House Of Lords
Wednesday, 8th April, 1981.
The House met at half-past two of the clock ( Prayers having been read earlier at the Judicial Sitting by the Lord Bishop of Oxford):
The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.
Number Plates On Imported Motor-Cars
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 they are doing to prevent imported cars from going about our roads with "mini" British number plates falling well below the prescribed standards.
My Lords, over recent years most manufacturers of imported cars have taken steps to provide mounting spaces large enough for a British number plate. While this has significantly reduced our difficulties with sub-standard plates, there are still some vehicles, mostly American cars, which cannot accommodate a full-size number plate. The practice of fitting the so-called "mini" number plates is a potential road safety problem which we are considering along with other problems relating to number plates.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. I wonder whether he can explain why it is that the police, who tell us they would have no difficulty in enforcing a compulsory seat belts law, do nothing about this offence when the evidence is quite literally staring them in the face?
My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right; the enforcement of the regulation is in the hands of the police. But the use of police resources is of course a matter for individual chief officers. However, in any case individual prosecutions do not get to the root of the problem. The real need is to ensure that a legal plate can be fitted, and is fitted, to a vehicle when it is new.
My Lords, I wonder whether I might press this a little further. Is there not some risk of underrating the importance of this matter? Would it not be a serious matter if someone were unfortunately knocked down by one of these vehicles and then could not read the number plate because it was illegally too small? Are there not good reasons why number plates should be visible at a distance, and is there not good reason why the law should not be so openly flouted?
My Lords, I have already recognised that there is a problem here. I would not say that the law is openly flouted, but there are some occasions, for particular reasons, when the law is not obeyed. The use of number plates which are more difficult to read than those prescribed in the regulations must add to the problems of the police and other enforcement officers. It could, as the noble Lord suggests, also lead to difficulties in identifying cars after accidents and thereby prove a road safety hazard, but I am not as yet aware of any evidence of serious difficulties which have been caused in this area. Should any evidence be presented, then of course the department will have no hesitation in consulting the relevant organisations and very promptly doing something about it.
My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that use of these mini plates is in fact a criminal offence?
My Lords, yes, it is. The present standards are laid down by regulation, which of course was approved by both Houses of Parliament.
My Lords, is it not one of the tests of eyesight that one can see number plates at a certain distance?
Yes, my Lords; but the problem is that these mini number plates contain letters which are some 10 per cent. smaller than the normal ones that we are accustomed to on cars.
My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that our manufacturers are not able to sell motor-cars abroad if they do not satisfy the rules of the countries in which we are selling them? Why should it be possible for motor-cars manufactured abroad to come here when they do not comply with our rules?
My Lords, we have of course approached the representatives of the manufacturers about the difficulties. Our reason for going to them first is that the provision of an adequate mounting space on a car is in our view the best way of tackling the problem. This approach has already worked well with several manufacturers of imported cars. The residual problem is not large, but if any of the import concessionaires or dealers in vehicles which have this difficulty are concerned about the problem and wish to discuss it, the officials of my department would be happy to arrange a meeting. Further to this, the residual problem appears to be that privately imported cars—for example, for servicemen who are serving here and belong to other nationalities—are subsequently sold into the trade in this country. At the time when they owned them they were legal.
My Lords, would the noble Lord like to explain what is the difference between openly flouting the law, which he said did not happen, and breaking it in broad daylight?
My Lords, I think this is a question of semantics which I am not qualified to answer on this occasion, but I shall consider and write to the noble Lord, if I may.
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would consider whether it might be worth while advising the owners of cars with these number plates that they are likely to be stopped at any moment and randomly breathalysed perfectly legally because they are at all times committing an offence?
Yes, my Lords, but this would add to the pressing problems of bureaucracy which we have at the moment.
Prison Sentences: Partial Suspension
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, in view of growing concern about prison overcrowding on the one hand and the ineffectiveness of fully-suspended sentences on the other, they will investigate the cost-effectiveness and the deterrent value of partly-suspended sentences.
My Lords, we keep under review both the working of suspended sentences and the possibility of implementing Section 47 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 which provides for sentences to be partially suspended. We have not so far introduced such sentences because of uncertainties about their effect on the size of the prison population if they were used instead of fully suspended sentences of imprisonment.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reply. Is he aware that a Conservative Member of Parliament, the honourable Member for Paddington, who is a former assistant prison governor, wrote recently that the conventional suspended sentences had been a failure? Following on from that, because it is generally acknowledged that the first month of imprisonment is the most traumatic, if convicted prisoners were sent to serve the first three or four weeks of their sentence in prison and were then released to return to their normal occupation, knowing that if they put one foot wrong they would be back to serve the rest of their sentence, would this not have a much more dramatic deterrent effect and therefore have the effect of lowering the prison population overall?
My Lords, I hesitate to say that suspended sentences are not effective. I am aware of criticisms and, indeed, research is being undertaken to try to throw more light on this particular aspect. With regard to what the noble Lord said in the second part of his question, I assure the noble Lord that the Government recognise the strength of the argument for introducing partially suspended sentences, but we really must be confident that the overall impact of the provision would be to offer relief and not add to the prison population.
My Lords, could not the effect of introducing partly suspended sentences be to increase the size of the prison population and tend to encourage courts to pass such sentences in lieu of, for instance, probation or indeed suspended sentences?
My Lords, I would agree with the noble and learned Lord. This is the danger, and this is what causes the Government to hesitate.
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that short sentences overcrowd the prisons very much less than long sentences, and a partially suspended sentence must be shorter than any other kind of sentence, except the wholly suspended sentence? Is the noble Lord aware that all the recommendations for the partially suspended sentence have included the recommendation that the remainder of the sentence should be served under supervision?
My Lords, I think the area we want to look at is the prisoner serving the shorter sentence, and indeed the Lord Chief Justice has emphasised in cases in the Court of Appeal that that is the area at which he would wish the courts to look. It is intended shortly by the Home Office to publish the results of a review of the parole scheme which will look not only at its operation within present statutory limits but also at the possibility of some extension to shorter sentences of early release arrangements. I think that is the way we should proceed.
My Lords, could the Minister indicate when the review of this subject which he has promised is likely to be concluded?
Shortly, my Lords.
My Lords, would the Minister bear in mind that there are considerations other than the immediate effect on the prison population?
My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, and the Government are committed to ensuring protection for the public against violent and dangerous criminals. However, violent offenders are, I am glad to say, still in the minority in our prisons, and there is reason to believe that a reduction in the use of imprisonment for non-violent offenders could be achieved without sacrificing the protection which the public are entitled to expect.
School Examination System And Employers
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 plans they have to improve the school examination system at GCE Ordinary Level and CSE so that it provides prospective employers with a more realistic guide to a pupil's ability.
My Lords, GCE O-level and CSE examinations are to be replaced by a system of examinations based on a single scale of grades with national criteria for syllabuses and assessment procedures. We are confident that employers will find the new system more intelligible and informative than the present arrangements.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Can she give any information as to the Government's proposals for the use of profile reports on pupils—how they behaved during their time at school—so that a potential employer may be informed as to the kind of person he or she may be taking on?
My Lords, examination certificates do not of course record the full range of pupils' achievements at school, even for those who get high grades in a substantial number of subjects. We have invited the Schools Council to undertake additional work on the development of records of achievement which would include examination results as well as a range of other information helpful to employers.
Nevertheless, my Lords, may I suggest to the Minister—
Several noble Lords: No.
Certain noble Lords may consider themselves good at detail, my Lords. May I ask the Minister to be very careful, please, about this sudden tendency towards teachers' profiles of pupils? Speaking as one who never passed an O-level in his life, may I ask the noble Baroness whether she is aware that nevertheless I have a tremendous appreciation of what a teacher who might have disapproved of my personal rebelliousness, or whatever they might have chosen to call it, could have put into my profile? Will the Minister please go very carefully on this matter, particularly at a time when, as most of us know, the teaching profession is very much infiltrated by people with particular political motivations?
My Lords, I made it quite clear in my main Answer that we are committed to a system of examinations at 16 plus, and there is no question of substituting anything else for an examination system. We are looking at a system of records of achievement and we have asked the Schools Council to do some research on that.
My Lords, what does the department intend to suggest about the 20 per cent. of pupils who take no exams, neither GCE O-levels nor CSE? What sort of assessment will they suggest for those pupils, who need one just as much as the exam-takers?
My Lords, this is of course a matter of the target group at whom the 16 plus examinations will be aimed, and there is not at present a single system of examining which could be extended to cover the whole ability range and at the same time maintain standards. However, we are concerned that many school-leavers leave without any written state- ment of their achievements and it is to that end that we are looking at this whole question of a record of achievement; but we have not taken any decision on the form it might take.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that it is normally quite easy for an employer, when proposing to take on an applicant, if the interview is thorough, to have a fairly good idea of the person's ability?
My Lords, I do not doubt that an employer, after an interview, can have a clear idea of the applicant's ability. It is often very important for the applicant to get to the interview in the first place, and therefore a record of achievement is important.
My Lords, does the Minister not recall the affaire des fiches in France which caused a controversy over military employment, because it was said that the words "good Roman Catholic" was one of the titles used to identify a suitable army officer in a Roman Catholic country? That started a political rumbustious row which lasted for many years and had severe political consequences upon the introduction of hostilities.
The noble Lord's observations are rather wide of the Question, my Lords, but I assure him that we are not going into any system of a record of achievement without looking very carefully at it, and that is why we are still doing research on it.
My Lords, will the DES be making some pronouncement about the linking of the various examination boards? They seem to be taking a long time about it and do not appear to be getting on very well together at the moment. Could the Minister say, further, when the Cockroft Report will be issued, and whether its proposals will be co-ordinated into any new proposals that will be coming out?
My Lords, the answer to the first part of that supplementary is that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State believes that there should be four groups of examining boards in England and one in Wales, and I believe we are close to the point when their detailed composition can be finally settled. On the second point the noble Baroness raised. I have no information at present.
Politically Extremist Literature In Schools
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they are taking to prevent the circulation in schools of inflammatory literature by politically extreme organisations.
My Lords, the Government deplore the introduction of politically extremist literature into schools. It is the responsibility of local education authorities and of schools to deal with any attempts to distribute such literature in schools, and they should inform the police if they think that an offence may have been committed.
My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that reply, may I ask whether she is aware that in a world in which there is so much violence, both here and overseas, and in which there are so many violent groups, Right just as much as Left, there is a danger of having politics infiltrated into the schools by various methods which one would deplore? It is to be hoped that the Government will keep a very close eye on the subject, because it could be dangerous.
Yes, it is, my Lords, and I think local education authorities and head teachers are aware that it is an offence to publish or distribute written matter which is threatening, abusive, insulting or likely to stir up hatred against any racial group in Great Britain. Where a teacher or local education authority has reason to believe that the material offends against that provision, they should report the matter to the police.
My Lords, can the Minister tell me whether or not what she has mentioned applies to literature distributed at the school gates? Is she aware that only a few days ago I came across an instance where fascist literature was being distributed by people at the gates of a comprehensive school in my area? What is the legal position in such a case?
My Lords, if the material offends in the way that I have described, it is of course a matter for the police. Although the promotion of an extreme political opinion itself does not constitute an offence, people engaged in political activities outside a school might none the less be guilty of a criminal offence if they are obstructing the highway or acting in a manner conducive to a breach of the peace.
My Lords, surely this is a little absurd. Is not the object of education to try to set the pupils' minds alight, to make them receptive, to give them the chance to receive or to reject? Are we really going to try to protect them from the writings of such people as my noble friend Lord Shinwell, who was a highly inflammatory demagogue in his time?
My Lords, we have to distinguish between two important aspects of this question. The task of political education in schools is not to recommend particular opinions but to describe to pupils, and teach them about, the workings of a democratic society. The distribution of literature of the type that I have described is an offence and falls within a quite different category.
My Lords, has my noble friend any knowledge of the fact that sometimes it is a question of word of mouth, rather than literature, inasmuch as pupils in schools are strongly advised to support bodies such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament?
My Lords, it is not for Ministers to make a judgment on what teachers say in schools about their particular opinions. However, it is vital for us all to acknowledge the importance of professional judgment among teachers and local authority representatives, and I believe that the overwhelming majority of them use their professional judgment wisely in these matters.
My Lords, in view of the considerable length of the list of speakers for today's business, it might be convenient if I announce that although dinner will not be available, I have arranged for the Grill Room to remain open until 9.30 p.m. and for light refreshments to be available in your Lordships' Guest Room.
Beverage Containers Bill Hl
My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to promote the use of refillable beverage containers; to prohibit the sale of beverages in non-returnable containers; and to provide for regulations to be made to standardise beverage containers. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a first time.
Moved, That the Bill be now read 1a .—( Lord Beaumont of Whitley.)
On Question, Bill read 1a ; and to be printed.
Allied Irish Banks Bill
Read 3a with the amendments, and passed, and returned to the Commons.
Expenditure Cuts And The Public Services
rose to call attention to the effects of Her Majesty's Government's expenditure cuts on those in the community who depend on Government aid and local authority services; 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. My contribution this afternoon will take the form of a plea to the Back-Benchers on the Government side of the House. I do not think that anything that I am able to say this afternoon will make any impression whatsoever upon the Government Front Bench. We have been through this matter many times before and, as your Lordships know, the Government are resistant to change and are very dogmatic so far as their beliefs are concerned. I do not hold that against them; I accept it. I want to try to discuss with noble Lords behind the Government Front Bench various matters which I feel are of supreme importance to the community.
During the past few years the Government have introduced three Budgets and two social security Bills, as well as a considerable amount of other legislation that has imposed hardship on a large section of the community who are already finding it difficult to make ends meet and to maintain a reasonable standard of living. The purpose of the debate is to encourage noble Lords opposite to take a look with me at the situation which the Government have created for those people who are already impoverished. We on this side of the House have been appalled by the apparent indifference of noble Lords opposite to the effects of Government policy on some of the groups in the community. Let me be quite frank here. At first we were amazed that so much social legislation should go through without noble Lords opposite objecting, or, as in the case of the two social security Bills, with few Government supporters being present in the Chamber, as though the two Bills had little or no significance.
From being amazed we became appalled by, and indeed very early on we became angry about, the insensitivity of noble Lords opposite to what the Government were doing. We cannot accept that all noble Lords opposite are as indifferent as they appear to be to the legislation which has been passed in this House, and we believe that if they had really thought of the implications of much of that legislation they would have had something to say.
We recognise—and I do not say this facetiously—that most noble Lords opposite start off with a serious handicap in as much as their mode of living may lead them through the highways and byways but never, with very few exceptions, into the back streets where the ordinary people live. One must see how some people live, the conditions under which they live, before one is able to understand their problems. Not for one moment am I suggesting that my remark applies to the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull. I shall have quite a lot to say about the views of the Association of Directors of Social Services—and the noble Baroness was at one time a very distinguished director of social services. I shall be intrigued to see how the noble Baroness defends the Government in a variety of ways, if she is to be so misguided as to do that.
We are prepared to think that the seeming indifference is due to noble Lords being uninformed, misinformed, or ill-informed, and the object of today's debate is to inform them of the true situation. We all need to remember, and to take, the advice of Mr. St. John-Stevas, who said:
"Man is a human being before he is an economic unit".
I say with the greatest respect that had we remembered that advice, some of the legislation that has gone through this House in the last two years could not possibly have been accepted. I also wish to remind your Lordships of what Mr. Jim Prior remarked the same weekend:
"We must have care and understanding for the victims of the recession".
We had a very long and interesting debate on unemployment two or three months ago. But how many of us can put ourselves in the position of an unemployed person, with, or without, a wife and family? Some noble Lords on this side of the House can speak from personal experience in this respect, and some of us from the experience of very close relatives at the present time. We do not seem to realise that one of the most soul-destroying things in our society is prolonged unemployment. It does not only demoralise the individual, who feels that he has been thrown on the scrap-heap and that nobody wants him: his children know that their father is apparently not able to provide for them.
Those of your Lordships who saw the Observer last Sunday will have seen an article headed,
"Tragedies of the men who prefer death to the dole".
There was the description of one particular case of a young man of 17 who died after jumping from a railway bridge near his home on to a 25,000-volt power cable. He had left school some time previously, and was unable to get a job. The coroner said:
"He was a conscientious young man, who had perhaps become the victim of the economic climate".
The article then went on to give a series of similar instances; and there is a very high increase in the suicide rate resulting from unemployment.
The Social Security (No. 2) Bill, as your Lordships know, did a number of things which we on this side of the House felt to be absolutely appalling, and yet there was only one noble Lord opposite, on the Benches behind the Front Bench, who raised any question at all about it and, I think, in fact came into the Lobby with us. I quote from what the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said in your Lordships' House on 2nd June during the Second Reading of the Social Security (No. 2) Bill. She said this (vol. 409, col. 1111):
"I turn now to the specific measures in the Bill. Clause 1 amends the up-rating provisions of the Social Security Act 1975, to enable the amount of the increase in certain specified benefits to be less, by up to 5 per cent. of the current benefit, than the amount necessary to restore their value".
She went on to say:
"This means an increase of 11·5 per cent. instead of 16·5 per cent. from November 1980".
She went on to say further:
"The benefits concerned are unemployment benefit, sickness benefit, maternity allowance",
and so on. It is quite appalling that we should have allowed something that is going to reduce the unemployment benefit by 5 per cent. to pass through both Houses of Parliament, and yet from my recollection there was not a single objection coming from noble Lords opposite.
I want to discuss this in a reasonable frame of mind with noble Lords opposite, because I believe that, as we on this side know, the people behind us can very often alter the intentions of a Government, and this matter is one of the things that concerns us very much indeed. I propose to leave the details of the effects of the Government cuts, so far as they affect the personal social services, to my noble friends behind me. I merely want to draw the outline and leave them to fill in the details. I will be quite frank. I approach my task with some slight reservation. I, like most, if not all, noble Lords was brought up not to take advantage of another's misfortune, in the belief that one should never hit a man when he is down— and I believe that the Tory Government and the Tory Party are certainly down at the present moment. In fact, I would think that they have reached a new low in the judgment of many people.
Never in history have 364 academic economists felt moved to join together to complain about a Government's handling of affairs. Is it a laughing matter? I am glad that noble Lords are amused by it. Can anybody remember 364 academics complaining about the way the Government are managing the economy? Can anybody remember when the Churches of all denominations have banded together to criticise the Government in their treatment of people? I believe the procession which took place in a part of England was led by eight bishops. I cannot ever remember eight bishops leading a deputation. It seems that unless we come to grips with this problem we are likely to have it demonstrated in a violent way on our streets; that is, unless we face up to what is happening to a large section of the community at the present time, who are finding it difficult to make ends meet.
It is said that the Prime Minister cannot trust some of the members of her Cabinet, and it is reported that a prominent Tory MP said—and I quote for the benefit of noble Lords opposite who did not see it:
"Conservative supporters should be alerted that a determined effort is being made by a minority of Tories at Westminster to undermine Margaret Thatcher and to secure her replacement as Party Leader".
That is after two years, my Lords! This, presumably, is the feeling of a number of members of the Conservative Party in respect of their leader. It would appear that both Mr. Walker and Mr. St. John-Stevas have doubts about the Government's policy, and I understand that Mr. Pym has joined the Tory Reform Group. If the Prime Minister is not for turning, can someone persuade her to be for learning? Because I believe that the Prime Minister and those who support her need to inform themselves as to what is really happening.
She said recently, when she was trying to re-write the scriptures at St. Lawrence Jewry—and I quote:
"Creating wealth is a Christian obligation".
So far as I know, there is no such obligation placed on a Christian, but as I see and understand Christianity there is an obligation to distribute wealth fairly, and this is something that the Government have not done. Everyone will recall that immediately after assuming office the Government reduced taxation by about £4,500 million. The poorest 10 per cent. of the people in this country got just 2 per cent. of that money, while the richest 7 per cent. received 34 per cent. I know that noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite will say, "Ah!—but when we came in we did not realise the financial state of the country. We had made this promise during the election, and we were duty bound to carry it out". Only a stupid, short-sighted Government would have parted with £4,500 million in those circumstances. I wonder whether I dare suggest that the banner at the next Tory party conference should be:
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, for where your treasure is there will your heart be also".
That seems to some of us to personify the situation at the present moment.
As I said earlier, I do not believe that the majority of noble Lords opposite understand how millions of our people have to struggle to make ends meet. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Cullen, will endeavour to put up a strong defence of the actions that the Government have taken. If I may be presumptuous—and I know that the noble Baroness will not mind my saying this—they will tell us that it is all a matter of money, that the Government have done their best on the limited amount of money available and that things are not nearly as bad as I and my noble friends on this side of the House try to make them out to be.
There would have been no need for this debate if the Government had not mismanaged £4,500 million on tax reductions, given in the main to people earning £10,000 a year or more, the people who, in my submission, did not need it; because if a person cannot manage on £200 a week there is something radically wrong with the individual. On 28th October 1978, the present Secretary of State said:
"Local authorities' welfare services must concentrate on the areas of greater need, the very old, the severely disabled, the mentally handicapped, the mentally ill and on the children's services".
We all know what happened to them! I have a report—and I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, has seen it and therefore will not be able to say that I am wrong—that has been issued by the Association of Directors of Social Services, in which they say that there have been cuts in residential care for children, in residential care for the elderly, residential care for the physically handicapped, residential care for the mentally handicapped, residential care for the mentally ill and for other people who need residential care.
There have been cuts affecting children boarding out and certainly there have been severe cuts on Meals-on-Wheels, on holidays for the elderly, on travel concessions and on Shelter housing. Day nurseries have suffered and pre-school play groups have also suffered badly. But also there have suffered—and this is important—the day centres for the elderly, the one place (as I can say from some experience in Oxford) that elderly people like to go to first thing in the morning and come home from as late as they possibly can, because there they meet other people, there they live and only live to go there the next day.
Day centres for the physically handicapped and for the mentally ill and the multi-purpose day centres have suffered severe cuts and, in some instances, closures. Also, social workers and specialist social workers have been disposed of in some areas. Grants to voluntary bodies who work among the deprived have suffered; and so has training and maintenance of buildings and furniture which I am not bothered about. We know what has happened to all those groups as a result of the Government cuts in local authority resources and income by substantially reducing the rate support grant. I do not think that there is time to discuss the rate support grant. It undoubtedly represents a threat to democracy when the Government step in and begin to tell the local authorities how much money they can spend and in which direction they can spend it. It is a threat to local government in this country, as three noble Lords have said recently.
I feel that we shall be told that things are not as bad as we make them out to be and that the curtailment of local authority services is the fault of the local autho- rities and not of the Government. This is an argument which has been advanced by the Government: "It is not our fault but that of the local authorities". But the local authorities have had their rate support grant reduced by £100 million—I am taking all of them. As they are the one body responsible for the personal social services they have been forced to do one of two things: either to put up the rates very substantially and to provide those services or to cut down the services in order to keep the rates down. And so you get this deprived section of the community not only losing some of their social amenities but paying higher rates; and we all know that along with higher rates goes the increased burden of high prices for gas and for electricity.
If there is any doubt in the minds of any noble Lords opposite about the serious effects of the cuts, let me refer to a statement—I was going to read three statements but will read only one—issued by the Association of Directors of Social Service, who can claim to be, as they are, a very reliable and informed body of experts in this field. The quotation that I want to leave with your Lordships is this:
"Spending on the personal social services had to increase by about 2 per cent. per year to maintain the present standard of service; and to maintain and expand the services to a level which directors considered necessary to meet the need in their areas would mean an increase of 16½ per cent. to 17 per cent. in the budget. Instead there had been a cut of 2½ per cent. to 3 per cent. in the original planned budget; this must harm services".
My Lords, I want to conclude by saying this. I do not say it lightly; I get no pleasure out of saying it; but I want noble Lords on the other side to realise what is happening because this Government may be with us for a while yet and I strongly suspect that each Budget will bring further limitations, particularly in the rate support grant. I say to noble Lords opposite that in the interests of that section of the community which is deprived they must resist this. All that this Government have given to a large number of people of this country is unhappiness and increased poverty. To people who should have been given a priority, they have given scant consideration. I plead with noble Lords opposite not to permit this to continue and to watch the Government's actions and intentions most carefully, not so much in the interests of the Conservative Party but in the interests of people for whom they say they care. If I may say so, actions speak louder than words. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
My Lords, I welcome the choice of Motion that the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, has made. Though there are many issues on which he and I do not see eye to eye, it is eminently desirable for your Lordships to debate the important issues he has raised; and the debate gives us on these Benches an opportunity to explain fully the reasons for those aspects of Government policy which the noble Lord has mentioned; to invite your Lordships to see the problems he has raised in the perspective of the country's overall situation; and to deal with some of the myths that the Opposition has been fostering—both here and, more frequently, in the House of Commons.The noble Lord concentrated to a considerable extent on social services issues, which he has great experience of handling in this House. But his Motion goes very wide and he very relevantly referred also to such issues as general economic trends, Government policy on public expenditure as a whole and local authority expenditure in particular; and to unemployment and its social consequences. I have no doubt that your Lordships will widen the debate still further, and that when my noble friend Lady Young speaks this evening there will be a large number of issues on which she will wish to offer clarification. At this early stage in the debate, it would probably be most helpful if, instead of dealing with each of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, I concentrated on setting the framework of economic necessity and on the positive and carefully considered policies and strategies which the Government have adopted and are carrying through. Before I do so, let me say that we are as concerned as the party opposite to maintain the fabric of a caring and compassionate society. As evidence of this, it was a Conservative Secretary of State for Social Services who initiated a major programme of research into the "cycle of deprivation" by which disadvantage may be transmitted from generation to generation of the same family. The results of this programme are starting to be published, and they should give us further understanding of the causes of poverty and disadvantage. More immediately, there can be no contesting that when this Government came to power it was given one overriding priority by the electorate: the renewal of the economy and the battle against inflation. Neither in Government nor previously in Opposition have Ministers ever claimed that this would be in any way a quick or painless process; or that it could be achieved without controversy and difficult decisions—particularly in relation to the funding of the public services. Your Lordships are familiar with the Government's economic stategy to stimulate the economy by restoring incentives, controlling taxation, public spending and public sector borrowing, and reducing the Civil Service and other public service administration costs. This strategy is not being pursued in any sectional spirit, but in order to increase the prosperity of the country as a whole. Success will benefit no one more than the needy, the pensioners, the sick and disabled, who can never be given the services and the support that we should all like them to have until the economy creates the wealth needed to pay for them. And our strategy is delivering results. From the peak of 22 per cent. reached last summer, inflation is now down to 12½ per cent. on an annual basis. By the end of this year we expect the rate to be down to 10 per cent. While some pay settlements have been higher than we would have wished, there has been a marked—and extremely welcome—tendency toward moderation. The Government have moved to bring down interest rates, and this is helping both industry and private householders. In the social services, the strategy has required the Government to pursue twin objectives. First, we have had to make some expenditure savings. But secondly, we have protected—and encouraged local authorities to protect—the most vulnerable. I shall show how those objectives have been reconciled in the services for which the DHSS is responsible: Government aid to individuals through the social security programme, local government's personal social services, and the National Health Service. My noble friend Lady Young will in due course touch on other programmes, notably education, housing and employment measures, and aid to industry. For the necessary savings, we thought it right to look first to the costs of administration. We have already, in two years, reduced the staff of DHSS headquarters by 10 per cent. Between 1979 and 1984 we plan to reduce the staff of the department as a whole by no fewer than 15,000 people. The Secretary of State for Social Services has encouraged local authorities to look very carefully for savings in the administration of the personal social services. In the Health Service, we are making administrative economies—including the abolition of one tier of NHS administration—which will produce savings to the tune of £30 million a year. And we have reduced by over half the number of circulars that the DHSS sends out to health and local authorities. As regards social security, we have indeed had to find savings; but, as the social security chapter of the Public Expenditure Survey White Paper shows, it is entirely inaccurate to speak as though the structure developed from Beveridge onwards lies in ruins. Expenditure is rising—and it will continue to rise—by 8 per cent. in real terms between 1980–81 and 1983–84. Certainly this reflects increasing numbers of beneficiaries, but it also reflects protection of the levels of those main benefits. The Bill in another place at present, with associated savings on this year's up-rating, will save some £225 million; but it will do that while still guaranteeing price protection for pensioners and related beneficiaries over the period 1979 to 1981. In other words, where pensions are concerned, what we are doing in the November uprating this year is to give the full value of the 10 per cent. inflation expected between the last uprating and the next one, but on the basis of a notional 1980 benefit rate giving full price protection, and no more than that, for the period from 1979 to 1980. The benefits which have been given 5 per cent. less than price protection have been for the most part short-term benefits, and they have been benefits which ought to be subject to tax but are not as yet. We have stuck firmly to priorities, including extra help for families and for disabled people and protection of the real value of benefits for pensioners. The House will be pleased to hear that I can now give a clarification of the basis for future uprating of social security benefits. My honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State for Social Security has today written to Mr. Rooker about the pledge given on shortfall by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. This Government are committed to compensate pensioners fully for price increases over the lifetime of this Parliament. This was the pledge repeated by my right honourable friend on 25th February. Pensioners include, in addition to those receiving national insurance retirement pensions, recipients of the following benefits: widow's pension—including widowed mother allowance and widow's allowance; industrial death benefit paid by way of a widow's or widower's pension; war disablement pension and industrial injury disablement pension; war widow's pension; attendance allowance, invalid care allowance and non-contributory invalidity pension. Supplementary pension, now aligned with retirement pension, will be similarly protected. Invalidity benefit and unemployability supplement have of course had their uprating abated in 1980 but part of the abatement is to be made good at the 1981 uprating—invalidity allowance and its equivalent—and we have given an assurance that the benefits will be restored to the rate of retirement pension when they are brought into tax. The abated rates, transitionally, and the unabated rates thereafter, will be price protected. Invalidity benefit—a sensitive benefit, and rightly so—was uprated last year by less than the increase in prices. It is not yet taxed, although retirement and widow's pensions are taxed; and the tax advantage has actually attracted people who are over pension age and effectively retired to stay on invalidity benefit. This year there has been no abatement; the invalidity allowance has been, if I may use a cumbersome term, de-abated; and firm promises have been made that when invalidity benefit is brought into tax, the process of de-abatement will be completed, and the benefit realigned with retirement pension. In the meantime, there will be price protection of existing rates of invalidity benefit; and realignment with retirement pension will mean price protection along with retirement pension. The £2 increase in mobility allowance means an increase of nearly 14 per cent. of that benefit—that is. 65 per cent. since this Government came to office. One-parent benefit—that is, the extra paid to one-parent families—goes up in line with inflation this year. This too will have gone up by 65 per cent. since the Government came to office. Family income supplement has been substantially improved by successive upratings, and by the consolidation into the rate of extra help with fuel costs. So in spite of the savings we have made on social security, the total social security cash outturn for the financial year just ended was about £23,000 million; 1981–82 cash cost is expected to be about £27,400 million, and this is about a quarter of public expenditure. Pensions have been and will be price-protected; the supplementary benefit safety net has been preserved; benefits for disabled people have been improved; help with fuel costs has been increased too and held at a much higher level; there has been further help for one-parent families; and this year's uprating will price protect child benefit, as we said we hoped to do last year. Again, the Government's opponents are eager to give the impression that we are forcing on local authorities massive cuts in services. The facts are rather different. When the Government took office in May 1979 there was an immediate request that current expenditure relevant for rate support grant in 1979–80 should be about 1 per cent. lower than that for 1978–79 in real terms. That was about 3 per cent. below the amount planned by the previous Administration, whose spending intentions could not be sustained by economic circumstances. A further reduction of just over 1 per cent. was called for in 1980–81, and for 1981–82 the volume target is 5·6 per cent. below 1978–79. We believe that a reduction of this order represents a realistic target. The education services alone account for over half of local government expenditure and since the number of children in school will fall by 13 per cent. between 1979 and 1984, there must be considerable scope for making savings without detriment to the standard of education. In fact, the reduction on education indicated in our expenditure plans for this period is, at 6½ per cent., nowhere near 13 per cent. I would point out too that expenditure on education doubled in real terms in the 20 years to 1978–79; it would be rather surprising if, after such a long period of fairly high growth, a certain amount of fat had not grown into the system, which could be trimmed without significant loss. Similar arguments apply to the personal social services, on which spending in real terms doubled between 1970–71 and 1978–79. In the event, while the response by authorities has varied, in national aggregate terms the target reductions are not being met. Spending in real terms in 1979–80 was about 2 per cent. above the previous year; the revised 1980–81 budgets which the Government called for are 2·6 per cent. in excess of the guideline, although we hope that some of this excess will disappear in the outturn figures. Spending on the personal social services actually rose by more than 4 per cent. in real terms in 1979–80, and it seems likely that expenditure will be maintained at about the same level in 1980–81. The Government's assumptions about expenditure on particular local authority services are of course indicative. It is for local authorities themselves, within their discretion, to decide how best to meet local needs. The Government requirement is that they should have regard in their decisions to the needs of the country's economy as a whole, and in particular the need not to starve the productive parts of the economy. I appreciate, however, that these are difficult and worrying times for local authorities. Many of them are coping in a way which combines a responsible reaction to the Government's call for economies with careful consideration for the most important needs of their own localities. Although circumstances vary between authorities, it is nonsense to talk about cuts seriously affecting those who depend upon the local authority personal social services. Indeed, the Government specifically asked authorities, if standards have to be reduced, to protect as far as possible the most vulnerable. This is clearly happening. In 1979–80, the latest year for which detailed figures are available, there were, for instance, overall increases of some 7 per cent. in real terms on residential accommodation for the elderly and younger physically handicapped; for the mentally handicapped the increase was even greater at more than 10 per cent. Fieldwork services also increased by more than 10 per cent. and expenditure on children, largely on those in the care of local authorities, went up by about 3 per cent. Other increases include 3 per cent. on meals for the elderly and 1 per cent. on home helps. Support for the voluntary sector was more than maintained. General grants increased by about 8 per cent. in real terms and payments for services provided by voluntary organisations increased by almost 5 per cent. On top of this, the allocations of joint finance have been increased each year and are now running above the level planned by the previous Administration. The allocation for 1981–82 is, in real terms, almost double what it was in 1977–78. Most of this will be spent by way of NHS contributions to personal social services projects, giving an addition of about 4 per cent. or £56 million to the capital and current expenditure being incurred by local authorities themselves. As I have said, the effects of local government expenditure pressures have varied greatly between different authorities. In some, undoubtedly there have been cuts. But even in such authorities, ways have often been found to make provision more economical and maintain some service development. This has often been done by imaginative co-operation with the voluntary sector. I would like to elaborate a little on the key role we see for the voluntary sector in the personal social services. Since coming to office we have consistently encouraged an expansion of voluntary care—through organised bodies, through neighbourhood schemes and mutual aid groups, and the care available through family and friends. This is not because we see the voluntary sector as a substitute for statutory services, or simply as a means of maintaining services where a local authority decides that it has to reduce its own. Our objective is a major and sustained increase in the total amount of care available to the community and we see it best provided where statutory and voluntary services work harmoniously and supportively together. We have played our own part in helping the voluntary sector's resources by maintaining the value of total DHSS grants to voluntary bodies. Those now run at more than £8 million a year, and through them we give help to over 225 voluntary bodies. Turning now to the NHS, we find here not the slashing of budgets and services that our critics have alleged, but a careful combination of an increasingly disciplined economic management with major Government efforts to maintain standards. There were certainly difficulties in 1979–80, when we had to cope with the inadequate cash limits and unfunded pay commitments we inherited from our predecessors. It would have been quite wrong for us simply to find further money to meet these problems, so the volume of spending by health authorities was less than planned because of the effects of higher pay and price rises. But even in that difficult year, current spending on the NHS in fact increased slightly in real terms, although capital spending was somewhat lower than the 1978–79 level. And it is very relevant that in 1979–80 productivity increased—in acute sector hospitals there were 5 per cent. more in-patients treated than in the previous year, at a time when total resources did not increase. In the financial year which has just ended, 1980–81, some problems continued because the cost of goods and services purchased by the Health Service increased faster than prices in general, and because some aspects of the 1979 Clegg award to nurses and midwives proved in practice to cost more than was expected. But notwithstanding these difficulties, spending in real terms again increased. The Public Expenditure White Paper we recently published demonstrates that in real terms the money available for the NHS was about 2.4 per cent. more in 1980–81 than in 1978–79, the last full year of the Labour Administration. In cash terms, spending over the same period has risen by some £3.6 billion, or around 55 per cent. The NHS has made steady progress in reducing the national waiting list from the peak it reached in March 1979, which then stood at 752,000. The latest figure we have is for September 1980, when it had been reduced to 641,000. I must emphasise that the growth rates I have quoted are the national total. In particular areas the outcome may well have been either higher or lower depending on whether the health authority involved was a gainer or a loser under the resource allocation system. For the future, further increases in real terms are planned. The increase in real terms in total gross expenditure on the NHS in 1981–82 is expected to be some 1.4 per cent. over the planned level for 1980–81. But my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services has made clear that the achievement of the development the Government intend is crucially dependent on the responsible pay bargaining by NHS staff. Increases higher than the 6 per cent. cash limit allowance will eat into the money made available for service development. In addition, the Government are also expecting the Health Service to find a further £25 million worth of development through increases from greater efficiency in each year from 1981–82. In conclusion, while my noble friend Lady Young may well expand on these points, if that would be helpful, in the light of the points made by your Lordships, I hope I have said enough to show that many of the criticisms levelled against Government policy are without foundation. They are myths, and they stem from a major misconception of the Government's objectives and the Conservative traditions which underlie them. No one can say with any justification that the Government are dismantling the welfare state or lack concern for the disadvantaged. We differ from the party opposite not in the extent of our concern for the disadvantaged and the needy, but in our refusal to go for the short-term palliative solution of printing money to provide extra services—an expedient that can only damage the economy and hence the long-term interests of the welfare services and the people they exist to help.
