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Lords Chamber

Volume 416: debated on Wednesday 28 January 1981

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House Of Lords

Wednesday, 28th January, 1981

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

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Peterborough.

Textile Industry: Usa Imports

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 aware of the disruption caused to our textile industry by cheap imports from the USA.

My Lords, in my Statement to your Lordships on 15th December I stressed that Her Majesty's Government were extremely concerned about the damagingly sharp rise in the import of textiles from the United States. I am happy to say that on the following day my honourable friend the Minister for Trade secured the unanimous agreement of the Council of Ministers of the European Communities that a new and urgent initiative was needed. The Commission was accordingly invited to pursue discussions with the United States Administration over the whole range of problems and possible solutions and to report back to the Council as early as possible, with a first report in February.

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for his reply and very pleased to hear that meetings are taking place. Will he confirm that the February meeting would be of an interim nature, and that it is essential that in the March meeting we come to some firm and positive action?

My Lords, it is certainly the case that the report to be received in February will be of a preliminary nature. I cannot promise that the matter can be resolved as early as March, but I know that the officials concerned are well aware of the need for urgency.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that these subsidised exports from America have already destroyed two-thirds of our carpet industry?

My Lords, I think the noble Lord over-states the position somewhat. On the point of subsidy, we understand that the new American Administration plan to deregulate oil prices, and that will certainly have an effect in this area because that is of course an essential feedstock in this industry. Also, penetration of the British carpet industry by the American carpet manufacturers is not as great as some people have supposed.

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that, while many of us from the North are deeply concerned about the plight of our textile industry, many of us are utterly opposed to tariffs and protectionism but believe that unfair competition is a very different matter? Does the noble Lord agree that subsidised supplies of energy are a form of very unfair competition, and that the fact that we took too little action over unfair competition from Portugal and other places in the past does not mean that we should turn a blind eye to what our American friends are now doing?

My Lords, I think the noble Lord in his earlier remarks reflected the Government's position precisely. We certainly do not seek any form of protection in this matter, but we do seek to correct any situation where unfair competition appears to arise.

My Lords, will the noble Lord confirm that no approach has yet been made to America and that the whole of the negotiations are to be carried on through Brussels, as we would expect? But has it not been possible to make some contact on particular aspects such as the carpet industry which are in a sense a special case? Does the noble Lord realise that the matter is one of imperative urgency, and a statement in February to be followed by approaches after that may not be immediate enough?

My Lords, I agree that there is a considerable degree of urgency in this matter, but we certainly have no power to act unilaterally with the United States, which is what I think the noble Lord was suggesting. It is perhaps worth getting this matter in context, particularly in relation to carpets which the noble Lord and another noble Lord mentioned. Imports of man-made fibre tufted carpets from the United States in the first 10 months of last year amounted to 7.2 million square metres, representing an import penetration of only 9.8 per cent. This is only slightly higher than the import penetration at the end of 1979, and it was on that basis that our application for quotas last year was rejected by the Community.

My Lords, it is reported that the new American Administration will within the next few days do away with controls on the prices of domestic petroleum products. Can my noble friend confirm that that is due to happen very shortly, and have the Government yet calculated to what extent the subsidy to American manufacturers will be reduced by that change?

Yes, my Lords. I understand the deregulation is likely to occur even sooner than my noble friend suggests—in fact this very day, so I am informed. On the question of the percentage, there is some difference of opinion between ourselves and the United States authorities on this matter, but our calculation is that their energy policies result in a price advantage of between 8 and 16 per cent.

My Lords, has the Minister taken up with the Commission and with our friends in Europe the necessity to speed up the procedure? It is all very well to say we are now making some progress, but the energetic people who have invested money, for example in the polypropylene process, have been suffering from this situation for well over a year, and only now do we see some signs—

I was explaining exactly what I meant and going into some detail because of the need to do so. What action are the Government taking to do something to speed up the procedure, from which able and energetic people are suffering and have suffered for some time?

My Lords, the decision in the Council of Ministers to take action in this matter was made on 16th December. Since then, as the noble Lord will know, there has been a change of Administration in the United States and officials are expecting to resume discussions just two weeks from now. I do not think that that is a bad record.

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that, as regards actions in international organisations, the interval between references to the Council of Ministers, or whatever it may be, and relevant action is so long that action ceases to be relevant? These references are no substitute at all for action by Her Majesty's Government, which is what I gather is being asked for.

My Lords, as I said earlier, Her Majesty's Government cannot act by themselves in this matter. We have to act through the European Community. But in the short time that I have been working both in the Foreign Office and more recently in the Department of Trade I have come to realise what a great deal of preparatory work is necessary for these negotiations to be successful.

Gas And Electricity: Economic Pricing

2.46 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 what steps they are taking to give relief to industries which are large users of gas or other fuel.

My Lords, British Gas are already charging only 75 per cent. of the full gas oil equivalent price for renewed contracts for firm supplies, and are reducing the price for new customers to this level after the first year of supply. The electricity boards will advise their customers on how to obtain the maximum possible benefit from the available flexibility in their tariffs. International action includes a United Kingdom initiative within the European Community to press the United States to correct its underpricing of oil and gas. In addition, the Secretary of State for Energy has asked the British Gas Corporation and the electricity supply industry (in the context of its review of the bulk supply tariff) to consider whether further assistance is possible within the framework of our economic pricing policy.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for his Answer, which is very helpful so far as it goes. However, is he aware that it is seven months since the Government started the monitoring process and we are really no nearer a conclusion of the matter that was raised then than we were seven months ago? It has been a further seven months in which British industry has been severely affected by the high price of energy in relation to its competitors. Is he further aware that in respect of this argument there seems to be little difference between the Government, as expressed by the Secretary of State in another place last week, the CBI and the TUC that it is the big users of fuel, particularly gas, that are affected? Would he not, therefore, encourage the introduction of discounts for volume, which are common in most other countries, and help British industry to get back to profitability and to maintain high levels of employment?

My Lords, I gave a rather longer initial reply than is my custom because I wished to indicate to the noble Lord exactly how much we have done. It seems to me that we have done a very great deal within the context, which, as I say, is so necessary, of overall economic pricing.

My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that the price of gas to the North Staffordshire pottery industry is having a terrific effect on that industry? For example, as regards one of the most famous firms in that area, the increase will cost that firm three-quarters of a million pounds more and thus put it in a disadvantageous position with the rest of its competitors throughout the world. The pottery industry should receive particular attention from this House and we cannot be dragged along by laws over which we have no sovereignty.

My Lords, I do not think that it is a question of being dragged along by laws over which we have no sovereignty: it is a question of being dragged along by the international prices of energy which this country, like all industrial countries, cannot altogether escape. However, as I said in my original Answer, we are monitoring closely where there may be a direct competitive disadvantage and that seems to be the right way to proceed.

My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Earl the Minister whether he would regard it as another Question entirely if I were to ask him what relief the Government are proposing to give to ordinary users of gas and fuel who are finding the prices quite exhorbitant?

My Lords, technically I think that it would be another Question, but it is always difficult to resist the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell.

The answer is that domestic consumers are already paying well below clearing prices for energy.

My Lords, are not the large users of electricity in the energy-intensive British chlorine industry now having to pay between 50 and 100 per cent. more for their electricity than their Western European competitors? Does that not account largely for the fact that in some cases they are able to maintain exports only by selling at a loss? Should not the Central Electricity Generating Board, as a state monopoly, forthwith reduce the prices that are charged to such consumers without awaiting the outcome of the NEDC energy task force that has just been set up?

My Lords, as my original reply indicated, the electricity boards will advise customers how to take advantage of existing and flexible tariffs. But, on the question of the chlorine industry, I should point out that that industry, like the pottery industry, cannot escape the consequences of increases in energy prices worldwide.

My Lords, will the noble Earl bear in mind always the overriding interest of the British housewife in the conservation of supplies and the non-depletion of our reserves, and that anything done to cheapen the price of industrial gas and to promote its largescale use is directly contrary to the interest of the domestic consumer?

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for a subtle point, which I hope the House will study carefully.

My Lords, on that subtle point, may I say that the domestic housekeeper will not have the money to pay the rent if her husband does not get a job in the pottery industry?

My Lords, I do not want to appear ungrateful to the noble Earl because he put himself out to give a great deal of information, but what is important is the conclusion of the monitoring process. Can he give any indication about when the task force will conclude its work, and how quickly after that the Government can come to a conclusion?

My Lords, I think it is right that the task force should try to cover definite differences of view between industries and between some industries and the Government. I am advised that it will come to its conclusions by 4th March, so I think that we are getting on with it.

My Lords, can the noble Earl confirm that it is still the Government's intention to increase the prices of gas and electricity by 10 per cent. in excess of the going rate of inflation for the next three years?

My Lords, the going rate of inflation and the prices of energy are not linked, as—and I say this with respect to him—the noble Lord very well knows.

My Lords, I think the House will agree that it is time we moved on.

The Victoria And Albert Museum: Slide Loan Service

2.52 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 aware that their proposal that the National Slide Loan Service of the Victoria and Albert Museum should close in the interests of retrenchment is causing dismay, and if implemented will undermine educational opportunities.

My Lords, Her Majesty's Government fully appreciate the value to the education service of the slide loan arrangements at present operated by the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is the intention of my right honourable friend the Minister for the Arts that an alternative means should be found of continuing the loan service when it ceases to be operated by the museum after March.

My Lords, although I am not quite clear about what that means, first, who will take over the museum service? Secondly, is the amount of saving commensurate with the damage to educational opportunities that the taking away of these sides would mean? Finally, is the noble Earl aware that those of us who have been involved in the area of adult education and other education most of our lives considered this service excellent and worthy of being kept alive by whatever Government may be in power?

My Lords, first, perhaps I should explain that the closure of the Victoria and Albert Museum slide loan service is not directly related to the shortage of funds. The Victoria and Albert staff are part of the Civil Service, and because of the reduction of the Civil Service the museum will operate with fewer staff. Given that all the options for staff savings were difficult, the director decided, with regret, to close the slide loan service, which is a self-contained unit.

The previous Minister for the Arts announced his intention that the service should continue after March in Answers to two Written Questions in the other place. The intention is shared by the new Minister for the Arts, my right honourable friend Mr. Paul Channon.

My Lords, will the Minister agree that if the staff must be cut it should not be the loan service which should suffer; that extravagant exhibitions, like those of court jewels of the Renaissance, the work of Fabergé, and so on, should not continue at the expense of students in art colleges and teacher-training colleges over the country, where, in many cases, those interested cannot get to London? I think that that is a point of vital importance.

My Lords, I think that it must be left to the director of the V and A to deal with his staff and his organisation as he thinks fit. However, the Government agree with the noble Baroness that this loan service is extremely important. As I have already stated, it is intended to continue it.

My Lords, although I have a great respect for the director of the Victoria and Albert and I think that he is very good at his job, none the less I wonder whether he has his priorities right. Now that we teach art in all the schools, more and more education is needed in the national museums. Further, anyone who has used that service knows that it is alongside the V and A library, which is the best art library that one can use. It is not right to divorce the slide service from the library.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his intervention. I do not think that I can comment on it, but I am sure that the director of the museum will read what he has said with interest.

My Lords, the noble Earl has told us that a substitute service is promised. A substitute service will have less experience and I am sure be more expensive. Is the Government's saving policy to substitute a more expensive service for a less expensive service in order to make a cut? It seems very mysterious.

My Lords, there are a variety of interesting and constructive suggestions for operating the service in the future. These have not been costed out and it would be prejudging any costings to reply to the noble Lord.

Belize: Independence Proposals

2.55 p.m.

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will give details of the discussions with the Prime Minister of Belize, held in Jamaica, concerning proposals leading to the possible independence of Belize.

My Lords, my honourable friend the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had discussions with the Premier of Belize on 22nd January in Kingston to review progress in the negotiations with Guatemala and constitutional steps towards independence.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Is it not the case that the United Nations agreed that Belize should be independent as soon as possible? In fact, there has been a settlement there since 1638; a commander-in-chief was appointed in 1786, and the colony was recognised in 1862. Surely by now it is time that some action was taken with Guatemala to reach a settlement. Have the Opposition been consulted?

My Lords, my noble friend is quite right, and that is what the constitutional conference is about. The Opposition are being consulted.

My Lords, are Her Majesty's Government aware that there would be widespread support for the views expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, on this rather difficult and dangerous point; that in particular there would be general support for any attempts by the United Kingdom to resolve the difficulties in the area, relating mostly to frontiers, and also to ensure the viability and the security of the area, whatever constitutional forms are decided?

My Lords, yes. Once again the noble Lord opposite is quite right. Over the years the difficulty as regards the independence of Belize has been the Guatemalan claim to Belizian territory. It would obviously be better if we could reach an agreement with Guatemala before independence, and we are still seeking to do that.

My Lords, in view of the character of the Government of Guatemala and the uncertainty in that territory, will the Government be careful not to sign a treaty with that country which would be contrary to the view of the people of Belize?

My Lords, the noble Lord can be quite sure that whatever we do about the independence of Belize, we shall be very careful.

Town And Country Planning (Minerals) Bill Hl

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment
(Lord Bellwin)

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

Moved, That it be an Instruction to the Committee of the Whole House to whom the Town and Country Planning (Minerals) Bill [H.L.] has been committed that they consider the Bill in the following order, vizt.:—

  • Clause 1
  • Clause 18
  • Clauses 2 and 3
  • Clause 19
  • Clause 4
  • Clause 20
  • Clause 5
  • Clause 21
  • Clause 6
  • Clause 22
  • Clause 7
  • Clause 23
  • Clause 8
  • Clause 24
  • Clause 9
  • Clause 25
  • Clause 10
  • Clause 26
  • Clauses 11 and 12
  • Clause 27
  • Clauses 13 and 14
  • Clause 28
  • Clause 15
  • Clause 29
  • Clause 16
  • Clause 30
  • Clause 17
  • Clause 31
  • Schedule 1
  • Schedule 2
  • Clauses 32 and 33

—( Lord Bellwin.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.


2.58 p.m.

rose to call attention to the April 1980 British-Spanish Agreement on Gibraltar especially in the light of Spain's application for EEC membership; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. It gives me very great pleasure this afternoon to move this Motion about the agreement of last April between Spain and the United Kingdom as regards the future of Gibraltar. It gives me particular pleasure as this afternoon we have in our Gallery distinguished visitors from Gibraltar, including the Chief Minister, Sir Joshua Hassan, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Peter Isola, the Leader of the Labour Party, Mr. Joe Bossano, and other members of the House of Assembly. There are also representatives of other Embassies and representatives of the Gibraltar-in-Europe Representation Group, Members of the European Parliament—

My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt my noble friend. I think that it would be more advisable if he addressed himself to the subject rather than to who actually is sitting in the Gallery. I believe that that is not within the general form of address in this House.

My Lords, I beg the House's pardon. I remind the House that this agreement which was signed by my noble friend the Secretary of State provided that the restrictions which have existed in Gibraltar since 1969 would be lifted, and that immediately upon that event there would be talks between the British and Spanish Governments on any proposal that might be put forward by either side. It was also provided that there would be full reciprocity of rights between the people of Spain and the people of Gibraltar during these talks.

Since then however nine months have passed; there has been no progress on these talks, and during this long gestation period nothing seems to have been produced—not even a mouse. There have been the same restrictions on the Gibraltar people. Even over Christmas they were unable to communicate with their relatives and friends 500 metres across the frontier. The necessity was still upon them to communicate with one another through walky-talky radios, through loud hailers, or else to take the expensive journey to the other side via Tangier, a matter of 24-hours travel and something that costs a lot of money.

It is not my intention here this afternoon to castigate the Spanish Government or the Spanish people. I am one of those who strongly support the entry of Spain into the EEC and the consolidation of the Western Alliance with Spain's participation and closer relations between this country and Spain. It is a great pity that this matter of Gibraltar is casting a shadow over British-Spanish relations.

I realise that the Spanish Government have their problems, and of course Spanish public opinion is very important in this respect. I know that there are many Spanish people with goodwill towards Gibraltar. The mayors of the Campo area behind Gibraltar have expressed their conviction that the frontier should be opened without delay in accordance with the Lisbon agreement. However, particularly after the visit of the Lord Privy Seal to Spain a few weeks ago, it has emerged that a precondition is now being put on the implementation of the main provision, the opening of the frontier.

It has been decided apparently in Madrid that the frontier cannot he opened until the same rights are given to Spanish people in Gibraltar as are now available to EEC nationals. This, I suppose, would be something that could be discussed at the talks envisaged in the Lisbon agreement. Already it has been agreed that Spanish citizens are entitled to visit Gibraltar just as any other foreigner is allowed to do. There is no question of banning Spaniards from "over-nighting" in Gibraltar. They can stay in Gibraltar as visitors, as tourists, on the same basis that any other non-Gibraltarian can do so; but I ask myself, where is the reference to EEC rights in the Lisbon agreement'? I see no mention of it.

I cannot believe that it would be right for the Government to concede this point until the frontier has been opened. The precondition is unacceptable. Once the frontier has been lifted then anything can be discussed. That is in the agreement. Even the long-term future of Gibraltar can be discussed. That is in the agreement. But until the frontier is open I submit nothing can be given away as a precondition. I hope that my noble friend the Secretary of State will make that clear when he winds up this debate.

The problem about the Spanish line is that it strengthens the worst suspicions of people in Gibraltar, as I discovered when I was there at the beginning of this month. Even last April, when the agreement was signed by my noble friend and Mr. Marcelino Oreja, there were some in Gibraltar who were already suspicious. They felt they were going to be invaded demographically or economically by the 30 million people of Spain over a period of years and conquered by these means. That was not the view of the Gibraltar Government, who approved the Lisbon agreement. It strengthens, though, the suspicion of many other people that Spain in fact wants to recover Gibraltar not by consent but by coercion—to say to the Gibraltarians, "Join us, or else we will make your lives not worth living. We will strangle you economically. We will prevent you from travelling outside your small two square miles, six square kilometres of space, and eventually we will bludgeon you into reuniting wit Us".

I do not need to emphasise the danger of such an approach from the point of view of the Gibraltarians, or even from the point of view of the United Kingdom which has looked after the destiny of Gibraltar since the Treaty of Utrecht, since 270 years ago; a longer period than most members of the United Nations have been in existence. But I want to emphasise four difficulties that will be created if this situation is allowed to continue for much longer. I do this not in the way of uttering a threat, but more in sorrow than in anger because I see the difficulties arising principally for Spain—for the Spanish people and the Spanish Government—unless a way out can be found to this problem.

The first possibility is that the hearts of the Gibraltarians will harden and that people there in a majority will decide no longer to approve the Lisbon agreement. Then they might start making various requests to the British Government. Perhaps a request to negotiate in a slightly different way Spain's accession to the EEC; perhaps mentioning Article 2 of the Luxembourg protocol which provides for special provision in the treaty to be made for the demographic situation of Luxembourg. There could be a case for putting forward such a clause in the Spanish accession treaty. This is something that might be urged on the British Government and on the British House of Commons and on your Lordships' House, should this situation continue.

The second possibility is that the hearts of the British will harden. It could be that until the frontier is opened it might be decided that there should be no talks, and if there are no signs that the frontier is going to be opened the British Government could decide that there will be no talks, and Spain would then lose the chance of discussing any other point in the Lisbon agreement. They would lose the chance that they have negotiated to talk about Gibraltar's long-term future. From the Spanish point of view, that would be a significant minus.

The third possibility is that the hearts of the other nine members of the European Community will begin to harden. The EEC Commission has already associated itself with the statements made by the Lord Privy Seal 18 months ago that it was inconceivable for the frontier to remain closed after Spanish accession to the EEC. If this agreement remains unfulfilled, the danger is that it could become a serious issue in the negotiations now being carried on between the Commission and Spain. It could make it even more difficult for Britain to support Spain's application for entry, and this at a time when Britain is perhaps the most enthusiastic member of the Community pressing for Spanish accession. Other large member states of the Community are less enthusiastic.

The fourth difficulty—again I am speaking from the Spanish point of view—is that it puts off until the Greek calends the day when the people of Gibraltar might perhaps in a future generation decide that they want a closer relationship with Spain. I suggest that for every day those restrictions remain in force, a year will elapse before there can be any closer political unity between Gibraltar and Spain. So if any Spanish Government have it in their mind eventually to regain Gibraltar territory, the one way of making sure they will not fulfil that objective is by maintaining those restrictions.

I suggest therefore that this agreement is very much in the Spanish interest as well as that of the United Kingdom and of the Atlantic Alliance and European Community. I was delighted when it was signed last April. I am greatly disappointed it has not been implemented, and I hope the Secretary of State will say, if there is an agreement, whether it still stands and, if so, what chance he sees of the talks getting off the ground, the frontier being opened and progress being made.

My second question is a little more difficult but I hope he can answer it. For how much longer is he prepared to see the present situation continue, to permit an agreement to remain on the books without the main provision being followed up by one of the signatory states? For how long will he let the agreement lie on the table without the first step being taken by the Spanish side? That is the difficulty faced by the British Government and the people of Gibraltar who have come to this country hoping for an answer to that question.

It is a sign of Britain's role in the world nowadays that our continued possession of Gibraltar depends on the will of the people who live in that territory. Should they at some time in the future wish to unite with Spain or take upon themselves some other form of Administration, I do not believe for one moment that any British Government would stand in their way. But the first step towards any development of Gibraltar's position vis-à-vis Spain must depend on the implementation of agreements freely signed between the two other main participants in the dispute. For this it is essential that Spain begins to talk to the people at the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula as friends and relatives; they must use the language of democracy, for Gibraltar is a democracy, in speaking to the few dozen thousand people who live as neighbours with them. It is only by adopting such a friendly approach that the good of Europe and the Western Alliance can be maintained, that the good of Gibraltar can be maintained, and that the good of Spain in the final analysis can be brought forward. For that it is necessary to use not the behaviour and language of Franco but the language of democracy and the new Spain which has developed in past years otherwise with such tremendous success. I beg to move for Papers.

3.15 p.m.

My Lords, the House will have listened with pleasure and respect to the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, for the temperate and balanced way in which he treated a very difficult and possibly dangerous question. His Motion divides itself naturally into two parts, as he will agree: British-Spanish relations, a very important aspect of what we are discussing, and, as he reminded us, the question of Gibraltar. Both are related, unfortunately, and I shall first address myself to a few observations on British-Spanish relations, coming to Gibraltar later by a circuitous route.

British-Spanish relations have historically been close. They have been interrupted from time to time by people like Sir Francis Drake and General Franco, but on the whole for four, five or six centuries the two countries have shown that they are congenial, two proud European countries drawn from the same fount of civilisation, two imperialist countries, adventurist in the best sense, pushing to the furthest ends of the world and taking with them some cruelties but a good deal of culture—their origin, their law and indeed their language. I was told as I was coming into the Chamber today that, while English is the most widely spoken first language in the world, it is followed by Russian and then by Spanish; and when we consider that usually rather disregarded part of the world, South America, we realise how far Spanish culture and the Spanish language has penetrated. Thus, we have made our contribution as two proud members of the European community over the centuries.

Moreover, the successful re-emergence of Spanish democracy after the long nightmare of Fascist repression has served to reinforce the friendship and understanding between our two countries. There is a fundamental comradeship and congeniality between us. Indeed, not only have both put together, temporarily, wide-flung empires; they have also extricated themselves from the temptations and trials of colonialism, in their different ways perhaps, and in the event successfully.

Further, speaking perhaps as a Gaelician, as they would say in Spain, these are two countries which have always striven to combine a regard for the natural and reasonable aspirations of their component nationalties with the need for a strong united state. That is the meaning of the United Kingdom, which has striven to combine four nationalities with due regard for their distinctive rights but also necessary regard for their needed unity. The same is true of Spain, and when we come to consider the question of Gibraltar I hope my Spanish friends will perhaps remember that it is important to handle local minority feelings with more than geographical, legal and historical nicety—with a touch of understanding and looking forward to the larger needs of the state as a whole.

Both in their different ways have made their contribution and now they are poised to enter the European Community; the Spaniards are poised to enter perhaps in 1984, and of course there are a few difficulties on the way. After all, the Pyrenees have always presented a certain difficulty between the Spaniards and the French; it is not merely between the British and the Spanish that such difficulties have arisen, and perhaps by 1984 they will have vaulted the Pyrenees and joined the European Community. They will, in the splendid phrase of the noble Lord, more and more have consolidated themselves into the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation for the general security and peace of the West and therefore of the world. They will also have co-operated bilaterally and multilaterally in easing the flow of trade, so that the recovery of Europe in the first place, then North America, and the world from the present recession will have been achieved.

All that will not be without difficulty. Spain has its difficulties with its immediate neighbours. It is not for us in this House to go into those difficulties, but they are a fact. It also has its difficulties with us, but before we examine those difficulties—and I shall not detain the House unduly—let us see what Spain can contribute. Culturally, in the arts and the sciences, there is no need to itemise its contributions in the past, nor its likely future contributions. Geographically, with Portugal, and strategically Spain has always been of the utmost importance to peace in the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean, and everything that we do and say in this country must keep that fact in mind, so that we do not unwittingly upset the balance of security—I shall not say of power—along the vital sea route of the Mediterranean. Spain, together with Turkey—the resolution of whose differences with Greece would be a major move towards the strength of the West and therefore the peace of the world—stands in an extremely important geographical and strategic position.

There is also the fact that in this country there is a warm welcome among our people and our Government to the people and Government of Spain, as there is to Greece and Portugal, too, to join the Community. We look forward to their becoming part of their natural habitat, politically and economically—the Western democracies—and we want to do everything that we can to smooth their entry into the Community.

What are the difficulties? It is not just Gibraltar. There are others; but quite rightly, the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, asked us to consider Gibraltar as being the major difficulty. I do not regard Gibraltar and the Spanish accession to the Community as being linked. Generally I feel in favour of linkage in matters such as disarmament. One must not be too dogmatic about these things. I have sympathy with the noble Lord in his approach, but these are two separate questions, though they are related. Like members of a family, they have personalities of their own, though they are related; and I would put it somewhat like this. While we wish to do everything to smooth the entry of Spain into the community of the Western world, and indeed to welcome it, we cannot envisage even the possibility of our agreeing to a constitutional change in the status of Gibraltar without the full, free acquiescence of the people of that state.

The two questions are not related. All power to those who are working for the integration of Spain, and indeed of Greece and Portugal, into the Common Market. Indeed all power to those who are beavering away at the remarkable problem of how to integrate three substantially agricultural, and substantially marginally agricultural, countries into a community of nine which is already grappling with the complexities of its own common agricultural policy. From time to time I have asked whether the Government are satisfied with the preparations for the integration of three such countries—countries which, broadly speaking, depend as to a third of the economy on agriculture, much of it marginal, some of it, paradoxically enough, capable of creating unwanted surpluses. What progress has there been in cohering the facts of life in these three countries with the facts of diminishing life in the CAP already in Western Europe? I hope that that work is going on; otherwise instead of helping to solve the problems of the Common Market, the accession of these three agricultural countries may well serve to exacerbate them. However, we shall all do our best.

