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Lords Chamber

Volume 387: debated on Tuesday 29 November 1977

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House Of Lords

Tuesday, 29th 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 Sheffield.

The Belgrade Conference And Detente

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 our representative at the Belgrade Conference has drawn the attention of the Conference to the military intervention of the USSR in African States at the moment at war with each other.

My Lords, in my opening statement to the Belgrade meeting on 6th October I stressed the Government's view that détente is indivisible and cannot be confined to Europe. The United Kingdom delegation has made it clear in subsequent interventions that the United Kingdom expects all the CSCE signatory States to honour their commitment to conduct their relations with all other States in the spirit of the principles set out in the Helsinki Final Act.

My Lords, while thanking the Minister for that Answer—and I am delighted that he should have said what he did at that time—may I ask whether our present representative at Belgrade has made equally suitable noises?

My Lords, perhaps I can make available to the noble Baroness in another form, possibly by means of a letter, the course of the discussions so far in Belgrade covering the point she has in mind.

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the House would no doubt welcome the assurance that our delegation have been less generalised in their representations in this matter? What the noble Lord has quoted is very much like saying we are all against sin.

My Lords, I can assure the noble Earl and the House that our delegation have been very active indeed in precise and complete criticism of the shortcomings of implementation so far, and in putting forward, in concert with other countries, proposals for greatly strengthened implementation in the future of the provisions of the Helsinki Final Act.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that Mr. Arthur Goldberg, the American representative, stated on television last night that the debates and discussions and deliberations at Belgrade are confined to the document agreed at Helsinki? He also remarked that they are treating the Russians politely. Is that the case with the British representative?—because if he is short of words that are the antithesis of being polite, I can supply them.

No doubt, my Lords. Whether the noble Lord's somewhat trenchant vocabulary would achieve the objectives he has in mind is quite another matter. As to the basis of the review meeting, as it is called, it is about the document which was signed by 35 States in Helsinki. That is the basis of the discussion. We and a very large number of other countries involved—not exclusively from the West, but also from the neutral and non-aligned world—have decided that the best way to get good results from this review meeting is to be studiously polite but very firm.

My Lords, would the noble Lord consider going through the undertakings made at Helsinki, clause by clause, and pointing out specifically where Russia has deliberately failed to carry out the undertakings given there, in particular in regard to the deployment of, now, 19,000 Cuban troops, encouraged, transported and armed by Russia, in 10 different black African States?

My Lords, I think the first part of the noble Lord's question sums up fairly accurately the procedures agreed on at the preparatory meetings and now carried on in the substantive meetings; that is, the closed plenaries and the sub-commissions of the Conference. As to what he has to say about Cuba, I think I can usefully reinforce it by repeating at least one phrase from my original Answer. I stressed the Government's view that détente is in-divisible and cannot be confined Europe.

My Lords, will the Government send a message of congratulations to the forces of Rhodesia who have won a notable victory over the Russian-trained satellite in Mozambique? After all, it is some time since the West have had a victory.

My Lords, really I thought we were talking about détente and not destruction.

My Lords, do the Government really think there is any hope or prospect of the Soviet Government's abiding by their non-binding obligations under the Helsinki Final Act?

Progressively, yes, my Lords. The point is—and I am sure the noble Lord, with his vast experience of diplomacy, understands this better than any of us—that this is not something that can be achieved overnight. A clash of fundamental philosophies and systems is involved here. Therefore, it will be a very long haul indeed, during which, by proper politeness as well as firmness, those two sectors of world thinking and world practice may hope to come progressively closer to each other in the implementation of the principles set out in the Helsinki Final Act. It will take a long time.

My Lords, while on the subject of conferences for the furtherance of détente and peace, can the Minister say whether the United Kingdom will be represented at the forthcoming conference in Cairo?


2.43 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 any representations have been made against the granting of independence to the island of Dominica, what form these have taken, and whether they have had any effect in modifying the attitude of Her Majesty's Government.

My Lords, a number of individuals have written expressing opposition to independence. Both major Parties in Dominica favour independence in principle; representations from the Opposition have concerned the constitutional details and the method and timing of a move to independence. We shall take all these views, and those of the Dominica Government, into account when making a decision.

My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts for that reply. In view of the unfortunate events that followed the granting of independence to Grenada, will my noble friend say how far there is a real desire for independence among the majority of the 70,000 inhabitants of this impoverished island, and whether this desire should not be put to the test by making it an issue at a General Election?

My Lords, that is a possible course. The attitude of Her Majesty's Government so far has been that both Parties—Government and Opposition—have expressed themselves perfectly clearly in favour of independence, and that was very apparent in the constitutional conference held earlier this year. However, we bear in mind how important it is that the consensus in that country should effectively be in favour of independence. Therefore, we await from the Premier of Dominica a statement on how the consultations through the public media have proceeded in that country. Additionally, we await a report on the state of public opinion on this issue from our own British Government representative in Dominica.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that when the issue of independence was raised, a general strike occurred in the island which lasted for more than 40 days? Is he also aware that, when the issue of independence was first put to the test recently in Antigua by the holding of a General Election, the Government Party was soundly defeated and Antigua still retains its associated status?

My Lords, the causes of the strike to which my noble friend has drawn attention and which, by the way, ended on the 17th October, were somewhat more varied than purely constitutional. As regards the indication of opinion in Dominica, I know that the House of Assembly debated and approved by 16 votes to 5 in a full House the Government's independence proposals. This was on 21st October. As I have said, we now await a report from the Premier on the outcome of the public debate on independence in that country. Equally, we await the report of the British Government representative.

My Lords, will the Minister confirm that the Government's overriding obligations are to recognise the wishes of the people in expressing their will for self-determination rather than a general policy of decolonisation against the wishes of the people concerned?

My Lords, the short and definite answer to that question is, yes.

My Lords, is this not a case where the issue ought to be resolved by a referendum?

My Lords, as I have said, that or the process of a General Election is perfectly possible. I do not think that, at present, we are in a position to decide how to proceed. We have engaged in seeking reports on the state of opinion in that country. When we receive the two reports to which I have referred, Her Majesty's Government will be in a position to decide, among other things, whether we follow one or other of the suggestions already made in this House.

My Lords, bearing in mind the very much higher standard of living prevailing in the neighbouring islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, due in large measure to their close association with a European Power—in their case, France—is it not conceivable that the majority of the population of Dominica might prefer to remain associated with Britain, whatever the politicians might say? Would the noble Lord not agree, as the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, suggested, that a referendum is really the only fair means of ascertaining the wishes of the population of Dominica in this matter, particularly as the Government have already accepted the principle of a referendum in relation to the devolution proposals for Scotland and Wales?

My Lords, yes, I certainly do not rule out the procedures which, I think, are implicit in what the noble Lord, Lord Monson, has said. I stress to the House that it is wise on our part, as the paramount and also the dispensing Power, not to act too hastily in imposing certain procedures on these people, especially as they are now engaged in their own discussions. We have told them that we await a report on the course of those discussions as well as the report of our own representative.

My Lords, will the Minister confirm reports that there has been widespread intimidation by the Government ruling Party in Dominica against their opponents?

My Lords, I should like to apologise to the House for pursuing this matter, but, in view of the heavy extra costs that the granting of independence will entail, will my noble friend say how they would be met by increased revenue on this tiny island? Will be give the House an assurance that no extra burdens will fall upon the British taxpayer?

My Lords, I could not give details of the financial arrangements which will finally be approved. They will concern a number of Departments in this country, and, indeed, the authorities in Dominica. The details of our aid programme, for instance, after independence, will be determined in consultation with the Dominican Government. However, I can add that we would certainly not envisage any reduction in project aid and technical co-operation in the first few years of independence.

Gibraltar And Spanish Entry To Eec

2.50 p.m.

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government why they do not make the withdrawal of Spanish attempts to blockade Gibraltar a condition precedent to British agreement to Spanish entry into the European Economic Community and other European organisations.

My Lords, we have welcomed the Spanish application to join the EEC. We look now to Spain to respond to the political significance of this. We therefore consider that it would be wrong and unproductive to link the Spanish application to progress over Gibraltar. We continue very greatly to regret the Spanish restrictions and lose no opportunity to urge their removal.

My Lords, does the noble Lord recall saying a few moments ago that détente was indivisible? Is it not inconceivable that a country should be admitted to the close and friendly association of the EEC, which has a common Parliament and common laws, while engaged in blockading the territory of one of its Members?

My Lords, I recall that a few moments ago T said precisely that. I am sure that our Spanish friends will also recall what I have said. We must look to the future. Indeed, only last week we all welcomed the accession of Spain to the Council of Europe. One of the principal criteria of membership to that body is, of course, democracy; equally, one of the principal credentials for joining the EEC is democracy. One would very much hope and, indeed, expect that as a Member of the Communities Spain would co-operate with this country in seeking a solution of this very long-standing problem so that Spain, Gibraltar and this country can live in democratic co-operation and amity within the Community.

My Lords, although I accept the admirable sentiment expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, does it not follow from what he has said that democracy, being one of the credentials of membership, involves accepting the democracy of other countries and, therefore, accepting the clearly-expressed democratic view of the people of Gibraltar?

My Lords, yes, indeed. I hope that the exemplary sentiments so well put by the noble Lord will be carefully scrutinised outside this country and equally enthusiastically acclaimed.

My Lords, could my noble friend say whether the Government take account of the attitude of Sir Joshua Hassan on this? Do the Government agree that the opinions expressed by Sir Joshua and his colleagues will not be gainsaid by any actions of the Government?

My Lords, as a former Secretary of State for the Colonies, I think that my noble friend is well versed in these matters and knows the firm basis of our policy on Gibraltar. Equally, I can assure him that although there has been no change whatsoever in that policy, we take what Sir Joshua and his colleagues say to us fully into account. We have done that all along and shall continue to do so.

My Lords, do not Her Majesty's Government agree that there can be no better evidence of the good faith of the Government of His Majesty the King of Spain than their wholly admirable and exciting democratic constitutional advance in the last few years? Furthermore, do not Her Majesty's Government feel that bearing in mind the highly successful continuous dialogue of recent years between Her Majesty's Government—

A noble Lord: Order, Order! The noble Lord is reading.

Bearing in mind, not only the highly successful dialogue in recent years between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Spain—our new colleagues in the Council of Europe—but also the talks early in the new year, do not the Government feel that to set down a Question of somewhat tendentious and Palmerstonian flavour at this particular juncture, is nothing if not rather sad?

My Lords, I very much welcome the noble Lord's contribution to this discussion. It is most responsible and I wish that he had continued his impeccable reading—it would have assisted us all to put this matter into proper perspective. Relations with Spain are excellent. That is a very great plus, not only in the European context but in the wider context of the defence of democracy. Therefore, we must seek with Spain—especially democratic Spain; so successfully against a sea of difficulties creating a new democracy in that famous country—opportunities of agreement and co-operation rather than of denunciation and challenge. We must hope—and as a Celt I believe in sentiment as a precursor to action—and work very hard indeed to reach a consensus of view on Gibraltar within the Community of Europe. There is now hope that in dealing with democratic Spain we may succeed. There is very little hope if we take the same attitude to democratic Spain as many of us would have taken to Fascist Spain.

My Lords, feelings in Gibraltar run very high on this issue. Can my noble friend say whether there is any danger of Gibraltar opting for UDI?

My Lords, not so far as I am aware. Let us have one UDI at a time.

My Lords, is it not also tendentious to suggest that there might be any weakening in Her Majesty's Government's resolution to defend the democratic rights of the people of Gibraltar? Is it not very harmful to ask questions that might have that implication?

My Lords, I do not think any such question has been asked, and certainly no such answer was given. Everything that has been said here today—and I am glad to note this—has been to strengthen the principle of democracy in Europe, including Gibraltar.

Top Salaries Review Board: 1974 Recommendations

2.56 p.m.

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they can now state what action they propose to take to implement the recommendations made by the Top Salaries Review Board in December 1974 in respect of the remuneration of the members of the boards of nationalised industries and other public sector bodies.

No, my Lords. The matter is currently under consideration and I am not yet in a position to make a Statement.

My Lords, is not the noble Lord aware that that Answer is wholly consistent with the Answer he gave me on 23rd May, when he indicated that the matter was under consideration and that he hoped to come to an early solution? Are we any nearer a solution? Meanwhile, is the noble Lord aware that full-time executive members of the Civil Aviation Authority are now receiving net remuneration of less than half the purchasing power of that which they received in 1972? Are the Government content to let that kind of nonsense continue?

My Lords, I admit that I have been consistent on this, twice. I had hoped to be able to reply to the noble Lord. As he knows, it is a difficult question. I know what the problem is and I accept it, but I am not yet in a position to make a Statement on behalf of the Government.

My Lords, is it not slightly difficult to ask questions about net purchasing power and expect Her Majesty's Government to give an answer, when it is considered that in order for the Lord Chancellor to have the same net purchasing power as he had in 1890 his wages would have to be raised to something like £3 million a year?

My Lords, will the noble Lord give this rather serious thought? We all recognise in this House that it is a difficult problem, but it is increasingly apparent that it is difficult to man-up our nationalised industries at the top level until we can give rewards which are commensurate with those in other professions and industries. Is the noble Lord aware that it is three years since this report was made and this cannot continue if we are to try to make our nationalised industries more efficient?

My Lords, I accept what the noble Lord has said. I assure him that I take this matter very seriously. I agree that it must be solved—and I am not flippant about it in any way.

Eec Council Of Ministers: December Business


My Lords, a Statement was made yesterday in another place about business to be taken during December in the EEC Council of Ministers. With the leave of the House I will, as usual, arrange for the Statement to be made available in the Official Report.

Following is the Statement referred to:
"With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I will make a Statement about business to be taken by Ministers of the European Community during December. The monthly written forecast for December was deposited on the 25th November.
"Heads of Government will meet in Brussels on the 5th and 6th December. At present 7 meetings of the Council of Ministers are proposed for December. Fishery Ministers will meet on the 5th and 6th; Environment Ministers on the 12th and 13th; Energy Ministers on the 13th; Foreign Ministers on the 19th and 20th; Transport Ministers on the 20th and 21st December and Social Affairs Ministers on a date yet to be agreed. In addition there will be a meeting of Community Health Ministers on the 13th December.
"Fisheries Ministers will continue their discussions on the internal regime of the common fisheries policy.
"Environment Ministers are expected to consider various proposals relating to the protection of the environment.
"Agriculture Ministers are expected to have a preliminary discussion on the Common Agricultural Policy price proposals for 1978–79. They are also expected to consider the Commission's report on the use of the European unit of account in the Common Agricultural Policy and proposals for the phasing out of monetary compensatory amounts, as well as proposals for Mediterranean agriculture, producer groups, a sheepmeat regime, import arrangements for beef, chilling processes for poultry meat, and the eradication of brucellosis in cattle.
"Energy Ministers are expected to discuss the energy situation in the Community and in the world; progress on the achievement of Community energy policy objectives for 1985; nuclear questions; support for joint hydrocarbon exploration projects; financial aid to demonstration projects and a Directive on heat generators. They are also likely to resume their consideration of refining problems within the Community; financial measures to promote the use of coal for electricity generation; and aid for financing cyclical stocks of coal.
"Foreign Ministers will consider certain external fisheries matters; and the continuation of negotiations on a common fund. There will be a further discussion on steel, and probably on regional policy. The Ministers will also discuss the Community's bilateral textile negotiations and the question of the renewal of the multifibre arrangements; a mandate for EEC/Spain trade negotiations; EEC/Yugoslavia relations; and, possibly, enlargement, Mediterranean agriculture and EEC/Turkey relations. They will also consider direct elections to the European Assembly and certain staff matters.
"Transport Ministers are expected to consider Community quotas for industrial road haulage between member states; summertime; adjustment of national taxation systems for commercial vehicles; community driving licenses; community investment in transport infrastructure projects; and hijacking and terrorism. They will also follow up the United Kingdom Presidency initiative on the Common Transport Policy with a discussion on the future programme of work on transport subjects.
"Social Affairs Ministers will consider Commission proposals on youth employment. They may also formally adopt the texts on the review of the Social Fund.
"A meeting of Health Ministers of Member States will take place in Brussels on the 13th December 1977. This is not a meeting of the Council as such, and will not take formal decisions, but is a meeting arranged within the framework of the Council to give Health Ministers an opportunity to exchange views on common problems."

Theft Bill Hl

My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to replace Section 16(2)(a) of the Theft Act 1968 with other provision against fraudulent conduct. My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 1a.—(Lord Harris of Greenwich.)

On Question, Bill read 1a, and to be printed.

Atholl Investments (Aberdeen Development) Order Confirmation Bill

Considered on Report.

Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill Hl

3 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The Bill is a pure consolidation of the provisions of three Statutes and several Statutory Instruments and makes no changes in the law. Its relevant provisions will have the same validity, the same requirement for renewal and will be subject to the same Parliamentary procedures, as the legislation which they will replace. It will however spell out the rights and liabilities of the individual, and the powers and responsibilities of the Security Forces, in a more simple and understandable form.

This Bill is essentially the same as that which I introduced into your Lordships' House in May of this year and which passed through all stages in this House. It was unable then to make further progress because of a last minute amendment in the law. The present Bill takes account of that amendment as well as of the Amendments made to the earlier Bill by the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Bill read 2a, and referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills.

Dioceses Measure

3.2 p.m.

rose to move, That this House do direct that in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Dioceses Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent. The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, I beg to move that the Dioceses Measure be presented to Her Majesty for Royal Assent. Fundamentally this Measure concerns the discharge of the duties of a bishop to the Church and to the nation, and it is intended to help him to carry out his responsibilities more effectively. Its roots, therefore, go deep into history, for from generation to generation the Church has had to adapt its functions to the needs of the society in which it was set, and consequently the character of a bishop's work has changed. In the Middle Ages many of the bishops were the great officers of the State. Following the Reformation they retained their close links to the State and were, in many cases, subservient to it. There was pastoral oversight of a kind; there was also much absenteeism as bishops resided in their London houses and spent much of their time in your Lordships' House.

In the 19th century reform was in the air. The movements of population made the vast medieval dioceses totally insufficient for the tasks ahead. Men like Samuel Wilberforce remodelled the episcopate. The distinguished Church historian, who had been a diocesan bishop and therefore knew what he was writing about, remarked that modern bishops hustled from committee to committee and, almost overwhelmed by administrative detail, may have little cause to bless Bishop Wilberforce. But in an age which had for far too long been content with easy-going standards some such example was needed.

We, in our day, have moved on. The prelate in his shovel hat, apron and gaiters is a creature of the past. The bishop of the Church of England will, I trust, continue to be a national figure and exercise his privilege of membership of this House. But today the emphasis is on episcopy, on pastoral care, and the bishop needs to be able to work within a structure that, so far as possible, releases him from intolerable burdens and frees him to be a real father in God to the clergy and laity of his diocese. This is the underlying purpose of this Measure.

The report of the Ecclesiastical Committee on the Measure is in your Lordships' hands. It will be noted that in one particular, at its request, the Measure was amended, and so it is recommended to your Lordships' House. The comments and explanations of the Legislative Committee of the General Synod are also before your Lordships. I need not go into all the details of the Measure, but I should draw your Lordships' attention to certain objectives with which it deals. First, the size of dioceses. One hundred and fifty years ago there were 26 dioceses. The movement of population and the creation of great conurbations made reorganisation essential. From 1836, when the diocese of Ripon was created, to 1927 when the dioceses of Derby, Guildford and Portsmouth came into being, the number of dioceses was increased from 26 to 43. This has meant, in the words of Professor Owen Chadwick, that a bishop is—

"far closer to his clergy and laity than the bishop of 1850 could be or was expected to be."

But in the past, on every occasion of the creation of a new diocese, it has become necessary to come to Parliament. Under the Measure, with considerable safeguards, the creation of new dioceses, and the alteration of diocesan boundaries, will be carried out as a function of the General Synod through the newly established Dioceses Commission. I can assure the House that the general opinion of the General Synod in this matter is exceedingly conservative. It has expressed its mind very clearly on this. It has rejected the school of thought which is known as mono-episcopacy, which would create about 120 dioceses each with one bishop, and it is therefore exceedingly unlikely that the General Synod and the Dioceses Commission would lightly create a new diocese. I hope that Parliament will appreciate that this Measure, in this respect, will relieve it of a detailed administrative burden.

Secondly, I draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Measure deals with the status and work of suffragan bishops. Such bishops were brought into existence by an Act of 1534, and though a few were consecrated between the years 1536 to 1592 they did not reappear in their present role until the end of the 19th century. Their position is anomalous. Although consecrated bishops in the fullest sense, they are virtually episcopal curates. They are the most defenceless clergymen in the Church of England, for they depend solely for the exercise of their functions upon the goodwill of the diocesan bishop, who gives them a commission to exercise such episcopal functions as he cares to allocate to them. He may withdraw his commission at a moment's notice; a new bishop coming to a diocese may refuse to renew it, and the suffragan can do only as much, or as little, as his diocesan bishop allows him.

In modern circumstances, this is considered both undesirable and unfair. The Measure therefore gives authority for the creation of areas within a diocese with their area synods, and for the delegation of responsibility for episcopal oversight, either permanently or personally, to the suffragan bishop. Such action can only be taken with the consent of the diocesan bishop, his diocesan synod, and the Dioceses Commission. It will, it is believed, give a proper recognition to the suffragan bishop as a bishop, and it will relieve the diocesan bishop of much routine administration and, in all, it will lead to better pastoral oversight and care, which is of course the most important issue of this Measure.

The key factor in all these reforms is to be the Dioceses Commission which will be a continuing body to be established by the General Synod. It will be an advisory body, especially in the important area of requests for the creation of new suffragan Sees which, at the moment, has been very haphazard, and it will, acting on the initiative of a diocese, prepare schemes for reorganisation, as is set out in Clause 3 of the Measure. The machinery for bringing schemes into effect is set out in the following clauses.

Without going into burdensome detail I hope I have sufficiently set before the House the basic concerns of this Measure and I would therefore add only two further observations. First, this Measure is the outcome of a ground swell of conviction within the Church that, if it is to fulfil its responsibilities of pastoral care to the nation, there must be some machinery for re-ordering the structure of dioceses and the work of bishops so that the barriers to that pastoral work may be removed. The Church of England is not the only Christian communion in this country to be aware of this crying need; the Roman Catholic Church, for instance, is taking very similar steps and one may hope that, because there is this common mind among Christians, pastoral reorganisation at this level will lead to closer understanding and co-operation in the days to come. These issues have been carefully considered and they have been debated over a very long period. The voting on final approval as recorded on page 5 of the comments was almost unanimous.

Secondly, I hope your Lordships will appreciate that such a Measure as this is designed to relieve Parliament of the necessity of having to spend time on the minutiae of ecclesiastical administration. My mind goes back to the debates in this House and another place over what a clergyman should wear when he is celebrating the Holy Communion or what the table should be made of on which he does so. There was considerable and reasonable impatience at the placing of those matters before Parliament.

There are some important issues, though not many, still to come before your Lordships in which Parliament should have a right to express its mind. But, generally, the Church wants to respond to the opinion which has been expressed in Parliament that it should not be burdened with details such as the boundaries of dioceses or the functions of bishops, and indeed this was a matter which was specifically mentioned in the Chadwick Report on Church and State. I hope therefore that your Lordships will be sympathetic to the purposes of this Measure and accord to it an Affirmative Resolution.

Moved, That this House do direct that in accordance with the Church of England

Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Dioceses Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.—( The Bishop of London.)

3.13 p.m.

My Lords, this is just the latest of a series of general Measures which is steadily removing, as the right reverend Prelate has said, the ultimate authority over individual Church of England decisions from Parliament and leaving it in the hands of the General Synod. I have a feeling that these Measures are slipping through both Houses a little too easily.

I see two dangers in this transfer of power. The first is this. Although it may seem logical and right in advance that a certain broad area of decision-making should be left to the General Synod, within that broad area individual decisions may be made that were never foreseen by Parliament, and had they been foreseen would, very probably, not have been approved when it passed the Measure.

My Lords, our experience in this respect has not been very happy. When the Redundancy of Churches Measure was presented to this House it was said that, owing to shifts of population, certain church buildings were no longer needed. This seemed fair and reasonable. In a large community it may well make sense to reduce the number of churches from three to two, particularly when one of them is in an area that is no longer residential. But the Measure has since been used in a high-handed way to deprive small isolated communities of their traditional place of worship—buildings that for centuries their forbears have taken a pride in struggling to maintain.

In many villages this unspoken threat bedevilled—and I use that word intentionally—relations between parochial church councils and higher Church authorities. If any administrative change affecting their parish is suggested to them, they dare not accept it on its merits, however sensible it may seem in itself, because they now have to consider whether it may prove to be one more inexorable step towards ultimately depriving them of their church.

More recently, the Worship and Doctrine Measure again seemed reasonable when it was presented to Parliament. Many parishes had switched reasonably happily from the 1662 Prayer Book to Series One, Series Two or Series Three. If it had stopped there, it would have been all right. But Series Two is out of print now; all you can get to replace it when the paper-back copies belonging to a particular church wear out is a rewritten amalgum of Series One and Two. And this form will change again in a couple of years when the new hard-back Prayer Book comes out. What people want above all is continuity. This chopping and changing does not bring new people into the churches; it merely upsets those who are there already. And it was certainly never foreseen when the Measure was before Parliament. If, for instance, the General Synod still had to seek the approval of Parliament before rewriting, and rewriting again, the Lord's Prayer, I very much doubt if your Lordships would pass it. Now it can be done without a "by your leave".

And this Measure that is before us today. As the right reverend Prelate has described it to your Lordships it seems eminently reasonable in theory, but how is it going to be administered in practice? Your Lordships will remember the changes in county boundaries under the Local Government Act 1972, and the distress that the loss of old loyalties caused in many parts of the country. There may well be parishes, too, which would bitterly resent losing the connection with their traditional diocese. Seeing what has happened over these past Measures, can we rely on the General Synod to remember that people are people with feelings, and not just units of population to be tossed about for their own administrative convenience?

The second danger that I foresee in this steady shift of power from Parliament to the General Synod is that the General Synod is totally remote from the grassroots church-goer. If somebody objects to something that is being done at Westminster he knows the name of his Member of Parliament; he can write to him, he can encourage his friends to do the same, and if necessary, as a final resort, they can withhold their votes at the next Election. I have no idea as to who my representative on the General Synod is.

More important, he has no way of knowing that I or the thousands of others he represents are thinking. The parish elects a representative to the Deanery Synod, the Deaner Synod elects a representative to the Diocesan Synod, who in turn elect a representative to the General Synod. All right:—with a little research I can find out who my ultimate representative is. But if I object to the way that the General Synod is acting over all these matters, what can I do about it? My only sanction is to vote against the poor chap who represents my parish on the Deanery Synod, who may well be my next-door neighbour, who in all probability feels exactly the same way as I do, and who in any case is two removes away from the Assembly where the power lies.

I do not intend to oppose this order this afternoon, but I wish to put one question to the right referend Prelate the Bishop of London, and to make one request. The question is, just how far has this transfer of power progressed? When this Measure has been passed, what areas of decision will still remain the prerogative of Parliament, and what proportion do they form of the whole? And the request is this: That the people to whom we are transferring these powers should show a little bit more humility and a little bit more compassion in exercising them than they have heretofore, not only as regards this present Measure but as regards its predecessors as well, and in particular the two that I have mentioned. Because if they do not, if they continue to ignore the feelings and wishes of the people they represent, the next time such a Measure comes before Parliament, the time may well have come when it would be right for your Lordships and Members of another place to say, "Enough is enough".

3.20 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to offer a layman's respectful support to this Measure, which has been moved so clearly and cogently by the right reverend Prelate, but I should like also to associate myself with the words of my noble friend who has just sat down. My own feeling about that matter is that Clause 5 in the Measure, as drafted, ought to provide, and certainly does in the letter, for the means of making sure that proper consultation takes place, and that far-reaching reorganisations do not take place against the wishes of the majority or behind people's backs.

It also seems to me that the laymen who have to elect representatives to Synods at different levels will need to take a little more care than they have taken in the past to send to the Synods people who are capable of being judges of public affairs of this kind. I hope, therefore, that the Measure will soon receive the Royal Assent. Of course we shall not know whether the wise words of my noble friend have been heeded until we see the Measure put into practice, which I hope it shortly will be.

My noble friend Lord Denham mentioned local government reorganisation. I believe that the fact that local government reorganisation, or rather the reorganisation of county boundaries, has now taken place and is complete, provides another reason—and a strong reason—why this Measure should be brought in now. After all, there is much to be said for the diocesan boundaries being coterminous with the local government boundaries, if only because it would be easier in that way for people who wish to serve Church and State to do both together.

But I should like, in a few words, to give an example from my own part of the world of the work which awaits the Commission which is proposed in the Measure. I am talking about the West Midlands, where I come from. There are four dioceses which are concerned in the West Midlands conurbation and the adjoining counties: Birmingham, Worcester, Lichfield and Hereford. Very likely the right thing would be to look at them all together. But I should like to speak in particular about the last two—Lichfield and Hereford—and my diocesan bishop knows that I am doing so.

Lichfield diocese has a population of well over 2 million; Hereford has under half a million. Both carry the same overheads in the way of cathedrals, bishops, deans and canons. Shropshire (the county of Salop) has a population of 350,000, and it is split between the two dioceses. So Church life for centuries, instead of centring on the county town of Shrewsbury, is drawn away to Lichfield and Hereford, which are places to which Shropshire people do not normally go on any other business. This problem is not new to this House; I make no apology for bringing it up again. Those who care to look at Hansard for March 1926 will find that someone said then that the problem was as old as 1888. In 1926, a Bill was introduced to create a separate diocese for Shropshire at the expense of Hereford. It passed in the other place, and was defeated here by one vote. Much weeping and gnashing of teeth took place. Among the weepers and gnashers were my father and mother. But thank heaven! it happened the way it did, because, had the two dioceses been created then, neither could possibly have been viable at the present time.

But at that time there was strong support for what I believe would have been a much more sensible scheme; namely, to take the whole of Shropshire and put it into the Hereford diocese, making proper arrangements for devolution—which in this context is not such a dirty word as your Lordships may think—so that the financial arrangements for the two counties could be dealt with by delegation from the diocese.

Apart from what I am certain would be for the good of Shropshire, I am quite sure that a scheme like this would be an act of common sense. There is another reason why it would be so. Here, I refer to the new town of Telford, and I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, chairman of the town's development corporation, is not in his place. I did not have the opportunity of warning him that I was going to say this. The new town of Telford is divided into two, ecclesiastically. It lies between the two dioceses. Some time ago, Lord North-field's predecessor gave the opinion, on behalf of the new town development corporation, that it would be much better if the whole of Telford new town was in one diocese and not in two, although he refrained from saying which diocese he thought it should be in.

There we are with a new town growing, with people of all kinds and colours rapidly flowing in, and the Church of England, in common with the other Churches, doing its best, but handicapped by the diocesan boundary. I thought that I would describe that position to the House, not as a parochial example, but as an example of the kind of work which awaits the Commission once the Measure receives the Royal Assent and gets to work, as I hope it will. Therefore, I support the Measure, and once again draw attention to what my noble friend said about it.

3.26 p.m.

My Lords, at the outset of my contribution to the debate I must declare an interest, although a small one, in that I am employed part-time as the secretary of the International Affairs Committee of one of the boards of the General Synod. But the interest is diminished by the fact that it is a part-time appointment, and it is diminishing still because it is terminating at the end of the year. Moreover, my Lords, I do not think that from what I say you will feel that I have been influenced by it.

The subject which the right reverend Prelate has introduced to us in such reasonable and measured tones deals with the fabric of our State and history. Our national affairs are like a garment made of two pieces, and this is where the stitching is, between Church and State. As the right reverend Prelate so clearly pointed out, this interaction has gone on from the beginning of our history. From Odo of Bayeaux to Cardinal Wolsey it was difficult to distinguish between the roles of the prelate and the statesman, and from Henry VIII to James II religion and politics interacted so fiercely within the institutions of both Church and State that they boiled over on to the battlefields of the Civil War.

Something approaching calm did not become re-established until the arrival of the House of Orange in the Glorious Revolution, and since then we have had a series of diminishing periods of activity which have led to the present state which some would say resulted from cynicism and indifference, and others from wisdom and moderation.

None the less, the duality continues from top to bottom. At the Coronation, the Sovereign is anointed to her sovereignty by the Archbishop of Canterbury or, in his absence, by the Archbishop of York. At their enthronement it is clear that both archbishops hold their archbishoprics of the Queen. We have the right reverend Prelates sitting in such handsome and unaccustomed array before us today as witness of the involvement of Church and State together in the politics of our national life. The prayers in this House and in another place are Anglican prayers. Outside Parliament, in the maintained schools, a large number of parish clergy still have the right of access to the children. Would that they were more, and that they had been more vigorously defended in that role. We have lay patronage and presentation to livings, but I will not go on.