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, for raising this important subject this afternoon. We on these Benches share the concern which he expressed about the effect of the Government's expenditure cuts on those who depend on Government aid and local authority services. In Colchester in February, the Secretary of State for Social Services, Mr. Patrick Jenkin, said this:
That, of course, is without taking into account the undoubted cuts there have been in the services provided by the local authorities. This is some indication of the extent of the cuts which have been imposed. The welfare scene today is dominated by the restriction of financial resources. There has been a nibbling away of national insurance benefits, and we saw that in the two social security Bills that were before this House last year. However, I welcome the fact which has been announ- ced by the noble Lord, Lord Cullen of Ashbourne, that it is to be the Government's policy in the future to make good any shortfalls in their estimates of the increase in prices—any shortfalls in the benefits in the amounts by which benefits are raised. That was not their policy when they first came into office, when both for long-term and short-term benefits they did not make good shortfalls. But it is at least encouraging to know that the policy has been changed. I was not quite clear from what the noble Lord said, whether de-abatement, as he described it, was going to apply to the other short-term benefits other than invalidity pension, and I hope we may hear something about that later. So a nibbling away of national insurance benefits—I do not put it any higher than that, but it was certainly that—is the first aspect of the welfare scene today. Then the supplementary benefit review was carried out on a no-cost basis, although the Supplementary Benefit Commission had said it could not satisfactorily be done on that basis. Plans for integrating the education of the mentally handicapped, welcome in themselves, into the general educational system lacked the resources to do the job properly. The statement on Government policy for the elderly is largely devoid of new proposals. Then there are the cuts in local authority personal services which, as the Directors of Social Services have said, hit the elderly and the disabled most. In fact, in a report issued by them they say:"We will have reduced spending by some £1·5 billion on social security and also saved the Exchequer £750 million on the Health Service".
Of course we hear repeatedly of the closure of particular hospitals and of hospital beds. If our economy were to contract continuously over the years, public expenditure cuts would undoubtedly become necessary and no doubt a point would be reached when cuts in welfare benefits and services could not be avoided; but that situation would be heralded by a steep and continuing increase in the proportion of gross domestic product devoted to public expenditure. It is true that this proportion has increased under the present Government in spite of expenditure cuts, partly because deflationary policies push up the expenditure on the unemployed, but the proportion is no higher than it was in the middle of the term of office of the last Government. So we are not in such a situation as I have described, which would justify large-scale welfare cuts, though a continuation of current policies might bring that situation about. The wisdom of deflationary policies in a time of recession is widely challenged, but while it is true that we must live within our means it is also true that deflationary policies reduce our means. But whether or not expenditure cuts are justified as an instrument of economic policy, it is possible to argue—and we on these Benches would so argue—that the disadvantaged should not be asked to contribute to them. We are considering this afternoon all the various welfare services which suffer from Government expenditure cuts but I suppose we are particularly concerned with the personal social services which have been singled out for particularly severe treatment; yet I am struck by how small an amount we spend on personal social services compared with what we spend on other welfare benefits. I think I am right in saying that the noble Lord, Lord Cullen of Ashbourne, said that in the past year our total social security expenditure was £23 billion. But on the personal social services, I do not suppose that the expenditure was more than £1½ billion; so that is £23 billion compared with £1½ billion. Comparatively small though the amount spent on them is, the personal social services expanded very rapidly in the early 1970s, in response to the demands made upon them, yet it is generally recognised that these demands are far from being satisfied. Who would pretend that the need for domiciliary services has been fully met? Who could say that there is adequate provision for day care or for residential care? We have been witnessing cuts in services which are already inadequate. The Black report stated that there are 10 inner city areas where cutbacks of any kind would create despair. The demand on the social services is steadily increasing and the number of elderly people and children in one-parent families continues to rise. As the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, said, there has to be a 2 per cent. per annum increase just to stand still. For example, the population aged over 75 in Liverpool will double in the next five years, yet any growth there is virtually impossible in this financial year, because Liverpool's rate support grant has been reduced by £11 million. Local authorities have used three main methods of making savings imposed on them by central Government: abandoning or reducing planned growth; introducing new charges for services or increasing existing charges; and transferring costs, usually through joint funding, or cutting the level of services. The most serious consequences have been in local authorities with a traditionally low level of provision. Three out of five authorities which are reported to be cutting their social services by some 6 per cent. had already spent, before they embarked on this, less than the average per head of the population. Cuts in this context will inevitably have severe effects on service provision. At least 51 authorities made savings in the home help service in 1981–81, and I am particularly unhappy about this reduction in help in the home. The survey which was recently carried out reckoned that the average cost per week for home helps is £1 for all pensioners, including pensioners on supplementary benefit. But out of a sample of 130 in Redbridge who were receiving help from the home help service, 42 said that they would cancel the service rather than pay £1.50. In one London borough, according to Help the Aged, there has been a 10 per cent. cut in the home help service and the provision of transport by the borough for conveying the elderly to day centres has been cut by half. As an example of the personal suffering caused to old people, Help the Aged quotes the case of a pensioner couple. Both are frail and need meal provision. Thanks to the gift of a Help the Aged minibus, they could travel to a lunch club. Now, however, the number of lunch clubs in the borough has been reduced from 14 to 8. Because the lady pensioner is ambulant there is no provision of Meals-on-Wheels, so the only alternative is to travel three miles to another club, which the lady does, transporting the meals back home because of her husband's disability. Day centre cutbacks by local authorities represent 10 per cent. of the total cuts in the personal social service budget. But day centres are not a luxury provision or even simply a leisure provision for the elderly. They provide essential services, such as meals, chiropody and information, as well as combating the loneliness which is the cause of many of the illnesses to which elderly people are prone. Disabled people have been particularly hit. They are, speaking generally, among the poorest people in the community. Partly, their low income is because they are either unemployed or in low paid jobs. They have the extra costs related to disability and they have to rely, to a large extent, on social security benefits. Three-quarters of disabled people are over 75 and 2 million of the 8½ million retirement pensioners have severe or appreciable handicap. It is clear that cuts such as I have described have a serious effect upon them. In addition, among the first services to be cut was the supply of personal aids and adaptations, telephones and other forms of assistance under Section 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act. In some cases, the supply of aids and adaptations was stopped completely when the budget for the year was exhausted. In some authorities, disabled people have to pay a handling charge for the loan of aids. A number of authorities have declared a moratorium on the installation of telephones and others are ending help with rental payments. It is sometimes argued—and I think it was hinted at this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Cullen of Ashbourne—that, in the circumstances of general reduction in the statutory services, the voluntary services must do more. But the idea that we could hack back social service departments and hand their responsibility over to the voluntary bodies is absurd. I am second to none in my admiration for what the voluntary organisations do. The Wolfenden Committee found them in good shape, but they are strong in some places and not in others. They are not obliged to operate everywhere. Statutory services and voluntary organisations, and what the Wolfenden Committee called "the informal sector of local help" are complementary. They are not alternatives. In any event, owing to Government restrictions on expenditure, many local authorities, as the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, indicated, feel reluctantly obliged these days to cut their donations to voluntary bodies. So that though the Government have maintained their contributions to voluntary bodies, there has been a loss of support from local authorities in present circumstances. Furthermore, voluntary organisations are very concerned at the Government's failure to zero-rate charities for VAT. Help the Aged point out that, over a period of six months, they have provided 27 minibuses for transporting the elderly in various parts of the country, at an average cost of £11,000. If charities were zero-rated for VAT, they would have been able to provide another four minibuses, but publicly subscribed funds went to the taxman. Seven well-known charities—the Spastics Society, Dr. Barnado's, Help the Aged, the National Children's Home, the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children and Adults, the Royal National Institute for the Blind and the Royal National Institute for the Deaf—have joined forces to complain, as they say, "in the strongest possible terms" that they are bitterly disappointed by the Budget. They say that VAT is a crushing burden on charities. Charities are also concerned that the National Health Service is encouraged locally to enter into the fund-raising field, in competition with them. In conclusion, may I say this: It is a most unhappy, and in some respects dangerous, situation that we are discussing this afternoon. It is, surely, utterly wrong that the disadvantaged, the most vulnerable, should be expected to contribute to national expenditure cuts through cuts in the personal social services, which were already inadequate to their task before any cuts were imposed."The policies now being promulgated by the Government hit many of the services specially aimed at alleviating the plight of the old, the sick and the handicapped and those who cannot tolerate the stresses which our society generates".
My Lords, I very much welcome the debate and thank the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, for calling for and introducing it. Perhaps I should say that I am not going to quote quite so much scripture as did the noble Lord at the beginning. I belong to a small group of bishops who meet privately, all of whom serve in the six largest cities in this country. Last winter we were meeting, and in our conversation we felt that we really must try to find ways of expressing the very serious effects of the cuts on people whom we see in our daily work—effects on those whose needs are the greatest, the great majority of whom live in the big cities of our country.I want to focus on two areas where the cuts are biting and where I believe that further cuts would savagely damage the services offered to those who most need help. In the first place, I shall follow the noble Lord, Lord Banks, on the effect upon the personal social services in the statutory field. Then I want to say something about the non-statutory or voluntary organisations. Liverpool, over the last two years, has effectively abolished 50 out of 300 field posts in the social services. This has been done without causing actual redundancies—in other words, by not filling posts when they become vacant. But there is no argument that the number of filled posts has been substantially reduced. It has meant a continuation of the very bitter dispute which followed the protracted social workers strike of a little while ago. I regret very much that social workers are, in a number of cases, blacking cases. Who do they think they are hurting if it is not those who are in the greatest possible need? Although they have an emergency procedure, this blacking increases the number of those at risk. Since that strike, there have been an awful lot of hostile comments to social workers. We are told that nobody has missed the social workers not being there. Those who miss the social workers are those with the least voice in our society. Let me give your Lordships an example of a couple in Liverpool who want to adopt two boys whom they have been fostering for some time. Both boys had been battered by their natural parents. The social worker dealing with the case was promoted. Because of the current local authority policy his vacancy remains unfilled. The future of the two boys and their possible adoption hangs in the balance. Without a social worker to advise and act as a go-between with the natural parents, no move can be made. The foster mother says, "You don't realise how much you rely on the social worker until he isn't there". That sounds to me like a false economy. Or with children in residential care, consider the savings if there can be speedy rehabilitation within six months. That will need a lot of social work time, before and after. If rehabilitation is delayed, the child concerned may deteriorate mentally and, in terms of cash and of loss of human wellbeing, costs will greatly increase. Let me give your Lordships one more example. A teenager has come before the courts. With a supervision order, the child remains at home. With good time given by a social worker, supervision can help to iron out some of the problems at home, but without that supervision there may be further trouble, a court appearance and then residential care. This illustration leads me to say something about the non-statutory organisations, the voluntary bodies. The kind of one-to-one care which would be needed in that instance, in homes where the very greatest needs exist, is something which the statutory services may very often find themselves too stretched to be able to offer. In fact, that is a case to which the Family Service Unit, the FSU, can give the intensive care which may be able to turn things around. The noble Lord, Lord Cullen of Ashbourne, spoke about the circle of deprivation. If particular families are to break out of it, there needs to be a lot of time to make possible very intensive care. It is an attractive notion to think that the cuts will drive us to look in the direction of the voluntary organisations. My own experience, from 20 years of living and working in the Inner City of London and now for six years as Bishop of Liverpool, has been of a great many connections with the voluntary movements. In fact, I ought to declare an interest. They have included the settlement movement, the youth clubs, voluntary social work, community development groups. Grant aid has become very much more substantial since I arrived, wet behind the ears, in the Inner City in 1955. It has been a period of enormous growth in grants. But do not let us suppose that we can cheerfully put back the clock and lean on the voluntary bodies in the way that once we did. Let us look back before, say, 1955. The voluntary bodies used to pay a pittance. They imposed on a worker's sense of vocation. Perhaps the Church has done the same thing in its years. But in recent years, the voluntary bodies have come to pay nationally agreed professional salaries, and with that of course to insist upon professional skills. We must not go back on that. Perhaps I should say that voluntary bodies have, I believe, been so spoiled by large grants from major trusts and from urban aid from local authorities that they do not bother with raising subscription lists and the rest. They would always have done well to continue the hard slog of working at subscription lists so that there is a modest income with no strings attached to it. But the grants over these recent years have enabled them to expand and to raise the service which they offer to many people in need. We must not go back on that and let people down. Liverpool has probably put more into encouraging, developing and supporting the voluntary sector than most other large cities, but it is facing the kind of reductions which have been mentioned. The city council, trying to keep down rate increases, has frozen all grants to all voluntary organisations for 1981–82. That is to say, there have been no increases for inflation while all the costs have increased. So what does an organisation do whose management committee is made up of busy people giving their time voluntarily? It has entered into an agreement to pay national salary scales to professional workers. Most of such organisations are unincorporated bodies. What happens if their members find themselves personally liable for unmet salaries, for running costs, or even for redundancy payments? A little while ago I mentioned the FSU. On its present budget, with its grants frozen from the city, it will have to consider, before the year is out, axeing one or more full-time field workers at that point of particular need. That would be typical. A city like Liverpool has developed in recent years many self-help local community groups. In my opinion, they are one of the healthiest developments in the life of cities. In some of the most deprived areas, people are coming together to stand on their own feet, to find their own resources and to take their own responsibilities. There is a real fear in Liverpool among the voluntary bodies that national and local government attitudes to voluntary bodies will militate against community groups in deprived areas, because they themselves are much less able to raise substantial money and are less likely to get across the importance of what they are doing to public authorities, unless the public authorities go out of their way to be receptive. I want to argue that public policy must recognise the very great significance of such community groups. I have known what it is to sit in a corridor waiting to make our case for grants, in 10 minutes flat, to the appropriate committee in Newham. I have known, too, on very much the credit side, what it was to have a very perceptive youth officer who came to see with her own eyes that somewhat unconventional youth work really was serving the youngsters in the greatest need, and who used to advise me which councillors I should ask down to show them the right things, to see that we were all right. Local authority and government get many services at remarkably low cost through voluntary organisations. For example, I know at first hand how much the Youth Opportunities Programme in Merseyside at the moment needs reliable voluntary organisations to sponsor many projects. Voluntary organisations can multiply core revenue funding but that core revenue funding has to be available in the first place if the other benefits are to be obtained. Most voluntary organisations give the State far more than reasonable value for money. It would be good government which removed anxieties and allowed them to give the lion's share of their time, not to fund raising but to serving people. It is all very well for large voluntary organisations to decide to take on a full-time fund raiser—which is what several will now do. That is all right, but that course is not open to smaller community groups and many others. We must go on to say that voluntary organisations, important as they are, cannot carry the main load of caring for the neediest. The belief that the community as a whole has that responsibility expresses an important moral principle in our country. It is an earnest of the community's acceptance that its weakest members are valued and not judged. Certainly there is a proper discipline which money imposes, and we should not shirk that. Yet the public often presses for incompatible things. When there is a disaster, perhaps some terrible case of cruelty to a child, the public criticises the social workers and asks what were they doing; but next week there are demands again for further cuts in public expenditure. We cannot have the meticulous care which is needed from a staff if funds have been cut back to the bone. It may be that there was some fat—but I do not believe there is now—for further cuts. May I put to your Lordships that we should always beware of talking about "cuts across the board", because "cuts across the board" means that one has abandoned any system of priorities. It looks fair, but that is the last thing that it is. Caring properly for the needy is not something that a civilised society does when it decides that it can afford it; it is a foundation commitment.
My Lords, it is a very pleasant thing to follow my noble ecclesiastical friend and to express my total agreement with the spirit in which he spoke, of which we should all be sensible and indeed we should be grateful. I also want to express my thanks to my noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell, not only for the substance of what he said but for the introduction in what he said of his own feeling of anger, which I share. Anger is a good aperitif in the feast of reason for our soul, but it is a very bad main course and I do not propose to indulge in it, except to say that I have a very strong sense of the injustice which so many people feel at what are called "these cuts". I share with my noble friend his desire to make an appeal to your Lordships, particularly (shall we say?) on the other side of the House, to consider again what in fact is happening, not only in the actual conditions in which so many of our contemporaries are living but also in their feelings and attitudes.I could almost have wished that your Lordships had been present a couple of hours ago at Tower Hill, where there was a very large demonstration, in which I took some part as it was my pitch and they courteously allowed me to have some share in it. It was raucous. It was extravagant. I was commissioned to bring some messages to your Lordships' House which wild horses would not drag out of me, but nevertheless there was an overall sense of injustice, which I would commend to your Lordships. Over and over again there was the feeling that whatever the arguments might be, and whatever the statistics might declare, here was a situation in which those who are most in need bear the greater burden and those who are least in need get away with it more or less unscathed. That, to me, is an inescapable inference from the arguments which have already been set forth this afternoon. What I should like to do is make this appeal to your Lordships, not in the sense that you have an undue amount of original sin but because it is not unlikely that you may not be in touch—as some of us have been for long enough—with those who are most impoverished and most in need. Therefore, let me in three areas describe what causes me to be angry and frustrated. The first area is that in which it is perfectly true, as the Government have said, that it is possible for them to state that they have not produced cuts. What has happened is that in the social services, as my noble friend has already indicated, there has been a vast increase in expertise, knowledge and development. What has happened is that there has been an increasing need for the fertilisation of this work, and the present situation is that in many respects that work will be halted and certainly will be curtailed of those inevitable consequences which have flowed from an increasing knowledge of what we are about. I almost hesitate to bring in again the question of alcoholism. I am well aware of the New Testament warning that you are not necessarily heard for your much speaking. It may be that I have been somewhat type-cast as an addict in this matter of alcoholism. But here is an excellent illustration of the point I seek to make; this first trouble that now in many of the respects where we have to go forward, or indeed we shall go backward, we are prevented from so doing. As I said the other day to some of your Lordships—very few, I am afraid—one of the great developments in the treatment of alcoholism has been the recognition that before you can apply any of the remedial processes the alcoholic has to be dried out. That is a chemical, specific and highly-skilled operation. We have discovered, having been able in the West London Mission to do this with regard to men and thereafter to provide some rehabilitation process, that we now have almost as many women in need of this drying-out process as we have men. We cannot afford it, because the grants, which have hitherto been more or less satisfactory, are the same as they were and, with the necessarily increasing costs, we are prohibited from going on with what is a necessary process if the problem of alcoholism is to be contained. The same is true of the hostel for which I was responsible until a year ago—for boys who otherwise would have nowhere else to go and would be in borstal or in prison. The place is a shambles. Your Lordships will not be surprised to know that boys spend a good deal of their time destroying property as well as inhabiting it. There is a constant need for redecoration, which we are unable to do. It is this halting of necessary progress which I find intolerable; but no less intolerable is the already reduced amount of public care through local authorities, of which the noble Lord, Lord Banks, has given precise information in certain areas. Let me add two more. Over the last two and a half years 12 local authorities have lost 400 places for elderly people. In the last two and a half years 24 local authorities have lost 1,200 places for boys. I ask your Lordships to conceive of the addition to public expenditure. It would have been much more economic to have kept those places. The moment youngsters and elderly people are deprived of these personal services, it costs a great deal more to care for them in other institutions. It is therefore this depletion of available opportunities within this realm that is causing far greater expenditure on the part of the Government than the avowed—and in some cases successful economies—which hitherto have been produced. But alongside the depletion of services there is a lamentable increase in the amount charged for the services that still remain. I want to make a special plea, which is admirably set forth by Help the Aged, and I think it is incontrovertible. If you increase from £1 to £1·50 the personal services of Meals-on-Wheels, or indeed the coming of people to care for those who are quite incapable of caring for themselves, the inevitable result will be that they will necessarily be committed to public institutions, no less kindly no doubt, but very much more expensive. These are salient points in the economic failure, let alone the moral failure, of the present cuts. It was none other than Mr. Jenkin who, I think, probably invented the phrase "front-line providers". May I attract your Lordships' attention to an aspect of this which, it seems to me, is increasingly germane. There has been a great deal of talk recently by Government authorities, and it was ventilated in your Lordships' House only a week ago, that what we are now seeing is an attempt to take into the community rather than to take away from the community those who at particular times find it difficult to domesticate themselves or in fact are anti-social or loners. With this I entirely agree. I think that the more natural the environment in which you find people the more likely they are to respond to it profitably. That is all very well, provided that provision is in the voluntary sections of our community and is made available and made possible, but if it is not made possible then it seems to me that it totally lacks that beneficial quality which so much has been advocated in its defence. Therefore, I would tag on, if I may, to what my noble ecclesiastical friend has just said; I believe that in one sense the voluntary association is paramount. Mr. Jenkin does, by the way, in a continuation of his reference to front-line providers. But I believe that that provision in the voluntary services is in many cases a bell-wether for later public administration and public responsibility. One of the most valuable things that is now being lost is the adventurous, pioneering spirit of local voluntary associations, which, by their energy and their devotion, can provide opportunities which later on can be taken over by the authorities themselves, and those authorities will lose what now in many cases they still attract to themselves, a sense of unreality, or in some cases a sense of shame. I do not share that, but I have every sympathy for a great many people I have known over the years who would be quite prepared to accept what would be charity, what is love and care, from voluntary associations, but shy away from public institutions. I do not support their reason, but I think I understand their sentiments, their feelings. Finally, my Lords, let me return to what was once again beaten into my experience only a couple of hours ago—and that is why I have more or less lost my voice—the sense that we do not live in a community, we live in a "heterogeneous accumulation of private parts"—that was actually said by one of the more exuberant speakers not so long ago. This is one of the things which to me make all the difference. We cannot, it seems to me, provide measures within a community when the community itself does not exist, particularly at a time when so many people—2½ million families—are dependent on the wife's earnings. In parenthesis I remark that there may indeed be a further decline in the employment of women which will have a devastating effect on the general economy or the general welfare—not only women who have to go home and look after elderly relatives but women who will lose their jobs within the social services, of which a great proportion are now manned by women. Therefore, taking part in this debate, I would plead with the Government and with your Lordships that in the long run I can see many difficulties in the economic situation, but if in politics a week is a long time for an elderly person an afternoon is a long time. What you cannot do is provide long-distance improvement for people who need care this afternoon or tomorrow. I believe it would be of the greatest advantage to stimulate within the present economic troubles a greater sense of community, for out of that would come a treasure not to be measured in pounds but in an increased development of belonging to a community in which we share those things from which we suffer and find in that sharing not only comfort but remedy.
My Lords, many of your Lordships who share with me the experience of having been in public life for quite a number of years must have a certain sense of familiarity about this afternoon's proceedings. The scenario is generally the same whichever party occupies this Bench or that. You have speeches, fine speeches of deep sincerity, from people deeply moved and sad at a cutting back or an interference in work which they know to be good and doing good. And you have members of the Government firmly standing at the Dispatch Box to point out that there is a limit to the amount of expenditure which is possible for causes however good. We have all been through this before, and, speaking for myself, I have been on both sides of the argument. For that reason one fully understands and is neither shocked nor shaken by the very natural desire of the party in opposition to try to earn a little popularity by appealing to the feelings of those who will suffer as the result of Government restrictive measures.It would be a particularly ungenerous person who sought to criticise the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, and his colleagues for that in the somewhat traumatic situation in which they are today. I certainly would not wish to be so ungenerous. But, my Lords, I did, I am bound to say, very much resent part of the tone of the noble Lord's speech. The noble Lord will allow me to say that, like many of my colleagues, I am a great admirer of his. Both in office and out of office he fights for and argues the case in which he believes with skill and pertinacity. But I thought—and I hope he will himself think this when he comes to reflect on his speech and to read Hansard—that he did go a little far this afternoon in his criticism of my noble friends. He said that he was appealing to noble Lords on this side of the House on the Back Benches. It so happens that I am the first of those to have the opportunity of taking part. Therefore, I must say to him that his repeated indication that we did not care about social welfare is a wholly unfounded one which I hope he will, when he comes to reflect, be ashamed he ever made. The noble Lord went on to say that in the two social security Bills which have been before your Lordships' House in the recent past these Benches were conspicuously empty. That is certainly not my recollection. The noble Lord I think will do me the credit of admitting that I was myself present with considerable—perhaps, from his point of view, irritating—frequency during those debates. Really it is not true. Then to go on to say, as he did, that the way of life—the phrase struck a personal note with me—of some of my noble friends was such that we did not understand or know anything about what went on in the back streets, was thoroughly inaccurate. When the noble Lord comes to reflect, he will perhaps wonder how, like many of my noble friends, one could be elected to another place year after year—in my case for a basically working-class constituency—and yet know nothing about what went on in the back streets, quite apart from the possibility, like most others, of wartime experiences or indeed political experience, beginning, in my case, as a candidate for the Inner London County Council for Limehouse. It is simply not true for the noble Lord to suggest that my noble friends either do not care or know nothing about the welfare of the less fortunate section of our population whose welfare is the responsibility of my noble friend Lord Cullen of Ashbourne and his colleagues. I hope that we can carry on the debate in this House at any rate—whatever may happen at the other end of the corridor—on the basis that we can and do disagree with each other. Indeed, I disagree fundamentally with many of the noble Lord's arguments while accepting his sincerity. I hope that we can carry on the debate here on the basis that we do not cast aspersions on each other's motives, but seek to debate these matters as sensible people who know in our hearts, as we all do, that 100 per cent. of truth does not lie either on this side or that, and that the object of debate and argument among sincere and intelligent people is to try to see where the balance of the argument lies. I do not want to labour the point any further, but in my view the noble Lord's approach does not help that, and nor, I think, on reflection, will he feel that he was not perhaps a little self-righteous about unemployment. Of course, every noble Lord on this side of the House hates unemployment at least as much as do the noble Lord and his colleagues. The difference of view is as regards how we deal with it. But to suggest that unemployment with the humiliation that it entails—which is today I think a worse feature of it even than the economic hardship—is a matter of complacency on this side of the House is frankly untrue. Nor is unemployment peculiar to this country or to the policies of this Government. It is alas! in a time of worldwide depression a worldwide phenomenon. Indeed, certainly in Belgium the percentage of the total workforce that is unemployed is actually higher than it is here. Nor is a rise in unemployment in this country peculiar to Conservative Governments. Perhaps the noble Lord may recall that when the Government of which he was an ornament came to office in February 1974, the level of unemployment was just under 600,000 and when they left in May 1979 it was rather more than double that figure. So if we are to start casting aspersions on each other's intentions and attitudes on these matters one is likely perhaps to encounter just as much mud in one's own eye as one succeeds in projecting into one's opponent's. I hope that we can debate this difficult and basically very emotional matter with the same sort of feeling and understanding as—if I may be allowed to say so—the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool introduced into this debate. We are concerned not with whether these things are bad, unhappy and evil; we are concerned with what is the best thing to do about them. When it comes to Government expenditure decisions, we all have to make up our minds on basically three courses. Do we agree broadly with the so-called cuts? They are, as has been explained, mainly cuts in programmes, but some are in the actual current expenditure. Do we approve of them or do we say that there should be cuts, but that there should be other cuts—alternatives? That is a perfectly legitimate point of view and one which in some measure perhaps I share. Or do we say that there should be no cuts? If we say that there should be no cuts, do we say that we should borrow in order to pay for the programmes, which would affect the level of expenditure, or should we increase taxation for that purpose? We must all, with respect, come clean on this matter. I understood from the noble Lord's criticism of the budget of the year before last that he is in favour of increasing taxation. But if that is his view I wonder whether he has considered what the effect of that will he on securing the economic recovery on which our capacity to sustain all our elaborate system of social benefits depends. There is abundant evidence that high levels of company taxation and of personal taxation do have a disincentive effect. If one travels about the world, as it so happens I do to a certain extent, it is striking to see that it is the places where personal taxation and company taxation are low—the Hong Kongs, the Singapores and the Monacos of this world—where there is tremendous activity, full employment, cheerful attitudes and rising standards of life. Obviously their circumstances are different from ours and obviously much of what they do there would not be appropriate for us; but surely there is an indication, if you care for maintaining social benefits in the long run, that you can neither tax to maintain them at a time of recession and inflation nor borrow—which means simply put the charge of them on to posterity—beyond a certain very limited point. As regards that matter, I must take up what the noble Lord said. He left nothing out. He even referred to the wonderful business that 364 professional economists cannot be wrong. I would only say to him that those 364 very distinguished gentlemen, several of whom I have the pleasure of knowing, united in a solemn, if perhaps a slightly pompous, denunciation of Her Majesty's Government, and said that other courses could be followed. However, they did not find time in the course of their pronouncement to indicate what those other courses might be. I would venture to guess that if they had done so there would have been 365 of them! Therefore, we must come to the central point of this matter which is that the ability to sustain our social services depends on the re-creation of our power to generate wealth. If your Lordships want an illustration of that, let me hark back to the Macmillan era, during which it so happens that I was for rather more than six years social services Minister—
My Lords, I am sorry but I am talking about the Macmillan era and I do not think that the noble Lord actually advised us at that time. I shall give way to him later if he wishes to make a point. I ask the noble Lord to show a little patience. In the Macmillan era we had a time when social security benefits were rising steadily every year out of the product of lowering rates of taxation, because the general growth in the economy meant that lower rates of taxation produced a higher yield.Therefore, although I shall not pretend that as Minister of Pensions and National Insurance I had an easy time with those of my noble friends who were at the Treasury, none the less it was possible to expand payments for social benefits, to raise the standards in real terms—and it was easier then to raise them in real terms, because there was hardly any inflation—and to build up our system of social security. What surely we want to seek to do is to get back to a position in which that situation recurs and in which we can move forward with an expansion of these benefits—and I agree so much with what noble Lords opposite have said because, after all, I have been responsible for administering them direct—and once those benefits can be properly afforded the situation will become quite extraordinarily easier. I should like to pick up the remark of the right reverend Prelate in his moving speech, and I very much agree with what he said about the use of voluntary bodies. I can claim—and my reference to the Macmillan era reinforces my mind on this—that, in fact, as Minister I put into practice very much the philosophy which he outlined. I entirely agree with him that the voluntary bodies tend to be more efficient and more flexible, as well as being more economical than the official organisations. They are less bureaucratic and less tied by precedent. I very much agree with the right reverend Prelate that even in our present situation it would be a mistake to cut support for them. From my own experience I also entirely agree with the right reverend Prelate that cuts across the board are the last refuge of the intellectually-muddled; that what is required in social security administration is a conscious choice of priorities. That means not only favouring the most important directions in which money can be spent, but being equally ruthless with what seems, to you at least, to be the less favourable ones. I can claim that that principle, which at the time we called the principle of selectivity, was the one that we tried to apply in the Macmillan era. Therefore, I ask your Lordships to look at this matter in the whole. I say this again to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell: nobody wants to damage valuable social services, but there is and must be a limit to the degree of expansion that is possible at a time when national wealth is not growing, when greater wealth is not being created; and a realistic judgment demands that there must be concentration of effort on restoring that creation of wealth so that all the other consequences can follow therefrom. Therefore, I would say to your Lordships that one can ask for a little sympathy for Her Majesty's Government. My noble friends do not have a pleasant task. They have to exercise a choice; they have to exercise discrimination; they have to try to preserve the most vital part of the structure while being tough and perhaps ruthless towards other parts of it. We can all differ—I, personally, differ—with them on one or two of the details, but that is no reason for being critical of their attitude and their approach. I believe that they seek to do the right thing for this country. I believe that they seek to do the right thing for the beneficiaries of our social services, who are, as has been said in this debate, the first to suffer when things go wrong. I would commend one further thought to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell. He concluded his speech with the words:
I wonder whether the noble Lord is familiar with the words of Edmund Burke:"Actions speak louder than words.".
"It is a general, popular error to imagine the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare.".
My Lords, I wondered how the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, would manage to change gear in this debate, because until he started speaking there was a unanimous, very sincere, very careful and very worried discussion of those matters which, as a result of Government policy (which was not in this debate being attacked), seem to be causing real damage. That is a very interesting and important matter to discuss. But skilled parliamentarian as he is, he used an old method, which was attack. Happily, from this Bench it is not my business to intervene in arguments between the two Front Benches. In many ways this is a relief. Therefore, I shall not follow the noble Lord.Rather, I shall take great pleasure in associating my friends on this Bench with the Motion so movingly put—perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, thought it was put too passionately but certainly it was put with passion—by my ex-colleague and I hope still old friend, the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell. The Government's reply was, perhaps, insufficiently passionate. It read a little like a laundry list of items which had been done, and we shall look at that tomorrow in Hansard with great interest. I do not depreciate the value of what the noble Lord, Lord Cullen, said, but it certainly was not said with passion. Above all, what worries me is the Government's reckless disregard of the consequences of their actions. All of us who have been in Government—as the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, said—have been familiar with the need to make cuts and the pain involved, but in every case it is a duty to estimate the effects of the cuts and to decide whether they create too much hardship to be acceptable. If they do, you have a further problem. But in any form of cuts, not all the cuts do that; it is the edge cuts at the end, here, there and there. I think that careful attention to these can, at quite a low cost, avoid the worst sort of trouble. That is what is not being given. It seems as if a figure has been thought of out of the air, based on the requirements of an almost uncalculable calculation, and has been imposed on the rate support grant. This leaves the local authorities to incur the odium of selecting the areas to cut, and in the full knowledge that inevitably some cuts will be made which exceed the acceptable limits of hardship at the bottom end of the social scale. I joined the Labour Party 50 years ago for just such a reason: because the Government of that day cut the dole for 2 million or so unemployed to a figure below what was scientifically recognised as the minimum cost of rearing a family—the poverty line—with the result that to this day we see people of 50 years old with bandy legs caused by rickets, which was due to inadequate food in those bad days. There are some things that no Government can be allowed to do, and that was one of them. I have never since been associated with the party that did that, nor shall I ever be. I want to suggest that the present Government are getting very near this point in relation to the most vulnerable families at the end of the queue. I should like to quote the worries of the Family Service Units—which I am very glad that the right reverend Prelate referred to so warmly in Liverpool; I shall refer to their problems elsewhere than in Liverpool—as an example of the kind of thing that is going wrong in a way that no one can intend or be satisfied to allow to continue. I speak with pride as being the chairman of the national executive committee of the FSU a few years ago, and it was a very happy and proud time for me. I should like to point out, however, that that position carries no liability of the kind that the right reverend Prelate suggested might belong to the people who are running the Liverpool FSU, but I am sure that he is wrong about that. I do not think that they will find themselves having to pay for anything out of their own pockets. The FSU has 23 branches throughout the country and is currently helping more than 1,000 families with more than 4,000 children, mainly in the inner city areas. In general, its clients are families referred to it from the local authorities with whom local authorities have found it difficult and time-consuming to deal. The FSU acts as a sort of long stop to the welfare authorities, and is prepared to deal intensively with a few long-term and particularly difficult cases, as opposed to the local authority's welfare people, who have to deal extensively with any applicant who comes along. The local authorities have accepted these bodies as invaluable allies and have been not ungenerous in providing funds on a regular and, with inflation, a rising basis. A typical case referred to the Family Service Units which I will give you to show the sort of case I am talking about—and, of their thousand families, this is, in one way or another, like most of the others—is of a mother, separated from her husband, with six children to support. All seven members of this family live under extreme emotional stress, and they also have a marginal standard of living which is made even more precarious by present policies. It is, for example, of prime importance to such a family that the supplementary benefit rate should be high enough to allow them to buy the basic necessities. But the evidence of the recent Family Service Unit survey, Living from Hand to Mouth—which I have put in the Printed Paper Office because I should particularly like the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, to have a look at it, and I shall give him one personally—satisfies me, and I think would satisfy anybody who reads it, that it is virtually impossible to provide adequate clothing, heating, and nutrition on the rates approved by Parliament. This really shows that the present rates are inadequate. So the very possibility of cuts from other sources—and when I say "from other sources" I mean from the voluntary money which people like the FSU are able to give—is an intolerable suggestion. There are many thousands of families in a similar position where a little help and a little extra money can just help the children to stay at home and stop them from being put into care, and help the harassed mother to manage her affairs. We have—I say "we"; I mean the FSU—received consistent support from the DHSS ever since I put the FSU case to Dick Crossman 16 or 17 years ago. The DHSS have helped us. We are not complaining of the central Government support. The complaint is that as a result of the rate support grant cuts, the total is going to be reduced and we may have to stop work in certain areas. One of the worst examples of the current difficulties facing the FSU in inner city authorities is provided by Tower Hamlets. In this hard-pressed borough the council have been unable to tell voluntary organisations what the grant aid figures will be for the coming year. It was rumoured, and I think accurately, that they were reducing last year's figure of £1¼ million to £400,000. This is a cut of two-thirds. There was such an outcry that the final decision has been reserved and nobody will know until June, but there is a serious possibility that, as a result of these cuts, the small amount that is required for the Tower Hamlets Family Service Unit, who look after 50 or 60 families there, will be reduced from the £68,000 they are asking for to something under half that. This will simply mean that these families, who are on the edge of despair the whole time, will lose their help. That is the kind of thing which is not adequately answered by Lord Boyd-Carpenter's question, "Where are you going to find the money?". The answer is that the sum in this particular case is small, and though, when I was a Minister, that was always used as an argument, it is an argument in certain cases. We are deeply upset and worried about what is going to happen there. Almost every speaker has said that it is a short-sighted policy to deprive organisations which do preventive work with the minimal finance needed to do the job. If the mother with six children of whom I spoke had not received help from the FSU at a critical time, the cost to public funds for supporting those six children would have been in excess of £40,000; and all we are asking for is £68,000 for fifty families. I think I have said enough to make my point. I believe that the Government are already allowing the line to be crossed which divides acceptable economies from the imposition of unacceptable hardship on innocent and defenceless people. I know that this is not a direct intention of the Government. That is what makes it so difficult to get at the Government over it. I hope we shall hear serious arguments about the facts that one after the other of us is revealing, rather than a general economic statement that we have got to spend less money somehow. From these Benches we are fully in support of the Motion.
