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Lords Chamber

Volume 387: debated on Tuesday 15 November 1977

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House Of Lords

Tuesday, 15th November, 1977.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Worcester.

Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what conclusions were reached by the Ninth Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting, representing 13 nations, and what proposals the United Kingdom made for co-operative administration and development.

My Lords, the meeting which was held in London from 19th September to 7th October considered many aspects of Antarctic co-operative administration and development. The participants agreed to recommend to their Governments that they conclude before the end of next year a definitive régime for the conservation, including rational use, of Antarctic marine living resources. They also recommended rapid action towards an internationally-agreed approach to the exploration and exploitation of Antarctic minerals. The United Kingdom delegation contributed substantially to these developments. I have arranged to place in the Library of the House a copy of the statement released by the chairman after the meeting.

My Lords, while welcoming the decisions reached, may I ask the Minister this: Is it not significant that, while there was only scientific research, there was complete co-operation between Governments—the USA, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and even South Africa—but when commercial possibilities were found, territorial claims were made, sometimes overlapping? Could not Her Majesty's Government use their influence to make the Antarctic, for the first time, an international continent for the benefit of the whole of mankind?

My Lords, I think that in all but name that is the position in the Antarctic. The Treaty ensures that national claims are frozen—I believe that is the right word—so that for some years now, since 1959, those countries which have national claims, we among them, have desisted from asserting or insisting upon those claims. In the meantime, a truly international approach has been made to the various aspects of the protection and exploration of the Antarctic, and I believe that the objectives which my noble friend has in mind are now being effectively achieved.

My Lords, could the Minister say whether, as a result of this agreement, the United Kingdom now has any sovereign rights over any part of the Antarctic?

My Lords, there is the British Antarctic Territory but, as I suggested in my first reply to my noble friend, it is a very pleasing and encouraging fact that for many years now, since 1959—and it continues—all countries have effectively agreed to subsume within their international objectives their national assertions of territorial and other claims.

My Lords, will the Minister say therefore that this is part of the decolonisation of the penguins?

My Lords, would my noble friend tell us whether, as the outcome of these discussions, we shall have a 200-mile limit for the whole of Antarctica, or are we going to have all these competitive claims within the 200-mile limit?—because this is a very delicate area ecologically.

My Lords, I entirely agree that this is a very sensitive area ecologically, as my noble and very learned friend reminds us. Indeed, it is one of the most encouraging aspects of the Ninth Meeting of the Consultative Committee that they have addressed themselves both to the subject of marine life and its conservation, which is part of what my noble friend had in mind, and also to the possible exploration and exploitation of minerals. I entirely agree with him—and I believe I am speaking for the Consultative Committee, which includes 13 nations—that in any approach to economic zones the principle of subsumation of national rights and claims must continue to be that of derogation to international objectives. I am very confident, basing myself on the history of this matter, that we can look forward to a future of continued international organisation of the Antarctic.

My Lords, while this may better be the subject of an Unstarred Question, I wonder whether the Minister would be able to say something about policing arrangements for this area; or have they not yet been considered?

My Lords, I hardly think that that question has arisen. No doubt it has been thought of, but I do not see any record of it having been part of the discussion. But the noble Baroness is right: this is one aspect of the future that should be considered, and no doubt will be. What I can say is that the telecommunications aspect of the organisation of the area is well in hand and that it is bringing increasing benefits in the meteorological field.

My Lords, could my noble friend say what machinery has been established as a result of this consultative conference to deal with these problems, and what is going to happen meanwhile with the maritime hydrocarbon and mineral resources which are now being separately exploited?

My Lords, I am not aware that they are being separately exploited in any significant degree. A good deal of research is taking place on the spot in which we are engaged. British research is prominent in this field as in so many others. I will take my noble friend's point and advisement, but I think that I can tell him now that there is no considerable or, indeed, significant exploitation which requires us to look at the terms of the Treaty and its implementation.

As to the first part of his supplementary question on arrangements for the implementation of the two main recommendations made by this Consultative Committee on minerals and on marine life, ad hoc arrangements are well in hand. There will be a convention, I think, hopefully before the end of next year, on marine living resources. Another meeting is projected for dealing with the further examination of mineral resources.

My Lords, will the noble Lord confirm that Argentina, in particular, completely accepts the internationl status of the Antarctic?

My Lords, obviously the record of the Ninth Meeting shows that nobody objected to the re-statement in very practical terms of the international approach to this question by any member country, and Argentina is one of the 13.

Secondary Education: Academic Ability

2.44 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will include, in their consultations with local authorities, parents and teachers, the question of the retention of selection on grounds of academic ability as well as of proficiency in music and dancing as a means of regulating entry into secondary schools.

(Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge)

No, my Lords. Her Majesty's Government remain committed to bringing about a fully and truly comprehensive system of secondary education that does not admit of any form of selection on grounds of academic ability.

My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord for his Answer to that Question, in contrast to the non-answer which he gave to me on 21st July? May I ask him whether he has read the excellent leading article in yesterday's Times on this subject? Would it not be in accordance with the spirit of tolerance and consensus which that article very properly advocates if the Government were prepared at least to discuss with local authorities what institutional arrangements need to be provided to secure that the academically more gifted child gets a suitable curriculum?

My Lords, I am always influenced by leaders in The Times. I have read the leader and I thought that, though interesting, it was insufficiently authoritative to change Government policy. It is now a year since we debated the Education Act 1976 at great length in this House. I know that the noble Lord opposite was not able to be present during debates on this subject. I am afraid that in the last, perhaps not fully developed, reply that I gave, the noble Lord may have had the impression that I thought he was in some way to blame for his absence. This is not the case at all. I know he had other obligations to fulfil. I was anxious to avoid going through the whole subject again. I do not think that the Opposition's view has changed, and the Government's view has not changed. I do not think it would be helpful to go through the arguments again. We recognise that the content as well as the structure of education is changing and the great debate that we have had this year bears witness to our preparedness to engage in critical self-examination before setting down new objectives and ways of meeting them. We have not changed our mind on non-selection in secondary education.

My Lords, I much appreciate the personal part of that answer. May I ask whether a refusal even to discuss variations and diversified methods with the local education authorities concerned argues a degree of intolerance which will bode very ill for the permanence of any policy that the Government introduce in this matter?

My Lords, I cannot for one moment accept that my Secretary of State refuses to discuss these things with the local education authorities. She spends practically her whole time discussing these matters.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that there is no reason whatsoever why a child with great academic ability should not receive the education that he or she requires in a comprehensive school? Is he further aware that to introduce selection of any kind whatsoever would bring to an end the whole comprehensive system of education in this country? That would be as unwelcome to some Conservative local education authorities as it is to all Labour ones.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for her contribution. This is our approach; but I have to confess that the Secretary of State is aware that the highly gifted may present a problem. Her mind has never been closed on this matter. It is being discussed widely and changes of one kind or another may come. They will not be of the kind that has been suggested, which would, in our opinion, wreck the comprehensive principle to which we remain committed.

My Lords, will the noble Lord remind the House why it is correct and possible to have selection on academic standards at 17 or 18 years of age, and totally wrong to have it at 11 or 12 years of age? Can he summarise the reasons why the present Government have adhered to that viewpoint?

My Lords, I shall have to trust my memory because it is a long time since we discussed this in great detail in this House. Approximately, our view is that, after a certain stage, differentiation between one person and another does not handicap the person who takes the lower academic course because there are other approaches which are open to him which are generally thought to be equally important. For example, if there are two young men of 17, one of whom is academically inclined and the other not, the chances are that the one who is not academically inclined would prefer to go into business, whereas the one who is academically inclined would prefer to continue studying. I do not think the problem is very difficult; it is easy to understand. I think that, if the noble Lord casts his mind back to the extensive discussions which have taken place, at many of which he has been present, he will remember the arguments.

My Lords, is the Minister really implying that people of a very high level of ability would not wish to go into business?—because if so, that is a very good explanation of what is wrong with the country.

Several noble Lords: Hear, hear!

My Lords, I would think that the noble Baroness's question is really somewhat off the point. What I said was that somebody who is academically able would wish to continue academic studies. That says absolutely nothing as to whether in due course he might wish to go into business.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that some of his answers are of the kind which are giving great disquiet to some of the ablest of academic England? Secondly, is he aware that we are particularly worried about the inconsistencies of these answers? You cannot say that you have no selection if you make particular provisions for music and dancing. If music and dancing, why not maths?

My Lords, the answer to the first part of the noble Lord's question is, No. The answer to the second part is that there is great controversy as to whether mathematical ability can be detected at an early age.

Several noble Lords: Oh!

Yes, my Lords; there are a number of people who think it can and a number who think it cannot. There is no dispute as to whether dancing and musical ability can be detected earlier, and that is the entire explanation of the question.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the House as a whole, I think, would welcome the concern of the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State over raising the standard of secondary education?—because that is infinitely more important than the detail of selection at 11. Is my noble friend aware, therefore, that we should be very grateful if he would reaffirm the Secretary of State's concern on this question?

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. I have already strongly reaffirmed the concern that is felt and I am happy to do so again.

My Lords, could the Minister tell us when we shall accept the fact of observation that men are born unequal, and that the purpose of education is to promote inequality to provide every single individual with the opportunity of developing every inequality of which he is capable? Is my noble friend aware that this idea that you can exclude ability from selection is a doctrinaire absurdity which really ought to go back to the Middle Ages?

Several noble Lords: Hear, hear!

My Lords, my noble friend is not always a help in these discussions.

My Lords, I have to confess that I am entirely with him in my desire to promote the inequalities which exist, and the method we propose to use is by trying to increase equality of opportunity.

My Lords, will the Government consider very carefully what has been said by my noble friend, and also by the noble Lord, Lord Snow? Are the Government wise to be so rigid and doctrinaire? Is the noble Lord aware that even the Soviet Union has special schools for gifted pupils, for example, in mathematics, with the result that they consistently lead, or at least are among the leaders, in the mathematics Olympiads for schools?

My Lords, they are also very successful at chess, but I do not know whether that has anything to do with it. I do not accept that my Secretary of State's approach, or the Department's approach, is inflexible. It seems to me to be extremely flexible within certain limits, and the limits are that we have 80 per cent. of our children being, on the whole, successfully educated in a system—

A noble Lord: Nonsense!

and we do not propose to go back on that, whatever the arguments which may be used.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that all his questioners are in the category of "highly gifted" and that none of them agree? Is that the result of academic ability? Will my noble friend sometimes consult with me, someone who has no academic ability at all, in order to get a common-sense answer?

My Lords, I take note of my noble friend's advice, and I shall take it.

My Lords, I think we should proceed with the next business. We have had a good run.

Privileges: Select Committee

My Lords, I beg to move the first Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That, in accordance with Standing Order 72, a Select Committee for Privileges be appointed; and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords, together with the Chairman of Committees and any four Lords of Appeal, be named of the Committee:

  • Beswick, L.
  • Byers, L.
  • Carrington, L.
  • Champion, L.
  • Erskine of Rerrick, L.
  • Ferrers, E.
  • Greenwood of Rossendale, L.
  • Henley, L.
  • Hylton-Foster, B.
  • Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
  • Molson, L.
  • Peart, L. (L. Privy Seal)
  • St. Aldwyn, E.
  • Shackleton, L.
  • Wigoder, L.

—( Lord Aberdare.)

My Lords, I should like to ask the Chairman of Committees a question. In the 14 years I have been here, we have had a repetition of the same names every time: they never alter. Have we to be a freemason or to kiss the feet of the Establishment before getting on to these important Committees?

My Lords, with great respect, the names do change. We have a system whereby a certain number of members have to retire from each committee every Session. They do change, and the Committee of Selection, whose recommendation I am proposing in this particular Motion, have considered the members of the Committee and made the recommendation that is on the Order Paper.

My Lords, is the Chairman of Committees aware that some of those whose names I have seen on the Committees are very conspicuous by their absence in this House and yet they are still on these Committees?

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Statutory Instruments (Joint Committee)

My Lords. I beg to move the second Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That a Select Committee of seven Lords be appointed to join with a Committee appointed by the Commons to consider—

(1) Every instrument which is laid before each House of Parliament and upon which proceedings may be or might have been taken in either House of Parliament, in pursuance of an Act of Parliament; being

  • (a) a statutory instrument, or a draft of a statutory instrument;
  • (b) a scheme, or an amendment of a scheme, or draft thereof, requiring approval by statutory instrument;
  • (c) any other instrument (whether or not in draft), where the proceedings in pursuance of an Act of Parliament are proceedings by way of an affirmative resolution; or
  • (d) an order subject to special parliamentary procedure;
  • but excluding any Order in Council or draft Order in Council made or proposed to be made under paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 to the Northern Ireland Act 1974.

    (2) Every general statutory instrument not within the foregoing classes, and not required to be laid before or to be subject to proceedings in the Commons only, but not including Measures under the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919 and instruments made under such Measures:

    with a view to determining whether the spcial attention of the House should be drawn to it on any of the following grounds—

  • (i) that it imposes a charge on the public revenues or contains provisions requiring payments to be made to the Exchequer or any Government Department or to any local or public authority in consideration of any licence or consent or of any services to be rendered, or prescribes the amount of any such charge or payments;
  • (ii) that it is made in pursuance of any enactment containing specific provisions excluding it from challenge in the courts, either at all times or after the expiration of a specific period;
  • (iii) that it purports to have retrospective effect where the parent Statute confers no express authority so to provide;
  • (iv) that there appears to have been unjustifiable delay in the publication or in the laying of it before Parliament;
  • (v) that there appears to have been unjustifiable delay in sending a notification under the proviso to subsection (1) of Section 4 of the Statutory Instruments Act 1946, where an instrument has come into operation before it has been laid before Parliament;
  • (vi) that there appears to be a doubt whether it is intra vires or that it appears to make some unusual or unexpected use of the powers conferred by the Statute under which it is made;
  • (vii) that for any special reason its form or purport call for elucidation;
  • (viii) that its drafting appears to be defective; or
  • on any other ground which does not impinge on its merits or on the policy behind it; and to report their decision with the reasons thereof in any particular case:—

    That the Lords following, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, be named of the Committee:

    • Airedale, L.
    • Ampthill, L.
    • Auckland, L.
    • Cathcart, E.
    • Darling of Hillsborough, L.
    • Peddie, L.
    • Vickers, B.

    That two shall be the quorum of the Committee.

    That the Committee have power to agree with the Committee appointed by the Commons in the appointment of a Chairman.

    That the Committee have power to appoint one or more Sub-Committees severally to join with any Sub-Committee or Sub-Committees appointed by the Committee appointed by the Commons; and to refer to such Sub-Committee or Sub-Committees any of the matters referred to the Committee.

    That it be an instruction to the Committee that they do not consider any instrument which is directed by Act of Parliament to be laid before and to be subject to proceedings in the Commons only; and that the Committee do not join with the Committee appointed by the Commons in considering any such instrument.

    That it be a further instruction to the Committee that, before reporting that the special attention of the House be drawn to any instrument, the Committee do afford to any Government department concerned therewith an opportunity of furnishing orally or in writing to them or to any Sub-Committee of the Committee such explanations as the department think fit.

    That the Joint Committee have leave to report from time to time.—( Lord Aberdare.)

    On Question, Motion agreed to.

    European Communities: Select Committee

    My Lords, I beg to move the third Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

    Moved, on behalf of the Committee of Selection, That the Lord Hinton of Bankside and the Baroness Phillips be discharged from the Select Committee and the Lord Walston be added.—( Lord Aberdare.)

    On Question, Motion agreed to.

    Ecc Twenty-Ninth Report: Classification Packaging And Labelling Of Dangerous Substances

    2.58 p.m.

    rose to move, That this House takes note of the Twenty-ninth Report of last Session (HL 137) of the European Communities Committee on classification, packaging and labelling of Dangerous Substances (R/2203/76). The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I am pleased to open this debate on the report Dangerous Substances, especially since it raises a number of points which are not concerned with purely technical questions. May I first declare my interest. I have been for some years a director of a United Kingdom chemical company which enjoys a close relationship with a large European chemical group.

    The report deals with draft Directive R/2203/76, which seeks to amend for the sixth time the Council Directive of 27th June 1967 relating to the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous substances. The draft Directive has three main directives. First, it would introduce some changes in detail to existing provisions on classification, packaging and labelling. Secondly, it extends the scope of the existing Directive to cover substances harmful to the environment. Thirdly, it proposes a most important innovation; namely, the introduction of a scheme of notification of new substances, including control over the conditions of use. It is to this third objective that I intend to direct most of my comments.

    The proposals are set out fully in paragraphs 5 to 12 of the report and I shall not repeat them. The notification proposal raises three points of general importance which I should like to develop. I also have three points to raise on specific questions. My first point is clearly set out in paragraphs 21 and 30 of the report. It is the view of expert witnesses from the chemical industry that, as drafted, the Directive is impracticable, because of the undue cost of implementing it and the heavy demands upon scarce scientific resources. Moreover, it would stand in the way of development and innovation, both of which are vital to the success of the chemical industry. Clearly, the proposals have been drafted by people who have little or no knowledge of the industry. Equally clearly, there could have been little or no consultation by Brussels with the experts before it was drafted. As one of our expert witnesses said—I quote from page 14, paragraph 36:

    "… we believe … that notification is an acceptable thing … but it should not be established on the basis of some bureaucratic system, rather on the basis of what is the objective?', and the objective is to achieve greater safety … If there could be some collaborative approach … between the authorities and the companies, that would be the ideal situation".

    At a time when the EEC has many critics, not to say enemies, it is regrettable, to say the least, that documents like this draft Directive should be issued by Brussels in this way. Not only does it waste the time of Ministers, officials, Parliament and industry, but it gives a disturbing picture of the bureaucracy in Brussels. May I suggest to my noble friend on the Front Bench that he should leave our representatives in Brussels in no doubt about the extent to which we deplore this kind of activity? There is ample expert and willing advice available, and proper consultation is always quicker and cheaper in the long run. Or do the officials in Brussels really believe that they know more about the chemical industry than the industry itself?

