Skip to main content

Lords Chamber

Volume 491: debated on Wednesday 16 December 1987

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

House Of Lords

Wednesday, 16th December 1987.

The House met at half-past two of the clock ( Prayers having been read earlier at the Judicial Sitting by the Lord Bishop of Salisbury): The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES on the Woolsack.

Pelicans In St James's Park

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 how many pelicans there are in St. James's Park; and of this number how many are males and how many females.

My Lords, there are five pelicans in St. James's Park. Your Lordships may be as surprised as I was to learn that it is particularly difficult for humans to determine the sex of pelicans, and so I fear we do not know the sexes of the pelicans in the park.

My Lords, may I thank my noble friend for that explicit Answer? I hope that the investigations that he has had to undertake have not proved excessively laborious or too indelicate. Does it not give him satisfaction in these days, when there is considerable concern about the invasion of privacy that, if I may paraphrase his reply correctly, the only person who knows the sex of a pelican is another pelican? Just in case a happy event were to take place during the coming spring, even if it were very unexpected, will he agree to pay a visit to the park to see whether anything is going on?

My Lords, I am grateful for my noble friend's supplementary question. I am more than happy to agree to take a pleasant lakeside walk in St. James's Park in the spring. The only thing I am certain of is that, since we believe that pelicans first arrived under the reign of James I and there has been no productive activity since that date, it may be a wasted walk.

My Lords, would it not be more seemly for the noble Lord to start at the other end of the pelican? Is it not the case that:

"A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican.
He can take in his beak,
Food enough for a week,
But I'm damned if I see how the helican"?

My Lords, the noble Lord is entirely correct. I am told that if you look closely at the knobs at the base of the top mandible of a pelican, as they approach the breeding season there is a change of colour to those who have particularly sharp eyes.

2.37 p.m.

My Lords, if these pelicans have not laid an egg since the time of James I, where do they come from? If they were Celtic pelicans they would reproduce and if they were Anglo-Saxon pelicans I am sure they would do well. But the noble Lord should explain to the House whether it is the baleful influence of Whitehall?

My Lords, we are in a sense dependent on diplomatic charity with regard to the pelicans. We have had them from Louisiana and from Texas, and we have even been grateful to receive them from His Highness the Amir of Bahawalpur. At the moment, of the pelicans we have, four come from Ravensden Zoo in Northamptonshire—and no finer county could they come from—and the fifth bird was donated by the state of Louisiana in 1982.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware of what the pelicans think themselves?

"Ploffskin, Pluffskin, Pelican Jee!
We think no birds so happy as we!
Plumpskin, Ploshkin, Pelican Jill!
We thought so then, and we think so still!".

My Lords, they looked very happy the last time I saw them as I walked through the park.

My Lords, is not the truth that the pelicans are in St. James's Park as a symbol of political life? The beak holds more than the belly can.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, for his observation.

My Lords, is it not a well known fact that male pelicans are bigger than female pelicans?

My Lords, I fear that that may not be quite the case. If I refer to the matter of the knobs on the base of the top of the mandible, which appears to be the only certain form of detection, there is a slight difference in colour. The male knob of the pelican is a lemon-yellow and the female's a rich orange, but unfortunately the colours are variable and are not a certain guide to the sex.

My Lords, is it not a possibility that a stork may visit the pelican house and then one would get a new connotation of the expression "pelican crossing"?

My Lords, I am sure that that would be the case. Whether or not a productive result would be the outcome is another matter.

Friern Barnet Hospital: Ward Closures

2.37 p.m.

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 satisfactory arrangements exist for the welfare and treatment of patients at Friern Barnet Hospital during and after the current programme of ward closures and the return of patients to the community.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Security
(Lord Skelmersdale)

My Lords, yes. Hampstead Health Authority, which manages Friern Barnet Hospital, expects to maintain services at the hospital until replacement facilities have been completed in the districts served by the hospital.

My Lords, I am grateful for that information. Is the Minister aware of the growing national concern at the plight of patients in such hospitals as Friern Barnet when they are to be returned to the alleged care of the community? Can he tell us what monitoring he and his officials have in order to ensure that before patients are sent, for instance, from Friern Barnet into the London boroughs of Barnet, Enfield and Haringey, they take steps to ensure that the local authority has adequate social services, for instance, in housing and unemployment? I am sure that the Minister is aware that there have been grave situations in which patients who have been returned to the care of the community are left virtually neglected.

My Lords, so far as the department's activities in this area are concerned, it normally only becomes involved, first, on the general oversight of mental illness hospitals, and, secondly, when it is planned to close such a hospital. As far as care in the community goes, we make it crystal clear to regional health authorities, and indeed to the districts, that hospitals that are moving patients out into the community should do so only when alternative sources of provision, whether day centres or whatever, are there.

My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister is yet in a position to tell the House how many patients who have been discharged from hospitals such as this under the closure programme have subsequently had to be re-admitted to others?

My Lords, this all depends on what you call a hospital. It is quite clear that some patients who have been long-term residents in the large mental hospitals such as we are addressing in this Question go into smaller, more local residential units. I am afraid that I do not have the figures on the countrywide position but I shall write to the noble Lord.

My Lords, can the noble Lord tell us what steps his department is taking to try to co-ordinate the closure of hospitals or hospital wards with the provision of facilities within the community, as the latest report from the National Audit Office seems to suggest that there is a time lag?

My Lords, there should be no time lag. Extra money has been provided for the social services departments of health and local authorities to undertake care in the community. We are watching that situation with care.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that many of the old age pensioners returned to the community go back to homes where they live alone and where they will not be looked after? Is it not possible for the hospital concerned to inform local authorities of old age pensioners being returned to the community so that those living alone can be looked after?

My Lords, that is a misguided view, if I may be allowed to say so. As I pointed out to the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, many of the patients who come from long-stay hospitals move into residential accommodation which is staffed by wardens and others involved in the care of the ex-patients. Many patients in Friern Barnet Hospital are there for short stays and are at liberty to discharge themselves.

My Lords, will the Minister accept that there is a conflict? Does the Minister recall that he told the House that patients leave hospitals such as Friern Barnet only when the hospitals are satisfied that the authorities in whose area they live have adequate resources? Will the Minister accept that practice on the ground shows that very often the system does not work as the Minister and his colleagues believe?

Will the Minister look at two matters in respect of Friern Barnet Hospital? Will he satisfy himself that the local authorities into whose areas most of the patients are returned are adequately staffed? Secondly, will he ensure that parents, staff and patients are given a timescale so that not only can the hospital and the local authority be prepared, but also others in making sure that patients are returned in the best of circumstances?

My Lords, yes, I agree with the noble Lord. It is for that reason that the Government have asked Sir Roy Griffiths to inquire into the whole situation of community care. As regards advising patients in good time, where the hospital has decided to discharge a patient it will be necessary to inform the patient and the local authority's social services department so that provision can be made and the patients prepared in the correct way for exit into the community. However, there are long-term plans for closing the hospital; 1993 is currently the suggested date. I do not think that it would be right to begin preparing patients now for what will be a clinical judgment of the doctor concerned much nearer the time of discharge.

My Lords, will the Minister agree that this specific Question, important as it is, and other specific questions merge with the need for a general reappraisal of the NHS?

My Lords, in recent years we have had many reappraisals of the National Health Service, the most recent being that conducted by Sir Roy Griffiths. I do not think that it would be productive to have yet another total upheaval of the National Health Service at the moment.

My Lords, will the Minister tell the House when the report from Sir Roy Griffiths will be received and, more importantly, published?

My Lords, no decision as regards publication has yet been made. Ministers expect to receive the report next month.

Cancer Screening: House Of Lords

2.45 p.m.

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask the Chairman of Committees what was the response to the recent cancer screening programme carried out by the Women's National Cancer Control Campaign's mobile clinic for women working in the House of Lords.

My Lords, as I explained to the House in July, a mobile unit provided by the Women's National Cancer Control Campaign visited the House of Lords on 17th and 18th November. The arrangements for this experimental on-site screening programme were satisfactory. Three Members of the House were screened, together with 75 members of the staff of the House out of a total of 168.

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees for that Answer, and also for all that he did in making the screening programme possible. Will the noble Lord agree that the response speaks for itself and that it is proof that on-site screenings are a good way of protecting working women from developing cancer of the cervix? Will the noble Lord provide two statistics, if he has them available? First, for how many of those women was it the first screening that they had attended? Secondly, how many of the women were asked to return for further testing as a result of abnormalities found in the screening?

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her thanks to me, but those who deserve thanks are the members of the staff of the House who organised the experiment with great efficiency. As to statistics, out of the total of 78 women attending, 11 attended for their first cervical screening test and a further 13 had not been screened for cervical cancer for over five years. The second question asked by the noble Baroness is more difficult to answer because the outcome of the tests is confidential to the individual women concerned. However, I understand that a number of members of staff have been referred for further treatment. I stress that such treatment could relate to a wide range of problems, not necessarily connected with cancer.

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the whole House is grateful for the opportunity given to the women in the House of Lords, especially in view of the results which show that it was necessary? Will the noble Lord bring that to the attention of other departments and, in particular, to the attention of another place?

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. As your Lordships are aware, another place is responsible for its own House. It decided not to recommend on-site screening facilities. However, it has asked to be informed of the final outcome of our experiment, and we shall certainly do that.

My Lords, will the noble Lord say how the on-site screening was advertised because, being in the high-risk group, I might have attended had I known that it was available?

My Lords, I understand that an announcement was included in the party Whips, which I dare say the noble Baroness receives, and it was also displayed on the notice board.

My Lords, does the noble Lord understand that many women who work in this and the other place do not receive any party Whip?

My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord, I was replying to the question of the noble Baroness. All members of the staff of the House were informed.

My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees why there is no men's national cancer control campaign?

Nuclear Power Stations

2.48 p.m.

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 defer all plans for further nuclear power stations until after the publication of the proposed Bill to privatise electricity generation and supply.

My Lords, it is for the Central Electricity Generating Board to submit applications for consent to construct new power stations, including nuclear power stations, to the Secretary of State for Energy. The CEGB also decides when to submit such applications.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount for his reply. Is it not the case that at the moment we are totally in the dark? Is it not true that recently the Government have refused to publish either a Green Paper or a White Paper so that no-one outside the Government knows what is to be the future of the existing nuclear power stations, let alone what the cost might be of decommissioning them when they reach the end of their useful life?

My Lords, the Government are considering a wide range of options for the future structure of the industry and no decisions have yet been taken. However, it is certain that we shall not be selling the electricity supply as a monolithic business. It is our firm intention to introduce as much competitive pressure as possible into the industry.

My Lords, does my noble friend not agree that unless the programme for 30 new gigawatts of capacity is in place and operative by the end of the century, we all may well be in the dark and that the programme is already at risk as a result of delay?

My Lords, I agree entirely with my noble friend. I can assure him that the matter is being pursued as fast as possible.

My Lords, would my noble friend accept that there are a number of us in this House who would be greatly concerned if there were to be any postponement whatsoever in the development of the nuclear industry in this country? This is for a very wide variety of reasons, not least among which is the fact that there are thousands upon thousands of people in this country whose jobs depend on a healthy and successful nuclear industry. Would my noble friend convey this point of view to the Secretary of State?

My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that the Government are committed to the continuing development of nuclear power and wish to see it play an important role in the country's future power supply. However, there is an obvious need for diversity in the nation's power sources in which nuclear is able to contribute. We are considering how this can best be secured in the privatised electricity supply industry but no decisions have yet been taken.

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that while people may very well accept that there is a need for a nuclear power programme, they are nevertheless (for obvious safety reasons) very conerned about the nuclear industry and nuclear power stations being under the control of private industry. I think that is probably the object of the question. I hope that the noble Lord will pay attention to that as well as of course to the unknown cost factors related to the PWR, since we have never had a PWR operating in this country.

My Lords, I shall certainly take note of what the noble Lord has said; but I can only repeat that all these matters are still under discussion at the moment. No decisions have been made. However, I think that I should tell the House that private generators in other countries such as Japan and West Germany have invested in nuclear power and we expect that private generators in Britain will also see the value of nuclear generation.

My Lords, does the noble Viscount recall that his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Energy recently gave it as his view that on privatisation the generating companies would be bound to generate a certain proportion from nuclear sources? Is that still the opinion of the department? Would that commitment be irrespective of commercial considerations?

My Lords, if that is what my right honourable friend said, then I am sure it is still the case.

My Lords, can my noble friend say whether the additional capacity which is required by the mid-nineties can be met by coal-fired stations? Would he not agree that a nuclear power element is needed if we are to meet this additional capacity that is required?

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that his statement on the security of jobs for the future of that great industry is very much welcomed on all sides of the House? However, regarding defence, is he aware that the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force will depend a great deal on nuclear power? Would it not be right and proper that there should be the safeguard of having that industry in the hands of the people and the British Parliament?


2.53 p.m.

My Lords, after the end of the short debate on human rights and before the short debate on the report on regional economic prospects, my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is to be made in another place on financial allocations to health authorities.

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like, as usual, to say a word about the two short debates standing in the names of my noble friend, Lord Broxbourne, and the noble Lord, Lord Sefton of Garston. It is customary in short debates that the mover is allowed approximately 15 minutes, and that the Minister should rise to reply not less than 20 minutes before the scheduled end of the debates. In the case of the short debate in the name of my noble friend, Lord Broxbourne, this means that all other speeches should be limited to a maximum of 14 minutes, and in that of the noble Lord, Sefton of Garston, to 10 minutes. If any noble Lord should speak at greater length, it would be at the expense of subsequent speakers in the debate.

Human Rights: Jurisdiction

2.55 p.m.

rose to call attention to the five judgments of the European Court of Human Rights on 9th July in favour of British citizens and the case for reducing delay in securing justice by giving jurisdiction to British courts to decide on alleged contraventions of the European Convention on Human Rights: and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg leave to move the Motion standing in my name.

We are having a varied day all the way from pelicans to human rights. We had some very agreeable exchanges on pelicans and it may well be that many noble Lords would prefer to pursue that subject rather than embark on the subject of human rights. No doubt we could have a very interesting session on the mating habits of pelicans. I almost feel that Gerald Durrell might be offered a life peerage in order to come and take part in our exchanges! But except to extreme aficionados of natural life, human rights are probably more important, even if less fun than the mating habits of pelicans.

The timing of this debate is obviously fortuitous since it results from my unexpected success in the ballot. On the other hand, I think it is appropriate, coincidentally rather than causatively, that it is almost two years to the day since I had the privilege of moving the Second Reading of the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms Bill. This Bill, as your Lordships may recall, passed through this House in all its stages only to fail in another place on a procedural technicality. But as some compensation for that natural disappointment, we had here a most impressive degree of support from eminent noble Lords, pillars of church and law, the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Oxford, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, from the Cross-Benches.

It is appropriate that the matter should now be re-opened in the new Parliament where there is reason to believe that there is a majority, certainly in the other House and I think in this House, in favour of this measure. It is also appropriate since the courts gave judgment on 8th July in five cases adverse to Her Majesty's Government in the context of child care.

I shall not rehearse the content of the Bill. It is printed. I shall devote my speech to four matters as briefly as is compatible with clarity, your Lordships will be glad to hear: the purpose of the Bill; the United Kingdom's connection with the European Convention on Human Rights; the jurisdiction of the European Court and last but not least certain misapprehensions in regard to this matter which became apparent in the course of the Second Reading debate.

The purpose of the Bill, as your Lordships can see from the Long Title, is to provide protection in the

courts of the United Kingdom for the rights and freedoms specified in the European convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedom to which the United Kingdom is a party. That is an important but a limited objective. This is not a bill of rights in the accepted sense of the words, substituting a written constitution for accepted constitutional practices. I said in the course of the Second Reading debate on the Bill:

"Its aim is to ensure as nearly as possible, while respecting our constitutional doctrine of the sovereignty of Parliament, that the observance of human rights and the existence of indigenous remedies are securely based in British law."—[Official Report, 10/12/85; col. 158].

Can anyone be against such an aim? Can anyone wish to deny the British citizens the most effective protection for their human rights? Can anyone doubt our obligation to observe the provisions to which we adhere on human rights? If so, no doubt they will stand up and be counted. No one. So there is an agreeable degree of unanimity. Certainly I carry my noble and learned friend Lord Scarman with me, which is not altogether unexpected.

This country has a long and honourable connection with the convention. In fact the drafting of it was supervised, in his capacity as the then chairman of the Legal Committee of the Council of Europe, by Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, known later in this House as Lord Kilmuir—an old and valued friend of mine through the decades and a most eminent lawyer and parliamentarian. Unfortunately, that promising start has been marred by the progress of events, marred by the number of breaches of the convention by the Government here—not this Government but the Government for the time being—which has led to these adverse decisions in the European Court.

I am not going to attempt a statistical evaluation of Britain's place in the league table in regard to these adverse decisions; certainly it is higher than most countries. It may be that it is higher than any other, though there again it is fair to remember that this is the less surprising because those countries have had the wisdom to incorporate the convention into their domestic law in the way that my Bill proposes to do for this country. Nevertheless it is a sad record and one which enables the accusatory finger to be pointed at us.

The range of rights found to have been violated is wide. In the words of that eminent authority Anthony Lester QC,

"the list of British cases is long, controversial and far-reaching."

Among others, there is telephone tapping, immigration and passport rights, prison conditions, detention of mental patients, the closed shop, nationalisation without adequate compensation, freedom of expression—your Lordships will remember the thalidomide case—child care and access. My noble friend behind me, with characteristic kindness, has undertaken to give me an occasional refresher, which I much appreciate, though I am bound to say that the word does not carry the agreeable connotations that it used to carry in the course of professional practice. I see that noble and learned Lords opposite take the same point.

These are all matters which have touched nearly the lives of the citizen.

Of course the court found in favour of the aggrieved citizens, but the road to Strasbourg has proved a long and difficult one. In the words of the Economist,

"The process of appealing to Strasbourg is expensive, cumbersome and appallingly long-winded. All domestic remedies must be exhausted, which may mean taking the case right up to the House of Lords; then the European appeal can take as long as eight years. The child who is caned at school without his parents' consent could by then be spanking his own toddlers, and the prisoner who was denied basic rights in gaol will probably long since have been released".

The case for this limited but important measure is so strong as to be virtually unanswerable, and in fact the answers to it are based mainly on misconceptions. I define four basic misconceptions which appeared in our debates: that opposition to the Bill can alter the convention; the alleged threat to the sovereignty of Parliament; the generalised language of the convention, it is said, is unsuited to British statute law; and, finally, the alleged imposition of a Continental pattern on British law.

As to the first of those matters, many criticisms during the passage of the Bill were in fact criticisms of the convention itself rather than of the limited purpose and content of the Bill. As to the sovereignty of Parliament—and there was much play with this during the debate—I am bound to say that I felt a certain sense of irony at this charge being levelled against me.