It is enough to say that clearly it would be foolish to argue that the conduct of the affairs of the Church of England do not closely affect the climate of the affairs of the nation of England, and indeed a wider circle still. It is in that context that we have to examine the Measure now laid before us, and for a start we have to be seized of both its nature and its effects.

In its nature it is an Affirmative Instrument; that is to say, it is an instrument which your Lordships can in no way amend. You must either accept it or reject it. Furthermore, it would appear to be an irreversible step, because although we are employing the machinery to take from Parliament powers and give them to the Synod, there is no machinery created, and no provision for the creation of machinery, to recall those powers. Therefore, what your Lordships decide today will be decided for ever and always, provided of course that another place concurs in our judgment. It is therefore not an unimportant departure, and I note with surprise and real regret that Her Majesty's Government, elected by the people and appointed by Her Majesty to watch over their several interests, regard this Measure as being of insufficient consequence for one single voice to be raised from their Benches.

My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord in his very agreeable and interesting speech, but I cannot let him get away with that. This, of course, like many other Church matters, is a devolved matter on which the Government, although they were of course aware of the Measure which the right reverend Prelate was to introduce, have no particular view. They are quite neutral about it; and, therefore, they are not taking part, as indeed they do not take part in the great majority of debates on these Measures.

My Lords, I accept what the noble Lord says in good part. On the other hand, if it is a devolved matter we none of us have any right to speak about it at all; and why is it that, until 1964, it was the custom of the Government to engage themselves in these affairs? However, the noble Lord has made his point.

My Lords, it seems to me that we are touching on a matter which closely affects the national welfare. The effects of this Measure are, as has been said, to transfer a number of powers, many of them internal to the Church, to the control of the General Synod and of a Commission set up by it; and we have heard the reasonable contentions of the right reverend Prelate as to what their intentions are and the moderation with which these powers will be used. But I have often said, and make no apology for saying again, that what you have to consider when looking at a constitutional measure is not the purpose for which the powers have been taken but, as my noble friend Lord Denham adumbrated, the purposes for which they can subsequently be used by people quite other than those who either gave or took them.

For this purpose, your Lordships will have looked at the Schedule and seen that the first two powers are to abolish or create bishoprics or dioceses. I do not seriously contend that the General Synod will make irresponsible and divisive use of these powers, but I do think that they need to take note of the mood, both of their constituency and of those elements of it that have a voice in our Houses of Parliament. Slow though the processes of innovation may seem to the members of the General Synod who institute them, they are a great deal more rapid than the public—their public and ours—is accustomed to in spiritual and constitutional matters. They may think that Series 1, 2 and 3 have been universally assimilated and approved in place of the 1662 Prayer Book, but in this they would be wrong. I still hear frequent pleas (and your Lordships have just heard another) against the way that this is handled. They may think the New English Bible is everywhere welcomed and preferred to the Authorised Version, but this is not so; and they may have thought that the amalgamation of parishes or the scheduling of redundant churches, or the new version of The Lord's Prayer, nowhere gave rise to offence or resentment, but, if they did, my noble friend Lord Denham has disabused them.

The essential point, my Lords, is this. Since the 'sixties there has been a succession of innovations, each of which has upset some of their constituency, and indeed some of ours, and none of which has been digested before another is presented. The diet may seem very wholesome, reasonable and beneficial to them, but, if I may make an analogy, and if they think that the resentment which it causes among some is infantile, then I would say that when a nurse feeds an infant, no matter how nourishing and beneficial the baby food may be, she is well advised to let it swallow one mouthful before she inserts the spoon with another; and, if she does not, she will finish up with egg all over the child's face and very often, in my experience, over hers as well. This situation causes a loss of confidence in both the mother and the child. At least, it did in me and my mother in 1930, when it happened to me.

In this context, the Mother of Parliaments sees itself, doubtless with very little justification but none the less quite clearly, as the mother of the child; it sees the general public, which is its own constituency and of which the parishes, remotely, are the constituency of the General Synod, as the child in the story; and it sees the General Synod itself as the nanny. It is saying to the nanny, in effect, "Please use your spoon with a little more discretion". If Parliament feels that this discretion is lacking, there may indeed be trouble when next she asks for a new packet of baby food. That, my Lords, in essence, is what my noble friend Lord Denham has said; and I hope your Lordships will not be misled by the lightheartedness of the analogy as to the gravity of the message it conveys.

That is the extent of my reservations about this Measure. I note that it has been inspired in part by the Chadwick Report and that it has been amended to meet the strictures of the Ecclesiastical Committee, and I accept that in instituting synodical government Parliament, quite rightly, willed that the Church alone should regulate what alone concerns the Church. Therefore, my Lords, it is with no ill will but, I hope, with a not ungracious counsel of caution to the Church and, indeed, to the State, that I ask your Lordships not to resist this Measure.

3.35 p.m.

My Lords, we have heard some highly conservative observations on these matters. I am one of those who thinks that it is high time the Church began to move with the times, and I think that Measures such as this are precisely what is required to enable it to do so. We have educated an enormous number of young people in physics and chemistry and in modern disciplines, and to them the antique wording of the 1662 service, regarded with great affection by myself and by many other people, is really quite an obstacle to their coming to church. I speak as a father of four and I know a great many young people, and it is quite hard to get them not to criticise some of the ancient wording. I believe that Measures such as this, which enable the Church to move with the times, are very helpful to the continued practice of the Christian religion in our country, and I give wholehearted support to this Measure.

My Lords, I should like to say just one thing as president of the Prayer Book Society—and I rather wish that I had had greater notice of this Motion. The noble Lord, Lord Hankey, says that people are not moved by the usages and the words of the 1662 Book, and one recalls that Series 3 talks about " The President". Is this President Nixon or is it President Amin? Series 3 is as bad as that. The beauty of the words of 1662 is beyond peradvanture; and for the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, to say that modern youth cannot be moved by beautiful English is patronage in its worst sense.

My Lords, following on the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, and of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, may I say that I am vice-president of the Prayer Book Society, and my experience as vice-president is quite contrary to what the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, said when he suggested that the Book of Common Prayer is a disincentive to people coming to church. On the contrary, what I have found through the members of the Prayer Book Society is that, more often than not, the new forms of service are forced on a reluctant laity by the clergy, most often by the moral authority of the vicar in a parish church council. The point is simply that, to a far greater extent than is probably realised, the laity just do not want the new forms of service.

3.35 p.m.

My Lords, I apologise for not having put my name down on the list of speakers. I should merely like to go on record as disagreeing entirely with what was said by my noble friend Lord Hankey. I cannot feel that young people are particularly attracted by modern wording. All that has happened is that the dignity and the beauty of the church service has been destroyed, and I do not think that modern English is the thing that is going to attract young people. It is far more a question of what the Church is doing in our everyday lives that is going to bring them into any kind of convinced membership of the Church.

My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Somers it was not my intention to intervene, but may I remind the House that the language of that period, and even earlier, as in Shakespeare's " Age of Kings", was a television best-seller over every continent where the English language is spoken, and the idea that young people do not react to Shakespeare when well produced is a non-starter. What the Church has got to do is not to desert its language, but to concentrate on how it produces it.

3.40 p.m.

My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, although I must confess that during the last few speeches I have wondered what they had to do with the Dioceses Measure which is the matter we have before us. However, I might say a word to those who have expressed their opinions about the language and the use of these modern services. The Worship and Doctrine Measure has written into it the safeguards that any of them could use at any time, because if a majority of the parochial church council desire that other services should be used, and there is disagreement with the parish priest, then he has by law to use the 1662 Book and the practice that was in use for the last two or three years, until agreement has been reached. Therefore, if there are those who do not like the use of these modern services, all that they have to do is to persuade a majority of the members of their parochial church council to take the action which is laid down for them in the Worship and Doctrine Measure.

My Lords, may I ask the right reverend Prelate whether he acknowledges that in many instances in a parish church council, no matter what the law is, the new forms of service are imposed on a reluctant laity by the moral authority of the vicar?

Several noble Lords: Yes, yes!

My Lords, I have no evidence that that is happening. If it is, then the remedy lies with the people who feel that they are not getting what they want. It is in the Measure and anybody can use the powers that are there. My own feeling is that, much as I love 1662 and much as I, personally, do not like addressing the Almighty in the second person plural, I find in so many of the churches that I go to these services are welcomed and are being used and are obviously of great satisfaction to the people worshipping there. I think there is a considerable area of disagreement here as to exactly what the facts are.

I was saddened to hear the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Denham. He was obviously speaking from very deep and personal concern and his speech was in large measure a stricture and criticism of those of us who are involved in the administration of the Church and in the fulfilling of the terms of these various Measures to which Parliament has given its permission. I was not quite sure what he was referring to. He mentioned the " Redundant Churches Measure". There is no such measure. There is a section of the Pastoral Measure which deals with redundant churches. That is probably what he was referring to. Also, I was not clear whether he was referring to the union of benefices or only to the declaration of redundancy of churches. But, in whichever case it is, I would remind him that there are considerable safeguards. I see him showing his dissent. All that I can say is that the law is there for all to see.

I and other right reverend Prelates who are sitting here are on the committees of the Church Commissioners who have to sit in a quasi-judicial position regarding these requests and objections; and we take unlimited care to examine these matters. When there is a difficult case, a special delegation from the Church Commissioners goes to the place and meets with all the people and talks with them. Then there is the final appeal to the Privy Council. Noble Lords should not think that that is a difficult or forbidding thing, because on many occasions I have known quite ordinary church wardens to go and plead their own cause before the Privy Council. Therefore, there are many safeguards before a church can be declared redundant. I fully appreciate that there are some occasions when these things do cause distress and heart searching, but I can assure noble Lords that those of us who are involved in this do our utmost to see that those things are gently and understandingly dealt with; and, if that is not the case, then we are very much to blame.

The noble Lord, Lord Denham, spoke about the General Synod as being remote from the grass roots. I think that this is always a danger as regards any kind of democratic assembly—and I think that there are a good many people who would not know the name of their Member of Parliament. But it is open to any churchman to find out who are the members of the General Synod and, if he cannot do so, to write directly to the bishop and express to him his misgivings about anything that is coming before the Synod. I would say most genuinely that if these matters are of real concern, then we need people on the General Synod who will come to express these sentiments and test them against the general opinion of the General Synod. I would hope that somebody like the noble Lord, Lord Denham, would seek membership of the General Synod and be able to make the speeches there that he makes here and to persuade the General Synod to his point of view.

He put to me questions as to how far the Synod has gone, how far it intends to go and what are still the remaining safeguards. I would suggest to your Lordships that those safeguards are still very considerable, for the Synod recognises that certain powers remain in the hands of Parliament and that is why we must come here for an Affirmative Resolution. I could not possibly say that these matters have been dealt with lightly; the ones that I have been involved with have been very thoroughly debated here and even more highly scrutinised when they get to the other place.

Nevertheless, I can remind the noble Lord, first of all, that the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is specifically entrenched as a legal alternative in the Worship and Doctrine Measure and, therefore, it could only cease to be a legal alternative by deliberate Act of Parliament. The Dioceses Measure, for instance, would not allow the creation of a further province. The Church of England is divided, as your Lordships will know, into the Provinces of Canterbury and York. Some people think that there ought to be a Province of London. But if there is ever to be such, it cannot be created under the Dioceses Measure: we should have to come again to Parliament on that particular issue. The constitution of the Synod and the rules of procedure are subject to the scrutiny of Parliament; all issues of property would have to come before Parliament; the common law rights of citizens to the ministries of the Church of England are safeguarded. Although there is a new procedure for Crown appointments, ultimately they remain in the hands of the Sovereign. The structure of the Ecclesiastical Courts, which was decided by the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure in 1963, would be a matter over which Parliament would have much to say. There are still the safeguards of the courts for aggrieved citizens should they feel that the law of the Church has been abused. There are many ways in which the rights of citizens are still protected.

There are one or two major issues which are still coming before the Synod and eventually before Parliament. One of these is the whole difficult question of patronage. As soon as the Church Assembly was created in 1919 the first thing that it tried to solve was the problems of patronage, and we are still having to wrestle with them. No doubt, sooner or later, Measures will be brought before Parliament on this very difficult issue, but that is one matter that is still outstanding. The other big issue which may have to be decided in the near future is the question of the ordination of women to the priesthood of the Church of England. The Church of England General Synod is going to examine this again after the Lambeth Conference next year in November 1978.

If it were to decide that women should be ordained, then we should still have to come to Parliament because we are told, rightly or wrongly—we are advised by legal experts—that the ordinal of the Book of Common Prayer presumes that the priesthood is male and, therefore, that would have to be changed before women could be ordained. Those matters are still before us. But, as I say, I think this process of reform is coming to an end. Those of us who are involved in it sincerely hope that this is the case.

It was good to hear the voice of the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. His voice, and that of his family, has always been valued in ecclesiastical matters. We remember the doughty fight put up for the Prayer Book in 1927–28 in another place, and also the disappointment over the Diocese of Shropshire later on. As I believe and understand, the Dioceses Commission will be a very responsible body, and the terms of those who have to be consulted are clearly laid out in the Measure. If they were to take action in defiance of any of the terms of the Measure, that would be a serious matter, one on which there would be a full expression of views. He may rest assured that the greatest possible care will be taken by consulting as many people as possible.

The main point which the noble Lord, Lord Elton, made was that we are making changes too rapidly and that we are, so to speak, suffocating Parliament by the rapidity of the Measures that we have been bringing before Parliament. I am sorry to disagree with the noble Lord because the Church of England has been wrestling with these constitutional problems for at least 100 years, and there have been one after another Church and State Commissions which have been recommending that various things should be done. One of our difficulties is that there was a theological reformation but not an administrative reformation, and we have been largely saddled with a mediaeval structure for the Church in the 20th century. Therefore it is a process going back to the Royal Commission at the turn of the century, the creation of the Church Assembly by the enabling Measure in 1919 and various other matters: the reform of canon law, the reform of the Church courts, and so on. It is possibly because we feel that the pressures are so great that we have had to bring the succession of Measures before Parliament.

My Lords, in order to be clear for the record, I was indicating not so much Parliamentary indigestion, as the indigestion of the inner articulate parts of the Church of England which have been alluded to already, and to those who feel that they have some stake in the Church without being active members of it. That is a constituency of which we are more sensitive than is the General Synod. It was to that that I was drawing attention.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that correction. I can assure him—as I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Denham—that there are people who are sensitive to these matters. If people have been hurt by changes, then that is a fault which ought not to have taken place. When changes come, it is inevitable that some people will dislike them. We know that in another great Christian communion in this country there are similar strong feelings about the changes which are taking place. It is obviously a point which has been made strongly and should be watched and will certainly be taken from this debate. In these matters of change we ought to be sensitive and humble. I hope that, with those assurances, your Lordships will give assent to this Motion.

My Lords, before the right reverend Prelate sits down, could he answer Lord Elton's point on the constitutional changes involved in this order?

I am afraid, my Lords, I do not understand the implications of the noble Earl's question.

My Lords, am I not right in saying that this involves a possible change in the constitution of the Bench of Bishops in your Lordships' House?

My Lords, I see no indication of that in this Measure. The likelihood of a diocese being dissolved completely and therefore the bishop being, so to speak, out of a job, is not a constitutional matter. I see no constitutional implications in the rearrangement of dioceses or within dioceses.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Parochial Registers And Records

3.55 p.m.

rose to move, That this House do direct that in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Parochial Registers and Records Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent. The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, I am sorry that I have again to occupy your attention, but it is better to deal with these matters together rather than divide them up.

We have had important debates already in this House on the preservation and availability of national records, and I have already expressed the opinion that the ecclesiastical records and registers of the Church should be preserved and protected as national possessions, for in many instances they are the sole existing sources for historical research. Yet, they are frequently in great jeopardy. They can, when under parochial care, easily get lost. They can be harmed by damp or carelessness, and they can be alienated. Often the remoteness of a parish can make access to scholars very difficult indeed.

The Church of England is very conscious of its responsibilities. There are already a number of legislative enactments safeguarding registers and records. But there has been considerable pressure from responsible bodies that these should be strengthened. So this Measure both consolidates certain enactments and also tightens the regulations with respect to diocesan record offices, the depositing of documents and their care. As will be observed from paragraph 4 on page 5 of the comments, these issues have been carefully debated ever since 1968, and the General Synod has patiently studied the matter in detail for a very long time. Professional and other interested bodies have been consulted, and I know that the General Synod is particularly indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, for his help and advice.

As regards the Church, there have been two particularly controversial issues. One concerns the proposal in the Measure that register books which are more than 100 years old and which have been completed must be deposited in the diocesan record office unless the diocesan bishop is advised that they can be kept satisfactorily in the parish. This is strengthened by Clause 9 which gives very considerable powers to the bishop to examine the records and to satisfy himself that they are being kept as the Measure requires. In plain language, all this means that it will be quite exceptional for these old records to remain in the parish since only rarely will a parish be able to satisfy the high standards of care which are laid down in Schedule 2 to the Measure.

Some clergy, particularly in country parishes, naturally feel considerable regret at losing their records, for they are an important element in local inheritance, but the considered view of the Synod is that in the wider public interest these records and registers should be deposited in a place where they can be properly cared for, where they can be alongside other records, and so scholars can do their work much more easily.

This Measure follows the 1929 Measure in providing that each diocese must have, or, as this Measure makes plain, must designate, a diocesan record office or offices. In fact in all but three cases, dioceses have been appointed their local county record office as the diocesan record office for the purpose of the 1929 Measure, and hence for this one. In some cases where the diocese spans more than one county, the diocese has arranged for the allocation of the parochial records to the appropriate local office. These record offices are provided and maintained by local authorities in accordance with the Local Government (Records) Act 1962. In three cases—Canterbury, York and Oxford—an independent body has been designated as the diocesan record office: in Canterbury it is the Canterbury Cathedral Library, in York the Borthwick Institute and in Oxford the Bodleian Library.

The other controversial issue relates to the charging of fees. While the Measure was being considered by the Synod, and subsequently when the Measure came to the Ecclesiastical Committee, various individuals and bodies representing scholars and others who need access to records expressed their concern about those parts of the Measure which provide for the charging of fees. Some of them at least would have liked to secure that a bona fide student should not be charged a fee when he himself makes a search. Particular concern was expressed because the Measure set no limit to the fees which diocesan record offices could impose.

Before the Ecclesiastical Committee, witnesses from the Synod made clear that the Synod, for its part, saw no reason to impose any limit on the fees charged by local authority record offices. Indeed, the advice given to us by the Synod's draftsmen was that it would be improper to make such a provision affecting local authority record offices in a Synod Measure. As regards these three independent or private offices, the Synod thought it was unrealistic to suggest that they would make unreasonable charges; indeed, the Bodleian has never charged at all. The Ecclesiastical Committee, while finding the Measure expedient, referred to the anxieties that had been expressed about this matter.

Following the meeting of the Ecclesiastical Committee, there were further consultations between the Secretary-General of the Synod and representatives of the record users, and it was decided to take advantage of a miscellaneous provisions Measure which is now before the Synod to test opinion on a compromise, mainly that the Measure should expressly provide that in the matter of fees local authority record offices will be subject to the provisions of the Local Government (Records) Act 1962 and that in the case of the three independent offices it will be for the General Synod, by fees orders, to prescribe upper limits for the fees which are to be charged.

The Synod has incorporated this provision in the miscellaneous provisions Measure, which has now passed its revision stage. It provides as follows:

"In Section 20(2) of the Parochial Records and Registers Measure … searches et cetera of registers, books of baptisms or burials deposited in a diocesan record office, for paragraph (b) there shall be substituted:
'(b) the authority under whose control that office is, not being a local authority, may charge such fees, if any, for the making of searches in any such book and the provision of copies of entries therein as may be prescribed by any Order for the time being in force made under the Ecclesiastical Fees Measure 1962'."

Then there is a consequential addition to subsection (5). If, therefore, Parliament approves the present Measure it can be assured that before it comes into effect the question of the charging of fees will have been resolved to the satisfaction of all those concerned, subject, of course, to the approval early next year of the miscellaneous provisions Measure when, in its turn, it comes before Parliament.

I understand that this Measure, as it comes to your Lordships' House, has the approval of those who are expert in these matters. The General Synod has expended an inordinate amount of time upon it, and I hope that the House will give it their approval.

Moved, That this House do direct that in accordance with the Church of England Assembly (Powers) Act 1919, the Parochial Registers and Records Measure be presented to Her Majesty for the Royal Assent.—( The Lord Bishop of London.)

4.4 p.m.

My Lords, the whole House will be grateful to the right reverend Prelate for explaining these Measures to us. It is largely, as he says, the consummation of what we were discussing some 21 months ago when his right reverend colleague the Bishop of Chelmsford was leading for the Church. Speaking, as we chiefly are in this House today, as custodians of our national records, I think we all must welcome these positive measures that the Church is proposing to help solve the problem.

There are still problems, with which no doubt my noble friend Lord Teviot will deal. The right reverend Prelate mentioned the records users and the students, who are not too flush with money and are unwilling to part with the little that they have. By and large, of course, the student is not a major user of the minutiae of the parish records: he is usually more concerned with his thesis, which does not need such small records. I feel myself that where the Church authorities and local county authorities—which are mostly the same, as the right reverend Prelate said—are put to expense in guarding and looking after these records, they are morally entitled to recoup some small sum towards that expense. If the expense is thought to be unreasonable, as has been indicated, changes may be made. I submit, my Lords, it is important to remember that.

When we were debating the matter some 21 months ago, we discussed whether the Church authorities would be taking more positive measures towards the microfilming of church records. That was one of the amendments it was thought might be considered, and I think somehow it has got left out. I expect I shall be told it has been nullified by the extra security measures that are being taken and that possibly it would be too expensive: I do not know, and I do not want to anticipate the answer.

I mentioned at that time the sad fate which overtook certain records, owing to the action of a previous bishop of the diocese. The archdeaconry was moved to Richmond and the records were mostly found scattered among the dales of Wensleydale and Wharfedale. As a matter of interest, if old records have to be moved now, what precautions are taken? Are they just allowed to be bundled into the old motorcar of the parish priest, which is all he can afford, and taken to the local county authority? It is possible that he might be bumped into by another car or set alight. I do not see any mention of the precautions that might be taken if and when records have to be moved by order of the bishop.

I think it is only fair that the three private authorities should be enabled, if they so wish, to charge for the showing of the parish records in their custody. I know the Bodleian and the Borthwick Institute fairly well. I cannot confess to knowing Canterbury Cathedral Library; but they are the last people to be money-grubbing or to take an unfair advantage of their ability to charge fees.

I should like to congratulate the right reverend Prelate and the Synod on the excellent annexe to the report. It is self-explanatory and therefore obviates the necessity for many questions to be asked. However, I have always felt slightly worried about one small point. Referring, say to a parish like Burnham-Thorpe in Norfolk, which is chiefly famous for the fact that one of our great naval heroes was born there and his father was the rector. The page and the record of Horatio Nelson's baptism and so on are, I imagine, a very proud exhibit in a display case. All churches have to seek gifts from those who come to visit them and an exhibit of that type will encourage tourists—of whom we have a plentiful supply in this country—to go and look in the church. If a mere extract was to be there it might not have the same meaning, and I hope that the Church authorities will interpret these requirements wisely and not too harshly where they would impinge on a small parish of that sort, where the records could equally well be kept in the local record office.

I welcome Clause 9, which demands a six-yearly inspection. This is very important and useful, because it is no good having one inspection and then no more till the next incumbent arrives. If a local parish is to be left with these goods, it is clearly sensible for the authorities to know that there is to be a six-yearly check.

There is only one other point that I should like to make. I am slightly saddened that the fire precautions have had to give way, although I quite agree that the hygrometer is more important. I said 21 months ago that I suspected damp to be a greater enemy than fire. I still stick to that view, and the Church authorities appear to take that view, too. There is no restriction as regards the kind of metal case, although the lock is specified. I know that expense enters into this enormously. I do not know whether one might have a fireproof safe containing a little compartment with a piece of silica-gel, which could be removed every now and again, in case documents were suffering in one way or another. I am no expert, but I am sure that the right reverend Prelate and his colleagues have taken the best advice. However, I should like to put it on record that I am saddened that we have not been able to guard against both dampness and fire. With those few words, I should like to welcome this Measure and again thank the right reverend Prelate for the way in which he has introduced it.

4.12 p.m.

My Lords, I must begin by declaring an interest in that, from time to time, I receive fees for looking at parish records. This is a very great day for me and for conservationists, because at last this Measure has come before your Lordships' House and will shortly receive the Royal Assent. There have been so many attempts through the ages to achieve better preservation of parish registers, and what this Measure does was suggested as early as 1836, in the General Registration Bill, when a valuable opportunity was missed. Non-parochial records were brought in, but parishes were left out. There were several Measures during the last century which ended up as nothing. Now, shortly before Christmas, all will be well.

There was a very interesting Unstarred Question put down in your Lordships' House in 1971, when various opinions were aired. Although there have been rumblings in the other place, this is the first time for at least 50 years that Parliament has drawn attention to this matter. I should like to thank the Synod for this uncontroversial Measure, and it must be very pleasant for the right reverend Prelate to introduce two Measures in one afternoon. This has been a very happy experience. I know that the Synod has been accused of legislative indigestion, but this Measure has taken up a lot of secular time. It is a matter in the public interest, not in the Church's interest; it is not so much a matter of Church legislation as a matter for debate by the Church. I attended the Second Reading in the other place, where they went much further than I had gone in the original Bill which I introduced 21 months ago. There was the question of compulsory depositing unless the parish could provide a very good reason, and of having a proper cover with a hygrometer and so on in which to keep these records.

There is one point here. This was voluntary under the original Bill, but it was made uncomfortable to keep records in the parish. One does not like compulsion and, although, under the 1836 Bill, non-parochial records were deposited with the Registrar-General, a lot of them never got there and still have not got there. They have gone to other places, such as diocesan record offices, the Baptist Union and elsewhere. I should like to ask the right reverend Prelate if he knows whether all these records will have been listed by the time that they are handed over, so that none slip through the net. I do not suppose that that will happen with parish registers, but I hope that other, secular records such as those relating to highways and settlements will be kept, because they are of very great use. These records are of great value to genealogists, and are of great interest to people all over the New World, as well as to demographers.

My noble friend Lord Mowbray talked of transcription and asked for clarification. That is left to individuals to do, and here one must congratulate the Church of Latter-Day Saints, otherwise known as the Mormon Church—a term which they prefer not to use. They have microfilmed at their own expense, and have made a computer file index of those microfilms. I do not want to enter into a controversial matter with the right reverend Prelate, but this is something which is of deep personal concern if it is felt suitable for that Church to baptise the dead. That is one of their purposes, and that is why the Church of Latter-Day Saints are so interested. It is a very personal concern. Quite a number of right reverend Prelates feel that this is all right, and they do not attach great importance to it.

I would quote one example of how useful this computer file index was in furthering a peerage claim which came before your Lordships. There was a rather dilatory, though very famous, Lord Chancellor who had a great many children and, in this peerage claim, two baptism certificates had to be found. He had had his first two children baptised at St. George's, Bloomsbury and I had to find the records of baptism of a child born in 1817 and of another born in 1822. We knew that this Lord Chancellor—he was not Lord Chancellor at the time, but became so 30 years later—had one house in Sussex and another in Lincoln's Inn. There was no record of any baptism taking place in Lincoln's Inn or in the parish in Sussex, so I went to the computer file index which gave the date of December 1831, and those two baptisms were found at St. Pancras Old Church. Without the index, they would never have been found, or it would have taken years, and one does not know whether that peerage claim would have got through. So one must be grateful for all forms of transcription.

My noble friend mentioned fire. This is a matter about which I am concerned, but I believe that damp can be even worse than fire, because, if you protect too much against fire, you will get damp. The wooden chest with iron padlocks of 1538 was rather better than the dry, well-painted iron chest of 1812. Quite a lot of records will have been stuffed into that iron box in a church and, even if it does not catch fire, the records inside will have turned into pulp. So damp is something which we have very much to provide against.

The Church of Wales is not dealt with in this Measure. I hope that arrangements will be made for a Bill to be passed swiftly through Parliament, via the Welsh Office and the Church of Wales, and that it will be similar to this Church Measure.

I should also like to mention that parishes might feel reluctant to deposit their records at record offices. Diocesan record offices are most excellent places; they are extremely welcoming and professional persons of a very high standard look after the records. There are certain town parishes which have little of their records or their heritage left. I am not speaking of beautiful Georgian towns but of towns which were massacred in Victorian times and which have nothing left. Ancient parishes take very good care of their records, but, when they have to deposit their records at record offices, I should like there to be a special Measure directed towards them so that they may be looked after; perhaps a transcript could be kept in those parishes.

I have found the Synod Office to be an agreeable body to deal with, and I regret that this Measure will not give me an excuse to 'phone them or be in touch with them. However, I feel that one has found friends and that this has been a pleasant experience right the way through.

4.22 p.m.

My Lords, I am most grateful to the two noble Lords who have spoken. They have put one or two questions and I shall do my best to reply to them. First, both noble Lords referred to the question of microfilming and especially to the efforts of the Church of Latter-Day Saints to do this. I had not expected to have to indulge in a theological disquisition on this occasion. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, pointed out, the Church of Latter-Day Saints asks that this should be done in order that the microfilms can be taken back to Salt Lake City where some rite, of which we know nothing, is performed upon the names of those on the register. I have always taken the line that I shall not permit this, because I regard myself as guardian of the documents and of the names contained in those documents. I believe that I have no power to allow the names of those people, their memory and their persons to be subjected to something about which I know nothing and about which they would doubtless not have known or would have disapproved. It is for that reason that this rather difficult choice has to be made. As noble Lords have pointed out, it is very attractive to have all these registers microfilmed for nothing.

The noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, referred to the shortcomings of one of my predecessors at the time when the great diocese of Chester was cut up into bits and at the time of the distribution of the documents of the Archdeaconry of Richmond. I can only say that, in the Measure, the bishop is responsible for giving orders both for the inspection of the registers and also, in certain circumstances, for their immediate removal to a record office. I think, therefore, that he would have to accept the responsibility for seeing that they were transferred under safe conditions from one place to another.

The exhibiting of interesting documents belonging to a parish is something which parishes certainly like to do. Obviously, a parish will be very proud of its records if, for example, it is the place where Lord Nelson was baptised. However, I am sure that noble Lords will appreciate the great danger which these interesting documents are in, when they are exhibited, unless somebody is present the whole time. In these days when vergers are very expensive and when very few Churches can have a whole-time custodian, not only can parishes not exhibit interesting things but very often, reluctantly and against their will, they have to keep the church locked because, more often than not, objects are taken simply because people can get in.

As regards the danger of fire, there is a paragraph in Schedule 2 which lays down that:
"The place in the church or other place of worship in which the cupboard is kept shall be the place where there is least risk of damage to any such book or record in the event of a flood or an outbreak of fire".
It is quite true that the safe does not have to be fireproof. I do not know what the reason for that is; it may be that it would be exceedingly expensive to install. However, this would be a factor which the bishop would take very much into consideration if he were to allow the register books to remain in the parish. However, if they were in a place where they could be destroyed by fire, he might very well say that this was a factor which must persuade him that the documents should go to other custody.

The noble Lord, Lord Teviot, mentioned the listing of documents. There is mention of this in Section 5(2):
"The person carrying out an inspection under this section shall compile a list of the register books and a list describing the records which have been inspected by him under this section".
I hope, therefore, that under this section the person whom the Bishop instructs to examine the records will list everything that he finds that is of interest and of value. As regards the Church of Wales, the noble Lord will appreciate that Measures of the General Synod cannot apply to the Church of Wales. Therefore, it will need a special Bill in Parliament.

I know that all who have been concerned with this Measure will be very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, for the gratitude which he has expressed. I am sure they will hope that the fact that this will no longer be an outstanding matter will not mean that he will not visit Church House from time to time. May I ask this House to agree to the Measure.

My Lords, there is just one question which I should like to ask the right reverend Prelate; it is of great interest to our local historical society. May I ask the right reverend Prelate whether it is intended to publish the list which is compiled as to where the documents of particular parishes are deposited? Hardly a week goes by in our village without somebody from Canada, Australia, New Zealand or America coming to inquire about their forbears. It would be good if such a compilation could be deposited in all of our British Council offices in English speaking countries overseas.