    My second general point follows from this. The chemical industry does not oppose sensible regulation, nor has it ever done so. On the contrary, it has a long and successful history of working to voluntary codes of good practice, and has always co-operated fully with Government on regulations designed to protect people and the environment. Of course the chemical industry is a hazardous industry; it always has been and always will be. But a hazardous industry must demand the closest co-operation between the authorities and the industry—a cooperation notably lacking in this case, so far as Brussels is concerned. Fortunately, the co-operation between our own Government and the chemical industry is much closer.

    I do not intend to give the impression that the chemical industry is complacent about risks, nor about the many things that have to be done to limit these risks. It simply cannot afford to be complacent. Equally, it must be permitted—indeed, encouraged—to continue its progress. Innovation and development are the lifeblood of the chemical industry, and this leads me to my third general point.

    One of the few satisfactory features of the current discussion about our economic future is the widespread agreement on the poor state of our manufacturing industry in general. In the first speech which I was privileged to make in your Lordships' House, I emphasised that much of our manufacturing industry compares most unfavourably with that of our main competitors, both in value—added per worker—in many cases, we need an improvement of 50 to 100 per cent. if we are to approach the performance of our major competitors—and also in the high proportion of value-added which is absorbed by wages, leaving far too little for replacement and expansion. In addition, this country is increasingly importing instead of exporting added-value. To give an idea of the magnitude of the problem, Dr. Frank Jones, who has done much work in this area, estimates that if the average worker in this country is to have behind him the same fixed assets as the average worker in Japan, we need a new investment of £30,000 million. Then we should be on a par with the Japanese.

    In these circumstances, I suggest that we must cherish those industries which stand out as exceptions to this general gloomy picture. Fortunately, there are a number of such industries, and the chemical industry is a good example. While the United Kingdom's index of production rose by only 3 per cent. between 1970 and 1976, the United Kingdom chemical industry increased its output by 28 per cent. Employing, as it does, only 5 per cent. of the total work force in manufacturing the chemical industry accounts for 10 per cent. of the national output, 15 per cent. of United Kingdom investment in manufacture and 25 per cent. of the favourable trade surplus achieved by manufacture as a whole. Exports increased threefold over the last four years. The industry also finances 75 per cent. of its new investment out of its own resources. For these reasons, and for these reasons only, the United Kingdom can hold its own in a highly competitive market. So I repeat: let us cherish such industries, and let us not obstruct them.

    This country and the EEC are not alone in legislating about dangerous substances, and it may be interesting to look at the experience in the United States. In 1976, the Toxic Substances Control Act was passed. It has been described as,

    "potentially the most important piece of legislation ever to affect the chemical industry".

    Briefly, the Act gives the Environmental Protection Agency the power to ban or restrict the use of chemicals to protect public health. Companies are required to give the EPA 90 days' advance notice, together with chemical descriptions, before a new chemical is marketed or an existing one put to a significant new use. The EPA could require testing of any suspect chemical for safety. The United States Government asked the chemical industry to co-operate in the drafting and the passage of this Act and this it willingly did. The fact that, in the event, the new Act went much further than the industry

    had hoped does not detract from this close co-operation; it underlines it.

    An expert assessment of this new American Act, which is now beginning to be implemented, is as follows. There are doubts whether the cost can be passed on to the consumer; testing will be very costly; there will be controversy about the scientific data obtained from such testing; delays in the introduction of new products will be long and the industry's growth in output and employment will be reduced. It is believed that the slower introduction of new products, the high cost of testing and the heavy legal and administrative burden will affect smaller companies much more than larger companies. Lastly, innovation will be reduced and more emphasis will be placed on R and D expenditure on existing processes and products. These are real warning lights and we should heed them now. I hope very much that the EEC will pay continuous attention to the American experience—not just to co-operation between the authorities and the industry, but to how the Act is working out in practice.

    May I now raise three specific points? There are of course many others, but I am sure that other speakers will wish to cover them. My first point is concerned with confidentiality. I support wholeheartedly the strong words in paragraph 23. "Disclosure" seems to be an "in-word" these days and, like most "in-words", the risks are easily lost sight of. Just consider, my Lords, the Green Paper on Company Reports. For far too long there has been a myth that United Kingdom companies give less information about their affairs than their competitors, especially in the United States. This is simply untrue. We really must make sure that a blind quest for more information, for the sake of information, does not simply give our competitors a lot of information which they would dearly like to have, and for which they might even be willing to pay money. And this ignores the large amount of time which is spent on producing such information. It cannot be too strongly emphasised that every piece of unnecessary information reduces the efficiency of any business. Turning to the report, my main concern is to wonder whether our very firm recommendations can be carried out in such a way that confidentiality is really fully respected. I have grave doubts about this.

    My second point is to underline paragraphs 21 and 22, regarding the tests proposed in the annex to the draft Directive. It is not simply a matter of cost, which is serious enough; it is also a matter of wasted skilled scientific manpower. We simply cannot afford to waste this. Lastly—my third point—I personally favour a cut-out point in terms of tonnage of production below which substances would not have to be notified. I am sorry that I could not persuade my colleagues on the Committee about this. In the view of the industry, the products that we are considering would, at most, require a minimum limit of 10 tons as a reasonable cut-out point; and may I here remind your Lordships that we are dealing with general chemicals and not, for example, with pharmaceuticals. As one witness said at paragraph 40, a reasonable cut-out point would not only reduce the administrative burden; it would actually provide a real advantage in control, from a safety point of view, because the chemicals could be distributed geographically and not confined to one location.

    What is the attitude of the European chemical industry to this draft Directive? The Chemical Industries Association has recently circulated a statement of the views of our European colleagues. Perhaps I may give your Lordships a brief précis of it.

    The European chemical industry is unanimous in its views on the following principles. Notification schemes should provide information only when marketing; notification does not constitute approval. The industry is opposed to notification before marketing. The definition of marketing is totally unsatisfactory and must be opposed. The view of the industry is that it is the responsibility of national Governments, not of the EEC, to introduce necessary legislation to protect workers in the workplace. There should be agreement between Member States on the contents of a basic dossier which should be sufficient to assess the primary risk of the product. The industry opposes the automatic transfer of the dossier to the Commission. Any central data bank of information should be limited to classification and safety data and should not contain the full dossier. The industry supports the concept of tonnage cut-offs for notification. The Directive should not restrict the use of chemical products. It is impossible for a primary producer of chemicals to notify all uses or new uses. It is solely for the industry, not for Governments or for the Commission, to make commercial or other arrangements for the exchange or transfer of information.

    Thus, the whole of the European chemical industry, not just the United Kingdom chemical industry, is highly critical of this draft Directive. May I urge the Government to do all that they can to stop Directives of this kind coming forward in this way? Not only do they tarnish the image of Brussels; they stand in the way of progressive industry.

    Perhaps I may end on a rather happier note. I understand that at a recent dinner of the Chemical Industries Association, Viscount Davignon, the Commissioner for Industry in the EEC, suggested that the Commission and the industry should work together more closely and that, if industry puts its case properly, the Commission would be responsible for ensuring that that case was fully taken into account. I hope, although I have great doubts, that this marks the beginning of better things. I beg to move.

    Moved, That this House takes note of the Twenty-ninth Report of last Session (HL 137) of the European Communities Committee on classification, packaging and labelling of Dangerous Substances (R/2203/76).—[ Lord Wall.]

    3.13 p.m.

    My Lords, I believe that the whole House owes a very great debt of gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Wall, who has just sat down after a masterly and detailed speech explaining the work of his Sub-Committee, which has produced the report that we are discussing this afternoon. For my part, I shall add to those who deserve a special mention the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, who was in the chair when the expert witnesses gave evidence. The noble Baroness found time to assist in the scrutiny of the various EEC measures in addition to her arduous duties on behalf of her Party, and we are very grateful to her for all that she has done. I am sure that all members of the Sub-Committee will echo my view. Also, we in the House generally are grateful for the work which is done by each and every sub-committee, as our colleagues in another place simply do not find time to examine the various Directives and regulations, as well as the amendments, in the same detail as is done when we consider how best EEC law can be harmonised with our own. This is one more essential duty of your Lordships' House and, I believe, of a strong second Chamber.

    The report that we are discussing this afternoon is admirably clear, and I believe that the House will agree with the Committee in the emphasis laid upon the various aspects of the amendment of this Directive—for the sixth time in 10 years. The classification of the various substances as toxic, harmful, corrosive and irritant is very detailed and clear, especially when these substances are being developed in new or potentially dangerous forms to man, animal and plant life as well as to the air and the earth.

    The labelling requirements seem to be a little detailed. As a layman consumer, I had some difficulty in imagining a label of 105 by 148 millimetres—I do not know whether your Lordships can visualise that as the size of the Dispatch Box or of these sheets of paper—on a package of not more than 10 litres, which is about two gallons, or thereby, as we call it in Scotland. Nevertheless, I believe that those sizes of label are acceptable and are fairly near to the standards which we find in everyday life.

    However, the meat of the report seems to lie in the proposals for notification to the competent authorities of the effects of new substances. I believe that this is absolutely essential, and, with two important provisos, it should not provide any obstacles to rapid progress in science. Certainly it is encouraging to note that, in paragraph 23, the Committee as we have already heard from the noble Lord, Lord Wall, stressed the need for confidentiality and secrecy to be respected. Those Members of your Lordships' House who were concerned with the Patents Act will know of the importance of respected confidence. It is very good to see the Committee lay stress on special areas of secrecy. Above all, the harmonious operation of EEC regulations and Directives depends upon rules being practical, and it is this that the Committee has noted. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Wall, should be congratulated upon emphasising this point.

    Also in paragraph 14, among the details laid down for labels and symbols, I especially noted that the committee of the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednall, wished to use, of all things, the St. Andrews cross as the sign for "harmful". I cannot see this measure becoming immensely popular in my own country. Indeed, I am astounded that there has not already been a storm of protest. Perhaps I should put that down to the fact that not many Scottish Peers sit on these EEC Sub-Committees, and in particular to Scottish Members of another place not being so vigilant as Members of your Lordships' House. However, I do not want to start anything today; I note it in passing as a point of interest.

    In paragraphs 15 and 16 it is encouraging to see that the amendment does not require too many new Committees to examine new scientific developments. Certainly we congratulate the Government on their desire to implement a number of minor amendments, purely on the grounds of practicality. To me, the opinion of the Committee is always the most important part of these reports, and this one is no exception. Paragraph 22 makes a special plea for a measure of flexibility in what substances have to be notified to the Commission and to the United Kingdom Government as detrimental. Also, the requirement to answer 60 or more questions on a minor development of scientific interest or improvement to any substance seems to me, as a pure layman, to be unduly onerous.

    Nevertheless, I return again without any hesitation to paragraph 23. This contains the main word which will dictate the success or otherwise of this amendment to the Directive, at least in practical terms. Confidentiality between industry or manufacturer and Government must be respected, and the Committee is to be thanked for its insistence on the three improvements to Article 7(3) of the Directive concerning secrecy. No company or industry need be or, indeed, should be prejudiced in any way by any Government measures. The noble Lord, Lord Wall, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, deserve our thanks for pointing this out and for stressing this aspect in the report.

    We come now to paragraph 24 and the symbols of hazards. How good it is to see the sense and strong feeling of the Committee superbly set down in the last three lines. Anything more misleading and troublesome than variations in warning labels is difficult to picture, but scenes come readily to our mind, in particular at this time, of large articulated vehicles overturning on a roadway or leaking their loads, and the rescue, fire or salvage services having to consult an EEC blue, green, red or black book in order to find the proper symbol denoting the dangerous substance in question and the particular remedy needed to clean up the road or eliminate the dangers to human, animal or plant life. Surely it cannot be the intention of the Commission to confuse us needlessly in this area of transport labelling, and particularly of dangerous substances which are going to cross our frontiers.

    I do not feel that the remainder of the opinion of the Committee requires further comment from me or from these Benches. Indeed, the opinion and its recommendations show continuing good sense in the area of imprecise definitions and also of the powers of control of both the Technical Progress Committee and the Commission itself. Paragraph 30 provides what I think is an excellent conclusion in seeking various amendments to the draft Directive, as they put it, in order to render it workable, and I wish to concur most strongly with that admirable sentiment.

    We are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wall, and to the Sub-Committee for the time, the skill and the effort that each Member devotes to the service of the House in scrutinising EEC regulations and Directives. Noble Lords who examined the report and others from the other EEC Sub-Committees will note that among the Members of the House who attend the meetings, and indeed every single debate on these subjects in your Lordships' House, is the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir. I know that she reads the reports of all our debates and proceedings most carefully each day. I believe the whole House would wish to join with me in sending our best wishes to her and we look forward to her wise counsel in your Lordships' House very soon.

    3.22 p.m.

    My Lords, after the very full speech made by my colleague on the Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Wall, there is little that I wish to add to what has already been said. Of course I should like to join with the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, in his tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir, and in the message that he wishes to send to her. She has been absolutely indefatigable in this work and I am sure it was beyond the call of duty that, whatever the subject being dealt with, she should sit in on all the Sub-Committees in the way in which she did. I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, for his most unnecessary thanks to myself; after all, mine is only the job which the chairman of the Sub-Committee is supposed to be doing.

    I should like to make one or two points of detail and one or two general points. As the noble Lord, Lord Wall, said, we did not get agreement in the Committee on the subject of the cut-off point. The noble Lord, Lord Wall, felt it was unreasonable to require notification of very small quantities of chemicals. However, in the Committee we did not feel that the additional argument that it was "only a little one" was really good enough when one was dealing with what might be extremely dangerous substances. Therefore we could not go along with that suggestion, while fully recognising that it could involve manufacturers in a great deal of expenditure and trouble, in both money and manpower, and that every possible way should be found to minimise such expenditure in money and manpower without running any unnecessary risks.

    The second point concerns the absurdity in the proposals for having symbols which are in fact different from those being used by the United Nations. I know there may well be an entirely admirable sense of European identity developing but we do not want a sort of European nationalism which wants to do things differently from countries elsewhere—certainly not when it comes to matters such as safety symbols. We have already had to alter the safety symbols being used by a number of companies in this country in order to conform with United Nations symbols, and if now we must have yet another change in order to conform with EEC symbols there will be two different sets of symbols in operation. That is absolutely absurd, and it is all the more absurd if the EEC is thinking up symbols which do not mean anything to the ordinary person.

    The point of using symbols instead of words—which, after all, have merits—is that they are supposed to be easily understood. If they are not easily understood it is difficult in any case to see the reason for having little pictures on labels. I would refer your Lordships' House to the evidence of the Consumers' Association containing some admirable research which showed that, among other things, only 24 per cent. of the people of whom they inquired got any message at all from a skull and crossbones. Why that is so, I do not know; but if a skull and crossbones does not mean anything then the EEC had better think again.

    To take a point of considerable substance, a Directive is, after all, not a regulation. A Directive is supposed to be an instrument which tells the Member States where they are supposed to arrive in terms of ultimate destination, but leaving it to them to bring about this desired result in terms of what is appropriate to their own country and their own legal framework in existing law practice. I ask the Government to give some consideration to this. I should have thought that when one was dealing with a question of this kind it would be appropriate for countries to work out the way in which they handle the method of arriving at safe notification and safe labelling. Of course there are certain matters which have to be uniform, but there are a great many things here which do not. Can we not take up in Brussels the issue of having Directives in much less detail for matters of this kind than this particular Directive which is almost reaching the point of absurdity in laying down with great precision everything that has to be done? Surely the whole point of a Directive as against a regulation is that it allows for national variations. If they wanted this amount of detail they should have had a regulation; but the idea of having a regulation on it is so apparently absurd that they would never have done it.

    I wish also to call your Lordships' attention once again to a point which has been made previously in this House and by other speakers concerned with EEC draft Directives: I refer to the excessively legalistic nature of many of the proposals which come before us. As will be found in the evidence submitted to us, it was apparent again and again that in this matter, which is patently a scientific subject as well as a legal subject, the input from the scientists was conspicuous by its absence and the Directive was being dominated by lawyers and administrators who, as one witness said bitterly, "never seem to have observed an animal"; it does not come from people with a scientific background and scientific training. We know that this is one of the problems in the EEC, and that it is excessively in the hands of lawyers. This kind of Directive reflects far too much the dominance of the lawyers who are, if I may say so with all humility in your Lordships' House, most excellent servants but jolly bad masters.

    3.28 p.m.

    My Lords, I should like to join with the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, on her chairmanship of Sub-Committee C and to thank the noble Lord, Lord Wall, for his introduction this afternoon. It has been an extraordinarily interesting and fascinating experience for me to serve on this Sub-Committee and to study so many interesting questions. I am only sorry that I shall not be able to take part in your Lordships' deliberation of our report on juvenile unemployment, which may be one of the most important reports to come before your Lordships' House in this year. Unfortunately, r shall be away. Nevertheless today's report is also of great importance.

    The problems of this present Directive seem to spring from a general problem concerned with the chemical industry which I should like to draw to the attention of your Lordships in this particular context. It came out vividly in the debates which we had in Sub-Committee C and the evidence taken from witnesses. Nowadays everybody is against pollution, and pollution is by no means an unambiguous concept. If you have a product which cures 999 people of cancer but it kills the thousandth person, the question is whether it is a good or a bad product. When you say it is a good product you call it a cure, and when it is a bad product you call it pollution. The question is where to draw the line.

    I was discussing this matter with a distinguished doctor, the dean of one of our major medical schools, and he pointed out that if the tests we apply to the chemical industry were applied to surgery not one single piece of surgery would take place in our hospitals today. One would not even go and have a leg set after a fracture because the risk of death is much above the risk of death which is possible if you take an aspirin or something of that kind. In other words, in the pollution debate—in which we all take part, and of course we are all against pollution—the whole focus of attention has been directed much more against chemicals, because they have been associated with things like thalidomide, rather than against the ordinary accidents of life which also by definition are pollution.

    I think that is extremely relevant to this series of draft Directives coming from Brussels, and I concur totally with the previous speakers in their animadversion against the Commission for producing such daft stuff for us to debate. In the first place, this particular Directive is so bureaucratic that it is almost unenforceable. It is absolutely inconceivable that the chemical industry could continue to function if it abided by this particular draft Directive; the Directive is so detailed that you not possibly abide by it if you were to continue to produce anything. Therefore, it is bound to be the case that if the Directive is followed anything going on in the chemical industry is going to be illegal. That, I submit, is an absurd position. In other words, the noble Baroness is completely fair in her view that this subject has been dominated, not by lawyers—I am very much in favour of our kind of lawyers—but by an excessive attention to detail in closing every conceivable loophole and not accepting the fact that life itself is subject to risks.

