House Of Lords
Wednesday, 15th February, 1984.
The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.
Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Carlisle.
The Right Honourable Arthur George Bottomley, OBE, having been created Baron Bottomley, of Middlesbrough in the County of Cleveland, for life—Was, in his robes, introduced between the Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede and the Baroness Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe.
Generic Medical Prescribing
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has been made in their new campaign to encourage generic prescribing by doctors.
My Lords, we have been reviewing the information and advice already provided to doctors on prescribing. We are currently considering ways in which this information could be improved in order to persuade the medical profession of the value of generic prescribing.
My Lords, in thanking the Minister for that Answer, may I further ask him whether a report published by the Royal College of General Practitioners, entitled Prescribing—A Suitable Case for Treatment, which strongly advocates the use of generic terminology, will be taken into consideration by the Government? Secondly, do the Government have views about the colouring of tablets prescribed under the National Health Service?
My Lords, the report to which the noble Lord has referred made a number of recommendations on factors which influence general practitioner prescribing. We are considering these in the context of our planned campaign. It suggests, however, that there are savings to be made through generic prescribing. This is a view which we share. So far as the presentational characteristics are concerned—the colouring, the shape and the size of drugs—the Greenfield Report noted that some patients might have reservations about differences in size, shape and colour, but there is no evidence that such differences are a major problem. I am sure that the manufacturers of generic drugs will respond to demand, should it become a major problem.
My Lords, will the Government consider assisting doctors in this matter by bringing in the recommendations contained in section 24 of Dr. Greenfield's report?
My Lords, the Government have said that they will encourage generic prescribing but that there are problems associated with generic substitution.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that a recent random survey of prescribing by general practitioners which was carried out by St. Mary's Hospital in North London showed that, after receiving information on the cost of their own prescribing, the general practitioners voluntarily reduced their prescription costs by £200 a month? If this were replicated among all general practitioners, is the noble Lord aware that it would represent a saving of £60 million a year? Can he say what action the Department of Health and Social Security is taking to ensure that all doctors are given this information about their own prescribing costs in order that they may do likewise?
My Lords, it is certainly true that not only the effect of generic prescribing but also the quantity of drugs which are prescribed account for a very great deal of the cost. I have seen evidence about information, stored on computers, which can be recalled to show when a patient was last prescribed a drug and, when he comes for a repeat prescription, whether or not it is right that he should have it. That is looked at on its merits by the doctor at the time; but certainly the department will take note of what the noble Lord has said.
My Lords, could not the manufacturers of proprietary medicines be encouraged to show in larger letters the generic name rather than the proprietary name, instead of vice versa?
My Lords, that is a point which will certainly be borne in mind by the manufacturers.
My Lords, I understand the difference between generic prescribing and generic substitution, but would the noble Lord not agree, reverting to his previous answer, that section 24, which advocates generic substitution, will be of very great assistance to doctors?
My Lords, the Government have decided not to adopt generic substitution. The Greenfield Report recommended that pharmacists should, wherever possible, substitute near equivalents. This is already widely practised in hospitals, but in general practice it was felt by many retail pharmacists and doctors that it was impracticable for a number of reasons, not least of which were the problems of quality control and divided responsibility for the treatment of patients.
My Lords, could the Minister tell us how long this practice has existed in hospitals?
Not without notice, my Lords.
Nurses: Employment In Nhs
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the number, if any, of state registered nurses and state enrolled nurses who, have obtained their qualification, cannot find employment in the National Health Service.
My Lords, the information which the noble Lord requests is not available centrally. There may be some local difficulties, but no serious problems in newly-qualified nurses finding jobs have been brought to our attention.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord the Minister for his reply, but is he aware that there have been reports or spasmodic instances where nurses, having completed their training, have been unemployed for a short period? That situation is causing some concern, and does the noble Lord not agree that this is a matter which the DHSS should look at?
My Lords, nurses have never been guaranteed posts on the completion of their training, and there has always been the need for a certain amount of mobility among newly-qualified staff. It is the case at the moment that more nurses have to move from the localities in which they train to obtain posts. I ought to tell the noble Lord also that a good proportion of recorded unemployment in nursing occurs among people whose availability for employment is somewhat restricted. They include, for example, those seeking to return to the nursing service after a break in their careers. As nursing is basically a female occupation, family ties also produce problems, of which the noble Lord will be aware.
My Lords, will the noble Lord the Minister accept from me that there are scores of nurses at present in Westminster Hospital who will be completing their training in June and July of this year, and that they spoke to me no more than 48 hours ago telling of the fears they have that when they do complete their training they will then be forced to sign the unemployment register? If there is no serious risk of that taking place, could not some means be found of telling those young girls so that they will not he worrying about going on to the unemployment register after giving three years of unstinted service to the medical profession?
My Lords, I am afraid that I cannot speak specifically about Westminster Hospital, but I will certainly bear in mind the point that the noble Lord makes. I revert, however, to what I said in answer to his noble friend Lord Molloy: that some measure of mobility will be necessary in many cases.
My Lords, is it not a very unsatisfactory situation, when the Minister cannot give an answer to my noble friend Lord Molloy? Why are accurate figures not available? I understand that the last figures available were in September 1982, and they showed 10,793 qualified nurses unemployed and 8,849 unqualified. Why is it not possible for the noble Lord the Minister to give figures now? Is it because of the cuts in the number of people collecting such statistics? Is this not a thorough waste of the skills and training of nurses at a time when they are surely needed, particularly to deal with an ageing population?
My Lords, I am unable to give a figure because the information to which the noble Lord referred was supplied by the Department of Employment, but following the introduction of the voluntary registration procedure in October 1982, of which the noble Lord will be aware, information about occupation is not available in the unemployment benefit office records, on which the unemployment count is now based.I will go further and say that, unlike the noble Lord, I do not believe it would necessarily serve any particularly useful purpose to collect the information he seeks. So much of it is a question of local conditions, of conditions relating to family activity, and so on, to which I referred when I answered the noble Lord, Lord Molloy.
But with respect, my Lords, surely this is far more than a question of local conditions, because the figures, even as they were reported then, were twice as high as they were in 1979. Is it not a fact that there are nurses now being trained who, on completing their training, will be unable to find employment within the health service?
My Lords, I said when I answered the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, that there would he a period of time, perhaps, when a few people, after they had finished their period of training, would be unemployed. The number of qualified nursing and midwifery staff registered as unemployed in England in September 1982—which is the last date for which figures are available—was 7,057. That was an increase of 1,746 over the previous year. The number registered as unemployed then represented about 2 per cent. of qualified staff and those in training, and we have no reason to believe that that figure of 2 per cent. is any different now.
My Lords, is the noble Lord the Minister aware that it is not just a question of newly-qualified staff not being able to find work? Difficulties are also arising in the case of married women who leave the profession temporarily to have a family and who then wish to return on a part-time basis. Will the Minister look into the availability of work opportunities for those people whose skills would otherwise be wasted?
My Lords, I believe that I covered that point, too, in answer to an earlier supplementary question. The fact remains that the important task in the health service at the moment is to make the best use of the manpower facilities which are available generally, and to make sure that they are more efficiently employed then would be the case if one just hired people to take on responsibilities which could be filled by people already in post.
My Lords, does the noble Lord the Minister not agree with me that nurses make very good wives?
My Lords, I am not sure to whom the noble Lord is married. On the other hand, I am quite sure that he is right.
My Lords, bearing in mind my noble friend's response to the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, is he aware that the House will he extremely gratified to hear that he will bear Lord Fitt's suggestion in mind? However, is he also aware that the noble Lord asked whether it is possible for him or his department to contact the nurses at Westminster Hospital in order to give them some form of comfort in regard to their concerns and worries?
My Lords, essentially that is a matter for the local health authority concerned. I am sure the chairman of the local health authority will note my noble friend's remarks.
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that, according to the Confederation of Health Service Employees, popularly known as the nurses' union, this temporary unemployment of state registered nurses and enrolled nurses might he spasmodic and it varies from region to region? I wonder whether the Minister would be prepared to recommend to regions, where the confederation feels that there is an unnecessary hiatus created when nurses achieve their diplomas and become full-time SRNs and SENs, that they immediately enter into discussions with the confederation with a view to reducing the time during which nurses are unemployed, which is a great waste for the nation, and of course injurious to patients.
My Lords, facilities do exist for representatives of CoHSE to talk to the regions concerned, and of course the regions are in direct contact with the department.
Northern Ireland Administration
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will appoint junior ministers in the Northern Ireland Office drawn from the Unionist parties, the Social Democratic and Labour Party and the Alliance Party.
My Lords, if the Northern Ireland parties were prepared to work together in an administration, the way would be open to devolution of powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly as provided in the Northern Ireland Act 1982.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House for his reply. Would he accept that this suggestion is not an original one but one which has been made by others, including a distinguished Northern Ireland Privy Counsellor? Would the noble Viscount agree that if it were adopted it would be a first step towards power sharing, an incentive to make the Assembly work; and, above all, it would show that the Government are really keen on the political process as they were in 1982 and previously?
My Lords, I accept what the noble Lord says, that it is not an original suggestion. Regarding helping towards power sharing, I should point out that the opportunity for power sharing is available under the present Assembly and under the present Northern Ireland Act 1982. However much people like the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, and I (who were associated in a previous endeavour) may regret it, that failure is there and we have to accept it. As for the proposal helping towards that end, I have to point out to the noble Lord that such proposals as he puts forward would of course create considerable constitutional problems, particularly of collective responsibility.
My Lords, would the noble Viscount the Minister accept from me that there would be no-one more anxious than I to see the political experiment in which he and I were engaged in 1974 resurrected and brought to a successful conclusion? But is it not a fact that there are three major political parties in the North of Ireland: the Official Unionist Party, the Sinn Fein Party and the SDLP, who are at the present moment boycotting that Assembly? If the Government were to accede to the request of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, to create these offices, would that not be regarded as something of a bribe? With the experience that the noble Viscount has had in Northern Ireland, is it not the case that you cannot bribe politicians into that Assembly, that they will only go there when they are convinced that arrangements made to suit their own parties have become foreseeable? At the moment it would seem that the furum deliberating in Dublin may, we all hope, hold some sort of key to enabling those members who are at present boycotting the Assembly to once again put in an attendance.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. There are other people besides the noble Lord and myself who would very much like to have seen the continuation of power sharing, but that was not to be. As for the position today, I very much regret that the Northern Ireland parties in many cases have not seen their way to be able to take part in the Assembly. That is their decision, and the noble Lord is perfectly right. As for the Irish forum, we shall have to see what comes out of that; and the Government will of course consider carefully what is said there.
My Lords, does the noble Viscount appreciate that, except for debates on Northern Ireland orders and Statements—which are, tragically, all too frequent—there is no opportunity for your Lordships to debate the general question of Northern Ireland? Will the Government therefore give an undertaking—whatever the report of the new Ireland forum may be—that there will be a debate in this House?
My Lords, I will consider that through the usual channels. Of course, there are many opportunities for debate in this House; and if I were to concede that point directly, I would expect a certain quid pro quo, as there is a lot of Government legislation to get through the House and I would hope to have support in doing that.
My Lords, does my noble friend accept that the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, highlights the irrelevance of the Northern Ireland Assembly, which less than two-thirds of its members attend? Some of them have boycotted the Assembly almost permanently and I believe that the Assembly costs about £3 million annually. Does not my noble friend the Leader of the House think that the time has come for this rather pointless Assembly to be wound up so that the money, time and effort involved in it could be better spent in combating terrorism and ensuring greater prison security, which must be the Government's prime objective?
My Lords, of course I agree with the noble Lord on the need for security and, indeed, for prison security, in Northern Ireland. Anyone who had my responsibilities there would do so. Equally, I appreciate the problem of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, in that there is need, if we are to be successful in security, to have some political progress, and that is what my right honourable friend was seeking to do through the Assembly. I deeply regret that it has not succeeded and I hope that there may still be a chance that it will.
My Lords, does the noble Viscount agree that there is a political stalemate in Northern Ireland which is assisting the recruitment of men of violence, particularly from the younger generation? Will the noble Viscount give the House a little more encouragement and say that the Government are looking for the opportunity to take a new political initiative which might very well include the suggestions made by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton?
My Lords, I think I should be arousing expectations if I were to give that hope, because it has to be faced that the problems of security in the North are paramount, and must be so. I do not wholly accept the argument about the recruitment of men of violence. I believe that one must realise that there are people who will probably continue with violence, whatever is done, either in the North or the South of Ireland. I fear that that must be said because I feel it very deeply.
My Lords, is the noble Viscount aware that those of us interested in Northern Ireland are grateful to him for not holding out false hopes, of which we have had far too many?
Mr Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, who has had considerable experience in Northern Ireland, as I have. Anyone who has had any experience there and who holds out false hopes is a very unwise person indeed.
My Lords, in his second reply, the noble Viscount mentioned collective responsibility. Could this perhaps be overcome by merely appointing one junior Minister from each of the two main traditions in Northern Ireland?
My Lords, the point I was making was that it is up to my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to decide to whom she offers jobs in her Government. Equally, it is up to the individuals who are offered them to decide whether to accept them. I think the ground of collective responsibility would make it very difficult for some of the people the noble Lord proposes to accept those jobs.
Seat Belt Release: "Highway Code"
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what advice will be given in the next issue of the Highway Code on the need to practise the release of unfamiliar seat belts before starting a journey.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for drawing attention to this particular omission in the Highway Code. The Government will ensure that it is remedied at the time of the next revision. Drivers will be advised to spend a little time prior to starting their journeys explaining to their passengers how the release mechanisms operate.
My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that I am most grateful to him for that Answer?
My Lords, are we to understand from the Minister's reply that the Government do accept there is a need for a standardised release fitting for seat belts? If they do not, is there any reason why? If they do, what discussions are taking place with manufacturers?
My Lords, it would be quite wrong for the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, to make that assumption. I said nothing whatsoever about there being standardised mechanisms. Why not? I thought I answered that when I dealt with a Question from the noble Lord, Lord Diamond, earlier this week, when I gave a full explanation of why the Government do not think that that is an advisable practice to encourage.
My Lords, can the noble Lord tell the House when the next edition of the Highway Code will come out?
My Lords, revisions of the Highway Code take place when a substantial weight of advice in the code requires amending. There are no plans to undertake a revision of the code at present. The last publication was in 1983 and there is a note in it about seat belt wearing, as there is in the Department of Transport's manual called Driving.
My Lords, can the noble Lord tell me how many people read the Highway Code?
My Lords, our understanding is that most people who apply for a driving licence, and receive a free copy, read it. I have on more than one occasion suggested that more people should acquire the code, which costs only 50 pence. I also suggested in an Answer only a few months ago that if some noble Lords would also take the code and disseminate the information in it that might be for the benefit of all drivers.
My Lords, with the leave of the House I should like to say a word about the two short debates this afternoon. In the normal way, adopting the principle that the mover is entitled to 15 minutes and that the Minister should rise to reply no later than 20 minutes before the scheduled end of the debate, I should have announced the maximum time that could be taken by each noble Lord without incurring the danger of depriving later speakers in the debate.As such a limit would have been as much as 14 minutes in the case of the second debate, standing in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, and even longer in the case of the first, standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, no such formal limits need be proposed. But I believe that the House would appreciate it if noble Lords would exercise a similar discipline voluntarily in order that the essential character of these short debates should be preserved.
Law Of The Sea Treaty
rose to call attention to the situation regarding the Law of the Sea Treaty; and to move for Papers.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have the privilege of raising in this House a matter of great international importance. We realise its importance when we remember that the oceans of the world make up more than 70 per cent. of the surface of the globe. It is also a joy to be able to refer in this House to an international negotiation which has been going forward for much more than a decade and which has been a very remarkable and most admirable success. The result, as we all know, was that at Montego Bay in Jamaica in December 1982, 118 nations were immediately able to sign the convention which had been worked out in the previous years and give it their full support. It was a remarkable achievement. Some people say there has been no other achievement to compare with it in international negotiation.
So we have before us a set of proposals worked out with the utmost care over a long period, dealing with a whole range of subjects. I cannot deal with them adequately this afternoon. There is a whole range of difficult and complicated questions—the rights of states having their borders on the sea; exclusive economic zones; the rights of navigation; the question of fishing rights; matters of pollution; matters of research. All these complicated matters are dealt with in the agreed report put forward over a period of more than two decades of deliberation, with the result that we have before us now a book of nearly 200 pages setting out the results of the deliberations and negotiations which have been going forward successfully for so long. It is a very remarkable achievement.
If I may, I will go back to my own recollection of the General Assembly of the United Nations many years ago. We were about to go into the annual meeting of the General Assembly, which, as noble Lords know, starts in September each year. The general committee had given thought and care to the agenda for the year, and it was accepted and agreed. But I well remember that at the last moment, when we were about to go into the assembly, the representative of a very small country indeed came forward and said they had a new main matter for the General Assembly. This was greeted with general irritation. Was it necessary to go back and consider again the whole agenda of a year's deliberations on account of a request put forward by Ambassador Pardo of Malta? What was it he wanted to raise?
Ambassador Pardo of Malta said he wanted to raise the question of the deep-sea bed. This was greeted with general consternation. What was it that Ambassador Pardo wanted to say? Ambassador Pardo said he understood there were riches in the deep-sea bed in the resources of the sea. The attitude was, "Well, maybe—who can tell? What do you want to say about it?" Ambassador Pardo wanted to propose that it should be decided by the world assembly on this occasion, and without delay, that the riches of the deep-sea bed should not be used only to make the rich nations richer or merely to bring benefits to the great, rich companies that had the capacity to undertake the exploration. He wanted to propose that the riches of the deep-sea bed should be the common heritage of all mankind.
There was almost disbelief that such a proposal should be put forward. It was thought there would be a few speeches and it would be forgotten. Not at all. Ambassador Pardo was not prepared to be pushed aside. As the assembly went forward in that year we began to realise that we were going to have to vote on this extraordinary proposition. I remember the day of the vote, and I remember the vote very well. A sort of gasp went up. The vote in favour of the proposition put forward by Ambassador Pardo of Malta was accepted by 99 to nil. I thought it might be a very important day in history that the oceans of the world were going to be dealt with in future under a principle never yet accepted—the principle of the resources of the sea being the common heritage of mankind. That was the occasion which I remember so well from New York at that time.
What happened? Following that meeting of the assembly a series of committees were established over a period getting on for 15 years, during which every aspect of the question of the sea and its resources was discussed. The greatest effort was made to reach agreement by consensus. Ambassador Pardo of Malta led the discussions in the early stages. He was followed by Ambassador Aramasinghe of Sri Lanka. He died, and the discussions were followed up again by Ambassador Tommy Koh of Singapore, one of the most influential and effective representatives at the United Nations. I like to think that the work which was done so deliberately, so successfully, was carried out under the leadership of three Commonwealth representatives from Malta, Sri Lanka and Singapore. We owe a great deal to those three remarkable, dedicated men. They pursued this matter with the utmost care, with a readiness to listen to all sides and with a determination to succeed, with the result that we saw the vote which took place at Montego Bay in Jamaica at the World Conference at the end of 1982. That was an historic achievement.
I like to tell the story of this idea—this ideology, if one likes—in regard to the greatest remaining asset of the world. It was attacked and undertaken by three remarkable men from the British Commonwealth who have led the world in establishing a convention, as we call it, which covers every aspect of the use and resources of the seas. I repeat, it was a remarkable achievement.
What happened then? Let us turn now to deal with the challenge which is made from the United States of America. The United States has sought to bring the whole of this enterprise to an end. When it came to the vote in Montego Bay, four countries voted against: the United States, Israel, Venezuela, and Turkey. In the face of those four negative votes against 118 who were in favour, there were 17 abstentions, including, I am sad and ashamed to say, an abstention by the United Kingdom.
Therefore we have a situation in which the work was done by dedicated men in the cause of the whole world. Among the provisions was the most controversial of all—that for the encouragement and control of the mining of the mineral resources of the sea. That was the one item which excited the most furious comment and to which the United States and others objected. So we are faced with the following situation. Are the United States, supported by—or not supported by, but at any rate earning the aquiescence of—the United Kingdom and other states owing perhaps particular allegiance to them, to destroy the conception which arose on that great day, when, by 99 to nil, the General Assembly of the United Nations decided that the resources of the sea should be the common heritage of mankind? Is that to be the result? Are we to see the whole thing come to a disgraceful end?
There are three points that I should like to remember in this respect. What will happen if the United States, with a few accomplices, believes that it can destroy all that has been done and that the enterprise which was brought to such a conclusion in Montego Bay should come to nothing? What will happen if the attempt to disrupt, to destroy the whole of this conception, succeeds, and if, as we have heard, the United States attempts to make a treaty not of all states, but of the few states which would be prepared to work with them? If the United States so intend, as was made very clear at Montego Bay and elsewhere, then they will excite the fiercest opposition from the great majority of the countries of the world. Therefore we wait to see what will happen.
I greatly hope that our country could make a contribution to ending the deadlock. The world has declared, and the United States has denied. It is for us very largely to lead the European opinion because in the vote at least five countries from Europe voted in favour, and nearly the whole of the Commonwealth, including Canada and Australia, also voted in favour. We were struck by the fact that at Montego Bay, when it was clear that the United Kingdom was undecided, Nigeria turned on us and asked, "Is it true that the United Kingdom is to divorce itself from the Commonwealth on a matter of world importance?" Yes, it is a matter of world importance in which our part will be important.
I believe that there can still be time to reconsider because under the provisions of the convention the preparatory commission is to work until December of this year; originally it was given two years. Therefore it is not too late for our country to sign the convention and then to take a full part in the preparations for the establishment of the International Sea-Bed Authority and the tribunal (which is to be established in the Netherlands) to deal with all questions of the law of the sea. I am glad to say that the International Sea-Bed Authority will be established in Jamaica, and the International Tribunal to deal with questions arising from the new treaty, the new law, will be in the Netherlands. That is quite suitable, remembering Grotius and his leadership in requiring that the sea should not be the property of any one nation, but should be to the benefit of all.
So I would hope that our country can make a positive contribution, and I would hope, too, that it may even be possible that the United States will say, "Let us think again, let us be prepared not to deny, to thwart and to frustrate, but to co-operate and to participate". I believe that both of those things are possible, and I hope that when the noble Baroness addresses the House presently she will not rule out the possibility that while there is still time we can make a positive, instead of a negative, contribution.
In considering this matter it occurred to me that it may well be that Britannia no longer rules the waves. But surely we have not come to a stage when we should be slaves to American vetoes. Therefore I greatly hope that in this matter of the future of the seas this country can make a positive, a constructive, and a helpful contribution. I beg to move for Papers.
My Lords, the House is much indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, for bringing this question before us this afternoon, and for reminding us of the general shape of the history of this convention, which he himself played such a part in bringing about. Ever since it appeared that the incoming Reagan Administration were going to backtrack on this matter, we from these Benches have been asking the Government to do what they can to cause the United States to desist from that course, and to consider whether they should not sign even without the United States.This morning I was looking up the record and I turned back more than two years, to December 1981, when, I found, we asked the Government to do what they could,
The beginner's blunder has not been rectified, and so far our own complicity with that blunder has not been rectified either; our composition of the blunder is compounded. Now, what kind of convention is this? It has been signed by 132 countries. There is a limited period for signature, and this afternoon it will be my burden that we should jolly well sign before the limited period is up. It is essentially a package of rights and duties. Like all good international conventions, it contains some things for some parties, and other things for other parties; no right without a duty, no duty without a right. Secondly, it is not just a codification of existing international law—as so many conventions are. It takes entirely new steps in the organisation of human affairs, unprecedented in other fields. The main new step is the one which the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, described so eloquently; and that relates to the authority and the tribunal dealing with mining the mineral wealth lying on the deep seabed. It does not confer any rights on any states. It cannot do that, because the high seas and the ground under them have always been, as lawyers call it, res communis, meaning the property of everyone. They have not been the property of nobody, res nullius. In the case of res nullius, anyone can go along and grab. In the case of res communis, no one can grab without general consent. The high seas have always been res communis. This convention merely declares and confirms that fact. It provides a system of administration whereby states may go along and occupy a bit of the seabed for mining purposes with general consent and to the general good. Since the convention was opened for signature there has been a resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations seeking to put right the present, we hope, temporary deadlock. The resolution calls upon all states,"to bring the new American Administration to their senses after what appeared to be a beginner's blunder".
That unified character is what I have just described—the rights and duties. It appeals to all states,"to safeguard the unified character of the convention".
To abstain from signing is such an action. I should like the House to listen to the words of Ambassador Tommy Koh of Singapore, whose role in this matter was praised by the noble Lord, Lord Caradon. He has said that,"to refrain from taking any action directed at undermining the convention or defeating its objects".