My Lords, I have listened with the greatest interest to the whole of this debate and the speeches that have been made. I have spent many years of my life in social work, and I look back on the first time that I met the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell. I do not know how many years ago it was, but it was a long time before the war. He was the mayor of a London borough—I forget which one—and I went as chairman of the youth clubs to make a speech there and to try to persuade that borough to give money to the youth clubs. I had a very friendly reception from the noble Lord, and, if I remember rightly, although it is 40 or 50 years ago, I think we got some money out of him. I say this simply because although I think he does realise it, he did not appear to realise how deeply many of us have been engaged all our lives in social work, and, in my case particularly, in family work and youth work.I agreed with everything that the right reverend Prelate said, particularly about Liverpool. There was an area where the youth clubs were very strong and where we had splendid voluntary organisations and voluntary helpers. The right reverend Prelate said, and I confirm it, that he has spent much of his life helping a youth club movement of which for a great many years I was chairman. Of course nobody likes to have to cut things. That is obvious. But the reasons which have been put forward for the consideration of noble Lords are reasons which are worthy of understanding and knowledge. I was enormously impressed by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, who has had the experience which none of us has had—possibly some Ministers have, but none of the voluntary worker people has had—of actually running a Government department and dealing with this matter. Of course that must be extremely difficult. My experience in administration has been entirely in local government. In local government you are more limited, but you do have an intimate knowledge of all the items of social work, education, or whatever the particular department is that you are in charge of; and when I look back on all those years I realise how much one could do in different circumstances. The circumstances I remember best were those that we explored and worked on in the years which I think the Labour Party described as "the 10 wasted years". They were the years of the Macmillan Government. I think of what we did in local government in the way of establishing day centres for old people, which were only beginning then and are now, of course, accepted everywhere. They were pioneering, and were of enormous value, and still are. There was the starting of children's homes; a day centre for children; all the people, the social workers, who work in Meals-on-Wheels, and so on. All that was started in my day when I was on the county council in those years. That was because we had an expanding economy and the whole world was in a much better position than it is today. Those are the economic conditions I should like to see return, and we all feel the same. It is difficult, when speaking of the economic cuts that are being made, to know exactly what is happening, and therefore I asked for a memorandum to bring me up to date. After all, although one hears people speaking violently against certain cuts, it is not all that easy to obtain accurate information on the subject. Although we are able to read about the unemployment position and how crucial the situation is, we need accurate statistics to appreciate how large are the figures with which we are dealing. The Government White Paper on Public Expenditure refers to a figure as large as £77·8 billion. Because of the cuts, that has been reduced to £76 billion, an economy of 2½ per cent. True, when dealing with such large sums, 2½per cent. represents a considerable saving, but it cannot be considered very large when thinking of the total involved. For instance, in connection with schools, local authorities have been asked to make a saving of between £65 and £70 million, or 1½ per cent., on planned spending. We must not forget that the school population has been reduced, and I gather that the fall in the birth rate and the school population has represented a reduction of 6½ per cent. It is always difficult to economise; whatever one does to make economies will result in criticism. Nevertheless, the number of children being educated is going down, so we shall not require so many school places and presumably we shall not require so many teachers, but that is a somewhat different point. For about nine years I was the chairman of an education committee in a rural area. We had to economise because in those days—indeed it is still happening—the number of children living in rural areas was going down all the time. I remember being severely criticised because I closed a school which had only six children in it; it was cheaper to send those children by car or bus to a nearby school which had 50 or 60 children. I remember closing another school which had 10 children. One is always criticised for doing that sort of thing, but imagine the cost of running a school, even if it has only a few children in it; one must have a head teacher, janitor, school meals and so on. Purely as an economic exercise I worked it out once and discovered that to run a school for just half a dozen or so children cost as much as sending them all to a boys' public school. It did not make any sense to keep going the schools I have mentioned, but of course closing them was an unpoular decision at the time. Today, people are quite used to it, and they are prepared to organise transport for small groups to go to somewhat larger schools. That is an economy which in my view is justified, although one is always aware of the fact that we do not like cutting down on rural amenities. I am particularly aware of that, living in a rural area. We have heard a great deal about the social services, and expenditure in this sphere has risen from £11,263,000 in 1978–79 to £11,800,000 in the current year and next year. For social security payments, the total has risen from £19,213,000 in 1978–79 to £20,390,000 in 1980–81. Those may not seem large increases, but they are nevertheless rises when everybody is talking about almost everything being reduced. We have also heard about old age pensions. I am a pensioner and I am as keen as anyone on Help the Aged and the other efforts to which the noble Lord, Lord Soper, referred. Pensions have risen in three years from £19.50 to £29.60 for a single person; and for married couples the pension has increased from £31.20 to £47.35. Of course prices have gone up, but there is still a margin of improvement in the pensions paid today. These are some of the matters which tend to be rather overlooked because people concentrate on the general situation. Fur families, the supplementary benefit for children under five has risen from £4.40 to £7.90 as of November of this year, and child benefit next November will be £5.25. Single parents can now draw higher supplementary benefit after one year instead of after two years and the benefit paid to one-parent families for the first child has been increased from £2 to £3.30 as of November 1981. I appreciate what the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, was saying about the Family Service Unit, another organisation with which I have been associated for many years. I am glad to tell the noble Lord that one of the grants which the Carnegie United Trust gave to the Family Service Unit some years ago started the whole thing off, and we have supported it for many years. That is a voluntary organisation giving a voluntary grant, and I agree with the noble Lord that voluntary organisations are of enormous importance. While the figures I have quoted do not solve all the problems—they never have—looking back to the years when I was responsible in local government, I can say that we took advantage of the good years and started the various social services that I have mentioned. That was all made possible not because we were overdrawing and running into debt but because we were spending money we had earned in ways of which I am proud today. I have seen what a tremendous help the efforts we made then have been to the community in which I was working during those years. I am, therefore, as anxious as anyone in your Lordships' House to see an improvement in our conditions and in the payments that are made to people and so on, but that must come about not by increasing our debt and inflation but by spending money we earn as inflation goes down, as it is now doing. Until that time comes, I would rather we lived within our means, hoping that we shall be able to help those who are severely hit by cuts which unfortunately have to be made. We have helped in many cases, as the figures I quoted show, but we must not run into debt. Our first task must be to cure inflation, and when that battle has been won we shall have the money to do some of the things that many of us have been working all our lives to do. Then it will be money we have earned, and we can spend it honestly.
My Lords, does the noble Baroness recognise that our standards in education, affecting school age, site of classes and so on, are much below those of other leading nations, including the United States, Canada and Japan? Since education will represent the true greatness of our nation in the years to come—I am talking of 20 or 30 years from now— does she not agree that what education needs is not a few more hundreds of thousands of pounds a year but a larger percentage of the national income?
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord. I think that education is ablsolutely vital, and I should be only too happy to see as much money as possible spent on education. But it must be money that we earn, money that we can spend because we have it, and not money that we have to borrow, with the result that at the end of the day the next generation is poorer than today's generation. I entirely agree with what the noble Lord says about education.
My Lords, perhaps I may correct one point that the noble Lord has made. I feel that he should be aware that in this country at present we have the best ever pupil/teacher ratio, at 18.6 pupils to a teacher nationally. This is the best ever we have had, and I doubt whether many countries in the world are able to do much better over the whole of their educational services.
My Lords, I wish to begin my speech by going down a pathway that has not yet been followed in the debate, and by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, for using the word "depend" in the Motion that he has put before us. The noble Lord's Motion includes the phrase:
The reason why I am referring to this point will become clear in a moment. Dependency upon Government aid of one kind or another is inevitable in a highly industrial society such as our own. It is not a stigma to be attached to those who lack the will or the initiative to stand on their own feet, and even the most successful in our society are dependent in various ways upon Government aid. One can readily think of aid given, for example, to British Leyland. Neither is dependency a condition to be avoided, even if it could be avoided, because dependency is the inevitable consequence of industrial development, and the greater the advances in technology, the more essential a component of ordinary, everyday life does dependency upon Government aid become for all citizens. The image of strong, independent citizens who do not need help from the resources of others is feasible for only a very few privileged people. I believe that that is clear if we look back to the beginning of the educational, health and social services. Many of them owed their immediate origins to charitable organisations and philanthropic individuals, but those initiatives were taken only in response to the human needs which emerged during the last century in the growing industrial towns. When hundreds of artisans are crowded together into small terraced houses and exposed to the strains and tensions of labour in noisy factories and amid environmental deterioration, then economic common sense, no less than altruistic feelings, demands that their health should be protected and their children educated to become, in turn, hands in the factories and the shops which serve them. So as a consequence there has emerged in every industrial nation the concept of a "social wage"; namely, the provision made by Government agencies, central or local, of services which maintain the wellbeing of the community. I want to suggest that dependency of that kind upon Government aid through the social wage and social benefits will not decrease in the future. It can only increase. That is so for a number of reasons, which I shall give very briefly. There are other reasons besides those which I shall mention. The first reason is that modern health care employs techniques and equipment which are possible only if the state underwrites their provision and maintenance. They are far beyond the capacity of most ordinary citizens to provide for themselves, and this is true also of the equipment and medications needed in support of the chronically ill and the handicapped. The second reason is that modern technology has displaced the craftsmen and artisans from the key roles that they once played in industrial processes, and the key people are now a much smaller number of researchers, designers, engineers, programme writers, and consultants. As computers are brought into engineering firms, so the number of draftsmen and even the number of engineers needed will become less, because the computer will repeat many of the routine design schemes in engineering offices. Thirdly, those engaged in manufacture will necessarily become fewer as microprocessors are pressed into service. As a result of that, the earnings gap will greatly increase between those few who are privileged to work in the wealth-producing industries and the many who will have to find work in the service industries or remain unemployed. Fourthly, the growing interdependence of the world community, both economically and politically, leads to massive changes in world patterns of trade. At the last General Synod when we were discussing unemployment one of the speakers stood up and said that it had nothing to do with the Government. It had to do with the patterns of world trade which resulted in factories being opened in some areas, while entire factories were closed down in, say, Norfolk, or other places in this country. These changes in the pattern of world trade cause widespread dislocation and unemployment among people who have little access to the decision-makers, and who are the victims of decisions made with little reference to their skill or the qualities of their service. These changes and developments will greatly increase the number of those who depend upon Government aid to protect them from their harsh effects and to maintain the quality of their living conditions. The effects of such changes are plain for all of us to see in contemporary Europe. Today the great majority of people—and I include myself—depend upon the social wage to maintain the quality of life. They depend upon it for the education of their children, for the care of sick and elderly relatives, for the quality of the environment, for transport facilities, and very often for the provision of housing which they can afford to rent. But dependency upon Government aid is of course much wider than the generality of dependence upon the social wage. There are now in Britain 15 million people who depend on state benefits in the form of pensions, or sickness, disability or unemployment benefits. In most cases the only economic support that they have is what the Government make available to them. Fifteen million people seems a large number, but it is in fact increasing, which is one of the reasons why expenditure is increasing in social services and in health services, and it is estimated by some people that by 2000 AD half the population might be so dependent. The nature and quality of this dependency must therefore take a large place in the economic and social policy of any Government. It is of course true that the Government are not responsible for many of the economic difficulties which now face both our own country and other European nations—the world recession is perhaps the most important factor here—and that is so; we must acept it. But no Government can escape their responsibility to attend to the effects of those difficulties, and in particular to maintain both the social wage and social benefits in a just and compassionate way. The adjustment of a society's resources to provide essential services for all its members should not provide their "survival rations". It should—this is the main theme that r wish to emphasise—make it possible for all members of the community, including those dependent upon Government aid, to live securely, with dignity, to develop their full potential as human beings, and to share in the wealth of society. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool said, the core of this support cannot be supplied by the voluntary services, however welcome their help may be. While voluntary services may be ample in some parts of the country, in other parts, such as the inner cities, they are less frequently to be found in support of the statutory services. In seeking to establish just social benefits we must measure public expenditure not only in terms of net growth or decline, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Banks, said, as a proportion of the gross national product. Measured by that yardstick, our record in the last few years has not been good. Between 1976 and 1979 the Labour Administration reduced the amount previously proposed for allocation to capital expenditure by £5,000 million and withdrew £3,000 million from current expenditure on goods and services. As the House well knows, that trend of withdrawal has been continued by the Conservative Administration, most recently in the paper published on 10th March, which showed reductions in central Government spending on housing, education, transport and overseas aid. They affect both the "social wage" and more direct social benefits; and these reductions must be set alongside the cuts which local authorities have been asked to make. I do not intend to review in any detail specific cuts which have been made in public expenditure—and these have been referred to already. May I make just two comments? The first is simply to say that I am particularly concerned about the cuts in the provision of public sector housing, where the expenditure is to fall by over £1,000 million in the financial year 1981–82. The Association of Metropolitan Authorities predicts a shortage of 430,000 homes in the next five years, and even in Surrey there is a shortage of houses for those with limited financial resources. There are two side-effects of this failure to meet the housing needs of society: on the one hand, unemployment is increased in the building and allied trades; and, on the other, conditions are created which perpetuate the cycle of deprivation and increase the need for personal social services. The second point I want to make, which has been made by other noble Lords today in this House, is that I am concerned about the general effect of these cuts on the quality of life which may be expected by those, such as the elderly, the handicapped and the unemployed, who depend, through no fault of their own, on Government aid. I tried to make that clear at the beginning of my speech, when I talked about dependency as a fact of life for almost all of us; as an essential of the developed industrial state in which we live; a fact of life which can only increase as technology becomes more dominant in our factories. I recognise fully that the essentials of the social services are being maintained—the essentials, my Lords. What I am concerned about is the fact that, as was said a moment ago, the edge is being turned. They are being reduced to the bare minimum possible, and that causes the elderly, the unemployed and the handicapped to be withdrawn from sharing in the wealth of the nation, which I believe is their proper right and their proper due. For example, I think the linking of benefits to prices rather than to the average earnings, as has been done in the case of supplementary benefits, is in fact to withdraw the increase that is related to the growth in wealth, and to make it simply related to the basic needs for existence. I could quote some figures and reports on that, but I do not think I will do so since the point has well been made already. There has been reference to the report of the Association of the Directors of Social Services, and perhaps I might just say that the Personal Social Services Council recently carried out a survey of the reactions of 50 local authorities to the cuts in their expenditure asked for by the Government. Their survey shows similar erosion in other areas of need besides those that I have mentioned. I am not questioning the quality of the services given. I am simply asking: Are the services supported strongly enough to enable those wholly dependent on Government aid to share in the life of the community as fully or as richly as they deserve to do? My Lords, I hope that this debate today will impress upon both the Government and the Opposition the urgent need to reassess the role of the essential services upon which the wellbeing of the whole community depends, and also the necessary part which taxation plays in making available the resources upon which those services depend, because I think that, as has been mentioned in our debate, the question of taxation lies behind the question of the social services. May I suggest that it is not simply a question of: Should we increase taxation all across the board? It seems to me that the real question is: What should be the pattern of taxation? What should be the priorities in taxation? When one looks at those questions one is forced to ask a number of other questions, such as whether our system as it has evolved is a just one; whether, for example, it is right that one-third of all tax relief on mortgage payments should be given to people earning more than £10,000 a year. Is it just that, as the Royal Commission on the Distribution of Income and Wealth reported in 1978, company welfare for salaried employees in 1975 was an extra 18 per cent. of salary for those on £5,500 a year but 29 per cent. of salary for those over £24,000, and that much of that should remain untaxed? Those figures come from the report of the Royal Commission on the Distribution of Income and Wealth. I will not go on, my Lords. There are other questions I could ask, but I believe the question is not: Should we have taxation all across the board? It is: What kind of taxation should we have? The shift to indirect taxation places an unduly hard burden upon the poorer and weaker members of society when there is no corresponding adjustment in the incidence or scales of personal taxation. There has been a marked change, I think, in public attitudes. In March 1979 34 per cent. of those questioned in a Gallup poll wanted tax cuts. By February 1980 that figure had dropped to 22 per cent. Even more striking, in February 1980 52 per cent. of those questioned in the Gallup poll then said that they were willing to pay more tax if that meant more Government spending on health, education and welfare. Your Lordships may know that recently the social service departments of the Anglican Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Methodist Church held a day of fasting and prayer for justice in public expenditure. That may seem an odd act to many of your Lordships. The social responsibility bodies of the Churches are not party political groups; they are people who wrestle with concern for the wellbeing of our community. To call a day of fasting and prayer is a very solemn thing to do. They did it because of a deep unease about the pattern of public expenditure—not only, I think, by the present Administration, but perhaps by the previous one as well, as the papers relating to that day clearly showed. Finally, may I come back to the point which Lord Soper made at the end of his speech and suggest that maybe a real feeling of community in our country would be a better springboard upon which to plan the economic growth than simply the freeing of money to be used in particular economic projects. I fear that the present policies could confirm the suspicions of many people that there are in our country two nations: on the one hand, those who, because of their privileged position within the economic structure, are able through tax concessions and a shift from public to private expenditure to maintain and develop their wealth; on the other, those who are dependent for their wellbeing upon Government aid and the Government social services, which are in danger of being starved of adequate and generous resources. In a speech at the Mansion House in November 1980, the Prime Minister said:those in the community who depend on Government aid and local authority services…".
She said that with reference to overseas aid. It applies equally well to our own country. I beg to support the Motion."Poverty, wherever it exists, is the enemy of stability".
My Lords, I should like to commence by thanking my noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell for inititaing this debate. I am sure that noble Lords will understand if I deal specifically with the Northern Ireland aspects of Government policy concerning public and community welfare services. I listened with keen interest to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford and I feel that perhaps part of what I may say may follow his excellent theme; a theme of dependence and interdependence, a theme in which I think he urged the need for policies to form the fabric of a caring and sharing society. The evidence about the extent of poverty in Northern Ireland is conclusive. As the most depressed region of the United Kingdom, it is characterised by low incomes, family dependence on social security and welfare benefits, high unemployment and atrocious housing conditions while such basic commodities as food, clothing, travel fares and fuel all cost much more.The news media portray dramatic scenes of a troubled Province with its areas of communal strife, its extremes of violence and its unplumbable depths of political division; but the real tragedy is that the awesome accumulation of social deprivation and outright poverty is accepted as almost inevitable. It is true that, since its foundation as a provincial state some 60 years ago, Northern Ireland, as compared with other regions of the United Kingdom, has suffered from a wide disparity of basic living standards, those standards which make for equality of opportunity and quality of life. It is in this connection that it would be fair to say that in the early 1960s, in line with progressive changes in the rest of the United Kingdom, the Stormont Government was moving Northern Ireland toward a more prosperous and outgoing community with greater efforts towards building the social fabric so necessary for a caring society and a community wellbeing. Even since direct rule, successive United Kingdom Governments have sought to tip the balance of public initiative and investment towards closing the gaps in parity between Northern Ireland and other regions of the United Kingdom, especially in respect of employment prospects, housing accommodation, hospitals and medical services, educational opportunity and welfare facilities for the disadvantaged in the community. I join with many in Northern Ireland who pay tribute to all those in Government who have promoted policy decisions towards attempts to achieve this parity in public and community services. I would be the first to acknowledge that, as a result of these earlier decisions, we have had in Northern Ireland opportunities for community participation in some levels of educational achievement with standards which are higher than in many other regions of the United Kingdom. Also, as some noble Lords will know, Northern Ireland has been in the forefront of the world in pioneering specialist forms of heart and other surgical developments together with medical expertise and hospital care. I wholeheartedly concur with the sentiments expressed by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr. Humphrey Atkins, who at a meeting of international surgeons held last week in Belfast said:
But, sadly and tragically, the experience of the past two years since this Government took office has been a manifest erosion of the scope of many of these public services including housing, hospitals, welfare and education. The deterioration in the capability of many of the public services to cope with the needs of the people has given rise to much public outcry in the Province. This, in turn, has resulted in a perceptible, marked loss of morale and in frustration among all levels of professional and other groups engaged in the work and administration of these community and public services. Among many of those who are most strongly and publicly critical of the Government's policies concerning the needs of the public services are persons with creditable public-spirited and responsible records of work for the community, persons with no ideological political axe to grind but with knowledge and experience of public accountability and of the constraints necessary in the allocation of resources. If called upon, I could quote from many public statements and official reports made within the past 12 months to verify the substance of these criticisms about the effect of Government policies on Northern Ireland public services. However, much ground has to be covered in this debate and I will attempt to be brief while at the same time being as representative as possible and fair to the case that I wish to present. Some examples which I wish to quote are typical, but not specially selected. First is the report of the Northern Ireland Health and Social Services Council, a statutory-appointed board, which states:…the dedication of the medical, nursing and other staffs has been beyond praise, and their achievements have echoed round the world".
Concerning the scarcity of nurses in the Province, the report of the Eastern Health and Social Services Board states:"…the council expressed concern that cuts in revenue and capital resources would result in a reduction in the levels of services which the boards could provide ".
In the area of dentistry, the Northern Ireland Committee of the British Dental Association told the Eastern Health Board, in a report published two weeks ago that:"For some time past, the Board has been aware of the significant shortage of trained nurses in the Belfast area and the constraints placed on developments in hospital service as a consequence of this shortage".
Not only are there shortages of nurses and of dental personnel but also of persons trained in radiography and physiotherapy. These shortages place great strains on the specialist treatment services to patients and to the general public. While we have a reasonably good record compared with the rest of the United Kingdom as far as waiting lists for hospital beds for acute hospitalisation are concerned, we have fallen sadly behind in cases of coping with geriatric and special care patients in hospitals. In connection with deafness, Mr. John Henderson, the director of the Ulster Deaf Care Organisation said:"the dental service in Northern Ireland is in danger of collapse".
He claims that there are 25,000 people in the Province who are handicapped by deafness. One particular area that I should like to mention—and I have done so before in this House—is that of infant mortality. I am relying on evidence from a special committee appointed by the Government. Its report, the Baird Report, was concerned with infant mortality and handicap in Northern Ireland. It shows that although infant mortality rates have declined in the United Kingdom there is still a greater proportion of children in Northern Ireland dying before the age of one year than in Great Britain and in most other economically developed countries. The report convincingly argues that such death rates are inextricable entwined with poor socioeconomic and environmental conditions. The Government have so far refused to commit additional resources to permit the implementation of the major recommendations of this report and have satisfied their conscience by launching a limited health education programme beamed at expectant mothers. A far more aggressive approach than this, and on several fronts, is required if any appreciable improvement in infant mortality and handicap is to be achieved. Problems associated with infant mortality and handicap are not the monopoly of any one profession. Neither medicine, nursing nor social work, single-handed and in isolation from one another, is adequate. Indeed, even given the closest inter-professional cooperation the problems are enormous. This leads me to ask: What steps do the Government intend to take to promote post-qualifying inter-professional training opportunities in the field of maternal health and child care which will equip doctors, nurses, health visitors and social workers with appropriate attitudes, knowledge and skills so that they may offer a truly effective multi-professional service to mothers and children at risk? What steps do the Government intend to take to guarantee the availability of an easily accessible, Province-wide genetic counselling service supported by an adequate medical genetic laboratory? I would not expect any Minister from the other side to answer that tonight. But my question will be on the record and I hope that I shall get a reply in due course to that particular aspect concerning Northern Ireland. A senior civil servant in Northern Ireland is reported to have said:"Deaf people outside Belfast have been badly neglected for years".
I stand supported from this side of the House in saying that there must be public accountability in connection with public services. I support all efforts for good housekeeping and public accountability in the use of resources in carrying out these services. In saying that, I feel that due attention will be given by the Northern Ireland departments concerned to the report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General for the year 1979–80. I quote from some parts of that report. Some £175,000 was due last year by general medical practitioners for the nominal rent in respect of the occupation of health centres. I think that it is right of the Auditor-General to draw attention to this, particularly when there are people in Northern Ireland who are unemployed or have been forced to pay back their rent arrears and other arrears in connection with their living. The Auditor-General also draws attention to weaknesses in stores accounting and valuation and cites one instance where physical stocktaking valued goods at £180,000 as compared with a book value of £46,000—a discrepancy of almost a third. He goes on to refer to a breakdown in the system and draws attention to the fact that people in some of the services purchased fuel from commercial garages when supplies were equally available from district stores. He also refers to salary overpayments in one board and a high incidence of overtime in three boards. One instance is noted where overtime payments amounted to 90 per cent. of basic salary. The warden of one hostel was paid a total of £18,953 during the year. I cite those because here we have a public servant drawing this to our attention. I have every reason to suppose that those matters will be given careful attention and will be fully investigated. I do that because, as I have said, I believe that there ought to be good housekeeping in all these public services and public accountability. The idea that savings can be achieved by good housekeeping without affecting the standards of services is mere wishful thinking. The expenditure of hospitals and public services has been the subject to economic constraints for several years, and opportunities which may have existed for saving money in this way have long since been used up. A real reduction in the quality of service available to the public must result, at a time when public expectations and population changes are giving rise to increased demand for services of all kinds. Without corresponding increases in residential care, home-help services and mobile meals, the quality of life for many old people and others will decline and they will face a bleak future. In addition, a lack of social services facilities imposes greater demand on other, possibly more expensive, services, principally in the National Health Service. Yet in the current national economic strategy services must decline. I think that the burden of what I wish to state is that in my view in economic terms the Government have been penny-wise and pound-foolish. Money spent now on some of these services would be a total saving in many respects in the long term. But there is another aspect of it, and that is we are building a grab and greedy society instead of a sharing and caring society."I am not sure whether money alone is the answer to Northern Ireland's troubles. I do know that there can be no solution without it".
My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell—and I shall persist in calling him my "noble friend" in spite of speaking from this Bench. I am grateful to him not only for giving us an opportunity for discussing this enormously important subject, but for introducing it with so much vehemence, with such depth of feeling and such depth of knowledge. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, is not in his place because I would refute emphatically his suggestion that the noble Lord was doing little more than playing a political game. I do not want to misquote him, but the impression he gave was that we who are the old politicians know this game. We sit on one side and we attack the Government for not doing the job properly. We sit on the other side and defend the Government for doing the job properly. It is all part of the political game.But this is not part of a political game. This is part—and a very vital part—of the whole life of this country. It is part of the life and wellbeing of a very significant proportion of the people who live in this country, the poorest people, the under-privileged people. There is no point in pretending that many of us in this Chamber are in close contact with such people. We should be. Perhaps in our day when we were candidates for Parliament, when we were candidates for local autho- rities we were in closer touch; but there are very few of us here who can get up and say, not just with sympathy but with empathy, "I know what it is like to be poor, what it is like to be suffering, what it is like to know that the future holds nothing for you, whether it is because you are young and unemployed or whether it is because you are old and alone—whatever the reasons may be". Therefore, it is vitally important for people like my noble friend to remind us of this. It is no slur on Members of this House to say that we need reminding. Of course we need reminding. It is no slur to say that unless you are reminded you will do nothing about it. We in this country are a very extraordinary people. We pay no attention to the preservation of our countryside and the habitats of endangered species until somebody comes along and reminds us of it. Then we have a great outcry, and because of public outcry the Government put up money and that particular area is saved. Very few of us will go to museums to look at pictures or our national treasures. We pay little attention to the fact that they slip away, one by one, from the country until, again, somebody reminds us of this. Then there is a national outcry and again money comes from the Government and from other sources and a particular work of art or a particular building is saved. Surely the plight of the underprivileged in this country is something even more important than the preservation of wildlife habitat, than the preservation of a Leonardo or the preservation of a Vanbrugh building. They are all important but this is far more important. It is right that we should think about this now, that we should talk about it now, and that we should use such influence as we have individually and, above all, collectively, upon the Government to make them realise the feelings of the great majority of people in this country. My Lords, of course it is impossible, as the noble Lord, Lord Cullen of Ashbourne, has pointed out, to discuss this problem without dicussing economic policy, because the difficulties which are being faced and the hardships we have heard about today are intrinsically bound up with our economic policy and with priorities. We know that, relatively, we are a poorer country than we were a few years ago. We know that we have less money to spend on all the things we would like to spend our money on, and we have to make decisions as to where the cuts should be and how the money that is needed should be raised. That is essentially an economic and political problem. The Government have decided that the priorities must be national defence and law and order within this country, and that other things have to take their share of the cuts. Of course we must defend ourselves, and of course we must have law and order in this country, and I am not going to enter into any argument as to the relative merits of one against the other. But I will very briefly enter into the argument which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, concerning where the money should come from. The Government's policy was that we had to produce more, and that people would only produce more if they were given more incentives, and that the best incentive was to reduce peoples' tax. Therefore, in the present Government's first Budget tax was reduced, particularly that affecting upper and middle management executives. I have always felt that it was an insult to those people to say, in effect, that they would not work hard unless they were paid to do so; that they had no feeling of patriotism; no feeling of the importance of productivity to their country and to the firm for which they were working; and that the only way they could be made to work harder was by giving them more money—by bribery. I consider that that was insulting; but neither the Government nor those who voted for them appeared to consider it insulting. But it has not worked. Upper and middle management is not producing any more today than it was two years ago. In fact, it is producing less, and I would suggest to your Lordships that the policy of incentive by reducing taxation at the higher levels has manifestly and demonstrably failed. In passing, I feel it is rather a curious reflection on the attitude of the Government when the noble Lord, Lord Cullen of Ashbourne, when talking about health services, said that the ability to maintain health services would depend to a large extent on the degree of restraint exercised by hospital workers in respect of their wage claims. So far as I can make out, two years ago the Government were saying that we would only get higher management to work harder by giving them more money and that we would only get a good health service in this country by getting hospital workers to work for less money than they might otherwise get! In one case you have free collective bargaining and an incentive towards making more profit, and in the other you are appealing to patriotism and love of one's neighbour to hold down wages. To me that does not seem to be very consistent, and it does not seem to me to be a policy that will work, or is in fact working effectively. Until we change the basic structure of our economic policy we shall always have the problems which have been so vividly outlined by almost all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to some of the problems in rural areas. I do not pretend that poverty in rural areas is as overwhelming as it is in some of the inner cities, but there is poverty in rural areas and in some respects the present economic climate makes that poverty worse in certain respects than it does in the inner cities and urban areas. In rural areas, old people are more isolated. The higher cost of transport makes it more difficult for them even to draw their old age pension and certainly to do their shopping or visit their friends. If they are fortunate enough to have a telephone—and very few of them are—the rising cost of telephone charges imposes an increasing strain on their pockets. The rural youth has even fewer opportunities of alternative work than does his urban counterpart; there are probably only one or two potential employers within reach of where a youth may be living in a rural area. The housing situation to which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford so rightly drew attention is one of particular significance in rural areas. People in those areas cannot rely on private building, even if there were any. The price of houses in most areas—even of farm workers' cottages if they become vacant—is way beyond most people's means and such houses are snapped up by second home owners or commuters, depending on which part of the country they are in. They therefore depend solely on council building, and that has come to a halt. In particular, this has affected houses for old people, such as bungalows, which are a very valuable social service. Today, as the proportion of the population who are elderly increases, so are there more people wanting bungalows for the elderly. They are not available and elderly people have to go on living in unsuitable houses, which are often too large, and that means that young married people and those who want to get married are unable to move into houses which might otherwise become vacant. Our whole family structure, as the right reverend Prelate so rightly pointed out, is at risk because of the shortage of housing. Let us remember too the spin-off effects. It is not just a question of spending more money on housing; it is also a question of saving money, because we all know what effect the present cuts are having on the building and construction industries as a whole. The cement works, the brick works, and all the ancillary industries are facing rising unemployment because there is no public or private sector building taking place. If there was an injection of capital today into public sector building there would be an enormous surge of employment in certain areas—in rural as well as urban areas—and the building industry would start taking on labour. Money would be saved on the vast amount being paid out in unemployment benefits, and money would be gained in the form of income tax from those people who were in gainful employment. Above all, the people who need housing would have somewhere to live and our community life would develop. I will make only one further point about community life, arising from that which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Soper; and that is that we must foster in every way we can this feeling of responsibility for other people. This is one of the great assets of rural areas, where one is closer to one's neighbour and it is therefore easier to have a feeling or responsibility. The danger lies in a general attitude on the part of the Government and local authorities, and all the way down from there, that it is the one who shouts loudest who gets most, that it is the one with most muscle who wins wage disputes, and that it is only by reducing taxation and increasing take-home pay that one will get more work out of top management—in other words, fostering the lowest motives of human nature, rather than the highest. We must do what we can to encourage those higher motives which are not very far below the surface, and in that way we may being to see some alleviation of the very real suffering which there is in this country among very many people.
My Lords, I think we owe a debt of gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, in drawing our attention to this matter, though I shall seek to refute some of the points that he made. I should particularly like to endorse some of the things that were said by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter. Many of us on these Benches have spent years nursing constituencies and then more years representing them and in 25 years of such occupation, we held, I think, consulting hours every single month, and each time 20 or so people came in. We listened to their complaints, and they were largely the poverty-stricken and under-privileged section because they were not able to write letters and they were not able to put their thoughts together very well. So we have had in 25 years abundant knowledge of the under-privileged, the sad, the sorry, the ill, the sick, and the deprived; and it would not be right to say that among those of us sitting on these Benches, as I think was suggested earlier, there is little experience of true poverty. There is a lot of experience and it is very grevious when we have it.The Labour Opposition have chosen this subject and I just wonder whether the local elections tomorrow might possibly have had some influence on the timing.
Noble Lords: Oh!
There are some local elections in my part of the country. I was sorry in a way, despite the tenor of the opening speech—
My Lords, would the noble Lord give way? The noble Lord is imputing low motives to those on this side of the House. We are mainly and solely concerned with the deprived, the sick and the disabled who at the moment are going through hell as a result of policies that he supports.
My Lords, I disagree entirely with the intervention, but I note it and am delighted to hear that there are no electoral interests whatsoever. That applies on this side of the House, too. There is no monopoly of compassion and sorrow in this House, as was suggested in the opening speech, and if you start with arguments of that sort, then you may occasionally get the ball hit back at you.I have consulted the clerks and wondered whether we could amend the Motion but I was told that it was very unusual; they did not know of any case where a Motion of this sort had been amended. It would be awkward at the end of a debate, because the mover would probably withdraw his Motion and one would be left high and dry with an amendment but without a Motion. But had that been our practice I should have liked to add at the end of the Motion:
That, it seems to me, would have been a balanced Motion, which we could have discussed with greater merit than the rather loaded one which is on the Order Paper. The noble Lord who opened the debate referred to the cuts and their effects, but again there was nothing very constructive. I occasionally read Labour Weekly—it is not my normal bedside reading, but I read it last October, when Labour had held a conference on the health service. The Labour Weekly said, after that conference:"but regrets that the Labour Opposition in both Houses have failed to put forward any constructive policies as to how they would stimulate the growth and efficiency of the wealth creating private sector so that industry can carry the cost of the largest public sector in the free world and Britain's burden of social services".