The point is that while we are willing to do our best to smooth their entry into the Community, the question of Gibraltar stands on its own. There is no doubt about the feelings and views of the people of Gibraltar. The only way in which you can find out how people feel is to ask them, and to ask them without any question of duress. That was done by my noble friend Lord Lee of Newton when he was Secretary of State for the Colonies. I am delighted to see him here, and I understand that he is to intervene in the debate. He knows more about this than any of us, and he will correct me if I am wrong. In, I believe, 1965 he instituted a referendum on the rock in which 90 per cent. of the people took part, and 12,000 said that they wished to remain attached to Britain, and I think about 30 or 40 said that they did not. That was 15 years ago. I do not want another referendum, because I do not want to stir up even statistical rows between ourselves and such good friends as the Spaniards. But those are the facts of life.

The noble Lord was quite right. As I have said this from this Box about, for instance, the Falkland Islanders, in relation to the claims of the Argentinians to those islands, you cannot bludgeon, bully communities into formal constitutional attachment to another state; you can only win them. The history of the world is full of the blood and misery which has been caused by trying to force people to stifle their essential feelings, their loyalties. There have also been many examples of countries which have been able to persuade their neighbours to join them in a communality, to work with them, while in no way shedding any essential of their distinctive nationality or culture. Surely this is the way of the future. It is not the way of the communist past. It is the way of—I almost said the social democratic future.

Perhaps I should not say that. I believe that it is the way of the future, and I believe that my own race, the Welsh, have shown that this can be done; always outnumbered, never out-manoeuvred. Throughout our history we have striven to face the facts, to make our contribution, to insist upon our distinctive personality, and at the same time to be an essential part of the British unity, at least from the times of the Tudors onwards. My noble friend who had the good sense to marry a Welsh wife can hardly disagree with that.

So we come to the Lisbon agreement. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, who puts these matters so well—sometimes I wish he preceded me on these occasions—and I both congratulated the Foreign Secretary on the success that he achieved in Lisbon; and I retract not a word of what I said then, about 11 months ago. What happened was this—and I have the Statement and communiqué before me. I will not quote formally, but every word I draw from these two documents will be seen to be part of them. In a spirit of friendship the two Governments reached an agreement—these are the actual words—on the re-establishment of direct communications in the region. It is essential to tolerable life in the general area of La Linea, as the noble Lord knows.

Then they went on to say—and I will quote this paragraph, paragraph 5, in its entirety:
" The Spanish Government, in reaffirming its position on the re-establishment of the territorial integrity of Spain,"—
this is their way of putting it—
restated its intention that in the outcome of the negotiations the interests of the Gibraltarians would be fully safeguarded ".
That is fully understood. We understand how the Spanish Government and the Spanish people feel about Gibraltar, and they put it quite fairly in that paragraph.

But the paragraph went on—and let us remember that this is a jointly agreed communiqué:
"For its part, the British Government will fully maintain its commitment to honour the freely and democratically expressed wishes of the Government of Gibraltar as set out in the preamble to the Gibraltar Constitution".
No undertaking that nothing will be done to change the constitutional position of the people of Gibraltar without their full agreement could have been put more clearly than that; and I am quite sure that when the Foreign Secretary rises to reply to this debate he will repeat those words and that intention in the best possible spirit to our Spanish friends, urging them to go about the task of winning over, if it is possible, the Gibraltarians to their state in a way utterly different from that which they have been pursuing in the past.

What has been happening? What, indeed, was it the purpose of the meeting to stop? It was the most vexatious and in some cases the most dangerous restriction on the movement of Spaniards, Gibraltarians and other people across La Linea; petty as well as practical difficulties about moving even to work; the penalising of those least able to bear the pretentions of national Governments—people who wanted to cross a line to work, to earn their daily living.

In the air space—and this is where the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, has been of extreme importance in this House—there have been restrictions which have forced our pilots to add to the hazards of flight which normally attend them and their passengers. They have had to take a circuitous route instead of the safest and most direct. How can action of that sort—and one could instance others—help to create, first, the best possible feeling between the two countries and, secondly, the best possible basis for the reconciliation of the Spaniards and the Gibraltarians?

So, in opening this debate, and in speaking in the way he did, which made it possible for me in my own way to support practically all he said, I think the noble Lord has done a service. It is a message of the most genuine friendship to an old friend; a message of our intention to do everything we can, commercially and culturally, to improve bilateral and multilateral relations with them; and a message to a substantial European power like ourselves (if no longer a world power, certainly a substantial European power) that we look forward to sitting with them and standing with them in the joint concerns of the civilised world—the defence of freedom and the promotion of prosperity for all concerned. It is the message that we hope that a proud, accomplished nation like this, led so well these days, will be able to look at this issue of Gibraltar in its historical, in its inevitable, connotation. The British can do no other than to listen to what the Gibraltarians themselves wish to happen to what they regard as their homeland, and any other request will not be acceded to by any party in this country, in this House or the other, or, indeed, outside in the country itself.

My Lords, in view of the programme, and as this debate is due to close at 5.28, I regret that our time will not allow more than 10 minutes for each speaker, so that my noble friend can have a full 20 minutes.

3.37 p.m.

My Lords, I speak with great diffidence on this subject because I am in no way an expert on Anglo-Gibraltarian-Spanish relations, and I am not sure whether there is any very definite Liberal Party view on the matter. Certainly I can confine my very brief remarks to 10 minutes, and I suspect that I shall not speak for more than about five minutes. Indeed, I hope to make only a few general remarks.

I myself would not disagree in principle with what the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, said, broadly speaking, when introducing his Motion. Neither would I necessarily disagree with much of what Lord Goronwy-Roberts said, except that I rather doubt whether you can apply to Gibraltar the same sort of confederal or regional criteria which can be adopted by the Government of Spain in regard to Catalonia or Andalucia or the Basque country. The situation seems to me to be a little different from that. I would hope, of course, with the noble Lord, that the Gibraltarians will remain Social Democrats whatever happens! I suppose that may be a solution because the future here may, so we are told, lie in that direction, too. But, of course, no Liberal would be in favour of the Gibraltarians being made (as it were) forcibly to become Spaniards, which they are not, after all. If not British by race, which they certainly are not, they are, as it were, British by adoption, and the idea that they should be forcibly converted to being Spaniards seems to be an almost inconceivable suggestion. I am not even sure that the Spanish Government itself would be in favour of such a thesis as that.

On the other hand, if Spain should join the Economic Community—and I believe there is every reason to suppose it will in about three or four years' time—it must be clear that the whole future of Gibraltar (this hot potato, as it were, now between us and the Spanish Government in our relations) must be regarded and considered from a European point of view. There is no other alternative, for, if Spain joins the Community, Gibraltar will be a part of the Community as a part of Great Britain—Britain is part of the Community and therefore Gibraltar is part of the Community—and Spain will be part of the Community.

Therefore, in those circumstances there must be and there will be, I suppose, complete freedom of trade between Spain and Great Britain and Gibraltar. If that is so, then the barriers are down to a large extent and we must contemplate a situation in which Gibraltar, if it so wishes, may still continue to be part of the United Kingdom but the United Kingdom and Spain are both part of the greater whole. Therefore, to that extent, if Spain does join the Community—and I hope and believe it will—the problem must be considered as solved. If you believe, my Lords, as I do, that the European Community will eventually—I say "eventually"—become some sort of political community, then clearly Gibraltar could not be physically separate from Spain.

That seems to be a statement of the obvious. I do not know whether the Government accept that. But there is another consideration that has not come up so far. What about NATO? At the moment the Spanish Government is against Spain becoming a member of NATO, for reasons which we can well appreciate. But, in three, four or five years' time, who knows? It might well be that Spain will then apply to be a member of NATO. In that case, since Great Britain has more or less withdrawn physically from the defence of the Mediterranean, the great base of Gibraltar will still be of very great importance to the Western world and it will have to be—and I hope will be—a NATO base. If it is a NATO base and Spain is a member of NATO, then Spain will have to take part in the administration of that base along with ourselves, the Americans and everybody else. This must surely be recognised by the Spaniards, ourselves and by the Gibraltarians.

So during the interval before Spain becomes a member of the United Nations and possibly also of NATO—and it may be in three, four or five years' time—the situation is not desperate, the negotiations presumably go on, every effort must be made to think what will happen from the point of view of Gibraltarians, ourselves and the Spaniards in the event of Spain becoming a member of two bodies of which we are all members. This consideration must dominate the negotiations now going on and which I hope will go on with the Spanish Government. I cannot see why, if all of us have that firmly in mind, some kind of compromise situation will not be achievable. The Gibraltarians surely in such circumstances could have local autonomy; they could administer their own affairs. They need not be Spanish citizens, and they would not be. They would not, I suppose, pay Spanish taxes. They could be an autonomous body in a greater whole. Why not, my Lords? I cannot see why the Spaniards, ourselves and the Gibraltarians should not agree on some solution in the future, and I hope that the Foreign Secretary will agree.

3.42 p.m.

My Lords, I agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, that my noble friend Lord Bethell has done a very good service to this country, this House, Spain and of course to Gibraltar, by raising this matter this afternoon. It is a matter that is riddled with disappointments. Many of us hoped when the unlamented Franco regime departed that the liberal-minded successor Government of King Juan Carlos would withdraw these measures against Gibraltar which were of course initiated by the Franco regime and no doubt represented an aspect of its policy. Unfortunately that opportunity was missed.

Then again, in April, it seemed that my noble friend the Foreign Secretary had achieved yet another of those diplomatic triumphs with which his career has been adorned: we thought that this matter had been brought to an end. It is clear—and it will be interesting to hear what my noble friend says about it—that the Spanish Foreign Minister appeared to agree to raise these restrictions (I think by June was the date indicated) and yet here we are in January and they arc still in full effect.

The sad and disappointing fact about this is that from the Spanish angle these restrictions are purely futile. As the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, said, no British Government of any colour could conceivably hand over 25,000 loyal Gibraltarians to any foreign or other rÉgime which they themselves are not prepared to accept willingly. Any British Government that tried to do such a thing would be swept out of office. That being so, one then sees what the effect of these restrictions has been on the thinking of the people of Gibraltar. When I used to visit the Rock as a comparatively young man it was at a time when 8,000 Spanish workers came in from La Linea and the adjoining villages to work in the dockyard and in Gibraltar. Gibraltarians went out freely at weekends to picnic and swim on the beaches of that lovely part of Andalucia. There was a constant social movement between the people in the country, and the attitude of the Gibraltarians to Spain was very relaxed. Indeed, a friendly approach at that time might well have led to an agreed closer relationship.

My Lords, what has happened now? Every time one visits Gibraltar one sees how opinion has hardened. The attempt by Spain to impose these restrictions has—as it surely could have been foreseen with any people of spirit—hardened the reaction of the people of Gibraltar against Spain and all it stands for. Therefore when these restrictions are withdrawn—as I hope they shortly will be—there will be a hard and long job of work before the Spanish Government and the Spanish people (in an effort which I hope and believe they will try to make) assuage the harsh feelings which their own actions have done so much to create. We start on the basis that these restrictions are from the point of view of those who impose them utterly futile and self-defeating.

Particularly in view of what my noble friend Lord Sandys has said, I shall not waste time on the vexed subject of the historic claims of Spain. I do not believe that they have any validity. We have been the sovereign in Gibraltar for longer than Spain ever was. Indeed, the only competitor in that respect is perhaps His Majesty King Hassan of Morocco who, so far as I know, has not put forward any claim. Even if historic claims had any validity, in the penultimate decade of the 20th century one cannot hand over a live and living community to people to whom it does not want to be handed over, even if the historic claims were excellent. This is wholly contrary to the prevailing and very proper spirit of the age. I am sure that those who now govern Spain who are liberal-minded and in many ways attractive people, must realise this.

But these restrictions continue. The noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, referred to my interest, due partly to a fairly recent past capacity. A restriction about which we hear least in practice is that of access to Gibraltar airport. It is worth a word because not only is it a peculiarly unpleasant restriction but it is perhaps indicative of an unhappy state of mind of those who impose it. I say at once that in the ordinary way this restriction does not make access to Gibraltar airport dangerous. If it were, I am quite sure that the Civil Aviation Authority would not allow British airlines to operate into that airport. In words which my noble friend Lord Trefgarne used some little time ago (in response I think to a question of mine) these restrictions tend to erode the margin of safety.

May I put it this way, my Lords. The runway for Gibraltar runs, broadly, East to West and the prevailing wind is westerly. Normal landings are from the East and normal take-offs are towards the West. In both cases, in order to keep clear of Spanish airspace, this involves a sharp turn at relatively low speed and relatively low altitude. With an efficient aircraft and qualified pilot there is no particular danger in that, provided nothing else goes wrong. But should there happen any of the multifarious things that can go wrong in an aricraft, such as turbulence, which exists in the vicinity of the Rock under certain wind conditions or a deficiency in the aircraft engines or controls, and should this supervene at the moment that the manoeuvre is being undertaken, the consequences could be serious. Every pilot flying into Gibraltar knows that. Not very long ago I sat alongside a pilot when we were landing at Gibraltar and I noticed that by the time we were taxi-ing in, the perspiration was pouring from his face. It is not an operation that is particularly easy, though in skilled hands it is as safe as most things, provided nothing else goes wrong.

What makes these restrictions so peculiarly silly is that aircraft on the run from London to Gibraltar fly over the whole of Spain. They come in generally on the airway of Bilbao and they come out over Malaga into the Mediterranean. They are forced to make these manoeuvres over the airport. The aircraft has therefore been flying in Spanish airspace on that very flight for over an hour; yet there is a restriction in going into that little bit of Spanish airspace mostly over territorial waters near the Isthmus leading to Gibraltar. The pilots are forbidden to do it. Eroding as it does the margin of safety and serving no Spanish interest whatsoever, that seems a peculiarly mean and unpleasant restriction.

Also, let your Lordships remember, it is a restriction which may one day be not the cause of but may contribute to a serious accident. Obviously the longer it continues, statistically, the greater is the chance of that happening. Were that to happen, I am sure all those concerned would have in mind that it would produce in this country a reaction of public opinion against the Government imposing these restrictions which would be very serious indeed and which might well cause problems over Spanish entry into the EEC.

Therefore, as my noble friend Lord Bethell said, it seems as though it is in the interests of everybody, but above all of the Spanish Government, that these restrictions should be withdrawn. I know it is difficult, when restrictions have been maintained for some time and do not appear to have served their purpose, to execute what in this country is sometimes, slightly offensively, called a "U-turn"; but Governments of all sorts have to do this from time to time and it is remarkable how quickly they are forgotten. Therefore I hope that very quickly now these restrictions will be withdrawn. I say that with particular confidence that they will be because I have, together with pro- bably most of your Lordships, an enormous admiration for the skill, negotiating power and tact of my noble friend. We wish him all the best of luck in the exercise of those splendid qualities.

3.52 p.m.

My Lords, when we are looking at an agreement such as this, I think we should try to put ourselves in the position of the people of Gibraltar. The only point on which I would disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, is that he said the restrictions started at a date in 1969. They have gone on far longer than that. Therefore we must now look at how the people of Gibraltar look at an agreement which the Spanish Government are now refusing to implement. It is the case—and Gibraltarians know this as well as I do—that the Spanish Government's ultimate objective is to change the sovereignty of Gibraltar, and the longer this procrastination goes on the more the anxieties of the Gibraltarians will in fact increase. It is that determination by the Spanish Government to effect the change of sovereignty which has been at the heart of their activities ever since 1964.

The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, said that among these restrictions was the closing of the gates at La Linea and refusing to allow British subjects living in Spain to get to their work in Gibraltar. The restrictions also included the withdrawal of Spanish labour from the dockyard in Gibraltar. They even discovered that the Spanish ladies working in cafés and restaurants in Gibraltar were in moral danger and they withdrew them as well. This kind of thing is ridiculous towards people with whom they have lived for hundreds of years, and the anxieties and fears they have created will last for a very long time indeed. They then downgraded the customs post at La Linea so that no vehicles were allowed from Spain into Gibraltar, and they refused to allow tourists to start tours of Spain from Gibraltar.

When I went out there, in late October or early November 1966, the Council of Ministers, led by my good friend Sir Joshua Hassan and my friend, Peter Isola, had already determined that they were going to change the whole economic base of Gibraltar because they knew that the restrictions placed upon them were not temporary. The only way that those restrictions could be raised was by their surrendering to the demands of the Spanish Franco Government. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, in feeling disappointed that when we got rid of the Fascist Government we did not get rid of the demands on Gibraltar: that is absolutely right. But the Council of Ministers then in Gibraltar were quite determined to make themselves economically independent of Spain and this must be very much taken into account when we arc discussing the future.

After close discussions with Sir Joshua and his colleagues, I was convinced that their development plans were sound and proper. I was able to offer them £600,000 as the initial payment towards beginning their plans. That was to be the first tranche of some £2,200,000, which would enable them to build a great many more houses, to make the Rock far and away more attractive for tourists and to help them to divert tourist traffic across the Straits to Morocco. Incidentally, my wife and I were able to go the following year as tourists and saw the success of that.

So there was an attempt to create an economy in Gibraltar which could stand independently of what Spain does to them and afford a decent living standard to the people of Gibraltar. At the invitation of Sir Joshua, I walked down Main Street to a reception that he gave me at the Town Hall. I discussed with the traders and other people on Main Street what would be the effect of the Spanish blockade. Trade had slumped by about 50 per cent. and people's living standards had been reduced; and yet I do not think I found one who did not demand the right to retain a close affinity with us, no matter what the Spaniards had done.

I hope, then, that we shall take into consideration that when that economy has been built on the basis of independence from Spain it is hardly feasible that the Gibraltarians should switch it back to dependence on Spain after all the travail through which they have gone. Again I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter: when you have had 17 or 18 years of this kind of thing it is not new, if I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, to think that the iron may enter into your soul and your heart. That has happened, and it happened because of what the Spaniards have done. Therefore we must take that into consideration when we look at what the future may be.

I hope, even at this late stage, that there can be a rapprochement and that the Spanish Government will realise that the brutalities of Francoism have no place in the democracy which now rules in Spain. I hope they will see that they can have a desirable neighbour, a neighbour which wants to be on the best possible terms with them if only they will allow it. As my noble friend Lord Goronwy—Roberts said, when the referendum took place the number of those who wanted to go to Spain was derisory—about 40, I think. I have been in most parts of the British Commonwealth and indeed in many parts of the world and I have never seen such enthusiasm, warmth and friendship as I received in Gibraltar: astounding to anybody. Not only is personal honour at stake for those of us who try to help them, but the honour of this Government and of Britain depends upon our continued efforts to show the Gibraltarians that they are part of us.

There can be no divorce while they overwhelmingly demand affinity with this nation. I hope that that will be the attitude which the Government portray to the Spanish Government when the negotiations resume. In that sense, the Government will carry with them the wishes of the whole of the British nation, for there can be no doubt now that Gibraltar is part of us. I am a Lancastrian and it is as much to me as part of Lancashire. The thought that we can be driven apart by anything that Spain can do is positively anathema to me.

4.2 p.m.

My Lords, according to a Conservative Party research department publication of 22nd December 1980,

"The British Government has long been an enthusiastic supporter of enlargement of the Community, to include Greece, Spain and Portugal, since their return to democratic forms of government".
Fair enough! But that document goes on to say,
"Negotiations between the Community and Portugal and Spain are progressing, but Spain, with a population of 35 million, a large agricultural sector and a fast expanding industrial sector, presents far more difficulties for the Community in terms of integration".
But I understand, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, that Spain does not realistically expect to join the Community until the beginning of 1984 at the earliest.

However, a further difficulty in terms of integration must surely be our differences with Spain over Gibraltar. Bearing this in mind, I am very concerned about the lack of goodwill, to put it no higher, on the part of the Spanish Government in this matter, in spite of their return, as is recognised by Her Majesty's Government, to a democratic form of government. For, if one refers to the joint Anglo-Spanish agreement on Gibraltar of last April, that states that the British and Spanish Governments, for reasons stated in the document, intend in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions to resolve in a spirit of friendship the Gibraltar problem. Both Governments also agreed to start negotiations, with a view to overcoming all differences between them on Gibraltar, and the Spanish Government decided to suspend the application of the measures which are at present in force.

At this stage, it might not be inappropriate if I refer to a few words which I said in your Lordships' House on 9th March 1966, just on 15 years ago. I said,
"I am conscious of the fact that next month there are to be negotiations with Spain on the question of Gibraltar, but abnormal restrictions over the last sixteen months have existed on the frontier of Gibraltar ".—[Official Report; col. 1195.]
Your Lordships will no doubt recall that the talks opened on 18th May 1966, and the noble Lord, Lord Walston, who was Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs at the time, said on 11th July 1966 that the talks would resume the following day. He added:
"But I can assure the noble Lord that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary made clear at the opening of the talks on May 18 that we wish the restrictions at the frontier to be removed".
He went on to say:
"We shall continue to press this point ".—[Official Report; col. 6.]
That was 15 years ago. We are now in January 1981, and June 1980 passed by with no suspension of the application of the measures in force; not even, I understand, the imposition, to which the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, referred, by an order published in Madrid on 12th April 1967 of a zone in which all flying will be prohibited, this zone being in the immediate vicinity of Gibraltar.

As noble Lords are aware, the establishment of this zone considerably reduced, and reduces, the payload of aircraft using the airfield at Gibraltar. This may even have been a contributory factor in the 1976–77 decision by British Airways to discontinue the Gibraltar-Madrid air route, which had been in operation since 1958. What goodwill, what spirit of friendship, can exist between this country and Spain? What credence can be placed even on their democratically elected Government's words, when there has been no implementation whatsoever of last April's proposals and agreements, when it was, in effect, then envisaged that the preparations would be completed no later than 1st June 1980.

Furthermore, the following month—that is, July last year—Gibraltar Airways, with a Civil Aviation Authority licence, applied to the Spanish authorities for permission to resume flights on the Gibraltar-Madrid route. But I understand that no reply has been received up to date and, even more, that the Spanish Government object to the resumption of these air services. Therefore, there is a further restriction.

I must say how delighted I am that my noble friend the Foreign Secretary will be replying to this debate, one reason being that I am convinced that he is dedicated to the concept that nothing should be done which might weaken in any way the existing ties that link Gibraltarians to the United Kingdom and its people. The second reason, as was stressed by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, is that I believe in his great talents as a negotiator.

Having said that, I am sure my noble friend Lord Carrington will recognise the great strain which has been placed for so many years upon the Government and people of Gibraltar, on their two and a quarter square miles of rock. I believe that it is approximately 20 years ago—in December 1960 and in November 1961—that a United Nations General Assembly resolution affirmed that all peoples have a right to self-determination. That was at the time when the Special Committee of 24 was set up. If these people have that right, surely, too, they have a right to normal communications. Again, as I understand, both the British and Spanish Governments reached agreement last April on the re-establishment of direct communications in the region, but no implementation has been forthcoming.

Finally, bearing in mind the stress and strain of these last two decades on all Gibraltarians, I much regret that Her Majesty's Government have decided in their British Nationality Bill not to include Gibraltarians in their definition of a "British citizen". For Gibraltar, too, has a special position in Europe, with the international status of Gibraltarians as Community Nationals, which can never be aspired to by the peoples of other dependent territories. Furthermore, the White Paper, Cmnd. 7987, which came out in July 1980 under the heading British Nationality Law, says in paragraph 39, below the title British Citizenship—Permanent Arrangements for Acquisition, etc.:―
"The Government accept that after a definite period people whose stay in the country is free of conditions ought to be enabled to apply for our citizenship; but they think nonetheless that applicants should be expected to demonstrate a real intention to throw in their lot with this country".
As an administrative concession, Gibraltarians are allowed unconditional entry into the United Kingdom. I understand that the Bill will not affect this. Her Majesty's Government have no intention, I am advised, of withdrawing this concession. So in effect the Gibraltarians are all potential applicants. For I am sure that my noble friend the Foreign Secretary will agree that throughout the years the Gibraltarians have shown their loyalty to this country—for instance, as proven during the last war, by the referendum to which the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Newton, referred and during all the years which have since elapsed.

Over the years I think that the Gibraltarians have demonstrated, to use the words of the White Paper, a real intention to throw in their lot with this country. So would it not be more equitable to confer British citizenship upon Gibraltarians by including them in the Bill rather than to confer upon them, in the words of Her Majesty's Government, parallel citizenship which I know they consider, and which I am sure other people consider, to be a second-class sort of citizenship? The Gibraltarians—this is important—are to retain the rights which follow from European Community membership, which they possess uniquely among the dependent territories. Therefore would it not be more logical and practical, as they are of a dependent territory within the Community, uniquely to make them British citizens?

It may be that this evening my noble friend Lord Carrington will not be in a position to answer some of these points, but I hope that he will look upon them very favourably.

4.13 p.m.

My Lords, like all noble Lords, I am indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, for having introduced the debate. I am also indebted to the Secretary of State for his courtesy in spending part of an over-full day taking part in the discussion.

To me, this is a most important subject. I am constantly worried about the status of Gibraltar and its citizens. I have a great deal of sympathy with the plea which the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, has just made. I never cease to marvel that so small a community should produce so many capable and responsible leaders as the Crown Colony of Gibraltar. We are wedded to the Colony not only through our history but through our personal regard for men like Sir Joshua Hassan and the other political leaders of the country.

I admit that this is one of my King Charles's heads. The other is the Falkland Islands. I want to assure the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that I intend no personal criticism of him or of Sir Ian Gilmour when I speak on this subject. They are—I hope I shall not embarrass them by saying so—outstandingly impressive Foreign Ministers who would grace any Government of which they were members. They have many achievements to their credit. However, in the case of Gibraltar I think one has to admit that they are to some extent the prisoners of policies evolved by previous Administrations. In the circumstances, they did well in the Lisbon talks, but I hope most seriously that they plan no concessions.

I would suggest very modestly to them that all they need to do is to say clearly and repeatedly that we are there and that we stay there until the people ask us to leave. I do not think we can go any further than that, especially in the light of Spain's failure to make progress over the Lisbon agreement. I am sure that Her Majesty's Government will say that what I have suggested is their policy and I am prepared to accept that that is true, but I do not believe that the people of Spain and of Gibraltar will wholly accept that so long as we go on having discussions on this subject and so long as there is no progress on the implementation of Lisbon.

Our rights under the Treaty of Utrecht are absolutely clear. The wishes of the people of Gibraltar are just as clear. I believe, and I think most of your Lordships believe, that their dignity and their patience should be rewarded. They are bound to be anxious, so long as we as a country seem to confirm that there is something to discuss.

I was impressed by the speech which Mr. Latham made in another place, in which he said that there may be a Spanish problem but there is no Gibraltar problem. That wholly sums up my point of view. The noble Lord, Lord Bethell, and my noble friend Lord Goronwy-Roberts, reminded us of the way in which Spain is now hastening to the support of the free world by joining us in the European Community. Irony of ironies: she hosted the Helsinki Conference. Like Lord Bethell, I should like to be able to help the Spaniards: a lovable people with high cultural achievements. But I have no confidence that 10 or 15 years from now Spain will still be a democratic country. I hope that the Government and noble Lords will bear that in mind. Behaving like a bunch of bar-room bullies is certainly no credential for joining the free world. So let us say, once and for all, that we in this country have not the slightest intention of appeasing in any way the enemies of our British friends on the Rock.

4.19 p.m.

My Lords, my own contribution this afternoon will be more economic in character than political for I, like others in your Lordships' House, prefer to rely upon the excellent skills of my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. Also, having, as I do, many Spanish cousins, if our discussions privately in our homes on the subject of Gibraltar bear any resemblance to those which take place at the conference table, I would prefer to be well out of them.

