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Lords Chamber

Volume 414: debated on Tuesday 11 November 1980

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House Of Lords

Tuesday, 11th 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 Blackburn.

The Viscount Mersey—Sat first in Parliament after the death of his father.

South Africa: Minimum Wages

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they propose to take to make sure that British firms in the Republic of South Africa conform to the British and EEC codes of conduct regarding minimum wages.

My Lords, the Government encourage British companies with interests in South Africa to report under the voluntary European code of conduct and to demonstrate that they are paying their black African employees not less than, at the very least, the minimum wages determined by the expert bodies producing subsistence data.

My Lords, the noble Lord said the Government "encourage" British companies. Would not the Government agree that the failure largely to apply these codes has been due to the fact that Governments have taken no action to implement them? Is it not the case that West Germany alone has even monitored the effectiveness of this code? Why do not the Government publish a list of the companies which are defaulting? I have a list of 10 prominent companies. Is it not unfair to those who do carry out the code that they should not be mentioned?

My Lords, the reason why we do not publish the list is because, as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade said in another place on 27th June, to produce any list of companies which are paying employees below the lower datum level is impossible without introducing subjective judgments or uncertainties in interpretation.

My Lords, would the Minister not agree that the very comprehensive work carried out by the Confederation of British Industries with regard to all its member firms which have subsidiaries in the republic merits a high tribute? Is it not a fact that British firms, of all alien firms which have subsidiaries in the republic, have done more about raising wages than have firms in any other country? Furthermore, is the Minister aware that the business notes of Barclays Bank, which must be authoritative, show that over the past 10 years the advance in wages for blacks has been continuous on the basis of nearly 16 per cent. per annum, whereas that for whites has been only 10 per cent. per annum?

My Lords, it is perhaps worth saying that British companies operating in South Africa have a not unsatisfactory record. The Department of Trade's summary of reports made under the codes by companies for the 12 months ended 30th June 1979 showed that only 2 per cent. of the black African workforce in British companies had been paid wages below the lower level of the subsistence data used. We very much hope that the next summary, which will be available before long, will reveal that the percentage is even smaller, or perhaps has even been eliminated.

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that we give great credit to those companies which have done well in this respect? Is he further aware that it was the Labour Government who took the initiative over this and over bringing the EEC into it? Furthermore, is he aware that we should like the noble Lord to lend more strength to his elbow in obtaining perhaps more factual accounts—as, indeed, the German Government do?

My Lords, the next report will relate to the l2 months ended 30th June, 1980. I cannot say when that will be available, but I hope it will be before too long. However, I could perhaps help the noble Baroness by saying that up to the end of last month the Department of Trade had received 107 reports from category "A" companies—that is from British companies having 50 per cent. or more of the equity in a South African company employing 20 or more black workers—and 29 reports from companies having a less detailed responsibility.

My Lords, may I ask the Minister to consider two practical proposals to bring pressure upon companies which are continuing to pay wages under a living standard. First, could there not be a public inquiry, to which companies should be summoned, asking them to justify their conduct? Secondly, would it not be possible to stop investment in these companies, as proposed by the British Council of Churches?

My Lords, I am afraid that what the noble Lord proposes would produce a number of serious difficulties, but on the general point of taking power to enforce the code it is worth saying that delicate socio-economic matters of this kind do not readily lend themselves to legal regulation. There are serious difficulties about definitions—for example, of what is a subsistence wage in a particular place. Indeed, to import into the code sanctions for non-compliance would, apart from any other consideration, require the consent of all our partners in the Community.

The Housing Act 1980: Shorthold Provisions

2.43 p.m.

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government when they expect to announce the "shorthold" provisions of the Housing Act 1980.

(Lord ]]]]HS_COL-1254]]]] Bellwin)

My Lords, a commencement order was made on 7th November which will bring shorthold and the other main private rented sector provisions of the Housing Act 1980 into operation on 28th November.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for that most helpful and informative reply.

My Lords, I should like to ask the Minister three brief questions. As he has told us, the orders are coming into effect shortly and, bearing in mind the advertising campaign mounted by the Government to promote the now even more untimely right to buy for council tenants, will the Government undertake to reassure tenants who may be confused by the introduction of short-hold that security of tenure for existing protected tenants is not being removed? Secondly, are the Government going to consult organisations which are expert in advising tenants on housing issues on the wording of the prescribed notice, since these organisations have great expertise and experience in making themselves understood by people who are not familiar with officialese? I understand that they have offered their help. Thirdly, what plans have the Government to monitor the use of shorthold tenancies and, in particular, any abuses which may occur?

My Lords, I confirm that security is not removed, but the noble Baroness must not confuse the right to buy which she mentioned, and which, as she knows, has nothing to do with the private sector, with the shorthold provisions. These are entirely concerned with the private sector. I confirm, if anyone should still be in doubt, that those who have security will not in any way lose it, although, in the case of shorthold, it comes within the term of the agreed new lease.

As to the plans that we have for monitoring the success or otherwise of shorthold, of course we shall be watching it closely, as I am sure will everyone who is interested in this matter. I think the other question which the noble Baroness asked was whether the Government would look at the letters which go out, but I am afraid I did not quite get the point as I was busy writing.

My Lords, what I was concerned with was the publicity put out by the Government to explain to people in simple language and whether the Government would be seeking the help of the voluntary housing organisations, which have experience and expertise in dealing simply with these matters. That is very important.

My Lords, there will in fact be publicity, as was foreshadowed in the Financial and Explanatory Memorandum to the Housing Bill. It will take the form of press advertisements and in addition an explanatory booklet, Shorthold Tenancies, is being produced and will be available, free, from rent offices, council offices and housing aid centres from 28th November.

My Lords, does the Minister's reference to the shorthold provisions being available not require further clarification? Is he aware that vast numbers of tenants in the United Kingdom have just been subjected to a new registration which covers not two years, as provided for in the 1980 Act, but three years, as provided for in the 1977 Act, and, moreover, that, according to statements sent out by rent officers, there can be no further application for registration unless circumstances undergo a change? Therefore, how does the shorthold provision come in at all?

My Lords, the short-hold provision, as we went into it at great length when we were passing the Housing Bill here, is a new attempt to try to encourage landlords who have hitherto not brought forward their accommodation to do so, because they will know that they will get it back after the fixed term, within five years. We believe that it will bring that accommodation on to the market. With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, the two things are not quite the same. Certainly his other concern about what the rent officers are doing as regards fixing rents within the Rent Acts themselves has nothing to do with shorthold, which is a totally new concept starting for the first time.

Then, my Lords, will the Minister answer this question: what redress is available to that vast number of tenants, probably running into hundreds of thousands, who have been subjected to the new registration and called upon to pay very high increases in rates according to the decision of the rent officer? What redress is available to them? How do they come into the 1980 Act, or is it not true—and is it not about time that the truth was told—that they cannot apply for a new registration for another three years?

My Lords, the 1980 Act in no way affects the rights of tenants under the previous legislation. It does not diminish them one iota and the redress—if that is the word—for those tenants who are unhappy about the new rents which are now fixed is to go to the rent assessment committees.

Junior Ministers' Remuneration

2.49 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 are now in a position to announce the improvements to be made in the remuneration of junior Ministers in this House.

My Lords, as the Prime Minister recognised in her Statement to another place on 7th July, which I repeated in your Lordships' House later on the same day, the fact that junior Ministers in the House of Lords receive no salary in respect of their parliamentary duties is a very real problem. The Government are still considering what steps might be taken to resolve this.

My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that reply, may I ask whether he can give any indication as to the likely timing of a possible future Statement and whether he accepts that the position of certain junior Ministers in the House—perhaps particularly the Lords in Waiting—is, in both relative and absolute terms, most unfortunate?

Yes, my Lords, there is no doubt about that, and indeed it was that fact which prompted the Prime Minister to make the Statement to which I have just referred. As to the timing, it is a complicated and somewhat detailed matter, more complicated than it looks on the surface, as we have found when we came to look into it—and no doubt others have found the same thing before. All I can assure my noble friend is that there will be another announcement as soon as possible, as soon as we have reached a conclusion.

My Lords, may we take it that the Government's general policy of not more than 6 per cent. in the public sector will apply in this case?

My Lords, one of the problems, quite evidently, in a matter of this kind is the general economic position of the country. Inevitably, this has to be taken into account by Her Majesty's Government, but I would not like to go further than that in answering the noble Lord's question.

My Lords, while recognising that this is a slightly broader question, may I ask whether the position of Her Majesty's loyal Opposition will be considered when the Government are considering this particular question?

My Lords, I do not quite know to which particular people on the Opposition Front Bench my noble friend is referring.

My Lords, I rather think that the noble Lord has shot my fox. I was going to ask the noble Lord this: While acknowledging that it is never the right time to raise the salaries of anybody in the public service, especially in this House, may I ask whether he would remember the church mice, the unpaid Whips on the Opposition side? With my thanks to the noble Lord, may I just put that in his mind?

Yes, my Lords, the noble Baroness has certainly put it in my mind. In order not to raise any false hopes, I think I should say to the noble Baroness that the people who are being considered are the equivalent in this House of those who get paid other than parliamentary salaries in another place.

My Lords, while not overlooking the feelings and claims of Opposition Whips, may I ask whether my noble friend would bear in mind the great distinction between them and Lords in Waiting and other junior Ministers, in as much as the latter category are debarred under the rules from earning a living in any other way?

My Lords, this is absolutely true. One category is prohibited from earning a living outside; others, we might say, are inhibited from earning a living outside. As my noble friend rightly says, there is a difference between the two, and, as I said, those whose pay is under some scrutiny at the moment are those in this House who have their equivalents in another place who are being paid beyond the parliamentary salary.

My Lords, does not this evident justice highlight the need for some kind of incomes policy which has been thought out?

Air Fares: Unapproved Rates

2.54 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 the sale of reduced air tickets by thousands of travel agents, besides being in breach of IATA regulations, is an infringement of any other regulation, or of the law.

My Lords, the law is complex, but in general either an airline or agents selling tickets at an unapproved rate would be committing an offence. The detail is set out in paragraphs 15 to 21 of the report of the Working Party on Discounted Air Fares published in 1978. The working party also rightly noted that the best interests of all will be served by encouraging in every way the expansion of legitimate low fares, and we are seeking to persuade our European partners, for example, to allow lower fares to meet the needs of all classes of travellers.

My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that Answer, may I ask him what the Government intend to do, or what they can do? What is happening at the moment is that the legitimate travel agents who obey the law, or the rules laid down by IATA, are rapidly losing their clients because what they call the bucket shops are getting tickets from the very airlines who are, under IATA, suggesting that this should not be done. In fact, they are being undermined by the very people who they want to protect their own rules.

My Lords, the fundamental way in which we seek to correct this difficulty is, as I said in the main Answer, by encouraging and promoting a reduction in real terms of air fares right across the board. It has in the past proved very difficult to obtain sufficient evidence to secure a conviction in a matter such as this, but I cannot say that that will not happen in the future.

My Lords, in order to clear up the complexity of this matter, is it not correct that the airlines employ two different types of retailer, one, the legitimate agents who have to sell tickets at published fares, and, secondly, the bucket shops, who receive tickets from these same airlines which they then sell under the counter? Secondly, if there is the surplus capacity available that we hear so much about today, and discounted tickets have to be sold by the airlines to fill that capacity, could these not be sold over the counter by the legitimate agents?

My Lords, as the noble Baroness will know, there has been a steady decline, in real terms if not in cash terms, of fare levels recently, particularly, for example, on the North Atlantic routes, and I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that the heyday of the bucket shops, as they are called, is over. How the bucket shops come by their supply of tickets is not always clear, but the airlines for the most part deny that they are responsible.

My Lords, would my noble friend agree that there are many people who think that IATA is not a panacea of good for all travellers, and perhaps it might be better if it were totally abolished?

My Lords, in view of the over-employment of both the courts and the prisons, could they not be let off dealing with people who merely try and get us things cheaper?

My Lords, that is an interesting thought, but the fact remains that it is the duty of the courts to try offenders who are properly prosecuted.

My Lords, can the noble Lord tell us if the selling of these tickets in any way impinges on the Government's approval of the international fares structures agreed between the designated operators under the Bermuda formula?

My Lords, international air fares are agreed between the two Governments involved. In the case of traffic between the United Kingdom and the United States, which is governed by the Bermuda 2 Agreement, as it is called, a fare provision is included in that agreement.

My Lords, is it not correct that the air tickets must come from somewhere, and would it not be a good idea to set up a Select Committee under the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, to get this matter sorted out and dealt with?

My Lords, the tickets do indeed come from somewhere, but I am sorry to say that a good many of them are stolen.

Rampton Hospital: Boynton Report

My Lords, with the leave of the House, at a convenient moment after 3.30 my noble friend Lady Young will repeat a Statement being made in another place on Rampton Hospital.

Supplementary Benefit (Aggregation, Requirements And Resources) Amendment Regulations 1980

2.59 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move that the Supplementary Benefit (Aggregation, Requirements and Resources) Amendment Regulations be approved. The subject matter of these regulations is complex. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, and the noble Lord, Lord Banks, who, I assume, will be speaking from the Liberal Benches, received the information about this: both copies of the regulations that this House has already approved and these amending regulations of those regulations, because I think it is for the convenience of those noble Lords who wish to follow this discussion to have all these matters to hand.

These regulations amend the separate instruments which together form the basis of the calculation of a claimant's weekly entitlement: the aggregation regulations, which are concerned with questions of who is to be treated as responsible for another person, and whether one person is to be treated as a dependant of another so that the two of them form a single unit for benefit purposes: the requirement regulations, which set out how the three types of requirement—normal, additional, and housing—are to be calculated; and the resources regulations, which provide for the calculation of capital and income, whether it is to be taken into account in full or in part or disregarded altogether.

I do not intend to go through the amendments one by one to explain their precise effect—and nor, indeed, do I think that the House would wish me to do so—though I shall refer to a number of them in the course of my remarks. I shall try to answer any particular queries. What I shall do is to explain to your Lordships why these regulations are before you about four months after the making of the regulations which they amend, and before those regulations have come into effect.

The Government's decision, following the review of the supplementary benefits scheme and the publication of the report Social Assistance for public discussion, that the rules of the scheme should be set out in regulations, was a decision of considerable significance. It was a decision to strengthen the concept of entitlement of benefit as a right. As annual reports by the Supplementary Benefits Commission, Social Assistance, and comment and criticism from claimants, their representatives, and academics have all agreed, the growth of discretion in the supplementary benefits scheme means that entitlement has become a somewhat blurred matter. We concluded that only by putting the rules into law could we hope to give more permanent substance to "entitlement".

Even so, we recognise that in the regulations there are still areas at which judgment and discretion will have to be exercised. That is inevitable in a scheme which must try to take account of the enormous variety of individuals' circumstances. But here again we have made a significant change by providing for a right of appeal on a point of law to the Social Security Commissioners. Decisions on such appeals will form a body of case-law governing later decisions by benefit officers and appeal tribunals, and will be particularly valuable in providing guidance on the interpretation and application of provisions which refer to, say, what is "reasonable" or "appropriate".

With these regulations, and another eight instruments also laid recently, and the six instruments laid in July, the process of setting out the rules in law is completed—or perhaps I should say, completed for the time being, since we shall be monitoring the effect of the regulations very carefully. As part of this, we shall look at how the new arrangements work in practice, and continue to look for further ways of simplifying the scheme. Fifteen instruments in all, or 13 if one excludes those two of them which amend others, make up a very substantial body of law—at a rough count, somewhere in the region of 200 pages. The first six sets come to over 90 pages, and, within that, the three sets amended by the instrument we are considering today come to over 50. In an exercise of that size it is inevitable, if much to be regretted, that there should have been errors—wrong references, for instance, and minor lapses of drafting which could none the less have significant effects. That is one of the reasons why we have these amendment regulations before us today.

The second reason concerns the sheer size of the task. Your Lordships will know that the annual job of putting into effect the uprating of the supplementary benefit of over three million claimants each November has to start in the summer. In order that that work could proceed we planned the work of preparing regulations so as to bring forward first those provisions which affected the rights of the great majority of claimants. To have considered at the same time the rules for small, exceptional groups—and such rules are, almost by definition, complicated—would have held up the publication of the main rules. That is why the provisions affecting polygamous relationships appear in these amending regulations. That is why the provisions for calculating the benefit which can be paid during a limited period after an unmarried couple have been determined to be living together as husband and wife are included in these regulations.

The third reason has to do with timing. While the first six sets of regulations were being prepared, the Housing Act 1980 was still going through Parliament. The provisions of the Act relating to the registration of rents and purchase by sitting tenants have consequences for supplementary benefit provision. But it was only after that Act had received the Royal Assent that we could fully consider those implications and make appropriate amendments to regulations in Part IV of the requirements regulations dealing with housing requirements.

The fourth reason is as follows. Since the regulations were published in the summer they have been studied by many people with an interest in them. Pressure groups, members of the tribunals who will be hearing appeals against decisions given under the regulations and the officials who will be working from the regulations. From all those sources comments and queries have come in, on points where the meaning has been less clear than we thought, or where the effect has been thought to be unduly harsh—or even unduly lax. We have looked at all these points carefully, and some of the amendments now proposed are our response to them—for instance, in the resources regulations, the definition of "liable relative" and the treatment of sums paid by liable relatives.

There is one further point that I should like to mention. When we debated the requirements and resources regulations earlier this year, considerable anxiety was expressed about the complexity of the regulations. I do not pretend that they are easy to understand—the law seldom is, and rules which are themselves complex cannot always be simply expressed without imprecision and ambiguity. But I said on that earlier occasion that a new edition of the Supplementary Benefits Handbook, explaining the scheme in simple terms for claimants and their advisers, would be published before the regulations came into force. I am pleased to be able to tell your Lordships that that handbook will be published on 13th November. I am sure that this will be a great help to expert and non-expert alike in understanding the regulations.

My Lords, as I have said, we will do our best to explain any particular points of difficulty which may be raised today, either during the course of the debate or in correspondence. I commend these amendment regulations to your Lordships' House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft Supplementary Benefit (Aggregation, Requirements and Resources) Amendment Regulations 1980, laid before the House on 27th October, be approved.—(Baroness Young.)

3.8 p.m.

My Lords, I think we are grateful to the noble Baroness the Minister for endeavouring to clarify the statutory instrument now before us. I would point out to your Lordships that on two or three occasions the noble Baroness drew attention to the fact that this is a highly complex instrument. I venture to suggest that there is probably no one in your Lordships' House, with the possible exception of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, and the noble Lord, Lord Banks, who even begins to understand what this instrument is about.

It is quite disgraceful that a Government should come to this House and produce a statutory instrument which has to be introduced by drawing attention to its complexity and then saying that it is difficult to understand. What right have a Government to introduce an instrument of this kind and to ask your Lordships to accept it when I venture to suggest, as I have already done, that, with certain notable exceptions, not one of us really begins to understand what it is about? The Government should withdraw it and take another opportunity of putting before your Lordships an instrument that they can explain in terms that we in your Lordships' House can understand and follow.

The noble Baroness has quite rightly said that separate regulations were issued in July and August. That is true. There was a statutory instrument, No. 982, which was made on 14th July last and laid before Parliament on 17th July, which dealt with the Supplementary Benefit (Aggregation) Regulations 1980. It was followed on 15th August by the Supplementary Benefit (Resources) Regulations 1980, No. 1300. And that was followed on 29th August by the Supplementary Benefit (Requirements) Regulations 1980, No. 1299. Less than three months later we are faced with the present draft instrument, which is now before your Lordships, which incorporates all three—the Supplementary Benefit (Aggregation, Requirements and Resources) Amendment Regulations 1980. So within a period of less than three months amendments have had to be made to each of those instruments.