It was not so many years ago when I was charged with an out-of-date attraction to this concept in the arguments about the Treaty of Rome. I was out of date, they said. I must move into the modern world. I must come to terms with the limitations on sovereignty. But those were very real limitations on sovereignty. Article 189 of the Treaty of Rome enacts that regulations of the Community shall take direct effect in the member states and be binding upon them. That is a real and substantial diminution of parliamentary sovereignty to which now we are bound in law and faith by our solemn adherence to the Treaty of Rome.

There is no such parallel here with this human rights Bill. On the contrary, subsection (2) of Clause 4 gives Parliament power to exclude compliance in subsequent legislation where it is necessary so to do to give effect to that legislation. As I said on Second Reading,

"this is necessary to preserve our constitutional principle that Parliament cannot bind its successors".—[Official Report, 10/12/85; col. 158.]

I am sure that any Parliament would think very carefully before such excluding legislation, but it is clear that it can be achieved, thus ensuring that there is no infringement of the sovereignty of Parliament.

Then as to the generalised language of the convention, that criticism reflects the first basic misconception in that it is a criticism of the wording of the convention itself, to whose provisions we are in any event bound to give effect by our treaty commitments. International obligations, and especially those concerning rights, are normally expressed in generalised language. They are in positive terms, whereas prohibitions are in negative and restrictive terms.

The contrast can be seen in the wording of the Ten Commandments as compared with the Sermon on the Mount. I am glad to see that the right reverend Prelate appreciates the point, as I expected he would. The wording of the Ten Commandments is precise and negative, "Thou shalt not kill" etc.; the wording of the Sermon on the Mount is affirmative and general:

"Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find: knock and it shall be opened to you".

But who would say that the Sermon on the Mount is less authoritative or less happily expressed than the Ten Commandments?

On the last point, it is said that enactment of the Bill would impose a Continental pattern on our judicial processes. I believe the exact opposite to be true. It would in fact enable British judges to make a contribution to the thinking and jurisprudence on human rights—an opportunity at present denied save on the occasions when there is a British case giving a minority representation of one British judge on the court. There would be a significant benefit not only to the United Kingdom but to Europe and the convention as well. As my noble and learned friend Lord Scarman said,

"At present, by merely a self-denying ordinance, our judges have no part in the interpretation or application of the convention. We are almost alone in that among the 20 signatories to the European convention … How valuable it would be for the skills and legal wisdom of our judges to be involved in interpreting and applying this convention where it takes effect within their jurisdiction".— [col. 163.]

I respectfully adopt every syllable of that statement.

In conclusion I make this submission. Opposition to this Bill and to the principle of incorporation is based largely on misconceptions of what is proposed. What is proposed will promote the rights and well being of the citizen without detriment to government. It will reinforce the protection of human rights and strengthen the position of our courts in conformity with our constitutional principles and practices. It will do much good and impose no detriment. To date, apart from hints and suggestions in the media, we have no real information as to the reason why the Government wish to block this useful and important measure. Perhaps it is a case of willing to wound but afraid to strike. Let them now in this debate at any rate come clean and put their cards on the table. If they have objections to make we shall try to meet them in debate. If they have improvements to suggest we shall certainly incorporate them in the Bill.

Let us then co-operate in diligent study and constructive endeavour. That is my hope; it is my belief and I am confident that it should be so. In that sure hope, in that firm belief and in that abiding conviction I beg to move for Papers.

3.10 p.m.

My Lords, anyone who has followed the debate on the desirability of assimilating the European Convention on Human Rights into our domestic law knows that there are weighty arguments—political, legal and moral—on both sides. If he be a layman, he will speak with trepidation on a subject about which lawyers, equally learned and equally devoted to the law as an instrument of social betterment, disagree completely.

Nevertheless, the lay voice should be heard more often, I believe, than it is, because what is essentially an issue of the best legal techniques and procedures for achieving agreed social ends should not be permitted to become a mystery on which only lawyers pronounce. Moreover, what has to be decided is not, I think, all that difficult to understand; so I shall begin with some general points of concern to many lay people.

The past 30 years have experienced an astonishing proliferation of legal safeguards for individual rights which previously in most countries had been no more than aspirations. In 1950 the only binding treaty which mentioned human rights was the United Nations Charter. Today, there are three global treaties, four regional treaties and two declarations of rights. Moreover, this revolutionary code of international law is not merely hortatory. In Europe, in the aftermath of Hitler's war and the brutal destruction of human rights during part of the interwar years, 21 sovereign states established a Commission and a Court of Human Rights for enforcing the rights guaranteed by the convention of 1952. They thereby relinquished the power to treat their own citizens as they choose.

Those two institutions have so far handled more than 10,000 complaints, mostly from individuals against their governments. Member states have been compelled to rewrite some of their municipal laws, to change their administrative procedures and to compensate their own citizens when they have been held in breach of the convention. In the same way the American Convention on Human Rights is enforced by an Inter-American Commission and a Court of Human Rights set up by the Organisation of American States. Now, 17 independent nations—although not the United States—are party to this structure. The latest of the regional treaties, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights was adopted six years ago but has not yet been implemented and is not likely to be implemented for a long time. Thus what used to be the unenforceable natural rights of eighteenth century rhetoric are being endowed with legal sanctions and an effective machinery of enforcement across national frontiers, at least in some parts of the world. Many regard these conventions on human rights as one of the most remarkable features of recent history, a triumph for reason, co-operation and internationalism.

An extension of moral obligation which is backed by legal sanctions and treats as one group the 400 million inhabitants of the nation states which have adhered to the European convention is indeed a turning point in the history of freedom and a defeat for the peevish nationalism which has been responsible for so much evil.

Similarly, the American convention now draws more than 200 million people into a similar group. I am proud that this country played a main part in framing the European convention and I am glad that we have bound ourselves to it by treaty. In that sense therefore it is part of our law already; so it is pointless to argue about a decision which we took many years ago. What we are now discussing is how to draw out the implications of that decision. One obvious method is to enable British citizens aggrieved by the exercise of powers by a public authority allegedly in breach of the convention to seek remedies in British courts from British judges.

A main argument against this during the debate on the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne, on human rights and fundamental freedoms in your Lordships' House two years ago was the risk of bringing judges more and more into politics and engaging them on decisions that would be regarded as political by requiring them to interpret and apply the European convention. That was the view of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones, and the noble Lords, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead and Lord Allen of Abbeydale.

One of my major concerns is the safeguarding of freedom of expression, particularly in the case of the press. Unhappily, there have been too many opportunities recently to read judgments by English judges which involve the circumstances in which this right may be exercised or ought to be denied. By bringing judges into politics I assume that what is meant is that they would be required by Article 10 of the convention to adjudicate upon issues of public policy. They do not seem, at any rate to this layman, to be strangers to such issues of public policy. If that is the case, the fear must stem from some highly metaphysical definition of public policy and of politics because we are not talking about party or partisan politics.

In that debate it was also said that the words of the convention were vague, indefinite and too general and that they would have to be decided by judges in terms only of the policies underlying them. As in all political theories of rights, the convention sets out the restrictions on rights. In the instance that I am discussing, the restriction was on the right of freedom of expression. But they include national security, the prevention of disorder and crime and the protection of health and morals. A respondent state must establish before the court that any restriction which it has imposed was prescribed by law and is also necessary in a democratic society.

The European Court of Human Rights has laid down that a state must satisfy the tests of whether the interference complained of corresponded to a pressing social need, whether it was proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued and whether the reasons given by the national authorities to justify it are relevant and sufficient. An additional consideration will be the breadth of the restriction on freedom of expression because the greater the breadth, the closer will be the court's scrutiny of the measure.

The line separating permissible expression from governmentally imposed censorship cannot be drawn in accordance with the formula derived either from the common law or the European convention. It must require adjudication on public policy. But the very existence of the convention demonstrates that there is a consensus among member states about the limits of restrictions upon freedom of expression. The European court held in 1975 that freedom of expression is one of the basic conditions for the progress of a democratic society, which cannot exist without pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness. The institutions of the Council of Europe act upon that presumption, vague though it may be. Further, the protection of the court is not restricted to political, philosophical, religious or social expression but extends also to commerical speech—for example, in the form of advertising.

In that inevitably political area, I cannot interpret the convention as imposing greater political duties upon our judges than now rest upon them in the course of developing a jurisprudence of confidentiality. We are already committed to the convention and it is high time that we had it applied in our courts by our own judges.

3.25 p.m.

My Lords, the subject of the Convention on Human Rights has been debated on numerous occasions in your Lordships' House since the noble Lord, Lord Wade. introduced his Bill in 1976. One can only admire the pertinacity with which the topic has repeatedly been rehearsed. However, one cannot but feel that where considerable constitutional changes are contemplated, one would expect the main initiative in the matter to come from the democratically elected House. Strangely enough, the other place appears—except for the recent introduction of Sir Edward Gardner's Bill which failed in the last Parliament—to have had very little interest in the issue. Perhaps it is not without significance that none of the Members of the other place has chosen, under the ballot system, this particular topic as one which he wishes to ventilate in a new Bill.

I remain unrepentant—though there might arguably be some marginal benefit in introducing the convention into our law—in saying that in general the constitutional objections are overwhelming. Those objections have been detailed with remarkable clarity and conviction by the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey in his recently broadcast lectures.

It is not my intention in addressing your Lordships to go into the general arguments. I am bound to say that the noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne, who introduced the debate, ranged widely in his remarks from the Ten Commandments to the natural history of pelicans. He did not appear to pay much attention to the particular cases decided in the court of human rights which, as I understood it, were the subject matter of the debate. On the contrary, I propose to concentrate on those cases and why I believe that they do not advance the argument in any effective way.

Your Lordships have not been told what the subject matter of those cases was. Put shortly, they involved the withdrawal of access of parents to a child previously placed in public care. The court of human rights held that there had been an infringement of Article 8 of the convention, which guarantees respect for family life, and of Article 6, which guarantees that in matters of civil right there shall be an adequate right of appeal.

The interesting thing about the cases was that the court of human rights made it absolutely clear that it was not concerned with the merits of the dispute. The two points with which the court was concerned were, first, that there had been a failure to give prior notice of the termination of access to the parents before the resolution was made and, secondly, although the court agreed that there were numerous forms of appeal under our law, that in regard to that particular type of order, there was not a totally adequate appeal.

As your Lordships will see from the cases set out, there are numerous avenues of appeal under our law. One can appeal to a juvenile court and thence to the divisional court and so on. One can institute wardship proceedings in the family court; one can go to a local ombudsman and ask for a judicial review in the High Court. The parents in the cases did have recourse to a great many of those procedures. The various authorities in this country had decided ultimately that the paramount consideration was the welfare of the child and that the decision of the local authority that access should be withdrawn was in the interests of the welfare of the child and therefore should be sustained.

It is said that the matter would have been settled much more expeditiously—or perhaps satisfactorily—if the English courts had been able to apply the convention directly, as would be the case if the convention were adopted as part of our law. But would it have had that effect? The English courts. as was apparent from the course of the cases, were mainly concerned with their statutory duty to have primary regard to the welfare of the child. It is extremely difficult to imagine that the English courts would have reached any other conclusion in the light of the very vague words—I insist, notwithstanding the remarks of the noble Lord. Lord McGregor, that they are exceedingly vague—of Article 6 that there should be a right to respect for family life. That could mean almost anything. How would it have helped if the English courts had been able to apply this resounding principle of respect for family life?

The court of human rights itself made clear that it was not concerned with the merits of the case. All it decided was that there was a lacuna in our law where it concerned the refusal of access to a child by the parents. There were in fact wardship proceedings and a judicial review could have been asked for. The court said that those proceedings were insufficient because in either of those cases the courts would have been unable to explore the merits of the decision.

To fill this lacuna, legislation would be required. Supposing the English court were faced with the decision that, having regard to Article 6, there was a gap in our law. What could it reasonably be expected to do? It could hardly then and there provide a revised procedure of appeal. That is part of the fundamental objection against incorporating this legislation into our law. If one confers that power upon English judges it gives them a legislative role which is one of the fundamental objections to this kind of procedure.

Surely it is for Parliament to decide, first of all, what sort of revision of procedures should be introduced and to introduce that by legislative act. This is not a matter which can be properly dealt with by an instant decision in the course of litigation. No doubt the Minister will tell us about this later, but the Government have issued a White Paper about the matter. There was legislation in 1983 on this point. I am not personally very clear exactly why it is so, and no doubt we shall be told, but the legislation passed in that year was thought to be not fully adequate to meet this gap in our procedures.

What we do not want is to give this kind of issue to our judges to decide and thereby give them a legislative function, and, with respect to the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord McGregor, bring them into the political arena. We have before us the melancholy spectacle of what happens when judges are implicated in this kind of matter. We read of the unfortunate Judge Bork who was rejected as a judge for the American Supreme Court after exhaustive investigations into the background of his political life and opinions and so forth.

It is said that there was delay. And the suggestion was made that in some way we would be better off from that point of view if the convention were incorporated. It is quite true that there was a delay of several months in bringing the matter before the family court. The reason was that there were apparently conflicting jurisdictions in England and nobody could decide exactly which court it should go to. That resulted in a delay of some months.

It is difficult to see what improvement would have resulted if Articles 6 and 8 had been part of our law and the court had applied them. Delays would have occurred just the same. The major delay that occurred was the delay in bringing the matter before the court of human rights; it took several years. The answer is that it is for the court of human rights to put its affairs in order. It is very unfortunate if it takes a very long time to bring a case before that court. What we need, presumably, is political pressure to try to persuade that court to speed up its procedures.

The last point that arises is the question of financial compensation. It was not the issue in this case. Although the parties have reserved their right to claim financial compensation, even by the end of the case they had not formulated exactly what it was. What they would have liked was some kind of order from the court of human rights reversing the resolution of the local authority taking away access. That they could not get from the court of human rights. The court made clear that it was not concerned with the merits of the case. As I have said, if such an order could have been brought about in the English court, it would have involved some kind of new appeal procedure which itself involves litigation.

I am sorry; did I use the wrong word? I meant to say legislation. I am much obliged to the noble and learned Lord.

Finally, I suggest two conclusions. The first is that if defects are revealed in our law as a result of the process under the convention, then the proper course is that this matter should be considered by the authorities. If there is a need for the law to be reformed, this should be done in the normal way. It may well be that what these cases mainly reveal is the need for a comprehensive review of the appellate procedure in cases involving parents and their children, possibly with special regard to a matter which has been much discussed recently. That is the question of the role of the family court.

I conclude by suggesting that these cases in no way point to either the need for introducing the convention directly into our law or the desirabilty of embarking upon a constitutional upheaval to achieve that result.

3.37 p.m.

My Lords, making a maiden speech before any assembly is a somewhat daunting experience. However, I have already noticed that your Lordships invariably extend to all speakers a kindness and a courtesy not invariably found in the place from whence I come.

The noble Lord, Lord Jay, in the memorable maiden speech which he made the other day, referred to the governess in Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest", who warned her pupil to avoid the chapter on the Indian rupee as being somewhat exciting for a young girl. This reminded me of the maiden speech of Arthur Balfour in another place which he made in the middle of his third parliamentary session and after very careful consideration. He chose as his topic Indian silver currency precisely because it was not too exciting. He later recalled that he had sought an occasion when no party issue was involved and no Division expected. His criterion for a maiden theme was a question that was undeniably important, intrinsically dull, perhaps with a technical side, and in any case recalcitrant to rhetorical treatment.

The operation of the European Convention on Human Rights seems to me to fulfil most of those provisions. It is a question which is undeniably important although not, I trust, too intrinsically dull—certainly not in the eloquent phraseology of my noble friend Lord Broxbourne. There is only one element that can be regarded as controversial and that is whether or not the convention should be directly incorporated into our domestic law. As to that, by convention I can say little today—perhaps nothing—but I am sure that your Lordships would not wish me to dissent from the speech of my noble friend, who has been my leader on many past occasions in another sphere of activity.

In a real sense the convention is already part of our legal system. It was drafted largely by British lawyers and the British Government were the first to deposit the instrument of ratification in 1951. It is referred to by British judges and has afforded justice to British citizens who have sought the protection of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Moreover, the judgments have invariably been respected by successive British Governments.

I believe that the success of the convention and the court over the years is one of the outstanding achievements of the Council of Europe and should he recognised as such. There is no comparable international system for guaranteeing civil and political rights anywhere else in the world. Of course it is not a perfect system, not least because the citizen has a long and costly journey to undertake before a judgment can be obtained. It seems to me that this is clearly illustrated by the five judgments of 8th July of this year. The first of this group of cases was lodged on 15th December 1980 and the last on 28th April 1983. It seems to me that this delay is all the more unacceptable because all the cases involved rights of access to children in care.

As long ago as 1958 the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers said that it was:
"of paramount importance that the institutions established by the European Convention of Human Rights remain an effective instrument for ensuring the observance of the engagements which result from it".
We are of course, as has already been pointed out, party to all those engagements. To achieve this a review of procedures, as has already been indicated, is clearly essential and the most urgent problem is undoubtedly the length of the proceedings. This was considered by the European Ministerial Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1985 at which our Government were represented and which noted that the increasing number and complexity of applications to the court were resulting in a complete congestion of the supervisory organs; in particular, the European Commission on Human Rights. I should like to think that Her Majesty's Government are taking a lead in promoting the remedial action that they have themselves declared to be necessary.

It may be that at the same time we should consider whether the present machinery is adequate to meet the requirements of modern society in the field of human rights in the light of scientific and technical progress in such matters as data protection and biotechnology.

There is sometimes in the public mind on this, and indeed on many issues, a confusion between the Europe of the Twelve and the wider Europe of the Twenty-One to which we are equally committed and to which I do not think we always pay sufficient attention. Many people are opposed to the European Convention on Human Rights because they are under the illusion that it is something to do with the European Community, and they do not like that. In this connection, I believe that one of our purposes should be to strengthen co-operation between the Europe of the Twelve and the Europe of the Twenty-One.

I suggest that we might, when considering the operation of the convention and the judgments which are made from time to time, study ways and means of ensuring that we do not see the emergence of two different and perhaps conflicting sets of case law: that of the European Court of Human Rights and that of the Court of Justice of the European Community on the interpretation of the same rights. This further potential source of conflict, complication, delay and confusion for the citizen might perhaps be avoided if the European communities themselves adhered to the convention.

However that may be, what needs to be made clear above all—and I hope it will be done tonight—is that measures to ensure the speedy and effective protection of the human rights of British and other European citizens are unequivocally supported by Her Majesty's Government. I thank your Lordships for your indulgence.

3.45 p.m.

My Lords, it is a personal delight for me to be the first Member of your Lordships' House to speak after the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Rippon. I say that not merely because I happen to agree with everything that he has said in his entertaining and forceful speech but because we both come from the same legal stable, Brasenose College, Oxford. Brasenose College, as Balliol is beginning to appreciate, is strongly and wisely represented in your Lordships' House. We lead the Lords Spiritual and now, with the arrival of my noble friend, we are gaining strength among the Lords Temporal. Very soon we shall be the envy of Balliol, New College and Ruskin College!