I take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Newton. Apart from any political negotiations, surely one of the greatest services we could do Gibraltar at this time would be to help it in whatever way we can to develop and build an economic independence. The removal of the blockade and the opening of the frontier could be the biggest single thing that would benefit the economy of Gibraltar. But if Gibraltar's economy were to become once again totally dependent upon the Spanish relationship, that could be a dangerous position for the future. Thus one asks oneself: Is it possible for Gibraltar to have an independent economy? From the inquiries which I have made I should have thought that the answer, over time, was, yes. But to do so she needs financial resources and relationships other than the historic ones of the past.

About a year ago I asked a Question in your Lordships' House as to why Gibraltar could not get more benefit out of membership of the Common Market. I took that up with my noble friend Lord Trefgarne and I did not get a very satisfactory reply so I thought that prior to this debate I would consult with the institutions of the Common Market, with the Commission and with other governments and others who might be interested in this affair. While a humble back-bencher is not entitled to an official reply from the Commission, if 1 had been entitled to an official reply it might have gone something like this: first of all, as concerns the Spanish blockade of Gibraltar, the Commission not only hopes but is convinced that it will be lifted before Spain becomes a member so that conditions can be created for the harmonious development of relations within the enlarged Community. The Commission—and presumably therefore the rest of the Common Market—would be totally on the side of the British Government, who are, of course, responsible for Gibraltar's external relations.

I said that I would not talk of politics but more of economics and the question 1 would ask first is, surely if one is a member of the EEC—and Gibraltar is a member—and one is a relatively poor part of the EEC, one should be entitled to receive benefits from that membership, particularly if those benefits are financial. Recognising, too, the vast contribution that the United Kingdom makes to the EEC budget, surely it would be right and proper that the Government should take what steps they can to ensure that Gibraltar receives financial support from those institutions.

Had I received an official reply on that, surely it would be something like this: if we come to Gibraltar's present situation, it has been recalled that, unless otherwise provided for, the provisions of the EEC treaties apply to Gibraltar, for whose external relation s the United Kingdom is responsible.

As for the financial opportunities of the Community, with the exception of the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund, these financial opportunities apply to Gibraltar under exactly the same conditions as to other parts of the Community. It is, however, the British Government which has to introduce the request. So in a letter to my noble friend Lord Trefgarne a year or so ago I asked why it was that, while the French territories such as Reunion and others benefit from Common Market funds and the long-term capital at low interest rates that could help Gibraltar, our territories did not. My noble friend, who was extremely courteous, wrote back to me and said that, in contrast, the French territories which receive funds are French overseas departments which constitute part of metropolitan France and which receive French aid and therefore qualify for ERDF support.

It was suggested that perhaps a way round this would be for the Government to designate Gibraltar as an assisted area. When I consulted with the Community officials, they were all very enthusiastic about the concept of providing finance to assist Gibraltar, but they said that it was the British Government who were dragging their feet. The Government quite rightly said that Gibraltar does not have a high level of unemployment and therefore cannot qualify, but because Gibraltar does not have a high level of unemployment that does not mean that it does not need economic help. Surely, Luxembourg, one of the richest countries in the Community, is entitled to such help. The Community officials want to help. The Government of Gibraltar want help. Other countries around the world would be willing to invest in Gibraltar, parti- cularly in the tourist field, if there was financial support from institutions, because the involvement of the Community in Gibraltar would give outside investors, particularly those in the private sector, a feeling of political stability.

So the question to my noble friend is whether, if we cannot describe or define Gibraltar as an assisted area, we might in the French parlance call it part of metropolitan Britain, since, under the Community legislation—though I am not quite sure whether my noble friend Lord Merrivale would agree—I think the Gibraltarians are deemed to be United Kingdom nationals for Community purposes: under Community legislation they are British nationals irrespective of any new legislation which we may put through Parliament.

I know that this is a difficult area but it is one in which help should be given because we are not asking for our own money as we already provide aid to Gibraltar, as much as we can reasonably afford, and I know that it is very much appreciated by the Gibraltarians. So we are really talking of mechanisms. However, there are two other areas where growth could take place. Tourism I have mentioned, but, secondly, there is the importance of Gibraltar as a possible financial port of entry to the Community itself. Under current Community legislation, Gibraltar does not have to pay VAT. There are other financial advantages in many non-European territories and I think particularly of those in the Middle East who have been investing considerably in Palma, Majorca and other places in the Mediterranean, and people from Africa who would be willing to contemplate investment in various fields in Gibraltar, as I believe would British companies.

Therefore, my theme is that of course we will do all we can to help on the political front, but surely, even though these political negotiations may take time, there are certain steps which could be taken by the Department of Industry, the Department of Trade or whichever department of government it is, which could enable some form of economic growth in Gibraltar to be accelerated, thereby helping them to move towards economic independence, which would give them far greater freedom in the future.

4.26 p.m.

My Lords, I intervene briefly in this debate, really for old times' sake and out of regard for my friend, Sir Joshua Hassan, who, with Mr. Isola and other political colleagues, hope to meet some of us from both Houses of Parliament later today.

It is often said that Gibraltar has been blockaded from 1969, which was when the frontier was absolutely closed, but as my noble friend Lord Lee of Newton rightly pointed out, the restrictions started considerably earlier than that. I know because I was the junior Minister in the erstwhile Colonial Office which, during my brief tenure there, was presided over by Lord Lee of Newton, by Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, and by one or two other Secretaries of State who came and went. But the first turn of the screw, which has continued up to the present day, and is still operative, occurred of course some 16 years ago—and 16 years is a large slice of anybody's life.

As some commentators, including the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, pointed out last spring, when the very welcome joint Anglo-Spanish statement was made, over this period of time, following the first really claustrophobic shock of the closing of the frontier, many Gibraltarians have become accustomed to their enclosed life. Let us be frank about it: some of them have undoubtedly profited by it, and have sound commercial reasons for wishing to keep potential competitors out. This is a factor of the situation of which I am sure the Foreign Secretary is well aware, and it is entirely understandable. All living creatures try to adapt themselves to changes in their environment; naturally enough, the commercial interests in Gibraltar have done so with the full support of the British Government. The Gibraltar Government itself has made the most strenuous efforts to make the very best of the situation in which it finds itself. One must admire the ingenuity and the persistence with which it has done this.

I was particularly interested in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon. I agree with him in that the more that can be done on the positive side to engender confidence in Gibraltar in its capacity to provide a good life and a good living for all who live on the Rock, the less difficult I hope it may be to contemplate some of the wider issues into which I think one really must place the Gibraltar situation. The first of these is surely our parallel desire to see the continuing successful progress of Spain as a democratic country. For a few days last summer I had the privilege of representing your Lordships' House at a gathering in Madrid of presiding officers from almost all the legislatures of Western Europe. Even in such a brief visit one had the opportunity to consider and to discuss with Spanish parliamentarians and others some of the problems facing the Spanish Administration.

As we know ourselves—not least those of us in the Labour Party at the present time—democracy is an exceedingly demanding form of government. Without going into details, it is clear that its success in Spain, while far greater than some of us, certainly including myself, really believed possible, is still subject to stress. One must recall that for many years before his demise General Franco used the Gibraltar issue as a lightning conductor to direct attention from the failings of his own Administration. Emotions were whipped up and national pride was aroused. A one-sided view of history was widely promulgated in Spain with such vigour that most Spaniards even today fully believe what they were then told. The Spanish regime, in my humble opinion, is possibly even now not firmly enough in the saddle to be able to afford to risk losing too much face. Gibraltar is still a highly combustible issue for Spain and it is only realistic to acknowledge this.

There are, of course, other wider issues which have been touched upon in the debate, not only the internal condition of Spain, which is what most concerns me personally, but also the entry of Spain into the European Community, which should—and it would be the prayer of all of us, I am sure—do a great deal to stabilise and encourage the democratic endeavours of the Spanish Administration. There is also the question of the possible entry of Spain into NATO, though frankly this is an area with which I cannot profess to be familiar.

Saying all this in no way detracts from one's loyalty to and friendship for the people of Gibraltar. I was delighted that within a few weeks of his accession to office the Foreign Secretary, and the Lord Privy Seal in the other place, reaffirmed the absolute pledge of the United Kingdom Government that there should be no change in the status of the people of Gibraltar without their democratically expressed desire. I did not discuss Gibraltar last summer in Madrid. It seemed to me tactless to do so. It was May, and one assumed—at least I did in my innocence—that by the beginning of June we really should at long last see some movement on the frontier. It was even reported, I noted, on the Gibraltar side that they were refurbishing the custom house in readiness for the change. So it seemed to me better to keep quiet. But, as we know, nothing has happened. I understand that in fact the Spanish Government offered to put the long drawn out stage by stage restrictions into reverse, by allowing as a first stage pedestrian access only across the frontier, but I gather that this was rejected on the Gibraltar side.

So where do we stand today? We all know that no one has greater powers of persuasion than the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. But one has the feeling that possibly last April he over-persuaded his then Spanish opposite number. It was a gamble no doubt worth trying. But the complexities of the Spanish-Gibraltar saga will, I think, take more than one joint communiqué or one seminar in Segovia to resolve. Had the Spanish Government been sufficiently sure of itself in the very early period after the death of General Franco there might have been a moment for a quick solution; the emotions might have flowed that way. Be that as it may, the moment passed. I am not suggesting for one moment that the Foreign Secretary or the Lord Privy Seal had any illusions when the communiqué was issued last April that there was going to be a quick solution, that the matter was straightforward. They both made it clear that on the contrary they recognised that it would be a long haul. To put into reverse the consequences of Franco's arrogance and stupidity in bludgeoning and blackguarding the Gibraltarians over all these years has been made extraordinarily difficult.

Meanwhile, the susceptibilities of the Gibraltarians —I was almost going to say "islanders" because under this blockade that is whateffectively they have become—have been further deeply disturbed by the matter referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, which is their interpretation of the British Nationality Bill which is coming now before the other place. Their rights under EEC legislation, as I understand it, will remain unaffected; but as your Lordships' Select Committee on EEC matters—a committee which I have the honour to chair—have noted, these rights are not yet fully comprehensive for certain classes of persons. Perhaps we could be given a full statement by the Foreign Secretary as to exactly how the inhabitants of Gibraltar may be affected. I have studied the series of Answers to Questions in another place, but they did appear to me, not for the first time with Foreign Office Answers, designed to conceal as much as to reveal.

My personal view for what it is worth is that until a moment comes when there is a real political drive in Spain behind the desire to resolve the problems of Gibraltar a satisfactory solution is going to be very difficult to attain. There is the prospect of their failing, without this settlement, to get reasonably early EEC membership—granted there are other difficulties which have to be taken into account. Only when they fully recognise that these matters must be related as far as Great Britain is concerned will they revive the Spanish will to succeed which briefly flickered last April. If this happens, I can only plead with my friends in Gibraltar to take a statesmanlike and long-term view rather than the short-term and perhaps rather narrow one. Because for the sake of Western democracy and civilisation stability in Spain is at least as important as prosperity in Gibraltar. We must get these things into perspective, however dedicated we are—and I would yield to no one in my devotion to the future of the people of Gibraltar; but there are wider issues in the Western world which have also to be taken into account.

The basic United Kingdom pledge to the people of Gibraltar must remain firm; that goes absolutely without saying. But on matters of reciprocity and other negotiating points statemanship will surely be needed. Meanwhile, Spain should surely accept that to assume that all rights which would ultimately be achieved under EEC membership should be granted forthwith, without any further discussion and without any relaxation on the frontier, is a completely unrealistic stance. Some real generosity on the part of Spain and some touch of imagination, so utterly lacking in the previous Spanish regime, is obviously required when dealing with the Gibraltarians, who have been subjected to so many years of restriction. Earlier still, as some of us remember, they had to be evacuated to London during the last war in the struggle in which we were both engaged. If the Spanish Government—which has done so extraordinarily well in such very difficult circumstances, but still has very great difficulties to overcome—could simply realise that there are situations in which nobility may be the best policy, there might be some hope.

4.40 p.m.

My Lords, I am sure that noble Lords will appreciate my fear at having to follow the most statesmanlike contribution from the noble Baroness, Lady White. I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Bethell for moving this Motion. I believe it to be most timely. However, I must express regret that he saw fit to word his Motion in the way that he did, for I believe that no person could be blamed for interpreting the Motion as suggesting that a stick should be held over the head of the Spanish people; that settlement or part settlement of the Gibraltar question should be a condition precedent upon the Kingdom of Spain's accession to the European Economic Community. I entirely agree, with respect, with the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, that to suggest that is at least tactless and undoubtedly wrong, for it should never be forgotten that no part of the Gibraltar problem was made a condition precedent upon the United Kingdom's accession to the European Economic Community.

No person who has studied this complex problem in depth could, I most humbly suggest, come to any other conclusion than to describe the situation as born of an historical myth, that it is a defence anachronism, an economic liability and a hideous diplomatic embarrassment. Be that as it may—and your Lordships will no doubt be delighted to learn that I have no intention of developing these premises—I am most concerned as to why the stated agreement of both Governments involved appears not to have been implemented. We have heard in part the text of the Anglo-Spanish agreement and it really is quite clear. I should like to read two sentences. It says that the Spanish have
"decided to suspend the application of the measures at present in force. Both Governments have agreed that future co-operation should be on the basis of reciprocity and full equality of rights".
Those two sentences lie back to back. Indeed, just before that statement they passed, in the lower House of the Spanish Parliament, a motion which read, in part, that they invite the Government, that is the Spanish Government:
"to open the border as and when the progress of negotiations allow".
So we immediately see—and I am not being narrow and legalistic about this—that it appears that the Government of His Majesty the King of Spain have taken the two sentences together. However, as it reads, they are both separate. That is most unfortunate. But I cannot personally believe that either the Gibraltarians or the Spanish Government could be quibbling on so narrow a point of interpretation.

Your Lordships will recall that the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, suggested—if I may say so, in uncharacteristically vigorous language—that the sole responsibility for apparent inaction lies with the Government of His Majesty the King of Spain. I most seriously question that fact, and in so doing may I ask my noble friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whether Her Majesty's Government are entirely satisfied that every encouragement, from all sides, has been received in order to implement the stated agreement to re-establish direct communications? And if there has been any hindrance, what is the nature of that hindrance?

4.55 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, for opening this debate. I think that he was the right person to do so because I understand that he is an MEP. I should also like to hope that this debate will strengthen the hand of my noble friend the Foreign Secretary because he has seen, from all sides of the House, that he has support in his negotiations.

May I say a few words in regard to the point put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon. The other day we had a debate in this House on the Social Fund. I noticed that Luxembourg is eligible, and therefore I presume that the Gibraltarians may be eligible for this fund. That would be very advantageous for them as regards re-training, other occupations and helping with their industries. So perhaps my noble friend, when he comes to reply, will be able to help me about that matter.

I believe that this debate has given us all an opportunity to say to the Gibraltarians that they can definitely trust this Government to look after their welfare. Their wishes are paramount. I understand that in the other place in a Written Answer to a Question on 15th January this year in regard to the Nationality Bill it was stated at column 612 that:
"Gibraltarians also have the right, as United Kingdom nationals for European Community purposes, to enter the United Kingdom to seek and take up employment. That will remain the position".
That was a definite reply by the Home Secretary in the other place.

Also, the Minister, in replying to the Adjournment Debate raised by the honourable Member for Melton, said, at column 1599 on 10th December last:
"Her Majesty's Government will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another State against their freely and democratically expressed wishes".
That is one of the matters that it is perhaps difficult, at present, for the Spanish Government to understand.

Gibraltar has free elections and it is interesting to see that there are eight members of the Labour Party; six members of the Democratic Party for British Gibraltar—which I think speaks for itself—and one other. There are also—and this has not been mentioned previously—extremely well-organised trade unions which ensure that there is no cheap labour. They have the help of the Moroccans who I think they appreciate very much because they are very good workers. Furthermore, it has been mentioned that there are Royal Naval Dockyards and when we consider the money that is given to Gibraltar, I understand that the £15 million is mostly spent on the dockyards. At present they have two frigates, which they are repairing, and a warship.

There is a memorandum which has been signed by over 400 Gibraltarian servicemen, ex-servicemen and/or war veterans which was handed to His Excellency the Governor for transmission to Her Majesty's Government. It states among other matters that in the referendum held in 1967 at the instigation of the United Kingdom Government, an overwhelming majority of the people declared their wish to retain their links with the United Kingdom, and any change in the national status of the Gibraltarians is a breach of the terms of the referendum of 1967.

Ever since 1703, when the British took the Rock from the Spanish, the Gibraltarians have been most loyal to the United Kingdom and to the Commonwealth. They have, as I think has been mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady White, given us great help in two world wars. I understand that the British gates remain open and although it would be a convenience if the Spanish gates were also open, Gibraltarians have shown that they can manage well as they are at present. So, when my noble friend replies, I should like to know when the report dealing with 'the prospects of a commercial port will be ready. I understand that it is due in early 1981. Perhaps we can discuss it in connection with help for future industry and use of the port.

In conclusion, I should like to point out that Gibraltarians have always shown that they are very good Commonwealth members. They are members of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, both the regional and the area, and they send their MPs to national conferences and they attend courses here. They are well-liked and respected by the rest of the Commonwealth. I think that they would have the support of the Commonwealth in this debate if the Commonwealth members were here.

4.50 p.m.

My Lords, I apologise for not having put my name down on the list, but having listened to the debate one thought has occurred to me. There is no doubt that Spain, in taking actions which are against Gibraltarian interests, has also taken actions which are against British interests. Can the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary tell us whether there is anything in the Treaty of Rome or in EEC regulations as a whole to prevent one member state from taking action which is against the interests of another?

My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary will allow me to make two remarks. If I did not do so, I think that I would find myself in trouble with many of my friends in Gibraltar who have written and asked me to speak in support. I negotiated the constitution under which they now live, which contains the very important words that the people of Gibraltar are part of Her Majesty's Dominions and will not be handed over to anyone else without their agreement. I want to remind the House of those words because my anxiety in all debates concerning Gibraltar is that, when we start talking, "if", "we should", or "we ought" to maintain our support for Gibraltar, in Gibraltar it undoubtedly creates an element of doubt which I know is not intended. I hope that the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary will make it very clear that the preamble of the constitution is there, and that those words cannot be removed without an Act of both Houses of this Parliament.

I should like to make one other comment. I very much support what my noble friend Lady White said about Spain. What has happened in Spain since the death of Franco has indeed been remarkable. All democracies are fragile and we should always treat them as fragile and not as something that is always certain. But the progress in Spain, and the recognition by the Government of Spain of the need to devolve responsibility into certain of the regions in that country, should give us cause for some hope. With regard to Spain and Gibraltar, my own belief is that one day they really will have to live close together. It has nothing to do with their constitutions or their sovereignties. But if progress is to be made, I believe that it must be found from Spain. If Spain could only make one great act of generosity towards Gibraltar, a great deal could be achieved for the good of Gibraltar in the future.

It is no good talking of the past. Many young people are growing up in Gibraltar who want a different life from that which is solely within Gibraltar today. But for Spain to make that act requires a degree of caution by Parliament itself in the way in which we express ourselves. If Spain is to make this gesture, it would need to be in a period of quiet. So let us ask the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary to maintain a quiet pressure upon the Spanish Government—not one of threats, but one of statesmanship and friendship.

4.53 p.m.

My Lords, I join with all your Lordships who have spoken to say that we are very grateful to my noble friend Lord Bethell for having put down this Motion on the Order Paper and enabled us to have the debate that we have had this afternoon. Indeed, I think that I would be hard put to it to say that I disagreed with much of what has been said in the debate. The speeches from noble Lords opposite seem to me, in a way, rather more like old boys' day and old girls' day (if the noble Baroness will forgive me) than anything else. I know that one of the old boys, in the shape of the noble Lord, Lord Lee, has had to leave to go to another meeting which may perhaps have a closer bearing on events opposite than my reply.

My noble friend Lord Bethell is very well-qualified to introduce this Motion because he is a Member of the European Parliament, and from that position he has a particular insight into the issues raised by Gibraltar's position in the Community and by the prospect of Spanish accession. I am particularly pleased that my noble friend and some of his colleagues in the European Parliament have formed, with the endorsement of the Gibraltar House of Assembly, a group called the Gibraltar in Europe Representation Group, to watch over Gibraltar's interests. This was on their initiative and nothing to do with the British Government. But it is a tribute to the concern for the people of Gibraltar which is felt by my noble friend and others in the European Parliament, and which is certainly shared by your Lordships and by Her Majesty's Government.

I think that the timing of the debate is rather happy because a Gibraltar Parliamentary Group has been reconstituted here at Westminster. Its revival doubtless owes something to the visit to Gibraltar last October by a delegation from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The group's first formal meeting will, I think, take place later today.

The Government very much welcome the increase in the interest in Gibraltar and its problems, evidenced by these developments, on the part of both Houses of Parliament and the European Parliament. As has been said earlier today, the Chief Minister and the Leader of the Opposition from Gibraltar are here for a meeting of the new Parliamentary Group, and so is the Leader of the Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party. They are, as usual, most welcome in London. If they were to come to observe this debate in your Lordships' House, they would be very welcome too, though it would be quite improper for me to suggest that they are or are not here at the present time! I look forward to seeing Sir Joshua and Mr. Isola on Friday. I believe that they are right to maintain a bipartisan approach to the Gibraltar question, where they give strong and effective leadership. We keep in close touch with them and value the mutual trust and esteem which has marked our dealings over the past rather difficult year.

Before answering the particular questions which have been raised by noble Lords in this debate, it might perhaps be useful if I reported very briefly on the developments over the implementation of the agreement made in Lisbon, made—as a number of your Lordships have reminded the House—over nine months ago; but the frontier remains closed and negotiations have not started. Meanwhile the people of Gibraltar have borne the disappointment and delay with their cus- tomary fortitude and good humour, and they continue to prosper, despite the difficulties which have been put in their path.

I feel a little unwilling to intervene in what obviously has been a fascinating dialogue between my noble friends Lord Selsdon and Lord Trefgarne. From what my noble friend Lord Selsdon has said this afternoon, it appears a bit complicated. But it seems to me that it would be rather difficult for the British Government to designate Gibraltar as part of metropolitan Britain when it quite clearly is not. It is a Crown colony. As such, I think that it would be very difficult for the Government to do that. I also think that there is some difficulty in the suggestion—when, alas! there is a very large amount of unemployment in this country—that we should devote regional funds for that purpose to Gibraltar, where there is not a large amount of unemployment. However, that does not mean that we do not think that it is necessary to help Gibraltar. On the whole, although I would like to look at the point which my noble friend has raised, I think it is better that the help should come direct from the British Government than from the ways that he has suggested.

Quite apart from developments on the social and political side, the growth of the Gibraltar economy demonstrates what my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter said; the barrenness of the policy of restrictions both economically and politically—and the Gibraltarians have clearly shown that their skill and resourcefulness is as strong as their loyalty. The agreement concluded at Lisbon in April last year was to start negotiations aimed at overcoming all the differences between Britain and Spain on Gibraltar, and to re-establish direct communications. It was agreed that future co-operation should be on the basis of reciprocity and full equality of rights.

The Spanish wish to restore the territorial integrity of Spain, and that wish was recorded. So was the intention of the British Government fully to maintain their commitment to honour freely and democratically expressed wishes of the people of Gibraltar as set out in the preamble to the constitution, about which the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has reminded us. Perhaps it is as well for the record just to spell that out a little more clearly.

Under the agreement anything could be discussed in the negotiations. But the British Government's commitment is clear and as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar. The preamble to the constitution cited in the Lisbon agreement, says this:
"Her Majesty's Government will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democractically expressed wishes".
Nothing could be clearer than that.

What then has happened since it was envisaged in Lisbon nine months ago that preparations for implementing the agreement would be completed not later than 1st June? All was ready on the British side of the frontier. A great deal of work was put in hand in the six weeks following the conclusion of the Lisbon agreement, so that Gibraltar would be able to cope with an open frontier in circumstances very different from those of 11 years ago. Indeed, the gates had anyway stood open since the Spaniards shut theirs in 1969.

The administrative difficulties on the other side were doubtless much more complicated. The problems were examined at three sessions of technical talks held in Madrid in May and June. Officials from Gibraltar took part in these as members of the British delegation. The main hold-up in recent months has been over the clarification of the Lisbon agreement itself: the implications of its wording for the regime to apply each side of the frontier once communication is restored. My right honourable friend the Lord Privy Seal visited Madrid earlier this month. His visit was not primarily concerned with Gibraltar—Spain is, after all, as so many of your Lordships have said, a major European country of great importance to Britain, with whom we have close relations and share a great many interests in various fields.

Like their predecessor, the Government support Spain's application to join the European Community. We have made no formal link with the lifting of restrictions on Gibraltar. Enlargement is in our interest, as well as in Spain's, now that democracy has been fully restored. We would also welcome it, as other noble Lords have said, if Spain wished to join NATO. It is very much in the West's interests that Spain should take her rightful and full part in Western Europe. It is gratifying, incidentally, to note that our trade has been increasing rapidly: British exports to Spain were worth about £1,300 million last year, an increase of over 19 per cent. on the previous year. In short, we have much in common and many shared interests with this major Western European country.

The Lord Privy Seal took the opportunity of his visit to Madrid to review with the new Spanish Foreign Minister the technical exchanges over Gibraltar. The commitment of both Governments to the Lisbon agreement was reaffirmed. The Lord Privy Seal stressed our hope that it could be implemented without further delay, making the point that that was every bit as much in Spain's interest as in Britain's or Gibraltar's. I reiterate again how much I agree with what my noble friend below the gangway has said.

He also of course took up my noble friend's point on the question of the Spanish Prohibited Area, of which my noble friend has spoken on a number of occasions before. The prohibited area restricts the movement of aircraft landing at and taking off from the airfield at Gibraltar. Although, as he says, it is not a direct hazard, I entirely agree with him that it interferes unnecessarily with aircraft movements and should be modified or removed. We have left the Spanish Government in no doubt over our views.

Here perhaps I might answer a point made by my noble friend Lord Merrivale, who talked about British Airways' decision to discontinue their Madrid-Gibraltar service. I think the noble Lord will find that this was entirely on commercial grounds, and I have no reason to suppose that the prohibited area influenced their decision. I do not think it is true to say that the application lodged by GibAir to fly that route has been objected to by the Spanish Government. I think what has happened is that we have not had an answer and the facilities have not been accorded. I very much hope that they soon will be.

No one would deny, or indeed could deny, that we have run into difficulties over the implementation of the Lisbon agreement. But it is not dead, and there has not been a breakdown. We certainly are ready to implement that agreement in the terms that we signed it, and have been ready to implement it since June last year. I hope we shall not have to wait much longer, and certainly the agreement should be implemented long before Spanish accession to the Community. Perhaps I might say to the noble Lord, Lord Somers, if I got the burden of his question aright, that I think there is no doubt that a closed frontier between two members of the European Community is not something which could be accepted under the obligations which every country assumes when it signs the Treaty of Rome.