It is perfectly true that they stem from the long and detailed discussion of the Social Security Act 1980. The fact that the Government now find it necessary to amend the regulations after a period of about three months and, I would remind your Lordships, before the Act comes into operation, supports the view that we took at the time when we discussed the Social Security Act 1980, that the Government were not giving enough thought, time and consideration to the effects that the 1980 Act would have.

We had the farce of dealing with the Social Security (No. 2) Bill while we were still discussing the Social Security (No. 1) Bill. This House and another place were put to the inconvenience of discussing a No. 1 Bill when the Government had to introduce a No. 2 Bill to put right a number of matters in the Social Security (No. 1) Bill. At the time we made it clear that there needed to be consultation on the detailed contents of the regulations before they were put before Parliament. But we were told, together with the organisations that have a contribution to make in this field, that it was not possible for those consultations to take place because of the tight timetable. When will the Government learn that there is a great deal of competence and knowledge in this field outside Parliament, and that they do not possess a monopoly of brain and ability in this particular field?

We should not be presented with an instrument of this kind affecting (shall I say?) the lives of millions of people unless and until those organisations which act on their behalf, advise, guide and befriend them have had an opportunity to express their points of view. I am sorry to say this, but it must be said; I get the impression that health and social security do not figure high on the Government's list of priorities.

Oh, yes, my Lords. If they figured high, the Government would not have undertaken some of the most appalling cuts that they have made and are making in the field of social security. If the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, does not agree with me on that, I think that he will agree with me on my next point. The Government think that it is certainly not important enough for this House to have a full-time Minister at the Department of Health and Social Security, a department which I believe spends more money in the course of the year than any other department. We should have in this House, whatever his or her status may be, a full-time Minister at the Department of Health and Social Security on the Government Front Bench. We had one in the last Government, albeit the lowest form of animal life for something like four and three-quarter years, but at least it was put right for the last three or four months, and we did have an Under-Secretary. It is not just a question of money. It is a question not only of principle but of dealing properly with this House.

I should like to ask why there was not more consultation with outside organisations before the original regulations were made, and how many of the present amendments are the result of queries raised and suggestions made to the department by non-governmental organisations. It really is futile to go through this particular instrument. Wherever you read, you are referred either to one Act or another Act, or to previous instruments. The noble Baroness said that it must be considered along with two others. It may be necessary to consider it along with four others. This is supposed to be an exercise in simplification. I do not suppose that many of your Lordships have bothered to read the draft instrument. I do not blame you. It is an appalling document. In the explanatory notes on the last two pages you get paragraphs of between 20 and 25 lines. So you go on and on, and you get one-third of the way through and you have forgotten what the previous five or six lines say.

In all the years that I have been a Member of your Lordships' House I have never ever seen what I call such an appalling document. It should be simple; it should be straight-forward; it should say what it intends to do without having to refer the reader to one other, two other, or three other documents. If this is an exercise in simplification, I sincerely hope that the Government will think twice before introducing any other draft instrument. But, as I understand it, it means that the amendment regulations make it necessary for those wanting to understand the requirements and the resources regulations to read, as the noble Baroness herself has said, at least two other sets of regulations.

I find it extremely difficult to understand Regulation 9 on page 4, which amends Regulation 11 of the resources regulations—presumably that is the one that was made on 15th August. When can we hope to have these regulations consolidated? Paragraph 13 of the schedule on pages 8 and 9 deals with security of tenure for council tenants who increased their housing costs by buying their homes, and they will not have mortgage interest payments met in full. I wonder what that means. It certainly is not clear to me. I do not expect the noble Baroness to be able to deal fully with all these matters today, and I do not ask her to do so. But does this not mean that the Department of the Environment will be giving tenants the right to buy, while the Department of Health and Social Security will be penalising those who do? That is my interpretation. If so, it is a very curious regulation.

One could go on for a long time, but I do not think that either myself or the noble Baroness will be able to help your Lordships understand reasonably well this draft instrument because it is so complex. These regulations are very unsatisfactory and very involved, and those who have to advise claimants will have a daunting and difficult task. These regulations ought not to have been presented to your Lordships in this form. Draft statutory instruments are supposed to be able to give people a clear and precise indication of what they set out to do. You could not say this of this present one.

I suggest to the Government that they take it back. We shall be told that all these come into force on 24th November, a matter of something like 13 days, and I am sure that we shall be told there is not time to do it. But this has been rushed through in a most disgraceful fashion. When the previous regulations were being considered in another place—and I do not think that anybody will deny that these regulations are of supreme importance in the administration of new schemes that the Government envisage for supplementary benefit in the future—half a day was allowed for these regulations, to which I have been referring, to be considered. I hope that the noble Baroness will feel that it cannot be left like this. Our suggestion on this side is that they should be taken back, otherwise we certainly could not approve them in their present form.

3.22 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to join in thanking the noble Baroness for her explanation of the purpose of these amendment regulations. I am grateful to her for providing the background papers for the debate to which she referred. We are discussing the commencement of this new supplementary benefit system later this month, and it is disturbing that as we do so we should hear rumours of a cut in the real value of supplementary benefits. I hope that those rumours will prove to be false.

We have already had 56 pages of regulations under these three headings, "Aggregation, Requirements and Resources", and now, before the scheme is implemented, we have a further 12 pages of amendments to the original 56 pages. I wonder what we can expect when the regulations have actually been in operation and no doubt further errors and omissions are discovered. I hope that the amended regulations will be published shortly so that it will not be necessary for people who want to understand what they are about to read two complicated sets of regulations.

I should like to ask the noble Baroness whether the handbook to which she referred, and which is to be available on 13th of this month, and the leaflets which I understand are also to be available will take these amendments into account. One is bound to ask with the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, whether there was adequate consultation with organisations with an interest in this field before the regulations were drafted. I would repeat the question which the noble Lord put: How many of the amendments which we now have before us arose out of queries raised with the Department of Health and Social Security by nongovernmental organisations?

Like the noble Baroness, I am struck by the appalling complexity of the regulations, although she did not use the word "appalling", but she admitted the complexity. The treatment of maintenance under Regulation 11 of the resources regulations as amended by Regulation 9 of the amendment regulation is a case in point, and has already been drawn to our attention by the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell.

As I understand it, Regulation 11 of the resources regulations provides—and the noble Baroness will no doubt correct me when she replies if I am wrong—that where a lump sum payment is made by a liable relative for the benefit of a claimant or a claimant and any dependant, this is attributed as income to be spread over a number of weeks. The number of weeks is determined by taking the amount of supplementary pension, or supplementary allowance, which would have been paid but for this lump sum, adding £2 to it, and dividing that total into the lump sum. The resulting figure to the nearest whole number is the number of weeks. But where periodical payments are being made at the same time as a lump sum by the liable relative, the lump sum will only be taken into account as income where the benefit officer thinks it reasonable to do so. That, as I understand it, is what is in Regulation 11.

The amendment to this regulation, Regulation 9 of the amendment regulations, takes out this final proviso with regard to simultaneous payment of a lump sum and a periodical payment. It substitutes a new provision removing the benefit officer's discretion. Perhaps I could be permitted to read the new provision, and possibly noble Lords will try to put themselves in the position of a claimant wondering what his situation is.
"Paragraph (3) shall not apply to a lump sum in any case in which the liable relative is making to or in respect of the member of the assessment unit to or in respect of whom it is paid periodical payments at a rate of an amount equal to or exceeding that specified in paragraph (3)(a), but excluding for this purpose the sum of £2.00 there mentioned, or paragraph (3)(b) as appropriate ('the specified rate'); and in any case where he ceases to make such payments or is making them only at a lower rate (whether initially, or because the specified rate has increased and the periodical payments have not correspondingly increased, or because the periodical payments have been reduced), paragraph (3) shall apply with the modification, in any case except one in which the periodical payments have ceased, that the lump sum is attributable at a rate equal to the difference between the rate specified in paragraph (3)(a) or (b) as appropriate and the periodical payment."
That is one sentence.

What that appears to mean is—and again the noble Baroness will correct me if I am wrong—that the procedure for arriving at the number of weeks which I described earlier will not apply to a lump sum where the periodical payment is equal to, or exceeds, the supplementary pension or allowance being paid. Where the periodical payment is being paid at a lower rate, the procedure will apply but subject to the modification that the lump sum is attributable at a rate equal to the difference between the supplementary pension or allowance plus £2 and the rate of the periodical payment. Where the periodical payment ceases, the original procedure will apply.

Arising out of that, I have one question which I should like to put to the noble Baroness. Does this mean that the difference is divided into the lump sum to discover the number of weeks in which this difference will be attributed as income, or does it mean that the lump sum is assumed, so long as it is not spent, to be producing an income equal to the difference? I should have thought that the former was in fact the correct interpretation, but the background brief says this:
"But if the periodical payments fall below the level of supplementary benefit, then the lump sum will be treated as producing an income which, when added to the periodical payments, equals that level".
That seems to suggest that perhaps the second interpretation is the right one.

Whatever the right answer to that question, I am sure that noble Lords will agree that these are indeed complex regulations. The Government say, and the noble Baroness has said it this afternoon, that with so many on supplementary benefit as there now are we must have everything set out in detail with a considerable curtailment of discretion. We on these Benches have been saying that it is much better to take large numbers off supplementary benefit and retain the discretion for a very much smaller number of supplementary benefit claimants. We have seen the tax credit system as being the means of doing this, because it takes large numbers off supplementary benefit. We shall not get away from the kind of complication which I have described unless we have a thorough overhaul of the whole of our tax and social security system such as a tax credit scheme would provide. I am convinced that the Government will have to come to that solution in the long run.

3.30 p.m.

My Lords, I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Banks, will achieve any measure of the simplicity which we all desire if he succeeds in changing our social security system into a tax credit one. If the noble Lord had seen, as I have, drafts of what something like that looks like, it may have many merits but simplicity is not among its more conspicuous ones. Indeed, if one takes the two most complex aspects of Government—social security, on the one hand, and taxation, on the other—and mixes them up together, I can assure the noble Lord that though the result may be palatable it is not very easily comprehensible, save by people who have devoted a number of years of study to it. I know that the noble Lord and his noble friends are great fans of the tax credit system, but I hope he will not mislead himself into the belief that this is a simple solution. It may be a solution but simplicity, I beg him to believe, he will not find.

The noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, has the enviable quality, among many other enviable qualities, of being able to work himself up into a lather of indignation about almost any subject. I am bound to say that I thought he had excelled himself this afternoon when he stood at that Box demanding that these regulations be withdrawn, with a tone of passion and sincerity which is all his own. Of course, regulations of this sort are not easy to comprehend on direct reading. Indeed, I agree very much with his general view that social security regulations and, indeed, legislation have grown appallingly complex with the years, generally as the result of well-meaning attempts by Governments of all sorts to bring greater justice and equity into the system. The more justice and equity one brings into the system, the more complexity comes with it, and on the whole we are the victims of the good intentions of our predecessors.

When the noble Lord gets indignant about the complexity of these regulations I think he really is ignoring what they are. As the first paragraph of the explanatory note makes clear, they are simply a series of amendments to the main basic regulations. No power on earth can draft a sheet of amendments so that it makes easy, straightforward reading. If the noble Lord doubts that I beg him to look at an old copy of the Marshalled List of amendments on the Local Government, Planning and Land (No. 2) Bill, which I think he would have found just as difficult if he had started to read through it. I beg him not to put too much weight or too much emphasis on the idea that these regulations should be rejected because they are complex. No one can draft a whole series of amendments without their being complex.

I should have thought the noble Lord would welcome the efforts of the Government, having published the earlier regulations, to make sure that they were right. No doubt the noble Baroness will answer his question as to the extent to which these amendments derive from representations made to the department, but in the normal way I should have expected them to embody many of the views that have been expressed, as he suggested they should be, to the department. As the noble Baroness told us, others rectify plain errors in the original, rather lengthy documents. Surely that is a matter which the noble Lord should welcome. He noticed that I demurred when he made a general observation to the effect that this Government did not attach much importance to social security. He sought to reinforce that by the curious argument, coming from that Bench, that there was not in this House a Minister who had a seat in that department.

I always welcome speeches, particularly from that Bench, which suggest that the Government should be even more fully represented in this House. I think that shows a proper respect for the continuing importance of this House in our constitution. But it comes rather oddly from the noble Lord. It is true that he himself most gallantly represented that department, as he himself said, in this House for a number of years, but at the same time the Government of which he was an ornament had in this House no representative whatever of the Treasury; and perhaps, if I may adopt the noble Lord's argument, he is thereby suggesting that the Government did not really attach much importance to the financial and economic affairs of the nation, the consequences of which we may well have seen. So that is not a very substantial argument.

I really rise, having said that, to ask my noble friend one question about Regulatioh 2; it appears in paragraph 3, dealing with polygamous relationship. I understand this is a new provision and is not in substance an amendment of the existing regulations. I hope your Lordships will not misunderstand me when I say that I have a long-standing interest in this subject. If I may explain: when I was Minister of Pensions and National Insurance I had to decide the interesting question, as classification questions are for the Minister, as to the position when a gentleman of the Moslem faith died in Cardiff, leaving behind him four widows and 17 children. I had to take the decision as to the national insurance treatment in that case, and for better or worse I ruled that the senior widow, that is, as it were, the senior one in terms of appointment, drew the widow's pension and allowance was made in respect of all the children. No doubt further thought has been given to this over the years.

I should like to ask the noble Baroness a little bit more about this provision in respect of polygamous relationships. In view of the fact that bigamy is still a criminal offence in this country, I take it that the polygamous relationships covered by this regulation are confined to those people who contracted polygamous marriages in countries where polygamy was lawful. I should assume that a polygamous marriage made in this country, which I should have thought, prima facie, would be not only illegal but criminal, ought not to attract the social security benefits given by these regulations. Perhaps the noble Baroness would spell out that it is only, if I may so put it, lawful polygamy which draws the benefit from this.

3.38 p.m.

My Lords, we have had a short and, I think, useful debate on these regulations. I should like to begin by thanking my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter for his intervention and for explaining very fully to the House why all regulations of this sort need to be as complicated as they are. That is not to say that one should not attempt to understand them or to give a relatively simple explanation for those who are to work with them; but it is inevitable and, as I said in my opening remarks, these particular regulations, which are amending others produced relatively recently, do appear to be more complicated but are very necessary indeed.

First, I should like to turn to and try to answer the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell. I am very glad indeed to see the noble Lord in his place today. I understand that he had an accident yesterday and I am glad that he is fit enough to come here.

At the end of his remarks the noble Lord argued very strongly, and quite seriously, that we should not accept these regulations today. I would urge him to consider just where we would be if I agreed to withdraw the regulations, as he recognised that there would not be time to rewrite them and therefore their effects would not come into force on 24th November. After all, many of the regulations are those that he and his colleagues would wish to see put into practice. I really do not think it would be in the best interests of the beneficiaries to withdraw them.

The noble Lord asked whether enough consideration had been given to the supplementary benefit changes. I assure him that there was extensive discussion of the original Social Security (No. 1) Bill and that the Supplementary Benefit Review involved an exercise in open government, probably the most extensive exercise of this nature undertaken, and that it included discussion with pressure groups. I hope the noble Lord will recognise that the changes that will come about in November confer considerable advantages on some claimants and undoubtedly make a better and clearer scheme.

I realise—the noble Lord, Lord Banks, made this clear—that these regulations are complicated. That is why we have paid a great deal of attention to the leaflets and Supplementary Benefits Handbook, which will be published on 13th November, a copy of which will be available in the Library. This will be of advantage to all noble Lords who follow these matters, who may be approached by pressure groups and interested parties, who may have individual cases brought to their notice and who may wish to make some comment on future regulations. The Supplementary Benefits Handbook will be there of course for supplementary benefit officers to use because, as noble Lords recognise, the new system will mean that there will be as little as possible discretion for supplementary benefit officers and that the rules will be laid down. They will be in the handbook in this form so as to be readily intelligible.

I hope that answers the criticism that we are dealing with a number of very complicated regulations which, from the point of view of the beneficiaries and those who are administering them, are too complicated to understand and are too complicated for those who wish, if there are difficulties, to try to amend them. This will be a way for those who are interested and who may have worries about the matter of getting the information so they may put matters right. We have also paid a lot of attention to giving claimants written notice of their assessments so at least they will know what is being done. On the question of consolidation of these regulations and the Acts, that is done in what has come to be called the Yellow Book. That is revised every six months and a copy of it is available in the Library. For those who wish to look at the law as it stands, a copy is available, updated, so it is possible to see where we have reached on all these regulations and how they should be read.

I come to a detailed question which the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, raised; namely, the question of the inconsistency between the Department of Health and Social Security and the Department of the Environment on the purchase of houses by sitting tenants. Perhaps I should make clear that there is no inconsistency between the regulation in paragraph 13 of the schedule, which is in addition to Regulation 20, and the regulations made under the Housing Act 1980 governing the conditions of entitlement to local authority mortgages. The latter make it clear that supplementary benefit will not be included as an eligible source of income where a local authority assess a prospective purchaser's level of eligibility for a mortgage. It is clear therefore that most supplementary benefit claimants living alone will not be able to buy their council house, simply because they cannot afford to do so. However, where there are other people in the house, such as working sons or daughters, and the sale is to be made jointly, but the income for the mortgage eligibility purposed is that of the working son or daughter, the regulation before the House simply ensures that supplementary benefit is not increased.

This is a situation which the Supplementary Benefits Commission have encountered on a number of occasions and details of it are set out in the Supplementary Benefits Handbook. For the benefit of anyone who wishes to study this point, in the 1980 edition it is in paragraph 6(19). This amendment carries forward the policy which they have been following, and I am sure the House will agree that it would be quite wrong for supplementary benefit to be increased where there is no good reason to do so, and if the tenancy is secure there can be no good reason for supplementary benefit to help fund the purchase of a capital acquisition in this way.

The noble Lord, Lord Banks, asked a number of questions, including whether there was to be a cut in the real value of supplementary benefit. I do not think he would expect me to comment on that, as clearly no announcement on the matter has been made and therefore it is speculation at this point. I assure him that the handbook to which I have referred takes the amendments which we are discussing today into account. He asked whether pressure group suggestions had been taken into account. There is no doubt that some of the amendments come from pressure groups; some of course have come from officials of the supplementary benefit scheme and some have come from both pressure groups and officials. I do do not have the figures available of how many amendments are the result of the concern expressed by pressure groups, but I assure him that their views have been taken into account.

The noble Lord then asked a somewhat complicated question about lump sum payments, and I will attempt to explain the position to him. However, if at the end he is not satisfied, perhaps it would be better to pursue the matter by correspondence; but I hope I can give him the answer. He asked about the treatment of maintenance payments under the resources regulation No. 11(3). That deals with two types of maintenance payments: periodical payments, which are by far the most common, and lump sum payments; and this reflects the view that it is the liable person and not the state who should maintain dependants.

The amendments to the regulations reproduce existing policy in practice; we are not introducing anything new. Periodical payments are to be taken into account without disregard. If an individual is paying adequate periodical payments and in addition pays a lump sum, then the lump sum is to be treated as a capital receipt. If adequate periodical payments are not being made and a lump sum is paid, it will be treated as a source of weekly income, and the regulation indicates how much and for how long in different combinations of circumstances. The general effect is that the lump sum will be used to top up an inadequate periodical payment or replace it, if none is being made. There is nothing more than that to the regulation, as I have set it out, and it is lengthy not because the principle is complicated but because it is necessary to explain what will happen in many different situations.

