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Lords Chamber

Volume 414: debated on Tuesday 4 November 1980

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House Of Lords

Tuesday, 4th November, 1980.

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

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Peterborough.

Un General Assembly: Uk Votes On Cambodia

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 how their delegation at the United Nations General Assembly has been instructed to vote on the retention of representation of the Pol Pot régime in Kampuchea.

My Lords, we thought it right to support the ASEAN countries in the recent General Assembly votes on Cambodia. On credentials, we were among 74 countries who rejected an attempt by the Vietnamese and their friends to amend the unopposed report of the Credentials Committee. I have placed in the Library copies of our explanation of vote and of our intervention in the General Assembly discussion on the 16th October.

Yes, my Lords; but is it not inconceivable that the United Nations should endorse the Pol Pot régime, which is the most infamous since Hitler, massacring thousands of men, women and children—worse even than Hitler's treatment of the Jews? Would it not have been possible to urge that the seat should remain vacant until a new situation had arisen?

My Lords, of course we did not in any way give our support or add any credence to the Pol Pot régime. Successive British Governments have made clear their detestation of the democratic Kampuchean régime, in particular at the United Nations Human Rights Commission, and we neither want nor expect its return to power. As for the suggestion of leaving the seat empty, this was not the proposal facing us, though the seat might have been left empty had the amendment passed. In any case, this would have been seen by all concerned as a step towards acquiescing in Vietnam's aggression.

My Lords, has not this United Nations decision prejudiced Vietnam's acceptance of the proposal for a United Nations supervision of the next election in Kampuchea? Is not the proposal of the ASEAN nations for a conference and aid to reconstruction in Indo-China much the better approach?

My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right about the conference proposal, which was coupled, of course, with the call for the withdrawal of Vietnamese troops and enjoyed over-whelming support. We hope that on sober reflection Vietnam will decide to take part in an early conference.

My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree that this is another example of the operation of international power politics?

My Lords, I am not quite sure that I follow the gist of the noble Lord's question, which I must say was a bit mysterious.

Exercise Crusader

2.40 p.m.

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make a statement as soon as possible on the lessons learnt from Exercise Crusader.

My Lords, Crusader was a very successful exercise. Over 30,000 troops were moved from the United Kingdom, including some 20,000 members of the Territorial Army and substantial numbers of the RAF. The TA turn-out was high and its performance throughout received well-deserved praise. The great majority of reinforcements were in their exercise positions within 48 hours of leaving their bases, demonstrating our ability to reinforce BAOR swiftly and effectively should the need arise. The field training exercise in Germany, in which American and German forces played a prominent part, tested our operational techniques on a scale previously untried. A number of areas have been identified where improvements may be needed, and many valuable lessons have been learned. But it will take several months to analyse the exercise in detail.

My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that Answer, may I ask him whether he can elaborate a little as to how our allies, and particularly Germany, regarded the exercise?

My Lords, I believe that our allies in NATO were impressed by our ability to perform the reinforcement role which we had undertaken, and I think they also particularly welcomed this demonstration of our commitment to defence on the European continent.

My Lords, would the Minister tell me what the cost was to us? I am not against defence in any way, naturally; but how much did this whole exercise cost?

My Lords, the exercise cost was in the region of £82 million in excess of normal exercise costs, and we believe that this was very well worth while.

My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord the Minister, in reference to his statement that the auxiliary forces deserved praise, to say how they adapted themselves to the situation along-side our regular forces? He probably is aware that many Members of the House of Lords—including myself—consider the efficiency of our auxiliary forces to be of supreme importance.

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for his question, which shows considerable understanding of what this exercise was intended to do. We were extremely satisfied, both by the turn-out of the Territorial Army and their performance, and I believe that the Regular Army were very impressed by the demonstrated ability of the auxiliary forces to support them in the way which was planned, in a time of tension.

My Lords, will my noble friend the Minister tell us whether, when the Government have completed their analysis of the lessons learnt from this very important exercise, a fuller statement will be made available to the public? Also, could some report of this be included in the annual Defence White Paper?

My Lords, these are two interesting ideas. Certainly a full analysis of the exercise will be made: after spending that much money, of course, it would be necessary. When the report has been compiled in the New Year we shall have to consider how much of it could be presented both to the House and to the public at large, and what would be the most effective way of doing it, consistent with the security considerations which are bound to surround it.

My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether any lessons were learned from this exercise about the ability of small numbers of infantry, using modern laser-guided anti-tank weapons, to stop an armoured thrust in Central Europe: and what conclusions we may draw from this regarding the effectiveness of the limited numbers of troops we can deploy in Germany to counter the possibility of invasion from the East?

My Lords, the noble Lord is asking me rather a technical question and I think this is exactly the sort of thing which will come out in further analysis. I do not in fact know whether the reinforcement forces were using the kind of laser-guided weapons to which the noble Lord refers.

My Lords, can my noble friend say whether the very much reduced military transport force is adequate to meet the operational needs, not only of exercises but of potential war? Also, would it not be worthwhile taking up Sir Freddie Laker's offer to adapt, at very small cost, the DC-10s he has on order, so that they can reinforce the limited air transport we now have?

My Lords, the noble Lord raises both a general and a specific question. So far as the general question is concerned, I think the exercise demonstrated that there is an ability to provide the necessary transport to do the kind of reinforcement which is required. I do not know the answer to the specific question raised by my noble friend, but I am sure it has been considered. I do recall that the Americans have for some years considered the possibility of strengthening all the civil transport fleet, but they have decided that even for them it would probably be a prohibitively expensive exercise.

My Lords, does the noble Lord think he can really be very proud of the fact that it took 48 hours to get men from Britain to the battlefront in France? I ask this question because in 1915 we did it in less than 24 hours.

My Lords, my memory does not go back as far as the noble Lord's, and I would not dispute his facts. I do not know what numbers he is referring to, but the 48 hours we are talking about covered the whole of the reinforcement and I would imagine that some of the forces arrived there in less than 24 hours.

The Press: Draft Code Of Conduct

2.47 p.m.

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will delete paragraph 59 of the draft code of conduct on the closed shop which lays down specific factors which newspaper editors have to take into account when deciding whether or not to publish and thereby endangers editorial freedom.

My Lords, while the observance of the provisions of paragraph 59 of the draft code is not mandatory, the Government do not in any case accept that observance of it would endanger editorial freedom. This paragraph is closely based on what was agreed within the newspaper industry—including representatives of newspaper editors—during the talks on a possible Press Charter held under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Pearce, in 1976 and 1977. The comments we have received on the draft code have indicated general support for this section. The draft code emphasises editors' final responsibility for the content of their publication and their freedom to decide on that content.

My Lords, could my noble friend look at this clause again most carefully? Once you start imposing on an editor what he should have regard to in exercising his freedom, you inhibit his freedom. Is it not most unwise to do that at this juncture because of the great importance of our media to the well-being of our democratic process? Would he look at it again? It would seem best just to leave out the three matters he is meant to take into account while exercising his freedom.

My Lords, I certainly agree with my noble friend's remarks on the importance of editorial independence and the importance of a free press to a democratic system. The only place where I part company with my noble friend is in his use of the word "imposed". The code does not impose anything: it simply points to the best general practice.

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that this clause is merely an endorsement of the time-honoured right of journalists to negotiate with their editors the quantity of contributed matter that shall appear in their newspapers, and that most editors would be quite happy about it? Does he not think that on subjects of such complexity it would be far better for them to be considered in a full-ranging debate rather than in this manner at Question Time?

My Lords, I do not think there is anything wrong in raising important issues in Question Time. I could not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, about that. However, the kind of experience the noble Lord brings to press questions is respected by us all and it is that kind of experience we have looked for during the consultation period. As I said in my original Answer, we have been pretty pleased with the support we have received.

My Lords, will the noble Lord look again, not merely at paragraph 59 but also at paragraph 56? That says in terms that where an individual journalist finds that his freedom to report is being interfered with by his membership of a trade union his employers are to respect that interference.

My Lords, paragraph 56 is, of course, as the noble Lord said, very important to us and we pay great regard to it. I am not aware of any union-management agreements in national papers and I think, on the whole, that the greatest threat to editorial independence comes not from the sort of issues that we have been raising, but from restrictive practices and inability to move with the times in the industry generally.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that many of us are not concerned about editors being hamstrung, in the context of the question of the closed shop, because we are sick and tired of editors attacking the trade unions every day of the week?

My Lords, the Government are coming in for a fair amount of stick from editors, but that does not mean to say that we think that they should be disbarred from doing so.

My Lords, does the Minister recall that the Royal Commission on the Press, which reported in 1977, regarded the unfettered discretion of editors, save only in regard to conforming with the general policy of their publication, to be of absolutely fundamental importance to the freedom of the press? Does he also recall that among our recommendations in regard to the closed shop, in the aftermath of the debate on the legislation under the previous Govern- ment, a draft to that effect was proposed to the Government of the day and that it is a matter of great regret that no action was taken by that Government on our recommendations?

My Lords, I am, of course, naturally glad to say that the present Government have succeeded in getting agreement where the previous Government failed, because this is a matter of great importance to all Governments, whatever political complexion they may have.

My Lords, does not the Minister consider that there is something of an anomaly here, in the line that he is taking over this Answer, remembering what happened yesterday on the Broadcasting Bill, when an amendment, which would have enabled educational sections to take account of international situations, was knocked out as being too restrictive?

Zone Of Peace: Indian Ocean Proposal

2.52 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 will propose in the United Nations Security Council that an initiative be taken to secure the neutralisation of the Indian Ocean as a zone of peace.

No, my Lords. We believe that the United Nations Ad Hoc Committee on the Indian Ocean, which is already considering a proposal for the Indian Ocean to be declared a zone of peace, is the right place for further consideration of this idea.

My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether, if the Government are seriously concerned about world disarmament, as they say they are, they can give serious consideration to this proposal? Is not the situation becoming worse by the visit of the Soviet naval head to Ethiopia to establish great port bases, by the action of the United States in approaching Somalia and Kenya for bases and by the united exercises by the USA and the United Kingdom? Would the noble Lord consider this question arising from his Answer? What are the prospects of a conference on the Indian Ocean as a zone of peace at Colombo next year, as proposed by the first committee of the United Nations, supported by France, the whole Commonwealth, India and all the littoral states of the Indian Ocean, with the exception of Oman?

My Lords, we shall, of course, give careful consideration to attending any conference which has broad international support. But we have to consider the proposal of a zone of peace in the light of a number of criteria, perhaps the most important of which is whether it would, in fact, enhance our security.

My Lords, while totally agreeing with the last sentence of the Minister's reply, may I ask whether the attitude of the Government does not reflect rather a complacent and negative attitude to a situation which is in itself really very explosive?

My Lords, the situation in that part of the world is, indeed, a dangerous one. But the principal threat comes—does it not?—from the Russian invasion of Afghanistan just a few miles to the north.

My Lords, may we take it from the Minister's original Answer that, during the course of the discussions at the United Nations on this most important issue, the British Government will use all their influence in order to establish a zone of peace in the Indian Ocean?

My Lords, we would of course wish to see this vital area in the world remain stable and independent. That is in the interests of the countries in the area, as well as of the West as a whole. But the countries of the region should not be allowed to feel threatened by Soviet expansionism.

My Lords, would the Minister consider the more limited objective of the Americans agreeing not to proceed with the construction of bases in Somalia, on the grounds that the Soviet Union and the Cubans would agree to withdraw from Ethiopia?

My Lords, we will consider any proposal that enhances the security of the region, but I am not sure that that one does.

My Lords, would my noble friend not agree that if any nation, or group of nations, had known how to secure the neutralisation of any zone as a zone of peace, then there would never have been any wars?

My Lords, that is a fairly profound supplementary. My noble friend may well be right.

My Lords, is it not the case that the Soviet Union is actually supporting this proposal? If it is insincere in doing so, would it not be good for our Government and the West to test it by calling it to a conference to consider the proposal.

Quite frankly, my Lords, Soviet support of this proposal makes it all the more suspicious.

Greater Manchester Bill Hl

2.57 p.m.

rose to move, That this House do concur with the Orders made by the Commons set out in their Message of Wednesday 6th August last and that the Promoters of the Bill have leave to suspend any further proceedings thereon, in order to proceed with the Bill, if they shall think fit, in the next Session of Parliament, provided that notice of their intention to do so be lodged in the Office of the Clerk of the Parliaments not later than three o'clock on the day before the close of the present Session, and that all fees due thereon up to that period shall have been paid;

That such Bill shall he deposited in the Office of the Clerk of the Parliaments not later than three o'clock on the third day on which the House shall sit after the commencement of the next Session of Parliament, with a declaration annexed, signed by the Agent, stating that the Bill is the same in every respect as the Bill at the last stage of the proceedings thereon in this House in the present Session;

That the proceedings on such Bill shall in the next Session of Parliament be pro forma only in regard to every stage through which the same shall have passed in the present Session, and that no new fees be charged to such stages;

That the Standing Orders by which the proceedings on Bills are regulated shall not apply in the next Session of Parliament to such Bill in regard to any of the stages through which the same shall have passed during the present Session.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this Motion, it might be convenient for the House if I were to speak also to the second Motion in my name on the Order Paper. These rather long and complicated Motions are, in fact, for a simple purpose, to enable these Private Bills, if deposited again next Session, to continue their progress through Parliament. This procedure, which will enable the proceedings on the Bills to be formal in respect of the stages which they have passed this Session, will save delay and expense to all parties concerned.

The reason for the difference between the two Motions is that the Greater Manchester Bill started its progress in this House and is now in the other place, whereas the other four Bills are still under consideration in this House. It is in no way the fault of the promoters that the Bills are not ready for Royal Assent this Session, and I hope therefore that your Lordships will agree to this Motion. I beg to move the first Motion standing in my name.

Moved, That this House do concur with the Orders made by the Commons set out in their Message of Wednesday 6th August last and that the Promoters of the Bill have leave to suspend any further proceedings thereon, in order to proceed with the Bill, if they shall think fit, in the next Session of Parliament, provided that notice of their intention to do so he lodged in the Office of the Clerk of the Parliaments not later than three o'clock on the day before the close of the present Session, and that all fees due thereon up to that period shall have been paid;

That such Bill shall be deposited in the Office of the Clerk of the Parliaments not later than three o'clock on the third day on which the House shall sit after the commencement of the next Session of Parliament, with a declaration annexed, signed by the Agent, stating that the Bill is the same in every respect as the Bill at the last stage of the proceedings thereon in this House in the present Session;

That the proceedings on such Bill shall in the next Session of Parliament be pro forma only in regard to every stage through which the same shall have passed in the present Session, and that no new fees be charged to such stages;

That the Standing Orders by which the proceedings on Bills are regulated shall not apply in the next Session of Parliament to such Bill in regard to any of the stages through which the same shall have passed during the present Session.—( Lord Aberdare.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and a Message ordered to be sent to the Commons to acquaint them therewith.





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

Moved, That the Promoters of the Bills have leave to suspend any further proceedings thereon, in order to proceed with the Bills, if they shall think fit, in the next Session of Parliament, provided that notice of their intention to do so be lodged in the Office of the Clerk of the Parliaments not later than three o'clock on the day before the close of the present Session, and that all fees due thereon up to that period shall have been paid;

That such Bills shall be deposited in the Office of the Clerk of the Parliaments not later than three o'clock on the third day on which the House shall sit after the commencement of the next Session of Parliament, with a declaration annexed to each, signed by the Agent, stating that the Bill is the same in every respect as the Bill at the last stage of the proceedings thereon in this House in the present Session;

That the proceedings on such Bills shall in the next Session of Parliament be pro forma only in regard to every stage through which the same shall have passed in the present Session, and that no new fees be charged to such stages;

That the Standing Orders by which the proceedings on Bills are regulated shall not apply in the next Session of Parliament to such Bills in regard to any of the stages through which the same shall have passed during the present Session.—(Lord Aberdare.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and a Message ordered to be sent to the Commons to acquaint them therewith.

Education (Assisted Places) Regulations 1980

2.59 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move that the draft Education (Assisted Places) Regulations 1980, which were laid before your Lordships' House on 21st July, be approved. These regulations will provide the detailed framework for the operation of the assisted places scheme which is being established under Section 17 of the Education Act 1980. Your Lordships discussed that provision at some length when we considered the Education Bill in the spring and I remember clearly the points made about the scheme then, even though on one occasion the debate was in the early hours of the morning. But it may be for the convenience of the House to say again why we decided to introduce the scheme and how, in general terms, we see it working.

Our starting point was the decision of the previous Labour Administration to phase out the direct grant scheme which had operated successfully for many years. We determined that the considerable educational opportunities which that scheme had offered to the children of parents from all walks of life should not be destroyed. In particular we recognised that the direct grant schools had, in general, provided a highly disciplined academic environment which was of especial benefit to more able children. With the ending of the direct grant most of these schools decided to go independent and thus, except for a small number of bursaries, to charge full fees to all their pupils. In the last few years the excellent educational opportunities which the schools offered have consequently been denied to pupils from families of limited means who could not afford the fees charged.

We committed ourselves therefore to restoring a system whereby able children could take advantage of the academic kind of education offered by these schools, whatever their parents' level of income. We recognised that the old direct grant scheme had certain weaknesses. It gave an indiscriminate subsidy through completely free places and the capitation grant to some parents who could well have afforded to pay the fee. The schools in the scheme were very unevenly distributed throughout the country. They were neither maintained nor independent, and membership of the scheme was very inflexible. In restoring the opportunities lost with the ending of the direct grant scheme we sought to improve that scheme. The assisted places scheme will only provide a subsidy in accordance with parents' means, and by bringing into the new scheme independent schools which were not part of the direct grant scheme we will be both widening still further the educational opportunities on offer and improving markedly the geographical distribution of those opportunities.

Much has been made in the media and elsewhere about the assisted places scheme providing a subsidy for the public schools. That is quite wrong. The scheme is a scheme to help children; it is not a scheme to help schools. It is not a scheme to help the private sector of education. It is a scheme to allow the private sector to make what they have to offer more widely available, a scheme to help some children to attend good independent schools whose parents might wish them to do so, but who in most cases could not begin to think about affording the fees. This Government believe that that is the right attitude to independent schools: to make the best that they have to offer as widely available as possible. In this country we need the best education we can get for our pupils, to make available as wide a range of opportunities as possible, and to provide as best we can for the educational needs of each child. Maintained schools provide a very great deal, but the private sector can help supplement that provision, and it would be quite wrong to deny those wider opportunities to pupils who could benefit from them but whose parents cannot afford the fees.

Although the resources available for the assisted places scheme are not substantial, we thought it appropriate to make some of them available for the support of pupils attending certain music schools for specialist musicians of high ability and potential. The schools concerned are Chetham's School of Music in Manchester, Wells Cathedral School and the Purcell School in Harrow. This will be an extension of the arrangements instituted in 1973 in respect of the Yehudi Menuhin School and the Royal Ballet Lower School. The numbers of pupils to be assisted in this way and other details are being discussed with the five schools concerned, and we hope to be able to introduce regulations to deal with these arrangements in the next Session. I would emphasise, however, that although the money for this extension of our support for talented musicians of school age is being found initially from the assisted places scheme at a cost of about £150,000 in the first year, there will be separate schemes operated under separate sets of regulations.

Let me now turn to the schools which we are inviting to participate in the assisted places scheme. There were 470 schools in England and 17 schools in Wales which originally indicated an interest in the scheme. Of those, 290 in England and 11 in Wales were invited to submit formal applications specifying the number of assisted places they would wish to offer and providing details about each school and the academic achievements of its pupils. We considered all these applications carefully, looking in particular for breadth and balance of curriculum to GCE O and A-levels, for a well established sixth form offering a range of A-level subjects with reasonable numbers of candidates obtaining good results in those examinations, appropriately qualified and stable teaching staff and appropriate teaching facilities and accommodation. On that basis, we have now invited 218 schools in England and nine schools in Wales to join the scheme and to sign the necessary participation agreements.

The detailed figures are still subject to agreement with the schools concerned, but in total there will be about 5,500 places in England and 150 places in Wales next year, of which about 900 will be for direct entry into the sixth form.

About 2,440 places will be for boys, 2,240 places for girls and 970 places in mixed schools. Clearly the balance between boys' and girls' places will not be perfect everywhere. It is fairly close overall, but there are a few places where we have not been able to achieve such a close balance. I regret that, but we have done our best and, in the final analysis, we could not of course depart significantly from the balance between boys' and girls' places that already exists in the independent sector as a whole. The geographical distribution of places, too, shows some imbalance in favour of the North-West, Avon and the South-East. To some extent that reflects the old direct grant scheme which was heavily concentrated in those areas, but it also reflects the spread of independent schools generally around the country. In fact, while it is by no means perfect, the distribution of assisted places will represent a marked improvement on the geographical spread of the old direct grant scheme. That improvement has been achieved in large part by the likely involvement in the scheme of 109 independent schools which were not direct grant schools. Those schools will be providing about 37 per cent. of the assisted places on offer, and I find it pleasing that we shall have such a wide cross-section of schools in the scheme substantially enhancing the range of educational opportunities available.

The next steps will be for each of the schools to enter into participation agreements with the Secretary of State, as is required by Section 17 of the 1980 Act. When those have been completed the schools will set about the important task of selecting the pupils who will take up the first assisted places in September next year. All this planning and pre- paration has been going ahead so that the scheme can start in 1981. It is well-advanced and progressing satisfactorily, but it is of course only provisional and is entirely contingent upon the approval of these draft regulations in this debate today.