Let us think for a moment of what those consequences might be. We will be in a world where the overwhelming majority of members of the United Nations belong to the convention. In due course, when it becomes economically possible, the rich nations want to go and mine. They do not belong to the convention. Out they go. They occupy a bit of the seabed. They commit vast economic, engineering and financial resources to the extraction and the raising of the nodules. The plant is entirely vulnerable. They are on the high seas. If anyone interferes with the operation, the decent opinion of mankind will not be on the side of the mining enterprise. It will be on the side of the interferer. It might be possible—I do not know—it would certainly be plausible if the signatories of the convention, the majority of the human race, were to accuse the mining companies of a sort of piracy against the convention. At any rate, it would be a situation very far indeed from one of political, legal and even military security that will be needed by industry if they are to commit these huge resources to mining. Ambassador Koh's warning is not hot air; it is extremely concrete. Let me turn now to the other side of the treaty which the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, did not emphasise so much. I refer to the other things in the convention; the other reasons for which we want it. We want it for defence reasons. It would underpin a law that we might make preventing the operation of undersea tanks, or creepy-crawlies as they are called, on our own continental shelf. We have no means of forbidding that at the moment. It would underpin any regulations we might make to compel unknown submarines to surface in our own economic zone. It would underpin the extension of territorial water to 12 miles, which we need partly for defence reasons and partly for environmental control. We also need the underpinning of traditional navigation rights—rights of free passage, rights of innocent passage and rights of passage through international straits. If we do not sign the great embracing document that codifies all that and advances it, let us think in advance what will be our standing in international courts and tribunals compared with that of those who have signed. It seems to us that the Prime Minister has now begun to re-examine some of the early Reagan policies with an admirably beady eye. To judge by her attitude in Hungary recently, by her emphasis on the value and importance of international law in the Grenada case, and by her way of getting out of the Lebanon, which was so much quieter and wiser than the way chosen by the United States, it seems to us that the time has come when it might be possible for the Government to reconsider their support of the United States attitude on the Law of the Sea Convention. It is the next Reagan policy that should be reviewed. I do not want to use the word "dishonourable"—it was not dishonourable, but it is a fact that after three Presidents before President Reagan had gone into the negotiations, leading from the front with a tremendous appearance of political commitment and with a great deal of specialised knowledge that only very advanced countries possess, the fourth President suddenly turned round, fired his chief negotiator and denounced the earlier commitment. The United States now seems to be grabbing the quids in this balanced arrangement, and withholding the quos. There is no particular political beauty of wisdom in that attitude. We should not endorse it. Why are the Government endorsing it? Is it possible that they were not getting as wide a spectrum of advice as they might have been getting? There is no point in probing the advice that the Government are getting. One must take their sayings at face value. However, it seemed noticeable at one stage that Mr. MacGregor, the present chairman of the National Coal Board and formerly chairman of British Steel, was having some influence in setting the Government's attitudes. He has expounded his views in public. It was shown subsequently that they were not based on adequate study of the treaty or adequate knowledge of the policies and possibilities of other countries. There are two main things about seabed exploitation which should give us good reason to go ahead with signing now. The first is that it is certainly not an attractive economic proposition for quite a long time. The words of—who better placed than he—the chairman of the RTZ Deep Sea-Mining Enterprises recently were that it certainly will not pay this century and probably not for several decades. It is hard to see who is likely to have inquired further into the matter than that particular industrialist. I contend that since there is nothing doing economically for a good many years, it would be wise for the nations of the world, including ourselves, to take the opportunity now of setting up a system, when there is no heat on, getting ready for the time when the heat comes on. Mr. Rifkind made what I thought was a not very impressive speech in the House of Commons two months ago saying that we could not afford to finance the international authority at the moment before there were any revenues coming in. That was a self-defeating argument. If no revenues are coming in, it is because no licences have been issued. If no licences have been issued, there is no work to be done except the setting up of the merest advance guard to get things prepared over the next period of a good many years. The second reason that we should sign is that which I have already adumbrated. It would be very draughty for the mining exploiters in 20 or 30 years' time if we do not. What protection would be provided by the sort of mini-treaties that the United States is now proposing, not with poorer countries that could benefit, but with other rich countries and mining countries—a network of treaties among the rich and privileged nations of the world? I think it will be rather poor. As I was saying, it would be very much open to attack politically and juridically. I note that the Japanese Government—who have a habit of knowing on which side their bread is buttered in advanced industrial technology—are already preparing the domestic legislation which they will need when they sign."any attempt by any State, or group of States, to mine the resources of the deep seabed outside the Convention will incur the condemnation of the international community, as well as grave political and legal consequences".
My Lords, may I just add to the noble Lord's comments on this matter that in my personal experience there is an enormous possibility for technological transfer in this area? I have been personally involved in a project known as "the ocean thermal conversion technology", in which I believe that our expertise in the United Kingdom could add enormously to developing the resources of the deep sea, and in which I believe we shall be—
My Lords, is the noble Lord asking a question or making a statement?
My Lords, I am putting this point to the noble Lord as something that could add to his comments.
My Lords, I take it that the noble Lord shares my opinion that all this could be better done if we were signatories to the treaty, and I thank him very much for his intervention.Perhaps when the Minister of State comes to reply she will be able to answer a couple of questions along the line. First, now that the negotiations are over, what has happened to the inter-departmental committee in Whitehall which hacked up the negotiators? Is it still there? In our view it would be a very good thing if it were still there. Secondly, what is the present situation as regards signature and ratification among the European Community nations? On the last occasion when we inquired a year or two ago, they were divided. Is that still the case? In conclusion, let me say that we believe that President Reagan was wrong in the first place, and he is still wrong. We believe that the Government were wrong to go along with him, and we hope that they will soon put matters right. It is probably in American interests and it is certainly in British interests that we should sign, and we hope that the Prime Minister will point this out to the President with all the clarity for which she is famous. It has been a sad interlude of short sight. Luckily, there is still time to put things right, and I hope that the Minister of State can tell us later this afternoon that the process has already begun.
My Lords, the whole House will be grateful to my noble friend Lord Caradon, first, for his powerful and moving speech and, secondly, for giving the House, by introducing this Motion, the opportunity to debate the Law of the Sea Treaty. I would also—if I may say so on my own behalf—like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for his probing speech running to the heart of much what we are to discuss.It is not the first time for me personally to be associated with my noble friend Lord Caradon on maritime matters. I sat alongside him some years ago on the Security Council when he was our greatly respected Ambassador at the United Nations and he introduced the Beira Resolution in an attempt, by means of the Royal Navy, to enforce oil sanctions against the illegal Smith régime. As a major trade-dependent maritime nation, Britain has a vital interest in the achievement of a body of international rules for using the sea whose legitimacy is recognised throughout the world. We are one of the countries most vulnerable to the absence of a generally accepted régime of the sea—over three lost "cod wars" have brought that home to us. In the light of that, and of other considerations that have been referred to already, it is deeply regrettable that the Government have failed to sign the Law of the Sea Convention, particularly in view of the fact—as my noble friend Lord Caradon has said—that no less than 118 states have already signed the convention. It is significant that a greatly concerned and well-informed body—namely, the General Council of British Shipping—has stressed that the convention's provisions on freedom of navigation and pollution are a considerable advance on the present régime. The council points out by way of example—and the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has identified one or two himself—that they establish the width of the territorial sea at 12 miles. A number of countries claim limits in excess of this, and in some instances 200 miles. They define innocent passage and, most importantly, make it clear that coastal states cannot, unless they are implementing international agreements, make regulations with regard to design, construction, equipment and manning affecting foreign ships in innocent passage. They set up a regime for straits which gives a right of transit which cannot be suspended. They establish a régime for archipelagoes. They impose duties on states to preserve the marine environment. They provide for the settlement of disputes and the rapid release of ships when security is available. Those are all most valuable provisions which are substantially lacking at this time, and which certainly need enforcement. They are all provisions of immense value to all who go down to the sea in ships. As I understand it, the Government's main ground for not signing the convention is because of its deep seabed mining provisions. This, of course, has been the main concern of the powerful mining lobby in the United States—to which my noble friend Lord Caradon has referred—which has made a great deal of the running in the opposition to the convention. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office have kindly supplied us with a note which states—and I hope that the noble Baroness has been supplied with a copy of it—that they:
However, as I understand it, the difficulty is that, as we have refused to sign the convention, we shall have no vote in the proceedings of the Preparatory Commission. We have, to that extent, diminished our own power to influence the course of the deliberations. In any event, it is by no means clear that this country's mining and mineral access interests would be substantially impaired by our acceptance of the convention's proposals. Those who are expert in the field seem to think that they will not be impaired. Secondly, there is reason to believe—and I think that the noble Lord. Lord Kennet, touched upon this—that, for economic reasons, deep seabed mining is not likely to be a commercial proposition for a very long time to come. Indeed, the General Council of British Shipping has concluded that the prospect that any mining will take place in this century is now remote. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has referred to the views of the chairman of RTZ on this matter. I was struck to know that both BP and Shell, which are potential miners, consider that safe navigation outweighs any potential mining benefit, and for us, as a seafaring nation, that is a primary consideration; that is where the vital major British interest lies. We stand to gain rather than to lose by this convention. It represents a very serious effort by the whole international community over the prolonged period from 1973 to 1982 to create a world order in shipping which is already acceptable to the vast majority of states. They have also worked to thresh out an agreed regime governing an important part of the earth's resources. If that attempt proves unsuccessful largely because of the opposition of interested elements in the United States—and I understand that the Administration of that country is by no means unanimous in its opposition to signature of the convention—there is a very real danger that governments will become extremely disillusioned about the possibility of resolving their differences and dealing with some major problems of our planet through negotiation. The alternative to fulfilment of the convention and acceptance of it is fragmentation of the law in this important field and an increasing slide towards conflict and towards the sort of considerations which, as my noble friend said in introducing the famous motion in the United Nations in 1967, led the ambassador to Malta to do what he did. The attitude of submission to the course of separateness, of refusal to join in this world endeavour, could well spread beyond the confines of the law of the sea. If this great effort, which the vast majority of the nations of the world have joined in, is frustrated by powerful single interests, the future for the world will be very serious indeed. I am striking a somewhat sombre note on this matter because I think it is right to do so. There is still time for this country—this nation of, above all, seafaring men—to redeem the errors of the past and now, before the end of December, to sign this convention and to take its traditional place as proponents of the international law of the sea and of the rule of law itself."are working to try to obtain improvements at the Preparatory Commission set up to prepare for the deep seabed mining aspects of the convention".
My Lords, I should like to add my words of thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, for raising this important subject. It is, indeed, most important, and not the least so because the Law of the Sea Treaty sets out to regulate the development of the vast mineral resources which are known to exist on the floor of the ocean. The noble Lord, Lord Caradon, has spoken eloquently that these should become a common heritage, and who can deny that hope and aspiration? But I fear that the clauses of the Law of the Sea Treaty as currently drafted will effectively deny these resources.What are the facts? There are immense quantities of nodules in the middle of the Pacific, four-and-a-half kilometres down, containing huge mineralisations-up to some 30 per cent. Unfortunately, nine-tenths of the mineralisation is in manganese, which is readily available in great quantities on land; but the remaining 3 per cent.—nickel, copper and cobalt—represents, in the case of nickel, five times the known resources on land; and the copper and cobalt are of vast world importance. There are many problems in bringing the metals to market, and the first and most important, and the most difficult, is to get them up out of the sea. The problem has been studied and worked on by five consortia of mining companies and, indeed, nationalised companies. Here I should declare an interest as I am a director of a Belgian company, Union Minière, which is one of the participants in a consortium. They have spent a great deal of money and have made some progress. They have succeeded in lifting about 500 tonnes of nodules, which is no mean achievement, using a method of suction rather like a vast elephant trunk sucking them from the deep. But 500 tonnes is minimal when compared to the requirement for a commercial operation, which is 10,000 tonnes a day or 3 million tonnes a year. There is a great amount of work to be done. It has been estimated that it might take 10 years of effort and development to get a commercial operation started. But, in fact, all work has now stopped, for which there are two reasons. The first concerns the commercial factors of the market for metals. It would require an increase of some 50 per cent. in the price of these metals, as well as a conviction that this would continue, which is very different from an immediate rise, to make it commercially possible. Secondly, there are the provisions of the Law of the Sea Treaty. A commercial enterprise is estimated to require perhaps 250 million dollars of development and an investment of one-and-a-half billion dollars. I do not think that any commercial enterprise or group of companies will endeavour to undertake any such thing without the security of tenure which should come from the Law of the Sea Treaty. I do not believe that the limited national companies would give those assurances. There are four major disadvantages in the Law of the Sea Treaty as at present drafted. As your Lordships know, the Law of the Sea Treaty creates an authority to administer, and the authority creates an enterprise which itself would become a mining company. The first difficulty is that any company or group of companies signing the treaty would be required to turn all their technology over to the enterprise. That is mandatory. Unless they made it available, they would not be allowed to use it themselves. Secondly, any area which it is proposed to develop would have to be shared with the enterprise half and half, and the enterprise would take the best half—it has a right to choose. Thirdly, there is control of production with the object, in part, to control the market for metals. Finally, there is a very heavy levy based upon the content of minerals, ranging from 5 per cent. to 12 per cent. of their value; or the alternative of a lower levy on the minerals, 2 per cent. to 4 per cent., and a levy on ultimate profits ranging from 35 per cent. to 70 per cent. I am a commercial man, and collectively these are damning. Although I believe that commercial enterprises can take a long view and that efforts would continue to develop the possibilities of mining from the sea bed, with the Law of the Sea Treaty in its present form nothing will be done. It seems to follow that if the Law of the Sea Treaty is accepted in its present form, it will in effect deny the advantages which the nodules may one day bring to the world at large. Therefore, I believe that Her Majesty's Government are entirely right to withhold their signature from the Law of the Sea Treaty in its present form and to continue in their endeavours to achieve realistic changes in the clauses affecting, in particular, deep sea mining.
My Lords, I am sure that all your Lordships will agree that it was a tremendous pleasure and privilege to listen to the superb speech of the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, whom I shall always associate with his splendid achievements in Jordan and Palestine (as it then was), and subsequently at the United Nations. But this afternoon the noble Lord has asked us to examine this very important convention on the law of the sea, and although I am no expert in international law, for many years of my diplomatic career—in fact, intermittently from 1952 to 1958 and then continuously from 1963 to 1967—I was involved in the delimitation and demarcation of frontiers in an area which some call the Persian Gulf, which others call the Arabian Gulf and which yet others—myself among them—refer to merely as the Gulf. It is in the context of frontier demarcations, and also the settlement of disputes arising from them, that I would give the most warm welcome to this new convention. Above all, I should like to emphasise—and I hope to bring this out subsequently in my speech—that it is a great improvement on its predecessor, the convention of 1958 which stemmed from the first Law of the Sea Conference in Geneva of that year.Before I start talking about frontiers, I cannot refrain from commenting on two articles in this new convention which immediately caught my eye. They are Articles 99 and 100, which deal with the transport of slaves and the repression of piracy. However out of date such provisions may appear today, perhaps I may remind your Lordships that it was in 1853 that Her Majesty's Government concluded what was called the Treaty of Perpetual Truce with certain states in the Gulf which subsequently became the Trucial States and now are the United Arab Emirates. That was more than 100 years ago, but in 1953, when I started working in that area, slavery was still quite common; domestic slavery, even a little slave trading, and piracy too. Perhaps I may remind your Lordships that it was only a few months ago that slavery was finally abolished in Mauritania. I well remember when I was in the Trucial States, as they were then, that any slave who wanted to claim his freedom had only to go and grasp the flagpole of the British Agency. Similarly, I am delighted to see that in Article 100 of this new convention any slave who boards a ship, no matter what flag it may be flying, can, ipso facto, claim his or her freedom. I must return to the frontiers. Whereas the Arabs of the Gulf area had clear and well thought-out ideas about their claims to oases in the desert and similarly to islands at sea, nevertheless the Western concept of a frontier as a straight line or a curved line, or even a line at all, was totally alien to their thinking. So it was that whereas in the desert all such settlements allowed the bedouin to roam at will seeking vegetation, grazing for their camels, and so on, similarly at sea the early settlements allowed the pearl divers and the fishermen to work the various pearling banks in the areas of Qatar, Bahrain, and the Trucial States. Similarly the 1958 Saudi-Bahrain seabed agreement provided Bahrain with pearling rights within the continental shelf of Abu Dhabi. But whereas such arrangements were of course admirably suited to the needs of the bedouin and the simple fishermen and pearl divers, they were totally inadequate when the oil companies—British Petroleum, the Iraq Petroleum Company, and subsequently other companies—started exploring for oil in 1949. A large number of problems arose which I need not deal with now; but it is interesting to note that the problems of those of us concerned with these settlements were to some extent simplified by the extraordinary habit of the bedouin of naming almost every rock and prominent feature like sand dunes, and even trees. I remember on one occasion spending no fewer than eight days trying to determine the ownership of one crucial tree. Similarly at sea certain areas had their names quite apart from rocks, shoals, reefs, and so on. One of the earliest settlements that was reached was that between Qatar and Bahrain in 1947. This is generally considered to have been an unsatisfactory settlement. I would put to you that it was unsatisfactory because there were no clear guidelines on which to work. Thus, the settlement has been—and I think I am right in saying still is—disputed. Here I come to what I consider another important point, and this was touched upon by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones. Among the other admirable provisions in this treaty we see in Articles 186 to 191 and 279 to 299 admirable, comprehensive provisions for the settlement of disputes. There is even provision for the establishment of a seabed disputes chamber. What a splendid idea! By contrast with this somewhat unsatisfactory settlement, the 1969 Abu Dhabi Qatar continental shelf settlement was much more satisfactory, and I think the reason for this was that those responsible for it had the guidelines of the 1958 convention. In the settlement of all these frontiers the definition of the continental shelf was an important consideration, though not the sole one. There was of course the consideration of the median lines and other similar considerations. But here again I draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that this new convention is a great improvement on that of 1958. In particular, I refer to Articles 76 to 85. But of course when it came to settle seabed frontiers on the basis of the continental shelf, all sorts of problems arose. For example, there was the island of Sir Abu Na'ir, which although belonging to Sharjah lay within the continental shelf of Abu Dhabi. Indeed, the whole problem of settlements in the Gulf waters was greatly complicated by the presence of a multitude of islands, and I could refer briefly to the problems over the ownership of Abu Musa, Tanb, and Nabiu Tanb, which although lying on the Arab side of the Gulf were claimed by Iran. However, I shall not weary your Lordships with more names of almost unpronounceable islands. I want now to examine one further area which again was touched on by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, and it is another important aspect of this important matter, and that is the breadth of the territorial sea. Under Article 3 of the new convention every state has the right to establish a territorial sea limit extending to 12 nautical miles from the base line, which is defined as the low water line. Traditionally of course this limit has been three miles. I may be wrong in this, but I am told that this springs from the range of land-based cannons firing at enemy warships. When this question of seabed limits was discussed at the Geneva Conference of 1958, the first Law of the Sea Conference, no agreement could be reached at all because different states had different ideas. This gave rise to all sorts of exaggerated claims. I could perhaps refer to the claim of Libya, advanced in October 1973, to the whole of the Gulf of Sine. This claim would have extended the line to a total distance of 150 miles at its broadest point from the base line. To return to the Gulf, almost all of the frontiers have now been settled, I am glad to say, with the exception of a small area which lies immediately to the north of the former Saudi-Kuwait neutral zone. This is an area in which the frontiers of Kuwait, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Iran lie in close proximity. I feel strongly that if Her Majesty's Government were to sign this new convention, its provisions would be of the greatest help in settling this small remaining area. I would also put to your Lordships that the new convention could be of the greatest value to the Saudi-Sudanese Red Sea joint committee which is now sitting, working out the problems of the exploitation of the Red Sea. One further point: noble Lords have referred before—and I believe other noble Lords will refer subsequently in their speeches—to the attitude of the Americans. Perhaps I should draw attention to two interesting articles which appeared in the New Yorker dated 1st and 8th August, written by a man who calls himself a lawyer-at-large. This distinguished lawyer, who has examined this new convention in great detail, has come to the definite conclusion that it would be in the interests of the United States to sign it. I will end as I started by expressing the warmest possible welcome to the initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, and expressing the hope that Her Majesty's Government will soon see their way to signing this most important and comprehensive convention.
My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, on his good fortune in the ballot and on his most eloquent speech. He described graphically to us the origins of the United Nations declaration and then the convention which has been negotiated. Speakers in the debate so far have made it plain that the part of the convention on the deep-sea mining regime is the most contentious subject which has been under negotiation. This, briefly, is dealing with the resources of the floors of the oceans beyond the continental shelves and beyond individual nations' claims, such as in exclusive economic zones of 200-miles. We are here dealing with the high seas and international waters.But that is only one part of the convention. The attempts to attain a treaty by consensus on the whole range of subjects needing codification of the law of the sea has failed. This is unfortunate, but the risk of failure has been apparent for some years, because most of the participants in the United Nations conference have adopted the attitude of all or nothing. They were not prepared to accept parts of the convention dealing with different subjects unless all the other proposed parts were included, too. Progress will now inevitably be slow. There is a bizarre paradox here. The developing countries, by insisting on unsuitable international regimes for deep sea mining, may deprive themselves and the rest of the world for longer than necessary of a new source of minerals. The most developed industrial countries and their consortia of mining companies, which are those likely to possess the technology in due course, are not likely to embark on major operations in what appear to be unfavourable circumstances dominated by an inappropriate international regime. The paradox is magnified by the fact that all these countries, both industrial as well as developing, have accepted that the value of these seabed resources should be shared among all the nations of the world as international property. Every plan that has been made, including the legislation that has passed through this House, has included arrangements for money to be set aside for the rest of the world. A great deal of agreement on other subjects has been reached by virtually the whole of the world and by coastal states in particular. The pity is that it may now take time for these agreements to be translated into action. I should today like to concentrate on the parts of the convention applying to the territorial sea and the related subject of freedom of navigation. These sections are of great importance to this country. We depend upon overseas trade more than any other industrial nation. We are a leading shipping nation, not only in helping that overseas trade but in the cross-trades between other countries. On 15th November last, the President of the General Council of British Shipping, in a letter to The Times, argued that the Government should sign the convention. He argued that the immediate gains from which Britain would then benefit would outweigh the difficulties concerning the seabed regime, for which there was still plenty of time. The Government may see overriding objections to that. If they do, I suggest that they should pursue other means. In reply to a question from me on 2nd December 1982, when he had been repeating a Statement made in another place, my noble friend Lord Belstead said that the Government could consider the extension of territorial waters to 12 miles freely and that this would not be tied to the convention. However, there is an essential quid pro quo: that is that there should be worldwide agreement on the freedom of navigation within a 12-mile territorial sea. But that has also been satisfactorily agreed within the convention. Those countries who in the past have not been prepared to accept free passage through such international straits have in this convention been prepared to agree to arrangements which are satisfactory to the United Kingdom and also, I believe, to the United States. Some coastal states now claim 12 miles as a territorial sea. A few claim even more than that; but the United Kingdom does not recognise more than three miles. Nor does the United States. Our ships, as a matter of expediency, must often act as if the 12-mile territorial sea claim is valid when they are sailing in those waters. Thus we have the worst of both worlds. Our vessels have to comply with a 12-mile territorial sea, in effect, when they are in other parts of the world, but at home we have simply a three-mile territorial sea. If we were able to extend it to 12 miles, that would be especially useful to protect our coastlines from pollution. I will not go into the subject of pollution in detail now. We have discussed it in previous debates in your Lordships' House. The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, in its report over two years ago, emphatically recommended—I think it was its main recommendation—that the United Kingdom should extend its territorial sea from three miles to 12 miles. This, together with the change of emphasis in the convention to port state jurisdiction, would enable us to reduce significantly oil slicks and other pollution round our coasts. As some countries are already claiming a 12-mile territorial sea and all the others have agreed to accept this, can this not be carried out by everyone coming into line and treating it as customary law? I would remind your Lordships that this was done for the 200-mile fishing limit in 1976 and 1977. That was also something that had been agreed during the negotiation of this convention. The fishing, maritime and coastal nations were all in agreement, and the important thing was that it should be done at the same time so that everybody suffered the disadvantages and gained the benefits at the same moment. That was done in extending our fishing limits to 200 miles at the same time as all the other nations of the world. We were anticipating this convention. It is clear that the same thing could be done for the territorial seas, but it would probably have to be done, too, for the system of freedom of navigation. In the convention that system consists of agreement on a regime of transit passage. This would mean that when the 12-mile territorial sea was recognised, a strait of less than 24 miles would be regarded as an international route. There are even improvements so far as naval countries are concerned. In particular, the convention makes simpler than in the past the passage of warships, particularly submarines, and also the over-flying of aircraft. This is important for the navies of the free world. I presume, therefore, that the Government would wish that the general recognition of a 12-mile territorial sea should take place at the same time as the introduction of an agreed arrangement on transit passage. It seems that the procedures for the bringing into effect of these arrangements under the convention, including signature and ratification, are complicated and slow. If that proves to be the case, I urge the Government to seek other ways of applying what has already been agreed by all concerned: for example, to examine the prospect of establishing as customary law both the 12-mile territorial sea and the transit passage system. I know that the difficulty here is that some nations are not prepared to apply separate and self-contained parts of the treaty until the international seabed mining régime is also agreed and ready to be adopted; but I believe that that attitude is mistaken. It is not in their interests to delay parts of the convention where everything has been agreed. Seabed mining, as some speakers have already indicated, is unlikely to happen in the near future. When we were discussing this nine years ago in your Lordships' House—and I remember that well, because I made my maiden speech in this House on this subject from the Opposition Front Bench nine years ago—at that time it seemed that deepsea mining might be much nearer; but because of the recession and for other reasons it is clear that it is some way off. Therefore, there is time for further negotiation and changes. To deny the maritime and coastal states the benefits of agreements already achieved on the territorial sea and the transit passage régime would be detrimental to the interests of most of the countries of the world. That point was recognised in the similar case of the extension of fishing limits in 1976. I hope that the British Government can, with like-minded nations, convince the others that the expected advance in these matters, an important advance, should not be deliberately delayed.