The noble Lord then asked a question about the interpretation of the regulation and I would confirm that his first interpretation of the treatment of lump sums was correct; in other words, the difference between the full level of liability and the actual level of periodical payments is the divisor of the lump sum. The result of the division is the number of weeks it is taken into account. The divisor is the rate at which it is taken into account. I hope that explanation is satisfactory but, as I say, if it is not then perhaps we might continue it by way of correspondence.

Turning finally to the question raised by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter about polygamous marriages, and I am sure we accept his interpretation of his interest in this matter, where there is an unlawful polygamous marriage it would be a matter for the normal criminal law. The second and third marriages would be unlawful. But if the man and his wife or wives and the husbands were all living together, they would be treated as unmarried couples, for the simple reason that the scheme treats men and women living together as husband and wife in the same way whether they are married or not. To explain the particular regulation, where a man is living with two or more wives or a woman with two or more husbands in polygamous marriages which are legal under the law of certain countries—the point with which my noble friend was concerned—they are entitled to supplementary benefit and the benefit would be worked out in a particular way.

My Lords, may I ask the Minister to say whether there is any limit to the size of a harem for which a person can claim supplementary benefit?

My Lords, I am sure that that is just the kind of point that will have to be answered in future regulations.

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, may I say that she mentioned a handbook that she said would be placed in the Library? I wonder whether copies of it could also be placed in the Printed Paper Office so as to be available to any noble Lords who wish to study the matter more closely. I also wonder whether a simple pamphlet could be issued before 24th November, so that ordinary members of the public can apprise themselves of the new regulations.

My Lords, may I make it quite clear that what we are attempting to do is to bring all the regulations together so that there will be the minimum of discretion for supplementary benefit officers? It has not been the practice to place such information in the Printed Paper Office. These types of book are often quite expensive, but a copy of the handbook will be available in the Library for any noble Lord who wants to find out about the particular regulations. There will also be available leaflets giving explanations of particular parts of the regulations, because, after all, most claimants will not want to look at all the regulations. We are to state in writing to claimants what their assessment will be, so that they can see it, which I think will be an advantage to them.

No one is wishing to prevent anyone from finding out about the regulations, since this involves a very important matter. I hope that, if matters are brought to the notice of the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, and he feels concern about them and would like to know the position, he will take the opportunities that are open to him. He can raise the matter either with myself or with my colleagues at the Department of Health and Social Security, by letter, or he can do so by any of the other means open to noble Lords.

Everyone has an interest in getting the regulations right, and clearly if we have not got the matter right, there must be a way of altering the regulations. I hope that placing the handbook in the Library will enable noble Lords to take an opportunity to look at these matters, if they wish to do so.

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, may I ask whether she would not agree that the regulations are appallingly complex? Would she give an undertaking on the part of the Government that the complexity will be looked at before looking into the provisions in the individual regulations?

My Lords, I am sure that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, heard the remarks of my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter on this aspect. The regulations are to a certain extent historical, and they have been evolved over a long period of time. As the noble Lord said quite rightly, the more we try to find regulations to meet various different aspects the more complicated the regulations become. One of the difficulties has arisen because considerable discretion has been given to supplementary benefit officers in their interpretation of the regulations, with the result that, so far as the beneficiary was concerned, the amounts of money and so on—the rules—have varied from place to place. It is in an attempt to get rid of this inequity and differing treatment in one part of the country as compared with another that we have brought the supplementary benefit regulations together and tried to eliminate virtually all the discriminatory possibilities on the part of supplementary benefit officers.

Clearly we want to make the regulations intelligible, but the situation is very difficult and it would be quite wrong to give an undertaking that this could easily be done. It might be helpful if I were to add that the handbook will, we hope, be available in supplementary benefit offices up and down the country for the benefit of officers, and that the pamphlet on the new scheme, as well as circulars, will be distributed to all local authorities. Of


Adeane, L.Energlyn, L.Nunburnholme, L.
Adrian, L.Evans of Hungershall, L.Onslow, E.
Ailesbury, M.Exeter, M.Orkney, E.
Airey of Abingdon, B.Faithfull, B.Pender, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E.Fortescue, E.Porritt, L.
Allerton, L.Fraser of Kilmorack, L.Radnor, E.
Alport, L.Gage, V.Redcliffe-Maud, L.
Ampthill, L.Gainford, L.Redmayne, L.
Auckland, L.Geoffrey-Lloyd, L.Reigate, L.
Avon, E.Glasgow, E.Robbins, L.
Baker, L.Glenkinglas, L.St. Aldwyn, E.
Barnby, L.Grantchester, L.Saint Brides, L.
Berkeley, B.Greenway, L.St. Davids, V.
Bessborough, E.Gridley, L.Saint Oswald, L.
Bolton, L.Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Boothby, L.Selkirk, E.
Boyd-Carpenter, L.Hanworth, V.Sempill, Ly.
Bradford, E.Hawke, L.Sharples, B.
Brentford, V.Hayter, L.Skelmersdale, L.
Brookeborough, V.Henley, L.Soames, L. (L. President.)
Caccia, L.Hill of Luton, L.Somers, L.
Caithness, E.Hillingdon, L.Spens, L.
Camoys, L.Home of the Hirsel, L.Stamp, L.
Campbell of Croy, L.Hylton-Foster, B.Strathcarron, L.
Carrington, L. (A Principal Secretary of State.)Ironside, L.Strathclyde, L.
Kimberley, E.Strathspey, L.
Chesham, L.Kinloss, Ly.Swinfen, L.
Clancarty, E.Kinnaird, L.Teviot, L.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L.Lauderdale, E.Thorneycroft, L.
Clwyd, L.Lindsey and Abingdon, E.Todd, L.
Cockfield, L.Lucas of Chilworth, L.Tranmire, L.
Cork and Orrery, E.Luke, L.Trefgarne, L. [Teller.]
Cullen of Ashbourne, L.Lyell, L.Trenchard, V.
Davidson, V.McFadzean, L.Trumpington, B.
de Clifford, L.Macleod of Borve, B.Ullswater, V.
De Freyne, L.Mancroft, L.Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Derwent, L.Mar, C.Vickers, B.
Drumalbyn, L.Marley, L.Vivian, L.
Duncan-Sandys, L.Mersey, V.Wakefield of Kendal, L.
Eccles, V.Montgomery of Alamein, V.Willoughby de Broke, L.
Effingham, E.Morris, L.Wilson of Langside, L.
Ellenborough, L.Northchurch, B.Young, B.
Elliot of Harwood, B.


Allen of Fallowfield, L.Briginshaw, L.Evans of Claughton, L.
Amulree, L.Brockway, L.Foot, L.
Ardwick, L.Brooks of Tremorfa, L.Gaitskell, B.
Aylestone, L.Byers, L.Gardiner, L.
Bacon, B.Chitnis, L.Gladwyn, L.
Balogh, L.Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.Gordon-Walker, L.
Banks, L.Cudlipp, L.Gosford, E.
Beswick, L.Darling of Hillsborough, L.Greenwood of Rossendale, L.
Birk, B.David, B. [Teller.]Gregson, L.
Blease, L.Davies of Leek, L.Grey, E.
Blyton, L.Davies of Penrhys, L.Hale, L.
Boston of Faversham, L.Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.Hampton, L.
Bowden, L.Elwyn-Jones, L.Henderson, L.

course we wish to have the information as widely available as possible.

3.54 p.m.

On Question, Whether the Motion shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 125; Not-Contents, 82.

Hughes, L.Milverton, L.Stone, L.
Janner, L.Paget of Northampton, L.Strabolgi, L.
Jeger, B.Pargiter, L.Strauss, L.
Kilmarnock, L.Peart, L.Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Leatherland, L.Pitt of Hampstead, L.Underhill, L.
Lee of Newton, L.Plant, L.Walston, L.
Leonard, L.Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.Wells-Pestell, L.
Listowel, E.Rochester, L.Whaddon, L.
Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.]Ross of Marnock, L.White, B.
Segal, L.Wigoder, L.
Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.Shackleton, L.Willis, L.
Longford, E.Shinwell, L.Wilson of Radcliffe, L.
McCarthy, L.Stedman, B.Winstanley, L.
McNair, L.Stewart of Alvechurch, B.Wootton of Abinger, B.
Milford, L.Stewart of Fulham, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Motion agreed to accordingly.

Ram Pton Hospital: Boynton Report

4.3 p.m.

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. The Statement is as follows:

"Following the showing of a programme on Yorkshire TV on 22nd May 1979, I invited Sir John Boynton to lead a team to review the management of Rampton Special Hospital. I am today publishing the team's very thorough report. Sir John and his fellow members had a most difficult task and I am deeply grateful to them for the work they have done.

"The report praised both the dedication and the hard work of most staff at the hospital, and many of the facilities there. I endorse this praise. But the team was also critical of the way the hospital is managed and called for major improvements in the treatment and care of patients. Altogether there are 205 recommendations and suggestions. Some of the main proposals were discussed by the team with staff at the hospital, and I can tell the House that some changes are already being made by the hospital, including much-needed changes on the male block wards.

"I accept the team's analysis of the hospital's and the department's shortcomings and the main thrust of the reforms they propose. They conclude that Rampton should continue to operate as a special hospital. I agree. I also accept their proposal that for the next three years Rampton should be supervised by a local board to be called the Rampton Review Board. This board will guide and support local management in securing the implementation of the changes which the team have proposed. The necessary order and regulations to establish the board as a special health authority will be made as soon as possible.

"I expect to announce soon the composition of the board; I hope it will be able to begin its work by the turn of the year.

"In addition, I have accepted the team's proposals for a reform of local management and for the appointment of a Medical Director who would provide the leadership for the hospital which has been lacking. I shall be advertising for the post of Medical Director very shortly.

"Another of the review team's main recommendations to which I attach great importance concerns the transfer of those patients at Rampton who have been waiting, some of them for a very long time, for places in local hospitals. I share the team's concern on this difficult issue and I am writing personally to all regional health authority chairmen about it, urging them to make swifter progress.

"Some of the recommendations by the team extend beyond Rampton and will require wider consideration. In particular, they propose a body to inspect and monitor all institutions where patients are detained under the Mental Health Act. This proposal has already been put to me in relation to legislation to amend the Mental Health Act. Sound and effective monitoring systems are essential to the proper running of all health services in this country, including those institutions which hold Mental Health Act patients. I am now considering the various ways in which this requirement can be met.

"In the interim, three of the four special hospitals will have schemes to involve in their work people from outside the hospital; Rampton will have its review board; at Moss Side and Park Lane Hospitals the local community health council has, as the House already knows, arranged to make regular visits. I am urgently considering how a similar arrangement could be made at Broadmoor.

"Change cannot be achieved overnight. Implementation of the review team's recommendations requires changes in attitudes as well as staff and financial resources. The team noted that management and staff appear to accept the need to examine traditional attitudes, practices and régimes, and we must seek to ensure that through the Boynton Report a much stronger impetus is given to the improved running of the hospital and higher standards of patient care. To achieve this, the hospital will need the full understanding and support of all of us—the professions, the public and Parliament. The patients for whom we care deserve no less."

My Lords, the first thing I should like to do in thanking the noble Baroness the Minister for repeating the Statement made by her right honourable friend in another place is to associate my colleagues on this side of the House in the congratulations to Sir John Boynton and his team on producing what I think is a very important report. I say "I think", because I have only recently—within the last two hours—received a copy of the report, and, as the noble Baroness has said, there are something like 205 recommendations and suggestions. It is a document about a matter which has been a cause of concern to a number of members of your Lordships' House for some years now, and, because it is a report on Rampton, it is an important one.

We shall want to study the report carefully, particularly that part which argues for the retention of the hospital. I am sorry that the Secretary of State has already made up his mind that Rampton shall continue to operate as a special hospital, and I hope he will not be opposed to receiving suggestions which may be to the contrary.

What we hope most of all is that the report will provide a solution to the problems known to exist at Rampton at the present moment, and we on this side of the House are mindful, as I am sure is every noble Lord in your Lordships' House, of the fact that there are, and have been for some considerable time, difficulties which have got to be overcome in, I would say, the immediate future.

I should like to ask the noble Baroness whether she can indicate whether the Secretary of State will make available extra finance to implement some of the recommendations and suggestions which appear to be quite urgent. I am glad he has indicated, even if only by implication, that action will be taken quickly in the matter, because the report of the Elliot Committee of 1973, which was set up to deal with industrial relations at Rampton, has in fact not been implemented in any way. I do not attach blame to the present Government for that, but it would be a disaster, if I may say so, if this report were to be treated in much the same way as the Elliot Report.

I would also ask the noble Baroness whether the Secretary of State agrees that it is necessary to strengthen the professional leadership. I notice from the report that there is going to be the appointment of a medical director; but I think it is necessary to look at this matter in detail, because I think it is not only a question of having a medical director but one of seeing that certain other people who are in responsible positions give the kind of leadership that is necessary. I should also like to ask the noble Baroness to suggest to her right honourable friend the Secretary of State that one of the urgent things to be done is the improvement of industrial relations, which, I was going to say, exist, but which, rather, do not exist at Rampton at the present moment. I have in mind the fact—at least, I have been given to understand this—that the Department of Health and Social Services arranged for the visit of a journalist to Rampton as recently as last Friday, and that when the party arrived they were refused by the staff. To all of us in your Lordships' House, I think, it is most undesirable that this kind of thing should happen, and I hope the Secretary of State will pay particular attention to industrial relations.

Bearing in mind that Rampton Hospital is isolated, I wonder whether the Secretary of State has any views with regard to the geographical situation. I know the Statement of the Secretary of State says that he agrees it should continue to operate as a special hospital, but I hope he will not be inflexible about that. My final comment concerns the next paragraph, which says:
"I also accept their proposal that for the next three years Rampton should be supervised by a local board".
I am wondering what "local" means. I think it is a great pity if the board is going to be made up solely of local people. It is a highly-specialised hospital, presenting difficulties peculiar to that kind of hospital, and I would suggest, with respect, that the board ought to be drawn from a wide field of people who can bring (shall I say?) a good deal of confidence and expertise, and that it should not just be kept as a local board. Perhaps I have put the wrong interpretation on the word "local".

4.14 p.m.

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friends on these Benches, I, too, should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for repeating this very important Statement made in another place; and we, too, would wish to join with the noble Baroness and with the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, in paying a tribute to Sir John Boynton and his colleagues for their truly remarkable work. The noble Baroness agreed that this has not been a committee which has sat in a committee room perusing papers: it has been a body which has more or less taken up residence in Rampton, has wandered about at all times of the day and night, often unannounced, and has acquired a very full knowledge and understanding of what goes on at Rampton—and for that, I think, noble Lords in all parts of the House should be very grateful indeed to Sir John Boynton and his colleagues. Perhaps the noble Baroness would agree that we might also pay a tribute to Yorkshire Television, without whose intervention it might be that this very important review would not have been held at all.

As the noble Baroness has said, there are 205 recommendations. Perhaps I might ask the noble Baroness to note that my noble friends and I would wish to applaud Recommendation 203, which states:
"Less emphasis can and should be placed at Rampton on the provisions of the Official Secrets Act";
and perhaps also the associated sentence in the body of the report, at 5.12:
"We think that Rampton operates too much as a closed and secretive institution".
I would ask the noble Baroness whether she agrees. But if, as a result of this report and the action which the Government are taking—and I welcome that action, which has been taken so rapidly—this leads to institutions like Rampton being opened up to public scrutiny on a continuing basis, I am sure the noble Baroness would agree that this could only be for the benefit of patients, staff and the public as a whole.

There is one final point I should like to raise with the noble Baroness. She will have noted that the report refers to overcrowding, and makes certain recommendations with regard to it. Does the noble Baroness recollect that it is now 6½, years since the Committee on Mentally Abnormal Offenders, under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, made an interim report asking urgently for the setting up of regional, secure units of something like 2,000 beds? If, as I understand is the case, very little progress has been made with regard to that, does the noble Baroness agree that progress on that front would itself do a very great deal to implement the recommendations of this important report?

4.16 p.m.

My Lords, may I intervene for one moment? I have not had an opportunity to read the report, so I cannot comment on it, but I should like to ask the noble Baroness whether she would say one other thing which follows on directly from what the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, has said. As your Lordships know, we have recently been debating the Broadcasting Bill, during which there has been savage criticism of television for portraying violence and generally lowering the moral tone of the nation. I have a deep family interest in this because I am rather proud of the fact that it was my son who directed and produced the programme which led to this report. I should like to ask the noble Baroness whether she would concur with what the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, has said, and agree that, sometimes, television in this country can do a great deal of good.

4.17 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to thank both the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, and the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, for welcoming this report, and particularly for their congratulations to Sir John Boynton, in which I think we all share. In answer to the questions, the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, asked quite particularly about finance. Perhaps I could say that it is not proposed that there will be any addition to total public expenditure arising from this report, but the Secretary of State will be considering whether he can find savings from elsewhere. I think I should say that the review team pointed out that shortage of funds was not in fact an important factor in this matter.

On the question of the timing of doing something about it, as I have indicated, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has accepted the principal recommendation that there should be a review board. This is to be set up, we hope, by the turn of the year, so we are getting on with this as quickly as possible, as is the case with the appointment of a medical director, which we believe will strengthen the professional leadership in the hospital and thus, again, meet one of the major criticisms of the inquiry team; because the inquiry showed that what we need to get right is the management structure, and that a lead is needed to pull the management structure together and, indeed, to implement the recommendations. I hope that that will meet the point that the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, made about strengthening the professional leadership and, in that connection, of course, improving industrial relations. On his last point about the local board, perhaps I could say that, of course, this is the Rampton Review Board, which we hope will be set up by the turn of the year, and of course it would include professional people. We need to have people of a wide understanding of these particular matters.

Again, the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, asked whether or not we recognised that Rampton Hospital had been "closed and secretive"—I think those were the words he used. The acceptance of the principal recommendation of the Boynton Committee—namely, that there should be a review board with responsibility—will, I think, go some way towards meeting this point. He also asked a specific point about overcrowding in the hospital. He might like to know that the hospital has a bed complement of approximately 1,000 beds, and there are currently 816 patients, so I do not think one can say that there is any overcrowding.

On the other point which the noble Lord made and which went rather wider than the report, perhaps I might write him. The noble Lord, Lord Willis, intervened to say what I think the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, was also saying regarding our recognition of Yorkshire Television's achievement in bringing this matter to our notice. It would be right to say that we all recognise the important part that the media can play in this connection and we all hope that where we have responsible reporting, whenever it may come about, this is of value to all the services.

My Lords, as one who has visited Broadmoor many times over the years may I ask whether the noble Baroness would be able to say anything about the bearing of all this on Broadmoor? Some of us admire enormously what Dr. McGrath, for example, has done at Broadmoor but there have been many criticisms. What is the bearing of this on Broadmoor?

My Lords, the Statement is concerned with the Boynton Report on Rampton but, as I said at the end of the Statement, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State hopes that we shall be able to involve people from outside in the work of the four special hospitals of which Broadmoor is one. There will be the review board in the case of Rampton and, in the case of Moss Side and Park Lane, there will be the local community health council. We are urgently looking at similar arrangements that could be made at Broadmoor.

My Lords, anybody who has had experience of mental hospitals—and I recognise that these are special hospitals—will welcome this report even though, like me, many have not yet had a chance of seeing it. Would my noble friend accept that the chief nursing officer at Rampton and the devoted staff behind him have been sniped at in a most irresponsible way on many occasions? In view of the dangerous job that they do, this report will be most welcome. Can my noble friend comment on a report which appeared in the press that the chief nursing officer has been criticised by the Prison Officers' Association on some grounds or another which were not made clear? In view of the very difficult task he has to perform and the generous tribute that he paid to his nursing staff, is this not a very unfortunate state of affairs? Finally, may I ask my noble friend whether it is not desirable that, since the Rampton Hospital is very much the concern of local people, as many local people as possible should be concerned with this inquiry?

