the cruellest tax of all on the American family, a regressive levy that burdens those least able to bear its exactions. But it is also a symptom, a consequence of the widespread collapse of family life. No matter what weapons we throw into the fight against crime, we cannot expect lasting success until we reverse the trend toward family dissolution—.These remarks exactly reflect the position in Britain today, and Her Majesty's Government would be wise to heed them.
Finally I wish to touch on the problem of AIDS. Let me say straight away that I believe that the impact of this scourge is likely to be much greater than most of us imagine today. Dr. Everett Koop, surgeon general of the United States, has estimated that 100 million people will have died of AIDS by the year 2000. I heard recently that the Government of Uganda are disturbed about the impact of AIDS in 149 their country. Their reaction to the problem is interesting. They rightly consider that physical solutions are not totally effective, and they have decided to import a large number of Bibles and to encourage the people to return to biblical standards of morality. I hope very much that Her Majesty's Government will consider whether we in this country should not proceed along similar lines.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
My Lords, I follow the noble Lord, Lord Ashbourne, in finding a leading and disturbing theme throughout this debate. It is the understandable preoccupation with the level of crime. When I heard my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones quote the statistics quite cogently, clearly and conclusively, I could not help but measure that against what the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, said about our shops legislation. At the end of the 1940s the Gower Committee, a powerful committee, said that that legislation—which is what we have today—was bringing the law into contempt. Within the past decade the Auld Committee, looking at the same problem, stated that that legislation was bringing the law into disrepute.
If the law is brought into contempt and if it is brought into disrepute, is it really any wonder that crime increases? It would of course be idle and futile to pretend that that is the sole cause of the increase in crime. Those who heard the deeply moving speech of my noble friend Lord Moran and the speech with which your Lordships have just been favoured from the noble Lord, Lord Ashbourne, will I think be convinced that a far more profound cause of crime is the disruption of the family. I shall be very surprised if that is not the line taken in due course by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, whom I have heard express his anxieties on that matter on a number of occasions.
There is however one matter arising out of the speech of my noble friend Lord Moran to which I wish to refer. That concerns the figures of divorce on the one hand and illegitimacy on the other. I also wish to mention the figures on abortion mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Ashbourne. When we were treated to depositions on the need to make divorce much easier during the course of the revolutionary Act of 1969, we were repeatedly told—I am sorry to say I heard this in your Lordships' House—that unless we allowed people to get divorced and marry their new partners all they would do would be to live in sin and produce illegitimate children. What has happened, as has been conclusively shown this afternoon, is that those prognostications have been utterly falsified.
When I put my name down to speak in this debate, I let the noble Earl who is to reply know the principal points to which I wished to refer. Many of them have already been canvassed so I can omit them. Others have been overtaken by publication of Bills in the meantime. But before I come to the two background matters to important Bills which your Lordships will have to consider, I wish to say a few words about the legislative relations of the two Houses of Parliament.
I wish particularly to do so because at the end of the previous Session I twice drew attention to the privileges in financial matters of another place, and to 150 its scope in those matters. I urged your Lordships not to trespass on those privileges which are not merely a matter of constitutional law but a matter of great practical convenience. I need not go over that again, but on each occasion I said that that concession to the undoubted privilege of another place was concomitant to your Lordships exercising a full power as one of the Houses of Parliament.
I noted that in two respects your Lordships do not do so. Of course the other place is an elected Chamber; but under our present electoral system it is not, except in the narrow sense, a representative Chamber. The Members are representative in the sense of the famous words of Burke to the electors of Bristol when he said:Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.That has always thereafter been accepted as the right view of the duty of a Member of Parliament. I have always respected those I differed from on matters of penal sanction, although I knew that they were going against the overwhelming view of their constituents. I felt they were fully entitled to do so. But your Lordships' House is otherwise more representative of political society at large than another place. The composition of your Lordships' House reflects political society at large better than another place and even better, I think, than another place would if we reformed our electoral system. Dare I say that that situation is partly due to the strong Cross-Bench element in your Lordships' House, because the bulk of the country is, I believe, Cross-Bench in its views.
Having said that, I want to refer very briefly to the Spycatcher case because that lies behind the proposal to reform the Security Service. When I passed my message to the noble Earl, I asked why the Security Service was referred to in the singular and why the Secretary of State was referred to in the singular. That contains of course, a constitutional ambiguity because in law there is only one Secretary of State. However, at the moment he has 10 heads. That is twice as many as the superb Cambodian sculpture which is shortly coming up for sale.
As regards the Spycatcher case, I wanted to mention something that was said by my noble and learned friend Lord Keith of Kinkel His speech was, I think, most unjustly criticised. The passage in his speech to which I wish to refer stated that the right to personal privacy was clearly one which the law should in this field seek to protect.
The importance of that is that the courts of law have held back from developing the law of privacy, which they could perfectly well have done, because of the Younger Report which reported to Parliament. I have no doubt at all that the country at large is deeply disturbed by invasions of privacy. It is particularly notable that invasions of privacy enter the lives of anybody who is however remotely connected with the Royal Family; but it goes far beyond that.
I take it—and I hope that the noble Earl will give a nod in this direction and that he will be seconded by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon—that the courts are now free to go ahead and do their best to develop a 151 law of privacy. There are advantages in proceeding to reform the law in the courts on the one hand and in Parliament on the other. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. But it seems plain after all this time, with the Younger Committee reporting negatively, that the public cannot look to Parliament for rectification, and that the courts are under a duty to go ahead and develop a proper law in that sphere.
I mentioned the security service and the Secretary of State. However it is now plain that what is meant is MI5, and not MI6—or SIS which I suppose is its proper soubriquet—on the one hand and the Home Secretary on the other. I venture to echo what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, on the first day of the debate. To have two security services responsible to two different Secretaries of State is, as he put it, liable to lead to a lacuna between them. So it is, but I should have thought that the far greater danger was of it leading to feuding between them. The stories one hears about the FBI on the one hand and the CIA on the other lead one to think that it would be better to have a unifying control. I hope that the noble Earl will not feel himself precluded by security considerations from saying something on that point.
I mentioned the Spycatcher case. The author of Spycatcher, Peter Wright, has come out of the matter completely discredited. One is bound to ask how was it that anyone who has proved himself so unsuitable was recruited originally. That is a matter within the terms of reference of the Security Commission. Perhaps the noble Earl will tell us whether or not consideration has been given to referring the matter to the Security Commission.
The last matter to which I should like to refer is the background to the new Children Act. I take up the theme that was adumbrated by the noble Earl, Lord Stockton. when Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss reported—if my recollection is right—121 children had been taken into care. Of those, 98 had been returned to their parents at the time she reported but some of those were returned conditionally. However, 23 remained in care. One does not know why.
I remember the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, querying—I think before the Cleveland matter was debated—whether what now appears to be a terrible growth in child abuse was due to a real growth or merely to greater public recognition and publicity. I should be very grateful if the noble Earl could tell us how many cases there in fact were of child abuse in Cleveland. I may say that, as the local MP, I did not come across a single one. The noble Lord, Lord Bottomley, who represented the other half of the town, told me that he had only come across two cases. Undoubtedly there must have been more but they did not come to the notice of the local MPs as one would have thought they would from reading the reports of the NSPCC. Nor when I was a matrimonial judge trying custody cases in which parents were by no means liable to withhold accusations against each other did I come across a single case.