My Lords, the most important note of emphasis that my noble friend Lord Caradon and my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones struck in their most valid introduction to this short debate was that the matter is of first-rate importance when one questions the future of the oceans of the world. It is important to all the peoples of the world. It is, I feel, of particular importance to the British people because, I submit, the United Kingdom Government have played a somewhat shamefaced role in the matter. That we started off reasonably well in adopting some positive positions is obvious, and it was sensible to follow certain logical paths. My noble friend Lord Caradon referred to his joy at being able to indicate more than a decade of devoted and successful international negotiations.It was widely welcomed in the world when the result of the work by so many was signed by representatives of 118 nations at the convention for the establishment of a new law of the sea held in December 1982 at Montego Bay in Jamaica. It was a great and unique achievement. In a world where negative and potentially destructive efforts are on occasion lauded to the skies, it was wonderful to act for peaceful efforts and wide agreement. The very essence of negotiation, surely, is much give and take in the interests of gaining great prizes for all mankind. The details set before your Lordships by my noble friend quite rightly traced the early initiatives 17 years ago at the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York. It is unfortunate that the understanding of the major world issues involved should have been lost. So much has been done by our Governments to diminish our support for the role of the United Nations in its peace-seeking and peace-keeping in many parts of the world. Recent and current events in the Middle East have made it patently clear that British interests are often best served by the positive use of the United Nations' organs. The work put in to establish the law of the sea was a classic example. In my opinion, we have a fresh chance to enhance our standing in the great forum of the nations by seeking to return to our original positions on the law of the sea and to adopt the convention urgently. My Lords, I have consciously avoided a repetitive journey into the massive detail of the brave efforts of so many to establish the United Nations law of the sea convention and the provisions relating to deep sea mining. I continue to share the view expressed by Mr. Denis Healey on behalf of the official Opposition in another place on 2nd December 1982, when the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr. Rifkind, had explained the Government's refusal to adopt the convention. Mr. Healey said that Mr. Rifkind's statement was utterly unacceptable; that the Government's decision should be regarded as contrary to international and British interests. The years of work in preparing and negotiating the convention represent a massive effort and a giant step towards the noble aim of seeking one world. Now, more than ever, we in the United Kingdom need to recast our policy to strike out independently, as has been indicated by a number of noble Lords in this debate, in defence of United Nations efforts to fulfil its fundamental purposes. In this, as in so many other fields, surely, opportunity now knocks loudly. Actions are needed, not negative word play. I commend the Motion to your Lordships.
My Lords, may I speak from some experience of international law as it comes before our courts? We had a great question a few years ago as to how international law was formed and how it could be changed. That was the Trendtex case. Some people said that when international law was formed it was static and could not be changed at all, as, for instance, the three-mile territorial limit which was arranged in the 18th or 19th century owing to the length which could be controlled by the guns ashore; and the three-mile territorial limit was founded on that antiquated basis. It was said that that international law, once established, could not be changed.We held in the Court of Appeal, and I think it has been generally accepted, that international law is formed by a general consensus and can be changed by a general consensus of opinion. Whether it is juries, governments or whatever it may be, it is the general consensus which should form and change international law. That is why I would commend very much that this Government should ratify this convention as a whole, because it is to be the embodiment of a consensus of international law on the most important sphere in which international law operates. Take that three-mile limit: we had to consider it when we had the case from the Gulf, which my noble friend Lord Buckmaster has mentioned regarding the island of Abu Musa and the sovereignty in regard to it—
My Lords, Tanb and Nabiu Tanb.
My Lords, my noble friend has mentioned it. There it was: was it a three-mile limit or was it a 12-mile limit? All those points came into account, and it is perfectly plain to me, whatever the convention says, that the general consensus of the nations now is for a 12-mile limit. But it needs this convention to give it force. Then as regards passage by sea, our laws have had to be advised by the courts. I hope that they will stand water, but we want them recognised by all countries, and in order to get them recognised by all countries we must ratify this convention.As regards the continental shelf, how important that could be: and what are the right ways of dealing with it? On all these matters there must be a convention and a consensus in order to form international law so that we do not have these continual disputes between individuals or, as it may be, between the great oil companies or between states. There must be a consensus, a convention, on international law to make it clear for everybody. That is why the great merit of this convention is the overwhelming support which it has had, save on one important topic no doubt—deep mining. How important it is! I would give up all those difficulties in order to get certainty over the whole realm of the law; and here we have the opportunity. As regards deep sea mining, goodness knows how many years we will have to wait for that! I would urge, if I may, in support of my noble friend Lord Caradon, first, please, ratify the convention at all costs. But if you do not do that, make it plain to the world that this country adheres to all the principles of it except the deep sea mining one. If we all show that we agree with the terms of the convention, it will gradually become international law.
My Lords, I should like to intervene very briefly and I am grateful for having been allowed a short time to do so. There are two issues here: one is the broad political international issue which was dealt with so eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, in introducing this Motion; and secondly there is the commercial and technological issue. Having been involved in some of the technology of producing energy out of deep seas that has been developed in this country, I should like to ask the noble Baroness, Lady Young, when she replies to say whether she believes, in this transfer of technology and in using the technology that has been developed here, that we would not be in a better position to do that by signing this convention than by not signing it. We have in Britain a great wealth of expertise. We have explored the deep sea. We have now developed ways in which the deep sea can yield up new resources for the benefit of the world. Would we not be better off if we joined with the rest of the world in signing this convention than if we tried to go on our own? That is the specific issue I should like to raise.
My Lords, I am sure we have all listened with great interest to the opening speech of the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, and to this very interesting debate on the law of the sea. At the beginning, I should like to make clear that the United Kingdom would like to see a comprehensive regime on marine matters which was acceptable to all, and that we had hoped that the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea would produce a text which could be adopted by consensus. As the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, said, there was a unanimous vote of 99 to zero in 1967 for the first resolution on the seabed beyond national jurisdiction; this broad support was maintained in 1970, when a resolution on the principles governing this area of the seabed was adopted. It envisaged that an international regime would be established by "an international treaty generally agreed upon".On many issues which came before the Law of the Sea Conference from 1973 onwards, a general consensus was maintained and a general understanding that it was appropriate to deal with these issues in a single convention. We are all conscious of the great contribution made by distinguished presidents to whom the noble Lord has referred. But unfortunately, in the late stages, this consensus was not maintained. Agreement was not reached on the provisions relating to deep seabed mining. The text of the convention was put to a vote in which the United Kingdom abstained. In the course of the debate I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, about the numbers of those who had signed the convention: 132 countries have signed the convention and eight states have ratified it. The United Kingdom's position remains as set out in my noble friend Lord Belstead's Statement of 2nd December 1982, made shortly before the convention was opened for signature. There is much in the convention that is helpful: for example, the provisions relating to navigation, the continental shelf and pollution. But for the United Kingdom the convention's deep sea mining regime is unacceptable as it stands. The United Kingdom cannot participate in the seabed regime on the present terms, and for that reason the United Kingdom cannot sign the convention unless a satisfactory regime for deep seabed mining can be obtained. I listened with great interest to the words of my noble friend Lord Hood on this subject. It has not been our practice to sign a convention where there is not a present prospect of our ratifying the current text. In the course of his speech the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, inferred that we were simply following the United States in this line of argument. I should like to assure him that this is not the case and that as I continue with my remarks I shall set out the reasons why we have taken this view. The provisions which deal with deep seabed mining are highly complex and contain important undesirable features. The proposed seabed regime contemplates a disproportionately weighty structure for the International Seabed Authority. This might have virtually universal membership, with an assembly that would meet annually, a council, subsidiary organs and a secretariat. It would produce an over-elaborate and expensive system for regulating what, in practice, will be a very small number of deep seabed mining operations. The needs of the industry are, in any event, not yet fully understood. The necessary technology is still being developed. Although I appreciate very much the point that was made by the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, in his earlier intervention and in his later remarks, that is the advice I have been given. It is therefore difficult to draw up fully detailed conditions for these operations. The international organisation known as the Enterprise, which would carry out mining operations for the authority, would do so on privileged and costly terms. The initial industrial and administrative costs of the Enterprise would be financed by the states parties to the convention. It would cost at least £1,000 million to set up a full commercial operation, and the United Kingdom share of this would be of the order of £50 million. If the technology for the operations of the Enterprise were not available on the open market. it would be compulsorily acquired from commercial operators. Commercial operators who wished to obtain an authorisation from the authority to engage in deep seabed mining operations would be obliged to provide and explore an additional fully explored mine site for the Enterprise or for developing countries to exploit. The output of operators would be controlled by the authority and high licensing fees would be charged. The undesirable regulatory principles for this regime and the provision for compulsory transfer of technology could set damaging precedents for future negotiations on industrial matters. Another serious flaw lies in the provisions for adopting amendments in a review conference to be convened 15 years after the start of seabed operations. We cannot accept a system that would be open to change, as the convention would allow, even if all states which had a direct interest in seabed mining voted against such a change. Support for this régime would require a very large financial commitment, not only from states but also from commercial operators. With the seabed mining provisions unaltered and in force, the cost of ratification for the United Kingdom would be between £3.5 million and £8 million for fixed administrative costs and £1.5 million to 1.8 million per annum for running administrative costs, in addition to the cost of the Enterprise's mining site. These figures could increase by 33 per cent. if the United States maintained its position of non-involvement. For the operators, if the return on investment was as low as 5 per cent. the authority, under the present regime, would take 40 per cent. of this. If the return for the operators was 20 per cent., the authority would eventually take 70 per cent. of this—again a point which was made by my noble friend Lord Hood. This burden, and the complexity and over-regulatory nature of the régime, would be likely to discourage investment. Far from producing wealth to be shared out, therefore, the present minng provisions may well prevent any advantage resulting from the potential benefits from the seabed. What is important is not so much the intention behind the convention's mining system, of sharing among all nations the mineral wealth of the seabed, but whether in practice it would achieve this. Very often, those who put forward adherence to the convention as a factor for stability and a constructive approach to international relations argue on the basis of the non-controversial aspects of the convention—aspects with which, as I have already indicated, the United Kingdom is in agreement—and the intentions behind the mining regime without due consideration of the practical difficulties which this régime could create. As the mining régime now stands, it might remove the incentive to carry out this costly and novel type of operation and remove the profitability on which the sharing of benefits would depend. I have already indicated that the United Kingdom is not simply following the United States in her policy on this matter. We are not alone in finding these elements unacceptable, because 37 other countries have not signed the convention. Most of the leading industrialised countries, including many Community countries, have objections. One of the points which the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, put to me related to the position of the Community countries. I can confirm that five Community members—France, Ireland, Denmark, Greece and the Netherlands,—have signed the convention, while five others—the United Kingdom, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Belgium and Luxembourg—have not. The other European non-signatories, and several of the signatories, are critical of the deep seabed mining provisions of the convention. These countries, like the United Kingdom and unlike the United States, are attending the preparatory commission. Our involvement with the commission's work shows that the United Kingdom has not turned its back on the convention hut is seeking to improve the the deep sea mining régime. The United Kingdom wishes to work with the international community to achieve a system for seabed mining which is generally acceptable and workable and to bring about generally agreed provisions for regulating marine matters. It is not too late to do this, although clearly it will not be easy. Some solutions may be found through rules adopted in the preparatory commission which has been established to implement the seabed aspects of the convention. Perhaps at this point it might be helpful if I answered the point raised by my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy about the territorial sea—
My Lords, before the noble Baroness leaves deep sea mining, may I say that she has used a pretty effective sledgehammer to squash the only sapling which exists? Can she tell the House anything about what kind of mining régime the United Kingdom would welcome?
My Lords, I do not think that I could accept the opening statement of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. The points I have made are very real points, which were confirmed in the very interesting speech of my noble friend Lord Hood. I said that we are continuing to work for a solution which would enable deep sea mining to take place, but without the undesirable practical effects which the current suggestions allow.
My Lords, what, though, will the solution be?
My Lords, I do not think it would be appropriate for me to go into the details of this solution. However, it is perfectly clear that there is considerable opposition to the present solution. This gives me an opportunity to answer the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones: the suggestion that some companies believe that the present situation is all right. I am able to confirm that the Government have sought the views of a number of bodies and organisations with interests in the various topics covered by the convention. Some of them have interests in more than one area. Parts of the convention are attractive to them, while other parts of the convention are unattractive to them. However, we are not aware of any United Kingdom body with a deep seabed mining interest which does not consider that Part XI, as presently drafted, is unsatisfactory, and we are not aware of any such United Kingdom body which would wish to operate under the régime established by that part. We have received no request or advice to sign a convention in order that a United Kingdom company with a seabed mining interest might take advantage of the provisions enabling pioneer investors to be registered or otherwise to operate under the convention.To return to the point raised by my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy about the territorial sea, we are continuing to examine the extension of the United Kingdom's territorial sea in the context of the outcome of the law of the sea conference. The question of territorial sea is only one aspect of the linked questions of the law of the sea. We have been considering and making preparations for an extension to 12 miles. We hope to introduce this with other changes in the context of a satisfactory outcome of the United Nations Law of the Sea Conference. This would always have been the most satisfactory context in which to make such an extension—especially in connection with the related questions of the straits to which my noble friend also referred. Extension to 12 miles has the effect that a number of important straits become territorial sea across their whole width, and the convention takes full account of this. Extension of the territorial sea and its implications is only one of the interlinked issues of the law of the sea which we have to keep under review as the situation develops. Other solutions may well involve a change in what is currently envisaged in the convention, and it may be necessary to find new mechanisms for accomplishing that kind of change. It is our hope that other states will think it worth while continuing to seek solutions which establish a seabed régime that will attract those with the capacity to undertake seabed operations, and which will ensure that within that framework mineral resources are in fact put into circulation. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, asked one other specific question, which was concerned with interdepartmental machinery. I should like to confirm that interested departments continue to consult on this subject. With those aims in mind, a United Kingdom delegation attended the two meetings held last year in Kingston, Jamaica, of the Preparatory Commission. In his opening remarks, the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, referred to that body. I should like to confirm that the Preparatory Commission is responsible for working out the technical and procedural provisions on deep seabed mining contained in the Law of the Sea Convention. It is our aim to achieve a realistic, practical and cost-effective regime, and we feel that we can best start doing so in the Preparatory Commission.
My Lords, does the noble Baroness the Minister not agree that our standing and power to influence the decisions of the Preparatory Commission are diminished by our failure to sign, and therefore by our failure to enjoy the right to vote on any particular proposal?
My Lords, I am happy to say that I am about to come to that point. As a signatory to the Final Act of the Law of the Sea Conference, the United Kingdom is entitled to participate fully in the work of the commission—although, as the noble and learned Lord has said, not to vote. It is true that we are observers, but we have the right as signatories to participate fully. Our position as observers should not, we believe, be a serious constraint on our work at the commission.The United Kingdom's representatives have explained to other delegations the difficulties we have with the present mining régime. In 1983 the Preparatory Commission completed its procedural and organisational work. We shall be taking part in the meetings to be held this year, starting in March, when the commission is due to adopt its work programme and start substantive work. We shall continue there with our efforts to secure improvements to the seabed mining régime, working in conjunction with other countries who share our concerns. My Lords, this has been a very useful debate. I will certainly read it again to note the very important points which have been made. I should again like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, for introducing the debate this afternoon.
My Lords, I certainly wish to thank the noble Baroness for her comments and for illustrating the advantages of progressing in negotiation as opposed to the rejection which has been the attitude of the United States Government from the beginning of the present Administration in the United States. If we are to throw away this opportunity after 17 years, throughout which time we have been able to participate, and refuse to sign the convention and to enter the full negotiations which it will open up to us, then we shall be making one of the major mistakes of our time.I greatly hope that the noble Baroness, for whom I have the very greatest of respect, will be able to convince the Cabinet (and I look forward to the day) that they were wrong to follow the American lead and that it would be better now to sign and negotiate, and to get on with the job in co-operation with the rest of the world, instead of making our country one that follows the United States in the rejection of a great idea which has still to be put into its final form. I hope that we shall be prepared to sign and work, and I believe that the debate which has taken place today has been of very great benefit. I have confidence in the noble Baroness that she will report on our debate and will achieve the results which both she and we wish to see. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion. Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
Western Isles Islands Council (Kallin Pier, Harbour Jurisdiction) Order Confirmation Bill
Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and (pursuant to the Private Legislation Procedure (Scotland) Act 1936) deemed to have been read a second time, and reported from the Committee.
Administration Of Metropolitan Areas
rose to call attention to the study by the Institute of Local Government Studies The Government and Administration of Metropolitan Areas in Western Democracies; and to move for Papers.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I rise to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. The study referred to is of 13 metropolitan areas in eight Western countries—seven European countries and Canada; that is, Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, Canada, Spain, France, Italy and the Federal Republic of Germany. The countries concerned and their intermediate levels of government between local and national government are set out in Table 1, and the comparable data are set out in Table 2—both on page 52 of the report. From these two tables it can be seen at a glance that not only do the countries themselves differ greatly but the type and size of regional and other intermediate levels of government also differ. If one includes the United Kingdom under Table 1 a further variation is introduced.
The purpose of the survey on which the report is based is not an attempt to establish the case for a common system of local government—heaven forbid! Nor is its purpose to compare in a qualitative way one country's system with another country's system. Its purpose is to look at some of the underlying trends and characteristics which have led to the establishment of metropolitan authorities in such diverse countries with their different histories and different attitudes. As the report points out on page 1:
"There is much in common between the historical processes through which metropolitan problems have developed in different western countries during the last quarter century".
The report refers to the rapid urbanisation and industrial growth around old-established centres of commerce and industry, leading to social and economic problems which no suitable authority with adequate resources was available to solve. In particular, it refers to the extension of sewerage systems, rent systems, traffic problems and the rational use of land. These were of course the very problems which led to the reorganisation of local government structures in the United Kingdom in the early 1970s. But let me say at once that in introducing this debate I do so not as a local government person but as a user of local government services, and as one who wishes to see a continuity of historical development and connections, of cultural values and of local democracy, as well as efficient and economic services.
There are many in your Lordships' House who, through their own experience of and responsibility in the administration of local government, will understand the structures and the problems of the metropolitan authorities referred to in the survey much better than I do. Indeed, I must confess to finding the survey of local government structures in other countries not easy (shall we say?) to understand. If I had previously thought our own structure complicated I now see it in a different light. Perhaps this is one of the values of a comparative survey such as this.
But I also speak as one who possesses a sense of identity with the authority in which I live, and this I think is of great importance in the development of any unit of government. This sense of identity does not arise from the mere fact that the West Yorkshire Metropolitan County, in which I live, has in the short space of 10 years become a very effective and efficient instrument of local government, which any objective examination of all the relevant circumstances would show. It has deeper historical, geographical and cultural roots. Let me hasten to add that in referring to the geography of West Yorkshire I am not complacent that the last word has been said on the extent of the boundaries. My own personal preference would be to see a bit more of the Yorkshire Dales, which were previously part of the old West Riding, back into West rather than North Yorkshire. But I do not want to start an internecine struggle between Yorkshire folks in this debate.
The fact is that the authority does contain a varied combination of moorland and softer countryside around the conurbation to give it that essential interaction between town and country, and which enables it to provide some continuity with the former county authority and to retain a sense of identity. Whether this same sense of identity is experienced in other metropolitan counties I cannot say, although from observations it would seem clear that many have a strong cultural identity.
My only other significant personal experience is the 13 years when I lived in London, and perhaps because I was not born in either Kensington or Putney, where I lived at different times, I did not feel an identity with either of the boroughs concerned, much though each has to commend it. My real identity was, and is now, with Greater London itself. And it does not need 13 years' residence to establish that identity. People visiting from the provinces or overseas visitors identify with London—not with Lambeth or Fulham or even with the City and Westminster, but with London. I think, of all the metropolitan county areas, London is the one that cannot be envisaged without a corporate being and a corporate voice.
But I must not deflect myself too far from the report, nor intrude too many of my own personal experiences. The report argues that it has been generally accepted in Western Europe and in Canada that the metropolitan system, containing inter-dependent communities with interrelated problems, can be defined geographically, and that each such area needs its own conurbation-wide administration and decision-making process, which cannot satisfactorily be provided by central government. It points out that conurbation-wide metropolitan authorities are required to make strategic decisions for their areas and to control functions which cannot be satisfactorily implemented at a lower level, and it suggests that such authorities, need to have effective implementation powers to ensure that their decisions carry weight.
Reference to the chapters covering individual countries would suggest that the strategic responsibilities for transportation, land-use, environment, waste disposal, recreation and public protection functions are the ones most typically accorded to the conurbation-wide authorities. Again, if I may draw a parallel, this is the basis of West Yorkshire's response to the White Paper Streamlining the Cities. By taking a conurbation-wide perspective of economic and social problems, partly through an economic development programme, the authority has been able to bring some benefits of economy and of improved services to the area. These have included transport,
highways, consumer protection, improved leisure services and a developing and important archive service as well as significant contributions to the Arts. To give just one or two examples, the co-ordination of bus and rail passenger transport through the Yorkshire Metro-bus and Metro-rail service with a co-ordinated fares policy is, I think, a unique model. The highways policy includes a scheme to co-ordinate traffic flow as part of a series of specialist services in the conurbation that have provided efficiency and economy in the movement of road traffic and in the highways services generally. Then there is a comprehensive trading standards service that has been introduced cutting out the duplication and variety of enforcement policies which existed in the previous eight separate authorities.
There will be other occasions in the future, no doubt, when these matters can be discussed in more detail. I think the point to emphasise today is that the needs which have led to the establishment of urban county authorities in other countries are the very needs which our present metropolitan counties are providing for. But there are other parallels and indeed principles that can be drawn from this comparative survey that require very careful thought and discussion before we come to the point of defending any one authority or any one structure. I mention four which I think are of paramount importance.
The first is that in all cases in the survey where major conurbations exist there is at least one level of intermediate government—sometimes two—between the local municipal authority and the central state. Unlike the United Kingdom, where, as in so many other ways, our local government structure has just grooved, like Topsy, in some countries abroad local and often provincial and regional democratic rights are entrenched in the constitution. But even where this is not so, it is clear from the report that the structures and functions of each tier of government in the eight countries surveyed are generally the result of prolonged and detailed study, debate and consultation, aimed at ensuring a wide consensus of views, including—and I think this is very important—a multi-authority and a multi-party consensus.
Thirdly, there has been a general move towards decentralisation. The investigation finds that in every country surveyed decentralisation of power has been accepted as a necessary means towards efficiency and effectiveness in the provision of local services. But, again, this approach has been the product of careful examination and review of government structures and functions by independent commissions or parliamentary committees.
Fourthly, the survey finds that the use of joint ad hoc agencies for individual metropolitan functions is not a satisfactory substitute for a democratic multipurpose authority. It lacks responsiveness to local needs and views, and the exercise of self-interest among those involved is paramount. Moreover, the joint ad hoc agencies lack the scale and expertise of the multiservice authorities.
At a time when our own local government structure is being thrown into the melting pot for a second time within two consecutive decades I hope it is helpful for us to look at the experience of others and at the similarity of trends. Of course, this survey is a limited one, but I think it is sufficiently representative for us to take note. Certainly we should take note of the fact that it appears to be us, and not the other eight countries, who are out of step. We should take note of the fact that we cannot afford not to get it right a second time. Surely it would be better to pause and to examine critically and in detail what our needs are, and what functions and areas of government would best serve those needs.