I think we would say, Hear, hear! and we should like to hear some constructive suggestions put forward. I think it has also been suggested that we have forced very painful cuts—this is really the burden of the argument—on the local authorities. It may be that some local authorities and some branches of NALGO have resisted cutting the staff and have sought to cut, I think, in more harmful areas, like the day-rooms and so on which the noble Lord listed. I would hope those are not cut, except in exceptional circumstances, but it is interesting to look at what has happened to the number of people employed by local government. In March 1979, 1·927 million were employed by local authorities and in September last year, which is the latest figure, it was 1·878 million. So, a total of rather less than 50,000 people in nearly 2 million have gone from local authorities, despite the urgent need to cut their bills. What is also significant, is that the social service departments within those local authorities have actually increased. Surely this reflects the emphasis which the Government have tried to put on—cut where it is possible and where there are perhaps too many people, but do not cut where it is desperately painful and services are essential. The figures show that in March 1979 there were 205·9 thousand in the social services and that in September last year there were 207,000. So actually there has been an increase in the numbers. That, I think, refutes the idea that somehow the Government have forced cuts on the social service departments. They have not: the numbers have actually increased. Turning now to the burden of the public sector on the Government of the day, but for that burden it is possible that we could have been more generous and not forced these cuts as we have endeavoured to do. In an article on 3rd January 1981, the Economist drew attention to the enormous expansion of Government employment in most industrial countries, and a table was published there which showed public sector employment as a percentage of the total civilian labour force. Britain came at the top with 20 per cent. of the public sector and was way ahead of any of our competitors. Italy came next, with 15·6 per cent.; France had 13·4 per cent. and West Germany 11·5 per cent. So we had nearly twice as many people in the public sector as our Western German competitors. The last months have vividly shown, as everyone knows in both Houses, and have brought home the demands of the public sector on the Government's financial support. The BSC needed nearly £1,000 million, British Leyland needed £990 million, and this morning I read in the paper that British Shipbuilding is losing money at the rate of £2 million a week; in other words, over £100 million a year. So the public sector is a considerable burden which any Government has to provide support for, because we could not let steel go out of existence in this country. Of course, on this side we accept the need for a mixed economy, but in contrast the Labour Party, I believe, are still dedicated to going on increasing the size and scope of the public sector. They keep very quiet on this one, because it will be very difficult to sell to the electorate that you are in favour of a larger public sector, with more losses and with more bureaucrats and the like; I think this is a millstone which they would like to get off their necks before the next election. I rather hoped that we would hear something from the Social Democrats about their policy, despite the admirable speech we have already had; but, as I understand it, they have announced that they accept the public sector roughly in its present form, so presumably they will neither denationalise nor nationalise. It will stay as a very large burden. Only the Tories have sought to reduce it. We believe it is too big and it is over-manned. Moreover, when called upon to work within cash limits, it is often the nationalised industries which have failed to prune their manpower and have made pretty demanding wage demands, often as high as 25 per cent., and have increased their prices by 25 per cent. In addition—this is the most damaging of all—they have often cut their investment programme for the future. I am sure it is important that the infrastructure of our country should be modern and well equipped, equipped with modern machine tools and the like. It is sad, because British industry benefits by supplying the nationalised industries with their wants so that a cut there not only mortgages the future but adversely affects the viability of British industry and has an adverse effect on the jobs created there. So while the private sector has reduced its employees by something like 10 per cent. all round, the public sector has done very much less well with reduction of only about 2 per cent. or one-fifth. The Opposition, I hope, will eventually publish their policy for the future. In the meantime, they seem to give the impression that cuts are something new, so I asked the Library to get me some facts and figures to remind us of just what happened under the previous Government not very long ago. On 22nd July 1976 Denis Healey made an announcement that £1,000 million was to be cut off the public sector. There was to be £157 million cut off the nationalised industries' capital expenditure; health and personal social services were to be cut by £70 million and so on, making a total of £952 million in all. That was hardly out of the way when Britain needed to go to the IMF for a big loan, and the Government of the day were then told by the IMF that they must have another two series of cuts. On 15th December, just before the Christmas Recess, Denis Healey announced that they were going to cut £1,000 million off the public expenditure budget for 1977–78 and £1,500 million off the budget for 1978–79. I shall not go through the burden of that, but one of the big cuts was in health and personal social services, where a total of £40 million was cut off although it had been cut six months earlier by £22 million. So in a period of six months the Government had announced cuts of over £60 million. Therefore, it would be wrong to suggest to people outside this House or even inside this House that this is new. I remember going down to listen to the announcement being made. A total of £2,500 million was cut from public expenditure. The capital cuts in the school building programme were £33 million, with other educational cuts such as on school meals and school milk of £50 million. The National Health Service, of which we have heard a lot this afternoon, and other social services had capital cuts of £70 million and other cuts of £10 million. It was that programme that really began to reduce the rate of inflation. So we are only repeating the same pattern a little later and I hope with rather more vigour and determination than the previous Government undertook a few years ago. When the Labour Government published their plans for public sector expenditure just before the last election in January 1979 they were basing all their plans on the fact that there would be an expansion of industrial output in the manufacturing sector of 3 per cent. Why they should have thought it would be 3 per cent. when there had been a diminishing output—not an expansion—in previous years I cannot understand, except that it might have been for electoral purposes. But we were landed with a public sector expenditure plan based on a tremendous upturn in the productivity of our industry: only then would it be possible for the Government to do it. In fact there was actually a reduction of 6·6 per cent. in 1975; a growth of 1·5 per cent. in 1976; a growth of 1·5 per cent. in 1977 and in 1978 a growth of 0·9 per cent. Yet they were telling us that the whole of their plans were based on a growth of 3 per cent., though they had no track record to justify that and no economic logic either. Perhaps this Government should have moved more quickly in the public sector, but your Lordships will remember that they were burdened with the Clegg comparability settlement and other postponed settlements which had been promised to public servants and which were going to be honoured after the election, settlements that we could not escape from because of our obligation which we accepted. It is a fact that average earnings in the last two years from October 1978 to October 1980 went up by 44·3 per cent. while prices rose by only 35 per cent. Whether you look at the position of a single man or at the position of a married couple with two children, you will find that in real terms they are marginally better off and these increased earnings have more than compensated for inflation. If you look at the statistics you will find that that is also true for the man with two children who is on half the average earnings. Average earnings in industry are now £130 a week and a person earning £65 a week is still better off as a result of his earnings having expanded faster than inflation. It is some triumph that the Government can say, absolutely honestly, that most social security benefits have been fully protected against inflation. These include retirement pensions, widows' pensions and supplementary benefits. This is no mean Government achievement, but let no one in the House or outside it misunderstand the facts. For 30 years we have been living beyond our means. We have been paying ourselves more than our prowess or our productivity warrants. No Government enjoys making cuts. People have suggested that we do it for fun, but surely they realise that politicians love to be loved. That is the first thing in political life. Why do you think we used to kiss babies till the babies grew too fussy? It was to gain popularity. Why did we hold welfare meetings all over our constituencies? It was to gain popularity and try to communicate. So Governments do not do nasty things for the fun of it. They do them because it is their duty, in order to put the economy right—"it was impossible to get away from the impression that the whole thing floated some feet off the ground. It is certainly good to know what the goals are. But a little greater emphasis on how they are to be achieved might have helped avoid that sagging cynical feeling at the end of the day".
My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to intervene for one moment? With respect, he seems to me to be missing the whole point of this debate. This debate is on a perfectly clear motion which is suggesting, not that there ought not to be cuts but that the effect of some of the cuts is very damaging and ought to be thought about again. Nobody has suggested that the Tories or anybody else make cuts for fun. With respect, this is all quite irrelevant to the subject which we are trying to discuss.
My Lords, I have to say that you need to create the wealth before you start increasing the benefits. That comes after creating wealth. I do not think anyone would disagree with that. I can see from this debate that of course there are agonising areas, and if local authorities have not cut their staffs where they ought to have cut them and have cut areas where people are deeply dependent on the support of local authorities, that is not something which we can dictate from a Government position. It must be by the local authorities being pressurised by their local representatives to make the cuts where they are not so painful and to preserve the services where they are really meeting the needs of the under-privileged, the poverty-stricken and the ill—
My Lords, the point of my intervention was that there has been a great deal of evidence from all sides of the House to suggest that that is not being done at the moment.
Yes, my Lords, and I agree. We have had some very disturbing evidence on this matter. But I do not think that I can depart from the main thrust of my argument, which is that we have to get public expenditure under control. We have to encourage the private sector to generate the wealth of this country which pays for our imports and underpins our social services. Unless you get that going you cannot afford to index fully all the social services. I accept the argument that you should not cut the voluntary services because they are most cost-effective and most compassionate because they are dealing with people; they are caring people dedicating their lives to helping the unfortunate. I hope that the private sector is investing for the future, and all my evidence in the companies with which I work shows that they are; and as the recession begins to fade we shall then be better placed to respond, to create the wealth and earn the exports. Thus Britain will be better able to look after the old, the needy and the sick who deserve the best of their nation.
My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships will join with the last noble Lord in saying that we hope that the private sector will produce sufficient wealth in order to ensure that our economy is a stable and fast-growing one, because, if it is not, then not only will this Government have failed but the nation will have failed. So it is vitally important that that should happen. Wealth is not produced only by the private sector; it is also produced by the public sector.When the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, took issue with our spokesman, as to what he said about Members opposite, I think that he treated him very unfairly indeed. It was not my impression that the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, was saying that people did not appreciate the problems of unemployment. He was pointing out quite clearly that, as he saw it, Government policy inevitably was going to lead to very great hardship. Against that background, nobody on those Benches made any gesture of opposition to the Government's policy at that time. It may well be that Members on the other side really believe that the Government are pursuing the right path. I do not think that I am under a misconception about the Government's intentions. During our debate following the Budget I said that it was the Government's intention to free the economy, to allow the entrepreneurs to develop wealth so that we could all go on and up on the backs of free enterprise. I do not think anybody call deny that this is their fundamental aim. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, mentioned the Macmillan era. How very apposite! Members of this House at times forget that when the history of this nation comes to be written no historian will refer to a particular period when a Labour Government or a Tory Government were in office. History will say that this nation went through various development phases, took a certain stance, made certain pledges and then failed to keep those pledges. This debate would not have taken place in your Lordships' House before the First World War because the Members of this House at that time would not have considered that a debate of this kind was apposite. Before the First World War or, indeed, before the Boer War, they did not consider that unemployment, poverty and suffering were a matter for the Government; it was an accident of the economy; things would get right as the cycle turned. And they did, in some cases. However, the First World War brought the first evidence that the Government were beginning to realise that they had a responsibility for the poorer sections of our community. In the words of Lloyd-George—if one were to pay attention to some of today's television programmes, I do not know how anybody could ever have believed him—we were about to build a society fit for heroes to live in. The inter-war years were hardly a society fit for heroes to live in. Not three years had elapsed before once again the burdens of economic problems were falling upon those least able to bear them. That was the position during the inter-war years. During the 'forties Beveridge introduced the concept that in a modern age you had to look after everybody in the community, that the welfare state should be a pledge for all politicians. This was no figment of the imagination. There was a strong general consensus, arising out of a kind of society that r did not particularly admire, that we should give a pledge to this community and to the world that we would set an example by building a decent, humanitarian society in which people would be proud to live. We said something else: that gone were the days when Government would stand idly by and allow 3 million or 4 million unemployed people to be used as a means of straightening out our economic problems. Of course, nobody was blaming anybody else for the unemployment problem. The history of this country immediately following the war shows that we set about building that welfare state. There was opposition as to how it should be done but, by and large, the building of the welfare state went on from 1945 to 1950. It was built upon the basis of control of the economy and of the rationing of scarce goods, upon the basis that investment had to be channelled into social services and into the production of the basic materials which were necessary in order to allow the private sector to flourish. The whole of the motor-car industry of this country was built upon and founded upon public investment in fuel, transport and everything else in order to ensure that it could be a success. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, speaks to us today as though he were the apostle of all things good. I was part of the Macmillan era, and I remember it. I can remember the age of "You've never had it so good". I know who never had it so good: the property speculators, the builders of the bingo halls, the builders of the present night clubs which are now a curse upon the face of London. And all the while the nation suffered from lack of investment where it was most needed. Slowly but surely we moved along that path. I am not blaming in particular a Conservative Government. All I am saying is that that is the path which the nation took and that it took it upon the basis that, if you freed the economy, private enterprise would produce sufficient wealth upon which we could build a new society. Did it? Of course it did not. A Labour Government came to power with tremendous difficulties because investment had not gone into private production or into the motor-car industry. Investment had not gone into making sure that private enterprise in this country captured the markets of the world. Investment had gone into property speculation. It had gone, in fact, into where the return was greatest. So of course the productive force of this nation went down, and of course we moved into a situation where we could not afford social services. I make no excuse for a Labour Government which made cuts in the social services. I make no excuse for the fact that because of the failure of the private sector of productive industry in this country, the IMF had to tell us what to do. There is no sense in making excuses for that. They are the economic facts. What is the situation today? Will anybody deny that we need more investment in social services, that we need more investment in the railways—that more investment is needed all over the country, particularly in the area I am concerned with: North-East Wales, Deeside and Merseyside? Oh, no. But where is that investment going? According to the latest estimate made by one of our broadcasting channels, last year, £3,000 million went into property investment in the City of New York, a sum of money which should have been invested here. I am not denying that the private sector has the right to invest wherever they want to invest. The Government of the day have given them that right and we must not grumble if they exercise that right. But that is what is happening. Instead of seeing that money goes into productive industry, the administrators of our pension funds plough it instead into useless office blocks in the City of London, in the face of wide-scale opposition from the people who live in London. Is it right that we should have a community that is building offices when the most vital need in London is for housing and when the building of public housing has been stopped? Is it right that we should keep overloading London with a chaotic transport system when what is needed is a diversion of activity from London? But the administrators of the pension funds will continue on their way because, on its past record, investment in office blocks in the City of London has paid dividends. But the dividends that office blocks are going to pay will not be very good; they are going to be empty office blocks, a need for housing and poor amenities when the need is to create better amenities. Those are the dividends which they are going to pay. When the wise administrators of our pension funds wake up, they will find themselves with some very burnt fingers. When this debate was put down—I should like to join with others in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, for having put it down—I decided to make out a list showing how the area I am concerned with—Deeside and Merseyside, one of the most badly affected areas in the United Kingdom with regard to unemployment and deprivation—is affected by some of these cuts. However, I gave up the task. It was impossible. I could not possibly have stood here and listed the number of occasions upon which effects are being felt by people in those areas. There are too many. Half a million pounds cut here, a million cut there, 50 social workers cut here, 39 social workers cut in another district. Worse still, in one district in Merseyside which three years ago conceived the idea that social services should be based upon the principle that we have to get people standing on their own feet and introduced a system called home-making, in which they deliberately used public money to enable people to stand on their own feet, to recreate homes that were broken and to create new homes out of old homes, that has gone. As a concept it is finished, because this country decides that it has not got the money to carry it out. Let me take just a few examples. An insurance man went to a housing estate in Liverpool—a nice housing estate on the fringe of the city, facing the countryside of Lancashire. He knocked at the front door of a onebedroomed flat, in which lived an elderly woman of 74. He got no answer. He heard what he thought was a whimpering inside the living room and he thought that perhaps there was an animal trapped in there. He went on his way, worried about the fact that he had not seen the elderly lady; he went back, knocked on the door, and realised that he had made a terrible mistake. So he broke the door open and an elderly lady had been lying on the hearthrug for at least 24 hours. That is the kind of thing that could be repeated in the absence of home helps—and do not let anybody tell me that when we talk about priorities those priorities have to be within the social services. Let me quote the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, that Government must be firm; Government must determine their priorities in the social services and they must be firm in giving to those that need to be kept on, all the assistance they need—and I quote:
Ruthless in what? Removing them? Abolishing them? Will anybody tell me that ally social service today is not an integral part of the welfare state that this country committed itself to keep in being? I refute completely that if economic priorities are to be laid, they must be laid within the section of social services. Of course priorities can be laid, and those priorities were referred to by my noble friend Lord Walston. Is it right that we should even contemplate taking away from an aged person the right to travel from the suburbs to the City of Liverpool with a concessionary fare, to enjoy a few fleeting moments of company with her former neighbours? Is it right that that should be denied to her, or that she should be made to pay for it while somebody else gets thousands of pounds in relief in their income tax? I can remember an argument being advanced in a national daily on that Budget which this Government introduced, in which it said, "there may even be a possibility that the pop stars and the tax exiles might be persuaded to come back here, if we could make it beneficial enough for them to do so". Well, I do not want them and I do not think that any society that so gears its affairs that it has to rely upon unpatriotic, selfish individuals like that, deserves to remain in existence. Let me give your Lordships the other reason why I decided to speak in this debate. Somebody said that across the board cuts are wicked—and wicked they are. It is bad enough if you are unemployed in a place like Liverpool and you live in a block of flats and you can meet 50 per cent, of the male population in that block of flats at any time of the day, because they are unemployed too. It is bad enough to realise that you cannot buy a new suit when the last one is getting threadbare. It is bad enough to realise that your own children have not got all that they are entitled to. That is bad enough. But what makes it worse is that all those people—or most of them—have parents living near them, and they see that even the small pleasures that a welfare state gave those elderly people are being taken away from them. How does that make the unemployed person feel? Nobody in this House will tell me what it feels like to be unemployed. Having served an apprenticeship for a miserable wage and then served the next few years on the dole, I know what it feels like. I know the sense of inadequacy, because one cannot do what one thinks one should do in society. It would have made it considerably worse if at the same time I had not been able to replace those little comforts that my mother got from the welfare state. That is the situation that the present problem is driving people into in North-East Wales and Merseyside. North-East Wales is a perfect replica of the kind of situation that was in existence in all the conurbations throughout our country before the last war, where you walked through at ten o'clock in the morning, and there were grown, fit men standing at street corners with nothing to do; where there were elderly people who would dearly have liked to go out with their sons or their daughters for a run in a motor-car in the wonderful countryside, but who were condemned to stay put. That is the kind of situation that exists. I want to conclude on this note. I have said it before in this House, but it will bear repeating. If the kind of society that we are building and I repeat, I am not making party points; at the end of the day it will be our society and our people who will take the responsibility—has to rely on the pluralities that have been listed to us; has to rely on a Member of your Lordships' House, standing there and using Hong Kong as an illustration of some kind of society that he wants, then that society deserves to perish. If shortly we do not do something to convince the people in Merseyside, the North-East, in Northern Ireland and all the other places that are afflicted by this problem, to convince these people that there is hope for them, hope for their parents and hope for the family, then this society will perish—and in a very nasty way."but in regard to the other services it must be ruthless".
My Lords, this debate is on the effects of Her Majesty's Government's cuts on those in the community who depend, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford said, on Government aid and local authority services. As an ex-Director of Social Services, I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, for raising this matter in the House today. In his opening speech, I think I am right in saying that he threw down a friendly gauntlet to the Back Benches on this side—and I suspect to me in particular as an ex-Director of Social Services. Therefore, in a friendly way, I pick up the gauntlet and seek, first, to establish truth in various areas of this debate and, secondly, to see how, in the circumstances in which we find ourselves today, we can look for some solutions. But I wish to point out that I am only going to cover local authority social services.I have very deep sympathy for my ex-colleagues, both field and residential social workers. Believe you me, when one has assessed a need in the community in the sphere of the elderly, the handicapped, children in trouble, families with difficulties, the needs of the under fives and children who are abused, and when one has submitted schemes to meet those needs, only to be told by one's committee that the resources are not forthcoming, then the disappointment, the frustrations and stress for one's clients are deeply felt. We are a compassionate society and we do feel deeply when we have these schemes turned down. However, there is another side to the coin. Perhaps I may say to (if I may so call him) my noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell that he does less than justice to those who work in the social services in the statutory and voluntary sector, and indeed to the people whom we serve. I think that we should see that no despondency and gloom comes out of this debate, but rather that we look for something positive that can come out of our deliberations today. First of all, I think I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell—I had great admiration for him and I still have—that he, above all people, knows what it means to have a dream. He, above all people, knows what it is to start a movement with practically no money and to establish that movement so that it is a living thing today—and I talk about the Marriage Guidance Council, which he started and which he left in good fettle. In a magazine, which is a professional magazine, the Health and Social Services Journal of 16th January 1981, it is written:
It goes on to say:"Think of all the problems we would not have had if we had not had rampaging inflation these 15 years or more, problems with the hospital building programme, problems with industrial relations, problems of unfulfilled aspirations for the elderly and handicapped".
I am bound to say that among the social workers in the country, among the social services, there are those who very much take this view. When we talk about knowing the facts and knowing the truth, I would suggest that we do not know the facts and we do not know the truth. The noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, quoted, and very rightly quoted, the report of the Directors of Social Services. I know that report and I have read it. But I have also talked to the Secretary of State for the Department of Health and Social Security, and he has said that his assessments and his figures do not accord with those of the Directors of Social Services. He is puzzled by their figures; they are puzzled by his. Therefore, I think I am right in saying that a committee, jointly agreed by both the Secretary of State and the Directors of Social Services, has been set up in order to find out the truth of the figures; because the Secretary of State maintains that the expenditure on the personal social services is being maintained, and in the five years 1979–80 to 1980–84 inclusive will be higher in real terms than in the preceding five years. I have looked up the Public Expenditure White Paper for 1980 and this does seem to be so. The Child Poverty Action Group maintains—and I quote from Poverty magazine, December 1980;"Inflation rots the very fabric of society, adding in many ways which we are now only beginning to suspect to the health and social problems of the nation. So whatever else happens to us in 1981, if inflation is brought under control, we all stand to benefit. Quite apart from the interests of the country as a whole, it is very much in the interests of health and social services that Government should continue to give the conquest of inflation first priority".
For the sake of your Lordships' House, for the sake of Members of Parliament in the House of Commons, it is right that we should know the truth and it is right that we should know what is the present position. We hope very much that the Secretary of State together with the Association of Directors of Social Services will be able to give a true and accurate statement. When it comes to the question of staffing in regard to social workers, again I am puzzled, because the figures show that the number of social workers has increased and stands now at 22,916. The number of staff in residential establishments has also increased; in 1978 it was 26,074 and in 1980 it is estimated—this may not be absolutely accurate but nearly so—it is 28,095. So here again is a discrepancy. I believe that we should know exactly what is the truth, because how can we estimate our services without knowing what the truth is? I feel that I must congratulate the Secretary of State for setting up the Barclay Committee which seeks to define the role of social workers. If I may say for social workers, the colleagues with whom I worked for so many years—and I am grateful to many noble Lords and the right reverend Prelate who appreciated their work—the sad situation is that those who work hard, those who work consistently and are committed, are those who very rarely speak. Of the 120 local authorities in only 11 authorities were social workers on strike, and in those authorities, as has been said, they were sorely missed, particularly in the area of the elderly, the handicapped and the children. Therefore I hope very much that we may establish that they are not being cut and that their work is continuing, and that they will not suffer as a result of the cutbacks. In many local authorities where there is a commitment, where there is a sense of real desire to help the clients, those with whom they work, it is extraordinary the way the work has been able to go on despite the fact that in many local authorities cuts have been made. May I give some examples, from the point of view of structure of the departments. There are many departments in this country that have restructured, and they have restructured in such a way that the social workers have stepped down from the top bureaucracy into the field and are now much more closely in touch with field work than they were before. This is because they have had to cut down. I have learned from at least five authorities, and I think there are many more, that they have welcomed the cut-down and the restructuring because it has been something positive. Those of us who have been involved with children in children's homes have come to realise how terribly expensive are the children's homes, residential establishments, community homes. But we have also come to realise how very much better it is for children to be out of children's homes and in communities. We have sought to foster children, to have children adopted, even those who are extraordinarily handicapped. I have done some figures and found that if a child from seven to 17 is adopted, we are saved £60,000, but that is infinitesimal as compared with what it has meant to that child. But it is the fact that, because people have realised that they must look again and concentrate on their services, there have been some really positive results. I pass on to an area which I find very difficult. I seek the help of those of my colleagues in the House who are trade unionists. I belong to a trade union myself, so perhaps I should go to my own trade union. However, I would make a plea to the trade unions to think about the clients that we serve. There are various restrictive practices which are a terrible burden to the clients, but not to the staff. For instance, it is difficult in some areas for old people to potter about and do the garden because it is said by their trade union that they may keep somebody out of a job. It is said in some old people's homes that the old people should not cook and clean because it would deprive someone of a job. In the North-East a number of departments have got together with a view to starting up a voluntary service—a service of volunteers—and that has been forbidden by the trade unions. The trade unions have much to offer. Many of us have worked with, and been grateful to, our unions. But I wonder whether those of your Lordships who carry weight with the unions could bring this matter to their notice. There are other ways in which we can curtail expenditure and give a better service. There are the day centres. In my own authority—as the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, will know—I was fortunate enough to get one centre built before the cuts came. We needed several more centres and I pay tribute to the social workers because they were not daunted by having no money. An enormous number of small day centres have been set up in village halls and in many ways I sometimes think that they are more effective than the rather expensive centres that are purpose built. I am bound to say—and the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, will expect me to say—how important we believe is the allocation of money to be spent on intermediate treatment keeping children out of custodial care. In this respect I think that I must pay tribute to the Secretary of State because extra money has been given to the Rayner Foundation. I think that I would be less than fair—and I would wish to say this from the point of view of my own party—if I did not say that I cannot agree with my own party over the question of detention centres. I would wish the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, to know that because I think that in this House we should work for what we really believe to be the best thing for the clients for whom we are working. I think that they are expensive and I do not think that they are effective. I would much rather see the money being spent on something other than detention centres. As regards voluntary organisations, I think that we are in danger of putting our money in one place or the other. The statutory services and the voluntary organisations should work as partners and not individually. I think that for them to work separately is a great mistake. Each has something to offer to the other. The voluntary organisations have flexibility, they are able to try out schemes and they are able to concentrate on just one subject. However, we make a mistake if we do not regard the statutory and the voluntary social services as working as equal partners. I should like to mention one further point and to ask the Minister whether, in her reply, she could say something on the question of the under-fives. I believe that the care of the under-fives is where it all begins. The book that has just been brought out called The Great Under-Fives Muddle—Options for Day Care Policy, needs to be deeply thought about particularly in an age when some mothers have to go out to work and others must stay at home. I would wish to pay tribute to the Minister who is to reply and to Sir George Young in the Department of Health and Social Security, knowing that both of them together—one from the Department of Education and Science and the other from the Department of Health and Social Security—have jointly been visiting various centres and looking at the ways in which the under-fives could be cared for. So, in conclusion, I hope that out of this debate something positive will come—something constructive will come. I would only say that if you are committed to something, if your heart lies in that place, then whether there is money or whether there is not you will do it. You will find the money come what may. I hope that that is how we shall go forward in the social services."Local authorities were not necessarily having to reduce their expenditure below what it has been in previous years".
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down I should like to ask her one question, because I think that it is important that we should get the situation correct. I understood her to say that the Secretary of State for Social Services does not accept the report of the Association of Directors of Social Service. I should like to ask the noble Baroness whether it is not a fact that the Association of Directors of Social Service compiled this 95-page report as a result of a carefully prepared questionnaire that they sent out to every other director asking them to list the cuts and the enforced savings—which were in point of fact the matters that I mentioned during my opening speech.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, is absolutely right. This matter has puzzled us. I think that the Secretary of State has had difficulty in squaring the money that he has allocated for social services with what is going on in the local authorities. I cannot say whether the Secretary of State's assessment is right or whether the directors of social services, are right. I only know that both are puzzled. As a result of that, I am informed—although I was not able to check it this morning—that there is a committee being set up with members from both sides to look at both reports and to see exactly where the truth lies.
My Lords, I must say that the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, for whom I have a very great personal regard, sounds very much more satisfied with the situation than anyone else who I know in the social services today—and I know very many of them. She started her speech by referring to feeling deeply, but by the end I felt that she was letting arithmetic rule her warm heart. I appreciate her point of view—although of course, I do not share it—that there are people who say that we must give the conquest of inflation priority. But what does that mean to an autistic child? What does it mean to a blind old man who will not live through this winter? In my view this is a totally false conception.I have been thinking back. Indeed, I am so old that I can think back to when the late Arthur Greenwood appointed Beveridge to set up that committee over 40 years ago, and Beveridge stated quite clearly:
That is the challenge that we have to face. It is not a question of whether we have the money or not: it is a question of what we are doing with the money we have. Beveridge continued by saying that:"The plan for social security is first and foremost a method of redistributing income".
I was particularly interested in what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford had to say and I should like to take one of his thoughts a little further. I honestly do not think that this country is in a position where we can afford much longer to think in terms of Disraeli's two nations. I think that we are one nation or we shall be nothing at all, because if too many people feel that society does not care about them, they will not care about society, and its very fabric will be in danger. I submit to your Lordships that the welfare programme, which started with such high hopes following the Beveridge Report, instead of being taken further forward is, in fact, going backwards from Beveridge, because the welfare programme for this country has lost all social purpose. It has become part of economic policy. The only philosophy that this Government seem to understand is the domination of fiscal considerations over everything else, especially over the wellbeing of the most disadvantaged. We had a very impressive speech from my noble friend Lord Sefton, who put some reality into this rather academic debate. I also want to remind your Lordships of the people about whom we are talking, who are at pension age now. Most of them were born in the First World War; their young life was spent during the 1920s and the 1930s, through times of hardship and unemployment. Then came another war. These are people who have not had the opportunity in their lives to accumulate capital resources; to get a sort of camel's hump of supplies around them for emergencies. I remember vividly how so often, when I was a Member of Parliament, there would come old men, and sometimes old women, to my surgery and often they would want to reminisce. It would turn out that this impoverished old man had been on a ship to Murmansk; that another had one been in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp; that some brokendown old woman had been a nurse in Singapore. We are talking about people who have not had the opportunity in their lifetime to build the comfort of fat around them; and because many of them are living longer, we must take on board this responsibility, even if it means a totally different allocation of our resources. Of course, I agree with the need to work with the voluntary organisations; I have done much voluntary work myself. But we cannot use the voluntary organisations as an alibi for statutory provision. We do not have the Beatrice Webbs and the ladies bountiful with private incomes and leisure to go around the East End doing good works any more. Society is changing. More and more women are employed, and increasing numbers of women are trying to be employed because they need to earn the money to keep up the living standards of their families. Therefore it is quite unfair to suggest that there could be an economy in this direction. I would also point out that the poorest areas which need the most help usually have the fewest resources in terms of manpower and womanpower, because there are too few of those people who can give their time to voluntary work. I have noticed this particularly in the East End of London where almost every able-bodied woman who might be thought to be a good person to do Meals-on-Wheels, is either in a factory or trying to get a job somewhere to help raise family standards. I should like to ask one or two specific questions. Today we have heard much about what we cannot afford. I want to ask how much money is in the National Insurance Fund. I have been told that it is £687 million, just sitting there. I hope that the Government are getting a good rate of interest on it. That is three times the amount that the Government claim to be saving. How much will it be next year?—or is it the Government's policy to sit on this money, and to force more people on to supplementary benefits, which have to be financed out of taxation? By 1984 it has been estimated that 3·5 million people will be depending on the safety net of supplementary benefit. That will be an increase of half a million on this year. That was not the original intention of Beveridge. The idea was that supplementary benefits—the old Assistance Board—were there for emergencies and for difficult problems. But they were not meant to be an integral part of our social security plans. I believe that a Government's policy on welfare would be well judged, not by how many people are on supplementary benefit, but by how many people come off supplementary benefit and are paid proper rates. The Secretary of State, Mr. Jenkin, boasted at a Conservative meeting in Colchester last February:"We should put first the most urgent needs so as to make the best possible use of whatever resources are available".
But every pound that the Government save is a pound taken off the people who need it and the people who deserve it. I want to refer to the abolition of the earnings-related supplement next January. If the unemployment figures progress as they are at present, that should, on my calculation, save the Government about £360 million. Again, that is £360 million taken from people who have made their contributions and feel that they have an honest right to those benefits. Another question that I want to ask concerns income tax. What we cannot afford, we cannot afford, but in the Government's first Budget how could we afford to give away £1.5 billion? Thirty-seven per cent. of tax hand-outs went to the richest 7 per cent. of the population. Now this Government come here, saying that they cannot afford to help the poor, that they cannot afford nursery education that we cannot have so many home helps—that is where we must cut. This is the real political evil of the argument. Then there was the failure in the last Budget to raise tax thresholds and to index allowances. In effect, that is a deliberate cut in income and it hurts most the poorest people. We are now in this sort of Alice in Wonderland post-Beveridge age where we are taxing the poor to pay for their own benefits, instead of using fiscal policies for a real distribution of the resources of the nation. There is one particular example to which I should like an answer. For the first time in history women between the ages of 60 and 64 are to be liable to income tax if their income consists only of their pension; that is, the retirement and graduated pensions. A Question was asked the other day about this and the Minister replied that the Inland Revenue had a tolerance level, and that as long as the tax did not come to more than £30, it would not be collected. I think that this is absolute nonsense. Surely it can only mean that, if you have to bring within the network of the Inland Revenue women who have no income other than their pension, the income tax threshold is appallingly too low. Moreover, I have to ask about this £30, supposing one woman who has worked particularly hard and had a good job and has a graduated pension, say, of not many pence a week, perhaps 55p a week, and her income tax liability comes to over £30. Say it is £32 to £35. Does she have to pay only £2 or £5, or will she have to pay £32 or £35 because the Inland Revenue will say that one of these actuarially minded wooden heads at the Treasury says that it is only up to £30 that you can have a tolerance level? By freezing allowances in the last Budget the Government have brought thousands of women pensioners into this tax bracket for the first time since their retirement. This has been quite a shock for many of them. The sick, the injured, the unemployed suffer a real cut of about 5 per cent. because the Social Security Act provides uprating which is 5 per cent. below inflation. This of course will be worsened when the earnings-related supplement will be abolished. That is a move which would have caused a Department of Trade inquiry if any city insurance company had treated contributors in this way. Other noble Lords have spoken about the result of cuts in housing, which I think are most desperate and ill-advised. Noble Lords talk about the need to cut inflation before we do anything else, but I cannot think of anything more inflationary than paying men and women to do nothing. That must be the most inflationary nonsense in our society. We have, for instance, in Camden 1,000 houses which have been acquired in better times, but are now empty because funds are not available for improvements and renovations to make them "letable" in the jargon. So where do the homeless families go? They go to bed-and-breakfast hotels. Where do the children go? They go into children's homes at vastly more cost to the country than if the social services and welfare services were constructively financed to deal with those problems. We are not able to give council mortgages any more to people who want to buy their own homes in the borough. That again contributes to the awful problem of homelessness. I hesitate at this late hour—or at any hour, I may say—to quote Scripture, especially in the presence of so many holy Lords. I hope they will forgive me if I say that I think a good text for a civilised society is, "Bear ye one another's burdens". That is the voice not merely of piety and good manners, but in the long run, of sound economic freedom."Compared with Labour's extravagant plans which we inherited, we will have reduced spending by something like £1.5 billion on social security and also saved the Exchequer around £750 million on the NHS—almost entirely through higher charges and higher contributions".
My Lords, I should like to join with my noble friends Lord Donaldson and Lord Walston, with me Social Democrats, in welcoming the Motion put before us today and introduced so ably by the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell. I was particularly moved by what the noble Lord, Lord Sefton of Garston, had to say, and very much welcomed too what my noble friend Lady Jeger has just said in her speech. The noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, who unfortunately has left us now, in referring to the Social Democrats, said that they do not seem to be doing anything in this debate, at any rate, except supporting what some of the Labour speakers have said before them. What I want to try to do, while certainly supporting what Labour speakers have said, is also to show what one of the differences is, as I see it, between the Social Democratic Party and the Labour Party on the kind of issues being discussed this evening.I can start my argument by referring to the Motion itself, which lumps together Government aid and local authority services, as indeed it is customary to do. The central Government and the local authorities are so intimately bound up together that sometimes it is difficult to see where one ends and the other starts. My contention is going to be—and I hope I am going to carry my noble friends with me on this—that this should not be so. There should not be such a close bond. If there were not, then there would be rather less of the kind of suffering that we have been hearing a good deal about this afternoon and evening. It is necessary to ask why have the Ministers of this Government been able to impose themselves as successfully as they have upon the local authorities. Why has the reorganisation of the rate support grant, even though it has not gone quite according to plan, been accepted as readily as it has by so many authorities? I accept of course that there has been resistance. There has been resistance on the part of Conservative authorities as well as Labour authorities. But it would have been greater still, and much of the suffering that we have heard about today would not have existed, if there had been greater independence on the part of local authorities from the hand of Whitehall. By and large I would maintain—and I know that several speakers who have come before me have also maintained this, although there are many exceptions—that local councillors tend to be, by and large, nearer the ground and more aware of the intimate needs and the important personal needs of the people whom they serve in their own locality. I would think that by and large local councillors—and not only in Labour authorities—recognise that the already vulnerable in this country are the people who have been particularly hard hit and made more vulnerable by this Government's policies; mainly their policies which have led to the encouragement of unemployment and the growth of unemployment, but made worse by the cuts in public expenditure which they have urged on, and forced on, local authorities throughout the country. As a result of this, grievous divisions in our society which the Welfare State had to some extent healed have now unfortunately been opened up, and in many cases searingly opened up. The divisions between the North and South with the periphery countries of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland suffering most of all; the divisions between the mature and the young, with unemployment rates higher among youngsters than among older people. Divisions also between white and black with rates of unemployment among black people, especially young black people, being a good deal higher than among their white peers. Above all, and underlying all this, the differences and divisions between the rich and the poor, of which the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, spoke so well when he opened this debate, and about which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford also spoke so well earlier on. The result of all this is that the always vulnerable have been made more so. Many in the Government would, I think, accept this. I noted the other day, as many others may have done, that Sir George Younger, whose name has been mentioned already, is worried about the effects of growing unemployment on the health of people in this country. But all that is proposed by way of action on this is to start up some research project, when it surely should be obvious to many people that unemployment, producing lower incomes, and in some cases much lower incomes, is absolutely bound to lead to some deterioration in health. According to my argument, all those changes are more present in the consciousness of local councillors than in that of many people in Whitehall. They know better than the people in Whitehall that if a housebound old lady in, say, the back streets of Gateshead is deprived of the services of a home help she badly needs, that could, and often does, lead to grievous suffering for that old lady. The noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, said we could not afford all the home helps we need until more wealth has been created. Surely, however, to find and pay someone to act as a home help for somebody who needs her services represents the creation of wealth. The satisfaction of need through the economic process is the creation of wealth, and much public expenditure leads to the creation of wealth; it is not only private expenditure which creates wealth. The public sector as well as private enterprise produces wealth and increases the national income, and it leads to greater satisfaction of the urgent wants of people greatly in need. Monetarism may make sense to some of the surviving economists in the Treasury, but to that old lady in the back streets of Gateshead—or any other person in any other town in the country—it makes no sense at all. How can one explain it in terms that such a person, or a local councillor or most social workers, can understand? The noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, spoke, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, about the importance of the voluntary bodies and I agree with what they said. My noble friend Lord Donaldson mentioned the important work being done by a voluntary body in Tower Hamlets. I do not know if Lord Donaldson has seen the proposed cuts in the grants made by Tower Hamlets Borough Council to voluntary bodies in that borough; the list runs for seven sheets, so several hundred voluntary bodies will have their grants cut to zero or to almost nothing. A vital part of the Welfare State has been the partnership between voluntary bodies and local authorities, but that partnership has depended in many cases on grants being given by local authorities. If they are to be cut off, as is happening now—it is happening not only in Tower Hamlets but in many other parts of the country—the voluntary bodies will not be able even to begin to take up some of the slack which has been left and so meet some of the extra need that has been created as a result of the cuts in local services. I should be grateful to the Minister if she could give figures showing how much local authority grants to voluntary bodies have been cut since the last general election, and particularly in the last year.