Section 17(6) of the 1980 Act sets out very clearly the matters which these regulations cover. Briefly they are: first, the conditions of eligibility for selection for an assisted place; second, the arrangements for the remission of fees and the reimbursement of schools for the fees which they remit; third, conditions relating to the selection and admission of pupils, the charging of fees, keeping accounts and providing information; and finally, any other matters the Secretary of State considers appropriate. I shall describe only some of the main provisions contained in these draft regulations and if there are detailed questions which your Lordships wish to raise during the course of the debate, I will try to answer them at the end.

The first part of the regulations deals with matters of definition and interpretation. In particular, it sets out the considerations which will apply if a pupil's parents are separated or divorced. This is always a difficult area, especially where, as in this scheme, the assessment of parental income is involved. We have therefore sought to cover the many possible circumstances fairly comprehensively so that parents and schools will know where they stand and so reduce the scope for disputes.

Your Lordships will notice that the definition of "fees" for the purposes of the scheme specifically excludes boarding fees. This is in line with Section 17 of the Act which restricts assistance under the scheme to tuition and examination fees only. However, a number of schools have offered to provide assistance with boarding fees from their own resources, and as a result it may be possible for perhaps up to 300 pupils gaining assisted places under the scheme to be boarders. I should emphasise, though, that schools will not be able to require assisted place holders to board unless the school is assisting with fees for that purpose.

Part II of the regulations deals with matters of eligibility and selection. Regula- tion 4 specifies that pupils must have been ordinarily resident in this country for three years before becoming eligible for an assisted place, or that they are the children of migrant workers from other states in the European Community. Regulation 5 provides that a child may only be admitted to an assisted place at a normal age of entry to the school and that he or she must be at least 11 when admitted, or reach that age during their first assisted year. Exceptions to the first of these rules will only be permitted if a pupil could be admitted to an assisted place alongside existing assisted placeholders of the same age.

Regulation 6 lays down further considerations that apply to the selection of pupils for direct entry to assisted places at sixth form level. This issue was much debated when the Bill was being considered, both by your Lordships and in another place. After discussions with local authorities and schools, we decided that it would be right to introduce an extra condition for sixth form entry. The regulation before your Lordships provides that transfers from maintained schools will normally take place only with the consent of the local education authority concerned. Thus, where an independent school can widen the educational opportunities available—by, for instance, offering additional subjects or combinations of subjects at A level—an authority would be able to take advantage of this extra provision at no cost to itself. On the other hand, if an authority was already providing the A level opportunities which pupils sought and if it did not wish its sixth forms reduced by transfers to independent schools, it could withhold its consent. We believe that this regulation, used responsibly by authorities, will help to overcome the difficulties which were foreseen about sixth form entries; and indeed that it may serve to encourage fruitful co-operation between maintained and independent schools.

Under Regulation 7, pupils will not be eligible for assisted places unless they qualify for fee remission under the income scale in their first assisted year. There is however provision in Regulations 5(2)(b) and 6(2)(b) for pupils whose parents fall on hard times after entering their children in a school as fee-payers to be eligible to be considered for assistance at that time.

Regulation 8 places the basic responsibility for selecting the pupils on the schools themselves. I am sure that that is right. Judgments about whether or not particular children can benefit from the education offered by a specific school can clearly best be made by that school in the light of the individual circumstances and after the fullest consultation with parents and others involved.

The detailed arrangements for the remission of fees are dealt with in Part III and the schedule to the draft regulations. I do not propose to describe them at length, as the provisions are necessarily complex. Basically, the contribution which parents are required to pay towards school fees will be assessed in relation to their total income and the unearned income of their dependent children in the previous financial year. The only exclusions from that total income figure will be child benefit, certain disability allowances, and £600 for each dependent child (or other dependent relative) except the assisted placeholder.

The means test or income scale against which the figure of the family's relevant income will be set has been designed to be generous to the less well off, so that families at the bottom end of the scale receive free places or make only small contributions to fees. However, once income levels start to exceed the national average, parental contributions will increase more steeply, with parents paying at the margin between 30 per cent. and 50 per cent. of their net income. In practice this means that families with a relevant income of £4,766 or less will have fees remitted completely in 1981–82; those with relevant incomes of £5,500 would pay £99; those with £7,500 would pay £480; and then the scale increases more sharply so that families with relevant incomes of £11,000 would pay fees of up to £1,500 before they received any assistance. We have always made it clear that the scheme is not intended to help those who could afford independent school fees themselves, possibly by making some relatively slight additional sacrifice. Rather we have sought to ensure that the lower and middle income groups who could not otherwise possibly afford independent school fees get sufficient assistance to make it a real possibility that they could take advantage of the scheme.

While I am on the subject of the extent of financial assistance, your Lordships may find it useful to know that, in addition to the remission of tuition fees, the Government intend to help less well off families with the incidential expenses of assisted place holders—that is, with the cost of school meals, uniforms and transport. The Secretary of State will be making regulations under Section 18 of the 1980 Act, covering those expenses, in due course, but I should make it quite clear that these will be met from the resources of the scheme. This will not be an extra provision.

The remaining parts of the draft regulations cover various administrative and miscellaneous requirements. There are two of these to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention. First, Regulation 18 will require the schools to publish information about the scheme and about themselves. In particular, it will place the same requirements on independent schools in the scheme as on maintained schools regarding the publication of the public examination results achieved by their pupils.

Secondly, Regulation 19 will require that at least 60 per cent. of assisted place-holders be drawn from publicly maintained schools. In fact, because the income scale is so strict, it seems unlikely that many pupils whose parents have afforded the fees at independent junior schools would be eligible, on income grounds, for assisted places at secondary level. We therefore fully expect the proportion of assisted placeholders from maintained schools to be higher than 60 per cent., but this regulation will provide a minimum safeguard.

My Lords, I have outlined the major features of these draft regulations. I believe that the regulations will provide a sound administrative framework for the operation of the assisted places scheme and I commend them to your Lordships. I am sure that the scheme which they will regulate will be of great benefit to able children in this country and that the widening of educational opportunities that it will offer from September next year will be a significant step forward in meeting the educational needs of all our children. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft Education (Assisted Places) Regulations 1980 be approved.—(Baroness Young.)

3.16 p.m.

My Lords, this is indeed a momentous occasion. The Government are proposing to increase public expenditure and, what is even more remarkable, they are proposing to increase it on education and they have found a new way of doing so because these regulations are a method by which a new channel of transferring public money to private persons may be opened. This is contrary to the Government's general approach. Every day when we open the papers we learn of the state of play inside the Cabinet and exactly which social services are to be hardest hit, in addition to the cuts which have been imposed already. We must therefore presume that with these regulations which provide for increased public expenditure through a new channel we are dealing with something that is absolutely essential to the national survival, because I am sure the noble Baroness would not have proposed anything so irresponsible as an increase in public expenditure unless she was sure that the nation's survival depended upon the speedy introduction of the assisted places scheme. I am afraid there are some of my noble friends who might not share that view; who might consider that to come forward with this proposal, which we are told is going to run up to over £50 million in the end, in the present situation of cuts and economy is little short of grotesque.

The proposed intention of this scheme was to help poor, bright children to get an education, which, it was alleged, they would not be able to get elsewhere. I do not think there is any dispute; that was the argument behind this. As to "poor", like the noble Baroness I do not propose to go through a tedious account of the exact working of the sliding scale, but I think there is just one example that will make clear the general point that many of us on this side of the House have in mind. A family with two dependent children and an income of £4,000 is considered to be too prosperous to be able to get free school meals whereas a family with one child and an income of £8,000 will, if they are lucky, get in effect a gift of £500 under this scheme. It is extremely difficult to defend that or to know exactly what the Government meant when they talked about "poor", bright children.

The noble Baroness is reported as having claimed that expenditure in this way will widen parental choice. Of course, if you take a particular parent and say, "If you fulfil certain conditions and are one of the lucky ones, you will get £500 more to spend on your child's education", you obviously widen the parental choice of that parent. But you do it, as it becoming increasingly apparent, at the expense of other parents who have to send their children to schools that are not being assisted in this fashion, that are indeed being repeatedly cut, partly because of the expenditure under this scheme.

Then they are to be bright children. What do the regulations say about that? This is a very interesting point. The theory behind this business is that you can, when the child is about 11, spot it as bright, a high flyer who ought to receive a special kind of education, and you work also on the assumption that it cannot get that education in the State system of education. But the regulations say no more than that to be a child helped by this scheme it must be capable of benefiting from the education provided by the school. One would hope it was; one would hope the school could at least do that. But what they ought to be demonstrating, and what there is no attempt to demonstrate, is that it could not get the education from which it could benefit in the ordinary state system. How do you prove that?

It has often been asserted in the general argument about comprehensive secondary education that there are children who must be treated in this special manner. There is not a word in the regulations about how they are identified. They are to be chosen; it is not parental choice—by the schools participating in the scheme. There will be no attempt to consider whether or of they could have done at least as well in the state system. This is the shadowy justification advanced for the specialised expenditure of public money on what, I must say I think fortunately, is a very few families. But it is in fact a form of favouritism to those families whose children are approved and chosen by these schools.

We now know, as we did not know when we were discussing the Education Act, that when the Government devised this scheme they had in their possession a fairly extensive report on education in the nation's own schools which disposed of the proposition that bright children cannot get a proper education at comprehensive schools. That is something which has been alleged for a long time. The weight of evidence has been steadily mounting against it; there has been this recent report which went heavily against it, which was in the Government's possession, but not yet published, when we debated the Education Act. It has since been published.

I say, therefore, that this aspect of the scheme is nonsensical. It is based on the propositions, first, that there are these children suffering in the State system, secondly, that they can be adequately identified, and, thirdly, that this justifies an exceptional expenditure of money on them, partly at the expense of all the other children in the country needing education. I would say this is a nonsensical as well as an unjust proposition.

What is going to be the effect on the nation's own schools? I repeat that for my part I am at any rate glad that the scheme is limited in scope. But so far as it has an effect on the nation's own schools it will be what is called a "creaming off" effect. It is intended to be. The scheme will be considered to be working at its best if the really most gifted children are taken out of the nation's own schools. And—this has been added since the debate on the Bill—this is to be done in the sixth form as well.

What is one of the criticisms often levelled against comprehensive schools? That they could not build up an adequate and viable sixth form. Very tiresomely from the point of view of the pundits, they began to disprove this in practice. Then the Government come along and say, "You are building up viable sixth forms. Well, we are going to try and encourage your most gifted children in the sixth forms to shunt somewhere else". We are told that the sixth form part of the scheme can operate only with the consent of the local education authority. So far so good. But the Secretary of State for Education is on record as saying quite recently that if local authorities behaved in a way that he would consider unreasonable he would take steps to ensure that they could not do so. This is the story of the Local Government Planning and Land Bill all over again. Things are what the Secretary of State considers they ought to be. If the local authorities use the power that these regulations give them in a way that the Secretary of State does not like, the power is to be taken away from them.

This is tied up with the recent requirement that schools should publish examination results. I have never minded that so much, but I think that if schools are to publish examination results local authorities ought also to publish how much they spend per child on each of the schools for which they are responsible. In both those cases they are an interesting set of facts, from which people can draw their deductions. But what the Government have done here is to say, "The schools must publish examination results, and we are taking steps to shift some of the brightest children from the nations' schools to private schools and thus to tilt the examination results, if we can, in favour of the private sector. Then we shall be able to turn round and say, ' These comprehensive schools are not doing so well. Look at the exam results!'".

The noble Baroness said this was not a scheme to help the private schools, but does she suggest that an arrangement the whole purpose of which is to attract the abler pupils out of the nation's schools into the private schools is not a scheme to help the private schools? If it is not, the whole argument for the proposal falls down. I must mention that the noble Baroness brought into her speech, although, as she said, it is not actually in the regulations, the additional provision of grants for clothing, meals and transport for children affected by the scheme. It is worthwhile noticing, again as a measure of the Government's sense of priorities, that the grants to be made, if what the Secretary of State has so far said is to be believed, are substantially more generous than the clothing, meals and transport provisions made for children in the public sector, even where such grants exist, because they are discretionary and in some cases do not exist at all.

What is the justification for this, for picking out a small particular group of children and saying, "We are going to treat you better than the rest, at the public expense, in the matter not only of education, but your clothes, your meals and your way of getting to school". I would warn the noble Baroness of this: even so, the grants proposed to be made will in many cases fall far short of what the parents will find they are expected to spend on clothing when their children go to one of these schools. They will find that, although they get the assistance under the scheme, although they get the clothing grant, there is a considerable gap between the clothing grant provided and what the school will require them to spend over and above what they would have spent if the child had been at home in the ordinary way.

This means that it will be much harder for really poor parents to benefit under this scheme than for those who are approaching a middle class level of expenditure and income. That, I may say, was one of the features of the old direct grant schools scheme, and one of the features that made it unattractive, that all too often it was extra help to those who did not really need it in comparison with the needs of education as a whole and of the children of the whole nation.

All these matters are, in a sense, matters of detail—exactly what children, how much, and so on. Of course, our objection goes a great deal deeper, and we ought not, I think, to allow the argument to trail away merely into the details of the financial scheme, or which schools or where the schools are. Indeed, the whole thing reminds me very much of an argument put forward by G. K. Chesterton; I am afraid I cannot quote it exactly but I have the sense correctly. He was criticising a particular form of argument and he did it with the following example:
"While there may be two opinions about the desirability of injecting gin into the veins of babies, everyone will agree that if it is done at all it should be done by a qualified medical practitioner".
We might all agree that if we are to have this sort of thing, this may be as good a way or as bad a way as any other of doing it, but we ought not to avert our eyes from the main question of what it is we are doing.

This is a piece of favouritism based on nonsensical ideas about how one chooses the exceptionally bright children and treating the nation's own schools with something that is unpleasantly like malice by putting them in a position in which they are always in danger of having unfavourable comparisons made between them and the private schools and producing that result by expenditure from public funds in, as I say, a form of legalised favouritism. We must put this against the background of what is being done elsewhere in education. The nation's own schools are being hit with regard to the size of their classes, their equipment, their books; and not only the ordinary schools but the reduction of nursery provision, and now pressing on us the alarming reductions that are going to have to be made in the provisions for adult education. Up to now we have been told, "Oh, but this scheme is not coming out of the education budget; this is something quite separate." Can the Government say that now?

They are considering further cuts in education. If they make any further cuts affecting the ordinary schools, instead of scrapping this scheme, they are undoubtedly preferring this scheme to the needs of the rest of the education service. Even if it were not the rest of the education service it is at the expense of something, and the newspapers are full of agreeable suggestions as to what the Government will cut next. Are old-age pensioners going to have to pay prescription charges in order to find the money for this kind of thing? If it is not that, it will be something else of that kind. The thing itself is a piece of malicious nonsense, and for the Government to bring it forward in this present atmosphere of economy and cuts is astounding. We are told it is to cost £3 million this year and when it is full grown it will rise to £55 million. I have a strong feeling that before it is full grown that figure will have grown as well. Whether it is £55 million, £50 million, £5 million, £5 or 5p, it is too much to pay for this piece of malicious nonsense.

3.34 p.m.

My Lords, I am overcome by a sense of déjà vu. It brings me back to the days of the last Conservative Government. Your Lordships may remember noble Lords rising in their places opposite, on the Government Front Bench, and ticking off the election manifesto pledges one by one just for the sake of it, no matter how irrelevant or silly the promise might seem in the light of the cold post-election dawn. When the champagne of coming electoral victory is bubbling in the veins, how many rash commitments are made! It is understandable. But how raddled the object of our attentions looks the next morning when the champagne has given way to a hangover. And for this Government, what a hangover!

A close perusal of the scheme before us shows that it falls firmly into this category: at first glimpse, an attractive election promise. Every child has in his knapsack, if not a field marshal's baton with which to win the Battle of Waterloo at least a cricket bat to triumph on the playing fields of Eton. At first glance, it is an attractive election promise, but now it looks very threadbare indeed. Looking round the educational world one can see only two bodies who are in favour—the independent schools, who are to get more paying customers together with a few tattered figleaves to cover the nakedness of their social conscience, and the Conservative Education Ministers. Your Lordships will be relieved to hear that my speech will be even shorter than is usually my wont, since a certain portion of any normal speech in opposition to a Government measure is given to refuting the arguments put forward in its favour by the Government. But in this particular case there are hardly any Government arguments to refute.

Last week the Secretary of State said, at column 625 on 29th October:
"All I will say now about the principle of the scheme is that it is not for the benefit of the schools or the teachers or even the parents".
He can say that again! Since he is not here, I will. It is not for the benefit of the schools or the teachers or even the parents. Such an admission certainly sweeps the ground from under our feet. Such modesty in Ministers is unusual. But the Secretary of State did make one claim—that the measure is:
"… first and foremost for the benefit of the children".
That is a splendid claim and if it were true maybe we could discard the schools, the teachers and the parents as unimportant, as the Secretary of State for Education does. But it is not true. First, it is not true because it is impossible for us to disentangle what is good for the child from what is good for the parents, the teachers and the schools. The whole interacts: it is all part not just of the education scheme but of the pattern of bringing up children; and if it is not for the benefit of the schools, the parents and the teachers, it is hard to see that it can possibly be good for the children. It is a very simplistic view of the education scene which could isolate one factor like that; but simplistic views of education are the kind that we are used to over the last few years from the Conservative Party.

Secondly, it is not true because if the sixth forms of schools are going to be drained of their best pupils, especially at a time of falling rolls, it will be very bad indeed for the children. It is true that the Government have laid down that a child may not take advantage of this scheme at 16 without the permission of the local education authority. So far as it goes, that is a good thing; and there are other good things in these regulations. For one, I welcome the commitment to helping children to music schools and to ballet schools, which was a commitment given at a previous stage by the Government. But this is about the permission of the local education authority.

On the face of it, it looks just an invitation to educational chaos throughout the country. As the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, said, it is true that the Government now say, "Well, maybe the agreement of the local education authority won't be necessary if we don't agree with it". Let us see. It seems almost impossible that the Government could behave like that, but after the Local Government Bill I suppose they could behave in any dictatorial way they want to local authorities. But if it goes on the way it is meant to, it will certainly cause chaos. Some Labour-controlled councils will refuse all applications; some Conservative ones presumably will accept as many as possible, for exactly the opposite reason. In fact only the quite fast-growing number of Liberal local education authorities look as though they will be treating the matter on its merits—although that, of course, should occasion no surprise.

That we should be seriously contemplating such a dog's dinner shows how absurd are the efforts to use education as a counter in the ideological game. And I may say that the Government are not the only guilty ones. The destruction of the direct grant schools was just as ideological and, in addition, it widened and deepened the chasm between the independent and the state sectors. There was a time when the education of this country was, if not a seamless garment, at least a coherent spectrum and there were people of goodwill of all parties prepared and able to work together across that spectrum. We had a couple of very good Government reports—the Donaldson Reports—at that time, which spelt out ways in which we could have gone forward, and the Liberal Party for one was prepared to do so.

But, the divisive policies of the adversary politics of this country, the pandering to the extremes of the supporters of each party, and the successive reigns of Secretaries of State—some of whom, with honourable exceptions, knew nothing about the subject—have widened a crack between the two sectors into a chasm so that it has now become literally impossible to see how that chasm can be bridged. However, this is not the way to bridge it, because this is a way which is harmful to schools and to the morale of teachers, parents and children, harmful to the morale of all who are trying to make the state sector work. It is, without any doubt, divisive. It may be of worth to some children, but it will be harmful to many more. It is a misuse of money in a field which needs much more, particularly when it has to prepare children for the type of world that they will go out to in the next few years. It is a folly and I invite your Lordships to reject it.

3.42 p.m.

My Lords, I have said so much about this subject at various hours of the day and night that I am reluctant to say any more. Indeed, I did not think that it would really be necessary because I thought that, after reflection and when seeing what in fact was actually proposed by this measure, a larger number of noble Lords than seems to be the case would have come to the conclusion that, although it was not perfect, this proposal did at any rate go some way towards meeting what so many of us have as a great objective—and that is, the enlargement of opportunity. I took the view that, by this time and with thought one would see—even if one was not going all the way, even if one did not like it as well as the direct grant system which unfortunately was so ruthlessly butchered—that there was something to be said for it in spite of the objections. I think that I was over-optimistic in believing that rationality would triumph over doctrinaire belief to that extent.

Some of the objections have been answered by simply looking at the list of schools. The first objection has been dealt with by the noble Baroness and that was that the distribution of schools was too uneven. That criticism was indeed one of the weaknesses of the direct grant system. If we look at the list of schools and examine it we find that, so far as possible, that weakness has been overcome. A second objection—and it has been brought up this afternoon, although not quite in the same words—is that these are measures to bolster ailing independent schools. If we look at the list we find, as the noble Baroness said, that the greater part consists of the former direct grant schools enriched by some voluntary aided schools that had been forced into unwilling independence. But we also see that they have been enriched by some schools that have always been independent and which, so far from being ailing, are acknowledged as being among the great schools of this country.

But, of course, those are not the fundamental objections, they are not the weighty ones. The weighty objections have been put forward with great force, at any rate by implication, by the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, as one would expect. Is not this scheme an admission of failure as regards the maintained sector? Will it not lead to loss of morale in the schools within that sector? Is not the answer to make all our schools capable of educating the ablest children? The answer to the last question is quite bluntly, no, it is not, because it is impossible and it is disingenuous to pretend that it is anything else but impossible.

We all know only too well that in some subjects there is such a shortage of properly qualified teachers that it is difficult to teach up to O-level, let alone to stretch the abilities of the minority. We know, too, that this situation is likely to persist for the foreseeable future. We also know that there is insufficient demand for some valuable subjects, so that it is simply economic nonsense to provide them everywhere. There is a point where idealism simply becomes wishful thinking, where admirable aspirations degenerate into disingenuity, and that point has been passed when we speak as if by waving a wand we should enable every school to teach advanced mathematics or advanced physics or Greek. Teachers capable of teaching those things are so limited in numbers that the only sensible course is to take the children to them, and that is what this scheme proposes.