I have wearied your Lordships' House frequently on the question of the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into British law but the excellence of the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne, and my noble friend Lord Rippon is such that I need not do so again this afternoon, and I have no intention of doing so.

I draw your Lordships' attention to the point that we are debating and I respectfully agree with this one point—and only with this one point—in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead. In the limited time available we should try to concentrate on the point of this debate, which is whether it would be wise in the interests of securing justice if we were as a country to give jurisdiction to British courts to decide on alleged contraventions of the European Convention on Human Rights.

It will not surprise your Lordships to know that I am wholly persuaded that we would be wise and would be acting justly if we were to give jurisdiction to the British courts to decide on alleged contraventions of the European convention. I do so for two reasons which I shall develop shortly: first, in justice to the aggrieved citizen who has exhausted his remedies in the United Kingdom but who may well be found. if he gets there, to have established a contravention of the convention by the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg. Secondly, I suggest to your Lordships that it would be good for the health of British law if this jurisdiction was given to our courts and it would assist our Government to comply with their international obligation to secure to everyone within the jurisdiction the protection of the articles of the European Convention which deal with human rights and fundamental freedoms.

My first point is simply this. The European convention imposes obligations upon the United Kingdom—obligations binding in international law. The United Kingdom is internationally bound to see that the European convention is not infringed within the United Kingdom; and the United Kingdom Government are internationally bound to give effect to the rulings of the European Court of Justice where those rulings touch upon or concern the United Kingdom.

Surely our government would be greatly assisted in discharging those very solemn obligations if, by incorporating the European convention into our law, we ensured that before any citizen could go to Strasbourg, before his remedies here were exhausted, our courts, including the highest in the land, have an opportunity to consider the provisions of the convention, interpreting them and applying them. That would not only assist our Government to comply with their international obligations; it would also provide what is at the moment lacking—an input of British reasoning and British legal insight into the development of the jurisprudence of the convention.

I say no more except that we can give our courts this jurisdiction only if we are prepared to legislate along the lines of the Bill introduced in the last Parliament by the noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne. I supported that Bill, as did many other Members of this House, and it passed through all its stages in this House. The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead, seems to think that there is an argument in that it did not get far in the other place. It may have occurred to some latter day observers of the British constitution, when working, that the real shrine for the protection of the liberties of the British peoples is in this House.

Only one question may arise this afternoon, and it is a question of great importance. I think that it will arise because I am followed by a noble and learned Lord who is no neophyte in advocacy, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning. The point is this. The noble and learned Lord may say—and I have heard him say it in this House, as other noble Lords may have done—that if we give this jurisdiction to our courts, why bother about going to this provincial court in Strasbourg which is filled with professors who do not understand the English language or our ways. No doubt it is an excellent gathering of central, western and eastern European jurists (the word is) but that is no substitute for the common law judges and common law traditions of the United Kingdom. The argument is that we should get rid of that and its waste of time.

I wholly disagree with that view. I suggest, briefly, that if we give our courts this jurisdiction we should retain the current position which our Government have adopted; namely, recognition of the compulsory jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and the right of the aggrieved citizen who has exhausted his remedies in this country to petition the European Commission so that in the appropriate case a ruling may be obtained in the European Court of Justice as to the meaning and the effect of the convention.

I refer, first, to justice for the aggrieved citizen. It would be an irony if we were to give our courts this jurisdiction and then deprive the citizen of the only remedy he would have if he remained aggrieved—after a ruling, for instance, in the House of Lords—of going to the one court whose interpretation of the convention is by international law binding on our Government. At the moment a citizen aggrieved by some alleged contravention of the convention in this country can go to Europe and if he obtains a ruling from the European Court of Justice favourable to his case, our Government, to their great credit (as have successive governments to their great credit) give effect to that ruling. They may do it by legislation or by payment of compensation.

A good illustration of that is the phone-tapping case. Our courts, under the common law as it stood, could not give effect to the appropriate articles of the European convention of protecting the privacy of the citizen. On appeal to the European court there was a ruling which, in effect, overruled the decision of the British courts. The ruling said that the phone-tapping complained of in that case was an infringement of the convention. What did our Government do? They passed legislation giving effect to the convention. Are we to deprive our citizens of that merely because our courts now have a chance of an input into the discussions and consideration of the convention?

If we do, this situation may well arise. Our courts will give an interpretation of the European convention against the citizen and that is the end of the matter; but in another country the same question arises and that goes to the European Court of Justice which comes to the conclusion that our courts were wrong. Under existing law our citizen would have had his own remedy—delayed, it is true, but not denied. However, if we withdraw the right of petition, our citizen will have to live under what we could then legitimately say was a wrong decision by our courts as to the meaning and effect of the European convention. It is clear that the situation could be very serious.

I conclude by saying that if the convention was a part of our law, and if our courts had jurisdiction, then in the current litigation between the Government and the newspapers on the publication abroad, of a certain book, our courts would have to take account of the European convention. Our courts would then have to consider whether it was a proper use of the action to remedy a breach of confidence by using it to deal with the newspapers' alleged right to publish that which is in the public domain, that which is no longer a secret.

That issue has to come and under existing law will undoubtedly go to Europe. It will be very serious if it should arise after we have incorporated the European convention, after our courts have been given the jurisdiction, that we say a citizen is now bound by a United Kingdom decision and can no longer have the remedy of going to the European Commission and having his case considered by the European court, which might give a ruling adverse to that of the House of Lords, a ruling which under international law this country would be obliged to follow. It seems that for the health of the law, for the health of the development of Europe in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Rippon, argued and for justice to the individual, which is better given even though delayed, it is better that we should retain the compulsory jurisdiction of the European court and the right of petition. If we do, I strongly support this Motion.

4 p.m.

My Lords, may I add my words of appreciation for the eloquent and entertaining speech of my noble friend Lord Rippon. Of course I am used to all this advocacy in the courts of law. It was eloquent and entertaining then; and I hope we shall have his assistance many times in the future.

I take strong objection to these five judgments now brought before the House for its attention. Only one speaker has referred to them so far; that was my noble friend Lord Lloyd of Hampstead. This so-called court, sitting in Strasbourg, has condemned us. It has condemned our United Kingdom, its Parliament and its social workers as violating human rights. The condemnation is most unjust. I propose to show the House just how that court has gone wrong.

The first mistake it made—a fundamental one—was to say that it was not going into the merits of the case. Surely, when one finds a country like ours guilty of violating human rights, is it not one's first duty to go into the merits before starting to condemn? This court started absolutely wrong by not going into the merits of the case, but I shall now do so.

I have with me the five judgments in those cases. How many of your Lordships have read them? I know that my noble friend Lord Lloyd of Hampstead has done so but none of the rest of your Lordships knows anything about them, so I shall now tell you.

The first of those cases before the European Court of Human Rights, is the case of B v. United Kingdom. Who is B? We do not, in fact, know; "B" is a mother who gave birth to a child in July 1977. However, all through these papers we are not told whether the child was a boy or a girl.

I am glad to tell your Lordships that the child has been with excellent foster parents since the age of 11 months and has now been adopted by those foster parents by order of the Court of Appeal. The child, who is now 10, is no longer the child of "B"; he or she is the child of most excellent foster parents and is their adopted child and, in all, their child and not the child of "B".

Let us consider the merits of the case. The mother was mentally unstable. She had been in mental homes for schizophrenia from time to time. Her husband—she did not last with that husband long—was violent and even before the child was born he was going away from her; after the birth he hardly saw anything of her at all. So much for the mother and the father. No home whatever was provided by that mother or father for the baby.

The mother went into a mother and baby home for a while. But the important point is that five or six months after the baby was born the mother cruelly assaulted the baby. She was taken before the juvenile court where she pleaded guilty, was put on probation and the child was subsequently put into a place of safety by a place of safety order from the court.

After a short time a care order was made and, indeed, after eight months the child was put temporarily with other short-term foster parents. Then, at the age of 11 months, the child was put with these long-term foster parents who have proved to be so good and brought her up so well during all that time.

The point about the case was simply this: the mother said she wanted access to the child during the time when the juvenile court had made the care order. A care order means that in future the child is in the care of the local authority and, therefore, legitimately away from the parents. The child had to be put into care because of the mother's violence and assault.

Therefore the child was in care, under a care order with the foster parents looking after it. During all that time social workers were visiting the child. The mother also visited the child—she had her other men about, and so on—but she did so very erratically, according to the social workers. However, they tried to get all the access they could and the mother went occasionally with the social workers keeping an eye on the case all the time.

Then, when the child was two years and 10 months old they had an important conference—that is, the social workers and all the agencies—as to what was to be done. In May of this year a report was issued, and I would like to read your Lordships part of it, in which it was said that the United Kingdom had violated human rights. This is the statutory social workers' conference, and the report said this:
"A health visitor from the local clinic would see B after each of these visits to see if the child was at all distressed by the occasions. It was noticed that B became very clinging to the foster mother on the day after each visit, B would wake up in the night after the visit. On the last occasion of access the child soiled its pants on the way home from the Day Nursery. This was the first time this had occurred for many months".
So that conference decided that it was not for the good of the child to allow access any more with those instances occurring and therefore there should be no further access.

Accordingly, a few days later, on 18th May, the authority wrote to the mother informing her that future access to the baby would not be permitted. The reason given was that the baby had been showing signs of disturbance following visits by her which had proved unsettling.

What is said against the United Kingdom is that that order was bad. The social workers had said, "We are afraid we cannot allow any further access". It is said that they ought not to have done that unless there had been a hearing before a court of justice or a court of tribunal. It is also said that the court of the United Kingdom—and we are responsible—has violated human rights in giving that direction and refusing further access. I repudiate that suggestion.

Within a month, or a little later, the mother lodged an application to discharge the care order. The mother was challeging the decision then. The court would not allow it. That is an outline of the case. From that time onwards, it has been in the courts of law. I have told the story. The court says that the United Kingdom has violated human rights because it did not give that mother a fair hearing or notice before the decision was made.

If anyone had gone into the merits of the case, they would have seen that there was no violation of human rights. I have shown that the decision was completely wrong and unjust to the United Kingdom. I shall read the article which it is said we have broken. It is as follows:
"Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence".
That is not a legal proposition; it is a pious moral precept. It is unsuited for determination on a point of law. We do not know what the law on that point is. The Commission claimed that it had established its case. It said that we should not so much look at the article as at the case law.

I would ask the question: family life—what family life? I should have thought that the family life in question was the family life with the foster parents. They are now the legal parents. That is the family life. The court is not saying that family life means a home with the mother (the child never had a home with the mother). The child never had a family to live with except the foster parents. The court says that the family life is the relationship of the mother and child. That is a fine interpretation of the wording of the article.

What does "respect" mean? The court has interpreted that as meaning that every mother has a right of access to her child however harmful that may he to the child. How absurd! This poor mother's visits to her child were harmful to the child. They were disturbing, as the social workers reported. How does the right to respect come into that? The court is completely wrong to elevate that concept into a right. There was argument about that point. It can only be determined by a court of law. The court has gone quite wrong on that.

The court says that we have also broken the article which provides that in the determination of civil rights and obligations of any of the criminal charges against him, every one is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal.

The court held that because further access to the mother was refused when the child was two or three, the United Kingdom had broken that article; we should have told the mother that she could go before some court to determine whether she had a right to access. Within a month, she went to court to try to have the care order discharged. She did not succeed. How absurd it is to suggest that we have not given the mother a fair hearing. The United Kingdom has done nothing wrong. It has done nothing against the human rights convention and yet that court over in Strasbourg has held that we have violated human rights.

I denounce that court. I shall not submit to the European Convention on Human Rights. I would not incorporate it into our law. All the articles are much too vague and uncertain to be enforceable in a court of law. They are unsuited to any legislation. As I said, they are just pious moral obligations which any court can interpret in any way and to which it can give its own determination, as the European court has. Do not let us have anything to do with the European Convention on Human Rights.

4.15 p.m.

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, is a little unfair to your Lordships in his assumption that the rest of us have not read the cases. I read them in part because my son was, unfortunately, the losing counsel in those cases on behalf of the United Kingdom Government. However, I also did so for the more general reason that I wanted to look at an area in which the European convention has operated which was not as familiar, perhaps, as the question of press freedom, and so on, to which the other layman to take part in the debate, the noble Lord. Lord McGregor of Durris, referred.

When one looks at the cases, one of my objections to the European convention is reinforced. If we had been told that we could repatriate that convention, as the Canadians repatriated their constitution, and not merely add a British layer to the present progress of cases, I should have been more moved. My objections to it do not relate to the so-called, or perhaps real, misconceptions which were listed by my noble friend Lord Broxbourne. My view is rather different; namely, that any jurisdiction which rests upon the kind of vague language to which the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, referred, is almost certain at some time to give rise to what I call judicial usurpation; that is, a temptation for courts of law to take over responsibilities which are either those of parliaments, elected local authorities, or administrative agencies charged with action under the laws or by-laws concerned.

I am much moved towards that conclusion by the experience of the United States of America over the past three decades during which time it seems to me that judicial usurpation has been patent. The federal constitution (the division of powers between the Federal Government and the states) has been deliberately overridden in a series of decisions. Some of those decisions no doubt brought about a greater measure of social justice; for instance, for minorities. But some of them, less noted by the advocates of a Bill of Rights, have been damaging. For example, it has been one of the courts' claims that they could intervene in matters of the adjudication of various forms of social benefit and could order, in this case a state or a municipal authority, to do something different. What they might he ordered to do differently would almost certainly involve additional expenditure. The court is not merely claiming to usurp the privileges of the legislature in making law; it is also claiming to usurp the normal privileges of legislatures in raising taxation—because someone, presumably, has then to tax or to impose a rate, or whatever the local system may be, to fulfil the courts' demands. That is a court sitting in Washington, more remote from any state capitals than Strasbourg is from London.

It is this chronicle of judicial usurpation which in the last few years has reached a new height. The very vagueness of the original American Constitution, and the fact that after 200 years it can hardly be expected to cover in detail many important aspects of our lives, has enabled the court to say in a number of judgments that it is not bound either by the text of the constitution or by the intentions of those who wrote that text.

The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead, referred to the hearings about the nomination of Judge Bork to the Supreme Court. I was in the United States throughout the period when those hearings were taking place. It is clear that the main objection to Judge Bork was that he believed, by and large, other things being equal, that the court should be bound by the documents that they were expounding. This was used by a number of pressure groups—who, for one reason or another, disliked the views that they thought he might express if such cases came to court—as a reason to deny him the nomination. That is why objections to the politicisation of the judiciary—which was mentioned and dismissed by the noble Lord, Lord McGregor—would not survive a close examination of the present scene in the United States.

Let me for a moment come back to these cases. They ought to concern us because the question of rights of parents, adoption, access to children and child abuse are issues very much in all our minds at the moment, and rightly so. We have the two notable reports by Mr. Blom-Cooper. We have the proceedings at Cleveland, to which being sub judice, I cannot refer in greater detail. All of these matters taken together probably reveal that we need a general reconsideration of the way in which local authorities, the voluntary agencies, the courts and police working together could devise a system which holds more evenly the balance between the rights—if they are rights—of parents, the interests and the pre-eminent rights of the children concerned, and which at the same time has the confidence of the public. This has been referred to by other noble Lords.

However able and deep a report we may expect from the judge who is conducting the Cleveland inquiry, it is probable that there are no circumstances in which everyone can be wholly satisfied on every case. But if this Parliament acts after due consultation with the various public and private agencies involved, we shall have the satisfaction of knowing that whatever system emerges it will be directly related to the conditions in this country. It will have been brought about by those who are acquainted on the ground with our social system, our system of local government, and our voluntary and other agencies.

I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning. To suggest that this can be done by foreign jurists without such intimate acquaintance, however distinguished and learned in the law, seems to me to be a matter at which the imagination boggles. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, said, the United Kingdom has been accused of violating human rights, not because no form of appeal was available to the allegedly aggrieved parents—in all five cases there was a recourse to various mechanisms of appeal—but because the form of jurisdiction which British law provides did not seem to correspond with what would be the case in a Continental jurisdiction.

It seems to me that we, as a house of a parliament are responsible primarily for the good governance of this country. If our international obligations appear to conflict with that then it is our international obligations that should be reviewed, and not our duty to children and parents in this country. I hope if such a Bill is reintroduced, that your Lordships will say what your putative ancestors said to an English king who wished to alter an aspect of family law in the 14th century: nominus leges Angliae mutari.

4.26 p.m.

My Lords, I agree with those who have expressed admiration for the noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne, for his persistence in raising this important issue in your Lordships' House. But I have to confess that I have been a little surprised at the form the debate has taken. In my simple-minded innocence I had thought that we were going to discuss the Motion on the Order Paper. That raises the question whether what was decided in these five cases bears any relevance to the traditional views which the noble Lord has put before us from time to time. In fact his speech as will be recalled, eloquently defended a Bill which is not before your Lordships' House. It was without reference to the five individual cases.

Later in the debate we had another extremely eloquent plea that we should retain the compulsory jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights and the right of access by petitioners from this country, although so far as I know that is not an issue which is in doubt. Traditionally this is an issue which is settled by the Government from time to time without even telling Parliament what they have decided, a matter about which I have complained previously.

It is an agreeable feature of this debate that there are some new voices added to what was tending to become a rather familiar list of contributors. In particular we have that of the noble Lord, Lord Rippon of Hexham. However, a rather less attractive feature of the debate for me has been that it has made me read the five extremely voluminous judgments delivered in the cases referred to in the Motion. It may be good for me to have seen how the Strasbourg court conducts its business. I take it that the noble Lord who introduced the debate has read the cases. That is not a matter on which he saw fit to enlighten us in his opening remarks.

Assuming that we are discussing the Motion before the House, which seems to be a fairly large assumption, I am a little puzzled. It refers to the case for reducing delay in securing justice by giving jurisdiction to our courts. This seems to be based on two assumptions with regard to these five cases, the validity of which must at the very least be open to doubt. In the first place the motion assumes—and if it does not I do not know what it means—that if the English courts had been able to hear and determine the issues which eventually went to the Strasbourg court they would necessarily have come to the same conclusion and the journey to Strasbourg would have been unnecessary. That strikes me as being doubtful. I am not a lawyer.

Incidentally, and quite irrelevantly perhaps, I take the opportunity of saying that the myth which is constantly repeated that the convention was drafted by British lawyers does not pay sufficient attention to the work put into it by colleagues of mine who certainly were not lawyers. As I said, I am not a lawyer, but having read these five judgments I believe that it might equally be thought that recourse to the English courts would merely have added another year or so to the timetable before the cases went to Strasbourg.