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Auckland for what he has said about the staffing problem. We all recognise that they have a difficult job to do and I am sure that it would be the wish of the whole House that we should recognise this. None the less, we must recognise the public anxiety caused by the revelations of the television programme. On his last point, I do not wish to comment on what may have appeared in the press.

Charities (Lord Hastings Hospital Trust) Order 1980

4.25 p.m.

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Belstead, I beg to move that the Draft Charities (Lord Hastings Hospital Trust) Order 1980 be approved. This order brings into effect a scheme of the Charity Commissioners for the regulation of the charity known as the Lord Hastings Hospital Trust. The charity was incorporated by Lord Hastings of Loughborough under the authority of an Act of Parliament of 1558. Its purpose was to provide almshouse accommodation for a master and six poor inhabitants in the parish of Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire. The purpose of the scheme set out in the appendix to the order is to alter the trusts of the charity which were established in their present form in a scheme confirmed by a public general Act of Parliament of 1856. The new scheme does not differ substantially from many others that are made each year by the Charity Commissioners. But since it amends provisions which have effect under a public general Act of Parliament the draft order giving effect to the scheme is required by section 19(3) of the Charities Act 1960 to be approved by resolution of each House of Parliament. Such schemes requiring affirmative resolution are not common. I believe that only one similar order has been made under the Act of 1960.

Your Lordships may find it helpful if I briefly explain the purpose of the scheme and the background to it. Under the scheme confirmed by the Act of 1856 the charity trustees were given power to sell the almshouse buildings and apply the proceeds in erecting new buildings in the parish of Stoke Poges or the immediate vicinity. Because their condition and situation were no longer considered satisfactory, the almshouses have been sold. But there is no land in Stoke Poges or the vicinity on which new almshouses could be built by the trustees at a price which they could afford. The trustees are therefore unable to apply the income of the charity in the way required by the present trusts. They have accordingly asked the Charity Commissioners to alter the trusts by making a scheme under which the income may be applied for a different purpose. This step is not unusual and the Commissioners have agreed.

That is the main purpose of the new scheme which we have before us in this draft order. It will alter the existing trusts so as to enable the trustees to apply the charity's income for the relief (otherwise than by the provision of almshouse accommodation) of poor people in Stoke Poges. The power to provide new almshouses, should it become possible to do so, is retained. The scheme also contains certain other amendments to the scheme confirmed by the Act of 1856, all of which are designed to secure the better administration of the charity. For instance, it establishes a new body of trustees in the place of those appointed under the earlier scheme and contains standard provisions for the regulation of the charity. I hope your Lordships will agree that these arrangements are worthwhile, and I commend the order and scheme to your Lordships' approval. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 22nd July be approved.—(Lord Sandys.)

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, for his explanation of this order and I am sure that all noble Lords will be very grateful to him for that. It is interesting to note that, as the noble Lord has indicated, it is quite an early charity, dating from 1558. It therefore dates from before the great statute of Elizabeth I, the Charitable Uses Act 1601, and it was not affected by that Act. This charity must have been very well drawn originally and its purposes were clearly not among those abuses aimed at by that statute of Elizabeth I; so that one can only congratulate those originally associated with it.

At this slightly late stage, it is perhaps sad that a new scheme has had to be drawn up and that it is no longer possible to pursue the previous purposes of this scheme. Nevertheless, if I may say so, it certainly appears, both from the explanation by the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, and from the scheme contained in the order itself, that those involved in drawing it up have done a very good job indeed. I think it only remains for me to wish the charity every success in the future and to invite your Lordships to join with the noble Lord in supporting this order.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Science And Tech Nology—Electric Vehicles

4.30 p.m.

rose to move, That this House takes note of the report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology on Electric Vehicles (1st Report, H.L. 352).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is with a keen sense of honour and considerable humility that I present the first report of your Lordships' Select Committee on Science and Technology—a report on electric vehicles. Your Select Committee chose this subject because of the evident public interest in the potential of electric vehicles to make an important contribution to the solution of the energy problem. It proved a very involved subject, combining many disciplines of science and technology and compounded with very complex fields of energy and transport. But, because of the broad span of the subject, I think this study—and I hope this report—demonstrates the unique capability of your Lordships' House to provide a very considerable wealth of knowledge and experience in support of such a Select Committee. I should like to pay tribute to the members of the committee for their very valuable contributions. I should also like to record the excellent response that your committee had to its request for evidence, and to say how pleased we were with the very high quality of both written and verbal submissions.

The electric vehicle provides an enigma in that, although it has a considerable history back to before the middle of the 19th century, and although it is evident in every day use, particularly in the milk float and fork lift truck, it is really in advance of its time, both in the state of the art of the technology and in demonstrating a viable economic proposition.

It is the problem of storing electricity—the battery—which lies at the root of the enigma. The battery currently in use for vehicle application is the lead acid battery, a system which has dominated the vehicle field for the best part of this century. Although the lead acid system has been developed over the years to provide a very reliable battery, as is demonstrated by its use as an auxilliary in the modern motor car, the lead acid battery is heavy and has a comparatively low power density. The effect of these limitations on the electric vehicle is to restrict its range and speed, although to a limited extent one can be increased at the expense of the other. There are however advantages of the electric vehicle such as zero emission, low noise and particularly simplicity of drive systems, which give rise to extremely flexible operation; but they do not compensate for the limitations in the wider application.

In a narrow field, this flexibility of operation, combined with the other advantages, has given rise over the years to the electric vehicles which are familiar to us today: the milk float and the factory vehicle, especially fork lift trucks. It is immediately obvious that in both cases they operate within a small radius of their base and flexibility is the principal criteria, although lack of noise and exhaust fumes is of equal importance for the factory-operated vehicles. There are of course many other possible applications within the concept of short range delivery and service vehicles, especially in the urban scene; but as we are well aware, the speed of the electric milk delivery vehicle is not really compatible with modern traffic requirements.

Recent and projected development of the lead acid system has made possible the development of a traffic-compatible general purpose delivery and service vehicle capable of a useful payload. A number of these vehicles have already been tried out at the prototype stage, and plans have been made for limited production. These vehicles are approaching the limit of economic viability and really need some degree of launch assistance, which we hope the Government will continue to provide; but even this welcome initiative by industry provides for only a tiny part of our total transport, and here I return to the question of the enigma of timing.

There is no doubt that within the two decades that are left in this century, liquid hydrocarbons, from whatever source, that provide the fuel for the great majority of our transport will be less available and a good deal more expensive. The electric vehicle is capable of playing a much greater part in reducing our reliance on these fuels. It gives access quickly to the energy of coal and nuclear power via the existing electric generating system and with night time charging, this can be done without any additional capital expenditure on extra plant. The electric vehicle is also the only possible route for the use in transport of the renewable

energy sources—wind and wave, et cetera. There is undoubtedly a wider future for the electric vehicle, but we have the problem of how to get there from now. Your committee believe that a number of steps should be pursued, which we have listed in detail in the report under some 15 headings; hut, for brevity, I will collate them and speak about them under four headings:

The first one I have already touched on is the continued development and launch of vehicles within the existing technology and the present-day economics. As I have said, we hope the Government will continue their encouragement of all forms in this field; and, furthermore, we hope they will encourage the various Government agencies, including the Post Office and hospital service, to make full use of the potential of the electric vehicle. It is however also important for the future wider use of electric vehicles that the major vehicle manufacturers should take more interest at this stage, and we welcome the evidence submitted by British Leyland Technology, which indicated their awakening interest.

The second area I would mention concerns research activity. One can readily foresee that when the economics of fuel change, there will be considerable demand for all forms of electric vehicle. But there is another route to increase demand—that is, improved performance—and there is no question that improved performance requires the development of new battery systems. Although the United Kingdom has established a world lead in the use of electric vehicles through the peculiarities of our milk delivery system, there is now, as you are aware, my Lords, a very considerable worldwide interest, and in the major western countries, the development of a new battery system is an important feature of national programmes. Many of these countries, including Japan and America, are devoting considerable resources to this field. None the less, we believe that due to the initiative of industry via Chloride and Lucas, supported by the Government, and the Electricity Council, two of the better potential systems are under development in this country, and within the limit of our resources, of scarce technical effort and money, we have probably got it right, whatever claims may be made elsewhere, although we should be prepared to take advantage of any change of circumstances should the breakthrough come elsewhere in the world. There is no guarantee when a new battery system may become available for traffic use. Your committee consider we are probably some 10 years away from this event, but we sincerely hope that the Government and their agencies will continue their assistance at current levels. In addition to the development of a more effective battery, there is also a need to develop efficient energy conversion systems, particularly electric motors, and we are encouraged by the work that is carried out by the universities in conjunction with industry and assisted by Government. We particularly hope that this activity will continue and increase.

The event of North Sea oil has cushioned the United Kingdom against some of the economic and political problems of the world oil supply; but for those countries in the world who have no indigenous supply, or who face a falling rate of supply, the question of alternative energy source for transport is more urgent, and this is demonstrated by the level of resources which are being applied, particularly to the electric vehicle. At this point in time in the United Kingdom we have a world lead, particularly in the technology of drive systems and components. Your committee believes that this presents an important export opportunity and we would impress upon the Government the need to foster and encourage those involved in this industry wherever the initiative may come from.

May I turn now to the final recommendation regarding hybrid vehicles. The hybrid is a vehicle deriving its energy requirements from two or more sources and there are a number of combinations possible—fly-wheels, external electric source, battery, internal combustion engine et cetera. The hybrid, by combining two energy sources, provides a possible route to overcoming the major limiting factors restricting the development of the electric vehicle: that is, range and speed. On the other side of the account, it does increase the complexity of the vehicle and, therefore, the cost. After taking into account all the factors involved, your committee considered that a combination of battery and internal combustion engine could provide a considerable potential to overcome the time-gap and improve performance.

Your committee further considered that for use on the United Kingdom road network a series type hybrid may be the most useful. This is a vehicle with a battery that is charged overnight and which receives a supplementary charge during the day from a small internal combustion engine running at constant speed and constant load. The vehicle retains the flexibility of electric drive, and the internal combustion engine can be run under the most efficient conditions which produce very remarkable economy of fuel. The engine can be silenced very effectively and run with precise emission control. The vehicle would use the technology of today and is, therefore, very attractive. Whether such a vehicle is more cost-effective today, or in the immediate future, than a battery-only vehicle is something your committee believes should be established as soon as possible and, in this case, we would ask the Government to take the initiative to further develop and establish the potential.

I hope I have said enough to promote a wider reading of your committee's report and I will finish by quoting the final paragraph:

"It is still possible that electric transport will never get over the many technological obstacles in its way. Nevertheless the committee consider, on balance, that the odds are in favour of e.vs. and that soon after the end of the century they will make a valuable contribution to road transport, particularly in urban areas. I.c.e. vehicles, powered by natural or synthetic fuel, will certainly stay as one of the main forms of transport, and probably the most important. Whether the present trend of small-scale manufacture, using urban delivery vehicles to penetrate the market will allow e.vs. to realise their potential, however, is another matter. It will certainly be exceedingly slow. It will come up against the central problem facing e.vs: most of the advantages accrue to society as a whole or to the electricity generating industry; most of the disadvantages fall on the owner. In such circumstances to rely on pure market forces to build up an e.v. industry is not practical. Growth will be stunted. Some help from Government and the public sector, including the Electricity Boards, is called for. The committee recommend that it should be given. Electric transport is a serious long-term option; it will one day have a significant, though probably not dominant, role; and it is in the national interest to have a home-based transport industry capable of meeting market needs in the 21st century."

I look forward to the debate and particularly to hearing the Government's response. I beg to move that the First Report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology on Electric Vehicles be noted.

Moved, That this House takes note of the Report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology on Electric Vehicles (1st Report, H.L. 352).—( Lord Gregson.)

4.44 p.m.

My Lords, we would all wish, I am sure, to thank the noble Lord, Lord Gregson, for the admirable way he has summarised and presented to us the report on electric vehicles. I would wish particularly to thank hint for the (shall I say?) masterly way in which he conducted the study on which the report is based—a study made by a sub-committee of which he was the chairman. As the noble Lord has said, this is the first report of your Committee on Science and Technology.

That was a committee which was set up about a year ago and of which I have the honour to be chairman. It seems to me, although I do not wish today to enter into detailed discussion of any of the points in the report, that it is perhaps incumbent upon me, as chairman, to give the House some indication of the aims of this Select Committee, as I and my fellow members see them.

We were set up with exceedingly broad terms of reference. We were simply told to consider science and technology. That is quite a large order, and within this very broad field it seemed to us that our function should be in fact to carry out inquiries into the matters with which Parliament at least ought to be concerned and to report back to the House. But even within this limited field we have still had to be selective. There are subjects such as, for example, nuclear energy, which are much too large to be dealt with in the time and with the resources we can command; and in any case such large subjects are usually dealt with by a variety of other competent bodies. This, of course, will not mean that from time to time we may not find certain aspects to which we would like to draw your Lordships' attention, but for the most part we would expect to deal with rather specific subjects with a high technological content: subjects which, for one reason or another, are matters of public concern. We would seek, by studying them, to present your Lordships with an unbiased assessment which may assist you in making judgments on them.

Bearing in mind these points, we started out by choosing two topics, each of which we reckoned could be studied in some detail by a sub-committee. The subjects we chose were, on the one hand, electric vehicles and, on the other, forestry in the United Kingdom. These may seem rather different, but, each in a different way perhaps, they do form good examples of the kind of thing a select committee like ours should be studying.

The potential of electric vehicles, as the noble Lord, Lord Gregson, has said, is a matter which is frequently discussed in the press and elsewhere, but very little is generally known of the present position regarding their development, and even less is known about the research that is going on in the field. Yet it is by no means impossible that for environmental reasons or a shortage of suitable fuel for internal combustion engines, or perhaps both, electrically propelled vehicles, at least for urban use, could become of very great importance in the not too distant future.

In a somewhat different way, the study of forestry is something which we should be concerned with, or that your Lordships should be concerned with. We are studying not only the scientific aspects of forestry but the scale and nature of the research being done in this field. This is a matter of very considerable importance, not just to agriculture and commerce but also to the whole problem of land usage in the public interest, and all that apart from the purely scientific interest which there is in forestry and which is quite considerable. We hope to report on the subject of forestry in the very near future, when the report on it is presented by our other sub-committee, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield.

In pursuance of these objects we have now commenced a further study which will come before your Lordships in due course. That is a study of the treatment and disposal of hazardous waste—a matter which I am sure your Lordships would agree is one of very considerable public concern these days. It is not our intention to deal with nuclear waste, the disposal of which is being intensively studied by other bodies elsewhere. But some non-nuclear waste can also be extremely dangerous and it is important that we should avoid any possibility of disasters, such as have occurred recently at Love Canal in the United States. For this reason, I believe—and my colleagues on committee believe—that a study of present British practice and of research which is going on into methods of waste disposal would appear to be very timely, and I hope your Lordships will agree with us on that.

4.51 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to join the noble Lord, Lord Todd, in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Gregson, on leading his team, which was selected from the Select Committee of your Lordships' House on Science and Technology, and on producing this report. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Gregson, and the noble Lord, Lord Todd, will not mind my mentioning at this early stage what a great help in preparing this report they had from Paul Hayter, the Clerk to that Committee, and his team.

I strongly support the main conclusion of this report, which is based on many grounds which have been amplified in the cogent speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gregson. The main conclusion, as it seems to me, is that it is now in the United Kingdom's national interest to increase the production of electric vehicles in the near future. In many places in this report, as Lord Gregson has pointed out, a very interesting fact emerges from the evidence, of which your Lordships may well be proud. It emerges without doubt that the United Kingdom leads the world in the field of electric vehicle design and in the equipment, including batteries, associated with those vehicles. Thus the 1979 population of 45,000 such vehicles in the United Kingdom is greater than that of any other country.

The National Research and Development Corporation, of which the noble Lord, Lord Schon, was such a distinguished chairman for many years, assisted in pioneer research work in relation to fuel cells associated with the production of electric vehicles. Their evidence is that two large American firms took out licences under their patents and that those patents have many years to run and are potentially a useful asset to the United Kingdom.

Again as a result of recent research, the United Kingdom has a world lead in the development of high performance delivery vans and in sodium sulphur batteries. This evidence is to be found, for example, in the report of the Department of Industry on pages 162 and 178 of this report, and in the evidence of the Electric Vehicle Association on page 131.

In the comments on the report that I propose to make to your Lordships this evening, I shall speak in the context that the United Kingdom has such a world lead and that that lead must not be lost. In my submission, that lead should provide the basis for encouraging positive and early action by the United Kingdom industry, in active collaboration with the United Kingdom Government and local government authorities, and perhaps with the EEC authorities, in the further development and production of electric vehicles. I suggest that this could perhaps be achieved more readily in certain limited fields. Such action would be bound to lead to the creation of more jobs, and a substantial increase in revenue from the export of electric vehicles, and associated equipment and know-how, to the benefit of the United Kingdom's economy.

It is, of course, industry that ultimately has to take the risk in assessing the market in the face of many factors, including, for example, the price of electricity and oil and, possibly, social factors affecting the environment. The general field of the development of electric vehicles is, fortunately, evolutionary, rather than a field which can be completely changed by some new development, as often happens in certain technical developments. The objective, as stated at page 166, must be for industry to apply technology and production positively to the demands of the market as these demands manifest themselves, or where they can be created.

The noble Lord, Lord Scholl, who, as I have said—and I am very glad to see him in his place—was for many years chairman of the National Research and Development Corporation, and did so much to encourage invention, stated so aptly during part of the evidence that it is essential for British industry to push as hard as it can, and to give the leadership and pressure required to sell more equipment or to get more people into jobs. I endorse that view for a more militant commercial approach.

The Electricity Council pointed out, as recorded at page 96 of this report, that a major obstacle in electric road vehicle development is to overcome the volume production problem. Major demonstrations should, therefore, be arranged to develop production methods and to obtain the advantages of scale production. I was interested to see only this morning two pamphlets indicating that there is to be a demonstration of these vehicles at County Hall in the near future. I was also informed that the charge for viewing those demonstrations is to be of the order of £74, which will certainly prohibit my attendance and, no doubt, that of several of my business acquaintances.

As was pointed out by the representative of BL Technology Limited at page 61, it is essential now to bridge the gap between speculative research in regard to electric vehicles and commercial reality. That appears to me to be the major challenge to the industry and to the Government at the present time, which must be overcome. My noble friend Lord Tanlaw is recorded in the evidence as saying, something very apt, and I should like to quote his words from page 77. He said that,
"expenditure of funds … allocated to academic research papers, could be more profitably used to develop prototype systems for public evaluation and acceptability [of electric vehicles]. Feedback from this type of operation could be rapid ".
I strongly support that practical view.

Accordingly, I should like to make a few suggestions as to the areas where industry and Government could take the initiative, so as to make more electric vehicles available commercially. The first is that more electric vehicles would be very useful in rural areas which at present lack adequate local transport. This lack of transport in rural areas is an increasing social problem. This problem was emphasised by my noble friend Lord Tanlaw when giving evidence which is recorded at page 81 of the report. He pointed out the interesting fact that in rural areas around small towns with 5,000 to 10,000 inhabitants there are many small villages and hamlets with totally inadequate transport facilities, but the private mileage of those people in travelling to work or for essential shopping averages less than 12 miles per day. That short distance is well within the capabilities of the present day development of electric cars and batteries, and I feel strongly that industry, with positive marketing methods, could produce a vehicle at economical prices for such use. In addition to this obvious use in rural areas, I should welcome more active development of small bus services, such as have been introduced in Bournemouth, and also the project for electric mobile libraries and vans which is under way in Cambridgeshire, as recorded at pages 144 of this report.