My view, for what it is worth, is that there has been an increase. I think that that is due to the kind of 152 matters which were referred to by my noble friend Lord Moran and the noble Lord, Lord Ashbourne—a general collapse of family standards. But I think that it is also undoubtedly in part due to greater public frankness in such matters. At any rate, I should be most grateful if the noble Earl could help us on that point.
There is just one final point that I should like to make arising out of the Cleveland case. I saw that it was suggested by a distinguished professor of law that child abuse may have been exacerbated by parental physical chastisement of children. If we found physical chastisement of that kind increasing concomitantly with child abuse there might be a prima facie case. However, the contrary seems to me to be the case. Child abuse seems to be on the increase; physical chastisement of children by their parents I should have thought was very much on the decrease. Therefore I cannot but regard that suggestion as a red herring liable to distract our attention from the real and fundamental causes.
I have one final question to ask. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, when we debated the Butler-Sloss report, and the noble Earl, Lord Stockton, today, and I think my noble and learned friend also, mentioned family courts. I know that it is my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack who is trying to hatch that egg and not the noble Earl but I should like to know how the matter is progressing.
When he initiated the debate on family courts, the noble Lord, Lord McGregor of Durris, was kind enough to identify me as the exception. He was altogether too generous, but at any rate I shall take advantage of it to say that I would rather see the right solution than a quick solution. I have never for a moment changed my view that a system of family courts would be far preferable to the way that family difficulties are now met.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, I begin with a quotation:There is no such thing as society".That quotation comes from our present Prime Minister. I offer a second quotation:There is a danger of an elective dictatorship".That quotation comes from a former Lord Chancellor. Both speakers are members of the Conservative Party.
First, I must express some reservation about the remarks of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, when he observed that this House is more representative of public opinion than is the elected House. Perhaps it could be. However on two recent occasions the reverse has been the case. When we voted on the poll tax and when we had the vote on the charges for eye tests this House was totally unrepresentative of public opinion in this country. It was elective dictatorship of this Government—which by using the Government Chief Whip and Members of the Government were the means of bringing into this House large numbers of people who normally take no part in the business of the House—that frustrated public opinion.
153 I consider that to be dangerous. It is dangerous because it removes one more protection in our Parliament for the reflection of public opinion in legislation.
On the subject of society, surely the liberties of the citizen arise from society and are protected by it. Nobody denies that rights and liberties entail responsibilities; but the Government also have a major responsibility, which is to protect and extend those rights and liberties of the citizen. The Government should give a lead, instead of which over the past 10 years they have derided the whole concept of collective action in both social and economic affairs. They prefer the market ethic and the virtue of individual enrichment. They undermine the basic rights and liberties of the people of this country.
Those rights and liberties have been under attack through the steady increase in centralised power over the past 10 years since the Government took office. In the gracious Speech that we are now debating that power is shown to be extending still further. Power is centralised in the Secretaries of State—for example, the Secretary of State for Education—in the Home Office; in the Departments of Health and of Social Security; in the Treasury; and, above all (if one is to believe what one is told and reads), in the Executive itself, within the Cabinet. There is the centralisation of power in one person; the transformation of the Prime Minister into a president.
Surely democracy depends on the participation of all citizens; it depends on their power to make decisions and the possession of the means to rectify injustices. Yet it is exactly the institutions which the people have combined to establish over the past 200 years in order to protect those individual rights that have been under major attack throughout the 10 years of this Government; namely, the trade union movement and the local authorities. Local authorities are surely an essential part of the pyramid of decision-making and they are weaker now than they have ever been. The education system is centralised under the Secretary of State. Now the people's own utilities of water and electricity are in question. Who on earth do they belong to? Surely they belong to the people. Yet in the gracious Speech we are told that they are to be auctioned off to private ownership. What comes next? Is the air to be auctioned? Is the air to be privatised? What is left?
The people see these things happening and are becoming alarmed and resentful. When they see that outside organisations even those external to the Government, can declare membership of certain organisations or individuals to be subversive to the national interest and the national good, they feel that the rights and liberties upon which parliamentary democracy has grown and on which it depends are being very gravely undermined.
I wonder how many of your Lordships have read recently the European Declaration of Human Rights, Article 98 of which says:Everyone has the right to respect for his private family life, his home and his correspondence".Does that apply to the members of the CND who had their homes burgled and their telephones tapped? Under the European Charter all workers and 154 employers have the right to freedom of association in national or international organisations for the protection of their economic and social interests. Does that apply to the employees of GCHQ or are they in same way excluded from citizenship of this country?
As the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, suggested, when the Government began to interfere with the television services and with the radio services—particularly those provided by the BBC—we were given a White Paper on the Official Secrets Act which was debated last July in this House. We were told that the Official Secrets Act was to be amended in the light of that White Paper. It was recognised from all sides in that debate that such a White Paper would have prevented the acquittal of Clive Ponting by the jury in the trial which took place three years ago. We are told that the security services are to be brought into statutory existence for the first time. I repeat what my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones asked at the beginning of the debate: why in this country cannot the security services be under parliamentary control? Why cannot Parliament be trusted to supervise those services whereas in Australia, Canada and the United States it is? Why arc we told by this Government that our parliament is less trustworthy and responsible than the other three countries that I have mentioned.
The second issue that I wish to raise is another kind of right but it is still essential. It is the right to which the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack referred in his opening speech, when he spoke of the Government's responsibility to create a community safe to live in. I ask: how safe? Are not some of the greatest dangers to the individual in society today those raised by the abuse and neglect of the environment in which we live? This issue is crucial to every citizen in the world and to every citizen in the United Kingdom. However, all that the gracious Speech says is that,My Government will continue to attach very great importance to protecting our environment both nationally and internationally".If the Government are to continue only with policies that they have or have not adopted in the past, then there is very little hope for the protection of the citizens of this country against the dangers that are now apparent through environmental abuse.
I wish to address myself specifically to the noble Earl who will wind up. The Government now proclaim themselves to be a "green" Government, and to be concerned with the environment. For as long as I have been in the House, every time we on this side of the House have raised art environmental issue, we have been accused of being "quacks" or "weirdos". However, the people themselves have now learned enough to recognise that when there is a gap in the ozone layer, it is a gap which can directly affect them and their children; that acid rain can affect their environment; and that when we have massive carbon dioxide emissions it affects their health.
The question that I wish to address to the noble Earl who will wind up is this. What is the Government's policy with regard to the environment? What does it mean in practice? What 155 are the Government going to do about the cuts that they have made in the research which applies to the ozone layer, climatic changes, carbon dioxide emissions, and to energy efficiency? What will the Government do about the cuts in the research on which these very issues depend? What will the Government do in relation to energy conservation, finding safe energy means, and replacing those power stations which are today poisoning the forests of this country and of Scandinavia? What are the Government going to do about research into wind, solar and wave power? I understand that with regard to wave power the research has been closed down. In the light of this passage in the gracious Speech, I should like to ask the noble Earl what the Government's intentions are. Have they discussed it since the Prime Minister made her declaration about the environment? Have they discussed whether there will be a continuation and an increase in the research on these vital issues with regard to the right to health of the people of this country?