My Lords, I cannot answer that question immediately, but I shall try to find out the answer and will write to the noble Lord. I very much appreciate the point, because constantly I receive letters from people in Australia and elsewhere saying, "My great-great-grandfather was baptised in a church called St. Mary's, somewhere in London. Could you please find out when it happened?" Then I have to write back to that person and say that he had much better apply to a skilled archivist in order to get the information which he requires.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Weights And Measures Act 1963 (Bread) Order 1977

4.29 p.m.

rose to move, That the draft Weights and Measures Act 1963 (Bread) Order 1977, laid before the House on 3rd November, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move that the draft Weights and Measures Act 1963 (Bread) Order 1977, laid before the House on 3rd November, be approved. It may be for the convenience of the House if I speak at the same time to the second order standing in my name. Both orders have the same objective, in that they represent a further stage in the gradual change-over to the metric system in the retail sector of our economy.

The groundwork for these draft orders has already been laid—first, in previous orders providing alternative metric ranges for the products concerned; secondly, when Parliament passed the Weights and Measures Act 1976 which provided the powers to phase out Imperial size ranges; and thirdly in the Department's metrication report to Parliament in April of this year, which set down the Government's proposed timetable for ending the prescribed Imperial sizes for individual products. The detailed consultations which have been held with interested parties since the publication of the report have shown an encouraging endorsement of the tentative cut-off dates. The removal of uncertainty for consumers and for industry alike which this approach achieves has, I assure your Lordships, been widely welcomed.

I will deal first with the Bread Order. It may help noble Lords if I recall that the existing Metrication Order, which was concerned with introducing alternative metric quantities for loaves of bread, allows bread in quantities of more than 300 gm. to be sold in prescribed metric quantities of 400 gm. and multiples of 400 gm. At 300 gm. and below bread may be sold in any weight. If these provisions are compared with those relating to imperial weights there is virtually no change. At the moment bread weighing over 10 oz. must be made to weights of 14 oz. or a multiple of 14 oz. Fourteen ounces is 397 gm.—a fortunate proximity to 400 gm. The difference between the "imperial" and "metric" small loaves will therefore be only 3 gm.; this is under 1 per cent. of the weight of the loaf. The standard "metric" loaves will, therefore, be indistinguishable from their "imperial" predecessors.

There has been some criticism of this from two different points of view. The first point made is that 400 gm. and 800 gm. are not "proper" metric quantities and that metric loaf weights should more properly have been based on the kilogram and the half kilogram. There is some logic in this, and future generations might well find 400 gm. and 800 gm. to be "odd" sizes. I confess I find 14 oz. an odd size already. But bread is a product, rather like draught beer or bottled milk, where there is no overwhelming economic or consumer argument for changing sizes on metrication. The practicalities need to be considered, and to increase bread weights to 500 gm. and 1000 gm. would have involved the bakers in complete re-tinning and complete conversion of their equipment. This would have been extremely costly and would undoubtedly have affected the price of bread. The practical arguments for reducing the metrication costs to minimal proportions, as will be the case in the minor switch to 400 gm. and 800 gm., are, therefore, in our view, overwhelming.

The second argument is that, since the proposals will not result in any distinguishable change in bread sizes, there is no justification for this legislation. This, I suggest, ignores the fact that it is the Government's policy, and indeed has been the policy of successive Governments, to bring to an end, at a reasonable pace, the use of two entirely different systems of weights and measures in this country, because of the costs and confusion involved.

On the actual draft order now before your Lordships I can be brief. This envisages an end to the baking of "imperial" loaves from 2nd May 1978 and to their sale on 8th May 1978. This is timed to coincide with the plans of the baking industry to go metric over the May 1978 bank holiday weekend, and it allows a short period for the disposal of old "imperial" loaves from the shops. I am sure your Lordships will be glad to learn that the price of bread will not be increased at the changeover. However, the baking industry have indicated that they would expect the very slight increase in the dough weights to be taken into account at the time of any subsequent adjustment to the price of bread.

I will turn briefly to the second order on the Order Paper, the draft Various Goods Order. This proposal is aimed at removing the imperial option provided in previous metrication orders for salt, cereal breakfast foods in flake form, oat products, biscuits, tea and edible fats. A two-stage method of procedure, as adopted in the case of the sugar order approved last July, has again been used. This provides for an initial cut-off for packing and importing operations, and a later final cut-off for retail sales. During the various transitions between the two stages the offences connected with imperial packs will apply only to the act of packing and importing. Thus it will still be legal to sell or possess for sale such packs until the final cut-off. The varying lengths of the transitional periods provided are based on generous estimates of the shelf life of the individual products concerned. The Department are satisfied, from their consultations with those concerned, that these proposals are as fair as can be devised in taking account of the needs of manufacturers, others in the distribution chain—particularly the retailers—and, above all, consumers, who want the shortest changeover periods possible.

In the case of salt, cereal breakfast foods and biscuits metrication is already well advanced, and these products are widely available in the shops in metric sizes. First metric packs of oat products and tea will start appearing in the shops next year, and edible fats will follow in mid-1979. Basically the staggering of dates sterns from the need for the industries concerned to minimise conversion costs. But this step-by-step approach brings other important advantages. First, it builds consumer confidence in, and acceptance of, the metrication programme. Secondly, it facilitates the monitoring of prices during the changeover. Prescribed metric packs are generally 10 per cent. larger than the imperial packs they replace, and it is important to ensure that, in this situation, the consumer continues to get at least the same value for money. Therefore, there is a standing "reference" to the Price Commission to monitor the effect of metrication on prescribed quantity goods. I assure your Lordships that their reports so far have been extremely encouraging. They have clearly demonstrated that retail prices have not increased as a result of metrication, after allowances are made for the increased contents, the 10 per cent. increase in most cases. Indeed there are some cases where metrication has resulted in better value for money for consumers. The Government have, therefore, not found it necessary so far to use the powers they have to take any special steps on pricing and metrication. This, I am sure your Lordships agree, is to the credit of the industries concerned and to the retail trade. My Lords, with that experience already behind us, and looking to a future programme of metrication, I have confidence in recommending these orders to your Lordships. I, therefore, move the Bread Order.

Moved, That the draft Weights and Measures Act 1963 (Bread) Order 1977, laid before the House on 3rd November, be approved.—( Lord Oram.)

4.40 p.m.

My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Oram, for introducing these two orders. They are two further pieces of the metrication jigsaw puzzle in which we have been involved for some 12 years and which it is hoped will be completed in four or five years time. Although I think that we should approve these orders, there is one aspect of the Various Goods order to which I should like to refer. When I was asked to speak to these orders I was told that it was a quite straightforward affair and so I blithely agreed and proceeded to read them.

Unfortunately, when reading the Various Goods order I did not begin with the Explanatory Memorandum. However, I got on quite well until I reached the following paragraph which says:
"An order specified in column 1 of the Schedule hereto shall have effect after the date, or the date appropriate to the goods in question, specified in relation to that Order in column 2 of that Schedule as if the provision specified in column 3 of that Schedule were omitted as respects all goods to which the Order applies or, as the case may be, as respects relevant goods referred to in the said column 1".
I thought that would have been a very good thing for Beachcomber to have written some years ago! Having read that paragraph several times and carefully studied the Schedule, I eventually worked out what I thought it meant. To my great relief my deductions were pretty well confirmed by the Explanatory Memorandum which was a little easier to understand. The noble Lord, Lord Oram, has now made it all very clear to us and I am extremely grateful to him. However, I wish that I had heard what he had to say before I started work.

In view of the frequent recent statements by the Government that small businesses are to be helped and encouraged, I should like to ask the noble Lord whether he thinks it fair that the proprietor of a small store or a village grocer's shop should have to wrestle with such an instruction? Perhaps the noble Lord will say either that it will be clear to those who are accustomed to receiving these orders or that they will be accompanied by simple instructions. Alternatively, could it be that it is only I who find it so difficult? Perhaps I am making too much of this, but I do not think so. No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Oram, will tell me what he thinks. In any event, I repeat that in my opinion, these two orders should be approved.

4.44 p.m.

My Lords, every change like the decimal currency change has resulted in members of the British public being muddled every time they go to the shops. Decimal currency sparked off a psychological "happening" in this country that we have never known before; namely, a large number of people stopped counting their change when they came out of a shop. Every single change we make that makes it more difficult to shop, the easier it is to twist the customer.

Only the other day I was coming out of a baker's shop when a man said to me: "Eventually I shall be able to put a small loaf in my waistcoat pocket". I think that where we have a major change such as this which is likely to muddle customers there should be real effort on the part of those selling the goods to explain to people precisely what they will get for their money. We should try to instil in our people a little more of the sense of thrift that our forbears used to have.

My Lords, I thank the two noble Lords who have commented on these orders. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Cullen of Ashborne, that the point he has made about the technical drafting of the order has been made before by his colleagues when we were dealing with other matters. It is certainly true that the kind of paragraph which the noble Lord quoted is necessarily complex. Like him, I puzzled it through and it made sense to me. However, I agree that very few people will be able to engage in that puzzling. I think that the noble Lord recognises that not many people really need to go into the exercise that he and I have gone through because the small traders and others receive their advice from experts who understand these matters. Indeed, the Department and others, publish explanatory material in simpler, more layman's language.

Therefore, although I fully sympathise with the noble Lord in terms of the intricate language, I assure him that it is necessary to make the order legally exact. We suffer but our suffering is all in a good cause. My noble friend Lord Rhodes rightly raised the question of change leading to the possibility of people being taken for a ride. However, I have assured him, and I assure him again, that the Government, with the advice of the Price Commission, carefully follow these matters. As I indicated in my opening remarks the reports from the Price Commission about price changes consequential upon these metrication changes, have been extremely reassuring.

However, the noble Lord causes me to comment that if these difficulties arise when these changes take place, all the more reason for us to get on wholeheartedly with the change. In this instance it is a change that, I think, most people recognise must come in order for us to be in line with the rest of the world. With one or two minor exceptions the rest of the world is metricated, and we must get in line. The sooner we can bring about this change, the better for consumers and all concerned. However, that does not mean that we must rush into it. It must be done carefully. The programme, which I have indicated is set out in the Department of Prices and Consumer Protection publication Metrication, indicates a rational approach timetable-wise, to this necessary change.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Weights And Measures Act 1963 (Various Goods) (Termination Of Imperial Quantities) Order 1977

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

Moved, That the draft Weights and Measures Act 1963 (Various Goods) (Termination of Imperial Quantities) Order 1977, laid before the House on 3rd November, be approved.—(Lord Oram.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Code Of Practice: Time Off For Trade Union Duties And Activities

4.49 p.m.

rose to move, That the draft Code of Practice relating to time off for trade union duties and activities, laid before the House on 3rd November, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move that the Code of Practice on time off for trade union duties and activities be approved. A draft of the Code of Practice was laid before this House on 3rd November.

The Code contains practical guidance on Sections 57 and 58 of the Employment Protection Act. Section 57 makes provision for an official of a recognised trade union (such as a shop steward) to be permitted paid time off for duties concerned with industrial relations between his employer and his employees and for training relevant to the carrying out of those duties. Section 58 makes provision for an employee to be permitted time off, for which he is not required to be paid, for taking part in activities of a recognised trade union, of which he is a member, including activities in which the employee is acting as a representative of the union.

The rights to time off, which were of course discussed fully in this House and in another place during the passage of the Employment Protection Act, are not unqualified rights but extend only to what is reasonable in all the circumstances. The Code, prepared by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) in accordance with Section 6(2) of the Act, provides practical guidance to assist in deciding the purposes for which, the occasions on which and any conditions subject to which, it is reasonable to grant time off, and the amount of such time off it is reasonable to grant. The Government, in accordance with the undertakings given at the time, have deferred the implementation of Sections 57 and 58 until this Code was ready, in order to bring them into operation together.

When drawing up any Code under the Act, ACAS is required to publish a first draft for consultation, and to consider all the representations made to it before submitting a final draft for the approval of the Secretary of State for Employment and subsequently of Parliament. This procedure has been followed in the preparation of this draft Code. In October last year the Service published a first draft of the Code, giving those concerned an opportunity to make representations on its content. The Service received—as one would expect on a subject of this importance—a substantial number of representations: from the CBI, the TUC and from individual employers' associations and employers and trade unions; from professional associations, and from individuals. Each and every one was carefully considered by ACAS, which also entered into extensive consultations—in particular with the CBI and TUC—which continued for some months.

I should remind your Lordships that the ACAS Council contains equal numbers of members appointed after consultations with organisations representing workers and organisations representing employers, and that it has already in its relatively short existence become widely accepted by both sides of industry as a source of impartial advice and assistance on industrial relations matters. It is thus in my view uniquely well-qualified to provide practical guidance on an issue of this nature.

Noble Lords will note in particular that there have been a number of changes from the original draft. Naturally it was not possible for ACAS to accept every suggested change in the text of the Code, but I am assured that every point of view was carefully weighed and taken into account before a final decision on the form of the draft Code was taken. The draft laid before your Lordships thus represents ACAS's view of the most satisfactory consensus of the views of both sides of industry as to what constitutes good practice in this area. I take the opportunity of praising all those involved, both in the Service and elsewhere, for the part they have played in producing the draft Code.

This draft Code is the third to be prepared by ACAS. The first, dealing with disciplinary practice and procedures, was laid before the House in March of this year and came into force in June. The second, dealing with the disclosure of information by employers to trade union representatives, was approved by this House on 24th May this year, and came into force on 22nd August. The draft Code is in seven main sections. The first section describes the provisions of the Act. The second sets out general considerations applying to time off arrangements. The third gives guidance on those duties of trade union officials that are covered by the provisions, and the fourth gives guidance on time off for training in those duties. The fifth gives guidance on time off for certain trade union activities; the sixth deals with particular conditions relating to the operation of time off arrangements; and the seventh deals with time off arrangements in situations where there is industrial action or the risk of such action.

I have already outlined the provisions of the Act. The second section of the Code sets out some general considerations about arrangements for time off. It reminds trade unions of the wide variety of circumstances and different operational requirements which will have to be taken into account in dealing with arrangements for time off. The Code points out that some employers face particular exigencies of production and that special circumstances apply to small firms. It reminds employers that union officials and members may have problems of effective representation and communication in certain circumstances—for example, where a shift working system is operated or where the workforce is scattered. Bearing in mind the varied circumstances and problems that both sides of industry may face, the Code urges them to reach voluntary agreement on arrangements for handling time off. In the great majority of cases where an employer recognises a union or unions there will already be some arrangements for time off. The Code points out that employers and unions will need to review these existing arrangements in the light of the Code, but that this does not necessarily mean that they will need to be altered.

The third section of the Code sets out the most important duties of a trade union official which are concerned with industrial relations between his employer and the employees—for which as such he will be entitled to take reasonable paid time off. Such duties relate in particular to the official's role in jointly agreed procedures or customary arrangements for consultation, collective bargaining and the handling of grievances.

The fourth section of the Code deals with the training of trade union officials. To my mind this is of particular importance and I should like to dwell for a few moments on this subject. I would add that I speak as a person who has had some experience as a trade unionist. The Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employers' Associations chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Donovan, while noting a considerable expansion in trade union training facilities since the War, none the less emphasised the need for the expansion of training for shop stewards, who are of course essentially lay representatives—both employee and trade union official.

The trade union movement has done a great deal to help itself in the decade since Donovan in the area of training and education, but, as the union movement itself recognises, much remains to be done. Section 57 will assist this process by giving officials the right to reasonable time off for training which is relevant to their industrial relations duties. In addition, the Government have since last year provided a grant towards the cost of trade union training and education incurred by the TUC and its affiliated organisations. In the first year, the grant was £400,000 and this year £650,000 has been made available. I think this is money well spent and we are considering allocations for future years in the light of the trade union movement's plans for expanding the training they provide.

The Code, in dealing with time off for training, stresses the need for initial basic training as soon as possible after an official is appointed. I am sure that is right. There is a good deal a shop steward needs to know these days in order to function efficiently to the benefit of the members he represents and also, I think it is fair to say, his employer. The Code also makes provision for more specialised training where the need arises. The Code does not attempt to define an appropriate syllabus for this or other types of course since circumstances and needs will vary. However, such training must, in accordance with the provisions of the Act, be approved by the TUC or the official's union, and be relevant to the sort of industrial relations duties defined earlier in the Code. Although the Act does not require that the employer formally approve such training, the Code suggests that he should have a right to know the contents of any training proposed by a trade union; that the number of officials from any establishment receiving training at any one time should take account of the employer's operational needs and that, more generally, unions and management should endeavour to reach agreement on the arrangements for such training.

The fifth section of the Code points out that to operate effectively and democratically trade unions need the active participation of members in certain union activities for which time off should be given. For example, voting at a work-place in union elections, or holding meetings during working hours either where this is necessary because of the urgency of the matter to be discussed or, with more routine matters, where production or services would not be adversely affected.

The sixth section of the Code deals with a number of particular conditions which bear on the adequate operation of time off arrangements, for example the need for the union official to inform management of any time off he is seeking as far in advance as possible, giving some details, and the desirability of management making facilities available to enable officials to perform their duties efficiently and communicate effectively with members.

The seventh and last section deals with time off in connection with industrial action. ACAS was particularly enjoined by the Act to cover this question in the Code. The Code emphasises that satisfactory time off arrangements are particularly needed where communication and co-operation between managements and unions are in danger of breaking down. It makes the important distinction between activities which themselves consist of industrial action—where there is no entitlement to time off—and situations where, because of the industrial action or the threat of it, the granting of time off to those not directly involved can be particularly important: for example, in the case of an official not taking part in industrial action but representing members involved in it, and workers affected by but not taking part in such action.

In one sense Sections 57 and 58 of the Employment Protection Act contain new rights. On the other hand, there can be few employers who recognise unions who do not at present make some arrangements for time off for trade union duties and activities. Indeed some of these arrangements, whether set out in written agreements or not committed to paper, are very liberal. Such employers recognise this is necessary to allow the union which represents their employees to function effectively. These provisions and the Code are designed to set standards which will encourage the less progressive employer to follow current best practice. Moreover, they have precedents. The Code of Industrial Relations Practice, introduced by the Conservative Government in 1972, provided that as a minimum shop stewards should be given reasonable time off with pay for their industrial relations functions, and that management should make other facilities available to enable them to keep in touch with their members and to represent them effectively. The new Code will, of course, replace the relevant provisions of the 1972 Code when it comes into effect.

A Code of Practice under the 1975 Act has a status akin to that of the Highway Code. It does not of itself impose any legal obligations on an employer—the obligations are set out in the legislation, which simply provides that the guidance given in the Code must be taken into account by employers when assessing their response to requests for time off under the provisions of the Act. But if any complaint about failure to give time off under these provisions is made to an industrial tribunal, then the tribunal will take into account any provision of the Code which appears to it to be relevant to the proceedings. The consistent emphasis of the Code, however, is on the need for voluntarily agreed arrangements and it is to be hoped that in most cases any disagreements on time off will be resolved within the industry or firm concerned through its own negotiating machinery. The conciliation services of ACAS will of course be available to help if necessary.

If the Code is approved by both Houses of Parliament the Government intend to bring the Code together with the relevant provisions of the Act into operation on 1st April 1978. This should give those concerned on both sides of industry adequate time to review their arrangements for handling time off and to reach agreement on any necessary changes. With the implementation of Sections 57 and 58, the whole of the Employment Protection Act passed in 1975 will have been brought into operation. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft Code of Practice relating to time off for trade union duties

and activities, laid before the House on 3rd November, be approved.—( Lord Wallace of Coslany.)

5.5 p.m.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Coslany, for moving that we approve this Code of Practice document, though I cannot say that, as a document, it works me into a lather of excitement. It is almost comically innocuous, but a generally acceptable compromise between the very reasonable fears which employers felt when they first read the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act and the desire for members of trade unions to have a reasonable chance with pay to pursue their obligations to their membership.

We certainly welcome the means whereby ACAS produced a first draft, took consultations with interested bodies, and were then able to lay the final draft which we now have before us. I cannot resist saying that it seems to us on this side of the House very odd that there is such a curious passion in trade union and Government circles for formalising the obvious, especially when we were criticised so heavily for being far too formalist in our own approach to trade union affairs, with Bills, Acts, codes and the like.

I found, as I read through this document, some of the difficulties which my noble friend Lord Cullen of Ashbourne found with his metrication document. It really is something of a crash course in obfuscation and in covering one's bets. Everything depends, surely, not on this Code but on how ordinary life in industry actually works in respect of time off for trade union activities. What we need to debate is not the Code but the workings of the Code and this must wait until later.

The Code is phrased in very general terms indeed. To give just a few examples, in paragraph 6 it says:
"The amount of time off … the occasions on which and any conditions subject to which time off may so be taken are those that are reasonable in all circumstances having regard to any relevant provisions of this Code of Practice".
Yet, when we read through the Code of Practice to find what the relevant provisions are, we find very much the same kind of sentence repeated in the sense that if there is an absence of a formal agreement, then management and unions must come to some agreement between themselves for these undefined practices to take place.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Coslany, mentioned training. He said, very properly, that he himself was a person not inexperienced in trade union affairs. Yet he did not tell us what kind of training courses management must be prepared, under the Code, to allow the unions to take. What in fact goes on in these training courses? We should like information about that. The Code gives us no information at all.

Do such training courses include general education of the kind which could be considered broadly useful to trade unionists, or are they confined very specifically to industrial relations? It certainly seems to us to be curious that, in a document concerned with procedures and processes in industry, there is simply no reference whatsoever to any kind of work at all.

I want to say a word or two about the role of small firms. I should like to ask the noble Lord what is meant by the "special circumstances" of small firms which we find mentioned in paragraph 8, where it says:
"… some employers face particular exigencies of production, services and safety in process industries. Others operate in the special circumstances of the small firm. In enterprises large and small the workforce may be fragmented."
It is surely better to say that there is a case for excluding the operation of this Code from the smallest businesses as they are presently defined. We were told by Lord Wallace that this Code is for practical guidance, yet we gain very little practical information from it. In paragraph 15 we are told that there is no universally applicable syllabus for training; if there is no universally applicable syllabus, how are we to be given any kind of a practical guide?

We feel that it would be wrong for an employer to have to pay an employee who is representing a dismissed employee at an industrial tribunal hearing, and I would like guidance from Lord Wallace as to whether that is indeed the case under this Code. I would also like to know, referring back to paragraph 8, what exactly "process industries" are. Surely we should replace the word "process" there with "all" industries or simply omit it; I do not see the distinction that is there being drawn.

As I said earlier, we welcome the provision whereby employees are to have time off to vote at branch meetings and union elections during working hours. One of the principal platforms of Conservative thinking on trade union affairs is that there should be time for participation in the affairs of trade unions by all members. This little Code will be useful only when we are able to return to see how it has worked out in practice. As a document for guidance it is no use at all.

5.12 p.m.

My Lords, we on these Benches also wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Coslany, for the clear way in which he summarised the provisions of this Code of Practice, and the best word I can use to describe them from these Benches it to say that we find them "tolerable". Certainly they are in a much more balanced form than when the first draft was introduced months ago. That brings me at once to the first of what we regard as two of the key paragraphs of the Code, namely paragraph 8, in which it is said:

"The general purpose of the statutory provisions on time off for trade union duties and activities is to aid and improve the conduct of industrial relations".
That is fine as far as it goes, and while I suppose this is more a criticism of the Act than of the Code, it would seem reasonable to ask that the Code should be more expressly related to the purpose of industry itself; and if alas! there cannot be general agreement that profit forms part of this purpose, could it not at least be accepted that the purpose of industry is the efficient production of goods and services for the benefit of the community?

For us, the other basic paragraph in the Code is paragraph 10 which says:
"… employers and unions should reach agreement on arrangements for handling time off in ways appropriate to their own situations. Subsequent advice in the Code should be read in the light of this primary point of guidance …".
We subscribe wholeheartedly to that sentiment. Indeed, without such general agreement the Code might sometimes do more harm than good.

I will comment briefly on some of the other sections of the Code in the order in which they appear. It is somewhat unfortunate—again, I suppose this is a criticism of the Act rather than of the Code—that the words " trade union official " are used as they are, more particularly in paragraph 4, because it then has to be made plain in that paragraph that trade union officials are effectively shop stewards, and it is of course a matter of every-day practice that trade union officials are thought of as being full-time officers of the union rather than as company employees elected or appointed to represent their fellow workers.

Under the heading " Training", to which due importance has been attached by Lord Wallace and the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, I have before now had occasion to say to your Lordships that I am a devoted believer in shop stewards receiving training which is sponsored jointly by management and trade unions. I have found from first-hand experience that such training courses, particularly when they can be held on neutral ground, contribute enormously to the solving of problems in the particular work situation. I therefore found paragraph 18 of the Code particularly depressing and discouraging to such co-operation in the way in which it appears to be framed, because it is couched in terms which seem to ignore the very great contribution which enlightened employers have made to the training of shop stewards.

From this paragraph one would suppose that it is only trade unions which are capable of identifying their training needs. Employers are not even to be consulted; they are merely to be informed of what training trade unions have approved, and they have to ask for a copy of the relevant syllabus rather than that it is freely given to them. If development in this field were to depend on the insular and even—I am sorry to use the word—insolent attitude which is exhibited by this paragraph of the Code, the outlook for industrial relations training in my opinion would be bleak indeed. Fortunately, shop stewards themselves have in many cases progressed a lot further than this in their thinking.

The only other section of the Code to which I wish to refer specifically is that relating to time off for certain trade union activities. In companies which are generally regarded as progressive in these matters, the normal practice of course is for meetings of trade union members to take place outside working hours, although there are occasions, as is noted in paragraph 22, where the urgency of the matter is such as to mean that it is reasonable to hold such meetings within normal hours. However, I cannot for the life of me see why it is that, without any such urgent need, according to this paragraph as I read it, the sole criterion determining whether union members should meet in working time could be that production would not be adversely affected. One really wonders whether in line 5 of this paragraph the word "or" has been inadvertently substituted for "and". If not, perhaps Lord Wallace can give a more convincing explanation for this odd wording than I have been able to extract from the paragraph.

Unfortunately as I have indicated, we on these Benches cannot give a wholehearted welcome to the Code. Nevertheless, we feel it would be churlish to carry our criticism to the point of opposition to it. Rather, with the reservations I have given, we would wish the Code well.

5.20 p.m.

My Lords, I wish to thank the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, and the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, for their frank but encouraging support of the Code of Practice, which of course is bound not to give complete satisfaction. It has been the result of considerable discussion, negotiation and representations from individuals, and there cannot be complete, 100 per cent. agreement on the whole of the Code. Nevertheless, at a time when people are complaining about being forced to do this and that, it should be borne in mind that the basis of the Code is joint negotiation, and that it sets a guideline which people should follow. The emphasis for sensible approach is laid equally on both the employer and the employee.

The noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, said that he thought that a debate at a later stage on the working of the Code might be very useful. I would not disagree with that view. This is a matter for Her Majesty's Opposition and the Government to negotiate. Reasonable time must be allowed in this case, and no doubt we could later take the opportunity to have a debate on how the Code is working. I would welcome that, because in these troubled days co-operation between management and labour is vitally important, and anything we can do to ease the general situation is well worthwhile and is in the national interest.

Both the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, and the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, raised questions about training. Here there can be no universally applicable syllabus, because the circumstances of each individual union, the type of industry in which that union operates, and changing situations must be taken into account. Shop stewards have to be acquainted with the effects of industrial legislation. But I draw attention to the fact that what would be involved here would be mainly the type of training to deal with a job properly, and to avoid the kind of situation, well known to those of us who have been in the Forces, in which barrack room lawyers emerge and cause more industrial disputes and trouble than anyone else. The well informed shop steward is most valuable not only to his union, but to his employer.

On the subject of education generally, I should say that it is true that many trade unions, particularly the union of which I have been a member—the Transport and General Workers' Union—provide further educational training and courses. They award scholarships to Ruskin College, Oxford, because it is in their interests that their permanent officials in particular are well trained in industrial matters, and have a good general educational standard as well—

My Lords, I am grateful for what the noble Lord has said. On the subject of general education, does he mean that the attempt to gain a scholarship at Ruskin, and so forth, will be made in company time?

My Lords, the noble Earl probably misunderstood me, which may be understandable. What I was talking about related to the unions, in this case the Transport and General Workers' Union, awarding scholarships, mainly to their younger officials, in order to give them further educational opportunities and to advance up the scale. It has nothing to do with what we are discussing here. I was merely pointing out in passing that not only that union, but also other unions, give opportunities for general educational advancement, particularly to those members who have not had past benefits in this way. What the noble Earl has mentioned has certainly aroused considerable interest.

We cannot be specific on this question of training. It must relate to the industry concerned, the problems of that industry, as well as the legislation affecting it. I agree that there has been an argument that the employer should have some kind of veto, but I do not think that that would be appropriate. The matter ought to be left to commonsense on both sides. When it comes to small firms, there are special circumstances to be borne in mind. We should all recognise that small firms have greater problems than larger firms when it comes to time off because they have smaller labour forces. This is a major point here. One of the main problems of a small firm is that the absence of even one employee can throw considerable strain on the others, and may disorganise the situation.

I turn now to the question of the payment of a representative who appears before a tribunal on behalf of a displaced employee. There is no doubt that if a representative of the management was present at such a tribunal there would be payment and it is only right, in the course of natural justice, that any representative of an employee should be paid for the time he has lost in undertaking this duty. That would be quite reasonable.

Reference has also been made to paragraph 8. This involves only an example. I should like to draw the attention of the noble Earl to the last sentence of paragraph 8, relating to the main provision et cetera. I think that if the noble Earl refers to that sentence he will see precisely what is meant—

I do not quite understand the noble Lord's interjection. Would be care to expand upon it?

My Lords, I note the noble Lord's point.

I think that the main point of the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, was that he was concerned that the employer would see the training syllabus only on request. I think that, in practice, if a training syllabus for employees is prepared in a firm it would be in the interests of both the union and the employer for consultation to take place. If there is any disagreement on any level there would be resort, first, to negotiation; and in the last resort—and I hope noble Lords' will support me in putting it that way—there will be set up an industrial tribunal. I agree that the whole matter is based on the hope that there will be co-operation between both sides in the operation of the Code. It is a pointer; it is an indication. After all, we need better relations in industry, and if anything can be issued in order to give a pointer to better relations, it should receive our fullest support.

I do not think there is any further point I can answer at present, but in accordance with the traditions and customs of the House, any matters with which I have not dealt will be considered and those noble Lords involved will receive detailed replies in due course. I trust that we shall now be able to proceed, and that in due course there will be a satisfactory debate on the results of the Code. I trust, too, that we shall not have criticism, because we need a spirit of co-operation, particularly at this time in the life of the nation.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Medical Bill Hl

5.29 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move that the Medical Bill be read a second time. The main purpose of the Bill is to make provision for the reconstitution of the General Medical Council and for some expansion of its functions. As your Lordships know, the General Medical Council is an independent statutory body which is entirely financed by the medical profession. It has the task of regulating that profession, not only for the protection of the general public but also to uphold the reputation of the profession itself. It does this in three main ways. First, it maintains the medical register of qualified medical practitioners. Secondly, it has disciplinary powers for the protection of patients, used in respect of doctors accused of serious professional misconduct. Thirdly, it supervises medical education. The General Medical Council, therefore, plays a central role in maintaining high professional medical standards in this country. The present Bill is aimed at consolidating this role and making it easier to carry out.

Before explaining the provisions of the Bill, I should remind your Lordships of some of the background to it. It had become apparent by 1972 that there was a dispute within the profession about the way in which it was regulated. One section of the profession felt that the Council did not fulfil its role in a satisfactory manner. A serious situation developed in that year when the Council, in order to meet rising costs, increased the annual fee, first introduced only two years earlier, for the retention of the doctor's name on the medical register. This was resented by a number of doctors who were dissatisfied about the way the Council regulated the profession. They regarded this fee as unjust because until 1970 doctors had secured an entry for life in the medical register by the payment of a single fee at the outset of their career. The introduction of this annual fee and its subsequent rapid increase gave the profession the means to exert pressure for the reform of the Council. The doctors involved said that they would refuse to pay the fee until the General Medical Council was reconstituted, and the Council threatened to remove their names from the register if they did. This would have had the effect of preventing these doctors from practising medicine within the National Health Service.

It was at this stage that the then Government intervened to avert what was a potentially serious situation, both for the National Health Service and for the profession generally. It set up an independent committee of inquiry under the chairmanship of Dr. Alec Merrison (as he then was) to look into the regulation of the profession. The committee had the following terms of reference:
"to consider what changes need to be made in the existing provisions for the regulation of the medical profession; what functions should be assigned to the body charged with the responsibility for its regulation; and how that body should be constituted to enable it to discharge its functions most effectively; and to make recommendations".
The committee, which had 15 members, including 7 from the medical profession, produced a unanimous report in 1975 which made 95 recommendations ranging over all the Council's constitution and functions. The present Government, after undertaking wide consultations on the report, found that, although there were some disagreements over the detailed implementation of several of the recommendations, there was a clear consensus of opinion, shared by both the profession and the General Medical Council, that the bulk of the Merrison recommendations should be accepted. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services therefore announced, in a Written Answer on the 18th July in another place, that the Government were accepting the principal recommendations of the committee with some reservations. He also announced that the Government would introduce legislation in due course, although this would require further detailed consultations with the bodies concerned to ensure that the proposals would be generally acceptable.