However, the difficult question is why they must go to independent schools. Here, of course, there is great confusion. The schools on the list of participating schools are not there primarily because they are independent: they are there because they are academically very good. The tragic aspect is that until the last few years the majority of those schools were not on a list of independent schools at all—they were not independent, they were driven into independence.

I hold no brief for independent schools as such. I was educated in the maintained sector. One of the bitterest days in my life was when Manchester Grammar School, after I had ceased to be headmaster of it but with my knowledge and approval, had to go independent. I do not defend the independent schools because they are independent, but if we destroy the direct grant system, if we actually make it illegal to choose children on grounds of intellectual ability, then we make it inevitable that it will be more difficult for the state sector to acquire the staffs and the expertise to educate the most able children. But, in any case, if a maintained school can educate those children in any field, then there is absolutely nothing in these measures to stop it. Indeed, if transfer occurs at the sixth form stage the permission of the local authority, as we have been told, is required.

I could justify these proposals in terms of national need and economic necessity. Great fun was made of the idea that this was a national necessity and so on. By gum! it is. If we believe in education, if we believe in the future of this country depending on the abilities of our citizens, then something like this is a question of national necessity and this is not an occasion for making slightly facetious remarks about it. We could justify it in terms of economic and national necessity, and we must, for we dare not neglect the development of the abilities of our most able and gifted children.

However, I would not ask noble Lords to justify the scheme simply on those grounds. I would ask them to think, not of economies and still less of this kind of school or that kind of school—of labels—but rather of the individual child and his or her development. I still have sufficient faith in the profession to which I once belonged to believe that most heads will not think in terms of prestige or whether the transfer of a child is a reflection on their school; but, rather, they will try to give an honest answer to the question: "Has this school—if you like, my school—the teaching capacity to give that particular child the intellectual stimulus that he or she needs and deserves?". If the answer is "yes" and there are a number of maintained schools where this will still be true—well and good. But if the answer is "no", then these proposals are a way—perhaps not the best way, but a way—to provide those opportunities, whatever may be the social or the economic circumstances of the parents.

These regulations may not be the perfect answer. They may well be modified in the light of experience. But I am sure that the principle that they embody, the principle of finding the appropriate education for each child, is the right one. In the name of national need, of educational common sense, but above all of social justice, I hope that your Lordships will welcome them.

3.52 p.m.

My Lords, after the brilliantly devastating speech made by my noble friend Lord Stewart of Fulham there is very little left to add from these Benches. I have listened with interest to the speech which we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord James, whom on most subjects other than education I can call my noble friend Lord James. He reminded us, if we needed any reminding, that he was headmaster of Manchester Grammar School, and he also reminded us that it was a very good school; and it was a very good school. But we must remember that Manchester Grammar School has the cream of practically every school in the county of Lancashire, so it ought to have been a very good school, and it was. All the best children from practically every school, not only in Manchester but in the surrounding area of Lancashire, went to Manchester Grammar School.

These regulations deal with details; but, as usual, when we pass Acts of Parliament we pass principles, and then we are asked to leave the details to orders which will come at some subsequent time. Then we receive a booklet of orders which we cannot amend in any way. We cannot amend any of the details; we have either to take the whole thing as it stands or reject it as it stands. I hope that we shall reject these regulations as they stand.

Today, what we are discussing must, in effect, be the principle because we have to vote on these regulations and not on each particular detail within them. I find these regulations most objectionable, and that view is shared by practically every educational body in this country, by nearly every teachers' organisation and every educational organisation. Very often educational bodies are at daggers drawn on many matters, but I think that they are more united on this than I have known them to be on any other educational subject.

By these regulations we are ensuring that public money is to be spent on selected children—and I underline "selected" children—in so-called superior schools. What will this do? First, the idea that there are some superior schools devalues state education. Secondly, it will cream off some of the most able children from our state schools, and will institute a very superior selective system at a time when most educational authorities either have got rid of or are in the process of getting rid of the iniquitous 11-plus selection. But we are to have some super-selection, and although the 11-plus was never fair, this will be even less fair because this selection will be carried out, not by the schools which the children are leaving, but by the schools to which they are going. Also, it will be very uneven throughout the country.

It may be that among your Lordships there are many who agree with this, but even those who agree with it would surely not say that this is the time to bring in such regulations. We are told that even at this very moment the Cabinet is sitting in order to try to find new economies; and we were told by Mr. Carlisle, the Secretary of State for Education, at the weekend that education must take its share of these economies. At a time of cuts in education surely we should not be spending millions of pounds to put these regulations into operation. The Cabinet is looking round desperately for economies and savings, so if we do not pass these regulations their deliberations might not take so long.

It has been said that these regulations will benefit the poorer children, but if we look at the scales that are set down in the regulations we see that a man with a wife and two children, earning about £11,000 a year, can still be helped to send his children to private schools. As I say, we are concerned with all the regulations, but I want to pinpoint just one part of them, for I am particularly concerned about what will happen to the sixth forms in maintained schools. The Government say that many sixth forms in local authority schools are not viable or cannot provide certain subjects; they do not have the staff to provide certain subjects.

The Government say that the solution is to transfer some children from the maintained schools to the independent schools at the age of 16. Surely this will make the sixth forms in the state schools less viable and smaller. Surely that is what will happen—they wilt be much less viable if these children are creamed off into the independent sector. We must remember that by creaming off children at the age of 11 from the state schools into the independent schools, we are taking potential sixth formers into the independent schools at the age of 11. Thus, the state schools will be robbed of the kind of pupils who will go into the sixth forms. How much better it would be to spend this money on local authority sixth forms in order to make them more viable.

We are told that this will cost between £50 million and £60 million in a few years' time. Let us think what could be done in the state system in the sixth forms with that £50 million or £60 million. The part of the regulations that deals with sixth forms is rather vague. I am not sure how they will be chosen. I am not sure what the financial arrangements will be. Is it going to be left to the parent to say, "I wish my child in the sixth form to go to an independent school and I am willing to pay whatever it is I have to pay", or will they just be chosen by ability, or what? We have not been told many details about this.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, when she moved this order this afternoon, stressed that the local education authority can withhold consent; but in another place, on 29th October, her right honourable friend Mr. Carlisle made a veiled threat to local authorities if they did withhold consent for sixth formers to go from the state schools to independent schools. He said:
"I have taken no reserve powers but if local education authorities choose irrespective of the educational merit of individual children, to take a blanket decision to refuse to allow children to move, even though the authorities are unable to provide opportunities … I may have to consider taking reserve powers".—[Official Report, Commons, col. 629.]
Now I am not sure quite how far the local authorities are going to have the right to refuse the transfer of their sixth formers from their schools to the independent schools.

I am absolutely against this order as it stands, not just the details of the order. I believe it is wrong in principle, and I believe that at this time the money could be better spent on equipment and staff to provide viable sixth forms in local authorities' schools; and if the Cabinet is this week seeking to find more economies then I suggest that the No. 1 economy that they could make is to take this order back and scrap the whole thing.

4.2 p.m.

My Lords, it is tempting to go back to the debate on the Education Act 1980. I do not propose to do so, although I gather that that is the trend of the present debate. In my simplicity, I thought the issue of principle as to whether there was to be a scheme of this kind had been settled when the Education Act was passed by your Lordships' House. I would therefore merely like to ask one question. As I understood the noble Minister, she said there would be a requirement of three years' residence in the case of normal residents, but not in the case of the children of migrant workers. If I understood correctly, this would seem to suggest that the children of migrantworkers from Europe are in a more favourable position than children normally resident in this country. I should be very grateful if that could be clarified later.

4.3 p.m.

My Lords, I could not let these regulations go without expressing my disgust at them. This scheme at any time would be educationally indefensible and socially divisive, but coming as it does in present circumstances it is a monstrous misdirection of valuable scarce resources, and it is on those three points that I want to say a brief word. First, I call attention to the circumstances in which the regulations are being introduced. The Government have been in office for a year and a half. By their rigid adherence to an untenable economic policy they are slowly strangling British industry.

The manufacturing base of our industry is contracting at an alarming rate. Unemployment is over 2 million and on the way up to 3 million. There are widespread closures of factories and plant, very often in our most efficient, biggest industries. And for good measure the Government are flogging—and that is the right word—valuable national assets. They are eating the seed corn. If this Government left office today, I believe it would take a decade for the economy to recover. If they stay in office for their full term, the economy may well never recover.

Not content with strangling the economy, this Government are also inflicting great damage on the social services, and probably most of all on the education system. Tens of thousands of teachers are unemployed, after a long and expensive training, and others are being put out of work every month. Schools are denuded of teaching material, especially books. The most mean, petty, contemptible cuts are being made in meals, milk and school transport. Now we are told that even more horrific cuts are being planned.

My Lords, it is in the context of what is being done to the economy and the social services that this squalid little scheme is being introduced. It is a scheme to give assisted places in private schools—as I prefer to call them, not independent schools—for initially 5,500 children, building up to 35,000 children, of parents whose incomes go up to £11,000, although there is some help above that, with provision for giving assistance with meals, uniform and transport, as my noble friend on the Front Bench has said, on more generous terms than for children in the maintained schools. This is to cost £3 million this year, rising to something like £50 million in six or seven years' time. So the most mean, miserable, degrading cuts are being made in the education system in the year in which this scheme is being introduced. My Lords, it would be difficult to find a more inappropriate scheme to introduce in the conditions created by the Government's policy. So that is the context.

Secondly, it is socially divisive. May I say that I started my career teaching in a primary school in a mining village in the North-East of England, so I know about the 11-plus and the effect that that had on communities. Most local education authorities, whatever their politics, over the last few years have got rid of the 11-plus by introducing the common secondary school; but, of course, this is a device that well-to-do people have always had—Eton and Harrow are two of the best comprehensive schools in the country. Here are this Government bringing it back again, only in a worse form than it was previously, because this time it is voluntary.

In Newcastle, a small city, the city which I represented for 25 years in another place, five independent schools are going to participate. Apart from the shadow that this is going to cast over the primary school teaching, way back to the infant school—and it will do that—it is going to divide 11-year-olds once more into passes and failures. Of course they are nothing of the sort, but that is how they will come to be regarded in the community, in the streets from which the children go to school. If British society is ever to lose the snobbish divisiveness which defaces it at present, it must end the divisiveness in the education system. There are two major causes of this divisiveness. The 11-plus was one of them, which we all hoped and believed we had got rid of. So this scheme is socially divisive.

Thirdly, my Lords, it is educationally indefensible. There are so many reasons for saying this. Let me mention one or two. First, it is based on the utterly false assumption that education in the private schools is better than that in the maintained schools; that it is more academic, whatever that may mean. Anybody who has looked at the recent statistical evidence on examination results will know that this assumption is utter nonsense. It does not bear examination now. It may have done at one time; it certainly does not today.

Again, this is going to do very great harm, I believe, to the county schools. Let us please remember that we have no state schools in this country; they are all county schools. I repeat, it will do great harm to the county schools. Imagine the effect in Newcastle, which I have mentioned, where five private schools are going to cream off the most able children from the county schools.

Of course the private schools want this scheme because in recent years, with the present inflation rate, the main criterion for admission to a private school is the length of the parents' purse. For some time it has had little to do with ability. The influx of abler children into private schools of course will boost their examination results and boost their university admissions, but the converse is that in all the county schools in Newcastle and elsewhere where this scheme operates the examination results will be depressed, and university admissions will be depressed. That will be the effect on the county schools.

Again, a major part of the case for the comprehensive school is that it is big enough in size and ability range to provide a wide variety of courses—indeed, a course tailor-made to suit each child. If its most able children are removed it may not in many cases be able to do this. I can well imagine that many minority interest subjects will disappear from the curricula of the comprehensive schools.

In addition to the effect on the viability of courses, it is a well known principle of education that children learn a great deal from each other; in fact, I sometimes think more than they do from their teachers. Just imagine the effects, again in Newcastle: the demoralising, deadening, depressed effect of siphoning off all the really bright children from those forms in those county secondary schools. For all these reasons this is a thoroughly had scheme. It is socially regressive; it is educationally indefensible. But to introduce it at this point in time displays elitism and an insensitivity which, my Lords, beggars description.

4.13 p.m.

My Lords, at the outset perhaps I should declare an interest because I happen to be chairman of the governing body of one of the independent schools which has been invited to participate in the scheme. The school has been independent since 1565, and, since the point has been raised, we see no particular benefit from our own purely selfish point of view in participating in the scheme, and I shall have no axe to grind on behalf of the school in what I say this afternoon. I merely want to make two points about the regulations under the scheme. First, independent schools are being put on the spot, for reasons which I shall mention, by being invited to participate; secondly, if these regulations are approved and the scheme comes about, I hope that it may be only the beginning and that it will be developed in ways that will make it more generally acceptable.

I say that independent schools are being put in an unfair position, because it seems to me that education has for far too long been the plaything of politics, with most harmful results. It seems, especially following the lines of the debate this afternoon, that this was never more so than with the scheme in front of us today. Whatever its merits—and indeed there are many—the fact is that it is resisted by the Opposition and has become a subject of controvery. Therefore, the independent schools which have been invited to participate run the risk of being regarded as supporters of one political party if they participate, or supporters of another political party if they refuse to participate.

Like many of us on the Cross-Benches, independent schools on the whole prefer not to be put in such an embarrassing position. I think that both parties are responsible for this unfortunate state of affairs. The Government scheme in front of us today, as speakers from the Oppostion Benches have not hesitated to point out with some colour, is largely irrelevant to the current needs of the day and is particularly difficult at a time when so many sacrifices are being called for in the rest of the educational sphere.

The main need today is to bring about closer collaboration and understanding between the two sectors in our educational world. They should complement each other and not confront each other. The present scheme, far from achieving that at present, although it is my hope that it will be able to do so eventually, is in fact widening the gap because it is leading to the complaints that we have heard this afternoon that it tends to regard public education as a second-class citizen and may lead to creaming off the best students for the independent schools.

That is on the one side, but none of this seems to me to excuse the attitude of the Labour Party towards this problem. They have always expressed a degree of hostility towards the independent schools, and I think by their destruction of the direct grant system were largely responsible for the scheme that has been put before us today. They have now, in what to me seems rather an extraordinary action, informed independent schools who have been invited to participate that if a Labour Government are returned to power they will end the scheme within the same academic year in which that Government are returned to power. I find it difficult to believe this because it would leave the children high and dry in the middle of their course, but nevertheless the financial consequences are obviously a factor which schools have to weigh very seriously in considering their participation.

So much for the general background. On the regulations themselves, I would not wish in any way to oppose them. I am concerned at some of them. Some of them seem to contain pretty wide powers; notably paragraphs 22, 23, and 24 dealing with the returns, accounts, and employment of teachers. I know we have received assurances that they would be interpreted reasonably, and no doubt this will be so, but of course one can never count on the unforeseen Secretary of State in several years' time who may not be so reasonable. I am also a little worried by what I would call the bureaucratisation of this scheme. No doubt that is inevitable, but it is a complicated scheme and will throw a heavy burden of extra work on the Government, on officialdom, on local authorities, and of course on all participating schools.

In conclusion, I would simply say that the scheme could serve some important aims: first, of providing a wider range of opportunities for able children; secondly, of assisting the independent schools in their perfectly genuine and often expressed wish to broaden socially their intake; and thirdly, of bringing about a greater degree of co-operation between the two systems operating in the country. The aim must surely he to find ways for children to benefit in the independent schools from those parts of life which genuinely complement opportunities in the maintained schools, so that the children can enjoy those opportunities regardless of parental income.

I would end with two suggestions which, if they could be developed in future, would help to make the scheme more acceptable. The first is that the scheme should enable education to be provided which is demonstrably not available in the maintained sector. There are various ways in which this could be done. The most important one I think is in boarding, which at the moment, as has been explained, is excluded from Government aid, although a number of independent schools if they accept pupils under the scheme and take them in as boarders would themselves make the necessary contribution for the boarding side. If boarding could be included it would help not only those families—and there are genuine cases—where children need to be kept away from home, possibly because the parents are serving abroad or for other reasons, but also those families in remote areas where no schools of comparable quality are available. Opportunities for the brighter child could be provided which could not otherwise be provided.

Further, I should have thought that wider opportunities might be given for the sixth form entry. At present, although provision is made for it, it is quite strictly limited, although it is perhaps the most fruitful area for future co-operation between the maintained and independent sector. If the scheme can be developed along these lines and in other ways, I shall then be more hopeful that it can play a constructive part and perhaps help to lessen the divide which unfortunately exists between the two nations at present in our country.

My Lords, it is amazing to think that at this moment in history one can drive a motor-car through a city and see an advertisement for baked beans which is half the size of the area of the Throne, suggesting that kids collect the labels and so forth to help their school get books. What a wonderful comment on the sort of civilisation in which we are beginning to live! For the life of me, I cannot understand why all this nonsense is being introduced; it is reactionary, astounding, and is trying to put the clock back. What is more, this measure is badly put together, and therefore I want an explanation of paragraph 4.—(2), which says:

"The child referred to in paragraph 1(b) is one who is resident in the British Islands on the relevant date and is the child of a national of a member state of the European Community who"—
here comes the vagueness—
  • (a) where he is employed on the relevant date, is then in employment in the British Islands, or
  • (b) where he is not employed on that date (by reason of retirement or otherwise), was last employed in such employment".
  • Are we opening this avenue for nationals of a member state of the European Community? That is not clear and I want to know what that provision means. I may be completely wrong in my interpretation of it, but we and the public are entitled to know precisely what it means.

    I hate snobbery. I spent many years of my life teaching every type, including the children of miners, and let us not forget that many judges, surgeons and even Members of your Lordships' House can say their fathers were miners. Many of them were taught in ordinary schools. Many people who talk about teaching do not understand the magnificent tool that education is in the hands of a great teacher. Teaching is one of the greatest professions, especially when one considers what a teacher can do for a child. A poem was once written about it which went someting like this:
    "Raise your derricks, then harvest the fen; But God in mercy be kind to me, for I made men".
    When teaching a child of, say, 11 one need not be able to do calculus and tricky mathematical problems or analyse or talk about nuclear physics. One must build in that child a spiritual purpose and eminence and fill it with the mystery of existence and the joy of achievement. A lot of snobbish background is not required.

    My fear is that the purpose of this measure is to maintain the division of society into two classes. This is a system for the well-to-do. Any true Conservatives who in the early days had to fight some of their own people to get a decent education system should agree to send the measure back to be improved. I am not objecting to better opportunities, but let us be realistic at this point in history when kids are collecting scrap paper to help their schools. In my district I have them knocking at my door asking, "Do you have any old newspapers?" and when I ask, "What for?" they answer, "To sell so the school can get books". Look what has happened to a nation whose workers and children of workers fought in two world wars. Considering all the wonderful verbiage about education, look what we have descended to. This scheme is a disgrace to the Conservative Party.

    4.25 p.m.

    My Lords, I had not intended to speak because I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, that the principle of this was decided when the Bill was before us and I did not have any useful comments to make on the details of the order which is before the House. However, it seems to me that the arguments of the Opposition on the financial side need answering.

    Twenty-five years ago when I became responsible for education there were a great many children who did not have a secondary school, and therefore we undertook a large rural secondary school building programme, and, little by little, every child in the country had a secondary school place. At that time we really believed—and all the teachers were with us—that it was only a matter of going along that road and we should be able to raise the standards of the maintained system so close to at least the average of the independent system that on educational grounds parents would not be tempted to find the fees for the independent system. That was our objective and we honestly thought we could achieve it, but it has been defeated for two reasons.

    The first and foremost reason is money. We had no conception of the way in which the cost of the maintained system would rise. I remember being told by Sir Otto Clarke, a senior Treasury official, that he would cut his, and possibly my, throat if the education budget passed £1,000 million. It is now almost £9,000 million and if noble Lords care to make some calculation of what it would cost—I only wish we could do it—to improve the sixth forms of all the maintained schools in the country so that the problem with which we are trying to deal in the Bill did not exist, they would find that it ran into thousands of millions of pounds. That is the first reason why our hopes were defeated.

    The second reason is the competition for graduate manpower. We thought we would be able to recruit all the graduate teachers who would be needed to cater for the considerable number of children; I am not sure of the exact figure, but it is something like 800,000 in sixth forms today. That prospect appeared fairly good in the early 'fifties, but, as noble Lords know, all kinds of other forms of employment have attracted male and female graduates, and it has not been possible, for one reason or another, to recruit and keep the required number of teachers capable of teaching to A-level.

    In those two circumstances, where there is nothing like enough money quickly to bring the maintained system to where we all want it to be and where there are nothing like enough graduates willing to enter the maintained system as teachers, what do we do? Do we do nothing on ideological grounds that it would be wrong to select a few and give them an additional advantage? Let us consider the figures again. Anyone listening to noble Lords opposite would think that this was an enormous slice of the education budget.

    First, let us take the numbers—I think that 5,000 boys and girls was the number mentioned. Well, how many children are there in sixth forms in Newcastle? The noble Lord opposite will correct me if I am wrong, since he knows the real figures, but let us suppose that Newcastle represents one per cent. of the United Kingdom. That would mean that 50 children in Newcastle would be creamed off if they had their share, which I hope they will. Does the noble Lord really think, bearing in mind all the secondary schools in Newcastle and district, that creaming off 50 children would demoralise the hundreds and hundreds who would be left? I doubt that.