    Secondly, every time we try to make a product safe for the public, what we do is to add to the cost of manufacture. Nothing one does in life is safe. If you drive to this House you run the risk of having a fatal accident. If you travel on the Tube you run a very remote risk of having a fatal accident. The more you try to prevent every conceivable accident occurring the more you raise the cost to the people who provide the service. The question that arises is this: Does the Commission in Brussels wish to kill the chemical industry by making it impossible for the industry to produce anything under the sun? That is the net effect of all these draft Directives and regulations coming before your Lordships' House. I very much sympathise with what the noble Lord, Lord Wall, said in this particular context, and, if I may say so, with the extremely well written report of our Committee; it was written by an extremely competent clerk.

    The third thing which is crucial is that this draft Directive does not even succeed in doing what it seeks to do. I do not think the noble Baroness quite made the point as forcefully as she might have done. It is not only that what Brussels recommends is different from what the United Nations recommend with regard to safety; but it is exactly the opposite. If some illiterate person from some underdeveloped country is faced with a tanker overturned in the middle of a motorway, he cannot read or write "This is poison". If he looks at the sign in the United States it means, "For God's sake, do not touch it! Run as fast as you can". If he reads the sign which comes from Brussels it means, "It is quite all right; you can swim in it or drink it". I would submit this is the most absurd situation we have got ourselves into. I am sure this is not what the British people wanted when they voted by such an overwhelming majority to join the European Community.

    On the whole, I think, that this Directive, small as it may seem—but it has been subject to the most intense investigation by Sub-Committee C under the chairmanship of the noble Baroness—represents a drip in a cumulative process about the whole environment in Europe, where the Commission is totally wrong, and where on the whole the people of this country, particularly in the chemical industry, have a great deal more sound common sense and are in need of a great deal of defence from this House and from the other place.

    3.35 p.m.

    My Lords, it would appear that the chemical industry has certainly made its case this afternoon, but other interests are involved, too—the environment and human life as a whole. First of all, I would join sincerely with the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, in his tribute to the work of the Committee, and his very delicate reference to the fact that another Chamber does not appreciate the work which is put in here in Committees. It is possible that blind ignorance is at fault; we do not know. I have in previous debates paid my own personal tribute, and it is, as I have said on another occasion, an example of voluntary service. It is noteworthy in these days of sex discrimination legislation that the noble Baronesses in this House are certainly playing their full part in this particular Committee, as one sees if one reads the reports.

    My noble friend Lord Wall has made a number of points, and I thank him for introducing this debate. I am not sure that I am so happy about the number of difficult points he has put to me, but that is another story. So far as the chemical industry itself is concerned, there has been full and detailed consultation in the preparation of this Directive. Before I go any further I would draw the attention of the House to the fact that negotiations are still to proceed on amendment of this Directive, probably in a few months' time in Brussels; so in point of fact the story is not yet finished.

    So far as the question of notification is concerned, which my noble friend Lord Wall attacked in some detail, I would reply that a uniform system within the EEC for the notification of dangerous substances would help to eliminate barriers to trade which would result if manufacturers and importers had to meet the requirements of a variety of schemes adopted by individual Member States. In particular it would reduce the financial burden which would be placed on industry by different test requirements in Member States. So there is some case for harmonisation, but, of course, I would accept, for harmonisation on the right basis. So far as confidentiality is concerned, this, I accept, is vitally important. I shall refer to it a little later on. But it is a condition of this suggested sending of information on tests and so on to various Member countries that absolute secrecy should be involved. I accept that this is a point which may need further consideration.

    The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, made a number of very important points. She made one which had my immediate sympathy, that Directives be less detailed. Anyone who has attempted to wade through some of these documents will appreciate the need for some simplification. I can say with some certainty that my colleagues on the Government Front Bench fully support the suggestion that there should be fewer detailed Directives coming forward. This is a battle that we have got to face and a battle we shall continue to fight, to get something a little more simple and with less paper work involved. With regard to the noble Baroness's case about excessive legalistic nature of documents, while expressing some personal sympathy—I can understand her view that Directives should not be in excessive detail—I am advised that Directives are legal documents binding on Member States, and one must consider that on occasion they could be quoted before the courts. Therefore, clarity and simplicity are required. How one achieves this in a legal document I leave to other, more well-informed people.

    The Government welcome, generally, the decision of the Select Committee on the European Communities to recommend for debate this proposed 6th amendment to the 1967 Directive concerning the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous substances. There is much interest and concern, not only in the House but also in the country generally, about the safeguards necessary to ensure that dangerous chemicals are marketed and used safely.

    Particular concern exists over the development of new chemicals which may have adverse effects upon those using them or on the public at large. There is also considerable interest in the important role of the chemical industry as a major employer, exporter and innovator, with great potential for further improving the quality of life and standard of living. All these strands; the safety of workers and the public, the creation of wealth and jobs and the need for innovation, come together in this proposed Directive. We owe a debt to the Select Committee for their very careful and detailed examination of this complex and technically difficult subject and for drawing our attention to a number of important matters, some of which have been raised during the debate, and deserve the attention of the House.

    The original Directive was adopted in 1967, and was accepted by the United Kingdom on accession in 1973. A number of Amendments have been made since, most of them to detail only and, apart from a steady revision of the list of chemicals controlled, the Directive has remained largely unchanged over the past 10 years. The Directive as it currently stands, is concerned only with the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous substances. These labelling and packaging provisions are already in force in several Member States and are expected to be applied very shortly in the three new Member States. The Secretary of State for Employment and the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection have prepared draft regulations aimed at implementation and hope to make them before the end of the year.

    This new proposal, the sixth amendment, however, goes considerably beyond the existing provisions. Apart from some changes in detail—most of which I regard as an improvement—to the existing labelling provisions, it also introduces three completely new concepts and it is these which have aroused most interest.

    First, it introduces proposals for controlling the use to which chemicals can be put. I fully agree with the Select Committee that the wording of these proposals is very loose, but the intention is to create an enabling measure which will permit controls specific to each individual chemical to be imposed where limitations on use are thought appropriate. These controls could even include a complete ban.

    Secondly, it introduces the assessment of risks to the environment into a Directive which currently is concerned solely with direct risks to people. Thirdly, and perhaps most significantly, it introduces a notification scheme for new chemicals. Under this notification scheme the manufacturer or importer of a new chemical will be required to carry out a number of tests to assess the dangers which may be associated with his product and to submit a dossier containing this and other information to the authorities in each Member State and for subsequent notification to the Commission. It will perhaps be helpful if I deal with each of these areas separately.

    The labelling and packaging provisions, which are already in force, are designed to protect those using dangerous chemicals, either at work or in the home, by requiring suppliers to put them into properly designed containers which can withstand the normal rigours of handling and which bear a label warning users of the risks associated with the contents. The labels for a given substance are intended to be identical, except for obvious language differences, in all Member States since this will ease the marketing problems which manufacturers might otherwise have if each country had different labelling schemes.

    Although in the United Kingdom labels are prescribed in some limited areas notably under the Poisons Rules and the Pesticides Safety Precautions Scheme, hazard warning labels are not, at present, required for the great majority of dangerous chemicals. The Government very much welcomed the EEC labelling scheme on accession to the Community therefore, and are about to make the use of these labels mandatory on some 800 dangerous chemicals, most of which are in common use.

    This is the first step towards the introduction, through regulations based on further Directives, of a comprehensive labelling scheme covering all commonly used industrial and domestic chemicals. This present scheme represents a valuable and necessary measure of protection for those using dangerous chemicals and has generally commended itself to those in Government and elsewhere concerned with health and safety. In general I very much support this initiative by the Community and look forward to the benefit which will accrue through improved labelling standards.

    The Select Committee, quite rightly drew attention to the symbols used as a part of the label. Five items of information must be shown on the label. First, the name and address of the supplier; secondly, the name of the chemical; thirdly, one or more of a series of brightly coloured symbols; fourthly, one or more of a series of written phrases warning of the risks associated with the chemical; and finally, one or more of a series of safety phrases giving advice on suitable safety precautions which should be taken during use. This is a sensible arrangement.

    The purpose of the symbol is twofold; to give a primary warning of the major risk—that is, to warn that the chemical either is explosive or toxic or has some other dangerous property—and, by its distinctive colour and content, to draw attention to the written information on the rest of the label. These symbols are different from those now largely used in the transport of dangerous goods where the original European symbols used in this Directive, have been largely replaced by symbols based on those recommended by the United Nations.

    The two sets of symbols, however, are not greatly different, the major features of both systems being identical pictograms representing exploding bombs, flames or the traditional skull and crossbones and so forth. The shape of the label and colour used for the background, do however, differ. The European symbol is invariably on a square, orange background whereas the transport symbols are usually, but not always, diamond shaped and appear in a variety of colours—red, green, blue, orange, and white. I do not think that these differences matter greatly since any properly designed symbol will give a primary warning and attract attention, but it would clearly be sensible if the two systems could be aligned, both for the convenience of manufacturers and to aid recognition by users.

    I accept the criticism made by the Select Committee and agree that there may be a case for Europe to change over to United Nations symbols. During negotiations following accession, the United Kingdom tried to persuade our European partners of the advantages of standardisation. Unfortunately we did not succeed because of some difficulties associated with very small containers, such as those used for fine chemicals or some domestic products, where the United Nations symbols would be illegible.

    We did, however, succeed in having adopted into the Directive a provision which permits the use of a composite label combining the best features of both systems and which I know many British companies propose to use. The composite label will bear the United Nations transport symbol and the additional written information required by the European label. This is not quite as good as complete harmonisation but it is at least a step in the right direction.

    While accepting the criticism of the European symbol, therefore, we took the view that the advantages of European harmonisation and the general benefits of the labelling scheme outweigh this disadvantage and came to the conclusion that this warning label is such a considerable improvement upon the labelling standards currently used in the United Kingdom that it was better to have a less than perfect label rather than no label at all.

    Before I leave labelling I should like to reassure the Select Committee on one small but important point concerning the exemption in the Directive for small volumes. The Committee expressed concern that this exemption might weaken the Directive considerably. The requirement of Article 16, which has been in operation for 10 years without causing difficulty, is very tough—only the less dangerous categories of chemical are exempt and even then only if:
    "they [the containers] contain such small quantities that there is no danger to workers or others".
    That is a tough test and I can assure the House that United Kingdom legislation will be equally tough. Any manufacturer who saw that exemption as a loophole would find it a very tight squeeze.

    The purpose of this exemption is simply to prevent the occasional absurdity of putting a danger label on a quantity that poses no risk. It is important in any labelling scheme not to undermine the importance of the warning by crying wolf in circumstances where it is clearly unnecessary. I do not think that this provision will cause any difficulty in practice and as it is optional to Member States, I assure the House that if any difficulties do occur, we are free to take, and will take, any action necessary to prevent repetition.

    I should like to turn now to the proposals for the testing and notification of new chemicals. The notification scheme will impose a requirement for manufacturers and importers of new substances to carry out a series of tests before marketing to identify and evaluate hazards to man and the environment and to notify the results to the competent authority in the Member State. The information to be provided would include the identity of the substance, its physical and chemical properties, the results of toxicological and ecotoxicological studies, data on utilisation, including proposed uses, and estimated initial production levels.

    The competent authority, which in the United Kingdom will be the Health and Safety Executive, would examine the dossier of information provided for completeness and the adequacy of the tests and send a copy of the dossier with any comments to the Commission. The Commission would then pass extracts of the information to other Member States and maintain a catalogue of all substances notified. The Commission, through a technical progress committee, would be able to modify the details of the information required from notifiers and if necessary impose conditions in respect of the use of notified substances.

    The scheme is similar in essential respects to a notification scheme being prepared by the Health and Safety Executive in accordance with recommendations of the Robens Committee. The Government, therefore, fully support the broad aims of the scheme. However, there are some aspects of the proposals which are a cause for concern, several of which have been identified in the report by the Scrutiny Committee and discussed in this House today.

    We are concerned in particular that the scheme should not impose an unacceptable burden on scarce economic and manpower resources to an extent that it will inhibit the introduction of new chemicals which could be of great benefit but little risk to man or his environment.

    Ideally, perhaps every new substance should be tested and notified under the scheme, but the number of new substances discovered annually, most of which are produced in very small quantities, is so great that test laboratories worldwide could not cope either now or in the foreseeable future. Even if facilities existed to test every new substance discovered, the overall cost would be prohibitive. Screening tests must be adequate if they are to be worthwhile. If there is to be adequate testing some substances must be excluded.

    Under the sixth amendment it is proposed that substances for development, research and analysis should be excluded. This would exclude many substances produced in small quantities and substances used in circumstances where few persons are normally at risk. However, it would also exclude substances which might be produced for development in substantial quantities, and this could be considered to be a serious drawback.

    There are other drawbacks. The excluded categories would be difficult to define and would not necessarily be clearly identifiable by manufacturers who, once the substance passed out of their hands, might not even know its use. It would be difficult if not impossible to enforce exclusions of this kind on a consistent basis throughout the Community.

    The Government view, which is embodied in the proposals for the Health and Safety Commission Notification Scheme, is simply to exclude substance produced in small quantities regardless of their use. It is thought that the exclusion of new substances produced in quantities less than one tonne per annum or thereabouts would keep the number of notifications to more manageable levels and exclude only substances which, even if potentially dangerous, would in general be unlikely to put many persons at risk.

    A quantity threshold would be simpler to operate on a consistent basis. Such a threshold would not exclude the possibility of bringing additional substances within the scope of notification later should it be considered necessary. I should like to reassure the House that even if a new substance is outside the scope of the Directive, protection from risk for those at work and others who may be affected by work activity is provided in this country under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

    We have heard various views on the nature of the tests and the extent to which they should be carried out. They must be adequate to ensure identification of risks, but they must not make unacceptable demands on scarce resources and they should not involve the unnecessary use of animals. It is right that all these considerations should be taken into account when determining test requirements but it would be unreasonable to expect that the final result will satisfy all the divergent interests.

    We fully recognise the need to safeguard information of confidential commercial value and the extent to which it may be sent routinely to other Member States and to the Commission. Concern has been expressed about the possibility of a new substance being notified and renotified indefinitely. There will be a requirement for notification of increases in the quantities of a new substance being introduced and newly identified risks, but we must ensure that notifications are not required to be updated needlessly.

    The Scrutiny Committee has stressed the need to clarify and define more closely the powers which will be given to the Technical Progress Committee. They expressed particular concern over the powers in respect of adaptations to the Directive and to controls over the conditions of use of substances.

    So far as the control of use is concerned, there exists already a Directive for the control of marketing and use of dangerous substances through which controls can be introduced only by unanimous vote in Council. There is, therefore, no need for similar powers in the sixth amendment, and it is our view that all such powers should be exercised under the control of use Directive. As I have already indicated, industry have been widely consulted on the proposals in the sixth amendment and have been involved in the progress of negotiations. There is substantial agreement with the line that the Government are taking.

    To sum up, though I have referred to a number of points on which we have strong reservations, I hope I have also made it clear that we belive the Directive will be a significant step forward in protecting man and the environment. Our concern is to ensure that the amendment will be effective without incurring unnecessary costs or undermining the competitiveness of the chemical industry. I believe our partners in Europe are of a similar mind and I have no hesitation in recommending the proposals to the House. In conclusion, I do not apologise for the length of my speech this afternoon because this is a very vital and important matter, far more important than the preliminary consideration of even the Directive or the excellent report of the Committee would indicate.

    On Question, Motion agreed to.

    Ecc Forty-Ninth Report: Unit Pricing And Prescribed Quantities

    4 p.m.

    rose to move, That this House takes note of the Forty-ninth Report of last Session (HL 262) of the European Communities Committee on Unit Pricing and Prescribed Quantities (R/1277/77) and R/1945/76). The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have been asked by my colleagues on Sub-Committee D of your Lordships' Select Committee on the European Communities to introduce the report that is before you today. On the last occasion that I introduced one of the Sub-Committee's reports I had to apologise for the complexity of the subject matter. Today I must do so again, and I only hope that I shall not earn a reputation for being something of a "Eurobore".

    My Lords, I think everyone agrees that being able to compare prices easily is an important element in consumer protection. This helps the shopper; it also stimulates competition and thereby efficiency. Both the Directives that this report covers aim to increase the level of consumer protection within the Community and also to facilitate trade between the Members. However, their detailed provisions are quite distinct, though—whether by accident or design—they are in fact closely linked to one another.

    I should like to start with the Directive on prescribed quantities, which the Committee welcomes. A number of prepacked basic foods may by law be sold only in a particular range of sizes. These sizes are known as prescribed quantities. The system is simple and helpful to the consumer. If, for example, tea is always sold in certain pack sizes, the shopper can easily compare the prices of rival brands. In addition, because prescribed quantities come in mathematically simple ranges, it is easy to assess which is the cheapest size within any one brand. An 8oz. packet at 55p is cheaper than a 4 oz. one costing 30p. In this country ranges of prescribed quantities already exist for 36 different products, and I think it is fair to say that all concerned—consumers, retailers, manufacturers, and the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection—agree that the system is working well. This is not least because of the extensive consultations the Department holds with trade interests before establishing a new range.

    What the Directive sets out to do is to establish standard Community ranges of prescribed quantities for a wide variety of products. Goods packaged in these sizes will have to be accepted for sale in all Member States. Because, however, this is what is known as an optional Directive, individual States may also allow other sizes under national legislation. So, once the Directive has been adopted the situation will be thus. There will be prescribed quantities for an extensive range of products which can be freely sold throughout the Community. Additional sizes will be on sale within individual Member States. Of course, the Community quantities will come to predominate, since they will give manufacturers access to a much larger market throughout the Community. The optional nature of the Directive means, however, that manufacturers of national specialities which are not exported will not have to conform to Community standards, and I think this is to be welcomed. Another welcome point is the provision that Member States must continue to allow until the end of 1984 all sizes which they accept at the date of the adoption of the Directive. This means that packers will have plenty of time to adjust to the new ranges.