My second point is that, as has been explained, all five cases raise in one way or another questions affecting the well-being of children—about their being put into care, about wardship, adoption and access by the parents. I can only think that the parents' prime concern in their search for justice must have been to retain responsibility for their children or at least to have greater access when they were in care.

But these are not the issues that the Strasbourg court considered, as has already been explained. Its judgments make it crystal clear that it was not considering the merits. What the court was looking at was the procedure; whether the parents had adequate access to the relevant tribunals and whether there had been unacceptable delays (a point on which I think the court is particularly well qualified to judge). Whether it would have made any difference had the procedure been that which the court thinks it should have been must be a matter for conjecture, but it is at least arguable that it would not have made any difference at all.

In one or two of these cases the High Court here and the ombudsman found plenty to criticise over the delays and so forth, but they would not intervene because the overriding consideration was the wellbeing of the children and they thought that criterion has been met by the action that had been taken. It is interesting that what is now being considered by way of remedy to the successful applicants, as I understand it, bears no relation at all to what is to happen to the children themselves after all these years. Rather it is what the parents are to receive by way of monetary compensation and payment of legal fees, all of which must be a long way from their original concerns.

My reading of the judgments is that the Government's case would have been stronger if the relevant bit of the Act—I must get the title right—the Health and Social Services and Social Security Adjudications Act 1983 had been in force at the time. But that would not have been the complete answer, and it will now fall to the Government to consider whether there should be fresh legislation to close the gap which has been disclosed in the 1983 Act. That is fair enough. But since the debate has been so widened perhaps I can go on to say that what has happened does not affect in any way the main consideration of whether the convention should be incorporated into our law. I do not think the circumstances of these cases advance the arguments on either side one way or the other. My objections to that course remain as strong as ever.

It is one thing for the Strasbourg court to say, as in effect it has in these cases, that it thinks we have it wrong and that we had better go away to think about how best to put the matter right. It is quite another thing for our judges to give an instant ruling which declares there and then what is the meaning in our law of one or other of the abstract principles set out in the articles of the convention, overriding, as they would, any existing provisions on the statute book. If this were the role of the judges it would open up a formidable prospect of uncertainty over a wide field of our law which would be cleared up only slowly on the accident of the cases coming to the courts.

I must confess that, try as I might, I find it intellectually beyond me to follow the reasoning of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, which I have heard on more than one occasion and which I have treated with the great respect it calls for. No doubt that is my fault, but I am slightly comforted by the fact that other eminent members of his profession share my problems.

Nor do I see anything in these cases to diminish the objection that the incorporation of the convention into our law would mean that the judges rather than Parliament would be called upon to decide many political and social issues dressed up as they would be as legal issues, notwithstanding what the noble Lord, Lord McGregor, said earlier in the debate. The lawyers themselves could hardly look forward to the criteria of appointment to the Bench being extended to include an assessment of their approach to social and political issues. That would not be an unrealistic prospect. Reference has been made more than once to the fate of poor Judge Bork. Do we really want to repeat that sort of experience in this country?

4.37 p.m.

My Lords, I begin by saying how much I welcomed the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Rippon of Hexham, particularly on this subject because he and I probably knew one another very much better in Strasbourg than in the United Kingdom when we were Members together of the Council of Europe; him leading the Conservative delegation and myself leading the United Kingdom delegation. We both had much to do with human rights. I need not remind him of the Greek colonels' affairs which was at that time a matter of great importance. He spoke today with great eloquence, as one would expect, and I have no doubt that we shall hear very much more from him. He is a great acquisition.

I was very glad to welcome back—if I may put it that way—the noble Lord, Lord McGregor of Durris, who I believe was too unfit yesterday to address the House; but he is clearly very fit today and he spoke with great conviction.

Having paid those compliments, however, I disagreed with the views that both noble Lords expressed. Whatever else is at issue in the debate, I personally would not challenge the principle put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne—which I believe to be right—that our own law in the United Kingdom should at all times be as coincident as practicable with the international obligations which we have accepted. It is many years since we accepted our obligations under the European convention. Indeed the requirements of that convention, building as it did on the universal declaration on human rights of the General Assembly of the United Nations, are in my view of the highest possible significance. They are significant not only because of their content, which the preamble describes as fundamental freedoms—the foundation of justice and peace in the world—but also because, as the preamble bears witness, the convention grew out of the resolution by like-minded European countries having a common heritage of political traditions, ideals, freedoms and the rule of law to take the first step for the collective enforcement of certain of the rights stated in the universal declaration. That in my view is of major importance. The principle of collective enforcement, which meant that each state party to the convention agreed to subordinate its own domestic control over its citizens to the convention's collective determination, was a novel and exciting advance, one that I appreciate is not welcomed by all; and certainly, as we have heard today, not welcomed by the noble and learned Lord. Lord Denning.

In accepting that principle—I quote again from the preamble—in my view we accepted that
"the fundamental freedoms are best maintained by a common understanding of human rights".
That common understanding was to be reached by the carefully constructed system of the convention. That system plainly recognised that the founding fathers, including our own, did not regard themselves as dealing essentially with purely legal issues of interpretation. They were dealing with issues of the highest political importance to which the varying traditions of histories—indeed, religions and languages of different nations—would bring different and perhaps contrasting approaches.

It is for that reason that throughout the step by step progress through the convention system the emphasis is away from what one might describe as dry legality and statutory interpretation and towards the need for the settlement of differences between the parties concerned. That is indeed the function of the commission, to which any complaint is first submitted. The commission is required by the convention to assist the parties to secure a friendly settlement on the basis of respect for human rights. If the parties are unable to reach agreement the commission sends its report and proposals to the committee of Ministers, the representatives of government. It is then for those ministers to supervise the taking of satisfactory measures within a period of time to give effect to the committee's decision. It is the committee's decision, not that of the commission, and the committee will in practice have close regard to and give full credit to the political problems involved. We have experienced that ourselves in certain matters that have been referred to the convention where we have been found to he in breach. It is only if the attempt to reach a friendly settlement fails that the commission or party to the case can bring it to the court for a decision on whether or not there has in fact been a breach.

We on these Benches have always recognised the great value of the principle of collective enforcement, qualified as it is by a constructive system designed to produce an agreed solution to political differences rather than a judicial decree or diktat. That is why we accepted the right of our citizens to petition the commission and the compulsory jurisdiction of the court. That is why in government and in opposition we pressed the extension of the right of petition when some disliked the consequences upon our traditions of the European collective view. On that there must be no doubt whatsoever.

It is now said that our law in places may he out of accord with the convention, and that this should be rectified by making it possible for our citizens to complain direct to our courts for their determination. That is of course a far-reaching proposal. It is certainly not clear to me how such a system of law would fit into either our own democratic tradition or the convention system that I have described with its careful balance between interpretation and the resolution of political differences by friendly settlement. Would the courts be dragged willy-nilly into the political arena? Would they find themselves overriding the law of the land without the will of Parliament first being obtained? I do not see how these consequences can be avoided.

Indeed, if one looks at the five cases before the House, they seem to me to be a striking illustration of that. What the European Court of Human Rights essentially decided is that in our family law, in our child law, there is a gap which it believes ought to be filled in some way in that in certain circumstances the natural parent of a child who had been removed from the natural parent did not know of, was not told of, did not have to be told of, certain matters that might affect the future of the child in providing the parent with the opportunity to go before the court. The parent could not go before the court because there was the gap in relation to access to the child, the one apparent gap brought about by these particular cases.

The European Court of Human Rights as I see it was saying that that was not fair to the parents; and not only that, but that it might be of great disadvantage to the children concerned because it was depriving the natural parents of the right to put forward ideas that at the end of the day could be important to the future of the child. We tried evidently to correct this gap in 1983 while these cases were going through the machine at Strasbourg too late for the cases in question. I do not know whether what we then did would be adequate if similar facts were to arise today.

I ask the House to put this to itself. Suppose the remedies suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne, had existed, what would have happened in these cases? Would our courts, before whom these matters were brought, have said, "We know that the statute does not provide for a remedy but we shall invent a remedy. We shall assume that such a remedy existed because it would be contrary to human rights if such a remedy did not exist"?

As I said, I agree that our law should be as close as possible always to the accepted and developing concepts of human rights that flow from the convention. We gain no credit for falling behind those accepted collective concepts. However, to agree that does not involve vesting the courts with powers that they do not now possess and that I believe are consistent neither with the structure of the convention system nor with our tradition of political democracy that requires Parliament, the representatives of the people, to alter the law and no other to override it.

I agree entirely with the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, that the right way to deal with the problem at this time is to ask Parliament to examine all the circumstances and to decide in what way the law should be brought into coincidence with the requirements of the convention rather than to allow the courts to make some instant decision that may very well cause greater disruption to our law than the existing situation. Therefore one asks oneself what are the alternative methods of accomplishing this coincidence between our law and the convention system. I would certainly strongly support the continuous process of reviewing our law and practices in order to inform Parliament of weaknesses and failures in our system, leaving it to Parliament to take whatever steps led from those faults.

This has already been done in many fields. It has been done in the fields of sex relationships, race relationships, and even in the particular matter before the House today. As I have said, it was done, satisfactorily or otherwise, in 1983. That is the sensible way of doing it. It enables Parliament to carry out its traditional function of examining all the implications of changing the law and trying to get the law right.

For myself, I would go further than that. It is now some 16 years—if I may go back into my own history—since I introduced in another place a Bill to establish a United Kingdom Commission of Human Rights to which complaints could be brought as an alternative to going to Strasbourg. That commission, like the Strasbourg commission, would have had no declaratory or legislative power. It could be given the task of seeking to achieve a friendly settlement, and thus mirroring the convention system, and reporting to Parliament when necessary so that Parliament could consider amendments to the law if that proved to be needed as a result of the consideration of particular cases.

We have already established a number of bodies and commissioners who perform a similar function. Some at present are concerned only with maladministration; but in my view it would be a consistent approach to link them to the means of fulfilling our obligations under the convention. It seems most odd that these commissioners are empowered to look at, and report upon, complaints of maladministration by government offices, by local authorities, but not to look at the human rights basis upon which our law ought to be formed.

My fear is that if we do not take steps of the kind that I have suggested we shall continue, as we have for so long, to argue and disagree upon the constitutional issues, the matters so eloquently advocated by the noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne, but in my view equally eloquently disagreed with by noble Lords who take a different view. The possibility of moving in the direction in which I believe we should be moving in order to produce greater congruity with the convention system that we have accepted, and are bound to by international law, may well be lost for a long time.

I hope that the noble Earl the Minister will, with the Government, give thought to those possibilities as a real alternative to the extreme steps that the noble Lord, Lord Broxbourne, proposes. We should be grateful to him for bringing this matter before the House once again so that it can consider these issues. It is right that we should continuously keep before us the fact that we are not always in conformity with our international obligations, and the real issue is the best way of ensuring that in future we are.

4.54 p.m.

My Lords, I should like first to thank my noble friend Lord Broxbourne for giving us another chance to discuss the most important issue of incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into United Kingdom law, and for introducing the debate with his customary courtesy and clarity.

When we last debated the whole question of incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law, just over two years ago, my noble friend Lord Glenarthur expressed the strong reservations of the Government about incorporation. My noble friend Lord Broxbourne ended by hoping that Lord Glenarthur would learn to repent over the Christmas season. I have to bring to my noble friend Lord Broxbourne the glad tidings for this Christmas that the recent judgments of the European court to which he referred leave the Government uncontrite on this fundamental question of incorporation.

I hope there is no question in this House of the Government's commitment to the principles of the civil and political rights which are enunciated in the European Convention on Human Rights. Our lawyers helped to draft the convention—indeed not only our lawyers but other members of the Home Office who do not have legal qualifications but who have put immense time and effort into the convention—and we were the first country to ratify it. We have accepted the right of individual petition to the European commission and the compulsory jurisdiction of the European court since 1966, renewing these rights in 1986 for a further five years. The fact that the convention does not have the force of domestic law in this country does not detract in any way from our traditional respect for human rights.

The reason why we view incorporation with apprehension is that we are wholly unconvinced that it would bring about any marked improvement in the enjoyment of human rights of this country, and it would have serious and, we think, unfortunate consequences for our constitutional arrangements and in particular for Parliament's relationship with the judiciary.

The inability of the distinguished Select Committee of your Lordships' House under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, to agree on this question foreshadowed the narrow failure of Sir Edward Gardner's Human Rights Bill in another place to secure closure on Second Reading on 6th February 1987. There are many and persuasive advocates both for and against incorporation in both the main parties, and I do not think any government would contemplate a constitutional change of this importance without a far wider degree of support across all the parties.

As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Silkin, will be the first to agree, although we have not incorporated the European convention we have obligations under it on human rights to abide by the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, or, where the Committee of Ministers decide there has been a violation of the convention, to take the necessary measures. Thus we have changed the law or administrative practice where necessary following an adverse decision. Sometimes it is not necessary to do this because the appropriate changes have already been made by government of its own accord, or in compliance with a judgment of the domestic courts.

The Strasbourg court and Committee of Ministers find violations from time to time against most member states, including those which have incorporated the convention into domestic law. My noble friend Lord Broxbourne made much of the United Kingdom's supposedly bad record in Strasbourg, but against that it must be remembered that we have accepted the right of individual petition—by far the most important avenue to Strasbourg—for longer than many member states, and that this country is often the respondent in cases where several judgments address the same issue. The five judgments are a case in point.

If the argument for incorporation is that it will mean that no cases, or even that fewer cases, will go to Strasbourg, I cannot accept it. At the beginning of this year, countries which have incorporated the convention had 43 violations found against them by the court; countries which had not, including the United Kingdom, had 17 violations. If we were to incorporate the convention, cases would still go to Strasbourg unless we took to the unprecedented step of first denouncing the convention or we no longer accepted the right of individual petition. The publicity attending incorporation in generating a substantial body of human rights litigation in UK courts would possibly increase the number of cases going from the UK to Strasbourg.

Further, the UK legal system has no filtering mechanism comparable with the European commission which can—and in the great majority of cases does—declare applications inadmissible. There is the real prospect that incorporation would weigh down the machinery in this country with applications, many of them unmeritorious, without reducing the number of unsatisfied applicants going to Strasbourg. It is not clear, either, that applicants would necessarily gain if the convention were incorporated; there is no guarantee that United Kingdom judges would necessarily take the same line in relation to new issues as would those in Strasbourg nor (because Strasbourg will consider cases only where domestic remedies have been exhausted) that delay would be cut.

The Government's main concern, however, is the effect of incorporation on our constitutional arrangements. We have always regarded the convention as a lighthouse, keeping the countries of Europe in the right general direction according to their common heritage, rather than as a rudder, controlling every movement. When we became party to the convention we saw it as embodying, in declaratory terms, the principles of human rights already enjoyed by democratic countries, such as the right to a fair trial, the freedom of the press and right of free assembly. If the convention were to be incorporated, then principles of the greatest generality would be regularly interpreted by the UK courts in specific cases. Some of the articles in the convention guarantee unqualified rights, like the right to life and liberty, but Articles 8 to 11 have qualifications limiting the general rights which they apply in the interests of national security, public health and morals, the rights of others and so on. It is with these articles, particularly, that the whole question of who will interpret them, becomes crucial. Judges are already (quite wrongly in our view) accused of political bias in their interpretation of highly specific statutes, and this would no doubt rise with a crescendo if they had to interpret the much less specific terms of the convention where the scope for judicial discretion would be so much greater.

This is not to say that judges are not to be trusted to make the right decisions, but rather that they should not be asked to take decisions on such vague criteria. That is the job the convention entrusts to the European Court of Human Rights. To propel our judges in this way into the political arena might seriously undermine their deserved reputation for impartiality upon which the whole edifice of the administration of justice rests, and it could also undermine the sovereignty of Parliament. I understand that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor shares this view. It is, of course, often said that judges are already involved in quasi-political issues through the mechanism of judicial review, but I would remind the House that judicial review is concerned solely with the means by which the executive comes to a decision, not the merits of the decision itself, a point to which I shall return in connection with the five judgments. It will also be objected that judges from 21 countries in the European court with very differing legal traditions already make decisions affecting us, and do so on the basis of a simple majority. Against that it must be said that the determinations of Strasbourg do not create a legal vacuum; the respondent country is given time in which to cure the breach, and it may do so in its own way. To follow the argument of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, to its logical conclusion, it would mean that if the convention were to be incorporated, an adverse judgment of the UK courts striking down a UK statute would have immediate effect. The wording of my noble friend's Motion on the Order Paper brought the recent judgments of the European court to the attention of this House, and for that I am grateful, for I think that they illustrate rather neatly the main point that I have been striving to make.

It may he helpful to your Lordships if I first outline the background to these cases which all concern access by natural parents to children in care. In all live cases—which go by the designations of O, W, B, R and H in order to protect the identity of the families in question—the European court held that there had been a violation of Article 6(1) of the convention. That Article provides, inter alia, that in the determination of his civil rights, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal. In relation to four applicants, O, W, B and R, the court held that while they were able to challenge before a court care orders or resolutions of the local authority to assume parental rights and duties over the children, and while the applicants could on judical review have questioned aspects of the local authority's access decisions, these proceedings did not satisfy Article 6 because they did not enable the substance of the access decision to be adjudicated upon directly.

In the case of W, B, R and H the court decided there had been a breach of Article 8. Article 8, requires, inter alia, that there shall he no interference by a public authority with the right to respect for family life, except for reasons such as the protection of health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. The court considered that this article had been breached because the applicants W, B and R were insufficiently involved in the local authority's decision-making process; for example, they were not consulted in advance about, nor informed promptly of the decisions to terminate access to their children who had been placed in care.

In the case of H, the court decided that the proceedings relating to the applicant's access to her child had not. for a variety of reasons, been concluded within a reasonable time (contrary to Article 6(1)), and that contrary to Article 8, the question of her future relationship with her child had been determined by the mere passage of time and not in the light of all relevant considerations.

Because my noble friend Lord Broxbourne did not mention the five cases, as the noble Lords, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead and Lord Allen of Abbeydale, have pointed out, I can only suppose that my noble friend is thinking that had the convention been incorporated, these five cases would have been decided for the applicants much sooner and without the expense and delay involved in going to Strasbourg. I think that the first point to make here is that this makes one presupposition, which is that the English courts, interpreting the convention, would have come to the same conclusions as the European court. But one of the judges of the European court himself stated in dissenting from the majority judgment that he could not accept the extensive interpretation of Article 8 by the majority of the court. I am not suggesting that English judges would not have reached the same decision as the majority: I would only say that it is, perhaps, an open question. Had the applicants not been successful in this country, they would have the added expense and delay of taking their case to Strasbourg as the court of last resort; or they might have dropped the case as unlikely to succeed.

I should like to stress to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, that incorporation of the convention does not necessarily mean that our citizens would lose the right to petition the commission in Strasbourg. In either case, they would have been worse off than in fact they were. But I realise that my noble friend will doubtless now say that this is false antithesis and that the question is whether a successful application in the Strand under an incorporated convention would come sooner than a successful application to Strasbourg under our present arrangements.