    However, in my opinion, the Government would be wise to ask the local authorities—and this is the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Garner—to be very sure that the children who are selected have need of a kind of education that they really cannot get anywhere near their home. The obvious example is music, and I imagine that all noble Lords are happy that there is going to be a wider selection for the five music colleges and colleges of dancing. Obviously one could not have high grade music and dancing instruction in all the comprehensive schools; everybody would agree about that.

    When one goes on from music as a special subject and asks what other special subjects there are for which it is impossible to have adequate teachers in all the sixth forms, one comes to many subjects, especially difficult languages and so on. Of course I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Garner, about the point regarding boarding. I asked Mr. Khruschev why they have boarding schools in Soviet Russia. He made rather a silly answer, but he was a very funny man. He said, "Because we want to get rid of the little dears for nine months in the year"—

    My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount for giving way. He is making out a case, is he not? for the élite school, such as the école normale in France, or similar institutions in Soviet Russia, presumably—I am not familiar with their system. But surely our private schools are not élite schools. If your parents are rich enough, you can be as dud-ish as you like; and they are full of rich duds. I am sorry, I must not interrupt the noble Viscount for too long. I want to say just one more thing. It shows a certain lack of confidence on the part of the ruling classes of this country if they feel that the only way that they can prevent this decadence from being progressive is by ensuring, as the Turks did, that the élite class, the top class, is constantly renewed in this sort of way.

    My Lords, I think I am right in saying—the noble Lord will quickly correct me if I am wrong—that the noble Lord, Lord Kaldor, has not read the list of the independent schools that have been selected for the places. Had he read the list, he would have seen that some of the élite schools popping out of his head are not on it, and that in fact that list, which represents only a fraction of all the independent schools, has been carefully drawn for the reason that the examination record of the schools is far better than the average of the maintained system.

    The noble Baroness opposite was quite right in saying that some comprehensive schools have the most admirable examination record. But we are not talking about that. We are talking about the list of schools that are to receive the pupils in question—and there are not very many, only 5,000 in the whole country—and about whether we could draw up a list of schools where the present prospects of attaining O- and A-levels are much better than the average in the system as a whole. And of course that is what is being done.

    Now I come back to the main question. If we are in overall financial difficulty let us consider what this £3 million represents. It represents 0·003 per cent of the budget. Is that very alarming? That is all it is. Is it worth spending that small amount of money to do a little—far less than we ought to do—to take certain children whose needs differ from the average and place them where those needs can be met? I regret that we have to do it. If your Lordships can find £5,000 million more a year for the education budget, you will not have to do it, but if you cannot, you must do something for some of those whose need is very obvious.

    4.36 p.m.

    My Lords, as always we have had a very strenuous and interesting debate on this scheme. It has reminded me very much of the hours and the days that we spent in discussing the 1980 Education Act. First, I should like to thank in particular the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, for, as always, a most thoughtful speech, based on a lifetime of experience of teaching in the type of school that we are talking about. I should also like to thank my noble friend Lord Eccles for his most helpful remarks, based on his long experience of education and in particular on the fact that he is a former Minister of Education. I wish to thank, too, the noble Lord, Lord Garner, who spoke most thoughtfully and referred to some of the hesitations felt by those schools that have decided to join the scheme.

    I do not intend to follow the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, nor indeed his noble friend Lord Glenamara, entirely down the path of party politics, on which they opened the debate from their side. I am in the happy position of being able to be very generous today. After all, it must be such a change for noble Lords opposite to be able to take their minds off the problems of the Labour Party leadership, and so I can give them a little bit of fun at my expense—

    I am sure that noble Lords are not really going to be upset by remarks of this nature, and, as I say, I am in a very forgiving mood this afternoon. I shall of course return later in my remarks to the detailed points made by the noble Lords. As for the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, I must say to him that I really was surprised that he should have made such an illiberal speech. I should have thought that above all the Liberal Party recognises the right of parents, having paid their rates and taxes, to pay for their children's education should they so wish. The implication that there was something wrong with independent schools was, I thought, rather unusual coming from a Liberal speaker. But in the course of his remarks the noble Lord said that he had supported the direct grant schools, and of course the fact that they were wound up provided the reason why we felt it necessary to introduce the assisted places scheme at this point. I regretted that the noble Lord took the particular view that he mentioned.

    However, on two general points I would say that, whatever may or may not be said about selection in education, it is worth bearing in mind as a very serious point that the great debate in education which was raised by the last Labour Prime Minister, Mr. Callaghan, came about not when there was selection, but when selection had ceased. It arose not from some dyed-in-the-wool old Tory, who might well have complained about comprehensive schools, but from the Labour Party itself. That fact at least must cause someone to ask some questions about what is happening in some schools today.

    This is a very serious point. We need to consider the position of the type of able children, especially those from inner city areas, who benefited so much from the direct grant schools and former grammar schools, and who are now obliged to be in the neighbourhood comprehensive, which might not be as good as comprehensives in other areas, in particular some comprehensives in the shire counties. Those children are therefore at a disadvantage, and I believe that we need to ponder very deeply this important educational point.

    I would say to the House that when the direct grant schools scheme was phased out almost every Peer who spoke on that occasion in your Lordships' House regretted this action. They were excellent schools, and they served a number of children who do not get the same kind of education today. I think it is an ironic fact that in winding up the direct grant schools the former Labour Government succeeded in creating, in the space of a few years, more independent schools than had been created at any stage, almost, in our educational system.

    A number of quite specific points have been made, and I shall now try to answer them. The first one was the great point about creaming off. Perhaps it would be as well to remind the House what I said about entry into sixth forms. We have said that because there was—and we appreciate it—a real fear on the part of local education authorities that maintained schools sixth forms would be denuded of their most able pupils, the numbers eligible for entry into the sixth form would be 900 in the first year. That is a total of 900 pupils from 104 local education authorities. I think it will be seen that that works out at approximately nine pupils per local education authority, and under those circumstances I think it is very difficult to argue that this will be a creaming off. I feel confident myself that as the scheme comes into operation there will be the professional co-operation among the schools and the assisted places scheme themselves, those responsible in local education authorities and teachers about the working of the scheme; because, after all, the scheme—and it is worth repeating this—is about children.

    Perhaps I could make one other point in that connection. I forget which noble Lord it was (I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont) who said that when my right honourable friend the Secretary of State was speaking he said the scheme was not to support the schools or the teachers. That, of course, is perfectly true; it is to support the pupils. One of the most extraordinary facts in the educational world today is that although the total school population is falling, and falling rapidly, there has been an increase of 10 per cent. in the number of pupils going to independent schools. If there is one thing which is quite clear, it is that the schools do not need the assisted places scheme—they will get on perfectly well, thank you very much. The scheme, therefore, is designed to help the pupils, not the other way round, and I think it is very important for everybody to recognise that fact. The noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, asked how the pupils will be selected. The pupils will in fact be selected by the schools themselves.

    Yes, my Lords; it will apply both at 11 years old and at 16 years old. The schools will select the pupils, and it will be done in this way. The parents will apply to the school for admission, and the schools will set an examination, or whatever is their appropriate test, for admission to it. We feel that this is the right way to go about the scheme because, after all, the schools know what they can provide, they know what their teaching staff is suited for and they know what will be the appropriate way of choosing.

    What we have said—and it is something to which I myself and my colleagues attach very great importance—is that we hope that the schools themselves (and, I hope, the noble Lord, Lord Garner, and his colleagues who are perhaps connected with schools in the assisted places scheme) will make every effort to make the scheme known in their area, I think by way of local advertising and local radio, so that we do not get coming to the schools only those parents who would perhaps have thought of an independent education for their children and who may be just pleased to have this, but so that we widen the catchment area to include those who would not have thought of it at all. Of course, we have undertaken to print an enormous amount of literature about the scheme, which has been sent to local education authorities and to schools, and I hope very much that the schools selected for the assisted places scheme will make known the scheme as widely as possible in the areas in which their schools are situated.

    The noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, asked me a specific question about the residence qualification; and so, indeed, did the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek. Regulation 4 provides that to be eligible for the scheme pupils must have been resident in this country for three years; or, if they are the children of EEC nationals employed in this country, they must have been resident in a member state of the European Community for three years. The latter requirement is in conformity with Article 12 of EEC Regulation 1612/68, which requires the same treatment for children of migrant workers from member states as for children born in the United Kingdom.

    My Lords, perhaps the Minister would be kind enough to forgive me for interrupting her. Is this not more than satisfying the requirement of the EEC, as I understand it? The requirement for our children is three years' residence here. Why should it not be three years' residence here for EEC members?

    My Lords, my understanding of the position is that the requirement for our children, of course, is that they should have been born to United Kingdom nationals; and in the case of people who come to this country they must be resident here for three years before they qualify, either for this scheme or for student awards, as the noble Lord will be aware. We are bringing our scheme very much into line with the award scheme for higher education.

    My Lords, may I answer the second point about that? The position about EEC nationals is that this comes under the Treaty of Rome and they automatically qualify immediately for the same kind of treatment as those born here. There is this distinction between the children of EEC nationals employed here and those coming in from other parts of the world. If I have not made myself quite clear I shall be very happy to write to the noble Lord, but I can assure him that we are not doing more than we should for the EEC. We are bringing our law into line with what is required by the Treaty of Rome, and the general principle in the scheme is the same as that which applies to student awards.

    Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister. It is because T doubt whether the provision has not gone beyond that requirement that I raise the question. As I understand it, the requirement of the Treaty of Rome is that the children of EEC nationals coming here should be treated the same as our children, and that, to me, would mean that they were required to be in residence for three years before they qualified for the scheme, which is the requirement for our own children. But I should be perfectly happy to leave it to be looked at again.

    My Lords, I will certainly write to the noble Lord once again setting out the position, and if I have in any way misinformed him, of course I shall let him know—but I believe the position to be as I have stated it.

    My Lords, I am so grateful to the noble Baroness, and I apologise for interrupting and thank her for her trouble. I think my interpretation was right, because the net has been spread. I did not know that this question would be raised from another part of the Chamber, but, at the same time as she writes to the noble Lord, would the Minister be kind enough to let me know, after she has had the opportunity and time to look at it carefully? Could I, too, have a letter from her about it?

    My Lords, I will cretainly copy the letter to the noble Lord. Lord Davies; there is no question about that. I can assure him that we are bringing our legislation into line with the requirements of Article 12 of the EEC regulations, which covers this matter, as we must do.

    The noble Lord, Lord Garner, said that it was a complicated scheme, which he regretted. It does, of course—and I recognise this—put quite a responsibility on the schools themselves for the selection of pupils, but I think this is right. I think it would not be right for the Government to do this. They cannot possibly make a judgment from the centre about the needs of the individual pupil and what the schools have to offer, so I think that this is appropriate. I hope very much that the scheme will have the effect that the noble Lord has said he hopes for over the whole question of giving and enlarging opportunities for certain children in our country today.

    My Lords, at the end of this debate, I am aware that there is, on a much more serious note, worry and concern about this scheme, and I was asked whether I thought it right to introduce it at this particular moment. The Government believe that it is an important scheme. It raises, I think, very important matters of principle. It is of course true that these are principles on which we are divided; but as long as we have a democratic country we will have independent schools and we will have maintained schools. Whereas it is the job of Ministers—I accept this absolutely—to do the best they can for every child in the maintained system, there are inevitably going to be some gaps in it, and I think it is right that we should look for the maximum amount of co-operation and collaboration from the two systems of education. I myself deeply regret that the educational world should be in a kind of state of civil war over children. That is not desirable. It is not good for the children. It is not good for education; it is not good for any of us. We are trying in this way to make it possible for there to be collaboration between the two sectors. The scheme will depend upon the schools talking to the head primary teachers, talking to the local education authorities and, at the professional level, working together in the best interests of the children. I hope that, if we can take as


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    Gainford, L.Netherthorpe, L.Young, B.
    Garner, L.

    our stand the need to have a professional look at what is in the best interests of all the nation's children, this scheme will get off to a good start and that, at the end of the day, we shall all agree that it will have helped a large number of the nation's children and thereby enable them to make the best possible contribution they can to our country.

    4.51 p.m.

    On Question, Whether the said Motion be agreed to?

    Their Lordships divided: Contents, 135; Not-Contents, 79.


    Airedale, L.Hale, L.Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
    Amherst, E.Hampton, L.
    Ardwick, L.Hooson, L.Rochester, L.
    Bacon, B.Houghton of Sowerby, L.Ross of Marnock, L.
    Banks, L.Howie of Troon, L.Sainsbury, L.
    Beaumont of Whitley, L.Hughes, L.Seear, B.
    Birk, B.Hunt, L.Sefton of Garston, L.
    Blease, L.Jeger, B.Shinwell, L.
    Blyton, L.Kaldor, L.Simon, V.
    Boston of Faversham, L,Kilbracken, L.Stedman, B.
    Brock way, L.Kilmarnock, L.Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
    Brooks of Tremorfa, L.Kirkhill, L.Stewart of Fuiham, L.
    Bruce of Donington, L.Leatherland, L.Stone, L.
    Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.Lee of Newton, L.Strabolgi, L.
    Crowther-Hunt, L.Listowel, E.Strauss, L.
    Davies of Leek, L.Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.]Taylor of Blackburn, L.
    Davies of Penrhys, L.Taylor of Mansfield, L.
    Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.Longford, E.Underhill, L.
    Elwyn-Jones, L.Mackie of Benshie, L.Wade, L.
    Evans of Claughton, L.Maelor, L.Wallace of Coslany, L.
    Fisher of Rednal, B.Meston, L.Walston, L.
    Fulton, L.Milford, L.Wells-Pestell, L.
    Gaitskell, B.Mishcon, L.Whaddon, L.
    Gardiner, L.Morris of Grasmere, L.White, B.
    Gladwyn, L.Oram, L.Wigoder, L.
    Glenamara, L.Parry, L.Willis, L.
    Greenwood of Rossendale, L.Peart, L.Winstanley, L.

    Resolved in the affirmative, and Motion agreed to accordingly.

    Highways (Road Humps) Bill

    5 p.m.

    My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

    Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(The Earl of Kinnoull.)

    My Lords, before we decide whether this Bill should be read a third time this afternoon, I feel that the attention of the House should be called to what happened last week. On Wednesday of last week the Bill was on the Order Paper for Third Reading on Friday. On Thursday, the day before it was due to be debated, it was discovered that it had been postponed until today. I say "it was discovered" because there was no discussion, so far as I am aware, with the noble Lords who had been interested in the Bill. There was not even any advance intimation to noble Lords who were interested. I am quite sure that the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, had no intention of being disrespectful to your Lordships but I think that we are entitled to know why this change was made.

    Your Lordships will recollect that on Friday our business was finished at about a quarter past 12 so there was plenty of time. All noble Lords concerned with this Bill had already made arrangements to be here on Friday. May I also remind your Lordships that at the Committee stage the noble Earl, Lord Avon, in speaking for the Government, called attention to the fact that if any amendment were adopted the Bill might be lost.

    This is a ploy to which we are unfortunately well accustomed as we approach the end of any session. We always resent it—and rightly resent it—unless the Bill is one of transparent urgency. I submit that this Bill is not in that class. I will return to that point in a few minutes, but before doing so may I refer your Lordships to the Second Reading debate, which took place on 23rd July. The noble Viscount, Lord Long, was speaking for the Government on that occasion. He intervened in the debate in which a number of points of detail had been raised. May I read what he said? Your Lordships will find this in column 477 of Hansard. The noble Viscount said:

    "I might remind your Lordships that we are a revising Chamber. I hope that this Bill is accepted for Second Reading and that it will go on to Committee stage as does any other Bill that comes before us. I hope that the suspicions may now disappear and that we shall be able to do our work without having to worry about what had gone on previously. In other words, we must 'do the corrections'".

    A little further on (at col. 479 of Hansard) the noble Viscount, again referring to something that had been said by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, said:

    "Obviously your Lordships in Committee will consider these problems. These matters will need further debate and there is no better time than in Committee".

    There is no suggestion there that it would be impossible to accept any amendments, and I venture to suggest that if that had been stated at the time, possibly the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, would have sought to divide the House again at Second Reading as he confessed he was tempted to do. If we had realised that no amendments were going to be considered, we could have taken a very different view about the Bill as a whole.

    In any case, does this argument about time really hold water? It is not for us to criticise procedure in another place or indeed to understand it. I would hate to think that if the other place really wanted a Bill like this before the end of the session they could not find time to deal with one or two amendments—or perhaps I should say could not have found time if we had passed the Bill with these amendments on Friday. I admit that the loss of these three days makes a difference at this stage of the session, though I am sure that that cannot have been in anybody's mind when the Third Reading was postponed. I hope not, anyway. I am told that the other place finished their business yesterday at a quite unusually early hour, and I really cannot accept the view that it would have been impossible to find time for this Bill if indeed we had passed some amendments on Friday.

    A few minutes ago I said that I did not consider this Bill urgent. May I explain my reason for saying that? As I understand it, the Government have not completed discussions with all the interested parties on the nature of the regulations to be made under the Bill and that is why we can in fact get from the Government very little information as to what the regulations are going to contain. When the discussions are completed the regulations will have to be drafted.

    I suggest therefore that, even if the Bill were to be passed today, it would be some time—several months—before the first hump could be raised. Why not therefore let this Bill die and let the Government introduce into the next session a better thought-out Bill? While that Bill is going through this House—and I am suggesting introducing it into this House—discussions can continue. I hope that before the Bill reaches it final stages here the Government will be able to tell us that the discussions are complete, and I hope everything is agreed. Then the Bill can go forward to another place as an agreed measure. I see no reason on earth why it should not pass into law by Easter. Then the first hump can be raised little, if at all, later than the date on which it could be raised if this Bill is passed today.

    One final word. If this Bill was to be defeated or, better still, if the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, decided to withdraw it, we would express to him great sympathy. I had the privilege once of piloting a Private Members' Bill through your Lordships' House. I know how much work is involved even when one gets support from the relevant department of Government. If he were to take that course I firmly believe that we would get a better Bill, and that, after all, is the object which the noble Earl and all of us have in common. I will of course listen to what noble Lords have to say, but my present inclination is to vote against the Third Reading of this Bill. I hope that noble Lords from all parts of the House might feel inclined to do the same.

    5.8 p.m.

    My Lords, may I echo briefly the concern expressed by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon? It will be recalled that at the Committee stage I inquired about the passage of this Bill, assuming that your Lordships decided to pass the Bill with amendments, because while it is not an epoch-making Bill, we thought that it would be useful for this Bill to pass. I asked, if the Bill were amended, whether there would still be opportunities for it to pass through the other place or whether that would make the situation very difficult. I also asked whether, if it were passed without amendment, we would have assurances from the Government that the regulations would be satisfactory and the consultations satis- factory to meet some of the points made in the amendments. I had tabled five amendments, at least two of which believe would have greatly improved the Bill regarding its administration.

    It was with some surprise that I found that the Bill was not due to be considered on Friday as originally arranged. I must ask the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, and also the Minister, for an explanation. If it means that this House has lost two or three days when amendments could have been made, and they could have been raised in the other place, then I should have thought, putting it colloquially—and I will not say that I was deceived—that I was given the wrong impression regarding my opportunity to put my amendments which I withdrew in order to get this Bill through at Committee stage.

    If this Bill could have been improved, there is not the slightest doubt that many of your Lordships would have considered some of the improvements. I withdrew my amendments only because of the definite statement of the Minister, and also because of the assurances given that there would be adequate consultations before the regulations were prepared. I should like some assurance from the Minister that if we had not lost these three days there would still have been no opportunity for the amendments to be submitted to the other place.

    My Lords, may we hear from the Minister?—because before the noble Earl replies to his Motion I should like to say something, but I thought that perhaps the Minister was going to intervene. If the Minister is not going to intervene, may I say that something has happened here that is almost beyond my comprehension. I would not dare to change the business of the House of Lords without consulting the people and the noble Lords whom I knew to be deeply concerned in the business. I have spoken to most of the noble Lords who have taken part in the earlier stages of this Bill, and have not found anybody who was consulted about moving the Third Reading from last Friday until today. Was nobody consulted? Was the Minister consulted? Perhaps we shall be told. I simply would not expect to get any further support for a measure which I brought before the House in this manner without any consultation with the people concerned.

    We are dealing here not only with the rights of this House to amend Bills and to be a revising Chamber but also with the constitutional duty of this House. This House has a constitutional duty to revise the Bills that come from another place. Early last week it was public knowledge—it was on our Minutes—that Friday would be the day for the Third Reading of this Bill. Nobody is going to tell me that that did not give another place the opportunity to make provision this week, if another place chose, for considering Lords amendments which were expected last Friday to be made to this Bill.

    I have been told that special rules apply to Private Members' Bills, but here we are dealing with a Bill which has passed through another place and which was introduced into your Lordships' House with Government support. I cannot believe that any special rules applying to Private Members' Bills apply to a Bill like this in this instance. I really do not think that we ought to give this Bill a Third Reading.

    My Lords, I very much hope that your Lordships will give the Bill a Third Reading. First, I should like to apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, for what must have seemed to be, and probably was, bad manners on Thursday afternoon. I understand that we did think that the noble Lords concerned with this Bill had been consulted about the change of time from last Friday until today, and it was actually only when the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, himself told me on Thursday afternoon that I was aware of the change. Can I assure your Lordships in all sections of the House—

    My Lords, may I ask by whom the noble Lord understood that people were consulted?

    My Lords, I think the answer to that, in deference to my noble friend on my left, is the usual channels. The usual channels informed me that my noble friend Lord Kinnoull was going to be in touch with other noble Lords.