    As I have said, my Lords, the Committee welcomes this Directive and the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection's approach to it. As we heard in their evidence, they intend wherever possible to incorporate United Kingdom prescribed quantities into Community ranges. In those cases where this cannot be done, they will at least ensure that the United Kingdom range is consistent with the Community range. This will avoid extra cost and consumer confusion. There are a few technical problems, but we feel confident that these will be solved after consultations between the Department and representatives of the industry and the consumer.

    I am afraid that the second Directive—on unit pricing—presents far more problems and has met a far more critical reception from the Committee. Perhaps I might start by explaining exactly what unit pricing is. The principle behind it is that a consumer should know how much he is being asked to pay per unit—pound, litre or whatever—for a particular product. This will enable him to compare prices of rival products. Your Lordships will already have realised that this system protects the consumer in a very different way from prescribed quantities. In prescribed quantities, the packs are the same size or mathematically related sizes. In unit pricing, the packs need not be the same size. Instead, the price per unit of each package is shown. In this country, unit pricing is being introduced very slowly and to a restricted range of goods. The Department's main priorities have been goods sold loose—apples or herrings, to take two incompatible examples—and what are known as "catchweight" items. These are prepackaged products—cheese is one that immediately springs to mind—that by their nature are not normally made up in predetermined standard quantities.

    The Committee was greatly struck by the unanimity of opinion about unit pricing. Consumer organisations expressed everyone's view when they said that although unit pricing is an important aid to consumer protection, it is suitable only for products to which standard quantities are inapplicable. Your Lordships will realise why I lay such great stress on this unanimity of opinion when I say that the Directive calls for unit pricing across the board. A unit price will have to be shown for every single foodstuff sold by a retailer, not just on fruit and cheese and such like items but for every single packet, can and so forth.

    There is just one single and very significant exemption to this provision. This is goods sold in the ranges of prescribed quantities laid down by the other Directive we are discussing today. Your Lordships will now see why these two Directives are so intimately linked. As I have explained, the prescribed quantities Directive is optional. But this very optionality—which the Committee and the Department welcome and which is manifestly sensible—is made nugatory by the unit pricing Directive. Although national ranges of prescribed quantities additional to the Community ranges are permitted by one Directive, the other insists that they should be unit priced. In this way, manufacturers and consumers will be forced into accepting the Community ranges of prescribed quantities, like them or not. This is our chief objection to the unit pricing Directive.

    Those who gave evidence did, however, express many other objections. These we deal with in paragraph 23 of our report. I should like to mention some of them here, since although I believe that not all of them are well-founded, they should be made clear. Representatives of retail interests feared that shopkeepers would suffer if unit pricing is introduced. Large concerns—supermarket chains and the like—already unit price a wide range of "catchweight" items. This is mainly done automatically by machinery at only a marginal cost, but the extensions in unit pricing proposed in the Directive would go beyond the capability of machinery and involve additional labour costs for large companies as well as for small shopkeepers. Small shopkeepers, in particular, will have to unit by hand, an operation that is costly in terms of both staff and time.

    While most of this concern is entirely justifiable, there is some danger of exaggeration. The Directive does not require each individual item to be unit priced, only that the unit price be displayed prominently. This can be done by shelf labels, notices, posters or wall charts. A second fear was that costs to the consumer would increase if across-the-board unit pricing were adopted; evidence differed as to how much costs might increase, but all agreed that they would. The Committee also heard it suggested that, were manufacturers rather than retailers to mark a unit price, this would mean the de facto reintroduction of resale price maintenance. We were relieved to hear the Department's assurance that they are absolutely opposed to unit pricing by manufacturers.

    I fear I have spoken for too long already, but before I sit down I must emphasise once again the Committee's conclusions. The prescribed quantities Directive we welcome for its intention to increase both trade within the Community and consumer protection. On its own it is quite acceptable. What is not acceptable is that retailers and consumers should be forced into accepting it by another Directive—that is, the unit pricing Directive. There is certainly a strong case for legislating for unit pricing in some sections of the food industry. There is no case for insisting that all products be subjected to unit pricing. As we state in our concluding paragraph, number 25, the Commission should either have identified those goods for which unit pricing seems most desirable or those sections of the food industry which could practicably have been asked to unit price. Let the Commission establish these priorities; and let them then state their cost-relation to consumer protection, rather than overloading manufacturers, retailers and consumers, not to mention legislators, with excessively detailed and inflexible measures. My Lords, I beg to move.

    Moved, That this House takes note of the Forty-ninth Report of last Session (HL 262) of the European Communities Committee on Unit Pricing and Prescribed Quantities (R/1277/77 and R/1945/76).— ( Lord Sainsbury.)

    4.18 p.m.

    My Lords, your Lordships will wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, for the very clear way in which he introduced the report of his Sub-Committee, which deals with a matter—dare I say it?—which is somewhat complex to those who have not lived with it. Like the noble Lord, perhaps I may take the Directive on prescribed quantities first, and this is a matter on which I apprehend there will be no disagreement in this House, so I can take it very shortly.

    As the report implies, the retail sale of prepackaged goods in prescribed quantities could have beneficial effects from two points of view; first, as Lord Sainsbury pointed out, such would enable the buyer or shopper to make easier comparisons when weighing up the respective prices of one packet and another or even as between one weight or one size of packet and another, as the noble Lord pointed out. Secondly, evidence was given to the Sub-Committee that such a Directive would facilitate trade within the Community by removing national barriers to the sale of prepackaged goods which do not conform to national requirements.

    When I first read the report I wondered whether the effect of this legislation might be to hasten metrication on an otherwise unwilling British public, but having read it through I am satisfied and glad to say that the aim will be to pick prescribed quantities which will coincide with our own gradual proposed metrication; I see Lord Sainsbury nodding in assent, so I am comforted in that assertion. In any event, we shall have until the end of 1984 to phase in the new prescribed ranges.

    From the report of the Sub-Committee, it seems that the Directive was agreed and welcomed by almost everybody, except those whom I might call the "canned food" lobby. Apparently they held to the view that the Directive could be a barrier to some international trade because, for instance, the Americans, who have a huge internal domestic market, would not be too keen on tooling up a new range of can sizes to conform with the new ranges. I should have thought—and I imagine that this was also the conclusion of the Sub-Committee—that if the Americans want to send their tinned pineapple, or whatever it may be, to Europe, and particularly to the United Kingdom, they have until the end of 1984 to adjust their ideas and their machinery. If, then, they do not want to conform they need not send their pineapple, and no doubt some other place in the world market will supply it. As I understand it, this proposed Directive is welcome, and it can be implemented under the Weights and Measures Acts of 1963 and 1976 without further Act of Parliament, which is also a good thing.

    Turning to unit pricing, I should say that this is a matter about which everyone seems to be doubtful, and in many cases more than doubtful. The compulsory display of the selling price and the unit price on, or near, the goods in question and even—I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, mentioned this—on advertisements of such goods, will place a formidable duty upon the retailer or the purveyor of such goods, and the advertiser, and he may not be equipped to discharge such a duty. But, even if he is mentally equipped, if he has not got the machinery, it will certainly add to his costs. I am not being facetious, but let us for a moment conjure up a "Giles" type of "corner shoppe" with the little old lady behind the counter. It is difficult to see how she would be able to conform to such legislation. As is mentioned in paragraph 23 of the report, it would drive the old lady behind her counter into a form of resale price maintenance, because she would undoubtedly, and with some gratitude, accept whatever figures were put before her by the wholesaler.

    The report goes on to detail the various objections to unit pricing. For instance, it is said that the effect would be to pressure the food industry into adopting standard ranges of size, as opposed to prescribed quantities. Whatever the effect would be, I imagine that in the end the cost would come back to the consumer, because it would not be absorbed by the industry. As the noble Lord said, the Sub-Committee attached more weight to some of the arguments than it did to others. That is not surprising; nor is it surprising that it put most weight, I understand, upon the objections of the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection. The Department was against unit pricing, certainly in the way that the draft Directive recommends or prescribes, and this, I think, is logical. I imagine that its objections will also have been communicated to the noble Lord, Lord Oram, and we await with interest what he has to say to us.

    4.25 p.m.

    My Lords, from these Benches, I should like to contribute very briefly, support for the general idea of a standardisation in pricing. From the consumers' point of view, there is no doubt that it is at present often very difficult, in short periods of time, to make adequate comparison at all between goods offered for sale in terms of price. An advance towards standardisation cannot be other than helpful to the ordinary shopper who is involved directly in the activity of shopping. Furthermore, standardisation, in so far as it makes for extension of sales and improvement in trade, could have an ultimate effect of somewhat reducing prices, or at least slowing down price rises. So I believe that there can be no argument about the general idea here, as both noble Lords who have already spoken have said, and with this we entirely agree.

    However, I should like to go along very strongly in supporting the Committee, in that the prescribed quantity which we have developed considerably in this country, rather than unit pricing as such, seems to be a preferable way of aiding the consumer. I have been very much convinced by the arguments put forward by the noble Lord and by the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection to the effect that unit pricing could have a disadvantageous effect not on the large concern, which can be well organised to handle this, but on the small retailer. From the point of view of ordinary consumers, especially older people who like to shop at a small local shop, surely we have already gone rather too far in concentrating retail trade in the very big units and undermining the position of the corner shop which means something, and is very important, to a considerable number of people. I think that there can be no doubt that unit pricing will make life much more difficult for those shopkeepers, many of whom must be on the verge of abandoning their shops—as many already have—and for them this could well be the last straw.

    Whatever may be said about resisting resale price maintenance, surely it must mean that such people will rely upon the manufacturer to tell them what the price should be and to put the price on the goods to save them this trouble, and however we may oppose this, it is, in fact, what will happen. On these Benches we have always been extremely hostile to resale price maintenance. We were opposed to resale price maintenance long before either of the other two Parties, who have now seen the light, came round in favour of opposing resale price maintenance. It would be the greatest pity if, in small retail concerns, it were reintroduced by the back-door because they had to comply with the Directive. Surely our aim should be to see that the idea of prescribed quantities is adopted and applied far more widely, and that unit pricing is not regarded as the normal standard way of protecting the consumer, because if it is, it will almost undoubtedly have the adverse effects which have been suggested.

    4.28 p.m.

    My Lords, I want to thank my noble friend Lord Sainsbury very much for taking charge of the Sub-Committee, of which I was then chairman, and for taking on the responsibility for producing the report, which I regard as being very clear, as was my noble friend's speech. These two draft Directives which are reported upon are concerned entirely with the packaging and labelling of eatables, and it seemed appropriate that my noble friend, who is closely associated with a famous firm whose name is a by-word for purveying good food at a reasonable price, should be asked to give us the benefit of his great experience in helping the Sub-Committee to consider the effects which the draft Directives would have for producers, retailers and consumers. Perhaps it is because he knows so much about the inside of the food retailing business that my noble friend was more cautious than I would be in pressing the merits of across-the-board unit pricing. I see that there could be difficulties for small shopkeepers, although they tend to offer their goods in unit priced form. One has only to ask them; one has little opportunity to ask in a supermarket. I am not as convinced as he is on this subject; nor am I afraid of the bogey of the return of resale price maintenance.

    Across-the-board unit pricing would have the effect, as we say in the report, of pushing into prescribed quantities everything which can be pushed, and as a regular shopper I would say that I would be delighted if that were to happen. At the moment, even big stores do not unit price, when they easily could do so. I am continually infuriated by the apparent conspiracy on the part of manufacturers and retailers of food to prevent my making comparisons between prices of competing products by any means other than a slide rule or a pocket calculator. Once upon a time, when most goods were on sale loose, one bought by, say, the pound or the pint, at so much per pound or so much per pint. Everybody understood it; it was all clear and above board. But supermarket shopping is now the norm, and, although this has brought very large benefits in cheaper distribution and in increased choice, it has also caused the package to assume a very important role in influencing consumer choice. As much ingenuity—I sometimes think more—goes into designing the package as into making the food inside; and there is much opportunity, if not for actual deception then for not preventing confusion about quantity, or for not encouraging comparisons between unit prices of products.

    Where the packaging is not necessarily so important in competing for choice—such as where the handy little cuts of cheese of various kinds are wrapped and labelled for the customer—I believe there should be a positive requirement on the shopkeeper to tell you not only the weight and the variety but the price per pound or price per kilo of your 3¾ ounces, or whatever it is that you are buying. The shopkeeper knows the price per pound—otherwise, he would be unable to price it in the first place—so why can he not inform the shopper, if he has nothing to hide? So I wish both these Directives a fair wind, and I strongly support the principle of what they are trying to do. So far as the proposals may be practical, I hope the Government will go along with them and will, indeed, pursue them.

    There is one representation which was made to the Sub-Committee which I believe the Government should accept, and that is in respect of milk bottles. If the Directives go ahead without suitable derogation, then, if milk is in pints rather than in a metric measure, it will have to be unit priced. I am advised that for various reasons it is very difficult to unit price pint bottles. Since the price of milk in bottles is Government controlled and the pint bottle is an established and very familiar measure, I think there should be no need to require unit pricing here. On the other hand, when sold in any other kind of container, such as in wax cartons, which can be made to any size and which, indeed, are made to any size, and can be conveniently printed or labelled, I believe there is no case for derogation and that the milk should be unit priced. Whether by litre or by pint I do not think matters very much at the moment.

    4.34 p.m.

    My Lords, I should like to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, for so ably taking care of this report, studying these two Directives. I should also like, if I may, as a humble member of Sub-Committee D, to express my thanks and congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, for so ably chairing that Sub-Committee during all the time I have sat upon it. If I may say so, I think he has done the House very good service in that particular role, and I am sorry he is moving on and handing on his chairmanship to another. That does not mean to say that I agree one bit with what the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, has just said, but perhaps that will become clear as I speak.

    We are in a very difficult area with Directives. I find myself living with them a great deal now—and these are only two of them. Perhaps I might beg a little time of your Lordships in order to discuss Directives rather generally, and how they may perhaps be going during the next year or two—probably longer than that—as well as to encompass these two in particular. I shall, of course, concentrate on these two as my theme, but if your Lordships will allow me to expand at points I would be grateful. I feel that this is a very important point, and one which, it may be, deserves a debate in its own right; but perhaps one can think about that after this debate is over. I shall not keep your Lordships all that long.

    The important point that has come out about these Directives is that we have two: the prescribed quantities Directive, which is essentially written round preventing or getting rid of barriers to trade, as it says in the opening paragraph of the report; and the unit pricing Directive, as it has come to be known, which is under a different heading and perhaps might be described as a Directive for meeting consumers' wishes, which is a slightly different solution to the problem. I do not want to spend too much time on the unit pricing Directive, partly because I entirely agree with both the Committee and those noble Lords who have said they do not think it is really a runner. I do not think it is a runner for a variety of reasons, but the main one is that I think it will be very difficult to administer. Forgetting for the moment that it might, if implemented, put a great load on retailers, whether small or big—small, a lot of work; big, a lot of money—and that, if it does not do that, it will perhaps brush up against the resale price maintenance Acts of Parliament, I think that we shall find it very difficult to identify a lot of goods, because your Lordships will observe that it is suggested that all goods ought to be unit priced if they are not in prescribed quantities.

    In both cases the measurement on which we are concentrating is weight, and that really is relevant only to those articles of food the quality of which is best demonstrated by weight, if you come to think of it. In the report—I think it is in paragraph 22—we quote the case of a meringue as an example of a product for which unit pricing would be totally unsuited, and I think your Lordships will agree that a meringue certainly does not measure its quality by weight. There are a whole lot of other things which fall into that bracket, and there is a whole range of products which gradually work from the meringue, at one end of the scale, through the sponge cake, through the fruit cake and on to the biscuit. Perhaps at this point, my Lords, for those to whom I have not had occasion to do it, I should declare an interest as being director of the Cake and Biscuit Alliance, the trade association which looks after the cake and biscuit manufacturers.

    To return to this threat, these foods move imperceptibly along the scale, beginning with those in whose case weight is a measure; for example, a biscuit, though there are, of course, some biscuits which are probably better if they are light, like a cream cracker, than if they are heavy. Therefore, to use weight as the measurement by which these products effectively are judged for their quality—because what the consumers are interested in is whether they are getting good quality for their money—means that you must be very careful about what products you can put in prescribed quantities and what products it is worth unit pricing in the long run. So I believe that, in detail, this will be a very difficult problem.

    A very good example of this is the biscuit. Your Lordships will see in the list of products on page 13 for which we have prescribed quantities in this country that biscuits are included; but if you look at the prescribed quantities Directive you will find that biscuits are not included. The reason for this is that in this country we have managed to identify and define the biscuit satisfactorily to meet the desires of the customer, the consumer, and also the manufacturers; and also to be easily handleable by Government inspectors. But in Europe this is not the case. It has not yet proved possible to differentiate between a biscuit and flour confectionery, which is what we call cakes. Because of this imperceptible move of one product into another which is made basically of much the same substances, it is very difficult indeed to do so, except as a general practice in an individual country, as is the case here. I shall pursue that point later.

    Before doing so, it is perhaps worth mentioning that on page 13 of this report we have only 36 items listed—I think 35 of them are food items—which is not very many; and this notwithstanding efforts by Governments over the years to try to introduce prescribed quantities for all reasonable items. In the Appendix to the prescribed quantities Directive there is a roughly similar number of foodstuffs. In fact, they do not entirely overlap. In the prescribed quantities Directive there is a slightly different list from that on page 13 of the report; but broadly they are the same. About two-thirds of them are identical. This is because there is a very narrow limit within which it is practicable to identify goods which can usefully be declared under prescribed quantities.

    My Lords, it is unlikely that there will be very much more; so that the almost mythical thought which comes out of some of the evidence we received—that if we have unit pricing threatened at us (which is what the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, has said) we will "get weaving" and get a lot of prescribed quantity items in national legislation and in legislation on a Community basis—is, I am afraid, not going to be practicable. Even if it were, its desirability is questionable because so many of the products that might be added to the list are not best measured in their quality by weight.