Then there is the point which emerged with clarity from what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead: in practice, what would the parties in our domestic courts have done if our courts had found these violations? As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Silkin of Dulwich. told us, there would have been a lacuna and a stalemate until Parliament could address the matter.

One cannot, obviously, generalise from only five cases, but it may be that the average time taken for the European court to determine a case does take significantly longer than the equivalent judicial process in this country would under an incorporated convention. Yet under the Bill introduced into this House two years ago by my noble friend, the United Kingdom courts would have had no protection, comparable with the decisions of inadmissibility by the European Commission on Human Rights, from a mass of unmeritorious litigation, and this lack might well increase any delays in the domestic legal process. Furthermore, it must be repeated that the applicant, if unsuccessful in this country, would have the added delay of going to Strasbourg, or would have to drop his case. I should add here that the Council of Europe and its member states are very conscious of the delay which occurs under present arrangements, and that we have taken an active part in various ways to expedite the procedures in Strasbourg. By taking this action we are meeting one of the points made in the enjoyable speech of my noble friend Lord Rippon of Hexham.

I mentioned earlier that, if found in breach by the European court, we cure that breach where necessary, because it sometimes happens that steps have already been taken by the Government which anticipate the judgment of the court. This is so, to a large extent, with these five judgments. The five applications relate primarily to access decisions made in 1977–1981. In 1983, Parliament enacted the Health and Social Services and Social Security Adjudications Act, which included provisions in recognition of the concern that access to a child in care could be terminated simply by an administrative decision by the local authority. Schedule 1 to this Act inserts Part 1A into the Child Care Act 1980. Most of the provisions of Part 1A came into force in January 1984 (the remainder came into force on 24th May 1984). This enables parents to apply to the juvenile court for an access order where a local authority has given notice that it intends to terminate or refuse all access to a child in care.

The legislation also requires the Secretary of State to issue a code of practice on access to children in care. The code, which was published in 1983, sets out the basic principles for local authorities and other agencies for the promotion and sustaining of access and for handling decisions on access.

The 1983 legislation was based on a perceived need at that time, and indeed goes some way to remedying some of the problems identified in the Strasbourg proceedings. The Government now recognise that this legislation did not go far enough and thus in January of this year published a White Paper, The Law on Child Care and Family Services, which sets out proposals for the reform of child care law. The paper proposes that disputes between parents and the local authority on access should be resolved, if possible, before a care order is made as part of good practice. If this is not possible, it should be for the court to decide when a care order is made or subsequently if there is a dispute about reasonable access.

Parental involvement also features in a number of the proposals. The Government intend to introduce legislation as soon as the parliamentary timetable permits.

I think it would generally be accepted that there are some circumstances in which it is not right for parents to have access to their own children who have been taken into care. Equally, it does not seem right that that decision should be taken without regard to the views of the parents and that the decision to deny or terminate access should not be communicated immediately to the parents.

This view is very much in line with the principles of natural justice which have been developed over the years in judicial review of executive action. Parliament has already recognised a need for specific legislation to remedy a defect in current administrative arrangements in response to a clear social need. This is not a reaction to a particular case. One forgets too easily that the court's judgments bear on the law or administrative practices as they stood when the case arose and not as they are now.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, will not be alone in his view that Strasbourg has meted out an injustice in finding the United Kingdom in breach of the convention. We are naturally always disappointed and regretful when our arrangements are found to be wanting, but that is where we find ourselves. The Government will bring forward the necessary measures in due course and then give this Parliament the opportunity to address the important questions to which my noble friend Lord Beloff referred.

These cases of child abuse which my noble friend mentioned are not strictly relevant to the circumstances of the five judgments. But I would like to stress that the Government place a high priority on child abuse matters and have in hand a number of initiatives in relation to the handling of child abuse cases. These include the preparation of guidance for the training of professional staff, which will of course take account of the lessons learnt from the Cleveland and other inquiries.

Some of the objections that we would have to the incorporation of the convention might also arise in relation to the establishment of a commission or committee of human rights here, a point mentioned by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Silkin of Dulwich. But while we may not agree with the noble and learned Lord on the merits of a body, we share his reservations about the incorporation of the convention. On the specific point he mentioned, which was related to something he raised some 16 years ago, perhaps he would allow me to delve into the files, look at it and draw it to the attention of my right honourable friend.

The noble Lord, Lord McGregor of Durris, said that a layman would speak with trepidation on this subject. I know from my experience of the Criminal Justice Bill with what trepidation I tread in the legal field. It is of interest to note that of the four laymen who have spoken on this subject today, three are against what my noble friend Lord Broxbourne wants but one is for it.

I conclude by saying that the circumstances of these five judgments, far from persuading me that we should incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights, reinforce my belief that Parliament can be trusted to secure those rights for all our citizens.

5.15 p.m.

My Lords, it would be a poor return for the kindness of the House in attending this debate and listening to my opening speech if I took more than two minutes to express my thanks. But equally it would be a poor return if I did not take those two minutes for that purpose.

We have had an interesting, I think a fascinating, debate, which probably justified our decision to pursue human rights rather than the pelicans as our main subject of discourse. The debate has been flawed only by one thing: quite a number of speeches trespassed on the area of the general position of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is not the case before the court, so to speak, as I sought to indicate in my opening.

I shall not embarrass noble Lords by identifying the principal offenders in this regard for whom I have a very real and great respect. So let me extend my thanks first and foremost to those who reiterated or enunciated their support for the principle underlying this Motion and in particular extend my well-deserved congratulations, along with those of others, to my noble friend Lord Rippon of Hexham for his characteristically excellent speech. It came as no surprise to me, having known him for so long and in so many contexts to which he was kind enough to refer in his speech.

If I do not catalogue the others to whom I express thanks in this context, your Lordships will understand the it is not a case of the application of the principle expressio unius exclusio alterios. On the contrary, I hope that noble Lords will assume that I thank them all collectively as if I had set out their names individually.

I should like to thank also those noble Lords who took the opposite view for the temperate language in which they sought to deal with so conspicuously difficult a case. I have not given up hope of them; I see the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, rapt in contemplation. As he knows, I have a great respect for him for his work as President of MENCAP. I am only sorry that he does not bring the same sagacious judgment to the question of human rights as he brings to the affairs of MENCAP. I reminded him on one occasion that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth. I seem to see on his distinguished features now the complacent expression of one who savours from afar the future fragrance of the fatted calf. We shall be happy to supply him with it.

I am not so hopeful of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead. I only say to him that if he wishes to participate in the feast, he had better hurry up. There may not be enough portions to go round.

I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Silkin, of course, and my noble friend the Minister for their expression of the points of view of the Opposition and the Government. I should be using the language of hyperbole if I said that I was now clear beyond peradventure as to the attitude of the Government in the reason for their opposition to this. I can only hope that further consideration will bring them to a more positive and defensible view.

Finally, I respectfully thank those noble Lords who without contributing speeches to the debate have contributed to it by their attendance here. I see the noble Lord the Chancellor of Oxford University is present. I had hoped that we would hear from him but his views are well known. I am sure that he would have supported this Motion had he been inclined to speak. I thank all noble Lords for their attendance, testifying as it does to the importance of and interest in the subject. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

Allocations To Health Authorities

5.20 p.m.

My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall now repeat a Statement that has been made in another place on allocations to health authorities. The Statement is as follows:

"With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a Statement on allocations to health authorities. As my right honourable friend announced on 3rd November, for 1988–89 we are increasing the provision for current expenditure on the hospital and community health services in England by £707 million, to a total of nearly £12,000 million. This includes an additional £50 million towards the rising cost of care and treatment for people with AIDS or HIV infection; an additional £9 million for the further development of the breast cancer screening programme; and an additional £5 million to reinforce our programme of projects to reduce waiting lists and times.

"Details of the overall increases in allocations to individual regional health authorities, which take account also of the £15 million special fund to help ease transitional problems in regions receiving the lowest growth, and of other allocations including the funding for AIDS, are in the Vote Office. For every region, the extra allocations represent an increase over their current allocations of at least 5·6 per cent., compared with forecast general inflation of 4·5 per cent. We shall shortly also he seeking bids for 1988–89 projects under the waiting list initiative, for which £30 million is available.

"We remain committed to the principle of ensuring the fair distribution of resources across the country, and that part of the allocations which depends on what is known as RAWP is based on the existing formula. Extensive work to examine possible improvements to it is however nearing completion, with a view to considering changes for future years. Separately, there are additional capital allocations of nearly £26 million. Together with receipts from land sales which are forecast at over £200 million, this will sustain the hospital building and improvement programme in which over 450 major projects are currently being planned, designed or constructed.

"Both current and capital allocations provide for 40 further breast cancer screening centres by Spring 1989, over and above the 14 we expect to be in operation by Spring 1988. They also provide for over £40 million of expenditure on services which need to be financed on a wider than regional basis. Full details of these supra-regional allocations are also in the Vote Office. They include increases for neo-natal and infant cardiac surgery and for spinal injury services; the designation of a new liver transplant centre in Leeds; and the designation of a fourth heart transplant centre at the Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester.

"All these additional resources, together with those released by continuing our successful cost improvement programme and new money arising from income generation schemes, will enable health authorities to continue developing their services. At the same time, we are also taking action to ensure that we have speedier and more accurate information about the financial and service position of the health authorities. I shall return to this important matter in a moment.

"In so far as this financial year is concerned, our monitoring arrangements have revealed a shortfall in income that could only be eliminated by short-term measures that would not improve health care or efficiency. This is clearly unacceptable and we have concluded that in order to meet the immediate problem it would be right to increase health authority cash limits throughout the United Kingdom by almost £90 million, of which £75 million is for English health authorities. That includes some £10 million in further recognition of the particular pressures from the steadily rising number of AIDS cases which three of the Thames regions are facing this year. We have also decided to make a further £13·3 million available to offset the costs of damage caused by the severe weather on 16th October, thus bringing the additional funding for 1987–88 to over £100 million for the United Kingdom as a whole.

"As I have already indicated, we are taking steps to improve significantly the monitoring of health authorities' performance, with the intention of ensuring that resources are spent to maximum effect. These new arrangements will include formal and regular monitoring of income and expenditure level, and of output and activity. In addition we shall shortly be setting up a special unit to help authorities take full advantage of income generation opportunities. We shall continue to encourage practical partnerships between the public and private sector where this will clearly benefit the patients of the National Health Service.

"Mr. Speaker, the £7 billion a year of extra resources this Government have already invested in our hospital services since taking office have enabled it, by any measure, to provide more care to more people than ever before. What I have announced today will help us to build on that."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in the other place. The Minister will know only too well that the under-funding of the NHS has in recent weeks been the subject of frequent constructive and well-informed exchanges in your Lordships' House. Fortunately the NHS and the patients have friends in your Lordships' House.

We welcome the Statement. The additional allocation of £75 million comes late in the day—just in the last quarter of the financial year—but it is still quite welcome. It will help the NHS to get over the immediate, most pressing short-term difficulties. The additional allocation of £700 million which was foreshadowed in the Statement made on 3rd November is also welcome, although it will still mean a shortfall of £200 million in 1988–89 according to the advice of the BMA and the AHAs.

I have five brief questions for the Minister. First, has the department calculated how much more additional funds are necessary if the health service is to provide the facilities which are necessary in accordance with its own guidelines and its own norms? Is it in a position to challenge the estimate of £200 million put forward by the health authorities and the BMA?

Secondly. when the new monitoring machinery which is referred to in the Statement is in place, will the department then know centrally the total number of wards or beds which are unused, because of shortage of staff or lack of funding? I understand that that information is not currently available to the department.

Thirdly, will the additional funding of £75 million for the rest of this financial year mean that there will be no more temporary closures of wards, beds and theatres due to shortage of funding? Fourthly, are the Government aware of the complaints made by some doctors and nurses that the new breed of managers are too often insensitive to their reasonable requirements, and that the new management structure may be inappropriate to the needs of the National Health Service?

Finally, given the widespread disquiet about the health service expressed in every part of the country and by every part of the NHS, might there not be a case for an inquiry into the management and working of the NHS and for saying that the department should not rely on the new monitoring machinery?

5.30 p.m.

My Lords, we on these Benches should also like to thank the noble Lord for having repeated the Statement and, like the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, we are able to welcome certain aspects of it. I should like to ask the noble Lord whether he could clarify some of the figures for me. Perhaps it is my fault, but it seems that this Statement is not quite so explicit as Government statements usually are.

I note that there is mention of an additional £50 million for AIDS. This was, I think, the subject of a Question which I asked the noble Lord not long ago. My understanding then was that it was to be a special allocation for that problem. But I see that, in fact, it is included in the £707 million which is mentioned in the Statement, which presumably reduces the sum by that amount. Perhaps the noble Lord would confirm that, or otherwise. I note that there is another £5 million allocated for the waiting list project. That is welcome but it seems to me to be rather an inadequate response to the enormous problem of about 700,000 people who are still on waiting lists.

A little lower down the Statement mentions that bids will shortly be called for under the waiting list initiative. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to confirm that successful bids will not be confined to those which involve farming out to the private sector. There is nothing wrong with collaboration with the private sector but it should not be dictated by the Government. Local health authorities should be able to use the money to the best advantage, as they see it.

I notice that at the bottom of the first page of the Statement there is a reference to 450 major projects which are currently being planned. That takes one back to Mr. Fowler's famous list of additional hospital building which was unfurled with such a flourish at the last election. But does the noble Lord agree that that building programme will not be much use if it ends up with empty wards and insufficient nursing staff? Will he say whether the Government will be funding nurses' pay awards? We learnt that some special arrangements will be made for nurses as regards mortgages. I believe that they will be private arrangements with the Nationwide Building Society, but can he again tell me what is planned for the nurses in relation to the poll tax? I know that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, asked the Minister a question on that not long ago, but I think that the House would be interested to hear about that.

As regards new money arising from income generation schemes, can we be assured that it will be new money and that authorities will not be penalised for whatever they make on that side? I have noticed the reference to £10 million in additional funding for the three Thames regions which are principally concerned with dealing with the AIDS problem. Those regions are the North-West Thames, the North-East Thames and the South-West Thames. That presumably leaves £40 million from the £50 million that was mentioned at the beginning of the Statement, but in the penultimate column of the figures at the hack of the Statement there is a figure of £24 million, which, it is stated, includes the balance of AIDS allocation plus an additional £5 million for the waiting lists. I am not quite sure how one can get another £40 million out of £19 million. Will the noble Lord comment on that?

Finally as regards the question of the monitoring of the health authorities' performance, that is perfectly all right provided that it does not develop into a civil war with the doctors. It is obviously proper to study the reasons for different performances by different authorities but that should be done objectively, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, implied. There should be an objective inquiry into the measurement of different performances by different health authorities, because that may depend very much on local conditions.

Last of all, I note that the Government state that they will continue to encourage practical partnerships between the public and private sectors where this will clearly benefit the patients of the National Health Service. Encouragement is acceptable to me. There will have to be more collaboration between the public and the private sectors in the future but it should be encouragement and not dictation. Will the noble Lord confirm that those arrangements will be left to the various authorities to work out in accordance with their own best interests and not as a result of being dictated to by the Government?

My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords for their reception of the Statement, although it was rather muted in the case of the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock. I shall try to answer as many as possible of the questions I have been asked. Both noble Lords referred to the £707 million for the next financial year. I can confirm that the £50 million for AIDS for the regions which are most affected by this particular and unfortunate scourge is in effect top-sliced from that £707 million. So, yes, that reduces the amount for general distribution, as indeed does the £15 million in the special fund which goes towards those inner city regions which are dramatic losers because of the redistributional effects of the RAWP formula.

The Statement also dealt with the extra money available for this year. There may have been a little misunderstanding in the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Pry's-Davies. What in fact is happening is that £103·3 million is spread over the whole of the country. That is made up of £13·3 million available to offset the cost of the damage caused by the severe weather of 16th October. A sum of £75 million is available for English health authorities; the rest is for Wales, Ireland and Scotland. I hope that that is helpful.

The noble Lord asked whether we had calculated how much more money would be needed completely to fund the health service. I regret that that is a totally unanswerable question. I have been at pains to point out over recent weeks that the more money and the more expensive operations that are conducted by the health service, the more the need for the health service grows, so that one is always running to stand still.

Both noble Lords asked about monitoring. We shall indeed know the number of beds that are occupied at any particular point in time—that is to say, three months back, because, as I explained, the figures are to be collected on a three-monthly basis—but we shall not be collecting the detailed numbers of the wards in use or indeed closed. As I understand it we have never in the history of the health service collected such things centrally.

As to whether the £75 million for the English health authorities means no more closures, the only people who can give your Lordships that guarantee are the people who actually operate the hospitals themselves, namely, the district health authorities. The purpose of that money is for it to go some way towards fulfilling their perceived need, which your Lordships have pointed out to me now over several weeks.

As regards the question of whether the new breed of managers is insensitive, I think that good managers have a habit of being somewhat insensitive. I can well understand that in some places this has come as a shock to some health service employees. But as regards whether we should have another inquiry into the management of the health service, I pointed out yesterday that we have had several reviews of the health service in recent years not the least of which was possibly the greatest one, the Griffiths Report, which came to resolution in 1984. I and my right honourable friend believe that another restructuring of the health service would be counterproductive. Therefore I shall not ask him for another such inquiry.

The 450 major projects that are currently being planned are scrutinised at the approval stage to make sure that they do not end up with empty unstaffed beds, because clearly there is no point in spending this enormous amount of money on capital improvements if it does not go directly to patient care once the projects are completed.

I am afraid that I became totally lost with the question of the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, on the AIDS money and whether 19 into £40 million did or did not go. Perhaps he will either explain it to me again and I shall try to answer it or once I have read the Official Report I can write to him.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that reply. I should be very happy if when he has read the Official Report he could write to me.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord.

The waiting list project, although £5 million is mentioned in the Statement, has an allocation of £30 million in all for the next financial year as opposed to £25 million this year. This year we are expecting 100,000 people to come off the waiting list as a result of that expenditure. Clearly the number will be even larger next year. That is certainly not confined to the private sector. We shall look at any worthwhile scheme which the health authorities put up to us and which we regard as a going concern to take people off the waiting list.

I am extremely keen to see a real partnership between the public and the private sectors. One of the things which we need to know and which has not been made available to me by the health authorities is how much individual operations in the public sector cost, so that managers themselves can decide whether it is cheaper to carry out operations in the health service or contract them out to the private sector.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the reference by the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, to the underfunding of the health service is to some of us a little difficult to reconcile with the accepted fact that expenditure on the National Health Service, even before the increases which my noble friend has just announced, is at the highest level ever? Can he confirm that that considerable achievement results from the good management of the national economy by the Government which has enabled them to maintain that large increase in provision for the health service at a level which is far higher than, with the best will in the world, Labour Governments were able to attain?