In this country we have the dirtiest beaches in Europe. Eleven million people in this country are drinking sub-standard water. According to EC standards, 300 water supplies are illegally contaminated with pesticides. We apparently have no policy for the disposal of toxic nuclear and chemical wastes. Senior pollution inspectors are resigning in frustration because they cannot obtain the resources from the Government to continue and extend the work which is becoming daily more essential for the preservation of the health of our people.
People have begun to feel that the Government are extending centralised, executive control against the civil servants, the newspapers, the broadcasters and—most important of all—those individual citizens each of whom has the right to know what is being done in his name and the right to make an effective objection to it. I give my wholehearted support to what I believe to be a very important initiative taken recently by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman. He proposes that in order to protect the rights of the citizens of this country—and (I do not put these words into his mouth) I would say to protect those rights from the assault that has been, and is being, made on them consistently and continually by this Government over the past 10 years—this country needs a declaration of rights which is legally enforceable.
I would add to the initiative of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman. We need something further. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, has already mentioned this. We need an Act giving freedom of information so that the people of this country know and are able to challenge what is being done in their name. They have the right to the knowledge, to understand the society in which they live, and to make their choices in it. Otherwise the undermining of the very basis of democracy—which I hold has been seen for the past 10 years—can bring the democratic system of this country to ashes.
§ 6.49 p.m.
§ Lord Auckland
My Lords, having listened in whole or in part to some 31 gracious Speeches during 156 my time in your Lordships' House, I believe that there is one desirability: that speeches should be brief. I shall do my utmost to keep to this tradition. I do not intend to follow on the subject of the environment, important though it is, because I believe it is a subject for debate next week.
On the question of security, I make only this brief point. I was in Brisbane, Australia, on parliamentary business when the Spycatcher affair first came to light. As a Commonwealth parliamentary delegation, we were in some danger of being quizzed by the media there as to the implications of it. But fortunately it did not happen. This is not an occasion for a debate on Spycatcher or any other subject. Whatever shortcomings there may have been in the way in which the case was handled, I believe that security within the public service, particularly in the Civil Service, is absolutely paramount. I hope that the forthcoming legislation will make certain that this is the case. We have not seen the Bill yet, though we have seen the White Paper. Security must be paramount although freedom of information, at least in theory, is admirable, but not at the expense of danger to the nation's security.
Reference has been made in the gracious Speech to the problem of drug trafficking. We have had legislation on the subject. I believe that it is an important matter and that no punishment can be too harsh for those who peddle drugs. I am not a lawyer. We read of people who have murdered four persons, perhaps members of their own family. However, a drug trafficker can be responsible for the deaths of a thousand or more people. One has only to see in the media scenes in countries such as Colombia, Bolivia and other parts of Latin America and elsewhere to know the horrific implications of drug trafficking.
The effect of drugs does not make its mark on one stratum of society. Your Lordships and the country will know that the effects of drugs can have tragic consequences on the wealthiest people or their children just as much as on the poorer people.
There is a reference in the gracious Speech to the health service. There is no legislation, but I welcome the question of choice. Although this is not completely germane and my noble friend the Minister does not have responsibility for this department, I hope that as soon as possible the Royal College of Nursing and the Government can get down to the matter of nurses' pay and the grading system which is causing a great deal of concern throughout the country, particularly with senior nurses and midwives. I hope that something will be done along those lines.
I want to say a few words about the forthcoming legislation on child abuse. It is not a subject of which I have had direct experience, but my wife is a magistrate and we have three children and six grandchildren. It is a subject which anybody with a family is interested in. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, made the point that it was not only in Cleveland that this happened. My noble friend Lord Stockton also mentioned that. I cannot claim to know the Cleveland area well, but it includes towns such as Middlesbrough, where, due to the shipping industry going into decline and problems 157 with the steel industry, there is inevitably a high rate of unemployment which is not unusual in that part of the country. Therefore a number of families face problems.
Tempers may flare and children may be abused either physically or sexually. I have read the condensed edition of the Butler-Sloss report, which has come in for criticism in some circles. I am not legally nor otherwise qualified to comment on that aspect of the report but I believe it was written with a great deal of care. Even now—this has been referred to before—the learned judge who produced the report deserves universal commendation.
It is to be hoped that one of the aspects of the new Bill will be to give more comprehensive training to social workers and to ensure that as far as possible social workers can be directed towards areas of poverty and high unemployment. They should be social workers who are sensitive to the needs of parents who for one reason or another abuse or attack children. It is also important, and is a recommendation of the Butler-Sloss Report, that the medical profession.should agree a consistent vocabulary to describe physical signs which may he associated with child sexual abuse".We have not yet seen the Bill but I hope, as I am sure do all your Lordships, that this matter is a major aspect of it. This is a vital issue whether it be in the leafy lanes of Sussex or in the areas of shipbuilding and other industries on Tyneside. Unhappily instances of this kind occur. To my mind it is one of the most important pieces of legislation in this forthcoming session. I must make a point that I believe is universally accepted in the House: that we have a session of legislation which will be almost unbearably heavy. However, it is vital that any legislation dealing with our children should be paramount. It is felicitous that this legislation is to begin in your Lordships' House, as will a number of other major Bills.
Finally, I make the point that I believe it is very important that your Lordhsips' House should be given every opportunity to scrutinise in as much detail as possible not only the highly politically charged Bills, of which there are some, but the Bill dealing with child abuse, which largely cuts across party policies.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Lord Hylton
My Lords, at this late stage in the debate I hope to be able to say something new and different because I should like to concentrate on the affairs of Northern Ireland. I am glad to note that the longest paragraph in the second half of the gracious Speech is devoted to that part of the United Kingdom. Although Northern Ireland contains only 1½ million people, its problems and its costs are such that it deserves concentrated attention over long periods of time. It cannot be just fitfully addressed. It requires high priority both from Her Majesty's Government and from the Government of Ireland. I mention the Republic because its security expenditure per head of population is so much greater than ours.
158 Your Lordships welcome and support the efforts of both governments in the struggle against terrorism. Yet it is necessary to repeat the truism that victory by security methods alone is most unlikely. Economic and social policies must go hand in hand with security measures and all three depend on the closest co-operation with, and from, the Republic of Ireland. For those reasons the Anglo-Irish Agreement is most important and remains the essential framework for progress.
Some details of the agreement may be negotiable—for instance, the location of the secretariat at Maryfield. Anything that can be done to lessen the ambiguity which exists within the phrasing and text of the present agreement will be most welcome. I should like to see the secretariat and the Conference of Ministers giving greater emphasis to political, economic and social issues. That includes prisons policy where something may be learnt from the Italian experience in relation to terrorists, particularly those who renounce violence.
I am pleased that the gracious Speech mentions fair employment legislation. It could be important in redressing the sense of injustice which is still experienced by the nationalist minority. Unemployment in north and west Belfast has been debated by your Lordships and more positive action is needed than can be provided just by the Belfast action teams within the Department of the Environment. In this connection it is important to remember that some Protestant areas such as Glencairn, Suffolk and Rathcoole, suffer almost as badly as the Catholic estates.