    May I now say equally categorically that if we had had this Third Reading at an early hour after lunch on Friday it would have made no difference because the other place, like ourselves, does not plan the business for the forthcoming week until the previous Thursday; so it would have been in two days' time anyway that they would be taking the Third Reading of this Bill into consideration. I should like also to come back to something which I said at Second Reading, and I said it very carefully at col. 1672:
    "I cannot at present give any guarantee that time will be made available for consideration of any amendments passed by the Committee today".—[Official Report, 20/10/80.]
    That is what I said then and I am afraid it is still true now. I cannot, until the nature of the amendments have been considered, guarantee that the Bill will be given further consideration in another place. That is not to say that it need not be, but I cannot guarantee that it will be.

    We have spoken about the question of urgency. This is not an urgent Bill. There is no great hurry about it, but the Government would like to get it on to the statute book as soon as possible. We are not trying to rush your Lordships and what we would like to do, if this Bill should become an Act, is to go on and make some regulations which would be very much in accordance with the wishes expressed by your Lordships at the Report stage and at the Committee stage, as we have debated them. We discussed, for instance, the 30 miles speed limit and restrictions. I have had consultations today with my honourable friend from another place in the Department of Transport, and it has been undertaken that in the first regulations the road humps will be all in restricted areas of 30 miles an hour or under. I am happy to give your Lordships that assurance today.

    The other thing I should like to point out on this matter, before I ask your Lordships to support the Third Reading, is that we have been saying: "We have been rushed; we have not had time to discuss amendments". We have in fact discussed quite a lot of amendments and not only have we done that but we have also voted on quite a number of them. When it is said that your Lordships' House is a forum for discussion, we have discussed and we have voted. I do not see why your Lordships should feel that you have been badly treated to this degree.

    My Lords, I think the difficulty about voting on amendments is to have hanging over your head the knowledge that if you vote for an amendment you are voting to lose the Bill. I think that certainly influenced the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, and possibly others of his noble friends.

    My Lords, I take the noble Viscount's point, but while debating these amendments we have been trying to break them down. I think the noble Viscount would agree that with regard to the larger number we have said, "We think these are for regulations: we have taken on board the points made and will make regulations about them". I have given an undertaking on the 30 mile an hour limit, which was one of the major points in the previous debates. There are one or two amendments—I do not want to anticipate the debate because I know that the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, has two amendments down for consideration later—which we think are already incorporated or are in the wrong place or are not quite right; so I do not think there is any amendment which fundamentally the House would have carried. However, the House may have to call me wrong and vote on one of the next four amendments.

    5.20 p.m.

    My Lords, since the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, has joined my name with his opening adress, it would seem appropriate that I should speak now. I can assure your Lordships that I was not consulted at all—perhaps there is no reason why I particularly should have been consulted—with regard to the change of date from Friday to this afternoon. I was, however, informed by my noble friend Lord Avon that the date had been changed. That was while passing through the Division Lobbies late on Thursday. On the other hand, when there was a move earlier last month to change the Committee stage by a couple of days, there were consultations, and I expressed the view to my noble friend Lord Kinnoull that I was not willing to accept the change. But it was my understanding that my noble friend the Chief Whip was not able to find another date for that Committee stage, and that in no way would it be altered. It was a matter of some urgency, it had to be slotted into the time previously allotted and no change could be made. I find this whole procedure indicative of the manner in which this Bill has proceeded.

    I hope that neither of my noble friends Lord Avon and Lord Kinnoull will take offence, if I say that, in the few years that I have been in your Lordships' House, a Private Member's Bill has never had so much primary attention from a Minister on the Front Bench. It appears to me that it has moved from being a Private Member's Bill to being a Government-sponsored Bill with private members' support. Obviously, the Minute would suggest otherwise. Nevertheless, we have been, as it were, bamboozled a little during the passage of this Bill.

    The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, referred to the questions that were raised on Second Reading, when we were sitting in the Royal Gallery, which was rather a difficult time. Perhaps it was at that time that those of us who oppose so much that is in the Bill should have taken more positive steps. My noble friend Lord Avon told us that he said those things at Second Reading, in column 1672 of Hansard, but, in fact, he said them right at the beginning of the Committee stage. That inhibited almost every action on some 23 amendments—bar three—which were put down from both sides of the House. There were Divisions on three of those amendments, but it was certainly under that inhibition that the Bill must go through unamended or it might well be lost.

    We have arrived at a somewhat crucial stage this afternoon, where the Minister has given us a categorical assurance that humps will not be constructed in roads which do not have a 30 mph speed limit. We discussed this point at Committee stage on an amendment of mine, which was rather loosely worded. We discussed it again at Report, on an amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Airedale. That assurance, which has been given at this late hour, is indicative to me of the manner in which this Bill is being pursued.

    There is no doubt in my mind that some matters which have been discussed may well be taken on board in regulations, but there are other matters which would be far better contained within the Bill itself. The Bill, as it stands, is far too wide open; indeed, it includes this business of depressions which we have talked about time and time again. It has been said that there is no intention of constructing depressions and the Minister told us—admittedly, out of his brief—and it is in Hansard, that, so far as he is concerned, depresssions are a dead duck. But we are not allowed to remove this part of the Title or the enabling part of the Bill.

    Therefore, it is wrong that, because of this threat, we cannot get this Bill into a tidier form which would meet the perfectly legitimate objections of those who are opposed to some clauses, though not perhaps to the principle. I should very much like to have had the department consult those interested parties—and my noble friend Lord Kinnoull said that there were 75 of them—before we debated a tighter Bill. That would be the time for all the interested parties to make their views known to your Lordships, and, indeed, to Members of another place, so that a more informed debate could take place and the Bill could go forward.

    I should much prefer my noble friend Lord Kinnoull to withdraw the Bill at this stage. Discussions could then take place—because the subject has been very well aired—and a more acceptable Bill could come before your Lordships' House after the Christmas Recess, and I am sure it would have a very much easier passage. For those reasons, I am very much inclined to support the noble Viscount, Lord Simon.

    My Lords, as one who took a small part on this Bill in very difficult circumstances in the Royal Gallery and who was not informed at all though I specially stayed overnight in London last Friday in order to take part, I should like to support all that was said earlier by noble Lords. I shall not say what I should have liked to say in a bigger debate, but I want to make the point that, as drafted, this Bill is defective in very many ways. It leaves so very much to the Minister and to regulations that he might make, that I could certainly never support it. But I should like to know why, as the Minister said, the Bill could not go through the other place if we passed any amendments. I have been a Member of your Lordships' House for nearly 10 years, and I do not think I have ever before heard any Minister say that if we carried any amendments a Bill would not go through another place. I shall be very interested to hear what the Minister has to say.

    My Lords, may I ask a question on procedure? I came here to discuss amendments on Third Reading put forward by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, and the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, because I feel that I have a contribution to make. But am I not right in saying that some of this discussion is related to the Motion, That the Bill do now pass, and that we might discuss the amendments and then get on with the question of whether or not we want the Bill to pass?

    My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Ferrier for coming in at that point. But I think, perhaps, as the business managers in this House have been mentioned, that I should say a few words to the House on what has happened. It always is a very difficult matter when Private Members' Bills from another place come up to your Lordships' House so late in the day. I remember times—and I am quite certain that the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, remembers times—when it has been suggested to your Lordships' House that to amend a Private Member's Bill might kill it. I have never known that suggestion to be well received in your Lordships' House, and I quite understand why—

    My Lords, this Bill did not arrive here late. We had the Second Reading in July.

    My Lords, I understand that both this Bill and the other one which accompanied it were passed on the last Private Members' Day in another place. Therefore, it arrived at the latest time that a Private Member's Bill possibly could arrive. This has happened on previous occasions, and I freely admit that those of your Lordships who supported the Bill, but perhaps thought that it could be put in a slightly better form, have had the very disagreeable knowledge that to put it in slightly better form might impede its progress. Your Lordships are well aware that there are many Private Members' Bills in the time of many Governments which are very much supported by those Governments, and this is such a one. The fact of the matter is that if the Bill had been taken on Friday, I am assured that they would have been in no better position in another place than by our taking the Third Reading today. The loss of those two sitting days in this House would not, I am assured, have made any difference to the availability of time in another place.

    My noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth said that somehow this Bill had undergone a miraculous change from a Private Member's Bill with Government support to a Government Bill with private Members' support. I am not quite sure whether this really has happened. I think I can assure my noble friend that it is the same animal as it was before. My noble friend also said that your Lordships were inhibited from amending the Bill because of lack of time. I seem to remember that on three separate occasions my noble friend sought to amend the Bill, so this is possibly an accusation that cannot be justified.

    My Lords, there is not the slightest doubt that quite a number of noble Lords went through the Division Lobbies against the amendment because of the statements made about the possible passage of the Bill in the other place.

    My Lords, that of course could be true. Did the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, wish to say a word?

    My Lords, I wanted only to ask the noble Lord why the other place might not have sat last night as late as your Lordships' House did, to deal with the amendments.

    My Lords, many of your Lordships have been in another place, which I have not, so probably know better than I the procedures for Private Members' Bills there. However, I understand that Private Members' time is very definitely limited by custom—am I not right? Perhaps other noble Lords know better about that than I.

    The point I want to make is that many of your Lordships who are interested in the Bill obviously feel that they have been treated discourteously. Nobody could be sorrier about that than I, and I am sure my noble friend Lord Kinnoull will echo this sentiment. Whose job it was to inform noble Lords, I will not go into here. It is a Private Member's Bill, but it has Government support. For my part, I should like to apologise most profusely to noble Lords who feel that they have been treated discourteously. I hope your Lordships will now give the Bill a Third Reading and subsequently discuss the amendments which have been put down to be taken after that Third Reading.

    My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, may I say that if we give the Bill a Third Reading I have the feeling that if we then accept any of the amendments the Bill will be lost. We have here a Bill which some noble Lords think is bad, while other noble Lords think it is good. In this House we are being virtually told, whether we like it or not, "Pass this Bill. Do not amend it, or it is lost". I can well remember being told precisely the same thing about a horrible Bill called the Breeding of Dogs Bill and, like a twit, I accepted what I was told. That Bill should have been lost. If noble Lords in this House feel that this Bill should be lost, then they must amend it or reject it.

    My Lords, I think the answer is that if your Lordships feel strongly that the Bill should be amended, the way to express that strength of feeling is when the various amendments come up, not at Third Reading. So I think it would be better to give the Bill a Third Reading and then to discuss the amendments. Of course your Lordships are free to divide on those amendments and if your Lordships so wish, to pass those amendments into the Bill. I cannot give any guarantee as to what the effect of that would be, but it would be infinitely better to do that than to throw out the Bill at Third Reading in protest.

    My Lords, that is of course another option which is open to your Lordships, but to divide against the Motion, That the Bill do now pass?, is a rare occurrence.

    5.34 p.m.

    My Lords, I suggest that your Lordships are wasting a great deal of very valuable time. The noble Lord the Chief Whip was quite right when he said that there can be no guarantee as to what another place will do with legislation which your Lordships have considered, have amended and sent back for their consideration. On the other hand, some of us in this House who have been concerned with the machinery between the two Houses know that things can be done if it is possible for them to be done. I do not know whether that is so, but I believe that if things can be done the noble Lord, Lord Denham, will find ways to see that your Lordships' views are understood, considered and acted upon by another place.

    I suggest that we are wasting our time. The question is whether the Bill should be given a Third Reading and the amendments considered. Whether it is a Government Bill, or a Private Member's Bill, or something which is a bit of each is utterly immaterial. The noble Lord, Lord Denham, was in a sense a little misleading when he suggested that Private Members' time is limited in another place. Of course it is, but once a Private Member's Bill comes here it becomes a Public Bill. One would expect that the machinery of business in another place would treat all Bills in a reasonable way, on the basis that your Lordships' House has taken a view.

    Therefore, I say that your Lordships ought to proceed and then look to the Chief Whip and those who are responsible for Government management to see that the Bill, as passed by your Lordships' House, give or take, has a chance of being considered by another place. It would be quite wrong, having spent so much time upon this Bill during its other stages, to vote against its Third Reading. Let us proceed now, consider the amendments and then chase the Chief Whip later on if it is not dealt with in another place.

    My Lords, I hope that it will not be considered to be a waste of time if briefly I interrupt the discussion on Third Reading. This is a Private Member's Bill. I accept entire responsibility. It is wholly unfair to blame the Government, or my noble friend, or the Chief Whip. The decision to delay the Third Reading from last Friday until today was taken entirely by myself. In fact, it was taken last Wednesday evening. I very much regret any discourtesy or inconvenience that has been shown inadvertently. I saw the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, and my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth on Thursday evening and we discussed the matter generally then.

    I took the decision for an entirely different purpose from that which has been portrayed. I took the decision because I felt that it was more convenient to hold a Third Reading of this Bill, which has already shown a certain contentiousness, on a normal working day. Fridays are not popular days. Even though it was an early day last Friday, it could well not have been. The House considered then the Civil Aviation Bill, which again was contentious. We had had a heavy week, with late nights. Because of the attendance now, I think I have proved my point, for every Member who wished to be here is present.

    I did not expect or anticipate a substantial Third Reading debate. In fact, if noble Lords will look at the Companion to the Standing Orders they will see that it is not normally the custom to put down amendments which have already been discussed on a previous occasion. Yet one finds that this has been done today. I do not know whether that is discourtesy to the House. It could be regarded as a wrecking mechanism.

    I give to the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, to my noble friend and to everybody else who has taken such an interest in the Bill two assurances. I have spoken to my honourable friend who piloted the Bill through another place. First, in his view he had adequate consultations before the Bill was published. He advised all the appropriate bodies and sought their views on the Bill. But one has to remember that this Bill has arisen from five years of experimental work following a report and it is only a small enabling Bill.

    Secondly, he advised me that from his Whip's Office the advice he had received was that the Bill would be unlikely to have time found for it if the amendment were made. But I am not convinced by that argument, either. I personally would have withdrawn the Bill if I had thought that a substantial amendment was needed; that would have been the right and proper course. But I did not withdraw it. As my noble friend has said, amendments have been pressed, the House has decided on the issues so far and I hope we can now go forward to a Third Reading and the following amendments.

    My Lords, before my noble friend sits down I think possibly I ought to put right one thing, as a matter of procedure. There is nothing improper in putting down amendments on Third Reading which have been discussed and then withdrawn at an earlier stage, and I understand that this applies to the amendments put down today. The only thing that would be contrary to the Standing Orders and to the Companion—which gives in more detail the customs of your Lordships' House—would be to put down amendments on Third Reading on which the House has expressed a decision at an earlier stage. I thought it right to put that point to the House because this is sometimes rather a delicate issue.

    On Question. Bill read 3a .

    Clause 3 [ Requirements as to the construction of road humps]:

    5.42 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 1:

    Page 3, line 17, at end insert—
    (" ( ) Regulations so made may require or permit highway authorities to obtain or receive financial contributions from the owners or occupants of properties adjacent to roads where road humps are to be constructed in order to reduce the expenditure to be incurred by highway authorities for such purposes.").

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is similar to one which was tabled at an earlier stage but in fact was not moved, and it follows upon the questions raised with regard to expense. Until a few minutes ago it might have been assumed that road humps could be constructed on any kind of road under any kind of circumstance, but, following the absolute assurance given by my noble friend Lord Avon, that the regulations will contain restrictions as to the building of humps, it now appears that these will only be built in areas where a 30 mile an hour speed limit is to be operative.

    My Lords, I thank my noble friend. It will be 30 miles an hour or less, which of course brings the hump into roadways which are most probably in residential and urban areas. It follows, I think quite reasonably, that it will be for the local authority—the highway authority—to determine where the hump would best serve its purpose. But it also follows that residents or the owners and occupiers of properties in areas which they consider to be dangerous or requiring deterrents other than the speed limit, may press for humps to be constructed. It has always been my contention that a lot of people may very well desire traffic to go down somebody else's street and so make this kind of representation.

    It seems to me that under present economic circumstances the highway authority will be hard pressed, first, to do any building at all and, secondly, to meet what are probably legitimate requests. So if the highway authority were empowered to make charges for the service that they are going to provide in those areas that would not be unreasonable. The amendment does not say that they have to; it merely allows them to seek contributions from those people who request, for particular and good reasons, that humps should be constructed. That there may be a net saving to the nation, as it were, by a reduction in accidents does not of course reduce the financial expenditure of the highway authority because there is no (as it were) credit back.

    It would also have the advantage, I believe, of making people—groups perhaps—who are pressing for a hump construction to think very carefully as to whether it is worth while in the eventuality of their having to make some kind of contribution. Perhaps when he responds to this amendment my noble friend Lord Kinnoull will give us some further indication as to the costs which might devolve upon a highway authority for the construction of a particular stretch of humped road. When we discussed this matter at the last stage I asked a specific question with regard to the costs. I did not get an answer and in fact it was the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, who asked whether I had a particular question in mind and I repeated that question (it is in Hansard):" How much is all this going to cost and where will the money come from?" Perhaps in the context of this amendment he will care to give me a reply to that question also. I beg to move.

    My Lords, perhaps I may come in here on this amendment generally because I think perhaps I can satisfy my noble friend Lord Lucas by saying that I think that, under Section 60 of the Highways Act 1971, the powers which he wishes are already there. The decision whether or not to install humps on a particular road, under this Bill, rests with the highway authority concerned. As I said at the Committee stage, one of the factors in this decision will of course be the cost, and each authority will have to decide, in the light of the potential cost-effectiveness of the humping proposals (and I spoke to that at some length) and of competing demands on available resources, whether an installation is justified. If humps are likely to be cost-effective in accident prevention, then the community as a whole will benefit and it would be right for the community to pay. This is a principle which is implicit in all existing highway and indeed traffic management legislation, and there is no reason or justification for treating hump installations differently. There could be situations where hump installations would benefit the general community but where some or all the owners and occupiers of adjacent property did not see themselves as receiving benefit; it would seem unreasonable in these circumstances that they should be required to contribute towards the cost of installation.

    Here is a point which I hope will answer my noble friend's question. If, on the other hand, a proposed hump installation appeared unlikely to be cost-effective enough to justify its contruction at public expense, and if the owners of frontages on the road concerned wanted humps and were willing to contribute the difference between the full cost and the cost justifiable at public expense, the matter could be dealt with under existing highways legislation. Section 60 of the Highways Act 1971 already enables highway authorities to accept contributions to the cost of works they are empowered to undertake from persons benefiting therefrom.

    To summarise, therefore, the power the amendment proposes is, we think, unnecessary in as much as it relates to a permissive power for a highway authority to receive contributions from frontagers who benefit from hump installations. In fact the power already exists and, so far as it relates to a requirement that frontagers should always have to contribute, it would be undesirable. Although the amendment itself would produce a simple permissive power for the Minister to include in his regulations provisions relating to financial contributions, the power would never, we think, actually come into force. I shall leave my noble friend Lord Kinnoull to talk about costs. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

    My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, he has not answered the specific question posed by my noble friend Lord Lucas as to exactly how much these humps would cost. It must be known to the department because Abbotsbury Road within a borough of London already has—I will not say the benefit of humps; therefore, the department must know.

    My Lords, perhaps I may answer this point on cost, of which I have been advised. With the experimental humps which were started five years ago the cost came out at £500 a hump, and with inflation and revised prices it is now estimated that the cost would be £700. There would, in addition to that, be the cost of the signs and notices. I hope that that gives an indication of the cost.

    My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Earl for one moment, can he tell us how much it would cost to take them down again?

    My Lords, I think I need notice of that question. Perhaps I could make one point to my noble friend in reply. This amendment goes far outside the permissive power that already exists. The noble Lord probably knew that that power existed anyway. His amendment would allow the highway authority to instruct the residents in the area to provide sums of money to provide a service to the community. I think that would be highly contentious and most irregular, and I am sure the House would not wish to see that happen.

    My Lords, as a vice-president of the Pedestrians' Association, I am inclined to oppose my noble friend's amendment, on the grounds that not only would the hump benefit the local people but it would also benefit pedestrians in general. When we talk about costs, there are occasions, certainly in other countries, where these humps are used as pedestrian crossings. Therefore, the cost is hard to estimate, if they are going to be not only humps but also pedestrian crossings. I think in general terms, as the Pedestrians' Association figures show, they contribute to a very large fall in accidents at road entries.

    My Lords, may I thank the noble Earl the Minister, my noble friend Lord Kinnoull and my noble friend Lord Ferrier for their contributions. On the last point, I would challenge the noble Earl upon these particular figures—but on another occasion, not this evening. All I would say to him is that the essence of road hump building is to reduce the speed or flow of traffic, rather than to aid pedestrian ways as we saw in the pictures in the report.

    My noble friend Lord Kinnoull has, yet again, not answered the question. In fact, during the Committee stage, £700 is precisely the figure I put on one hump. I have asked him now on a number of occasions—and I have really now lost interest in the answer because I will put my own figure on it—the cost of humping a stretch of road; that is, for the planning inquiry, the building, the lighting, the signing and the maintenance. My guess is that it would probably come out at about £30,000 per 800-metre stretch of road. I do not think anybody is likely to contest that figure this evening; I hope they do not, because we can go into it on another day. It is not going to be helpful I fear. I am quite happy to accept the Minister's assurance that there is already existing provision for the recovery of some parts of monies for road construction works where there is not a full and total cost-benefit to the community but where such construction is undertaken at the behest of the occupiers or the road users. With that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause 5 [ Regulations]:

    5.54 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 2:

    Page 4, line 9, leave out from ("with") to end of line 10 and insert (" any organisations which appear to him to represent persons likely to be affected.").