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to my noble friend for giving me the opportunity to say that in 1986, 6·4 million patient treatments were carried out. More will be carried out in 1987. As a result of the figures that I have been able to announce to your Lordships today, even more will be carried out in 1988. The financial management of the economy is exactly why we can afford to spend those record amounts of money and get those record numbers of patient treatments.

My Lords, perhaps the Minister will consider in the future when giving information about the National Health Service to the House the practicability of giving three figures. The first is the figure for administration and whether it is increasing or decreasing. The second figure is that for public health and preventive medicine on which substantial resources have been spent in recent years. Thirdly, we need the figure for diagnostic and treatment services. That may not be practical. However, I think that those three figures are keys to the delivery of medical care. The third matter is the most important one for the ordinary person.

5.45 p.m.

Yes, my Lords, I listen with great respect to the noble Lord. As far as administration is concerned, I know that some 5·3 per cent. is spent on administration in the National Health Service. Any large business in the private sector would be extremely proud of that. As far as costs for public health, preventive measures and diagnosis are concerned, I do not have the answer. I shall consider whether it is possible to get such figures and I shall refer to them as often as I decently can.

My Lords, I am sure that everyone who is involved with health care will be pleased to hear about the extra £100 million, although I think that many will see it more as a sticking plaster than a fundamental intervention that is required to deal with a crisis. Perhaps the noble Lord can tell us, first, how the extra £100 million will actually be allocated between health authorities; secondly, where the extra £100 million is coming from; and, thirdly, whether the extra £100 million is a once-and-for-all allocation, which means that it will merely postpone the crisis, or can one rely on it to be next year's base.

No, my Lords. The £100 million is the result of special circumstances which health authorities face this year, concerning which your Lordships have been advising me for the last few months. As far as the allocation of the extra money is concerned, I think it will be helpful to the House if I put that information in the Library. It is extremely complicated. The short answer to the noble Lord's question is that the money will be allocated as revenue allocations are made now.

My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt the Minister for a moment. What I had in mind was whether the allocations were according to the present shortfall as seen in the accounts of the health authorities or whether they were going to be related to medical need in some more positive way.

No, my Lords. It is done on the basis of existing allocations for this financial year.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that this is a welcome Statement in many ways? Without attempting to turn to nurses' pay, which is one of the focal points of the National Health Service and is the subject of a future pay review, may I ask him in relation to the 400 major projects whether he is aware that casualty departments in hospitals are a major problem at the present time? Can he say what priority is being given to the provision of casualty departments in those new and major projects, particularly if they are large new district hospitals? In Surrey, where I live, there is a great shortage of adequate casualty departments in the area to deal with major accidents, say, on the M.25. Although we have not had a chance to see the figures, perhaps my noble friend can tell me what priorities the Government have in mind.

My Lords, again I shall make a list available in the Library concerning the 400-odd major projects. Certainly casualty departments are included. So far as nurses' pay is concerned, I made the point to your Lordships the other day that this Government had set up the Nurses and Midwives Salary Review Body and had accepted every one of its four recommendations. That is not to say that I can guarantee that there will be 100 per cent. acceptance of next year's recommendations. No Minister could say that because we do not know what next year's recommendations will be. However, I take my noble friend's point.

My Lords, is not the most worrying aspect of this Statement—which all of us welcome, as my noble friend Lord Kilmarnock said—that what has recently been happening in the National Health Service appears to have taken the Government by surprise to such an extent that they are now establishing a new monitoring system—I welcome that—so that they will not be taken by surprise in the future? How does the Minister equate that with the fact that what has been happening in the health service recently is precisely what those working in it have been telling the Government was bound to happen? I plead most earnestly that Ministers will listen more carefully to what they are told by the people who work in the health service and in particular by the nurses.

My Lords, I must reject the underlying theology of the noble Lord's supplementary question. It takes a phenomenally long time for the Government to wring money, first, out of the taxpayer's pocket, and, secondly, out of themselves. Although this Statement may come as a surprise to your Lordships, to my certain knowledge we have been working on it for some time.

My Lords, perhaps the Minister can clarify one point. Did he say that the monitoring exercise would not take account of the number of wards closed? Is that not the most vital information which we ought to have concerning wards which are not in use and the reason why they are not in use?

No, my Lords. I do not think that it is the most vital matter. What matters to everybody is the number of beds. Whether they are in a whole ward or scattered through a hospital is not particularly pertinent.

My Lords, can my noble friend assure the House that, despite this substantial and welcome boost which the Government are giving to the National Health Service, they will not relax their efforts to improve the service in terms of treatment and to economise by the acceptance of manipulative therapy under the health service? The economies could be substantial if the present progress is continued.

My Lords, there is certainly no intention to interfere with the clinical judgment of the doctors whether in manipulative therapy or in any other way.

My Lords, did I hear the Minister correctly when he said that it took the Government a long time to get money from themselves? In this Government does not a decision by the Cabinet take immediate effect in the Treasury or is the Treasury a separate institution?

My Lords, I should not wish to get into an argument with the noble Lord over Cabinet government because, as I understand the matter, he has been a member of a Cabinet and I have not. However, as he will know even better than I, it takes a long time for matters even to reach the Cabinet.

My Lords, there is one matter that worries me and I hope the Minister will not mind my putting it to him. We are in a difficult position now and it strikes me that from all that has been said we may find ourselves in a similar position next year. The Government were asked for £900 million and have given £700 million. The Minister need not tell me now but I wonder whether he could confirm that the sum of £700 million will meet the needs. That is my worry.

My Lords, I have been at great pains over recent weeks to explain that "the needs" of the health service are infinite. It may be extremely difficult to answer the noble Lord's question, but if it is possible to find an answer I shall write to him.

My Lords, the Minister's answer covers the needs in a general sense. The £900 million was obviously not infinite; it was a calculated amount that the health authorities thought they needed. The Government are giving them £700 million; therefore the Government start with a shortfall of £200 million. All I am asking is for them to try to justify it.

My Lords, any organisation always wants more from the bank. It is a salutary experience not to receive the full amount from one's bank because it means that one has to try harder.

Regional Economic Prospects

5.52 p.m.

rose to call attention to the report Regional Economic Prospects, produced by Cambridge Econometrics and the Northern Ireland Economic Research Council; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in a debate on our economy and its relationship to the rest of the world which was held a fortnight ago the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft, quoted John Donne: "No man is an Island"; and he related that to the situation of the United Kingdom with regard to the rest of the world.

I thought at the time how apposite was that quotation but how much more apposite it would be to the regions of the United Kingdom where at times it seems that unity is fraying at the edges especially as one moves in the peripheral regions.

The report referred to in my Motion is almost unique in looking at the regional context in the correct way. We are used to having reports about the regional problems which affect the North-West and what the Government intend to do about it and also reports from Scotland, the North-East and Northern Ireland. In essence this report looks at the whole of the United Kingdom. It states the regional problems and asks what are the prospects in the year 2000 affecting those regions?

It does not ignore the affluent South-East. It very clearly draws attention to it. In the 15 minutes in which I have to speak, I do not want to score any party points because the problem of the regional imbalance in the United Kingdom goes back too far and is too deep-seated for the blame to be placed upon any one government.

I have spent nearly half a century in local and regional government trying to bring this problem to the attention of central governments of all sorts—Labour Governments, the Conservative Government under Mr. Heath and now perhaps the one government whose philosophy has taken us back to the pre-war years. I have spent too long trying to demonstrate that if we are to solve some of the problems of the United Kingdom we have to look at the individual parts and the regions within that unique kingdom and treat them as one comprehensive whole.

I should not dream of going back on anything I have said over the last half a century in regard to that necessity. All the while in that half century I have seen the problems accentuate and get worse. Of course the problem did not start after the last war because it goes back much further. I have only to mention 1926, Jarrow, and other places that are marked clearly in the history of this nation, to demonstrate where it started. It began with a slow, ruthless drift, occasioned by market forces which centred on the places which suited it best, and so denied things to the rest of the regions.

It was concealed for a while during the period roughly from 1939 to 1945. Let us admit it—after 1945 the problem as revealed by the unemployment figures and the people's deprivation was covered up by the overmanning that occurred in Great Britain. I am prepared to admit that quite readily.

This regional imbalance was concealed by the task of rebuilding the nation on the basis of a good market because at the time we did not have many competitors. It was not until the 1960s and 1970s that the problems of the regions were accentuated. In 1979 the regime introduced a leaner and fitter industry, in the jargon of the economists. It also shed people as if they were a useless asset. It shed them and left them to cope as best they could. If the Minister on the Front Bench thinks it is amusing, I do not. People were left to look after themselves as best they could.

I summarise this report as saying that there is a divide. That needed to be said because a certain prominent Minister in this Government did not seem to think that there was one 12 months ago. It will get worse and by the year 2000 it will occasion a major swing of affluence to the South over and above what the other regions have already suffered. It says that unemployment will be down by some thousands and nobody would deny that. There will be a strong demand for expansion in the less urban areas of the South and the East Midlands. They will be the growth points. If anyone wishes to know about the economic pressures, I recommend them to read today's edition of the Independent which reproduces

a nice, useful map of the South-East of England showing the pressure points of all the developers. The name of Stone Bassett is unknown now but very shortly it will be impressed upon the minds of many people who are concerned about the development of the South-East region.

If the developers have their way it will be the site of a new town. That is the pressure which is building up for the South-East and to which this report refers. The population of East Anglia, the South-West and the South-East Midlands will grow by 43 per cent.; in Northern Ireland and the North-West it will decline by 21 per cent.; this is all by the year 2000. It is no use anyone quoting to me contemporary figures for the number of unemployed or the amount of growth because this report already discounts them. That will be the net result in the year 2000, with all the undesirable effects of that concentration in the South-East; namely, the alienation that already exists in the North and the peripheral regions will get worse and worse.

There are many things which militants in those areas can focus upon in order to draw attention to the discrepancies between North and South. For example, an article in one of last week's newspapers states—and I do not blame the Government because I am quite certain that the Civil Service itself arranged this—that over £30 million is being spent to provide a luxury head office for top Ministry officials and a few Ministers in the DHSS while at the same time people in the rest of the country have to fight for a pittance to keep warm in bad weather.

Page 8 of the report refers to the partial withdrawal of government from measures aimed at rectifying regional disparities. Over and over again in this Chamber I have referred to the occasion when the Government, without thought at all and with just a snap of the fingers, decided to withdraw an agreed scheme to transfer 3,500 civil servants to the North-West. That happened. Distribution depots for the Channel Tunnel will, of course, be sited in the South-East, and the report mentions that. I fear that those distribution depots may well be sited in France.

We have just had some good news about Scotland. JVC is going to employ another 800 people. The effects on the economy will double that, so that will he 1,600 people. Measure that against the forecast in this report of 85,000 jobs gone by the year 2000. Where will Scotland be then? The decline in the North-West in that same period will be worse than any. I am not saying anything about that because I have already said plenty in this Chamber about the privations suffered in the North-West. Until 1977 government services in all those northern regions grew faster than anywhere, but since 1977 that has declined. Only a cursory examination of government policy—both governments—is needed to reveal why.

I have discovered something else. How do the Government assess their figures on growth in regions? I put down a Question asking the noble Lord, Lord Young, what government public expenditure went on south of a line from the Wash to Bristol. I was told that I could not have the figures because they could only be obtained by territorial area. I could not find anybody to tell me what a territorial area is. On the advice of quite a prominent Member of the other Benches I asked again what public expenditure was taking place in a certain year in the greater South-East Region—a region established by the Government. I received the reply that, apart from expenditure which is the responsibility of the territorial departments—and perhaps the Minister will tell me what that means—most public expenditure is planned on a national basis and it is not possible to identify separate expenditure allocated to a particular area. One point of information I managed to wheedle out of the Minister was that 52 per cent. of all civil servants in this country and for whom everybody in this country pays, are sited in the South-East. I could go on for a long time but I have only 15 minutes and 11 have gone.

Over the past nine years on every possible occasion I can think of I have tried to draw attention to the consequences of developing places in the South-East—for example, Canary Wharf, the London dock lands, and so on—to the detriment of the rest of the country. On every occasion, because it was allied to another Bill, I have always received a measure of sympathy.

The noble Lord, Lord Bellwin had great sympathy. The noble Lord, Lord Mellish, thought that it was a problem that we could not run away from. The noble Lord, Lord Ezra, even talked about having a Select Committee to look at this question of the North-South divide. The noble Lord, Lord Simon, wants to hear from the Government what their policy is with regard to the matter of the North-West. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear. called for an intelligent regional policy. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, said on behalf of the Government when the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Blackburn, raised the question of giving an instruction to the committee on the Channel Tunnel Bill that they placed great importance on the matters raised by the noble Lord.

This question of the North-South divide is of great importance and must be looked at. The noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, after going to Liverpool, came back to this House and talked about meeting people of Liverpool who had a fundamental hatred of everything southern and asked why could we not move a government department to Liverpool—something I asked for eight years ago. The reply from the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, was that the Government would look at the problem and see what can be done about it. We have heard nothing. Perhaps the Minister can tell us.

I had a document from the Yorkshire and Humberside authorities pointing out the discrepancies between the region. Other people will probably have that document and I shall not refer to it. However, arising from that report I made some inquiries. Let me tell your Lordships of the money that was paid in 1986 and 1987 in lieu of rates by Crown properties—and your Lordships know what Crown properties are. One has been constructed in Whitehall for the DHSS. London and Westminster combined seem to me to be an area with about the same population as Liverpool, so I have compared the two areas. The money paid in lieu of rates in London and Westminster was £63·1 million and in Liverpool it was £9·2 million. Of course we all know the problems of Liverpool and we all know the assurances of governments of all colours that they are going to do something about the problems that occur in Liverpool.

In 1979, a long time ago, I drew attention to the uncivilised way in which people were herded around London and its environment and how they are packed into public transport like sardines with no regard either to their dignity or to their comfort. In that year people were paid £400. on average, in London weighting to persuade them to stay here—and that includes civil servants. The extra bill met by the Government for civil servants was about £170 million.

Now, of course, the situation has worsened. A reorganised transport system throws one-man buses on the streets and at peak hours stops every vehicle from moving. The average payment for London weighting has now gone to around £4,500. In this week's Independent IBM have confirmed those figures. The nurses are asking for an extra £1,000 for plying their profession in London. They have managed to obtain concessionary agreement from the Anglia Building Society—of which I am proud to be a member, especially in view of its history—with regard to buying houses. Nurses collectively or singly can think of buying a £100,000 house. That is all very good but can we not see any further than the end of our noses? That is not the problem with nurses. The problem is the overload they have to handle in the hospitals inside our capital city. The granting of this very concession inevitably weakens the plight of the homeless in the City of London, of which the noble Lord. Lord Scarman, talked so convincingly.

I have run out of time and I hope that Members of the House will forgive me. I conclude on this note. There is a growing divide in the country. There is an acceptance in the House that there is a problem which needs to be looked at on its own. I have been advised that I should not raise this in the context of the Channel Tunnel Bill but that I should raise it on its own, so here I am raising it. Ultimately, this House will be asked to agree, or the Government will be asked in the first place, whether it is prepared to do something to examine this problem and consider it seriously. I have not attempted to blame any particular government. If the Minister has a brief prepared for him which seeks to defend the Government I recommend that he throws it away if he genuinely wants to understand the problems, because most of the problems stem from a southern-oriented Civil Service.

Are the Government prepared to establish a committee? Are they prepared to issue a consultation paper? Will the Government respond to the report in a formal way? Our society and our way of life rest upon the task of uniting our people—all of them, north and south, whatever so-called classes they are divided into by sociologists.

I started by referring to a quotation of John Donne used by the noble Lord, Lord Thorneycroft. I conclude by giving the rest of that quotation. If the

deprivation that now exists in the peripheral regions of this land still leads to the kind of problems that we have had in the North, in Northern Ireland, and in Scotland and Wales, perhaps because of the militants who believe they are alienated by the people in the South, then we must remember the rest of that quotation. It continues:

"never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee".

The "thee" is us—particularly those of us who reside in the South. I beg to move for Papers.

6.12 p.m.

My Lords, I begin by expressing my warm thanks for the kindness and help that has been shown to me by so many noble Lords since my introduction and I crave your Lordships' kindness and indulgence for a few minutes this evening.

Coming from Scotland, I was particularly interested in the report on Regional Economic Prospects to the Year 2000 published jointly by Cambridge Econometrics and the Northern Ireland Economic Research Centre. I must say that I found more encouragement in it than apparently did the noble Lord, Lord Sefton of Garston. The authors of the report conclude that prospects for virtually all regions are improving rapidly and—and this is especially welcome—that unemployment is forecast to fall everywhere except in that tragic part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland. However, the report seems to suggest the existence and widening of a North-South divide, and it is on that aspect that I shall concentrate for a few moments.

The reasons behind this interpretation are that the report concludes, first, that more than 1 million people are likely to leave the northern half of Britain over the next 13 years to travel south in search of work; and, secondly, that some regions are likely to enjoy rates of increase in output and employment which are well below those of faster growing regions, notably in the South-East.

Migration has always been a feature of life in the United Kingdom. Rural to urban movement, or the reverse, has been happening for centuries, and I believe will happen always in a dynamic economy. Every area has different industrial structures and from time to time this leads to different economic growth and movement of population. In Scotland we have seen this very clearly in recent years; for example, in the North-East around Aberdeen, where there was an increase in population and development as a result of North-Sea oil exploration and extraction. However, since the fall in oil prices that has to some extent been reversed but, happily, it is now fairly stable.

At the same time as the North Sea oil developments in Scotland there was the problem of a preponderance of the declining heavy industries of coal, steel and shipbuilding. The Government's regional policy has helped to overcome many of the difficulties this caused by attracting much inward investment through the one-door approach of "Locate in Scotland", a branch of the Scottish Development Agency. This Government agency has encouraged, with great success, the partnership between Government and the private sector. Often a little pump-priming has been all that was required to stimulate investment and job creation; and it is significant that every £1 of Scottish Development Agency industrial investment is now attracting £13.50 of private investment in Scotland, compared to only £5 just two years ago. Since "Locate in Scotland" was established in 1981 it has helped to attract planned investment of over £2 billion which will create or safeguard in excess of 40,000 jobs.

The central belt of Scotland, where four-fifths of the population live, has been uniquely successful through inward investment with the electronics industry now employing more people than does the coal, steel and shipbuilding industries combined. Moreover, there are signs of exciting developments in biotechnology which surely must be the area of discovery of the next decade.