It is well known that the end of 1987 and the first half of this year were marred by a series of mishaps and atrocities. Those and the knowledge that large quantities of munitions remain in paramilitary hands may have induced a mood of crisis management. I regret to say that that is the way in which I see the partial TV and radio ban, the alteration of the law on silence by accused persons—and that extends to all crimes, even to juvenile crimes—and the proposed electoral declaration against terrorism. I urge Her Majesty's Government to devote a little less energy to crisis management and much more to confidence building.
What is meant by "confidence building"? In international affairs, examples include the hotline telephone between Washington and Moscow, the advanced notification of military manoeuvres and the human rights clauses of the Helsinki Agreement. In England one can cite such examples as ombudsmen, appeals tribunals, conciliation procedures and so forth. I am inclined to think that in social matters anywhere pre-school play groups and mother and toddler clubs do more to build up local confidence than anything else. Nowhere in the United Kingdom is confidence-building more needed than in Northern Ireland. We are faced with a situation of internal conflict where trust and negotiating skills are often lacking. Opinions are deeply divided even within the unionist and nationalist camps.
Two questions must be asked. Why are Protestants so fearful? Why are Roman Catholics so alienated 159 and disappointed with progress since the Anglo-Irish Agreement? We know some of the answers but we must go on to ask a deeper question. What would the other side regard as evidence of our good intentions? I suggest that both governments should attempt to answer those questions and so should both sides within Northern Ireland including the Churches.
I should like to sketch out some possible governmental approaches. I begin by welcoming the phrase in the gracious Speech about giving elected representatives greater involvement in public affairs. Can we not begin with the way in which we legislate for Northern Ireland by means of Orders in Council? That is a fundamentally unsatisfactory method, especially when measures are brought in without even any consultation period. Would it not be far better if all major changes took the form of Bills and the minor orders were made subject to scrutiny and amendment by a joint committee of both Houses of Parliament?
An official Anglo-Irish parliamentary body has been proposed ever since 1981. It is specifically mentioned in the text of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Surely the time has come for it to be established. Our two islands are inter-dependent. They share a common border, and they deserve to be linked at the parliamentary level.
A new border poll, under existing legislation, has been proposed to demonstrate that there is no consensus for constitutional change for Northern Ireland. That could be helpful provided that it is held at the same time as one of the periodical local or parliamentary elections. Another way of working towards greater local responsibility would be to have direct elections for at least a proportion of the members of the statutory boards. In housing, education, health and other subjects, those boards are responsible for much of the practical and administrative work.
I should like to ask whether Her Majesty's Government would consider appointing two non-civil servants—one from each tradition—as personal assistants in the private office of each Minister. In that way some of the leaders of the future could be given first hand experience of the business of government. Human rights provides another important approach. It is notorious that a Bill of Rights in Northern Ireland is practically the only issue on which local political parties are able to agree. Much useful detail is to be found in Human Rights and Responsibilities in Britain and Ireland, a book edited by my friend Mr. Sydney Bailey and published by Macmillan in 1988. Professors Boyle and Hadden also wrote helpfully in their 1985 Penguin Special, Ireland: A Positive Proposal.
From the subject of human rights I move on to policing and note that a new chief constable will be appointed next year. It is regrettable that cuts in normal—that is, non-emergency—policing are being made in advance of this vital senior appointment. That point was referred to by the noble Lords, Lord Harris of Greenwich and Lord Moran. Now is perhaps an ideal moment for increasing the accountability of the police and for defining more 160 clearly the distinction between long-term police policy and short-term operational responsibility. In this context the recent pamphlet No. 11 from the Committee on the Administration of Justice, entitled Public Accountability in Northern Ireland, deserves the most careful study.
I welcome the extension of police and public liaison committees as provided by the Police and Criminal Evidence Order. I trust that the new Independent Police Complaints Commission will soon prove to be more independent and more effective than its predecessor. As regards improved cross-border security, the key may lie in better equipment to link both the armies and the police forces on either side of the border. I believe that the United Kingdom should be willing to carry the major part of any extra cost resulting from that better equipment.
My final questions to Her Majesty's Government concern the community relations unit which reports directly to the Secretary of State. What reports have been received from the unit? What subjects is it currently studying? Is it consulted about the probable impact on community relations of new proposals and new legislation? Surely it must have a major part to play in that confidence-building which is so necessary. Creation of confidence and trust does not lie exclusively in the hands of government. The political parties could do much, and it is encouraging that there has been more dialogue among them in the past 12 months than for some time previously.
The Churches can also do a great deal. I welcome the recent united visit of four Church leaders from Northern Ireland to Boston in the United States. I would beg my Roman Catholic friends especially to realise just how frightening their worldwide and all-Ireland ecclesiastical power so often appears to Protestant eyes. The voluntary bodies are already doing much to build confidence, not forgetting of course their playgroups. They could do yet more.
If Her Majesty's Government will give a positive and sustained lead in confidence-building, I am convinced that they will find many allies in a process leading to better things, including the peaceful celebrations of the significant anniversaries which will occur in 1989 and 1990.
I gave notice to the noble Earl of the points I have raised and I look forward to some positive and helpful replies.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Baroness Faithfull
My Lords, I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. I have just come back from Northern Ireland. I support everything that he has said, particularly his comments about Orders in Council, and particularly about work with children under five, as I visited several such projects.
Inevitably, I confine myself to the care of children and young persons. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, spoke of the rise in crime in our country and of the appalling conditions in our prisons. I quite agree with the noble and learned Lord. However, there is one slight ray of hope—perhaps not so slight—and that is that the policy of Her Majesty's Government through the Home 161 Office, through local authorities and voluntary organisations, of keeping children out of penal institutions through intermediate treatment is proving to be successful. The figures for children in custodial care and penal institutions have dropped. I congratulate the Home Office on setting up a working party which has produced a most excellent report, the report of the Working Group on Juvenile Crime. If the recommendations of that committee were to be implemented with adults, we would further bring down the numbers in adult prisons.
I am deeply concerned with the Children Bill. Here again I should like to thank the noble and learned Lord who was on the Woolsack for his brief explanation of the Children Bill. I should also like to thank Mr. David Mellor. I am sure that both the press and the public will be very grateful for the very clear and concise exposition of the Bill which he gave to a press conference this morning at the Ministry of Health. I should also like to congratulate the administrative staff and the inspectorate of the Department of Health for the very excellent book which they have so quickly brought out as a guide to social workers in dealing with children who are in need of care, whether abused, or in any other area; for example physical, emotional or violence.
There are two other subjects which have already been mentioned several times in your Lordships' House. They are not part of the Bill; but, if I can put it in this way, they are adjacent to the Bill. The first lies in the comments made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. That is the jurisdiction of the administration of this Bill. We look forward to hearing, perhaps at Second Reading, from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, of his attitude toward both family courts and jurisdiction in connection with children and young persons. However, that is not part of the Bill but adjacent to it.
My second point touches on a question which has been mentioned by other noble Lords, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Auckland; and that is social work training. Some years ago in your Lordships' House I moved an amendment to a Bill that the training of social workers should be mandatory. Your Lordships supported that amendment from all sides of the House. Enormous support was given. That amendment went to the Commons, and I regret to have to say that the House of Commons reversed that amendment. I was unable to bring it forward again because there was a new Parliament.