Despite what I have said about West Yorks—and I am sorry that the noble Earl was not here when I mentioned the neighbouring county of North Yorks—there is still doubt as to whether we got it right in 1974, on all sides. Very few, I suspect, would go to the stake to defend the status quo without some amendment. It has been suggested that before embarking on a new reorganisation we should refer the matter to some kind of review body. A Select Committee of the two Houses has been suggested. A Royal Commission has also been suggested. I am making no claims for any specific body. All I am saying is that this survey must surely give us pause. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
My Lords, it is with some hesitation that I rise to speak in this debate, among such a formidable array of local government experts; mainly members of the Labour Party who are committed to the robust defence of the GLC and the metropolitan counties. The noble Baroness to whom we are indebted for this debate has taken this survey as a text and prayed it in aid, to some extent, in support of this defence which she has advanced in very moderate terms. She has said nothing intemperate. However, I hope she will forgive me if I do not follow her directly into the intricacies of different layers of local authority.I start in a personal vein. I have lived, although not for long periods, in France and Italy and for a much longer time in Spain, in which country I am still a ratepayer. It is therefore to the sections of this survey dealing with those countries that I turned with most interest. I was particularly struck by the passage on page 43, in the Italian section, where we are told that both the Spanish and Italian systems emerged in the aftermath of fascist dictatorships when,
I draw attention to those words because I think they are not totally irrelevant in the light of certain tendencies in this country today. Those countries—France, Italy and Spain—had, and to some extent still have, a layer of provinces (50 in the case of Spain) sandwiched between regional government, where it exists, and the municipalities. This is a legacy of the Napoleonic system of centralisation and it served, in Franco's Spain, as a vital network through which central government delegates from all the main ministries controlled provincial finance and acted as the essential patrons of any provincial activity. They were buttressed by a civil governor and a military governor in each province. Spain is the most recent recruit to the ranks of the Western democracies. What steps has Spain taken in the field of local government? Spain has demoted the provinces and very much raised the profile of the autonomous or semi-autonomous regions-17 in all, I think—and the municipalities. Both types of authority are being run by elected bodies through a system of proportional representation which is also used for national elections. This has been done at the expense of the old centralist provinces with their all-powerful central government delegates. Noble Lords may ask: "What has all this to do with us?" That is precisely the virtue of the debate initiated by the noble Baroness, which strives to set our metropolitan and other local government traumas in a wider context. For that we owe her a debt of gratitude. It is true, of course, that our system has developed rather differently. It is true that local authorities were created by Parliament and in most cases cannot claim more than a century of seniority as against some much older autonomous or semi-autonomous bodies in other countries. It is true that Britain is a unitary state, as Mr. Patrick Jenkin is so fond of reminding us. But so is Spain. Spain is a unitary state and the second article of her 1978 constitution promulgated the indissoluble unity of the nation, of which the King is guarantor. At the same time, their autonomous nations and regions are very much further developed than our own. Despite its diversity Spain is not federal, it is unitary. Therefore, to invoke the unitary state as a slogan for bashing local democracy is not good enough. It may be said that what Parliament gave away it can take back. But what did Parliament give away? In the first place it gave away responsibility for the Poor Law, policing, roads, water, sewerage and so on. Since then it has devolved education, social services, housing, homelessness and care in the community—you name it, the local authorities have it. The growing complexity of life made this inevitable and local government must therefore have adequate tools and be of adequate strategic size to fulfil those obligations. The alternative is a central government delegate from each ministry, which typified the Napoleonic system. Is that what the Government want? Some local councils no doubt grew over-mighty and were monopolised by a single party. Some have done things that I deeply disapprove of. But that does not invalidate the principle of local democracy or warrant the civil war that the Government have unleashed on the local authorities and the metropolitan areas in particular. That is not good for collaboration and joint effort, and it is not good for a unitary Britain. I turn briefly to three areas of particular concern. First, there is a passage in the report, on page 53, which casts very serious doubts on the effectiveness of,"local autonomy was seen as the key to democratisation and a barrier against future national authoritarianism".
The whole of this passage repays reading, but I shall read only two more short quotations:"ad hoc solutions for particular functions, by means of joint boards, inter-municipal agreements, inter-authority contracting for services etc."
The next quote reads:"The evidence is that this functional fragmentation, added to geographic fragmentation, was believed to preclude an integrated approach to the provision of services for purposes that are interdependent".
The passages I have read seem to me to be very relevant to the situation that is likely to arise after the Government have abolished the GLC and the metropolitan counties. We are not enamoured of these bodies; we do not believe them to be faultless. But we think the Government's proposals lack credibility and are animated by political opportunism rather than by any serious approach to a complex problem. My second point concerns local authority finance. There seems little doubt that if this is not reformed in a more positive way than by the clumsy device of rate-capping some important authorities will go bankrupt and the Government will have to put in commissioners. This could lead speedily to a pattern of central government delegates in charge of local affairs which General Franco would have envied. This is precisely the pattern from which newly-democratic Spain has striven to escape, with all the toadying and the patronage that it involves. If the war the Government are pursuing against local authorities is based on the dislike of political extremism there is a very simple solution which was proposed recently by my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich and only narrowly defeated in your Lordships' House. It is to allow proportional representation in local government elections, as is the practice in most parts of the civilised world. I will not go into that any further this evening but it is something to which we shall certainly come back. I was also interested to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, refer to multi-party consensus. We can understand the present Government's drive for efficiency and to cut unnecessary costs. I do not think any sensible person would contest that there are many demands—and they are increasing daily—on the resources of society due to demographic and other trends, but we wonder whether efficiency is best achieved through centralisation. Also, we watch with some amazement as a Government committed to rolling back the frontiers of the state are rolling them forward, in some respects at least. They may have trimmed back the central Civil Service and enforced cuts in local authority manpower, but this is all very small beer compared with the steadily growing powers of the Secretaries of State. It seems to me to be incontestable that the powers of the Secretaries of State have increased and are increasing, but they ought to be decreased. This is true in health, education, local government finance and other fields. I do not say that no national priorities should be set. For example, there is a strong case for some sort of central direction of training. But the question is how these priorities are carried out. No doubt the Government believe that what they are doing or attempting to do to local government in general and metropolitan government in particular is in the interests of the nation. But at the same time they should pause to reflect that they are overriding some of the rather delicate and, I would say, essential checks and balances in our unwritten constitution. These stem in a sensible and sensitive way from the accumulated experience of our history and culture, and in repudiating them the Government are creating a centralised instrument of power which in other hands could be manipulated, with very grave consequences for our individual freedoms and cherished liberties. Before the Government go any further in this direction they should have a look at this report. I draw their attention in particular to a passage at the top of page 52 where it is suggested that comparisons can stimulate self-evaluation and review. The report goes on:"In fact the extent to which municipalities will agree to support joint ad hoc agencies appears to be sometimes at least very limited, partly because of a dislike of losing accountability and partly because of a fear of inequities in their resource demands and in their provision of services. They fail not only to take into account interrelationships and to co-operate to formulate, much less implement, strategies, but also to provide a voice in the nation for representation for the metropolitan areas as a whole".
this is a point that was made by the noble Baroness. Lady Lockwood—"Where we appear to he moving in a contrary direction"—
We have had good cause to be proud of our system of Government and our institutions in the past, but we should not be too proud to learn from other countries' solutions to the problems of administering large conurbations. It is my fear that just as our economic pre-eminence has declined, so we may slip further down in the league table of political maturity."from countries abroad, we may well consider why this is so and whether we have overlooked factors to which they have given weight".
My Lords, I too should like to thank my noble friend Lady Lockwood for initiating this debate. The report before us today widens from a political football to an academic study the terms of reference of the current debate on the Government's decision to abolish metropolitan authorities. As my noble friend explained, it compares the British system of local government with the systems in 14 other western democracies. One must begin where the author begins and acknowledge that he has indeed provided only a starting point for a vast and complex subject. But I believe it is a starting point distinguished by its objectivity, its care and professionalism.The importance of having this debate before the Government finally launch themselves into the legislation that unfortunately has been threatened is that it gives us a chance to have another look at the whole subject, not on party political lines but as something that is important to the constitution of the country, to local government and to central government. The author warns us that it would be rash to attempt any direct comparisons or to draw hasty conclusions from the analyses he sets out. Obviously functions, funding and democratic control can all vary between countries. Nevertheless, if one studies the systems of government operating in the 14 city areas one finds there is one thread that links them all. It is acknowledged by the national governments concerned that metropolitan regions are best administered by local authorities of a size and range to answer the needs of the cities. One may ask why this should be so. I believe a major reason is that in a way quite foreign to our own political climate there is in all the countries studied a consensus and understanding of local and regional structures. It is an understanding that spans political differences and adds significantly to the stability and good management of urban areas. Most important, I believe, is the common recognition that the successful management of large cities must involve a real and identifiable decentralisation of power. One recognises the different philosophy underlying the proposals of our own Government. To quote the report:
It is true, although the noble Baroness was extremely modest about her knowledge of local government, which is far greater than that to which she admitted, that in this House and in another place over the last few years when we have been discussing different Bills and pieces of legislation, all the time the tendency has been towards an increase of centralisation and the taking back to the Secretary of State of decision making. This has been remarked on not just from these Benches but from all over the House. The accountability is gradually being removed from the local authorities to central government. In this week's Sunday Times, Hugo Young, the political editor, referred in his column to the Government as having succumbed,"The tendency, on the contrary, appears to be strongly in the direction of a reduction of local government power, concentration of power in Whitehall and Westminster of a kind unparalleled in comparable countries elsewhere".
He then goes on—I will not trouble noble Lords with the quotation—to give examples of this, including the areas of rates and local government. In pushing this trend towards increased centralisation what are the Government achieving? It is impossible to discuss the subject without discussing one of the great problems facing us today. Certainly it is not saving. Civil servants are now warning the Department of the Environment that the vague election statements set the cost of abolition far too low. It was given as between £20 million and £70 million. The financial burden will certainly be far harsher than envisaged—and this is a point which has become generally accepted—partly because of the loss of an all-encompassing authority capable of exploiting "economies of scale" and gaining from the"to the enticements of the centraliser. In so doing, it not only reverses its intentions, but exposes itself to a series of risks. What it is losing is control. This may seem ironic, since by seizing power, you might think it could only increase its control. But it is losing political control: not over parliament but over events".
The Government are always very keen to point out that in other areas, in business, having large enterprises means that economies of this kind can be made. The loss of the essential redistributive financial role of the metropolitan authorities will mean that social justice will be greatly eroded, while increased fragmentation will permit the return of greater inequalities between rich and poor, because it will not then be possible to even things out through having a large local authority. My noble friend referred in particular to West Yorkshire, and I am sure that other noble Lords will refer to other metropolitan counties of which they have special knowledge. At this stage I must say in parenthesis that I thought that the response from West Yorkshire to the Government White Paper was excellent, as indeed have been the responses of not only all the metropolitan counties, but so many other bodies which will be touched by what is being proposed and which cover an enormous expanse of our national life. All have expressed grave doubts and very great worries about what the Government are proposing to do. At this point I should like to refer in particular to London, where I have always lived. The noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, referred I think to a robust defence of the GLC from the Labour Benches. The defence of the GLC—which is no more perfect than a great many other organisations—does not come solely from the Labour Benches. It comes from all over. It comes from other political parties. It comes from the Conservative group on the GLC. It comes from Londoners themselves. In a poll in December 1983 59 per cent. of them indicated that they did not want to see the abolition of the GLC. A tremendous range of other groups, including various voluntary and social organisations, and the Commission for Racial Equality—bodies concerned with every aspect of our lives which would be touched by the abolition of the metropolitan authorities—are concerned about the proposals. It is important to recognise that we are talking not only about structures. We are talking also about how changes in structures affect, and will affect, the lives of everyone and will be to the detriment of the way they will live in the future—"equalising mechanism of the metropolitan rate precept".
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Baroness will give way for a second. I do not doubt that there are other people apart from the Labour Party who are defending the GLC. I was simply referring to people who are in this Chamber this evening, and I think that the noble Baroness will confirm that most of the participants in this debate are from the Labour Benches.
My Lords, I think that we have a minimum number this evening, and so I do not think that one can read too much into that, but I take the noble Lord's point. I was not sure whether he was looking at the matter on a larger scale.When we compare London with other capital cities given as examples and examined in considerable depth in the report, we see that we would be the only country in Western Europe without a capital city. This point is of tremendous importance not only to those of us in London itself, and in this country, but also in the context of the EEC. Certainly other countries feel that they must have a capital city that takes an overall view—that is to say, a strategic view—of things and an authority which is directly elected, which is extremely important when we are talking, as we are, of democracy. Unless we follow that view we shall be out of line with other countries in Western Europe, and we shall find that we are out on a limb. I consider that that point has some considerable importance. The trouble with the Government's plans—as has been pointed out by my noble friend and I think the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock—is that nothing was properly assessed. The proposal was rushed into a manifesto, and all our past experience shows that reorganisations of this kind have always cost much more than the set-ups they replaced. The argument which is always being put to us in favour of doing away with the metropolitan counties is that everything can go down to the districts and be dealt with in that way. That is just not true; it is not possible. Today local authorities at district level and at county shire level are in a position where their expenditure is being severely cut, and the cuts will bite harder and harder. The amounts that they can now give towards such essential activities as the arts, as well as to all kinds of other causes which at the moment are being financed by the metropolitan counties—and here London is very much in need—will not be possible. There will just not be the money. In that case what will happen? We shall have the joint boards—the quangos—which are removed from the democratic process. There will be a lack of financial support from the districts because they will simply not be able to cope, and indeed they are themselves having to cut down on essential services. If the boards are set up, there will be greater bureaucracy, less efficiency, and no real accountability. Whatever our political views, this is a matter that we must take very seriously and consider what will be the effect of the proposals on the country. Let us consider, for example, the voluntary services. The National Council of Voluntary Organisations is worried stiff about what is being proposed, and so is the Commission for Racial Equality. In his conclusions the author of the report points out that,
This is of great importance to noble Lords, and in this House I think the majority have very strong connections with voluntary organisations of all kinds all over the country. The document is critical of the way in which we in the United Kingdom have made radical changes in our local government structure with nothing like the same degree of examination, consideration and consultation employed in other countries. That is quite apart from the high cost that is always involved in structural change. Recently there have been many calls, notably from one of the organisations most concerned with the Government proposals to reorganise metropolitan local government—that is, the Association of Metropolitan Authorities—for a thorough review to he undertaken into all the schemes for our cities before they go ahead. After all, before the LCC became the GLC the Herbert Commission sat, between 1957 and 1960. Before the setting up of the metropolitan counties the Redcliffe-Maud Commission sat in the 'sixties, and for Scotland the Wheatley Commission sat. Those reorganisations were not undertaken just on the basis of a line in the manifesto of any of the political parties. To be quite blunt, it is hard to imagine any worse arrangements than the Government's present proposals. It is little wonder that many local authorities in this country have for some time now been pressing steadily that the draft European Charter of Local Self-Government should have a fair wind through the bureaucracies of Europe and an understanding reception from the United Kingdom Government. In 1977 when there was a Tory council in the GLC but a Labour Government at Westminster, the same Mr. Jenkin, who is now in charge of the DoE, said:"Purely voluntary associations are not known to have a satisfactory record of success. A special legal framework and definition of powers and mandatory responsibilities have clearly been necessary in all the cases considered".
Yet the same Patrick Jenkin, quoted in the Financial Times on 28th October last year, said that an inquiry would mean putting off the necessary decisions and action. How shall we arrive at the best decisions without a proper inquiry along the lines already suggested in one form or another? It is not my purpose today to mount a plea for the retention of our present local government arrangements as they stand. However, it would be foolish to pretend that we have the right answers. What we must do is ask the Government to set things in motion so that we do get the right answers before any action is taken."I believe that we have got to return to the concept that the GLC is a strategic authority. The GLCs planning powers should be essentially strategic, and provide a framework within which the boroughs should operate the day to day planning controls".
My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, for instituting the debate and for making it one about local government in general and not particularly about the party political issues which are so difficult to separate. I wish to make only one point. It is a point that I do not think is made in Alan Norton's survey. It has certainly not been made by the three noble Lords who have so far spoken. Yet it is absolutely basic to the success of local government in Britain. I know this from my experience in Scotland where metropolitan areas are differently treated and where the point does not arise in quite the same way. But no modern local government system, however well thought out, however well researched and however well defined by statute, can possibly work in this country unless the elected councillors accept that they have to operate within the overall economic strategy of the government of the day whether or not, at any given moment, those councillors—whatever their political persuasion may be—agree personally with the strategy.If local government councillors refuse continually to do this and use local government powers to try to frustrate central government's overall strategy, then we, as a country, and local government itself, will not succeed in responding rapidly to the changing world scene. We cannot continually be riding a horse that is trying to go in two directions at once. To most people, this appears obvious. As a country, we elect a national government to run the country as a whole. It has a certain political approach and a certain economic strategy at a given time. Locally, we elect local councils. We elect them in several tiers. They have limited local functions. They have their own political approach. The local councils and the national government must work together. Until recently, councillors have found no major problem in this. Councillors of all political persuasions have seen it as their responsibility to accept the functions defined by statute, to perform those functions in the most efficient, sensitive and cost-effective way they can, in the interests of their ratepayers and in the context of government as a whole. In this, until recently, they found plenty of scope within their comparatively limited role—including political scope. Those who wanted to move on to a wider stage have progressed into national politics and many are in your Lordships' House. Since the early 1970s, as we know, much has happened in the world of local government. In the course of it, some local authorities have forgotten this basic essential. Indeed, many national politicians have encouraged them to forget just that. There are, I suppose, several reasons why this has happened. As a result of reorganisation, when, for good reasons, a number of very large authorities were formed, they had a large rate base: they had wide functions—in the case of metropolitan councils, not many functions, but wide functions. The councillors had an extremely responsible role, with tax raising and spending powers which, even if kept in tight control, were of a dimension that, by any definition, formed a major part of national public spending and economic strategy. It was assumed, when the changes were made, that councillors would continue to see local democracy as involving acceptance of the economic framework set by the government of the day, that they would continue to work within that overall strategy and that national politicians would encourage them to do so. It was assumed that even higher calibre councillors would he attracted into local government, and that because of their wider, more responsible role, they would be even more statesmanlike in their approach than before. Simultaneously with all this reorganisation inflation came, and then recession. There was a need for successive governments, first Labour, and then Conservative, to control public spending. Because large authorities are responsible for such a large part of public spending, cash limits had to be applied, and this was done in different ways. Members of large authorities had considerable pressures upon them. It was a considerable test in balancing their duty to their own electorate with their duty to the country as a whole. Simultaneously—and I believe this to be very important—there was a rapid expansion of local television and local radio. There was more air time to be occupied and broadcasters were keen to put local government people on the air. Many councillors quickly spotted the potential of this, learnt to use it well and became as well known locally as some members of the Cabinet nationally. I, for one, have been constantly amazed, following three minutes on television news on some local issue, to find at a meeting or a whist drive that half the people there had seen me and were discussing what I had been on about. All of us know what has happened as a result of wider powers, bigger spending potentiality and bigger potential to frustrate national economic strategy. The debate about the effect on rates, on business and on the economy in general is in train in another place. It is within the metropolitan authorities especially that ambitious, able, political people have been somehow coming to use their role to spend high when they were being asked not to spend high, and to extend activity within the law but somehow stretching it to its limits. Far from accepting the framework set by central government, they have been deliberately trying to frustrate it. Your Lordships may think otherwise, but I believe that this is not democracy. It is an abuse of the system of democracy that we are trying to operate in this country. My own view is that the metropolitan authorities, as they now are, could have been made to work without damaging local business, without creating massive political campaigns designed to frustrate the central government, without squabbling with the lower tier of local government. In general, Strathclyde region in Scotland—which is the biggest local authority in the country—has accepted the national framework. I do not agree with all their ideas, but on the whole they have worked within the guidelines that they were given. On the other hand, Lothian region in Scotland for a time did not do so. It did not work. It has now changed and it is working much better. Metropolitan areas seem to show little indication of wanting to change. We hear that the GLC is now, at the eleventh hour, going to reduce the rates and at the same time massively improve the services. I can only ask as regards that: if that is true, why not last year? No, my Lords, despite the extremely well-argued survey, despite the evidence which is there—and it is very interesting—despite the excellent speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, the record is such, and the structure is such, that we must make a change and we can make a change without an enormously expensive upheaval. I agree that we have to get it right. I hope that we shall not concentrate so much on what we do in the GLC area that we do not get right what happens in the metropolitan counties. It has to he got right; it has to be decided before very long. But, whatever we do, let us make a structure in which local councillors see clearly that they are working within the context, and with the grain, of national strategy, whatever the political colour of the national government may be at the time, and whatever the political colour of the local council may be at the time.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, has put forward what is a comparatively recent doctrine in local government. We have all understood for a long time that a local authority must obey the law; that the law lays down certain rules as to what it may or may not do, and that it neither can disobey them nore ought to attempt to do so. Now we are putting forward the doctrine that, in addition to that, they must not only respect the law but they must respect the general political outlook of the central Government.The extraordinary feature of that doctrine is that it has never been put forward before. Your Lordships will not find it in any of the learned manuals on the working of our constitution. It is put forward now because a Conservative Government are finding it a little difficult to get all their own way in face of the political complexion of certain large local authorities. In view of that, they propose to abolish or to alter the powers of those local authorities. That is what it is all about. The doctrine that it has always been the duty of local authorities to fall in with the general political philosophy of central Government has no basis in our history, and nor does it make sense. It is often quite a good thing for central Governments to have their authority and their policies challenged within the limits of the law, by powerful local authorities. It is one of the things that makes us a democracy. We are all greatly indebted to my noble friend Lady Lockwood for having initiated this debate. It draws our attention to the fact that one cannot argue too easily from one country to another; each country breeds its own form and pattern of local government. For example, in the Netherlands they regard it as quite natural that an appointee of the central Government should take the chair as regards, certain meetings of provincial and local authorities. We should regard that as a very odd arrangement in this country. So we must not attempt any kind of close following of what happens in other countries. We must also remember that it is almost impossible to get the right answer to any question in local government. If one asks: "What is the right size of a local authority in this region of the country?", one is up against the fact that what is the best size for some functions is not the best size for others. Whatever size one picks on, it will be open to criticism on the ground that it is not good for some of the functions that the local authority has to perform. We must accept the fact that it is inevitable that we will never get it quite right. Similarly, if one is trying to decide what should be the functions of a particular local authority, one may run into the error of loading it with so many functions that it will be a laborious, clumsy body taking a long time to do everything. Alternatively, one may give it so few functions that it becomes an almost one-purpose authority, having to carry on its work which is affected by the work of other fields of local government over which it now has powers. So there again we will never get our answers quite right. Nonetheless—and this is the value of this international study—there are certain broad general conclusions (some of them more negative and warning than positive) that emerge. One thing is quite clear: the great conurbation is here to stay. We now have great cities—great not only in comparison with the 18th century, but great in comparison with the beginning of this century. If one compares London now with London in 1900, one finds that it is a much greater urban area. The great conurbation is obviously here to stay. We have to decide what its form of government shall be. The answer from this survey and from our own experience seems to be that for a great conurbation we need two kinds of authority—a larger one, probably coterminous with the conurbation, and smaller ones inside it. We need that because there are certain functions that cannot be efficiently carried out except on a conurbation basis; for example, the fire brigade, the police, land use, transport, planning and economic development. But if we create a large authority to perform those functions (because smaller ones cannot do it) and we then load on to that large authority everything else, it will become intolerably weighed down with business. Let me give a simple example. I do not think that it would be a good thing for the Fulham libraries to be run from County Hall; nor do I think it would be a good thing to cut up the London Fire Brigade and have it run on the basis of the London boroughs. We can multiply those examples and see that there is a need for the larger and the smaller authorities in the great conurbation. However, the Government are proposing to get rid of the larger authority and to leave us simply with the smaller ones—in London, to leave the London boroughs but to destroy the GLC; and to make comparable changes in the metropolitan counties. That is one point at which the Government's policy departs from what seems to be the general experience of Western Europe. But when we do that, when we abolish the larger conurbation-wide authority, we are still up against the fact that it performed certain functions which we cannot hand over to the smaller authorities. Therefore, we will find ourselves being obliged to create certain joint boards or certain bodies which owe their existence to the Government, and some of them will be so limited in their function as to be simply ad hoc bodies. If we want to form an opinion about ad hoc bodies or bodies with a very narrow range of functions, we hardly need to make a foreign study. We have only to look at our own history in the last century. As the growth of urban life created one need after another, so one authority after another was created to deal with those needs, and the puzzled citizen became surrounded with burial hoards, school boards, boards of guardians and vestries, to say nothing of the Metropolitan Board of Works, a government creation overseeing it all in the capital. After a time, of course, we realised that that did not work, and one reason why it did not work was that it quite naturally bewildered the citizen. He was always being asked to elect some body with a very narrow range of functions. If one wants to get the citizen out and interested, one should ask him to vote for a body with a fairly wide range of functions. Under what is now being proposed, it looks as though he will not vote for ad hoc authorities but that such bodies will be appointed by the Government, or else they will be the result of joint boards. Of all forms of local government work, one of the most dreary is correspondence between different local authorities about a joint job that has to be done, and nobody is quite sure who will be blamed for it if it goes wrong. Wherever you can, avoid that. That is the whole lesson of our history and, apparently, of these continental examples. But apparently we shall have more of these. I believe that we want a simple system of government. I am suggesting that in the great conurbations we want a large authority and smaller authorities within it, but between them, if it is humanly possible, they ought to do all the work. They should be elected bodies, so that when a citizen votes he knows the responsibilities of that person for whom he is voting and who is to blame if this, that or the other thing goes wrong. Local government is of great value in giving life to democracy. I think it was Lenin who sneered at our democracy on the ground that once in every five years we went and exercised it. There are a great many reasons why that was not true, but one reason was the continuing interest in democracy that the citizen can show if he votes for local authorities which are real local authorities with defined powers, and when he knows when he votes what his representative will be expected to do. We shall have less and less of this in the arrangements that are now before us. One other lesson that appears to emerge from the continental study is that if local urban authorities are to do the job well they must have a certain amount of financial stability. They must be assured either of grants of a certain amount from central Government or they must be given the necessary power to raise local taxes or rates; but if they are constantly to be tripped up through lack of funds, no-one will have confidence in them and the machinery will not work. We are now being asked to consider a system of Government in which financial stability of that kind is the one thing that local authorities will not be able to expect because there will always be central Government breathing down their neck and threatening to take away their revenues. Finally, there is one lesson to be learned from this foreign study, and it is simply expressed: look before you leap; do not start making great changes in local government until you have thought about it a good deal. I very much doubt whether it could be established that the changes made in local government early in the 1970s have been of any real benefit to anyone, particularly when you set against them the inevitable cost of carrying out changes of that kind. There is not only the confusion while the services are being shunted from one authority to another; there is the awful confusion in the personal lives of local government servants, and the immense number of problems over redundancy which have to be considered. We do not want to rush into that kind of thing without being reasonably certain that it is worth it. I do not believe that the last changes in local government were worth it in that sense; and I very much doubt whether the London Government Act 1963 was worth it. The other night a pamphlet about the GLC was pushed through my letter-box. It said that the GLC had not fulfilled the high hopes of those who created it. The odd thing was that the pamphlet came from the local Conservative Party, who were, of course, the people who, with their colleagues, helped to create this body. With those examples before them, one would have thought that they would not rush quite so quickly into very large changes of local government, none of which, to judge either from our own history or from foreign example, offers us any real promise of better government.