The present Medical Bill forms the first stage in this process, and I want to emphasise, my Lords, that it is the first stage. The Bill before your Lordships covers four main areas: the reconstitution of the General Medical Council; relations with the Republic of Ireland on the question of the regulation of the medical profession (I would remind your Lordships that the General Medical Council is at present constituted on a British Isles basis); the question of doctors' fitness to practise; and the role of the General Medical Council's education committee. These are areas in which the Merrison recommendations were broady accepted in all quarters, and which were seen as suitable for early legislation. Indeed, I should stress that the medical profession is particularly anxious to see the early implementation of these recommendations. It has not been possible to include provisions in the present Bill to enact any of the other Merrison recommendations. It is clear from the comments received by the Government on the report that there is uncertainty as to whether some of the recommendations should be implemented as they stand. As far as others are concerned, further detailed consultation will be necessary to work out proposals which can be introduced as legislation. When it became apparent that more detailed work would be needed on these other recommendations, it was thought best not to hold back implementation of the uncontroversial and relatively straightforward proposals which are embodied in the Bill now before your Lordships, and it is for this reason that the Government have decided to implement the Merrison Report in two stages.

I know—at least, I think I can guess—that there are a number of noble Lords who will feel that the Bill does not go far enough, and that it ought to include other recommendations; but I have pointed out that these are ones which the Government (and, for that matter, the General Medical Council) feel can be implemented immediately, whereas the others will need consultation over a very large area. However, for those who have some doubts as to what the Government will do in the future, may I say that it is the Government's firm intention to pursue Merrison's other recommendations and to introduce legislation on them. Consultation papers on them will be sent to interested organisations, and we hope that it will be possible to get the first of the consultation papers out early in the New Year.

This Bill is mainly an enabling measure. It leaves the fine detail of the proposals directly affecting the constitution and functions of the General Medical Council to be worked out, as they should be, by the Council in consultation with the profession. We believe that it must be their responsibility. It is also a flexible measure, and, in allowing future amendments to the Council's constitution to be made by Order in Council rather than by primary legislation, the process of adapting this will be infinitely simpler.

The first three clauses of the Bill deal with the reconstitution of the Council. At present, the General Medical Council has 46 members. Eight (including three lay members) are nominated by the Crown, 27 are appointed by certain medical educational bodies throughout the British Isles, and 11 are elected by fully-registered doctors practising in the British Isles. Your Lordships will note that only 11 of them are elected by fully registered doctors.

The first clause of the Bill will enable the membership of the Council to be altered along the lines proposed in the Merrison Report. The report came out strongly in favour of maintaining a Council which was overwhelmingly professional in membership, on the grounds that it was in the public interest for doctors to continue to regulate those matters, which would be unfamiliar to laymen, concerned with the standard of their professional competence and conduct, subject, of course, to Parliamentary control. I am sure your Lordships' House would accept this verdict. The report argued, however, that there should continue to be laymen on the Council to give it a broader perspective and to focus attention, if necessary, on matters which were seen to concern the general public.

The most important change as regards the membership of the Council advocated in the report was that it should be made representative of the profession as a whole and that there should be a majority of elected members on it. These members, who must be registered medical practitioners, will be elected in four constituencies, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. They will be elected by registered medical practitioners who live in these areas. This reform has been strongly advocated by the medical profession and is completely accepted by the present General Medical Council.

I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the provision in the Bill that voting rights, and the right to sit on the Council as elected or appointed members, are extended to include provisionally registered doctors and doctors who have been temporarily registered for five of the six years preceding the election or their appointment. This provision will make the Council more representative of the profession as a whole.

Universities and bodies in the United Kingdom which have the power to appoint members to the Council under the Medical Act 1956, as amended by the 1959 Act, will continue to have this power; so that one has got to look at the conditions of the 1969 Act in addition to the 1956 Act. The Council at present has three branch councils: only one for England and Wales, one for Scotland and one for Ireland as a whole. They can undertake a number of functions delegated to them by the General Medical Council. Under the terms of the Bill we are about to consider, the General Medical Council will retain branch councils but their number and the areas which they cover will be altered, as I have said, in line with the electoral constituencies; that is, one for England, one for Scotland, and one for Wales and Northern Ireland.

May I come to the Irish situation, if I may call it that? The establishment of a branch council for Northern Ireland follows on naturally from the provisions in Clause 4 of the Bill for the termination of the 1927 Agreement between Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the then-Irish Free State. This Agreement provides that the arrangements for the registration and control of medical practitioners in the British Isles should continue as they were before the creation of the Free State and Northern Ireland. Thus, doctors and educational bodies in both the Republic and Northern Ireland are represented on the Council and the Council has the right to supervise medical education in the Republic. That is the present position.

Negotiations are at present taking place between the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic Government in order to terminate this Agreement. The two Governments want to do this partly because the implementation of the EEC Medical Directives by the two countries renders many of the provisions of this Agreement unnecessary and partly because they feel that it is no longer appropriate for the General Medical Council to exercise a supervisory role over medical education in the Irish Republic. These negotiations are not yet completed and the Bill makes provision for the preservation of the status quo until the Agreement is terminated. It also makes provision for the repeal of the statutory provisions arising from the Agreement when it is terminated and for safeguarding certain existing rights on termination.

Most of the rest of the Bill concerns the committees of the Council set up to deal with its disciplinary and educational functions; it follows the relevant Merrison recommendations closely. A major innovation is that the Council is, for the first time, given powers to control the rights of doctors who are physically or mentally ill to practise medicine. At present, the Council can only intervene with a doctor's right to practise if he is convicted of a criminal offence or has done something which is judged to constitute serious professional misconduct.

The Merrison Committee was unable to quantify the number of doctors whose physical or mental health might constitute a risk to their patients, but it came to the conclusion from the evidence it received that the number, though small in relation to the number of doctors practising, was not insignificant because of the potential consequences for patients. Much of this evidence concerned doctors addicted to alcohol or drugs, but it also brought to light cases of doctors suffering from progressively debilitating illnesses. The General Medical Council is very concerned—and, many of us would think, rightly so—about its inability to act in this area at present. Indeed, with the broad encouragement of the profession, it had been planning possible action which it might take in such cases, even before the Merrison Committee reported.

The Bill which follows the relevant Merrison recommendations closely, gives the General Medical Council the powers to set up a Health Committee. This Committee, if it judges a doctor's fitness to practise to be seriously impaired by reason of mental or physical ill-health, will be able to suspend a doctor's registration for up to 12 months at a time, or (and this is another innovation) make it conditional on his compliance with specified requirements.

The Bill also provides for the establishment of a Professional Conduct Committee along the lines recommended by Merrison. The Committee's powers will correspond closely to those of the General Medical Council's existing Disciplinary Committee which it replaces, with one important difference. It, too, will be given powers to make doctor's registration conditional on compliance with certain specified requirements. This will be in addition to its powers to erase or suspend doctors from the Register. This will enable the General Medical Council to limit a doctor's right to practise if he has committed serious professional misconduct, in a way which will not deprive him of his livelihood but will protect the public interest.

The Preliminary Proceedings Committee will, as its name implies, take preliminary proceedings once a case is notified to the Council. It will decide whether further action should be taken and, if so, whether the case is a "health" or "conduct" matter, in order to send the case to the appropriate Committee. It will also be able to order the suspension of a doctor for up to two months pending his appearance before that Committee if it feels this to be necessary for the protection of the public. The Bill also makes the necessary statutory provisions for the conduct of business by these Committees, the rights of appeal against their decisions and for transitional arrangements.

Last but not least, the Bill makes provision for an Education Committee. This will assume most of the Council's statutory functions relating to medical education. It will be for the Council itself to determine the membership of the Committee with the one proviso that there must be more Council members appointed by educational bodies than the combined numbers of elected or nominated members on the Committee. It will be able to co-opt members from outside the Council.

That is the gist of the Medical Bill. For the changes it will make it seems a fairly long Bill but its length is largely due to the fact that it repeats and consolidates certain existing provisions in the interests of clarity. Its main objective is to increase the effectiveness of the GMC in regulating the medical profession, and to amend the legislation in such a way as to make it easier to vary the Council's constitution in future. The provisions in the Bill, as I have said a number of times, follow closely the relevant recommendations of the Merrison Committee which received the broad approval of the profession and of the present Council.

I said that the other recommendations, which will take some time to discuss with interested bodies, will perhaps form a more comprehensive Bill in the not too distant future. But, with great respect, I think this Bill is something that can be dealt with speedily; it is something which is welcomed by the profession and the General Medical Council. Because of this, I hope that the Bill will receive a welcome from all sides of your Lordships' House. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(Lord Wells-Pestell.)

5.53 p.m.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, can be reassured that, from this side of the House, this Bill will receive a very qualified welcome—qualified very largely because the extent of its remit is, in our view, not sufficient. This Bill follows on a series of measures dating back as far as 1858, each one of them aimed towards broadly the same purpose: to protect the public interest, further the medical profession as a whole and improve professional standards.

It is interesting that much of the machinery in existence today is the direct heir of what was set up in 1858 and 1886 and consolidated with other measures into the 1956 Act. Your Lordships have already been given a very comprehensive description of the background to this particular Bill, and it remains for me to add some further background. I do not think that the noble Lord mentioned one other significant event in the recent past: the report of the Royal Commission on Medical Education (the Todd Report) which was published in 1968. This was necessary both to enable medical schools to adjust their undergraduate curricula to modern requirements and to regulate the important stages of post-graduate training.

The report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Regulation of the Medical Profession (the Merrison Commission), published in 1975, is very well known to your Lordships. We believe that the measure which the Government have introduced to your Lordships' House has been a step in that direction. I quote the words of the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, when he said that there was a clear consensus of opinion shared by the GMC and the profession that the Merrison Committee's recommendation should be implemented. The step taken in this Bill is a small one, and we turn to that part of the Merrison Committee's Report which sets out the problems and the weakness which exist at the moment. If I may seek indulgence to quote page 16, paragraph 46, it says:
"The prime weakness of the present system of control of medical education is that control through the statutory registration system—largely unchanged since 1886—covers what are now little more than the academic preliminaries to the assumption of full responsibility".
Then, further on, in paragraph 62, the Committee comes to some conclusions:
"Briefly, then, we propose that there should be a three-tier system of education for every doctor of the future—undergraduate training, graduate clinical training, and specialist training—and that these should be defined in the system of registration and co-ordinated and controlled by the regulating body".
It is very clear indeed that the Merrison Committee put education in a very much higher category than do the Government. The noble Lord referred to it as "last but not least". In Merrison, it occurs as early as Chapter 3 of the report. The Merrison Committee was looking to the future of the profession in the fourth and final quarter of this century, and leading on into the next century—and how right it was. It was very much concerned with the composition of the General Medical Council. There were two most sharply opposed views. One was that it should be small, efficient and relatively cheap to manage; the other was that it should be large and representative and should encompass almost every branch of the profession.

However, what we are looking at today is something which Merrison never envisaged—that is, the enlargement from the present membership of 46 members to 98 members, but without the duties, responsibilities and range of affairs envisaged in the report. The Government may well say: "Yes, we intend to implement Merrison in the future and therefore we are setting up the structure today". But there is a certain emptiness about the proposals which strikes one most forcibly if it is indeed intended to have such a large Council with such a substantial number of representatives from branches of the profession.

I pause here to say how much we welcome the coming to fruition of what the BMA has sought for nearly 100 years: that is, the substantial increase in the number of elected members. Nevertheless, we feel that their function for the time being at any rate, in what is, after 1978, to be the Medical Council, will not be very considerable. If one looks at what Merrison felt about the legislation, it is very interesting because paragraph 419 displays a distinctly light touch. This is in sharp contrast to the last but one Medical Act of 1956, which sets out most clearly what representatives were to come from which body and ties the hands most carefully. Merrison says this:
"We suggest that the principal legislation need do little more than say that there should be a General Medical Council consisting of a general council having on it elected, appointed and lay members".
So, my Lords, it was left to subordinate legislation to carry into effect a scheme which was thought to be desirable.

I turn now to the chief defect of the Bill, which we believe lies in its very limited scope. After so much preparatory work has been carried out in the educational field and by the Royal Commission, which produced the Todd Report which was published in 1968, it is very surprising that the Government appear to be so hesitant in bringing forward a wholesale and comprehensive measure. I wonder what lies behind this apparent timidity; because we have in the Merrison Report, in supplement to the Todd Report, very clearly-outlined schemes which need both legislation and the goodwill of the professions. Undoubtedly, the professional goodwill has been lined up strongly behind Merrison and we have a Government which at the present time feels that a very cautious and staged implementation is the desirable way forward.

We feel that whole areas have been left untouched—areas which could have been dealt with to some extent at the present time. For instance, Merrison recommended quite extensive changes in the present arrangements for the registration of overseas doctors. I should say here that the Merrison Report mentions a figure of over 13,300 doctors who were born overseas and who practise within the National Health Service at the present time. Chapter 3 of the report is entirely taken up with their registration and the furtherance of the needs of the profession, the public and the doctors.

Finally, as both the General Medical Council and the British Medical Association have agreed that the whole report should be implemented as soon as possible, we find it hard to see why the Government are so slow; or, to put it the other way round, why legislate at all? We believe that the Government have a case for bringing before your Lordships the Bill as it stands in order to make better arrangements for the reconstruction of the General Medical Council, to set up the Health Committee and to suspend doctors who are unfit because of their physical or mental health. For these reasons, we support the Government's intention on this very limited Bill, and we may wish to bring forward amendments at Committee stage.

6.4 p.m.

My Lords, I have no wish to disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, for whom I have immense personal regard—indeed, I must say at once that I am much indebted to him for his clear and lucid explanation of the effects of this somewhat limited measure—but, at the risk of disappointing him, I must say at once that I find it difficult to generate a great deal of enthusiasm over this particular measure. When ordinary folk, and by that I mean patients—and your Lordships do not need me to remind you that noble Lords and doctors are all patients at some time or other—read in their papers this morning that your Lordships' House was to be occupied with a discussion of the Medical Bill, many of those patients must have leapt immediately to the conclusion that this had something to do with them. My Lords, has it? We must wait and see.

At the moment in our Health Service we have resources which are finite and limited, endeavouring to cope with a workload which is growing daily in volume and complexity. Every minute of every hour our Health Service lets somebody down somewhere. It may be the chap who has been waiting for two years for a so-called " non-urgent operation; and, if I may say so, the exact degree of urgency of any operation rather depends on who is going to have it. If you are going to have it, then perhaps it does not seem so "non-urgent" after all. There are patients who, when they ring up the general practitioner, find that all they get is an answering machine, which refers them to another line, which is either unobtainable or engaged; or who, when they call at the surgery of a general practitioner, are confronted by what they call "the dragon at the gate"—the receptionist—and cannot get much further. Then there is the family which is sometimes disrupted by the psycho-geriatric disturbed elderly person, for whom there is no bed in hospital. All those people are looking for urgent measures to help them. It is possible, of course, that a measure of this kind will help them, though somewhat indirectly, because it is concerned with medical standards and the maintenance of those standards.

As the noble Lord, Lord Well-Pestell, has explained, the whole matter concerns the regulation of the General Medical Council, and the main functions of that Council is the maintenance and supervision of the medical register. Let us say at once that of course we must have a General Medical Council. In the main, it is there for the protection of the public rather than of the profession. The medical profession itself tends to feel that there are already enough controls over it—with general practitioners under the Family Practitioner Committee, hospital doctors under the Area Health Boards, the Regional Health Boards, hospital management committees and so on. But we must have a General Medical Council to ensure that medical practitioners who are on the medical register have been adequately trained and tested and can therefore be accepted as having reached a certain degree of skill, experience and so on.

Perhaps it is not irrelevant to say in passing that I personally am very glad that we operate the medical register in a fairly liberal kind of way in this country and we do not make it illegal for anybody else to practise medicine. Many people practise medicine without any qualifications at all. There are herbalists, the non-medically qualified, osteopaths, chiropractors and all sorts of people. I should not like to see a movement towards total regimentation so that nobody else at all could interfere with medicine. We have done that to some extent with dentistry, where it is an offence to make an impression of anybody's mouth unless you are on the dental register. But at least we are fairly liberal and we allow people to go on practising. I think that is right; but if we are to give the public confidence that this person is a registered medical practitioner, that of course has got to mean something clear and it must mean something which is not merely reassuring but which will give confidence to the public. That is what this Bill is about.

The noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, explained the origin and the history of the Bill. He explained that there was a dispute about the role and functions of the General Medical Council. He also explained that there was another dispute—perhaps a rather more bitter one—about who should pay for the General Medical Council. That is a dispute which, if I may say so, we have not entirely finished with, and perhaps we could come to that in a moment. But there is no doubt that at the time when the Merrison Committee was set up to investigate these matters, with the terms of reference which the noble Lord has read to the House, the General Medical Council was beginning to appear to both professional and public eyes as somehow a little out of date, a bit antiquated, a bit irrelevant and in need of reform.

This was largely brought about, I suggest, by the kind of publicity which the functions of the General Medical Council get from time to time—publicity which tended to make the general public think that the General Medical Council was much more concerned with any individual doctor's sexual inclinations or aberrations than in his actual standards of professional conduct. They seemed to get much more upset about minor sexual aberrations than about serious departures from professional competence, and so on. I am not saying that was fair. It may be that nothing like enough public attention was given to the real and positive role of the General Medical Council in maintaining educational standards and in supervising qualifications standards throughout our universities and colleges. But that is what happened, and that is another of the things which led to the need for the Merrison Committee and for the Merrison Committee's report, which came out some years ago and which now, at long last, we are thinking about bringing into force.

Some will say, as the noble Lord suggested, that we should have accepted the Merrison Committee's report lock, stock and barrel. I am not entirely sure about whether we should have accepted the report as a whole and said, "There it is. Let us adopt it". But I underline so many of the things which the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, has said about medical education. On some of the progress which is indicated in the Merrison Report about matters of that kind, I should have liked to see this Bill go a little further; and there are one or two other things which I should like to see it do, but what it does do is no bad thing.

Perhaps I may first go through some of my regrets. I am particularly sorry, bearing in mind that the noble Lord has told us that, in the main, we are concentrating on matters which are not controversial and which can therefore be done fairly easily, that we are not proceeding here and now with the recommendations regarding the registration of overseas doctors. This is a fairly urgent matter, not only for the doctors themselves—and it is urgent for many of them—but also for many of the patients. It is true that, initially, this may have appeared to be controversial when the Merrison Report was first published. But when various bodies, such as doctors and so on, looked at it they saw that there was great merit in these recommendations, and it would have been helpful if they had been brought forward at a very early stage. Therefore, I hope that these will be some of the matters to which the noble Lord referred when he said that we will be having another bite at the cherry in the not too distant future.

I am also rather sorry, particularly in relation to what I said earlier about the need for some reform, that we are not proceeding here and now with some of the changes regarding disciplinary hearings, and, in particular, publicity arising from disciplinary hearings concerning doctors, especially those hearings which result in a finding of not guilty so far as the doctor is concerned. For many of those doctors the damage has already been done, the distress has been caused, and many of us feel that that was unnecessary distress which could have been avoided. I think that Merrison thought this, too, and I should have liked to see us proceed with those matters.

So far as education is concerned, Yes, I should have liked to see this move towards specialist registers and things of that kind, but—and perhaps here I am batting at the noble Lord when he said that we should leave for the moment such matters as are controversial—I would express just one reservation. I am a little alarmed at the extent to which people become obsessed with the idea that one can improve all the standards of medical care—and that, I am sure, is what we are really talking about—purely by concentrating on the machinery and framework of medical education. All right, we have to do many things. Perhaps we have to do much more in a technological age with regard to specialist training, postgraduate training, specialist registration and matters of that kind. But my experience leads me to believe that what is of much greater importance in having an efficient, humane and able medical profession is much more careful selection, right at the beginning, of people who enter the profession.

Now that competition is so very great, one finds that universities and colleges select students purely on the basis of academic success in a very narrow range of subjects. Therefore, the child has to be pointed towards the medical school when he is round about 13, and then all he does is biology, physics and so on for year after year. He arrives at the medical school knowing all about the cranial nerves of the dogfish, a great deal about the transverse section of the briony leaf and practically nothing else, and I am not entirely sure that this makes for the best kind of doctor.

In medicine, we learn in many ways. In the main, we learn from practising in close association with able, inspiring and dedicated people. We learn much more than we are taught. So do not let us believe that, merely by altering the framework of education, we will suddenly all become much better doctors. What matters is the way in which we are associated with our colleagues. Some of those colleagues are in your Lordships' House and we may hear from some—people who have influenced and educated us every time we have talked to them about patients, and about the medical profession in which we are jointly engaged. But I am sorry that some of the progress has not been made which Merrison pointed to.

Let me come to the fourth of my regrets, and that is the question of who pays. It is no surprise to your Lordships' House to hear a doctor talking about money. Some people seem to think that doctors never talk about anything else. Indeed, to hear some of my colleagues talk, one would think that it is now much cheaper to have the doctor every day than to buy apples. I do not want to go into arguments of that kind, but it is a fact that the primary function of the General Medical Council is the protection of the public, rather than the doctor. If we are going to multiply its size and have a much bigger General Medical Council with enlarged functions, as probably we should have, I am not at all sure that it is reasonable to expect doctors themselves to bear the financial burden.

I know it is explained that general practitioners get back much of the cost of this by a curious arrangement of reimbursement through the pool system in the expenses factor of their remuneration, but doctors know that the expenses factor is a rather roundabout way of getting remuneration. It takes into consideration the analysis of income tax returns over some years, and it is invariably about three years in arrears. So I warn the noble Lord that if this results in a major increase in the retention fee for hospital doctors and general practioners to pay, there will be dispute and discord and, once again, there will be the kind of crisis with which we were faced earlier. These are perhaps Committee matters which we can think about later, but they are matters which have to be thought about.

Before I sit down, it would be churlish not to say something about the things which I really welcome in this Bill. I am not sure about having a much bigger GMC, except that perhaps having it very much bigger may in certain fields of activity make it more impotent. But, certainly, I welcome the fact that it will become a little more representative. An increase in the elected members, although elected by sections of the profession, must, in the end, make the GMC more representative and more publicly accountable, and that surely is a good thing which we should all welcome.

I certainly welcome a move towards a rationalisation of the anomaly with regard to the Irish Republic. That has to happen fairly soon, and I am sure that a solution will be found which is mutually acceptable to all the parties concerned. But I particularly underline and welcome, as a matter of some urgency, the new provisions for dealing with sick doctors, doctors who, by reason of physical illness, mental illness, drug addiction, alcoholism or whatever it may be, have become not unfit to practice but a danger from time to time. They are a very real problem. It is one that I have seen at close quarters on a number of occasions. It is a very sad situation about which, in the past, we could do almost nothing, except cover up the problem until there was some kind of explosion—usually, in the end, there was an explosion—or precipitate a sick doctor towards all the indignity and distress of a disciplinary hearing, when what the person needed was care, help and understanding, rather than discipline. So I welcome that most warmly.

I have spoken long enough, and I shall look forward to listening to what noble Lords who are deeply involved in this subject have to say. I assure the noble Lord that, while he may not have the enthusiastic, rousing support of my noble friends on these Benches for this measure, he will certainly not find that there is any opposition generated.

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him one question apropos of the last sentence of his speech in relation to the ailing doctor, the drunk et cetera? Who is going to report this person? Is it the patient, his colleagues or anyone else?

My Lords, it is not for me to explain the workings of the new Bill, but I imagine that under the new situation anybody will be free to report, and now will be able to report and be encouraged to report, without fear of the possible consequences. I have known, and fellow general practitioners have known, of somebody in our midst who was not safe to practice, but we found it very difficult indeed to take any steps, because of the consequences of those steps. So long as the solution is here—and I think that it is here—then the whole matter of the feeding through of information will take care of itself. But in the past it did not and the problem tended to get hidden, which was itself a danger.

6.20 p.m.

My Lords, about 10 years ago my two sons, both then medical students, and their friends frequently grumbled to me about the General Medical Council, its composition and what it did. They said it was out of date, and they were quite right; it was. They are both general practitioners now and I myself happen to be a family doctor.

I and many of my colleagues welcome this Bill, because through it we have a splendid opportunity today to put things right. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, that it is a good Bill; but only so far as it goes, and that is not nearly far enough. It has been worked out very carefully by the Government and by the General Medical Council with its President, Sir John Richardson, who have taken infinite pains over its details. They would like much more to be added to it.

The Bill is based, as noble Lords know, on the recommendations of Sir Alec Merrison's Report of his Committee of Inquiry into the Regulation of the Medical Profession which was published in April 1975. Only general principles are included in this Bill; many details are to be decided in future by Orders in Council. These, and the Privy Council, are mentioned more than 30 times in this Bill, as noble Lords may have noticed. One wonders how effective this dependence upon Orders in Council will be. Some professional matters, such as medical ethics and certain aspects of medical education, do not lend themselves easily to legislation. The Department of Health and Social Security will no doubt draft some of the Orders in Council which will be presented by the Minister for ratification by Her Majesty the Queen in her Privy Council.

This Bill provides that several of the Orders in Council are to be prepared by the General Medical Council itself, in particular some of the most important ones about the work of its main committees; but this does not apply to all of them. So one important question arises: which professional bodies will be approached by the Department for advice on the other matters?

I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, whether he agrees that a non-political organisation such as the General Medical Council should be the main body to give advice on most points of detail. No doubt all the Royal Colleges and Faculties, the universities (especially London University with its British Postgraduate Medical Federation) and, of course, the British Medical Association and others will at times contribute, too. Any profession in which by definition one professes to be skilled, and to follow and to apply one's skills to the affairs of others, must set its own standards. If it were thought possible that anything in this Bill could result in the control of professional, academic or ethical matters by law administrators or politicians, I believe it would be bitterly resented and firmly resisted by almost every doctor in Britain.

The main defect of this Bill lies in its limited scope. It implements only two of the five main recommendations of the Merrison Report: those concerned with the composition of the General Medical Council, and its role in relation to sick doctors and their fitness to practise. The three other important recommendations of Merrison which have been left out of this Bill concern postgraduate medical training, with the continuing education of doctors in Britain, the maintenance of standards, and the registration of overseas doctors.

Medical education is mentioned in the Long Title to this Bill. I have taken advice and am told on good authority that we are not too late, and that it will still be possible to include educational and other Amendments, which are within the scope of this Bill, by putting them forward to be considered at the Committee stage. If they are not accepted then the medical profession will be asking for another Bill very shortly. That will mean a second bite at this cherry. With a very full legislative programme, space may not easily be found—for one, two or even three years—for another Government Bill, or even for a Private Member's Bill. I myself would be quite prepared to try to introduce the latter, if necessary. The Government must not be allowed to say: "The doctors have had their Bill; therefore they cannot have another".

The present work of the General Medical Council is largely limited to the undergraduate education of medical students and is based on an Act which was introduced in 1886–91 years ago—as my noble friend Lord Sandys has pointed out. This Bill must be brought up to date at the earliest possible moment to cover the whole of modern medical education. If a second Bill has, after all, to be introduced, it will really be the second half of this Bill, and I hope that will be clearly indicated in both by labelling them "Medical Bill Part I and Part II".

I should now like to mention a few important points which are included in the Bill that we are discussing this evening. Most doctors warmly welcome its suggestions for reconstructing the General Medical Council with elected, appointed and nominated members. Most people agree, too, about the increase which Merrison suggested in the size of the Council from 46 to 98, or more, members. This number must be flexible to allow for future developments. It is possible, however, that unless the educational clauses of the Merrison Report are incorporated in this Bill soon, as my noble friend Lord Sandys also pointed out, such a huge Council may find itself largely unemployed. Apparent but ineffective participation in anything encourages no one. People cannot be kept happy and loyal unless they know that they are working on something worthwhile.

There are financial implications in this Bill, too. A much larger Council will cost more, especially if it has more work for its committees. Will the registration fee for doctors be much increased, or will the Government be prepared to contribute something in order to help?

General practitioners are the largest group in my profession. About two-fifths of all medical graduates in the National Health Service are family doctors. I, and many others, want to see them well represented on the reconstructed General Medical Council, both individually and by the organisations which serve them. The Royal College of General Practitioners must be represented, I think, on the General Council, and some of its members should be chosen to sit on all the important committees. General practice is a special discipline in its own right. Therefore standards in general practice must be maintained in the same manner as are those in other branches of the profession.

One of the main clauses of this Bill refers to the attitude of the General Medical Council to sick doctors. Few can quibble over what it suggests about them. I really like the sympathetic, thoughtful and understanding approach of the Merrison Committee towards doctors who are ill enough for this to affect their work. That charitable attitude has been carried over into this Bill. But the safety of our patients is paramount and everything possible must be done to protect them.

We know, of course, that there are severe mental and physical disorders which are progressive and incurable, for which drastic steps may sometimes have to be taken. But it is often very difficult to tell when a doctor begins to be a danger to his patients. This is a problem common to all professions. It may even happen with politicians who, when they fall sick, may sometimes become a danger to their Party or to their country. We remember, for example, one of the past Presidents of the United States of America who became very ill when he was in office; and we ourselves had an example nearer home not so very long ago. No doctor or politician is perfect. We all make mistakes, and a professional mistake can be the first indication of illness.

Old age alone may give rise to little serious disability. At least two Members of your Lordships' House, both well over 90, demonstrate this to us brilliantly almost every day we meet. Some doctors can do useful work with terrible handicaps. One who is blind (as I know from my association with St. Dunstan's) can be a good manipulator; one who is deaf can do good pathology with a microscope in his laboratory, or take X-rays; a surgeon who becomes too shaky to operate, or who is partially paralysed, may nevertheless give a very good opinion. I know a general practitioner who has worked courageously for nine years after having his larynx removed because of cancer. Even doctors with some mental illnesses can have long periods of normality between their attacks. A severe incapacitating depression can lift quite suddenly, like a blanket of fog, leaving the patient normal for a long time. Like everyone else doing a difficult job who becomes ill, a sick doctor needs much sympathetic and good advice, help, support and treatment, long before he is frightened by any official warning or threat of disciplinary action or suspension, with loss of his living. This Bill, I am glad to say, recognises that quite clearly. But care must be taken that a doctor's reputation is not damaged by any action of the Preliminary Proceedings Committee, with perhaps temporary suspension, before his case comes before the Disciplinary Committee.

A few minutes before we started discussing this Bill I received a letter from the medical defence unions, in combination, one paragraph of which reads:
"I have been asked by the defence societies to draw your attention to a serious departure from all previous rules for the medical profession—that there is to be no right of appeal against interim suspension by the Preliminary Proceedings Committee. Never before has a medical practitioner been at risk of losing his licence to practise without the right to a hearing or to an appeal in the rare event of justice not being done".
That is an important point which I thought I must point out.

Now, my Lords, may I say a few words about matters which this Bill leaves out which the Merrison Committee wanted. The General Medical Council has always had a statutory duty to maintain standards. The omission from this Bill of any clause about this, or any recommendation about postgraduate medical training and continuing education, has been a bitter disappointment to many of us. It is two and a half years since these were fully discussed and recommended so firmly in the Merrison Report. The delay has been largely due to differences of opinion within my profession. As a leading article in the British Medical Journal said last week:
"While accepting the logic of the argument that postgraduate and undergraduate education should be controlled by the same body, and that that body should be the newly constituted General Medical Council, many doctors … are reluctant to interfere in any way with the traditional role of the royal colleges as the inspectors and examiners of postgraduate training for the specialties. There are still conflicting views on the desirability of specialist registration and on the extent to which Britain should try to harmonise its specialist training programmes with those agreed in Europe".
Surely, my Lords, a satisfactory compromise will be reached quickly when the new General Medical Council eventually meets, a compromise which may be achieved, perhaps, by introducing subordinate legislation; allowing some colleges and faculties a little freedom, if they wish, covering the "further details" which the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, mentioned. These colleges and faculties have this freedom now. I cannot see why problems over the Common Market should be allowed to hold up half of this very important Bill.