I do not think at this particular moment that it would be in anyone's interest, and certainly not that of the people of Gibraltar who have patiently put up with harassment for some 16 years, to whip up active dispute about who is to blame for the delays, or why. I have already referred to the loyalty and resourcefulness of the Gibraltarians. These are qualities which have been cited, among other reasons, for criticising the proposals in the recently laid Nationality Bill, which several of my noble friends and the noble Baroness opposite mentioned in their speeches. I do not myself believe that the close ties between ourselves and the Gibraltarians are going to be weakened by this measure. Nor, incidentally, will the position of Gibraltarians be in any way adversely affected in practice. They are losing nothing.

The Government, however, recognise that the strength of Gibraltarian loyalty is reflected in a passionate depth of feeling on the nationality issue. The memorandum which all leading Gibraltarians addressed to me was very carefully considered by the Home Secretary and myself. The present rights of access to the United Kingdom for Gibraltarians will not be affected by the new legislation. I am satisfied that Gibraltarian interests are being safeguarded.

As in other important matters, we have kept in very close touch over this issue with the Governor of Gibraltar and Gibraltar's elected leaders. I do not think I would ask them to endorse the proposals in the Bill, but I hope that their main anxieties have been met. The fact that Gibraltar is part of the territory of the European Community is very relevant in this context, as in others. Gibraltarians have free access to this country, as they do to all other Community countries, to seek and take up work, and there is no question of such rights being curtailed.

To return to the question of the frontier reopening, I am afraid I can only counsel further patience, without at this stage wishing to inspire either great optimism or great pessimism. Much fortitude and good sense have been shown by the people of Gibraltar over the years. I cannot give them or your Lordships any guarantees over timing. But I have no doubt that sooner or later patience will be rewarded, and certainly we as the Government will continue to work to see that it is sooner rather than later.

The future for both Gibraltar and Spain, as for Britain and Spain, must lie in close co-operation. Only through working together in restored confidence can the history of the past 15 years or more be effaced and solutions of the various problems found. I think all your Lordships would agree from what we have heard this afternoon that the area would be a very prosperous one if Gibraltarians and Spaniards worked together. I hope, as does the House, that they will soon be enabled to do so.

5.12 p.m.

My Lords, this has been an extremely interesting, well-attended and vigorous debate, and I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part, and in particular to my noble friend the Secretary of State for finding time in an extremely busy schedule to reply at the end of our remarks. It is particularly appropriate that he has been able to do so, since it was he who signed the Lisbon Agreement last April. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Goronwy-Roberts, for adding with his usual eloquence a valuable contribution to our debate and for making it clear how much we want to smooth Spain's re-entry into the Western world, and I believe he said also the European Community.

I am delighted to hear that, my Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, indicated that he thought a solution might lie in autonomy provisions eventually being laid before Spanish communities. I cannot of course speak for the people of Gibraltar, but it is my impression that any such idea at the moment would not be acceptable to more than a handful of people in that territory, but of course that is for them to determine.

I was particularly interested in the remarks of my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter and his extremely astute analysis of the risks inherent in the present restrictions on overflying of the Algeciras region, a valuable point which I am glad was taken up by the Secretary of State. There will shortly be a new airport built in Gibraltar and I hope that that will enable tourism in the whole region to be expanded, once the frontier is opened. Of course it would be absurd for any tiny element of risk to be brought into more aircraft traffic flying into and out of that rather irregularly constructed landstrip.

My noble friend Lord Merrivale and others mentioned the question of British nationality which is now going through another place. I take the point made by my noble friend the Secretary of State, that in practical terms the Gibraltarians will not be affected by what is proposed. Nevertheless, I feel strongly that British citizens for EEC purposes, as Gibraltarians are, should remain as British citizens, and speaking personally I hope your Lordships will amend that Bill when it comes before this House.

The noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, mentioned the Helsinki Agreement and it may well be that the Government will see fit under certain circumstances to raise the question of the frontier restrictions in Madrid —what better place?—when the Helsinki Agreement talks reconvene.

My noble friend Lord Selsdon spoke of the possi- bility of EEC benefits for Gibraltar and suggested that perhaps Gibraltar might be designated a development area. That would be an excellent proposal and I do not see that the fact that there is full employment in Gibraltar should necessarily rule out that possibility. The income level in Gibraltar is lower than that in the United Kingdom and that too should be a criterion. My noble friend seems to have no difficulty in gaining unofficial answers from the European Commission, but, if ever he wants any help from the Gibraltar in Europe Representation Group, we should be glad to give it to him, having special expertise in that area.

The noble Baroness, Lady White, suggested it was possible that the Spanish Government was afraid of losing face by doing a volte-face over the frontier restrictions. She may be right, but with great respect to her and the Spanish Government, it is my impression that if they do not lift these restrictions now they will have to do so anyway in a short space of time, and then they will lose even more face. My noble friend Lord Morris suggested that the lifting of restrictions was not a precondition to EEC entry for Spain. As the Secretary of State indicated, it is not a formal precondition and has never been made so by the British Government. However, it is my impression that to all intents and purposes it is a precondition, and I think the letter, which was carefully phrased and which was quoted by my noble friend Lord Selsdon, makes that abundantly clear; they cannot come in with a closed frontier between Spain and Gibraltar.

I was delighted to hear the contribution made by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, who negotiated the new constitution, and to have the point made absolutely clear by him and by the Secretary of State—the cardinal point to come out of this debate—that whatever may happen in the next generation, we in this country have a responsibility to protect subjects of Her Majesty and we cannot abandon them at the request of another power. I am delighted that that point came through loud and clear from the Secretary of State's speech. We want closer relations with Spain—no one is a keener proponent of that than I am—but Gibraltar is a stumbling block which I hope will be overcome, the sooner the better. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

English: Simplification Of The Language

5.19 p.m.

rose to call attention to the benefits which would flow from a simplification of the English language; and to move for Papers.

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, at the beginning of last Session, on 21st November, 1979, the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, opened a general debate on the English language. Your Lordships will be delighted to hear that we are again to be favoured with a contribution from him today. I intervened in that debate, but on a very much narrower issue, the issue I bring before the House today; namely, the desirablity of a simplification of the English language and the benefits that would flow from that. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, replying to the debate, was rather curtailed by the volubility of those of us

who contributed to it, and she could deal only quite shortly with the matters that were raised by individual noble Lords.

So far as I was concerned, I suggested that the matter might he dealt with by a language commission, rather on the lines of the highly successful Law Commission that we have had. The noble Baroness replied to that suggestion merely with the word, "quango," and said that we cannot conceive of having more Quangos. I think that since that time the Government have recognised that there are Quangos and Quangos, and that many of them are valuable. The noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, the other day made that very point and so, emboldened by that, I ventured to put down this Motion, and I am encouraged by the number and the distinction of the noble Lords who propose to contribute to today's debate. Your Lordships will in particular be looking forward to the maiden speech of my noble and learned friend Lord Bridge of Harwich, who brings great juristic gifts to your Lordships' House, and I think that after hearing him today, your Lordships will be assured that his contributions go wider than that.

I am asked by the noble Lord the Chief Whip to draw attention to the length of the debate and to the number of speakers, and to point out that the ration works out at about nine minutes for each speaker. The noble Lord did not give me that figure, and I am barely numerate, but that is what I make it. The noble Baroness will tell me if I am wrong. I shall try to improve on that myself by curtailing the introductory remarks that I propose to lay before your Lordships.

The importance of the English language hardly needs emphasis. It was brought out by the debate of 21st November 1979. I think that over 340 million people speak English as their first language, and there must be almost as many who speak English as their second language. It is even more important than that. In many of the developing countries there has been an attempt to have one of the vernaculars as a national language—for example, Hindi in India, but that is unacceptable to the Tamil—speaking people in the south of India, and English remains the lingua franca. The same applies in many places elsewhere. I think that in Uganda, with all its native languages, no single first language is spoken by more than 16 per cent. of the people, and again English is the lingua franca; and so on in many other places.

So I think that your Lordships will be assured that we owe a duty not only to those who speak English as their first language, and who therefore have to learn it as their first language, but also to those who with greater difficulty learn English as their second language. In many respects English is a superb language to learn, a remarkably easy language to learn, owing to, for example, the rubbing away of inflection by the inter—penetration of various people who have come to these islands. But for years it has been recognised that English presents one very great difficulty. The grammarians have technical names for it, but we describe it as the difference, the discrepancy, between spelling and pronunciation. The Bullock Report, A Language for Life, drew attention to that. I am very sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Bullock, cannot be here today. He wrote me a letter apologizing

and saying that he hoped that the Motion would be carried. My only trepidation about that is that the Motion ends with a Motion for Papers, and I do not know what I would do with any Papers that were vouchsafed as a result of the passing of the Motion. Nevertheless, again and again in the Bullock Report one finds the problems that are aroused by the discrepancy between spelling and pronunciation.

There is one very easy reform that we can make, and that is to adopt the American spelling where it differs from ours. We read it almost every day in American books which are reproduced in this country by various technical methods. For example, nobody has any difficulty in spelling honour "honor". It is etymologically right. That is the way that it was spelt by the great leader of the noble Baroness's party, Lord Beaconsfield; and I see that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, is on the Back—Benches, proposing to speak. He was, I think, Grand Master of the Primrose League—I see he nods—and so I hope that he will favour that simple improvement. It is not just that one word—there are also, for example, the words, "favour" and "ardour". Every time one of those words is typed by a typist, every time it is printed by a printer, time is wasted, material is wasted. Can we really afford such waste these days? Is what I have suggested not the simplest possible reform and improvement that we can make quite painlessly? There are similar examples, such as the spelling of the word "traveller" with only one 1, and the word "travelled" with only one 1. So that is the first reform that I would venture to urge on your Lordships that could be consummated without the smallest difficulty.

Then, again, I think the only respect in which our own usage is superior to that of the United States is in the word "wilful", for which I think they use two "1"s; but if in the word "wilful" we can use one "1" for the "will" and one "1" for the "full", why can we not spell "will" as "wil" and "full" as "ful"? That was the way that Robert Bridges spelt it in his great poem, The Testament of Beauty, which your Lordships will have read without the smallest difficulty, without the smallest adverse reaction. Can the noble Baroness point to anywhere within her sphere of responsibility where a 25 per cent. saving, economy, could be made without the smallest pain, without any difficulty and without offending anybody except the most inveterate obscurantist?

My Lords, I think that is enough to say about spelling, because others of your Lordships will no doubt wish to expatiate on that, but then there is grammar. The tendency of our language has been to eliminate irregular verbs. I suppose that most your Lordships will, as children, have had the Schoolboy's Diary, and the noble Baroness will have had the equivalent Schoolgirl's Diary with the tables of irregular verbs, and will remember how we used to puzzle over them. A child says "teached" as the past participle of "teach". He says "reached". Formerly, the past participle of "reach" was "raught", but without difficulty we now say "reached". Why should we not eliminate all those irregular verbs and make them regular?

The only reason why the English language, so far as I know, has not developed in that way is because of the advent of printing, which has crystallised spelling and

crystallised grammar. In one respect in grammar there has been a development, and your Lordships may well think it an adverse one. In the 18th century one said, "I was, we was, they was". We now make it much more difficult and say, "We were, they were". That is what we have to teach our children, and that is what we have to teach those who honour us by learning English as their second language. So that, in general, is the sort of simplification that I would venture to urge in this debate.

How should we do it? Obviously, there are some of the improvements that stand out so clearly, that are so uncontroversial, that they could be done by statute. A Bill was recently, a few years ago, introduced in another place. I am sorry to say it was blocked by the noble Baroness's department. But at the end of the last century, when Germany was in its great creative era, they had a verb "to do" which was spelt "thun". For centuries the "h" had never been pronounced, and quite simply by legislative effort they decided that "thun" should be spelt "tun". A lot of people—they are the people I venture to call obscurantists—objected, but now everybody takes it for granted; and, again, 25 per cent. of type and of the time of typists and type-setters are saved. Can the noble Baroness suggest another area within her departmental responsibility where 25 per cent. can be saved?

The Bullock Committee drew attention also to the fact that children have to learn two sets of alphabet, the ordinary lower case alphabet and capitals; and of those capitals, 17 give no idea at all of the minuscule, the lower case, which they represent. It is not merely a question of a typist or a printer here: there are literally hundreds of thousands of pounds at stake. I heard the other day of somebody who had to decide on the installation of computers into his concern, and one of the questions he had to decide was whether the computer should process upper case letters, capital letters, as well as lower case letters. They decided, in fact, in favour of capital letters because all their secretaries had been trained to recognise and differentiate between upper and lower case. But that cost them thousands of pounds; and if one thinks of the number of companies which are now installing computers, should one not look at that problem?

So that is the next solution that I was going to venture to lay before your Lordships. Why should we not have an inquiry into this? We have had Royal Commissions on this, we have had departmental committees on that and we have had working parties on the other. The one thing we have not looked into is the simplification of the English language, although people have been agitating for the past 100 years on the subject. People as diverse ideologically as Bernard Shaw and Robert Bridges were at one on this. I am sorry to have to say this, but what has stood in the way is the tradition in the Ministry of Education and its successors. I am all for a department having a tradition and sticking to it, as long as it does not do the sort of damage that this particular obstruction is doing.

Finally, I come to my last specific—I do not apologise for repeating it—and that is a permanent Language Commission. Now that the Government have admitted that some Quangos are beneficial (and no doubt the noble Baroness has heard from my noble and learned

friend the Lord Chancellor how valuable the Law Commission has been) should we not have a Language Commission to look into this—perhaps a Royal Commission first, but then a Language Commission as a permanent institution? My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

5.40 p.m.

My Lords, I am sure that we are all very glad that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, chose this subject when he was lucky in the ballot for a short debate. I certainly have listened to his speech with the greatest of interest. I shall also try to speak for only a short time since the debate has attracted a number of speakers and f know that we are all looking forward to the maiden speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bridge of Harwich.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, spoke about the difference between spelling and pronunciation; but just as important, in my view, is the structure of sentences and the correct meaning of words. I shall hope to show how important this is during my speech. Our language, which is after all a method of communication, must be and indeed always has been in a developing state. Usages which are current in one generation pass out of favour in the next. What was not acceptable to a previous generation may well become current and acceptable later on.

The split infinitive was not considered correct English when I was a boy. I remember that when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and I were at school together at Gresham's, there was a contest among the boys to count up the number of times that the masters split infinitives. Now, I gather, it is acceptable to split an infinitive, just as it is acceptable to use the objective pronoun "me" after the verb "to be". Indeed, to reply, "It is I", in answer to the question, "Who is there?", would be rather pedantic today. On the other hand, my Lords, one must I think be concerned at some modern tendencies: the use of more words than are necessary, and the general sloppiness of sentence structure.

Is this the fault of the way English grammar is taught in our schools? The best way to learn English grammar used to be through the discipline of Latin. But now Latin is rarely taught in the public sector and one must ask, what is being done to ensure that English grammar is properly taught? Perhaps the noble Baroness, the Minister of State, will have something to say on this when she comes to reply.

In France, where they have, of course, a better and more democratic system of education than we have, French people in all walks of life usually have a healthy respect for their language, they construct their sentences better in conversation and they still write letters in elegant French. The French, of course, have their Academy. I was interested in what the noble and learned Lord said and his proposal for a permanent language commission. The Scots, Welsh and Irish also have the advantage over us. I am very glad that my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek is to speak today. With two languages—their own and English—they have a richer vocabulary and more command of sentence structure. I believe also that in Elizabethan times English had a much richer vocabulary than it has now. We only have to read Shakespeare to realise that.

English is subjected to various influences, particularly television and American, which has become almost a different language. The noble and learned Lord touched on the matter of American and spoke about the different spellings. But in my opinion the structure is just as important, and here American is becoming very, very different from English. For example, in American the verb "to protest" is now often used without a preposition: "He protested Vietnam war", "He protested Algeria", instead of "against" or "about" or whatever it is. This of course can lead to complications once one starts telescoping a language in this way.

Then we have, in English in this country, the flight from the verb. This means using at least three words where one will do. People today never confer, they have a conference. They rarely meet, they hold a meeting. A simple adverb such as "now" on television has become "at this moment in time". The subjunctive is all over the place with usage such as "I would agree" instead of the simple indicative "I agree". And in written English, certainly in commerce, "should" and "shall" are rarely used for the first person. "Disinterested", which means unbiased, is used when people mean "uninterested". "Less" is used instead of "fewer"—sometimes by Government spokesmen, I regret to say—and we hear that something is "almost unique", which means of course that it is not unique at all.

The lack of appreciation of the meaning and impact of words can sometimes lead to trouble and embarrassment and this is why in my humble view it is more important really than the way words are spelt. It can lead to embarrassment, such as the occasion when an Englishman asked a Moslem Arab for a note of his Christian name.

Therefore, my Lords, while I agree that we must not be too pedantic, I think that there is concern at the way English is taught and used today. Now that Latin has almost disappeared, how is the basic meaning of words and the structure of the language being taught to the younger generation? I hope that the noble Baroness will have something to say on this when she comes to teply.

5.46 p.m.

My Lords, we are indeed very grateful to the noble and learned Lord for giving us this opportunity to discuss this very interesting question. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has given me the opportunity to mention something which was going to be my last point in our last debate about English which the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, initiated, but time prevented me from doing so on that occasion. I was going to relate to your Lordships a conversation that I had with the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, about the use of the word, "unique" and how one cannot say, "very unique". The noble Lord, Lord Raglan, said: "Well, no two apples in this world are identical. Such is the miraculous power of the Almightly, no two apples are made identical. Therefore, in a sense you can say that every apple is unique. But if you came upon an apple in the shape of Hampton Court you could surely say that that one was more unique than all the others"! I leave that matter, but I am glad to have had the opportunity to have remembered it.

I think it was Cecil Rhodes who said, "So much to do and so little time". This evening there is so much to say and so little time. There is no question that if there is to be a world language it is going to be English. Whether it is going to be English English or American English I do not know. I suppose that it will be a mixture of the two. I suppose that I am prejudiced in favour of English English, and I would say under this heading to the noble and learned Lord that although the Americans economise a little in their spelling, they undo this good work by always preferring the longer word to the shorter. The Englishman leaves his flat by the lift and he goes in his car to see a film. The American leaves his apartment by the elevator and he gets into his automobile and goes to see a motion picture. If I were a foreigner struggling to understand the language, I would know which version of that sentence I would prefer to hear.

If we are going to foist our language upon the world as its world language, we certainly owe the world a duty to provide them with a form of English which is easily teached as we have just been teached to say!

I do not think this is necessarily peculiar to English, but it is our idioms which are so horrifying for foreigners to understand. Supposing you were introduced to a professional footballer from South America with a rudimentary knowledge of English and you said to him, "How do you do?", he might say to you, as Sir Noel Coward used to say, "How do I do what?" After that unpromising start you may say to him, "I used to play football quite a lot". He might say, "Used to play—what does that mean?" then you say, "I meant that I once played". He would say, "How could you once play football quite a lot?" Then you might say, "I mean that once upon a time I played football". He might then say, "'Once upon a time' does not seem to mean anything at all"—and so it goes on.

I do not think there is any cure. Our idioms are so ingrained in the language that we could not get rid of them, however hard we tried. I think foreigners simply have to struggle away and try to understand them. But there are things we can do. Surely we can get rid of those ugly "ough" suffixes, which look so ugly on the printed page and which are no guide to pronunciation. An "ough" word can rhyme with "low", with "now", with "off", with "who", or with "cuff". I applaud the good work being done by the English Speaking Union and by the BBC World Service in trying to do what we are seeking this evening to achieve; but they lapse from time to time, as we all do. It is quite common on the BBC World Service to hear that some event, "has got under way". The other day the BBC—I think it was on the World Service—told us that some conference, after a certain delay, finally "got off the ground".

I have been in communication with Mr. Douglas Muggeridge, the Managing Director of BBC External Broadcasting, and he points out that the BBC feel themselves in some difficulty because they address themselves in the World Service not only to people with a rudimentary understanding of English but to many professional people and diplomats with a perfectly good command of the language, and they do not wish to be thought to be talking down to them.

I think it is possible to have the best of both worlds. If your Lordships read the collected lectures to law students by the noble and learned Master of the Rolls, Lord Denning, you will find there a delightful simplicity of language without any suggestion at all of talking down to his audience.

There are many speakers and I think my time is about up. Let me finish by quoting a sentence from the Managing Director of External Broadcasting, reminding me of the work being done by the English-by-Radio and Television Department. I quote:
"They have, for instance, produced programmes teaching the simplified standard formulae devised for communication in international air transport and others teaching the Standard Marine Navigational Vocabulary…".
Finally, I would say, "Good luck" to the English Speaking Union and to the BBC World Service.

5.54 p.m.

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to my noble and learned friend Lord Simon of Glaisdale for the quite undeserved, flattering remarks with which he was kind enough to commend me to your Lordships. My only fear is that after such a glowing "commercial" you will be sadly disappointed in the product! I understand, of course, that as a maiden speaker I am not expected to be controversial. That I find rather daunting because my experience in life has been that I can hardly ever say anything without being liable to provoke somebody to disagree with me; so if I transgress in that respect I crave your Lordships' forgiveness in advance. At all events I shall start by sitting decorously on the fence and saying of the proposals so brilliantly expounded by my noble and learned friend for the simplification of the English language that I see that they could yield enormous advantages, but at the same time I see them confronted by formidable obstacles—and I hope nothing could be less controversial than that.

One minor problem occurs to me and it occurs to my mind because of something that happened some years ago when I was trying a criminal case on the Western Circuit. I had just concluded my summing-up and sent a West Country jury out to deliberate on their verdict. I had not been in my room for more than a few minutes when I received a note from the foreman of the jury. It read:
"Would your Lordship be kind enough to give us a further explanation of what you mean by the onus of proof'?"
The note was written in what looked like a quite well-educated hand, but unfortunately "onus" was spelt "owners". I am not quite sure how my noble and learned friend's proposals for assimilating spelling to pronunciation would be able to grapple with that problem!

I hope I do not digress on to something which is irrelevant to the main topic of this debate if I say there is one field where the cry for simplification of language is by no means a new one: that is in the field of legislation itself; and, of course, foremost among those raising such a cry have been none other than Her Majesty's judges. The complexity of statutory language is a favourite target for judicial sallies of wit and sarcasm. May I quote what I always regard as a classic instance of this kind? It comes from a judgment of the late Lord Justice Harman, delivered in a case in which I appeared before him in the Court of Appeal, unsuccessfully— and unsuccessfully, I fear, again in your Lordships' House. It was a case concerning the meaning of some provisions of the Land Compensation Act 1961, and Lord Justice Harman began his judgment in this way:
"To reach a conclusion on this matter involved the court in wading through a monstrous legislative morass, staggering from stone to stone and ignoring the marsh—gas exhaling from the forest of schedules lining the way on each side. 1 regarded it at one time, I must confess, as a slough of despond through which the court would never drag its feet but I have, by leaping from tussock to tussock as best I might, eventually pale and exhausted, reached the other side where I find myself, I am glad to say, at the same point as that arrived at with more agility by Lord Denning, Master of the Rolls".
It is at this point where I have to confess myself to be something of a judicial heretic. Here it may be that I am trespassing on a potentially controversial area but, while that kind of sally is immensely entertaining, I sometimes cannot help thinking that the criticism it implies is a little bit unfair because, of course, the criticism is directed primarily at the parliamentary draftsman, whom I have always regarded as an unjustly maligned character, and it is directed indirectly against the legislature itself.

The answer to the criticism is that when Parliament is legislating on many subjects, of which the fixing of compensation for compulsory acquisition is a very good example, 90 per cent. of the complexity of language which finds its way into the Act of Parliament is really inherent in the legislative process itself. The draftsman is required to embody in statutory terms some highly sophisticated social policy, articulated in great detail and required to be imposed on an already complicated social structure. Above all, the statutory terms must—if language can achieve the object—be proof against judicial misconstruction. Of course, that is an unattainable ideal, but is it any wonder that in those circumstances, in pursuit of his object, the draftsman sacrifices simplicity and lucidity of expression for what he hopes will achieve certainty of meaning?

What is the alternative style of legislative prose which can be adopted to avoid such complexity? I think the only style which can be suggested is that Acts of Parliament should confine themselves to broad and simple statements of principle, leaving the elaboration of the details of policy to the courts. But whether that would be a wise move I doubt, for it seems to me that it would carry the danger of imposing on the courts—or allowing to the courts, if you prefer it—a breadth of essentially legislative discretion which the courts are not really well qualified to exercise.

The fact of the matter is that the adversarial process of the courts does not equip us to look at questions which are essentially questions of policy, in the light of the wide spectrum of considerations which ought to influence the decision on every question of policy. That is essentially a matter for the deliberative process of your Lordships' House and the other place.

6.3 p.m.

My Lords, it is clear that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, did not exaggerate when he told us with what pleasure we should listen to his noble and learned friend Lord Bridge. Happily, it is my task to congratulate him warmly on a most interesting maiden speech. I hope to take up one or two of the points that he raised in the course of my own few remarks. He and I have one thing in common. We were both called to the Bar by the Inner Temple but there, I am afraid, the likeness ends, though I vividly remember appearing before Mr. Justice Harman, whom he mentioned, at the Chancery Bar. He was the first judge that I appeared before. My clerk said to me, "If you think the judge is talking nonsense, by all means tell him so, but don't do it too quickly." Fortunately, I think that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bridge, has been talking arrant common sense and I hope that we shall hear him do so on many occasions in the future.

I was slightly puzzled when I read on the Order Paper the Motion of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, as to what was the Government's responsibility, because I was always told, as a beginner, that one must not put down Questions or Motions which are not the responsibility of a Minister or a member of the Government. But now, of course, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bridge, has made matters perfectly clear. It is the Government and Members of your Lordships' House and another place who are responsible—if I may use a charming Americanism—for so much of the gobbledygook that creeps into our legislation and into our debates, and which we are trying to remedy in this debate here today.

I myself am responsible for one example. I vividly remember standing at that Dispatch Box many years ago, when we were trying to put the ill-fated Shops Bill through your Lordships' House. I was then Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, and I spent a long time trying to explain to your Lordships why it took 19 lines of the draftsman's deathless prose to establish the principle that only a Mohammedan or a practising Jew could operate as a barber in Scotland on a Sunday. Your Lordships, rightly, would have none of it.

We are all guilty of misuse of our beautiful language. If your Lordships doubt me, I ask you to turn to today's Minutes of Proceedings, which you had on your breakfast tables this morning, but which I have in my hand. If you look at page 395 you will see, "Die Martis 27º Januarii 1981". That is gobbledygook, if you like. Most of your Lordships can, I think, cope with "Die Mortis". I wonder how many of you know what the small "º" after "27" stands for, and why is it "1981" and not—since we are speaking Latin here—"MCMLXXXI"? I hope I have got that right. It took me nearly a quarter of an hour to work it out.

On another page, there is a further example of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bridge, was hinting at. On page 409, under "Special Procedure Orders in Progress", there is the sub—heading,
"Waiting for expiry of Resolution Period
M25 Motorway (Leatherhead Interchange Section) Compulsory Purchase Order (No. CSE 7)".
I am not making fun of that. It is very important—not to all your Lordships, but I am certain to the good citizens of Leatherhead, the man on the Leatherhead omnibus. We too often forget in this House, when we are legislating, that we are legislating for the man on the Leatherhead omnibus.