The deeds of men live after them. I contend that if that had gone through and if the social workers had been adequately trained, it is possible—and I go no further than that—that we would not have had to have the four reports that we have had to have—the final one being the Cleveland report. Had the social workers been better trained, and better-understood what they were doing, I think we might have saved a great deal of trouble, a great deal of sorrow, and we might have saved a great deal of money.
I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government: what is the real reason behind not training the social workers? Some resources are being given. As I am given to understand—and I may or may not be 162 right—there will he a two-year basic training for social workers. That we applaud, and that we are grateful for. Further than that, I understand that there are to be what I can only call itsy-bitsy bits of training which are quite short and not very well resourced.
There are 88 Acts of Parliament in force relating to social work. It is true to say that the Bill is going to consolidate seven of those Acts of Parliament, so that there will then be 81 Acts of Parliament which social workers must know and implement. There are 59 Acts of Parliament relating to social work. Sixty-two of those Acts have been passed since 1972.
From talking to many noble and learned Lords (the judges) in your Lordships' House, I am given to understand that they have a deep sympathy with the social workers. They understand their difficulties. However, they say that the social workers coming to court do not always produce the type of reports that they should produce and that are the most helpful to the courts; that they are not experienced in court work and that they have not been trained in the law. By the same token I understand that a Member of Parliament, Mr. Nicholas Winterton told Ministers that doctors and others were worried that the mentally-ill patients could not be cared for by those in the social services, who had little experience and inadequate training in this area.
When it is reported to a department that a child is alleged to have been abused, the right thing to do is to call a case conference. Round that table the social worker should call a paediatrician or doctor, the family doctor, if he can spare the time to come, a health visitor, the teacher, the social worker, the police and the probation officer if involved.
The social worker has to call that conference. The social worker has to implement what is recommended at that conference. The doctor has six years' training and, if he is a paediatrician, probably seven years. The health visitor has three years' training—rightly so—and some have more. The teacher has three years' training. However, the social worker has an inadequate two years' training but is the principal person among those professions dealing with the case. Is that right? Is it fair on the community? Is it fair on the children? Is it fair on the parents? Indeed, is it fair on the social workers who have to implement work in this difficult area?
Mr. Blom-Cooper in his three Cleveland reports states that the social workers were inadequately trained. Therefore, I am bound to ask who is holding back? Is it the Treasury? Should the Treasury be responsible for dictating policy in areas of which it has very little knowledge or experience. If it is the Treasury, I almost wish it had been abused and then it would understand. There should be a balance in this country between what resources the Treasury say are available and what is needed for the professions, for the children and for our community.
I must remind your Lordships that on three occasions I have asked why we do not have family courts. On each occasion the answer given was that the Treasury state that the money is not available. A member of your Lordships' House—who should perhaps remain nameless because it might embarrass 163 him—pointed out to me that the Treasury had not said why that was so. He asked why we did not have family courts costed. I told him that I did not have the money and he said, "You do not let money stand in the way, do you?" I said that I did if I did not have any. Two days later a cheque for £10,000 arrived. He said that it was from a friend of his who ran a trust.
We therefore commissioned CIPFA to cost family courts. It was found that family courts would be cheaper than the present system. I tell your Lordships that story because I feel that there are occasions when we should put to the Treasury exactly what it is doing by cutting our resources so near the bone. I should add that I do not believe we should spend money without limit. Money should be spent wisely and if we do not have it then clearly nothing can be done about it. The fact remains that in some areas it is not cost effective not to spend money. I particularly refer to the training of social workers.
I wish to pay tribute to the social workers in this country, both in the voluntary and statutory sectors. Their work goes unsung and unnoticed. It is hard and difficult work. Only the difficult cases are noticed by the press, which is perhaps understandable. Our social workers are committed people who do valuable work in the community.
I shall cover just two further points. I refer to equal opportunities for women, men and children. At present our workforce is diminishing and women are being asked to work and are being pressed to work. Some want to and some need to. It is all very well to press women to work; but what then happens to the children, particularly those under five? If we are to have a policy of women going out to work, as we did in the war, then we must have a policy for the emotional, physical and educational care of children under five.
I have to point out that both in the training of social workers and in the training and care of children under five the EC countries have a far better service than we have in this country. That is shown from research in this area. The Treasury would no doubt be shocked to hear that women with children under two, who want to work because they need the money to look after their children, are paid the equivalent of a teacher's salary to stay at home. There is a European directive, which we have not accepted, to the effect that men should have time off to look after their children, or the child and the wife, when a child is born. I implore the Government to implement a policy for the care of young children of women who must work.
Finally, many noble Lords have spoken about the breakdown of marriage. Some years ago an excellent document was published called Marriage Matters. That was produced by a working party under the then Department of Health and Social Security. That document has never been implemented and it could well be advantageous to look at it again.
In conclusion, to reduce crime in this country we must start with our children. I hope that in the education curriculum there will be time for life skill studies in personal relationships, in the care of children and in family life and that it will apply to both girls' and boys' schools.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, the House has just listened with its usual attention to the noble Baroness who speaks with such authority on the matters on which she has just addressed us.
We are sandwiched between two other debates on the gracious Speech. The first debate was on foreign affairs and defence and on Tuesday there will be the debate which will largely concentrate on the economic affairs of the country. In both cases it is possible for the Government to speak with pride; in the first case of our defence which so far as we know protects us admirably. The Government can speak of wars not occurring on a world scale for a great number of years or in which we are involved. The Government can say that in foreign affairs our word is uttered throughout the world with great authority and is treated with great respect. In economic affairs it is possible for the Government to argue that the economic state of the nation is healthy, that some sections of our community are much better off and that from that point of view we again have earned the respect of the world.
Those arguments are possible, but in this debate on home and social affairs it is impossible for the Government to speak with any pride on the state of the nation. That is a matter of regret not just for the Government Benches, the Cross Benches or the Opposition Benches, but for the whole nation.
It is with no pride that anybody speaks in this debate quoting the figures on the crime rate that my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones first gave in his speech. Again, it is possible to argue that at present the crime rate has stabilised—but stabilised at what figures and with what percentages rising year after year? It is no consolation to say, "Oh, but crime has been rising over a great number of years." It is no consolation to say that we compare favourably with other countries in Europe in regard to our prison population. It is the largest in Europe.
When one considers other matters such as the reputation of young people on the continent, is there anything comparable, unfortunately, to the drop in prestige that we have suffered as a result of our football hooligans? The noble Lord, Lord Harris, did an arithmetical computation of the amount of illicit drugs being imported into this country. He reached a valuation of £1 billion. I do not know what the percentage is or what the figures are as regards other countries in Europe.
I regretfully turn to look for positive approaches in the gracious Speech to matters which, as I say, are of great concern to every one of us wherever we may be sitting in this House. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, with his usual courtesy, has sat here throughout the debate and is therefore in his seat at the moment. He said with a smile and just a glint of malice—he is not capable of anything more than a glint—when looking at the Benches opposite, that matters have been reversed in political history. There is the Government reforming the nation, leading to progress and there is the Opposition wanting to stay put.