I should also like to refer to the evidence of the Electric Vehicle Association, whose able president is my noble friend Lord Ironside who is to follow me in this debate. Lord Ironside mentioned, as recorded at page 131, that the Americans were seeking licences to manufacture from some United Kingdom manufacturers. Surprisingly to me, he added that his association was not aware of any particular links with companies in countries such as the United States of America, Germany and Japan where, as the noble Lord, Lord Gregson, mentioned, very considerable developments are taking place in regard to electric vehicles.

Lord Ironside pointed out that his association was of course not in a position to try to go into the market itself. However, I should like to suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Ironside, that perhaps it would be very helpful in maintaining the lead of the United Kingdom in this field if his association would consider, as many research associations do now, how it can assist its members in relation to licensing and exploiting the inventions, the patents and the know-how so as to increase the wealth of the United Kingdom in the field of electric vehicles.

If I may quote Lord Schon once again, he is recorded at page 137 as saying that one of the biggest problems he always had in encouraging innovation in the United Kingdom was to prevent British firms and technicians giving away their know-how and expertise to foreigners for nothing. That, sadly, has been my experience of many United Kingdom industries and their technical personnel There is an appalling lack of expertise in some industries, and in Government departments, as to how to exploit the results of their research It seems to be a matter eminently suitable for the Electric Vehicle Association to consider in the context of electric vehicle manufacture and production.

I should have disclosed earlier that I have the honour to be a member of the Select Committee on Science and Technology under the chairmanship of the distinguished noble Lord, Lord Todd, President of the Royal Society, but I was not a member of the sub-committee whose chairman was the noble Lord, Lord Gregson.

It may be appropriate if I add a few words to what the noble Lord, Lord Todd, said about the ambit of consideration of the Select Committee, as this is the first report to be presented to this House. This Select Committee does not exist as a general channel for communicating scientific and technological development to the public at large. Its role is to draw attention to the significance of the subject investigated. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, will agree with that statement, as I extracted it from one of the earlier reports he made to that Select Committee when it was set up about a year ago. The report of Lord Gregson has certainly accentuated the significance and the importance of electric vehicles. I support its recommendations.

5.4 p.m.

My Lords, I, too, would like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Gregson, for introducing this report and, one might say, for making Parliament "go electric". First, having run with the fox, giving evidence, I should also like to thank him for allowing me also to hunt with the hounds and be with the committee. This first quarry of the Select Committee could not have been better chosen. I believe that the noble Lord ran it to earth after a search which went very wide and deep.

The report itself has declared my main interest, but I have others. In addition to being president of the Electric Vehicle Association of Great Britain, I am also president of the European Electric Road Vehicle Association. My company, IRD, has carried out a worldwide survey for the Department of Industry on hybrid vehicles and has identified, among other things, the objectives and technical options of many of the programmes in other countries and also has laid down guidelines for new projects in the United Kingdom. I was fascinated by the ideas of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, for the use of hybrids, particularly in rural areas.

I have been closely involved for several years with electric vehicle developments and I have been connected with many of the actions which have taken place, so I am grateful for the opportunity to speak now. An immense amount of detail is laid out in the Select Committee report, and I must congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Gregson, on the thoroughness with which he has worked.

We do not know with any certainty exactly how our road transport needs are going to be met in 10 or 20 years' time, but what we do know is that unless we prepare some of the ground now for alternative forms, such as electric vehicles, we shall be forced to accept from other parts of the world solutions which do not wholly suit our needs. Energy needs differ widely from country to country and it follows that the resulting solutions to problems in each country will be different. Basically, we want to satisfy our own needs, and a well developed industrial base in electric vehicles will help to do this and to satisfy overseas demand. But it can be seen that there is already a risk that the massive national programmes in America and Japan can pose an import threat to us, as they are both commercialisation programmes backed by Government money and effort.

The sceptics say that electric vehicles are always just round the corner and never here on the spot when they are needed. They refer to the car, I think. The trouble with corners is that they come in two sorts: those you are forced into and those which are difficult to see round. I do not want to see the electric vehicle industry forced into a corner, and my purpose now is to try to take a look at the electric road round the corner.

Electric vehicles are on the road now—as the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, said, 45,000 of them—but it is a road which is geared to the needs of a transport mode which draws on the finite fuel assets of this world which now have a premium price label upon them. It may be argued that syncrude produced from coal, which is a far less finite resource, will not suffer such a premium, but syncrude may well turn out to be a feedstock both for the chemical plant and the coal refinery. Because of this, it may end up suffering a double premium tag.

The energy issue in transport is the most compelling. The success of the electric milk float has established a strong design and production base in the United Kingdom over a great many years. As has already been said, this has proved to be a unique and very important asset; but a wider range of much improved products must also be brought to the road and we must ensure that the United Kingdom electric vehicle industry is able to retain its lead in the world so as to serve the overseas markets and the wider home market which we now see lying ahead.

The committee makes the point that the economic case for the electric vehicle is at the moment very weak, except for door-to-door deliveries and service rounds involving town work. In fact, the case for the electric vehicle as an urban work horse is particularly strong. On a one-for-one basis, in the one to two-tonne payload bracket, it competes very well with its internal combustion engined vehicle counterpart. In fact, there would not be 45,000 electric vehicles on our public highways if they did not compete. As the cost advantage of electricity over oil-based fuels grows, the economics of the electric vehicle improve. We can expect this trend to grow in England, with 75 per cent. of the electrical load coming from coal-fired power stations.

I think that the committee brings this out very clearly, but it also brings out the black mark against electric vehicles at the moment. There are three things which they lack: First, range—the vehicle lacks range. It takes a long time to charge the battery and the initial cost of a vehicle is high because it is only made on a batch production basis or to order. If the batteries were not as large as double beds and there were smart chargers—to use an American term—the electric vehicle would be much more popular by now.

I will not bore the House with any details, but the technical barriers will be hard to cross and it will take time. Nevertheless, I am tempted to say something about batteries as other people have done. The lead acid traction battery has a lot of design stretch in it. Something approaching a two to one improvement is now on the cards, and it will still be a highly favoured option for most of this decade. The life cycles of 1,500 give four years or so of good use and this is an important economic factor to the operator. Real success will depend of course upon the new batteries—the sodium-sulphur couples and the lithium-sulphur couples which have been developed in America, which pack four or five times more power per unit mass. And if they are successful—and there is still an "if" factor in this—then passenger car electrics will certainly take off.

What I am saying is that we are well placed to exploit the goods van market for electrics now because we know that the lead-acid traction batteries are cost-effective and there is a lot more mileage in them yet. Luckily, however, there are other options to consider, such as battery exchange stations to speed up refuelling and the adoption of biberonage or the bottle feeding technique for the battery, with gulps of energy taken at convenient times during the day. Because there are breaks in the motoring day it would be possible to plug in at a charging point at the roadside or on a parking lot or in a garage to get a fill, which would extend range and limit and limit the size of the battery pack. The dual-mode buses which are now on trial in Germany—at München-Gladbach, I believe—can pick up charges through their pantographs at set points along the road. That is proving effective.

A lot is said about electric vehicles but very little is said about the electric road, and if we are going to see more electric vehicles on our roads we shall have to ensure at some point that we can provide for their fuelling and for their servicing. There is nowhere I know of where one can buy these services at the moment. There are some operators with electric vehicle fleets, but they fill up and carry out servicing at their own vehicle depots, which have been specially equipped.

This debate is taking place not quite a month after the first international conference and exhibition on electric vehicles in Europe. It was called Drive Electric 80 and was arranged by the Electric Vehicle Association of Great Britain, of which I have the privilege to be president. The event, which took place a month after the publication of the Committee's report, highlighted a number of points which came over to me very strongly, but first I should like publicly to acknowledge the great interest that the Government have taken in Drive Electric 80 through Lord Trefgarne's right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for Energy and Industry, who, with their personal interest, have given great encouragement to the members of my association and have demonstrated to all the foreign visitors that the Government attach great importance to the development of electric vehicles.

I should also like to thank the Electricity Council for organising Drive Electric 80 and I am assured that they intend to make very much greater use of electric vehicles within the electricity supply industry itself and to promote the use of cost-effective electric vehicles by public authorities and fleet operators. The committee also referred to the massive United States Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Research Development and Demonstration 1976 Act, the Japanese programme and some European programmes, particularly that in Germany, coupled with the indirect actions of the Commission in Brussels.

These programmes have teeth which are beginning now to show. The US programme, like the Japanese one, is a commercialisation programme and two small-scale production companies which have had US Government money have now to my knowledge plans to set up manufacturing plants in the United Kingdom. Each of them exhibited last month at Drive Electric 80 at Wembley and were offering comparable products to the existing British electric vehicle builders' range in the commercial van field, but the prices are much lower by comparison with the traditional United Kingdom ones for electric vehicles, by a factor of two. Daihatsu from Japan exhibited a range of four electric vehicles at the 1980 motor show and at Drive Electric 80, all in the £5,000 to £6,000 bracket on a six months delivery basis. Their plan is to penetrate markets in the USA, Australia and here. Their prices are 30 to 40 per cent. lower than the United Kingdom counterparts built to traditional long-life standards. The effect of all this on customers cannot yet be judged, but people that I have talked to in my own association have a high regard for what the Japanese have done in the battery field and with their control electrics which were displayed at Wembley.

The Japanese prices are sharp. We do not know whether they contain hidden subsidies and we still cannot judge their technology which could eventually prove to be unsound, but Daihatsu have now been on the development trail for 15 years in electric vehicles and they are now demonstrating a solution to the volume production problem which shows signs of hitting British manufacturers. I believe that the Wembley event has shown that there is a good case for sharpening up our efforts here in the national context, and I am happy to see the way in which Chloride has joined with Dodge Trucks in the Talbot group and Lucas with Vauxhall to put development vehicles on to the road.

This is important, as has been shown already in the "London Goes Electric" scheme, where the batteries and drive systems of the new traffic compatible fast electric vehicles are on trial. Comparisons with their internal combustion engined counterparts show that the reliability factor is good and getting better. These trial schemes are vital in the context of launching vehicles incorporating new technologies on to the market and the Commission in Brussels has financed similar projects, in Dublin, with 350,000 European units of account and in Odense in Denmark with 50,000 units of account and in a volume production project with Fiat in Italy with 150,000 European units of account. This particular project with Fiat will not be confined just to the use of in-house batteries and drive-lines. It will look at the volume production problems as a whole. It is the most important problem and we wish to solve this in a way that both the technology and the price must be got right if the electric vehicle is to stand on its own feet and compete with other types of vehicle for similar duties.

In evidence to the committee the Department of Industry said that a proposal is expected from British Leyland involving electric vehicles. I do not yet know whether one has been put up and I should like to ask my noble friend Lord Trefgarne whether any proposal has been put forward. I believe that British Leyland are well placed to take such a project on board and I hope that the Government will find a way of supporting them, so that they can start research and development work alongside other and new successful engineering ventures which they have just launched. I think there is certainly room enough for both Lucas and Chloride with their own partners as well as British Leyland to have an involvement in the electric vehicle field, because it is important that each should complement the other in their efforts to ensure that there is a range of vehicle options as well as the incentives for component suppliers, which include all electrical ancillaries as well as batteries. Lucas have announced that the Sherpa van has joined their electric test fleet and I hope this will show the way to British Leyland.

Members of my association now believe that the Japanese challenge is real, but that the US challenge, in spite of its large financial backing from the Government, still lacks complete credibility. However, the United States are pushing ahead hard and fast on their own, but there are no signs, I think, even after what Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran has said, that they are really picking up any British technology to help them. I said when I was giving evidence that I thought there was, but evidence which has come into my hands since Drive Electric 80 has shown that this is hardly true.

British innovations are significant, and there is evidence that the Government technological support measures to date are showing results. As Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran said, I think there is a very good case for research associations and research companies to assist with the licensing problem, and I think perhaps we should pay very much more attention to this to ensure that British technology is introduced into these other national programmes, if we can. But all the technology that has recently come to the surface in conference sessions and in the exhibition at Wembley has shown me that the case for continued Government support is now much stronger than ever before if we are to face the challenges from overseas programmes.

The programmes in all other countries are totally directed at commercialisation. The markets are not yet rolling, and the use of public funds is justified under these circumstances where the industrial risk is high and there is no market to generate investment for research and development. The honours in the market will be won in the technology stakes running up to commercialisation. I should like to see us remain up in front, and Government encouragement and finance is, I believe, needed to help British manufacturers get their advanced technology into the pipeline and down to Japanese and United States price levels.

In the European dimension, the European Electric Road Vehicle Association, under my presidency, is studying, under contract for the Commission in Brussels, the changes required to make the 43 or so transport directives applicable to electric vehicles. They were drafted for internal combustion engined vehicles and they penalised the electric vehicle. For example, the tachograph directive is one case where electric vehicles suffer a penalty, because the threshold for fitting tachographs is geared to gross vehicle weight, which includes batteries, in the electric vehicle case. Thus, a one-tonne payload diesel van with a gross vehicle weight under 3½ tonnes does not require a tachograph, but its electric counterpart may do so because its gross vehicle weight will exceed 3½ tonnes. Yet the driver cannot exceed permitted hours because his vehicle needs charging after 50 miles use.

This madness bears heavily on the electric vehicle operator in having to keep totally unnecessary records, and there are now examples of vehicles in the "London Goes Electric" scheme used by Initial Towel Services in which these tachographs have to be fitted and records kept. It is not only the cost of keeping records, but it is the cost of having the tachograph fitted in the first place which has to be considered by a potential operator and may deter him from going electric. All. I can say is thank goodness the operator does not have to arrange for a man to carry a red flag in front of the vehicle. Noble Lords may well say this directive applies to all countries, but in this country we are unique because we have 45,000 electric vehicles on our highways, and there is no case in any of the other Community states where I know of more than about 200, and these, I believe, escape the regulations because they are there for trial.

Now in Europe developments are taking place in Germany, France and Sweden where hybrid vehicles are being developed, and to my knowledge there is no hybrid public service vehicle project under way in the United Kingdom. The Committee consider that we should pay much more attention to hybrid developments here, and I think they are quite right and that there is a case for building prototypes to test their performance. I can assure noble Lords that I think hybrids have a lot of merit. My father was the user of a hybrid which he owned between 1920 and 1930, and this was a petrol-electric hybrid in which he did 250,000 miles in the United Kingdom and in India.

Public funding to look more carefully at the fuel economy data for various hybrid combinations and applications is, I believe, justified, and there is a case for looking particularly at the public service vehicle field mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, where the efforts in other countries are concentrated. I think that the Lucas development of a series hybrid vehicle will help lead the way into the hybrid and electric markets for passenger vehicles as well as public service vehicles, because part of the technology is already there and range flexibility can be demonstrated and is needed in both the public service vehicle and passenger vehicle. In both cases the driver wishes to be free to use his vehicle for long or short journeys according to his pleasure or his duty. There is a lot of merit in taking hybrids more seriously, and I believe that we have the resources available to do it.

The committee conclude that, on balance, the odds are in favour of electric vehicles, but the time-scale remains still in doubt. The case for help from Government at the present stage is certainly justified until the markets get off the ground. All the people I have talked to have welcomed this report, which allows us to identify priorities upon which the Government can respond in partnership with the manufacturers.

The electric vehicle must compete on level terms with internal combustion engined vehicles if it is to succeed, and getting the vehicles placed in the market for trial with a Government subsidy will be very important in order to put them on the same price footing as diesel engined vehicles to encourage the buyer until a market is established at competitive levels. I should like to see public purchase programmes in the public sector; as a bulk purchaser and major user the public sector can influence product development with its financial clout. The price of diesel fuel will be a sensitive parameter and on this score a break-even point between fast diesel and electric vehicles may be reached by 1986 or when the diesel fuel price has reached £1.90 as opposed to the £1.30 which is the present level.

In the case of Lucas and Chloride efforts, approximately £2 million per annum should cover the overall needs of both these groups in the production engineering ventures and in placing vehicles on trial in the 3½ and 7½ gross vehicle weight ranges. British Leyland's role must be an additional consideration, taking into account that as the major British volume production manufacturer they are now committed to another new and successful engineering project.

The smaller established manufacturers who have already shown the way serve an annual market of some 1,200 vehicles, and they must not be forgotten. They offer a service in depth to the customer, and they have won their custom in competition with internal combustion engine vehicle suppliers, but in no way can they compete directly with the vehicle manufacturing giants. They have a proper place in the market, and we do not want to see them edged out of any Government support programme purely on the basis of their smallness. I believe that the electric vehicle industry in England is something we can be proud of, and I think this report identified the priorities and the necessary action through which Government can ensure that the country stays ahead.

5.29 p.m.

My Lords, may I at the outset declare that I have—contrary perhaps to some thoughts in your Lordships' House and certainly outside—no connection, no involvement whatsoever, with electric vehicle manufacturers or component manufacturers, or, indeed, any company so involved. I was a member of this sub-committee, and may I say what a pleasure it was to serve under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Gregson, who displayed a good deal of personal energy and a great deal of personal charm in ensuring that members of the committee kept firmly to the subject-matter rather than diving off into the realms of energy and other associated problems, which it was so easy for us to do.

I think that at the same time I would like to pay my tribute to the very long list of witnesses who gave evidence both orally and written and with such willingness. I observed very little evidence of commercial confidentiality in what we were told and what we were shown. However, I think that there was perhaps more the suggestion of an element of wishful thinking in some of the things that we were told—wishful thinking which, if my noble friend Lord Ironside will permit me to say so, was very much echoed in his speech this afternoon, but as President of the EERVA that is understandable.

I did not find at the conclusion of our deliberations as much to enthuse about as I had originally hoped for. I think that it is fair to say that, while the oil companies—that is, really the petrol companies—maintain their near monopolistic hold on petrol supplies, coupled with the vested interests of the vehicle manufacturers in IC engines and diesel engines, progress towards an alternative fuel for road transport will inevitably be slow. It might be fair in parenthesis to say that that interest of both the oil companies and vehicle manufacturers is perhaps understandable when one sets against the argument their huge capital investment.

My noble friend Lord Ironside appeared to rest a major part of his argument on the energy case. I do not believe that that is necessarily so. There is no doubt that an alternative supply will come about at some time, but even if we doubled, trebled or quadrupled our usage of electric vehicles in this country from the current 45,000 or so a year, it would make a minimal impact on both primary energy usage and fuel-oil usage. In fact, road transport takes up 23 per cent, of total United Kingdom oil usage and a doubling of electric vehicles would only make less than 1 per cent. difference to that.

The environmental benefits of electric vehicles are set out quite well in paragraphs 19 to 22 of the report. They are undoubtedly true, but I would suggest that they do not appear to outweigh the costs involved. I think that that is really quite understandable, because when one has to put one's hand in one's own pocket to preserve or maintain some pet theory, sometimes the enthusiasm disappears. I believe that, while the cost of buying and operating electric vehicles remains so totally disproportionate to that of petrol and diesel engines, the environmental demand will be less heard. Even if one accepts the statistic which is widely broadcast that 93 per cent. of the 14 million motor cars on the roads cover something less than 60 miles a day—well within the range of an electric vehicle—I believe that range, performance and price restrictions are paramount in the minds of the private user as well as the commercial user. There is in fact no national attitude towards an alternative fuel-using vehicle or an environmentally pollution-free vehicle.