    My Lords, may I come back? Surely what we are after is reducing the number of variables about which the shopper has to make a calculation in assessing the worth of an article. Take a luxury item like chocolates! We like to see chocolates sold in half pounds or pounds. That may have nothing to do with the quality of the chocolates but it has a great deal to do with the weight of the chocolates.

    My Lords, in fact, chocolates are on both lists. It is difficult to think of others. I think that perhaps what one was pursuing was the line that instead of having 36 items we might have 72 or 108; because there are many more food products than are listed in either of these documents.

    My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, puts his finger on another point; namely, that he is talking as though the prescribed quantities Directive is essentially one the primary object of which is in the interests of the consumers. That is not the case by its definition in the opening paragraph, because it comes under Article 100 of the Treaty which is "Freeing Barriers to Trade". If it is also beneficial to the consumer, well and good! But, if your Lordships will bear with me, it is the freeing of barriers to trade to which I wish to draw particular attention. Originally, we said that we are entering the Common Market. One does not hear much talk now of the Common Market. These days we talk about the Community. This is a good thing because it implies community spirit and getting together on a wider basis than merely plain marketing. But the fundamental of the Treaty of Rome is the Common Market. I believe that what we want to do is to try to aim at having a common trading system throughout this vast area to the benefit of all nine countries. That is the whole point, as I see it, of the Community.

    What you get, in fact, through these processes of trying to harmonise our various regulations in the form of these Directives, is not fewer barriers to trade but more. Take the fact that biscuits cannot be defined in European terms as a separate item and therefore are not in the relevant annex of the prescribed quantities Directive. This means that when (assuming for the moment that it goes through) the prescribed quantities Directive does go through, then biscuits will not be in it. I do not think there will be much threatening by unit pricing, for other reasons. But it will mean that the barrier to trade which now exists will continue to exist; and that barrier is that we have a regulation which says that biscuits must be sold in prescribed quantities from 1st January, 1978. So everybody else who wants to sell biscuits in this country will have to do the same thing; and we will have a barrier to trade. If we could get biscuits into this Directive, we should be freeing a barrier to trade.

    All too frequently, you find that when these Directives come along, a derogation is made—and the matter of derogation was mentioned earlier—to allow national rules to apply. It is quite a good truism that one country's derogation is a barrier to trade of another country's, or another eight countries.

    My Lords, this is why I say that this is becoming a very difficult problem. Our Sub-Committee considered a year or so ago the labelling Directive. We had a debate on it nine months ago. We would welcome this in all sorts of ways; but can we get agreement on the detail? No, we cannot. It is difficult. It is partially difficult because of different national attitudes and partially difficult because of different commodities really requiring special treatment in different ways. And every time you allow a special treatment, you put in another harrier to trade. All I would say at this point—because people are working on this and seeing whether or not they can find a solution to it; and now is not the time and place to go further into it—is to urge your Lordships to bear with the thought that Directives are not the panacea that they ought to be; that they are very difficult to work out. The unit pricing Directive certainly ought not to see the light of day and the prescribed quantities Directive is marginally satisfactory, but I would not be in the least surprised if it took much longer to come into effect than was being suggested earlier in the debate. My Lords, I hope that we shall be able to return to this question of harmonisation on a wider basis at a later time.

    4.50 p.m.

    My Lords, I am afraid that I added my name very late to speak in the debate and to make my contribution as the most junior Member of Sub-Committee D. Of course, I fully endorse the report and should like to add my thanks and congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, on condensing a very difficult subject to a very clear exposition.

    I want to emphasise a couple of points. The first is the most important: I believe, from experience of food manufacturing and retailing for some 30 years (though I have no commercial interest in that sphere today), that there is a straight choice before us as a result of these two Directives, and particularly the unit pricing Directive. Do we want to continue with the illegality in theory and in practice of retail price maintenance in this country, or do we want a broad application of Continental-style—or certainly it is the style of some Continental countries—unit pricing? I think it is a straight alternative.

    The reason I think that, is that my experience of Continental countries and of the task of packaging food within those countries tells me that manufacturers carry a very large part of the burden of unit pricing in those countries. The balance of the burden that is then left to retailers is a possibility. The balance of the problem that would be left to retailers in this country if the whole of the task of unit pricing were to fall on them is I believe an impossibility. I think this is a problem for large retailers as well as for small retailers and I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, mention the fact that costs to large retailers would increase. The actual evidence given to us in the report by the retail consortium says:
    "Unit pricing on the scale envisaged in this Directive would lead to increases in food prices as a result of the extra costs which would inevitably be incurred to implement the proposals. Apart from the fact that the proposals would be difficult to enforce and police, the application of unit pricing at retail level would impose a quite impossible burden on all retailers, especially bearing in mind the vast ranges of food now offered for sale".
    In the big supermarkets today we are probably dealing with over 10,000 individual items. Certainly, all grocery food shops have been dealing with thousands of items for a long time. It is a problem for all retailers, and the retail point is the only place where this can be done if resale price maintenance is not to creep back into practice again. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, suggested that the small shopkeeper might well choose to have his prices marked. From a manufacturer's point of view, the thought of marking some items for some retailers and not for others, would be a nightmare, particularly in the sphere of perishables.

    The second point—and the only other one I want to make—arises out of what my noble Chairman, Lord Raglan, said today. He suggested that it would be a good thing—if it is indeed true—if manufacturers were all pushed into packing a vastly increased range in prescribed quantities. There are practical limits to this. In this country, a great many products have grown into major demand over the years which have been packed up in numbers of portions which consumer research has shown to fit the needs of households of varying numbers. If one then adds the variability of trimming and packing—whether one takes the rind off bacon, the skin and bone off fish or the bone out of chops let alone whether one goes to the extent of part-cooking, which involves shrinkage—and if the benefits of some of these things are to be offered to housewives, a wide range of sizes is bound to result. It would be totally impracticable to meet these trends of modern demand, which have been pushed quite far in this country, by simply extending the prescribed quantities throughout nearly all food.

    My Lords, I end by saying that I do not think that is the way out. It means that we are left with a choice of slightly less than the perfect answer in both cases: we can either let the illegality of resale price maintenance in this country go unchecked—which I certainly join my colleagues on the Committee in hoping will not happen—or we can oppose this unit pricing Directive, which, if applied, I am quite clear would not be in the interests of consumers in this country.

    4.58 p.m.

    My Lords, I should like to join those noble Lords who have paid tribute to my noble friend Lord Sainsbury for the way in which he took the chair of Sub-Committee D which dealt with these matters, and for the way he has introduced this somewhat intricate subject to us this afternoon. He warned us that he might be qualifying as a Eurobore—I think he used that expression. He need not have apologised in advance, because although the subject matter is—as it is so often in the case of these EEC reports—technical and complex, we took joy in the clarity with which he introduced the subject, and I am sure we all appreciate that. When he was speaking of the boring material, I was reminded that I made my maiden speech in your Lordships' House on the emotional subject of metrication orders for dried fruits and edible fats. I did not feel that that was a great Parliamentary occasion. We pay genuine tribute to what my noble friend has done for us both in the past and now this afternoon.

    On behalf of the Government, I welcome this report as very timely and helpful. I earnestly commend it to the House. There has been so much unanimity in the debate and, indeed, in the evidence that was submitted to the Sub-Committee, that in stating the Government's position I inevitably will reiterate some of the points made by others who have spoken. I hope to do so briefly. It was only my noble friend Lord Raglan who introduced a somewhat different note from the general tenor of the debate. He produced the argument that across-the-board unit pricing would be acceptable because it would encourage the prescribed quantities for foodstuffs.

    However, I would urge him to consider that there are many food items which are not suitable for prescribed quantities and which under this Directive would need to be unit priced. It was the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, who used the example of the meringue as one item not suitable for this kind of treatment, and I notice that in this document before me there is a long list of other items which are unsuitable for prescribed quantity treatment. I am sure it would give your Lordships indigestion to hear them even read out in juxtaposition, but I notice that bicarbonate of soda is one of them, so that may be helpful. There are such things as cake decorations, salad cream, pease pudding, baby foods, blancmange powders and many other things, which would provide difficulties if the unit price Directive were to be adopted in the way that some have advocated.

    My Lords, may I ask my noble friend: why should bicarbonate of soda not be unit priced?

    My Lords, I am not briefed on every particular item in this fascinating list, but I shall think about that and perhaps discuss it privately. Since I referred just now to the interesting and helpful speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, may I make just one point regarding his favourite subject of biscuits? We should indeed like biscuits to be included in the Directive if it were possible, but I understand that technically it would be difficult on account of the difficulties of defining what is a biscuit. Possibly we could do that at a later date; but in the meantime it is right to control biscuits nationally, and the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, indicated that an order will be coming into effect on 1st January next year.

    If I may proceed to make a few points about the Government's position, probably I might preface them by saying that over the last decade a great deal has been said and written about the need for consumers to shop wisely and to have a proper basis for price comparison.

    In this country, we have a history going back now some 50 years of an increasingly wide range of important food items being required by law to be pre-packed only in prescribed quantities. This legal insistence on standard sizes of pre-packages has proved enormously successful in enabling the shopper to compare prices both between different products and different sizes.

    Your Lordships will have noted from the Committee's Report that United Kingdom interests have widely supported the Community's initiative in drawing up the draft Directive which deals with standard ranges of sizes for the free circulation of products within the Community. This draft Directive is based on optional harmonisation so it would leave Member State governments free to decide whether any additional sizes were needed for national purposes. The general effect is likely to be beneficial both to the consumers (since it would pave the way for a possible extension of prescribed quantity legislation in this country) and to manufacturers who will no longer have to bear the costs of additional production lines to serve their export markets. The Government are therefore anxious to see this proposed Directive brought to a successful conclusion and adopted as soon as possible.

    The concept of unit price marking—that is, giving the price per pound or per kilogram—is one to which we have long been accustomed, although it was not until the present Government took powers in Section 4 of the Prices Act 1974 that efforts were made to secure a uniform pattern of price display throughout Great Britain for important food items such as meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and cheese, whether weighed out in front of the customer or pre-packed in random quantities. The Government intend to complete their programme in these sectors as quickly as possible.

    To that extent, the draft Directive on unit pricing which is essentially concerned with the display of unit prices, is in line with the present thinking of the Government but, as has been pointed out by a number of speakers, the Commission's draft takes matters one stage further. It envisages unit pricing as the mandatory basis for price comparison for all foodstuffs, not simply those weighed out or pre-packed in random sizes. The only exemption envisaged is for pre-packed foods made up in sizes drawn from a Community range or, where none at present exists, from any national range for a particular product.

    My Lords, I will not disguise the fact that this approach raises implications which are of serious concern to the Government. A blanket requirement to indicate the unit price on all those fixed-weight pre-packages of foodstuffs for which no sizes are prescribed poses practical problems of worrying dimensions and, in the debate to which we have listened, a number of these difficulties have been very fully expressed.

    The main problem is the continuing extra burden this would place on retailers in calculating and re-calculating unit prices for many different pre-packaged products. Some of these are not sufficiently important even to feature very high on any consumer list of priorities for standardised packaging; quite indiscriminately, however, the unit price for each one would have to be worked out and constantly checked for accuracy and to ensure that the information was properly displayed. It can be argued that this could easily be done with mechanical or electronic labelling devices, but it must increase overheads even for multiple retailers, who frequently use such devices for pricing purposes. This will almost inevitably be reflected in prices charged to consumers.

    But the Government are even more concerned, as have been a number of noble Lords who have spoken, about the effect that the EEC proposals would have on the smaller retailer. Where it is agreed that unit pricing is really necessary in order to enable the shopper to make proper price comparisons, then the Government believe it is right that unit prices should have to be displayed in all types of shops. The indiscriminate application of unit pricing could, however, have a very serious effect on the future existence of the small shopkeeper. This cannot, as the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, mentioned, be in the interests of consumers. I feel certain that your Lordships will echo the Government's real concern that we should not add unnecessarily to the administrative burdens of the small shopkeeper.

    There is one further point of concern to the Government. Again, it is a point that has been made by one or two previous speakers, but it is worth reiterating. If retailers felt that they could not carry the burden of unit pricing for some products which were not readily amenable to standardised packaging, there is a danger that they would enlist the help of manufacturers in printing unit prices on their packs, which could lead to a form of resale price maintenance being introduced by the back door. The Government do not believe that this would be in the consumer's interest.

    Those are points which I thought it worth while stating clearly as the Government's point of view, in harmony with most of the points that have been made in the report, in the evidence that the Committee received and, I was glad to hear, in the views that have been expressed this afternoon. Therefore, I once again commend this Select Committee's Report to your Lordships, and assure you that the views that have been expressed on both Directives will be of considerable help to the Government in the forthcoming discussions in Brussels on these two matters.

    5.11 p.m.

    My Lords, may I thank all Members of your Lordships' House who have taken part in what has been a very useful debate on this rather complex issue. May I also associate myself, though I do not always agree with him, with our former chairman of Sub-Committee D, who has rendered both the Committee and the House great service during his term of office. I shall not detain your Lordships any longer as there is to be a further debate.

    On Question, Motion agreed to.

    The Police Force

    5.12 p.m.

    rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they propose to take to enhance and strengthen the position of the police force in our society, thereby preventing any further decline in its morale. The noble Earl said: My Lords, I believe that it is customary in your Lordships' House to declare a vested interest if it is in business I can only say that I have a vested interest in the police, because I have a son who is a Metropolitan policeman. Last week, in the home affairs debate, the affairs of the police were aired in a not inconsiderable manner. But in spite of this, I make no apologies for asking this Un-starred Question this afternoon as there are many matters still to be resolved.

    The problems of the police have, over the last few months, been very well publicised by the media. When I say "well", I do not necessarily mean in a truthful way, because often the publicity has been adverse or only one-sided. Alas!, my Lords, time forbids me to cover all the aspects of the police and I promise that I shall be as brief as I may. But before I go on, it might be of interest to your Lordships if I gave a very brief summary of what a month in the life of a Metropolitan police constable, with one year's service, is like.

    He has seven night duties, inclusive of weekends; he finishes his night duty at 6 a,m. and starts work the same day at 1.45 p.m.; he has seven late turn shifts from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. and seven early turns from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., working on bank holidays—the pay, I agree, is at double time, but there is no time off—and he is allowed one weekend and six days off a month. But all his duties are subject to change, including his weekly leave, and for this month's work he received before the 10 per cent. increase the princely sum of £148.78 net, which is about £38 a week. Somebody who is drawing National Assistance can draw £35 a week, and I do not decry the fact that he should draw that money—

    My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Earl. Is he including tax free rent allowances which are paid to the police?

    My Lords, I should have to search through my file to find the gross figure. Perhaps I may be forgiven for not doing that, but I can tell the noble Lord afterwards. All I am saying is that it does not seem very fair.

    The main problem that we have is that the police throughout England and Wales have an acute manpower shortage, and I think everybody in this Chamber, including the noble Lord, Lord Harris, could not fail to agree with me that possibly this shortage has been caused in the past largely by inadequate pay. However, the Police Federation have accepted the Government's offer of a 10 per cent. pay increase and an independent inquiry, to be conducted by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies, which will make possible discussion of the wider problems, of which there are still many, in a much calmer atmosphere. While I am on the subject of the Committee can the noble Lord tell us who are to be the other members?

    So that instead of the confrontation which we nearly had, which has lowered the morale of the police, I hope that we shall be able to find a constructive approach by all concerned towards lasting as well as satisfactory solutions. That does not mean that the problems are less acute, but the Edmund-Davies Committee gives us all a breathing space and the police now know that they were justified in their dissatisfaction, because there is to be this investigation. They also welcome the Government's assurance that the Committee's conclusions will be accepted.

    I ask Her Majesty's Government to bear in mind that, in spite of this, the Police Federation and its members have to take a great deal on trust, but they have, nevertheless, expressed their confidence in the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies. When this new inquiry was set up, the noble and learned Lord was already conducting an inquiry into negotiating machinery arrangements, and to this will now have to be added pay for the police and even the future of the Police Federation itself. This must be a very good thing, as any two without the third are useless, because all three points are very closely intertwined and connected. Therefore, as a layman I look forward to the Edmund-Davies Committee.

    The Committee has three major tasks: first, to find the correct pay level; secondly, to devise a new method of negotiating machinery so that the situation which has blown up in the last two years cannot recur; and, finally, to decide to what extent the Police Federation should operate on some form of union lines. At the risk of repeating one or two points which some noble Lords may know, and for the benefit of those who do not, for people who read Hansard, visitors and the Press, may I fill in very briefly some details of the grim background to the events which have led to the setting up of this court of inquiry?

    In January 1977, the police force of England and Wales was more than 8,500 below the authorised establishment of 117,000. In many forces, particularly in the Metropolitan Police where the deficit was 4,463 in January of this year, the authorised figures, alas! do not reflect the true requirements of the police. Last Wednesday the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, said that since 1974 the Metropolitan Police had made a net gain of 1,500. I do not disagree with his figure. I believe that his figure is right and that the deficit figure also is right, but either way the figures are still not good.

    The reason why the authorities which at the moment have serious manpower shortages see little point in increasing forces' establishments is that there is little prospect of recruiting up to the existing establishment levels. Today, there are not that many more police constables than there were 50 years ago, but 50 years ago there were annually 17,000 indictable crimes whereas today the figure exceeds 500,000. These figures do not include road traffic offences and the social problems of racial tension, nor the seasonal influx, particularly this year, of thousands upon thousands of tourists. The problems that we have in London occur in the other large cities of our country.

    May I therefore ask the Government whether they agree that since the war the manpower shortage has perhaps contributed more than anything else to the growth of crime and to the breakdown in the social structure of our urban life—because of the police forces' lack of ability, not lack of willingness, to maintain the necessary minimum standards of policing? Crime flourishes in direct relativity to the known ability of the police to meet the challenge. The detection rate today is about 40 per cent., so the criminal knows that the odds are heavily in his favour before he starts. Yet I am led to believe that the CID have had their overtime cut. On many occasions when he was Commissioner, Sir Robert Mark said that detection is the greatest single deterrent to the criminal. The police have new scientific equipment which is of great help, but it cannot turn the detection odds in favour of the police unless we have more men. It is the manpower shortage that stops preventive policing. Whole areas of our densely populated cities and of the country are very often without sight of a police constable on the beat.