My Lords, as the noble Lord has asked a specific question on a most important point to which many speakers have referred, perhaps I might intervene now to tell him that local government grants to voluntary organisations actually increased by about 8 per cent. in real terms in 1979–80 and payments for services to voluntary organisations increased by about 5 per cent.
My Lords, while thanking the Minister for that answer, may I ask if she has any estimates for the next year, and can she give any idea—this particularly worries me—of cuts proposed for the coming financial year? As I see it, that will be the year of the real, hard, unfortunate truth for the voluntary bodies.
Clearly we do not have information for the current year, my Lords, because it has only just started. The figures I gave are the latest ones I have.
I am obliged to the Minister. My Lords, I return to my previous question: Why has there been so little resistance by local authorities to the pressure from central Government to save money? I suggest it stems from the dependence of local authorities on central Government grants and on our archaic system of local rates, a system which no Government so far, Conservative or Labour, have wanted to reform. If there had been some reform—if some of the proposals put forward in the Layfield Report in the early 'seventies had been acted on by a Government of either party—there would, to some extent at any rate, have been a liberation of local authorities from control by Whitehall and Marsham Street. I believe the present Government will go down in history as the most centralising Government the country has ever had—all because they have tried to take control of local expenditure and have used almost every means open to them, along with the creation of new means, to achieve that objective.But—and here I return to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing—the Conservative Government have not been alone in what they have done. Successive Labour Governments (I put this to some of my noble friends in front of me) have been great centralisers, too—for good reasons (for the fairer distribution of resources) and for bad reasons (that there seemed to be economies of scale to be had from larger organisations)—and I am as much at fault as many others in having believed that economies of scale were so important that it was worth sacrificing a lot else to get them. That has meant that by and large municipal socialism has not been good enough for the modern Labour Party; I believe it is good enough for the new Social Democratic Party and will prove to be so. The Labour Government of 1945, despite their many great achievements, nationalised all manner of services including gas, electricity, buses and health. It was to be a National Health Service from the beginning, although Herbert Morrison in the Cabinet argued strongly for the retention of local control over the health services, but he was overborne, and the process has gone on since then. When a National Water Authority was set up less than 10 years ago there was very little opposition to the proposal from either of the main parties, though what good a National Water Authority has done as a substitute for local water authorities has yet to be seen. Certainly it has put the Government of the day somewhat at the mercy of the trade unions in that industry. So what disagreement there has been between the two main parties—and they have been manifold and important—there seems to have been tacit agreement to undermine genuine local government. According to my argument, all will remain as it is until local authorities have their own tax base so that they are not under the financial control of Whitehall in the way they are and have been. That brings us back to the proposal in the Layfield Report about a local income tax which would give local authorities a defensible source of revenue so that they would not be so dependent on rates and, above all, so that they would not be so dependent on central Government grants. My belief is that the local income tax would play an important part in the future programme of this new party to which noble Lords on this Bench belong. The Social Democratic Party strongly believe in decentralisation. We believe that one route towards greater decentralisation would be the introduction of a local income tax. I believe that we would want to do that partly because in years to come, if success greets these efforts, it will not be necessary to have debates such as that which we have had today, in which the effects of central Government and local authority policies are all locked together, as though they were all of a piece, which they have been, but which I believe they should not be for much longer.
My Lords, I do not agree with all that the noble Lord, Lord Young of Dartington, has said, but I go along with him on the point that the needs of local people are well and truly served by their local representatives. The needs of local people become apparent, and so, because they are known, they can be met. This evening I want to concentrate on the situation in Birmingham, and wish to assure the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, that I have tried to glean the facts regarding this situation. The facts have been given to me by those whom I would call very responsible people in that city. It was not long ago that we had a debate on unemployment, fostered from these Benches, and on that occasion I spoke about the serious unemployment situation in the West Midlands. As the Minister the noble Baroness, Lady Young, will recall, I have recently tabled a couple of Questions about the number of children taking free school meals.Among the facts that I have been able to elucidate regarding the situation in Birmingham is that the percentage of free meals taken by children is rising. Not only does that mean more expenditure for the local authority, but, more importantly, it is a clear indication of the way in which the economic situation is hitting ordinary families. I am informed that the daily average of pupils taking free school meals in Birmingham during 1980–81 was 31,300. The figure that is being estimated for in respect of this year is 36,100. So there is to be an increase of approximately 5,000 in the number of children expected to receive free school meals in the city of Birmingham during the next 12 months. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Banks, who gave details of cuts in local government grants for Liverpool. I should like to point out to your Lordships that 1981–82 is the first year in which the Government's new block grant arrangements are to apply. This change, and the impact of Government policies on public expenditure, resulted in the city of Birmingham losing £43 million in grant. It is very difficult to try to recoup £43 million. Whether the Government like it or not, all local authority departments have to take their fair share of cuts, in the same way as all Government departments are told that they must take their fair share. Therefore it is no use the Government saying that there are no cuts. Local authorities are having to take action in the same way as are Government departments. I think it was the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool who mentioned the problems of the great cities, and I believe that he included Birmingham in what he had to say. I am informed that with regard to the budget for social services in the city of Birmingham for 1981–82, the amount to be met by rate support grant is £49¼ million. That is a very substantial amount and I expect that the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, would agree with me that Birmingham is a good provider of social services at a personal level. Regardless of which Administration has been in charge, the city has gone forward with all kinds of social service schemes at a personal level. We must recognise that the Government are saying not only, "You must sustain cuts", but also, "You must cut your manpower". Many local authorities and Government departments are cutting the number of tea ladies who go round every morning, or the number of cleaners. It is then claimed, "Well, we have got rid of 500". But in fact the authority or department concerned has merely got rid of 500 women cleaners, only to go to an outside contractor for office cleaning. Thus there is no saving of public money. So this numbers game which the Government are calling for is really a stupid game. In considering social services, to use Birmingham as an example I would point out that 60 per cent. of spending on social services relates to manpower. So if a local authority is asked to cut down on manpower in the social services department, it cuts down on home helps and health visitors. This is cutting back on services which people really need. The Government must recognise that the aim of personal social services is to give services to those who really need them. If there are cutbacks of manpower in social services, assessments of new work will be held up, the number of new cases taken on will be reduced and tragedies will occur. Inevitably, when tragedies occur everyone becomes very hot under the collar. But it must be realised that the Government policy on de-manning in departments and on cuts in local authority grants must be held responsible for the inevitably increasing risks that will arise, as well as for the time lag from which clients will suffer, and the reduction of services in many areas. As I have said, I asked for facts, and I have received them from a very important source. I have been told that:
That is a straightforward fact. My informants continue:"The greatest effect upon the services of the department through Government action is that we cannot do all we would wish to do for different clients."
Here I would point out that all large cities have the problem of ageing communities. Where possible the young people move away to more attractive areas, and in the large cities the numbers of aged and lonely people are increasing. I have been told that whereas the department would have liked to spend another quarter of a million pounds under this particular item, because of the ever-increasing number of elderly people it is unable to do so. During this Year of the Disabled it would also have liked to provide many more aids and adaptions for the disabled. The department has increased the amount by £60,000, but this will be nowhere near enough. It is not felt that that is the right contribution that the department should be making to the Year of the Disabled. It is felt that it should have been much greater. One of the serious effects of the Government cutbacks has been felt in the housing improvement programme. I was for a long time chairman of the housing committee in Birmingham and we were always proud of the adaptations to houses that we were able to carry out for disabled people. The adaptations included such work as providing ramps outside houses, widening doors and lowering sinks for disabled housewives. We felt that all those kind of things were most essential so that people could continue to live in their own homes, in their own neighbourhoods. Unfortunately, with the reduction in housing improvement grants it will mean that there is less being made available for the adaptation of council houses for the disabled. This can only be regretted because, as I think many other noble Lords have said, if you cannot keep people in their own homes the immediate effect is excess expenditure on some other kind of public service. Therefore, I am informed, it is true that there will be many cases in Birmingham not dealt with simply because of Government policies on rate-support and cuts in local government grants. We all accept that the Government are trying—some of us would say they are not trying in the right direction, but they are trying—to beat inflation, but I think many noble Lords ask—and I think the Bishop of Guildford also made this point—where is the tax burden supposed to fall? Is it supposed to fall on those who are sick, those who are elderly and those who are less fortunate, when we can read day after day in the national press that in this country there are some organisations, some large families, who, I am not saying are breaking the law but who are able not to pay their full share, so helping to take the burden off those in society who are more impoverished. It is for this reason, I think, that we question the Government's handling of their economic strategy. I am sorry the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, has left the Chamber, but I want to make it quite clear that what I am going to say now is not a policy of the City of Birmingham. This is where I believe that perhaps those of us on these Benches sometimes think there is a difference in attitude between what some of us think and what Lord Orr-Ewing thinks. I am about to quote to your Lordships now a letter which has been sent to me, because I think noble Lords know that I have a serious interest in the blind-handicapped. The noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, and myself are vice-presidents of an organisation dealing with the blind-handicapped; and this letter was sent to me from a metropolitan borough in the West Midlands by a boy who lives in that borough and is severely blind-handicapped. The letter starts off:"For instance, we can only maintain the existing level of home helps, whereas"—
and I am reading exactly what the letter says."Dear Sir or Madam"—
"Re concessionery travel 1981–1982. I am writing to inform you that at its meeting on the 10th March 1981, the Council decided to stop the provision of Free Bus Passes to Blind and Disabled Persons with effect from the 1st April 1981. The decision was taken as part of the cutbacks in local authority expenditure. Consequently when your pass expires, should you wish to obtain a renewal, you would have to pay the full cost of the pass as follows:
They even differentiate between being blind and being disabled! This person is saying to me, "What shall I do? Shall I ask for a blind pass or shall I ask for a disabled pass?—because I am blind-handicapped." This letter says very nicely at the end:Blind—£62.00.".
He contacted the department and was told, "We want it all in one go; you cannot even have a quarterly season". So the blind and the handicapped will now be asked £73.50 and £62.00 for their passes. It might be that that local authority feels that it has got to make that kind of cutback at a personal level. All I would say again is that it is not the Birmingham local authority which is taking that action. We must look at all these things in context. I was speaking only a few weeks ago with the Birmingham Council for Voluntary Service, an organisation which tries to co-ordinate the work of all the voluntary services. While they were able to give me such details of where the local authority was going to cut back on specific grants, they pointed out to me that, with electricity going up 11 per cent., with gas going up 15 per cent., with water rates going up approximately £10 to £11 a year, with rates in Birmingham increasing by a very substantial amount of 38 per cent. and with rents of council houses going up £2.50 a week, the people were saying that obviously the all-round increases were bound to cause hardship, particularly to those on fixed incomes and those on low wages. What I should like to ask the Minister is this. Despite all these difficulties of increased rents, increased electricity and increased gas charges, what are the Government going to do to overcome the difficulties that many of the people who are on supplementary benefit are going to face within the next six or seven weeks? Is the department geared to take up the extra work which is necessary to realign all the supplementary benefits, which are going to be so different in so many parts of the country, to take account of all these increases—the gas, the electricity, the water, the rents and the rates? The other question that I would seriously ask is this. Statistics are clear, and the Government have statistics which show that there are many people who are entitled to claim benefit but who do not claim it. I am not going into the reasons why they do not claim it—and I think Lord Soper gave his understanding of why they do not claim it—but this failure to claim in some cases is going to cause extreme hardship, especially now, with the increases in other things. Therefore, one should like to ask the Government: What promotional campaigns do the DHSS envisage to increase the take-up of benefit from their department? The other question I should like to ask the Minister to answer when she replies is this. There have been discussions, so one understands, regarding the new housing benefit proposals, and I understand that there is a scheme in outline. All I would say to noble Lords is that I listened very patiently to noble Lords opposite when they were speaking. It is rather unfortunate that one particular Member has need to wander around and speak to everybody in the Chamber. I would have said that we have the new housing benefit proposals, and there is a scheme now being outlined. One would say, if one has read the press correctly, that it is important for the DHSS to put into operation as soon as possible the new housing benefit proposals, because this will mean that they will immediately be able to cut back on the number of people employed in the DHSS, and pass over the administration of the new housing benefit proposals to the local authorities. If this is the case—and quite obviously, the Government are considering some new scheme—will it mean that local authorities will have any benefit? Will they get any increased finance to do this? Will they be able to increase their manning to do it? Or is it just for the satisfaction of the DHSS in saying, "We can get rid of X number of jobs, but we are not getting rid of the provision; what we are doing is just putting it on the backs of somebody else"? My Lords, I conclude by saying that I join with all those noble Lords who have spoken today and pointed out the injustice of the Government's economic policy as it affects the less fortunate. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Cullen of Ashbourne, who said that the battle of inflation must be won. He used the word "battle". What we on this side of the House are questioning is this: Why should the more impoverished be the front-line troops in that battle?"Should you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact my Department".
My Lords, the hour is late and we must leave adequate time for the important debate which is to follow on the Prayer Book—particularly when I bear in mind that for some of the people who are utterly dependent on Government and local government personal social services there sometimes seems to be little left but prayer. I hope that this debate may give them some other things on which to depend. It would be a very great waste if such an excellent and well-informed debate, with speeches of such high quality, were to have no practical effect on anything or anybody. It is my earnest hope that the Government will think again. To be honest—and why should I not be so?— my worry is not their hearts but their heads. At the beginning of this debate the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, raised the question of whether noble Lords opposite were indifferent to or ignorant of the plight of some of the disadvantaged people in society. I have no doubt at all that many noble Lords opposite know, and know well from their personal experience, what is happening. Many noble Lords opposite, from work that they do in the field and in voluntary bodies of one kind or another, know what is happening in society today and among the elderly, the handicapped and the disabled. But I am afraid that the Government do not seem to be clearly aware of the actual effects and of the real costs of some of their policies.Here I must briefly take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. He talked of justified cuts at the moment in the present economic circumstances. He asked those of us who feel that services must be maintained at the present level, or perhaps improved, how we will find the money. The question that I must put to him is this. How will we find the money for some of the cuts which the Government have made, which in effect are not cuts at all but items of extreme extravagance which the nation can ill afford at the present time? I must say to him that some of these cuts cost money. I am sure that he would not be in favour of cuts which, as far as public funds are concerned, prove to be costly. I will give examples.
My Lords, if I may intervene as the noble Lord put a question to me, obviously if what is involved is not a cut but what I may call an "anti-cut" then my question does not apply. My question applies only to what is the really difficult issue to which I hope the noble Lord will address himself as to where savings can be made, although painfully, and what to do about it if you do not make the savings.
My Lords, I am grateful for the intervention by the noble Lord. It shows that he is listening with such care that perhaps there is hope that when he has heard the argument he may change some of his views.With regard to local authority cuts, I spoke last week in the debate in your Lordships' House initiated by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, about mental health after-care services. At that time I pointed out that at the moment there were 34 local authorities that provide no day care centres at all and no other kind of day care provision. The noble Lord, Lord Cullen of Ashbourne, in winding up the debate, said that the provision of day care services of that kind is mandatory under the Mental Health Act. In other words, these local authorities probably are acting contra vires; but it is a fact that every day people are having to go to hospital because of the inadequacies of the domiciliary services. People who could have been cared for at home are now having to go every day into hospital or into some other expensive institutional care because of the inadequacy of the domiciliary services at home. It is a fact that every day people are being kept in hospital because the domiciliary services in their own areas are inadequate for them to be discharged. That is costing a great deal of money. My Lords, I think that this is hardly the time at which to drop into the debate any new matters; but perhaps the noble Baroness will forgive me if I refer to two such matters of which I have personal knowledge. First, as she and we are all aware, we recently have had a vast increase in the cost of prescription charges. Now, the person who must pay the full prescription charge, and there are many, and who does not have the money to buy a prepayment prescription charges exemption certificate must pay £1 per item on a prescription. The immediate consequence is precisely what happened before when the prescription charges went up and precisely what happened when the prescription charges were re-introduced—by a Labour Government, I may say—in 1967. Immediately, doctors who are anxious to save their patients' money begin to think: "If this old lady needs iron and also some vitamins, I must think whether there could be a combined tablet". Therefore we have what is called "polypharmacy", blunderbuss prescribing and we have the pharmaceutical industry setting out to manufacture, to prepare and to develop tablets which contain a whole range of different ingredients so that doctors can prescribe those rather than prescribe three or four items on a prescription and thereby save their patients' money. But it costs the nation money. The noble Baroness will see, when modern figures are produced, that once there is an increase in the prescription charge then doctors start to prescribe in much larger quantities. Prescription in small quantities is very extravagant and wasteful, but prescription in quantities which are too large is also wasteful and costly. I think that at the end of the day when the full calculations are done the noble Baroness will find that the increase in revenue from the increased prescription charges will have had the effect of increasing the nation's drug bill as a whole rather than reducing it. While on the subject of drugs perhaps I may go briefly to another matter about which there can be no argument. Hospitals which are at present anxious to reduce expenditure (and properly so) are reducing it in this way. They are telling consultants who have continuing clinical responsibility for certain outpatients not to prescribe or issue drugs to them but to send the patients to their general practitioner for prescription. These consultants are people with perhaps heart cases and who give anti-coagulant treatment where the therapy must be monitored and changed frequently. Patients are very often psychiatric patients being prescribed new therapeutic substances in the field of psychiatry where the dosage must be modified or the therapy changed from time to time. Those consultants are told: "Do not prescribe the drug for the patient but send him to his own doctor and his own doctor must issue the prescription". Obviously, that reduces the hospital's drug bill; there is no question about that. But it is a fact that the cost of drugs to the public funds when issued under the family practitioner committee services in the retail chemist's shop is more than double the cost of the drug when issued by a hospital. So what is a saving for the hospital is a greatly increased expense to the nation. That is saying nothing of the hidden expense of the waste of the general practitioner's time, who must make a telephone call to find out what the drugs are and what the dose is and the waste of time in his seeing the patient. That is the kind of cut which is actually costing our nation money at a time when we can ill afford it. Now let me turn back to voluntary bodies. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, said that he was entirely in favour of our making use of them. So am I. I have always been a whole-hearted supporter and believer in the Welfare State; but I have always believed that whatever central Government or local government are able to provide, however comprehensive the various services are, in an ideal world there will always be gaps which can only be filled by the voluntary and dedicated efforts of well-meaning people who are ready to come forward and give of their time and their energy. It is greatly to our credit that we still have so many people wishing to volunteer. I have been immensely encouraged by the way in which young people, teenagers, unemployed people, have been more than ready in Merseyside—as the right reverend Prelate knows in Liverpool—to do admirable work for the elderly, handicapped and sick. As I reminded the House the other day in the other debate, to make proper use of volunteers you must have organisations and professionals. The optimum ratio is probably about one full-time professional worker for every 10 volunteers. There is nothing more inhibiting to potential volunteers than to come along, having volunteered, and find that they have had their time wasted. There is an immense pool of manpower and womanpower which we can call upon to do work to our benefit if we can provide the services. That means more money for the voluntary bodies. The noble Lord, Lord Cullen, told us that the grants to voluntary bodies would be increased in real terms. That is very gratifying. We then had the argument about whether or not the grants from local authorities to the voluntary bodies were being cut. My information comes from the all-party disablement committee and at the moment there is a 25 per cent. reduction in grants to the voluntary bodies from local authorities. I know that the figures of the noble Baroness were different, and I also know that the noble Baroness would be the last person to wish to mislead the House; but she will know that Government figures are always in arrears, and sometimes the figures of the people who are actually working in the field and who are there at the sharp end are sometimes a little more up-to-date. When the time comes that the noble Baroness has more comprehensive figures she will find that the figures referred to by the noble Lord, and also by my noble friend Lord Banks, are perhaps more accurate than those which are a little out of date, which she was able to give us, but which were accurate at the time that they were collected. Then let us look at other matters. What about VAT and things of that kind? Last week I told you that the increase in the price of petrol was costing the Spastics Society alone an extra £30,000 a year. I am now told that the increase in VAT will cost the Spastics Society at least an extra £220,000 a year. That is an extra quarter of a million pounds a year on the expenses of just one of the many voluntary bodies upon whom we have become more and more dependent and upon whom we must rely more and more in the future. It is no good telling them that their grants will be maintained. They will have to have more, if they are to keep pace. I am not being as brief as I had hoped. On the question of cuts in personnel, the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, spoke at length about cuts in public expenditure. I agree with him entirely. I am entirely in favour of making cuts in public expenditure; but we have to think where we make those cuts. The noble Lord, Lord Cullen, told us—and I think I have the figures right—that there were to be cuts in headquarters' staff' at the DHSS, and the staff would be reduced by 10 per cent. I am not sure whether he said "had been reduced" or "would be reduced". That is welcome news. But who are these people? Some time ago I saw a copy of a speech made by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Mr. Heseltine. This was to senior staff in the Department of the Environment. He congratulated them on having reduced their numbers of staff by well over 5,000. Mr. Heseltine went on to say that he was interested to see, when he looked at these rather more than 5,000 posts in the Department of the Environment which had disappeared, that they contained no deputy-secretaries and no under-secretaries. People at the top of the public service, whether central Government or local government, find it easy to get rid of people at the bottom. If we are to make economies, it is some of the people at the top whom we must get rid of. We have heard a lot about home helps. There is no question at all that every doctor in the country will tell you that it has become much more difficult than it was to get a home help to assist some elderly person at home. I suspect that there has been a large reduction in the total number of home helps. I doubt whether there has been much reduction in the actual number of home help organisers or other people higher up in the local authority organisations. The right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Liverpool, told us that in Liverpool they had abolished 50 out of 300 field posts. These are the people who do the work at the sharp end. These are the people whom we have to keep. The noble Lord, Lord Soper, in an excellent speech, talked to us about alcoholism. You may think, my Lords, that noble Lords from this Bench have said rather more than enough about alcoholism. I shall content myself by merely reminding your Lordships of Dylan Thomas's excellent definition of an alcoholic. He said an alcoholic was somebody whom you dislike who drinks as much as you do. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Soper, who said that we spend an enormous amount of public money in very expensive institutions, highly developed, highly technological medical facilities, "drying-out"—to use the noble Lord's term—alcoholics. Those are people who suffer from a serious illness, which is very costly to society as a whole. The noble Lord, Lord Soper, was entirely right when he said that we are wasting public money if we spend money on drying these people out and then fail to provide follow-up services which are necessary in order to enable society to benefit from the expenditure in drying them out. That is the kind of saving that we are making at the sharp end. I shall end by saying this in all seriousness to the noble Baroness: I honestly and sincerely believe that we shall save money in real terms—and by that I mean a lot of money—if we increase grants to the voluntary bodies. In doing that, we shall unlock other private funds. We shall unlock an immense amount of voluntary effort which all comes free. We shall save ourselves a great deal of money in the end. Secondly, we shall waste money if we force local authorities to make cuts which at the end of the day cost money. What we really need is somebody farsighted, with a breadth of wisdom and vision like the noble Baroness, who can look at these things as a whole, and not just people looking at their own department who say, "We can save a little here". Or somebody looking at another department. We want somebody to take a broad view to look at some of these policies in the general field of health and the social services and say, "Overall, having looked at this, I find this is wasteful and costly. It is wasting public money". I say that we shall waste public money if we force local authorities to make cuts which at the end of the day cost a great deal of money. By all means cut unnecessary personnel, but I hope that so far as possible the Government will try to cut personnel at the top and not at the sharp end.
My Lords, in winding up the debate from these Benches, I should like to express our thanks and appreciation to my noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell for his initiative in suggesting and pressing for such a debate. His firm and dedicated belief in the need for a compassionate, caring society is, I am sure, appreciated by the whole House, as are the invaluable contributions that he has made over a long period backed by years of practical experience.My Lords, the debate has been well worth while. I should like to thank all the speakers, although I would disagree with some and especially with the noble Lord who completely forgot when the local elections are to be held; they are to be held on the 9th May. He said they were being held tomorrow, but the noble Lord should know by now that tomorrow never comes. I should like to thank in particular the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool and the Bishop of Guildford, because they spoke in terms which could be understood by ordinary people and, if I may say so, in a manner which the nation needs from the Church today. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford also brought back some romantic memories to me, because my wife and I were married in St Saviour's in Guildford just over 49 years ago. We remember the great cross on Stag Hill which marked the site of what is now the magnificent new cathedral. It was very much in our hearts and in our minds at the time. We have a framework of a compassionate, caring society and it still exists today, but we must never forget that the pressures of the modern world hit hardest the weakest, the poorest, the handicapped, and the sick. We must frankly admit that in Britain we still have two societies; the "haves" and the "have nots". It is at times of economic stress such as today that the vulnerable sections of the community suffer most from economy measures, however small they may appear to be on paper and in statistics. Those of us who have had first-hand practical experience of low income as a result of unemployment, sickness or poor pay realise only too well that even a small reduction in income, together with an increase in the costs of essential goods and services, can only increase misery and hardship. I have no hesitation in saying that I have known poverty and unemployment as a teenager, and although it was hard and bitter at the time, at least when I speak in a debate of this kind I can speak from a wealth of human experience, which has certainly improved my education. For the lower paid, the Budget was a disaster. The Low Pay Unit estimates that the 100,000 families who are unable to cope and to work their way out of poverty will be joined by a further 13,000 as a result of the Budget. Like the noble Lord, Lord Cullen of Ashbourne, who, with respect, provided us with a torrent of statistics, no doubt when replying to this debate the noble Baroness, Lady Young, will provide statistic after statistic to prove the Government's action in increasing social security benefits, which in our view are inadequate. But the fact is that the cuts in social services forced upon local authorities by the financial policies of central Government, and, at times, the crazy actions of the Minister responsible for local government, outweigh any of the advantages secured by the increases in social security benefits. Housing has been referred to—notably by my noble friend Lady Jeger. It is the view of many of us on this side of the House that housing provision is an essential social service. Rents should be geared to need and the ability to pay. It is true that rent rebate schemes exist in some areas, but, let us face it, rents are soaring. Progress in local authority housing development is at a standstill, to all intents and purposes; due to the Government's obsession with the sale of council houses there has been a gradual reduction in the housing stock, and the situation is now becoming critical. I am not against people owning their own house—I do so myself—but it is wrong to force people, particularly young couples, into that situation, bearing in mind rising rates and maintenance costs. These mean that husband and wife must both continue working and, I am sorry to say, to avoid pregnancy at all costs as that would mean economic disaster for their little family. For elderly people on low incomes the housing situation is even more serious. When I was a constituency MP I was frequently asked for assistance in securing a housing transfer for an elderly couple or a widow from, say, a high-rise flat, a large house or a house with a garden too large to manage, to something on ground level, in order that the couple or person could cope with increasing age or infirmity. Decreased housing stocks do nothing but increase anxiety and hardship, both to the elderly and to the young. Public transport is another factor of social consequence. Steep increases in fares and a reduction in services impose a further burden on the unemployed seeking work, those needing out-patient treatment at hospitals, the pregnant woman attending pre-natal clinic, and many others in the low income groups. So far as the elderly are concerned, the availability of bus passes varies from one local authority to another, and there is no national policy. In the GLC area, thanks to the initiative of a previous Labour Administration, free travel is available to pensioners in off-peak periods and at weekends. I must be fair and say that this valuable concession has been continued by the present Conservative majority party. Elsewhere in the country the position varies from the provision of little or nothing to a system such as that run by the GLC, but only in a comparatively few places. The mobility afforded to the elderly by a system of free bus passes represents an invaluable social asset which is urgently needed on a national scale. Some speakers today—far too few in my opinion—have given examples of reductions in social services among local authorities known to them. I should like to refer specifically to the Kent County Council. When I was a member of the (always) minority Labour group on Kent County Council and was continually in a state of frustration over the inadequate provision of social services, I used to imagine in my mind's eye the words engraved in the massive stone entrance at Maidstone: Abandon hope all ye that enter here. That is exactly how I felt time and time again. What is the present position in reducing social services in an area where the standards have never been high? I will give the House the full facts. In the 1980–81 Kent County Council budget 5 per cent. of total social services expenditure was erased. In the 1981–82 financial year a further 3 per cent. cut is being imposed—a reduction amounting to £1·4 million. In 1980–81 there was also a reduction of £700,000 to meet the Government's cash limits. The cumulative effect of these cuts is hitting at services for the elderly, mentally handicapped, young people distressed by unemployment, and young families in distress. What is more important, this has weakened if not destroyed the morale of dedicated social workers. At its budget meeting recently, Kent County Council approved a number of cuts in social services and I wish to give them in detail. The Social Services Committee agreed to the following cuts: Residential homes, general economies, £.73,000; residential homes, maintenance cuts, £41,000; reduced provision for mother and baby homes, £5,000; increasing the minimum home help service charge from 50p to £1 per week, giving the Kent County Council—they hope—an additional £287,600: increasing Meals-on-Wheels charges from 40p to 55p, expected to yield £41,000; reduction in grants to voluntary bodies at a time when an extra load is being placed on voluntary bodies, £41,000. Then what about this one?—reduced provision for the elderly terminally ill, £31,700. Also there is reduction in craft materials for the physically handicapped, £5,000; reduction in transport aid for voluntary escorts for children, £9,000; deleting any aid for holidays for the physically handicapped, £25,900; general economies at day-care centres, £17,000; increasing meal charges to the elderly attending daycare centres, £9,000; the introduction—I do not know whether this is revolutionary—of £1 per week attendance charge for day care for the elderly, £7,500. In other words, if they want to attend they have to pay a fee of £1 per week. That is reckoned to bring in to the council £7,500. I rather doubt whether they will get it. Then there is the reduction of maintenance of day-care centres grounds, £9,000; reduction in fieldwork staff, £135,600; reduction of travel expense budget for social workers, £21,000; and reduction in social work training, £137,000. These are not isolated examples. This sort of thing is going on all over the country as a result of Government policies and the impulsive actions of the Minister responsible for local government. What moved me to real anger is the reduced provision for the elderly terminally ill. While a great deal of unpublicised specialist service is given by the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Jewish communities, the bulk of the terminally ill need support, care and attention, as do their relatives. Again, parents of mentally handicapped children have special needs, as have the children. Some of your Lordships may remember that in a recent debate I drew attention to and quoted from a television report that less than 50 per cent. of local authorities were carrying out their responsiblilities in the field of helping handicapped children. What is also disturbing—and the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, has also referred to the present situation—is that at a time when pressure is increasing on voluntary bodies as a result of reductions in local authority services, grants are being cut—as in the case of Kent, by £41,000. We are told time and again by the Prime Minister and others in Government that sacrifices have to be made to reduce inflation and that all sections of the community must take their share of the burden. In the Crypt Chapel of St. Stephen in this our Palace of Westminster are stone benches lining the walls. Centuries ago pews or chairs were not common and the elderly or infirm went to sit on the benches. Tradition has it that that is where the old saying originated:
To use that phrase today I am sure could be held to be over-simplification, but the fact is that the less well-off sections in our society, the elderly, the handicapped, the infirm and the low-paid, are bearing a burden far greater in proportion than that carried by better-off sections of the community. The Government—and this has been referred to before during this debate—on taking office gave generous cash handouts to the better-off, with no obvious benefit to the economy. Yet in April next year the jobless will be taxed on social security benefits, which is estimated to yield £200 million per annum. The same also applies to people on strike, without question of the justice of their cause. Tax rebates are to be held back equally to the unemployed or to those on strike. What right have the Government to hold back tax rebates to which people are morally and legally entitled? Finally, it is indeed a sad commentary on life today in Britain that, while we continue to pour out money to provide the means of destroying life even during a period of economic recession, we reduce the means of sustaining life and impose reductions in standards designed to enhance the dignity of human life. This is not humanity; it is the madness of a monetary policy giving priority to material gain at the expense of easing the burdens of the needy."The weakest go to the wall".
My Lords, if I were to begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, for introducing this debate, I do not suppose he would really believe me. He would feel that I have gone through some terrible kind of masochistic exercise in listening to this. But I should like to thank him. We have argued a great many times across the Dispatch Boxes in this House, and although I do not agree with him, and he knows that, I respect his sincerity and I am very glad that so many speakers have taken part in this debate today. I should like to pay my own personal tribute to the contribution the noble Lord has made on many occasions, both from this side of the House when he was a Government Minister—a very effective one, if I may say so—and from the other side of the House, where he has always made us on this side of the House keep on our toes. I should like also to thank my noble friends who have supported me this afternoon.I think it is perhaps a good starting point to take that we will all, in all parts of the House, accept that we do care for those who are disadvantaged in society and for those who are weaker, and that all of us would like to have more money for the many desirable causes that have been suggested today. I and my colleagues in Government certainly would; and in a way I was surprised by the speeches of both the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, and the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, who were after all both members of the last Government and who were faced with very painful economic realities and had to introduce in 1976 the cuts forced on the Government by the International Monetary Fund, as was so clearly explained by my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing. I might also add a rather painful postscript, if I may say so. I hope that the facts were noted by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford and that his strictures on us all might at least be even-handed. I was even more surprised to hear the two Social Democrats, the noble Lords, Lord Walston and Lord Donaldson. Certainly the noble Lord, Lord Walston argued for higher taxation, which would appear to be considerably at variance with his own colleagues in the Social Democratic Party, who, as I have understood it from their manifesto, are bent on encouraging incentives to increased productivity. But no doubt the outside world will at least notice that although the Social Democrats sit on a different Bench, their policies appear to be identical with those of the Labour Party, with the exception of the noble Lord, Lord Young of Dartington, who complained that we have too much central government. Has this not been a policy of my party for a considerable time?—too much government of all sorts. But I would say to him—and I speak as an old local government person with 15 years' experience in local government—that I believe local government has a very valuable role to play. However, one of the difficulties he would find in social services, in education and in all these other public services is that you do get a very uneven standard of provision if there is not a certain amount of central government direction over those services. I have listened this afternoon to an unending list of requests for increased expenditure. I have made a list: pensions, social security benefits of all kinds, extra money for the family service units, charities generally, more for children with special educational needs, more domiciliary services, more home helps, lower prescription charges, reductions on VAT and no increase in the price of petrol. Indeed, this debate has turned very largely into an economic debate. I shall not repeat the arguments, because they were so cogently put by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, as to the actual choices that confront us all in this country. Whether we like it or not, it is a fact that we shall not, ultimately, get better services in this country unless we get increased productivity from the wealth- creating parts of it. If we do not have that increased economic growth, we can have better services only by higher taxes or increased borrowing, which ultimately builds up problems for the future. It is because we are confronted by these basic facts that I should like to turn, first, to the Government's policies, which are aimed specifically at increasing and helping the wealth-creating parts of our society, and indeed at helping those parts of the country which are in serious difficulties at the present time. We have maintained the urban programme which was started by the last Government in 1977 and, as both the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, and the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, will know, there are inner city partnership schemes in both Birmingham and Liverpool. We have also started an urban development corporation on Merseyside and the present resource allocation for it in 1981–82 is some £17 million. In Birmingham the inner city partnership scheme is to receive over £16 million. But, not content with these policies, we have also introduced a series of enterprise zones. These are an experiment in stimulating private sector development in areas of economic and physical decay where the old remedy of ever more Government interference and expenditure has manifestly failed. If successful, they will provide a real stimulus to the revival of local economies and help some of the hardest-hit areas of our towns and cities. Above all, they will create more jobs—real jobs—and we must all hope very much that these zones prove to be a success. At the same time, there was in the Budget an entire enterprise package. Among many proposals is one of loan guarantees. This is a pilot scheme, agreed with the banks and with the Industrial and Commercial Finance Corporation, to run for three years up to a maximum of £50 million. Loans from two to seven years will carry an 80 per cent. Government guarantee at the full commercial charge, and the scheme will be self-financing. So in this debate we are indicating three ways in which quite specifically we are helping small businesses; and helping the inner cities to create new jobs, in order to create the new wealth from which we shall get a firmer foundation. A number of different points have been raised in the course of this debate on which I should like to touch. The noble Lord, Lord Banks, asked, right away, whether or not the Government's policy was to make good the shortfall on pensions when we first came into office. Of course, in the first uprating of retirement pensions in 1979 the Government made good the previous Administration's shortfall on long-term and retirement benefits. It is very important that we should recognise that fact. The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, asked me a number of questions about the whole provision for the under-fives. This is an issue in which, I know, she takes a great interest and on which she is very knowledgeable. I am glad to say that, despite the terrible warnings about what would happen in the education service, the recent HMI report on the effects of local authority expenditure policies for 1980–81 indicates that there was an increase of some 5,600 children in nursery classes between January 1979 and January 1980, and the numbers in nursery schools have remained stable. At the same time, there has also been an increase in the day-care services for under-fives. By March 1980, far from falling, the number had actually increased slightly and nine local authority day centres had closed while 19 had opened. This raises an important point about the joint use of facilities. My honourable friend and colleague Sir George Young and I have ourselves visited a number of examples of joint provision of social services and education for the under-fives. I should like to pay particular tribute to a nursery that we visited in Hounslow. That is a day nursery with educational provision within it, which is one of the most successful examples which has come to my notice. We did, of course, see a number of others. The noble Baroness, Lady Jeger, asked me a number of questions. She will, I hope, forgive me if I do not at this stage answer them all. But she asked about the amount in the National Insurance Fund, the amount expected to be there next year and what it is being used for. I should like to remind her of the debates that we had at the turn of the year about the increase in National Insurance contributions. The balance in the fund represents about 15 or 16 weeks of expenditure from the fund. There is not a large surplus in relation to the costs that it has to meet. The noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, asked me about cuts in the numbers of civil servants. I can confirm what my noble friend Lord Cullen said in opening about the numbers that have contracted, and will contract, in the Department of Health and Social Security itself, which also include three Under-Secretaries whose places have not been filled. The noble Lord, Lord Blease, asked me a number of questions about Northern Ireland. If he will forgive me, I will write to him on them as I do not have the information to hand. There were a large number of points raised on housing. Again, housing is a very emotive subject, but I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Coslany, that we believe in the sale of council houses, because we think that that is one of the ways of unifying the country. It raises standards and not only do people want to buy their houses; they want a valuable asset which they can pass on to their children. They will have something which is with them, and this is something which it is valuable for everybody who wants it to have. Far from dividing the country, I believe that selling council houses unites it, by raising standards all the way through. There are many arguments about it, but it is important to recognise that we are not seeking to divide. We are seeking to unite in a property-owning democracy—
My Lords, does the noble Baroness accept that her argument is tenable only if there is also a will to increase the housing stock? If she is putting the view that it unites the nation to allow people to own their own houses within a council housing estate, that presupposes that one has to go on and create more houses in order that people who are denied the opportunity of enjoying a council house are also included in the unifying process.