Inward investment from America, Japan, Scandinavia and many other countries has not come just because of sensible regional policy, important though that is. It has come also because of the quality of the potential workforce and because of the quality of life. Scottish education, despite some recent setbacks, is highly regarded and the standard of university and training colleges is respected far beyond our shores. This attracts overseas investors. However, so also does the quality of life in Scotland, and it is here that I believe we have the offset in full measure of any economic North-South divide which might—just might—exist. However, even economically I believe that is doubtful because significantly higher living costs in the South, particularly housing costs, mean that the real value of earnings in the South is considerably less than many suppose. A recent analysis by Professor Patrick Minford, significantly at Liverpool University, indicates that the real wage rates of non-manual workers are remarkably similar throughout the United Kingdom; indeed, Scotland is second only to the South-East and very little behind.

Financial considerations apart, there is much to commend life in Scotland, as many noble Lords know very well. I have to admit that when I stand in the Underground train from Westminster travelling towards Heathrow (often getting a seat at Hatton Cross) when I am returning North, I wonder whether the North-South divide exists, but in the opposite direction. However, high unemployment, wherever it is, is destructive and while being happy to read the section of the report which predicts that unemployment in Scotland will fall steadily to the year 2000, it is to be hoped that regional aid will continue and will be directed to areas of greatest need in such a way that will help to create employment which would not come otherwise. In that connection, I do not exclude aid to indigenous industries to encourage investment and expansion among existing companies. Such aid would help to offset the predicted loss of manufacturing jobs, and I believe that there are real signs that such policies are already improving the prospects for manufacturing in Scotland.

In its November 1987 Economic Situation Report, which provides a comprehensive analysis of business prospects in the regions, the CBI said of Scotland, following the fall in equity prices:
"The current order book and output situation is increasingly buoyant".
As evidence of the increasing investment we have seen recently the decision by Ford to locate its automotive electronics plant in Dundee; a major Finnish paper manufacture company at Irvine; the decision by NEC of Japan to make the latest generation of high-powered semi-conductor memory products at Livingston; and as recently as Monday of this week, the announcement by JVC of Japan of a factory employing over 650 people making compact disc players, colour television sets, and so on, at East Kilbride. If this highly satisfactory trend continues—and I see no reason why it should not—I suggest that the prediction in the report of a loss of 85,000 jobs from Scotland by the year 2000 is likely to be unduly pessimistic.

I know that at the present time in England we hear much of the problems of inner cities. In Scotland that is not the main problem. Too often it is the periphery of the cities or the rural areas in which there is deprivation and the highest unemployment. I was interested to hear yesterday the Secretary of State for Wales say almost exactly the same of Wales. Inner-city renewal has been tackled sensibly and well. Glasgow, possibly one of the greatest success stories of the past decade, has improved dramatically due to a large measure of aid from central to local government; and, most importantly, co-operation with the private business community.

The current claim is that Glasgow is miles better—it is not known better than what; whether it refers to the other place, the capital 40 miles to the East, or whether it means miles better than before. Certainly the latter is true, as anyone who has visited Glasgow recently will know. With the garden festival in 1988, and being declared the European city of culture for 1990, Glasgow is no mean city.

However, attention must be directed with urgency to the peripheral areas of the cities and to some rural areas where little has developed to replace the labour intensive farming that ceased years ago. Policies to attract new industries, smaller companies, tourism and forestry, and so forth, must be pursued. In this way the less happy predictions of this report will be forestalled.

Most of what I have said relates to attracting and expanding manufacturing industries. But we must not underestimate, in any way, the service industries which are also doing well in Scotland. Edinburgh is now a thriving, respected financial centre, and indeed 20 per cent. of the total United Kingdom funds are now managed by the financial sector in Scotland.

In conclusion, I should like to say that I hope the House will welcome this report. It is stimulating and in many respects both helpful and hopeful. Where I differ from its conclusions is in the projection of a widening North-South divide and its less than optimistic prediction for the peripheral regions. Some divide there may be; but personally I feel that that is neither new, widening nor necessarily detrimental. With the continuation of good regional policies, urban development corporations, enterprise zones and, more importantly, the development of a strong working relationship—and mutual respect—between Government, local government and the private sector, I believe the prospects are bright for every part of the United Kingdom. My Lords, I thank you for your courtesy and indulgence.

6.22 p.m.

My Lords, it is my pleasant duty to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Goold, on an excellent, if optimistic, maiden speech. As one who was, like him, educated in Glasgow I agree that Glasgow is miles better. In my view it has been miles better since 1979, which was the last occasion when it had a Tory MP and that may have had something to do with the result.

In view of the noble Lord's wide experience of so many aspects of business in Scotland, his contribution to your Lordships' debate will he of great value—that is, if he can spare the time from his labours to revive the endangered species of his Party in Scotland.

We are, however, very grateful to my noble friend Lord Sefton of Garston for initiating this debate. As he said, it gives us the opportunity to discuss the North-South divide which, according to the report, will—if the Government continue their present policies—become more and more pronounced.

The forecast is that the South-East and the Midlands will have an increase in population and an increase in activity contrasting with a declining North. Furthermore, it is forecast that unemployment, which is not projected to decline below 2½ million—which, if my memory is right, is roughly double what it was in 1979—will continue in the North and North-West and throughout the peripheral regions. As a Scot, I have a slight demur to being said as having come from what is described as "a peripheral region" but perhaps this is not the occasion to go into the Scottish perception of Scotland as a nation.

I wish to speak on the absence of effective regional policies. As regards Scotland the report states:
"Our forecast for Scottish output and employment in manufacturing reflects Scotland's falling share of national activity in periods of weak regional policy".
The question I should like to ask is: why should we have a weak regional policy? The forecast is that the population of Scotland is expected to decline by about 5 per cent. up to the year 2000 in spite of an increasing birth rate and increasing longevity. The reason for the decline is the migration out of Scotland of people of working age. I suggest that that will create a substantial problem, because we cannot lose the working population and expect the young, and the old, to be held up and supported as they should be.

In contrast, we shall have a situation of increasing pressure on the South-East. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Goold, that if one travels out to Heathrow, or anywhere else, one is given the impression that it is uncomfortably overcrowded. But according to the report we are to get another 1½ million people into that overcrowded area. Is this a good policy for the nation? It is in this context that the Government's statement on British Steel, especially about Ravenscraig, is so depressing. It was an example of what, perhaps, can now be referred to as "Guinnesspeak"; in other words, saying the exact opposite of what one really means to do.

It was clear in Scotland that the statement, far from being any guarantee of continuation of steelmaking in Scotland, was in fact the Government's acceptance of British Steel's decision to close Ravenscraig as soon as it was convenient, and to adopt a policy that British Steel would produce the minimum necessary in a period of depression and allow imports to cover any period of increased demand. That, I suggest, would be wholly wrong for the United Kingdom. It would certainly be disastrous for Scotland where closure of Ravenscraig would put about 25,000 jobs at risk.

This is merely a continuation of the Government's policy which appears in Scotland to be permanently anti-industry. It was difficult to perceive why, at the height of the depression in 1980—that is, the international depression—and at the start of the landing of North Sea oil, the Government should deliberately set out on a policy of high-cost energy and high interest rates. This dealt disastrous blows to industries, such as aluminium and paper-making, which depend very largely on high use of energy, and therefore their economics became difficult. We now have a position in Scotland where the electricity output is something like 60 per cent. more than it can possibly use. That seems to me to be another absurdity.

Unemployment remains the main worry in Scotland. The latest figure shows that long-term Unemployment—the people who have been out of work for over a year—stands at 136,000. The position in Scotland is relatively worse than in any other area, (or in any other region, which is how I should refer to it). The rate of reduction is the lowest of any region.

What is especially depressing is that in Scotland, as a legacy from the last Labour Government—and I was very pleased to see the noble Lord, Lord Goold, praising it, because it deserves praise—we have the Scottish Development Agency. We have an organisation that has proved efficient and effective in bringing jobs to Scotland and improving Scottish areas blighted by the worst of the industrial decline. It is through the work of the Scottish Development Agency, and the Labour controlled Glasgow District Council, that Glasgow is now seen as the inner city which is the example to be followed in other areas.

The existence of the SDA and its approach do not seem to fit in with the Government's free market criteria, and so it has been investigated twice since the Government came into power. The last report published in February of this year said:
"On balance we are satisfied that the Agency over the first ten years of its existence has borne out the expectation that considerable benefits would flow from such a body in Scotland. The Agency has adapted successfully to the change of approach to regional and industrial development under the present Government … The Agency's high standing with the Scottish business community and financial institutions, the generally supportive attitude of the local authorities, and its reputation beyond Scotland are also indicative of the Agency's performance. We have been particularly impressed by the flair and imagination which have characterised the Agency's approach to its role".
We all agree with and welcome the businesses that are being attracted by the organisation. If that is so, and it is so welcomed by the Government Benches, why do the Government provide it with inadequate funding? It could have achieved a great deal more if more resources had been available to it. Why have neither the present Secretary of State for Scotland nor his predecessor been able to expand its work? The Government's attitude towards the SDA has been reluctant but expedient support, moderated by a penny-pinching financial straitjacket.

The extent to which cuts have limited the SDA's capacity is highlighted by the proportion of grant and loan applications that it has been able to approve in each year. Surely not all applications merit support. The trend seems to suggest—indeed the agency stated this in its last annual report— that it is now turning down potentially successful applications for no other reason than that it cannot afford to support them. It now supports about 10 per cent. of the applications, compared with 14 per cent. in 1979.

The approval rate leads some cynics to suggest that the effect of the Government's policy of reducing, the financies available is to force the agency to adopt a quota system. It is clear that far more rather than less regional assistance is required, and that bodies such as the SDA have proved that they are an efficient way forward to recreate an efficient, prosperous Scotland.

Unless the Government change their policy, the forecast contained in the paper will be correct. I have the strong conviction that in 40 or 50 years' time when historians write of the British Isles in the 1980s—I hope they will still be writing about the United Kingdom, but one cannot be sure about that—they will write not of a radical new beginning happening in the 1980s, but of a dead decade of lost opportunities because of the lack of an effective regional policy.

6.33 p.m.

My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, for giving us the opportunity to debate this important subject and for introducing it so admirably, and. secondly, from these Benches I thank and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Goold, on his exemplary maiden speech. It was a privilege to listen to someone who speaks with such fluency and knowledge of his subject and with such commendable brevity. We look forward to hearing far more of his contributions.

I shall not enter into the Scottish or even the Northern Ireland aspect of this subject. It would be far too rash of me to do so. At the outset I say that it has been amply established, even before this debate, that there is a North-South drift. It has been going on for many decades for a variety of reasons. They were economical and technical far more than political in the earliest days.

The decline of the textile industries in Lancashire, the decline of shipbuilding and the heavy industries in the North and of course Glasgow, the decline of Liverpool as a port for a variety of reasons and the movement of shipping to Southampton and to London and, more recently, to Felixstowe, have all been going on since between the last two World Wars, as the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, rightly pointed out. That has been accelerated since then by the ending of former regional policies, as is rightly pointed out on page 14 of the report, which states:
"Once the disparities within each of the South and Midland regional groupings are put aside, it can be seen that employment growth in each group of regions was similar in 1979. It has been the collapse of manufacturing since then which caused a major divergence in performance".
That is one critical factor that we must bear in mind. The drift has also been accentuated, as is stated on page 13 because:
"Employment has consequently slumped since regional policy ceased to bring major additions through inward investment".
One can rightly say that the case has been made out that this long-standing drift from North to South has been accentuated by government policy over the past 10 years. I shall not dwell on that aspect of the matter. I would rather ask your Lordships to turn your attention to a somewhat different aspect of the issue which has not yet been mentioned and which I suspect may not be mentioned.

I do not in any way minimise the great and real hardships that are taking place in the North as a result of that gradual drift, but we should not blind ourselves to the fact that all the new people coming into the area have created new problems in the South. Your Lordships will not be surprised if I refer especially to East Anglia, although there are many other areas in the South and South-East where that has happened.

East Anglia is the fastest growing region in the country. That is a source of pride. It also causes many difficulties. It causes grossly inflated property values, very pleasant for those who are fortunate enough to own a few surplus houses which they can sell but pretty tough on the young people in that region. They were looking forward with the few hundred pounds or possibly few thousand pounds that they had saved and could raise on mortgage to buying a house in which to start their married life. They are now unable to do so.

There is the increase in traffic through villages and market towns. There is the need for bypasses and new roads. Although some of them have been built many are still needed. That causes hardship and discomfort to those living in the area. More important than that, there is a greater load on the hospitals and the schools. Eventually, although it is beginning to happen, there will be a load on local authorities for the care of the elderly. There is a threat to the environment. There is the gradual spreading out (not so gradual in some cases) of villages and market towns, which is essential if new industries and the new people who come from the North and North-East are to be housed.

The noble Lord, Lord Sefton, referred to the proposed new town in Oxfordshire. That was just one example of the pressures that there are and against which we must be on our guard. I am not saying that the South-East should put up a barrier against all those who want to come to the area. Of course it should not, and it could not even if it wished to do so. But I believe in this North-South drift that we should realise not only the hardships in the North but the problems created in the South.

This trend will continue. I refer to page 20 of the report. It is estimated that there will be a million new people between now and year 2000 coming into the South and the South-West. That is a hell of a lot of people to absorb in an area which already has a high density compared with any other part of the United Kingdom. In East Anglia alone it is expected that the population during that time will rise by 10 per cent.

This accelerating drift about which we have been warned can be halted only by government action. I hope that the Government will face squarely the fact that market forces are not the solution to this problem. It is no good saying that the pressure on land in the South will be such that prices will rise and eventually will reach a level where the people in the North will say, "We are not going South. We shall stay in the North whatever the disadvantages may be". That may happen in 100 years' time. It might happen even in 50 years' time. But it will not happen rapidly enough to prevent the hardships, difficulties and distortions that are occurring at the present time. I know that efforts are being made by the Government to alleviate this problem. The noble Lord, Lord Goold, mentioned some of the efforts being made in Scotland. But there can be no doubt that these attempts are far from enough to stem this frightening, all-engulfing tide.

Let me remind noble Lords of the fact stated at page 27 of the report that expenditure on regional policy since the 1970s—that means the end of the 1970s—has more than halved in real terms. It should, on the contrary, have doubled during that time if any impact is to be made on this grave social evil. Otherwise the drift will continue at an ever-increasing pace. The South will become increasingly congested, the North will become increasingly depressed and the North -South divide will become even more marked than it now is.

6.44 p.m.

My Lords, perhaps I may join with other noble Lords in complimenting my noble friend Lord Sefton on his initiative in drawing attention to this very important report. I should also like to join with other noble Lords in complimenting the noble Lord, Lord Goold, on the very clear manner in which he delivered his maiden speech. At least one aspect of his speech has my complete sympathy. That is the journey north on that very crowded train to the airport. I wish him every happiness in this House and hope that he will take part fully in the debates from time to time.

This report on regional economic prospects is of considerable importance. It was compiled by people who are acknowledged experts and widely experienced in statistical analysis in so far as data are directly relevant to regional economic living conditions. In other words, it is not a government document, nor is it sponsored or commissioned by the Government. The report is also important in its timing. It enables us to be further seized of the acute and serious widening social divisions within the United Kingdom.

Although it was compiled in a Northern Ireland context, and my remarks are directed mainly to Northern Ireland matters, the report, as has already been indicated, has a wider United Kingdom remit and implications. The introduction on page 1 states that the report is concerned,
"with regional changes in employment, unemployment and population, together with output and consumers' spending".
It continues:
"One of the many changes experienced by the UK economy over the last decade has been a major swing in the relative fortunes of different regions in the country. This change has been so marked as to become an important political issue under the banner of the North-South divide".
That has already been mentioned in a very forthright way in this House. It is not a matter which concerns only this side of the Chamber but is a very important political issue throughout the United Kingdom.

A further feature of the report which I consider should be noted in this debate is set out on page 2 under the heading "The Urban-Rural Shift". The report states:
"Trends in the economic development of local economies do not respect the bureaucratically imposed boundaries of the Standard Regions. In particular there are major divergences experienced within regions "between the highly urbanised areas and the rest … Each of the four peripheral regions contains a major urban agglomeration which it is not possible to distinguish without sub-dividing the regions internally".
The report has presented for consideration data in the context of regional economic prospects within a regional framework which is classified under certain features. Those features are underlined by a corporate accumulation of wealth, by job opportunities, population movement and other factors that have already been highlighted.

There are several aspects, some of which have not yet been mentioned in this debate. First, there is the North-South divide. That has been mentioned by other noble Lords. Secondly, there is the fourfold division within the United Kingdom. That is spelt out very simply in the report, and is qualified to a considerable degree by the statistical analyses and the charts. The fourfold division consists of southern England, a highly prosperous area; the Midlands; the industrial North; and the peripheral regions, which include northern England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. These four regions are in the highly depressed and declining areas. It is therefore not right to claim that there is simply a North-South divide.

There are two other factors working within the changing pattern of the divisions within our community. The four regions are pulling against each other; and within the regions there are substructures which I believe should be further explored and examined. Those are the urban and rural communities. In this area there are dynamic and challenging factors in the subdivisions existing within these classified regions that give rise to wide social and economic variations. The report requires a further exploration of this dynamic factor between urban and rural developments and vice versa that exists in the United Kingdom. A particular aspect of this is the movement from urban to rural areas. I believe that some of the new experiments taking place in the setting up of small businesses and the breaking up of huge factory estates in certain areas have facilitated this experimental factor and have potential for exploitation in all regions.

It is within this framework that the report puts forward its projections and forecasts. We have heard reactions from other noble Lords who have spoken about the North of England and Scotland and we shall probably hear from Wales eventually. Each region has its own definite and distinctive problems. They must be dealt with in terms of the culture, the identity, the strengths and weaknesses of each area.

The report portrays a very depressing and despairing picture of Northern Ireland. I readily acknowledge that the separate and distinct political features in Northern Ireland are not strictly comparable with other regions in the United Kingdom. That does not mean that a debate on the United Kingdom economy should exclude Northern Ireland or, perhaps more importantly, it does not mean that politicians and others in Northern Ireland should relegate the economic issues of Northern Ireland to the sidelines of a wider political debate. No, my Lords, there is strong interaction and strong social connection between the standard of morale, self-esteem, self-belief and hope in the community and the existing levels of employment opportunities, corporate wealth and social well-being in that community.

Table 3 on page 7 of the report deals with the projected regional growth and decline during the 14 years from 1986 to 2000. Northern Ireland is grouped as one of the three regions of decline. In Northern Ireland employment will fall by 5·4 per cent., while it will increase in the United Kingdom by on average 7·2 per cent. In East Anglia it will rise by 24·2 per cent. Output will rise in Northern Ireland by 30·5 per cent., with an average for the United Kingdom of 52·5 per cent. and in East Anglia by a magnificent total of 88·2 per cent.

The table also projects population growth. In Northern Ireland it estimates that the population will decline by 7.3 per cent., while the average for the United Kingdom will show a rise of 1.6 per cent. and in East Anglia, as we have already heard, a rise of 15.9 per cent. is anticipated.