My Lords, first, I should like to join previous speakers in congratulating my noble friend Lady Lockwood on introducing this report for debate and for the manner in which she did so. However, I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I direct my contribution, such as it is, more along the lines that have just been enunciated by my noble friend Lord Stewart.I do not think that we need to look at this report at all to see why we should not initiate this change at this point in time. I believe that the overwhelming evidence is in this country and is of recent origin. One only has to look back 10 or 11 years to see the fundamental mistakes that were made, but that does not give an excuse for returning to that situation. What produced the present situation? It was the fact that huge metropolitan areas of the country contained very large authorities based on the old major cities. They were surrounded by a series of smaller county boroughs or urban areas which, through history, refused to amalgamate and make more economic unitary authorities. So in the 1950s the Government of the day set up a committee or commission under the chairmanship of a very distinguished person, Sir John Redcliffe-Maud, to look into the situation. Along with quite a number of other people who have since been ennobled in this House, I was involved in those particular discussions. Most of the big cities wanted to be left alone to retain their unitary authority status. The Government of the day—which by then was a Conservative Government—decided that that was not the way to go. We are now talking about people losing a vote. When I lived in Manchester I never knew what it was to have a county council vote—and nor did the people of Leeds or Birmingham—until the last local government reorganisation, because there were no county councils in those areas. The county councils surrounded them; there was a Lancashire County Council and the old West Riding County Council, but there was no regard whatever in the major conurbations and the cities as to what went on outside in the county councils that bordered them. Because of that, when that particular exercise took place, there was a tremendous amount of jealousy between the new metropolitan districts and the new large metropolitan counties. For a while there was almost open warfare between them because the big cities did not want to lose some of the services that were being given to the counties. But over a period of years that friction and antagonism has diminished—and diminished quite considerably—and they are working together. It would be disastrous for the sake of a political argument—and I believe that that is what we are talking about; there is no common sense in what is being proposed—once again to try to alter the situation. There are prominent members of the other side, who have since been ennobled, who were in local government at the time and who, if they spoke from the heart, would say what I am saying. It is significant that out of all noble Lords on the other side who have practical experience in local government, only one noble Baroness has put her name down today to speak in support of what the Government are about to do. There is no substitute at all for people being given the right to vote and to elect into office the people they want or to elect out of office those they do not want. Let us get away from the idea that we can have joint boards, whoever mans them, and from wherever those people are appointed. I have never known a Government of any colour which, when making appointments, did not look through rose-coloured spectacles at its own nominees or delegates. I sat with some disdain the other day listening to a debate in this Chamber on the Telecommunications Bill. Noble Lords on the other side were indulging in a self-imposed naiveté beyond belief. They were saying that the best man for a particular job would get the job irrespective of his political persuasion or philosophy. I have to remind noble Lords that only recently there was a long-running battle in another Chamber when certain Secretaries of States, on receiving office, started at once to remove able, long-standing, and trustworthy people from appointed offices because their political views did not coincide with those of the Government. I challenged the Secretary of State for the DHSS when he decided overnight to dispense with five of the best, most tried and experienced chairmen of regional authorities in the country. The same happened with the water authorities, and even at higher level in some of the financial institutions where the Government are responsible for giving out these jobs. Do not let us lull ourselves into the idea that, if there is an appointed hoard, the local authorities in the area can have 30 per cent., and the other 70 per cent. the Minister will appoint. If he is a Conservative Minister he is not doing his job if he does not, by his appointments, make sure that at least 51 per cent. are Conservative members, or people with that philosophy, and a succeeding Labour Minster would not be doing his job if he did not take such action. To think that it would be any different is complete naiveté. I see something a little more dangerous in this. The AMA were formed as a successor to the AMC, and the AMA were formed because of the local government pattern. Within London and the metropolitan countries there are 24 million residents in this country. As I said, historically a lot of them had a county council vote before. For some of them it was new. They have had the vote for only the last decade, and perhaps have voted three times because they do so every four years. What are the Government saying now? That the right to that vote will be taken away. If you have a population of 24 million it follows, on the usual rule of thumb, that 50 per cent. of the population in an area are on the electoral roll, which means that the present Government are indulging in an exercise of taking the vote away from 12 million people every four years.
My Lords, is not what the noble Lord has been saying an absolute confirmation of what I have always felt, that the only solution is to get rid of party politics in local government for good and all?
My Lords, if we lived in a perfect world that would probably he the best solution, but people and societies are not like that. Certainly experience in this country has shown that the only time a national government in the real sense works is in a time of strict adversity. When people are entitled in a democracy to opt for the type of society they want, it would he dangerous to try to interfere with that. The point I make and repeat—and I do not know whether it has been taken on board by some noble Lords opposite—is that to start turning the clock back and to deny 12 million people a vote (which some have had for only the past decade) to elect a tier of authority between them and the Government, is a dangerous philosophy.I am not talking about London because I do not have a wide knowledge of the GLC, so there is no point in my talking about that, but the six large metropolitan counties almost totally focus on the largest unit in the centre. For instance, in the country of West Yorkshire, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, referred, I think that 50 per cent. of the total population live in the metropolitan city of Leeds. It might be a hit upwards of that, but it is roughly that figure. Manchester is a completely botched up job, because even the last local government reorganisation was not put through as was recommended because of local political pressures. You have the situation with Manchester in the centre with almost half a million people, and just on the northern and eastern side of it are two authorities which were allowed to come into being with just over 200,000 population. The whole thing in that sense is an abortion. Nevertheless, they have learned to operate under a county council which has responsibility for certain functions. I know that the Government Chief Whip appealed to noble Lords not to speak for too long. However, I commenced by saying that some of the severe friction that started with the last local government reorganisation has disappeared, but I am saying that this is a recipe which will resurrect it overnight. Any particular county area, whether you do away with the council or not, will adopt a regional entity which no Government Bill can destroy. There will then be competition within that area for Government resources on various matters, and there will be nobody between the Government and the district authority to adjudicate. Being from local government myself, I know what will happen. The biggest authority in the area will become the over-dominant one, and sometimes at the expense of the others. It will inevitably happen, and this is why I appeal to the Government to think again. These cities before were powerful units, and they still are. The county structure was imposed on them, but it has now started to work. When I first joined another place I submitted proposals to the then Labour Government on behalf of the AMA—and its leader then was Sir Robert Thomas—which showed how the county councils could be given a role, and that they could be given some of the work done by these appointed boards, which would have ameliorated the situation between them and the counties. There is no reason why they could not have been involved in water services instead of the water boards. There is no reason why they could not have taken over regional planning and things like that, but they were denied that role. It would be better if the Government thought again for quite a while and did what the last Government did in 1960, and appointed a commission perhaps under a distinguished legal colleague in this Chamber, or somebody of that ilk, to look at the situation in a dispassionate manner. If the Government go through with their proposals as they intend, it will lead to nothing but an unmitigated disaster.
My Lords, one has to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, on the clear way in which she put forward the proposals in the report. I found the report hard going. What the noble Baroness pointed out clearly was that all the major conurbations, not only in Europe but in other parts, need unified planning of services in some fields. Therefore, one must ask the Government: do they think that our urban problems are different in some way from those in other parts of the world? If they are different, then we need to be told.As my noble friend Lord Stewart pointed out, it was a Tory Government which set up the metropolitan counties in 1974 because they recognised, with all the reports that came forward from the Royal Commission, that strategic public authorities were essential. Now that a political conflict has arisen between the Government and the metropolitan counties, the Government's idea about the structure of local government has undergone a complete right about turn. In its election manifesto of 1970, the Conservative Party said that it would bring about a sensible measure of local government reform which would involve a genuine devolution of power from central government and would provide a two-tier structure. My noble friend Lady Birk spelt out quite clearly that, while that might have been in the Conservative Party election manifesto of 1970, it is not the policy of this Conservative Government, who seem to feel that Whitehall knows best about everything: whether it is how to manure one's back garden or how to build the finest aircraft possible. That is an impossible task for any government department to undertake. It is recognised in the White Paper that the need to abolish the metropolitan authorities is because they have been shown to be wasteful and an unnecessary tier of local government. But there has been no cost-effective analysis by the Government to prove that theory. It is just what they think happens. We know, when they undertook to reorganise the National Health Service, which took place in the same period as the reorganisation of local government, what a wholesale flop that was. What concerns me more than anything is whether it can be proved by the Government that further reorganisation will be a means of saving resources by providing a more efficient system of government for the planning and delivery of existing services, or is it a means of reducing the already high level of provision of these services? If it is to be a means of reducing the real level of provision of public services, that is what will concern noble Members on these Benches. Our concern is because the changes affect, as my noble friend Lord Dean of Beswick said, approximately 25 per cent. of the population of the country, all in very close, confined areas. They are the country's major urban areas, where housing, unemployment and social care are the most serious problems. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter is not in the Chamber, because he always contests any figures that I use and that I obtain them from some secret source, which is not Cheltenham. But the figures I shall quote are from Government sources, from the Central Statistical Office and the Department of the Environment. These figures are for the characteristics of metropolitan counties compared with the rest of England and the shires. I wish to give three. The average gross weekly earnings for men working full time in April 1981 for the whole of England were £141 per week. Not one metropolitan authority reached that figure. The figures are as low as £131·8 a week. The West Midlands, to which I am proud to belong, was one of the most thriving parts of Great Britain, but it now has a wage rate of £133·8 compared with the national £141. If we look again at professionals, employers and managers expressed as a percentage of economically active persons in the areas, we find that in the whole of England the figure is 15·5 per cent., but nowhere in any of the metropolitan authorities do we find such a level of that classification of person; those in the higher levels are down to 10 per cent. The highest is 13 per cent. and again in the West Midlands there is a low figure of 11·7 per cent. For unemployment we see that the latest figures that are available for England show an average of 11·2 per cent. For the metropolitan districts we find 15·7 per cent., 17·9 per cent., and 13·7per cent. The West Midlands again, which was a very prosperous area, is down to a level of 15·2 per cent. against the national average of 11·2 per cent. unemployed. That is why the metropolitan districts should be considered quite differently from any other part of the country. The Royal Commission reported in 1964 and it is spelt out in its report that there is a need to consider the metropolitan counties as a special local government problem which requires distinct solutions. That was said in 1964 in the days when "we never had it so good". I do not know what would be said now in 1984, when unemployment has increased in those areas, where major manufacturing areas have been completely destroyed—something which has nothing to do with wage rates. Here I address the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour. In the West Midlands there are whole areas of dereliction where steelworks have closed down. That has nothing to do with wage rates. It has to do with the lack of need for steel and it is unfortunate for those areas that they have to suffer that dereliction. If we have learned anything from the report of the Royal Commission in 1964, it is that the situation is a lot worse.
My Lords, if the noble Baroness does not mind my interrupting for one moment, would she say that the dereliction in those areas was totally unrelated to the rate levels that have been created by the councils?
My Lords, I should remind the noble Baroness that in belonging to the EEC we have to conform as regards the amount of steel that we manufacture. Because our statistics show that we do not have to produce so much, the West Midlands is one of those areas which have had to get rid of steelworks. It has nothing to do with anything else, with the incompetence of workers in the area or with high wage rates. It is the fact that we have to cut down on the amount of steel produced.I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, is sitting on the Front Bench while we are talking about joint hoards. He also sat on the Front Bench when we were discussing the Water Bill. He remembers quite distinctly the fight that we had on the Water Bill to try to get the Minister to put into the statute that members of local authorities should be on the water boards. The Government resisted and resisted. We understand now that it is in some rules and regulations, but it is not in the statute that local authorities should be able to have representatives sitting on the boards of water authorities. As my noble friend Lord Dean spelt out, when the water boards were first set up they mainly comprised local authority members. There is no right now for a local authority member to be on a water authority. As the noble Lord remembers, it was his noble friend who said that what we want are very small committees of businessmen to run the water authorities. That is what worries us—that if these boards are set up they will be run on exactly the same lines and there will be no local authority representatives. When we are talking about police boards and fire service boards, we have to remember that this might easily be the first steps towards a national service losing all sense of local identity. The noble Lord might challenge—I should not object if he did—my own position for having said that I felt the West Midlands metropolitan county might be one authority that was not necessary. That opinion was formed as a result of the experience that I had had as a member of the Birmingham local authority. It might be, again, as the noble Lord, Lord Dean, has said, that that was the feeling of all large local authorities. I think that was because we felt very selfish that we were successful authorities and we did not want anybody else to poach anything from us. But now I think (as Lord Dean expressed very clearly) that all these areas are in areas of the country where they are fighting for all their worth to try to become economically viable communities once again, and to get rid of the unemployment and the distress that that causes in those areas. It is for that reason that I feel the metropolitan authorities have the greater part to play. I want to dwell, in the last few minutes that I have, on the positive achievements of the metropolitan authorities. I wish to dwell upon one particular service, which my noble friend Lady Lockwood briefly mentioned; that is, the legislation regarding the consumer. The increase and present extent of consumer legislation also includes not only that passed in this Parliament but also that included in the EEC directives. It goes far beyond the consumer legislation, far beyond those things that we used to remember under the old Weights and Measures Acts. It goes into all kinds of protection—stemming the flow of dangerous imported goods, and so on. I fail to understand why the Government do not try to stop these more vigorously than they do—particularly when one sees the toys being imported into this country which are lethal for children to play with. The metal is jagged, and the paint is lead paint. These things could he stopped at the ports rather than be allowed to come on to the markets and become a problem for trading standards officers. While the department are doing everything possible to protect the standards of British goods, they are being destroyed by these cheap imports. The CBI itself is cognisant of the work of the trading standards departments, and works alongside them. I think it was in the Yorkshire area that the CBI contributed finance to investigate whether pure wool was being used in garments. In the Sheffield authority, they have been trying to overcome counterfeit articles. This fight by the trading standards officers is an important part of the work of the metropolitan authorities. It needs the complete monitoring of all kinds of services—services that are provided to other local authorities. A case in point appeared in the Birmigham newspapers a few weeks ago. Sausages that were being supplied to an adjacent local authority were not even up to government standards, and contained only half the amount of meat specified in the contract undertaken with the other local authority. If we look at the national press, we will see that over any period of time it is the metropolitan authorities that are monitoring this sort of service well. It is in that service that they are most effective in looking after not only the housewife as a consumer but other authorities and also government departments. It might be premature to ask this question, but it is an important one. What is the Government's thinking regarding the future of this service? That is the question I would pose. In conclusion, may I say that 10 years is the period of time during which the metropolitan authorities have been in operation. It has been a difficult 10 years, starting from scratch and working upwards. I have used the example of the trading standards officers, but there are also the transport facilities. All these services started from scratch and are performing excellent services within the space of ten years—bearing in mind that they had to compete with the powerful district interests around them. As my noble friend Lord Dean has said, the conflict and the tensions were acute when they started; but there is now comparative harmony—harmony because (as I said previously) these areas are what one could almost call the derelict areas of Great Britain. It is for that reason, perhaps, that they spend more money than anybody else; because what they are trying to do is to pull themselves out of the depths of despair caused by unemployment, not through their own fault. It is perhaps because they are recognising those problems and recognising that the Government are not doing sufficient to help them that they are now working in harmony together to get the whole conurbation back to the thriving, thrusting areas that they were. Other speakers today have said that there needs to be a review of local government. It might be that we could have another review. But let it be a proper and full investigation, as others have said; because I can see that what the Government intend to do is to destroy a tier of local democracy, simply for the purpose of party government and political expediency. The White Paper (Cmnd. 4276) of February 1970 said:
and that was the setting up of the two-tier structure—"In view of the time, effort and disturbance which such change involves"—
Is one decade too long for the Government to stomach?"the new structure must be designed to last in its essentials for many, decades".
My Lords, in following my noble friend Lady Fisher I should like to endorse what she has said and, indeed, what all speakers have said about the debt we owe to my noble friend Lady Lockwood for introducing this debate and relating our current problems to the very important study which has been prepared by the Institute of Local Government Studies of the University of Birmingham. I am sure that it is right that we should try to learn from the experience of other countries, because it is all too clear now that in this country we have not got a democratic system of government that is the envy of the world. Indeed, the way we have gone down the league table from Division 1 to being almost on the point of applying for reelection at the bottom of Division 4 rather suggests that we should seek to learn rather more from other countries. No doubt today, quite properly, the debate is related, as my noble friend Lady Fisher has related it, to the Government's current proposals that are now under consideration.Yesterday being St. Valentine's Day, I understand that two charming ladies from the South Yorkshire Metropolitan Council brought a Valentine to the right honourable gentleman the Secretary of State for the Environment. I read about that in the Sheffield newspapers only this morning; otherwise I should have contrived to see that the noble Lord who is to reply to the debate was similarly honoured. Since argument seems to be unavailing, perhaps we should try in this way or in other ways to persuade the Government to be a little more lenient to the metropolitan authorities. Any any rate, today we are indebted to the noble Baronesses in the House because the burden of the debate has been carried by them. Four noble Baronesses have taken part in the debate. I was struck by the observation of the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, when she said that perhaps there is a great significance in what has happened in local government because of the development of local radio and television services. She spoke, quite rightly, of the immense impact that these are having, not only locally but nationally. I personally welcome the development of both independent and BBC services on a regional basis: they do a great deal to bring together regional problems. But it is not necessarily the case that it is the metropolitan local politicians who get the most publicity. Certainly in South Yorkshire the best-known local authority leader is the leader of a district council and not of the metropolitan council. However, I think the noble Baroness was right in saying that it is extremely important. I remember in another place a colleague saying that when he spoke on television not only did he speak to more of his constituents in those few minutes than would normally be possible in his whole political career, but at that time he was also speaking to more Members of Parliament than when he addressed another place. I think we can probably say also that when a Member of this House appears on television he is likely to be addressing more of your Lordships than he would have the privilege of doing when speaking in this Chamber. Like my noble friend Lady Fisher, referring to the Redcliffe-Maud Commission, I had grave doubts about the setting up of metropolitan counties; and, like the noble Baroness, I still have those doubts because I still believe that single-purpose authorities are the most effective on the whole, if for example, in cities of the size of Manchester and Birmingham and my own City of Sheffield, it is possible. I can see that there are problems in other parts of the country. What is needed is to have small area representation to deal with essentially local, village type problems—parish councils with enhanced powers, on the other one hand—and then possibly larger authorities than the present metropolitan counties are. I notice that this happens to be conclusion No. 3 of the report that we are considering. On page 57 it says—
I think the final conclusion is one of immense importance:"If decisions are to be kept local, two levels of decision-making are required—local and metropolitan".
One of the difficulties, certainly in the case of South Yorkshire, and also probably for all metropolitan councils in recent years, has been that not only have they not had good Government backing but the Government of the day has done its best totally to undermine all the activities with which they were concerned. I do not know which of the well-known publicity bodies was responsible for streamlining the Government's White Paper, Streamlining the Cities, Cmnd. 9063, but, whichever it was, I should like warmly to congratulate them on the biggest piece of whitewashing and recasting of history that it has been my misfortune to come across. Reading this document, no one would believe that Conservative Governments had anything to do either with the setting up 20 years ago of the GLC or, more recently, with the setting up of the present metropolitan county councils. In fact, section 1.3 says:"The metropolitan authority will inevitably have a difficult and often controversial role; it needs good government support and backing."
It goes on and on about various problems, particularly in paragraphs 1.10 and 1.11 and about how difficult it was for the GLC and the MCCs to find roles for themselves. In paragraph 1.12 it says that this was a recipe for conflict and uncertainty—"The reorganisations of the 1960s and the early 1970s were typical of their time. It was a time when resources seemed to be freely available, and when it was assumed that growth would automatically provide the funds for ever-increasing expenditure. It was also the heyday of a certain fashion for strategic planning, the confidence in which now appears exaggerated."
There may be something in all this. The surprising thing is that I recall when in another place spending many hours telling the the Government that this was exactly what would happen in the case of the GLC and in the case of the Government reorganisation of 1973–74. I believe that in this place an even larger number of days (not hours) was spent on opposing the proposals concerning the GLC. I have no great expertise in this area of local government, but I do not feel that the present structure is necessarily right. There is a lot to be said for a metropolitan authority on the lines of the old London County Council rather than on the lines of the Greater London Council. Certainly, as the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, said emphatically, it is unbelievable, looking round the world, that the capital city of this great nation of ours should not have some form of representative government. It is unbelievable that the Government of the day should be coming forward with that kind of proposal. Of course, one can criticise a great deal of what has happened in some local authorities. In particular I would say to the Government—because we are all involved in this and the mistakes that are being made will be at the expense of the whole community and not merely to the political cost of the present Government—that to rush into changes without realising what they are doing could mean a repetition of some of the problems, the very real problems, in relationships between the new district councils (many of them the old city councils of previous decades) and the new counties. Now, after the long and, in some cases, bitter teething experience, I believe that they are in a position to make a real contribution in the areas they serve. Certainly in South Yorkshire, the area I know best, while there was perhaps the greatest hostility initially, it is now widely recognised that the Government's proposals would be a disaster for the people there. One of the controversial decisions they have taken in South Yorkshire is to provide very cheap transport. This, of course, costs money but at the same time they have got a much bigger usage of public transport, and against the actual costs one has to set the increased congestion of roads and the building of new roads that would otherwise have come about. As transport Minister, I remember well the first difficult decision I had, because I had to bring in the transport supplementary grant, which was a legacy of the outgoing Government in 1974. I had to give Tyne and Wear by far the biggest percentage of that grant, or else one had to stop their ambitious proposals for a metropolitan transport organisation serving the whole of the North-East area. I read only the other day in some expert transport journal that this is now regarded as a model which should be followed internationally as well as nationally. It is a great success, and I understand there are many demands for it to be extended in Tyne and Wear itself. But initially that was a matter of very great controversy. In conclusion I would say this: not only would the history of this country but that of the United States have been very different, going back some centuries, if one had paid more regard to what I believe is an essential principle of democracy: that there should be no taxation without representation. That was the factor which concerned the American colonies, and that is what the present Government, in 1984, are ignoring in setting up joint boards. The Government have already set up similar bodies to run the water industry. The water rates that we pay are not a proper charge for the water that we use. They are a form of taxation. And how water charges have grown since the joint boards took over from the local authorities! I see no reason why that will not be the case with these proposed joint boards. And we never found a satisfactory way of providing a proper joint board system for running the polytechnics and further education. The only case that the Government have made for their proposals is I believe wholly political. We all accept that there is scope for improving the structure of local government. But let it be as a result of a proper study, prepared by an independent body, not by means of a public relations paper, which is all one can say about Streamlining the Cities. If there are to be further proposals, let us consider the history of local government and how we come to be where we are. I hope that the noble Lord who is to reply will assure us that the views which have been expressed today will be taken fully into account by those who are thinking about the structure which is to replace the authorities that they propose to abolish."A strict interpretation of the upper-tier role, as envisaged in the legislation, would leave members of these authorities with too few real functions. The search for a wider role brings them into conflict with the lower-tier authorities. It may also lead them to promote policies which conflict with national policies which are the responsibility of central government".