At this moment, looking in his direction, I could pray that we had in fact stood still and that what is 165 called progress may not necessarily be progress. One wonders whether the ticking of a clock does not sometimes sound ominously and with some misery when compared with the silence of a clock staying still. Looking back, is the reputation of the City of London as a result of the progress over the past few years as high as it stood when the noble Lord and I were younger? Is the reputation of Lloyd's as high? I once argued in this House, when speaking from the Front Bench and from this Dispatch Box, that it deserved the praise of the whole nation for the repute that it had abroad. Can we say that now?
Can we say of our youth that it is a youth, part of which we can still be extremely proud, when we look at the crime statistics and find that it is our young people who contribute most to those figures? I wonder whether progress is what the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, sees in the political history of the past years in the field with which we are dealing; namely, home and social affairs.
I looked to the gracious Speech for extra expenditure on the probation service in the hope that as a strengthened body it could encourage youth that has unfortunately fallen by the wayside to seek better ways of living. I looked to the educational programme for encouragement of our young people, especially those from poor homes, to go into higher education. I find in the gracious Speech no such matter about the probation service; nothing about stopping recidivism; and nothing about more money for after care. When 1 read about education and the hope young people have to improve themselves by further education, I find that half of a grant is now to be turned into a loan. I must be fair to the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. In the course of his speech he criticised that very provision and asked the Government to think again. We, from these Benches, ask the Government to think again. We want them not to be guilty of making themselves look very foolish. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, also dealt with this subject.
Another matter about which I have spoken previously is football hooliganism. Does anybody in the world who knows anything about what is happening on football grounds think that the solution to this problem is a membership card which has to be handed in, presumably at a gate, where crowds are milling and where they want to get in before the game is half over? The card is an absurdity. Many of us supported the Government in debates on the question of how we deal with alcohol at football matches. Everyone around your Lordships' House said, "We will back the Government because alcohol is one of the causes of trouble within". We pointed out however that the basic trouble is without the grounds as regards alcohol.
That legislation led to a betterment in conditions. But all we are now going to do is make things far worse in respect of violence and other matters outside the football grounds. And that we shall all regret. It is another matter that the Government have to think about again.
166 It is not right at this time to try to touch upon every aspect of the gracious Speech. I believe that the House is very anxious to hear the noble Earl. I say with courtesy that he might have a similarly brief speech to that made by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. On privacy, information and the security services, I offer thoughts that might strike your Lordships as having some merit. It is not a healthy situation and it is not progress if one continually hears about matters which impinge upon the freedom of the subject because of emergencies in Northern Ireland or arising from other circumstances. For example, the courts and the lists are full, so one has to cut down on juries that are applicable to various crimes. One locks in vain for a government which will say that while on the one hand we have, for good reason, to deprive the citizen of certain liberties and information, on the other we are giving him the statutory right to other information that he should have.
There is no freedom of information Bill anywhere on the horizon. I regret that. As regards the Children Bill we on these Benches are delighted that it is coming forward at an early stage. There could not be a better place for that Bill to have its early days. We hope to be helpful. My noble and learned friend and also the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, said that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor was proud of the fact that the Bill will enable transferability (that is the word he used) where necessary from High Court to county court and magistrates' court. There will be a unification within those courts if possible of the proceedings under one jurisdiction if that be found necessary; but less important cases will be taken up from the lower court to the higher court.
We need one court for family matters; we need one court to deal with the question of children and family relationships and husbands and wives. We have been pleading for it for years. If money is standing in the way I ask the Government to consider the cost of every person in our crowded prisons in our realm, which is £250-odd a week. If one computes that against the number of young people who might be saved through the care that a family court could devote to the difficulties of problem families, and saved from prison too in later years, one finds, as the noble Baroness said, that it is good economic sense as well as good social sense.
At this hour I do not intend to deal with the other matters which have been so adequately dealt with by my noble and learned friend and others on these Benches who have spoken during the debate. The contributions of all speakers have, I am sure, been most well received.
§ 7.40 p.m.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)
My Lords, on a subject as wide as this we have covered almost every facet of the problems which beset our nation in the realms of home and social affairs. As a result, we have had a wide-ranging and interesting debate. The programme of legislation which is proposed in this field is an extensive one. It touches on many aspects of our national life and it seeks to supply legislative remedies both for problems 167 which affect us almost perennially and also for those which, for one reason or another, have only more recently come to public notice.
My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter said that this was a reforming and radical government who were challenging all ideas. That is perfectly true. As we consider all these aspects, we shall find that a number of things are challenged which we did not expect to be challenged and did not necessarily want to be challenged. But that is a good reason for challenging them. My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter referred to the death penalty—actually, he did not refer to it. It was the noble Lord, Lord Grimond.
My Lords, that is correct. My noble friend did refer to it. That surprised me.
The noble Lord, Lord Grimond, surprised me even more by reminding the House that my noble friend's ancestor suffered that way. My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter and I have something in common other than being members of the Conservative Party. It is that my ancestor too suffered in a similar way. My noble friend's ancestor had his head chopped off for backing the Young Pretender in the '45 Rebellion and for being caught. My ancestor did not have such a glorious reason for ending his life in the way in which he did. My noble friend said that when his ancestor died a multitude of people gathered around to listen to his farewell speech. My ancestor had the distinction of going to his death in his wedding clothes; and not for a romantic reason. As he told his valet, who was accompanying him at the time, the day of his wedding and the day of his death were the two unhappiest days of his life.
It is not without significance that my noble friend Lord Henley, who seconded the Motion for a humble Address, is a descendant of the first Lord Henley, who was made Lord Keeper Henley in order to be the judge, as it were, in your Lordships' House when my ancestor's case was tried before it. That is a mere passing thought of historical interest.
I am grateful to my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor for having described the measures which—
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, will the noble Earl say anything to repudiate the idea that the Government stand for the death penalty? He amused us all very much by treating it as a jokey subject, but the whole idea of capital punishment is quite obscene. I rather hoped that we would have some declaration to that effect instead of all this facetiousness.
My Lords, I do not know whether that is facetious. I was merely recounting to the House a historical anecdote. If the noble Earl takes it in a facetious way, that is up to the noble Earl. I do not propose to give a government adumbration on the death penalty because the Government as a whole do not have a view. The noble Earl knows perfectly well that that is left to the individual views of Members of both Houses of Parliament.
168 I should like to answer some of the questions that have been asked during the debate. If I do not answer all noble Lords I hope that I will be acquitted of any discourtesy. I hope your Lordships will understand that it is because I would not wish to weary your Lordships any more than perforce I may have to do. To listen to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, was quite depressing. He said that the Government can speak with no pride on the matters we are discussing. I do not think that that is correct. As he looked back he said that things are not nearly as good now as they used to be when he was a young boy. We can all say that, and each generation always says that. However, as the noble Lord knows only too well, it is our business to look forward.
When I heard the noble Lord this evening I thought to myself: how is it that a person can have such a miserable attitude and yet be such a delightful person? The two did not seem to go together. I thought it must be that the noble Lord was taking advantage, as usual, of his considerable debating skills to make out that the Government are responsible for a number of matters. The Government are responsible for a number of matters but not for the state of the nation over all matters. They react and contribute to the state of the nation.