The Americans, on the other hand, make great play of their new federally mandated regulations that come into force in 1985 requiring the vehicle manufacturers to have an average fuel efficiency rating of 27·5 mpg. That sounds very good, but it has been pointed out that as an electric vehicle uses no fuel it means that if one takes the top end and the bottom end of the scale they could quite easily continue building what are popularly called "gas guzzlers" and still come within the average bracket.

We in this country have adopted a rather different stance in that we have accepted the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders' paper published a couple of years ago—we debated it in fact in one of our energy debates—in which they have promised great fuel economies which can be monitored. They have now hedged their bets somewhat in saying that, of course, the environmental requirements of the motor vehicles offset some of the savings that they then saw. I think that it was the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, in his speech to us this afternoon who mentioned this national interest to further electric vehicles. I suggest that one of the areas in which Government can play a leading and not necessarily expensive role is the fostering of the national interest in the whole area—not only energy conservation but pollution-free vehicles and the alternatives.

In paragraphs 36 and 107 of the report we refer to the commercial vehicle usage and the various advantages which might be allowable which would foster the interests of the commercial user. It is in that area that all speakers identified—and, indeed, the report identifies—the greatest growth. I think that one should not deny the Government's response in the last budget in dispensing with vehicle taxation for electric vehicles. But there are a number of other measures set out in that report, and, indeed, which my noble friend Lord Ironside mentioned, which could be brought into play. On the other hand, there is great ignorance among commercial users and their transport managers of the benefits, advantages and the options open to them as transport operators in the area of electric vehicles. It is disappointing to note that although the Road Transport Industry Training Board and other Boards have provided seminars and other instructional courses, the take-up has been very small. The Electricity Council, one of the great newspapers, the dairy people and, I think, Initial Towel Services were mentioned among many others as users of electric vehicles. The more we get them into use, the greater will be the depth of development and the greater will be the ultimate success.

The noble Lord, Lord Gregson, mentioned the awakening interest of manufacturers. Indeed, I do not think that it is sufficient to commend the manufacturers, either in this country or in other countries, for an awakening interest, but we should criticise them for their general attitude to this problem. The awakening interest would have to be transmitted very sharply into a change of attitude. I do not believe that in this country it is at all possible to foist the responsibility of using an alternative type of vehicle on to such manufacturers of components and battery systems as Lucas and Chloride or, indeed, to expect the smaller specialist production companies to lead the way. It is our great vehicle manufacturers who have to take a more positive role.

However, I wonder—and I say this with some diffidence—whether, in fact, our great motor manufacturing industries are poised to take advantage of those opportunities which present themselves today. Will they ever be able to take advantage of those opportunities which may well present themselves tomorrow?

During the course of the inquiry I think that my greatest impression was in the area of the technological development in motors, controllers, drive systems and charging systems. This is referred to in some detail in Part VII of the report. It seems to me that, while our country is in its present economic position, we should concentrate on the greatest and the most immediate benefits that are available as a result of electrical vehicle technology. It is in that area that I believe we can reap the greatest benefit.

From talking to the people involved I was very disappointed to learn of the great shortage of electrical engineers in that industry. Therefore, it seems to me that some of the engineering institutions, the colleges, the universities and—right at the beginning—some of the careers advisers might very well learn a little more of this industry and promote young men and women to this branch of industry. I believe that success here could bring very rich rewards to the United Kingdom in exporting the technology alongside the components, which I believe we shall be able to manufacture for other people's manufacturing industries where the electric vehicle has a greater acceptance and usage.

On the question of funding, there is only one remark that I should like to make. It is perhaps prompted by the pleas that my noble friend Lord Ironside made. I do not believe that it is any good asking the Government to provide very much more than that which is already being provided. Although the community may very well benefit as the technology advances, it is the makers and the commercial operators who will reap the rewards. They must, as at present, provide most of the money. However, if encouragement can be given through the Government by the wider use of the vehicles, then we may very well advance a little more quickly.

If and when an opportunity presents itself for a greater participation of Government monies to support what I believe are new job opportunities and the furtherance of a new wealth-creating industry, which we shall need tomorrow, that is the time when the Government should provide more funds. But at this moment I think that it is their encouragement and a realisation of the wider fields that are involved that are needed, thereby introducing something of a national attitude to one sector of the market.

5.45 p.m.

My Lords, I think that we must all be very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Gregson, for giving us the chance to have this debate today. I have listened to it carefully and it seems very clear to me from what he said and also from what the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, said that what would help this project more than anything would be another major commercial outlet. There is a chance of one which I can see most strongly and which I now wish to advocate; it is the commercial use of electric engines for inland waterways craft. I believe in this so strongly that I am sticking my neck out and having my own canal motor cruiser converted to electric drive; that is being done at this moment. I am doing this because it seems to me, not that the electric drive is something for the future, but that it is something for this very day in relation to inland waterways craft.

I should like to quote some figures which have been given to me by the original boat company of Evesham which seem to show that the electric engine is already viable as against the diesel for waterways craft. This is a firm which operates 50-feet long hire canal boats, and which in fact operates both diesel and electric craft—exactly similar craft with the alternative drives.

On the prices of boats, both are much the same. The electric drive boat is a little more, but if the market became large one could expect its price to fall. On propulsion unit life the diesel engine is quoted as having a life of three to five years and some of its components shorter lives; whereas the battery electric boat, with batteries which can now be installed in it, has a battery life of 10 years. I shall not bother your Lordships with all the detail on maintenance, but it works out that much less maintenance is needed on the electric boat. On fuel costs the difference is really significant. On a round 100-mile trip—which is what the company supplies to its hirers—diesel consumption is roughly 15 gallons, which works out at rather more than £15; but electric current for the same job and charged at standard rates, not cheap night rates, works out at £3·50. That is a colossal difference, and it is one of which we should take a great deal of account.

In addition, the disadvantages of the electric motor are not so serious on canals. As everybody knows, the main disadvantages are the heavy weight of the batteries, the slow speed and the difficulty of getting recharged. The weight of batteries is important on a road vehicle, but it is almost totally unimportant on a canal boat. Many canal boats in fact carry ballast, and there is no difficulty in carrying batteries instead. On distances run before recharging, a canal boat can run on her batteries for about three to four days because she simply is not going so fast.

At the moment there are too few outlets on the canals where canal boats can get fuel, but this should surely be put right. The electricity suppliers should certainly see to it. Also I should have thought that it would be in the interests of the British Waterways Board. Apart from that, there is one glorious fact about the canals; that is, that there is always a wharf beside some convenient pub just about every 10 miles. This is a result of course of the habits of the old horses which used to pull canal boats. He was almost the perfect trade unionist. He would do his 10 miles, you could not make him do overtime, and the result was that you had to have stabling for him every night.

Many of those little pubs have now turned again to the waterways to supply the wandering motor cruiser. It is possible to lie alongside their little wharves for the night and enjoy yourself, and there is no reason why these pubs should not let you put a cable ashore able to recharge on a normal 13 amp charger and suck electricity all night. Some of these may be tied houses, but one thing I am sure of is that they will have no objection to having tied customers, and that is what I am proposing.

There is one other disadvantage of the road vehicle that, as a matter of fact, when it comes to canal boats is an advantage; that is, speed. Too many of our inland waterways people are going too fast. To be kept down to four miles an hour, which is the speed that the Inland Waterways Association suggests, is a very good thing indeed. What is more, as we have already heard, you can get more speed but at a cost of higher amperage, which means you run your batteries flat much quicker. In other words, there is an incentive to electric boat owners to keep their boats down to a reasonable speed. I am sure that this is the kind of incentive that the Government appreciate.

There are several further points on this. One is that the British Waterways Board finds that the upkeep of the waterways under the wash of heavy, fast-moving boats is becoming enormously difficult and expensive. It would cost them much less if what was operating was fleets of electric boats. I do not want to suggest any particular expenditure from the Government. As everybody knows, my head is positively stuffed with good ideas for benefiting this country, the difficulty being that they all cost money. I am sure the same is true of all the rest of your Lordships. But speaking as an independent I may say for myself that I will not press any expensive ideas on Her Majesty's Government until things have very much altered financially. Therefore, I am a bit diffident.

I should like to suggest that the British Waterways Board might charge less in licences for electrically driven craft on the ground that they did less damage to the waterways. I should like to suggest that where hire cruiser fleets were organised with electric craft that they should be given more of the very limited number of licences to operate craft which are now doled out to the operators of hire cruiser fleets. These are ways of pushing things on.

I know that, unless we go to extensive electrification of inland waterways craft, we are soon going to run into a difficult position on the waterways because the waterways are now fairly crowded. The craft are doing a lot of damage to the waterways, and what is more they are getting to the point where they are annoying the other users of the waterways and their various preservation societies. There is undoubtedly going to be a demand from the preservation societies, as there should be, that we get craft which make less noise, put less oil on the water, make less air pollution, go slower, and do not damage the banks. All this is certainly going to be pressed on the Government, even more so now that this subject has become more in the public view.

For all these reasons we should look most seriously at the question of developing the electric engine for inland waterways craft drive. It is a different field as a start, and this is one of the things which we need in this matter. Hammering away at the same field means that you do not get some chances of research; where you go into a different field you get a different look at things. You look at things from a different angle. You have to deal with different kinds of equipment. You get different lines of research going, and it may well be that if we can develop the electric drive on the waterways we may find it having a spin-off in the fact that it is running different lines of research on the other uses of electric vehicles. For all these reasons, I would wish the Government to push on with this line which, I believe, is a great opening if we can use it.

5.57 p.m.

My Lords, I also should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Gregson, for initiating this debate on such an important subject. I have always been interested in all forms of transport and have driven various types of electric vehicles over the years, but I have to admit that the only one I have ever owned was an electrically driven golf trolley, driven by a 12 volt car battery. I walked beside it, but the awful groans it made spoilt the tranquility of the golf course, and its reliability left much to be desired. If it broke down on the far side of the course it was far too heavy to pull along unaided. I do not hold this against the modern electrical vehicle.

I have listened with great interest to the previous speeches which held out cautious hope for the future while appreciating the difficulties which still have to be overcome before electric vehicles are a practical means of transport for the average motorist. Many years ago, in 1899 to be precise, at a private park at Acheres near St. Germain, Jenatsy took the world's land speed record at 65.79 miles an hour over a kilometre in his electrically powered torpedo shaped car which was called La Jamais Contente. At the end of his short run the batteries were completely discharged. He did in actual fact try for the record a few months before, but unfortunately the time keepers forgot to start the watches, and Jenatsy, who had a flaming red beard which bristled with anger, had not enough power to drive back so he had to run back, and he had much to say on the subject.

Although all this happened more than 80 years ago the range of electric vehicles still relates to the speed at which the vehicle is driven, so its comparatively meagre range can be extended if only low and constant speeds are used. In the very early days of motoring the electric town carriage was very popular, but as petrol engined cars became quieter and smoother, and petrol cheaper, the electric car lost out and has never since regained its position.

The next stage in the electric vehicle story was the petrol-electric vehicle whereby a petrol engine supplied the power to a generator which in turn drove the electric motor. This system proved very popular for use in commercial vehicles and buses in the early part of the century, from 1903 to the early 1920s. If the petrol-electric system was revived it would give the vehicle the ability to travel long distances, which deals with one of the major disadvantages of the present battery-driven vehicle. The engine itself could be made very economical, for it need not be large and would run at a constant speed, rather like an emergency generating set one might have in one's house. If a dual system combining an engine and batteries were used, then for short journeys the batteries only would be used, so keeping the advantages of an electric vehicle when used in town conditions.

Although most of the electric vehicles on the road are light commercial ones of the milk-float type, the Japanese Diahatsu company have an electrically propelled version of their Charade small family saloon which runs with only eight 12-volt batteries of the lead acid type and will give a speed of 47 miles an hour and a range of nearly 50 miles. The same company are experimenting with batteries made of nickel iron and these are reputed under test to be giving 70 miles an hour with a range of 95 miles, which of course is very much more acceptable. The price is about 50 per cent. more than the petrol-engined Charade. Unfortunately, the fact that electric vehicles are so much more expensive will limit their popularity in the same way that diesel-engined cars also suffer from higher first cost, but not to the same extent.

One of the main disadvantages of the EV is the very high cost of replacement batteries, which may be necessary every three years or so. It would be all too easy for a private motorist to disregard this point while enjoying the otherwise cheaper running costs. I believe in the future of electric cars, particularly of the hybrid type, but I realise that there is a long way to go, with only 45,000 registrations out of a total of 17 million in this country. I do not think that in the end the vast sums of money which have been spent all over the world to further the cause of electric vehicles will prove to have been spent in vain.

6.3 p.m.

My Lords, to me this has been a most fascinating debate. I put my name down rather late in case there were some threads which from my experience I could pick up to contribute to your Lordships' consideration. I must say that the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, is an indication of how we can find something that is not even in the report at all. I have been interested in the subject of electric vehicles for many years and an enthusiast within the limits of the vehicle with equipment as it is available to us today. Accordingly, I welcome the debate and thank the noble Lord, Lord Gregson, for introducing it. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ironside, for the work of his organisation, with which he has been kind enough to keep me in touch as the years go on. I feel that any step which leads to electric vehicle development is worth while taking.

I have only a few comments to make. They are concerned largely with service vehicles, to which the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, referred, their importance being mainly to urban areas and where their environmental advantages of absence of fumes and silence are exceptionally valuable. Electricity boards' distribution systems are always in difficulty there in terms of the parking of vehicles and the supply of staff for services and so on. One thing that I feel is worth mentioning in terms of electricity service vehicles is the question of cities and towns with hills. What is being done about regenerative braking in terms of using electricity service vehicles in places where there is this problem of steep grades? Do the electricity boards take part in the deliberations of the Electric Vehicle Development Group which is referred to in page 145? I feel there is a great deal they could do in experimental work.

When one considers the recommendations of the committee, their recommendations (i) and (j) seem to me to be outstanding. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, pointed out that we could hardly expect much more assistance from Government in terms of finance. But I think there are possibilities for enormous amounts of research to be done by electricity boards in their actual work and with using different types of vehicle on the job. This is what really affects the user, the practical man of business. The noble Lord, Lord Ironside, said there is a good case for "sharpening up our efforts" in this country. We could go on from hybrid trolley-buses to electric golf buggies; but I will not turn to them.

I was concerned with the electric supply industry in Western India. Two of our companies involved densely populated urban areas with narrow bazaar streets and a concentration of sub-stations belonging to the supply companies. We bought two service vans from Austins of Longbridge in 1937 and they were still running when I retired from India in 1952. They were built to our design and I cannot resist telling your Lordships the story of how I went down to try out the first one. There was a wooden seat on the bare chassis. The first thing I learnt, to my surprise, was that they go just as fast backwards as they do forwards. I nearly pushed it through the factory wall. Apart from that, the experiment was satisfactory in that I found that the steering lock could be made very much tighter without interfering with the efficiency of the vehicle and yet greatly assisting its use in urban areas for service work.

I do not know how many of your Lordships remember the fleet of electric vehicles that Harrods had on the road for years. I am particularly concerned with that because one of our companies was diesel powered and we subscribed to a worldwide association of diesel generating stations. The most efficient in the world was Harrods because they had this fleet of electric vehicles. During off-peak periods they were able to keep the machines on load charging up the delivery vans. I wonder whether British Leyland can trace the Austin records of the vehicles of which I spoke earlier.

The noble Lord, Lord Ironside, referred to costs. My recollection was that they were very rough and ready. The big item of expenditure was, of course, the battery. The advances since then have been extraordinary and they continue from day to day. But the vehicle itself seemed to me to be very simple. The only complexity, which I have referred to already and which I do not know anything about, is this possibility of regenerative braking. The debate has been extremely interesting. I look forward to hearing further contributions and I feel, as the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, said, that everything should be done to push on within our means with investigation of this form of transportation which in the years to come will become more and more important as fossil fuel disappears from the possibilities of commercial development.

6.10 p.m.

My Lords, we have had such a thorough debate and such an excellent account from my noble friend Lord Gregson that I propose to delay your Lordships for only a few minutes, having been a member of the committee, and I wish at the outset to comment on what the noble Lord, Lord Todd, said about the work of the Select Committee. When I originally proposed the setting up of that committee, it was based largely on the high quality of many of your Lordships and the work already of the committees under the chairmanship of the noble Lords, Lord Todd, Lord Sherfield and Lord Gregson, which shows that in the course of time the Select Committee will be able to make some valuable contributions. We began, as Lord Todd made clear, with a rather discrete area, one we reckoned we could handle and get a report out quickly, and I am told by the noble Lord, Lord Ironside, and others that we have produced a very satisfactory report.

When one thinks of the vast area the Select Committee can look at, obviously it will be difficult to tackle the whole wide field of science and technology. I have no doubt, however, that the committee will make contributions. Indeed, we shall probably need to make further demands on manpower, when manpower is available, for our work, and I fear we shall probably take up—this is a point committees must always remember, not least in another place—a lot of time of civil servants, and that is bound to add to the cost.

I was interested in the remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids. I suppose a canal boat is a vehicle, although we did not think very seriously about it. I am only sorry that the noble Viscount did not give us evidence. We invited evidence widely and I assure him that I am anxious to encourage him. I thought he gave at least an interesting sideline and, since everybody has been anecdotal, those of my generation will remember that, if one went to Skindle's at Maidenhead in the early 'thirties and wanted to take somebody out on the river, one could hire an electric canoe, which was not nearly as stable as a punt for whatever purpose one had in mind.

The report is, I believe, worth while. I was moderately sceptical—I still am a little—in that I am not quite satisfied that the energy equation will in the long run provide the incentive for the development of electric vehicles, but that argument has been used about electricity in other contexts. The advantages socially and environmentally are so great that, as the report makes clear, one of the problems is that the disadvantages fall on the user, proprietor and purchaser while the advantages go to the community at large, and that is where a certain adjustment is necessary. Indeed, the Government have already taken steps by adjusting the balance in regard to cost and tax very much in favour of the electric vehicle. The question is how much more the Government should do. The fact is—this comes out clearly—that in certain respects we lead the world, but we will not lead it for much longer if we are not careful, and I say that as somebody who has been involved in exports recently; so often one sees missed opportunities. The fact that the United States, Japan and other countries are spending so much more money than we are on these developments suggests that we must think very hard indeed, if we are not prepared at least to sustain the present degree of support and perhaps encourage it further.

The committee did not rely on battery breakthrough. The sodium sulphur battery, which is a hot contender, sounds a nasty and dangerous animal to have in a vehicle—operating at a temperature of 360 degrees centigrade—but I suppose the argument could have been used about the early railway trains that they were nasty and dangerous vehicles. Zinc chlorine—if the refrigerator does not work it in theory emits poisonous clouds of chlorine which could poison the neighbourhood, or the driver—also sounds unattractive, but I do not think these problems cannot be overcome technologically. We deal with so many dangerous substances now that in the long run they may provide some of the breakthrough, although certain of the claims seem to me to be rather unlikely.

I therefore urge the Government, who I am sure will take the report seriously, at least to go as far as we recommend. I would not wish to press them too hard at a time when they are pursuing policies of economy of a kind to which I am not entirely sympathetic. However, I do not regard this as a party political occasion and I understand that the Government must follow the policies to which they are committed.

I believe the case has been well made. Despite its caution and criticism, the report has given great encouragement to people who need encouragement, and I echo the credit that has been given to, for example, Chloride and Lucas for the risks they have taken. It shows that industrialists in this dangerous age are still prepared to spend money on research in their fundamental area of activity which may in the end pay off. I hope it will pay off for them and for all of us, with quieter and more convenient vehicles.