There is one other important recommendation of the Merrison Report which has also been omitted, that which concerns the registration of overseas doctors, as has been mentioned. These doctors have made an enormous contribution to the development of our National Health Service and many of them do first-class work. Control of the standards of those at the other end of the scale was strongly recommended by Merrison. This is a non-controversial matter which has been agreed by the General Medical Council, the British Medical Association, and by virtually all of our medical bodies—a plea for limited registration to ensure that overseas doctors practising independently in this country must have reached the minimum standard required of a British medical graduate. Our entry into the Common Market has made this matter even more urgent. It is now four and a half years since the General Medical Council finalised its views on this subject. How can the Government justify keeping it out of this Bill?

My Lords, I have brought with me six possible Amendments to this Bill, two quite short and four longer ones, copies of which I can give to anyone who is interested. These have already been seen by the experts and they are all to be considered in detail again tomorrow morning. I very much hope that they will be discussed and voted upon at the Committee stage of this Bill. I trust that other noble Lords will support me in this. If these Amendments, or suitable variations of them, are by chance agreed, then the need for a second Bill will be eliminated. That will save Parliament and my profession a great deal of time, trouble and expense; and the vitally important educational and registration work of the new General Medical Council will, quite easily start quickly and be brought up to date. If, however, the Government cannot or will not agree, now or at the Committee stage, to these major Amendments, will they please give us a firm assurance that they will introduce Part II of this Bill at the earliest possible opportunity, as the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, hinted? But, my Lords, I earnestly hope that that will not the necessary.

6.38 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to say at the outset that many of the criticisms made by the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, arise from a misreading of the Title of the Bill. He has trotted out quite a string of old hobbyhorses that do not really arise from the subject of this Bill, which, as many speakers have already said, is very limited in its scope. Perhaps it might more appropriately have been entitled the GMC Bill, and this might well be the subject of a probing Amendment during the Committee stage.

May I also say how fully I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Fawley, in criticising the absence of right of appeal against immediate interim suspension. I am sure that such action will be taken only in exceptional circumstances, where the lives of patients are actually placed at risk. That, I feel, is the sole justification, and a very necessary justification, for the recommendation of the Merrison Report.

As regards all the omissions on the subject of medical education to which reference has been made by almost every speaker, I cannot help feeling that that is a subject that had best be left entirely to the examining colleges. We all know how each specialist is most anxious to have his own speciality included in the curriculum of medical training. It is a burning subject in which I rather imagine the Government would be well advised not to become involved.

This Bill has been awaited for a long time and I hope that a general welcome will be extended to it from all sides of the House. It is now well over two and a half years since the Merrison Committee reported, and four and a half years since it first met. In my view, its report is a model of wisdom and sound judgment and should serve as a guide for future deliberations on these matters, as many problems are bound to arise once the Bill is on the Statute Book. I merely point out that it is a source of profound satisfaction that the recommendations of the Merrison Committee, composed as it was of seven doctors and seven lay members, were unanimous. It cannot be too strongly emphasised that at no time did a conflicting medical view and lay view emerge from their discussions. For far too long various public interests have claimed to be at variance with the medical profession. The great achievement of the Merrison Report is to state clearly and unequivocally that the best interests of the medical profession and those of the public must always coincide.

There are many important innovations in the Bill and those have already been dealt with by previous speakers. I should especially have liked to speak on the problem of registration of overseas doctors, but I shall leave such matters to others more knowledgeable on the subject. I should, however, like to devote a few brief remarks to the setting up of the new Health Committee—to which reference is made in Clause 7—to regulate the right to practise of registered practitioners whose health is seriously impaired, whether medically or physically. At present, the controls are tenuous in the extreme.

Some remarkable cases are quoted in paragraph 329, on page 111 of the Merrison Report. I can recall the case of an elderly practitioner of 91—certainly not elderly by the standards of your Lordships' House, but still quite elderly among practising doctors. He had his practice within a mile of Marble Arch. He was completely senile and was as deaf as a door-post. He was a typical Gladstonian character, with a high linen collar and starched cuffs that were badly frayed. I remember finding him sitting sadly in his consulting room with a pile of copies of the British Medical Journal at his elbow, still unopened and in their original wrappers. That doctor had a list of 400 patients on his panel, the final residue of a much larger list of 30 years before. Fortunately, those 400 patients almost never consulted him. If any of them did, they were automatically referred to the out-patients department of St. Mary's Hospital. Yet this doctor, fully conscious of his own hopeless inadequacy, still continued to practise long after he should have been allowed to spend his days in honourable retirement.

I recall another case of a gifted young doctor, an anaesthetist at one of our London specialist hospitals, who was a chloroform addict. He was in the habit of helping himself freely to ampoules of chloroform from the anaesthetist's tray, stretching out his hand slyly under the sheet that covered the anaesthetic preparations and grabbing a handful of ampoules while the patient was undergoing a major operation. No one would openly volunteer to expose him and deprive him of his livelihood. Within two years he had committed suicide. That doctor's life might well have been saved had he been compelled to cease practising, and to undergo a course of treatment.

The problem of the sick doctor is dealt with very fully and sympathetically in the Merrison Report. However, I am not sure whether, in the delicate initial stages of approaching the sick doctor—reference has been made to this by my noble friend Lord Stone—the General Medical Council or anyone appointed by it, is really the best means of dealing with the problem. I should like to ask my noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell whether the services of the Regional Medical Service, which can act only in an advisory capacity, totally removed from any disciplinary overtones, might not be enlisted in the initial approaches to the sick doctor. It already has a long tradition of initial approaches to doctors who might be suspected of having erred, and could prove most useful in this context, even if additional recruitment to its ranks is required.

The General Medical Council has had to face a severe fire of criticism during recent years, especially since the introduction of the retention fee. Yet it is only fair to acknowledge the outstanding services it has rendered in the past to medicine and it deserves to be paid a tribute. The House will recall the massively authoritative speeches of the late Lord Cohen of Birkenhead who was only recently taken from us. He was President of the General Medical Council from 1961 for a period of over nine years. Whenever he intervened in debates in your Lordships' House, he always covered the subject so thoroughly that there seemed nothing else left to be said. He was in the true line of succession of great physicians who, from the time of Maimonides onwards, have adorned the medical profession since the golden age of Spanish civilisation.

When he presided over the deliberations of the Disciplinary Committees of the GMC, he exercised a patience and a kindliness that were limitless, and he seemed to lean over backwards to avoid having to inflict upon a fellow doctor the ultimate penalty of being struck off the medical register. That consideration and carefulness, in the interests of the patient, be it noted, as well as of the doctor, have been handed down to his successor, but unfortunately the GMC has become hamstrung by its own restricted powers, many of which are now completely out of tune with the times in which we live. Its machinery is clogged up and cumbersome, often operating far too slowly, and against the best interests of both doctor and patient.

I shall not go into many of the other archaic anomalies which the Bill seeks to rectify. Ample opportunities will, I hope, be afforded to the House during its Committee and later stages. However, I should like to say at this stage, how glad I am that this highly important and somewhat technical Bill has been introduced first of all in your Lordships' House, so that, within its accepted limitations, it may eventually proceed to the other place as a universally agreed and, I hope, almost complete, piece of legislation. But there have been so many outdated powers exercised, inequitable decisions arrived at, and even lamentable injustices inflicted, by the General Medical Council in the past on a long-suffering medical profession, that I, for one, welcome the Bill with all my heart.

6.50 p.m.

My Lords, I am grateful to the powers that be for putting me on late in the debate, because that allows me to cross out most of what I was going to say. I knew that in particular the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Fawley, had gone into this matter with the greatest care and consideration to detail and that I could trust him to say many of the things that I might possibly have said myself. I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, who told me in the course of not too long a speech far more than I could possibly find out from reading this document, which starts with the mysterious words in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum:

"The Bill has two main purposes. The first is to provide that the composition of the General Medical Council ("the General Council") …".
What does that mean? It is almost impossible to find out from this document. We can find out from reading the Merrison Report. That committee had in mind a sort of general council, which included everybody, split into sub-committees. However, I hope that we shall not give up the time-honoured and greatly respected term. "General Medical Council" and call it the "General Council" or anything of that kind. I hope that there will be no confusion in anyone's mind by the time we have finished with the Bill.

As noble Lords have said, it is, of course, true that in times gone by the General Medical Council has been greatly criticised for being unfair, behind the times, and so on. But I think all will agree that under the presidency of the late Lord Cohen of Birkenhead that has all been altered. Its outlook has been far more enlightened, and I am sure that that will continue under its present President, Sir John Richardson. When I sat on the Royal Commission on Medical Education some of the best evidence we received was, in fact, from the General Medical Council, written I suspect by Henry Cohen himself.

Without commenting too much on the speeches made by other noble Lords, I should like to say how important it is, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Fawley, pointed out, that general practitioners should have their fair say in the affairs of the profession, as ordered by the General Medical Council. I do not go the whole way with those who want to get it ail done in one Bill now, because I know from sitting on a Royal Commission, if for no other reason, that there are most difficult and controversial matters about which the profession has not yet come to any conclusion—for instance, specialist registration. To put something through next week or the week after on specialist registration might be a great disaster, but that is not to say that I rule out many other possible Amendments which may be made and I look forward to reading what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Fawley, and his friends will put before us.

I am almost going to confine the rest of my remarks to the question of elected members and democracy. I cannot contemplate a council of 98 members doing anything really useful. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Fawley, who said that to sit on a committee and feel that one is doing nothing useful is one of the most deadly things a person can be asked to do. Democracy—to which we all give lip service and, I hope, something more—is finally the best form of government; but democracy can be carried too far. An Election for Parliament is very different from an election to the General Medical Council for the following reasons. Let us suppose that an elector lives in Norwich. In a Parliamentary Election he would have the chance of meeting the candidate or at least going to the meeting and finding out his views. In any case, one's mind is already made up on a Party basis. One votes for so-and-so because one votes Labour, Liberal or perhaps even Conservative.

It is quite a different matter when one comes to elections to the General Medical Council. The man who lives in Norwich does not have to take account of how good the candidate for Southampton is. However, if one is given a list of candidates for some of the 98 places—I forget how many will be elected—it is very unlikely that the doctor in Norwich knows more than 1 or 2 per cent. of the candidates. Therefore, the whole matter is very different. Use can be made of this by bodies who sometimes behave rather more like, say, pressure groups than members of the General Medical Council might be expected to behave.

In the last election to the GMC there were 34 candidates for eight places. It is very unlikely that anybody knew those 34 candidates so the British Medical Association—always helpful—sent round a list of eight people whom they recommended. Most people, not knowing any of the eight, cast their vote for them. Thus they may discard some people of particular merit who perhaps represent minorities, which are very important in this kind of thing. In fact, the British Medical Association recommended eight candidates and gave short election addresses from each of them. It omitted all mention of the other 26 candidates, except their names, although two of them were people of outstanding merit and two had been recognised having been awarded the OBE.

At that time I wrote a letter to Lancet and the British Medical Journal, saying that I thought the least they could do was to publish short election addresses of 100 or 200 words for the other 26 candidates. They did not do that, but at least they published my letter of criticism of their methods. I suggested that one should vote only for someone who one knows or someone about whom one can obtain personal knowledge and personal contacts and that one should not vote blind for another seven or eight people because by doing so one lessens the chance of electing the one candidate one really wants. I was grateful to the editor of the British Medical Journal for publishing that letter but, of course, it was a week late and many people had already voted. It is not clear from this Medical Bill by what method this election is to take place. The Merrison Report suggests the single transferable vote method of proportional representation. This may go some way to prevent pressure groups from keeping out people rather than keeping them in, which is always the danger in the ordinary election.

A great deal is left to Orders in Council and this may be a matter for regret; it may be a matter for comment; it may be a matter for unfavourable comment. On the other hand, it leaves a lot of the decisions to the General Medical Council itself. On the whole, this seems to me to be a good thing, so I do not regret that very much. I think that that is really all I need to say now that other people have spoken so fully about the Bill. In some ways it seems a matter for regret that the Bill only goes so far and no further. There does seem to be a lot of general approval of what the Bill does, and we shall see what happens to it in the Committee stage.

7.2 p.m.

My Lords, with others, I can express my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, for his introduction of the Bill. In saying that, I should like to say that I do not propose to detain your Lordships for long because I do not propose to follow the noble Lord, Lord Platt, on a subject with which I am not competent to deal at all. I have no intention of referring to the disciplinary provisions or the administrative matters within this Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, said, there are two considerations, health and conduct, and it is the health problem which naturally excites me.

I turn at once to Clause 4 of the Bill. Rightly or wrongly, I take the view that the provisions of Clause 4, and particularly of subsection (3), in view of the fact that Ireland is a member of the EEC, amount to a "foot in the door" for arrangements for aligning the conduct of medicine in this country with the conduct of medicine in the EEC. It is a long way away. The noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, referred to this as being only a first stage; and of course that is what it must be.

As your Lordships may remember from previous exchanges in this House, I am particularly concerned with what the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, described as ancillary services and the problems that nowadays they represent, particularly chiropraxy, which is what they call it in Canada. Denmark, now in the EEC, has accepted chiropraxis as part of its national health system; West Germany and France do the same in some respects. Of course, Switzerland is not in the EEC, but it has its own arrangements in that regard. Within the Commonwealth, New Zealand has for six years had this ancillary service accepted as part of its National Health system.

I would assure your Lordships that I have no intention of talking about amendments in this respect. I look forward to knowing what my noble friend Lord Sandys has in mind when referring to possible amendments at the Committee stage of this Bill. I would only point to Clause 4(2) and the powers which it confers on the Ministry. Admittedly, subsection (7) makes amendment subject to Negative Resolution and, as I have said before, Lord Wells-Pestell's speech referred to the necessity for further stages. Nevertheless, it would appear to be prudent to draw the attention of the Government to the probability of having to provide for regulations in respect of manipulative therapy in the future. I use the word "probability" because I sincerely believe that it is no longer a question of whether or no, but of when chiropractic treatment will be available under the National Health Service.

If this is a correct view, then we must also turn to Clause 14(4), which covers the question of education. This is something which is far beyond what is contemplated in this Bill. Nevertheless, in my view, it has to come. The British Chiropractic Association controls the Anglo-European College of Chiropractics in Bournemouth, from which 34 students recently graduated after their four year course. Only 11 were British. There is, of course, considerable need for more practitioners of this nature.

I agree with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, said about the relative urgency of the various matters which face the Health Service today. I shall read his speech with the greatest interest. Incidentally, I welcome that part of Lord Wells-Pestell's speech that referred to the composition of committees, and even the composition of the Council. These are indications of progress which, from the health point of view, I feel are fully acceptable. I strongly support elected, appointed lay members, as my noble friend Lord Sandys did.

Manifestly, it will take years to overcome the obstacles which lie ahead. Take, for instance, Schedule 4 which some day will have to be virtually re-written. But this is met by what the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, said would be the subject of further legislation. Of course there are obstacles and objections, and of course there must be proper regulation. There must be a discipline acceptable to all, and this is where the education side comes in and the problems which are raised in regard to the relationship between medical education and the universities.

I was brought up by a doctor of medicine. Indeed, he was a professor of physiology. For a number of years, I was chairman of a pharmaceutical company. Consequently, I have the utmost respect and regard, in more ways than one, for the medical profession with all its faults, to some of which the noble Lord, Lord Segal, referred. I respect the standards of medicine and surgery in this country. Accordingly, I am fully aware that, like the King of the Amalekites, I must walk delicately in what I say. At the same time, the fact is that physical adjustment, including the manipulation of the spine, as a remedy for bodily aches and ills is of worldwide significance. It is generally available in North America and most of Australia.

Although it might be thought that this Bill could well be deferred for a year or two, as somebody has suggested, I am sure that the Government are in the best position to judge whether this is the time for it or not. I am happy to leave it at that. The noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, seemed to have his doubts, although in the end he welcomed it.

I would conclude by mentioning the Cochrane Committee or, more properly, the working group which will be reporting to the Minister of Health in the early spring, or so I believe, and to which reference is made in paragraph 192 of the Annual Report of the Department of Health for 1976. There is already a multi-disciplinary sub-committee considering how further to develop clinical study, and this will fit into the Bill very well.

I have only one other suggestion to make if the Bill goes ahead. In many cases of back pain, manipulative treatment can effect a saving not only in terms of pain and distress but in the economic sense by limiting the costs of extended and perhaps outdated treatment. Now that New Zealand has been at it for six years, I have heard it suggested that it could assist the Department of Health by giving some assessment of its results in this respect. If the claims, based on the experience of many satisfied customers like myself and as represented by the British Chiropractors Association, of which I have the honour to be a patron, are well-founded, the saving to the nation in expense alone must be substantial, leaving aside the physical relief which can be secured thereby.

7.11 p.m.

My Lords, joining in a debate of this kind with so much medical talent taking part is perhaps treading on rather dangerous ground. This is an important Bill which emanates from a report of unusual excellence and clarity. Your Lordships will be aware of the surfeit of Blue, Green and White Papers on the National Health Service and the various aspects of it which have been produced in the last decade or so. But of all such documents, the report of Dr. Merrison is one of the most lucid. While I must admit that I have by no means read all of it, I hope to do so before the Committee stage on the Bill because this is clearly a measure which must have a properly discussed Committee stage.

The General Medical Council to the average layman is a rather mysterious and, perhaps to some, terrifying body. Some regard it with considerable cynicism. However, there is no doubt that it does a very good job in difficult circumstances. I am rather perplexed by the part of the Bill which suggests that the age limit for retirement from serving on the General Medical Council should be 70. I do not know whether this is a recommendation from the Merrison Report, but be that as it may, although it might be argued that a surgeon or medical practitioner who has to perform an operation at over 70 years of age might put the patient at some risk, the brains and judgment of a person of that age in giving the judgments which the General Medical Council gives might be very useful. I should have thought there could be some discretionary power over this, although I understand that before the recommendation conies into practice it must go before the Privy Council.

On the question of the declaration of unfitness of a doctor, we know that the medical profession and especially general practitioners are overworked nowadays. Some practices require a doctor to have perhaps 3,000 patients on his list, and if he is not in a group practice there are additional burdens. Small wonder that doctors perhaps do not possess the same standards of health as used to be the case, for with an aging population and more and more people on doctors' lists, the strains on the doctors concerned are bound to be considerable. However, I am glad to see that there are humane provisions in the Merrison Report to the effect that such doctors are not kept from practising for longer than is necessary. Of course, this must depend to a large extent on the conditions concerned.

I have received representations that the Bill does not go far enough on the question of overseas doctors. I do not think this is any disparagement of the work that overseas doctors undertake and indeed the Merrison Report says at page 74:
"The National Health Service is very heavily dependent on overseas-trained doctors".
That is perfectly true, and now that there are far more stringent controls over language problems—their knowledge of English must be more than adequate— the presence of overseas doctors in our Health Service is essential.

As I said earlier, this is a Bill which requires close scrutiny in Committee. I agree it is an admirable measure to start in your Lordships' House; it is non-political, non-secretarian and an ideal Bill for your Lordships to look at very carefully. Although it has flaws, most of which, as has been said, go to the point that it does not go far enough, at least vis-à-vis the Merrison Report, it contains some very valuable recommendations and I heartily support it receiving a Second Reading.

7.19 p.m.

My Lords, I asked for my name to be put down last among the list of speakers because I thought I might be delayed in my surgery and not be here early enough to take part. There was, however, a second reason: I thought that if the points I wanted to make had already been made there would be no need for me to speak. Most of those points have indeed been made and therefore your Lordships are in for a short speech from me, and I wish to raise one point which I regard as important.

Reading the Merrison Report, it struck me that it was suggesting that the General Medical Council should be a partnership between the profession and the public; that the profession should elect representatives; that the teaching bodies within the profession should appoint their members; and that the public (that is, the lay persons, the patients) should have a certain number of people appointed to represent them, through nomination by the Privy Council. I was therefore disappointed—and I notice that none of my colleagues were—on seeing that the clause, instead of stating that the nominated members would all be lay members, states that a majority will be, which means that the Government are reserving to themselves the right to appoint doctors to the GMC.

I do not know whether the Amendments which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Fawley, intends to put down, cover that. If they do not, then I shall put down an Amendment to remove the words "the majority" and substitute "all" because my view is that in fact there will be enough doctors on the General Medical Council, and there will be no need for the Government to appoint additional doctors. What is required is that the lay public, the patients, should also be represented by a section of the General Medical Council. Therefore, I should like to have that point looked at, and I will certainly try to see whether the position can be changed.

The other points which I had noted have all been touched upon, and therefore I will not repeat them. But I want to say this: Since so much of the Bill allows the Government to deal with these issues by Order in Council, I cannot see why there could not have been an enabling clause to empower the GMC to do something about the registration of overseas doctors. In other words, we need not have had a definitive clause at this moment, but there could have been an enabling clause. I hope that that will come about, though I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Fawley, has an Amendment to cover that.

I also want to support the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, on the question of finance. Unless the Government think again on this matter, there is likely to be trouble. It is perfectly all right to say that through the expense allowance the general practitioners will get at least most of their outlay back, but there is no such thing for the hospital doctors. That means that they will have to pay their whack and get nothing back, and there is bound to be some dissatisfaction over that. What Merrison suggested was that the bulk of the cost of the GMC should be borne by the profession, but that the Government should make a grant. I cannot see any reason why the Government should hesitate about doing that.

I hope that this matter will also be looked at, because it is silly to spoil a good Bill by an approach of this kind. I have no doubt that if it is left as it is then, sooner or later, if the cost of running the GMC gets quite high—and that means if registration fees become high—there will be problems. So I hope that the Government will think again about the question of making the grant to defray some of the costs of running the GMC. All the other points that I intended to make have already been covered, and therefore I shall not waste the time of your Lordships' House by referring to them. I support the Bill, but I hope that the Government will look at the points which have been raised, particularly those raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Fawley, because the Bill can be improved, and we ought to take the opportunity of improving it.

7.25 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to plead the indulgence of the House in order to make the briefest of observations, stimulated by what I have heard in the debate. It is natural, proper, and useful that in a Second Reading debate there should be concentration on omissions from the Bill and criticisms of defects in it, and that we have had this evening. But I hope that that normal, natural, and useful exercise will not obscure the immense progress that is made in the Bill in one fundamental change. For the first time in the history of the General Medical Council, there will be a majority of practising doctors, doctors in daily contact with patients and in touch with their treatment.

Some of the other criticisms may well be justified, and no doubt we shall look with interest on any Amendments that are put down, but do not let us for one moment forget the immense importance of that change. Difficulties there may be in devising electoral systems. The doctors may complain of the increased cost, and seek reimbursement. They are details that should not obscure from public gaze the fact that this is a change of immense importance in the interests of the public as well as of the medical profession, and I welcome the Bill for that commanding reason.

7.27 p.m.

My Lords, I must confess that some of your Lordships frighten me. I am really concerned at the suggestion that the Bill should be enlarged to include a number of other matters. My noble friend Lord Hunt of Fawley—he is my noble friend, although we share a different political view—was rather vehement about it. What I tried to say very clearly at the beginning was that there are a number of matters, a number of recommendations made by Merrison, which the Government accept, but which cannot be included in the Bill for the simple reason that there must be much discussion between the Government and the various bodies concerned. It is important that we have these discussions. If we do not, we shall find ourselves in precisely the same position we have found ourselves in time and time again; namely, putting legislation on the Statute Book that we have regretted within a comparatively short period of time.

We have often made virtues of necessity without giving enough thought to the matter in hand. I do not want to take up your Lordships' time in reciting Bill after Bill which is now giving us anxiety. The best way to have legislation on the Statute Book, which will be of supreme importance in the future, is to give it now the detailed consideration that it needs. By and large these matters are not controversial. They are acceptable to the profession, to the GMC, and so on. Let us get them through. I would appeal to my noble friends on the other side of the House who have said, quite rightly, that there are other matters that must be dealt with, that there is a time to deal with them. Let us get this Bill on to the Statute Book.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Fawley, asked me to give an assurance that we would do something about these other matters in a reasonable time. I give him that assurance. I cannot say what I mean by a "reasonable time". I know that when various Departments of Government get together to discuss matters, my word! it is a job to shift them. I do not think that bodies outside Parliament, for that matter, are any different. There is a whole wealth of experience, a whole fund of knowledge, that we have to draw on. It is far better to wait, and then come forward with Bill No. 2, or whatever it may be called, knowing full well that it is the result of considered opinion, and get it on the Statute Book, knowing that it will work, and that we shall not for ever and a day afterwards regret that it is there. I give the assurance that the Government's intention is to pursue Merrison's other recommendations and introduce legislation at the first available opportunity.

Having said that, may I say to the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, who raised the question of overseas doctors, as did the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and a number of other noble Lords, that we all know that this is full of difficulty. Time and time again we have touched on it in your Lordships' House when we have been introducing various Bills. It is not a simple matter. Do not, for goodness sake!, let us rush into this and then find that we have not given it the consideration we ought to have given it. Let us get the matter right once and for all.

The noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, said he had no enthusiasm for the Bill, but by the time he sat down I thought he had done us proud in the sense that he saw that what we were trying to do at this stage was highly desirable. He, too, mentioned the whole question of education and the finances of the GMC, as did my noble friend Lord Pitt. But, again, look at the time that we have spent in your Lordships' House on the whole question of education—weeks and weeks. I know that this is education within certain limits; but, nevertheless, they are important limits. We have said time and time again that the future depends on the quality and the content of our educational system, and not only on the people who teach it. The quality, if I may say so, of the members of the medical profession, their competence and, in the last analysis, their ability, will depend on the right concept of what education for medicine is all about, and upon its content. I do not think we can hope to deal with these things quickly. Again, we must have discussion, and it is because the Government attach great importance to the future of medical education that they wish to spend time on this matter.

Now, if I may, I come to the question of the Government's contribution to the finances of the General Medical Council. I have not said, and I do not think anybody has said, that the Government are unwilling to contribute, but I cannot say that the Government are willing to do so. Far be it that I should presume to speak for the Treasury. Nobody in their right mind would do that.

My Lords, if my noble friend would allow me to interrupt, it is said here that it will cost the Government nothing. That is the point. It is here in the finances of the Bill.

My Lords, at this stage it is not costing us anything and it will not cost us anything; but this Government have always been receptive to other people's ideas, wherever they come from. While I am not going to promise that the Government will do anything at all in this matter, I think the most important question which has to be weighed up in this context is the independence of the General Medical Council: whether they want the Government to do anything in this matter; whether they might not feel compromised if the Government were to make some contribution. The medical profession is regulated by an independent body, and it may well be that they will feel it desirable to remain completely independent of the Government. But this is a matter for consideration.

I think I have dealt with all the matters raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, with the exception of one thing, and that is that all orders made under this Bill are subject, as I said in my opening speech, to the Negative Resolution procedure of both Houses of Parliament. That is a political safeguard; and as so many of the matters have to be considered and discussed with the General Medical Council and other bodies with a view to framing a second Bill, it is not inappropriate—in fact, I think it would be quite right—that they should play a large part in forming the various orders. But in the last analysis every order is subject to the Negative Resolution procedure in Parliament, so Members of your Lordships' House and another place will have an opportunity to see them, to read them and, if necessary, to exercise their rights.

I think the only other matter raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, with which I want to deal—and I take his point on this, which I think was also raised by my noble friend Lord Segal—is this power which is given to the preliminary proceedings committee to suspend a doctor for two months without (and I think the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, made a strong point of this) the right of appeal. Said like that, it seems unreasonable; but is a body of competent medical people, members of a preliminary proceedings committee, going to suspend one of their colleagues for two months without very good reason? It is not a group of lay people which is going to do this: it is going to be a group of medical people. Are they going to do this lightly? Of course they are not. And how often is it going to occur? I would have thought that this would not occur very often; and, in any case, the health committee or the professional conduct committee, whichever is dealing with the case, has, under the Bill, the power to revoke that suspension. So another body of medical opinion has that power. I do not think, if I may say so with very great respect, that this is something that one really need bother about. I cannot see members of the profession acting unreasonably, and I hope the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and my noble friend Lord Segal will feel that this is so.

My noble friend Lord Segal raised the question of local machinery to approach sick doctors, and I think he said that it might be better if the regional medical service did this. I think we need to think about this. I would not know, and it is no good pretending that I do. I would have thought that it would probably be the wrong machinery, because I think it ought to be left chiefly to the General Medical Council in consultation, perhaps, with the health authorities; but I should not like to go further than that except to say that we will make a note of the point of view of my noble friend Lord Segal, to see whether there is anything that can be done in this matter. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Platt. I think his point was right—naturally I think it is right because I agree with it—that we ought not to overload this Bill. I think I have said all I want to say on this. I think it would be a mistake. He raised the question of the 98 members who are going to be so shockingly unwieldy. That was the first thought that crossed my mind when I saw Merrison's suggestion of 98. But this is not a sacred figure. Nobody will say for one moment that it will be 98. This is a recommendation, and it may well be that certain people, in their wisdom, will feel that the whole affair can be managed with fewer.

The noble Lord, Lord Platt, referred to the possible change of the title of "General Medical Council" to "General Council". May I assure him that I understand that this is not in any way intended. I regret to say that it appears in the 1956 Act, where it refers to the "General Council", but I think I can honestly say without giving offence that that was a piece of lawyer's shorthand. It should have been "General Medical Council". There was no intention, as far as I know, that anything should be changed.

The noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, referred to chiropractics and back pains. I was glad that he seized the opportunity of saying something about this because I know how informed he is on these matters and how anxious he is to see this in some way included in the National Health Service. He speaks with a good deal of knowledge about this—probably with more knowledge than anybody in this House. I take his point that this is something that we ought not to forget.

The noble Lord, Lord Auckland, talked about retirement. I think that this figure of 70 as the age limit for retirement stems from the recommendation in paragraph 391 of the Merrison Report which says:
"We recommend that nobody should be eligible for appointment or election after his sixty-sixth birthday—thus ensuring that no member of the General Council will be over 70".
I think that this stems from that.

I think that, even if I have not covered them adequately, I have dealt with every point that has been raised by noble Lords. I finish where I began; that is, I hope that noble Lords will think not twice but three times when they put down amendments to this Bill, for it would be a great pity if it took so long that it ran into time difficulties. I shall say no more than that. I am not going to say that it would do so; but there is a lot of legislation before both Houses and it would be a great pity if this Bill were to suffer. I am grateful to noble Lords who have taken part in this Second Reading, for the contributions they have made and for the points they have raised; because, although I feel that these are matters for the future, they are, nevertheless, important matters.

On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Ecc: Forty-Eight Report—Youth Unemployment

7.43 p.m.

—rose to move, That this House takes note of the report of the European Communities Committee on Youth Unemployment (R/2473/76 and R/2516/76) (Forty-eighth Report of last Session (HL 261)). The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name. This report, as your Lordships will be aware, deals with the Draft Resolution to improve the preparation of young people for working life and to facilitate their transition from education to working life. Your Lordships will recollect that last July we had the opportunity to discuss the subject of youth unemployment. Tonight, we are dealing with this subject again but in its European setting and also have the opportunity to bring up to date, after a lapse of four or five months, a matter which is of great importance and seriousness. The Committee very much welcomed the recommendations in the report. First and foremost, it welcomed the fact that youth unemployment is seen in its European context—and, indeed, it should be seen in a European context—and also welcomed the fact that the EEC was realising that youth unemployment is an issue of major social importance; as well they may, with no fewer than 2 million persons under the age of 25 unemployed in the Member countries. The unemployment among people under 25 represents more than one-third of the total unemployment in the EEC. I do not wish to burden your Lordships with many figures, but those figures must be presented to give some idea of the scale, dimension and seriousness of the problem which we are now confronting, and now confronting on a European level.

Also we were glad that the report makes clear—and subsequent publications have re-emphasised this—that what we are dealing with here is not just unemployment arising out of the current recession. For too long in this country, and in the Continental European countries, it was assumed by many people that youth unemployment, of course, was serious; but that when the recession disappeared, when the economy took off again, the problem of youth unemployment would be dealt with in the ordinary course of events. There are still such people. There were people who came to give evidence to the Select Committee who still believe this to be true; but, certainly, majority opinion is moving against this view and towards the view that we have here something far more deep-seated and serious, something far more connected with the structural change in industry and not merely with cyclical problems of unemployment.

That is the reason why this must be regarded as a matter that is deep-seated in its origin and requires radical measures in order to attempt to cure it. We have this recognition, perhaps a little belatedly, that this is, in fact, the position; and the EEC are saying in their recommendations that it is necessary and appropriate that steps should be taken at a European level, using the machinery which already exists, in order to attempt to combat this problem.

My Lords, your Committee did, however, feel that while this recognition was there, the scale of action proposed by the EEC was inadequate in relation to the size of the problem. This feeling of inadequacy was reinforced by the somewhat tepid reaction to the recommendations of the Commission that came from the Council of Ministers in the summer.