My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, on a most interesting and enlightening debate. If it has done nothing else, it has made me examine critically a report which. I must admit, under normal circumstances I should have looked at somewhat cursorily. However, it came as no surprise to me that most noble Lords could not resist the temptation to comment on the Government's own proposals for changes in metropolitan government. I shall return to those in a moment. In the meantime, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, for the measured way in which he put his or, perhaps, the Alliance's—could it be that they coincide?—views.Let me deal first with the immediate subject of our debate. The study by the Institute of Local Government Studies on The Government and Administration of Metropolitan Areas in Western Democracies is a useful but limited piece of work. It gathers together information about 13 metropolitan areas in eight countries that is not readily accessible elsewhere. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, the immediate impression I gained was one of great variety, both in the overall arrangements for local government in each country and the particular methods of governing metropolitan areas. That is hardly surprising. Despite some similarities, the situation in each area is bound to be significantly different. After all, both the history and the thinking of the countries involved are significantly different—a point also made by the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock. I can assure the House that the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, and I did not exchange notes before writing our speeches. However, I failed to find any common thread or any relationship with our own metropolitan government—past, present or proposed. The report itself readily admits that the institutional arrangements in one country can rarely, if ever, be translated directly to another country. At best, we can make sure that we are aware of the various possibilities represented by the methods adopted elsewhere and make sure that some of the experience abroad is taken into account in devising any new proposals. But local government is local, a point that I made at Question Time yesterday, and it is much less easy to make simple international comparisons than in some other areas of public affairs. Twelve years ago I bought a business. The first management exercise I undertook was to identify what was being done, why, who by and did it have to be done by him or her or would another process obviate it? The Government's aim has been to devise a local government structure appropriate to the needs of London and the other metropolitan areas. Our primary concern has been to look at the situation in those areas and the recent experience of local government structures. I recognise that the metropolitan county councils in particular believe that the study we are debating shows up some defects in the Government's proposals. They, of course, commissioned the work and they have since tried to make much of the really rather tentative conclusions that the author has reached. This is all part of a major publicity campaign being waged by the opponents of abolition in which they have given a most misleading impression. It involves millions of pounds and many full-time staff—professional lobbyists, publicity organisations and so on—paid, incidentally, by the ratepayers. In passing, why can these bodies find enough money for this sort of activity and not enough for what they regard as real services? I cannot equate it at all. I should like to take the opportunity of this debate to set the record straight. The main rationale behind our proposals is that the Greater London Council and the metropolitan county councils are an unnecessary tier of government. It seems to me that the noble Baroness, Lady Fisher, has voted herself the monetarist of the Opposition Benches. I can tell her that finance is only a spin-off, not a main reason for the Government's plans. The GLC and the metropolitan county councils have not found it possible to establish a proper role for themselves, given the range of powers that they have in comparison with the role of the lower tier—the boroughs and districts. One symptom of this lack of a real role has been the attempt to enter policy areas—even foreign policy—that are quite outside the proper business of local government. Clearly nothing in this paper or anywhere else suggests that there should be more tiers of government than are necessary, but I notice that one of the study's conclusions is that two tiers are inevitably necessary. But why? They were not so in the past, as several noble Lords have mentioned. This seems to arise from the proposition that metropolitan areas must be treated as a homogeneous whole. I note that the metropolitan counties claim that, if decisions are to be kept local, two levels of decision-making are required. You cannot get more local than the boroughs.
My Lords, if the Minister is correct and sincere in saying that the Government do not consider that there is a case for two tiers, why are they leaving 60 per cent. of the country alone and retaining a two-tier system of government there?
My Lords, the noble Lord must not quote me out of context. I said that there is no logic in having two tiers in the metropolitan areas. There is plenty of logic behind retaining the county system in non-metropolitan areas, but that is not what the debate is about. So we approach this question from a rather different point of view. Having a reasonable size for the basic unit of government in urban areas, capable of carrying on most of the executive and operational tasks, we considered whether the remaining tasks do genuinely give rise to the need for an additional, separate tier of government. We concluded that they do not. We were not alone in that view. In March 1979, Mr. Livingstone, the current leader of the GLC, was reported as saying that abolishing the GLC would have been a major saving and would have released massive resources for more productive use. He went on to say:
We plan exactly that. We believe that much can be done by voluntary co-operation, particularly the provision of specialist staff and services. This is something that local government well understands—for example, in joint purchasing of supplies, of which noble Lords have much more experience than have I. The noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, gives me food for thought. He appears to have got all this so wrong that I shall have to read most carefully what he said. For example, some—just a few—operational activities are more conveniently handled through the mechanism of a joint board. This has a separate legal identity from its constituent members and to that limited extent an independent life of its own. Some have suggested that our proposals for three joint hoards in each of the metropolitan counties are an implicit recognition of the continued existence of a separate tier of government. That misunderstands our intention. Joint boards —notwithstanding propaganda to the contrary subscribed to, I regret to say, by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, for whom I have a lot of respect—are not quangos, and nor are they a separate tier. They are a mechanism for co-operation between the basic, democratically-elected authorities. The members will be appointed by those authorities from among their own elected councillors. The joint boards will thus be closely linked to the basic authorities, and have nothing to do with appointments by the Secretary of State. I must take issue, too, with the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, who regarded them as taxation without representation. From the definition I have just given, he will see that that is quite wrong."and I think there would have been a lot of support on the Labour side for that, provided that adequate powers were devolved down to the boroughs, and not absorbed upwards by central government".
My Lords, if the noble Lord the Minister will give way, the great problem of joint boards is that none of the members is responsible for the totality of the expenditure. They each go back to their own authorities and say, "I was against it, but the others wanted it". That is the whole problem with joint boards, where no one is accountable to the public from whom they take the money. If they need subsidies for transport of any kind—and whether the Government run it or anyone else, it has to be subsidised if it is going to work—then that money has to come out of taxes. Equally, the present cost of water is a form of taxation because the comparison between what we pay now for water and what we paid when the local authority in Sheffield ran it is enormous.
My Lords, the noble Lord has somewhat confused me. Does he mean, then, that democracy only works when you win?
It means, my Lords, that democracy requires that you have a vote over the people who make these decisions.
My Lords, as joint boards are comprised of councillors who themselves have been directly elected, as we have already established, this must be democracy in action. I am afraid that I cannot take the point of the noble Lord.There will be no upper tier with a separate mandate claiming superiority because of its apparent size and power. The basic authorities will obviously not agree on all matters, but they will have a guarantee that their view has been put in the formulating of any overall decision and that they can participate fully in the process of making decisions affecting the urban area as a whole. After all, it is not long ago that there was the local government "Keep Local Government Local" campaign. That seems rather to have been lost sight of in the present discussions. I was particularly interested to learn that another member of the Institute of Local Government Studies, Professor Stewart, was the coauthor of a book entitled The Case for Local Government. I see from page 150 of that book:
The book goes on to say:"The basic units of community government could normally be about 150,000 to 500,000, although in exceptional cases larger authorities might be created. In the metropolitan areas they can be based on the present metropolitan districts".
I am not trying to quote my own authority for the part of the speech I have just made. What I am saying is that even within the local authority study organisation which we are discussing now there is quite obviously a divergence of opinion. The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, underlined that the present report clearly recognises this problem of relationship between various tiers. It speaks of the possibility of giving "special powers" to the higher level authorities to ensure that decisions are implemented. That would be a possibility—but surely the wrong choice in the present situation. It would intensify rather than reduce conflict, and it would require a significant shift of real power towards the more remote upper tier authorities. We believe that the right course is to make use of the existing powerful lower tier, reduce the possibility of conflict by eliminating the separate upper tier, and thus ensure that the focus for planning and execution is in the basic unit of government. My noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour pointed out that local government has to operate within the particular fiscal strategy of the Government of the day. I agree with her that until recently that was the local government ethic. It does not apply today. I suggest that her speech will repay a lot of study—not least by myself. She did not say, however, as I understood her, but as accused by the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, that local government should agree with the politics of the Government of the day. I agree with the noble Lord: that would be an unhealthy nonsense. My noble friend was making the point that local authorities are responsible for a very high proportion of local public spending—some 25 per cent.—and she is obviously quite right. Any Government of any complexion would ignore that at their peril. While speaking of money, I noted the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, about the costs and savings which may arise upon abolition. That is not something we can go into in detail this evening, but the Government are confident that the removal of a whole tier of government will certainly give significant potential for savings to be made. We will make sure that the potential is realised. We are very conscious of the experience of previous reorganisations. One has to learn something from history, I suggest."No other tier of government should be constituted between these local authorities and Parliament. Where functions of government have to be carried out over wider areas, that should normally be achieved through joint action by local authorities. Such joint action is never easily achieved, but it is easier to achieve between adjoining authorities each with its own responsibility for its own area than between two tiers of local government, each with some degree of responsibility for the same area. And it is easier between authorities of equal status rather than between those of unequal status".
My Lords, if the Minister will give way, have the Government yet started costing this? Will it be costed, and will we know the costing at some time? I am sure that the noble Lord does not have the answers tonight, but as he raised the point I wonder whether he can give some indication.
That is a fair question, my Lords. The Government do not have the costings and they will not be able to produce the costings until we see exactly what levels of employment and redistribution of staff will be involved between, for example, the metropolitan councils and the joint boards. There are also, of course, specialist staff who, by the very nature of things, will have to be transferred to the boroughs. Until we know about that, there is absolutely no hope of making a definitive calculation.The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, and the noble Lord, Lord Mulley, and many other noble Lords, asked about a prolonged and detailed study. I believe those were the words the noble Baroness used. This study has been used to bolster the call for a major inquiry before we proceed to change the arrangements in metropolitan areas. This is the view taken by the Association of Metropolitan Authorities as well as by the six metropolitan county councils individually. We have considered that view carefully. However, we do not believe that the inevitable delay which an inquiry would cause can be justified in terms of the possible outcome of such a study. Local government reforms in both 1963 and 1972, as has been remarked tonight, certainly followed major studies, and no doubt that was to some extent helpful, at least in creating a climate of expectation of change. But the main decisions are essentially political, with a small "p"—not party politics, my Lords. They represent difficult judgments on the appropriate balance between the size and powers of various authorities. There is no simple analytical method for arriving at the "correct" basis for local government in a particular area. After an inquiry, the same judgments would have to be taken and an important and valuable reform made. Certainly I do not believe that an inquiry would very usefully add to the amount of information on the subject. If noble Lords have seen even a fraction of the massive amount of material produced in response to our White Paper, they may well agree that most of what can be said has been said. That pales into insignificance beside the absolute mountain of post received as a result of the recent consultation period, which ended on 31st January. The noble Lord, Lord Mulley, challenged me to take into account what has been said in the House this evening. I very readily do that. I am the first to see that valuable points have been made by some very experienced speakers. I shall certainly make sure that they are all included in the consultation process.
My Lords, this is a Short Debate, and I am sure your Lordships will want to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, the mover of this Motion, close it. If there are more interruptions, she will not be able to do so.
My Lords, we intend to press ahead without the delay of an inquiry, but of course this House will have a full opportunity to debate the major legislation that will be needed, and I look forward to constructive discussions on the details of our proposals when the details are formulated. This is not an appropriate stage to consider at length the detail of our proposals—Lady Fisher's trading standards department, and so on—but I assure her the point will be looked at carefully.
My Lords, will the noble Lord write to me with the reply, or shall I have to wait until the Government make a decision?
My Lords, I think it would be better to give a composite answer to all the points raised both here and elsewhere on the future of local services, but if the noble Baroness would like me to write to her specifically I shall be glad to oblige.The Government have had many thousands of responses to the White Paper Streamlining the Cities. It is taking us a little time to digest them all. I cannot say now what changes, if any, we shall make to the detail of the arrangements we propose to replace the GLC and MCCs. I shall have to ask the House to be patient while we look at all the material that has been sent to us. I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for drawing our attention to this international study. As I said at the outset, it is a useful paper to have. However, it is clear that, even when we look into it for some lessons that might be applicable to our situation, we find no clear message from the diversity of international examples. We must continue to rely largely on our own knowledge and experience of the situation in our own metropolitan areas. The Government stand by the basic proposition that the GLC and MCCs are an unnecessary tier of government. Our proposals seek to remedy that by building upon the powerful and more local units of government already in existence to provide a better system free of the tensions, friction and duplications of the present.
My Lords, I believe it is the custom for the mover of the Motion for a short debate not to reply to all the points made. Perhaps that is as well, because I might have been tempted to follow the noble Lord the Minister down one or two tracks which I do not think were actually referred to during the course of the debate. Indeed, it seemed to me on occasions that he was replying to a debate that he thought was going to take place but which did not take place.Some very important and fundamental issues were touched on in the debate. We looked not only at the structure and functions of local government, and compared them with the continental report, but also at the fundamental nature of democracy itself and how democracy interrelates between national and local government. On those fundamental issues it appeared that the noble Lord the Minister had nothing at all to say. In that respect I feel somewhat disappointed by his response. If I may say so, I was also somewhat disappointed when I saw the total list of speakers this afternoon. While the title might be somewhat off-putting, I think all those who have experience of local government know, from both the title and a brief glance at the report, that it contains a lot of important principles and important trends in local government which I would have thought would be useful for this House to discuss in a more representative way. I really am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, for coming into the debate from the Benches Opposite. I would have liked to see a more representative list of speakers. However, be that as it may, I am grateful to the noble Lords and noble Baronesses who have taken part in the debate. I think a lot of important and useful points have been made. I hope that the noble Lord the Minister will, as he has promised, bring them to the attention of his colleagues. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion standing in my name. Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
Sovereignty: International Law
rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make a statement on rules of international law applicable to the granting and withdrawal of recognition of sovereignty; in the obligations under international law required of a government accepting recognition; and whether in their opinion such rules require reconsideration.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. I would immediately like to thank those who have been good enough to put their names on the list to join in this debate. If I may, I say a special word of gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Home, who was for a considerable number of years one of our best and most successful Foreign Secretaries; and I think upon this subject there are very few people in either party who would reject his advice with comfort.
The Question concerns how and on what terms we should accept new entries to the family of nations. That was once treated as a great question, but today it seems to have been somewhat downgraded. In the 18th century, the concert of Christian States, then numbering perhaps a score, not much more, formed an informal club, and that club gave us the diplomatic system and also assumed the responsibility for world order. Spheres of influence arose; they were not precisely defined, but they were recognised and acknowledged, and they worked. America had the Monroe system; we took charge of East of Suez, the French the Barbary Coast and North Africa; and Russia more or less bossed Central Asia. And each of us accepted that order. It worked. Later, the Ottoman Empire and the Japanese Empire were accepted more or less as country members of the club. But the real authority which looked after order in the world during that time was this concert of the Christian nations. Small states knew their places; they observed their national and private obligations. When they got into debt the powers put in a receiver. Egypt's treasury still works the reforms provided for them by Lord Cromer acting as the receiver of their creditors.
Not the present one, my Lords.
No; an earlier one. Candidates to join this society of nations had their credentials looked at pretty carefully and terms were often imposed. Indeed, when the Turkish Empire broke up and the Balkan States emerged, a condition of recognition was that they should get themselves kings. Monarchy was regarded as the best way of getting durability, sequence, order. I do not say how well that worked, but it did a least work rather better than the presidents who came forward with the dissolution of other empires. Indeed, the terms were different then; circumstances were different. But only recently has it become the case that for entry into this society of nations there were no terms at all. People have joined regardless.I believe that on the whole the powers maintained world order pretty effectively, certainly very much more effectively than the United Nations have. The world was a far safer place both for the state and for the individual. Indeed, the United Nations have really been the trouble here. The idea was that the victorious powers, united in peace as they had been in war, would keep world order, with possibly a United Nations force, which they operated through the Security Council. Very unfortunately, the super powers fell out. Both set about ridding themselves of alternative authorities within their areas. The Russians annexed everything east of the Elbe: the Americans produced an anti-colonialism which destroyed the power base of Britain and France and led to a clutter of new states, most of them wholly unfit to carry out their responsibilities within the law of nations. They arrived, mostly, with constitutions which had been granted to politicians who had been trained, if that be the right word, in the constitutional law and customs of a colonial state. Neither the politicians nor the constitutions lasted long. I do not think a single constitution survived. The politicians were chased out by men who had recognised that power came from the barrel of a gun. They were chased out, mostly, murderously; so what I have described as the assassin state arose. I have defined the assassin state as the state founded on violence, using violence with a succession based much as was the case in the Kingdom of Eli in The Golden Bough—the credential being that the man who murdered the last one succeeded to his office. That is what has been happening. At the moment, over half the United Nations consists of assassin states. Indeed, it would often seem that the only surviving principle of the United Nations is that the white man is always wrong. It is the blacks who are suffering. The whites, on whose skill and generosity the blacks have depended, are getting tired—particularly the United States of America. The system of sponsorship is on its way out. I do not know how these new states will do without it. Membership of the United Nations was not intended to be automatic. The rules provide that a new member requires a two-thirds majority and is open to veto. But for some reason vetoes are never exercised, and entry and credentials do not ever seem to have been debated. They may have been, but only on very rare occasions, if at all. In practice, acceptance by the United Nations seemed to be automatic. Coup followed coup. I think one of the Francophone colonies in Africa has had 10 coups with 10 successive unlawful and revolutionary spokesmen moving into a seat in the United Nations. Nigeria has had five. Automatic acceptance in this way by the United Nations of ragamuffin governments undermined the old principle of recognition. What were we to do? If we recognised them, that tended to sound like approval, and that was the last thing we wanted to give to these new coup governments. But if one did not recognise, what could one do about it? The chap had his seat in the United Nations, so what was to be done? As far as we were concerned, we decided to abdicate our right to withdraw recognition. This was a curious thing. We abdicated our right and decided just to carry on as if the transfer had not happened. We did this, on what one would have thought was a rather drastic and fundamental change, by a Written Answer to a planted Question given in this House. I have a feeling of great admiration that only the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, could ever have got away with that. He did so in April, 1980. There the position stands at the moment. I do not think it has been a success. It has encouraged the coup system. Thicker and faster new governments come. Less and less is the law regarded. Order has been breaking down, not only at the top level but domestically. Everywhere in the crime statistics the multiple varies between four and ten. It is getting to be a more and more disorderly world. Then came Grenada. After, I believe, over 100 accepted coups President Reagan—may his shadow never grow less—at last intervened. The assassins were arrested, to the deep gratitude of almost all the people of Grenada. But the forces of disorder rallied the United Nations and the Americans were summoned to the Security Council to answer to the charge of aggression. I think that that, on the whole, gave us a chance. We were in a position to put the Americans under an obligation, if we had defended them stoutly at the United Nations. But we did just the opposite. What was the result? The Commonwealth despised us for our impotence. The United States was outraged by our ingratitude. After all, they had supported us in similar circumstances in the Falklands. It is not unnatural that they should now be twisting our tail in the Argentine. When one looks at that performance, one must admit that our Government are not very good at foreign affairs. What can we do now? The fundamental question is between order and disorder, and coups equal disorder. We do not have coups in this country—at least, not since 1685. No-one is going to accept an assassin because he has shot Mrs. Thatcher and taken over the BBC. They are accepted when that sort of thing happens in Africa, but we have a deep-rooted sense of legality which makes us coup-proof. That applies to nearly all Europe—it even applies to Italy. We do not have coups here. Coup countries are not properly established states. They do not respect their own constitutions because they have just overthrown them. They certainly do not respect the constitutions of others, or international laws. There are certain propositions which I believe we ought to consider. Firstly, we should recognise that coup governments cannot do without recognition. It does not need to be universal recognition, but they have to have the recognition of at least most of their neighbours and at least some of their trading associates. Without recognition they are, in international law, ungoverned territory in which the civilised states may take any action they deem necessary to guard their interests. They have no access to international finance. They are substantially unable to trade. An unrecognised state from which essential recognition is withdrawn is really not in a position to carry on government. We should realise that as part of our power. The power to withhold recognition possesses formidable sanctions and it is not the kind of power to be thrown away in an Answer to a Written Question. Thirdly, we know which countries are liable to coups. Most of them have already had several. We should discuss each as a contingency with our trading and defence partners and when the coup comes we should be ready to act in concert and set out our terms. Nigeria is the latest; it is her fifth coup and fourth general. She has had an oil bonanza but I understand that she is broke. The story has always been the same—corruption, nepotism; the general is going to put it right. Within a year or so corruption and nepotism are back and the brutal violence has increased. It seems to be starting that way. On the news this morning we heard that 35 members of a television crew are to be whipped for being late. Is this the kind of government that we wish to recognise unconditionally? Is it not time we put in some conditions? I think my noble friend Lord Lever will have something more to say on that. The great issue today has ceased to be communism and democracy. The great issue is order and disorder. On the question of order, quite often we shall find the Russians on our side. They need order, too. I should like to mention Afghanistan and our performance at the Olympic Games. Afghanistan is not our friend. I do not think she could be anybody's friend except upon the basis that mine enemy's enemy is my friend. She has an appalling record. Raiding her peaceful neighbours has been a national sport. I think her only known export is dope. When we were on the receiving end we intervened twice. The only thing I think we can say for ouselves is that we were a jolly sight better at intervening than the Russians, but the morals of it are much the same. Surely we should be better advised to keep our nose out of places where the Russians are seeking to maintain order and to expect the Russians to keep out of areas where we try to see some order. I refer particularly to Africa. The Russians are in Africa for sheer mischief. They are encouraged in that mischief when we make fools of ourselves over an issue like Afghanistan. It is the wrong issue on which to quarrel. Let us look to this important question of world order and see what we can do about it.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Paget of Northampton, for the kind words he directed towards me at the start of what he had to say. I would return the compliment by saying that, although he is not the most conventional of politicians, I have enjoyed him thoroughly all my life, in both Houses of Parliament. During the whole of a long political life I have noticed that the noble Lord is always impatient of unreality and pretence. He put down his Question because he felt the unreality of independent small countries which have none of the traditional attributes—economic, military or political —to sustain that status. Then there is the pretence —such countries do exist and I think they will be recognised for quite a long time ahead—that there is some valid code of international law to which these countries must subscribe and on which they should rely for their protection. I have a good deal of sympathy with his approach, for to connive at pretence in international affairs can be very dangerous.My Lords, I understand our rules. An Unstarred Question is designed to elicit answers to specific points. In this case, we are concerned with the obligations, if any, involved in the granting and the reception of sovereignty—obligations which may derive from international law. The noble Lord has referred to the situation where, in the time of emperors and kings, ordinary citizens might not have been able to define sovereignty but knew it when they met it, and doubts were removed by power. The confusion arose later because of the coincidence of the decolonisation of empires and the simultaneous attempts through the Charter of the United Nations to frame a code of international behaviour for general application. In this context the noble Lord asks whether the international rules need changing. I am no international lawyer but I should like to ask if there are any rules in international law which affect the donor of sovereignty and the recipient of sovereignty. It fell to my lot to introduce Nigeria into the United Nations. But well before that Britain had transferred and Nigeria had accepted sovereignty without reference to any other authority and without any conditions or obligations attached. All that was over and done with before the United Nations or the International Court came into the picture at all. The conclusion I draw on this somewhat narrow point of sovereignty, although it is an important one, is that in all the other colonial cases none of the new countries—it is as true of Australia as it is of Grenada—compromised their sovereignty when they became members of the United Nations. That is why I argued in the case of the Grenada incident that there is no foundation in international law from which to condemn Grenada for exercising her sovereign right to seek help against subversion and take-over, and no reason to condemn the United States for exercising her sovereignty by deciding to come to the rescue of that small sovereign territory. That is not an academic matter. For a small country to rely on a code of law in which there is no reality could he a trap which could cost it its independence and its sovereignty. That is why at the time I described international law in this context as immature and as not applying in a case such as that affecting Grenada. Within recent years, of course, some sovereign powers have voluntarily qualified their sovereignty. There is no need to look further afield than the European Economic Community or the NATO Alliance. Those who are also party to the nonintervention clause in the United Nations Charter have voluntarily accepted a fresh obligation. But I confess that I can see nothing in international law to restrain a sovereign territory from defending itself or from seeking help from another country in doing so. I hope that over the years there will come to be a more effective international code and that the International Court of Justice will be able to extend its jurisdiction. But meanwhile I do not want to see small countries beguiled into a false sense of security by the pretence that there is an operative code on which they can rely for protection. As I see it, there is not, and to say that there is is to mislead. I do not want to be drawn into the question of recognition because I know that my noble friend Lord Carrington made a statement on that not long ago. There will be these small countries in the years to come, and it is important to them that they should know their rights in the international field, because as long as they exist they are entitled to feel that they can organise their own security. I do not envy my noble friend Lady Young answering the debate. International law is a very complicated matter, and I am no authority whatever on it, but I among others shall be very interested in what she has to say, because it is not an academic matter; it could be a matter of life and death for some of the so-called sovereign territories.