    I believe that a new phrase has been coined by the police—fire brigade policing. It means that the police have to concentrate on reacting to incidents after they have happened, since they cannot prevent crime, as used to be their wont. It is admitted by them that very often in the case of housebreaking they do little more than go through the motions of attempting to discover the criminal. They all agree that the detectives are overworked and that the criminal investigation departments are undermanned. However, the dilemma which the chief officers face is that if they increase the detective strength the uniformed branches will suffer.

    In my humble opinion, therefore, the Edmund-Davies Committee should take particular account of a situation where manpower is so much below par that at the moment it is incapable of mounting an offensive against crime. It is true that we have had two relatively good recruiting years, but since January of this year the number of police in England and Wales has fallen by 586. This fall has been somewhat offset by the recruitment of women, but even in this era of anti-sexual discrimination the woman police constable's quality is not, alas! so high as that of a man.

    I assure women police constables that this is no attack upon them. It is simply accounted for by the fact that the average career of a woman police constable is three or four years, which is a much shorter time than that of her male colleague. Also, women police constables have limitations. For instance, if the police are summoned to a football match, violence is probable rather than possible. It is really not fair to send a woman police constable out on the beat alone. There are 12,000 assaults each year on the police, which is 1,000 a month or just over 33 per day, and the people who commit these assaults are no respecters of the fair sex. So in a way the problem has been increased by the influx of women at a time when it is difficult to attract men because of the low starting pay. There are almost twice as many women today in the police as there were three years ago. Another problem which has beset the police over the sexual discrimination legislation is that, because it was not anticipated, it was not recognised that one in four of the recruits of the future would be female.

    The last major independent examination of the police service was made between 1960 and 1962 by the Royal Commission under the late Sir Henry Willinck. When he conducted his inquiry there were 750,000 indictable offences in England and Wales. This year, the figure will not be far short of 2½ million. Thus, my Lords, we have a threefold increase in crime and yet the police force has risen by only about 45 per cent. The Willinck Commission made pay recommendations which were accepted both by the Government and by the police. At that time these recommendations led to a substantial increase in pay, and for a while everything in the garden seemed lovely. It is a pity that since then no new negotiating machinery has been set up for maintaining police standards.

    Besides all of these problems, the Edmund-Davies Committee will therefore have to consider the great change in society's attitude towards crime and the police. The 1976 criminal statistics show how violent our society has become. Briefly for the record, in 1960 there were 14,000 unlawful woundings; in 1976, there were 72,000. Rape offences have doubled. Robbery has risen from 2,000 to 9,000, and breaking offences, which amounted to 150,000, amount now to more than 500,000. These are the signs, the portents that threaten the health and safety of our citizens and their homes. If somebody had forecast in 1960 that in the mid-1970s we should have a threefold increase in crime he would have been called an alarmist. If this trend continues, what will be the position in 1990?

    It is true that the size of the police force has increased, but it has not increased enough. What is perhaps not generally known are the efforts made by the police to be more effective. Today they have personal radios. However, today's beat officer with a radio has two to three times the number of incidents to deal with than in 1960. It is true that the police have more cars, non-police personnel, traffic wardens and clerical help. Therefore I hope very sincerely that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies, will recognise the full co-operation that the police have shown in improving their working methods and that he will thereby evaluate the added duties and responsibilities that they have faced since 1960.

    Today there is so much talk of productivity and of productivity deals in all other spheres of industry. Surely the police are entitled to some recognition and tangible reward for their past co-operation and for their efforts to use very limited resources towards maximum efficiency and productivity. No, my Lords, I believe that the root of the widespread feeling of dissatisfaction lies in the fact that in the past the Government, and authority in general, have been rather indifferent, or have given the impression of indifference towards the feelings of the police. It does not help for Ministers to line up with pickets. It does nothing to ameliorate the justifiable feeling that the police have; all it does, if anything, is to increase it and to make matters worse. Furthermore, I think it was in June this year that the compensation to a police constable for criminal injuries, which used to start at £50, was increased to £150. So to take a simple example, if a police constable goes to a football match or a demonstration and has his nose broken, unless it costs £150 to mend he gets no compensation.

    The Edmund-Davies Committee has to be taken on trust by the police. Can the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, say when the report will be made public? Further, can the noble Lord promise that there may be an interim report on pay whereby, when this comes through, regulations can be laid before the House immediately and that any recommendations will be made retrospective to 1st September? Would it be too much to hope that the Edmund-Davies Committee will not turn the Police Federation into a union, thereby not giving the police the right to strike?—because, should this be the case, should we not bear in mind that, other than, I believe, the Armed Services, anybody who works for the United Kingdom Government has both the right to join a union and the right to strike? If the police force does not have these rights, does it not make them a special case?

    Lastly, can the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, not agree that it is a statutory duty laid down by Parliament that the Home Secretary and local authorities have to maintain an adequate and efficient police force, and therefore would not the noble Lord further agree that the Home Secretary and local authorities should fulfil their duties?

    5.33 p.m.

    My Lords, as the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, said, during the debate on the gracious Speech last week we had a debate on home affairs and there was quite a lot of talk on the question of law and order, during which a small amount of time was devoted to the police force. Nevertheless, we welcome this further opportunity to debate the whole question. I was particularly careful to look at the Unstarred Question and its precise wording because I think it is important to our deliberations. In fact, it says:

    "To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they propose to take to enhance and strengthen the position of the police force in our society, thereby preventing any further decline in its morale".
    One immediately sees that the form of the Question implies that there is room for improvement so far as the morale of the police force is concerned. That is not a facetious remark, but I think that when one comes to talk about morale one must differentiate between various different police forces; one must differentiate between New Scotland Yard—the Metropolitan Police—and the provincial forces, and above all, one must differentiate between outer forces in the Provinces and, for instance, the police in Scotland. I do not think any consideration of this nature is valuable unless one makes such differentiation.

    A short time ago I had occasion to go on a very long journey by aeroplane and I bought a paperback called The Fall of Scotland Yard. I was so taken with it—not that it was a particularly well written book—that I read it all the way from London Airport to Tokyo, except at such moments when I was being plied with food and drink. I got no pleasure from reading it because so many of the matters contained in it occasioned me great sadness. I should have said that the book dealt with the recent corruption trials of the officers in New Scotland Yard: how they came about and how the trials were conducted. From my days of prosecuting for Scotland Yard I personally knew quite a number of the officers involved, and the book made a journey which was very interesting but brought no joy. The authors had their point to make and they made it fairly, but, putting that aside, it is amazing to me that what they have had to contend with has not resulted in the morale of the police officers being lower.

    This brings me to my first point: that anything that the Government are able to do to improve the morale, any encouragement that the Government can give to the new Commissioner, Mr. McNee, to make the necessary adjustments and improvements, must be something to which they give the greatest priority and they must give Mr. McNee the greatest encouragement. Unless and until Scotland Yard, and more especially the detective officers and the criminal detection branches of it, can reassert a pride in themselves and what they are doing I do not think we can expect an increase in morale.

    If I say that the speech made by the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, was typical of a father who has a young officer in the force I hope he will not take that as being insulting. Quite obviously he is a young man who works hard and gets a pay packet of £38 a week—and let us face it, we can talk about gross pay and about allowances, but 38 is the number of greasy notes that this young man unwraps. That is what it means to him. Quite obviously the deliberations and conclusions of the Edmund-Davies Committee, and their implementation, play a very important part. I concede that at once, and I join with the noble Earl in the questions which he has put to the Government about this Committee. But if I may say so, if one is talking about the morale of the police it is letting the Government and the noble Lord, Lord Harris, off the hook much too easily merely to talk about the Edmund-Davies report, when it comes. It will be said that the Committee has been set up, that it will report with as much despatch as it can muster, that from the distinguished people who are already appointed or who will be appointed as soon as possible the Government have no doubt that the report will be fair and conclusive, and the Government have no hesitation in saying that they will implement the report at such time as it is economically and socially possible to do so. I think I have probably anticipated the noble Lord's brief—and I see him grinning.

    The morale of the police, or the lack of it, owes a lot to other considerations, some of which the Government are responsible for, some of which they are in no position to influence and there are some where I think they can help. On the question of pay we all agree that certain parts of the police force are undermanned. I think we all agree that the police force is underpaid. I think we all agree that the time should come when the pay of the police force will be so raised that they realise and feel that they are an élite organisation and that any deviation from strict standards of conduct and propriety will ensure their speedy dismissal, so that they feel they have a pride in their position and in their duties.

    But of course pay goes much further than that. Because we have had equality of pay increases for so long eventually the time is going to come when the Government are going to have to regard the police as a special case. They will have to say to us and to the community in this country, "If we want the police force which we deserve we will have to make them a special case". It really does not matter what the national finances are; they will have to be paid sufficient. That will demand leadership eventually on the part of the Government.

    Secondly—and this is a much deeper point—I think the police have to be viewed by the Government in a rather different way from the way they have been viewed up till now. The police force does not have any elitist element in it; there is no officer class. There is no way in which somebody with a degree can march into a police station and come out as some sort of officer cadet. I am not for one moment advocating that there should be any return to the situation which obtained in the 1930s, but I think the Government must in some way reward people who work very hard and improve themselves so much they that carry out a far more responsible role than the ordinary constable on the beat. I am thinking for instance, of officers who go into the fraud squad. I was amazed by the fact that they, having had no specialist training, no degree, no qualification in accountancy or even in financial matters, were able to unravel the most complicated long-term frauds perpetrated by some really very talented but dishonest gentlemen who carry on business. As prosecuting counsel, or even as defending counsel for that matter, I personally found them very difficult to unravel, usually even with a report from the Fraud Squad concerned. How much more difficult for some of these young men who have not got the education but simply pick it up.

    May I say this,—and it is not really for the noble Lord, Lord Harris. There is a deplorable lack of officers in Scotland with the necessary qualifications so far as their Fraud Squad is concerned. If somebody would like to write to me about that I should be very grateful, because great fears have been expressed to me that persons engaged in such activities as long-term frauds are getting away with it in Glasgow and other places because there is nobody to investigate the offences. I think that is one area where the Government have to give leadership. They have to take on a new concept, a new thinking, so far as the role of the police is concerned; the police have to be paid and organised appropriately.

    Then, the police have got to be provided with a proper back-up, and this is a matter where I can congratulate the Government mildly on having to some degree, quite recently restored the civilian back-up. It was a really painful matter to go into a police station in the old days and see officers who towards the end of their tour of duty had arrested people—drunks, flashers, all the sorts of people who appear in court before the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, sitting opposite—typing out their reports and witness statements with two fingers on an antiquated typewriter. We must not ever get back to that unfortunate and quite unnecessary state of affairs.

    There is now, too, great technology which can help the police, although it poses some formidable problems. In my part of the world every household and every motor car is on a computer, so that a member of the police force with a personal radio can identify any motor car which is seen within a matter of seconds. I think we are the first police force to have this, because geographically, and so far as population was concerned, it was convenient. It certainly brought a smile to the face of our local chief constable—to whose courage in taking the place of a hostage, if it is not out of order, I should like to pay public tribute. I am being a little philosophical about this. The whole question of electronic aids to the police poses some formidable questions as to the liberty and privacy of the individual. The provision of these new techniques and equipment poses questions which, I suggest, the Government must ponder over and debate, I hope, publicly—and this is particularly suitable, I suggest, to your Lordships' House.

    I do not want to take up too much time. Thirdly, we come to what I call the legal atmosphere. It is impossible for the police to establish among themselves price in their job, high morale, and desire to serve the public, if the rule of law and the legal system are not conducive to such an increase in their morale. The noble Earl has already touched on this. The police are above all employed to carry out the rules as laid down by Parliament or the common law. If we are going to have demonstrations, it cannot be right that persons who are supposed to be in high places and in positions of authority should apparently lend their presence and their encouragement to those who, quite flagrantly, are breaking the law. This is a matter of leadership and discipline for the Government. Of course nobody wishes to restrict the right of the ordinary citizen to demonstrate in a lawful way or to do anything which he has a lawful right to do. But the Government must, I suggest, be able to say to the whole community, "We are 100 per cent. behind the police in carrying out the rule of law". There has, I fear, been an air of equivocal vagueness on the part of the Government about this. I am trying to be as polite as I can; I could say it a great deal more firmly. I think it is something the Home Office should consider.

    Then we come, finally, to the legal system we have in this country. At the moment I think the temptation to young detective officers is to cut corners, to give their evidence in a way which will ensure a conviction, and occasionally—one has to face it—to ensure that their evidence is tailored so that they do get a conviction. We have had various debates on standards of proof and so on, and I think it is probably the feeling among your Lordships that those who are accused of crimes probably stand about right so far as the bench of magistrates or jury is concerned.

    There will be those who say that too many accused persons get off, if I may use the expression, and that the scales of justice are weighted too heavily in favour of the defendant. I have no doubt there will be some who say that quite the opposite is the case and that the prosecution has everything in its favour. All I say is that I think the revision committee concerned with criminal procedure should and I suggest it must, continue to work and to think of improvements to criminal procedure which will not tilt the balance unfavourably one way or the other, but which will perhaps, as Sir Robert Mark implied in one of his lectures, enable the truth to come out rather better, which is really what a court is for.

    I also feel very strongly that the morale of the police would be improved if they were not, in effect, the prosecuting agents. I shall not say that this is a hobby horse, but it is something about which I know the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, feels strongly. I, in my humble way, have had experience of both the English system of justice and that which obtains in Scotland, where we have the procurator fiscal. The Scottish system is very successful. I do not want to go into the merits of the system except to say that although we in Scotland think that there is a considerable advantage in the police not being responsible for whether a prosecution should be initiated, and not even in the position of being able to urge a prosecution on the procurator fiscal, it would, I suppose, be a tremendous upheaval if our system of law in England were to be adapted to make the necessary changes. However, I believe that something along those lines should be considered by the Government. Indeed, perhaps one day a committee may examine yet another point and take this one on board as well.

    One matter of which I am certain is that the crime statistics are frightening. The only way in which people will be deterred from crime is the certainty of detection, conviction and, in the appropriate case, punishment. The first part of the process is detection. If we want criminals detected, we must do everything we can to help our police force, and that includes some of the matters that I have been urging on the Government tonight.

    5.52 p.m.

    My Lords, I am sure that we are all deeply grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, for introducing this Question this evening and for doing so in such a splendidly informative manner. I am happy to follow the noble Earl and agree with almost everything he said, which is probably a unique experience for me and perhaps one which I shall continue to enjoy throughout the term of this new Session.

    I have no vested interest to declare other than that, during 20 years as a magistrate, I have had an increasing admiration for the work of the police and, in a rather unique way, I have seen them as ordinary citizens because I live next-door to a police house. During the 15 years that I have been in the area, that house has been occupied by four different groups drawn from different levels of the police force, all of whom, including their wives and their children, have been splendid neighbours. Surely they could not have been hand picked for me! However, they represent to me the kind of people about whom we are talking tonight.

    I am glad that the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, emphasised that we are dealing with rather more than the narrow issue of pay. One of the great opportunities that your Lordships' House enjoys is that we can constantly bring to the Government's attention matters which might otherwise be left lying fallow. I like a passage which appeared in the Daily Telegraph during October, because I believe that it describes what we are discussing this evening. It says:
    "The truth is that in a free society the law can be efficiently enforced only when the vast majority of people not only habitually obey it, but are willing to do all they can to ensure that it is not successfully defied by others".
    In other words, the number of police or enforcement officers assumes that we have more people who keep the law than break it. However, the picture as presented by both previous speakers is not very pleasant and must be set against the Question raised this evening.

    During the debate on the Queen's Speech I drew attention to the fact that an indictable crime was committed every minute of every day and night. I am now given to understand that that was a conservative estimate and that, in fact, the figures are higher. If we consider some other areas which must be dealt with within law enforcement we learn from the reliable source of the Automobile Association that last year £50 million was lost through car tax evasion. I once walked out of the court at Great Marlborough Street and observed that of 12 cars parked immediately outside the court, seven had licences that were out of date; in other words, the police just do not have time to deal with these matters.

    Crimes involving shotguns have risen by a half in one year. That is a gloomy picture, one which I could continue to present, but I do not wish to cover any ground which has already been covered. However, now that I am concerned in a campaign to try to prevent theft in shops, I have become involved in research more specifically into crimes against property. To those who say that crime does not pay, it is interesting to note that, in 1976, £148 million worth was stolen and £26 million worth was recovered. Therefore, for that year the gross criminal earnings were £122 million. It is also interesting to note that the group of workers whom we are discussing could probably not amass such an amount as their earnings for one year. Who stands between the kind of crimes that are committed, the potential victim and the offender? Quite categorically, it is the best police force in the world.

    I am bound to say that I was rather glad to learn that when some of our football enthusiasts went to the Continent they experienced another police force which is not exactly known for its gentle handling. Our police force is not paramilitary; nevertheless it is highly disciplined and highly efficient. It is subjected to constant insults, often from people who should know better, as well as threats and even violence. I hope that most of your Lordships saw the copy of Police which was included with the House magazine and which showed pictures of some of the terrible violence which has been perpetrated against the police in recent months. More than that, the police have the permanent role of " holding the peace "—that phrase is not used very often, but historically that was the description of the police—" according to the laws of the land Every time we in this House introduce another law—and we are extraordinarily good at that—we place yet further duties upon fewer and fewer enforcement officers.

    I know that the Minister will disagree with any figures that I produce, so I have chosen to put forward only one. He disagrees very gently: he merely nods his head, but he does so the wrong way ! Last year in July—I believe the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, quoted this figure, which I have checked and re-checked—the Metropolitan Police were 4,329 officers short. I shall leave the matter there.

    Why are they short? Of course, we can start with pay. We can argue about gross pay, take-home pay, police houses and so on. However, along with many of your Lordships, I listened to the police wives on the radio. Who knows better than a wife the situation of the pay packet? Some who come to the domestic court do not even know where their husbands work, but most wives know what their husbands earn. We heard from splendid young women who, your Lordships may remember, broke all records by demonstrating, which was almost unknown. One woman said that her husband collected the princely sum of £49 a week. There was none that made reference to the £70 a week which has been suggested.