I am glad to say that, more recently, there appears to be a greater sign of urgency. Certainly, when the report came before them the European Parliament protested very strongly at the lack of urgency, the lack of scale, on which the problem was being approached; and in the most recent statement which has come from a meeting of the Council of Ministers, on 24th November, it seems as if forces working to take a stronger line on this matter are beginning to have some effect—although that is very recent indeed, and we will have to wait and see what comes from this greater sense of the importance of the subject. While we recognised that this problem has to be seen in its European context and while we expect to be able to get both knowledge and practical assistance by dealing with the matter at the European level, the fact remains that most of the work must be done by Member States understanding and working on their own problems. The last thing one wants to suggest is that because there is to be a European involvement, this exonerates us in any way from attempting to put our own house in order, to understand our own problems better and to take appropriate action.

My Lords, what is our own problem? Let us try to get some measure of it. We in this country—and it is all too typical that the figures are not kept in the same form in different countries and therefore direct comparisons are not as easy as they should be—in January this year had approximately a quarter of a million young persons under the age of 20 out of work. These represented over 18 per cent. of the total unemployed young persons in this country. That is a huge problem by any standards. I would say, in passing, that proportionately the situation is deteriorating faster for girls than it is for boys. I do not say whether that makes the matter better or worse, but it is worth noting.

I think that the thing which came out clearly and all the Members of your Lordships' Sub-Committee were very clear about at the end of our discussions was that the incidence of unemployment falls most heavily on the unskilled. The lower the level of skill, the greater the likelihood of unemployment. What is more important—and this links up with the recognition that it is a structural and not just cyclical problem—is that there is the likelihood that those unskilled people will continue to be unemployed and may never get permanent employment of any significant kind. That is the measure of the problem which we encounter.

Alongside this serious problem for the unskilled, for those people who have gained least from their education while at school and acquired least in the way of skills or knowledge which they can sell in the labour market, we have the extraordinary and very important fact that in parts of the country we are short of skilled people. There are differences of opinion about both the extent of the shortage of skills and the causes of it. This is something we should debate in its own right because it is of such great importance. I do not propose to go into the argument about why we have shortages of skills or even the extent of them; but it exists and it is ridiculous that it should exist.

A shortage of skilled manpower along with the inability to provide jobs is something that we cannot fail to recognise. One or two examples lead one to be confident that this is the case. First and foremost, there is the report of NEDO which makes it clear that in the engineering industry, for example, there are now far fewer young people going forward for apprenticeships. There is going to be difficulty in the engineering industry to replace the craftsmen who will leave in the ordinary course of events.

There is evidence from various parts of the country. On "The Money Programme" on television last week a survey reported from Sheffield which showed that 61 per cent. of Sheffield firms said they were short of labour. A considerable number anticipated that their shortage would continue and become more serious. It is reported in the Press—and many of us have had direct experience of this—that ICI in Wilton have not been able to get artificers for a long time. They are short of 100 highly skilled artificers on whom the development and satisfactory working of the Wilton plant depends. At Hartlepool GEC are short of toolmakers, and this has been the situation for a long time. I could go on giving examples.

It may be said that these are isolated incidents. There are far too many of them, and far too many voices are saying that there is shortage of skilled personnel to be complacent about this extraordinary failure to find the labour needed while at the same time we have so many unskilled and untrained people, and so many people unable to obtain employment. So what in this country—and I am not considering what help we can gain from the EEC—should we be doing about the situation? We all welcome the initiatives that are being taken by the Manpower Services Commission based on the Holland Report. It seems to me and most of my colleagues on the Committee that to a large extent these measures deal with symptoms of the trouble and do not get down to basic causes. When the problem is as serious as it is at present, one has to deal with symptoms. That is no excuse for not trying to tackle the root causes as well. While one greatly welcomes the Manpower Services Commission's initiatives, I urge that local opinion and knowledge should be harnessed in the operation of that scheme.

I raised this question in your Lordships' House a week or two ago. There is a strong feeling in this country that because so many people are deeply concerned about this problem, and have a great deal of local knowledge to give—and this is something which must be handled, in part at any rate, at local level—it is vital that local trade unionists, local employers, local educationalists and local careers advisers should come together, formulate schemes, get backing for them and be encouraged so to do.

We on the Committee felt that, good though these schemes were, something much more fundamental was needed. There is a serious lack of understanding—and this comes out from the ECC report—between the world of school and the world of work, and the link between the two is inadequate. We shall overcome the problem only when these two vital groups get together and have a much better understanding of what is required. One is not saying that it is the job of the schools to turn out people who can do good jobs in the labour market—that is not the primary purpose of schools. In this country we have gone far too far in comparison with our European colleagues in separating the idea of training from the idea of education. There are educational activities which are training, and there are training activities which are educational; otherwise there is the ridiculous situation that mathematics is a highly educational subject if one does not use it but it is vocational training if one does. That must be an absurd state of affairs.

Surely we can say that in the schools we need to develop something which can be called work education. In the report we have said that what we believe is necessary is that there should be, on the one hand, school-based experience of work and work-based continuation of education, and that these two things should be linked together That is the key of the recommendation which the Committee is presenting to your Lordships' House: school-based knowledge of work, work education as part of the education of the youngster, as is done in good sandwich courses at a later age in people's education.

Then, my Lords, you move to the question of continued education based on work. Long ago, in the 1944 Act—indeed before that, in the Fisher Act of 1918—the idea of continued training and education based on work through effective day release was put forward as an advance in the educational field. Here there is some difference in the Committee, and other Members of the Committee will be putting forward their point of view; but my belief is that we should take the plunge and say what we need now is for the 16s to 18s to move to half-time work and half-time education. Just think what this would do to mop up the unemployed youngsters; just think what this would do to provide youngsters with some skill—and by "skill" I do not just mean manual skill; I mean skill and knowledge which is marketable.

For example, we have an expanding tourist trade. How many of our youngsters in the tourist industry can begin to deal with foreigners in their own language. Yet if you go into a German hotel the boy who carries your bags or the girl who gives you your bill is able to speak in English. These are all matters that should be included in what could be taught in daytime release of this sort. It will be said that this costs money, and I am devoted to the idea of restraining inflation and not spending money unnecessarily. There is a discussion going on at the moment about what we should do with the profits from North Sea oil. Is it unreasonable to suggest that one of the options should be investment in people so that we can develop skills?

In Germany, every youngster who does not go on to full-time education gets daytime release to learn something which is marketable in the economy. This is the direction in which we ought to be looking. I profoundly believe that this is the only way out. Not only would we be teaching skills, but there are many problems confronting youngsters at the moment: hooliganism, and all the other subjects which are raised. Is not this in part because there is a lack of skill in living, in knowing how to handle leisure and how to use surplus energy?

Could not all this be picked up in a scheme of day-time release? One extremely disappointing point in the message which came through from the meeting in Europe on 24th November was that our representative had said that there could be no public funding for this kind of activity. My Lords, I do beg the Government to think again. Is this really the best that we can do? I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of the report of the European Communities Committee on Youth Unemployment (R/2473/76 and R/2516/76) (Forty-eighth Report of last Session (HL 261)).— ( Baroness Seear.)

8 p.m.

My Lords, the problem this debate raises today has grown out of all proportion to the total of unemployment. At the start of her remarks, the noble Baroness quoted some statistics for young people under the age of 20. I should like to alter them slightly: in 1968 in the United Kingdom the number of young people under the age of 25—that is the number more normally taken in Europe—represented just under 24 per cent. of all those out of work. But last year that percentage had almost doubled, and for many those statistics represent misery which can become despair in places where regional unemployment is particularly severe.

The report of the Select Committee is particularly valuable because undoubtedly, as the noble Baroness has explained, this is a European problem. At the same time, let us face the fact that of the seven European countries which are listed in Table 2 of the report, the percentage of young people out of work in this country is bar far the highest. As the years have passed and the trend of youth unemployment inexorably has risen, gradually the truth has become clearer that although unemployment responds to boom and to recession, generally it and in particular youth unemployment, have become structural problems, alleviated but not cured by cycles of trade.

At this hour, I should like to confine myself to four particular areas in this country where I believe the EEC Resolution with which this report deals can be met. The first area is covered by the Holland Report. I think perhaps it is fair to claim that in the past the best medicine in a slump was always thought to be a strong dose of counter-cyclical expenditure, the special Government financing of additional jobs, usually through local authorities and in the construction industry. The concept of work experience and training as being more fundamental answers to youth unemployment was set in the context of the Bill of my noble friend Lord Carr of Hadley, the Employment and Training Act 1973. Then, of course, work and training schemes have been enormously stepped up by the Government, starting about two years ago.

Members of the Select Committee have criticised the haste with which these schemes have been developed; and the noble Baroness, quite rightly, made the simple point that they seem to try to deal more with the symptoms than with the causes of this problem. But I think there is no question that the Government's acceptance of the Holland Committee's proposals during the summer gave these schemes a much more coherent purpose in which both education and training can create opportunities for the young to get a job at the earliest possible moment. Certainly it puts the schemes on a more permanent basis. However, with approximately 400,000 young people without qualifications seeking jobs every year—at least that is what it is going to be for the foreseeable future—I feel most strongly that extra measures are needed in order to meet the EEC's proposals, and particularly in order to prevent the formation of an increasing pool of permanently unemployed young people.

In this context, the British Youth Council's evidence to the Select Committee include a recommendation for better coordination of schemes which are the responsibility of different agencies. I think it may not be readily apparent to many of the young how careers officers, local authorities, voluntary organisations or the agencies of the Manpower Services Commission, in their different ways, can offer help—although I must be honest and admit to your Lordships that under the Employment and Training Act the dual responsibility for unemployed teenagers, which is divided between careers offices and the Department of Employment, does not help any more in this respect. I am afraid that I am as guilty as anyone over this.

With respect to the British Youth Council, however, I would doubt whether it is necessary to create—which is what they wanted—a new national agency with new local forums or inter-work centres. I should have thought that the Manpower Services Commission, with wider representation on the youth employment committees and making absolutely certain that there is proper representation for educational interests on those committees, would be the right policy. However, where I so strongly agree with the Council is that if, as the Select Committee have recognised, this problem is structural as well as cyclical, the danger of long-term unemployment for young people is very real: and that is most true with regard to inner city areas.

The Secretary of State for the Environment, quite rightly, has declared the need to attract people back into the cities, but that movement is not going to be achieved unless there are some jobs available there. I would not deny that the development of community-based co-operatives, which was one option favoured by the British Youth Council, might play a useful part here; but, of course, any business, whether it is proprietorily or co-operatively owned, in the long term has got to succeed to exist. That leads me to conclude that inner cities are not really going to be revived unless there is confidence in the running of small businesses, which are so much easier either to establish or to expand and which generally, although not always, are more labour intensive.

May I also take this opportunity to reiterate a hope that I expressed before to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, when he was replying to the previous debate: that the Government are considering with Community Industry, and indeed with any other voluntary organisation such as Task Force North, with which my noble friend Lord Sandford is associated, working in the same field, the desirability of enabling the organisers of voluntary training schemes to offer permanent jobs in order to enable young people on those training courses to continue in work after they have finished. I say that because Community Industry, Task Force North and other voluntary organisations are working specifically in areas of high unemployment. What I am asking the noble Lord for here is something that I have no doubt would need a bit more Government backing, but it would avoid the tragedy of raising hopes and providing work and encouragement only to have those hopes dashed upon the rocks of unemployment once the course is finished.

The second area in which we can respond and indeed are to sonic extent responding, to the EEC, is in the Education Service. I should like to express my gratitude to the Select Committee for gathering such extremely interesting evidence on this and giving the opportunity for certainly some of your Lordships with particular expertise in this area to speak this evening. In my view, the Prime Minister was absolutely right when in his Oxford speech, just over a year ago, he linked the responsibility of education to the requirements of the world of work. This is not a plea for early specialisation—I join with the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, in saying that—but it is surely crucial to their prospects for pupils to be aware of the opportunities which are open to them and to be able to see how they can grasp those opportunities.

To achieve this, the teaching profession needs a better understanding of job opportunities. It is no good complaining that teachers know very little of industry and commerce; of course they do not. But the situation can be improved by experience, starting during their initial training or, if that is impossible, during the induction period of teachers and certainly as an ingredient within in-service training. I gather that this is something which the Schools Council is looking at the present time. This is a problem which can also be overcome by goodwill which comes from better understanding between education and employment. I think that the CBI have taken two valuable initiatives in starting its "Introduction to Industry Scheme" for teachers and publishing Understanding British Industry; but there is still room for closer contacts locally between industry and commerce and the schools. One consequence of the Taylor Report on the managing and governing of schools, which was published recently, and which would contribute to this, would be for secondary schools to include representatives of employers and employees, as of right, upon their governing bodies.

Recently, I was fortunate to hear a talk given by Mr. McEwen, who was last year's President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. His subject was women in engineering, and the point which came over most strongly was the lack of information or encouragement for girls at school to consider engineering as a profession. But once a girl has decided to embark on this career, she is usually then found to be more determined and less likely to want to move than many young men. I was interested that this coincides precisely with a most arresting piece of evidence which was given to the Select Committee by Mr. Metcalfe, the Director of the Engineering Training Board, in which he admitted the reluctance of the engineering industry to recognise women as technicians and professional engineers. The Board decided to run its own training course for 75 girls, and it managed to receive any applications at all only when it advertised it on local radio. Then the Board was bombarded with inquiries, the 75 applicants appeared and the course is a very great success.

There is no point at all in throwing stones at anyone for that state of affairs, which was saved by some imaginative advertising. Better communications between schools and work will prevent that kind of situation recurring, and so will more practical opportunities for all pupils during their last year or two at school. Here I come nearer to paragraph 54 of the report, which the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, quoted, in which the Select Committee said that they would like to see an,
"immediate commitment to a policy of school-based preparation for work and work-based continuation of education for all young people".
I include in the plea for more practical opportunities for pupils at the end of their school careers, pupils of all abilities, though, of course, boys and girls who are going to leave school and go directly into a job will, in particular, have a far happier and better motivated conclusion to their school careers if they can relate what they are learning to some practical use.

I was very interested to discover in the Select Committee's proceedings the suggestion, which came from the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, that if the regulations would only allow it further education people could go into the schools to teach, particularly on the practical side. This could be a helpful contribution, as the noble Lord suggested. I thought that that was a very significant intervention in the Select Committee's proceedings, because the corollary of what the noble Lord suggested is that a combination of education and training is vital also after the age of 16, which is what the noble Baroness was putting so clearly to us. Otherwise, we shall perpetuate the pool of young people without qualifications and without real hope, whose only route at the moment is to go either into a job without having any skills, or into a scheme specially established to deal with the needs of the time. I discerned in the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, a move towards his objective, which is very dear to his heart, of establishing tertiary colleges where education can lead naturally into education and training. The noble Lord chose a very appropriate opportunity to refer to that objective, and I am looking forward to hearing whether he returns to that theme this evening.

May I now very quickly come to the third area in which we can respond to the EEC. It is surely time that there was a mandatory training for careers officers. The average case-load of a careers officer these days is something in excess of 400, and I welcome the fact that the numbers in the service are being strengthened. Surely the training should receive professional recognition, which I know that a mandatory requirement would give. One point about which I know the careers service are feeling very strongly is the requirement, as I understand it, that school-leavers will still have to wait every year until September before being offered a place under the Holland programme. School-leavers without qualifications will certainly these days leave school in May, and they will have been seeking a job through the careers service for weeks, maybe for months, before they leave. The enforced waiting period will therefore be for them at least four months, and a good deal longer from the time a pupil starts to seek a job. I would ask the Government to take a rather more flexible approach to this, and perhaps be ready to rely rather more on the judgment of the careers service.

The final area in which we can respond to the EEC is one of direct Government responsibility. Yes, my Lords, I subscribe to the fact that this is a structural problem. Yet unless we are to abandon hope altogether, we must surely recognise that Government schemes will be palliatives unless, ultimately, some more jobs are available, and jobs can be offered only by firms which have confidence in the future. The Government have recognised the importance of smaller businesses, for the reason which I gave earlier. Yet I seriously suggest to your Lordships that what the Government appear to be giving with one hand, so far as small businesses are concerned, they are taking away with the other. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is inquiring into the problems of small businesses, yet, so far as we know, the Government ultimately intend to remove the fruits of enterprise and hard work of a man in a small business through a wealth tax, added to capital gains and capital transfer taxes. How can that create the confidence for new jobs to be created? The Government call incessantly for more investment, yet taxation levels, as Ministers know perfectly well, preclude the investment from which more employment might be gained.

I realise that we could argue interminably the rights and wrongs of Government policy towards small businesses. But what is incontestable is that in the period since February 1974 bankruptcies have more than doubled, taking with them the livelihood of thousands of people, many of them working in small firms. I seriously urge the Government, whenever they are considering new legislation, to ask themselves one simple question: How will this Bill affect employment opportunities? I wish they had asked that question when they were drafting the Employment Protection Act. No doubt that legislation had every good intention and much of it ought to stand. But any of your Lordships who happened to see the BBC programme "Panorama" last night on television will have heard the Association of Small Businesses declaring that 75 per cent. of its members will not increase their employment, because of the provisions of that Act.

I have ended by putting these points to the Government, because the effect of unemployment is calculable. We know the disastrous effect that it has had in the past upon the fabric of society, not only in this country but in Europe also. In terms of job opportunities, individual supervision and sheer friendliness, smaller firms offer attractive prospects to young people. These businesses can play a significant part in starting to dismantle the structure of youth unemployment, and preparing to take advantage of any expansion in the economy.

8.19 p.m.

My Lords, it would be presumptuous of me to endeavour to assess the relative importance of the various topics which have occupied your Lordships' attention today. I fully appreciate the importance of the medical consultation that we had. I would not depreciate the value of Parochial Registers and Records Measures, except to say that if our Anglican friends had taken the opportunity of joining the Methodists we might have done rather better than hitherto. But I do not yield one inch in the conviction that is mine, that the subject of this debate is of supreme importance and must take priority over all others if we regard unemployment as death in slow motion. And, indeed, there is substance in that quip.

Then, to the documentary evidence which has been put before your Lordships' House today of the number and increase in proportion of young unemployed in the total number of those out of work, I suggest that there can be added a number of other considerations which give emphasis to the contention that here is an insupportable situation of the gravest menace. If it be true that adolescence is the time when irreversible processes are at work in young people—and I think that could be argued and substantiated—then to watch, as some of us who are interested in these matters have to do, the deterioration in those who have nothing to occupy their minds and nothing to contribute—which is much more important than that which they would seek to gain—is of imperative importance. Therefore, I very much welcome the intention which is set forth by the Select Committee of raising important questions of policy or principle to which it considers the special attention of the House should be drawn. I shall endeavour to select three.

The Select Committee, to which we ought to be very grateful for its concision and precision, lays down the alternatives as between cyclical reasons for unemployment and more structural ones. They come down very heavily on the side of the structural conditions and reasons being the more operative and vital. I am persuaded that they are. In fact, I am very doubtful about cyclical conditions. We are getting near to Christmas. There is a Christmas hymn which we shall be singing: "It came upon the midnight clear", that contains the lines:
"The days are hastening on
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold.
That is bad theology and it is worse economics. There is no substance in the proposition that with the circling years any age of gold, if you think of it in terms of the Bank of England or any other consideration of that nature, is supportable. I do not believe that by cyclical evaluation of this problem we shall get anywhere near to a solution, even a temporary one.

That does not in any way detract from my confidence—the confidence which I believe this report suggests and substantiates—that there are particular and especial needs which can be met within a measurable time. I heartily agree with the various propositions which are advanced for the dovetailing of purposeful information not only at the desk but in the wider world from 16 to 18. This is of great value and it is no surprise, because it is within the cyclical context, that in many respects these particular problems are treated individually.

It is in the structural concept that I believe the truth really lies. It is that we are living in a society in which, whatever we seek to do by means of particular improvements or measures, we are moving out of the 19th century society which conjured up the idea of full employment, into a society—indeed we have already moved into it—in which, so far as we can see ahead, unless there are radical changes in its substance, the problems and evils of this particular malediction will continue.

It is in that regard that I would fly a kite and say that, for me, the irresistible conclusion of the matter is that whatever measures are taken on a voluntary basis we shall need, sooner or later, to marry a form of compulsory community service or, if you like, national service, to the already existing educational system so that there is a continuity that lasts from 16 to 18, and so that education which is begun in the classroom is continued in the wider world. I say "flying a kite" because there are manifest and innumerable problems which surround such a project. However, I refer those of your Lordships who are interested in this matter to the most excellent contribution which was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, at the opening of the various sessions. Although it is not included, as I would say to my noble friend in this regard, Lady Seear, in any part of the report, yet her argument, which was not answered—that sooner or later there will have to be this kind of compulsory community service, or compulsory national service—is the only way out of a situation which cannot otherwise be provided for within the hit-or-miss characteristics of a capitalist society. I believe that to be so.

If there are various objections that have to be raised, then let me scotch one of them straight away. It was said in the various discussions of the committee that this would tread upon the toes of social workers. Noble Lords should give us a chance. We know very well how completely adequate many of these youngsters are when they are given opportunities for responsibility. I could take noble Lords to a rest centre, for which I am responsible, where between 150 and 200 unemployed people, many of them young, are cared for, although that is far too extravagent a word. With four people looking after them, what can one do, except at the most superficial level?

There is a world of opportunity, as was characterised by the noble Baroness, Lady Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, when she mentioned Voluntary Service Overseas. Whatever may be the objections and the cost, I nail my colours to this particular mast: sooner or later—and the sooner the better—the prescribed lifetime of education must include compulsory external education for living in the world to complement that internal education which gives numeracy and some kind of literacy to those who enjoy it. That is one of the comments which, for me, emerges from a consideration of this document.

I was interested—perhaps it is a bee in my bonnet—that it was the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, who asked about alcohol and got a very dusty answer. In fact, she got no answer at all. As I have said to noble Lords from time to time, and I hope that I may repeat it, I regard the beer can as one of the most dangerous elements in the present situation. Educationalists are beginning to say with increasing vehemence that, after lunch, the opportunities for educational progress for students are very much smaller than they are before lunch. It may be regarded as comparatively trivial, but may I ask noble Lords to accept my own experience as a social worker for a long time now that there is a real connection between the intake of alcohol and the unsuitability of many who otherwise might be prepared to find a job? Alcohol causes the deterioration of those who compensate for the lack of something to do by swilling beer.

I shall not delay the House except to make one more comment. I am particularly grateful for the Committee's recognition that there are at the moment two purposes to be discovered in the educational process. One is to prepare the student for the kind of job that he is likely to get. The other is to prepare the student for the fulfilment of those characteristics of mind and spirit of which he may be possessed and which are latent. I cannot see that the division between these two objectives will be closed until there is an entirely different aspect that can be given to the community as a whole.

One of the most disturbing elements of unemployment is alienation—the sense of not belonging anywhere. It is my experience that a great many of those who are unemployed, particularly those who are youthful and unemployed, do not belong anywhere. They have no sense of belonging to a community and of being able to contribute to it. Perhaps the most effective—to me, it was by far the most important—conclusion of this Committee is that until we can create the bridge that can unite or bring together the characteristic and heretofore educational processes in the realm of literacy and numeracy—until we can cross the bridge from that to the kind of community from which certain responses can be expected and for which those students can be themselves trained and educated—I do not believe we shall get very much further with the kind of proximate opportunities which are so carefully laid down in this report.

These are matters of consideration. They may not at the moment be matters of Governmental action but, since we have been invited to look at this report in the widest terms, I make no apology for committing myself to the proposition that only under some kind of Socialist community will we really marry the two objectives now so prominent in the educational system; we shall avoid by that process the kind of unemployment which is for any civilised country a shame, but an avoidable curse.

8.31 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to make a few observations regarding youth unemployment, having read the report of the Select Committee dealing with this problem. There appeared to be two main groups of unemployed in this area; first, the small number of chronic job changers, those who change their jobs more than once every six months; and, secondly, those looking for their first job. The problem, unfortunately, is that a number of those in the second group will join the first category.

There are many schemes in operation to try to secure the future for the young; one of these is the Job Creation Programme, a short-term measure which, while giving temporary employment and a service to the community, is very costly, £166 million. This does not provide the answer. I should like to think that part of the money would be better employed in increased training schemes. I am not saying, let me add, that the scheme does not have its benefits. I have spoken to someone within the Department of Employment who is involved in finding employment for school-leavers, and I found that there is a small percentage who are totally unequipped to face the outside world. Their literacy standard is so low that some can barely read or write. What chance do they have of making a worthwhile contribution to society?

During a recession it was found that firms are more likely to make redundant first the younger employees. The Committee found as follows:
"In the last decade a considerable amount of legislation has been introduced which has increased the cost of employing labour and which has given the employee much increased protection. This has caused the employers to be much more selective in their recruitment, or not to recruit at all, and by increasing rights of existing employees, has worsened the position of the young potential entrants."
My Lords, I watched "Panorama" last night with great interest, and the facts revealed were staggering. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, raised a very important point regarding the Employment Protection Act. Many small firms say that they are deliberately reducing staff because of this Act. More and more firms, large and small, are going bankrupt and closing down. Over the last 10 years 2 million jobs have been lost, and the indication is that due to loss of orders, reduction in productivity, and closures, the situation will get worse. We are producing less now than during the three-day week.

I do not see that the problem will ever resolve itself, especially as today we are becoming more mechanised and less manpower is used. A contributory factor is the growth of population, although now I believe it is declining. Unless something is done about this matter we shall always be facing an unacceptable level of unemployment. Industry must now be given every support in making our products more desirable, in both price and quality, and until there is an end to the "them" versus "us" attitude between unions and managements we shall continue to have a stream of young people queueing for too few jobs. The fact is that without profits and a stable economy nobody wins, except our competitors.

Part of the solution must commence with education. I believe that inroads are being made in this direction. The CBI have been running a scheme since 1966. An organisation, UBI (Understanding British Industry), has been set up to try to bring an understanding of industry to the teachers and pupils. The relationship between a future employer and employee is vital. The education system must be geared to knowing what industry needs, and industry must keep the education authorities up to date on what is required.

Some local authorities have their own schemes, one of which involves teachers being released to work in various aspects of industry. Many teachers have previously been in other professions, which enables them to give the benefit of their experience to the students. The idea of a fairly comprehensive scheme giving the younger student, say at 14½ years of age, outside experience two or three times a term, so that he or she is able to acquire at least a basic idea of what is needed to be equipped on leaving school, has my support. I agree with my noble friend Lady Seear when she says that in most areas there is no shortage of demand for skilled workers. If the number of specialised teachers is increased, and encouragement is given for further education and training, this would, I feel, help the situation considerably.

Finally, my Lords, I should like to voice my support for, among others, the following measures recommended by the Committee; namely, vocational training and guidance to those who leave school with no educational qualifications; practical training and experience in work; reasonable leave of absence from work to undertake vocational training to enable the young to keep their jobs or find new jobs, and also sufficient financial allowances while on courses. I feel that with the right attitudes and endeavours we can help to cure the problem.

8.38 p.m.

My Lords, I want to begin my contribution by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for introducing this debate, thanking her for the very efficient way in which she chairs the Committee, and to say what pleasure I get out of being a member of that Committee under her chairmanship. I agree with those who have said that this subject is one of the utmost importance. It is so because the social effects of unemployment are quite horrible, and in particular the social effects of youth unemployment are horrible. It demoralises and frustrates the young unemployed, it turns them towards vandalism, and, worst of all, it accentuates the inequities of society. When unemployment among young people stretches over a long period, with consequent insecurity, society itself is threatened; there is increasing juvenile delinquency and crime, and, as many of us know, even resort to drugs to escape from the anxiety and frustration. I have said this because I wanted to underline the importance of the issue before us.

The question as to whether youth unemployment is cyclical or structural is one which is discussed at length. If we accept that it is structural then we must accept certain consequences, that certain things flow from that. I am at one with the noble Baroness about work experience at school and education afterwards while at work. My own view is that we should regard the years from age 15 to 19 as a continuous process of education and training, with the earlier years being school-based and the later years being work-based, but as one continuous process. Of course, if we accept that there is structural unemployment, that will not really be enough. I think other things also follow, and one of them is that we must resolve that whatever work is available must go to the younger people; they must have some priority in getting that work.

I turn to two other matters. The first matter I do not consider to be too controversial. At present there is a discussion about harmonisation of the pensionable entitlement age of men and women. If we accept that there is structural unemployment affecting young people, we must resolve that harmonisation should be at a lower age level. The other matter is probably more controversial. It seems to me that, if we accept that there is structural unemployment, then we must accept the principle of work sharing and, therefore, shorter hours. We cannot do that overnight, but it is in that type of context that the EEC, taking on board the whole question of unemployment within its area, can really play a major part. In other words, there should be a resolve that the working week will be gradually shortened and there should be an attempt to harmonise that with the United States and Japan. We would have to do that otherwise we would be increasing our costs in the EEC. Therefore, there will be a need for some harmonisation. If we accept that, then that sort of approach is absolutely essential.

I wish to spend the remainder of the time that I have allotted myself dealing with one specific aspect of youth unemployment; namely, youth unemployment as it affects ethnic minorities. I shall restrict myself to talking about the West Indians. There are plenty of statistics on this matter. The 1971 Census, for example, showed that West Indian unemployment among young folk was twice the national average. However, a survey carried out subsequently between 1974 and 1975 showed that it had doubled. A survey carried out between 1975 and 1976 showed that male unemployment among young blacks had increased by 110 per cent. but as regards black girls by 275 per cent. That is a massive increase. Moreover, it has been shown that even in periods of fair economic buoyancy the West Indian young people are at a disadvantage even when there is plenty of work. Carefully executed surveys by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys between 1971 and 1974 showed that the average number of fruitless visits to careers offices was three times as great for West Indians as for whites. It also showed that the average time taken to find a first job was twice the length for West Indians and that West Indians were more frequently unemployed than whites. Moreover, those who have worked in the field have pointed out that the actual rates of unemployment are much higher than reflected in the official figures, because a disproportionately high number of young West Indians do not register as unemployed. A number of studies have suggested that at any one time the official figures underestimate the true rate of unemployment among young black people by as much as 50 per cent. If that is true, it is an extremely worrying situation.

Of course, there are many reasons for this situation. In some instances the reason could be newness, but as most of these young people have, in fact, grown up here newness is not as big an issue as is often claimed. Another reason is the fact that they live in the inner cities. I do not intend this evening to bore your Lordships with the problems of unemployment in the inner cities. I have done so on more than one occasion and your Lordships already know my views on that subject. However, it must be borne in mind.

There is no question that another reason is the effect of discrimination. I do not want your Lordships or anyone else to overplay the question of discrimination and neither do I want your Lordships to underplay it. For example, during a discussion between the Community Relations Commission, the Manpower Services Commission and the Training Services Agency, the Training Services Agency said that it had monitored the performance of West Indians on its training courses during the last half of 1974 and had found that generally the rejection rate of West Indians applying for courses was higher than that of other applicants. The drop-out rate once they were on the courses was lower. The completion rates were higher than those of the host population, but the placing rate on completion of the courses was lower. I am referring to the minutes of a discussion.

One of the reasons I do not want to overplay discrimination is that the TSA went on to say that it went further into the question of the rejections. It investigated why there had been a higher rejection rate among West Indians who applied for courses. It found that language deficiencies played a large part. Therefore, while pointing out that discrimination is a major factor, we ought also to look at the question of educational disadvantage.

I do not know how many of your Lordships read the report of the Select Committee on Race Relations after it had visited the West Indies. I think that many of your Lordships who did so should be ashamed because the Committee pointed out that in Barbados and in St. Lucia it was told that, when kids went back to those countries from here, they have to be put in lower classes because they cannot compete with kids of their own age in the Caribbean.

Barbados boasts of its bold history, its education system and so on. The fact that children from this well-developed country have to go to a lower class when they go to St. Lucia, which is a poor island, is something about which we should be worried. Although the Committee did not mention Trinidad, I can assure noble Lords that what was said about Barbados and St. Lucia also holds good for Trinidad. Therefore, this is one matter that needs to be examined. In fact, the Select Committee recommended that there should be an investigation into the reasons why West Indian children are under-fulfilled and I believe that the Department of Education and Science has undertaken to carry out such an investigation. Therefore, we shall have to wait and see what turns up.

However, this raises two matters, one of which is the whole question of what I call the "second chance". If these youths are disadvantaged in terms of their original education—in terms of attainment—there must be facilities to enable them to try again. The second chance must be available both in terms of education and training if my earlier remarks are to make any sense, because what I said earlier would have to be translated into a later age group with the same sort of period of education followed by training. That is one contribution I want to make.