My Lords, it is a great privilege to follow the noble Lord who has just addressed your Lordships—not only for the reasons that were given by the noble Lord. Lord Paget—and I venture to take up the point on which he sat down; namely, that it is a matter of life and death. Today we stand in the direst peril. The world is divided ideologically more grievously than it was at the time of the ideological divisions that led to all the miseries of the Thirty Years War. Those ideologies are now armed with unexampled weapons of destruction and we have no method—no mature method, if I may take up the word that was used by the noble Lord, Lord Home—of resolving those differences.But as the noble Lord, Lord Paget, reminded us, out of the anarchy, disorder and wretchedness of the Thirty Years War there evolved a rudimentary system, certainly—at any rate some system—of international law, which for nearly 200 years abated the rigours of violence. So this evening I would follow the noble Lord, Lord Home, in making a plea that our constant objective, even if we go step by step, should be towards evolving a detailed and firm code to govern international relations and institutions which can declare such a code and institutions which can enforce it. That means. I think, that side by side with disarmament—to which the Government are committed, rightly, I think, on a step-by-step basis—there should be the arming of certain international forces. The noble Lord, Lord Paget, started by discussing recognition. I should prefer, if I may, to start by discussing sovereignty. The noble Lord, Lord Home, said that we recognise a sovereign state, but it is in fact quite easy of definition. It is a state which does not recognise, or indeed is not subject to, any superior of its own sort. Of course, it can limit its individual action by treaty as we, a sovereign state, have limited ours by the Treaty of Rome. It can enter an international organisation which limits its independence, just as we have entered the United Nations. But there is all the difference between a sovereign state and, say, a colony, or states such as, say, the Ukraine or Byelorussia, which are members of the United Nations but are not recognised as sovereigns because they have not adequate and proper control over their own international relations. The noble Lord, Lord Paget, was inclined to suggest that sovereignty should not be recognised, which I take it to mean should not exist, in small, weak states. The existence of small, weak states is a danger in a world which has no system of adequate international law because there are invitations to proceed to change international relations by force, or threat of force. Nevertheless, one should remember that there are many ancient small states which have enjoyed sovereignty. There is, for example, Luxembourg, and I suggest that it is contrary to every principle, as well as to international decency, to deny sovereignty to a state which otherwise meets the requirements of international comity. After all, the first quality of sovereignty is the right to independence, the right to non-intervention. So the security of these small, unstable states depends on other countries observing the decencies, the proprieties and, one would hope, the legalities of international intercourse. Of course, it is possible to differentiate by various degrees and limitations of recognition and indeed of sovereignty. But if a state meets the requirements—and they are almost entirely objective; in other words, there is a defined territory, there is an organised society which generally presupposes a government—then it is a sovereign state in international law, and it should be accorded recognition. I should like to ask the noble Baroness some questions. The first is: do the British Government recognise any right of armed intervention even to anticipate what is feared as aggression? We denied that right to Italy over Ethiopia and we were supported by the League of Nations. The Nuremberg tribunal denied it to Germany over Norway and we were undoubtedly, I think, on the point of mining Norwegian territorial waters. Although the case could fall under more than one category, I think that it was internationally denied to this country, France and Israel over Suez. On the other hand, there is the example of the invasion of Dominica on the authority of the Association of American States in 1965, I think. There was the recent example of Grenada which the noble Lord has mentioned. I would be most grateful if the noble Baroness would state what is our view of that matter. Then there is the question: is one entitled to intervene when a government has been usurped by unconstitutional means? The noble Lord, Lord Paget, referred to that. There have been many cases where we have not recognised the right to intervene. I suppose that Spain in the 1930s was the most patent example. It seems to me a very dangerous precedent if one sets oneself up, in the absence of any international body that can adjudicate dispassionately, to judge whether a usurping power is acting unconstitutionally. It has happened, as the noble Lord reminded us, so frequently with coups and revolutions. I should also like to ask the noble Baroness this. How far does the right to sovereignty, which I equate with the right to independence and the right to nonintervention, fit in with human rights? I was engaged as counsel in the Russian brides case. There, the Soviet Government denied the right of Russian citizens who had married foreign subjects to go abroad to join their husbands. They defended that decision on the grounds that it was a purely domestic matter. But, when the matter was debated in the General Assembly—it never arose in this form in the English courts—it was resolved, I think I am right in saying, by pointing out that the Russian action conflicted with the human rights provisions of the United Nations and therefore could not be considered as a purely domestic matter. We have now got the universal declaration of human rights. I should be grateful if the noble Baroness could say how far sovereignty is limited by the obligations of human rights. That brings me to my next question. The right to non-intervention, I think, clearly carries with it the right not to have the regime subverted. It is not only direct aggression that is illegal in international law as infringing sovereignty; it is also subversion. What about radio broadcasts and television broadcasts? What is the official view about them? There are certain extremes that, I suppose, are very easy—for example, the British Council sort of case, drawing attention to the significance of Shakespeare and Dickens. That would be one extreme. At the other extreme would be an incitement to rebellion. But what about a broadcast, say, which sets up the virtues of parliamentary government and implies thereby criticism of totalitarian regimes? Does that not again indicate the need for some body that could adjudicate impartially and dispassionately on the nature of the transmission? It also involves the question of jamming. I should be grateful to know what is the Government view on that. It has very generally been held that a state has a right to jam broadcasts as part of its right to self-defence. But surely that only applies if the broadcast is, in effect, an act of aggression, an act of intervention. It can hardly apply, one would have thought, in law or in the morals that lie behind the law, to what I have called the British Council type of broadcast. I should like to deal briefly with recognition. I think, if I may say so, that the problem arises in other forms in addition to those that the noble Lord, Lord Paget, signified. It certainly occurs on the appearance of a new state. I suppose that Israel is the classic example. Oddly enough, the first to recognise Israel was the USSR. The United States withheld recognition on the ground that the territorial area had not been properly defined. It had not been properly defined because, to our shame, we abandoned the mandate without a proper political solution. But today it is defined. Yet the Arab states, apart from Egypt, I think I am right in saying—the noble Baroness will correct me if I am wrong—still withhold recognition. The situation calling for recognition also arises when there is a change of government outside the constitutional form—the coup or the revolution, to which the noble Lord, Lord Paget, referred. It would be very useful to have a limited type of recognition that deals with that. Perhaps our own practice of de facto recognition as opposed to de jure recognition could be used to make the distinction, the recognition being limited to de facto not only until the political situation was sufficiently defined but also to mark our disapproval of unconstitutional action. The point is arguable because it could be said that that is a form of intervention. Nevertheless, there is a problem there that has to be faced. The third situation involves territorial changes, especially those achieved by force and involving the extinction of states. The classic example is the extinction of the Baltic states after the last war. It is true that they were occupied by Russia, which set up puppet governments which invited the takeover. But that is a situation which calls for our Government to define their attitude to recognition. I do not suggest that all of these situations from the past should be taken up, like taking up the drains because there is a nasty smell. However, I do suggest that a defined policy for the future is required and especially that we should not accede readily to the requirements of puppet governments. There is only one other point that I would venture to make and that is, that a premature recognition is an unjustifiable act, in my respectful submission, in international law because it involves intervention in the affairs of another state. Perhaps the noble Baroness will deal with that matter as well. In the end recognition is a political judgment arising from a factual situation, the question about the factual situation merely being: is there a defined territory? Is there an organised community? And does that organised community accept a government? If that exists, then in international law there should be recognition in one form or another. The only question is whether our own distinction between de facto and de jure recognition is valuable and sufficient. I ask the noble Baroness: do other states draw that distinction? We started drawing the distinction at the beginning of the last century. Certainly, the United States at that time, in view of its own revolutionary history, did not draw that distinction, but it seems to me of value in two circumstances. The first is pending the ascertainment of who is to come out on top. Earlier, I gave the example of the Spanish Civil War. In 1936 we accorded de facto recognition to the Nationalist Government as sovereign in the area under their control; not until 1938 did we accord de jure recognition of their sovereignty over the whole of Spain. That seems to me to be a valuable distinction. It also occurred after the Russian Revolution in 1917. I do not think that it was until 1921 that we accorded de facto recognition, and it was not until 1924 that we accorded de jure recognition. The withholding of the de jure recognition and perhaps the de facto recognition was perhaps justified because of the civil war. But it means a political judgment on a foreign régime which is liable to be a source of danger in international law. I shall end as I began with a plea that it should be a constant object of British foreign policy to build up—it has been done a little, but not enough—a code of international law as detailed as possible, to be declared by respected and independent institutions of law, the courts, or arbitration boards. And there should be sufficient force—and even economic force will generally be sufficient, if united—to vindicate their decision.
My Lords, I am sure that the whole House is deeply indebted to my noble friend Lord Paget for provoking this stimulating debate, and is deeply indebted to those who have followed him for their thoughts. I do not say that I endorse every single word of my noble friend's speech, but I remain once again deeply in his debt because of his fearless assault upon humbug and his passionate devotion to presenting reality for our consideration. I am even very strongly on his side, with deep regret and a good deal of trepidation, on the issue raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. I bow, of course, to the noble and learned Lord's views on all matters of law, national and international, but this is a political issue, as he finally came to recognise. My noble friend Lord Paget was right; the noble Lord, Lord Home, is wrong; and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, is wrong in rebuking him for focusing the attention of the House upon the recognition of sovereignty rather than on the question of sovereignty itself.If we venture into the area of who is sovereign, and our own views on that matter, we enter into the area that the noble Lord, Lord Simon, entered so copiously, of expressing wishful dreams about how other nations should behave and how, in due time, the world should constitute an authoritative court that will pronounce an equally authoritative code of ethics, and equally enforce that code of ethics. I share the noble and learned Lord's wishful dreams, but they are not an immediate and practical possibility, at any rate within the realm of a debate on an Unstarred Question. Therefore, my noble friend Lord Paget was right and very practical when he said that we should concern ourselves about the terms on which we give de jure recognition to other countries and other countries' sovereignties. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, said that this depended upon a political judgment in the end, and not merely upon the objective facts. If we are all satisfied that the local cannibal has taken charge of an area that we may call, for example, "Utopia" in the centre of Africa, and that by conventional tests his subjects, in so far as they have a not too copious admission to the expression of their individual opinions, appear to be coerced, bludgeoned and bewildered into accepting whoever the latest cannibal is who is in charge of their affairs, it does not oblige civilised governments to pronounce that they will confer diplomatic recognition upon that local cannibal. He has all the facts established in his favour except one, and that is that we do not think it will be an advantage to the comity of nations if we accord to him the full diplomatic recognition which gives him the right to set up an embassy in this country which can import arms in diplomatic bags and munition the local gangsters as required to murder the enemies of the cannibal, or of any of his family. These are not just hypothetical possibilities. They are in fact the demeaning humiliations that have been experienced by all the great states of the world in the last decade. Therefore, I heartily applaud my noble friend Lord Paget in wanting to create something much simpler and much more readily achievable than that world bliss which is very properly the object of former Foreign Secretaries and of noble and learned Lords, but which is beyond the grasp of simple provincials like myself seeking to make a modest addition to the security of nations. We want the Government to tell us whether they have given any thought to creating a coherent code of conduct which they will expect from countries, not after but before they grant those countries full diplomatic recognition as sovereign states. To be honest, I doubt whether they have. Again, one of the sad aspects for a simple provincial who unexpectedly arrives in government by a series of convolutions is that he is astonished to find that all the great questions which he thinks the powers-that-be will be reflecting upon, analysing and rendering into some sort of coherent order are never considered at all. I doubt whether anyone in the Government or in any department of government has given thought to what changes in our terms for recognising sovereignty—not knowing that it exists, but of recognising it—are required in the modern world. Or do we have to act on rather juvenile reflexes inherited from a century ago and from an entirely different situation—a situation on which my noble friend Lord Paget dwelt so nostalgically and which in some respects we all miss, but not in every respect, as it appears he does? The situations in the world have changed, and we cannot be content for our Government not to have an orderly view about the terms on which we will recognise sovereignty and confer diplomatic status. I shall not go into the many areas, which are known to everybody, where diplomatic status is abused, or where it is endangered and has endangered the comity of nations. We cannot hope to play a part in organising similar co-ordinated approaches to the recognition of sovereignty of other great nations unless we have some clear, articulated views of our own based on analysis. Not to have them will produce exactly the situation to which the noble Lord, Lord Home, referred over Grenada, in which this Government found it necessary to be in sharp conflict with our major ally and in defence of the three gangster murderers who had taken over this hapless little island, probably against the wishes of most of its inhabitants and certainly much to the peril, as they thought, of most of its neighbours. We do not want a repetition of that lack of coherence; we want some thought given to the matter. There is nowhere where the changed world requires this thought more closely than in economic and international affairs, and nowhere where the dangers will be greater if we do not work out some coherent response to the question of granting sovereignty in emergencies and seek to get like-minded great nations to go along with us in those principles. In this modern, inter-dependent world it is not a very difficult task. We are living in a world in which vast financial and economic interests exist in the hands of small states and their nationals. Very vulnerable small states and their nationals have claims for hundreds of billions of dollars and pounds. They own enormous percentage shares—I shall not weary the House by reciting how important some of these shares are—in some of the greatest enterprises in the United States, Britain, Germany and throughout the world. In the event of a change of government in any one of these vulnerable and fragile states, as we are now reacting we shall automatically confer upon the new government (however they arrive and whatever their purposes, their principles and their manner of conduct) the title to all these claims to money, shares, land and interests of all kinds. This could be exceedingly dangerous. I do not want to be tactless and name states, but many noble Lords will have in mind the kind of states which are vulnerable in this way and which might be seized.
My Lords, perhaps I may ask the noble Lord this question. Has he not considered that the state which holds these assets is entitled to freeze them and take them over in the event of an illegal action by the possessing state—that is the state which takes over the previous possession? The great example is the United States and the Iranian assets.
My Lords, yes, they did this temporarily. I am not saying that they should not do it; I am complaining about the lack of coherence. As it happens, I approved the action of the United States, but a great many people here did not, and learned leaders were written condemning the United States as undermining the whole system of financial probity in that it had blocked the bank balances of the Iranian Government. Of course, the British Government did not do anything of the kind.I want to see the great nations making up their minds precisely about that kind of situation, and how they will all react to it. At the moment, to take, for example, a Middle Eastern state with claims worth hundreds of billions of pounds, a small group might take power and possession. Judging by the reaction of this Government to the Grenada situation, that group will immediately be granted access to the bank accounts, safe deposits, shareholdings and land to which the citizens and the country concerned have title at the present time. That is very dangerous, and it is also very dangerous that no kind of concerted reaction policy has been agreed among the great nations. In the modern world there is a vast range of international financial and economic organisations, which we all support and which are crucial to the reasonable working of a rather anarchic but basically inter-dependent world, and these go into action to some extent based upon the recognition granted to these states as they arrive. I do not agree with my noble friend Lord Paget that as a matter of principle we should veto recognition of states that have come into being by a coup. Having abdicated in Africa, we have more or less condemned that unhappy continent to be ruled by so-called countries which, in many cases, are the product of a coup. We have sat back and recognised and given full diplomatic status to gentlemen who have not merely killed their predecessors, as my noble friend regards the precondition, but who have actually eaten them after killing them. Over a period of years we have recognised—and I shall not name them—heads of governments who have not only eaten their predecessors but who, when discontented with their wives, have eaten them, too, as a form of divorce which only has economy to recommend it rather than moral principle. I do not think that we can interfere in the internal affairs of a foreign state in that way and say that they will not be recognised if we do not approve the way in which the government were formed. Heaven forbid that I should grant recognition to a Government in this country that had murdered Mrs. Thatcher and had come to power because they seized the BBC! But if for any reason the people of this country assented to a change of government—as I hope they will not other than by democratic means—as long as that was effectively done, I think that the world would have to accept it, however much it disapproved.
My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree that that was done between 1642 and 1649, and, although the world did not approve, they did not invade us?
My Lords, I will concede at once any historic fact which is adduced by the noble Lord. As a man who was brought up by his grandparents and parents with a fanatical affection for this country, I still think that we have a deluding view of ourselves about how nice, kind, compassionate and moderate we always are. We sometimes behave in a slightly different manner. Therefore, I am sure that the noble Lord is right in drawing my attention to the occasions when we have acted outside our traditional calm.I really have been too long. I want to conclude in this way. I applaud the noble Lord, Lord Paget, for forcing the Government to do a little thinking about this great question, and, having cleared their own mind, to seek to clear the minds of the other great nations—especially in the financial and economic fields—whose co-operation is required to achieve some reasonable, orderly response to changes in state title. In a world as interdependent as we are today, where these vast assets are held all over the world in all kinds of ways, and with all kinds of consequences from change of ownership, and where a new state power can achieve ownership of assets and have equal power to repudiate the obligations attached to those assets, I hope that we will not hear the humbug which pretends that this sort of coherent policy by our Government and other great governments must await the glorious day when the entire world meets in mass assembly—a sort of fatuous reproduction of the United Nations Assembly at its worst—and sits down and organises the detailed handling of these affairs. Half-a-dozen great nations have a responsibility, and they must not abdicate it either in the name of pragmatism—meaning they are not prepared to analyse anything—or in the name of bogus democracy by assigning it to a world government which does not exist and is unlikely to exist in the lifetime of even the youngest noble Lord or noble Baroness present tonight.
My Lords, the House is indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Paget, for focusing attention on a matter which is of interest to all and concern to many. He deprecates, and rightly, the prevalent system of government by coup—assassin government, to use his colourful phrase—and proposes remedies. All will share his concern; perhaps some of his remedies will command a less complete and less convinced acquiescence. In embarking on the related questions of sovereignty and recognition the noble Lord is on difficult ground. These are matters notorious in public international law for providing pitfalls for the unwary, and indeed not only for the unwary but for the wary as well. Certainly the noble Lord walks with considerable skill, and of course considerable grace as well.But the ground is not made easier for theoreticians and would-be reformers, because although there are, as we have been reminded, two forms of recognition in international law, the de jure recognition and the de facto recognition, nevertheless there is a tendency, and a long-held tendency, to treat sovereignty and consequently recognition as primarily an issue of fact; a question simply, or mainly, of whether there is effective control and an effective exercise of jurisdiction in the country concerned. That being so, understandably no government itself in the enjoyment of power is anxious, by raising technical queries as to the status or legitimacy of another government, to run the risk of a tu quoque, and possible critical animadversions on its own pedigree and descent. It is for that reason that recognition has been set by eminent international lawyers to be more a matter of policy than of law. Of course, there are many governments today whose title deeds are no better than false, and who exercise control following a coup and the overthrow of a predecessor, as so graphically referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Paget. But in many cases what other title deeds could they have? A coup is evil, but so very often are the circumstances that give rise to it—the denial of the ballot box, and the one-party state. Remedies, therefore, and the exorcism of undesirable methods must depend on the provision of more democratic means of change of government, and it is with these that we should be concerned. I was sorry to see the other day Mr. Mugabe give even a qualified defence and justification for the one-party state. The noble Lord, Lord Paget, dealt attractively and nostalgically with the 19th century. He romanticised agreeably the pattern of spheres of influence of those days, but he must admit that it led to a bitter harvest in the end. Rather than harken back to such a state of affairs we should try to get what help we can from contemporary institutions; in this context, I would say, notably the United Nations and the Commonwealth. Membership of the United Nations today is the badge of recognition. It commands recognition, and the two are indissolubly and properly linked. The noble Lord, Lord Paget, and the noble Lord, Lord Lever, too, were critical of the role of the United Nations and of the ease by which new membership can be attained, they say, without much study of credentials. But membership of the United Nations is not in law automatic, and should not in fact be automatic. Membership is in effect by election: that is, in the words of Article 4,
This gives in effect a right of blackball to any one member of the Security Council since the favourable recommendation depends on nine votes, including the concurring votes of the permanent members, thus giving a power of veto to any one of the permanent members. I would think that this is an undesirable way of controlling membership since it would obviously, if used, invite retaliation by some other member of the Security Council against some other applicant country simply on political or ideological grounds. I would like to see explored a better way deriving from the charter. It is true that membership of the United Nations is open to all—all peace-loving states, in the language of the charter— but it is not an unqualified right of entry. The noble Lord, Lord Lever, referred to the desirability of a code of conduct, but of course there is a code of conduct inscribed in the charter. Entry to the United Nations, and therefore the right of recognition which goes with it, is contingent on the acceptance of the obligations contained in the charter, and the ability and willingness to carry them out."by a decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council".
My Lords, I must make clear that the code of conduct I want is a coherent one of the great powers for granting of full diplomatic recognition of these sovereign states, not a pious affirmation by the recipients of it. I want the great states to make up their minds on what they expect from states before they will grant, or continue, diplomatic status to them.
My Lords, the noble Lord will appreciate that he is now trying to sever the two things which I have said go together nowadays. It is inconceivable that a member of the United Nations should be denied recognition.
The right approach is obviously to see that membership of the United Nations conforms to the code of conduct which is certainly implicit and indeed. I would say, expressed in the charter. If the noble Lord pursues his studies and looks at Article 4 of the charter, there he will see that entry is contingent on the acceptance of the obligations contained in the charter and the ability and willingness to carry them out. That is the equivalent of the code of conduct which he suggested should be the test of recognition.
No, my Lords.
My Lords, the noble Lord indicates dissent, but I think he is wrong.
My Lords, if the noble Lord would permit me, I did say that it was never intended that it should be automatic, although in practice it has become so. That code of conduct is a code wholly without sanction. What I was asking for, and what my noble friend Lord Lever of Manchester was asking for, was that the code should be established by the great powers and it would be for them to judge whether a new state was capable or in a position to conform with it. The straight answer is that most of them are not.
My Lords, if the noble Lord would be patient for a moment, I do not want to prolong my observations but I want to respond to these interesting interventions which are so agreeably addressed to me. Of course, the noble Lord did say that. I appreciated it at the time, but what I am saying is that there is a code of conduct within the charter. It is expressly the criterion of admissibility to membership of the United Nations, not only the willingness to put it into effect but the ability to do that. Noble Lords will see this written in Articles 2 and 4 of the charter. The word used is "obligations". I think it is right that "obligations" are not defined eo nomine in the charter, but the purposes and principles are set out. I think the view is taken by commentators on international law that the obligations are to be interpreted by reference to the specified principles and purposes. I would think that this must be so.The purposes and principles, as the House knows, include promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and the fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion. There is the code of conduct set out in broad but I think clear terms, and it is an inescapable condition of membership of the United Nations. The noble Lord, Lord Paget of Northampton, says that it has fallen into desuetude. In so far as that is so, it is a matter much to be regretted. I respectfully suggest a possible way in which this matter can be dealt with. It seems reasonable and desirable that for application for membership of the United Nations, carrying with it as it does the badge of recognition, a ruling be obtained as to whether the applicant conforms to the specified criteria in the charter. That authoritative ruling could, one would think, be best sought from the international court by way of an advisory opinion in accordance with Chaper 4 of the charter. I do not think there is a precise precedent for an advisory opinion on a specific case as to whether the conditions are satisfied, but as long ago as 1948 there was a famous advisory opinion on the membership of the United Nations given by the International Court. It would seem logical to extend from the general, as in 1948, with the passage of years to individual opinions which would be within the compass of Chapter 4, although perhaps in a sense breaking somewhat new ground. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will say whether the Government would contemplate taking any initiative in this regard. There are requirements in the charter as to the observance of human rights. It would be useful and helpful for the British Government to draw attention to this aspect of the matter. They would do so peculiarly appropriately not only as representing a permanent member of the Security Council, but also as the Mother of Parliaments. It is difficult to compel countries to practice parliamentary democracy and to renounce the one-party state. But it is difficult also to see how one can hope to end government by coup, the assassin government, where that is the only means available for opting for alternative government. One must hold out hope of peaceful and democratic change if there is to be a renunciation of violent change. I come to my last point and one that hitherto has attracted little attention in the interesting and eloquent speeches to which we have been privileged to listen today; that is the contribution that the Commonwealth can make in this context. It is a fact that many of the countries where coups take place, where one-party state exists, are, unhappily, Commonwealth countries. This is particularly sad because these countries have a shared legacy in common law, respect for human rights and an attachment to parliamentary institutions. They are the heirs of Burke and Dicey, of parliamentary democracy and the rule of law. Surely all this can be brought into play in these difficult circumstances to help in solving the problems to which the noble Lord has so rightly drawn attention. The Commonwealth is one of the three great organisations in which Britain today plays a leading part. The other two are institutionalised; the United Nations with its General Assembly, Security Council and the International Court, and the EEC with its Council of Ministers, its Commission, its Assembly and the European Court of Justice. The Commonwealth alone lacks an institutional structure. Should we perhaps be examining the possibility of strengthening that structure to make more effective its voice in the world in support of the things for which Britain and the Commonwealth have traditionally stood: parliamentary democracy, the rule of law, liberty and the rights of man? Perhaps again my noble friend the Minister will consider whether an initiative could be made by this country to the Commonwealth in this regard. This way I believe that much could be done, not only to help with the important problems raised today by the noble Lord, Lord Paget, but to broaden and strengthen the work of the Commonwealth of which we are still at the heart and centre.
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask a quick question? How many nations who are members of the United Nations and who, subsequent upon their admission to the United Nations, have patently flouted the terms and conditions necessary on their application have been denied continued membership of the United Nations by the United Nations itself?
My Lords, as the noble Lord will know, there is a power in this regard where a member state is guilty of persistent violation of the principles—and the principles include those great matters to which I have been referring—and a procedure for expulsion by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council. What use has been made of that I could not say without notice. My noble friend the Minister (because this is one of the things that Ministers are for) will no doubt be able to supplement and give the ipsissima verba of the matter; but the power is there. I think the noble Lord will appreciate that there would be a natural reluctance to use this power in regard to conduct which is manifesting itself not strictly in the international sphere but within the area of the sovereignty of the nation concerned. I am much obliged to the noble Lord for his very interesting intervention.