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, I can deal with the merits of this amendment in a very few sentences, because we did discuss this matter on Report and I was given an assurance about it. If we were in normal times I have no doubt this amendment would have been accepted and would now be in the Bill; but we are not in normal times, though of course it is much better to have it in the Bill than to have an assurance about it.

    This is an amendment to Clause 5(2) which says:

    "Before making any regulations … the Minister shall consult with such representative organisations as he thinks fit".

    That enables the Minister to pick and choose among the representative organisations. It would clearly enable the Minister to say, if he chose, "I will consult the RAC but not also the AA, because both those organisations cover the same ground". I do not think the House on Report accepted that that was good enough, and this amendment, therefore, was to ensure that the Minister shall consult with any representative organisation that he knows about. As I say, this was accepted and would in the ordinary course of events be in the Bill by now.

    In order to put this amendment down for Third Reading I had to put it down by last Wednesday, because Third Reading was going to be last Friday. By last Wednesday it seemed to have become abundantly clear, contrary to what we had been told in all good faith about another place not having time to consider Lords' amendments, that another place, if they put their minds to it, would have time to consider Lords' amendments. I therefore thought it worth while to put this amendment down for Third Reading, which I have done, and I beg to move.

    My Lords, the noble Lord suggested that this amendment was considered on Report and was withdrawn, but did not satisfy the House at that time. I think in fact it was in Committee that the noble Lord put down exactly the same amendment word for word, and the noble Lord then did accept the arguments and the assurances that were given, extracted from my noble friend, that all the proper bodies concerned under Clause 5 would be contacted and discussions would take place. We had a very long debate on this issue. So I am a little perplexed as to why the noble Lord wishes to raise an exactly similar amendment, having withdrawn the other one after accepting the assurances.

    If I may go to one other point, the noble Lord referred again to the timescale, as indeed did the noble Lord, Lord Underhill. I meant to mention when we were considering Third Reading that, as I understand it, the business of the House in another place is decided on a Thursday for the following week, so it would not have made any difference whether we had had Third Reading on Friday or today. I hope I have answered the point the noble Lord made.

    My Lords, apart from the fact that assurances were given when we discussed this matter on the previous occasion, surely this particular amendment is not satisfactory in its wording. Your Lordships will recall that I withdrew an amendment at Committee stage which provided that local authority associations should be consulted. The wording of this amendment is

    "… which appear to him to represent persons likely to be affected".
    Would that cover local authority associations, or would it exclude them? Much as I should like to have more definite organisations mentioned, I should much prefer to see the wording which is in the Bill than this wording, which might cut out some of these vital organisations which may not be directly affected. I can see that there could be considerable argument as to whether the bodies I have in mind would be covered by these words.

    My Lords, as I read it, this amendment would make it more likely for the Pedestrians' Association to be consulted than would be the case under the Bill as it stands. Accordingly, I support the amendment.

    My Lords, perhaps I cart clarify something here. There are two clauses involved, Clause 5 and Cause 4. Whereas Clause 5 is about consulting for the regulations, Clause 4 is about consulting with the local authorities. To answer the question just now from my noble friend, of course this would come under Clause 4 when the local authorities are consulted. I did speak to this on the Committee stage and I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, despite his pressure on me, that the wording of this clause is in a standard form for provisions for consultations on regulations made under an Act. It is a standard form. He may press the amendment, but there is nothing exceptional in this particular clause. It is standard practice, when making regulations, to spread the consultation net as widely as possible to include all representative organisations and bodies who might have an interest in them. If I can give an example, that includes the RHA, the AA, the RAC, the Freight Transport Association and the Institute of Motor Cycling.

    But it must be remembered that the regulations will be concerned only with the rules concerning the installation and use of humps; they will not be concerned—here we come to the point of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill—with matters of purely local interest, such as the suitability or appropriateness of humps in specific locations. These matters will be subjected to local consultation. Provisions as to these are made in Clause 4 of the Bill; organisations representing people likely to be affected, like the pedestrians, will have the opportunity of expressing their views. I hope I have spoken sufficiently on this to convince the House that this is the right course.

    My Lords, just to resolve the complexity of the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, I should like to say that the reason I put down this amendment again was, as I said before, so as to have it in the Bill and not have to rely simply on assurances. As I said, since the Report stage there was an obvious opportunity for another place to consider this matter if it so chose. For that reason I put down this amendment again. I do not think it is of sufficient importance for me to divide the House about it. I have had again the assurances that I had in Committee. I was corrected; it was in Committee and not on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    6.3 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 3:

    Page 4, line 11, leave out subsection (3) and insert—
    ("(3) No such regulations shall be made unless a draft thereof has been laid before and approved by both Houses of Parliament.").

    The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I regard this as a very important amendment and I hope the House will give it serious consideration. I did not pursue the question of dividing against the Third Reading, very much because of what the noble Earl, Lord Avon, said—that all the matters that had been raised in the course of the debates in Committee and on Report, and again today, would be borne in mind when the regulations were drawn up. I do not seek for one moment to doubt the sincerity of that. But when the regulations are drawn up there will be other matters which have not been raised in this House. There are lots of matters which noble Lords in this House do not know about, and I think it would be asking too much to suggest that we pass an enabling Bill which lets the Minister make extensive regulations to deal with this admittedly rather difficult matter and then leave it simply to the Negative Resolution procedure.

    I hope that on this I may carry with me the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, as vice-president of the Pedestrians' Association, because he will have an opportunity, if the draft regulations come for Affirmative Resolution, to satisfy himself that the interests of the Pedestrians' Association have been looked after properly. In the same way there will be other interests representing their case to different Members of your Lordships' House. No doubt the local authority associations will make known their views. When we really do not know what form these regulations are going to take—the noble Earl, Lord Avon, has been perfectly frank in saying that the discussions have not gone far enough for him to give any definite outline—I suggest that we ought to put into the Bill that the regulations should be subject to Affirmative Resolution. I beg to move.

    My Lords, I should find it very difficult to resist this amendment; in fact, I should find it impossible to resist it for the very reason that the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, has outlined. There have been so many matters proposed in amendments, or amendments which finally were not moved, where there were differences of opinion and where your Lordships have accepted quite readily the assurances given by the Minister that these matters will be fully covered by regulations. Therefore, the regulations are going to deal with quite a number of issues on which differences of opinion have been expressed.

    On a number of occasions I have risen in your Lordships' House and urged that we ought to have the affirmative instead of the negative procedure, and on this occasion I should find it very difficult not to support the amendment proposed by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon. I cannot see that the Minister could give me any justification for not supporting the amendment, and I cannot possibly believe that an amendment of this kind, which is non-controversial and does not deal with the policy or content of the Bill, would create an embarrassing situation if it were passed and the Bill were returned to the Commons so amended.

    My Lords, I must confess that I had not intended to support this amendment but I must yield to the blandishments of the noble Viscount and agree with the noble Lord, Lord Underhill.

    My Lords, I should like to support this amendment. For the reasons I have given once this afternoon, I think this Bill is drafted too widely. If we leave the regulations to the Minister without the need to come back to either House, I think that some of the damage that can be done by these humps and depressions will go forward into the Act.

    I hope I shall not weary the House when I say that the background to this Bill has worried me. My late husband was a Member of the other House for 20 years and I have some knowledge of its workings. This Private Member's Bill came to the other House at ten minutes to four on a Friday afternoon and its Second Reading was passed without a Division. It went upstairs to a Committee on which there were 22 Members. Twelve Members attended. After a short discussion of only 53 minutes—not, I am informed, on the Bill but on a completely different subject, about the GLC—they passed this Bill by seven votes to five. It was put through its remaining stages in the other place and it came to this House without any adequate consultation whatsoever by Members of Parliament. Members of Parliament are there to put forward the views of their constituents. At no time were they able to give those views.

    The noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, has said that this is a very small enabling Bill. Actually it is a very important Bill which, if passed into law, will affect many people. A great many Members of your Lordships' House quite obviously think—of course, they have a right to their opinions—that in the end this Bill will save many lives and will help a great number of people. One of the many reasons against it is that it is inevitable, because it is written into the Bill, that the Minister will be empowered to build not only humps but depressions; that is, ditches, which nobody can see in the dark, which nobody can see if they are iced over, which nobody can see if they contain a great deal of water and which nobody can see if they contain refuse. When my noble friend Lord Ferrier talked about the pedestrians, I envisaged the pedestrian on his walk becoming very wet indeed if he were anywhere near cars, lorries, motorcycles and even cycles which were going through these ditches.

    I am informed that many organisations have been asked about this matter, but we have been told already by the Minister that no experiments on these depressions have taken place. I contend that it is quite wrong for your Lordships' House to pass a Bill as regards part of which there have been no experiments. It is perfectly easy, as we all know, to have experiments carried out not on the highway but on strips of road built out in the wilds of Berkshire or somewhere like that.

    Therefore, to put forward a Bill that deals with depressions without—and the Minister told us this—having any experiments as to whether they will be very dangerous or just dangerous is, I think, a bad thing for your Lordships' House even to consider. I welcome what the Minister has said this afternoon—namely, that humps will not be put on any road that is subject to a speed limit of over 30 miles per hour. That will at least help. But, as my noble friend pointed out, it will also mean that the roads will be residential or in urban areas, and therefore presumably they will be roads in which there would be houses.

    As I think I said when we were sitting in the Royal Gallery, although the Bill is designed to slow up cars, lorries, buses and perhaps motorcyclists, it will also slow up, if it ever comes about, services such as a doctor's car, an ambulance, and a police car which is responding to a 999 call. We must consider the people living in those roads. As I said on Second Reading, I personally think that there is so much against the Bill that if the matter had been put to the vote on Second Reading I would have voted against it. Meanwhile, I shall contain myself by supporting the noble Lord's amendment.

    My Lords, we are up against a great difficulty here and I can speak with some experience as I handled a Private Member's Bill only the other day which, through lack of a quorum, foundered—I may say that it was not nearly such a convincing Bill as that of my noble friend. But again we have this canard about lack of discussion in the other place. It is true that this has been an overladen Session. The first Session of a new Parliament—and I have had over 20 years in this House—is always up against this problem. But, both the late Bill which I endeavoured to pilot and which went through the other place, and this one, were discussed at a reasonable hour of the day with a full Committee representing all parties. Whether the other place did its job properly is surely no business of your Lordships' House.

    As regards this particular Bill, I am not technically equipped to pass an opinion, as regards chapter and verse, whether it is a good Bill. All that I can say is that for my own part, living in a cul-de-sac as I do, the Bill is admirable. I can quite see that there are places where road humps would be dangerous. But, on the whole, I think that this is a Bill to promote road safety and it should be given a chance. I turn briefly to the amendment. I believe that, with the present pressure on parliamentary time, the Bill as worded could be by far the best method of ensuring that particular aspects of the Bill are carefully borne in mind and that the implications of the Bill are likewise borne in mind.

    6.16 p.m.

    My Lords I should like to make a few comments before the noble Lord sits down, or, if he likes, I shall put the observations which I wish to put to him in the form of a very short speech. One matter which has not been dealt with is that when the Bill was introduced there was never any question that it was a Private Member's Bill introduced by the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, from another place and one which, in the course of its progress here, attracted the attention of the Government who adopted it.

    It must be described as a Private Members' Bill because on this occasion it has come as such from another place. But, of course, in a few days' time we shall be in another Session. This is a Government approved Bill. There is nothing on earth to prevent the Government introducing this measure duly thought over, duly corrected and in the light of having read the discussions which have taken place up to now. We shall probably be told that there is not very much that the Government can say in opposition to the Bill. It will still be 99.9 per cent. the same Parliament and there will be no change of personnel by an election or anything like that. It could go through this House quite quickly after the discussions that we have had and then it could go to another place. The matter is not as urgent as all that.

    We have assisted this Bill time after time partly because the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, enjoys a very special respect in this House. Indeed, he has at least one other measure which is, for the moment, in harbour in another place, but if they want to proceed with it they would have, in any event, to reintroduce it. If we are reluctant to withdraw from the noble Earl the distinction of this Private Member's Bill, he has all the parliamentary historic record of having introduced a Bill which has created nearly as much controversy as the Finance Act 1910. Moreover he has now safely piloted it into the arms of Her Majesty's Government, who are generally expected to last until Christmas at any rate, and possibly until the end of next Session, and who can carefully, thoughtfully and after fuller consultation pilot this measure, if they still approve it, through another place, where it can have a full discussion, if that discussion is required.

    Having wobbled about depressions during the first stage of the Bill, having had that put down as an amendment and taken out, and having had it put down again and taken out, suddenly to find it again, unaltered, after these long deliberations—some considerable expertise having been expressed—I do not understand why we should not pass the amendment. The House may reject the amendment, in which case no harm has been done. Why should we be intimidated into declining to vote for an amendment which my noble friend on the Front Bench has said he can hardly resist supporting; we should let it take its course. Neither course would deprive the Government of their chance, if they so wish, to introduce the Bill in the new Session. It would not be in the same month because the debate on the Queen's Speech will, no doubt, last until the end of the month, but it would certainly be within a few days of the new Session being opened.

    My Lords, I, too, should like to support this amendment. The Government have given us no indication of the regulations which they propose to introduce and therefore I think it is essential that your Lordships' House has the opportunity to discuss them.

    6.23 p.m.

    My Lords, I must take issue with my noble friend straight away. We have been through the Committee stage and the Report stage and we have given every indication of many of the regulations that we might introduce. The noble Lord, Lord Hale, might like to know that I did not actually conduct the Bill through its earlier stages so I might look forward to doing it again. However, I was present for the Committee stage and the Report stage and I am now happy to be on the Third Reading, and very much hope that all our work will not go for nothing, although if the noble Lord wishes, I can start all over again in the next Session.

    I should like to answer a couple of points before dealing with the amendment, from which we seem to have drifted rather a long way. I can only repeat what I said on Report about depressions, which I see was a quotation of what was said in Committee anyway. I said:
    "there has been no experiment whatever in depressions. It is even open to the Minister at present whether or not he would want any experiments in depressions, and there will be no question whatever of building a depression until such experiments have been tried out for a period of at least nine months".—[Official Report, 28/10/80; col. 308.]
    The point about emergency services can be argued both ways. If you do not have a depression, you might have a one way street or a closed street. An emergency service can get along a street with a depression, but it cannot get along a street that has been closed. That can be argued either way, but there will of course be consultations.

    This is an intriguing amendment and, as the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, said, it raises some interesting points. It seeks to substitute an Affirmative Resolution procedure for what is normally known as the Negative Resolution parliamentary approval procedure, which the Bill would apply to regulations made under it. Negative Resolution procedure is a procedure which is more economical in parliamentary time; it means that time is required for discussing regulations only if someone positively considers this necessary, and then not necessarily in both Houses. To take the pedestrians, if they want to put down a Motion, it would of course be discussed.

    However, Affirmative Resolution procedure requires the positive allocation of a place in the business of both Houses, whether or not anyone has anything to debate on the regulations concerned. This is by the way, save that such considerations presumably underlie the fact that most of the regulations for which the NI mister is responsible and which he is required to submit to Parliament are subject to negative procedure. If I may remind the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, this is the case with regulations made under the highways legislation—it is no different—of which this Bill will, if enacted, form part. It is also the case with the Road Traffic Regulation Act.

    I am, of course, well aware that there is a general tendency to consider that the delegation of subordinate legislation powers to Ministers is too extensive and should be more closely controlled. However, I would suggest that that is an issue which, if debated, should be considered in a more general context than that of this Bill, which simply follows the precedent in the body of legislation of which it is designed to form a part. But I should also like to point out that in the discussions we have had of the powers that this Bill would give the Minister, no evidence at all has been brought to suggest that he may be discharging his existing—in some cases much more far-reaching—powers with less than full regard to the public interest and to road safety.

    Consider, for instance, the Traffic Signs Regulations which the Minister makes under the Road Traffic Regulation Act. The provisions of these regulations have a far greater potential effect on road use and road safety than any road humps regulations could have. The Traffic Signs Regulations govern the information that may—and, by exclusion, may not—be given to all road users on every highway in the country. They signify potential offences by indicating mandatory prohibitions and they are subject to Negative Resolution procedure, as are, for instance, the regulations controlling pedestrian crossings. But to my knowledge it has never been suggested that Ministers have been exercising this power with insufficient regard to public rights or to road safety. On the contrary, it is, in fact, sometimes suggested, particularly by one or two of the road organisations, that the Minister's control over the content of traffic signs may be exercised with an over-anxious concern for safety.

    This amendment seems to me to reflect that distrust of the way in which the Minister would exercise the powers the Bill would give him. Yet this implied distrust has never been supported by evidence of misuse by Ministers of existing, similar and more far-reaching powers. It seems to me that such evidence is needed to justify a departure from the highways legislation precedent—indeed, from the normal precedent of legislation in the transport field—as this would be. For those reasons, I should like to recommend that we resist this amendment.

    My Lords, I rise to support the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, in this amendment, even more so having heard the remarks just made by my noble friend on the Front Bench. I do not want to get into the position implied by my noble friend Lord Auckland; nor, indeed, the implied position given by the noble Lord, Lord Hale.

    Throughout the unhappy passage of this Bill various doubts as to parts of the Bill have been expressed on all sides of the House. We have most certainly had the assurance of the Minister and the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, that these points will be taken on board during the framing of the regulations. Apart from the one exception given to us this evening about the 30 miles an hour speed limit, there has been no assurance that such-and-such a point will be brought into the regulations. The assurance has been that such-and-such a point will be taken care of during the course of the framing of the regulations, and it was admitted at Second Reading by the Government spokesman, my noble friend Lord Long, that the regulations will take some time, that it is a difficult and experimental area; so we are in some difficulties.

    There are a number of matters which have arisen during the passage of the Bill which we have not had the opportunity to debate and discuss because one cannot just put down amendment after amendment after amendment. Your Lordships have been most patient with me on the number I have put down, but I think I could raise at least sixty questions, as I would wish to talk with the department. Now, under the Negative Resolution procedure, Parliament, as Parliament, and this House in particular, would have very little opportunity of debating and discussing such regulations. By the Affirmative Resolution they would most certainly have the opportunity to bring pressure to bear if necessary.

    The argument with regard to precedents over traffic signs or other road safety legislation leaves me less than warm. I do not really mind about that kind of precedent, because we are now discussing something quite new. It started in 1974 with the experimental building of humps. It has been in force for only those five or six years, and we have had only a handful of reports, largely from one source. So we enter, I believe, into a totally different area of traffic supervision and safety measures. Therefore, at this particular stage it is necessary that Parliament should have a full opportunity to discuss them.

    I cannot accept what my noble friend Lord Avon said—if I do misquote him, I think the sense is the same—with regard to some Members of your Lordships' House showing a marked distrust of what the Minister, or a Minister, may do by having such wide enabling powers. I do not think that is the point. I think it is that we are so concerned about matters of this kind that we want to have a full and proper look at what is ultimately agreed to be done. Your Lordships have an enviable reputation in this field of traffic and road safety, and by accepting the noble Viscount's amendment it can, in my belief, only enhance that reputation.

    My Lords, I echo what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has just said about there being no question at all of any distrust of the Minister in making these regulations; but I think one ought to consider the position of the representative organisations who are going to be consulted. Having been consulted, they are not going to know what form the regulations are going to take. The regulations will be published and then, surely, the representative bodies will wish to have a target date for when the regulations are to be debated in Parliament so that they can go through their usual procedure of writing to the Members of both Houses, commenting on the regula- tions as they have turned out and on those parts which they agree with or do not agree with, or think ought to be amended in some way or another.

    Then, surely, it is only right that when the Minister presents the regulations we should have a debate, so that in the light of what we are told by the expert representative organisations we can seek assurances from the Minister at the Dispatch Box about parts of the regulations and decide, in the light of the debate, whether the regulations are satisfactory or not. I should have thought that any Minister worth his salt would be only too pleased to come to the Dispatch Box with regulations of this kind and say, "Here they are, and I am here to explain them and to deal with any points that noble Lords may raise". The Negative Resolution procedure, where the regulations are put on the table and it is a take-it-or-leave-it situation, I should have thought was not in the least acceptable.

    My Lords, I think sometimes we have strayed a little far from the precise nature of the amendment. If we could just concentrate our minds on the amendment, it of course presents a very important issue. I do not deny that at all. It is a parliamentary procedural issue whether this Bill should have a negative procedure or an affirmative procedure. The House knows the weakness of the negative procedure in another place. The House knows the opportunities that Members in another place have of raising a debate on negative procedure. I do not hide that. But we in this House also know that every Member has a right to lay a prayer. I have been looking back over the last 20 years to see how many times prayers have been laid and how successful they were. The noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, is the current champion: he has laid four prayers against orders over the last 10 years. He was unsuccessful. I think he withdrew them; but he made the Minister and the Government of the day think.

    My Lords, as I understand, the safeguards under the Negative Resolution procedure—and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, should know this, because he serves on behalf of the House on the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, and should, and I am sure does, examine all the many statutory instru- ments that come forward on a Negative Resolution basis and then ultimately reports to the House if they should have special attention—

    My Lords, the Joint Committee has no authority to make recommendations about the merits of a statutory instrument.

    My Lords, I am grateful for that elucidation. Then, of course, there are various joint committees in another place who have powers to call evidence on particular issues, and I am sure they do if they are advised that something is unsatisfactory in a statutory instrument.

    The defence, really, of having a Negative Resolution procedure in regard to this Bill rests on two issues. One is precedent. As my noble friend has very firmly advised us, it is a precedent to have a Negative Resolution procedure in this sort of highways Bill. There are many precedents to quote. I will not bother to quote them, because the House knows them. Then there is the parliamentary timetable. That, of course, is the crux of the issue. The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, knows that this amendment would not be accepted by the Government in another place, and in a way one could say that it has possibly a wrecking motive.