I would mention only one new aspect, one which I came across in the last month. I was recently in Southern Africa where I visited one of my company's mines, an advanced copper mine where they shifted no less than 500,000 tons of rock in one day. They are about to go on to trolley-assisted trucks, huge 250-ton trucks which will be trolley-assisted; in other words, hybrid vehicles. The trolley and the hybrid are two areas where further support may be necessary.

6.18 p.m.

My Lords, I wish to begin by adding my tribute to the Select Committee oil Science and Technology, whose sub-committee wrote the report we are now considering. Looking at the list of distinguished members of that committee, I am not surprised that the first report from its sub-committee is of such excellence. Indeed, I join other noble Lords in congratulating the sub-committee on their report. It is perhaps the most comprehensive and comprehensible review of electric vehicle development and technology ever to have been published. Had it no other purpose, I am sure it would be of inestimable value as an authoritative source of information and opinion to practitioners and laymen alike. It has other purposes too, and your Lordships will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Gregson, for providing us with the opportunity to discuss them this evening. The Government have been considering their response to the report and reviewing their policy in the light of the recommendations, and today's debate enables us to set out their views.

Before I do that, may I add to the anecdotal flavour of the debate, to which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, referred, be recounting an anecdote of my own? I was very anxoius indeed to be the Minister responding to the debate from this Dispatch Box because it happens that I and my brother once built an electric vehicle in our garage at home. Therefore I can speak of the problems of the electric vehicle industry with particular personal knowledge. I recall that we had the greatest difficulty with the brakes. The only way that we could stop it was by putting it into reverse. Then it shot back in the other direction, and at the same time there was considerable heat in some of the wires, which caused all kinds of difficulties.

First, let me say that it is difficult to quarrel with the well-balanced argument of the report, and indeed the Government are in full agreement with the main thrust of the recommendations. However, we are faced, as was the committee, with the dilemma of trying to decide where and when electric road vehicles will become commercially viable and the whole emphasis which should be placed on the technology, as compared with other work in the fuel and transport fields at a time when money is so short.

Clearly for the longer term it is important for us to maintain, and if possible broaden, our existing options for transport and related fuel supply, and work in the field of electrical vehicles is one of the alternatives open to us. Conventional oil is likely to have an important continuing role for many years, but we are all too well aware that these supplies are finite. In the medium term and beyond we can expect that oil will be increasingly reserved for its premium uses for transport and for petrochemicals, but as supplies become more scarce, less secure, and more expensive, there is likely to be an increasing need for alternatives. Having our own oil will not insulate us from the rest of the world. Our reserves are limited, and we are likely once more to be returning to the world market for imports from the 1990s.

Our main options for longer-term road transport are synthetic fuel from coal and, if progress can be made in developing the technology meanwhile, electric vehicles. It is for that reason that the Government are encouraging research and development of electric vehicles and battery and component technology. As a further measure of encouragement we abolished excise duty on electric vehicles in the March 1980 budget.

The pace at which electric vehicles will become an attractive alternative to the internal combustion engine will depend upon a number of things, including the relative cost of vehicles and the necessary service infrastructure. Above all however it will depend upon the development and availability of advanced batteries. The lead acid battery has served us well and must continue to do so for some time, but it is heavy and places severe limitations on range and performance. This is a matter which many noble Lords have mentioned this evening.

About a third of the weight of the familiar milk float is accounted for by the battery, and even the more modern batteries used in new urban delivery vehicles take up far too much of the payload. Until advanced batteries are available, the acceptable road use of electric vehicles will be confined to urban transport and probably to urban delivery vans. As the committee points out, research and development is continuing, particularly at Harwell with particular emphasis on sodium sulphur batteries which offer the prospect, but not yet the reality, of an improvement in the power storage capability by a factor of two or even three. Other types of advanced battery are under investigation by both Government and industry. The long-term future of electric traction in road transport will depend upon the outcome of this work perhaps more than on any other factor.

It is against that background that I turn to the recommendations of the committee and note with satisfaction that the committee thought that we and previous Governments had got the level of support about right. We have now reviewed our future policy and have come to the conclusion that the committee is also right to say that we should continue to provide similar support. In practice this means that electric vehicle technology may do rather better than some other areas at a time when the general level of Government expenditure is being held down. Within this expenditure we shall of course have to allocate priorities, and here again we are grateful to the committee for its help. Broadly, we believe, with the committee, that the main emphasis should be on drive train components; by this I mean controllers, motors, transmissions and batteries—or in other words, the works. We have come to this view because we believe that our industry has a lead in this area and that it is here therefore that the best prospects of early commercial exploitation exist.

Manufacturers of drive trains have the chance to supply their products to vehicle manufacturers at home and abroad and by concentrating on this area can establish a base from which to widen the areas of application beyond their current uses in delivery vehicles. This is particularly important at a time when, although the most promising application in this country is the urban delivery van, there seems to be a larger and earlier demand for other vehicles, including the electric car, else- where in the world. We also agree with the committee that it is important to make sure that electric vehicles are adequately demonstrated through user trials. However, our principal objective in all this is to help this nascent industry find its commercial feet as quickly as possible.

As I said a few moments ago, the wider use of electric vehicles will depend to a very considerable extent upon the development of advanced batteries which overcome the range and performance limitations of lead acid systems. We note the committee's view that work in this field should be continued, and we are currently carrying out the detailed review of options which the committee recommends.

We have also taken note of the committee's view that there may be commercial advantages in working through larger firms, and its reference to applications for support from Lucas and Chloride. We are in discussions with the companies concerned with a view to arriving at arrangements which will ensure the most effective use of both industrial and public funds. We shall not however lose sight of the important contributions that have been made, and will I am sure continue to be made by smaller firms and indeed individuals in this field. My noble friend Lord Ironside asked me about that point. He also asked me in particular—I think that it was my noble friend Lord Ironside—whether British Leyland has made any proposals to the Government. I understand that outline proposals have been received from British Leyland and that the Department of Industry is now in discussions with the company.

The Government are very conscious of the effects that legislation and other direct action can have on the development of the market for electric vehicles, and as I said earlier, the Chancellor recognised this in his last Budget. The Department of Transport is keeping the position under review and would respond sympathetically to any specific information from a manufacturer or user who felt that he was being inhibited by regulations. Indeed I can assure my noble friend Lord Ironside in particular that we are currently considering representations about tachographs in that context. However, in this instance, we have to consider not only our own wishes, but the attitude of the European Community whose Directive on tachographs the previous Administration were reluctant to implement.

So far as parking is concerned, which was a matter raised by the committee, the local authorities already have the powers to make provisions of the kind suggested by the committee—for example, for disabled badge holders—and it is for them to decide whether to single out electric vehicles for special treatment in this way. No doubt they will have noted the committee's recommendations, as indeed will public purchasers and the Electricity Council. In the context of public purchasing we shall be prepared to consider what part central Government can play at the appropriate time.

Finally, let me turn to one area where we differ slightly from the committee. This concerns the recommendation for additional support for hybrid vehicles. It is by no means clear to us which, if any, of the wide variety of potential hybrids is likely to prove a winner. All add complexity to the construction and use of the vehicles and carry the weight and cost penalty of calling for dual systems. At the extreme the problems and shortcomings of hybrid power systems were only too clear in the early days of the conventional submarine, for example. We accept however that at least so far as the car is concerned, internal combustion and electric configurations help to overcome the range disadvantages currently suffered by the pure electric private vehicle. We are keeping in touch with current work and thinking and we would be prepared to consider requests for help, but I cannot promise that this area of development will command a high priority at this time.

Attention has been given mainly to hybrid vehicles using batteries, but we are aware that there is interest overseas in trolley buses with auxiliary diesel engines, which I think was what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, was referring to for the use in his mining interests. Although these may not be economic in this country, there is a possibility that export markets might open up for British manufacturers, and we shall bear this in mind. I cannot pretend that my noble friend Lord Strathcarron will be very pleased with that reply, but I hope that he at least understands our position.

My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, in his most interesting and fascinating speech, raised a number of interesting points about the use of electric boats, particularly on inland waterways. I must confess I was very encouraged to hear what he was saying, because, at the risk of boring your Lordships with yet another anecdote, I myself inquired some years ago about the possibility of buying an electric-powered cruiser to operate on the little river near where I live and I found that there was none available on the market at that time. I am encouraged to hear what the noble Viscount said about having his own boat converted in this way. However, I am informed that the Department of Industry has provided some financial support to at least one project in this field, of which I shall be glad to give details at some other time to the noble Viscount.

In conclusion, let me say that the committee's second recommendation summarises the Government's attitude to support for the development of electric vehicles better than I can. It is indeed our objective to allow the electric vehicle to prove whether it can compete with the internal combustion engine vehicle on equal terms before oil supplies run down. We believe, with the committee, that the work which has been supported so far has been of value and we intend to maintain a solid level of support for electric-vehicle work in the future.

My Lords, first, I should like to thank all the noble Lords who took part in this debate. I think it has shown the value of this House in being able to contribute to such a subject in such a masterly manner and showing such a wide range of experience. I should also like to thank the Minister for his response. I now realise of course that we should probably have called him for evidence if I had known about his previous activities in the field. I am sure that the Select Committee will study the Minister's words most carefully. Finally, I think I can fairly say that the Select Committee on Science and Technology is now set on a road to play a significant part in the future proceedings of your Lordships' House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Mr Michael Carver: Arrest

6.33 p.m.

rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will state the circumstances in which Mr. Michael Carver came to be arrested in Brighton on 10th October 1980 after having been dragged unconscious from the Conservative Party conference hall; the reasons for his fingerprints being taken and for his being required to appear at the Brighton police station at 6 p.m. on Tuesday 11th November; the steps taken to identify his assailants and apprehend them; and the steps taken to afford him medical assistance both before and after his arrest.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg leave of the House to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. Your Lordships will be aware that on 30th October last I had a Starred Question in which I referred to the removal, unconscious, of a demonstrator from the Conservative Party Conference hall on 10th October, and I received a reply from the noble Lord opposite in the following terms:

"My Lords, I understand that on two separate occasions on the afternoon of 10th October the proceedings at the Conservative Party Conference in Brighton were interrupted by a protestor. In each case the man concerned was first approached by the conference stewards and was then escorted from the hall by plain clothes police. Both men were released later that day, and no complaint of assault has been made by either of them".[Official Report, 30/10/80; col. 541.]

Then in reply to a further supplementary by me, the noble Lord said:

"I understand that neither of the protestors was unconscious when escorted from the hall and neither has complained of an assault".—[Co1.542.]

Indeed, the noble Lord confirmed in the last answer he made on the exchange of views across the House. He said to your Lordships:

"My Lords, the obvious thing to do on being asked a Question of this kind was to get in touch with the people who had escorted the two young men from the hall. They were the Sussex police, and it is upon that contact that my replies this afternoon have been based".—[Col. 543.]

My Lords, your Lordships will recall that this matter was first referred to in The Times of the next day, under the pen of Mr. Fred Emery, the political editor of The Times, and on the day following the Parliamentary Question

—that is, 31st October—Mr. Emery reiterated what he had said before. The report reads:

"Lord Belstead, Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, was questioned by the Lord Bruce of Donington, a Labour peer, after my report of the violent pounding Mr. Carver received on the floor from stewards and from Conservatives, including women".

He continued:

"The incident occurred in full view of the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and Cabinet, as well as television cameras".

Now, my Lords, quite clearly the two versions of the events which were the subject of my Question are a long way apart, and so indeed it appeared to me at the time. The Times is well-known for its accuracy; it is a paper of record. On the occasions when it does make mistakes it is very careful to publish a correction of what it put in before. On this occasion, not only was there no correction but there was in fact a reiteration by this distinguished journalist of what he had said before.

I thought it wise, however, to seek further evidence in support of the integrity of my original Question. I made some searches, and I find that in the Daily Telegraph for 11th October, the day following, under the pen of Mr. Ian Glover-James, another well-known journalist, the following appeared:

"More demonstrators broke their cover minutes after Mrs. Thatcher started speaking. One pulled off his coat to expose the bright orange safety jacket of the Right to Work marchers and shouted "Fight for the right to work".

Then Mr. Glover-James goes on to say this:

"He was felled by a blow from a security man and carried out face down. His companion was led off in handcuffs by plain clothes police in the audience".

But, my Lords, I decided that it would perhaps be wise to go even further afield, and I had the good fortune to meet the political editor of the Guardian, Mr. Ian Aitken, who was kind enough to write to me on the matter. He said this:

"The heckler gave every impression of being totally unconscious, was certainly quite limp, and was being carried by the arms and legs as if he were a shot deer".

My Lords, I decided to go even further afield than that, and I was informed that the item had been included in the Granada Television programme What the Papers Say, on 16th October, in which Mr. Ian

Waller of the Sunday Telegraph broadcast as follows—and I have for reference, if the need arises, a complete transcript of the whole programme. This is what Mr. Waller said:

"In fact, the only real violence of the day took place in the conference hall itself—and the guilty people either party officials or supporters. It happened to one of the hecklers who had managed to get through the strict security and Mrs. Thatcher managed to turn his brief outburst to good advantage; [she said] 'Never mind. It's wet outside. You can't blame them. It's always better where the Tories are'."

Then Mr. Waller continued:

"The heckler, Mr. Mike Carver, a London printer and SWP supporter, fared less well however … 'I saw him carried out face hanging down and being handled with rather less respect than a side of beef'."

My Lords, I have given those four quotations, for which I have the original documents, to illustrate how wide the difference is between the verdict of four distinguished journalists—two of them very eminent distinguished journalists—as shown by what they said and wrote, and the explanation given by the Minister. The Minister said that they were "escorted out". The words "escorted out" are capable, I suppose, of being stretched a little—I doubt whether you could stretch them to frog-marching, although perhaps it might be permissible—but they are certainly not consistent with the evidence of these four journalists. Both versions cannot be true. My Lords, there are certain grave implications about this difference which I shall deal with a little later on in what I have to say, as I shall submit to your Lordships that the status of Parliament is involved in this.

Since I have now put down this Question relating to Mr. Carver—indeed, my original Question related not to two men but to one—I will perhaps acquaint your Lordships very briefly with Mr. Carver's account of events in so far as he can recall them. I shall not weary your Lordships by reading from his written, signed statement, which I have, but I will endeavour to shorten it as much as I possibly can. Mr. Carver's first recollection following his being carried from the hall was waking up in a very dazed conditon, and with a splitting headache, in the Brighton police station somewhere before 3 o'clock on the afternoon of Friday 10th. He recalls having his particulars taken at a desk, on which he says he rested his hands and head

—because, of course, he had a splitting headache—and he remembers the presence of a plain-clothes officer who he thought (and he cannot put it any higher than that) he recognised as being the same one he saw in the conference hall itself.

He remembers being finger-printed, and says that he may have given permission for this to be done. He was also photographed. He was taken down to the cell area—at least, that is how he described it; I do not know how accurate his description is; it may not have been the cell area, it may have been a hall of some kind—and was questioned by an officer in connection with his possession of a pass to get into the conference hall. He was then put into a cell, but he does not know for how long. He was then brought out for questioning, but he was not cautioned. At the conclusion of that interview he was told that it was about 5.45. He was then put back into the cell, and remained there, he thinks, for something like 2½ to 3 hours. Indeed, since he was released shortly before 9 o'clock at night it must have been somewhere in that area; but since, as your Lordships will appreciate, when a man is arrested his possessions are taken from him, he obviously was not able to look at the watch which at that time he did not have.

He was then handed a form, which he signed before he left. This form is a G20. I shall not refer to it in any great detail, but it says this—and it is signed by himself and the officer in charge of the station:

"I, Michael Kenneth Carver"—

and his address and date of birth are given—

"Occupation, printer, having been arrested in connection with the matter shown below, acknowledge that I am to appear at Brighton Police Station at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, 11th November, 1980".

Then, below, there is some print which says:

"Brief details of principal charge, including Act and section … Details of warrant which was backed for bail …".

Then, underneath that, instead of specifying any particular charge, there are inserted the words "Further inquiries". Indeed, it emerges that he was not charged with any offence, and in those circumstances it is a little difficult to find out why he was issued with that form at all.

Your Lordships will be aware that the law is not my subject. I am not very familiar with these things, but doubtless explanations can be given.

On his release he was taken to the Royal Sussex Hospital and was seen by a casualty officer, who, after examining him, referred him to the house surgeon. After an interview with the house surgeon, he was detained for the night. He was examined at two-hourly intervals (at midnight, 2 a.m., 4 a.m., 6 a.m. and 7.30 a.m.) and after that he was discharged—and he was discharged, I am very happy to say, as being fit. That is a rough outline of his account, and the noble Lord may perhaps be able to supplement it from information at his disposal. Indeed, the noble Lord will readily agree, I think, that I caused a communication to be sent to his office at the end of last week saying that if he wished to have a word with me on this case I would be only too happy to meet him on it.

My Lords, in my view the following questions arise. Why were not Mr. Carver's assailants identified and taken to the station? It is quite clear, I think, and I may have established beyond all reasonable doubt, that he was assaulted. According to the Answer given to my Question on 30th October by the noble Lord, the police escorted Mr. Carver out of the hall, so they must have been there. Therefore, the first question that I must ask—and it may be that the noble Lord can inform me that the police have made endeavours and have since taken action—is why his assailants were not identified and taken to the station.

The second question I have to ask is concerned with his arrest. Why should he be arrested after being taken out of the hall, whether carried out or escorted out? One hears of and appreciates to the full the very considerable difficulties that the police forces have in dealing with political demonstrations and indeed with industrial disputes. These are always very delicate matters with which to deal and the police, by and large, I should have thought, deal with them very patiently and they are bound to make their inquiries. I can understand, therefore, that there may have been some reason which the police apprehended at the time for him to be taken to the station. I accept that. But I should still like the noble Lord, if he will, to tell the House just what the reason was. Perhaps it was because they wanted to discover from Mr. Carver how he got into the hall, how he obtained the pass in order to get in. This is quite a legitimate inquiry, particularly when the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and other Ministers are inside the hall. Security must always be a very considerable headache and worry to the police.

The next question I have to ask is this. Why was Mr. Carver not given medical attention? Blows to the head are always dangerous. The danger arises not necessarily from the heaviness of the blow. The important thing is the degree to which people expect the blow. If persons expect a blow, as, for example, in boxing, they tend to be able to move the head, to roll with the punch and so on. But when a person is hit unexpectedly—and the word that the Daily Telegraph used, "felled", is very clear—this means that a comparatively small blow can cause brain damage because, as your Lordships' will be aware, the brain to some extent floats in a fluid and a sudden unexpected blow can very often cause the brain to impinge upon the skull itself and can cause considerable damage. In all cases where a person is unconscious for 15 minutes or thereabouts, most medical opinion will agree, some care is necessary. Therefore, I should like to know why medical attention was not available. I should like to know also why finger-printing was necessary; why it was necessary to photograph; why it was necessary to issue the form G.20 to which I referred; and why he was detained for so long. He was there shortly before three and released shortly before nine. It seems rather a long time.

I wonder whether the answer to this can be that there was no assault at all by anybody. To say that is, I am afraid, not only flying in the face of all the evidence which I have read to your Lordships but also flying against the experience of people who watched the conference on television. The other answer that may be given is that there was no complaint. It is perfectly true that Mr. Carver was informed while at the police station that he could complain, that he asked whether he had to complain "now", and that they said, "No"—that that was not necessary. But still the question, and the noble Lord put it, is: Why did not the victim in this case complain?—not that that in any way diminishes the events that I have recounted to your Lordships.