It is, of course, impossible to make the Finance Bill understandable to every man on every omnibus. I very well remember Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, speaking from exactly the same place as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, has just been speaking. He told us that he had been the whole way through four clauses of the Finance Bill which we were then discussing and had not understood one single word—and Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest was no fool. If he could not understand it, what were we doing passing legislation in such incomprehensible language? As I said, the Finance Bill is something which it is very difficult to draft simply. I therefore beg the noble Baroness who is to reply to encourage her colleagues to proceed further with their present admirable habit of producing small pamphlets and explanations in the papers, which can be understood by the man on the Leatherhead omnibus. The matters are usually very important to him. Although Lord Morris could not understand them, they are about rents, about specific benefits to which people are entitled, about pensions and such like.

If you go into any small village post office, the postmaster will tell you that most of his time is spent in trying to explain to innocent and bewildered people what are their rights and privileges and what they are missing. That is something which we should bear in mind when we are trying to put into legislation something which has to do with ordinary people.

Your Lordships will remember that George Bernard Shaw once wrote a letter to a friend and said:
"I apologise for the length of this letter. I have not the time to write a short one".
It is not easy to put complicated legislation into simple language that people can understand. It is something which any Government should do. The language need not be absolutely perfect. Sometimes the most imperfect language can provide a perfectly vivid example of what you mean. Your Lordships may remember the great German conductor, Hans Richter, who once turned to a recalcitrant second trombone in the orchestra at Covent Garden and said:
"Up with your damned nonsense twice or once will I put, but sometimes, always, by God never".
Your Lordships know what he meant. I therefore beg the noble Baroness to put the idea further around among her colleagues that we need more simplification and explanation for people who have their rights, which ought to be explained to them.

There is a second point about which we can help. Your Lordships will remember the appalling shambles which our timetable got into at the end of July and August, necessitating our coming back here two weeks before the other place returned. Why was that? It was because we had crammed far too much legislation into the programme, as a result of which neither the Ministers, nor the civil servants, nor the draftsmen involved had time to go through the Bills, sit back quietly and see whether mistakes had crept in. Many of your Lordships of an older generation will remember Lord Simonds who occupied the Woolsack with such distinction. From time to time I used to assist him, in a very junior capacity, on the Front Bench. I remember one wonderful evening when we discovered that he was moving on Report an amendment which was diametrically opposed to one which he had moved a few days before in Committee. It was discovered just in time.

In order to reduce the standard of gobbledegook, can we not allow our timetable to expand a little further so that we have time at the end of a long and complicated Bill for the draftsmen, the civil servants and the Ministers to look back—not to change the policy or the politics of the Bill; that has all been settled in debate—and see whether or not the gobbledygook can be amended, removed, changed or improved and the English of the Bill put in such a way as will not cause the trouble which Lord Harman had and which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bridge of Harwich, described to us so vividly.

Those are the two points I want to make: simplification of legislation and time within the timetable to look at Bills much more carefully. If the noble Baroness wants any help in the drafting of simple leaflets for the man on the Leatherhead omnibus, all she has to do is to bring it to me. If I can understand it, anybody can.

6.11 p.m.

My Lords, this is a short debate. Therefore, much as I should like to, I shall not elaborate my congratulations to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bridge of Harwich, on his quite delightful maiden speech. My congratulations are none the less sincere.

I expect all noble Lords will agree and be in sympathy with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and with the general idea of the simplification of our language. Broadly I agree with the spelling changes which the noble and learned Lord advocated. But transatlantic improvements in spelling, however welcome, are in my view—and, I gather, in the view of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and the noble Lord, Lord Airedale—utterly negated by the appalling prolixity which has developed in the United States both in the written word and in the spoken word and which has already crept across the Atlantic, even into the speech and writings of our most intelligent contemporaries.

A person for whom I have the greatest possible respect—indeed one of the ablest men I know—in writing a report for a committee on which I sit, the other day wrote:
"I am hopeful of obtaining",
when he could have written, "I hope to get". That is a percentage improvement even better than the 25 per cent. which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, demonstrated for us.

Despite the impact—I hope that there was an im-pact—of the debate in November 1979 to which the noble and learned Lord referred and in which the noble and learned Lord spoke so very effectively, we are still talking of "missions" instead of "jobs"; we still make "value judgments" instead of "judgments"; we still look at people's "track records" instead of "records"; and we still send "naval task forces" instead of "naval forces" to the Shatt-el-Arab. We must learn to be briefer and, when we have learned, we must try to teach others to be briefer, too. As has already been indicated to your Lordships' House, the benefit would be manifest.

I believe that to develop brevity, to develop concise- ness, is really more important than to reform spelling. If a policy of brevity were seriously implemented by teachers—if they could be convinced of its merits I suppose they could implement it—they would find that it would be greatly helped by adopting as often as possible the Anglo-Saxon alternatives to the many words we use which are of Latin origin: our Norman French heritage. We should "start" rather than "commence"; we should "leave" and not "depart"; we should "end" rather than "conclude"; and we should "spit" rather than "expectorate".

Anglo-Saxon has since 1066 been greatly neglected. When we have wanted new words, we have built on our Norman French, our Latin. Many of us even think that it is not possible to build new words from Anglo-Saxon with the same facility as from Latin. I believe that it is. I often recall the Anglo-Saxon alternative to the "impermeability of matter". It is the "ungothroughfulness of stuff". That is just as descriptive and it has three syllables fewer. I believe that the result of the Battle of Hastings dealt a blow to brevity from which our language has never recovered. It is time we went back to 1065.

6.16 p.m.

My Lords, I want to concentrate on a very few facts. 1 shall possibly say something controversial because I want to put in at least one word for English as it is spoken or written at present, while allowing full scope to many of the reforms which the noble and learned Lord has suggested.

There is a certain confusion in people's minds between what is brief, or short, and what is clear. One noble Lord mentioned Bernard Shaw. He is a good example. He wrote the longest sentences but it was always possible to understand every word, whether or not one agreed with him, because of the rhythm in which those sentences were written.

Language has to do two things. It has to have sound and it has to have sense. One of the reasons why 1 believe that the English language is particularly difficult to simplify is because, as has been said, it is a young language compared to, say, Chinese or to Hebrew, or to many other languages which have kept their individuality. Our language has been invaded by the Romans, by the Saxons and by the Angles. Much later it was invaded by Norman French. It was not until 1400 that English as a language came into existence. Before that, there were a number of separate languages.

I shall be corrected by the noble Lord who is to speak later, but I think that there is something called Boyle's Law of Chemistry, due to Robert Boyle, known as the Father of Chemistry. I think he was the brother of the Earl of Orrery. There is also something called Chaucer's Law. Geoffrey Chaucer produced a new language. It happened to take the form of verse but Geoffrey Chaucer was the first person, I think, who combined French words with English words in a way which could not be bettered. Some of his lines are absolutely perfect: for instance, "Up rose the sun and up rose Emily", or the description of treachery as "The smiler with the knife beneath his cloak." He managed to get a great many thoughts into short words. However, he also used long words.

Many people reasonably think that Latin words are always longer and harder to understand than Anglo-Saxon words. Anybody who attended the debate on the Wildlife and Countryside Bill will regret some of the names which are given for clarity only to some of our most beautiful flowers or animals. It seems to me that the only creature which got it right was the corncrake; in classical language this is known as the Crex crex. Both the name Crex crex and the word "corncrake" suggest to me, without a musical ear, the sound of the corncrake. However, the Latin word is slightly shorter than the Anglo-Saxon word.

If the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bridge of Harwich, had a Latin name, he would be named Lord Pons. That is a slightly shorter word. May I take this opportunity, because it is almost the only thing I have left to say, to congratulate him on an excellent maiden speech which I shall read with the greatest interest tomorrow. He was speaking about the law. I will not, as I would have done had there been more time, go in to some of the loss which I think there would be to people learning English if nobody took any account of English poetry, which is one of the gifts which this country has given to the world, and it would be very difficult if one went extremely far in simplifying the language.

An attempt was made by Milton to make it more classical. His greatest poem, of course, ran to 12 books, each of enormous length. That could certainly be shortened, and I know that it has been shortened to eight lines, of which seven lines are Milton's own, and they tell the story clearly
"Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal tasteM
Brought death into the world, and all our woe,"
Those lines tell how, when our first parents ate that fruit
" The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They hand in hand with wandering steps and slow
From Eden took their solitary way".
I think all those words are perfectly clear. The only long words, of which "disobedience" is one, are familiar to children of about 6 years of age. But of course it leaves out a good deal of the substance of the poem while telling the story. Among other things it leaves out the most glamorous figure of the anti—hero of the whole poem as well as everything that the poem is read for.

I believe one of the great difficulties about simplifying English is that mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, that one has to understand some very difficult idioms. For instance, when one says that it is "quite simple" to simplify English what does the word "quite" mean? Does it mean more or less? When one says that someone is quite pretty, that is rather modest, rather under-valuing; but if we say that she is "quite beautiful" that means more. This happens over and over again. If one says "quite cool" does that mean very cool or only slightly cool? The more words that one thinks of to which "quite" is applied, the more one realises that it is a fairly subtle rule. If the word is a superlative one, "quite" makes it more so; if not it makes it less so. Those are things which are very difficult to simplify, however much one simplifies spelling.

I would join with the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, in wishing very good luck to all attempts to simplify the language, but I do not believe it is as easy as many people think; and as the language goes out, not only into the world, but possibly into other worlds in their different forms, I think it is important that it should not only remain a language but that it should remain English.

6.24 p.m.

My Lords, I looked forward with great interest to hear what the noble and learned Lord who initiated this debate would have to say upon this subject. I found myself cast into a great cloud of wonder as to what advocacy he could put forward in favour of simplifying the English language. My wonder is not totally dispelled now because, if I may say so with respect, he has not made much in the way of recommendations for reforming the language beyond doing away with a certain number of irregular verbs.

Spelling—yes, because surely spelling is the method by which the language is communicated rather than the language itself. However, that would be a rather pedantic and niggling sort of remark to make. It would also debar me from saying what I think of his remark about American spelling, which is very much to the point so long as it is confined to words ending in "or", but as other noble Lords have pointed out, there are several others. The noble Lord, Lord Airedale, mentioned that American spelling forms are highly undesirable. Also it seems to me there is a risk that if we were to adopt American spelling we might even go so far as to adopt American pronunciation. It occurs already in fact, and I am thinking of the word "kilometre". "Kilome-ter", I suppose, is euphonies and sensible to an American but really to an Englishman it is (or ought to he) purely illiterate, a "kilome-ter" being presumably an instrument for measuring kilos and nothing to do with a "kilo-metre" which is 1,000 metres. However that is slightly by the way.

It seems to me that we have already one of the simpler languages. I would deplore the idea of setting up a commission to interfere with it at all. I am not very keen on commissions anyway. But think of what we miss, to our own advantage, compared with other languages. We have no case endings, no conjugations; we have irregular verbs, certainly. We do not have to think, as we might have to when speaking French, whether "day" is masculine and "night" is feminine (or the other way round.) In German a "girl" is feminine, which is reasonable even for a German. But if she is a little girl, with a diminutive suffix put on at the end, she suddenly becomes neuter. That may also be reasonable from the German point of view but I personally find it rather complicated.

Again, still on the subject of German, it is possible for us English to refer to the man who yesterday was seen walking across Hyde Park wearing a green overcoat. But a German would have to describe this chap as the "yesterday walking in the park in green overcoat see man". You have to wait until the very end to find out what a person is talking about anyway. It is all very well for Germans, but we have our own particular logic and, whether it is good or not, I hope very much that we shall stick to it.

There are other complications which other people have. The languages which I have in mind at the moment have words of particular simplicity—mono-syllabic very often—and have reduced their vocabularies to such an extent that they can practically say nothing without the greatest circumlocution; they become more complicated. In Burmese, for example, you have to speak of "the time when brothers would not know each other" instead of the simple word "midnight". In that same language, incidentally, you cannot "smoke"; you have to "drink a tobacco roll". That is simplicity carried too far.

To return to our own language, it becomes both more simple as time goes by and also more complicated. Mention has been made already of the frequent use of three words for one. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, mentioned that and it was very much to the point, but also strange words keep coming in. I received a letter last Friday, and I daresay other noble Lords received a copy of that same letter, the writer of which said that the firm that he represented "operated two retail outlets". I do not know why, unless of course it is a more classy way of saying that he ran two shops. Why do we have to do that? I do not think we can get rid of that sort of nonsense or gobbledygook by legislation or by a commission. I think people have to be allowed to grow out of it by example—the example of reading or listening to good English; perhaps listening to some of the better speeches which fall from the lips of your Lordships in this House.

Yesterday morning I heard on the wireless a reference to "school dinner ladies". I do not actually move in a world in which there are school dinner ladies but I think I grasped the idea. I suppose if a man were to be employed he would be a "school dinner gentleman". Would he?—I do not know. In these egalitarian days perhaps he would. But does that have any correspondence of any kind with the sandwichzman or sandwich gentleman?

Let us leave the language as it is, I beg. Let us read the good examples; let us read the supreme master of writing, clear, simple and unambiguous English, P. G. Wodehouse, who imposed no hardship on anybody to read. Let us listen to and look forward to listening as often as we can to those lucid speakers, Her Majesty's judges, and particularly, if I may say so on this occasion, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bridge of Harwich.

6.31 p.m.

My Lords, this is a fascinating debate. I should like to follow the noble Lord who has just spoken by paying a tribute to our learned judges, to the Prelates, and particularly to the Lord Chancellor, who is not on the Woolsack now. When his English is at its best it is a beautiful piece of oratory at times, but much better than that, it is purposeful and the selection of the language is superb. That is particularly when he is not dealing with campanology, if I may make a crack; some noble Lords will remember that he once rang a bell at a Conservative conference. But forgetting that, the depth of his knowledge of language and his learning in Greek and everything else helps to make his English very beautiful.

As a Welshman, I was taught to parse and analyse and worked hard in school, and we were forced to do it. I do not think there is a child today who can analyse or parse a simple sentence. They do not know the difference between a preposition and a leg of pork. You get them reading comics. If you want simplicity of spelling, I can buy comics every day that the kids read, full of American spelling and full of some of the most vulgar spelling in the world. It hurts me when I look at it. But, nevertheless, it is simple and, nevertheless, it is part of the culture of the world in which we are living. It is part of a move towards man getting a universal language. As one interested in Esperanto, you can use it, but I cannot see linguistics and the depths of philosophy being used in Esperanto.

There is an absolute need in the pharmaceutical and medical profession to have words that can mean only one thing. So you are bound to build up a language with Greek and Latin roots that can only mean one drug. The chemist and the doctor and the surgeon know the gamut of this language. Is it English? Anyway, it is a complete vocabulary. If you have the misfortune some time to be cut open by one of these men who have this marvellous vocabulary and discuss philosophy or Welsh or English poetry he is out of his depth, but I am out of my depth when he is dealing with his profession. In other words, when we are talking about the English language we must remember that the gamut of the English language is greater than any other language in the world.

It results from conquest by outsiders, campaigns that built empires. We have brought into our language Malay words, Indian words, Greek words, words from all over the world. Used beautifully it is, apart from Welsh, one of the most colourful languages in the world.

I should like to pay a tribute to the maiden speaker and thank him very much, because we have a typical example of the mix—up with homonyms, words that are spelled differently but sound the same owners and onus, shoot and chute. We used to play a game as children called coffee pots, guessing what the homonyms were. What are we after in our simplicity of language? I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, for opening it up. We are after clarity of diction; we are after, too, the need for sonority and the beauty of sound. Sometimes the words are not so important. The sound can create a mood in poetry and in oratory; all these things are part of the tingling necessity of a beautiful language, and English has it. When I get to the seven minutes which I am going to take I will read one verse to prove that. May I remind your Lordships that Sir Ernest Gowers did a job of work second to none. He was invited by that aristocratic bunch of boys in the Treasury to do it, so that letters from the civil servants were legible and could be understood. Sir Ernest Gowers wrote a book to help officials in their use of written English, to simplify and clarify their use of language. I suppose all noble Lords have his works on their study shelves, the ABC of Plain Words and Plain Words, the use of good and simple English. This was a first-class job of work done by Sir Ernest, because of the kind of thoughts that have been demonstrated in this House and all areas of education this last 20 or 30 years, to get simple and good English. Writing and speech, he says, are instruments for conveying ideas from one mind to another. As Cervantes said in his Don Quixote:
"Do but take care to express yourself in a plain easy manner, in well-chosen, significant and decent terms and give …"
this is the lovely bit—
"… a harmonious and decent turn to your periods;"
That is what the Lord Chancellor can do.
"… study to explain your thoughts and express them in the truest light, labouring as much as possible not to leave them dark nor intricate but clear and intelligible".
That is a problem for judges often, but the jury have to interpret it.

We suffer from "televisionese" and "journalese" and sometimes it is pathetic. There are fashions. When I was a child Trafalgar was good enough. Now it is Trafalgar and it is Himalayas. I believe in Anglicising foreign words to make them clear, especially if you do not know the language properly; for Heaven's sake try to get a correct English pronunciation of foreign words. I do not run up and down the street shouting "Paree, paree". These are points that one should take into view; the other is a sort of kitsch, which is stuff and nonsense.

The English sentence at its best is one of the most lovely and there is a natural process going on that will please the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, Words change; words can become obsolete and their meanings change. Simple words powerfully used are shown in all our best writings. Shakespeare used 15,000 different words. Nobody has used such simple words. There was a beautiful example given me yesterday over tea by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, of a beautiful line from Shakespeare with no more than three or four letters in a word. I could find other examples. The Bible uses 8,000 words, Milton 6,000, beautifully put together.

Finally, using English, I would quote Dylan Thomas. Nobody would know what he was meaning but the effect made mood, and mood is important in the use of language and mood is paramount if one wants to get one's meaning across very well. I will finish with two verses from the Reverend Eli Jenkins prayer in Bethesda House as he gropes his way out of bed in the early morning when the dew is there but the air is beautiful.
"Dear Gwalia! I know there are
Towns lovelier than ours,
And fairer hills and loftier far,
And groves more full of flowers,
And boskier Woods more blithe with spring
And bright with birds adorning,
And sweeter bards than I to sing
Their praise this beauteous morning.
By mountains where King Arthur dreams,
By Penmaenmawr defiant,
Llaregyb Hill a molehill seems,
A pygmy to a giant".
You understand that, and it has got you in the mood for the "Bible black" Under Milk Wood. I am grateful to the noble Lord for getting us in the mood to look into our own beautiful language.

6.40 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to start by congratulating the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bridge of Harwich, on a truly model maiden speech and, also, of course, to thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, for providing the opportunity for it and also for the rest of us to express our views.

While conceding the importance of spelling I think that one must put it into proportion. It has been called "the graphic dress of language". I think that that is fair. Graphics are important but, of course, they are not everything. There is one other point on which I should like to take issue with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, and that is the question of the regularisation of verbs. I have a small son, aged nine, whose first native language was Spanish so he learnt English as a second language and he is firmly convinced that all verbs in English are regular. The result is that I hear practically everyday of my life— perhaps not every day, but certainly every weekend—" putted as the past participle of "put" and "gotted" as the past participle of "got". On the percentage basis I think that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, will find that there is a 100 per cent. additional gain in letters on those verbs, if they are made regular. I agree that we come out roughly equal between "wreaked and" wrought and "teached" and "taught". However, I think that that is a point we should bear in mind if we are to aim at the exclusive regularisation of all verbs in the language.

One of the difficulties in talking about the English language stems from the many variants that are in use. Obviously there is mother English—the tongue of Shakespeare, first codified by Dr. Johnson in his great dictionary of 1755 with its 43,500 root words and 118,000 illustrated quotations. Then there is American English which we have heard referred to in some cases slightly disparagingly this afternoon. But there is another variety that I should like to refer to and which I can best describe as "Euro" or "UN English", which might also be called "Conference English". It is one of the five official UN languages in which most reports are written, and that includes the reports of United Nations bodies and agencies; the World Bank; the EEC; and the Brandt Commission, and many British Government reviews and reports are tending to be couched in this language. I happen to believe that the greatest threat to clarity and understanding in our tongue in fact comes from that quarter. I fear that it is making constant inroads into mainstream English and sapping our language's native strength.

Of course, we all have our pet aversions and most of those can probably be found in Sir Ernest Gowers's Plain Words which, incidentally, was revised—really rewritten—by Sir Bruce Fraser. The last edition, which makes very good reading indeed, was issued by the Stationery Office in 1973 at the price in those days of only £l. I do not know what would be the cost of a new edition now, but it is still very good reading.

Gowers follows Fowler and some other noble Lords this afternoon in preferring the Saxon word to the Romance. He deals severely—but with not much hope of killing it—with "hopefully" on page 162. I recommend page 162 on the subject of "hopefully". He gives a useful list of vogue words to be avoided on pages 204 to 206 and among them are, of course, "capability", "dialogue", "dichotomy", "extrapolate", "parameters" and "syndrome"—just to take only a few out of a fairly lengthy list.

Also, I think that I might recommend to your Lordships page 223 in which he gives us an entertaining version of the "gobbledygook" game which has already been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, and others. This version is called the "buzz-phrase generator" and it is said to originate from the Canadian Defence Department. It is three columns of nine words each and one is required to combine a word from each column and one can do it across the board—if that is the right phrase— and come out with exactly the same mixture of sense or nonsense whichever way you do it. So you can get "compatible logistical projection", or "integrated reciprocal flexibility"; "functional digital concept" or "responsive logistical time-phase" et cetera. This game was recommended to me by the noble Lord, Lord Willis and I was glad to be able to find it in Gowers also.

We all have our pet aversions and among my own are "strategy" which has a misleadingly grand and sweeping ring about it. You feel, wrongly, that any organisation with a strategy knows what it is doing. "Transfer of resources" is the common euphemism in international affairs for "gift or loan of money" —I suppose because we cannot bear to recognise what we are really talking about. I imagine that we must also feel that "educational provision" is somehow more painless than straight "teaching". What on earth are "perceived needs"?—which I read in a Government report this afternoon. It sounds reassuring but who perceives them and were they perceived correctly? Then, in a desperate attempt to correct these tendencies we lurch into the pseudo-vernacular with phrases like "cope with" or "take on board". I also—and I accept that this is a personal quirk—dislike the pervasiveness of business terminology where it does not belong, giving us, for example, "client groups" in a free public education system, where no semblance of any market transaction takes place. Children will shortly become "customers" for the services of the state and so on.

What can we do about this? What are the remedies? Should we have an academy on French or Spanish lines? Despite Matthew Arnold's enthusiasm for the French academy, I think that most of us here should be more inclined to Dr. Johnson's view that
"language is the work of man, from whom permanence and stability cannot be derived".
So an academy, I think, is not appropriate in this country. Should Gowers become obligatory reading? I think that there is certainly no reason why it should be confined to the Civil Service for whom it was intended. I think that it would be a good idea if the Stationery Office contemplated a further edition and a wider distribution.

I cannot see whether the noble Lord, Lord Foot, is present. However, I do not think he will mind my saying, as he is not speaking this afternoon, that he has a preference for someone called Vallins who apparently wrote three books: Good English; Better English and Best English. I do not know them, but they may also be worthy of your Lordships' consideration.

Finally, I should like to make a suggestion to the Government—a modest proposal of my own. I should like to suggest that they set up a small quango. This suggestion has already been made this afternoon by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. I want to set up a rival Quango to his. I dare to hope that the noble Baroness, who was such a doughty Quango hunter in the last Parliament, will not wish to push her campaign to the point of complete extinction of this endangered species.

The one that I propose might be called the English Language Monitoring Service or possibly the English Language Review Board. Its main job will be to read, digest—or digest where it could—and comment on the reports of international agencies written in English; Government circulars; White and Green Papers; reports and reviews of Government departments and NGO's (which, incidentally are non-governmental organisations)—in fact, anything issued in English by people in responsible positions using language to the detriment of understanding and the perversion of meaning.

In these days of unemployment it should not be difficult to engage a corps of part-time readers on the lines of publishers' readers, who take their work home, thus stimulating a useful cottage industry. A quarterly report would be issued, chiding, correcting and praising, where praise was due. It would be circulated to all Government departments and local authorities, chambers of commerce, NGOs, international agencies, branches of the British Council and would be compulsory reading in schools up and down the country. The central office would require only a secretary-general, one administrative assistant and a couple of secretaries. In order to save Her Majesty's Government the expense of advertising this post I should be happy to offer my own services as the first secretary-general at a very modest salary, as is proper to a modest proposal. I am sorry that I did not have time to give the noble Baroness advance notice of my suggestion, but I have no doubt that she will pass it on to the proper people, and I hope for a favourable response.

6.50 p.m.

My Lords, first, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, for the opportunity to discuss this very interesting subject and, if I may, to congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bridge of Harwich, on what I thought was an extremely elegant and a model maiden speech.

I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, that English spelling is in need of attention, but I would go very much further than him in that I think that finally there is an unanswerable case for wholesale reform. I start with the premise that the purpose of writing to is to record words, and that is really the only purpose. It seems to me to be self-evident that a system of recording words should be as efficient as possible. I think that we may, very rightly, find excuses for inconsistencies in language, although I do not think that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, would be quite so enthusiastic about that proposition as I am. But I do not think that we can find any excuses at all for inconsistencies in the way in which these words are represented on the printed page.

We have arrived at a system which is both highly inconsistent and quite unnecessarily complicated. In fact, I think that our system of orthography is quite uniquely bad. We have a possible rival in France, but that country's system lags behind quite a bit. One could give all sorts of examples and many have been given, so I shall not delay the House with many. I think that the height of absurdity is reached by the spelling in the same way of both the present tense and the past tense of the verb "read ", although again the noble and learned Lord might prefer us to say readed" for the past tense.

Our system of spelling means colossal wastage of time for foreigners, and for us, at least when we are children, although many of us continue to have difficulty throughout life. Abroad, at least in Europe, I think that it is true to say that logical systems are the rule rather than the exception. I know that German is rarely inconsistent although it is somewhat prolix. Italian and Spanish are, I believe, highly consistent. I hope that this will not be too obscure for the House, but in Yugoslavia their system of spelling is so consistent that anyone who knows one of the two alphabets—a point to which I shall come later—can spell without any difficulty at all.

Perhaps I should give some indication of what I think should replace our present, highly messy system. I do not believe that a new alphabet is necessary or even desirable; not even a highly modified Latin alphabet, such as the initial teaching alphabet. That was conceived primarily as an aid to learning and it seems that in setting it up conciseness was a matter of first concern. There are certainly plenty of possible schemes using only the Latin alphabet, with possibly the introduction of a few accents if we came to the conclusion that dipthongs could not be rendered very elegantly using combinations of vowels.

I should like to see the adoption of a scheme which was entirely consistent—that is to say, that each sound in the language would be rendered by one letter or a group of letters; and, secondly, a system which was as concise as possible—that is to say, with as few letters as possible per sound.

Of course, a number of objections can be raised to this, the first of which is that one might say that this would result in our language looking like Finnish, Swahili, pidgin English or God knows what. I do not think that that would matter a great deal; in fact, I do not think that it would matter at all. In all probability it would end up looking much more like Anglo-Saxon than anything else, which is where we started.

Secondly, there is the objection that we would need worldwide agreement on pronunciation. But I do not think that this is true either. If American pronunciation of the word "tomato" would require a different spelling from ours, so be it, there would be no problem. There would be no objection to my mind either to Scots spelling their writing in a different way from ours. In fact, this would have a desirable side-effect in encouraging dialect. Elizabethan writers spelt as they felt appropriate to the utterance and anyone who has looked at Donne's poems, for example, with the original spelling, will I think have to agree that they knew what they were doing most of the time.