    I would remind the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, who rose to support this amendment, that in the many years that we had a Government of his persuasion, never once did they try to put this parliamentary problem right; and there were many occasions, I am sure, if he looks back in the records, when precisely the same argument was being adopted by those who were against a Bill of this nature. I hope that he will not be seen to forget that Governments, and indeed Oppositions when they become Governments, unless they change the parliamentary timetable procedure or change the Negative Resolution procedures, will always remain unsatisfactory in this respect. I hope this Bill will not founder on this amendment, because this is really an issue to do with parliamentary procedure, rather than the Bill. I hope the noble Lord will be persuaded to withdraw it.

    My Lords, before the noble noble Lord sits down, since reference has been made to the negative procedure in other highways matters, may I ask whether there is a precedent where other highways matters have passed through both Houses of Parliament with goodwill but without discussion, or without decisions on vital amendments because they wanted the Bill to go through?

    My Lords, I think it would be wrong of me to say, "Yes, there is"; but if I were to quote one example it would be the Road Traffic Regulations, which were in a sense much more important in the safety context than this small Bill.

    My Lords, I have listened to this discussion and I must say at once that I am unmoved. A good deal of attention was given to the question of parliamentary time; the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, spoke about pressure of time and the noble Earl, Lord Avon, of course implied the same thing when he spoke. All I can say is that we hope—I trust that everybody in your Lordships' House hopes—that in the next Session we are not going to have such pressure on parliamentary time as we have had this Session. Therefore, to provide for an occasional Affirmative Resolution does not seem to be an impossible thing to do.

    As regards the precedent, of course we are governed partly by precedents but Parliament can always alter a precedent. I have not got the papers with me but in fact I shall tell the noble Earl, Lord Avon, afterwards of a precedent for an Affirmative Resolution in traffic regulations. I did not introduce it, but I got it accepted in a debate about 25 years ago on the subject of minimum speed limits. Arguing against minimum speed limits the Government of the day eventually agreed to have the introduction of minimum speed limits subject to the Affirmative Resolution procedure. It is a good example because here we are again dealing with something that is new. I thought that what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, said about that was very relevant. This is something new, and I feel that we should have these regulations subject to Affirmative Resolution.

    6.42 p.m.

    On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 3) shall be agreed to?

    Their Lordships divided: Contents, 55; Not-Contents, 46.


    Airedale, L.Hale, L.Pitt of Hampstead, L.
    Airey of Abingdon, B.Hampton, L.Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
    Banks, L.Hanworth, V.Rochester, L.
    Bernstein, L.Houghton of Sowerby, L.Ross of Marnock, L.
    Blease, L.Kaldor, L.Simon, V. [Teller.]
    Brougham and Vaux, L.Kilmarnock, L.Stone, L.
    Bruce of Donington, L.Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.Strathcarron, L.
    Clifford of Chudleigh, L.Longford, E.Sudeley, L.
    Colwyn, L.Lucas of Chilworth, L.Swinfen, L.
    David, B.Mackie of Benshie, L.Taylor of Blackburn, L.
    Davies of Leek, L.Macleod of Borve, B.Taylor of Mansfield, L.
    de Clifford, L.McNair, L.Underhill, L. [Teller.]
    Evans of Claughton, L.Maelor, L.Vaux of Harrowden, L.
    Ferrier, L.Masham of Ilton, B.Vickers, B.
    Gaitskell, B.Morris, L.Wade, L.
    Glenamara, L.Mottistone, L.White, B.
    Gosford, E.Ogmore, L.Wigoder, L.
    Granville of Eye, L.Peart, L.Winstanley, L.
    Greenwood of Rossendale, L.


    Allerton, L.Gardiner, L.Montgomery of Alamein, V.
    Auckland, L. [Teller.]Gisborough, L.Newall, L.
    Avon, E.Glendevon, L.Nugent of Guildford, L.
    Bessborough, E.Gowrie, E.Orkney, E.
    Bridgeman, V.Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L.


    St. Aldwyn, E.
    Campbell of Croy, L.St. Germans, E.
    Cathcart, E.Hornsby-Smith, B.Sandys, L.
    Chelwood, L.Hylton-Foster, B.Selsdon, L.
    Colville of Culross, V.Inglewood, L.Skelmersdale, L.
    Cork and Orrery, E.Killearn, L.Strathclyde, L.
    Craigavon, V.Kimberley, E.Strathspey, L.
    Crathorne, L.Kinnoull, E. [Teller.]Trefgarne, L.
    Cullen of Ashbourne, L.Long, V.Trenchard, V.
    De Freyne, L.Lyell, L.Trumpington, B.
    Denham, L.Margadale, L.Young, B.
    Elliot of Harwood, B.Monk Bretton, L.

    Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

    [ Amendment No. 4 not moved.]

    6.49 p.m.

    My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

    Moved, That the Bill do now pass.— (The Earl of Kinnoull.)

    On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.

    My Lords, I think it would be a courtesy to thank all those Members who have shown such a keen and burning interest in this small Bill and to thank my noble friend Lord Avon on, I think, his first occasion of helping to assist a Bill through this House; he has done it magnificently. I am personally sorry that we have—

    My Lords, I fear that I must remind my noble friend that the Question has been put, and therefore he is out of order in making a speech, however welcome.

    Purchasing Practices: Memorandum Nedc (80) 44

    6.50 p.m.

    rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure that the recommendations contained in the Memorandum NEDC (80) 44, issued by the Secretary of State for Industry on 26th June 1980, are promptly and effectively implemented.

    The noble Earl said: My Lords, Memorandum NEDC (80) 44, issued by the Secretary of State for Industry on 26th June of this year to the Institute of Purchasing and Supply, is a declaration of principle of great national importance. Briefly, the memorandum stated that central Government would be examining their purchasing arrangements to ensure that full use was being made of Government purchasing power to help United Kingdom suppliers become more competitive. The Secretary of State asked the nationalised industries and local authorities, as well as private sector buyers, to look similarly at their purchasing practices with the same objective in view and he outlined some ways in which that aim could be fulfilled. On page 2 of the memorandum Section 4 stated that the Department of Industry would give them every support by means of a conference of the Institute of Purchasing and Supply, that the Secretary of State welcomed the suggestion and hoped he would be able to address the conference himself. I gather that that has not as yet happened, but hopefully it will occur in the not too distant future.

    Few would disagree that it must be more economical for the United Kingdom to buy a domestic rather than an imported product, particularly if the quality and delivery are on a par, so let us consider three related factors: first, the past consequences of the lack of a policy; secondly, the policies of our international competitors; and thirdly, the problems of implementation. The logic in the memorandum is both obvious and impeccable and the principle set out is of great economic importance. In fact, a recent Conservative Party political broadcast said, "Think British before you buy", so Her Majesty's Government must surely set an example.

    The principle is so obviously in the national interest as a force for economic development and prosperity that it is incredible that we should even need to discuss it. Do we hear of other countries discussing it? I very much look forward to hearing from noble Lords opposite that they support the principle so that it may become consistent national economic policy outside the area of party politics. My concern is that the memorandum's policy should be put into practice forthwith, for it is essential that we capitalise to the full on our abilities in the innovative and expanding market sectors such as aerospace, electronics and computers. If we take a brief look at some of the sectors that have contributed to our national wealth in the past, we find the railways, shipbuilding, steel and the motor industry, but alas today they have virtually ceased to contribute. In fact, I believe they actually consume our resources at the rate of millions of pounds a day.

    If we review our past performance and attitudes in these high technology areas, what do we discover? First, we have enormous abilities in the research and development area, followed by an enormous failure to transform the products into profitable sales by effective marketing and mass production. For some reason, our inability to co-ordinate the requirements of the user with the products of our manufacturers, together with lack of enterprising investment, has obviously played the major part in this failure. What overseas buyers will buy British products when the British public sector will not demonstrate its faith in them and sometimes perhaps even openly disparage them?

    Examples are numerous. First, aerospace. I have discussed British Airways' —or is it just "British" these days?—purchasing policy at length on many occasions in your Lordships' House. The consequences of the policy for the economy have been, first, a severe drain on the balance of payments in acquiring American-built aircraft and the airline's operations are likely to add to the drain on our resources, although I agree that British Airways are doing their best to remedy this. Secondly, we have a decline in our civil aviation design and production capability which has made a reduction in our wealth-producing capability, a vital area of economic development, at least according to Viscount Davignon, the EEC Industry Commissioner, and President Giscard d'Estaing. Even Spain and Brazil have development programmes for their national aerospace industries. Thus, the aircraft industry is a prime example where Britain has not earned the profit it should have done.

    Other examples abound in the public sector; police and local authorities are buying imported motor-cycles and vehicles at the same time as the public purse is paying out to Meriden and British Leyland. The Civil Aviation Authority bought imported radar systems, and not from Marconi or Plessey. I could go on ad infinitum and ad nauseam. The list

    of British technological firsts in which British genius and leadership measured in money and time have often been dissipated and lost is equally depressing: the jet engine—before we say we made a success of it do not let us forget that it bankrupted Rolls-Royce—jet airliners, the commercial computer, hovercraft, the brain scanner and one in which I have a vested interest and hope that will not happen to, the airship.

    Today's situation is little better and our aerospace industry on the civil side is still, alas, not a good example. The Harrier jet, on the military side, is a world-beater, but it would have been even more successful in an enhanced supersonic form, but we cancelled that development in the 'sixties. It could not now be revived, but there is a strong danger that the supersonic jump jet will be handed over to McDonald Douglas and once again we may have to buy it back. On the electronics front it seems that our advanced products, like System X and Viewdata, are not being introduced and marketed fast enough for us to gain a profitable world market share. Surely these are areas where the Government's policy should be implemented urgently. As a starter, why have Her Majesty's Government not yet decided to agree to give the Inland Revenue's requirement for a computer to ICL? Perhaps the Minister will enlarge on that when he replies.

    Let us briefly consider our competitors; it is interesting, and I hope constructive, to consider their policies. France has continuously developed her high technology industries over the last 20 years. Aerospace in particular has become a successful part of the French economic infrastructure. The French have always adopted a consistent policy of development, of which Concorde was an important component. France is at the head of the electronic revolution with a programme to introduce "Telematiques" throughout the country. The French have an intense sense of nationalism which strongly influences all purchasing decisions in the public sector. If we in the United Kingdom had built some British warships on spec it is possible that the French would not just have concluded a multimillion pound deal for three frigates with Saudi Arabia. But France had them ready, so she could deliver them at very short notice, instead of taking years as we might have done.

    In the Far East, Japan is another competitor who exhibits an even stronger sense of national purpose. The Japanese have deliberately set out to achieve worldwide markets in field after field. Their success with ship-building, domestic electronics, motorcycles and vehicles is obvious. Next on the list apparently are the aerospace and computer industries. Needless to say, the foundation of the Japanese success is a highly secure domestic market.

    My last example is the United States. Its indigenous industries benefit greatly from development contracts and from procurement policies which favour them over foreign competitors—the "Buy American" Act. They also have a vast domestic market, enabling them to secure great economies because of long production runs, coupled with a social and patriotic attitude which encourages innovation and stability. In fact when I was last in Dallas I saw cars with stickers on the back window, stating:

    "Texan cars, built in Texas, by Texans for Texans".

    Bell helicopters in the States reckon to sell 2,500 helicopters in the same category as the new Westland WG 30, which British Airways wants to operate from Milton Keynes into London Airport. I asked a Question about that yesterday. For once, British Airways is asking to buy a British machine, with a British engine, built in Britain. So for God's sake! let British Airways operate this service, since we may sell abroad 300 or 400 of these helicopters; and they sell for £1 million each.

    We were once described by Napoleon as a nation of shopkeepers—and, my Lords, shopkeepers are salesmen. We appear in so many instances to have let this ability slip in so much that although we have a genius for writing reports, we often seem to fail to follow up our recommendations; or if we do, we are very often too late. In fact Sir John Clark of Plessey summed up the situation the other day by saying:

    "Britain is going on playing cricket while the rest of the world is playing karate".

    Let us take a brief look at the problems that are associated with any procurement policy. The first is the definition of "United Kingdom industry". There are many of the so-called multinationals which operate in this country and which claim to be good corporate citizens in that they export, pay taxes, provide employment, and so on. But, my Lords, surely the test must be one of ownership, control, direction and ultimate benefit. IBM (UK), for example, had I believe a turnover of £882 million last year. It recently disclosed that the net contribution to equipment exports was only £8 million. Therefore after repatriation of dividends of approximately £51 million to its United States parent, the United Kingdom company presumably made a negative contribution to the balance of payments of some £43 million.

    So I maintain that the policy must be to support genuine British companies first, European ones secondly, with the rest of the world, including the multinationals, last. My noble friend might not entirely agree with these sentiments, but I hope that even if he does not do so tonight, perhaps Her Majesty's Government will if necessary reconsider these thoughts.

    Our second problem, and perhaps the most important, is that of incentive. British industry must be stimulated rather than lulled into a state of false security. My suggestion would be to favour those organisations which have a commitment in active participation and competition in overseas markets, and thus earn profits for Britain.

    A third problem is that of a product of innovation which does not entirely appear to meet any existing user specifications or requirements. For instance, the example that I have in mind is the hovercraft, which has clear military applications, as could be seen in the film on television a few weeks ago of the Warsaw Pact manoeuvres. Its adoption by the Ministry of Defence has been very slow and remains half-hearted, and I suggest that there must be many other cases. If the Civil Service were using Viewdata systems in quantity, probably the Rank television factory would not be facing closure; but we have not grasped the opportunity.

    To conclude, I would say that despite such problems, there are areas in the private sector which apply, and thrive on, a pro-British procurement policy. Marks and Spencer, Freddie Laker, even—he may not buy British, but at least he bought the Airbus—and Unipart are shining examples.

    My Lords, we live in a harsh, competitive world; we must realise the fact and act accordingly. The noble Lord, Lord Nelson of Stafford, chairman of GEC, said the other day:

    "Competitor countries turn their public purchasing and Government research and development funding to the advantage of their industries and their exports. United Kingdom companies cannot be expected to win their battles at home and abroad against powerful and heavily-backed foreign rivals if they are obliged to compete with one, sometimes two, hands tied behind their backs".

    I welcome the Secretary of State's policy statement as a large step towards achieving a coherent national policy for increasing our prosperity by encouraging United Kingdom industry. But I should like to emphasise the need for some form of central machinery for discussing future requirements in the public sector at a very early stage, whereby development contracts can be ensured, thus leading British industry to a competitive position. To put it simply and logically, there should be: first, early statement of requirement; secondly, development contracting; and, thirdly, competitive production. Thus three vital objectives will be achieved: first, reduction of unemployment; secondly, reduction of expenditure on social services; and, thirdly, we will all work for the national benefit—and perhaps by so doing we shall be able to use our cricket bats as effective counters against karate chops.

    7.7 p.m.

    My Lords, I am sure that the House will be grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, for having asked this Question. It seems to me to be just the kind of subject on which it is appropriate to call for what might be termed a progress report, and in the same way I have no doubt that the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, will welcome this opportunity to give us all the information he can as to what has actually happened in the four months since the memorandum was published.

    As the noble Earl told us, the memorandum's avowed purpose was to explain how the Government felt that the public sector could use its purchasing power to help British industry generally to become more competitive. That is an objective which has my wholehearted support; and I am sure that the Secretary of State was right to say that purchasers and their suppliers can best serve their mutual interests by discussing their forward plans together. That is the policy which ensures that 90 per cent. of the goods that Marks and Spencer sell are supplied by British manufacturing firms—one of the many things that I so much admire about that particular company. In my view the public sector should certainly aim to act in the same way wherever this can be done without damage to our long-term economic and commercial interests.

    As the memorandum made plain, such a policy has important implications for product design and performance specification, and I shall be interested to hear from the Minister what progress has been made in the case of the engineering industry in implementing the recommendations on those points, which were contained in the reports by Sir Frederick Warner in 1977 for the National Economic Development Office, and by Sir Kenneth Corfield.

    As regards research and development, in their report of February 1980 the Advisory Council for Applied Research and Development concluded that the various parts of the public sector carried out too much of this themselves in support of their purchasing decisions; they took insufficient account of the needs of their own suppliers; and they aimed to meet only their own particular requirements. Again, I should be glad to learn of the Government's response to the recommendations in that report as to how those deficiencies might be remedied. Perhaps I should say that I did not give the Minister notice that I was going to ask those specific questions because the points appear in the memorandum, but I shall understand, of course, if he is not in a position to respond in any detail now, in which case perhaps he would be kind enough to drop me a note later.

    In my view, one of the most telling points in that same ACARD report was that one department is frequently responsible within the Government for a particular nationalised industry while another, usually the Department of Industry itself, is responsible for its suppliers. As the authors of this report put it in what seemed to me a masterly understatement:
    "In such cases we are not convinced that there is adequate liaison between departments over the development of the industry as a whole";
    and they recommend that departments should review their arrangements for considering the impact of the activities of individual nationalised industries on the private sector, with particular reference to purchasing policies. I should therefore like to ask the Minister to tell us when he comes to reply what has happened about that specific recommendation, because it seems to me to be a very important one.

    Now in what we say this evening I am sure that none of us will wish to make the task of the noble Viscount more difficult, but we see reports that some cash might be made available to bodies such as the Post Office, the BBC, the Ministry of Defence, and so on; or that such bodies might be compensated directly, so that development contracts can be placed with British suppliers. Liberals find this a particularly delicate area, because, as good Europeans and with our free trade sympathies, we wish EEC agreements to be honoured and GATT rules observed. But within those constraints I am certainly all for the public sector buying British, and so improving the ability of our own suppliers, as this memorandum puts it, to provide the right goods at the deg price at the right time.

    Thus, in the particular case of the contract for computerising (a horrible word!) this country's tax system, I personally hope it will somehow prove possible to award it to ICL rather than to one of that company's international competitors. It may be that the Minister will not feel able to say much on that particular matter at this moment, but to the extent that he can it will be welcome. By the same token, although it is not perhaps directly relevant to this Question, I cannot forbear to add that where it is a matter of a nationalised industry supplying, rather than purchasing from, the private sector, as in the case, for example, of the gas feedstock soon to come ashore from the North Sea, I hope equally that it will prove to be our own chemical companies, rather than those of our international competitors, which will benefit.

    I think that is all, really, my Lords, that I wish to say. Indeed, I would not have said even as much as I have were it not for my belief that this is a matter of vital concern for British industry in general. It seemed important, therefore, that someone from these Benches should encourage the Government, in the words and spirit of this Question, to take prompt steps to see that, so far as possible, the recommendations contained in the memorandum are implemented.

    7.16 p.m.

    My Lords, we are grateful, I am sure, to the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, for introducing this short debate; and I listened with great interest to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Rochester. The purpose of this paper is to explain how we believe the public sector can deploy its purchasing power to strengthen and promote the competitiveness of United Kingdom industry. This is, as the noble Earl has said, a very important paper, and a very interesting report; and I am sure that if there is an adequate follow-up the exercise will certainly have been worthwhile. In paragraph 2 it says:

    "Over recent years public purchasers have to an increasing extent found that overseas manufacturers have been better able to meet their requirements in quality, price or delivery, and particularly for high-technology products".
    My Lords, I think that defence and national security are also involved in this problem. In the last war, after the fall of France, we had no 40mm guns for our fighter aircraft, and there was a serious problem with regard to the supply of bauxite and many other things. I wonder whether we have learned our lesson about this from the problems we had to face then. Are we any more self-sufficient now?—particularly as, some months ago, we read that Rolls-Royce, who are very involved in industrial war-potential and Government security contracts, were reported to have been to Italy for quotations for certain parts of their products.

    The noble Lord mentioned electronics. I wonder how far the situation with regard to electronics is involved with our defence requirements and our national war- potential. The noble Lord said, in effect, that we are in fact two nations: the old, large traditional industries of the North are languishing; and the new consumer industries of the South are taking in each other's washing and are doing very well, largely upon imported goods from France and Italy. I wonder when the Government are going to have to get down to dealing with this adverse balance of the Economic Community, which runs into hundreds of millions of pounds.

    I am told that the electronics industry in this country, the country of invention, is in a serious position. I am also told that everything seems to be made easy and predictable for importers of electronic goods, whether from Hong Kong or America or wherever, as if we are hell bent to organise for overseas competitors to give them our markets on a plate. We have read in the press recently of electronic factories in this country closing down—television, word processing and electronics equipment in the preliminary advanced work on microsilicon chips. How long can any Government look at that situation and be complacent about it? When, from playing around with microchips, the great inevitable switch comes to using them on a wider sphere—and we are worried about two million unemployed now—how many more unemployed will there be after the big changeover? If we allow these foreign competitors in electronics to come into this country and take our markets, how shall we employ the people who are displaced?

    I think in dealing with this problem of imports we must recognise that electronics in motor-cars and so on has now created a powerful vested interest in this country. The number of people employed in the distribution of their products, whether of motor vehicles, of television sets, of electronics of every description, or in repair, in servicing, in garages, in sales, and in pressurised advertising in the media, has resulted in this becoming a considerable industry in this country. When we look at the number of people using Japanese cars, I am reminded of when we used to export cars to the United States and when more people made profits and got employment in the distribution of our cars in America than those who were manufacturing them in this country. Now we have a reverse process.

    I wonder whether when we are trying to get home purchasers of British cars and so on, we are up against this old problem of buyers wondering whether they can get spares or deliveries under four or five months because of industrial troubles—when at the drop of a hat the media can give prime viewing time to the militants urging a walk-out at the factory gates. This is the kind of propaganda which is preventing the rightful sales of British cars. I need not mention British Leyland, for it applies on a much wider scale.