My Lords, that is one of those arguments which are not sound. It is always the argument that a council house that is sold is lost. As the noble Lord, Lord Parry, knows—I am sure that he has been involved with local authority housing as long as I have—once people get into a local authority house, they very rarely go out of it. It is extremely difficult to move out. You cannot get a house in another part of the country unless you have a direct swap. Unless you can buy it and then sell it, you cannot move. Once you are in it you stay put. You are much more likely to get some circulation if houses are sold. I do not accept that argument.It was said by several noble Lords that there will be no house building at all, but of course that is not true. Despite all the reductions in public expenditure, we have continued to make what seems to me to be generous provision for housing, with over £2 billion allocated to local authorities for gross capital spending in 1981–82. Out of that, £12 million has been allocated to the Housing Corporation for this current financial year to be spent specifically on special need hostel projects, some of which will be for the elderly. Indeed, my honourable friend Mr. Stanley in another place said that we have made it quite clear that public sector housing programmes should concentrate on providing for those groups in special need, such as the elderly and the disabled, and there have been a number of ways in which authorities have been helped to that end. The noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, raised a very important point about achieving a shift to community care. Clearly this is one of the most cost-effective ways of achieving care. It is better for the people and it saves money. The joint financing between the hospital service and the personal social services has proved to be a useful bridging device. Last year, the sum set aside for joint financing between the National Health Service and the local authority personal social services was £54 million. That sum has been increased in this financial year to £56 million and will increase again next year. Of course we should like it to be more, but at least we recognise the problem and we have recognised that we must do something about it in that particular way. Nearly every noble Lord has referred to the importance of the voluntary sector. On behalf of the Government I should like to pay my tribute to the enormous amount of very good work that is done by the voluntary sector in this country. It receives over £85 million in aid from central Government. That was the amount of money that it had last year. The Secretary of State for Social Services has maintained the total value of grants made by his department to voluntary organisations between the years 1978–79 and 1980–81. The grants are increasing by 16½ per cent. in 1981–82. So this is well in excess of the rate of inflation. The figures I have given for local authorities, which I accept are the last figures we have, are for 1979–80. However, we have to accept that if local authorites are free to choose, they are free to make their own expenditure choices. The Government, beyond exhorting local authorities to help voluntary organisations, which we have done on many occasions, have not at the end of the day the power to make them give this money, unless a direct grant is given for that particular purpose. For a variety of reasons, this is not always the way in which local government wishes to receive its money from central Government. Besides that, we have introduced a number of other policies which are particularly designed to help voluntary organisations. For example, the concession on covenants whereby contributions may be offset against higher tax rates as well as the basic rate of tax which was announced in last year's Budget, comes into force in April 1981. There have, too, in the Budget been VAT reliefs. Zero rating of articles given to hospitals has been extended to ambulances and wheelchairs and to car adaptations for disabled drivers. This eligibility has also been extended to institutions caring for the handicapped. What is particularly interesting is that the earnings limit will be raised from 75p to £2 a day without affecting eligibility for unemployment benefit, so as to encourage unemployed people to work for voluntary organisations. Of course we should like to do more, but noble Lords will recall that the last Health Services Act, which was debated at length, contains scope for health authorities to raise money by voluntary contributions for a whole number of purposes. It was a great disappointment to the Government that the Opposition somehow saw this as something which would be bad for the National Health Service, instead of, as we feel, tapping a source of money which many people are glad to give to help to provide many things by means of voluntary contributions, which otherwise in our straitened circumstances we may not otherwise be able to do. So the Government have made quite clear the great importance which they attach to voluntary contributions of all kinds. I have not answered all the questions which have been raised in the debate. I do not think the House would have expected me to do so. However, I hope I have said enough to make it quite clear that the Government have a number of priorities. We have set our hand to try to get the economy right and to bring down the rate of inflation. Nobody in the Government, or anywhere else, has pretended that this is an easy or a painless task. Indeed, it would be foolish to pretend that we could do it easily: foolish to pretend that anybody has a monopoly of truth on getting the economy right. As has already been said, not one of the 360 or so economists has suggested something which has not been tried before and which has failed. If only somebody could produce something for us which would produce an easy and a painless way of giving us our services, of getting the economic growth that we would like, of keeping down taxes, then perhaps the public opinion polls would not swing about quite so widely. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford reminded us, at one moment they say that most people want a reduction of taxes and at the next that they want an improvement in services. Of course, we all want both. The difficulty is to live in the real world and to face the real choices which confront the Government. That is why I have split my speech into three parts. First, I have tried to show the positive steps which the Government are taking to encourage enterprise and industry. Second, I have tried to answer specifically some of the points about what Governments can do to help the disadvantaged. Finally, I have sought to say something about our encouragement to voluntary organisations. We believe that they have a very real role to play, just as we believe in supporting the family and encouraging everybody to support themselves by preventive medicine of all kinds, a point which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, because these are the ways in which individuals can help themselves. I should like therefore to conclude by giving a summary of some of the improvements that we have tried to make for the most vulnerable groups in our society. When the next pension increase starts in November, pensions will have been fully protected against inflation since we came into office. We have completely exempted war widows' pensions from income tax. We have given a pension for the first time to the pre-1950 Service widows. Sick and disabled people have been enabled to claim the higher long-term rate of supplementary benefit after one year instead of two. Single-parent families are being given special help through the child benefit scheme. A decision has been made to make the maternity grant non-contributory from 1982, thus enabling about 60,000 more mothers to qualify for it. And special help with fuel bills is being given to poorer households at a cost of £200 million a year. Spending in real terms on the National Health Service was slightly increased in 1980–81 and the hospital waiting list, which went up by some quarter of a million under the Labour Government, has been reduced by over 100,000. Expenditure on the local authority personal social services is higher in real terms than under the last Government. In the recent Budget we have doubled the special tax allowance for the blind and we have given VAT relief for charities serving the disabled. We believe that tax reliefs for charities will be worth about £30 million for them. The mobility allowance for the disabled is being increased well ahead of the rise in prices. So, despite difficult circumstances, we have managed during the International Year of Disabled People to make some small but worthwhile improvements. This, my Lords, seems a right priority in the difficult circumstances in which we find ourselves.
My Lords, it is not my intention to keep your Lordships for more than two or three minutes. However, I do wish to express my gratitude and thanks to the noble Baroness for what she said at the beginning of her winding-up speech. She knows that I shall be leaving the Opposition Front Bench at the end of April and this may well be my last appearance at this Box. Therefore I am grateful for the very kind remarks and observations which she has made. I think the House should know that I have enjoyed every minute of the last seven years against her. She has been very good for me. Of all the Ministers I have had to deal with, if I was up against the noble Baroness the next day I did not go to bed until I had done all my homework, because I knew that she would have done hers. I have enjoyed it very much indeed. We are in many ways deeply opposed, but it never once has had any effect upon our personal relationship or our friendship. I do not know of a more competent person. The noble Baroness is carrying two ministries. One, I should have thought, at the Department of Education and Science, would have been enough. The noble Baroness is bearing up very well and I hope that she will continue to do so.I shall not go into great length now, but my only other comment is that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, took me to task. I do not object to that for one moment because, as he quite rightly said, we ought to be able to do that without allowing personalities to come in. In what I was saying about taxation, I was complaining about the £4,500 million that was given by way of a reduction in taxation at the very first period of the Government. I was not talking about taxation generally. I did use two phrases: one was "most noble Lords opposite"; the second was "the majority of noble Lords opposite". I think perhaps it would have been wiser if I had said that I was excluding those noble Lords who had been Members of Parliament because I realise that those noble Lords who have been Members of the House of Commons by virtue of their constituency responsibilities would know what I was getting at. With that, I only want to thank all noble Lords who have taken part, particularly, if I may say so, the two right reverend Prelates who have made a most valuable contribution. We on this side of the House would like to see more of the bishops taking part in our deliberations. I have said that on more than one occasion, and the last time was in the presence of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, so it was not behind his back. We do not necessarily expect the bishops to agree with what we say, but we do feel that it is of tremendous importance and of great significance if bishops do take part in those debates which are affecting social policy because we believe that they have a contribution to make. With that, my Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
Prayer Book Protection Bill Hl
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The new services of the Church of England have been the desire, not of the laity so much as of the clergy. Three years ago I introduced a Bill in your Lordships' House in an attempt to enable the laity, who have the new services foisted on them against their will, to enjoy the Prayer Book if they so wished in its place, through a ballot of all members of the Church electoral roll. It would be decided by the ballot whether they preferred to have the Book of Common Prayer at the three main services on Sundays.The Bill created a debate which went on for some three hours and many noble Lords sympathised with the aims of the Bill and voiced the present grievances of the laity. Since then, much more weight has accumulated behind the cause of the Prayer Book, chiefly owing to the endeavours of David Martin, Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics; and here I should like to give voice to the magnificent tribute which all lovers of the Prayer Book must owe to the professor for his endeavours, if I may list some of them. First, the petition which he organised for presentation to the Synod on behalf of the Prayer Book, signed by most masters of cathedral music, a large proportion of Garter Knights, holders of the Order of Merit, Companions of Honour, most heads of houses at Oxford and Cambridge, heads of the armed forces and leaders of both political parties. Professor Martin's petition coincided with his edition of Poetry Nation Review No. 13 containing articles by distinguished academics on the Prayer Book controversy, and two months after Poetry Nation Review No. 13 came out it received a second shot in the arm with Professor Brian Morris's Ritual Murder. Both Poetry Nation Review No. 13 and Ritual Murder have been published by the Carcanet Press in Manchester. Then last summer Profesor Martin organised a Gallup Poll for the BBC programme "Everyman", which showed that more than half who claim adherence to the Church of England are unhappy about Series 3; about 70 per cent. want the traditional marriage service and nearly 80 per cent. would prefer to leave the Lord's Prayer alone. Then, as to the argument that the new services are needed for the unsophisticated men in the pew who do not understand the archaic language of the Prayer Book, the Gallup Poll showed that the working classes are slightly more traditional than the higher social categories. Throughout these endeavours Professor Martin has handled the press with great skill so that there is now not a single national newspaper which does not favour the traditionalists' case over the Prayer Book. There have been leaders in all the leading newspapers and also generous correspondence columns and the editor of the Daily Telegraph has told me that on the issue of the Prayer Book he has received a larger post bag than on any other subject for many years. Given the attention and the support which adherents of the Prayer Book have received from the newspapers, this would seem to be the optimum period for resurrecting the whole issue of the Prayer Book in your Lordships' House. And before going any further I thought I would say something about the Bill in which I have sought to resurrect the Prayer Book issue. I will not concentrate on such matters as are better suited to Committee—such as what is meant in the Bill by "parish" or "parish church" or whether to include any clause about the enforcement of its provisions by an archdeacon. I will merely mention that the Title of the Bill has been phrased in such a way as to wave the flag and the contents of the Bill leaves the decision of whether to have the Prayer Book on certain occasions to a given number of members of the Church electoral roll to present a petition to the incumbent, compared with the present position under the Worship and Doctrine measure where this decision is made for all except the occasional services by the parochial church council. The reason for this is that, while the parochial church councils can override the vicar in the way that I have just described—and it is the principal object of this debate that they should be encouraged to do so even if the Bill fails to become law, that they should not feel at all shy about it—at the same time there is no doubt that as a rule parochial church councils do not act in this way. Parochial church councils were innovated for administrative reasons. According to the Parochial Church Councils Powers Measure, which brought them into being, they were designed to co-operate with the incumbent. It was never envisaged that they would have thrust upon them the extra burden of contesting with the vicar over liturgy. In the issue of Poetry Nation Review No. 13, which I have mentioned, and elsewhere, Dr. Roger Holman has explained exactly how parochial church councils fail on this account. While it should be the parochial church council which overrides the vicar, Dr. Holman has listed the ways in which it is most often the other way about. The first method is that the clergy protest that their point of view belongs to a sacred domain in which the laity have no part. The second method is to invoke the will of the spirit to suit their own partisan case. The third method is that the parochial church council meeting is put in the context of the Eucharist and the laity are discouraged from liturgical controversy because the final prayer and benediction are postponed until the business meeting has been closed. The fourth method is that the vicar arranges the agenda of the parochial church council meeting in such a way that he allows members to wear themselves out in discussion of trivial matters and then rushes through the discussion of the liturgical question at the end under the heading of "any other business". Having concentrated on the rather narrow aspect, with which the Bill is directly concerned, of what occurs between the clergy and the laity on the parochial church councils, I should like to consider the rather broader view of why the clergy are unlikely to relent and, if anything, go further the other way, and so the protection envisaged in this Bill becomes all the more necessary. There is always a suspicion of the undertow of a commercial influence which can corrupt religion like anything else. Points about money I suspect will always cut more ice in your Lordships' House than points about the imagery of prayer or religious doctrine, and one must ask what cash-conscious parish would buy the Book of Common Prayer if it gets a 20 per cent. discount on the purchase of the Alternative Service Book, or even some pamphlets which cost under £1 each. Then, we know about the colossal sums to be obtained from the publication of religious texts through the massive sales of new versions of the Bible, and while the Prayer Book is not copyright the Alternative Service Book is and it attracts a copyright fee of 10 per cent.; that is to say, 35p or 40p a copy. So if 1 million copies are sold this means about £400,000 to the Church. In this connection, it is important to remember that the Alternative Services are still in process of experimentation and when you have a commodity—it can be a new liturgy or anything else—the more transient the commodity is the more money there is to be made out of it. Then, the young clergy, in particular, promote the new services owing to their lack of exposure to the Prayer Book at theological colleges. For this reason, if the Bill passes its Second Reading I should like to table an amendment that the Prayer Book should be required for worship at theological colleges. Present evidence for the absence of the Prayer Book from theological colleges is very disturbing. One bishop has questioned the priests ordained in his diocese since 1974 over what had gone on at the theological colleges where they received their training, and he found that, though the Prayer Book may have appeared as an item in various courses of worship and liturgy, there was no systematic instruction in it. And the position over worship was even worse. Among the diet of Series 2 and 3 use of the Prayer Book varied from occasional or optional to never at all. More evidence has been adduced by Professor Martin in the latest issue of the Prayer Book Society's Journal, Faith and Worship, in which he says that wherever he has preached evensong at theological colleges he has never heard the Prayer Book, and Professor Martin adds that at Westcott House, which is perhaps the foremost theological college, they do not have the Prayer Book at all, or indeed have anything else except Series 3. It is very much to be hoped that Professor Martin can be persuaded to collate all the evidence he has collected on the absence of the Prayer Book from theological colleges in the form of a full printed report which can be presented to Parliament or Synod for debate. Further argument for more protection for the Prayer Book now becomes clear, if we consider that if the present trend of liturgical manner continues, it will induce some ministers to forget or even to know the Prayer Book and so no choice will be left between the Prayer Book and the Alternative Services. The circumstances in which the Prayer Book may be forgotten are easy to envisage when whole areas of the country are becoming left with no proper provision between the Prayer Book and Alternative Services; and as to the Prayer Book becoming quite unknown to the younger generation, while under the Worship and Doctrine Measure the parochial church council can override the vicar for the three main services on Sunday, it is quite wrong that when it comes to the occasional services of baptism, confirmation and marriage and burial, the laity are left with no rights against the clergy whatsoever. How should the confirmants who have no need to be instructed in the Prayer Book have any idea what it is? The cumulative drift towards the new services is not assisted by the failure of the BBC to observe the same impartiality in the broadcasting of services which they give in allocating time to the points of view of the two main political parties. Holy Communion and Matins according to the Prayer Book are hardly ever broadcast, and at Christmas all services were broadcast from the Alternative Book. Incidentally, in further illustration of the bias of the BBC, I might mention that on the Radio 4 programme on 5th April, entitled "Sunday", where this programme was concerned with this particular Bill, can I ask what innuendo was intended when the commentator did not say that the Prayer Book Society has shown that most of the laity preferred the Prayer Book; he said instead that the Prayer Book Society is said to have shown something of that kind. Furthermore, the wrong question was put in front of my first answer. I did not say that the Prayer Book was preferred by the intelligentsia as against the lower reaches of society. In this context I was referring not to the Prayer Book but to the Alternative Services. If more evidence still is required of the need to protect the Prayer Book, it may not be out of place for me to make a few quick notes pointing out the defects of the new services against the Prayer Book. It is always the wish of the House that a Peer will shorten his speech, so I will not comment at length on the well-worn theme of the inadequate language of the Alternative Services. Suffice it to say, that if you praise the Lord, it should not be in the anodyne language of a committee, that the zest and jubilation of our act of praise should be embedded in the very rhythm and texture of the language itself. No doubt other Peers will be concentrating more on the literary aspects and saying that if our liturgy is to be re-written it must be done by a poet like T. S. Eliot. It may just be worth adding that the answer to the argument that the Prayer Book is incomprehensible to the unsophisticated ordinary man in the pew, is not to modernise the liturgy; the answer is more religious education, and we know how woefully inadequate religious education has become and this is why it has had to be so intensively debated in Parliament. Two other ways in which the new services are defective are ways on which I might concentrate in a little more detail. The first is that the new services are recommended as an archaeological improvement on the Prayer Book, because they are closer to practices of the very early Church. Yet it is important to submit that what we have here is a sham revival, a revival where the revisers of the liturgy have merely selected those practices of the early Church which are not inconsonant with modern liberal opinion; for example, because the early Eucharist was a corporate affair, there has been the move towards abolition of the Chancel Screen, which from the 4th century has separated the clergy from the laiety. The revisers of the liturgy have happily introduced the custom of the handshake and the kiss, which is extracted from Justin's First Apology. At the same time, they have left out much contained in those early Greek manuals which would be quite out of keeping with modern liberal opinion. For example, the separation of the sexes in church, the way in which the early Church imitated the spirit of the nonconformists of the latter day in their Puritan attitude towards women and so women were required not to wear any make-up in church. Then chief of all, there is the severe penitential discipline mentioned at considerable length in those early Greek manuals of which we hear nothing at all today. The second aspect on which I should like to concentrate in which the new services are defective is their doctrinal irregularity. There is no doubt that the Synod is not entitled to commit these irregularities. On the last occasion when I introduced the Prayer Book (Ballot for Laity) Bill before your Lordships' House on 21st March 1978, the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, said that he may have misunderstood the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, but he thought the right reverend Prelate had said that the Synod has the right to determine the doctrine of the Church of England, and he would look the matter up. I was able to say in winding up in that debate that, under Clause 5(1) of the Worship and Doctrine Measure, it is specified that the doctrine of the Church of England is derived not from the Synod at all but from the Prayer Book. There does exist in this field some difficulty in assessing whether doctrinal irregularity has been committeed or not. Because in matters of religious doctrine, just as much as in matters of poetry, more sense can lie under the words rather than in them, and this can provide all the more licence to the Synod to act irregularly, particularly now that the Privy Council has lost its appellate jurisdiction. So the Synod can act as advocate, jury and judge all at the same time. There is no doubt, generally speaking, that the old emphasis on the atonement and the Cross has been side-stepped. I can go further and give two particular examples where I do not think there is much doubt that doctrinal irregularity has been comitted. The first is the omission of Original Sin from the service of Baptism, no doubt in deference to the liberal thought of 18th century enlightenment; but this omission must throw into question the whole doctrine of the atonment which many would regard as the kernel of Christianity. The point involved here is surely the fundamental one, whether Christianity is to be preserved in its traditional form or secularised in the way so well described by Dr. Norman in his Reith Lectures. The second example that I thought that I would choose is the marriage service. The old order of priorities in the objects of marriage given in the Prayer Book are the procreation of children; the avoidance or—to put it bluntly—the relief of fornication; and mutual society, help and comfort, but it is impossble to deny that some significant shift of meaning has been achieved where this order of priorities is simply reversed. Furthermore, a lighter accent is put on fornication as if to deny the aesthetic elements in Christianity which helped it to be officially recognised during the years of sexual fatigue in the late Roman Empire. Let me conclude on the matter of whether this Bill should merely act as a vehicle for debate and so serve as a propaganda exercise in giving much needed moral support to members of church councils to stand up to their vicars, or whether, on the other hand, the Bill should be pressed to a Division on the slender chance that it might become law. I think that I can anticipate the sense of the debate. Speakers will sympathise with the aim of the Bill, but then quite a few of them will say that they would be reluctant to vote for it because to do so would interfere with the present autonomy of Church government and the custom, which has arisen in the Constitution, that all legislation on Church matters should be initiated in the Synod rather than in Parliament. I have checked this ground out very carefully and I find that according to Halsbury's Laws of England, Fourth Edition, Volume 14, paragraph 350, it is clearly stated that parliamentary control over Church legislation remains unfettered and Parliament may still legislate for the Church without the intervention of the General Synod. But despite the clarity of that quotation from Halsbury which I have just made and its endorsement by the parliamentary agents who drafted the Bill and the opinion which I have in my hand from that most eminent ecclesiastical lawyer Chancellor Garth Moore, who is chairman of the Legal Advisory Commission of the General Synod, I anticipate that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London will read out the sentence further on in the same paragraph of Halsbury saying that it is normally by Synod measures that legislation affecting the Church is now enacted. So I must raise the question of the whole credibility of Church government. Whereas the electoral register of the secular Parliament has an 80 per cent. or 90 per cent. voting capacity, only a minute percentage of all who claim adherence to the Church of England are on the Church electoral roll or participate in any elections. Too much gearing is involved in those elections for them to be encouraged to take too much interest. The House of Laity in the Synod is not directly elected from the parishes. The parishes send representatives to the Deanery Synod and it is only the Deanery Synod which sends representatives to the House of Laity in the General Synod. So the men in the pews can seldom know who their representatives in the General Synod may be. There is no question that the Synod has not kept faith with Parliament over the Prayer Book. In his excellent speech on the Worship and Doctrine Measure in 1974, the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, asked whether the Prayer Book was being properly safeguarded or whether it was on the way out. We know now what the answer is to that question. The answer is in direct contravention of Clause 1 of the Worship and Doctrine Measure saying that the powers of the Synod should be so exercised as to ensure that the forms of service contained in the Prayer Book should continue to be available for use in the Church of England. Furthermore, the present answer to the question of the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, was not anticipated by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London when the Worship and Doctrine Measure was going through the Synod. If one examines the proceedings of the Synod for 7th November 1972 one finds that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London said that if the Worship and Doctrine Measure represented an attempt to abolish the Prayer Book things would be difficult, and reasonably so. The right reverend Prelate then continued that in view of the special relationship between Church and State, the State is entitled to guarantees that the General Synod will not depart from its traditional character in such a way as to disqualify the Church of England from its privileged position. I very much hope that many Peers will feel now that such powers as Parliament has given to the Synod on liturgical matters it can safely take away. I beg to move.
Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a .—( Lord Sudeley.)
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, is, as we all know, indefatigable—
My Lords, I am sorry, I ought to have put the Question and I was correctly called to order by somebody on my left—I think he is a Presbyterian! The Question is, That the Bill be now read a second time?
My Lords, I beg the pardon of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for anticipating him. As I was saying, the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, is well known as an indefatigable champion of the Prayer Book, but I should like to start by congratulating him on a characteristically forceful speech. I think that we all expected it of him. However, I should also like to begin with two regrets. One concerns the timing of this debate. I think that it is a pity that a debate of such wide interest should take place so late in the day and I think that it is also a pity that it should come before this House at such short notice, realising the interests that bishops have in a debate of this kind and the extreme difficulty which they have in managing their diaries, which are filled with so many other matters.My second regret is that in some parts of his speech I felt that the noble Lord was maligning the good faith of clergy and parochial church councils in the caricature that he gave us of what goes on in church councils up and down this land. I very much hope that when he winds up this debate he will take the opportunity to withdraw what he said at that point, which will be deeply hurtful if it is known to others outside this House. Having said that, I want to assure the noble Lord that I am no less anxious than he is to ensure that the book of Common Prayer is retained and used as a rightful part of our heritage in the Church of England. However, I want to try to specify what I see as the heart of this debate. I hope that we shall not be enticed down the road, which part of the noble Lord's speech was opening up for us, into a debate on the merits and demerits of the varous liturgies which the Church of England now possesses. I particularly hope that we shall not be drawn towards the doctrinal red herrings which he put before us. The fact is that we now have various liturgies and the key issue, as I see it, is the question: Is the legislation, under which the Church of England regulates its worship, adequate to protect the interests of those who want to worship according to the Book of Common Prayer? A subsidiary part of that question is: Is this legislation being observed in both letter and spirit? Then comes the question which is really the crunch of this particular debate: Are any injustices, to which noble Lords may draw attention, so grave and so evident that they can only be corrected by Parliament acting in defiance of the long-standing tradition that ecclesiastical legislation should originate only in the Synod and not in this House? To some extent we had this debate before in 1978. At the end of that debate the noble Lord had the grace and the wisdom to withdraw his Bill. I very much hope that at the end of this debate he will do the same, because, in fact, very little has changed since that debate in 1978. The major factor was, of course, the publication of the Alternative Service Book in the autumn of last year. We have also had three more years' experience of the working of the Worship and Doctrine Measure. I want to start at what is, as it were, the easy end for me, by submitting to this House that there is no room for doubt about the Church's officially expressed intention to preserve a fair balance between the Book of Common Prayer and the Alternative Services. With this in mind, I should like to read the opening few words of the preface to the Alternative Service Book. It reads as follows:
Those words mean exactly what they say. I know because I wrote them. As the chairman of the committee which conceived the idea of the Alternative Service Book and brought it to fruition, I want to assure this House that all through that long process one of the dominant factors in the mind of that committee was how to ensure that the Book of Common Prayer was not irreparably damaged by the publication of the Alternative Service Book. When the book was published the General Synod Office issued to all parishes an edition of the document, which has in fact been issued regularly, which sets out for parishes how the Worship and Doctrine Measure is to be applied. May I take the liberty of reading part of one paragraph from that document dated November 1980. It says:"The Church of England has traditionally sought to maintain a balance between the old and the new. For the first time since the Act of Uniformity this balance in its public worship is now officially expressed in two books rather than in one. The Alternative Service Book 1980, as its name implies, is intended to supplement the Book of Common Prayer, not to supersede it. The addition of a date to its title may serve as a reminder that revision and adaptation of the Church's worship are continuous processes, and that any liturgy, no matter how timeless its qualities, also belongs to a particular period and culture".
Then it goes on to give examples of the different kinds of combinations of services which might be used, the ways in which decisions are to be taken, and it spells out clearly the weighting in the process which the Book of Common Prayer must receive according to the Worship and Doctrine Measure. Many dioceses, including my own, called special meetings of clergy and others at the time of the introduction of the Alternative Service Book to explain it. Certainly in my own diocese, and I suspect in many others as well, there was careful discussion of how parishes can maintain a proper balance between the different elements now within the Church's worship. That, I say, is the official policy, and it is beyond dispute. But, despite assurances, there are persistent accusations that bishops and others have not been honest in these matters, and that there is some sort of organised conspiracy against the Book of Common Prayer. May I quote a sentence from the leading article from yesterday's Daily Telegraph. It said:"In taking their decisions the incumbent and the parochial church council need to remember that they have to bear in mind the interests and the needs of the parish as a whole. They should give particular attention to the views and needs of those who come to church regularly, and if there are differences of view they should seek, wherever possible, to find a solution that meets the widest range of needs which is possible and practicable. They should also bear in mind those who come to church occasionally; e.g. at major festivals".
That is pernicious nonsense, and I choose my words very carefully. May we now look at some of the evidence which is sometimes used to back up statements like this. The noble Lord in his opening speech referred to the petition brought to the General Synod by a very large number of distinguished people. At the time that it was brought there was some adverse press comment because the petition was received in silence by the Synod. The reason for this was that nobody knew that the petition was being presented and the Synod has no procedure for receiving petitions. Therefore, silence was the inevitable response. At a slightly later stage in that session of the Synod there was an intemperate speech by a rather foolish young clergyman which attacked the petition, and this was applauded. His speech and the applause were widely reported. At a later stage in the same session of the Synod I felt that as chairman of the Alternative Service Book Committee it was my duty to make some response to the petition, and let me read to you a sentence or two from what I said."A concerted campaign has been conducted by a body of highly placed clerical enthusiasts to force new services on a largely unwilling laity".
That was also applauded, but it was not reported in the newspapers because it did not fit, presumably, in the image of the General Synod as a wild body hellbent on destruction. The noble Lord referred more than once in his speech to Professor Martin, who is of course a redoubtable protagonist of the Book of Common Prayer. Recently Professor Martin published a letter in the Church Times which contained a number of instances to which the noble Lord referred. They were instances of so-called unfairness in the promotion of the Alternative Service Book. I took the trouble to write to all the named persons in Professor Martin's letter to find out their version of what he said. I will not weary the House by taking noble Lords through the answers I received, but I will give a typical example. Professor Martin referred to a diocesan newsletter which contained a rather extravagent article suggesting that the word "alternative" should be dropped from the title of the Alternative Service Book because it was now really the only service book that mattered. It was quoting Professor Martin's letter as if it were a matter of diocesan policy. In fact, the article in the diocesan newsletter was a signed article by a clergyman in the diocese; it was quite clear that it was his opinion and I have a specific statement from the bishop that it was neither diocesan policy nor the bishop's own policy. If people cannot write signed articles in favour of the Alternative Service Book without its being picked out as an example of unfairness, where are we?"It seems to me that a Christian gathering ought to listen very hard to those who speak to it out of great emotion, even if we believe that the emotion is misdirected. It ought to be especially concerned with those on the very fringe of the church's life, and not dismiss them as not being allowed to have a say in our affairs. I think there is something deeply important about the nature of the Church of England bound up in our response to this group of people representing so many facets of the nation's life".
My Lords, if that was not a diocesan view—I have with me a copy of what was in that circular or diocesan news—may I ask whether it was ever controverted by the diocese or by any man senior to the man who wrote it? Or is it still standing, for anybody who reads Hansard today, as an opinion published on the front page of the Carlisle Diocesan News?
My Lords, I have no knowledge of what further things have been done within the diocese of Carlisle. My point is simply that a diocesan newsletter is a forum for different news and views and it is surely not necessary for every view (which some members of a diocese may not agree with and the bishop may not agree with) to be controverted there and then. My point is simply that this particular thing was picked out unfairly, I believe put in a false context and used as evidence, and it is not evidence when one looks at it closely.There is a claim by Professor Martin of unfair bias by the BBC in the choice of broadcast services. In spelling out that point, Professor Martin has to pursue a rather delicate and difficult argument in which he is saying, on the one hand, that there are plenty of parishes which could broadcast services from the Book of Common Prayer if the BBC were not biased. However, at the same time and in the same letter he has to maintain that services of the Book of Common Prayer are being unfairly suppressed and that there are not enough of them in parishes. That, as I say, is a difficult tightrope to walk, but he manages it—just. I wrote to the Director of Religious Broadcasting, the one who was there at the time when Professor Martin claims the bias existed, and I have a letter from him; I will not weary the House by reading it but, again, it totally controverts the claim Professor Martin is making. The noble Lord also referred in his speech to theological colleges and what is taught in them; and here I fully admit that there is legitimate cause for concern. What Professor Martin has not mentioned is that on two occasions in the last two years groups of about 20 bishops have met with all the principals of all the theological colleges and among other things have discussed this very issue with them in order to try to ensure that there is a proper balance of worship in our theological colleges. But as the principals very truly say, democracy has come even into theological colleges, and students nowadays have a choice in the pattern of worship which the college maintains. I am afraid that in many theological college settings it is difficult to get many students to attend on a massive scale services of the Book of Common Prayer. I do not propose to bore your Lordships with more instances. All I am trying to say is that when one looks at the kind of evidence that is brought in support of what the noble Lord has been saying, it has a mysterious habit of disappearing when it is probed. Even this famous Gallup poll, which purported to show massive support for the Book of Common Prayer among the ordinary people of the land, I suspect is not quite as straightforward as it appears to be on the surface. When one talks in the street to very occasional churchgoers, I think it is hardly surprising that when faced with the question about what forms of worship they prefer, they would say that they prefer the forms that they knew in their childhood. What I should have liked to ask is, how many of those questioned in the Gallup poll had in fact attended, certainly on any regular basis, services of various kinds, so that they were able to make an informed judgment. Again very impressive-looking statistics can be produced about weddings and about how people prefer the old form of wedding. But how many weddings do ordinary people in fact attend during a lifetime? What chance do they have to compare different forms of wedding service? Of course people hark back to the weddings of their childhood. I have some sympathy with the feelings expressed through the Gallup poll about the Lord's Prayer; and here let me frankly admit to your Lordships that I believe that the General Synod has made a bit of a mess of the Lord's Prayer, and that we now have something which combines the worst of all worlds. I feel that we shall have to have a long, hard look at this question when we come to the next revision of the Alternative Service Book. What I am trying to say is that this massive minority of disaffected opinion is rather difficult to detect. And some figures speak for themselves. The noble Lord, in words which I hope also he will be prepared to withdraw, referred to the publication of the Alternative Service Book as a kind of money-making racket. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. The noble Lord must know very little about clergy and their PCCs if he imagines that enthusiastic clergy could persuade their PCCs to buy the Alternative Service Book on the massive scale on which it has in fact been bought. In the first three and a half months since publication sales have now surpassed half a million. But what is interesting is that during that period the sales of the Book of Common Prayer have continued at the same level as previously; and those figures suggest that a balance is being maintained. Perhaps I can summarise the difficulties by recalling an anecdote. Last Sunday morning I was standing in the vestry of an ancient church in my diocese, confronted by six stalwart church wardens. The fact that the church has six church wardens is a sign that it is a traditional kind of parish that is not willing to let the past slip away. It is not the kind of parish to rationalise things. I asked them, "What is your pattern of worship?", and they spelled out a pattern of different sorts of worship with special slots for the Book of Common Prayer, and so forth. Then I said, "Why don't you have a Book of Common Prayer service at a main service on a Sunday morning?". They said, "The trouble is that there are a few people who might want this and they make a lot of noise, but when we actually hold those services they do not come". That is the heart of it—they do not come. But suppose we were to take these arguments at their face value and were to pass this Bill. I submit to your Lordships that it would lead to the most extraordinary anomalies. I do not want to press the details too far, and I do not know what size of parish the noble Lord is used to dealing with, but in my diocese we have many electoral rolls of 200 or 300, some with 500, some even almost 900. In a group of 900 members on an electoral roll, is the noble Lord really suggesting that 20 people should determine what is done on one Sunday out of four? In a group of 900 people you can get 20 people to sign almost anything.
My Lords, would the right reverend Prelate give way? Is this not the same argument as that between God and Abraham over Sodom and Gomorrah? Peradventure the Lord may save 99 just men.