    I point out in passing—and I should like an answer to this—that, I understand it, the 10 per cent. which is now bandied about as almost sacrosanct, is not a legal requirement but one which the Government have rather pulled out of the air—like Jack Jones suggests, a pension. In other words, we are not tied to 10 per cent.; it is a voluntary matter between those who are employed and the Government of the day.

    Next, we have hours of work. It seems perfectly reasonable to consider this aspect. I wonder that police marriages survive when one considers the number of hours that a policeman has to put in—unsocial hours which, I suggest, no one, except probably nursing staff and possibly ambulance drivers—I have one in my family—also work. I understand that at one stage the cadets were to be cut. I do not know whether the Government have changed their mind on that, but at the same time the cadets were asked to take part in a school leavers' programme. There seems to be a slight contradiction there which can perhaps be ironed out.

    I turn to another point which has not so far been mentioned but which is very important. When I was young certain groups of workers were looked up to as the aristocrats of the system. As I recall, bus drivers were one. One had to be of a very high standard medically and mentally to be a bus driver, and it was murmured, "They have very good pay". Police were also looked up to, not only for the position they occupied in society but because they were regarded as being reasonably well paid and, magic of magic, they had a good pension—something that was very much envied and sought after by most workers.

    What has actually happened? Pensions, which were originally good, have not kept pace with the other schemes that have been introduced. What was a good scheme before 1948 now appears to be a dear one and not as good as some others. I have received a copy of a letter from a policeman. I shall not read it all but I think it tells the story better than I can. He says:
    "Since receiving the last increment [to his pay] my only incentive was the prospect of my pension on retirement. Only now as the day seems to approach am I beginning to enquire and find out the rewards to be received. Fortunately, I am able to retire after 25 years' service and receive a pension equal to half my pay, of which I can commute one-sixth. On the other hand, officers who joined after 1961, after completing 25 years' service, will have to wait until the age of 50 before they are able to receive their pension".
    He concludes:
    "The incentive of a pension on retirement becomes less of an attraction to serve your time or, in fact, even to join the force".
    Therefore, we have to look not only at pay, but at hours, conditions and pensions. Just as people vote with their feet, so the police, who have shown great dignity in this present difficult situation and who have not exercised the right to strike—or, indeed, to go further, claimed it—have moved over to other jobs. We cannot afford that. I beg Her Majesty's Government to respect a group in the community whose only way of voicing its claim is through a Question of this kind. If this does not achieve the object, then many of us in your Lordships' House will return again and again to plead the case for this group.

    6.4 p.m.

    My Lords, it cannot be very often that we in this House debate matters bearing on the police twice in one week. However, I do not think it is a bad thing because the matters we have debated this evening and which we debated last week affect everyone in the country, not just policemen. If much police work is highly confidential, the police tend to be too much of a closed world. I submit it is a good thing that we should know rather more about them and about their world.

    Last week when we debated home affairs, law and order were pushed into second place by devolution. I believe I am right in saying that my speech was the only one about police and, in particular, about preventive policing from beginning to end. In his closing remarks the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich—who is nodding—welcomed my enthusiasm, for which I thank him. He said much about policing, but he did not say a single word or make any comment about what I was trying to say, which is that in the years ahead we must concentrate much more on preventive policing. However, I shall resist the temptation to make the same speech again this afternoon in the hope that I might be able to draw from him at least a comment or two about it.

    I am very glad to have followed the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, and I think I can say that I agree with all she said. The noble Baroness followed me last week and at the beginning of her speech I think she implied that she agreed with all I said. That seems to be a happy situation.

    I do not think that the morale in the police force, which is really the essence of this debate, is governed simply by numbers, which are bound to be referred to many times in a debate such as this. There are also the questions of leadership and quality. It is about leadership in the police and the ladder of advancement from first enrolment as a police constable to the rank of chief constable that I want to speak in the few minutes available to me this evening. In particular, I want to speak about the trouble taken over the selection for the special course — which, in ordinary language, is a junior staff course—with appointment to assistant chief constable or chief constable. I submit that all this has a bearing on recruiting.

    First, however, I want to say a few words about the formality on joining. This, again, is an important factor when we look at recruiting. We must consider the responsibility which a PC or a WPC, no matter how junior, bears at all times. In my submission, the swearing—in ceremony should be carried out simply and with appropriate formality. Many PCs and WPCs are very young indeed. Some will have had very little experience of formal occasions or the opportunity to shoulder responsibility, and the occasion of swearing-in should, I hope, be something to be remembered and contribute much to a young man's morale.

    It is best done in court, singly, proudly wearing a new uniform, with the magistrate having been warned beforehand that this will happen so that he or she can prepare a few friendly words. It may mainly be done in that way in the country, but that is not always the case. I have heard of another method, which I take as very slipshod, where the appropriate officers at police headquarters ring up a magistrate, who may have an office nearby and take the one, two or three newly joined with them, either in uniform or not, and let them take the oath in the magistrate's private office. Again, some noble Lords will have seen an official film of the Metropolitan Police which was shown on the BBC not so long ago. In it the 30 or so newly joined were marshalled together in plain clothes in a classroom and then at a signal they all picked up a board which had the oath printed on it and recited the oath together. I do not want to be unduly unkind, but I was reminded more of a choir practice and the first rehearsal of a piece of music which none of them had seen before. We need not remind ourselves, because we know, that Members of Parliament and Members of your Lordships' House renew their Oath every Parliament and try to do so with dignity.

    I should now like to contrast the extended interview procedure, which chooses the cream of the younger members of the force to attend the junior staff course, with the later selection for higher office, to which I shall refer in a minute. I have had the privilege of attending the extended interview procedure as a visitor, and a great privilege it is. About 48 hours are spent on doing written work, discussion and holding separate interviews by the lay and service members. The best candidates whom I saw during my weekend with such an interview board were very good indeed, but there were not enough of the really good—the quality tailed away. That is a sign that the police are failing to recruit, or else, having recruited, are failing to keep a fair proportion of the very ablest young men whom they must have if in due course they are worthily to fill the higher ranks and to command the respect that we all want to pay them. I am told that the position with women is slightly easier, but, as has already been said, comparatively few women in fact serve for any length of time, so this is less important. If this procedure is contrasted with the appointment of chief constables it is rather frightening. After advertising the vacancy a short list is prepared, and there are interviews which must be nearer to 48 minutes than 48 hours by a specially appointed selection committee of the appropriate authority. On that selection committee there may, or may not, be someone who has experience of selecting men for the very highest appointments, which is a highly skilled business.

    Once appointed, unless disaster overtakes him or he moves to another job, a chief constable holds that position until he reaches the age limit for retirement, which I believe to be 65. In an age when we are hoping to see younger men promoted more rapidly, it could well be that someone reaches this high rank comparatively early in his career and may in fact, if he does not move, stay there well beyond the time that he is urged by the essential inspiration and enthusiasm which makes men admire him and follow a leader.

    I would ask the noble Lord what confidential reports are written by HMIs or others on chief constables which could be compared with the reports which are written regularly on generals and admirals and, I believe, ambassadors, too. If we compare this appointment to CC with that of managing directors in industry we find that a managing director normally serves under a service agreement for a term of years which is extended if both he and the members of the board feel that that is the right thing. I really think that the noble Lord ought to look into this system of appointment to the highest police offices in the land, and not least since I believe the Commissioner of the Metropolis is appointed under rather different terms. The noble Lord is nodding. I believe it is somewhat similar—but I could not be precise about it—to what I am suggesting should in fact be made standard elsewhere.

    Although we have had the services of a large number of most distinguished men holding these high offices since the war we have had a few who have shown themselves to be unworthy of the appointment, and there are others who, because of the system, have probably stayed in these positions too long. None of that is good for the morale of the police and for the younger people coming up the ladder, to which the noble Earl referred in his opening speech. I notice that the noble Earl asks the Government
    "what steps they propose to take to enhance and strengthen the position of the Police Force".
    I would suggest that, among other things, they should do all that they can to ensure that the quality of leadership in the police is as high as it can be, and that in looking into this they ought not to delay.

    6.13 p.m.

    My Lords, I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, in finding the wording of this Motion a little misleading to anyone so innocent as I. Indeed, I would say that, for myself, had I thought that this was intended to be a debate purely about police wages, I should have preferred at this moment of delicacy and difficulty not to put my name down in the debate. I am not suggesting for a moment that anything is sacrosanct and should not be discussed by other people, but I had understood that a measure of agreement on reference, and so on, had been obtained. I am perfectly certain that the admirable speech made by my noble friend Lady Phillips, who set out the facts very fully, can do no possible harm.

    With regard to figures generally—and may I say on this single item that I wish it referred to every industrial dispute—there are simple ways of stating figures cogently and fairly. I should have thought that this business of talking about weekly earnings was always grossly unfair. The figure that should be given is the gross wage. If there are fringe benefits, they may be stated as fringe benefits. Generally speaking, both sides tend to be a little coy about giving the accurate figures.

    I myself saw Mr. Jardine of the Police Federation at this House three or four months ago. I was greatly impressed by his personality, and by what I thought was his patent sincerity about the possibility of a breakdown in relations. Indeed, he gave me some figures which I checked through carefully. I was a member of the Police Commission many years ago, and we gave the first really substantial increase to the police. We were rather proud that we had produced, as a result of that report, a policeman who could get £1,000 a year; not as the opening wage of a young policeman, but the wage which an ordinary copper could attain to. We stated the principle that, having decided that the policeman was sui generis, there was no basis of comparison; there was no standard of wage with which one could make comparison. We then expressed the view that the policeman's minimum should be at least 4 per cent. over the average industrial income of workers generally. At any rate, that gave satisfaction at the time and worked satisfactorily.

    We were then able to proceed with the job that we had started, which was to consider the future of the police force and the organisation of the police force. We had three years on that; not unrewarding years to the police and to the community at large. Most of our proposals were adopted. I was left without a financial interest in the matter either before or after, or in any other organisation, or in any way. I always appreciate applause from my noble friend on the Front Bench. However, I am not for a moment suggesting that it was wrong for the Prime Minister to have a declared financial interest at the time he did years ago. He was quite open about it and he worked quite openly, and I respect the way he did it.

    I am bound to take serious issue with one observation of the noble Earl on the Front Bench. I so very rarely disagree with anything he says that I think it is notable. The Royal Commission took the view that the basis of the police force virtually everywhere was the man on the beat. He was the man who had constantly to keep observation in business areas. In a sense, he was there to take note of everything, and to observe everything. He was then, perhaps to a greater degree than now, the man who, in a very grave and dangerous emergency, had to make his own decision if it involved his own life. He is no longer at any rate, to be regarded as a man without education or attainments. The police force needs men of ability. I take the view, as I look at our major difficulties in a land in which education is free, higher education is available to a great many and when the gap in the remuneration between the qualified and the not quite qualified man is often too wide, that the policeman on the beat still has a very hard, dangerous and difficult job.

    My Lords, is the noble Lord saying that there should not be extra reward for extra qualifications, which in the case of the ordinary police officer means extra effort? Putting it another way, would be not agree with me that without the extra attainments such as I described in my speech, the police cannot function efficiently?

    I entirely agree with the noble Earl about that, my Lords, understood him to refer to the policeman on the beat as a man of no particular educational attainment. That is not really so and, as he knows, there is much more interchange of occupation, disposition and so on. I should have referred to the fact that the provision of communications between the man on the beat and the moving patrols has, to an extent, diminished, although not eliminated, his own responsibility on occasion to make decisions on the spot, to take responsibility for them and to take the risk.

    I agree with what my noble friend Lady Phillips said. The Home Office has always been dishonest about the question of free houses, rent-aided accommodation and so on. They build a charming little cottage in a village which the policeman and his wife occupy—a sort of dream house with roses round the front door—but from that moment on he and his wife are on 24-hour duty, every day and in every way, serving the community often in ways that are almost incumbent on the holder of the position of village policeman. This is a sort of social duty, giving advice, helping out and so on. He has hardly any rest and hardly any relief, and when he finishes his duty at the end of his career the Home Office chucks him out and puts somebody else in the house.

    I appreciate that this will give my noble friend Lord Harris a chance to say that they do their best, take all relevant considerations into account and explore every avenue in looking at the present and the future and that they now have a computer to help them think. That is all very well, but I have not wished at this stage to assume more than the view we expressed in 1960, namely, that the police force generally has a job of high responsibility which is deserving of full recognition, even in present circumstances; we said then that the nearest comparison when we called the police sui generis was the firemen with their responsibility.

    At present, the Government face a very grave problem indeed and the Prime Minister has taken a course that is painful, onerous, brave and, some may say, reckless. None of us wishes to see the conflict which sometimes seems inevitable and impossible to avoid. The Police Federation were pressed to take drastic steps (undoubtedly they have a case) and tried to come to a measure of agreement with the Government in relation to further consultation. I hope that will prove possible, at any rate for the time being. I shall listen with interest and some apprehension to what my noble friend Lord Harris has to say about the present state of the negotiations and about the necessary inquiries.

    6.26 p.m.

    My Lords, it is always difficult to speak following the noble Lord, Lord Hale, because of his enormous wisdom on so many subjects. Tonight he has helped us all to realise a little more about the problems of the police force and I am sure we are all grateful to him. Those of us who have the onerous job of implementing the law rarely have the opportunity of giving a word of thanks or encouragement to the police force; that is why I am so grateful tonight to the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, for asking this Unstarred Question.

    For too long we have assumed that the ordinary person is a law-abiding citizen and that the last thing he wants to do is to come up against the police. Now, with fewer numbers in the police force, the deterrent of being found out no longer applies. How many of your Lordships would have dreamt five years ago that each of us would not only know personally someone who has been attacked by a mugger but might even have been so attacked himself?

    A secretary in my office was attacked at 10 o'clock on a Saturday evening in Hampstead High Street. Her wrist was broken and she was left unconscious and with a lacerated head. Five years ago the police would have been around and the mugger would have had the deterrent of knowing that he would be caught. But at 10 o'clock at night in Hampstead High Street there was nobody around to stop this young woman from being attacked. The result, as she did a lot of typing in my office, was that she could not be employed on her normal work for nearly two months. We had to find her other work in the office, which we were pleased to do, but, there was no recompense from the Industrial Injuries Tribunal, to which she had applied and we had to employ another secretary.

    I very much doubt whether those of us who are older realise the deterrent effect of seeing a policeman around, or the deterrent effect of being found out if one commits a crime. I doubt very much whether we realise what a deterrent that can be to young people. As many of your Lordships will know, I have the doubtful honour of presiding over a very large juvenile court, and I can say categorically that if we had the necessary strength of police in evidence, not only on foot but in patrol cars and wherever they may be needed, I should not be faced with the vast increase in juvenile crime that I have at this time.

    The noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, gave your Lordships a few statistics, and I should like to give just one or two more. Last year in the Metropolitan district in the age group under 14 there were 5,103 males and 203 females involved in the offence of burglary in a building other than a dwelling. In the age group 14 to 17 there were 12,049 males and 334 females involved in the same type of offence. I am quite certain that if those children who eventually came before magistrates, and possibly went on to crown courts for sentencing, had known that they might well have been caught they would not have dared to enter the premises they were burgling.

    As everybody will know, violence is increasing every day. Among the under 14s, 562 males and 114 females were taken before courts for offences in this category. Similar figures for the age group 14 to 17 showed 3,716 boys and 693 girls involved in such offences. As I have said, if those young people knew that there was a probability of being found out, with the end result possibly being imprisonment, and certainly their liberty being taken away, I am sure that that would act as a deterrent. Last year there were 28,702 burglaries involving children under 17, and in the same age group there were 44,503 cases involving theft, shoplifting and handling stolen goods.

    In paying my tribute to the police I am very mindful that sitting in a juvenile court, as I do every Wednesday of the year, I have to thank them considerably—and not only for the way in which they handle children. They do this in the kindest, nicest possible way commensurate with handling juvenile crime among the younger age groups. But some of the police are themselves young. We were all young once, and to gain experience one must start when one is young. I should like to tell you a true story which I heard in the North of the country about a fortnight ago. Two young boys stole a car. They went to a garage in the country and asked for half a gallon of petrol. The garage proprietor very wisely rang the police, who were directed to the road which the young thugs had taken. The police set up a road block through which the young thugs drove the stolen car. A sergeant and a very young officer drove at speed after them, and cornered them. When the sergeant and the young officer got out of their car they each took a young boy from the stolen car. When the sergeant shouted, "Cuff him, Bill!" and a right hand fist was administered to the jaw of one of the young thugs it was too late to say, "Handcuff him, you fool!" We all have to learn somehow when we are young.

    With the greatest possible force at my command, I should like to say that we can, and should, increase police pay. We can, and should, increase and encourage the recruits by putting these matters before the schools. We can, and should, increase their pensions. We can, and should, give them better working conditions. But unless we make the police aware that we regard them as being a vital part of our society now and in the future, our country, and in particular law and order, will be in a very dire strait, and law and order as we know it in this country today will be a thing of the past.

    6.36 p.m.

    My Lords, I did not intend to intervene in the debate, and I must beg your Lordships' pardon for so doing, but I feel that I must support the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips. I wish to make only one point, and I will make it quickly. The most serious results of years of neglect by Government of our police force are already upon us: it is the erosion of skilled manpower in the senior positions within the police force. Recently I was honoured to be the guest of a personal friend who only this year retired after 25 years' service with the Metropolitan Police. He invited me to the ex-Metropolitan CID Officers' Association annual dinner. What struck me immediately upon entering the banqueting hall was the youthful appearnce of so many of the (to use a perfectly horrible American expression) "retirees". On inquiring of my host, he told me that almost every CID officer he knew has told him that the moment their 25 years' service are up they are quitting the service. When I suggested to my host that I felt it very sad that the Metropolitan Police had lost an officer of his experience and ability, his reply impressed me. It was:

    "That's as may be, but my wife and family have gained a happier man, and a better provider, and a better husband".
    I am convinced that this is why it was disclosed, only the other day, that at Scotland Yard there is only one chief superintendent of more than one year's standing. I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, to confirm this point. Even if that figure is only partly correct, it presents a very frightening picture.

    6.38 p.m.