A third objection is that it would be difficult to change. But I think that the people who say that underestimate the ability of people to cope with different linguistic systems. Perhaps I could give a couple of examples. The Scandinavian languages—by which I mean Danish, Swedish and Norwegian—are very similar but they employ different spelling systems in the various countries. However, a Dane has absolutely no difficulty in reading a Swedish newspaper, or, for that matter, a Norwegian one. Perhaps I may quote Yugoslavia as an example. Its two alphabets, the Cyrillic and the Latin, are both in widespread use for the same language. All educated people can read both alphabets and I can vouch for the fact that at least a working knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet can be gained in a matter of a few days.

But one need not to go so far afield. I understand that in the transition that has to take place between the initial teaching alphabet and normal English for children who are learning to read, very few problems have been encountered. Therefore, I think that there would be much less difficulty than is commonly supposed. We would, of course, need a transitory period, such as we are still having with metrification, and we do not seem to be doing too badly.

The fourth objection is that it would upset the overseas book trade. I think that this is the best argument against it. Briefly, the argument is on the lines that we would be putting ourselves at a disadvantage as against the Americans who, it is supposed, would not be adopting a new system. Indeed, I think that we ought to have reformed our spelling a hundred years ago, before English became a world language and before widespread literacy. But it seems to me to be fairly certain that one day the matter will have to be tackled, if not by us, presumably by the Americans. It might well be that overseas buyers would, after getting used to the idea, be delighted at the new-found ease which they encountered on reading English. I think that we, rather than anyone else, ought to give the lead in this matter.

6.59 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to start, as other noble Lords contributing to this debate have done, by thanking my noble and learned friend Lord Simon of Glaisdale for giving us this opportunity. I have found it a most fascinating debate. I should also like to congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bridge of Harwich, on an excellent maiden contribution.

On the matter of spelling reform, to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, and others have referred, I am a little doubtful. But I am sufficiently broadminded to feel that, if it will help make English, which is a wonderful language, into a more useful world language and be more helpful to young people, then I should be very happy that that should go forward, if anyone can decide how to do it. I believe, though, that there are some problems involved.

However, having started my own education in a grammar school in the north of Scotland—and perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, would be in agreement with me here—I have always thought that I was rather good at spelling and, indeed, at parsing. As one of the older generation now, I think that on the whole, even if these changes do take place after careful thought and examination, I should like to phase myself out, as it were, on the old system. I am not going to pursue the spelling point any further than that, however, because time is short.

Words change their meaning of course and always will and always should, and new words have to be invented. When a word changes its meaning almost imperceptibly over a long time that can be rather a charming process. One thinks of the word "chivalry" which started by meaning something quite concrete, a lot of armed men on horseback, but over a long period came to mean the code of knightly or gentlemanly conduct, and that is quite an interesting and charming development.

Equally, there are long changes over time which completely change the meaning of the word, and I am thinking of the word "liberty", which meant something concrete at the time of Magna Carta and now means something rather abstract, and in fact really quite opposite things. In that sense that excellent little book 1066 and All That I always thought captured the spirit of Magna Carta a good deal more successfully than some more serious historians have done since. It was a charter of liberties; that is, privileges being transferred from one place to another, and not a charter of liberty in the sense of the word as we know it now. I shall not go further into that now. Words are always doing that.

I do not want to go into my pet hatreds this evening except to refer to them briefly because it is in connection with the meaning of words. Words get murdered and turned about very rapidly in the modern world. One thing that I dislike intensely is the tendency there has been to take words that have had quite clear and precise meanings and turn them into indiscriminate, ready abuse to be thrown about and meaning nothing very much. One hears that all the time, and that is something that I deplore. There are many cases of that sort of thing. I also dislike the meaningless adjective, which is thrown about a great deal. If I had to pick out one that happens to come into my mind as I am speaking, it is the use of the word "diabolical". Pretty well everything, so far as I can recall, in the last week or two has been called "diabolical" on television, and I have become very sick of that word indeed. It does not mean a thing in that context.

I want to finish, as I do not want to go on long this evening, by referring to two points which all of us, particularly as legislators and politicians and so forth, could do something about ourselves, without setting up commissions or doing anything else, though commissions and things may be necessary—I am not madly keen on them—to look into, say, spelling and other more complicated suggestions that have been made in this debate.

I do not think that it has been due to malignity on the part of any individual or group, but, arising out of the intense specialisation of the modern world, we have tended, rather as the medieval guilds were called "mysteries", to turn ourselves into mysteries, and turn our particular speciality into something that, on the one hand, has a convenient jargon and shorthand which means a great deal to those of us who are in the mystery but nothing at all to some perfectly well-trained and well-educated human being who is not in the secret. On the other hand, if you like, it can also become a convenient restrictive practice to see that the mystery remains a mystery and not too many people join it. That is something we could do more to change.

After all, certainly as legislators and politicians, one of our prime objectives must be to communicate with people. It is one of the objects of language. It is not the only object of language: language has many other objectives as such; to charm; to do many other things. However, communication is one of its main objectives, and certainly one of our main objectives whichever party or whatever group we may belong to. To break down the lack of communication between people with different expert knowledge is most important.

Added to that, there is of course the terrible rash of initials. I came across a good instance of this. There again they are a convenient form of shorthand. They can sometimes become a complete language when you hear two specialists talking to each other. It goes almost as far as total understanding in some levels of the Civil Service where they never finish a sentence but understand each other so well. These initials are another very damaging aspect of communication. If only everyone who was going to make a speech, or particularly to go on to the mass media, would look through the last draft, or whatever it is, of the script or preparation that he has been making, and, without necessarily taking Dr. Johnson's advice if he found a fine passage to strike it out, at any rate if he found too many initials to strike them out and find some other way of explaining, he might be very much more widely understood and appreciated.

7.6 p.m.

My Lords, unless my watch has stopped, which I do not think it has, it is time that we pedants began to congratulate ourselves upon our exemplary brevity—so unlike those who previously debated the comparatively minor matter of Gibraltar! Therefore, in order to keep my vow to be always one of the briefest speakers, I shall cut down my speech. It gives me no pleasure to intervene in the noble and learned Lord's debate and totally to disagree with him. I can only hope that he will shrug his shoulders and say, "Well, with enemies like Ailesbury who needs friends?".

My difficulty is that I fear that simplification may come to mean abbreviation. That is important because some of my worst enemies are abbreviations. Some of my more saddening moments came immediately after my father died, chiefly for obvious reasons but partly—and I do not want to be unduly frivolous, but I know that my father's ghost will forgive me for saying this—because of my ordeal when I tried to insert appropriate notices into top people's newspapers.

I found to my intense disgust that I was not permitted to speak of, for instance, Wednesday, 4th October. It was obligatory to say, "Wed. Oct. 4". In vain did I flourish my cheque book and offer to pay for the many words which the telephone persons on these newspapers were so insistent on cutting out. Of course they did not bother to explain. They simply said, "niet". So when I had buried my father and recovered my composure generally, I wrote to a director of one of these newspapers who had the misfortune to be an acquaintance of mine, and I gave him the inestimable benefit of my views on this subject.

He sent my letter down to the commissars in the engine room, from whence it rebounded smartly with a memorandum attached. Since this memorandum of course had been written by these butchers of the English language its prose style was naturally somewhat impure. It was headed, I recall, "Lord Ailesbury's beef". Its message was that all aspects of Lord Ailesbury's beef were covered by the plain fact that Wed. Oct. 4 was part of the house style. Can you imagine a more revolting euphemism?

When I close my eyes and conjure up the emotive words "house style" in this context, I see an elderly scribe seated on a high stool with a quill pen lovingly illustrating something of exquisite beauty. It is really intolerable to use this phrase to describe a process of murdering the English language, foisting jargon on to the unwilling customer, following that with a large bill, and printing it in a somewhat blurred manner on paper of such quality that reading the newspaper has to be interrupted by visits to another room to wash one's hands.

I do not want to claim too much credit for the old roast beef of Ailesbury, but whatever the cause the commissars have relented and nowadays one is graciously permitted to say "Wednesday, October 4th", and long may it continue. But, to be realistic, I cannot help feeling that people who have committed such atrocities may one day return to a life of crime, and that is why I summoned the family doctor and instructed him that in future all members of my family are to breathe their last during the month of May.

I apologise for ending with another tale of jargon but I regard this one as a collectors' item and I feel it should be zero rated for VAT and capable of being passed down free of capital transfer tax as part of the heritage. It occurred recently in the Jersey Evening Post nd took the form of a message inserted by a rather self-important shop; the shop shall be nameless because I still have relations living in Jersey and I fear victimisation and reprisals. It said that such and such a shop at such and such a number,
"Bar Street, wishes to thank our customers for such extreme loyalty in patronising us during the recent precinctisation of the above Street".
Noble Lords will appreciate that after reading that I found it difficult to get to sleep that night. In fact, I might have gone sleepless had it not been that I hit on the happy idea of counting not sheep but brickbats passing in an endless stream through that shop's window, but even then I had nightmares. I do not know what happened in the real world during the hours of darkness, but the next day the black clouds rolled away and that evening I read that so and so of such and such a number,
"Bar Street, wishes to thank our customers for such extreme loyalty in patronising us during the recent conversion of Bar Street to a precinct".
So, while we may often feel we are drowning in a sea of jargon, I feel able to end on a note of optimism, for surely while there is deprecinctisation there must be hope.

7.12 p.m.

My Lords, I am sure the whole House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, for introducing this debate. He referred in opening to the fact that we had a debate on a rather similar subject on 21st November 1979. That was on standards of written and spoken English, and I was delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, took part this afternoon. First, however, I wish to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Bridge of Harwich, on his maiden speech. I am sure we all enjoyed it and we look forward to what he will have to say on some of the complicated matters of legislation that we have to discuss.

As I knew the noble Lord was a judge, and in preparation for this debate, I read in The Times Law Reports on Friday 23rd January of that very interesting case, which seems relevant to this debate, in which the point at issue was whether or not the word "Exxon" was an original literary work entitled to copyright protection under Section 2 of the Copyright Act 1956. The report was enormously interesting and in summing up his Lordship came to the conclusion that "Exxon" was not an original literary work within Section 2. I felt on reading his remarks that he rather regretted that, although of course the report did not say so, and that he regretted even more that he was unable to use the American case Life Music Company v Wonderland Music Company (1965), in which the word "Super-calafrajalistickespeealadojus" did not assist in his elucidation of the facts.

On the occasion of the debate in November 1979 there were many views as to what constituted good English. Those views were necessarily subjective, but there was agreement about the fundamental importance of language, and at the risk of some repetition I would say that on that occasion I spoke about the need to distinguish between usages which were wrong and those which were merely different. I drew attention to the fact, particularly relevant to this debate, that English was now a multinational language. I suggested then that it would surely be unreasonable to support the proposition that we could attain a standard pattern of usage in England and that it would be difficult to impose on language standards and simplified forms of spelling or a more logical system of grammar.

In that debate many points of view were put forward, but no reasons were given to fear a catastrophic decline in standards. At the same time the House felt there was no room for complacency and expressed the view that coherent, consistent, intelligent and correct speech forms were important, and said that standards should be upheld by our major institutions. With all those points I am sure we would agree. The question before the House is whether a simplification of English would advance the cause of standards or result in confusion. Would we find ourselves with a universally accepted, logical, elegant form of English, or would we be inviting linguistic chaos? Would we find ourselves like Humpty Dumpty, who said:
"When I use a word it means no more and no less than I want it to mean".
Language is a means of communication and that is its essential, perhaps only, function, whether we are discussing poetry or a technical thesis. We must ask ourselves whether English would be more easily learned by foreigners or by young children, and become a more effective instrument of communication, if it were to be simplified.

In this debate nearly all noble Lords have referred to the questions of the reform of spelling and grammar. Some have argued that our children face particular difficulties in learning to cope with a system of spelling that is complicated and frequently inconsistent. But the history of spelling reform is not encouraging, perhaps partly because of the proliferation of contending schemes. Noble Lords have referred to Robert Bridges, Bernard Shaw, and the initial teaching alphabet, and indeed it was Robert Bridges who wrote his last poem, The Testament of Beauty, in a form of spelling noted particularly for its ommission of mute letters. Shaw, on the other hand—the great reformer of this century—proposed more thorough-going changes, including a new alphabet with between 40 and 50 new letters.

Sir James Pitman's initial teaching alphabet, although not designed as a reform of spelling as a whole, owes something both to new spelling and to the Shaw alphabet, and for those who are not entirely familiar with it, the new spelling was published in 1948. To give a typical sentence, in—
"We instinctively shrink from any change in what is familiar"
"change" is spelt "chaenj" followed by "whot iz familyar". There is a failure of reformers to agree among themselves and the result is that none has really taken root. The fact is that these reforms, so long as they are phonetically based, face the problem of the wide variation in speech patterns from one part of the country to another, not to mention the differences between different parts of the English-speaking world.

Speech varies over the passage of time, too. Dr. Johnson called the attempt to accommodate spelling to pronunication "measuring by a shadow". Even within the same sentence the same word can be pronounced differently. Thus, there are formidable problems, some of which were drawn to our attention by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, who gave a number of good examples, to which I would add the word which is frequently used, "meet" meaning to meet somebody, which can be "meat" or "mete"; it makes a difference how the word is spelt. I can, however, I believe, help my noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery on one point. He asked whether the dinner lady would be replaced on some future occasion by the dinner gentleman. I think the answer is, no, she will not; the dinner lady will, I think, I regret to say, be replaced by the dinner person.

I shall of course draw the attention of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science to this debate, and I am certain he is not at all hostile to the idea of language reform. However, that is not something which could be imposed, and if one were seriously thinking of language reform, it would have to win the support of the general public and of those in our schools—teachers, parents and governors. The initial teaching alphabet has been successful in introducing many children to reading, but it would not be right for me to advocate its use everywhere, and I think that it would be wrong to suppose that there is some simple way to the teaching of reading. The most important factor is the dedication and the experience of the teacher.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, also referred to American spelling and suggested that we might look to the American example in this respect. He said that he preferred "color" and "favor" on grounds of economy. Indeed, I listened with great care to what he said on this important need to save money, and obviously I shall draw this to the attention of my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who I am sure will be very pleased. This is something which we should have ever more before us, but I am sure that the noble and learned Lord will appreciate that it is very dangerous to prescribe in these matters. I suspect that, as in other matters of this kind—dare I mention anything so controversial as metrication? —the cost of the change will be greater than the savings to be made.

Certainly neither Webster, who uses "color", nor Johnson, who spells the word with a "u", can claim phonetics on his side. Etymology favours Johnson, though Webster believes that he was historically correct in deriving these words directly from the Latin. There is of course British inconsistency—for example, the two words "author" and "terror", for which we cannot blame Johnson. But perhaps one of the reasons why the Americans so readily adopted Webster's changes was to cement their unity and mark out their differences from us.

The noble and learned Lord also referred to the possibility of a national language commission. He will be interested to know that this is not the first occasion on which such an idea has been mooted. In preparation for the debate I looked again at the extract from the diaries of the late Sir Alexander Cadogan, who was then the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office. In 1943 it was suggested that there should be a committee which would look at basic English. In preparation for that committee—which never actually met—Sir Alexander prepared a memo, which began:
"Bargee English—Preliminary Report of the Lord President's Committee".
It stated:
"Much thought was being devoted to the debasement of English to a point where it could serve as a medium of communication between Anglo-Saxons and other races, known as OR. For this purpose of keeping the foreigner in his place was required a limited range of forceful and easily memorised admonitions".
Sir Alexander then went on to say:
"Prolonged experimentation with what may be called the raw material of bargee English shows that the number of nouns can be reduced to 1,163 and the adjectives to one. A considerable number of verbs would have to be retained, together with their participles, but the mixed sub-committee, which has not yet completed its study of this particular subject, says in an interim report that the less said about some of these verbs, the better".
With that we entirely agree.

However, I find the idea of a national language commission intriguing. I have no doubt that many noble Lords would be well qualified to sit on it. The debate has brought out many differences of view, even on the relatively straightforward matter of spelling. Would agreement on a programme of reform be possible? How could the commission seek to persuade others with ideas of their own? Would they be able to achieve international acceptance, in the United States and in the countries of the old and new Commonwealth? These are not easily soluble problems. I am certainly not convinced that a commission, even if a need could be demonstrated, would work, given our traditions.

I was very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, for his most valuable suggestion of a smaller Quango. I think that he called it the English Language Monitoring Service, and as the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Kilmorack, would have said, it would rapidly become known as ELMS. I am sure that we would all support the noble Lord's position as I believe a principal administrator of this particular service. I could not help reflecting that if we were looking for people to serve on this Quango, we might bear in mind the fascinating dispute which is currently going on in the columns of the press among the English dons at Cambridge. It is of course a situation worthy of the late Lord Snow himself. Would not the unemployed dons be very suitable to serve on this particular Quango?

I should like to end on a rather more serious note, and turn to a matter to which many noble Lords have referred; namely, gobbledygook. I have much sympathy for those who have banded together to form a society against the proliferation of gobbledygook, and no doubt the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, is its president. Official documents which fail to explain themselves properly to those whom they are intended to assist not only serve to alienate the individual from officialdom, but can have serious consequences.

I believe strongly that education today needs to explain itself and its aims clearly if it is to gain the friends and indeed the resources that it needs at a time when there is fierce competition for every available pound. We in education, through clarity and directness of approach, must speak with equal force and equal relevance to the layman and to the professional alike, and through this clarity we must show that we truly understand ourselves what it is that we are seeking from others. I believe that only in this way can we be sure that the message will be correctly interpreted by our audience, whoever they may be. The use of educational jargon does not impress; it does not even blind with science. In my experience it merely serves to alienate and to hinder the proper delivery of whatever message the education service is trying to give.

There is, moreover, a further danger. Too free a use of jargon may not only confuse the outsider; it may also affect the thinking of those who use it. There is a tendency in the social services, and indeed I believe in many Government services that are concerned with people, to use jargon terms, such as "client groups", which is used to describe those at whom a particular service is aimed. In using such anonymous language it is all too easy to forget that "client groups" are made up of people—parents, pupils, patients, the old, the young, the disabled. I believe that it is very important that all of us in public life should therefore be very careful how we use language and we should always remember that it is designed to help the people and not to make things more complicated and more difficult.

During the course of the debate I have looked to see whether it is possible to find some good examples of leaflets produced by my department which are easy to understand. I shall of course show them to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. Looking at it quite quickly, I believe that the leaflet which sets out details on pay and pensions for teachers—which is itself a very complicated subject—does so very well, in a form which is intelligible to people. The same applies to the leaflet on grants to students; one might expect students to understand something more easily than many other people. The leaflet sets out in very clear English what students can have by way of grants.

I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, what we do about English in schools. I was rather surprised that he felt that we had much to learn from the French system of education. It is true that there is the French academy, but I should have thought that he would not himself be in favour of the highly-centralised system of education in which, it is always alleged—even if it is not exactly true today—that the Minister of Education knows what every child is doing in France at 10 o'clock on a Monday morning—

Our devolved system may at first appear to be more confused, but I believe that it is an extremely good system. It is a national system, locally administered, in which responsibility is shared between local government and the teachers and governors of a school.

I am certain that the noble Lord has had an opportunity to read the document which my department issued last January called A Framework for the School Curriculum. In that he will see—and I quote from it—that the Secretaries of State
"… consider that English and mathematics should form part of every pupil's course throughout the whole period of compulsory education. These subjects are essential both in their own right and because of the importance of language and mathematical skills for many other curriculum uses".
The department will be issuing a follow-up document before too long, and, again, the importance of English in the school curriculum will be stressed. I think this is a matter on which we can all agree, and perhaps on that note of what I hope will be agreement I can once again thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, for introducing this debate for us, which I am sure we have all enjoyed and will re-read later with enjoyment as well.

7.31 p.m.

My Lords, at this hour I certainly should not be justified in doing more than thanking those of your Lordships who have taken part in this debate for what I think will be agreed to have been a most informative as well as a most entertaining discussion, and I am truly grateful. This is not a topic on which I think we are likely to make much rapid progress, but I thought the noble Baroness's speech tonight was more forthcoming than on the last occasion we debated this subject. As of course I do not propose to comment on the individual speeches beyond thanking your Lordships, I content myself by associating myself, if I may, with the tributes that have been paid to the maiden speech of my noble and learned friend.

The only other matter I wanted to mention arises out of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, who, in the old Chinese fashion, let off fireworks with his gunfire. I entirely agreed with what he said, and I venture to think it might be well worthwhile exploring whether, instead of the Report stage in the second House which discusses a Bill, we should not devote the time to the scrutiny of the language of the legislation. Having said that, I merely thank your Lordships for taking part in this debate and, in spite of Lord Bullock's encouragement, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

Licensing Amendment (Off-Licences) Bill Hl

7.34 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. This Bill, I submit, is not just short in length but is also big in merit. It contains just two proposals, one in each of its two clauses, and it follows the line of a debate in this House in October 1979. It is designed to tidy up a small corner of the jungle of our licensing laws, and I shall explain in a minute in more detail. It is not the intention to swing sales of drink from one set of outlets to another. May I say, too, at the beginning of this short speech, that since the Bill was printed I have had letters from individuals, including the chairman of a well-known football club, and organisations, all in support, and I have heard very little from the other side.

It is true that these proposals have been among the recommendations put forward by the Licensed Victuallers' Association for some little time, but I am introducing this Bill not as anyone's agent but because I am convinced of the merits. Here, may I say that I am not hostile to alcohol in moderation, nor to younger people enjoying a drink as much as their elders. I drink my share, I do not disguise it; and, further, I buy my drink where I find it is the best value, as no doubt we all do. In passing, it is a coincidence that we might notice that today in the Grand Committee Room there was a well-attended meeting—in fact, the Grand Committee Room was full—where there were people from different walks of life discussing, under the chairmanship of a Member of your Lordships' House, the results of alcoholic excess. That meeting had the privilege of being addressed by the noble Lord, Lord Soper, who I am glad to see is going to speak in this debate this evening.

For a long time this country has had special rules and safeguards for the retailing of alcoholic drink as against the retailing of other general lines. The law today is not uniform as between sales in on- and off-licence premises and the increase in the number of off-licence premises is something which is well-known to us all today; the number has increased greatly over the last few years. I am glad to say that no-one can fault the management of the great majority of these outlets, whatever the law may or may not require of them; but there is need for some amendment of the law, and I am looking forward to Government support since one Home Office Minister has spoken in this vein several times and he, like many knowledgeable social workers, has deplored how easy it is for people, particularly drop-outs and the younger element, to obtain drink from certain laxly-managed outlets.

Now, my Lords, the Bill itself. Clause 1 deals with off-licence premises where the sale of intoxicating liquor is ancillary to other business. The Bill provides that such a drink shall be sold from an enclosed department reserved exclusively for that purpose, as frequently happens today, or from over a counter. This all seems simple and reasonable, but I have heard that the smaller businesses see some difficulty in this. I think myself that it is exaggerated, but if it can be shown to be material we can certainly consider other wording if we come to the Committee stage. What the Bill wishes to prevent is a layout where a shopper can take from the shelves everything that he needs, including alcoholic liquor. That is not something that can be found everywhere, but it does happen in many cases. In fact, I went to two not so very far from your Lordships' House yesterday, and found it was easy to put in my basket a bottle of spirits together with cornflakes and the rest, and to pay for the whole together. The Bill wishes to prevent that; to prevent a layout where a shopper puts his bottle of wine or spirits and his baked beans and cornflakes, and all the rest, into the same basket and pays for them all together.

It is not generally realised that magistrates today, when granting or renewing an off-licence, have no power to impose conditions such as they may on on-licences. believe there are occasions when an assurance is asked for, but I very much doubt whether such assurances could be supported if it came to arguing their validity in court. Whereas magistrates have considerable responsibilities when it comes to the granting of on-licences, they have no powers to impose conditions when they are granting off-licences; and, further, in practice today—and any magistrate would bear this out, I am sure—it is difficult for them to refuse an application for an off-licence, and a number of applicants who have recently been refused have in fact had the decision reversed in the Crown Court.

Let us turn to Clause 2. We have been dealing with premises, now we are turning to persons. Clause 2 provides that a person employed selling intoxicating liquor in the premises that we are considering must be 18 years old, which is the minimum age for the legal handling of alcoholic liquor. It brings the law relating to minors employed in off-licence premises into line with that covering on-licence premises, where persons under the age of 18 are not allowed to serve behind the bar. That seems to me a wholly responsible thing to require. In holiday times it is not unusual for teenagers to work in such stores, and in the smaller shops they could find themselves alone under pressure from schoolmates. Today at this meeting I referred to in the Grand Committee Room I heard a Minister of the Crown say that a growing proportion of our young people are drinking more than a few years ago and that the convictions for drunkenness among young people are also going up. That means that they are drinking more than is good for them.

In conclusion—I do not wish to expand on this because the two points in the Bill are simple, short and I am sure your Lordships can understand both-I cannot see that there will be many people in the country who will be opposed to the provisions of this Bill. As I have said, it is in line with the discussions in this House in October 1979. It is exactly in line with the resolution passed by the magistrates at their conference in December 1979. The wording was that they urged that licences should be granted to supermarkets for the sale of intoxicating liquor only where there is a secure separate licensed area staffed at all times when the area is open by an adult cognisant of the licensing law.

The wording of the Bill is not quite so precise as that, but it shows that what I am proposing is in line with the opinion of the Magistrates' Association. Further, it has the general support of all the police officers, senior and junior, who I have asked. I understand too that the Association of Chief Officers of Police is in favour of the proposal, although they say they are not able to comment on the administrative consequences that might be required in certain businesses under the provisions of this Bill.

It could be said that there is a need for much bigger reform of the licensing laws. I can see one noble Lord already nodding in agreement. Be that as it may, it is well known that we can wait a very long time in this country for major reform of any law, and frequently there is a good case for taking the smaller step when it can be done without great difficulty in a reasonably short time and with wide approval. This straightforward short Bill meets a real need and I hope that your Lordships will give it a Second Reading tonight. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

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

7.43 p.m.

My Lords, I rise to oppose this Bill. I would first declare my interests. In common with 10 million of my fellow countrymen, I am a member of a co-operative society. In that society I have a small investment and receive a fixed rate of interest and, so far as they are able to, my family buy their requirements from that society. I think that the House will agree that my financial interest is negligible. On the other hand, I have to admit to a substantial professional interest. I have not only been in the management of retail distribution pretty well the whole of my working life, but I was involved in the initiation and development of the first self-service stores in this country and I wrote a booklet on the subject. I have continued my interest on the subject and I therefore admit that I have a very strong professional interest.

I want to give the House some background data which I think will help them to put this Bill, and what might be said about it, in its proper perspective. The figures that I am going to use have been taken from the Economist Intelligence Unit. Seventy-five per cent. of alcoholic drink in this country is sold from on-licensed premises; that is, premises where the alcoholic drink is consumed on the premises. Of that 75 per cent., 57 per cent. is consumed in public houses, 3 per cent. in restaurants and 15 per cent. in clubs. The balance of 25 per cent. is the off-licence trade.