My Lords, I think the parallels with what the noble Earl has suggested are too perilous to pursue. I do not want to press on the details of this, but it seems to me that even if amended, and even if radically amended, any Bill which relied on juggling with figures could lead to abuse, especially since a parish has a certain discretion in the way that it manages its electoral roll. I am wondering whether the noble Lord has really thought through the practical implications of this Bill. I wonder whether he has thought it through to the point of giving some attention to other minorities in parishes. I could point the noble Lord to parishes where the incumbent and quite a sizeable group of laity are longing for the introduction of alternative services, but where they are frustrated by a conservative majority. The existence of such parishes gives the lie to what the noble Lord was saying about overbearing incumbents being able to twist PCCs around their fingers. Your Lordships should see some of the PCCs in the diocese of Durham.But if the aim of the Bill is justice to minorities, then I should like to ask the noble Lord: Would he favour an amendment to allow 20 people to sign a petition to have Series 3 on one Sunday out of four? If he would allow that, would he allow another 20 to sign a petition to have Series 2 on one Sunday out of four? I do not want to create imaginery difficulties and I do not want to pursue this point—time is passing very rapidly—but the point is that any legislation on these matters would create problems, and it is far better to deal with the differences by consultation within parishes and not by additional legislation. Let me turn very briefly to the wider issues behind this Bill. First, there is the question which has been raised quite specifically: Is democracy in the Church of England seriously defective? All democratic systems have their defects. I am glad that the noble Lord corrected a persistent misunderstanding, which recurred in the 1978 debate, about the way in which the General Synod is elected. Its lay members are elected from deanery synods, and the deaneries of a diocese are constituencies of manageable size which are close to the life of the Church at local level. All members of deanery synods are, by and large, members of parochial church councils and are involved directly in Church affairs. Election from deanery synods to the General Synod is by proportional representation—and here the Church of England is in advance of some other legislative bodies which one might talk about. But it means that under this system minorities have the best possible chance of being represented. What saddens many of us is, first of all, that those who love and support and want to see more of the Book of Common Prayer do not seem to stand for election or, if they do so, they do not seem to get elected. In the Church of England, we long for and invite those who feel strongly in this matter to express themselves in the Church's proper councils by getting themselves elected. I am constantly surprised that the noble Lord who is so deeply involved in Church affairs and so learned in theology apparently has not sought election to the General Synod where, if he was elected, he could pursue his interests to an audience which would be very ready to hear it. Let me say a final word on the constitutional issue. We know that it would be a serious departure from established practice if Parliament were to break the tradition of over 60 years and try to impose legislation on the Church of England, without consultation and against what I believe would be fierce opposition. There has been in the press and other places recently some sabre rattling on the subject of disestablishment. Let me declare myself. I am a firm believer in establishment. It would be a tragedy further to weaken the links between Church and State. I believe that it would be bad for the Church because it would strengthen the sectarian elements within the Church, and bad for the nation because now, of all times, we need in our nation some continuing corporate acknowledgments of religious beliefs and sanctions to give us direction. But I hope that noble Lords will understand that in these very difficult days the Church of England is struggling to find its vocation in a society which is, by and large, indifferent towards organised forms of religion. Those of us who stand at the centre of it have the problem, first of all, of trying to maintain viable congregations of committed people in an age when commitment has to be strong and lively if it is to be of service at all; and generally it is those strong and lively people at the centre of Church life who get elected to its councils and, ultimately, to the Synod. But alongside that problem of maintaining lively communities we have, secondly, the problem of remaining faithful to the past in an age which is radically different from that in which the Church was originally shaped. Thirdly, we have the problem in the Church of England of trying to retain our links with the half-committed and the occasionally interested and the folk religionists. And, fourthly, we have the problem of trying to reach out towards those for whom our cultural heritage means little or nothing. In trying to balance those four things we, as bishops, are well aware that we are constantly having to indulge in a very difficult juggling act because many of these goals conflict with one another. I would assure the House that there are many at the centre of the Church's life who are fully aware of the issues at stake, who are anxious to do justice to all the different interests, but who do not want their hands weakened by ill-considered legislation which would inevitably by reaction strengthen the forces of sectarianism within the Church. That, I am afraid, is what would happen if by some mischance this Bill were to be passed. That is why I do not believe that the end desired by the noble Lord can be obtained by the means proposed. It is good that this issue should have an airing. I must apologise to the House for speaking for so long at so late an hour. I notice that the number of bishops is growing and there are many noble Lords who feel deeply on the issue and who want to speak, and I felt it right at the beginning of this debate that I should try to set out all the issues at some length and as clearly as I could. It is good that we should have this debate. It is good that these issues should be publicised because they are matters of wide interest and importance. I hope that at the end of the debate the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, will have the good sense to withdraw his Bill.
My Lords, I feel a certain degree of embarrassment in intruding into these high matters. Throughout my life (which has been beset by controversy in so many different fields) I have always been rather careful to steer clear of ecclesiastical politics. I do not now regret that I should have done so. But I have no doubt at all that my colleagues were right in imposing upon me the duty of speaking. In the ordinary course of Private Members' Bills, Her Majesty's Government adopt a neutral posture. Unhappily, in matters which raise grave questions of constitutional propriety and usage, this cannot be the case. In this case—at any rate in the view of Her Majesty's Government—such issues arise and it is my duty to tell the House without equivocation that on such grounds Her Majesty's Government cannot recommend to the House the passage of this Bill through Parliament.I must first of all, in view of the course which the discussion has taken so far, remind the House, before I embark upon my task, what this Bill says and what it is about. It is nothing to do with the doctrine in the marriage service or in Evensong or in the service of confirmation or in the service of baptism. It is nothing whatever to do with the theological colleges. Its Long Title is to provide for parishioners—and parishioners, with great respect to my noble friend, have nothing whatever to do with theological colleges—of any parish to require certain forms of service to be used in the parish church. My noble friend said that he was going to introduce an amendment in Committee about theological colleges. I wonder how he thinks he is going to do that in a Bill with a Long Title like this. The body of the Bill has nothing whatever to do with any of the services to which he refers. It is to do with the main service in the morning in the parish church; not the marriage service, not the confirmation service and not the baptismal service. Not with the doctrines; not with the bias of the BBC; and not with the jiggery-pokery which may or may not go on inside the parochial church council. The question with which we are faced is whether 20 persons, who happen to be on the electoral roll of the parish, are entitled to impose upon the rest of them once in a month what is called the Book of Common Prayer. Whether he means Matins, the Holy Communion or what was more common in my youth Matins and Ante-Communion, he does not say. That is the problem with which we are confronted. I must first, I hope, establish that what my noble friend has said about the opinion of Chancellor Garth Moore (whom I have known for upwards of 50 years, since he was the Junior of the South Eastern Circuit) of which my noble friend was good enough to give me a copy, and what he says about the 14th volume of the fourth edition of Halsbury's Laws of England—on which I can possibly speak with greater authority because I happen to be the editor of it—is wholly misconceived. He does not understand its effect. Of course Parliament in this country is sovereign. There can be no subject on which it is more clearly sovereign, and few on which it clearly has more often legislated than on the established Church of England and, to some extent, the established Church of Scotland. Parliament can take away a man's life without a trial, and it has done so. Parliament can expropriate property without compensation, and it has done so. Parliament can pass retrospective legislation, and it has done so. Parliament can prolong its own life, and it has done that too, not so very long ago. But in all these cases its powers are not relevant to the question of constitutional wisdom or unwisdom, propriety or impropriety. Here the question that arises has to do with the use of legislative sovereignty and not the existence of the sovereignty, which remains clear and beyond question. The question that arises is not whether, if the Bill were to receive the Royal Assent, would it become law. Of course it would become law. It is not whether my noble friend is within the rules of order in proposing its Second Reading in the House. Of course he is within the rules of order. The question is whether, having regard to the line of conduct pursued by successive Parliaments towards the Church of England, the passage of this Bill would be a retrograde step or a progressive step; and, what would be the constitutional implications if, in 1981, we pursued the course of action recommended by my noble friend. First, let me deal with the question of doctrine and the doctrinal purity of the Alternative Book. It is as well that we should remember that Parliament itself is representative of the United Kingdom as a whole, and of its population as a whole. It represents Northern Ireland, where there is no established Church, and where the Church of Ireland, which uses the Book of Common Prayer to a large extent, is a minority even among the Protestant community, which is predominently Presbyterian. It represents Scotland, where there is an established Kirk which is not episcopal and which is absolutely free under the Kirk Assembly to prescribe its own forms of service and discipline. It represents Wales, where the Church in Wales was disestablished within my memory. It represents England where, although there is a Church established by law and represented in this House by the Bench of Bishops, there has been an increasing tendency, to which I shall make reference shortly, to leave matters of English Church discipline, doctrine and liturgy to specially constructed ecclesiastical assemblies with a specialised understanding of these things and perhaps more leisure than we possess to debate them in detail. On the whole, and having spent the past 43 years of my life as a Member of one House or another, I would say without doubt that the increasing tendency of Parliament and the Church organisations to go their own ways has been of as much benefit to Parliament as it has been to the Church. I can well remember an occasion during my brief visit to the House of Commons in 1964 when I was compelled to listen to a 37 minute speech by the dreaded Sir Ronald Bell—himself, I believe, a Presbyterian—the main purpose of which was to show that the Scarf—which I am very pleased to see well in evidence this evening and which is the one specifically Anglican garment—was in fact an illegal Popish innovation. I mention that example to indicate that perhaps Parliament is not the best place in which to discuss the doctrine of the Atonement. Parliament, without in any way derogating from its ultimate sovereignty, has progressively over the past 60 years and much longer, and in my opinion prudently, deliberately and to its enormous advantage, divested itself of any tendency to intrude on domestic English Church affairs, and has created specific ecclesiastical bodies expressly charged with the responsibility of making such intrusion unnecessary. Of course I heard my noble friend in his peroration attack the credibility of Church government as a whole. If so, he is trifling with the subject by introducing this particular Bill. He had better think of revoking the powers of the Synod altogether. If the clergy are gerrymandering their agenda and if the parochial church councillors do not represent the worshippers, if the laity in the Synod are not representive of the laity, then this Bill is not a proper way of setting about remedying such a state of affairs. It has nothing whatever to do with the case. The Church Assembly was created by Parliament in 1919. In 1969 we approved the Synodical Government Measure, which brought together the Church Assembly and the Convocations. In 1974, after very full debates in both Houses, we empowered the General Synod to legislate by canon for alternative services while retaining the Book of Common Prayer. It is under this umbrella that the Alternative Book has been published. The purpose was to enable the Church authorities to conduct their own affairs without Parliament becoming embroiled in any repetition of the undignified and wholly ineffectual attempts to prevent the general use, for instance, of the 1928 Prayer Book, or even of repeating the horrible fiasco of 1874, which some Church historians may remember. The Measure of 1974 was itself carefully calculated to avoid the renewal of these fiascos. It does, I believe, provide adequate safeguards for the laity if they would only use them. There must be a two-thirds majority in the Synod, the laity and clergy of which are elected in the manner prescribed. The forms of the Book of Common Prayer must remain available. The choice lies with the incumbent and the parochial church council which is elective. If these do not agree with one another then the Common Prayer Service must be used unless, with the parochial church council's agreement, an alternative form has been regularly used for at least two years out of the last four. Although I express some preference for the Cranmer book myself, I have not noticed an angry crowd of worshippers banging at the doors when it is used, unable to get in because of the crowd inside. It is in the light of this situation that my noble friend introduces his Bill. It provides that, notwithstanding any wish to the contrary on the part of the incumbent and the parochial church council, a minority of 20 is entitled to impose the form of service—it does not say, as I have remarked whether it be Holy Communion, Matins, or Matins and ante-Communion—once a month in the parish church at the principal morning service. It has no other provision. I must say I could just understand a provision of this kind if my noble friend had gone the whole way and added a provision—following the tradition of the Act of Uniformity of Elizabeth I—that all 20 of these parishioners were compelled to attend the service they had imposed upon others under a penalty of a fine of 400 marks. It might, for instance, be a great pleasure to see my noble friend Lord Dacre, who I am glad to see is going to make his maiden speech, doing his penance in the pew at least once a month! In the absence of such a provision, it seems to me that the Bill is a constitutional anomaly. Under its terms it does not matter if the church is empty or full; it does not matter if the majority of the worshippers like the service or if they do not; if 20 demand it, it must be done, even if none of the 20 goes. The absurdity of this seems to me to speak for itself and these empty churches will declare a new meaning to the old adage that there is room in the Church of England for everybody. I cannot end this speech without a personal tribute to Cranmer's book. I do not call it the book of 1662. It is stamped on every page with the genius of Cranmer, from start to finish. He was a liturgiologist of the greatest genius, as, for instance, is recognised in the somewhat hostile criticism of him in the book on the shape of the liturgy by the late Dom Gregory Dix. His language was magical. His sense of dramatic structure was superb. To give only one example, the forms of the General Confession in the Communion Service are infinitely superior to those used in the Alternative Book. As the right reverend Prelate has clearly admitted, he had the wisdom to keep the cadences of the 15th century language in the Lord's Prayer and the Creed. I once heard an episcopal service in Gaelic. I knew when the Lord's Prayer was being pronounced, because I knew its own cadences. It does not matter, because one knows the cadences, and it can be sung to the same music. Whether one says "Our Father which art in Heaven" or "Pater noster qui es in coelis" one knows that it is the Lord's Prayer, wherever it is said. I am sorry that it has been found desirable to change it, and I was much encouraged by what the right reverend Prelate said about that. But it may also be true, for aught I know, that some of the supporters of the new book adopt somewhat superior attitudes to those who do not happen to agree with them. In particular, it may be that there has developed a new breed of ecclesiastical laymen; if so, I am not among them. But these are no reasons, in my considered judgment, for Parliament to intervene in the manner proposed. The forms of service used in the Church of England must be canonically correct. I believe that the Alternative Book is; if not, it contravenes the law. I believe that it must be doctrinally sound, within acceptable bounds. I am bound to say that, contrary to what my noble friend says, I believe it to be so, although I do not myself claim to be doctrinally sound always. Above all, it must meet with the pastoral needs of the worshippers, which only the worshippers can decide for themselves. Even with petrol at £1·50 and more a gallon, many of us can find within reach a service of our own choosing, if we look for one. It is not for Parliament to give small minorities a veto and, even if it did, the English language, magically embedded in Cranmer's book, could never be preserved by force of law. We are living in 1981 and not in 1681 or 1581 or 1481. We had better spend our time in Parliament on the great needs of our present population—Anglican, Free Church, Church of Scotland, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Moslem and our numerous fellow citizens who belong to no known religion—and not pass a Measure which is contrary to the whole spirit of our laws that have been enacted since 1919. As a result of the fiasco of 1928, we ought to have learned that lesson long ago. The Government invite the House not to accept this Bill.
My Lords, the fact that I am speaking from the Front Bench does not, in any way, imply that I am expressing a collective view on behalf of Labour Peers. This is a matter for the conscience of each noble Lord, and I hope, after listening to the speech of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, that that applies equally to the other side of the House. On his speech, I must say, with the greatest respect, that after 30 years in the two Houses I have never heard a more biased speech from a Government Minister on a Church Measure. On Church Measures, I believe that Government Ministers ought to be entirely neutral. If you read the speech which I made on the Worship and Doctrine Measure in 1974 you will find that it is in striking contrast to the speech which the noble and learned Lord has made today. From what noble Lords on my side of the House have told me, however, I think that what I have to say will be generally acceptable to a large number of them.This is the second occasion on which the noble Lord has introduced a Bill to ensure the continued use in our parish churches of the Book of Common Prayer. I supported him on the last occasion although he did not press it to a Division, and I warmly support him on this occasion. I believe that the first question which we should ask ourselves is this: is there a real problem which makes the kind of arrangement which the noble Viscount is proposing necessary? I believe that there is a considerable problem. It is not a constitutional problem. It is not an administrative problem. It is an intensely human problem affecting tens of thousands of our fellow countrymen. It is a problem which is causing widespread disquiet throughout the country, and in many cases real anguish. The Synod has launched an Alternative Services Book. I do not complain in any way about that. I have no objection to it. I noted what was said in the Synod when the book was introduced. Indeed, there are safeguards in the Worship and Doctrine Measure of 1974. But the problem to which the noble Lord's Bill is addressed is that the Book of Common Prayer is never used in a great many churches—I have made very careful inquiries about this—while in others it has been relegated to the status of an antiquity which is brought out, rather grudgingly, occasionally and used for the odd service at a very inconvenient time. I have experience of this myself. So the safeguards in the Worship and Doctrine Measure and the assurances at its launching are, to say the least, not working as we expected. A generation of young people is growing up in this country to whom the Book of Common Prayer will be completely unfamiliar. I think that is a real tragedy. There is evidence, to which the Bishop of Durham has referred—professionally assembled evidence—that what is happening is against the wishes of the majority of churchgoers. But the process of substitution—and I am afraid that that really is what is happening—goes on relentlessly throughout the country. I think "relentlessly" is the right word. I am told that the process is fuelled by the enthusiasm of the bishops, who twist the arms of the incumbents, as only bishops know how, and any incumbent who holds out is too often regarded as an old-fashioned fuddy-duddy.
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he has any direct evidence to support that serious allegation?
My Lords, I am making my speech in my own way, and I am saying that I have been told by a number of incumbents that this is so. The right reverend Prelate has quoted the Carlisle diocesan newsletter. I live in the diocese of Carlisle. If he is telling me that incumbents do not take any notice of what is written in the diocesan newsletter, then I am afraid he does not know the facts of life about parishioners in our parishes. I do not know whether noble Lords have seen that newsletter and its contents. Let me tell the House what it says:
That appeared in my own diocesan newsletter. I do not want to be unkind or unfair to the bishops, but the problem is that both they and the Synod appear to be impervious to the protests. I have read the temperate words and I have heard the temperate words which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham said in reply to the petition of the 600. But I have also read the other speech to which he refers and I have here the Church Times report of it—not the report of the Daily Telegraph or the Daily Mirror but the report of the Church Times:"But in her wisdom and with no lack of prayer and scholarship, the Church of England has counselled, surely under the guidance of the Spirit, that for our health's sake the blood must be changed. What matters now is that the operation should be swift and complete. It is time therefore to abandon political tactics and cover up titles which suggest that this is no more than an alternative and that 1662 stands unscathed. The new book must become the prayer book of the Church of England. If it does not do so quickly, several generations will be left in limbo".
For sheer unChristian arrogance, those words, spoken in the Synod, would be very hard to beat. That was in reply to a petition from 600 eminent people throughout the country. So I think I am entitled to say that not all the bishops, but many of them do appear to be impervious to the feelings of people about this. So far as I am aware, the public opinion poll drew no official response, except that so far as one could judge from the outside the steamroller was driven even faster. So there is a two-fold problem, as I see it—and I am speaking for myself—of the established Church introducing a major liturgical reform in such a way as to ignore the views of large numbers of its members. This is an age of conservation. Ratepayers and taxpayers throughout the country are digging deeply into their pockets to preserve the best in our physical heritage. We now have the National Heritage Fund. Buildings are listed and protected; demolition is forbidden by law. But the Church of England has done the biggest demolition job of the lot in recent years. Maybe it was not exactly demolition, but they have erected a shiny, brassy new office block in front, so that only occasionally can one get a glimpse of the beautiful old building behind it. I am sure that the House is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, for giving us a chance once more to discuss this matter. Of course the Bill's opponents, as always, regress, as last time, into constitutional arguments. Indeed the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham prefaced his speech by asking us to keep off the merits of the alternative services—the doctrinal matters. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said this even more forcefully, as he always does, and then of course proceeded to discuss doctrinal matters."This gentleman drew loud applause when he said in the debate that many who signed were rarely seen in church, and added: 'For far too long we have been spiritually castrated by the arrogance of the cultural establishment'.".
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord really means that? Can he mention one doctrine that I discussed, out of the Nicene creed or any of the other creeds?
My Lords, if the noble and learned Lord will read his speech tomorrow—and I am sure he always reads his speeches—
No, my Lords. The noble Lord has made a charge against me. I ask him to substantiate it or withdraw it and not ask me to read my own speech.
My Lords, if the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will look at his speech tomorrow he will see that he said—and I quote, because I wrote it down—"I now come to doctrinal matters".
Yes, my Lords, and what I said was that Parliament was not the place to discuss them and that is within the recollection of the House. So I did not discuss them.
My Lords, perhaps the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor tomorrow will read what he said. I have nothing to withdraw on that.I believe that we should now apply ourselves to the real human problem. But of course the opponents of the Bill tell us that Parliament has surrendered its right to legislate on Church matters; not its legal constitutional right but its de facto right, if I may put it that way. I completely refute that view. The noble Lord quoted Halsbury's Laws of England. Of course, as the noble and learned Lord said, the Church-State relationship has changed a great deal. There have been a number of Measures to give the Church greater freedom in its own affairs, culminating in the Worship and Doctrine Measure of 1974. It is an evolving relationship but it is a simple, irrefutable fact that if the Church of England remains the established Church, Parliament retains the right to legislate. It is not a case of imposing legislation, as the right reverend Prelate said. This is a sovereign Parliament and the Church of England is the national Church, established by law. I do not like quoting the Daily Telegraph, but I think it got it right on Tuesday. It said:
If any right reverend Prelate contests that conclusion, then I am going to demand that the noble Lord, Lord Soper, reads the Prayers in your Lordships' Chamber. I am going to demand that Lord Janner, a distinguished ex-chairman of the Board of British Jews be given the opportunity occasionally to read the Prayers in this Chamber. When Lords reform comes to be discussed I am going to suggest either that the Anglican bishops are removed from this House or that all the others are brought in. And when a new Monarch comes to be crowned, if I am still around, I am going to demand that all denominations have a share in the coronation. The Church cannot have it both ways. Either the Church of England retains the privileges of establishment and if so Parliament retains the right to intervene, or Parliament surrenders that right and the Church of England surrenders its privileges. In the past decade the Church of England has tried, I think, rather to have the best of both worlds. The Worship and Doctrine Measure was followed by the new procedure for the nomination of bishops. I am not sure that that is working; I had hoped that the Bishop of Durham would tell us, but there it is. These, I think, we saw, many of us—and I said this to the archbishop; I conducted the initial discussions between the Government and the Church on this—as two steps towards the disestablishment of the Church. But at the same time the Church holds up its hands in horror at any suggestion that this sovereign Parliament should still have the right to legislate on Church matters, except at the request of the Synod, and that was the gist of the learned Lord Chancellor's speech. Of course, the Government to which the learned Lord Chancellor belongs has not, for example, hesitated to legislate about the trade unions, but it advises us not to legislate about the Church. In the face of the present problem which I have described, the intensely human problem, not only has Parliament the right but I believe it has the duty to intervene. So, one, there is a problem; two, Parliament has the right to deal with it. I now ask another question. What is the source of the disquiet and often the anguish? I believe there are three reasons for this, and I put them in ascending order of importance. First, there is the language question. I think that is probably the least important. We are told the language of the Book of Common Prayer is archaic and therefore it is an impediment to worship, especially in the case of young people. The Bishop of London in our last debate said:"If Church establishment means anything it is Parliament's manifest duty to intervene now to protect the Church's tradition of worship, the right of the laity and a precious part of the English inheritance."
But, we are told, if this language is translated into the language of Oxford Street it is going to be more meaningful and more people will be attracted to church. Everybody I have talked to about this takes exactly the opposite view, especially young people. I think a Gallup poll showed this with regard to young people. It is a mistaken view of the psychology of teenagers to believe that they want this changed; teenagers love the Cranmer Prayer Book language. Why should we not, when talking to God, use the English language at its very best. Why should we not retain the "thee" and "thou" as a mark of our reverence when we address the Almighty? When I go to a service where the word "you" is substituted for "thou" I never say it, I always say "thou", because I have a feeling that if I say the word "you" to the Almighty I am committing a great discourtesy. I am very pleased to hear what the Bishop of Durham said about the Lord's Prayer, but even when it is in the old form it is very often posited up by saying "who" for "which" and "those" for "them". But if the bishops insist, as the Bishop of Durham has done, that we must use the language of Oxford Street to speak to God, why not the dress of Oxford Street for his ministers?"…many for whom the language of Cranmer is meaningless and without relevance".
My Lords, I apologise for interrupting again, but the noble Lord is making so many extraordinary statements that I would be grateful if he would point to the place in my speech where I told this House that we must use the language of Oxford Street.
My Lords, I do not think that the right reverend Prelate mentioned the words "Oxford Street", but I—
My Lords, or anything equivalent? Would the noble Lord please do me the courtesy of reading my speech in Hansard tomorrow and noting very carefully whether I said anything which can be interpreted as anything approaching the way in which he has referred to my speech?
My Lords, if the right reverend Prelate did not say that then, I of course withdraw. However. I fall back on what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London said in the last debate, which I have already quoted, and on what many others have said. I was talking about dress. If we must have modern language why not modern dress for God's ministers? When the bishops go to their cathedrals on Sunday to hail the risen Lord will they be wearing corduroy trousers and pullovers?—of course not. They will wear their richest and most glorious vestments—cloth of gold and all the rest—and rightly so. They will be arrayed like Solomon in all his glory. Why then do they insist that when I go to church on Easter Sunday to hail the risen Lord I have to use the verbal equivalent of corduroy trousers and pullover—and very tatty ones at that?An incumbent said to me some time ago, "How can I stand up before my Midlands congregation with probably a majority of immigrants and say:
and so on?" But why on earth not?—provided that he says it in a meaningful way. Very recently I attended Matins in a small church in the new country of Vanuatu which used to be called the New Hebrides. The service was straight out of the Cranmer Prayer Book. The open-sided church was packed with men, women and children and they loved every minute of it. The Book of Common Prayer was written at the high watermark of the English language and I think that it is right and proper that we should retain it for our worship. The second reason for disquiet is that people find the old language a tremendous comfort—and language can be a comfort. Indeed, the Book of Common Prayer recognises the comfort that people can derive from language in the communion service when it says:"Dearly beloved Brethren, the scripture moveth as in sundry places to acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickednesses. Wherefore I pray and beseech you as many as are here present to accompany me to the Throne of the heavenly Grace saying after me"
and so on. I wonder whether it is sufficiently realised how much comfort people do derive from, for example, the beautiful, cool services of Matins and Evensong. So there is, I think, an acute sense of deprivation of comfort—and comfort is a basic human need. The third reason for disquiet is that I believe that the new language weakens and makes much more diffuse the definition of Church doctrine. The noble Viscount made this point in some detail on the last occasion. I believe that this is the influence of radical theology in the Church which shies away from definition and calls it dogma; it is the theology that has diluted religious education in our schools to a point at which it has become almost meaningless. However, I believe that in this age of waning belief and disintegrating standards the need surely is for clearer definition, not more diffuse definition. I often wonder whether the Church has lost confidence in its own faith to the extent that it, too, is unwilling to define doctrine with clarity. In the Book of Common Prayer there are dozens of memorable phrases which encapsulate the doctrine of the Church of England in the clearest and most unforgettable way. So I think that the reason for the disquiet which causes the problem that we face this evening is, first, a matter of language; secondly, the loss of comfort that the old words gave; and, thirdly, some weakening of doctrine. Finally, it has been said that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton. I have always felt that that was nonsense; it is arithmetical nonsense anyhow. The Battle of Waterloo, as with countless other great endeavours in which our island race has been involved over the centuries, in my view was won in the musty pews of thousands of parish churches across the land, where our forbears learned the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments and the Church Catechism. Their courage, their fortitude, their faith owed very much more to this little book than to any other single factor. They were nurtured on it in their youth; it sustained them in the heat of the day; it comforted them as they grew older. This innocuous looking little book has for three centuries—for 12 generations—been the cornerstone of English life, of English culture and of English morals. We in our generation must be mindful of this heritage, which is now endangered. If the Church, established by law, cannot protect it, the sovereign Parliament of this realm has the right and the duty to do so."Hear what comfortable words our Saviour Christ sayeth"
My Lords, I ask your customary indulgence, which I am sure that I shall need, on addressing this House for the first time, and perhaps especially for addressing your Lordships on a subject which in the last few days has become one of public controversy. I can only hope that although the subject is controversial, I shall be able to handle it in an uncontroversial manner, merely remarking in this preliminary personal apologia that as a doctor of divinity and a regular worshipper in the chapel of which I have the honour to be the ordinary, I do not quite understand the personal remarks about my non-attendance at church made by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor.
My Lords, I hope that my noble friend did not take me too seriously.
My Lords, in these few remarks I wish to make only a few, as I see it, cardinal points. First, it is of course said that the State, by previous enactments, has allowed the Church, in religious matters, a certain amount of autonomy and that the balance thus achieved should not now be disturbed. But autonomy is not independence. Parliament has not surrendered its sovereignty. The authority which grants autonomy grants it within limits, explicit or implied, and if those limits are transgressed, it can—perhaps must—intervene to regulate, redefine or even withdraw such autonomy.If the Church Establishment wants independence, it wants disestablishment. Here I entirely agree with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara. The Church cannot logically demand, as some of its leaders in their recent public pronouncement seem to demand, the absolute freedom of independence combined with all the advantages of establishment. In this particular case I submit that the Church authorities are seeking to break and have, in fact, already broken the express terms of the autonomy conditionally granted to them. They are seeking to change what has been called the lifeblood of the Church. Had they stated openly that this was their intention, would Parliament have granted them that autonomy? I do not think so. But they have adopted what is known as "salami tactics", and now it is they who are effectively disturbing the agreed balance between Church and State; and Parliament, I submit, has the duty in such cases to intervene to protect that balance. Secondly, it is said that this is merely a question of language; that the language of Archbishop Cranmer is not intelligible today; that it is too archaic for common use; that we should put God at His ease by addressing Him in more familiar tones. My Lords, the language of the Prayer Book (as of the Authorised Version) is not unintelligible. Not only is it part of our literature—all our literature is impregnated with it, and will lose part of its resonance without it—it is merely a little more stately, more elevated, than our everyday language, and can very easily be learned. We all use different levels of language. We speak differently perhaps in this House and in our homes; and within this House we speak differently before the Throne and in the bar. Religion requires elevation in language in order to inspire depth of feeling. The House of the Lord may deserve a little more profundity even than the House of Lords. The Lord Chancellor has said that the Prayer Book will not be preserved by legislation; but it will be preserved by use, and that is all that we ask for—continued, guaranteed use. It will be said that this movement in the Church is not confined to the Church of England; that liturgical innovation is a general phenomenon of today: a response to the needs of the time, the demands of the young, the claims of the future. How are we to be sure that this demand for ritual innovation is not like so many other demands of the trendy 1960s? Those of us who live and teach in universities know how quickly such fashions change; but we also know how their former advocates—the unreconstructed trendsetters of yester-year—though increasingly isolated can, by mere survival in key positions, artificially prolong an increasingly obsolete fashion. It would be a tragedy if the inheritance of the Church were to be sacrificed, as it could be, by the mere artificial prolongation of a dated trend. For who are the advocates of these innovations? Let us be clear on this. They are not the Church. The Church is the congregation of the faithful, clergy and lay alike, and it includes many who loyally adhere without pedantically subscribing. That is the difference between a Church and a sect. An established Church has a particular duty towards the laity: a duty of tolerance and comprehension. The laity is not to be dragged unwillingly forward along a particular road by a party of activists exploiting their customary loyalty and deference. I would not venture to use this language on such an occasion merely on my own authority. I am echoing the views of a right reverend Prelate who has written to me and authorised me to quote the words which he says he would himself have used had he been here:
writes the Bishop of Peterborough—"I fear"—
I hope your Lordships will allow me, as a historian, to glance back over the history of the Church of England. Our Church obtained its distinctive character in the 16th century as the result of a revolt of the laity against a clergy which had lost contact with it. A century later, the same Church of England was in its turn overthrown; its hierarchy abolished, its liturgy suppressed, its property sold, even its cathedrals advertised for scrap. Why? Not because the laity repudiated it, but because even the most loyal of them had been temporarily alienated by the "innovations" precipitately imposed by a too radical clerical party within it. They stood aside in its hour of danger, and it fell. How is it, we may ask, that it was, nevertheless, after nearly 20 years of intermission, restored? Because the same laity, during those long years when its outward organisation had been destroyed, kept it alive in the catacombs using, as the last and strongest symbol of its continuing life, the Prayer Book of Archbishop Cranmer. After victory, that liturgy, having proved its almost talismanic power, was reassembled in the 1662 Prayer Book, that very Prayer Book which our modern innovators are seeking quietly to destroy. I hope the laity, which as Cardinal Newman wrote is the real measure of the Church—of any church—will once again prevent such destruction."that members of congregations and parish councils are pusillanimous when it comes to standing up against the few who have a lust for perpetual innovation".
My Lords, it is a great honour and privilege to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Dacre of Glanton, on his excellent maiden speech. I first became aware of his scholarship with his book The Last Days of Hitler, which I read with particular interest when it came out, partly because I knew he was a leading light of an earlier generation at my school and partly because I had been to Hitler's bunker before it was flooded. The noble Lord brings to this House a wealth of scholarship and a deep sense of history and I feel sure I speak for all noble Lords when I say we hope we may often have the benefit of those qualities in the future.While I have a limited amount of sympathy for the basic proposal of the Bill, I deplore that it should come before your Lordships' House in the form of a Bill. I say straight away that I value both the Common Prayer Book, with its expression of Protestant reformed doctrine, and the modern services of the ASB. I use the former for private prayer, but I believe the new forms of worship have brought a freshness and relevance to our corporate worship. Because we no longer think and express ourselves as they did in Tudor and Stuart times and because many of the words and phrases have changed their meaning, it is only right that we should have forms of worship in contemporary English. I do not want to lengthen my speech, but I feel should substantiate that. Not many people have difficulty with words which have obviously changed their meaning; for example, the word "prevent"—very few people think that word in the context means "stop us". But I came upon one example where a subtle change of meaning had misled certainly me for a long time, and that is in the Creed where it says, "Our Lord rose again according to the Scriptures", which I had always understood meant, "as reported by the Scriptures"—as one might say, "as reported by Reuters". But the new form of service has a different way of wording it—"In accordance with the Scriptures"—to show that Our Lord's resurrection was in fact foretold by the Old Testament and was a fulfilment of it. However fine the old English sounds, to many people—and to many people whom I know—it is often simply not intelligible. Furthermore the new services have helped children to be brought into our corporate worship. Despite the occasional distraction that inevitably results from that, I believe that it can be only for the overall good. All the same, one has to recognise that there are some people—many people—who find it uncongenial, or worse, to worship in contemporary English. That is a factor that has to be taken into account, and we must recognise that we have to allow for their feelings. I believe that it is right for the majority in a parish to choose the form of worship to be used, but sensitive consideration needs to be given to the minority views, whatever they are. This is especially the case in rural parishes where there may be only one service each week, or perhaps even less often than that. Even if the proposal in the Bill were to provide the basis of a solution to the problem, it seems to me ludicrous that it could ever be considered appropriate for all kinds and sizes of parish. That is why I believe that this kind of problem is best dealt with at local level, by the parish, with the encouragement of the archdeacon or the bishop, rather than by the sledgehammer of an Act of Parliament. There are two particular reasons why feel that the bringing forward of this Bill is inappropriate. The first reason is the obvious one that the passing of the Bill would certainly be seen in the Church, at any rate in widespread measure in the Church, as contrary at least to the spirit of the Worship and Doctrine Measure of 1974; and would cause much resentment. In my view it would have a retrograde and damaging effect on the relations between Church and State. My second reservation is perhaps less straightforward, but I believe no less important. This debate is bound to receive much publicity, but I do not believe that this publicity will be helpful to the Church, or indeed to the Christian cause in general. The impression is bound to be given that all that Christians, or at least Anglicans, care about is to wage an endless controversy about liturgy; and often, I am afraid to say, we are guilty of waging it without charity—in the 1662 sense of the word, at that. At the very worst we lay ourselves open to the charge of being concerned more with ecclesiastical politics than with the great spiritual, moral and social issues of our day. In many parts of the world the Christian Church is growing at a rate not seen since the Acts of the Apostles. In North and South America, Asia and Africa, the growth can be described as "explosive". Let me give just one example. I believe that there are now more Christians in Kenya than there are in Britain, despite the fact that our population is four times as large. Despite some welcome signs, this growth is not taking place in our country. In the current economic jargon we can perhaps be said to have "bottomed out"—but not much more. Why are we not seeing Christian growth here? Is the fault with the Church? Does it lie with all of us? What is to be done? If there is to be public discussion about Church affairs, as indeed there should be, those are the questions that have a vital relevance to our society. As for the matter of this Bill, it should quietly be resolved within the existing Church framework, and then laid to rest. All that is needed is an element of give and take on both sides. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, having achieved a debate that has attracted so much interest in your Lordships' House, and outside of it, will rest content and will not press the Bill to a Division.
My Lords, rising with trepidation to address your Lordships for the first time, I crave your indulgence. The Bill which is before your Lordships is, I understand, intended to ensure that the parishioners of any parish who so desire should be guaranteed the privilege of worshipping with the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. When the Church of England (Worship and Doctrine) Measure came before your Lordships' House in 1974, the most reverend Primate the then Archbishop of Canterbury stated that the Measure was intended to give the Book of Common Prayer a secure place which could only be altered by the action of Parliament itself. In winding up the debate on that Measure the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of London said:
Moreover, the Church of England (Worship and Doctrine) Measure of 1974 laid down that the powers of the General Synod"I think that I can speak on behalf of those who sit on these Benches when I say that we shall do our best to see in our dioceses that where there are people who love and want the use of the 1662 Prayer Book, then every effort will be made to provide for them".—[Official Report, 14/11/74, col. 941.]
However, there is a somewhat widespread feeling that those who desire to attend services at which the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is used experience difficulty in doing so. I can well understand that an incumbent who does not appreciate the rich flavour of the language of Archbishop Cranmer in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer may regard as retrograde, and even tiresome, those who apply for services at which that book will be used. I fear that some such incumbents, when requested to hold services with the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, only arrange to hold such services at unwanted hours—for instance, 11 a.m. on Tuesdays and not at normal Sunday Matins—and cause those who make this request to feel that they are irritating oddities. In his speech to your Lordships in the debate on 14th November 1974 the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, expressed a fear that the incumbents who do not appreciate the forceful beauty of the language of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer would relegate this book to the vestry and perhaps eventually to the pulping machine. I would venture to suggest to your Lordships that the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is part of our literary heritage, as much as the works of Shakespeare, and that to condemn to oblivion this work, which has been sanctified by centuries of devout use, could be regarded as a sacrilege. This short Bill now before your Lordships is no more than an effort to give parishioners confidence that the undertakings given when the Church of England (Worship and Doctrine) Measure was passed are being and will be carried out. If the Bill now before your Lordships is thrown out and is not replaced by some Measure, be what it may, reaffirming the position of the Book of Common Prayer, I fear this will be regarded by the public as an indication that the leaders of the Church desire that the use of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer should definitely cease."shall be so exercised as to ensure that the forms of service contained in the Book of Common Prayer continue to be available for use in the Church of England".