I invite your Lordships to contemplate a situation where an inquiry by the police into the activities of the police does not always command confidence. The right honourable gentleman the Home Secretary himself published an article in the Police Review for 26th September 1980 in which he referred precisely to this point and in which he said that it was desirable (I have the text here but I shall not weary the House with it) that police inquiries should be seen to be absolutely fair. He also referred to the position in Scotland where he outlined the position of the procurator fiscal which in his view gave some degree of independence.

But, my Lords, Mr. Carver did complain. He complained to me. And a complaint conveyed by me to your Lordships is, I suggest, quite a proper thing to take place. This House is supposed to be, and is getting the reputation for being, the guardian of the people's liberties. I am bound to say that I made an endeavour at one point to have the question raised in the other place but was advised—or, rather, the Member of Parliament who tried was advised—that the question could not be put because of lack of ministerial responsibility. It may be that your Lordships consider it to be an advantage that the question can be put down here and therefore properly ventilated.

Why, in any event, should I be interested in it as a Member of this House? After all, there are attitudes prevalent in the country that might imply that Mr. Carver interrupted and he only got what was coming to him. I would suggest that that is a very dangerous doctrine to adopt. I appreciate that it must be very irritating and angering to members of a party conference to be interrupted. I am well aware of the provocations that are offered. Indeed, we had the same thing, if I may say so, at the Labour Party conference when we were interrupted by demonstrators from the National Front. We, too, were irritated; but we escorted them out. We did not fell them and we did not in any way cause them to become unconscious.

This gentlemen was a member of the Socialist Workers' Party. Why, therefore, should I raise anything on his behalf? My answer is to recall to your Lordships' memory the action of the late Sir Winston Churchill when it was reported to him in another place that somebody had assaulted Mr. Phil Piratin, who was a Communist. Mr. Churchill was the first on his feet to pass the whole thing over to the Committee of Privileges.

The other reason why I decided to pursue this matter with your Lordships was its uniqueness. We cannot involve ourselves in raising in this House every particular offence or crime. Most crimes are committed when the police are not there and when the assailants cannot be identified. There is however a certain uniqueness in this case: the police were there when the offence was committed. The assailants were there and also the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary were there. That is the uniqueness of the event.

It is right that this should be drawn to your Lordships' attention; that the Government should be given an opportunity of replying to it. We cannot afford any suggestion—any remote suggestion or hint—that somewhere, somehow, there is a cover-up by somebody. We all have fairly long memories concerning the Watergate situation, with which of course I do not compare this. One remembers that the offence was a comparatively minor one by United States standards; but the real, ultimate offence was the cover-up itself.

I have endeavoured to raise this matter in no partisan spirit. I have tried to present the facts as honestly as I see them. But I am bound to tell the noble Lord that if the Answer from the Government is that this particular offence did not take place, then I must tell the noble Lord that I will pursue this matter to the bitter end. I am hopeful that the noble Lord, in view of this conflict of evidence, of this conflict of account, will see fit to institute an inquiry into the whole question, unless of course the noble Lord does admit the central truth of the bulk of the story—I do not necessarily mean the detail. It is the offence that matters. If it is not possible to do that, the matter will have to be taken further. What 1 think the country will want, and what I think we in your Lordships' House will want, is simply the truth.

7.3 p.m.

My Lords, the truth is not always simple to ascertain in even the least controversial inquiry; but I hope that my noble friend is successful in obtaining it because the more one thinks of this, the more one appreciates that it has gone a few steps further than what can happen at a rowdy meeting or when there are demonstrations.

First, I apologise for the fact that I was two or three seconds late. I was studying the Magistrates' Courts Act 1952, with profit. I also apologise for the fact that, with your Lordships' permission, I shall leave the House for not more than two minutes as early as I can because I have a vital telephone call for which someone has been waiting anxiously for some time.

Subject to that, may I say this: these are times of increasing gravity. I do not think that anyone who has watched the rapidly accelerating events of the past few weeks can look with confidence to a peaceful future in this country and to the country maintaining its balance, its endurance and its capacity for suffering. Those are political remarks. I make them quite deliberately, speaking as someone who has been in politics now for 60 or 70 years. I have lived through the miners' troubles and the period of fascism; I saw the use of mounted police more than once against people who were legitimately attempting to voice grievances. I believe someone ought at least to give a serious warning of an atmosphere which is getting more and more polluted by the powers of suffering and sacrifice.

Here we have a young man who is trespassing, who uses an entrance ticket given to him. So far as I know, apart from one of those single interruptions which Lloyd George used to value so much to enable him to make a brilliant speech, he made a single observation which was replied to by the Prime Minister to her advantage. It is after that that we get a scene in which a life might easily have been lost. I can recall a member of the other House taking part in a political demonstration in Chicago where they are apt to use tougher methods than here. I recall what followed. Whether what followed was post hoc or wholly propter hoc, I am unable to say.

Here is a man who, as my noble friend has said, is knocked unconscious. It seems to me that one of the matters to worry about most and to treat most gravely is this question of whether there were hired persons outside the police force to carry out their duties of maintaining order by force. Indeed, the description that is given of what happened is quite difficult to believe: that delegates to the conference should take part in the violence, that the man should be beaten up until he is unconscious and carried out knowing nothing more until he wakes up an hour or two later in the police station, is a sufficiently serious matter to which we should pay just a little attention. He was then released from the police station. I am bound to say that it seems a rather surprising procedure in the circumstances that there was no charge. I imagine that my noble friend has told us—I did not hear—what happened on the day the man was remanded. Did he receive notice that he need not attend, or did he have to go down to Brighton to reply? I understand that he did not: then the charge was not pursued. That of course would be the right course, if such a course was necessary at all and I fail to see, in the absence of any allegation against the man—because the allegations were all against the conference delegates—that it could be.

I do not very much like this sort of story and I do not very much like pressing it, because one does not wish even to give the appearance of stirring up something to a greater degree: indeed it would be very wrong to do so at this time. People are beginning to use the language of controversy. And I observed on the tape this afternoon that at Brighton—and there is something in the air there which seems to have lasted since George IV—the CBI conference at Brighton has ended with a rousing call from the Director-General. Sir Terence Beckett, to employers or employees—the word has an "e" missing, which leaves it open to be either but it is probably "employers"—to have a "bare-knuckle fight" with the Government. That is what it says and it was thought sufficiently important to report it. This is the language of the Teamsters' Union and we do not particularly want it to come to this country.

7.12 p.m.

My Lords, I agree that there is a certain amount of disquiet about this matter, which I think was first raised last week in your Lordships' House. I am intervening only very briefly because I happened to watch the incident—with millions of others, I suppose—on the box. The Unstarred Question asks Her Majesty's Government whether they will state the circumstances, and also asks: was Mr. Michael Carver dragged from the conference? It further asks whether his fingerprints were taken and why he was asked to report today at six o'clock. It will be very interesting to hear the Minister's answers to these questions, because I hope very much that he will be able to set our minds at rest. Of course, a great number saw this on television: it happened to be a prime viewing time of the day and a superb opportunity for maximum publicity.

This was a ticket session, according to the reports. How did Mr. Carver get in with the delegates? Perhaps the Minister can tell us that. Did he have a ticket? Also, when he was taken to the Brighton police station, why were his fingerprints taken—if they were?

I should like to ask the Minister the following questions in addition: was security genuinely and sincerely involved in this and who were the stewards who in fact did the eviction? Were the police called in and asked to help in removing Mr. Carver from the hall? Above all, was Mr. Carver on his own? Was he a single individual who happened to have penetrated the conference?

When heads of Government, whether a President, a Prime Minister or senior Ministers are involved, security is very much concerned. Of course they can be worried about many things. It could be terrorists, it could be the IRA or all kinds of things. What has happened in the past over the months and years has taught us to be on our guard about these things: I accept that. Were the security people there to guard or protect the Prime Minister and were they concerned that some terrorist had got inside? Perhaps the Minister can give us an answer to these questions.

Heckling has been part of our hustings since Eatanswill, as the noble Lord, Lord Hale, said; but unfortunately today young people hear and see violence on television. They even hear on the radio the shouting that goes on in another place at Question Time, and they think it is the thing. Then there was Grunwick; picket lines and violence—they think it is all right today. It is all very different from the heckling of the hustings of long ago. I very much hope that when the Minister replies to this short debate he will give us some reassurance on what I consider to be a very disquieting case.

7.16 p.m.

My Lords, a person making a protest at a meeting to which he has gained access through false pretences must expect to leave that place in a different way from that in which he got in. I watched, as well as other noble Lords, that gentleman's eviction on television. He struggled and, rather naturally, he was restrained. I have seen the same thing happen on television, or because I was actually there, many times. I deplore violence but I equally deplore the original speech, which I think was made more for political reasons than as a plea for justice. If the gentleman was innocent, why not fingerprint him? How long after the event did he make a complaint?

I believe that the police have to safeguard their own interests very seriously, and therefore they would call in a police surgeon if they were in any doubt at all about the man's physical condition. I really do not see why we should knock the police, who have a very difficult job to do in very difficult circumstances. Those of us who believe all that we read in the press must have taken a good few knocks to the head to be so utterly gullible ourselves.

7.18 p.m.

My Lords, I apologise for not having put my name down to speak in time for it to be on the list of speakers, but I have given notice since and I understand those concerned have been advised. My interest in this Question arises because I think—and I am not alone, I believe—that we ought to be apprehensive in the next 12 months regarding an increase, and perhaps an alarming increase, in public disorder. If so, two things are very important: first —and I deliberately put it first—the maintenance of law and order; and, secondly, the maintenance of civil liberties.

I recently came across, rather by accident, one of the Melchett Lectures which had been delivered by the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, an eminent biologist in which he said something with which no other biologist would have disagreed: namely, that most men reach the height of their mental and physical powers in their late teens and early twenties. After that, biologically speaking, we all go downhill. Of course, we learn considerably from experience. If a recent leading article in the Guardian was right, of all the registered unemployed, one-half would be under 25. Some of them will have more brains than muscle, and more of them I expect will have more muscle than brain. They will be at the height of their powers, full of energy and with absolutely nothing to do. It is in those circumstances that we have to safeguard ourselves from public disorders as far as we can; and I have said that both maintaining law and order and maintaining civil liberties are important.

The first aspect about this matter that I do not understand is this. Mr. Emery is not just anybody. He is, after all, the political editor of The Times. We are familiar with his writing, and this is what he said the following day:
"…one young man near me was being dragged from the hall unconscious after a pounding on the floor of the central aisle by security men in plain clothes and some Conservatives, including women".
If that is right, if he had called out "What about the unemployed?" or whatever it was, nothing can justify that assault. The gravity of this case, as I understand it, is that here an assault takes place before the public in the presence of the police, in the presence of the Prime Minister, in the presence of the Home Secretary and no one has been charged.

The first question that I should like to ask is: Is it the view of the noble Lord the Minister that the political editor of The Times invented this, or is it his view that he was suffering from an hallucination? It was partly corroborated by other journalists in The Guardian, the Telegraph and so on. But if so, this was an assault which nothing can justify. It was a criminal offence. It reminds one of the Olympia meetings of Sir Oswald Mosley. If so, how does it come about that no inquiry seems to have been made to arrest whoever was responsible for it? The man himself does not pretend to know—not unnaturally. But these other people know.

Ordinarily, of course, so far as the public are concerned, they find difficulty in identifying police in plain clothes, because they do not know their name and they do not know their number. But it seems incredible, if no real inquiry has been made. Have those who saw what happened been visited and asked for statements? Have the television people been asked whether, by chance, they recorded this incident or not? There seem to be some curious factors about this, so far as the police station is concerned.

This form that he was given is, to my mind, very odd, because after giving his name and address, date of birth and occupation, it goes on:
so and so; this is for him to acknowledge—
"having been arrested in connection with the matter shown below, acknowledge that I am to appear at Brighton Police Station at 6 p.m. on Tuesday the 11th day of November"—
here we are—
"Security in the form of … N/A … has been taken from me/full name and address of person providing security … N/A. Brief details of principal charge, including Act and Section Details of warrant which was backed for bail—Further inquiries".
So he has been arrested, but what for nobody knows. Apparently, they could not think of anything—or did not.

In answer to what has just been said, I have here a letter from Sussex police, written to him on 5th November:
"Further to the recognizance which you entered into at this office on 10 October 1980 to attend the Police Station on 11 November 1980 unless previously notified to the contrary, in accordance with the provisions of section 38(2) Magistrates Courts Act 1952, I now formally advise you that your attendance is not now required".
If this man—it is possible—committed some summary offence by shouting out "What about unemployment?" he ought to have been charged. Why was he not charged? If we are to maintain law and order, nothing is more important than that people who commit offences should be charged. But he was not.

Another circumstance which I do not understand—the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, may be able to tell us—is that he says he asked several times to see a solicitor. Am I not right in thinking that the police are now directed, in pursuance of the terms of a recent Act, that if someone in a police station asks to see a solicitor they may agree or they may refuse, but if they refuse they must record the reason why they refuse. What I should like to ask is: What does the police form say about his request to see a solicitor?

But that, of course, is a minor matter. The major matter is that if, in times when there may be an increase in disorder, we are both to maintain law and order and maintain civil liberties, how does it really come about that a man was clearly knocked to the ground by somebody in the presence of policemen, in the presence of the Prime Minister and in the presence of the Home Secretary and nobody at all has been charged?

7.26 p.m.

My Lords, since I replied to a Starred Question by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, on 30th October, I have had the benefit of a further detailed report from the Chief Constable of Sussex. I have had an opportunity, therefore, to go into the matter in greater detail. It will perhaps help if I begin replying to the noble Lord by describing the events as they have been reported to me by the chief constable.

I understand that a disturbance took place during the Prime Minister's speech at the Conservative Party Conference on the afternoon of 10th October, when the proceedings were interrupted by protesters, one of whom was Mr. Michael Carver. Mr. Carver ran towards the platform, shouting as he went. The noble Lord, Lord Granville of Eye, asked whether security was involved in all this. No one knew at that moment what were the intentions of this man. Obviously, it was extremely desirable that he should be stopped and he was intercepted by conference stewards—not, I understand, members of a private security organisation, as has been suggested—and by conference delegates. It is at this point that an assault upon Mr. Carver is said to have taken place. A police officer who was present went through the crowd to Mr. Carver, who was on the floor. The police officer identified himself and Mr. Carver was taken out of the conference hall. The noble Lord, Lord Bruce, has asked me why Mr. Carver was arrested. He was arrested for a breach of the peace.

When I answered the Question from the noble Lord on 30th October, I said that the man concerned was escorted from the hall by police. The further inquiries that I have made have revealed that Mr. Carver was carried from the hall by stewards and, possibly, some delegates. They were accompanied by a police officer. I am informed that it is apparent that, certainly from the time he was seen by police officers, Mr. Carver was not unconscious. After his removal from the conference hall, he stood up and walked unaided a distance of about 100 yards to the vehicle in which he was taken to the police station. During the journey, he talked to the police officer who was with him and, in particular, lie was interviewed about a conference pass which was in his possession.

On arrival at the police station—and, incidentally, I should say that he was arrested at 2.28 p.m. and, I believe, arrived at the police station at 2.45 p.m., so that is a very long way from an hour which the noble Lord feared was the length of time it took for this young man to get to the police station—I am informed that Mr. Carver walked up two flights of stairs, along a corridor, down a further flight of stairs and into that part of the building which was being used for the purposes of documentation. I understand that a police doctor was standing by, in case any injuries were sustained during the conference, and had Mr. Carver been unconscious he would have been taken immediately to hospital. Mr. Carver did, however, ask for a glass of water, which he was given. According to the version of Mr. Carver's story that appeared in the New Statesman, after he left the police station he went to the Royal Sussex County Hospital, where he spent the night. However, at no time while he was detained by Sussex police did Mr. Carver request medical attention. Had he done so, it would have been provided.

The noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, asked me why Mr. Carver was kept at Brighton police station. Mr. Carver was questioned about the pass with which he gained entry to the conference, since it was thought that it might have been stolen. He was released at approximately half past eight that night.

One of the questions that has been raised concerns the alleged assault upon Mr. Carver. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, spoke of this in his speech at the end of this short debate. As the House will know, the responsibility for the investigation of alleged criminal offences is the responsibility of the chief officer concerned. So, too, in general is the question whether proceedings should be instituted against any person.

The chief constable tells me that Mr. Carver has at no time made an allegation to the police of assault and, indeed, when he was specifically asked whether he was complaining of being assaulted he replied, "No". Had Mr. Carver made such allegation it would, of course, have been thoroughly investigated. Under the circumstances, the police decided that the incident did not call for any further action. That is, and must remain, a matter for the chief constable. If the noble Lord will forgive my saying so, however lengthy the speeches which the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, may make on this subject, it is not a matter in which my right honourable friend the Home Secretary can intervene.

In his Question the noble Lord raised two further points. The first is the reason why Mr. Carver's fingerprints were taken; the second is the reason why he was required to appear again at Brighton police station, a matter which other noble Lords have also raised. As to the first point, Mr. Carver's fingerprints and photograph were taken with his consent, in accordance with normal police procedure. Since a decision has been taken that Mr. Carver should not be prosecuted for any offence arising out of this incident, both his fingerprints and his photograph have been destroyed.

As to the form G.20 which appeared to puzzle the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, this was to require Mr. Carver to appear again at Brighton police station. He was released under Section 38(2) of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1952, which permits a police officer, where it appears that an inquiry cannot be completed forthwith, to grant bail, subject to a duty to appear again at a police station. As your Lordships know, Mr. Carver has been informed that he does not need to appear.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, asked me about the situation in which Mr. Carver found himself with regard to seeing a solicitor. I am informed by the police that Michael Carver arrived at the police station, as I have said, at 2.45. He requested that his solicitors should be notified at 2.55. He was able to give the name of the solicitors and the road in London, but I understand that he was not sure of the number. At 3.45 contact was made with the solicitors by telephone, but no one from the firm attended the police station.

It is open to Mr. Carver to make a complaint about his treatment by the police if he wishes to do so. Any such complaint should be addressed to the chief constable of Sussex, who will arrange for it to be investigated. In accordance with the normal procedure, a copy of the report will be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, unless it is clear that no criminal offence has been committed, and to the Police Complaints Board for their independent consideration of the possible need for disciplinary proceedings. I understand that, although Mr. Carver asked about making a complaint, and was assured by a senior officer that it remained open to him to do so at a later stage, none has so far been received by the chief constable.

I should like to make it clear once more that where an allegation is made that an offence has been committed, or where a complaint is made against the police, certain procedures should be followed. Where an allegation about an offence is made it is for the police to investigate it, and where a complaint is made against the police again the chief officer has the responsibility for investigating it. If the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, or anybody else has any evidence, he should immediately contact the Sussex police. But the Home Secretary cannot intervene in these procedures and, as I have explained, in this case no allegation regarding an offence or complaint against the police has been received.

County Of Kent Bill Hlderbyshire Bill Hleast Sussex Bill Hlhumberside Bill Hl

Message from the Commons that they concur with the resolution of this House of 4th November.

Consolidation Bills

Message from the Commons that they have made the following order relating to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills viz:

( f) any order in Council laid or laid in draft before the House where an affirmative resolution is required before it is made, or as a condition of its continuance in operation, and which but for the provisions of the Northern Ireland Act 1974 would, in the opinion of the Committee, have been enacted by a Consolidation Bill, whether public or private, or by a Statute Law Revision Bill.

Overseas Development And Co-Operation Bill Hl

Returned from the Commons agreed to with an amendment; the said amendment to be printed.

Broadcasting Bill

Returned from the Commons with the amendments agreed to.