The off-licence trade can also be analysed. Fourteen per cent. of the 25 per cent. is in specialist off-licence shops, and only the balance of 11 per cent. is the off-licence trade of grocers. Even that 11 per cent. can be broken down. Seven per cent. is by the national multiples; 2 per cent, is by the co-operatives and 2 per cent. is by the independent grocers.

Not all the grocers sell by self-service. I would say that the majority do not. It is, on the other hand, true that some of the specialist shops have developed self-service; but by and large it is fair to say that fewer than 10 per cent. of the alcoholic drink which is sold is sold on self-service. We all abhor excessive drinking and the supply of drink to the young who are below the age. But that is not what this Bill is about. If it were about that it would be an entirely different Bill, and I will show the House in due course how it would be different.

This Bill is a move by one section of the trade against another section of the trade. The impetus for the Bill comes from the licensed victuallers—that is the people who have the pubic houses. It is a move against the off-licence trade, particularly the self-service shops, both large and small. The reason for the Bill has nothing to do with young people, nothing to do with excessive drinking; it is because the public houses are losing trade to the off-licence trade. They are losing trade and, consequently, they are trying to protect themselves.

The reasons why they are losing trade is well known. First of all, the housewife likes one-stop shopping. She likes to be able to buy a bottle of wine with her groceries rather than have to go along to a public house to buy the wine after she has finished buying her groceries. That is the first reason. The second reason is that in the past decade or so many more of our fellow countrymen have spent their holidays on the Continent, and on the Continent they have enjoyed a drink of wine with their meals. When they have returned home they have on occasions had the enjoyment of wine with their meals, and wine is predominantly sold in the off-licence shops.

Furthermore, the housewives who purchase the wine are not, and do not profess to be, connoisseurs. They like to browse among the labels free of any assistant and to decide for themselves which of the wines would suit their taste and palate. We claim they should be free to do that. But by the adoption of the most economic methods of retailing, the self-service shops in retailing have been able to cut their costs drastically and to pass on part of that reduction in cost to the consumer by reduced prices. That is really where the rub comes in. What the public house licensed victuallers, the public house managers, are complaining about is that the consumer is getting a benefit from the self-service shops which the public houses cannot find their way clear to give.

But there is a final reason why the balance of trade has tended to go to the off-licence. Up and down the country there have been campaigns by the police against drinking and driving; consequently there has been less drinking in pubs and more drinking at home. I would claim that is a good thing. I would claim that the environment of the home is more likely to be conducive to the control of drinking than the environment of the public house. I would give in support a quotation from a report entitled Drinking in England and Wales: an inquiry carried out on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Security. The report was prepared by a Mr. Paul Wilson, and among other things he says this:
"Among both men and women the heavier drinkers did more of their drinking in public houses or hotels whereas the lighter drinkers did more drinking in the home. The results suggest that people who mainly drink in bars may be more vulnerable to developing a higher drinking style".
There is the evidence—

My Lords, would the noble Lord give way? How on earth, in one's own home, do you find out whether someone is drunk or sober, whereas you can see whether they are drunk or sober in the street or in a public place?

My Lords, I am not concerned as to whether you can see A or B. What 1 am saying, and what is supported by the report from which I have quoted, is that the environment of the home is more likely to be conducive to controlled drinking than is the environment of the pub and anyone with experience of both I think would verify that, whether they are in favour of this Bill or not.

So far as drinking by those under age is concerned, this does not originate in super-markets. A recent market survey, analysing the customers of supermarkets according to age, found that only 1 per cent. of customers were under 18 years of age. Consequently it cannot be said that supermarkets are crammed with juniors who are trying to purchase or steal liquor.

The magistrates are quite capable of looking after the conduct of the off-licence trade; and here I speak from personal experience both as a magistrate and as an applicant for licences. The first step magistrates take is to call for a plan which shows where and how the liquor is going to be sold. I have also found by experience that what they often do is to visit the premises and see for themselves. If need be, they ask for assurances. For example, they often ask for an assurance that the display of liquor will be under the supervision of an experienced and responsible person who has been specially trained for the purpose and is over 18 years of age. I have seen those assurances and have had to give them, and those assurances are generally attached to the licence.

So far as theft is concerned, the shopkeeper does not need any incentive to ensure that there is no theft because he has already paid heavy licence duty on the products, and consequently, because of their considerable value, he keeps them in a position where they will be under the most careful supervision.

Because of my interest in retail management, I keep my eyes open when going into retail establishments. I have found that in self-service stores, which are usually well lit and in which the customers are walking about, it is comparatively easy to detect those who are likely to be under 18; but in the public house, which is only partly lit, which has dark corners and in which the customers are often sitting down, it is very difficult to distinguish who is and who is not under 18. That is where the trouble arises—in the public houses. I will quote again from the report, Drinking in England and Wales. Here they say that of the men they interviewed 40 per cent. admitted they had drunk intoxicating liquor on licensed premises before they reached their 18th birthday. Similarly 30 per cent. of the women they interviewed said they had drunk intoxicating liquor on licensed premises before their 18th birthday.

The trouble with the sale of drink to people under 18 arises in the public houses: it is those who are just under age imitating those who are over the age. That is the trouble and that is the problem you have to deal with. In an all-party committee this afternoon, when this Bill was discussed, I heard a very good example of what can happen. A Member of your Lordships' House said that he went into a public house when 15 years of age and, while he was at the bar, he got a nudge in his back and when he turned round he got a fright—it was his grandfather. He was asked: "What are you doing here?" and he said "I was going to have a pint." The grandfather said: "Well, get me one as well." That is the problem you have got.

Now let us look at the effects of the Bill. The first effect will be to frustrate the housewife. The Bill provides that if the shopkeeper wishes to sell liquor on self-service it must be in a separate, enclosed department used exclusively for that purpose. Just let us look at what that is going to do. It will mean that the housewife, when she buys her groceries, will not be able to buy her bottle of wine and pay for it at the same time as her groceries. She will have to go through the check-out with her groceries and then go to another part of the store beyond the enclosing wall, collect her bottle of wine and go through the check-out again. We have no right to insist upon a trader inconveniencing his customers in that way unless we havevery good reason, and I suggest that no good reason has been given to us. Also, suppose that her husband goes into the supermarket. He wants a bottle of gin and half a dozen bottles of tonic water, and therefore he would have to go into one part of the store and buy his tonic water, go to the check-out and pay for it, and then go to another part of the store to get the gin—because the enclosed department where they sell intoxicating liquors cannot be used for any other purpose.

Furthermore it is the custom and practice in many self-service stores to sell tobacco and cigarettes at the check-outs, but you cannot do that in the enclosed department because that department must be used exclusively for liquor. Furthermore, there would be an enormous waste of space. The off-licence trade is one in which there are great fluctuations throughout the year. At the present time the trade is relatively small. In the summer when we get warmer weather it is somewhat greater, and in the months before Christmas it is very great. Consequently, the space you need for self-service of wines and spirits varies throughout the year, and if you have to have an enclosed department you will give the trader the choice: either he has to have a big department which is used only at Christmas and is idle space throughout the year, or he has to have a smaller department in which there is congestion at Christmas; and if there is congestion at Christmas there will be more young people who are under age getting wines and spirits and there will be more thieving because of the congestion.

In all seriousness I submit to the House that if you put a wall through a self-service store and say: "You are going to sell wines and spirits on one side, and all the other goods on the other side", it will make no difference whatever to the youngster who wants to go into the store to buy wines and spirits. It will not affect him one little bit.

You are tackling the wrong problem. The problem you have to tackle is supervision. If you are not satisfied that the magistrates are getting firm assurances on the standard of supervision in self-service stores, then there is a justification for a Bill dealing with supervision, but not for a Bill that puts through the middle of a store a wall which will serve no great purpose whatever, and will increase the cost to the retailer which he will have to pass on to the consumer.

This Bill will increase costs and prices. But it goes further. The Bill insists that even the young lady who takes the money shall be over 18 years of age. It is based upon the fact that people who are behind the bars have to be over 18 years of age. But the people who are behind the bars are doing an entirely different job. They are handling loose wines and spirits, and bottles and cans that are already open and available for drinking. But in the case of the supermarket, the assistants are handling unopened cans and bottles, and a can of beer is no different from a can of vegetables or a can of food so far as the shop assistant is concerned, while a bottle of wine is no different from a bottle of detergent. All the shop assistant is concerned with is finding the price and charging for it, and to insist that she must be over 18 years of age is pure nonsense. Furthermore, this Bill would affect the employment of school-leavers. Two in every 10 school-leavers go into the retail trade, and if you hamper the retailer in this way, then he will be able to give less employment to school-leavers, which at the present time is a significant question.

All sections of the retail consortium, which is a very wide organisation, are opposed to this Bill. My noble friend Lord Sainsbury has asked me to apologise for his absence and to say that, unfortunately, he has prior commitments abroad. But had he been here, he would have spoken on the Bill and voted against it, in the same way as I shall do.

Social habits change. Methods of retailing change. As a consequence of these changes, the balance of trade changes. I would direct your Lordships' attention to the words of the Erroll Committee:
"In the final analysis, it must be left to the public to demonstrate what type of outlets they prefer and the licensing law cannot, in our view, be used to control these market forces".
I ask your Lordships to follow the Erroll Committee in your decision upon this Bill.

I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, who has in all good faith brought this Bill to the House. But I will, nevertheless, ask your Lordships to oppose the Second Reading on two grounds: first, because it has no basis of proven fact; and, secondly, because it seeks to use an emotive subject to handicap one section of the trade in favour of another section of the trade, and those who would be favoured are the people behind the Bill.

8.4 p.m.

My Lords, I also rise to oppose this Bill, and I am helped in doing this by the very strong case put forward, with all his experience behind him, of the noble Lord, Lord Jacques. But before I develop a slightly different argument against this Bill, I must declare an interest in that I have for the last few years been a consultant to a large, well-known retail organisation—not at all, I hasten to add, on this aspect of their work. But they would be seriously hurt if ever this Bill got on to the statute book, and it is only right that I should refer to it.

I shall not follow the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, on the detailed effects on retailers, but I want to oppose the political aspects of this Bill and to challenge, as he did, the aim of the legislation. Despite the assertion to the contrary of the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, I really must agree with the noble Lord, Lord Jacques. In my view, this Bill is a very thinly disguised attempt by the public house owners, the managers and the tenants, to recover some of their off-licence business which they have lost to the high street shops.

But this is not at all the way to tackle this problem. As the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, said, the high street shops have less than 10 per cent. of the trade, in any event. But this is not the right way to do it. This is trying to use legislation to advantage one vested interest against another. To seek to do this by imposing severe restrictions on the way that high street shops operate their sales of alcohol to the public is quite wrong and, in any case, it is a business which is subject to strict control by the licensing magistrates.

Furthermore, I do not believe it is right to say that licensing magistrates—and I know many—have no real control at all. In the end, they can refuse a licence, they can ask for conditions to be imposed and they can ask for assurances. I do not find that a well-found argument. This Bill would place a very severe burden, too, on the enforcement authorities and I should like to ask who would be the enforcement authorities in a case such as this, if you are to police the Bill as a measure of this kind would demand.

It is suggested that the increase in under-age drinking is largely because of the sale of liquor by supermarkets and general stores. But I have searched in vain for any evidence to support that claim, or even any evidence to disprove it. This is a field in which there is very little evidence. But such evidence as I have found points the other way. The statistics published in Appendix L to the Erroll Report in 1972, to which the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, referred, show that the number of people prosecuted for knowingly delivering intoxicating liquor to someone under 18 for consumption off the premises, between 1967 and 1970, varied each year from a high of 15 male and female in 1967 to a low of five in 1969. The latest figures for 1979, which I got from the Home Office, show 13 prosecutions in this field and eight convictions.

In contrast, the number of people under 18 who were convicted of buying or drinking in a bar in 1979 was over 4,000. This is a tremendous contrast. It seems to me to be quite wrong to seek to place a very heavy burden on a particular section of commerce, without a comprehensive study of the whole problem of youth and alcohol in our society. Certainly, it would be extremely unwise to jump to the conclusion that selling arrangements in the high street were to blame, and that public houses were the epitome of virtue in this matter.

I believe—and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, who is to reply will confirm this—that a Green Paper on alcoholism is to be produced in the next few weeks by the Department of Health and Social Security. That Green Paper will, as I understand it, deal with the problem of youth and alcohol. Those of us-and there are many-who are worried about teenage drinking and under-age drinking, look forward to the publication of a paper of that nature, and to the public debate which it will generate. This is an area in which we could begin to get some evidence on which to work, and I do not believe it is right and proper for this House to pass a Bill of this nature, without having much stronger evidence on which to formulate the legislation.

It may well be that this House itself should, on an important problem of this sort and as part of the public debate, set up a select committee to go into all aspects of this matter, to call for witnesses, to call for papers and to do a proper investigative job. We shall see, when we get this Green Paper, whether that is necessary. But at the present time we have totally insufficient evidence on which to make up our minds one way or another and, in my view, this is the worst form of legislation. The idea that you should, without reliable evidence and without reliable statistics, engineer an advantage for one commercial section of the community against another is absolutely wrong.

There is, in my view, nothing which indicates that this measure would have any beneficial effect on the problem of under-age drinking. The Bill is totally misconceived. I shall certainly support the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, if he takes it into the Division Lobby, and I hope we shall be fully supported.

8.10 p.m.

My Lords, in the last session of Parliament I was asked to promote a Bill similar to the one which my noble friend Lord Inglewood is promoting today, but largely through lack of parliamentary time and as a result of the high and responsible advice which I sought from people in the licensing profession, lawyers and so on, to the effect that the drafting was not entirely adequate, I decided not to pursue the Bill further.

Today my noble friend Lord Inglewood, who has had distinguished experience as a Minister in another place, has made out a very convincing case for the Bill. Nobody is going to pretend that it is a solution to the problems of our licensing laws, least of all a solution to under-age drinking or under-age drunkenness. All noble Lords and Members of another place, indeed all those who have young people's welfare at heart, will be concerned about this problem.

I have two very close relatives who are magistrates. One is the chairman of a bench while the other is a member of a licensing committee. Only a few moments ago I spoke to the chairman of the licensing committee of our local bench in Surrey. They wholeheartedly support the Bill. It is arguable whether supermarkets should sell intoxicating liquor. There are those who believe that this should never have been allowed. Off-licences have grown in number and are subject to very strict control.

I would not challenge what has been said about drunkenness in public houses. My reading of the Bill is that it does not challenge the fact that there is drunkenness in public houses. However, I challenge the view that a youngster taking a bottle of whisky or gin or whatever into his or her home, whether for father, uncle or somebody else, would not necessarily consume some of the alcohol. In other words, there seems to me to be no convincing proof that drunkenness in the home is any less a hazard than drunkenness on licensed premises. I do not know the figures. I certainly agree that if figures were available they might show that in public houses, particularly on a Saturday night or after a football match, there may be more people in various stages of intoxication than could be found in the home.

Supermarkets have a prime duty to sell food, toilet requisites and items of that kind. In America, supermarkets sell almost everything, including lawnmowers and cars. I do not think anybody would wish supermarkets in this country to go that far.

I think that the provisions of the Bill are not unreasonable. It may well be true, as the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, who made a very persuasive speech from his own tremendous experience in the retail business revealed, that in some supermarkets there are problems of space, particularly at Christmas-time and at Easter. When relations or friends come to stay, one needs more alcohol or drink of some kind in one's house. At those times there is obviously going to be much more demand.

As I see it, this Bill is seeking to do something to prevent young people under the age of 18 from going into supermarkets to obtain alcoholic refreshment without adequate supervision safeguards. The checkout points are very often manned by youngsters. I believe that they are supposed to have a supervisor with them, but the supervisor, particularly on a Saturday morning, may be under great pressure. The person at the checkout point may not be able to tell whether a youngster is under 18. And if the person at the checkout point is under 18, he will have still less influence over the matter.

The provisions in my noble friend's Bill will do something to curb the sales of alcoholic refreshment to people under age. As the Bill stresses, if it is sold over the counter it will mean that people of a more mature age can be brought along to be on the counter and to supervise the sales of this liquor.

Another point is that it is argued that in some areas there are insufficient off-licences and other places where such drinks can be obtained. This may be true in rural areas, but in that part of Surrey where I live there is no shortage of off-licences. All of them operate under a very strict code.

The question of price has been mentioned. I wonder whether there is much of a saving as between going to a supermarket or to an off-licence like Peter Dominic or Augustus Barnett. I wonder just how much money the housewife or the father who goes into a supermarket to buy a bottle of gin or whisky, or whatever, saves.

Clause 1 (1)(b) of the Bill is especially welcome. It may be that in Committee some points will need to be tidied up. However, many of these establishments are not necessarily managed by our own people. There are places in London which seem to be open day and night. I should like to ask my noble friend under what licensing laws they come. I am thinking particularly of places in the Fulham Road and such places run by people of foreign communities. Are they subject to these strict licensing laws? People can go in there and buy this kind of drink almost ad lib—at least that is my understanding of the situation and surely that needs looking into. The fact is that in Scandinavia in particular there is an enormous amount of teenage drinking, and from what I have seen there I would go so far as to say teenage alcoholism. Teenage drinking is on the increase in this country and I think any magistrates' court would confirm that.

I would be the last to deter people of the right age from drinking. This is not an anti-drink Bill; it is not an anti-supermarket Bill. It is a Bill to try to ensure that licensing regulations apply in reasonable condition to all outlets of those who sell alcoholic refreshment. I believe that, as an attempt to do this, the Bill has been well thought out; it has the support—as my noble friend has mentioned—not only of the licensed victuallers but of the police, which is most important and I think also of many magistrates. I believe that it deserves its place on the statute book.

8.22 p.m.

My Lords, I am attracted to the question raised by this Bill. The propositions attached to that question form a very single-minded background and I share with the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, the purpose, however fragile and small, that such a Bill as this will do something to improve the situation—a situation which has got steadily worse with regard to alcohol and now presents, as I see it and as I think your Lordships will see it, a major problem for the community in which we live.

Therefore, the question I ask myself is: Will this Bill improve that situation? However small may be its measures, is it going in the right direction and therefore does it deserve support? I find the answer is in the negative on those three counts. I am not of the opinion that the retail consortium is a complete and total ally of such a proposition as I have advanced. I do not think we both belong to what John Wesley would have called a "holy club", but I am quite prepared and ready, and in fact willing, to accept them as co-belligerents—as Winston Churchill described the Russians after the Nazis attacked them. I would regard their claim that this is internecine strife, that is discriminatory, as proven and that the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, is unanswerable. In other words I do not really believe that this has anything to do with the question of improving an alcoholic situation, but is an attempt to recover trade by a particular outlet and that trade has been impaired by the provisions of off-licensed premises.

I do not necessarily identify publicans and sinners, but ethics, I think, would suggest a very close connection. Therefore, I am not going to weep any tears about the licensed victuallers. I believe they are doing something to recoup their losses and from a purely commercial standpoint I have nothing against that; from an ethical standpoint, inasmuch as I believe they are dealing with a highly dubious commodity, I am against it.

I would take a more positive line with regard to the effects of this Bill as it now stands. I believe it will necessarily advantage the public house to the disadvantage of the store and of the off-licence premises. There was a time when I was by no means satisfied that the extension of the sale of liquor to off-licence premises was a desirable proposition, but I am bound to say that on the evidence the various evils which might have accrued from such a proposal and such a practice have largely proven themselves to be enlarged or exaggerated. Indeed, if I had to choose as a compromise between the evils of drinking in the public house or the evils of drinking in the home, for a number of reasons I think drinking in the home is preferable. In the first place, it is much more likely that drinking in the home will be accompanied by eating. That is much less likely to happen in public houses. I understand from the document which has already been quoted that the rate of intake of alcohol over a period of time in public houses is much faster than at home, which again I would regard as a very dangerous proposition.

Thirdly, from the evidence which, as a social worker for many years, I have been able to accumulate I have no doubt whatever that the provisions of regulation in public houses are grossly unfair in the sense that it depends in so many cases on—as has already been suggested—the lighting and the quality of the care of supervision and indeed of the way in which that particular public house is regulated. It is beyond any question, as I see it, that quite a number of youngsters of 14 and 15, to my personal knowledge, regularly attend public houses and have no sense of danger of being arrested or being prevented from indulging in the habits of alcohol. This has come to such a point that in the last 10 years there has been a 40 per cent. increase in young people's drinking.

I will quote just one other piece of evidence which to me is minatory and it is this: in this particular survey of the age group of 18 to 24, 23 per cent. volunteered the information that over the last three months they had been intoxicated and got drunk on at least three occasions. When one thinks of what is likely to be the cumulative result of the practice of getting drunk three times in three months, or whatever it may be, I regard that as evidence that our real problem is with the public house and not with the off-licence premises.

Therefore, I appeal to the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood; if, as I firmly believe, it is his intention to reduce an evil-and I for one go very much further than many others in your Lordships' House in my estimate of what is required if this evil is not only to be abated but to be controlled and conditioned and contained—then at least it should be a very different Bill from this one. It should put its firm emphasis first of all on the evils which are associated with the public house. That is a Bill which would attract the support of Members of your Lordships' House who take very similar views to those which I have expressed tonight. I know that I can speak for the right reverend Prelates who are not here but who have given me their assent in this particular regard.

I should like to make one other point before I sit down. I do not know how many of your Lordships drive cars late at night in the heart of London. I suggest that, if you do, you are increasingly aware of the amount of drunken driving which is a danger alike to those who drive and to those who happen to be in their way. It is much more likely that the carnage on the road will be increased by the public house drinking than by drinking in the home, which, after all, if it is domestic is not likely to be followed by long journeys by car. That is just one piece of evidence which I think should be adduced and added to what has already been said.

I would appeal to the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, that here is an opportunity to do something big and practical about an ever-increasing evil about which he and I were given concrete evidence only a few hours ago in another part of these premises. It is in this regard that I hope that this Bill will go no further. It is a wrong Bill because it is looking in the wrong direction, doing the wrong thing and failing to appreciate the opportunity of doing something constructive in this problem of alcohol and in the containment of it, particularly with regard to the youth who will be the citizens of tomorrow and who are being regularly incapacitated in large numbers from fulfilling that post and that opportunity because of the menace of alcohol in our present society.

8.30 p.m.

My Lords, I think anyone who is intending to drink too much at home will do so regardless of this Bill. I do not think this Bill makes any contribution to stopping that, and I do not think anything in this Bill has been proved to have any benefits in other directions. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, when he says that most alcohol is consumed at pubs, or people at pubs consume most alcohol. Obviously, we all know that once you have one drink you give somebody else one and the camaraderie makes you have one drink and then another. I am sorry he did not take as an example a report in today's press. A man went along to the pub and had a drink; he rang his wife to say he would be just 10 minutes, and a quarter of an hour later rang again and asked her to come and join him; she explained that the dinner was on. An hour and a half later, after many more drinks, she came along and emptied over his head a complete plate of egg and chips. This indicates the amount of time that he must have spent there.

It has been said that there should be no sale at supermarkets, and yet this clashes, because there is great inconvenience, with the hours of opening of off-licences. And this should indicate that they should be allowed to continue to sell alcohol. Scandinavia has been mentioned as being a place of great drunkenness. Yet in many parts of Scandinavia where I have been—I do not know if it is so all over, but it certainly is in parts—it is not only difficult to get wine and alcohol, but it is extremely expensive. In Finland, and I think in Norway, it is actually rationed and people are only allowed one bottle a month or whatever it is. In spite of that restriction there is a lot of drunkenness. Restricting alcohol does not stop drunkenness.

I think there may be some relevance in this Bill with regard to large supermarkets. Indeed, many supermarkets at the moment have exactly what the Bill requires; that is to say, a separate counter with somebody serving; you do not help yourself. I think it is a very good thing. But one notices that these are all fairly large supermarkets with large staffs, perhaps 10 or more, where it is always possible to find one person who is of age who can man that particular counter. Also there are so many people in the shop that there is a reasonably brisk trade to keep the counter occupied.

But there are huge numbers of self-service stores. I think I know the same one the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, knows; I am thinking of one in Fulham Road also. I should like to draw attention to these small self-service stores and small grocers, in London and in towns and villages. These have just a few shelves and they sell groceries and wines on a very small scale. They have very limited space. It would by physically impossible for many of them to have separate counters from which to sell their alcohol. Where they have a staff of perhaps only one person, this in itself would not allow for a person to be selling alcohol; the one person obviously has to have his eye on the till and be collecting money from people buying other goods. At the same time this one person would be unlikely to be a child, if he is left in charge of the shop. It being a small shop, unlike a supermarket, supervision is fairly easy, because somebody at the till with half a dozen people in the shop can perfectly well control that shop, whereas they cannot control a large supermarket. Furthermore, these small shops work on extremely minute margins, through the competition of multiples, and even if it were physically possible to have the separate counters it would be financially crippling. This is at a time when there is compulsory payment of sickness benefit. The expense would be disastrous.

Finally, there is always the problem of defining these shops, where you have a grocer selling alcohol or a shop selling alcohol which also sells groceries. I think that might present a problem. I cannot support this Bill unless it is redesigned to suit the small traders. I think that those who wish to misbehave with drink will always get it regardless; even if it is rationed they will still get it and get drunk. I do not believe the problem is all that large. I think that in the small shops there is the supervision that is required. I do not feel that we should necessarily reject this Bill, but I think it should be severely amended to help the small retailers.

8.37 p.m.

My Lords, if I may start my contribution to tonight's debate, which is apparently turning into one on alcoholism rather than on the Bill before us, perhaps I may, with great respect, chide my noble friend on the Front Bench for the way in which the Government, not only this Government but other Governments, have not in fact tackled this whole problem in what I might describe as the round, the whole problem. While I noted with great interest what the noble Lord, Lord Byers, said with regard to the report that is to come out shortly, it is my understanding that this is a report on drink in respect of work; it does not cover the whole problem of alcoholism.

I stand totally and fully for a free enterprise situation. I like people to be able to buy goods that they want to buy and sell goods that they want to sell in the best way they think it possible. However, society decided many years ago that alcohol was one of those products which had to be regulated, and regulations have been made. We have now seen the growth of—and I do not use the expression "supermarkets"—self-service stores, designed primarily to reduce price. Wines and beers and hard liquor can now be sold in those stores. Some licensing magistrates seek assurances from the licence applicant. As my noble friend, Lord Inglewood, quite correctly, pointed out, conditions cannot be applied; assurances may be sought, and I am told by self-service store operators whom I know that you do not challenge those assurances; otherwise on renewal you are likely to find yourself in difficulty. On that point, different magistrates, different licensing authorities, apparently seek different assurances. This seems to me rather wrong and a little unfair, for the on-licence applicant has to comply with the full rigours of the law.

With regard to offering a free enterprise situation, I mean by that where there is fair competition. I have no brief in my pile of papers; I do not know anything about what the Retail Consortium have said. I do not believe for one minute that the pub keepers, those represented by the National Association of Licensed Victuallers, are seeking, if indeed they re seeking anything at all, anything more than the same competition, the same elements of competition that they have. They have to have of-age persons to serve, and they have to serve within certain physical bounds. And as for the nonsense—if the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, will forgive me for using the expression—of the brick wall down the middle of a supermarket, I think that the noble Lord was pulling our tails a little tonight on that matter. Certainly when we come to the Committee stage of the Bill there is little doubt that we may want to know what is meant by an "enclosed department". I do not think that the definition of my noble friend Lord Inglewood is too good in that regard.