My Lords, it is my great pleasure to be the first to congratulate the noble Duke, the Duke of Portland, on his distinguished maiden speech. He spoke with brevity and with great sincerity and skill, and I waited with interest to see how non-controversial he would be. The noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, is to be congratulated on getting so many Peers to put their names down to speak in this debate, including the two maiden speakers, better known still for their eminence under other names. We shall look forward to hearing both of them in further debates in your Lordships' House, when perhaps they will be (may I say it?) even less inhibited than they were today.The noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, is to be congratulated on getting so many bishops to attend. Sitting where I do in the Chamber I am relieved that I am on the same side as they are and also not out of sympathy with the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. What I am going to say is for myself and not for my party. Feelings are strong about this Bill. We already have had interesting speeches from all parts of the House. It is right the matter should be discussed. Having said that, I do not like it and do not think it should be taken further. I seek to be brief. First, whatever one feels about the question we are discussing, I believe it would be wrong to override by an Act of Parliament such decisions as the General Synod may make. The Church of England is the established Church. I believe it is capable of keeping its own house in order and should be allowed to do so without compulsion. Secondly, and contrary to what was said by the noble Lords, Lord Sudeley and Lord Glenamara, and following the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham in his distinguished contribution, I, too, should like to refute the argument that the clergy are involved in some sinister plot to impose a new form of worship on an unwilling and resentful congregation. My experience from serving on a church council for 18 years is that we consider all points of view, although it is not possible to keep everybody happy all the time. Our rector is a man of intelligence and integrity and a good capacity for leadership; but if the council say, No, to any of his moves, there is no question but that he falls into line with its opinion. While for the most part using the Alternative Service Book, we have regular services from the traditional Prayer Book and it is most unlikely, if a body of 20 sincerely frustrated parishioners raised any protest with the rector and wardens, that some compromise would not be sought. The right reverend Prelate said that 20 people was a small minority. But if 20 people raised a matter it would be seriously considered. This is a matter of human relations—and on this I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, and that is about the only thing that I agree with him about—and not a question for the law. Thirdly, I like the Alternative Service Book, and increasingly so as I get to know it better. There are magnificent passages, no one doubts, in the old Prayer Book, whether you call it the Cranmer or the 1662 Prayer Book, which I cannot believe will fall completely into disuse. I think it is wrong to think that all inspiration ended several centuries ago and any change is trendy and bad. I humbly submit my impression as a layman (and I think the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, said something of the same thing) that the Church today is moved by a vitality it has not known for years. My grandfather was very musical, but he condemned Tschaikovsky as being too modern for his taste. Habit makes it easier to appreciate what we are familiar with. We should not condemn because at first we do not know the work so well. To summarise, this evening's debate makes plain that there is considerable concern about what is going on in our churches. That is all for the good. I accept that there is disagreement over what the order of service should be, not least when one tries to link up as in my parish with the Catholics or Baptists. I like many of the changes that have been introduced in our worship and I accept that others will differ. I cannot see there is a need of justification for a Bill of this kind. I believe its purpose could best be fulfilled by discussion and perhaps compromise at parish level, if necessary by guidance rather than compulsion.
My Lords, I am honoured at being the first person to be able to speak from these Benches in congratulation of the two maiden speakers that we have heard tonight. The noble Lord, Lord Dacre of Glanton—as yet probably better known as Hugh Trevor-Roper to his enormous body of admirers outside and inside this House—has shown how greatly we are to be advantaged by his having come among us here. May he speak often and on that wide variety of subjects—including history—which he has at his command. To the noble Duke, the Duke of Portland, may I say better—much much better—late than never! We welcome him also very much among us, the bearer of his great title. He brings with him a very great knowledge and experience of the new world of African affairs. May he also often speak in this House.My Lords, I think that it is significant that two such distinguished and different men should have wished to make their maiden speeches in this House on the Bill that is now before us. It is also significant that a similar Bill has been introduced into another place this very afternoon under the 10 Minute Rule, and I actually listened to it from the Gallery of another place this afternoon. It was interesting, to say the least, to see that the other place was well attended and that the Bill was allowed to be introduced by 152 votes to 132. As in your Lordships' House, the powers that be were perhaps not too keen in another place that that should have happened; but it did happen. The arguments there that I listened to were very much the arguments that we must hear and have already heard and will hear again tonight in this House. I think one can sum them up. They really are these. Those who are supporting these Bills say that we need them because provisos and assurances and undertakings that were given do not appear to be being wholly honoured. There is a need for a Bill to reinforce them. Assurances were given in the debate in 1974, which I must refer to again and which has been referred to already, when the Worship and Doctrine Measure of the Synod was put before this House. Assurances were given. Have they been kept in the manner that we and the whole House then anticipated? Of course change is necessary. It is always necessary. We need evolution; we need development. But we have perhaps had revolution instead of evolution. It is agreed by all that there should be alternative services; but the whole point that was agreed and is agreed—and that nobody so far who has spoken denies—is that there should be alternatives and not substitutes. This is what this Bill and the Bill that is before the other place this afternoon give us an opportunity to examine. The arguments against the Bill fall perhaps into two parts: the constitutional one that it would be very undesirable to say now that we are going to take back powers we have given to the Synod and increasingly given to the Synod ever since the enabling Act, I think it was, of 1919, which culminated perhaps in that very all-embracing and fundamental Measure, the Worship and Doctrine Measure. That is what religion is about. It is the two things: doctrine and worship. We are told that to pass Acts now which in any way takes away from the Synod all that has been given would be upsetting and wrong. I am not qualified to speak on those constitutional points, but I am tempted to try to make clear the point that the Church is not yet disestablished. As Our Lord once said, what does it say on the tribute money? As noble Lords will know, it bears the letters DG FD—By the Grace of God, Defender of the Faith—and it is the Sovereign's head which is on the tribute money. The Sovereign acts through her Ministers and through her Parliaments and is still head of the Church. I should have thought that there was room at least for doubt as to whether or not we can still legislate. The noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack said that of course we have the power to legislate on Church matters or on any matters; it is a question of expediency whether we should do so. I think it expedient, at any rate, to talk about it and to think about it. Indeed, every measure that the Synod passes has to pass through your Lordships' House and then the other place before it becomes effective and legal. It is examined by an all-party committee of both Houses which sits in this House under the noble Lord, Lord Cross of Chelsea, and on which I have the honour to sit. The Church sometimes seems to take the view, and likes to speak often, as if it was already disestablished. It is, in a way, already de facto disestablished, but it is certainly not disestablished de jure. If we have doubts, and many people do have doubts, I believe we are entitled in Parliament to legislate so as to ensure that the Church does in fact do what it said it would do if we gave it certain powers. So I, for one, will vote for the Bill. I think we have all the evidence we need to come to a decision in this matter, by reference to two main documents. There are an enormous number of other documents to which we could refer if there were time. The debate in 1974 was a very full debate and it took place at a more humane time; it started at 3 p.m. and finished at 7.30 p.m., and there was no reason why there should be anything but a very full House on that occasion. Then there is the evidence of the ASB—the Alternative Service Book—itself. Taking the 1974 debate first, I should like to quote some of the things that were actually said. For instance, the most reverend Primate Archbishop Ramsay commented at column 871:
He then went on to say what the provisos were."But in order to conserve both the Church's doctrinal identity and the place of the Book of Common Prayer, and the rights of the laity—all three of these needs, my Lords—there are important provisos built into the Measure and sometimes critics of the Measure have overlooked this".
He went on:"In the Measure the Book of Common Prayer remains as one of the Church's standards of doctrine".
This has been said over and over again ever since that day; but if you go further through that debate you will find at other points the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, who was courteous enough to answer the speech I made on that occasion, spoke quite clearly about this. I see he is not in his place and I should have warned him that I would refer to something he said. He said this at column 896:"I believe that this retention of the Prayer Book, both as a standard of doctrine and as a set of forms available when the PCC desires them, is a right means of conserving … The place of the Prayer Book in the Church's standards and the availability of the Prayer Book in the parishes when desired will be alterable only if Parliament were to decide to alter it".
I am afraid that this is what is so worrying, because the age of little pink, green or blue pamphlets has not come to an end. We have now got the Alternative Service Book, the ASB, available. But this is not going to be like the Prayer Book was, in the pews. You cannot read this book. It is more like a motor manual and it is one of those manuals that covers all the different makes of cars. You have to read down one column to follow whether it is referring to the Allegro and not to the Metro. It is not a prayer book, like the other, and it is not very easily available in the churches. It costs £4.50 a time, with the Psalter in it, and when I finally bought my copy from the bookshop in Wells Cathedral—"This is not to be a new prayer book. It is certainly not intended as something which would replace the Book of Common Prayer … The age of little blue and green and pink pamphlets in church cannot go on for ever. Nor can revision, in our generation, go very much further than it has done already".
My Lords, if I may intervene, it does cost much less in the soft cover.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness, my Lords, for telling me there is a cheaper model. But it is not a handy little book that you can use: it is a reference book which tells you all sorts of alternatives. It is a very difficult book to understand at first sight. Of course it has not been in print for very long and I have not had very much time to study it; but you really cannot get on unless you start reading how you are to use it. You need to read page 32, for instance, the general notes, which are called "distinctions in the text". It goes on:
But I cannot find the carburettor! I do not want to be light-hearted, but it is complicated to follow. It has a Psalter, and the lady who sold me this book told me, "Mind you, the mice have been at that, too". I had not realised that it would not be the Psalter that I knew, and that if I looked up Psalms 95 or 121 they would not be the same. This means that we shall not find the Book of Common Prayer bound up in this volume. If we are to have the Book of Common Prayer available and usable, there will have to be two books. That will surely mean the most tremendous confusion, because there are many changes of little words. It is these small changes of little words that are worrying the ordinary layman. Those of your Lord- ships who have studied this will know that they are trivial alterations. For instance,"Distinctions in the Text sections of services with numbers in blue may be omitted. Where a number of options are included in a mandatory part of the service, the rubric governing the options is numbered in black, but the texts themselves are numbered in blue. Texts in bold type are to be said by the congregation".
is now"O, come let us sing unto the Lord",
It will not scan. I said that the little pink pamphlets have not gone, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham hoped they would go. What is beginning to happen is that a certain section of an alternative service, with the optional words which the incumbent has chosen to use, will be "roneod" out on the village machine. We in our diocese shall then have to submit what we wish to use to someone in authority—probably at the diocesan office—to see whether we are using the options aright. What will be the result of this? No two churches in England will be having the same service in the same form, and every time the incumbent changes he will alter it. This has been going on for 15 years, while we have had Series 2 and Series 3. No two churches have celebrated Holy Communion with the same Series 2. So I am afraid that I have to say, from my experience, that the Book of Common Prayer has disappeared and is not in most of the churches now—I am talking of the country churches—in a stack close to the door, or handy when you go in. You will be handed a little pamphlet and a hymn book, or perhaps two hymn books. But we are not going to have what I think so many of us hoped we should have, which is that after the experimentation with the Series 1, 2 and 3, the Synod and the Church, as a whole, would have made up its mind what it wanted to have as alternative services and it would have had them printed and published in one book. In answer to my speech in 1974, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham said, I recall, that my idea that the Book of Common Prayer and the two alternative services should be printed in the same volume was rather a good one. But we have not got that. A new incumbent was appointed quite recently, and there are three disparate churches, congregations and parochial church councils for the man to wrestle with. He is a young clergyman and he had never used the Book of Common Prayer in his theological college. He was unfamiliar with it. Many of us go from church to church to find that service at eight o'clock on Sunday mornings. The assurance given was that the Book of Common Prayer was going to remain with us and always would be used. But it is not even taught in the theological colleges and it is not used very much. If one listens to the wireless one finds that the Book of Common Prayer is not used in the services which are normally broadcast by the BBC. I think that it should be, otherwise there will be endless permutations so that nobody will know where they are or what they are going to find next. As for the already quoted Carlisle diocesan magazine, whether or not that was a personal letter I do not know, but the newsletter editor of that magazine could have checked its publication if he thought that it was unwise. But that was not done. If one were to use the language of Oxford Street for a moment, that letter said, "Let's stop messing about and get on with it. Let's say that we've finished with 1662. No one's using it, so let's say so". I think that let the cat out of the bag. I pray, therefore, that it may not be too late. I know that we are still the established Church. When I know that and when I realise that the Sovereign still is the head of the Church of England I say with real reverence, and meaning what the words say, "Thank God"."O come let us sing out to the Lord".
My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, may I ask him to clarify one point. He spoke about endless combinations and permutations. Why would it make it better to have in the Bill a provision that there should be alternation between the Book of Common Prayer and the Alternative Service Books?
Because, my Lords, the assurance was that new forms of service for all the services—Holy Communion, Matins, Evensong, marriage and so on—would be agreed upon by the Synod and published in an Alternative Service Book but that the old service book would remain to be used on occasions when it was wanted.
My Lords, we have been privileged this evening to listen to two of the most impressive maiden speeches which I have heard in this House. After those speeches, I venture to take part in this debate with an increased recognition of my own inadequacy. I am not well versed in the theology or the inner politics of the established Church. I fear that I take out from church activities much more than I put in. But I care for the Christian religion. I sincerely believe that we shall not truly solve the economic and social problems which occupy so much of the time of this House until we see the principles of the Christian religion more widely accepted and applied. I want to see the influence of the Church extended and strengthened. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham put it, I want the Church to reach out. I would welcome changes in the form of service which genuinely strengthen the authority of the Church and which maintained, widened or deepened its contacts with the world outside: with the infrequent church-goer; with those, as the right reverend Prelate put it, on the fringe; with those who make up the nation at large, if not the congregation on the Sunday.I give my opinion, for what it is worth, that the wording of Series 3 does not extend but tends to diminish the area of influence of our Church. The thinness of the language of this new form of service tends to chill and not to warm the relationship with a wider congregation. Some 12 or 13 years ago, when I had some responsibility for these matters, I recall that there was a suggestion from the Bishops' Benches that we should change the form of service with which we start the proceedings in this House. At the meeting that we had to discuss the matter I asked the most reverend Primate the then Archbishop of Canterbury, "What is the reason for wanting a change?" I ought not to purport to quote his reply after all these years but I remember very distinctly how I reacted. I said to him: "Why, you will be wanting to change the words in the Lord's Prayer next". I put it that way because I thought there was nothing less likely than a change in the words of the prayer so widely known and loved. It seemed to me quite inconceivable that anyone—certainly not a member of the Church, and absolutely certainly no one who held a high position in the Church—would dream of changing the Lord's Prayer. But such was my innocence; even then, it now seems, there were those who thought they could improve on the words that had been recited over the centuries. Such insensitivity baffles me. It implies an inability to understand that the sort of wording, the sound of the wording, has become ingrained in our national life and was often more helpful and more influential, indirectly and subtly, than thousands of sermons delivered to dwindling congregations. Many of us here must have warmed by the way those around us at a service on the parade ground or on the seashore or around the war memorial have joined in the recital of the words they knew, of the Lord's Prayer. The right reverend Prelate said he was prepared to agree that the Synod had "made a mess" of the Lord's Prayer. I was appalled by the expression he used. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said he welcomed the statement. I was appalled by it. "They had made a mess of the Lord's Prayer"! What worries me now is that it is the same line of thought, the same attitude of mind, that made a mess of the Lord's Prayer that wants to substitute the more "with it" wording for the measured language of the 1662 Prayer Book. I am told—and it has been said again today—that the spoken language has changed since 1662, and of course it has, although I remain unconvinced that the "bed-sit" idiom is superior to, or likely to last as long as, the language of Shakespeare or Cranmer. How often have we heard in everyday situations someone say, "I have left undone the things which I ought to have done". The wording in Series 3 confession is cleared. It has all the clarity of a railway timetable. But it will never be quoted outside the Church, as those 1662 words are occasionally. I wonder whether the right reverend Prelate would tell me if that man in the street to whom he referred would ever quote sentences or expressions out of the Series 3 form of service. A friend of mine the other day called my attention to a prime example of superfluous wording. There is the line:
One could very easily imagine the authors of Series 3 whipping out the blue pencil and cutting out one of the words in that line. The result would be crisper, more in keeping with modern usage, but the line would never be heard again. It is said apparently that all these matters are very interesting and may be very relevant, but they should not be discussed in Parliament. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor put that point of view rather more strongly than that. I claim no authority on the constitutional conventions involved, but if I am told—"My love is like a red red rose".
My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord does not wish to misrepresent me. I never said they should not be discussed. I said Parliament was not the correct vehicle for imposing a service inside the Church of England in the form proposed in this Bill.
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord expresses in his own legal language what I was trying to express in my language. I claim no authority on the constitutional conventions involved, but if I am told that the Enabling Act of 1919 opened the way to democratic processes within the Church, which should now be used, then I claim some experience of the workings of democracy. As the right reverend Prelate himself said, any given democratic process can be open to criticism, as the Members on the Liberal Benches so often tell us about our British voting system. The elections to the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party are claimed to be democratic, but there is much dissent nowadays about the decisions of that committee being acceptable by the broad church of the party. Experience indicates that those who emerge to the decision-making summit can sometimes be out of touch with the broader basis of the organisation which they represent.There seems to be some irritation, if not indignation, that Parliament should concern itself with these doctrinal questions. I understand that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London spoke of grave discourtesy, of the breach of faith if we pursued these matters. I would humbly suggest that the time for the officers of the Church of England really to get worried is when Parliament shrugs its shoulders and says, "Let the Church get on with it". The fact that there should be shown this interest in the forms of worship should be, I suggest, a matter of rejoicing. The noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, should be thanked by all of us for maintaining and arousing this interest. I was glad to hear that the Bishop of Durham, as distinct from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, said he welcomed the discussion which it had aroused. I think it will do good. I hope the noble Lord will press his Bill.
My Lords, I shall be very brief because my views, such as they are, have been expressed much better than I could express them in the second leading article in The Times today, which I think should be widely read, particularly on the Bishops' Bench. I wish to make only two short additions. First, I understand on quite good authority that at the theological colleges today the students are indoctrinated with the idea of always choosing the alternative versions, and when the ordinands come out they are all set to use them. I do not know why there should be some sort of antipathy to the traditional. It is a curious idea that the traditional language in the Prayer Book is all right for the élite, but not for the masses because of its archaic language and therefore they should use the alternative versions which are being introduced. If that is true, and the archaic language of the Prayer Book is putting off the masses, then it would seem to follow that Shakespeare's plays, such as Hamlet, would have a much bigger box office draw if they, too, were put into modern language. I do not believe that that would be the effect.My second point has not been made so far. Some years ago I attended a large church in New York, and the service was the American Episcopalian form of service. I was moved by it—it was very much what I was accustomed to in this country. It was rather wonderful. I understand that the Americans are also producing a popular form of service but, of course, it would be quite different from the British form. I do not know whether it will be followed in Australia and other English-speaking countries, but if so I think that it will produce divisiveness instead of unity and that will be a great pity. I do not propose to go into the Division Lobby in support of the Bill, partly because I always try to do what my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor tells me to do, and partly because I think that if we are to have a Synod then it should decide on the form of services. Having said that, I hope that some notice will be taken of the very real feelings that exist—not only in this House, but in the country at large—about the danger that the Prayer Book of 1662 will disappear. I hope that notice will be taken of those feelings. If those concerned do not take notice of them and continue popularising services—some people might say "vulgarising" services—then what will happen is that there will be a slow and steady drift away to the orthodox Church. I am not at all sure that if things went that way I might not follow it myself. I hope that as a result of this debate—which has brought out some very interesting and important views—that will not happen.
My Lords, I should like to say how grateful I am personally to the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, for introducing this debate. I think that we are all very much in his debt. I am a lover of the 1662 Prayer Book, but I think that the problem we face is very well illustrated by the prayers that we have every day here in this House. I love the prayers here. I never miss them if I can possibly help it. I love their beautiful language and I love the biblical thoughts that they express. I always feel strengthened by them.But should not we also direct some of our prayers to the special needs of our time? For example, should we not be praying for Ireland? Should we not be praying for the families of those where tragedies occur almost daily? Should we not be praying about the problems of poverty, both here and in the third world? Should we not be praying for those who are imprisoned? Should we not be praying for those who are sick? Perhaps it might be nice if we were to mention the names of any Members of this House who are known to be seriously ill. However, surely the remedy is not in legislation but in the first case which I mentioned. If there are any other noble Lords who share my views, we ought to go along and perhaps see the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. As regards the beloved 1662 Prayer Book, we ought perhaps to speak up rather more vigorously in our PCCs, rather than attempting to legislate here.
My Lords, first, I should like to begin by offering my most sincere and hearty congratulations to the two maiden speakers who have addressed us for the first time tonight. We all very much enjoyed what they had to say; the robust common sense of the noble Duke and the historical information that was afforded us by the noble Lord, Lord Dacre of Glanton, have both been invaluable contributions to our considerations this evening.Much has been said this evening, and I do not want to cover the same ground again if I can help it and will try to avoid doing so. Basically, I have two concerns. One is on the constitutional issues which have been so ably covered by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. I am bound to say that I am still not entirely happy at his diagnosis of the situation. Surely the question of the relationship between Parliament and the Church of England is in the nature of a compromise, and almost a balancing act. The Church side has been given more and more authority. Each time this happens surely the parliamentary authority is thereby weakened. Surely, by omission on the part of Parliament in playing its correct part, this would amount gradually to opting out of what I would regard as its obligations in relation to the Church of England. The noble and learned Lord also said that what happens in the theological colleges is really no concern of this Bill. I should like to suggest that in one respect that is not so. It is the question of intent within the Church; for if no training is given on the 1662 service, surely it means that its influence and the impact that it has made over the centuries will be gradually eroded. This—for those who have great affection for it and on which I hope to say more later—is a very serious matter indeed. I hope that one of the two right reverend Prelates who are to speak later will be able to say something about this problem. The second problem was the one raised in the debate in 1974 by the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, who voiced doubts that the safeguards provided in the 1974 Measure were adequate. For my part, I am bound to say that those doubts still remain. The noble Earl pointed out that there were massive loopholes, and it seems to me that those loopholes have been used—whether intentionally or not, I do not know—over the last seven years. May I remind your Lordships of the course that that debate took because it has some bearing on the present issue. It was also, as it were, a farewell occasion for the then archbishop. Everyone was anxious to make civil remarks to him to show appreciation of his tenure of office. This was clearly not the moment to have massive criticism of that Bill. Furthermore, we were asked to work to a timetable because the most reverend Primate had to go off to a service. This severely limited our discussion on that occasion. I hope that this will be taken into account when reference is made to the discussion on that occasion. Those doubts still remain in my mind. Nothing that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham said did anything to alter that feeling. He also mentioned—and this again is a matter of concern—that it was wrong to think that a hectoring incumbent could direct his flock into doing what he wanted. I believe this to be very true, but there are very few incumbents who would adopt that attitude. Surely what happens is that he is treated with the proper respect of one having greater knowledge than most of his congregation, and he is listened to with great care. If he uses that authority carefully, it is only too easy for him to unduly influence his flock. I should like to quote an example of which I know which confirms this view. My father was in the habit of having morning prayers. It was in his own chapel, and the rector of the time kindly used to come and take them. We used to have the litany service on Friday mornings. One day—I hope I have this correct—my father noticed that the versicle praying for the nobility was omitted. He thought there must be some mistake, so he listened with particular care the following Friday and noticed the same omission. So he took the rector to task for this and said that he thought that he needed praying for just as much as the other sections of the realm. The rector replied, "This is the new form of service, and I am bound to follow it". I gather something of an impasse occurred after that. I should have thought that my father was in a particularly strong position, but even under those circumstances he was unable to influence the rector concerned. I should have thought it was all the more difficult in the case of a parochial church council, who would not be speaking as one voice, to influence the incumbent if he had determined views. Much has been said about the beauty of the language of the Prayer Book. I entirely concur with that. One additional point I should like to mention arises in part from a remark made by the Bishop of Salisbury at a meeting I recently attended. I hope I am quoting him in substance correctly. He said that he had been much impressed by congregations who cared for the maintenance of their church and the impact which that had on their religious feelings and their determination to support the Church as a whole. He had come to the conclusion that that should be noted very carefully. I believe that was not just because they wished to support their Church. In most cases, particularly in the country, it was a building that had been built by their ancestors to the glory of God and it was a symbol of their belief and, as it were, a symbol of security. The same applies to the Book of Common Prayer. It gives the same sense of security. Its beauty is entrenched in their minds, and although I know some people feel this is not important, I think the vast majority think the beauty of the service matters and helps them in their devotions. Much has been said about the beauty of the language, but little has been said about the feelings of the man who wrote it. I would not pretend to know what they were in great detail, but I was looking through the diary of my ancestor the other day and saw that he noted, under the year 1555, first that:
and a little later:"Dominus Ridley quondam Episcopus London et Dominus Latymer cremati sunt"
I do not quite know the difference between "cremati" and "combustus", but the end result seems much the same. The point is that in both those cases those reverend gentlemen felt so strongly about their beliefs that they were prepared to go to the stake for them, and I should have thought that they centred on the beautiful Book of Common Prayer that Archbishop Cranmer produced and left for us. I wonder whether the present Bench of Bishops would be prepared to go to the stake for their new Book? Would they think it was worth it? Perhaps they would be right if they did not think so. At any rate, I conclude with a quotation from what Bishop Latymer said at the stake to Bishop Ridley:"…Thomas Cranmer quondam Episcopus Cantuar combustus".
This, it seems to me, is the candle that their successors on the Episcopal Bench today are hellbent on extinguishing, and if for no other reason I believe the Bill should receive our support in this House tonight."Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall light such a candle this day by God's grace in England as I trust shall never be put out".
My Lords, at this hour I will be brief and simple. I believe it would be extremely unfortunate and misleading if the debate on the Bill were to appear as a prolonged tug-of-war between friends of the Book of Common Prayer (all laymen) and adversaries of the Prayer Book (all bishops) with the clergy hovering uncomfortably somewhere behind. To start with, it strikes me as an inherent improbability that the members of the Church should be neatly divided in that way, and an improbability also that pastors should be so lacking in pastoral sense, or indeed even in common sense, as to be as impervious as some noble Lords have suggested. Indeed, if the contents of my postbag at all resemble those of the editor of the Daily Telegraph, I should have to be very impervious indeed not to take notice of them, but I must say that they are quite different.If I may speak for myself, I am one of those who came from another Church tradition and became an Anglican largely out of love for the Prayer Book, and a Church of England in which the Prayer Book had been forgotten would be one which I would hardly recognise in its impoverishment. For the record, I may say that after the petition had been presented to the Synod I soon sought to engage in conversation those Oxford members who had been among the signatories, and when I celebrate Holy Communion in my diocesan synod I am careful to alternate between the Book of Common Prayer and one of the modern liturgies. At the same time I am perfectly convinced that to hold that God may be worshipped only in the language of the 16th and 17th centuries, and never in the vernacular of the age in which we live, tells us more about some of his worshippers than it does about God himself. The contention of some Prayer Book enthusiasts that all modern language services are of such unbearable banality that no thinking person can worship in them is simply refuted week by week by large congregations in a great many different parishes that I visit; and of course I make due allowance for the factor of special attendance when the bishop is coming. The conclusion that I draw is that the Church will be wise to maintain (as was written into the Worship and Doctrine Measure) a coexistence of the old and the new, as indeed we have scriptural warrant for thinking to be wise. One may prize antique furniture to the disadvantage of what is modern, but one would think it as unreasonable for a householder to assert that no modern furniture can ever be seemly and serviceable, as for him to throw out of the house every stick that does not belong to the 20th century. Now I do not think that it would be honest or helpful in this debate to deny that in the first flush of liturgical revision the use of the Prayer Book has suffered unduly in some parishes and theological colleges. But there is to be recognised here a genuine problem, which I feel sure your Lordships will have the fairness to recognise. With new forms of service a congregation needs a certain amount of time in order to learn its part, as once it knew its part, at any rate in some churches, with the book of Common Prayer. There is a further problem of how to instruct younger clergy, ordinands, and younger lay members of the Church in the new forms and at the same time to retain the Prayer Book for them, not just as a museum piece, but as a living vehicle of worship. This is a task to which bishops, incumbents, college principals and others have to continue to address themselves, and will have to do so for some time. But now that we have both the provisions of the Worship and Doctrine Measure and the publication of the Alternative Service Book, I do not think that we should despair so early of being able to find a decent equilibrium. When the Prayer Book is presented to worshippers of all ages, its greatness will ensure that it finds younger people as well as older ones to love it, not necessarily in a fundamentalist or uncritical spirit, but with a discernment of the kind of riches that are seldom to be found in a modern liturgy. Pace today's Times leader, these riches of the Prayer Book are not timeless—no liturgy can be that—but the character of their age provides a complement to our own which greatly enlarges the possibilities of worship. My own belief is that we do not require more legislation in this realm, whether by the General Synod or by Parliament. The attempt to regulate a people's religion by legislation is not unknown in our history, but so far as I can observe, it has never converted the British people. The most that we should require is a framework, and this is already adequately provided by the Worship and Doctrine Measure. Within that framework Christians need to be encouraged to look not only on their own things—that is, to judge causes by personal preference—but also on the things of others. That is a task that is proper to a Church—not because it is a clerically-dominated body, without any sense of responsibility to the nation as a whole, but because a Church is a free association of people who are called to live and worship in charity with one another. And that is true of a Church, whatever its constitutional position may happen to be. While therefore I understand the motive of the noble Lord's Bill and do not at all wish to shrug off some of the evidence that has been offered in support of it this evening, I cannot really think that it would conduce to the end which many of us want to see in the Church, and I very much hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw it.
My Lords, I rise in sympathetic support of my noble friend Lord Sudeley, and also to say how grateful we are for the two fine maiden speeches we have had on this subject. First of all, I should like to say that I appreciate the work and intention of those who have been responsible for giving us the the Alternative Service Book. The concern of those of us who feel that the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is still relevant for our present time comes from many deeply-felt convictions. These convictions are held in sincerity, as much as are the convictions of those who are deeply convinced about the new forms of worship.We are certain that the language of the 1662 Prayer Book is relevant for modern life and faith. We believe that this Prayer Book is not something just to be used purely as an academic study or as an archaic experience, but as a form of worship to be experienced and used in a practical way. Religion is not only a matter of theoretical practice, but a deeply emotional act of feeling of heart, mind, soul and body. This has its outward actions and ways of expression of that which is within us. The way religious experience is expressed varies with people, and it is not right that any one view should imply that others are practising worship with inadequate appreciation or understanding. The way of sensing beauty in religious actions and words, and being uplifted to the purity of God, will vary. Language will speak in different ways. This necessity to respect each other's need of language is the fact which has emerged so clearly in recent years, and this need of beautiful and yet familiar language is satisfied for many by the 1662 Prayer Book and, to a large extent, by the Revised Prayer Book of 1928. The need for some revision may be granted, but not the great alterations of the new services. Are we becoming too casual in addressing God? We may be doing a disservice to faith and belief through the great changes in language. We accept the fact that some people are helped by the new services, but we ask that those defending the new outlook will, in their sensitivity, acknowledge that for many of all ages the style of the 1662 Prayer Book is satisfactory. One has learned that the young do not necessarily like the new services. For instance, within a group of 20 school confirmation candidates recently only one liked the new Holy Communion service. Some young people are just as bewildered by attempts to modernise the English as those of us who are older, especially if they feel that the English is poor. We must listen to their point of view, for many yearn for a sense of dignity and beauty in worship which they feel is not always present in the new services. We do not all feel that we want to give the kiss of peace, but that does not mean that we are not feeling loving and kind. Have we found excellence in worship in our new services? For surely we wish for excellence in worship, both in words and in music. Is it not condescending to suppose that those who are not able to take to the new ways are missing the point of true worship? God created man with the ability to develop his gifts. This applies to the offering of worship in the best way of which we are capable. The Prayer Book of 1662 is the way for some, for whom it undeniably represents the highest expression of man's thoughts and aspirations. My Lords, I am in sympathy with and in support of the Motion of my noble friend Lord Sudeley for the protection of the Book of Common Prayer, because this book should be in prominence alongside the new services found in the Alternative Service Book rather than in use as a second best. The souls of many need this book as an equal partner to the new services.
My Lords, I should like to congratu- late the two maiden speakers for their splendid contributions. I hope that we shall hear them more often on other subjects. Also, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Sudeley for presenting this Bill to Parliament and raising this problem again. One point I have noticed which is somewhat unusual is that we have had more Members of another place listening to our debate on this subject than I can remember for many a long day.I think it is a very difficult problem. I feel strongly that we are going astray. It is very difficult for people in the churches—certainly in the parish in which I have attempted to worship during the past few years—to have to deal with constant changes and constant new ways of putting things, changes of translation which do not mean very much to any but the most clever scholars and nothing to the ordinary person. Changes in well-known prayers do not seem to be necessary and are a positive hindrance to people who have got used to old ways. It does not seem to me that it is of any benefit to the youth, either. I think that the youth I have known and met and tried to know in all walks of life have not been impressed by this or that different change. What I think they would look for is a measure of stability. What I think is new—and I am not particularly talking about the Alternative Service Prayer Book itself; for I will come to that in a minute—is that this great mood for constant change to try to improve is also working against stability. I should have thought that stability was one of the great strengths of the Church of England through the ages and one it should hold on to rather than try to lose. As for the Prayer Book itself, like the curate's egg it is good in parts; and the parts that it is good in are those that are used the least. I find a certain pride—although pride is not an appropriate emotion in church—in being able to find my way through it now and am better able to relate it to Series 3 or Series 2. It will take a long time, I think, before we get to a ready way of using this particular new Prayer Book when it is used. These are early days; we have only just got the Prayer Book. As far as I know I am the only person in my parish, apart from the rector, who has a copy. One of the churchwardens is anxiously waiting for her husband to give her one. But I have a fear that whatever may be said by the Synod about having to use the Book of Common Prayer, whatever might be said if this Bill gets a Second Reading and is enacted, it would not really make all that amount of difference. I have an awful fear that this new, rather large book, with all its variations, may find itself being the most useful easy one when everybody has a copy of it and when all the churches have copies, which will be some time yet. People will not want to have two Prayer Books; they will eventually want to settle for one. It is quite clear that all sorts of steps have been taken—for the very best reasons, I have no doubt—to find something which is supplementary in the first place to the Book of Common Prayer; and I have fears that this new book, being a more composite one, will displace it and displace it totally. This will not happen in cathedrals where everything is well regulated and disciplined. This will not happen when the bishop comes to visit. If it is well known that he likes the Book of Common Prayer, it will be "trotted out" for the occasion. However, in the ordinary run of things, I think this will probably be yet one more move to displace it. So from that point of view, I like the thought behind this Bill. But I am not sure that I like the text. We debated this subject earlier on and it was difficult then and it is difficult now to find for a Bill a text which really makes sense and which, as the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack said, cannot be discredited in detail as to an Act of Parliament. So I am not sure about that, but I like the thought and, to that extent, I would certainly go with my noble friend, if he wished so to do, into the Lobby to support this Bill on Second Reading.
My Lords, I am one of those who supported the petition organised by my old friend and colleague Professor Martin. I should like to say to the right reverend Prelate that I am quite certain that so honest a man and so good a scholar as David Martin would not deliberately distort or misinterpret his evidence. My reason for supporting the petition was my deep belief that religion shorn of its poetry is religion seriously diminished. For that reason, I believed it right to support a movement which was asking that the Common Prayer Book should continue to be used; not that no other service book should be introduced but the Common Prayer Book should remain in familiar use for the present generation and the generations to come.Having said that, it should be said—and it has not I think been said sufficiently in this debate—that there are in the Alternative Book prayers of very great beauty and sentences of very great inspiration. It should not be seen as a choice between a Book of Common Prayer of superb beauty and an alternative book of great commonplace. But although I am and remain a supporter of Professor Martin's approach, I cannot in any circumstances support this Bill, for two reasons. In the first place, it seems quite extraordinary to suggest that 20 parishioners out of what may be a very large parish should be able to dictate the form of service on one Sunday in four which is, after all, a thirteenth—is it not?—of all the services held in that parish church. This is a totally disproportionate influence to give to so small a group of parishioners. My second reason—and this is of much greater substance, one which I imagine I share with other Members of the House, though no one else has said it in so many words—is that I am one of those who believe that sooner or later (and, for my part, I hope that it is sooner) the Church in England will establish complete independence from the state. If I believe that, and I do, then it would be totally illogical to say that when the Synod—rightly or wrongly—has made a decision on what must be regarded as a matter for the Church, a matter concerning the form of worship, the state should be asked to intervene and to alter a matter which should, in my view, be under the authority of the Church. I say that, hoping as I do that sooner or later Church affairs will be totally governed by the Church and the state will cease to have any part to play in the governance of the Church.
My Lords, it is always a pleasure listening to great intellects talking well on subjects which they totally comprehend, and history dons on the Book of Common Prayer should fill this category. Lord Dacre of Glanton filled it with distinction. My old and noble friend Lord Portland was, as someone said, trenchant—and trenchant and accurate he was.We must thank the noble Lord, Lord Sudeley, for introducing this Bill. We must also congratulate Viscount Cranbourne, the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury's son, for his success in another place with an identical Bill which the House of Commons has given a First Reading. My Lords, I suggest it is unthinkable for your Lordships' House to reject on Second Reading a Bill which the House of Commons, within the past few hours, has been given leave to introduce.
Several noble Lords: Hear, hear!
My Lords, three main aspects of the Church of England are raised in this debate. In my view, they are: is the Church's new literature a worthy successor to Cranmer and Coverdale? Is Parliament the right place to discuss this change, and does it have any power to alter the decision made in 1974? Thirdly, has the Church of England fulfilled its undertaking, given in 1974? I am not a literary critic and I hold no degree; I make no claim to being an intellectual—but I am convinced that the English of the Alternative Service Book is, as one critic has put it, the English of a Treasury civil servant.In his good and thought-provoking speech, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham said that the Synod had made a hash of the Lord's Prayer. What a confe