My Lords, I have not put my name down to speak. I thought that I might do so only in the event of any idea occurring to me during the course of the debate. As I understand it, the noble Lord, Lord Paget, is concerned with two matters and essentially has put down two questions. The first is this. Should states which are based on violence or coups be allowed to be members of the United Nations? The second question is this. Should we recognise the sovereignty of such states? I am very glad that he has raised these questions, because they are of great importance and we ought to examine them very intensively. On the question of whether states which are based on violence or coups may be members of the United Nations, I was going to make some remarks which have been taken out of my mouth by the noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne. The criteria for membership are the acceptance, the willingness and the ability to carry out the obligations of the Charter, which must be deemed to include human rights. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne, on that.What happened in the 1950s when we had this flood of members of the United Nations—states emerging newly from imperialism, as it was called, into independence—was that they were all admitted. It was largely, and I think unfortunately, as a result of bargains of some sort between the two potential super powers: "If you will admit my candidate, my excellent candidate, a wonderfully new democratic state just emerging from colonialism. I will then, if necessary, agree to the admission of your candidate". That was the bargain struck. It was as a result of that, and nothing to do with willingness or ability to accept the obligations of the charter, which resulted in a mass of states coming in. Probably some of them were not suitably qualified under the criterion advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne. It is difficult, of course, to imagine that anything else could have happened in practice. It was undesirable. I think, but quite comprehensible why it happened. Some people, including myself, at the time expressed doubts based on the evident fact that these countries were not able to accept the obligations of the charter. Nevertheless, our advice was not heeded. What it has come down to now, is that nearly all the states in the world, even very very small ones, have been admitted to membership, and, in practice, it is difficult to imagine that any of them could be expelled, except on the conditions laid down in the charter, which, in practice, obviously could not be carried out. There would be no unanimity among the great powers to do anything of the kind. Therefore, we must admit that the present situation is likely to go on. Practically all the states in the world are likely to continue to be members. Your Lordships will remember that, from the very start, we agreed that Communist countries should be members of the United Nations. That was agreed at the very start. Whatever one may say, most people would think that Communist governments are essentially based on coups or some kind of violence or force. That was admitted from the start and I do not think that we can, therefore, object to other Communist states coming in; because we admitted that they could come in from the beginning. On the other question of recognition, I always thought (in my profound ignorance of international law) that you afforded, at any rate, de facto recognition to any government which was deemed, in your opinion, to be in effective control of the country concerned. That was the general criterion. There may have been other criteria but that, in practice, was what was nearly always done. Indeed, it is done even now. We accept de facto recognition when the government is in control, as we think, of the country concerned. Hardly any other criterion emerges. Of course, de jure recognition is, I think, given only when we have some confidence that it is a reasonable government, that it is not likely to commit any frightful atrocities and, therefore, we might delay granting de jure recognition. But, as I understand it, de facto recognition implies the exchange of some kind of diplomatic representation, and, indeed, the ability to trade with the country concerned. Therefore, what it comes down to now, I think, it is this. Are there any circumstances in which we can suitably withdraw recognition? I think there must be certain conditions in which we should do so. Look at Idi Amin in Uganda. There were appalling atrocities committed by him. They were so frightful that we should have been justified in withdrawing recognition—and I think we did withdraw it eventually. We should be able to withdraw recognition from a state which is governed by a monster, so to speak, as Amin was. That, I think, is a circumstance in which you could withdraw recognition. But, normally, I think we should find it difficult to withdraw recognition from any state which we have recognised de facto; because, if we did, other countries probably would not do so, and we must think what would happen if we did it and nobody else did it. What could possibly be the advantage for us in those -circumstances? That seems to be the practical consideration which we must have in mind. Therefore, the only question that I think I would ask the Government is this. Would they agree that there are circumstances in which we could withdraw recognition; and, if so, what circumstances? Otherwise, am I right in thinking that we accept the general criteria for granting recognition to any country which I have myself advanced?
My Lords, there are a few considerations arising out of the debate. First, Lord Home—everything that he says is important. He said that it was undoubted in international law that any sovereign state had the right to invite any other sovereign state to send military assistance on to its territory. All would agree. He instanced Grenada. Here was an undoubted sovereign state, very small. The government collapsed. There was an authority, the Governor-General, Sir Paul Scoon. I have not seen and I have not heard of any communication from Sir Paul Scoon to anybody except the chairman of the Organisation of East Caribbean States, who at that time was Dominica. The Organisation of East Caribbean States then invited three non-members, Jamaica, Barbados and the United States, to invade Grenada with them. Sir Paul Scoon's immediate comment, as reported in the press was, "I asked for help, not an invasion". It is undoubted that Mrs. Eugenia Charles invited the United States to help with the invasion. I repeat that the public here has yet to see the evidence of what Sir Paul Scoon did, and until that evidence is available we must conclude that was an action taken against international law.The noble Lord, Lord Home, instanced three organisations in which we had partially surrendered sovereignty: the United Nations, the European Community and also NATO. I think a distinction needs to he made here. The North Atlantic Treaty does not require any surrender of sovereignty from any signatory, so far as I can remember. It simply says that if any of them is attacked or menaced by attack the others shall consult with it about what had best he done in order that full sovereignty should be preserved. Certain arrangements have grown up since, the most conspicuous among which are the command and control arrangements for the American nuclear missiles in this country which do indeed sometimes seem to infringe sovereignty. There is nothing of that in the treaty. To the noble Lord, Lord Lever, may I make a suggestion? He said that there should be a means of withdrawing diplomatic recognition from countries which are governed by cannibals and which send arms through diplomatic bags to abolish their enemies—
My Lords, may I spare the noble Lord? I said nothing of the kind. I merely said that we ought to have a coherent basis for conferring full diplomatic recognition on states. I do not lay down any rule for anybody. If they prefer to have diplomatic relations with cannibals, that is perfectly okay. And I explicitly repudiated the notion that merely because a government came into being by a coup it should not be recognised. So please do not knock down arguments that I have not advanced.
My Lords, I stand corrected, of course. My suggestion is this. You do not need to withdraw or withhold diplomatic recognition. I would withdraw, or virtually withdraw, diplomatic privilege from everybody—cannibals and the virtuous alike. The great cities of the world are plagued by diplomats exerting improper privilege, from the greatest to the smallest. I would basically revise the Vienna Convention; it was formulated in a different day and age and is now not much use.In conclusion, the sovereign state has not served mankind very well compared with—I see that the Government Chief Whip is making his second fiercest face; I shall be very brief.
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would give way. We always have a gap in the list of speakers in case any noble Lord may find as he listens to the debate that something he thought might be raised has not been raised; the gap is there so that noble Lords who find this to be the case can come in and make that point. If noble Lords are going to make long speeches in the gap, it is really unfair to the House.
My Lords, I had spoken for three minutes when the noble Lord interrupted me. I hope he would agree that another 10 seconds may be allowed me to complete the sentence, which was that the sovereign state has not served mankind very well during its tenure, as compared with the tribe, the clan, the federation, and so on which preceded it. It is obviously coming to the end of its road and we cannot see yet what will succeed it. But we are lucky that sovereignty includes the ability voluntarily to surrender to larger frameworks.
My Lords, this has been an entrancing debate, started, if I may say so, by my noble friend Lord Paget with his usual frank delivery and courage of content. In a debate which includes the matter of recognition, I must tell him in all frankness that at times I do not recognise to which party he belongs. I can only say that it is always a happiness to see him sitting on our Benches. Obviously it was also a privilege to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Home, and to the modest provincial voice of the noble Lord, Lord Lever, who, whenever he comes to this House, brings a very worthwhile contribution. And what a pleasure it was to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne, who brings not only the experience of a very great politician to this House but also, if I may say so as a humble colleague, that of a very eminent lawyer. And that obviously also very much applies to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale.Having uttered compliments to everybody, can I therefore hope to receive a welcoming reception for some views that I should like to put in a matter which concerns both law and politics? I think we may have become a little confused, if I may say so. We were talking at the very beginning about questions of sovereignty and about the recognition of states and of governments. I think that at times we became a little confused when we were talking about the recognition of states and of governments—and there is a difference. The only difficulty one ever has in regard to the recognition of states is if a new state is created or an existing one divided. Then one has to wait for certain events before deciding upon recognition of a state, and that does not present very many difficulties, either in law or politically. A very different situation arises when one has to talk in terms of the recognition of governments. That recognition, as has been stated so correctly in the course of this debate, can be divided into de facto recognition and de jure recognition. De facto recognition means it looks as though a government is in control; and de jure recognition, if I may say so with all diffidence, does not go quite so wide as some people have indicated. It merely means in international law, so far as I understand it, that it is a question of its looking as though the effective control is permanent or has the appearance of being permanent: then de jure recognition is given. Where I think we may have gone wrong is in that it appears to have been implied in this debate—and this has caused political problems to which I shall refer in a moment, together with some interesting political statements, and it has bedevilled this most interesting debate to some extent—that if you accord, as a government, recognition to another government that itself shows that you approve of the nature of the government or of the way that it has got there. This was a matter that concerned many nations in the course of history. Indeed, in 1930 a very brave Foreign Secretary of Mexico propounded what is known as the Astrada principle. This is what he said:
There has been a plea for reality in this debate, and when one faces reality, as I understand it, one faces in the foreign Ministry of any country the very real fact that you may have citizens within the state whose government you are considering recognising. You also have trade matters with that state which you have to take into account, and, if you set up on your own to be the arbiter, not as to whether there is effective control but as to whether the government have got there constitutionally, then in this day and age you are going to have an almost impossible time. One might then consider, on top of that, whether that government has carried out respect for human rights, which we value so much—and possibly some of us value that much more, or would judge that matter with much more conscientiousness, than a question as to how a government got there and whether a military coup was deserved or not. If we are going to grant or withhold recognition on the basis of human rights—and we have spoken in this debate about the judgment of the great powers—it leads me to wonder whether one great power is entitled to adjudicate upon human rights and then decide, in the midst of the assembly of great powers, that there should be recognition or non-recognition. I am not going to abuse the time of this House, even though I put my name down to speak and even though I am not speaking in the break in your Lordships' List of speakers. However, it is interesting to reflect upon the way in which we in this country have dealt with the matter of the recognition of other governments and the basis upon which we have worked. I notice that in 1951 it was very much a question of whether our rules were right—whether we were correctly recognising international law in the matter of the recognition of other governments and their sovereignty—when the then Labour Government were faced with the position in Ghana where, as a result of a change in government, those who had preceded the current government in Ghana were charged with certain offences, did not stand trial as we understand trials, and thereupon were executed. At that time Herbert Morrison was the Foreign Secretary. He was asked upon what principles the Foreign Secretary acts when deciding whether diplomatic recognition should be accorded to foreign governments. In Hansard of the other place of 21st March 1951 Mr. Morrison replied at column 2410:"the Mexican government is issuing no declarations in the sense of grants of recognition since that nation considers that such a course is an insulting practice and one which, in addition to the fact that it offends the sovereignty of other nations, implies that judgment of some sort may be passed upon the internal affairs of those nations by other governments, inasmuch as the latter assume, in effect, an attitude of criticism, when they decide favourably or unfavourably as to the legal qualifications of foreign régimes".
In the midst of a very heavy debate, may I say that one Member of another place was witty enough to ask the Foreign Secretary whether, having described what should be recognised as a de facto or de jure government, the right honourable gentleman thought that his own Government ought to be recognised de jure by anybody, to which Mr. Morrison replied that that bright supplementary question had occurred to him while he was answering the main question. In 1979 there was a discussion in the other place on the whole question of recognition. In that discussion—I am reading from Hansard of another place of 18th June 1979—when dealing with the situation then (it had been one of a difficult recognition in difficult circumstances) the Lord Privy Seal, Sir Ian Gilmour. Said, after hearing of the reaction of certain governments, which I need not mention:"The question of the recognition of a State or Government should be distinguished from the question of entering into diplomatic relations with it, which is entirely discretionary. On the other hand, it is international law which defines the conditions under which a Government should be recognised de jure or de facto, and it is a matter of judgment in each particular case whether a régime fulfils the conditions. The conditions under international law for the recognition of a new régime as the de facto Government of a State are that the new régime has in fact effective control over most of the State's territory and that this control seems likely to continue. The conditions for the recognition of a new régime as the de jure Government of a State are that the new régime should not merely have effective control over most of the State's territory, but that it should, in fact, be firmly established. His Majesty's Government consider that recognition should be accorded when the conditions specified by international law are, in fact, fulfilled and that recognition should not be given when these conditions are not fulfilled. The recognition of a Government de jure or de facto should not depend on whether the character of the régime is such as to command His Majesty's Government's approval".
There was a re-examination. The latest in the history of declarations by Foreign Secretaries that I can trace is that which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who I think everybody admits was one of our very great Foreign Secretaries, even if his tenure of office was all too short. This is what he said in answer, as was correctly pointed out earlier in the debate, to a Question for Written Answer. I am reading from Hansard of your Lordships' House of' 28th April 1980, column 1122. The noble Viscount, Lord Amory, asked Her Majesty's Government whether they had completed their re-examination of British policy and practice concerning the recognition of governments, and what was the result of that re-examination, to which Lord Carrington replied:"My reaction this morning was much the same as that of my honourable Friend. Our criteria for recognition have placed us in considerable difficulties. However, the alternatives also have disadvantages. I am told that virtually all Governments since 1950 have looked at the matter and have not altered the criteria. I assure my honourable Friend that we shall re-examine the matter".
"Following the undertaking of my right honourable friend the Lord Privy Seal in another place on 18th June last we have conducted a re-examination of British policy and practice concerning the recognition of Governments. This has included a comparison with the practice of our partners and allies. On the basis of this review we have decided that we shall no longer accord recognition to Governments. The British Government recognise States in accordance with common international doctrine. Where an unconstitutional change of regime takes place in a recognised State, Governments of other States must necessarily consider what dealings, if any, they should have with the new régime, and whether and to what extent it qualifies to be treated as the Government of the State concerned. Many of our partners and allies take the position that they do not recognise Governments and that therefore no question of recognition arises in such cases. By contrast, the policy of successive British Governments has been that we should make and announce a decision formally 'recognising' the new Government.
"This practice has sometimes been misunderstood, and, despite explanations to the contrary, our 'recognition' interpreted as implying approval. For example, in circumstances where there might be legitimate public concern about the violation of human rights by the new régime, or the manner in which it achieved power, it has not sufficed to say that announcement of 'recognition' is simply a neutral formality.
The position therefore appears to be this—and I ask the noble Baroness for any supplementation she can give to that statement by Lord Carrington. Is it a fact that the answer to this whole debate is that we do not recognise governments any more, and that we decide whether diplomatic status should be accorded to them? Do we do so on the basis of certain principles which are political, and which we decide? And that in none of these circumstances is the question of whether or not we approve of that state or that government a very crucial matter? Is it the position that we have to deal with the practicalities of the situation? That does not stop us from dreaming, as the noble Lord. Lord Home of the Hirsel, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, dreamt. There is nothing to stop us from dreaming about some international code of ethics under which, if one does not adhere to that code, one goes outside the comity of nations. The noble Lord, Lord Lever of Manchester, said that that is something devoutly to be dreamt about and hoped for. But the practicalities of this world being as they are, one wonders whether Lord Carrington was not correct in the way in which he defined international law obligations and in the way in which he defined the duty of the British Government."We have therefore concluded that there are practical advantages in following the policy of many other countries in not according recognition to Governments. Like them, we shall continue to decide the nature of our dealings with régimes which come to power unconstitutionally in the light of our assessment of whether they are able of themselves to exercise effective control of the territory of the State concerned, and seem likely to continue to do so".
My Lords, we have had a most stimulating debate this evening. I have no difficulty in recognising that the noble Lord, Lord Paget of Northampton, is a member of the Labour Party—and I was very touched to hear him give such a robust defence of the British Empire. I was even more pleased when he said that he wished to base all his remarks on the principle of reality. But he asked of course an interesting question which bears on important issues—the Government's policy with regard to the recognition of other states; the way in which states become accepted as members of the international community; and the acceptance of new governments. I am grateful for this opportunity to clarify the facts and set out the Government's thinking on them.At the end of the Second World War there were about 70 independent states in the world. Today there are some 170. This enormous increase has come about largely from decolonisation. The process is almost complete. It is unlikely that many more new states will come into being during the rest of this century. We all listened with great interest—as we always do—to what my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel had to say. He asked whether there were any United Nations rules which affect the donor or recipient of sovereignty. I am sure my noble friend is well aware that one of the aims of United Nations is, and I quote:
These principles have guided successive British Governments in matters relating to decolonisation. Many noble Lords who have spoken this evening—and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn—mentioned the recognition of states. The criteria which the Government normally apply to the recognition of a state are that it should have, and seem likely to continue to have, a clearly defined territory—with a population, and a government which is able of itself to exercise effective control of that territory, full internal autonomy, and independence in its external relations. There are, however, exceptional cases where other factors—including relevant United Nations resolutions—may have to be taken into account. My noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel mentioned the special difficulties faced by smaller states which do not have the traditional means to maintain and defend their sovereignty. Events in Grenada have recently highlighted this problem, and it was discussed when the Commonwealth Heads of Government met in New Delhi last November, a fact to which my noble friend Lord Broxbourne referred. That meeting requested the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth to undertake a study, drawing as necessary on the resources and experience of Commonwealth countries, on the special needs of small states consonant with the right to sovereignty and territorial integrity which they share with all nations. In some quarters membership of the United Nations has come to be seen as setting the final seal of approval on a country's independence. This is in fact a little wide of the mark. The United Nations Charter provides that membership of the organisation is open to all peace-loving states which accept the obligations contained in the charter and, in the judgement of the organisation, are able and willing to carry out these obligations. In practice the admission of states to membership is effected more or less automatically by a decision of the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council. Membership is not, of course, obligatory. Switzerland, for instance, has not sought it. And one or two of the smaller newly independent states have decided that the financial costs of full membership outweigh the benefits. But most have chosen to foster their relations with other countries by taking their place in this international forum. The consequent growth in the number of states joining the United Nations has been welcomed by successive British Governments. The noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne, asked about expulsion from the United Nations. The situation is that membership of the United Nations once granted is not thereafter unconditional. The charter is a treaty and its rules bind the members. Article 5 provides that,"To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples".
and Article 6 that,"a Member … against which preventive or enforcement action has been taken by the Security Council may be suspended from the exercise of the rights and privileges of membership";
However, while it might be alleged that some states deserve action to be taken against them under these articles, none has ever been suspended from the exercise of the rights and privileges of membership or expelled from the United Nations. Partly this reflects the political reality that on such an issue agreement within the Security Council, and particularly between the permanent members, is unlikely; and partly a feeling, which we generally share, that offending states are more likely to be influenced by international opinion if they remain members of the United Nations. The question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Paget, also concerns the acceptance of new governments. In an ideal world, all peoples would enjoy the right of self-determination in its fullest sense. They would enjoy freedom of speech, an independent judiciary, respect for human rights, and elections held under conditions which ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of their government. In fact, many cases are far from that ideal. Many countries have long suffered from a denial of true self-determination through the refusal of totalitarian regimes to tolerate any sort of internal change. Other countries—and not only newly- independent ones—have undergone internal upheavals since 1945, a point mentioned by all noble Lords. Revolutions and coups vary widely in character. In some cases a change of government through non-democratic means may be for the good, as the people of a country rise up against tyrannical rulers. In others, a small group seize by force what they could never have achieved by democratic means, and proceed to deny their own people what we would regard as elementary rights. In either case, there may be an offence against the previous constitutional order of the state concerned. But there is not thereby necessarily any offence against international law. Similarly, a change of government, whether democratic or otherwise, does not affect a state's membership of the United Nations or of other international organisations of a worldwide or regional character. Sometimes, as a result of political upheaval, there are competing claimants to a state's seat at the United Nations, and this can create particular problems. And attempts are sometimes made to express disapproval of a government, by challenging the credentials of its representatives in the United Nations and related organisations. The Government view this sort of action with concern. It threatens a principle to which many think the United Nations should aspire—that of universality: and it is rarely directed against the sort of régimes of which noble Lords have expressed disapproval. Let us remember that the number of true, stable democracies in this world is comparatively small. It would be neither possible, nor useful, to turn the United Nations into a club composed only of such countries. The United Nations is at its most useful as a place of brokerage and negotiation between the world's governments as they exist. There is, of course, a further question. Whenever a coup or revolution occurs in a state, the British Government must consider their own future relations with the government of the state concerned. This was a point raised by many noble Lords. The state continues to exist, of course, as do ties between its people and the British, which may include family and friendship links as well as those of culture and history. We have to remember that it is only the leadership which has changed: and that the circumstances are often confused and the facts slow to emerge. Against this background, I should perhaps now explain briefly the Government's approach to the question of relations with revolutionary régimes. Until 1980 it had been the consistent practice of successive British Governments to decide the question of recognising a new regime according to whether it commanded the obedience of the mass of the population and whether it controlled the greater part of the state's territory—a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. These criteria became well known to Parliament as different countries' changes of regime were debated. Nevertheless, their application often proved difficult in practice. Some revolutionary regimes, for instance, commanded the obedience of the people but not their willing support. Obedience had been obtained by threats. Popular sentiment was suppressed, and individual dissent not tolerated. The view was taken, however, that, if the criteria were satisfied, the British Government of the day should recognise the new régime. Sometimes this practice was misunderstood and, despite explanations to the contrary, our act of recognition was taken to imply approval. This was particularly unfortunate in cases where there was legitimate public concern about the violation of human rights by the new régime or the manner in which it had taken power, perhaps from an elected Government. Each change of régime by means other than elections, and each coup or revolution—and those were many, of course—thus brought us face to face with an awkward and public dilemma. It also created a minor—and rather artificial—crisis in our relations with other countries precisely at the time when the protection of our interests required a relationship both calm and pragmatic. It was for these reasons that in 1980 the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, announced a change in practice. In his statement of 28th April 1980, he announced that the Government had decided to cease recognising other governments. Today when there is a revolution, we simply—and I quote:"a Member… which has persistently violated the principles contained in the present Charter may be expelled".
The noble Lord, Lord Lever, asked about finance, with the possibility of a successor government taking over and perhaps repudiating the assets and debts of its predecessor."decide the nature of our dealings with the new régime in the light of the Government's assessment of whether they are able of themselves to exercise effective control in the territory of the state concerned and seem likely to continue to do so".
Not the assets, my Lords, the debts.
The debts, my Lords, of its predecessor. That is not directly dependent on the recognition or non-recognition of the government. Our current practice is consistent with that of our major allies and partners. We naturally consult with other states whose interests are affected by this sort of situation in a similar way to our own.
My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness this question? It was formerly the custom to intervene militarily when there was default. Do I take it from what she said that that is no longer policy? If not, what is now the sanction?
My Lords, I was on the point of answering some of the questions that the noble and learned Lord had asked. He asked what were the circumstances in which the Government recognise any right of armed intervention? The answer, which answers the question he has just posed, is that any armed intervention could not be regarded as lawful unless the state in which the intervention took place gave a genuine invitation to the intervening state or the intervention could be justified in accordance with the principle of self-defence, confirmed by Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.The noble and learned Lord also asked me a further question relating to human rights, and I will answer it now. My noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel said that the entry by a state into any international agreement limits its behaviour—a point with which, clearly, we must all agree—but its sovereignty remains, so to speak, intact. Obviously a state undertaking international legal obligations must regulate its domestic law in a manner consistent with those obligations. There are now almost 80 states which are parties to the United Nations covenant on civil and political rights. I hope this answers the principle queries posed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, on this question of intervention and recognition of states. I shall return now to the new procedure on recognition. It left unchanged the practice regarding the separate question of recognition of states and brought our practice with regard to governments into line with that of our major allies and partners. The new procedure has been in operation for almost four years and has given rise to few, if any, problems. Our position is widely understood, and we avoid the difficulty of seeming to bestow, or withhold, the accolade of recognition upon new régimes. The Government have dealings at an appropriate level with the new leaders. That level is determined to a large extent by the strength of the links between the people of this country and those of the other concerned. I have been asked a number of other questions with which I shall deal briefly. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, asked me about the position of the Baltic States. Perhaps I could just say that we support the right of all peoples to self-determination and deplore any infringement of international sovereignty. Successive British Governments, while recognising de facto the incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union, have not recognised this incorporation de jure. There has been no change in this policy. He also asked me a question about subversion which might come from broadcasting. Our view is that we would regard the free flow of information generally as being protected under the Helsinki Accords and the covenant on civil and political rights. As well, widespread jamming to keep out such free flow of information would be inconsistent with the obligations undertaken by those states that are parties to the international telecommunications convention. Such jamming would also he inconsistent with the Helsinki Accords and the covenant on civil and political rights. I hope that what I have said about the change in practice or recognition goes some way to meet the concern expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Paget, the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and other noble Lords who have asked questions about this matter. We have reconsidered the basis upon which we have dealings with governments which have achieved power through force. However, we cannot go further and reconsider our acceptance of the state concerned. Once a country is accepted as a state, it continues as such whether the government are changed by parliamentary elections or by revolution, just as it continues in being when there is neither revolution nor true elections but dictatorship or party despotism. The numerous ties between the state concerned and its people and other states and theirs survive any change of government. There can be no question of somehow expelling the state from the society of nations, any more than of severing the more personal ties. When I said at the beginning of my speech that the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Paget, bears on important issues, I should perhaps also have emphasised their complexity. I have tried to examine, and I hope elucidate, some of these complexities; and I should like to thank the noble Lord for the opportunity to do so provided by his Question.
Public Health (Control Of Disease) Bill Hl
Reported from the Joint Committee with amendments, and re-committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
House adjourned at twenty-nine minutes past nine o'clock.