We should say to the Manpower Services Commission and its agencies that they ought vigorously to promote equal opportunity policies in order to assist racial minority groups in training and in receiving the appropriate training. In fact, the Race Relations Act, which we debated and passed, allows for that. It permits positive action in order to bring members of minority racial groups up to the starting line and thus enables them to compete equally with the majority of the population. Therefore, I think that the Manpower Services Commission should have its attention drawn to this particular fact and be invited to do something along those lines. It should be encouraged to monitor, because it is only by monitoring that we know whether or not the policies are succeeding.

I should also like to welcome the proposal for detached employment officers, because just as the detached workers enable us to get at those whom the youth services are unable to reach, so it is my view that the detached employment officers will help us to get at some of the unemployed who need our attention most but who are unable to do very much about it. I have spoken for much longer than I intended. In view of what I said at the beginning of my remarks I should like to add a few words about minority ethnic groups because the same problem about the consequences of unemployment holds good there. In the case of minority ethnic groups the problem of racial divisions is exacerbated; a sense of alienation increases, to which my noble friend Lord Soper referred, and there is consequent rebellion. Therefore, it can do nothing but harm to the creation of a cohesive society.

The question of youth unemployment can be tackled on an EEC level. We should encourage the Community to take it on hoard. It will obviously be necessary to increase the resources of the Social Fund so that more money is available for the sort of projects we are talking about, but it should be done, it can be done, and I hope our Government will play a major role in ensuring that it is done.

8.55 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to join with others in congratulating the Select Committee on its work and my noble friend Lady Seear for the way in which she has introduced the debate tonight. We are particularly indebted to them for the depth to which they have gone in taking evidence and in trying to unravel the tangled threads of this complex problem. Speaking as one who before now has held forth to your Lordships on this subject—I fear all too superficially—may I say that I found the experience of reading their report a helpful and even a rather humbling one.

A major aspect of the overall problem is, as has been emphasised, the extent to which it is to be regarded as primarily structural or cyclical in nature. It is hardly surprising that on this point there proved to be differences of opinion, even within the Committee itself. In the end the Committee concluded that current unemployment among young people was both cyclical and structural in origin and that was why it urged the necessity for further research into the matter.

Really the only criticism of the report that I would venture to make is that the corollary of that conclusion seems to be that in calling in the long-term, as the Committee does, for a total reappraisal of the transition from school to work by means of closer integration between education and training, combined with an economic policy and full employment—objectives with which I very much agree—the report might have gone a step further and advocated a closer examination of the practical implications of uncomfortable possibilities, like the need, without increasing unit costs, for people to share what work proves to be available. To that extent I have some sympathy with the remarks just made by the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead. Into this category must also fall the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Soper, of some form of national community service. For myself, I boggle a little at the word "compulsory", but the point surely is that we need to do this basic preparatory thinking. For if we do not have this contingency plan, we may have to continue to endure year after year the ad hoc and piecemeal measures which the Select Committee now rightly deplores.

To facilitate this further research into the question of how far youth unemployment has to be seen in cyclical or structural terms, I would hope that any relevant statistics that the Department of Employment may still have which have not been publicly available should now be made available, for it seems to me that the more open the Government can be in ventilating this problem the more widely its implications are likely to be understood and the greater the chance of a consensus emerging as to how it should be tackled. By the same token I am sure that the Committee are right to say—and this was a point that my noble friend emphasised so strongly—that the problem is one of European dimensions and that it is right to challenge the Community to integrate its economic and social policies in seeking to solve it.

For the rest, and briefly, I think I can best contribute to the discussion from my current experience at the grass roots as chairman of one of the district manpower committees recently set up throughout the country to advise the Manpower Services Commission on local employment and training problems. I wish to highlight only one or two points having to do with education and training, to the first of which I notice that specific reference was made in this report by representatives of the British Youth Council. It relates to the difference between the uniform allowance of £18 a week which is now to be paid to young people taking part in the new programmes to be run by the Commission, and the negligible amounts of grant to be available to those wishing instead to continue their full-time education.

Certainly in the district covered by the manpower committee of which I am chairman—and I have just checked the figures with the local careers officer—as many as 38 per cent. of those who were eligible to leave school this summer returned in September to full-time education. That is a very high figure. I understand that it compares with a national average of something like 20 per cent. But I am assured that that figure of 38 per cent. would have been even higher had not school-leavers in the area already begun to question whether, altogether apart from the problem of unemployment, it was financially worthwhile to continue in education. In other words, there is in the area—and I make no special claim for it; it has none of the problems that some of the inner cities have to contend with—already evidence, for what it is worth, supporting the view of the British Youth Council that this discriminatory treatment is beginning to act as a disincentive to young people continuing their education, and that at a time when the alternative is to add still further to the number of young people who are unemployed. There seems to me to be something wrong there.

There is a second, allied point. Your Lordships will recall that in the Holland Committee Report it was recognised that without reimbursement local education authorities would not be able to make the additional provision on the scale required for the further education and training called for in giving these new opportunities to young people, and that therefore there was need for the Manpower Services Commission, education departments, and local authorities to discuss together how this cost was to be met. I can only say that so far I have not been able to get any clear-cut answer at all as to the outcome of those discussions. I wonder, therefore, whether the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, when he replies, would be kind enough to enlighten us as to the outcome of those discussions.

9.5 p.m.

My Lords, may I join with other noble Lords in thanking the noble Baroness for initiating this debate. May I also join with the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, and say what a privilege it is to sit on this Committee and to sit under the chairmanship of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, who is such a very able and knowledgeable chairman. The noble Baroness has surveyed the situation from an EEC position, but she has also said that each country must look to itself and look to its own solutions, and at this stage I would therefore seek to be insular, domestic, and somewhat personal.

In June 1974, there were 5,400 school-leavers who were unemployed. 1974 was a good year. The trade cycle was at its peak and the school-leaving age had been raised. By July 1977, there were 253,000 unemployed school-leavers in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, according to the Manpower Services Commission in its report, Young People at Work, youth unemployment will remain high until, it is estimated, at least 1980. On the basis of the MSC's most optimistic projection, unemployment among the 16 to 19 year-olds will not fall below 100,000.

In the Forty-Eighth Report, there are five recommendations under the paragraph "Nature and scope of the proposals". I would wish to deal with 1 and 5. The first is:
"To improve the co-ordination between education and other services concerned with the different processes in the transition from education I to work."
This has been touched on by other noble Lords. Despite the passing of the Employment and Training Act 1973 which, among other provisions, made it mandatory on education committees to provide a career service within their departments, and despite the setting up of three bodies corporate which were to be called the Manpower Services Commission, the Employment Service Agency, and the Training Services Agency, one is bound, even four years later, to ask whether in fact the world of education in its widest sense really understands the needs of the workforce in all its aspects and whether the workforce is in close enough touch with education, making known its needs.

I have several questions for the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Coslany. Is there a flexible mechanism at both national and local level—at local level this is especially important—by which those in the sphere of work can let it be known to those in education what are the needs and opportunities of work so that young people can be informed of the opportunities and prospects and can choose their subjects accordingly? Should there not be a different structure at teacher training colleges to provide experience of the world of work? I know that for careers officers in education departments there are good facilities to gain experience and I understand that Leicestershire has a particularly good scheme. I should like, however, to see students at teacher training colleges spending a year, either before or after training, in some form of work outside teacher training college to widen their outlook and to give them not only a knowledge of the shop floor, the distributive trades, catering, office work and so on but also the feel of the workforce outside the school.

By the same token, may I ask the Minister whether he is satisfied that those working in the job centres understand the school world but also the world of work? Should not those working at the work centre also have worked outside the confines of their office? Is there a clear understanding as between job centres and career officers in education? There is no age demarcation; I take it that their work is complementary and not competitive, but it seems to me that the careers officers are in a position to give a more personalised service than perhaps those at the job centres, who are hardly pressed.

I come to what is said to be the 10 per cent. of young unemployed who have personal problems and difficulties and who either never get a job or, if they do, do not keep it. All young people, but particularly this group, need a personalised service. I am privileged to be the vice-chairman of the Council for Dr. Barnardos and am in touch, for instance, with both a day centre in Birmingham and a community home with education. In both those places, with careful selection on the part of the staff, with the help of employers and through various channels, these very difficult boys and girls with difficult backgrounds have been found jobs. However, it has been found that to keep them in those jobs they need outside support, outside help, which I am glad to say they are receiving. I am a trustee for a hostel of five boys who would otherwise, I am sure, be in borstal if they did not have a personalised service outside work supporting them in their difficulties.

For this 10 per cent., a personalised service is required, but of course it needs the co-operation of employers, and here I take up a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, that it is very important at local level that there should be a body of people working together. In the area of the disabled, I well remember a committee being formed of employers and local authority volunteers to find jobs for the handicapped and I feel that such local committees working together would be able to help the young unemployed.

We in the adult world have encouraged an attitude that was set out in our Committee report by the noble Lord, Lord Wall, when he said that in his experience so many of our youth today wanted jobs and not careers. He said they were looking to earn money but not to have a career. Perhaps we have encouraged this attitude. Have we not given too much money, and in some cases too much responsibility, too soon, instead of providing vocational training, apprenticeships, and a steady, slow climb up the career ladder which may not give big money early, but, I contend, provides a stability and a sure developmental process? Have our differentials eroded the goal which developed skills provided? These days craftsmen in all areas of work do not earn according to their skills. Could this be the reason why in so many areas we have lost our standards of excellence?

Other noble Lords before me have dealt with the cyclical and structural patterns of employment related to the present economic situation which produces unemployment in this and other countries. As I said earlier, if we are to believe the forecast of the Manpower Commission, unemployment will not melt away. I suspect that within the next decade our work scene will need to change, enabling more people, including our youth, to be in employment, but each doing a shorter working week. Therefore, concurrent with developing the work skills and potentials of our youth, should we not, alongside this, cultivate in our homes, in our schools, and in the community, the capacity also for satisfying, creative and self-fulfilling leisure?

9.16 p.m.

My Lords, I am delighted that the House should have the opportunity to discuss what I regard as the most important problem before the nation, even though it should be debated at this late hour when only the quality of those present redeems the lack of quantity. I do not think that we should underrate the gravity of the problem. I reject the proposition that this is a problem essentially for the Department of Employment. I believe that it is fundamentally a problem for the Education Service. I share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Soper, which he expressed when he referred to the appalling effects of unemployment among young people. I recall in 1929 taking charge of what was then called a junior instruction centre in Greenock and seeing youngsters of 16 and 17 who had left school at 14, and had been unemployed in the intervening period and who had been utterly destroyed.

In looking at the overall problem of the employment situation, I believe that we delude ourselves if we think in terms of a transient problem which will be rectified in a few years when the recession will pass. This country could increase production by 50 per cent. without any increase in the labour force at all. This is the reality. Facing that problem, we have certain options. We could reduce the age of retirement which, in my judgment, against the background of increased longevity, seems to me utterly illogical and a nonsense. As the noble Baroness suggested, we could reduce the working week. I recall the experience of an American firm of car manufacturers whose workers were working four days a week. They approached the union and suggested coming down to three days a week without any loss of wages. The leaders of the union thought that this was a very reasonable proposition, but they returned a few days later and said that they were sorry, but their members had rejected it because they did not want another "honey do" day. This rather puzzled the management. They asked: "What do you mean by another honey do' day?" The answer was simple: "Honey, do this. Honey, do that." In other words, they did not want to be at home for two days instead of one.

I reject that proposition. There is only one solution to this problem, which is the later entry of young people into industry and commerce, but with higher standards of education and more effective training. This is the reality. I have been appalled. For seven years I have pressed the Department of Education and Science with the reality of this problem, with no success. What have we got at the moment? A Green Paper on the schools; the Oakes Committee on higher education. The only body that had even a passing interest in the problem of the 16 to 19 age group was the National Advisory Council for Education for Industry and Commerce, and that has been abolished by the Secretary of State as from 31st December. So, from then on there will be nobody who appears to be concerned with this problem.

What is the reality? In this country, roughly one-fifth of our young people receive full-time education or training between the ages of 16 and 19. In Sweden it is two-thirds, in Germany, three-quarters. If we look at the Swedish experience—and it is recorded in our report—with the two-thirds who continue full-time to 18, there is no unemployment problem at all, but, of those who leave at 16, three-quarters are unemployed. This is the reality.

My Lords, it is now nine years since I wrote a pamphlet trying to face this problem as it must emerge. I am pleading for a new Education Act, which I believe is the only solution to this problem. I have always been appalled at the dichotomy between education and training in this country. I think we must face the issue of primary education and secondary education to 16, and of providing full-time education and training—and, let us face it, I am not talking about raising the school-leaving age to 18; I am talking of education and training—to 18.

I do not mean releasing young people from industry for training, because that has failed. There were more people on day-release 10 years ago than there are now. I struggled for six years on the Central Training Council trying to convince employers of the virtue of releasing young people for training. They would release them only if the training was directly relevant to the job they were doing. But that, surely, is the very nature of the problem. Those for whom a repetitive job is inevitable—and there are many—require a higher standard of education to develop interests which they can exercise and pursue outside their working life, because that is the only basis on which they will get any satisfaction at all. This is the reality—but it was totally opposed.

I therefore want the release from education to industry for training. I seek the co-operation of industry and commerce in the training process. So I want a new Education Act which defines a new stage in education—the tertiary stage. There should be primary, secondary to 16 and tertiary stages from 16 to 19. I want to see the development of tertiary colleges, to which the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has referred and which will not merely provide for the academic—and let us face the trends there which make it inevitable. Comprehensive education is developing, Consensus opinion rejects large schools. The possibility of maintaining sixth-forms in schools is neither educationally nor economically viable. This is why there is a movement towards sixth-form colleges; but sixth-form colleges are not the answer. The answer, surely, is tertiary colleges in which these young people will have the opportunity, not merely of going on to A-levels but of going on to the qualifications of the Business Education Council or the Technicians' Education Council, of pursuing craft courses or of having sandwich courses combining experience in the working situation with their continued education. This is what is needed.

Somebody will say, I have no doubt, that this will cost a lot of money. The Manpower Services Commission is spending £550 million this year on what it calls "job creation activities". The jobs, so far as I can see, have no long-term prospects but merely reduce the number who are technically registered as unemployed. I suggest that that £550 million would go a long way, and would achieve a much better purpose, if it were devoted to the further education and training of our young people.

Let us face certain simple facts: we have the lowest provision of any country in Europe, we have the highest proportion of unemployment in these age groups of any country in Europe. Those are facts. With the greatest respect to the noble Lord who will reply, I profoundly hope that the Department of Education will recognise that this is not merely a problem for the Department of Employment; it is a fundamental problem for the Department of Education.

9.25 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Baroness and her Committee for this excellent report; and to say, agreeing very much with the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, that I think it reflects a misjudgment of the importance of this subject, to say nothing of the excellence of the report, that the managers of our business here should have put it on at this time of night. It deserves a more convenient moment for debating it.

Like others, I particularly welcome the strong endorsement in the report that what we are dealing with is a fundamental and structural problem which will not go away when the recession begins to fade, as we hope it will; I prefer even more to stress my welcome for the terms in which the report recognises the effects of youth unemployment. I quote the words they use:
"The social and psychological burdens of unemployment and of thwarted job aspirations can lead to personal distress, strains in family relations, disorder in local communities, pressure on the social services and political unrest."
I think that all of that is true. What is also true is the point that the noble Lord, Lord Soper, made; namely, the intense feeling of distress that comes as a result of a young person, with all his ideals, finding no opportunity to contribute anything to any community to which he ought to feel that he can belong. That is, perhaps, the most serious thing of all. This then is not a matter for a piecemeal approach. We therefore welcome not only this report but the more comprehensive and far-sighted policies that are now set out by the Manpower Services Commission.

My Lords, at the moment we are faced with two Government spokesmen, one distinguished doctor and, a moment ago, we had a right reverend Prelate and an author. But I am bound to ask: Where have all the unions gone? I should really have thought that they should be here sharing the thoughts that the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, put before us about how, among our young school-leavers and the younger sections of our population, we are to secure fair shares of the work that is available. If that is not a matter for the unions, I really do not know what is. It might have been all right in the days of King John to leave these matters to the barons and the bishops, but now that we have trade unions that are claiming some responsibility in the running of our affairs, and now that we have actually in this House several of those who have served a distinguished lifetime as full-time officials of their unions, we really ought to be seeing more of them and we ought to be hearing them in a debate like this.

I can remember some 18 years ago when Lord Citrine was almost the only Member of this House with the background of a full-time official of the TUC. You found him around quite a bit, you saw him a lot, you heard him quite often. He made a signal contribution. It is surprising, now that we have several members of the unions here, that we see and hear so little of them, particularly in a debate of this character.

The last time that we were debating this subject was in July, and it was unfortunate that the report of Lady Seear's Committee was then nearly completed but not printed, so we could not deal with it. Events have moved on since then. Unfortunately, youth unemployment has moved on, too. The Nine Member nations of the EEC now have no fewer than 2 million unemployed people under 25 years of age. That is bad enough, but what is particularly shaming is that over one-third of that total are British—far more than our arithmetical share.

In view of those facts, the first question that I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Coslany, is: Have the Government now come to the firm view that what we are dealing with is not a topic which can be expected to go away and which will respond to piecemeal measures? Have they come to the view which many people share, that it is no good talking about the intolerable scale of unemployment as though it is something which we can only endure for a few more months, when, to be realistic, it is something we have to face for several years, particularly among the young. It would be helpful to have confirmation that this more realistic view is now being taken by Her Majesty's Government and is being faced squarely.

That brings me to the further report which we now have from the EEC, a report which has come to hand since our own Select Committee's report was published, R2480 dated 20th October, which has been debated by the Council of Ministers. Comment on it has been given by Mr. Grant in a Written Answer in another place. In reporting the discussions held in the Council of Ministers, he said that he suggested that the Council might consider declaring an intention that Member States would seek to ensure that every school-leaver had the opportunity of a job, of training or of further education. That is fairly closely in line with the attitude that the Manpower Services Commission express in paragraph 3.20 of their latest review which is headed: "Aims to help to secure for each worker the opportunities and services he or she needs in order to lead a satisfying working life". The implication of that is that the Government have at last come to terms with the long-term nature of this problem. It would be interesting to know whether the implications of what Mr. Grant was saying is that Her Majesty's Government intend to adopt that policy themselves. At the same time, it would be useful to hear the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Coslany, say whether Her Majesty's Government contemplate going as far as his noble friend Lord Soper in that direction.

At this time of night I will not say very much more except to welcome this latest document from the Manpower Services Commission, their Review and Plan, and to welcome particularly the special programmes which they announce for youth unemployment beginning at paragraph 4.59. This outlines the youth opportunities programme which was the basis of the Holland Report. At the end of that section, 4.64, the Manpower Services Commission say:
"There is a good chance that parts of the programme will attract aid from the European Social Fund."
By now I hope it will be possible for the noble Lord who is replying to this debate to confirm that in fact these programmes will attract the support of the Social Fund.

I join very much in welcoming these broader and more comprehensive policies that are coming both from our own Manpower Services Commission and also from the EEC; but I join still more my noble friend Lord Belstead and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, in saying that the real challenge and the real test will be in seeing whether we can get satisfactory local co-ordination and application of these policies, especially in the inner cities. This is where they are most urgently needed.

9.36 p.m.

My Lords, I, too, very deeply regret that we are in the position of debating this vitally important subject at such a late hour. I must say that. It is unfortunate that this has happened and no doubt we shall try to get some redress at an even later stage. It places me, as spokesman, in some difficulty because I have endeavoured in my own brief reply to answer the Committee in some detail, as far as I possibly can.

Noble Lords have made some very important points; and I entirely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and other noble Lords that this is a subject of major social importance. I treat it as such, and certainly the Government and the Departments involved also do that. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, raised the problem of the shortage of skilled people, which is a peculiar problem. I was in a position to give a more detailed answer, but at this stage I will say only that a detailed survey of this problem is going on. The situation that arises is peculiar because the shortage is more acute in some areas than in others. We are probing into the exact areas involved in order to get statistics and details and to see how the situation can be remedied. I know that some firms have offered special inducements to skilled workers to come to their areas, but their efforts have not always met with success.

The noble Baroness referred to day release, and I shall be dealing with that later in my speech. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, talked about mandatory training for careers officers. That is a point I cannot answer on the spot but it is one that is worthy of investigation and I will report back to him in due course.

The noble Lord made another point which I must answer now, because it is essential to give a reply. He suggested that we might enable voluntary bodies to offer permanent jobs to difficult-to-place youngsters. I shall certainly look into this further, but the prime object of schemes for young people must be to prepare them for normal regular employment; and to provide permanent places for a few might restrict the opportunities for many. But, as I said, I will go into this in greater detail because I believe that it is vitally important.

The noble Lord, Lord Soper, and others mentioned a form of compulsory national community service. The Government do not agree with that: it would be both costly and difficult. It would have to be managed, and a number of people would have to be appointed to run it. It would be costly and the effect would be—I am certain of this—to undermine the benefits of the scheme by which we are endeavouring to give wider training opportunities to a larger number of people. The idea strikes one as good but, when one carefully considers it, one realises that it is not quite so attractive a proposition.

My noble friend Lord Pitt referred to the harmonisation of old age pensions. I shall not get involved in that tonight. He also raised the vital problem of ethnic minorities. We recognise this problem, but many of these people do not use the services available. We are providing a number of additional officers to concentrate on these people to try to bring them into the schemes that are available. I can assure my noble friend Lord Pitt that the Manpower Services Commission will study the report of his speech with great care. The noble Lord, Lord Alexander, and others, suggested that there should be a working combination of the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Employment, and I can assure them that that is already happening. I have had consultations with both Departments this week in e regard to this debate, and I am convinced that there is consultation and co-operation taking place in this vital matter. It was suggested that there should be a new Government Department, but that is a matter for the Prime Minister and not for me and I hesitate to get involved in that, anyway.

The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, made a number of points and I should like to give him brief answers. He referred to the discrepancy between education allowances for further education, discretionary grants and sums paid under the youth opportunities scheme. This is a difficult problem which is still under discussion between the Departments concerned and the Manpower Services Commission. But, these payments will not make the position worse because payments of up to £30 a week were made under the scheme that is being replaced. I will give the noble Lord a further detailed answer, but that is the position. As regards the Department of Employment statistics, with respect, the problem is not availability of statistics which, in general, are all published, but their interpretation. However, let me add very hastily that the interpretation of statistics depends upon the individual who does the interpreting and, like many other things, statistics can be interpreted in various ways.

The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, put a number of very detailed questions and, at this late hour. I hope that she will forgive me if I do not answer them now. But she will definitely be supplied with answers to the points she put, so far as it is possible to do so. I think that I have answered the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, on his very important point about the problem being one for both the Department of Education and the Department of Employment. As I said, we accept that, and co-operation is going on. I also certainly agree with him about the gravity of the problem. But the noble Lord quoted a figure of £500 million as the expenditure under the job creation scheme. That is not correct. The total annual expenditure of all parts of the youth employment scheme will be about £160 million.

My Lords, I referred to the expenditure of the Manpower Services Commission.

I beg the noble Lord's pardon, but I misunderstood. I shall go into the matter further, and if the noble Lord is not right I shall correct him. But if he is right, then I shall give him the usual apology which one would expect. If noble Lords will permit me, I should get on with the detailed—

My Lords, before the noble Lord does that, I wonder whether he could answer some of the questions that I put. They were quite straightforward. The first was: will the Manpower Services youth opportunity programmes receive support from the Social Fund? I should have thought that that was a straightforward question. Secondly, do the Government intend to adopt the policy which Mr. Grant, the Under-Secretary, urged on his colleagues in the Council of Ministers? There was a third question, but I will leave that for tonight.

My Lords, the noble Lord put me off my stroke by asking, "Where have all the unions gone?"

My Lords, I know, and I made an immediate reply. I do not know where the unions are, but I myself am here so I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me. I cannot give him an immediate answer to the other point but I shall obtain it for him.

My Lords, I apologise for interrupting again, but those are answers which it would be useful to have in the Official Report.

My Lords, I shall endeavour to obtain this information for the noble Lord before I sit down. I agree with the noble Lord—and it can be fairly stated to be the Government's view—that unemployment is not a topic that will go away and that it is a problem we may have to face for several years. It is a fact of life which we must accept and prepare for accordingly.

I have praised the Committee on previous occasions for the work it has done, and I do not intend to do so again now because I have almost run out of praising phrases. However, in our last debate, the European dimension was set on one side. Now that we have the report in front of us we are able to deal with it. I note the criticism that the measures introduced by the Manpower Services Commission have so far, according to the committee, been ad hoc and piecemeal. It is true that these schemes have been introduced separately and have operated independently of one another. Nevertheless, I think we would all accept that they have had a considerable impact on youth unemployment and have provided thousands of opportunities for young people who would otherwise have been unemployed.

The new Youth Opportunities Programme which was announced in another place on 29th June is neither ad hoc nor piecemeal. It is a considered response to a detailed study of the employment problems of young people and of the existing measures introduced to help them. Noble Lords have already heard much of the detail of this programme: that it will provide each year some 230,000 opportunities for young people aged 16 to 19, that this approximately doubles the provision already being made, and that it will provide a range of work preparation and work experience schemes drawing together and building on the existing measures. We shall be doing all we can to ensure that the programme helps people with the least qualifications and the poorest employment prospects—and particularly helps girls in this category. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, again has emphasised the position of girls who, so far, are worse off, generally speaking, than boys. Girls have tended to benefit less than boys from existing programmes, and I can assure the noble Baroness and others that we genuinely want to redress this balance.

One of the main features of the new programme is that its young participants will be able to move from one element to another as their needs dictate. It is a comprehensive programme with inbuilt flexibility so that it is adaptable to the differing needs of individuals. It will be complemented by the expansion of further education places, which has also been announced.

With the pledge given by the Government that no Easter or summer school-leaver who remains unemployed the following Easter should be without the offer of a place in the new programme, the scheme is an attempt to provide, in one way or another, for a whole generation of school-leavers who are unable to find work or training in the normal way. This is an ambitious aim, and it is the most comprehensive initiative on youth employment taken by any EEC country. I believe that we should be proud of the fact that we are setting an example to other countries.

There have been reports in the Press—mainly, I am afraid, misleading—of controversy over the arrangements being made by the Manpower Services Commission. The programme has aroused a great deal of interest and there has been a lot of public concern about the need to involve local communities in its organisation. Both the Government and the Manpower Services Commission have emphasised that the programme will be a community effort. It will rely heavily on local sponsorship for projects, training and work experience places and the co-operation at local level of a large number of interests.

The arrangements which the chairman of the MSC announced on 16th November provide for 28 Area Boards, which will include representatives of local authorities, employers and trade unions, the education and careers services, voluntary organisations and chairman of a District Manpower Committee. The careers service, which will have a key role in advising young people about the programme and on subsequent employment, will not be on the Boards, but will be represented at meetings and will be able to contribute directly to Board discussions. Each Area Board will have its own budget and will decide the details of the nature and balance of programme boards in its area, within guidelines that ensure that resources will be distributed in proportion to the number of unemployed young people in each LEA area.

The Commission and the Government are agreed on the need to develop consultative and planning arrangements through local groups below the level of Area Boards. This might be done by means of committees set up in each local authority area, and including interested groups and individuals. Other groups can also play a valuable part in the operation of the programme. What is important is that channels of communication will be open, and we rely on individuals, organisations, and all who want to contribute to the programme, to use them.

The Commission reached decisions on this structure only after considering all the views put forward in response to its discussion document The Next Steps, and after the fullest consultation with the Secretary of State for Employment and the Secretary of State for Education and Science. The proposed structure has the Government's firm approval and support, and we believe that it will make possible what we all wish to see, the maximum degree of local participation in the running of the programme. The Committee so rightly drew attention to the strains and stresses, disorder in communities, et cetera, pressure on social services, and political unrest, as a result of unemployment. I could not agree more, having as a teenager many years ago experienced that sort of situation without any scheme to assist. Now a change has been made, and thank Heavens!, at least we are on the right road. These social and psychological burdens strike at all the unemployed, but how much more damaging they are to the morale and self-confidence of young people who are still facing the difficulties of adolescence and who have never had a job.

The report of the Select Committee is right to emphasise the importance of the transition period—transition from childhood to adulthood and from school to work. Work is a crucial factor in that transition to adulthood; it plays a central role in developing the maturity of young people and in their achieving recognition of adult status. And so it is right that the primary aim of the new Youth Opportunities Programme is to improve their prospects of getting a satisfactory permanent job at the earliest possible moment. We do not want to divert young people away from jobs or training or further education. That is why places will go to those who have had at least six weeks' unemployment, and summer school-leavers will be considered for places from September.

At the moment there are over 68,500 school-leavers under 18 registered as unemployed. This is an encouraging drop from the 93,000 on the register in October. Nevertheless, it is a disturbingly high figure, and it is these youngsters who have most difficulty in finding jobs whom we most want to help and who are the main targets of the new programme. I note the Committee's recommendation that there should be further research into the nature of youth unemployment. I entirely endorse that view. I know that noble Lords will not expect us to moderate our efforts on behalf of the young unemployed while study goes forward on this complex technical issue. The nature of youth unemployment is a question which gives us much concern in this country, and which is also concerning other nations faced with similar problems. I can give noble Lords a definite assurance that research will continue.

I also note the Committee's view about the role of the European Social Fund in dealing with the problem of youth unemployment. The main function of the Social Fund is to assist schemes of training and resettlement for those already on the labour market. Therefore, as far as young people are concerned, a scheme of training or vocational preparation must, in order to qualify for assistance from the Fund, be for those young people who have finished their full-time education and are looking for work. Nevertheless, as is stated in paragraph 56 of your Committee's report, the EEC Commission, in administering the Fund, does give priority to schemes designed to help young people who have left school to make the transition to employment.

So far as the size of the Fund is concerned, the United Kingdom is in favour of increasing the budgetary allocations for those operations to assist young people which come within the present scope of the Fund. These allocations have hitherto been inadequate to meet more than a small proportion of the eligible applications. It is, however, true as is mentioned in paragraphs 58 and 59, that increased finance will not of itself solve I the problem of unemployment among young people. There is a separate budgetary heading for the pilot schemes designed to improve the preparation for work of those still in full-time education, mentioned in paragraph 61 of the report.

Turning now to education, I should like to consider the points made in the Committee's opinion as they relate to the document under consideration—the Resolution on the Preparation of Young People for Working Life—and some of the more general comments of the Select Committee. If I may, I shall take each of these aspects in turn. First, the Resolution. The Government are grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and her Committee, for their clear and sympathetic examination of this Resolution. The publication of the Select Committee's Report is timely since it comes at a time when the Resolution is beginning to bear fruit. Good progress is being made in implementing the four-year Action Programme on the transition from school to work, and I am pleased to be able to announce that the EEC's Education Committee last week approved proposals for three pilot projects to be developed in the United Kingdom as part of the Community's programme of projects. These projects will be jointly financed by the Commission and by individual Member States. Two of the British projects will be based in England—in Sheffield and in Inner London—and the third will be in Scotland. All three will be concerned with the transition from school to work, with particular emphasis on the needs of the more vulnerable young people, especially those who are thought to be under achieving at school.

In addition, the first of a series of workshops for teachers and for the trainers of teachers was held in this country, in Harrogate, the week before last. We have also submitted to the Commission a list of applications for study visit grants, from a wide variety of people with an active interest in different aspects of the transition from school to work.

The position then is that steady progress is being made in implementing the modest but helpful proposals contained in the Resolution. I believe that the Committee approved of these developments, but they enjoin us to go further, and to advance more quickly in developing a European dimension in educational policy. What the Committee would like to see is the development of a "compact" which would set minimum requirements of school-based experience and preparation for work in the school curriculum; and which would also specify a minimum further education requirement for young people at work. The report says that the compact would be binding on all Member States, and I assume therefore that this would be a legally-binding instrument. However, the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, when she makes her final remarks will, perhaps, clarify the meaning of a "compact" for both the Department and myself.

We can only look at these proposals from our standpoint as one only of the members of the European Communities. But we need to consider them against the backcloth of the legal provisions of the Treaty of Rome, and of the legal provisions of our own education system. And this means facing up to the fact that there is no exclusive Community competence in education, and that in our decentralised system of education, the curriculum is not a matter for central direction. For these reasons, I believe that it would be untimely and unacceptable to many in education if a measure of Community competence were to be introduced over matters where central Government itself does not hold exclusive competence in this country. Here as elsewhere, we believe that the way forward must be through a process of natural evolution and gradual change, rather than by forcing the pace of development. It is after all rather less than two years ago since the Education Ministers of the Nine agreed a resolution which set a framework for educational co-operation in the Community. In these two years, much has happened—and not least the passing of a further resolution which is the subject of this debate today. However the development of educational co-operation is a process of organic growth. The education system of each of the Member States of the Nine is deeply rooted in its history and social system. It is part of our tradition and our history that the education system, and particularly the curriculum, should not be centrally directed.