    I think this is an interesting paper, but I believe it avoids many of the real problems, particularly the problem of dealing with the imports of the foreign electronics industries which are causing the shut-down of many of the newer factories. If we are to avoid astronomical unemployment when the silicon chip process really gets under way, the Government must give this situation serious consideration. I find that this is a memorandum of good intentions; but drastic action will be needed before we are through with this problem—and it is a problem which is not going away.

    7.23 p.m.

    My Lords, the House has before it a memorandum, reference NEDC (80) 44, issued on 26th June of this year, by the Secretary of State for Industry, Sir Keith Joseph. I am bound to say that the House is most grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, for having put down this Unstarred Question so that we can ventilate the contents of the memorandum. I would assure the noble Earl that only the utmost sense of public duty could have impelled him to draw attention to a memorandum that is so acutely embarrassing to the Government that he supports. It is as though Sir Keith Joseph, sitting among the desert of industry that he and his Government and their policies havecreated, had suddenly become aware of the fact that purchases by the public sector, mainly by the nationalised industries and local authorities, amount in total to many billions of pounds per annum and that in some sectors public bodies are the predominant or sole purchasers. Exactly so. Yet, over the past years, members of the Government and their supporters in the country have done very little other than persistently to denigrate the nationalised industries themselves, the purpose for their existence and the way in which they are operated.

    Now, in a blinding flash, they suddenly find out that, after all, it is the nationalised industries and the local authorities who are responsible for a good deal of the trade of private industry throughout the country, whatever that trade may be; whether it be turbines, cables, boilers, pipes, machine tools, pumps, generators, motor vehicles, plant and equipment of all kinds, hospital and medical equipment, protective clothing, chemicals, plastics, furniture or the products of the construction industry.

    One of the most vital factors in the everyday life of private industry is the demand that comes from the public sector. We on this side of the House, to my certain knowledge, for the past half century have continually drawn the country's attention to the fact that if any Government were so minded as to use the nationalised industries in the national interest, there lay within their hands a valuable instrument for stimulating industry when sometimes it was getting a little stagnant or, occasionally perhaps, for cutting back when it was getting overheated. In other words, the control of the nationalised industries was in itself a very valuable factor in enabling Government at any time to be able to take its due share of the steering of the whole economy.

    We have listened this afternoon to the sentiments expressed not only by the noble Earl himself but by the noble Lords, Lord Rochester and Lord Granville of Eye, and I am bound to say that I cannot help agreeing with most of what they say. Of course, it is right that our own nationalised industries—and I am not going to forget the local authorities—should, as far as they possibly can, buy from British industry. In fact, if they do so, undoubtedly it provides for continuation of orders, it provides (as the memorandum sets out) for longer runs and therefore lower unit costs. In short, it is a most valuable instrument.

    But in this respect the Government are of course in the political sense completely schizophrenic. They say in the con- clusions in paragraph 8 of the memorandum:
    "the Government are determined to ensure that a real change in practice takes place".
    Of course; and we are concerned with the practice of this and we cannot consider this practice in isolation because of course public enterprise is deliberately subjected by the Government to constrictions. These are voiced week by week by the Government themselves.

    In answer even to the slightest Question that comes from their own Back-Bench in this House and in another place the Government express their determination that public enterprises—and they refer to them by name as opportunity serves—must operate on a commercial basis and must operate competitively. They say that they are no different from any other commercial organisation and should be treated as such. If, for example, they bought in the British market at prices which were far less competitive than those abroad, they would minimise the return on their capital and they would then expose themselves to the criticism of not operating profitably. In point of fact, the commercial policy of buying as cheaply as possible on the assumption that quality, delivery and everything else are a detail, is one that is hammered home to every nationalised industry by the Government.

    So, my Lords, what has happened? It means that at the present time, owing to the policies of the Government in which they so obstinately persist, much of British industry cannot possibly compete in price with what is produced overseas. The Government's interest policies have undoubtedly caused the high exchange rate—and if the noble Viscount wants any further information I can refer him to practically every reputable financial commentator and most of the financial press today, and he will find that that is so. Owing to the high rate of the pound, artificially inflated by the Government and their high interest policies, German, French and American manufacturers of equipment required by nationalised industry have a subsidy of something like 30 per cent. or 40 per cent. as compared with the British manufacturer. Indeed, even worse than that, owing again to the policies of the Government in forcing up energy prices of electricity and gas, and of intervening actively in the nationalised industries, we find that competitors over- seas are able to offer prices below those offered by British firms.

    The Government can take a choice. Of course the nationalised industries would be prepared, with Government approval, to buy British. But, no; they are enjoined to operate on a strictly competitive basis, whereas the policies of the Government ensure that British firms cannot operate on a competitive basis. We have said many times on this side of the House that cuts in Government expenditure operate in exactly the same way so far as local authorities are concerned. When the Government cut public expenditure—and Mr. Heseltine has become increasingly stringent so far as local authorities are concerned—what are they doing? They are cutting down the propensity to purchase by local authorities from a whole realm, a whole mass, of British industry, and on the opportunity for the construction industry to supply them with things that they need. I have no doubt that there are many British manufacturers who would be quite willing and indeed are anxious to sell kidney machines to the hospital service. One of the wickedest and most despicable cuts in Government expenditure has been the cuts that ensure that people will die because some hospital authorities—or at least one hospital authority—have been forbidden to acquire any further kidney machines.

    We are getting now to the stark realities of the association of public bodies with private industry. We on this side of the House of course agree that there should be this close association. We had been urging this a long time before the present Government even became aware of it and indeed aware of its uses. The paper says that they wish that there should be established a closer relationship and discussion of forward plans together. It goes on to say:
    "To achieve success it will be necessary for them to enter into a sustained dialogue over future requirements, often up to five or more years ahead".
    How can the nationalised industries possibly plan ahead? As we are talking now, and as we have been living in this country over the past year, it is quite clear that the arbitrary imposition of cash limits and the artificial restriction of investments by nationalised industries make it quite impossible for them to plan ahead at all intelligently in these matters. The Government have interfered time after time. Not only have the Government forced up prices charged by nationalised industries but they have exhorted them time and time again to buy in on the cheapest possible market.

    I am sorry to have to raise these matters, which are the practical context within which a policy of this kind has to operate. For some reason that is obscure even to the most skilled city economist and is most certainly obscure to the hulk of British industry including the CBI, the Government—that is to say, the minute section of it comprising the right honourable lady the Prime Minister, the right honourable gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Sir Keith Joseph himself—keep the demands of industry for finance, the demands of the nationalised industries for finance, within the public sector borrowing requirement. They are now under pressure to bring the public sector borrowing requirement down owing to the fact that the increase in unemployment over the past year has added millions and millions to their public sector borrowing requirement.

    These are things the Government have got to face before they issue memoranda of this kind, the contents of which are wholly admirable. What the Government have to do is to create the practical conditions within which the principles laid down in these memoranda can operate: that is all they have to do. But if I know Sir Keith Joseph's political schizophrenia aright, this is what he will not do. He will consider this as in a little compartment—and I have no doubt that the noble Lord would prefer to debate it on this basis—unaware that the global effect of his policies are precisely such as will completely frustrate their being brought into effective operation.

    I therefore reiterate that the only conditions under which this policy, with which I am in complete concurrence, can be brought into operation is, first, by an immediate reduction in interest rates of at least 4 per cent. so that the pound may begin to come to a more normal level where British industry will be able to compete with continental imports which other firms, for entirely competitive reasons, are compelled to buy in order to preserve their own viability.

    The second step is that the nationalised industries' borrowing requirements must be taken out of the public sector borrowing requirement at any rate, even though the extent of that borrowing requirement has already been proved to have no relevance to the level of inflation in the United Kingdom. The third thing the Government can do, if they want their policies to succeed, is to stop this incessant denigration of the nationalised industries and the snide sneers that come from them the whole of the time. Finally, in the words of the right honourable gentleman the Member for Hexham, Mr. Geoffrey Rippon, yesterday, they should stop this "motorway madness" which the Government's existing economic and fiscal policies so accurately reflect.

    7.43 p.m.

    My Lords, if my noble friend who introduced this Hexham question will forgive me for one moment, I should like very briefly to make the odd point while declining to go into a debate on the industrial situation which the noble Lord will no doubt find future occasions to do—more than one, I should think—and will be able to repeat his many statements covering the industrial situation, the economic situation, energy prices and all the rest.

    I must, I am afraid, say just a few things for the sake of the record before we get into the subject of the Question. We are, of course, discussing public purchasing as a whole: the central departments, the local authorities and the nationalised industries as well. Secondly, neither my right honourable friend nor I nor any member of the Government has ever denigrated or made snide remarks about those working in and running the nationalised industries. What we have done is to suggest, as three-quarters of the public have already realised although noble Lords opposite have not, that nationalisation of major industries to a greater extent than our successful competitors has perhaps been a mistake. Nevertheless, we shall deal with the situation as it is, as realistically as possible. But on every occasion my right honourable friend has paid tribute to the people who are working in the nationalised industries and the whole of our policies are designed to make their very difficult tasks that much easier, if we can find a way of doing it consistent of course with stopping the haemorrhage of public funds which the steel figures and other nationalised industry figures represent.

    So far as industrial policies are concerned, I sometimes get a little worried that noble Lords opposite may be having a little trouble with their memories and indeed with the leaders of their party in another place, because when their incomes and prices policy finally broke down they made it quite clear that the only realistic alternative was to have a realistic control of the money supply. Let me also just point out that that is what we are doing, and it is not cutting the money supply but trying to prevent it from growing at a pace which makes inflation certain and makes it impossible to deal with the root causes of inflation, so long neglected.

    The noble Lord, Lord Bruce, appeared to have in mind the use of the nationalised industries in relation to the subject that we are debating as a sort of buying instrument where the Government, Ministers and civil servants could intervene and ensure that British goods were bought. I am afraid that we do not have that degree of overweening self-confidence that enables us to judge the purchasing policies of huge nationalised industries. But what we want to do is to make sure that the chairmen of those industries—and I shall come back to this in a moment—review thoroughly their purchasing policies so that in their judgment they can buy British and pull through British technology whenever that is possible.

    One of the most competitive businesses has already been mentioned in this debate. There was a suggestion, by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, I think, that the nationalised industries would be less competitive if they bought British. Marks and Spencer are one of the most competitive firms in the world and they have a very high record of buying British. I hope that when I come back to the serious question posed by my noble friend we can examine how that is; because what the noble Lord was suggesting, by inference, was that we should encourage the nationalised industries to take yet more taxpayers' money to buy British more expensively.

    Finally, I must point out to the noble Lord opposite that the need for a new policy is based on the fact that in the days of his Government there was a movement away from buying British, which, I have to accept, continued into the early days of our Government. We have analysed some of the reasons why on some of the subjects which my noble friend has raised. We have tried to use past history of public authorities, central departments and nationalised industries purchasing abroad, to try to analyse why. It is because of this drift away from buying British by the public sector that it is so necessary to have a new policy, which my right honourable friend has brought in.

    I myself, in the Department of Industry, soon found that I was the Minister responsible in that department. In other departments other Ministers were also responsible and it was with them that I liaised in relation to the placing by the CAA of the radar contracts abroad. That was a clear example of a failure to get a co-operative and meaningful dialogue over the years before we came to office. We hope that our new policies and systems will ensure that that sort of thing does not occur again. It was a marvel of misunderstanding.

    The companies felt—and I cannot judge the detail—that the specifications laid down were very special to Britain and the CAA, and would make it hard to maintain their very valuable export business, which had been selling £100 million a year without any great assistance. Yet, somehow, they were unable to get together with the purchaser to talk this through, and to find a common base which not only would meet the requirements of the Civil Aviation Authority, but would also strengthen British industry for the future.

    I am not allotting blame, as I am quite incapable of doing so. I would merely say about that industry that I believe that they will continue to obtain a large share of the world's business in the capital radar field, and I wish them very well in doing so. All we can try to do is to see that the policy that we have adopted ensures much earlier contact and con- tinued dialogue over specifications, and over how to put together the interests of manufacturer and of purchaser.

    The Department of Industry, led by my right honourable friend, has been made the lead department in this new policy. So the co-ordination between departments, which I think the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, raised, is centred on the Department of Industry, and at civil servant and at ministerial level the progressing of this matter, with all the departments which have responsibility for any part of the public sector, is being urgently carried through.

    All departments have been asked to review their purchasing policy. All nationalised industry chairmen have been asked about this. Discussions have been taking place on their reviews. Discussions have taken place with Sir Derek Ezra as chairman of the Nationalised Industries Committee. Sir Derek has set such a fine example of this method of liaising closely with suppliers, in his capacity as chairman of the National Coal Board, and has, indeed, strengthened industries manufacturing mining equipment, leading to good export performance.

    He and others have extended these thoughts to the purchasing policy of private industry, and we wish them well. This matter has been raised with the local authority associations and will be raised with important single local authorities. Training schemes are planned and, indeed, seminars have started. The Department of Industry will be the catalyst, not thrusting itself forward, not telling people how to do it, but trying to ensure that this long-term dialogue and the pull-through of British technology takes place, and that British industry plans to become competitive in the areas where it is strong.

    Let me say to the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, that the Warner Report on Standards has been accepted and the Government intend to see that its objectives are achieved. It is a field in which it is difficult to make very fast progress, as I think the noble Lord will accept. The Institute of Purchasing had its conference in September. My right honourable friend was unable to address them, but my honourable friend the Parliamentary Secre- tary at the Department of Industry spoke to them fully on this subject.

    So that all these things—the ACARD Report included—are moving forward. We agree, in the main, with many of the ACARD recommendations. In particular, we are studying and considering whether there is scope for movement in relation to trying to encourage the shift of more research to the private sector and to the suppliers, rather than too big a weight of it occasionally being in the public purchasers' departments.

    The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, mentioned the gas pipelines and the value of some of the components of that gas to the British chemical industry. I can assure him that those points are well understood and well studied, and that within the basic market framework the Government will try to ensure that the maximum national interest is met.

    We are often accused of not giving enough help to our manufacturing industries in this area, and my noble friend, who introduced this Question, mentioned the importance of development contracts in other countries. We have our international obligations and we shall adhere to them. In this area, they are principally the EEC supplies and works directives, which require contracts from Government departments to be advertised if they exceed £130,000 in value. We shall ensure that others carry those out, as well as ourselves—if I may say that to my noble friend in relation to the cricket hat and the karate chop.

    In January, the GATT provision comes into operation, which we shall comply with, and which will be a very big help in relation to major changes in the "buy American" Act. We give much help to various industries, as indeed do our competitors in other countries; particularly, perhaps, in electronics, where not only have we continued to back Inmos, but we have also continued to carry out the MISP and the MAP schemes, and have encouraged development in the various selective schemes which we still use. Quite a part of this has helped British manufacturing industry to have products available and suitable for our public purchasing area.

    It would be wrong to think that we could supply 100 per cent. of our needs, either in the public purchasing area or in the country as a whole, when, as noble Lords know, we export 30 per cent. of our GDP and are a trading nation. In the huge industrial world of today, we shall not be the first supplier of every possible thing to our own organisations. But we want to give every chance to those industries which are capable of success to develop their successes, to use their innovatory skills and to get a pay-off, where it is appropriate, through public purchasing in the first instance.

    I agree with my noble friend that there is no doubt that our innovative ability is still there. His list of the number of things that we have invented in Britain but have not developed could be extended. The failure has gone past what is called in industry the development stage, so I agree entirely with his point. Public purchasing is not the only reason. That the profitability levels of British industry had been depleted by 1975 to one-quarter of the level of our competitors is a large part of the reason, too. These things will not all he put right immediately.

    I am not quite sure that I can go all the way with my noble friend in relation to obviously modern industries and obviously old industries. The old industries, even the nationalised old industries where enormous sums of taxpayers' money are involved, are still producing a considerable quantity of added value in Britain and there is a considerable number of companies which are dependent upon them. Nor do I feel that industries in the private sector, like textiles, should necessarily be labelled old industries and considered not to be in the same class for ensuring that the new initiative regarding public purchasing should help them. Aeroplanes, to the older men in this House, are new, but much of the textile industry that remains today is based on highly scientific, new materials which have been changed four or five times, whose substances are based upon the petrochemical industries. If one goes to their plants and mills, one finds engineering works of precision which an aircraft manufacturer would be proud to see.

    It is for this reason that I find it difficult also just to say that electronics is an important matter. Of course it is important and it is all-pervasive in many different parts of our industries, but in the industrial world of today we may not be going to be top in every aspect. However, a great deal of encouragement is being given because of its all-pervasive nature.

    I am not going to deal with the noble Earl's examples from the aircraft industry which he knows so much better than do I in terms of the history of our development of, or failure to develop, a number of important new aircraft, or hovercrafts, or helicopters, or the supersonic Harrier jump jet, but I would ask him to look to the future, which is indeed the purpose of his Question. Perhaps we should have a larger aerospace industry, but we still have an aerospace industry which is certainly as big as the French aerospace industry. Although we may not make complete aircraft to the extent that we once did in all areas, we make a very good proportion of the engines and of the highly complicated components which go into both our own aircraft and foreign aircraft. However, I will draw my right honourable friend's attention, and also the attention of my noble friend the Minister at the Ministry of Defence, to all of his points.

    In relation to System "X" and Viewdata, this is a prime example of very good co-operation already between the public sector and the private sector. Three major companies, and the Post Office, have not only developed System "X" but have sold it. It is becoming famous across the world and they have a joint selling organisation to promote it. This is an area where, with congratulations to the noble Lord's colleagues when in office, there is already, due mainly to the Post Office and to private enterprise, a considerable success story which needs to be reinforced, and I believe that we shall give it reinforcement. Noble Lords will have seen the recent announcement that my right honourable friend Mr. Butler is to concentrate upon information technology. This will bring together the Post Office and the private side at ministerial level and ensure that this happens in other areas.

    So far as Viewdata is concerned, this, too, we shall promote. We do not believe that the comparisons which are often made with what other nations, and particularly the French, are doing are always 100 per cent. fair. One is told, for instance, that the French already have the kind of Prestel system with which noble Lords will be familiar working in relation to telephone directories, that they are substituting these new systems for all their telephone directories and that thus their public purchasing is much better than ours. I expect noble Lords know that the truth of the matter is that the French are planning a test in a town of 250,000 people to see whether this form of press-button telephone directory is popular, and that they are then to consider whether it could be totally substituted, and at what price. We are well aware of that experiment and we are looking at it in considerable detail. It is of course an extra cost, unless one can make it a total substitution; and there lies a problem which we are studying with great care.

    We shall press on as fast as we can in Government departments with the use of things like Prestel. It was only this year, again, that hard copies have been able to be taken off the Prestel system machines. Until that was possible, substituting existing systems of information in Government departments was not possible because one needs records for meetings, for coming to the House and for all the other things. One would simply have had a duplication of systems and an increase in public expenditure. I give these two little examples, one on the French side and one on our side, merely to illustrate that Ministers have directed their minds to this matter and are determined to make the new policy work and to get over the problems which exist.

    I am, as usual, taking too long on this very important subject. I have already mentioned—I will not go into details but I can supply them to my noble friend—that we support entirely his sentiments in relation to the Buy American Act which is against free and fair international trade. A big hole in it is being made by the new agreed GATT system on 1st January. We are aware that some of the states in the United States do not always agree with what the Federal Government have done. Occasionally we might have the same problem on a small scale in the United Kingdom. But we shall watch it and we shall press the United States to ensure that the GATT treaty is carried out.

    I lose my noble friend just slightly on the definition of what United Kingdom industry is. He mentioned many factors, but I do not think that ownership should be regarded as the overwhelming factor. Of course, we should all like to see indigenous British-owned firms getting as much of the cake as they possibly can, but we believe in encouraging our big, strong, multinational firms to invest in other countries also. By the same token we have always been open for investment in the United Kingdom.

    It is not true, either, that all British-owned firms do a very big proportion of their operations in the United Kingdom, or that all foreign-owned firms do only a small proportion of their operations in the United Kingdom. There are foreign firms that have in the United Kingdom nearly all their research and development—at least for a branch—and their full manufacturing operations and are making a major contribution to the British economy. So I am inclined to "think British" in terms of operations rather more than in terms of ownership.

    In defence of that great American-owned computer company, IBM, I think I must mention that while my noble friend's figures are technically accurate, they do not go the whole way. Enormous capital investments have been put into this country year by year. In the last recorded year I think they have amounted to over £60 million. Then, of course, a big tax bill has also been paid and an enormous number of jobs have been provided in their model works with model employee relations around the country.

    I think I must leave the situation there and say that I would rather not be held by my noble friend to a particular machinery at this stage, though we are reviewing the machinery for each sort of main area of public purchasing and trying to make sure that it is well oiled. But one type of system I think will not fit. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Granville of Eye, that we are not complacent in this area. That is why there is a need for a new policy, because it has not been working well enough under the previous Government and it does not yet work well enough under us.

    I worry as to how quickly one can make progress in this enormous and complicated area. It would be politically delightful to be able to say that we were going to ensure that in a very short space of time there were more British manufactured goods bought by public authorities. I do not think the situation is like that, but we are absolutely determined to get a system where the possession of these big public purchasing orders in the hands of Government departments, nationalised industries, local authorities, are used to make British industry more competitive and will drag through new British technology.

    My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, may I ask him just one question: has he any possible news with regard to the Inland Revenue?

    My Lords, I deliberately did not waste time by saying that I did not have any news and by telling your Lordships what has already been made very clear through the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement on 8th August. As I really cannot take the matter any further forward than that, I did not waste your Lordships' time.