However, in Waitrose in Romsey—which is a food store belonging to the John Lewis partnership—there is a wine, beer and liquor store within a store. There is no hardship for the frustrated housewife. I think the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, called her the housewife who was going to be frustrated by going to two checkouts—she would not like an enclosed space because she wanted to walk around the shelves and make her choice from the exciting array of labelled bottles to see which would suit her palate and, no doubt, her purse. She can also do that by being served and saying, "What's that?" and "What's that?" I do not believe that very many people who buy wines in supermarkets or self-service stores have a very great knowledge of wines nor a great desire to be absolutely satisfied by a particular wine or beer. The connoisseurs go to the shippers and the specialist shops. I am told—and this is information which I believe to be totally reliable—that the hard liquor taken out of a self-service store is a very small proportion of what is called the "pick-up sale", where somebody just goes along and picks up a bottle of hard liquor, probably because of the pricing factor.

Quite frankly, I see the self-service sale of liquor, wines and beers as the sprat to catch the mackerel—the one-stop shop. Underneath the same roof one can get all that one requires on the grocery list, whether it includes wines, beers, tomato sauce or whisky. That is what it is about. So they bring in this additional range with the wish and hope that, by filling the shelves with as many of the products as might be anticipated, they will sell all or most of those on the shelves: butter, biscuits, cornflakes, beans, beer, wine, tomato soup and so on. That is why people go.

I part with my noble friend Lord Auckland when he suggests what a hyper- or supermarket might or might not sell. Let them sell everything, motorcars included, as they do elsewhere. They are in business to satisfy a market. The only point is that they must operate under the same constraints as anybody else. When Sainsbury's, for example, sell petrol, they have to operate under the same constraints as I had to operate under as a petrol station operator—namely, the same licensing; the same number of staff; the same age of staff; the same records; the same books and the same inspectorate. That is exactly what should happen in the self-service store in so far as selling wines, spirits and liquor is concerned.

I have concentrated my argument on that side of the case because that is where I felt most of the argument against my noble friend was coming from. I believe that the problem of alcoholism starts very early in life. I know a man, sadly, who confesses now that his alcoholism started as a young schoolboy nipping across to the pub at lunchtime for a quick half. As the years went by it became a necessity. It is as difficult to tell an under-aged boy or girl under the bright lights of a supermarket as it is under the lesser lights of a pub. It just is difficult to tell the age of anybody. When one asks, as Clause 2 of my noble friend's Bill asks, that the staff should be of some maturity, 18 at least, there is a better chance that, if challenged, somebody younger is likely to give way. But if one is challenged by a 16 year-old—and one knows that there are 16 year-olds at the checkouts in multi-checkout stores—there is not much chance of success.

I believe that we should give my noble friend's Bill a Second Reading. I think that we should seek from him, by way of amendment, answers to a number of the questions and problems which have arisen tonight. That is what the Committee stage is for. There is only one other matter that I should like to mention that would reduce my support: that would be if my noble friend on the Front Bench, the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, said: "Ah yes, but in x period of time we propose bringing in a new piece of legislation which will cover the whole area of alcoholism". I fear that he will not be able to offer any of us that, so I think that we shall have to make do with the rather piecemeal way in which we treat the whole matter.

My noble friend Lord Inglewood really is to be congratulated for his single-mindedness of purpose over a number of years in bringing to Parliament very modest Bills that, in total, may make some kind of an impact on the one thing which all of us are worried about, which is the growth of alcoholism and its dangers. I was so delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Soper, speak in that context in terms of drunken driving. He will know, of course, that in the other place at present the Transport Bill is under discussion, a part of which I hope will take care of that very problem. I am quite sure that it has the overwhelming support of the country. Therefore, perhaps this modest Bill ought to have very much greater support than your Lordships have so far shown it this evening.

8.48 p.m.

My Lords, I rise to oppose the Bill and I speak in the capacity of a magistrate. The cases that come before us in the Birmingham courts arising from excess alcohol normally fall into three categories: first, the driver who is driving under the influence of drink, more often than not having done the rounds of the pubs and clubs in the city before he has decided to go home; secondly, the unfortunate category which comprises more often than not the middle-aged or elderly man who tends to come before the court normally for a nice weekend in the local prison where he gets a rest and a good feed and then sets off again; and thirdly, of course, that category of young people which attends football matches. Those are the three categories that I normally deal with when I sit as a magistrate.

However, I also speak as a housewife who has considerable knowledge of using supermarkets. I do not want to criticise noble Lords about supermarkets, but I am always a little worried when men speak as though they have the greatest knowledge of what goes on in supermarkets. The majority of men who go shopping in supermarkets are the younger men who accompany their wives. I bow to the great knowledge of the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, because I first met him as a very active co-operator myself, working in the Co-operative Movement.

But if you go around supermarkets at the beginning of the week, you find in the main the middle-aged and the elderly shoppers because they have received their pensions at the beginning of the week. The middle-aged tend to shop on Wednesdays and Thursdays because they then avoid the week-end crush. Then on Thursday late night shopping, Friday and Saturday you normally find the young marrieds, up to the age of 45 or so, with the husband and wife both shopping together, filling their trolley with everything that they will need for the coming week. You very rarely see a young person shopping in the supermarkets. I do not know whether Waitrose is different from Marks and Spencer, Tesco, Sainsbury, or the Co-operatives, but statistics show that it is very rare to find young people shopping in supermarkets, for the reason that the supermarket aims at a particular category of people, which is not the young people.

Supermarkets are trying to sell food and other commodities which are not for the young people. I speak from experience. If noble Lords can tell me where I can see crowds of young people shopping for alcohol, I shall be only too pleased to go with them to witness it. But when the boys go by train or coach to football matches, from where do they get their cans of beer? They are not getting them from the local co-operative; they are not getting them from the local Tesco.

My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Baroness for giving way because I should like to answer her. On many Saturdays, whether or not there is a home game at Southampton, quite early on in the Upper Street precinct, where there are no motor-cars and where there is a Tesco, I have seen with my own eyes young men and women going in and coming out with handfuls of chips, bottles of whisky and containers of beer. They sit on the benches in the precinct, drink them, drop the bottles—plop-which smash on the ground, and throw the cans wherever. I have seen that happen.

My Lords, I do not dispute that the noble Lord has seen it; I am just saying that I have not seen it. That is the difference. Southampton and Birmingham may perhaps be entirely different cities in that respect. Perhaps the magistrates in the City of Birmingham are much tighter in their control over the selling of alcohol in supermarkets. I speak with a vested interest as a magistrate.

Many noble Lords have brought forward instances tonight with which I fully agree, but I do not think that we have had from the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, or the noble Lord who has just spoken, any proof at all that the self-service store is not carrying out its duties in a proper and responsible way under the Licensing Acts do not think that the courts can prove that they are not doing their job in a responsible manner. I do not think that we have had any proof that the supervision is less rigorous in the supermarket and all the other places than it is on licensed premises. If we had that proof I should be willing to listen to it, but we do not have any statistics on it.

Although the noble Lord, Lord Byers, has left the Chamber, he said—and I agree—that we need statistics if we are to prove a case. The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, said that he did not want to speak too long, therefore he might answer this point. But he did not produce any statistics to show that supermarkets were being brought before the magistrates or that their licences were being revoked because they were less rigorous in their supervision concerning selling to under-age teenagers.

I want to speak for only a few minutes because I think that one noble Lord said that this was not an anti-drink Bill or an anti-supermarket Bill. I appreciate and accept that there is a problem with under-age drinking, but I do not think that this Bill goes any step forward to combat that problem think that we are starting from the wrong place. As the noble Lord, Lord Soper, said, young people go to public houses for companionship, for convivial and enjoyable drinking under what they think are enjoyable, dim lights—a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Jacques. It is a different form of enjoyment compared with sitting, drinking out of a can on a bench in a park. Therefore, although I sympathise with what the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, is trying to achieve, I cannot support the Bill because I do not think that it goes any step forward in cutting under-age drinking. I do not think that the source of the problem lies in the supermarkets and the self-service stores.

8.57 p.m.

My Lords, I rise to support this small Bill. It is not a world-shaking Bill; and I am the first to admit that it is not a Bill which will cure. But at least it points in the right direction. I speak as a social worker; indeed, I am proud to ally myself with the noble Lord, Lord Soper. I speak as an ex-Director of Social Services. As such I have moved in the circle of the most vulnerable in our society, and it is concerning the most vulnerable in our society that I wish to speak.

I and my colleagues seek to protect the most vulnerable, and it is that protection about which I also wish to speak. In my experience there are those who in no circumstances would transgress the law, who would not indulge in excessive drinking. There are those who will always seek ways to get round the law, to transgress the law, and who will indulge in excessive drinking. There are those who will transgress the law who will indulge in excessive drinking if the opportunity arises. Very often they are the most vulnerable people who need protection.

I believe that this Bill will go some way towards helping those people who need protection. Like other noble Lords, I have consulted the police, and they welcome the Bill. I have consulted a warden of a well-known community offering shelter to the homeless and, what one might term in modern parlance, the drop-outs. He states that the men and women in his hostel would be helped if they could not easily remove bottles of drink from shelves in supermarkets and put them in their capacious pockets. I make a plea for some of those who have been in mental hospitals or who are attending clinics which help them with their problem of drink, who are placed out in the community, who go round the supermarkets and find that they are able to remove bottles from the shelves.

I speak also of the juveniles whom we are trying to rehabilitate within the community rather than putting them into custodial care. We want them to be kept in the community. We want them to be helped to sustain life in the community, and therefore we want to make life easier for them so that they are not able, and do not have the temptation, to transgress the law.

The first clause of this Bill has been well described by the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, and therefore I shall not go over it again. In any case, it is well known to your Lordships' House. I listened with the deepest interest to the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, who, as has been said before, made a persuasive speech, and one listened carefully to it knowing of his great experience. The noble Lord seems to me to have great experience of the supermarket and the stores, but I wonder whether he has quite such experience, although I hesitate to say this, of people and of the vulnerable people.

I agree with him that many more people have travelled, many more people are drinking these days. But my experience is different from his. My experience is that women who do not quite know what bottle of wine to drink, what bottle of port to drink, what it is that they really need and want, prefer to have a counter; prefer to have someone to talk to. I have spoken to many women who have bought things off the shelves and then it has not been what they wanted when they got home, and there has been a waste of money. Therefore, I would have said that many housewives want to have a counter and want to have an older person with whom they can discuss the purchase of their drink, their alcohol.

As to waste of space, I am surprised at this argument of the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, because there is no more space taken up in having a shop within a shop. There is no question of any great wall—the East-West wall. The space is exactly the same whether you have a shop within a shop or whether you have the product on the shelves. The noble Lord, Lord Jacques, also talked about depriving school-leavers of jobs. I spent Saturday morning in a big supermarket, and I went to one shop where the drink was sold off the shelves and to another shop where there was a shop within a shop. It did not seem to me that there would be any depriva- tion of jobs for school-leavers because the shop within a shop had two experienced people behind the counter, but the shop selling drink off the shelves had simply standing by the check-outs four supervisors to whom a girl could call if she wanted to. It seemed to me that this was really quite an extravagant way of using labour, and in any case there was no question of school-leavers not having jobs.

The noble Lord, Lord Byers, talked about the very little amount of research into this matter, and I absolutely agree. This is astonishing. There has, however, been some research. I think that there was some particularly good research in Scotland, but it was some time ago and therefore could not really be mentioned in this debate today. The noble Lord mentioned the Erroll Report, which of course was in 1972. We in your Lordships' House must all admit that conditions have changed quite dramatically from 1972 until now. The noble Lord felt that the Bill was misconceived because it was not based on research. I would only say that when you have the police agreeing with the Bill, and some social workers—perhaps not all —agreeing with the Bill, there must be surely some merit in it.

The noble Lord, Lord Auckland, is a supporter of the Bill. He said with great honesty that he was not anti-supermarkets; that he was not anti-drink, but that he wanted to safeguard the interests of those who might go to the supermarket and might in fact take drink that they might not otherwise have had. I listened, as we always do, with great care to the noble Lord, Lord Soper. He bases his opposition to this Bill on the fact that it is just one part of the industry fighting another part of the industry. I suppose that the noble Lord would say that it is the greatest treason to do the right thing for the wrong reason. All I would say is that I have absolutely no interest in the supermarkets, I have no shares, and I have no interest in pubs. I enjoy both places. I drink in pubs; I go into supermarkets. I like them both. I drink, I hope, in moderation. Therefore, there is no war in my mind as between the supermarkets and the pubs.

I speak as a social worker and, as I said earlier to the noble Lord, Lord Soper, I speak for those few vulnerables. I hardly like to say this to Lord Soper, but there was that little parable about the one black sheep. I find in my work as a social worker that my time is not taken up with a number of people; it is taken up with just a few people who commit offences and who cause the most enormous amount of trouble.

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Baroness would allow me to remark that the parable is not about a black sheep but one rather helpless lamb that got lost and was discovered by the zealous shepherd.

I bow to the noble Lord's greater knowledge, my Lords. I speak about the one lost lamb and, so far as I am concerned, the one lost lamb is the delinquent boy or girl who longs for drink, goes into the supermarket and manages to nip round and come out. I hardly like to call my drop-out friends lost lambs, but as the noble Lord has corrected me perhaps I might do so. It is the few drop-outs who cause an incredible amount of work and trouble.

Though they number just a few, they cause a disproportionate amount of work and trouble to society and those who are their friends, and in any case we cannot always talk in terms of numbers when speaking of people.

The noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, spoke about small self-service stores and the limited space available in them. I can think of two very small grocers' shops in a small Cotswold town which have separate counters with separate people serving drink. In this connection, although I have never personally run a supermarket, I wonder why we denigrate the shop within a shop concept, inasmuch as many shops, Waitrose and others, have shops within shops. As so many of them do that, they cannot operate at such a loss. I listened with interest to my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth, with whom I agree that one can get assurances; but they may not always be carried out and it may he difficult to prove they are not being carried out. As for the choice of the housewife and the fact that a sprat is used to catch a mackerel, while many housewives do not necessarily go to supermarkets to get drink, I have been told by many that they have had sight of drink as they have passed by and, although they had not meant to get drink, they had in fact purchased it.

The noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal, and I are on the same ground, but strangely, although I know Birmingham extremely well, we seem to differ in our view. She did not make it clear from where she thought the football crowds purchased their drink. My experience is that while some of those who take drink on the trains and into football grounds purchase it at pubs before making the journey, most of them purchase it at off-licences and supermarkets.

My Lords, from my experience in Birmingham I would say that they buy it from pubs near the ground, and in the last two years those pubs all close on Saturdays when matches are being played in those areas.

My Lords, I should be interested to know, from what the noble Baroness said—perhaps she will tell me later—whether that means they now go to football matches without drink. I very much doubt that. This is a small Bill. If I thought the Minister intended to call for a complete reorganisation of our licensing laws I would support my noble friend Lord Lucas and withdraw my support for the Bill, but I do not think the Minister will be so recommending. Therefore, in fairness to the most vulnerable members of our society who need our care and protection, we should give this small Bill our support.

9.13 p.m.

My Lords, I apologise for not having put down my name in advance. I had to attend a board meeting in Plymouth earlier in the day and could not guarantee being back in time to take part in the debate, and therefore originally, my programme being what it was, I did not intend to speak tonight. However, I am, as the noble Lords, Lord Peart and Lord Jacques, know, a member of the Retail Consortium Parliamentary Group in this House. May I also say that I have not been approached by any licensed victuallers or publicans, and I have not received a brief from any source, other than the brief which arrived on Tuesday morning from the Retail Consortium. I thought that that brief went right over the top and missed the point of this little Bill. I thought that it was making such a martyred case for itself that I immediately rang the director-general and told him that in no circumstances could I support him.

I have read of recent statistics relating to Glasgow and London, and I know of the problems that there have been in the South-East of England and in London, particularly when there is an influx of people arriving at mainline stations on their way to football matches. They arrive early in the morning long before the pubs and off-licences are open. They arrive at Wembley at 10 or 11 o'clock and line up with the loads of drink which they have bought in supermarkets; and many of them are under the age for buying liquor.

I am glad to be following my noble friend Lady Faithfull, because I think that she has brought the Bill back to its original purpose. It is a very small Bill. It makes a modest effort to counter the ease with which young people can buy alcoholic drink when they are under age.

The noble Lord, Lord Jacques, made a very spirited speech, and I should like to emphasise that nothing in the Bill prevents supermarkets from selling drink to people who are entitled to buy it. If it is said that the Bill would present a monstrous embargo, I would say that it is possible to have an enclosed department for selling drink within a supermarket. Woolworth can do that, so can Waitrose, Tesco and Fine Fare. All the supermarkets in Victoria can do it, and so there cannot be such a burden for the housewife. I go to Woolworth's in Oxford Street, near my office. I nip in and buy my butter, bread, bacon and meat, and then I go to a separate drinks counter. If I buy a bottle of sherry or whisky, there is a responsible counter man, who is not under age, and I pay separately for the drink. It is put in a bag and a receipt is clipped to it. I place it in my wire basket with all my other purchases, and at the main cash desk the girl takes out the bag containing the drink, which she knows I have paid for, and she tots up the rest. There is no hassle or agony of having to go to another department, which the noble Lord so graphically described. If Woolworth, Tesco, and Waitrose can do it, I do not believe that it is beyond the wit of the others to do it.

I come to another point that concerns me, and I do not for a moment doubt the record of experience of the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher of Rednal, who had her dig at gentlemen who do not go to supermarkets. With her great work in Europe she is away from England even more often than I am, and I can assure her that I do all my own shopping and I go to the supermarkets—

Will the noble Baroness give way? May I point out to her that I have not been going to Europe since the direct elections took place.

The noble Baroness established a record for herself, but I apologise, and stand corrected. Be that as it may, I too have to do all my own shopping, and I, too, go to the supermarkets. I live very near Victoria Station and I see people using supermarkets. I see the supermarkets being used by people who come up for Cup matches and by tourists who arrive on the first morning train from France—some of them are very young—for a day in London. Quite often, when we have great Wembley matches, they will come down to Euston, they will then go and see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, and then they will pour into Victoria Street and collect the booze before they catch the Tube off to Wembley. I also see, well after the pubs have closed, at the supermarket in Victoria, youngsters going in and buying liquor from the little girl at the cash desk, who quite often is well under 18 and would be too frightened, anyway, to stop some of these burly youngsters, who have bought a couple of cover items and have also bought the drink.

With the greatest respect—and I shall be madly unpopular for this among my colleagues in the Retail Consortium—I think this is a genuine attempt on the part of my noble friend in a small way (and he would be the first to admit it) to limit the ease with which young people can obtain drink. You can read in the London Metropolitan Police report, you can read the welfare officer's report, you can read the Alcoholics Anonymous report and, above all, you can read publications about Glasgow, which is at the head of the league table, of the deep concern at the increased sale of liquor and the ease with which young people are obtaining it. That is the reason, my Lords—because I sincerely believe it will make some contribution to reducing the ease with which young people can get it—that I support my noble friend Lord Inglewood in the Second Reading of this Bill.

9.22 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Inglewood for his very clear explanation of the reasons which prompted him to move the Second Reading of this Bill, and for explaining to us the Bill's intentions. As an almost total abstainer, I have found this short debate extremely interesting; and I am particularly grateful to my noble friend, therefore, for the clarity with which he introduced the Second Reading of this Bill.

I wonder whether I could say just a word to your Lordships about the very serious concern with which the Government view the growing problem of alcohol misuse in this country. I am afraid I cannot respond to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, this evening about any possible publication from the Government; I am not in a position to do so.

My Lords, I do not press the noble Lord. I merely got that information from his office—the Home Office.

My Lords, I am simply responding to the noble Lord by saying that, whatever may have been said from my right honourable friend's department (which is always, in everything, helpful to those who inquire of it), I, nonetheless, am not in a position to respond to the noble Lord this evening, and I know he will not think I am being deliberately unhelpful.

Instead, let me say a brief word only about the Government's concern, and, to illustrate the rate of growth of alcohol misuse, let me give only a figure or two. In the 10 years from 1967 the number of admissions to mental hospitals for the treatment of alcoholism in England and Wales almost doubled, and there are indications that the numbers are still rising. In the same period, the number of deaths reported from chronic alcoholism increased by 150 per cent., and deaths from sclerosis of the liver have risen by about 40 per cent. The number of convictions for drunkenness offences in 1968 was just over 79,000; in 1979 there were almost 118,000 convictions. I will not go on, because all noble Lords, in one way or another, have recognised this increase in the statistics which concerns us all.

It is undeniable, of course, that men figure more prominently in these statistics than women, but a disturbing feature of all these trends is the rate of increase in the number of women involved. The number of women convicted of offences of drunkenness has indeed risen very considerably, as has the number admitted to hospital for the treatment of alcoholism. It is a sad picture. Among the severe problems which may result from excessive drinking are family breakdowns, accidents and of course loss of output at work. It contributes also to crime and vandalism. There are many other problems which my noble friend Lady Faithfull could no doubt tell me about.

Against this background the Government are always willing to consider any constructive proposals which may help to reduce levels of alcohol misuse. We have examined my noble friend's Bill very carefully. As my noble friend has said, it has been prepared in consultation with the licensed victuallers who have first-hand experience of the problems involved in controlling the sale of alcoholic liquor, and they are also people who stand much closer to the tragic effects excessive indulgence may have.

The main provisions of the Bill are to require supermarkets and other self-service stores to establish specially designed self-enclosed areas for alcoholic drinks and to ban those who are under 18 from working as assistants in areas where drink is sold. My noble friend has argued persuasively in his speech that the ready availability of drink on the shelves of supermarkets, and the employment of those under 18 at check-outs, can be factors which facilitate the purchase of drink by under-age drinkers. There is also the point which I think my noble friend mentioned that women who might not wish to be seen buying drink in considerable quantities in an off-licence or a special area of the supermarket would be prevented from doing so by the provisions of this Bill.

If the Government believed that the Bill would contribute significantly to a reduction in drunkenness and alcoholism among these two groups, we would warmly commend it to your Lordships' House. But we are not convinced that it will achieve this desirable objective. I am not sure that I am so entirely certain that everything is black and white, as perhaps some noble Lords may think. It is a very difficult area on which to reach the right conclusions. One of the reasons, as many noble Lords have said, is that the statistics are not easy to unearth and not conclusive when one has found them. All I have been able to find which has convinced me in one particular direction is that recent figures for the number of findings of guilt for offences of drunkenness for persons under 18 shows that since 1973 the number of offences has remained fairly constant at about 165 per 100,000.

As I have already said, we all know that the overall figures for drunkenness offences have been going up much too fast. But there is little evidence so far as I know for a direct link between excessive consumption by young people and women and increases in the numbers of off-licences granted. This was certainly the view which was taken by the Erroll Committee. My noble friend is quite right that that was eight years ago. The survey mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, carried out by the OPCS last October into people's drinking habits in England and Wales did not find any evidence, either, that off-licence sales were a major factor in increasing levels of alcohol misuse, particularly among the young. While the provisions of this Bill, if it is enacted, may go some small way towards reducing the sale of drink to those who are under-age, the Government wonder whether the overall impact would be sufficient to justify the creation of new criminal offences, not to mention the additional inconvenience to shopkeepers and to the shopping public. On balance, I have to say to the House that we do not think it would. That is not to say that we are not concerned about these sales.

We hope that the off-licence trade will respond to some of the criticisms which have been voiced in this debate this evening by intensifying its efforts to eliminate sales to those under 18. In this respect, I should like to say that I have managed to get hold of a copy of a booklet called You and the Rules of Selling Drink which has been put together by the Wine and Spirit Association of Great Britain in collaboration with the British Multiple Retailers Association for use in staff training programmes. I think it is clearly and simply written and should be a very great help in this way in setting standards for those who are actually selling in retail stores.

So, in conclusion, although the Government have some reservations about the effectiveness of this Bill in countering alcohol misuse, we shall certainly study carefully the points raised by noble Lords in this debate. We welcome the opportunity that this Bill has given for a debate on the important subject of alcohol misuse and we are grateful to my noble friend Lord Inglewood for having provided the opportunity.

My Lords, the Second Reading debate on this small Bill has developed into a general debate on alcoholism and, although many of the speeches had very little reference to what was actually in the Bill, they have all contributed to what I hope will be considered by others who are not here tonight, if they read this debate, to have been a useful occasion.

I think that I must answer several points, my Lords. I believe that many speakers have read too much into this Bill and, if I may say so, they have spoken about many things which are very wide of what is in the Bill. For instance, I made no attempt to deal with alcoholism in general, although we all agree that it is a real and pressing problem, as we have just heard from the noble Lord the Minister. Nor are all off-licences referred to in this Bill: only some. I never mentioned the names of any of the well-known retailers at the beginning of this debate because I have no wish to be represented as standing up for one section of the trade against another.

The noble Lord, Lord Jaques, did, I think, make the perfectly fair point that this Bill could be seen in that light, but I thought as time went on—he will not mind my saying this—that it was just a little bit like the pot calling the kettle black. I would submit that the proposals in this Bill are not likely to be a heavy burden, as was suggested, and this idea of great big walls being built right through the middle of retail premises was an amusing exaggeration, but that is not something which is required under the Bill. Also, as was said by my noble friend at my side, in the vast majority of well-run places today you find a separate "compartment" already in operation. Therefore there is no novelty here. We are dealing not with the well-run premises but are thinking of those few whose standards could well be raised.

I avoided introducing any emotion into my speech, I hope, because alcoholism always seems to raise all sorts of emotions on its own. Very few statistics are available. The noble Baroness who asked that question about statistics knew, I am certain, that very few are in fact available. I would tell her that over recent months I have spent more than a little time looking at the problem of alcoholism in and around Victoria Station, where plenty of unfortunates can be seen of all ages and types—but how you are going to discover where they got the alcohol which brought them to this pass, I just do not know. I think it will be a very long time before we have many statistics which we can accept. We have to use our own intelligence and our own "hunch", as it were.

I mentioned at the beginning that I would be happy to consider amendments, and one amendment in particular. I should like to suggest, in that spirit, that I would happily look at any amendment which is going to improve this Bill. So, of course, I agree that social habits change with changing times. Let us see what improvements we can introduce in Committee. My Lords, I hope the House will give this Bill a Second Reading tonight. I beg to move.

9.34 p.m.

On Question, Whether the Bill be now read 2a ?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 8: Not-Contents, 19.


Auckland, L.Lucas of Chilworth, L. [Teller]
Faithfull, B.
Gisborough, L.Mersey, V.
Hornsby-Smith, B.Strathclyde, L.
Inglewood, L. [Teller.]


Airedale, L.Northfield, L.
Amherst, E.Oram, L.
Blease, L.Peart, L.
Brooks of Tretnorfa, L.Soper, L.
Byers, L.Stone, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B.Strabolgi, L.
Jacques, L. [Teller.]Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Kissin, L.Underhill, L. [Teller.]
Mackie of Benshie, L.Wilson of Radcliffe, L.
Maelor, L.

My Lords, as it appears that fewer than 30 Lords have voted, in accordance with Standing Order No. 54 I declare the Question not decided, and the debate thereon stands adjourned.

Felixstowe Dock And Railway (No 2) Bill

Reported from the Unopposed Bill Committee with amendments.