On the whole, however, the recommendations of the Committee sensitively reflect the state of development of educational co-operation in the Community. Many of the developments that the Committee advocate have already been planned, or are already in operation. So, for example, the Committee have recommended that there should be interchange schemes as extensions of the programme of pilot projects. But it is already the intention of the Commission that the value of the pilot projects should be increased through a series of workshops and study visits. Somewhat similarly, the first Resolution of the Education Ministers, which was enacted on 9th February 1976, includes provisions which cover many of the areas mentioned in the Committee's opinion: the encouragement of pupil exchanges; the promotion of the teaching of modern languages; the promotion of short study visits and exchanges for teachers; and the promotion of linked courses in higher education. In all these spheres, much is already happening.

Like the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, I believe there is much of value that we can learn from one another and we should aim to remove the obstacles to the exchange of peoples and ideas. Relatively speaking, however, we in this country have a good solid record in educational exchanges. I will not go into further detail, but there is a considerable amount of good work going on that we must recognise and if we do not understand it I think we should find out for ourselves in educational visits and exchanges on a national basis, a local basis and in many other ways.

Of course, developments in the Community are no substitute for what the Committee have termed "national self-help". I should now like to review very briefly the main proposals made in this report which bear on the development of national policy. The Committee advocate an immediate commitment to a policy of school-based preparation for work. My Lords, the whole question of the school's rôle in preparing young people for working life has been one of the central themes of the recent public debate on education, and it is given prominence in the Green Paper, Education in Schools.

The Green Paper commends the establishment of closer links between schools and industry; the broadening of teachers' training and experience to give them more knowledge and understanding of the world of work outside education; and the involvement of employers and trades unions in the curriculum planning process. I can report that a Circular has been issued today to local education authorities asking them to report by June 1978 on various aspects of their curricula arrangements, including many which will reflect the attention being given by authorities and by schools to preparation for working life. It will be clear from this brief account of current action that the Government are entirely in sympathy with the principle that schools should provide a sound preparation for work. I am sure that, like the Government, the Committee recognise that the schools have a duty to prepare their pupils for all aspects of working life.

The Committee also referred to the possibility of initiatives by the Schools Council to improve the dissemination of knowledge about industry and employment opportunities. The Council does in fact have a project dealing with careers education and guidance aimed at giving pupils a realistic foretaste of the sort of experience and problems they will face in working, life. Also, in co-operation with the CBI and TUC, the Council has set up an industry project, to develop collaboration between schools and the world of work, and to explore ways of encouraging an understanding of modern society.

The Government also welcome the Committee's recognition that improved preparation for work at school needs to be balanced by greater opportunities for young people to continue their education at work. In our view, however, this can best be achieved by expansion of the present voluntary arrangements. This will involve the development of courses and curricula designed to appeal both to young people and to their employers, and a start has been made.

Traditionally, the means for young people to continue their education while at work has been day release, and it remains our long-term aim that day release should be available to all young people who want it. But it is a fact—and I am coming as quickly as I can to my conclusion—that day release has declined recently. There is no doubt that there has been a drop, and it may be due to the decreasing number of people entering into apprenticeships. Day release is invaluable, and its extension will have to be considered.

The Government announced in June this year the provision of resources to create an extra 10,000 places in non-advanced further education (9,000 in England and Wales) by 1980 to 1981. This is intended as an educational initiative to complement the Manpower Service Commission's new programme for young people that was mentioned earlier. In addition, the various schemes of work experience, which together make up a large part of the new programme, will have, whenever possible, a fully integrated element of further education. Colleges of further education will also be major providers of some types of work preparation courses.

More generally, I can assure the House that positive and effective efforts are being made to improve and increase co-operation between the training and further education services. I have already mentioned two examples. As another example I would mention the setting up last year of the Training and Further Education Consultative Group, a joint venture of the Department of Education and Science and the Manpower Services Commission, which will provide a valuable forum, hitherto lacking, for discussion at national level of matters of common interest to the training and further education services in England and Wales. The Department of Education and Science has also published in August this year an Administrative Memorandum drawing the attention of local education authorities to ways in which links between the training and further education services could be further strengthened, and inviting them to act accordingly.

I must apologise for the length of my reply, but frankly it is a subject of vital importance and I have endeavoured so far as I possibly can to answer detailed points made by the House. So far as the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, is concerned—and he asked for a definite answer on the Social Fund and the existing parts of the work experience programme—work experience on employers' premises already attracts support from the Social Fund. There has also been a successful pilot scheme application for a training workshop. The extent to which the programme as a whole will attract support remains to be settled. I think that is the main point he was concerned about.

All I can say is that we have had a very good debate. I am grateful to noble Lords and noble Baronesses who have taken part. I am sorry it has been at a late hour. I must apologise for the length of my reply in the sense that it has kept noble Lords up late, but I do not apologise for the length of the reply in its relation to the very vital subject we have been discussing tonight.

10.9 p.m.

My Lords, at this late hour you would wish me to deal as briefly as possible with the wind-up of the debate. I should like to thank noble Lords who have taken part in the debate, and for having so obviously prepared very carefully in order so do to. I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, for the great trouble he has taken in dealing with the many points that have been raised. I know that we have thrown at him questions both of detail and of very large scope indeed.

While welcoming the noble Lord's reply, I am bound to say that I feel it still reflects some lack of realisation of the urgency and the scope that is needed in order to deal with all the ramifications of this problem. I am afraid my anxiety in this matter is summed up in the reply which I think I must at the end of this debate get on the record. It is the reply which came out over the signature of the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Mr. John Grant, on only 21st November this year. He says:
"The United Kingdom is not able to satisfy the requirement"—
that is, the requirement of the EEC—
"that young people in employment should be given leave of absence or that they should be paid allowances from public funds".
So long as that attitude continues, we cannot believe that the matter is being taken sufficiently seriously, and we shall certainly return to the battle.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

European Commission Fast

10.11 p.m.

rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what is their attitude to the proposal of the European Commission, known as FAST, that it should add six people to its staff for a "programme in the areas of Forecasting, Assessment and methodology in the field of Science and Technology ". The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am sorry to ask this Unstarred Question so late at night, but it is geared to the rhythm of decision in the Council of Ministers of the European Community and I was not able to obtain any assurance from anybody that, if I did not bring it forward tonight, I should be able to ask it and have it answered before the Council of Ministers took a decision on the matter in question.

The matter in question is simply what should the European Community as such do to look into its own future? By way of background, I would remind the House that nation States do a great deal to look into their own future, that industrial corporations do a great deal to look into their own future, that anybody who has anything at stake in his own future does a great deal to look into it in the best way he can: it is individual behaviour, political behaviour and corporate behaviour.

The European Community, on the other hand, has lagged somewhat behind in this matter, so much so that in January 1974 the Council of Ministers, on a recommendation of the Commission, set aside half a million units of account to obtain a recommendation on the question whether or not the institutions of the Community should set up a permanent body to study the foreseeable or possible developments over the next 30 years which are likely to affect the progress of Europe. So great was the urgency felt that the Council of Ministers called for this feasibility study to be carried out within one year.

Immediately after that, a group of 40 people who were acceptable to the European Commission was gathered together. Those people were scientists, civil servants from Member Governments of the Community, academics, industrialists and politicians. I had the piece of crazy good fortune, if you like, to be chosen to be the director of the operation. I am aware how extraordinarily lucky we were to obtain that particular group of 40 people from the five or six different walks of life concerned—extraordinarily lucky in one sense, while in another it was only to be expected because the future of the Community was at stake and I dare assert that there are few persons of the requisite intellectual calibre who do not have that future at heart. Therefore they worked.

As demanded, we reported within the year we had been given. Our report first of all made the distinction between forecasting and prediction. Forecasting is not prediction. Prediction says, "The following will happen", while forecasting says, "If the following were to happen, the following other things would be more or less likely to happen". The report then considered the questions: How can forecasting, as opposed to prediction, be done?—the question of methodology. Next, what forecasting is already done which is of interest to the European Community? And next, what are the possibilities of a European Community-wide integration of the national statistical bases? This is precisely what the Prime Minister very recently referred to as builder's work, when he compared it with architect's work. He said that there were too many architects of Europe and not enough builders. This question of the integration of a national statistical base into a European statistical base is an archetypal builder's work, as opposed to architect's work.

Next, our report considered 16 fields of human activity in which forecasting, as opposed to prediction (which is nonsense) might make sense, and in which the integration of forecasting might be effectively carried out. These fields ran from climate and population—because without climatic forecasting there is no point in forecasting anything—to health, to economics and finance, to education, to science and technology, to industry, to agriculture and fisheries, to environment, to transport, and so on, to the number of 16.

The report ended by recommending that so vast a task as that which had been laid upon the group of 40 by the European Council of Ministers could not very well be carried out over the decades by a force of fewer than 30 qualified persons, graduates, with support staff. It said that this new proposed organ of 30 people should be governed by a board, and that the board should be appointed by the European Commission; in other words, it should be the creature of the Commission, not of anybody else. It should serve the Commission and the European Parliament equally, but should, nevertheless, have a certain academic independence which would be guaranteed to it by the Commission-appointed board.

The members of my team were unanimous that 30 was the critical level of persons required to do this work. Fewer than 30 would not be able to do it, and that ought not to be considered. The cost we reckoned would run up to 2½ million units of account per annum over five years; that is to say, the cost of the operation in the first five years would be about 8 million units of account. I remind your Lordships that a unit of account is a 1970 US dollar. Above all, the work, we said, should be inter-disciplinary. It was useless to forecast in one field without forecasting in another because they kept impinging on each other. I revert again to the Prime Minister's words the other day. He spoke of too much spire and not enough foundation for the cathedral of Europe. Our purpose in this work, and the purpose of the Council of Ministers four years ago in calling for it, was to assure the foundation under the spires which are being designed so freely.

We reported in September 1975, and late in 1976 a slightly edited version of our report appeared. This was called the Futures of Europe. A copy has been in the Library of the House since late 1976. In June 1977, two years after the report, the Commission put out two documents. The first was Commission Document (77) 218 saying that the Commission would not adopt the recommendations of the Europe plus 30 report since they were too expensive and since the Commission itself lacked experience in this matter. One may think perhaps that it was the lack of experience which had induced them to call for the report in the first place, but let us let that pass. On the other hand, the document said that it would take a course of action which had been considered and

rejected in the Europe plus 30 report; namely, that it would hire a smaller number of qualified people, six or 10, whose work would be limited to the fields only of science and technology, instead of covering the whole waterfront, and who would work within the Commission bureaucracy instead of having a degree of academic independence from it.

My first question to the noble Baroness who is to answer tonight is this. The Government have not yet sent to either House of Parliament an explanatory memorandum on Commission Document (77) 218. Such explanatory memoranda, as the House will know well, are normally sent within two weeks, or three or four weeks, of the publication of the Commission document. It is now six months since that document, and still no explanatory memorandum has been sent to your Lordships' House or to your Lordships' Select Committee on European Regulations and Legislation. Why is this the case? We have Commission Documents 218 and 283. Document 283 says that the Commission will not do Europe plus 30. Document 218 says that it will do something else, called FAST. This stands for "forecasting and assessment in science and technology", and it is what I have just outlined.

Let us now turn to the issue in question. The Commission said that Europe plus 30, as recommended, would cost too much. When things are bad economically, as of course they are now, should one spend more money on rectifying them than one has before, or should one spend less money on rectifying them than one has before? My own answer to this question—the unanimous answer of the 40 persons in the group which I had the honour to direct—was that when things are bad one should spend more money on trying to rectify them. The Commission's recommendation, on the other hand, goes the other way and says, "Spend less". I forget the exact sum it recommends for spending on FAST, but the noble Baroness will be able to supply it. The two figures I have noted here are that the Commission found 8 million units of account—that is, 8 million 1970-dollars—in five years on Europe plus 30 too much but it has recently decided to spend £2 million (a pound being, of course, more than a unit of account) in three years on research into recycling waste paper: not into the purchase of paper for the circulation of its own plans, not into the making of paper, not into the paper industry in general; but into research on how to recycle its own paper. I am speaking now of the scale of priorities.

The great question for Europe is: What weight do we attach to the following series of opposites? On the one hand, this work of forecasting could be done independently, or, on the other hand, it could be done within the Commission bureaucracy, under the day-to-day control of the Commission bureaucracy, as part of it. Secondly, what weight do we attach to the unanimous opinion of the Europe plus 30 team that a critical mass of 30 is necessary to make any sense of speculations about the future of a population of 250 million people; and, on the other hand, to the recommendation of the European Commission that such sense can be made by only six or 10 persons? Thirdly, what weight do we attach to the recommendation of the Europe plus 30 team that it is useless to seek to forecast in single sectors of society and the economy, and that we must forecast across the board, taking cross-impact into account? Conversely, what weight do we attach to the recommendation of the Commission that it would be a good plan to seek to limit forecasting to the fields of only science and technology?

The 40 persons who were concerned with the original report—and if Members of the House will look at the list of those persons in either the report itself or in the version published by the Cambridge University Press, I doubt they would themselves be able to think of more distinguished and experienced persons for the job—were unanimous, and occasionally vehement, in their rejection of fewer than 30, in their rejection of an operation within the Commission bureaucracy, and in their rejection of an operation limited to one sector out of the many possible ones.

A related point I should like to ask the noble Baroness to answer when she comes to reply is this: What is the Government's attitude to the enormous proliferation of these bodies at the present time? We have the European Institute of Advanced Studies in Management, at Brussels, partly funded by the Ford Foundation; we have had the International Institute for the Management of Technology, in Milan, funded jointly by the European Commission under OECD. It died. We have the European University Institute in Florence; we have the College of Europe in Bruges; we have the forecasting effort called Inter-futures under the umbrella of OECD in Paris, to which the European Commission nevertheless contributes; we have the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis at Laxenburg, near Vienna; we have the proposed Medium-term Economic Research Institute under the European Commission; we have the Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions under the European Commission, situated in Dublin and, at present, we have a proposal for the so-called European Brookings which would use, of all things, United States' non-governmental money to a very large extent. I wonder what possible justification there can be for the European Community to turn to the, by now smaller, economic entity of the United States for research money in the problem of thinking about its own future; or even what justification it can have for accepting it when it is proffered.

The Europe plus 30 report considered all these institutions except the last, which was not then being proposed; and it suggested guidelines for relations between itself and them and between each of them and the others. It also suggested guidelines for relations between Europe plus 30 and any others which might he set up in the future. They are clear; they are in the report. I do not know what guidelines are suggested for FAST; that is, the six people to be added to the bureaucracy of Directorate-General No. 12 within the Commission for the relations between FAST and this multiplicity of other organisations.

What we have to consider is this. First, will FAST, if it is set up, do harm because people can think it is doing good? It is clear to me and to all those who worked at the Europe plus 30 deal that it cannot do good: it is too small, too limited and in the wrong place in the bureaucracy. The second related question is this: If it is set up, will the existence of FAST make it harder to set up later on something which will be able to do good work because it is big enough, above critical mass, because it is quasi-independent and because it is able to consider all sectors of economic and social life in the Community and not just one?

I do not pretend that these questions are easy to answer but I say that I would very much sooner the Government did not risk backing the minimal bureaucratic measure, since it really is below the threshold which can do good work by itself. If the Government were to choose just to go along with this proposal because it is slightly cheaper—and indeed it is slightly cheaper—and because it would be quickly forgotten, and because they do not want to be awkward within the European Community, then not only will this proposal, and not only will the Government's attitude, do no good to the world—that is certain—but, and this is not certain, it may make it harder for good to be done to the world later in a truly meaningful manner. I beg to ask the Unstarred Question which stands in my name.

10.30 p.m.

My Lords, Lord Kennet's Unstarred Question is an interesting one and deserves a wider audience than your Lordships' Chamber tonight. I look behind me and find that the attendance on my side is as sparse as it is upon the Government's side—but even we managed to beat the Liberals, who are here in great strength! As the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, reminded us, this proposal dates back to 1974 when he was appointed to lead this project. A supervisory board was established of which the noble Lord was also the chairman. Apart from the noble Lord, the other members of the board were not immediately familiar to me, apart from one. They seem to have a strong academic flavour about them. The board is none the worse for that, no doubt, but I wonder whether all of them have the experience of the world at large which is not always granted to academics, however brilliant and however exalted.

My Lords, before the noble Lord proceeds, I wonder whether he would concede the point that the research directors of Philips of Eindhoven, of Fiat of Turin, and the chairman of Messerschmitt Bölkow-Blohm, might be counted as practical industrialists?

I was speaking of the general flavour of the list of members of the noble Lord's project hoard. They are all, I have no doubt, splendid and worthy people headed by a splendid and worthy noble Lord. Some of them—a few—had the experience the noble Lord has described. But we have to judge the team by the product. I find the proposals which they made a little disappointing.

What it seems the noble Lord and his team proposed is a European Think Tank. I hope the noble Lord will agree that is a reasonable description of what he is proposing. I will call it a super Euro-Think Tank because that is certainly what he had in mind. There are to be 75 "thinkers", or "tankers", as my noble friend Lord Eccles described another group recently in your Lordships' House. It is clear from the document which the noble Lord prepared that the 75 members were to be graduates, and presumably therefore there would be a secretariat of typists and junior people to assist them, so the total pay roll would be considerably more than 75. It is not proposed that the "tankers" themselves would do their own typing or make their own tea. As the noble Lord has told us, the cost, at 1975 prices, was 5·6 million units of account. He has explained to us that that was an equalised figure; initially it would be more than that but, as the years went by, it would be reduced.

My Lords, I do not want to give way again to the noble Lord. I listened patiently to him; I hope he will now do me the courtesy of listening to me. If, when I have finished, he wants to take up some points, I will be happy to deal with them before I sit down.

My Lords, it might be for the convenience of the House if I were to correct an error as it arose.

Seventy-five qualified persons was the maximum recommended in the report. The minimum recommended was 30. In my remarks just now I took 30 as being a desirable figure, and the cost I attached to it was for 30 and not 75.

My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord for that correction; but the cost that I gave—the cost of 5·6 million units of account—related, according to my information (I will stand corrected if I am wrong), to 75 people. The noble Lord was talking of a lower figure than that when he was speaking, relating to 30, as he has told us. Whether the number was 30 or 75, that was certainly the number of "thinkers" or "predictors"; and of course there would be a secretariat to support them.

The Commission have definitely rejected this proposal and I believe it is right. I say that for these reasons. First, I doubt whether the science of prediction—I am not sure that I follow the noble Lord in his distinction between prediction and forecasting, but I will use the word "prediction" because I know the noble Lord prefers it—has reached the point of reliability where we can justify substantial investment of this nature. The report suggests, for example, that if this team had been in existence earlier we might have avoided the creation of a beef mountain, a wine lake and a butter mountain. All those things have been criticised, of course, as a result of EEC agricultural policy. But I do not think those examples are really valid, because the butter mountain and the wine lake were, I should have thought, obvious results of the political decisions which were taken to subsidise the producers of those products. I do not think any amount of prediction or forecasting would have avoided them. The only thing that would have avoided them would have been a different policy—and the need for that was obvious and plain as a pikestaff long before the mountains appeared.

The Commission produced a more modest proposal with much more limited aims, and indeed more limited resources. They are to be confined to the areas of science and technology and, as I understand it, will have a role more of coordination than of forecasting. I am not disposed to reject that proposal quite so peremptorily as I reject the one originally made by the Europe plus 30 team. But before we listen to the Government's views on that idea, I would ask rhetorically whether more forecasting and more prediction—I must use that word, because the noble Lord rightly insists upon that—

My Lords, I must beg to correct the noble Lord once again. The purpose of my remarks about the word "prediction" was, as I should have thought was perfectly clear at the time and will certainly be perfectly clear in Hansard, to say that we reject prediction as a possible human activity. It is, in the words of the report—and I wish the noble Lord had read that report—a "mug's game". Our report is about something rather different which we call "forecasting" and which is described at some length therein.

My Lords, I am aware of all that. I am not sure that the noble Lord has helped us very much with that intervention: he certainly has not helped me. But I would say that the science of "forecasting", which is apparently the word the noble Lord now requires, has not reached the stage where we could justify the expenditure of substantial sums of money on it. I agree that the new proposal is significantly less expensive than the one originally proposed. Even so, I do not think that it is necessarily going to be very cost-effective, because I would agree with the noble Lord that the size of the new proposal is now so far removed from the size of the original scheme that it is doubtful whether those concerned will have the resources available to make any effective contribution in any of the areas they will touch, despite the fact that the areas are much reduced. I also doubt whether staff of sufficient experience and expertise will be available. Even if we agree—as I will gladly do, if the noble Lord says so—that his original team were all brilliant experts in this field, they may well not wish to serve on a permanent body such as is now proposed, and I wonder whether the necessary staff can be readily secured.

It occurs to me that a great deal of the work which the noble Lord envisages, and which I certainly agree is useful if it can be done effectively and efficiently, could well be done by firms of outside consultants. Already this is done on some scale, and indeed the Commission and the noble Lord have accepted this as a possibility. But I think it ought to be more strongly emphasised as a real solution to this problem, rather than the somewhat cumbersome proposal that the noble Lord originally produced, and the rather less desirable and very small proposition, which was ineffective in cost terms, of the Commission's counter-proposals, which the noble Lord is asking about tonight.

The difficulty, as I have said, is to bring the science of forecasting to a point which justifies the expenditure of Commission funds on it, and I really believe that those funds, limited as they are, would be better used in retaining (if that is the right word) outside contractors and consultants in specific areas to provide the information that we need. I think that that is a better solution than to set up a permanent secretariat or bureaucracy, as it has been called, within the Commission.

10.42 p.m.

(Baroness Birk)

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, that it is a very great pity that this debate is taking place at this time of night and with such a very thin House, because it is something not only of great importance but of very wide interest. First, I should like to say how much I appreciate what I should like to call the imaginative choice of my noble friend as Director of the original project, Europe plus 30. I should also like to congratulate him on the very succinct, brief and interesting way in which he covered an extremely wide, deep and important subject. He produced an important and substantial report and it was a considerable achievement, particularly to fit it into the tight schedule which he mentioned, which meant that this colossal piece of work had to be done within a year. He was also doing it in such a way that he had to co-ordinate opinion in a very short time among so many European experts from so many disciplines. The result has been an important landmark in Community thought, and this is something that we should hang on to.

I hope that my noble friend accepts and appreciates that I not only understand; I have considerable sympathy with him if, in having produced a piece of work like this not only with considerable intellect, but with considerable dedication, one then finds at the end of the day that the output is not really taken up. Nevertheless, as I have said, the result has been an important landmark in Community thought. It is a subject which the Government themselves are keenly interested to see developed. Like my noble friend, who put it so well in his report, the Government believe that
"the pace of change and the uncertainty of its direction have made forecasting more than ever necessary, to anticipate change, to prepare contingency plans, to take out insurance policies against various dangers, and to help in moulding the future so far as one can".
Accordingly, the Government helped my noble friend by extensive comments from officials at formative stages on his draft text, and also with advice on the composition of his project team. I believe that my noble friend will also agree that the Government have a record of constructive and active support for long-terns forecasting and that this support stands up to scrutiny.

My Lords, there has been strong concern in recent years for sufficient studies to be made of the longer term outlook for the United Kingdom—I shall not expand on that point at this time because I agree with the way my noble friend opened upon it—and also for various international groups with which it is involved. The Systems Analysis Research Unit was established in the Department of the Environment after the Stockholm Conference in 1972 to appraise research into long-term problems and to contribute to the development of necessary methods. This was an inter-departmental concern. Thinking was co-ordinated and centrally steered at senior official level in close association with SARU. The upshot of several years of intensive work was the discussion paper Future World Trends. This again was another important landmark in this important field, since it explored all the major issues facing the United Kingdom and the rest of the world, in the longer term. Also in 1976, the Government joined several OECD countries in "Inter-futures Project", to which my noble friend referred. This was a three-year study of future relations between the needs of advanced industrial societies and less developed countries. A forecasting model prepared by SARU will be an important input to this work.

The United Kingdom is also a founder member of the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis. This is actively engaged in studies of several major problem areas facing mankind in the next few decades. It has also made very useful progress, and this week the Institute celebrates its fifth anniversary. It is a forum in which East and West meet, with the USA, the USSR and the United Kingdom all making major financial and other contributions.

My noble friend referred in his speech to how the Government view the proliferation of organisations. Especially where the Government are doing all or part of the funding, they are concerned that, if possible, there should not be overlapping because it is wasteful. On the other hand, where organisations are funded—the noble Lord gave Ford as an example, as well as other examples, where private or other individual institute or industrial money has been put in—it is often very difficult to steer it into other channels. One sees this not only in Europe but all over the world.

All of this bears very broadly on the Unstarred Question which my noble friend has put down. However, the question turns around the contrast between the proposals of the Commission and those of my noble friend. It is absolutely true that FAST, which is the subject matter of the Unstarred Question which we are discussing tonight, differs from my noble friend's proposals, and, as he stressed, it does this in three very radical ways. It is more limited in range and it is confined to long-term forecasts affecting science and technology. My noble friend read out nearly all of the 16 subjects which covered a much wider field than those which were contained in his original report. It is also on a very much smaller scale. There is a unit of 10 staff, made up of six professionals and four support staff, as opposed to the much larger number which my noble friend had in mind.

I do not want to be drawn into the numbers game which "ping-ponged" between my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, except to say that 30 professionals would mean something like 60 to 70 people in all, if one added the other people who would be supporting the professionals. I understood, when my noble friend was talking of the numbers, that these were the professional people he thought were necessary to carry out the sort of work that he sketched. It would also be located within a particular directorate-general of the Commission, whereas my noble friend referred to it as a creature of the Commission and wanted it with a working relationship with the Commission as a whole and with close links to its President.

And to Parliament. There is no point in pretending that there are not very strong and sharp differences between these two sets of proposals. The FAST proposals are at present expressed in draft Council Decision. Incidentally, my noble friend asked why there had not been an explanatory memorandum. There has been considerable consideration of how what had been proposed could be fitted into the FAST proposals, how one interlinked with the other, and the way in which it could be worked out and whether it could be viable. This has meant delay, but an explanatory memorandum will be issued very shortly.

The product of these extensive discussions between officials of Member States has not yet been submitted to the Council of Ministers. If FAST is approved soon by the Council of Ministers the Commission expect it to be well under way by 1979. The Government will take the discussion on my noble friend's Unstarred Question into account in reaching their final view, although the Government's present attitude is to support the Commission's proposal. I recognise the difficulty of convincing my noble friend, but I believe this view is consistent with the positive attitude already described towards work of this kind. I do not honestly believe that it is counterproductive in the way that my noble friend appears to think it is. As he knows from official discussions in Brussels in which he took part, there was very strong opposition from European partners to proposals in his report. The United Kingdom has consistently pressed constructively for some Community work of this kind, but at the end of the day you have to reach some form of consensus, and the upshot of these lengthy discussions was consensus for a small unit on the scale that the Commission now recommend.

The Government see this as initially just viable—we do not go beyond that—and prefer to accept this as the best we could obtain. This is in the context that all Commission proposals are necessarily reflections of consensus of view among Member Governments, and in this context we ought to go along with FAST and give it every chance of success, since not to do so would be unconstructive and would not further the cause of long-term forecasting generally.

My noble friend has stressed the limited scope of FAST. His own concept ranged widely over various broad themes such as agriculture; energy; climate; population and health. It is true that FAST concentrates on science and technology, which is only one of the 17 headings. However, although it is certainly a relatively narrow field the Government still believe that there is substantial scope for effective work within it. What this will entail has yet to be firmly settled, but officials of Member States are already considering broad possibilities such as the Community's long-term supply of resources; long-term technical and structural change affecting the Community and long-term social changes.

Within the first—the supply of resources—it might be useful to study the application of science and technology to saving raw materials or, within the third option—long-term social changes—prospects for an information-based economy arising from new communications systems. The debate on these options will continue. The field is clearly broad and potentially fruitful.

It is difficult to make comparisons. For example, my noble friend Lord Kennet compared the amount of money spent, say, on recycling waste with that spent or not spent on forecasting. First of all, one is in an area of comparing unlike with unlike, which I do not think is very productive. I would also point out that the recycling of waste, which was the example my noble friend took, is of substantial practical importance and an area where successful research and development could, in fact, produce clear-cut dividends and savings in material costs and would therefore be an investment which could be very well justified. That is one matter that I think could quite easily come into these studies.

My noble friend also questioned whether science and technology can be fenced off from all the other sectors that he had in mind. If it were to be so rigidly compartmentalised then he would, of course, be right. However, I do not believe that the boundaries are meant to be, or would be, drawn in such an unintelligently rigid manner. The FAST unit clearly cannot analyse science and technology in a vacuum. It must be mindful of the evolving policies that science and technology is intended to influence, which was really the starting point on, 1 agree, a larger scale from which the original study began.

Proposals for the FAST unit also involve two extremely important coordination functions: First, the monitoring of international forecasting and, secondly, the gradual establishment of a European forecasting network. I am extremely sorry that my noble friend doubts the usefulness of these activities because in his exposition, which I thought was brilliantly put over and very simple, he made a very strong and brief case for forecasting. I am entirely with him when he juxtapositioned forecasting with prediction, because they are two entirely different matters.

My Lords, I hope that my noble friend Lady Birk will forgive me for interrupting, but this is such a difficult matter that misunderstandings arise so easily. I do not doubt at all the value of monitoring other people's work and getting work done "out-house". A major part of the Europe plus 30 report is devoted to recommending how precisely this should be done. What I doubt is the possibility of doing those two things and doing "in-house" work with only six or 10 people. I am sure that this work is valuable. I doubt that it can be done on a shoestring.

My Lords, if I may put it in a brash way, I really think that it would be a great pity to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If one does not start in this way—if this is the result of the consensus—then I believe that my noble friend would be making a great mistake in not allowing, or trying to work against, a starting point at all—a starting point which, in fact, has arisen, although I agree in a very much more miniscule manner than what he, himself, produced originally. Even on the question of the monitoring and establishment, they are also part of all the methodology of research. There are many areas in industry and in science—whether it is groups in the universities—where a small group of people, provided they are of the requisite quality, can initiate and do a great many things and get very great ideas started and off the ground. Therefore, I still believe that, even within this very tight-knit unit, it should not be impossible for it to be able to do some of its own forecasting work, and that the monitoring and establishment of the network should not necessarily be at its expense.

Small though it is, it will not be cheap. It will not be done entirely on a shoestring because the cost will be somewhere in the region of £1·8 million. The United Kingdom would have to contribute about £75,000 per year over five years and the Government would not be ready, certainly at this time, to fund on this scale unless convinced of the likely value for money.

I have great sympathy with my noble friend, because when I am pressing for projects myself I am arguing that there are times when one does not have the money at the right time. He has been in Government himself, successfully, and is an old hand at this, and knows very well that this is not quite the argument that seems to move Treasuries or influence financiers. That is a difficult task to take on at the moment. The Government would not even be prepared to put forward this amount unless they were convinced that it was useful and valuable in terms of scope and function. But the Government will have to watch closely the effectiveness of this small unit, and it is important that it is strong enough and has people of sufficient quality to take off and provide value for money.

There then remains the question of location. Certainly a wide-ranging project, such as that which my noble friend proposed to the Commission, would be very much better if it were on the lines he suggested. Once one is really down to a narrower unit, then it would seem more sensible to locate it within the Directorate which is responsible for science and technology, provided—and this is extremely important—that links with other parts of the Brussels machinery can be effectively ensured.

Another point concerns the Advisory Committee on which all the Member States are represented. In this way the Government could watch the unit's work programme, its staff strength and the dissemination of its results. We already have interdepartmental machinery which would ensure that fully agreed United Kingdom views were fed into this committee. It is on that basis that the Government are at present disposed to support the Commission's proposal. Our approach is not one that is uncritical but I believe it is realistic and it is also, above all, constructive.

After the first five years of FAST's life, there will be a review. During that five years international thinking about the case for a larger unit with wider terms of reference will, no doubt, continue parallel with the evolution of the very different FAST project. To an extent, it is for FAST to convince those who doubt the value of the approach which it represents. I do not really believe it will make it harder to set up something else. Even if, at the end of the day, we have to start with something very much smaller than one ever envisaged, I would rather hold on to that small thread which is there above the ground than have nothing and have it all put off year after year after year. The Government will watch developments closely if this does come about, and the presence of my noble friend's report will, without any doubt, continue to be felt. It has acted as an important catalyst to Community thinking and I believe, and so do many others, that it will continue to represent a major landmark in the development of thought in this field.