    My Lords, I certainly welcome this debate. It was only last week that I drew attention to the fact that in the 3½ years that I have been responsible for the police service nobody had raised in a debate the subject of the police force. Therefore I am particularly glad that within a week we are discussing this issue. I said then, and I repeat this evening, that it seems to me rather curious that we apply our minds to a very large number of other issues, yet on this matter, over which there is widespread public concern, remarkably little time has been devoted to it in this House in the past. That being so, I think the debate is particularly welcome, and I am grateful to the noble Earl for having raised this matter, although I must make it absolutely clear that I in no way accept the implications of the Question he has put down.

    We must recognise that all Administrations—the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat made this point—face difficult problems in this area. It is a subject for informed discussion, not for partisan debate. That being so, I particularly welcome the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, which I thought was characteristically thoughtful and sensible. He raised one or two issues which I should like to touch upon later, as well as one or two others which I will take into account in the months to come. I also (if I may say so before getting into the substance of this debate) very much welcome the fact that my noble friend Lord Hale was able to participate, given his own involvement in the past in the affairs of the police service.

    The noble Earl who opened this debate—and, indeed, other speakers—have referred to the many difficulties which are facing the police at the present time: the problem of rising crime; the increased level of violence; the problems of public order; the very relevant question of the recent difficult negotiations over police pay, and the not altogether unadjacent matter of the number of officers coming into and leaving the service. I propose, if I may, to deal with each of these issues. As to the character of the crime problem facing the police, there is little I can add to what I said last week at the end of the debate on the Address in reply to the gracious Speech. There was last year a modest increase of only 1 per cent. in crime, and that, although it indicated a further upward movement in the level of crime, was a great deal better than was the situation in the two preceding years, when there was a far sharper increase.

    However, having said that, crimes known to the police in the first six months of this year rose by a further 11 per cent., and, that being so, there cannot be any justification for complacency. At the same time, we should not lose sight of the fact that the problem of rising crime—and, again, I said this last week—is one which we share with every other major industrialised Western country; and, frankly, the speeches which have been made here tonight could have been made in any other Parliament in Western Europe. It is a problem which we in this country have in common with every other industrialised country. There is no unique British problem. That is not to say it is not a serious one: it is just to say that this is a difficulty which the whole of Western society is having to face.

    As to the question of public order, we have taken steps to ensure that the police have the essential equipment they need to preserve the peace on our streets, and on a number of fairly recent occasions we have backed the professional judgment of the senior police officers who have had to take difficult decisions in this type of situation. My right honourable friend has indicated his willingness to consider the adequacy of the legal powers available to the police in handling serious public order situations. But let no one underestimate the inherent limitations of attempted legal controls over public, political behaviour. The chief officers of police we have consulted confirm our judgment that changes in the law are unlikely in themselves to prevent the violence on the ground with which the police have to deal.

    Another difficult issue—and a number of speakers in the debate have touched on this—is the problem of police pay. The House will recall the history of this subject, which, briefly, is this. Special transitional arrangements were made for the police when Phase 1 of the present pay policy came into effect, and the police then received a pay increase of just under 30 per cent. rather than the £6 which they would otherwise have received. In July 1976 the Police Federations for England and Wales, and for Northern Ireland, left the Police Council in a dispute over whether the Federations should get that £6 or the lesser figure which could be made available to them under Phase 2 of the incomes policy. Now I have set out this background, not because I want to become involved in all the disputes which we have had in recent weeks as to the precise way in which all these figures were calculated but because I think it important to set out the facts of the matter, which will obviously be considered by the inquiry which will go into this whole question.

    I intervened in the speech of the noble Earl at the beginning of this debate, when he was giving a number of figures purporting to show what was the take-home pay of a particular police officer, not in any way to make a debating point but merely in order to emphasise the fact that it was very necessary to take into account all the factors in police pay and not just some of them: and one point which it is important to bear in mind—this deals with a point which my noble friend Lord Hale raised—is this question of rent allowances. In my view it is absolutely right that the police should get these rent allowances, but sometimes they are left out of account when debate takes place. It is not the case, as my noble friend suggested, that these allowances are paid to people in police houses. These allowances are paid to people who do not live in police houses; and they are quite significant figures, ranging from the region of £600 a year tax-free to a figure of around £1,000 a year tax-free, depending on the force. I mention this because it is important for everybody to be aware of the particular facts of the matter when discussing this question, but I repeat that I say this not in order to get involved in the disputes of the past but simply in order to clarify some of the points which have been made in the debate today.

    My Lords, in the course of this breakdown in the negotiating machinery for the police the Government set up an inquiry under the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies, into the negotiating arrangements for the police service. The Government also agreed that there should be an inquiry into the constitution of the Police Federation itself. I think it is absolutely right that this whole matter should be gone into. It was raised with us by the representatives of the Police Federation, who indicated that they thought, so long after all the affairs of the 1919 dispute, that it was right that this matter should again be considered, and we agreed to that.

    As to the issue of pay, earlier this autumn the Federation submitted a claim which sought to show that increases of between 78 and 104 per cent. were justified. They compared the position in the pay league which they saw the police holding now with that which the police held following the report of the Royal Commission in 1960. While comparisons of this sort are notoriously difficult to sustain, there can be no doubt that the job of the police has changed in a number of quite significant ways over the years, and this is obviously one of the matters which will be considered by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies, and his colleagues. In the circumstances in which we then found ourselves, the Government made an offer to the Federations on the 27th October of an immediate increase in pay of 10 per cent. of earnings, which is in line with pay policy. I agree with my noble friend Lady Phillips, it is not a statutory policy, but it is one which is of high importance so far as the future of every citizen in this country is concerned.

    In addition to that, the Government made an offer of an independent wide-ranging inquiry into pay and a number of other matters. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Edmund-Davies, has agreed to undertake this extended inquiry, and the Government are indeed extremely grateful to him. To deal with a point which was put to me directly by the noble Earl who raised this debate, we hope to announce the names of the other members very soon. I believe, certainly, that the Committee will want to deal with this issue of pay with all possible dispatch, and I believe that we shall receive this report within a matter of months. The Government have told the Federations that they are willing to accept the conclusion of the inquiry on pay; the inquiry certainly will be free to recommend a degree of phasing in the implementation of its recommendations, and the Government will also want to consider this particular point. Certainly my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and I welcome the fact that the Police Federations felt able to accept the offer we made to them. It enables us to put aside, I think and hope, the unhelpful atmosphere of the past 15 months and to turn our minds in a constructive way to the future. I am sure that the noble Earl—indeed, I suspect the whole House—will welcome this.

    The noble Earl and many others who have spoken in this debate touched on the question of the strength of the police, and I want to deal with this fairly directly. Three years ago—I make this point in no Party sense because, as I have already indicated, I do not believe that these matters are appropriate for the normal small change of political debate—the deficiency on establishment in the police service in this country was 12½ per cent. Now it is slightly over 8 per cent., which is a fairly significant improvement.

    Certainly—and I would not in any way want to minimise this problem—there is a significant problem of wastage, particularly of some of the most experienced officers. This is a serious matter. I do not believe that there is a simple explanation for this wastage. Nevertheless, I hope that the settlement of the dispute about pay and the fact that we are now moving into the period of the year when police recruitment is normally rather better will mean that we can overcome this particular problem. I think it right to point out that the number of officers in the force has greatly improved since the situation three years ago. There are now, as I said at the end of the debate last week, around 8,000 more police officers than there were three years ago. This 8,000 includes 1,500 in the Metropolitan Police district. That is not to say that there is not a substantial shortage in the Metropolitan Police. All I am saying is that the position is better than it was three years ago; although I have already indicated that the crime situation is also significantly worse than it was at that time.

    A very substantial proportion of the total manpower shortage in the police service is in the major conurbations. A very high proportion of the total shortage is in the Metropolitan District itself. I did not agree with the implications of the suggestion by the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, that there was an overall shortage of policemen. That is not true. In many areas of the country there is not a significant shortage of policemen, though that is the situation in the Metropolitan District.

    My Lords, I think that there is perhaps a slight misunderstanding between the noble Lord and myself. I was not implying that there was a general loss all over the place, but that there was a fall in the total for England and Wales.

    My Lords, I am obliged. I am glad to see that the noble Earl and I in that case find ourselves on common ground. There are three other forces which are deficient by more than 10 per cent. The City of London is one; Derbyshire is another and the West Midlands is the third. There are significant shortages in a number of other forces; but a number of forces, a quite substantial number, are fairly nearly up to establishment. It is also right to say—notwithstanding that I thought this was perhaps an implication of what the noble Earl said—that over the past year or so establishment increases in a number of forces have been approved by the Government.

    I hope that, to some extent, that deals with the general question of recruitment to the service, subject, perhaps, to two particular points which I should like to make. One is that I was not quite clear what the noble Earl was suggesting as far as women were concerned. It is true that a significant number of new recruits are women. He referred to the Sex Discrimination Act. I was not quite clear whether he was suggesting that the Sex Discrimination Act was wrong in this respect. After all, this measure was debated at length in this House and the noble Earl, I think, took part in our deliberations. As far as I can recall, no suggestion was made in this House—and I am speaking off the cuff—that the Sex Discrimination Act should not apply to the police. It does. But it is quite wrong to suggest—and I am hoping that I misunderstood the noble Earl on this point—that women cannot do a very large number of police duties. They do. They render valuable service. I hope very much that nobody would make any suggestion that they are in some way not real police officers because they are women.

    I must point out also to the noble Earl that, so far as the particular question of sex discrimination is concerned, the same situation applies in the USA where the level of violence which is offered to the police service is a great deal more serious than in this country and where, again, women take a leading role in the police service. There are obviously a number of duties that men will do better than women; but there are some duties which perhaps sonic women will do better than men. They most certainly fulfil a useful role and I believe that the intellectual qualities of many of the young women coming into the police force at the moment are of a very high order. That is not only my view but that of a substantial number of chief officers of police.

    My Lords, obviously I did not make myself clear. In no way was I trying to run down the prowess or qualities of women police but was referring to such things as demonstrations or football matches where perhaps women can be "knocked for six" and cannot knock the assaulter for six in his turn.

    My Lords, I am glad to hear that. The noble Earl touched at one stage, as did the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, on the number of civilian employees in the police service. I think this is a not unimportant point. The noble Earl made the point—and he is not the first to have done so—that, despite the substantial increase in the level of crime in the Metropolitan Police area, there has not, over a period of 30, 40 or 50 years, been an accompanying substantial increase in the establishment of the Metropolitan Police. I think I got him right on that. That is broadly true. But there have been a number of other changes in that period. Twenty or 30 years ago, many policemen in London had to fulfil routine clerical jobs of the character that the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, touched on. Let me give the figures. This is not without interest to the House. I am talking about the question of civilian employees in the police force in England and Wales. In 1957, there were 9,970; in 1967, 19,846; in 1976, 34,551, and I am excluding from that traffic wardens who in some cases fulfil some of the duties previously carried out by members of the police service. I say none of this in order to minimise the substantial manpower problem; but it is important to look at this in a balanced way, looking at all factors and not just some of them.

    As to resources, the Government have taken steps to shield the police service from restrictions on expenditure which inevitably had to be introduced because of the country's economic circumstances. In fact, there has been no reduction in expenditure on the police service; indeed, additional money has been set aside to enable forces to recruit up to their existing establishment and, as I said, a number of establishments have been raised. We have permitted some of these increases in establishment and now we are already spending over a quarter of a billion pounds more in real terms on law and order services than was the situation three years ago. As my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced recently in another place, another £9 million will be made available for the law and order services next year. This will enable us, among other things, to increase civilian support for the police, to restore substantially the cuts made in the police cadet scheme and to make more provision for police vehicles and equipment. The noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, welcomed this and I, too, do so. I think it is important to mention this additional support for the police service in the difficulties with which they are at the moment confronted.

    These measures show the high degree of priority the Government attach to the police service and, in addition, the House must not overlook the constant exchange of information, help and support which takes place between the Home Office, including the Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Police Service. One example is the work of the Police Scientific Development Branch and the Police Research Services Unit in developing technical equipment for police forces. I think that the considerable advances in command and control computers for the police force over the last few years are the result of this work, as are the very substantial developments so far as the Police National Computer is concerned. Despite all our economic difficulties, we have been pushing on with work in this important field which increases to a very marked degree indeed the operational efficiency of the police service, not only in England and Wales but Scotland too because forces there are linked up to the Police National Computer.

    The noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, asked a rather interesting question about fraud. This is a matter in which I have taken a personal interest, partly for the reason he indicated. It is a difficult matter and I can speak with authority only for England and Wales. So far as the particular case of Scotland is concerned, I will gladly draw the matter to the attention of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and suggest that he acquaints the noble Earl with the situation in Scotland.

    There is a training scheme which is organised by the joint squad which exists between the City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police. There is a major fraud department and provincial police officers from other police forces have a training course here. They are not accountants, though accountants can be called in if it is wished for particular cases. Broadly speaking, the police at the moment are fairly content with the arrangements that have been made. Certainly they would in no way wish to be complacent about it for the reasons to which the noble Earl drew attention.

    The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, raised a number of questions. He put a point which he had made to me previously on preventive policing. He raised that in the debate last week. I am sorry that I did not deal with it in my reply then. I was trying to answer so many points that it was inevitable I would miss out some. We are giving the highest priority to this matter. I would in no way differ from the noble Lord in the priority he accorded to it. As to the other points he made, I should like to deal with two matters. First of all, I very much welcome what he said about the special course, at Bramshill. This is an important scheme. Broadly speaking, it means that young men who are selected to go on this course—and, as he rightly said, it is on a highly selective basis—assume the rank of sergeant. After the course, some 12 months or so later, they attain the rank of inspector.

    It is a matter of high importance that we pick out the very bright, high flying young men. I, like the noble Lord, have had the opportunity of sitting in at the extended interviews and, like him, was impressed by them. Similar interviews take place so far as the Part 2 command course is concerned. This is the level of superintendent or chief superintendent. Candidates attend an extended interview in order to compete for places on what used to be called the senior command course. It is now the Part 2 command course. Essentially these are the people who are likely to be the future leaders of the service. They are likely to become assistant chief constables, deputy chief constables and chief constables. I attach the highest importance so far as the Home Office is concerned to ensuring that we have adequate resources available, in the very difficult situation with which we are dealing, to make sure that we pick out the right men for these highly responsible positions.

    The noble Lord contrasted the situation in London with the situation in the Provinces and said this was different so far as the appointment of chief officers was concerned. That is true because the Home Secretary is the police authority for London. He appoints the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, the Deputy Commissioner and the Assistant Commissioner. The situation outside London is different. The appointment is made—as the noble Lord rightly said—by the individual police authority. I do not altogether share the noble Lord's anxieties on this particular score. The overwhelming majority of the people who now are appearing as candidates for the rank of assistant chief constable, deputy and chief constable, have already attended the Part 2 command course at Bramshill, which is in itself highly selective. I have had the opportunity of sitting in at these interviews, as I indicated, and I am very satisfied with the quality of people who are coming forward for these interviews.

    Secondly, although the appointments are made by the individual police authorities, they are subject to the approval of the Home Secretary in each case. Before that approval is given, a careful process of assessment is gone through which includes the provision of a professional assessment of all the candidates by Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary. Here again, there is no justification for being complacent, but I believe that the situation I have described deserves some public confidence so far as the arrangements are concerned.

    My Lords, may I ask a short question in explanation? Am I right in supposing that his right honourable friend's appointment of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police is on different terms from appointments which are normally made in the Provinces, either for a term of years or an earlier retiring age?

    My Lords, given a clear question of that sort, I always speak with some degree of hesitation. My understanding is that generally the terms are the same in the case of the Metropolitan Police as they are in forces outside London. They are not made for an explicit period of years, if that is the suggestion of the noble Lord. They are made, as it were sine die, and there is a reserve power in the Police Act to deal with the situation if the Home Secretary is concerned about the operational efficiency of any police force. He has a clear power so far as this is concerned, which I am delighted to say I do not think he has had to exercise at any stage on any occasion in the past.

    I will now conclude, my Lords, having spoken for a formidable amount of time. The noble Earl in the terms of his Question implied that morale in the service is low. I do not find that is so in the frequent visits that I have paid to police forces in England and Wales. I am glad to say that since I have been Minister of State I have had the opportunity of visiting all 43 police forces, talking not only to senior officers but also on occasions to members of the Police Federation branch boards. Of course, there are grave problems and the most substantial difficulties. These are often and quite rightly drawn to my attention. We are not really discussing a situation of a totally demoralised police force. That is not a fair assessment of the situation with which we are confronted at the moment. I do not accept the implication of the Question that the position of the police service could in some ways be higher in the eyes of the community. In spite of all the difficulties which we are facing and have faced, the reputation of the British police service remains substantially higher than any other institution in this country: I think that I can say that without any qualification of any sort. I agree with my noble friend Lady Phillips on this matter. Since I have been Minister of State I have had the opportunity to visit a number of police forces outside this country. Abroad, the reputation of the British police service is high. We are highly respected for the operational efficiency and reputation of our service in this country. We should be proud of that. When one goes abroad it is a pleasure to hear unqualified praise in this respect for the way in which we are running something.

    My Lords, when the Question was put down about the morale of the police force, it was before the 10 per cent. pay increase had been agreed. The Question is several weeks old.

    I rejoice to hear that. Certainly, I think the professional skill and dedication to duty of the police is one of the most encouraging features of our public life. But, as I indicated at the beginning of my speech, I in no way underestimate the very serious problems we are facing: these include increased crime, increased violence and a formidable addition to the everyday problems of the police force, such as urban terrorism, international terrorism and difficulties as far as the IRA are concerned in the recent past. In addition to that, just to take an example of the last 48 hours, an additional burden has fallen on the police force as a result of the firemen's dispute, and all this has happened at a time when there is a significant rise in the level of crime. As the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, said—I am entirely in agreement with her on this point—the general public is more anxious, and indeed it has every right to be anxious, because, as she said, far more people are now touched by crime. It is right for us to take serious account of this when discussing the problems of the police service. I think I can do no better than repeat the last few words of my speech last week when I said that in the situation I have described I believe that the police force deserve the wholehearted support of both Parliament and the people.