When the noble Lord says that we cannot speak with pride while the prisons are full, I should first tell him that for the second year running the prison service has fared unbelievably well. The service will receive an additional £992 million. About £500 million will be used to produce an extra 3,000 or so prison places by 1992. The new places, taken together with those in the existing programme, will result in more than 25,000 new places being available by 1995. Eight new prisons have been opened. Eighteen prisons are at various stages of planning and at least two further prisons will be provided from money available. Perhaps the noble Lord will say that that is a bad state of affairs. I tell the noble Lord with the greatest of courtesy that we are reacting to a bad state of affairs.
§ Lord Hylton
My Lords, the noble Earl has given a great exposition of the prison building programme. When do the Government expect to clear court cells and police cells of people awaiting trial?
My Lords, as the noble Lord knows full well, a great deal depends on the Prison Officers Association. The freeing of the cells depends on how quickly we can get that problem resolved. I would not be prepared to give a specific date. As the House will expect, it depends on a great many things.
Many noble Lords, including the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones and the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, referred to the problem of crime. The noble and learned Lord said that the Government must regard the struggle against crime as the most important matter. The noble Lord, Lord Moran, referred to the fear of crime, which is an important aspect. My noble friend Lord Ashbourne said that women were frightened of going out and being raped. My noble friend Lord Auckland referred to drugs.
169 Crime is a worrying issue. The figures are marginally better than they have been but they are not such as to take any pride in them. There were 60,000 fewer burglaries in England and Wales in the 12 months to June 1988 compared with the corresponding period to June 1987. That is a decrease of 6 per cent. and is encouraging. In the 12 months to June 1988 there was a 0.6 per cent. decrease in total recorded crime. This is the first reduction in the 12-month total since 1983. That is therefore a modest improvement. We must try to beat crime and also to prevent it.
A great deal is being done under the auspices of my department to encourage not only the defeat of crime but the prevention of it. In order to try to satisfy this, we have increased the police force considerably. There has been a gain since May 1979 of over 13,000 police officers and 5,800 additional posts have been approved for forces. Expenditure on the police has risen from £1.1 billion to £3.7 billion since 1979. That is a real increase of 52 per cent. So the Government have been trying to pit very considerable resources against the problem of crime.
Much has been done with the crime prevention unit. The ministerial group on crime prevention, which is chaired by my honourable friend Mr. Patten, is looking at ways to further the Government's crime prevention programme. It will be publishing the second report on its work in January. There is also the Home Office Standing Conference on Crime Prevention. This year's working groups have looked at the costs of crime, the prevention of arson and car crime and will report to the next meeting of the standing conference on 6th December.
Those are all initiatives which the Government are taking in order to try to beat the problem of crime. There has been, as your Lordships will be aware, much effort put in to encourage neighbourhood watch schemes. Indeed, there are now over 60,000 of them. All expenditure on the police and criminal justice system is relevant to crime prevention. In 1988–89 the Home Office is spending some £4.7 million on crime prevention publicity. So a great deal is being done.
The Government's policy continues to be to give a high priority to violent crime. Since May 1979 the police service has in all been strengthened by over 20,000. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary will be able to approve an additional 1,100 extra police posts for this year. That is a considerable increase.
My noble friend Lord Auckland referred to the issue of drugs. I am bound to tell him that the Government take the problem of drug abuse most seriously. Their strategy for tackling drug misuse involves reducing the supplies from abroad; increasing the effectiveness of enforcement; maintaining effective deterrents and tight domestic controls; developing prevention and education and improving the treatment and the rehabilitation of offenders. Therefore a great deal is being done in that respect.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, quite rightly referred to the problems on the Underground. The Home Office has given substantial 170 advice to London Underground Limited in its attempt to prevent crime on the Underground. Since the publication of the report Crime on the London Underground the Government have made £15 million available over three years to London Underground Limited to help it implement the report's recommendations.
Many crime prevention schemes are in hand. The main scheme, soon to be fully implemented, attempts to reduce robbery and theft from the person—which is mugging—at the south end of the Northern Line, which has been particularly bad. That will include the provision of supervised waiting areas, enhanced closed-circuit television and alarms for passengers on platforms.
British Transport Police—which has good links with the Metropolitan Police—will be getting links with the Metropolitan Police—will be getting better radio links and robbery squads. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, was quite right to refer to the Underground. I think that that is a place where, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Moran, great fear is engendered.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, referred to unemployment as still being 2.1 mllion. I should like to remind him that unemployment has fallen for 27 months in succession. it is the longest period of falling unemployment since the war and a fall of nearly 1 million in total. I should point out to the noble and learned Lord that unemployment has fallen faster over the past year than in any other major industrialised country. So although he may he upset that it is still 2.1 million, I would invite him to rejoice over the things that we have to rejoice about. As he is a generous person, I know that he will do so.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, referred to the cuts in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The Government are determined to ensure that terrorism will not succeed. A further £3 million has been reallocated to assist the chief constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary to maintain operational activities against terrorism.
The noble Lord said that there have been cuts. There have been no cuts in the numbers. The chief constable and the Police Authority determine the priorities and the use of resources. The redeployment which was mentioned by the noble Lord was the result of a decision by the chief constable and not by the Government.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt the noble Earl. He really cannot get away with that. The fact is that under government pressure the chief constable has had to take 50 officers away from his traffic divisions at a time when the number of road accidents in Northern Ireland is going to a very high level. There has also been a scaling down of the crime prevention arrangements, about which the noble Earl has just been talking with such warmth. Why is it right to make these forced redeployments—because that is what they are—in Northern Ireland at such a time?
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Harris, really must accept two facts: first, that more money has been given to Northern Ireland; and, 171 secondly, that whatever resources you have, there is a finite amount to them. It is within those finite resources that the chief constable has to make his appreciation—and that he has done.
The noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, referred to the security industry. The Government do not believe in extending statutory regulations within the industry. The whole thrust of my noble friend's policy in lifting the burdens from industry is in the other direction. We believe in self-regulation. We recently invited ACPO and representatives of the private security industry to consider ways in which the industry can indulge in better self-regulation.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris, asked me about Sir Robert Andrew's report. The report will be published in due course.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, referred to the Prevention of Terrorism Bill. I merely say that obviously it is with some regret that the Government are introducing a fourth Prevention of Terrorism Bill. We wish that the situation did not require it; but it does. However, we shall be able to deal with that nearer the time when the Bill comes before the House.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, and the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, referred to official secrets. They complained that public interest should include the right to know. They are entitled to their view; it is a view that I respect. But they must realise that that is different to what the Official Secrets Act is concerned with. I have no doubt that we shall have an interesting debate on the matter when the time comes.
The noble and learned Lords, Lord Simon of Glaisdale and Lord Elwyn-Jones, and the noble Lords, Lord Harris and Lord Hatch, referred to the security services. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, asked why both the Secretary of State and the Security Service Bill are in the singular. The Interpretation Act 1978 says in Schedule I that:'Secretary of State' means one of Her Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State".The Home Secretary is not specifically responsible for the security services, as your Lordships are aware. The Bill refers to the security service in the singular because that is the organisation to which the Bill refers.
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Earl will allow me to intervene for a moment. My point was really to find out whether MI5 was going to be responsible to one Secretary of State and MI6 to another one.
My Lords, the Bill refers to the security service. I was explaining to the noble and learned Lord that although the practice is that you refer to one of Her Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State, that does not mean that there is only one. In practice the Home Secretary is responsible for the security service.
Football has been mentioned. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, referred to it. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, said the Bill was one of the 172 stupidest ever to be brought forward. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Coslany, was worried about it. If the noble Lord, Lord Harris, thinks that it is one of the stupidest Bills, all I can say to him is that perhaps he has not been around as long as I thought he had been.
The primary purpose of the scheme is to keep the troublemakers out of football grounds. Removing the match as the central focus for the activities of hooligans will act as a disincentive for them to travel, and will help to break the link between violence and football. Of course it is undesirable to have to bring in such Bills; but if people behave in a way that is undesirable and offensive, the Government have to try to take some action, which is what we have done.
Many noble Lords referred to family courts. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, the noble Earl, Lord Stockton, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, supported them. The Children Bill is not a Bill dedicated to court structures or even to family law; it is a Bill specifically about children. It would not be possible to establish a family court in the Bill. We shall go so far as we can in the Bill to look at court procedures. It may be that we shall eventually look at what we are doing now as being one step in a continuing process of court reform. As I understand it, the supporters of a family court press for change because they see the advantage of having unified jurisdiction, structure and procedure. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will be making a statement on family courts next week during the Second Reading of the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris, was concerned about magistrates' courts. The pay of magistrates' courts' staff is negotiated by the joint negotiating committee for magistrates' courts' staff, and I understand that this year, following a failure to reach agreement, the pay settlement has gone to arbitration. The outcome is not expected until the end of the year. As soon as it is known the Government will consider whether it can be approved for grant purposes.
Several noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, who seems to have touched on most subjects in the most astonishing but characteristic way, referred to poorer pensioners.
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Security announced in another place this afternoon that he will be making extra help available for poorer pensioners from next April. It is proposed that the pensioner premium paid to income support recipients will be restructured to target extra help for older and disabled pensioners. There will be new premiums for people aged 75 and over and 80 and over and all disabled pensioners. Those new premiums will provide £2.50 extra a week for single pensioners and £3.50 for couples. The same increases will apply to housing benefit rates so that those poorer pensioners slightly above income support level will also benefit from extra help with rent and rates or community charge.
173 The total cost of that additional assistance, which will go to 2.6 million individual pensioners, will be just under £200 million in a full year. That is an imaginative new provision for old and disabled pensioners which I am sure will be welcomed by the House. Details of the changes are available in the Printed Paper Office.
The noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, and my noble friend Lord Ferrier referred to the National Health Service. We have committed record resources to the National Health Service. They are up 35 per cent. in real terms since 1979; but we obviously cannot satisfy rising demands and expectations for more choice and more quality merely by putting in more money. We are now looking to see how we can achieve better services for patients and better value for the taxpayer. We want to reward good performance by hospitals and departments and provide more choice for GPs and their patients to influence where the money goes.
My noble friend Lord Ferrier referred to chiropractic and osteopathy. NHS practitioners can offer any form of thereapy, including alternative therapies such as chiropractic, if they feel that it will help their patients and if they are competent to provide it.
My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter referred to Sunday trading. He said that courage is rewarding and that it is a ridiculous relic of the past. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, also referred to it. I only tell my noble friend—and he knows it well—that, in view of the opposition to the complete deregulation of Sunday trading hours which we experienced, the Government are prepared to consider a practicable compromise that falls short of that if and when a consensus can be achieved. Consultation with interested parties with a view to finding a compromise is continuing, but it is too early to say if legislation will be introduced. I can only advise my noble freind that if he wants it introduced he had better whip around those who hold a contra view to see whether he can, as he usually does, persuade them to accept his point of view. If he were able to do that, we should all be able to make progress as great deal quicker.
The noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, asked whether there was a technical impediment to computerising the tax and benefits system. I do not wish to go into the detail of that matter. I have no doubt that there are all sorts of impediments of which doubtless the technical ones will form part. There are others which are more essential and difficult.
The noble Lord, Lord Grimond, and the noble Earl, Lord Perth, referred to devolution. I am bound to say that I was surprised to hear that because there was no unanimity and there never is among Scots. The noble Earl, Lord Perth, said that he wanted a Royal Commission, and the noble Lord, Lord Grimond, said that he did not want anything of the sort. Neither wants to be run from England. My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter said that a good many of their countrymen did not seem to want to be run from Edinburgh either. That is possibly a Scottish characteristic.
§ The Earl of Perth
My Lords, the noble Earl somewhat misunderstood me. I did not ask for a Royal Commission. I threw that out as one of the suggestions. I was very ready, as was the noble Lord, Lord Grimond, to go along with the idea so long as the Government would look into the question, which is what both he and I ask.
My Lords, the Government of course always look at problems. At the moment they are not persuaded of the view that the noble Earl, Lord Perth, takes. The noble Lord, Lord Grimond, said that it was not at all difficult to devolve power. I am bound to say that I wondered if he had asked the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, whether he found it at all difficult. My recollection is that when the Government tried to devolve power there was no unanimity in a referendum and the Government came to an end. There is a slight difficulty.
§ Lord Grimond
My Lords, the Bill produced was an absolute shambles in that it did not deal with taxation or give any right to tax. I must confess that the Government's present attitude to the developments in Scotland bodes ill for the future. They had better get down to considering what is going on in Scotland instead of brushing the matter aside and pretending that because one Bill was a failure the whole matter can be shelved.
My Lords, I did not wish to give the impression to the noble Lord that the whole matter is being brushed on one side. Of course it is not. It is extremely important. It is one thing to satisfy people who hold a certain view; it is another thing to get through Parliament a Bill which satisfies those people and everyone else. Of course it is a difficult issue. No one can view the results of the last byelection without realising that there is an issue of great importance here. All I was saying to the noble Lord, Lord Grimond, was that at the moment the Government do not find it easy to find a solution which would meet his views as well as those of others.
Many other matters have been referred to which I should have liked to have mentioned. Perhaps I may refer to the Children Bill because a number of noble Lords mentioned it. My noble friend Lord Stockton, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and my noble friends Lord Auckland and Lady Faithfull referred to the Bill. My noble friend Lord Stockton said that he believed that people in Cleveland had turned against one another and were lacking in self-confidence. I can understand that. In the aftermath of the report, I hope that the whole House will welcome our Bill on the care and upbringing of children. It will be a major overhaul of child care law to provide a fairer and more effective framework. Children are entitled to protection from harm and abuse, and innocent families from unnecessary intervention by the state. I have no doubt that when the Bill comes before your Lordships, it will be considered with great care.
Finally, I think the noble Lord, Lord Moran, referred to the family. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, the noble Lord, Lord Ashbourne, and the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, 175 referred to the family as being a very important part of the structure of our life. I believe they were quite right to do so. In all the difficulties which we experience in the whole paraphernalia of home affairs, we must never forget the importance of family life. It is not a matter for which one can legislate, it is a fundamental part of the life we live and of society in our country. Any measures which are taken that do not contribute to family life will in the end not contribute to the benefit of the nation.
I am grateful for all that noble Lords have said in the debate. We shall certainly consider these matters carefully. I realise that there are some points to which I have not replied so I shall try to ensure that they are answered by letter.
§ Lord Strathclyde
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Caithness I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned until Tuesday next.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned until Tuesday next.—(Lord Strathclyde.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.
§ House adjourned at eleven minutes past eight o'clock