Along with other noble Lords and many in Northern Ireland I am not complaining about the higher levels of economic activity or general well-being in other regions. I do not wish to see any levelling down of well-being or any redistribution of corporate wealth. I believe that a strategy ought to be adopted by the Government which will allow for equality of opportunity by expansion and make the benefits of social well-being available to all in our community. I am proud to say that Northern Ireland is set on a course of seeking to have self-sustaining employment generated from within the Province itself.

For well over 70 years various United Kingdom governments have sought policies for regional development. I do not want to list the various Acts that have been in operation since 1934. We have already dealt with that. The White Paper on regional economic development issued in December 1983, Cmnd. 9111, entitled Regional Industrial Development, states in its introduction:
"The Government are committed to maintaining an effective regional policy to ease the process of change in areas which have been dependent on declining industries and to encourage new businesses in those areas … It is essential to ensure that regional policies are economic and effective in creating genuine jobs. The time is right to review the efficacy of our present system of regional industrial incentives".
The report we are debating has spelt out in no uncertain way that the Government's measures have been inefficient and an utter failure as regards regional development.

I know most of the members of the Northern Ireland Economic Research Centre. It comprises people with active professional roles and functions in industry, banking and the universities. I believe them to be highly committed and to have a strong sense of public service. I have no doubt that much of the detail and the challenging facts of the report will be actively tabled and pursued at government and statutory board levels and by different advisory boards. Indeed I propose to inquire from the service, from several different bodies and appropriate sources whether they have studied the implications of the report and what action they propose to take. That is my task and the commitment I make in this debate. The Government have commenced an initiative called the pathfinder report which intends to process an industrial task force in Northern Ireland. Other regions have put forward proposals.

I conclude by making a request to the Minister who is to reply—I have not discussed this with my noble colleague on the Front Bench. I believe that the nature of the debate requires the appointment of a Select Committee of the House. I make that suggestion as a strong recommendation and proposal and I urge that terms of reference for a Select Committee be considered and the Minister takes this request to the Government. I apologise for having overrun my allotted time.

6.57 p.m.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, has once again put your Lordships in his debt by drawing attention to what in my respectful submission—I speak as an admirer in general of the Government's conduct of the economy—is the most serious question now facing us economically. He set us a notable example as well by eschewing party points. The venue being Westmister and not Old Trafford or Headingly, he also even managed to squeeze out a friendly reference to a document from Yorkshire.

It is extraordinarily difficult for a layman to evaluate this document, but it puts the discussions that we have had on many occasions recently into a new perspective by projecting forwards what we can all see and what we all know. I said that the report was difficult for a layman to evaluate, and particular humility is imposed by the fact that on the list of speakers there are two noble Lords with distinguished academic backgrounds as economists. I hope that I may be allowed to say that I feel it is a particular privilege to be taking part in a debate, after so many years, with the noble Lord, Lord Jay.

The way it strikes a layman, especially this layman, is that except for the East Midlands, which is a revelation, there is little if any reduction of the present disparities in prosperity between the various regions. I have always disclaimed speaking of a North-South divide as economically dangerous, because, as the noble Lord, Lord Walston, said there are disparities within the region. Nevertheless, even if the line is moved further north, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that disparity in general prosperity between the North of England and the South is likely to continue. I was dismayed when we last debated this matter on the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, to hear a right reverend Prelate adopt the phrase "North-South divide". It is therefore of social significance—dangerous social significance in my view—as well as being an economic menace. That is the first thing that struck me.

The second is the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Walston, about the pressures on the South-East of England. The authors of the report were cautious about development of the South-East because of the pressure on land and housing in the area. Both are very expensive. There must therefore be some danger of overheating in that area. Your Lordships will surely agree that an overheated economy—I speak subject to correction by the experts—is liable to be just as inefficient as a stagnating one. We have seen that in my lifetime at any rate.

The noble Lord, Lord Sefton, fairly said that the Government did not create the problem. That was echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Walston. However, it is fair to say that it is for the Government of the day to solve it if possible and certainly to alleviate it. In my respectful opinion their present policies are not calculated to do that. What the Government have done is to rely on the urban development corporations. They have been a shining success in the docklands area but, as the noble Lord, Lord Peston, pointed out when we last debated the matter, it is very unsafe to think that they can be transferred without question to other deprived areas. Conditions were singularly propitious for the success of the docklands development. More is needed. To set up an urban development corporation is the right beginning, but it is only a beginning.

Having spoken on this matter and dragged it into every debate wherever possible—even that on the Canary Wharf light railway—I am anxious not to repeat what I have said on other occasions, but I should like to deal with three matters. The first is the effect of interest rates, the second the question of local pay negotiations and settlements and the third the relocation of government departments.

I do not want to say anything about interest rates generally except that there is general agreement that, if there is to be a substantial recovery in manufacturing industries, the lowering of interest rates is a priority. That must impose some caution on those of us who do not hesitate to propose extra spending, and thus extra borrowing, on some favourite project of our own.

I wish to mention one event in interest rates that seems to me significant, the raising of interest rates during the summer. It was announced shortly before the economic statistical indicators were published. Every commentator that I noted thought that the indicators would be adverse and that the object of raising interest rates was to prevent overheating of the economy. In fact, the statistics were universally favourable. That leaves as the only conclusion that the Chancellor was afraid that the economy was becoming overheated, or in danger of becoming so, which had been the view of the City for some time. However, that could be only part of the economy. It could not possibly be the North, which continued to stagnate; it was the South-East. I mention that merely as an indication that the present prosperity disparity makes the management of the economy by the Government much more difficult. Unless the Government are prepared to remedy that disparity the management is likely to fail.

I am afraid that I cannot see the time indicator. I hope that some noble Lord will tell me when I am near the time limit.

My Lords, the noble Lord has been on his feet for nearly 11 minutes and he is now speaking at the expense of subsequent speakers in the debate. We are already running 10 minutes late.

My Lords, I must sit down without mentioning the relocation of industry and government departments and the desirability of regional and local pay settlements.

7.8 p.m.

My Lords, I agree entirely with my noble friend Lord Sefton that this is a valuable report. Its statistical precision should not be taken too seriously, however, since I fear that the economic future cannot be measured to one decimal point. Its conclusions, as the authors of course realise, must depend on all kinds of assumptions about external sources such as the price of oil and the liberation of the United Kingdom from the common agricultural policy; and, above all, the policies of United Kingdom governments. For instance, the authors assume gloomily that oil will cost 48 dollars a barrel in the year 2000 and, even more gloomily, that present government policies will be continued into the 1990s. On the latter assumption, they are probably right in concluding that despite all the investment going on and the excellent projects such as those eloquently retailed by the noble Lord, Lord Goold, they predict—and I am afraid they are right to do so—that national unemployment will remain at over 2½ million until 1990, and that the nation will suffer an acute worsening of what they call the North-South divide in those years.

I do not say the North-South divide has been created, but it has been re-created by the halving of regional expenditure in real terms since 1979 and the dismantling of the crucial industrial development certificate system which previously prevailed, and thus the North-South divide has worsened. This has been made even worse by the natural drag of EC membership on British trade and industry towards the South-East.

Given present policies and those assumptions, we are therefore heading for dereliction in the North and West with actual depopulation in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the North-West region; and also, as the noble Lord, Lord Walston, rightly pointed out congestion, bad housing, shortage of land and skilled labour in the South-East. I must say that if that is really the prospect this is a clumsy and uneconomic way to run a modern economy. Quite apart from the human hardship, it is as inefficient as a factory manager crowding all his machines into the one corner of the factory and leaving all the rest of his space unused, or someone buying a house at a high cost and deciding to live in only one room, or indeed building a hospital and failing to pay the nurses to work in it, which also seems to be this Government's policy.

It was the understanding of that truth, that that is an inefficient way to run an economy, which was one of the factors which enabled us to expand our war production so successfully during the war and hold unemployment at such low levels even in the North and West throughout the 1950s and 1960s. It is a solemn thought to recall today that in June 1951 the unemployment percentage in the northern regions—that is Northumberland and Durham—was 1·5 per cent. when now it is nearer to 20 per cent.

There are two fundamental truths that this report does not fully bring out and that indeed much conventional economic wisdom ignores. First, migration and depopulation do not necessarily cure unemployment. It was found in the 10 years after the war, when we had a strong regional policy, that each new job brought into the needy areas generated roughly one further job through the extra spending of the first worker brought in.

Similarly, however, that means that when one worker leaves an area the loss of his purchasing power in most cases probably throws out one further worker in the area. This is often neglected. It means that net outward migration reduces population but it does not reduce unemployment. That of course is the economic reason why migrations produce the prolonged dereliction—a sort of cumulative dereliction—seen in so many of these areas both in the 1930s and since 1979.

The second neglected factor is that most of our working population, strangely enough, live in families though you would not guess that from much conventional economics or from some White Papers. As one modern economist put it:
"In classical economics, children are neither seen nor heard."
In real life an unemployed miner in Durham, say, whose wife or daughter has a job in the bank or in the post office, is hardly likely to move to the South-East at the risk of the one stable job already in the family, even if he could both find a home and afford to buy it.

For those reasons, a great deal of the conventional talk about labour mobility—a blessed phrase—really has little validity. In this country it so happens that nearly 10 times as many people change their jobs every year as change their homes. Job mobility exists on a large scale; but change of home on that scale simply does not, and cannot, exist in any real world. The moral of that is that for economic reasons it is more economic nationally to start new work and employment in the areas where idle workers live than to try to re-create their houses, schools, roads, hospitals and transport in some other distant and already overcrowded area.

Again, it was the realisation of that truth which helped the total output of this country, taken as a whole over the whole country, to rise faster in the 20 years after 1945 than it ever had before or has done since. Ignorance and neglect of it now is, I fear, recreating not merely the dereliction in the northern and western areas but also the congestion and homelessness which is growing, and the absurdly high cost of houses and land, and the transport muddles in the South-East.

With no IDC controls—which we virtually have not got now—and less and less regional capital spending, all this is likely to get worse. We shall suffer from. I fear, what the report describes as,
"A strengthening of the North-South divide—
they say "strengthening", but that means it is getting worse,
"which has become increasingly evident"—
since the end of the 1970s. In that case the nation as a whole will be needlessly impoverished as a result. This report tells us pretty candidly and convincingly where we are going if present negative policies on these issues are continued.

7.18 p.m.

My Lords, in view of the remarks and timely reminder of the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook, I suppose that my correct duty would be simply to desist from contributing to the debate so that your Lordships would catch up the missing 10 minutes at a stroke. I shall not be quite so self-denying but I shall do my best. Anyway the voice of Scotland has been heard from both sides of the House already. The noble Lord, Lord Goold, blew the Scottish trumpet loud, clear and, if I may say so, very well. I sincerely hope that he will continue to play the same instrument in your Lordships' orchestra regularly. I also support everything that he said. I particularly support what he said about the work of the Scottish Development Agency in turning round the Scottish economy to its present state.

Perhaps I may remind the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, who I think took a good deal of credit to his party for the creation of the Scottish Development Agency, that these efforts to attract new industries into Scotland began long before, and under an entirely private operation of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, in which all parts of the community took part, and which laid the foundations. In fact I am not sure that the Scottish Development Agency was not partly born out of a degree of admiration and envy for the Scottish council's previous efforts. That does not lessen its achievements, and perhaps I am a little less pessimistic than the noble Lord, Lord Morton, about its future. Of course it could spend more money. As we have heard today the National Health Service could spend more money. I could spend more money.

I think that the role of the Scottish Development Agency is very much that of pump priming; it has been the pump primer for private enterprise and it has been part of a most effective partnership. I think that all noble Lords wish it well in its continued operation. I should like to give a caution against the idea of providing more funds. The SDA has the admiration and envy of a number of other regions south of the Border. I am not sure what will be the reaction of some of Lord Morton's colleagues from the north-east, Merseyside, Wales, or Northern Ireland if the SDA were to have more money. I think that there would be an all-round demand for more money.

However, I still think that despite the successes achieved in Scotland we must continue to have a strong regional policy if we are not to slide back in the face of certain of our natural disadvantages and of the ever present pull of the metropolis and the South-East.

I shall not lay too much store on the report. I cannot assess the reliability of this computer-driven crystal ball. It sets out many figures as fact and who can tell how accurate they will be by the year 2000? I believe that there is still a need for a strong regional policy, but the time may have come for a change in its nature. No longer is it a matter of dangling money as a carrot in front of new capital projects. I should like to see it turn to something more subtle; towards creating the best conditions and environment for industry and the economy to flourish in the regions, and for local initiative and enterprise to flourish.

I know that a good deal is already being done, including the creation of enterprise zones, and so forth. However, there is scope for more to be done. There could be more emphasis on training in the regions; more emphasis on support for innovation and development of new products; perhaps a little less meanness with regard to higher education establishments in the regions as opposed to those in the rest of the country; and. above all, help with the infrastructure, particularly transport facilities. Our distance from the south and the continent of Europe is a disadvantage. I think that a new regional development policy might involve itself in those areas, but those suggestions are only pointers.

I believe that the Government are in the middle of a policy review. I hope that in the course of that they will heed the words of your Lordships today and the submissions of bodies such as the Scottish council, which has experience at the grass roots and is in touch with those directly affected.

Finally, I strongly endorse what has been said by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and other noble Lords as regards the effect not only in the peripheral regions but in the reverse direction. I believe that regional policy is almost as important for those areas south of the dividing line as it is for those that are north.

It is interesting to note that according to the report the South-East—namely, London and the area to the south—is forecast to grow much more slowly simply because it is already suffering from saturation. The next danger is that the new magnets of attraction, the centres of easy travel distance to London—whether they be Cambridge, Peterborough, Milton Keynes, Reading, Basingstoke or Southampton—may in their turn become overheated. I cannot believe that it will be in the best interests of those towns and in the interests of those who wish to enjoy a reasonable quality of life in those areas.

I welcome the rethinking of policy by the Government. I hope that that rethinking will be thorough and imaginative and that the new policy, when produced, will be pursued with firmness and resolve.

7.24 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Sefton on introducing the debate. However, having listened to some of the comments that he made, I think that he regards me, and those like me in the South, as part of a problem rather than as people anxious to help with a solution.

I should also like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Goold, on his maiden speech, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I particularly agree with his reference to the quality of life. It is clear that he sees himself as sharing the historic mission of the Scottish nation, namely, to civilise the English. We look forward to hearing more of that from him in due course.

In one way the report is easy to interpret; in another way it is very difficult. It is generated in a sophisticated but mechanical way as part of an econometric model. Looking at the tables for the projected growth of the British economy, they are deeply pessimistic, so much so that I find them hard to believe. It is probably erroneous to interpret them as forecasts. We should interpret them as a warning or a statement of what might happen unless something is done. That is how I wish to interpret what I have read in the report. I am not saying that what is stated in it cannot happen; I am saying that it ought not to be allowed to happen.

One ought to underline that which is stated in the introduction to the report referring to the change of policy stance. It states:
"During the era of postwar full employment up to the mid-1970s, a combination"—
and note the word "combination"—
"of market pressure and government policy ensured that growth in the peripheral regions kept pace with that in the south, despite major handicaps such as the switch from domestically produced oil to imported oil. Since the mid-1970s, and more significantly in the 1980s, neither market forces nor government policy have acted in this direction".
The report goes on to say:
"These factors have combined in the 1980s with stagnation in public spending in the partial dismantling of regional and financial controls and incentives to cause a reversal of the previous convergent tendencies".
That is the basis upon which we should debate what ought to happen. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, referred to new government policy. This is not a government document and, as far as I am aware, there has been no government statement of new government policy.

My Lords, I may be wrong but I was under the impression that, independent of this report, the Government are engaged in a review of regional policy.

My Lords, I hope that that is the case, and in the Minister's reply I hope to hear a statement along those lines. However, I do not think that as yet your Lordships have heard a statement to that effect. My main conclusion is that a statement as regards policy is precisely what is required. To repeat the point made in the document, I see that policy as a combination of the reinforcement and encouragement of market forces, which is clearly needed, but equally a great degree of government intervention.

Speaking as an economist, I regard the report as far too narrow. As the noble Lord, Lord Jay, said, regional policy is not simply an economic problem but one as regards our whole way of life. It is a social problem and to some degree it is also a political problem. We are interested in having a policy because we wish to remove the sheer economic waste connected with regional disparities. However, social damage is also involved.

I am well aware that, for example, the Scots are resilient people and they do the best that they can in the circumstances in which they find themselves, adverse though they may be on occasions. However, that is no justification of those circumstances; it simply points up the fact that they are human beings acting as best they can. That should not cause one to detract from the need for policy intervention in order to help them and the other regions.

One can view the problem of the North-South divide as a problem of the North, but I tend to view it the other way round, as the noble Lords, Lord Walston and Lord Jay, emphasised; namely, that it is very much a problem of the South. There is the pouring into the South of so many people, the congestion, the rise in house prices, undoubtedly the pressure to remove certain aspects of the green belt in due course and other things of that sort. I am bound to say, speaking as a southerner, that I find this development somewhat undesirable. Therefore one aspect of regional policy must be not to say. "Oh dear, there is just a problem in the North". There is undoubtedly also a problem in the South, which means that the matter should be dealt with on a national basis, not piecemeal but all together.

What then are we led to consider? If I may say so, the other limitation of the document is that it does not offer us much by way of policy initiatives. There are just three aspects of policy which I should like to mention. I too hope to sit down in less than 10 minutes and provide time to others.

I know that noble Lords opposite will feel bound to disagree, but I must say that the problem is insoluble without a modicum of an increase in public expenditure. I find it very puzzling when listening to noble Lords opposite that they describe all sorts of activities which need to be done, involving public expenditure at least to some degree, and then they add, "But we don't want to spend any more public money". I do not understand the point; I have continued to ask about it. You may wish to build up an infrastructure which will certainly involve private sector finance as well, but I can honestly see no solution which can succeed without some additional public finance. That is my first thought. I certainly hold the view, although occasionally it gets governments into trouble, that one ought to fine-tune public expenditure rather more towards the outer regions and away from the central regions.

Secondly, I wish to refer to an old theme which many of us have advocated, in that the problem is unemployment. That is certain, and one of the major worries about divergence, or lack of convergence, is that it occurs in an area of unemployment. Looking at it when unemployment has passed its peak and is falling somewhat, we can argue about how much and how we interpret the statistics, but on any of them, unemployment is falling to some degree, although the rate of fall is not as great in the areas which need it most.

I am particularly worried about the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, that in Scotland there seems to be a very definite stickiness in the rate of fall in unemployment; it is deepening. My view is that the least one ought to do is as far as possible to lower the marginal costs of employers taking on employees. Therefore, the message which has been put forward by many of us in the past that there should be a differential change in the employers' national insurance contribution is certainly one which the Government ought to think about yet again.

My third point is much more in the way of a question. I must admit that I do not know the answer. It refers to the poll tax, and there was reference today in The Times to one study on the subject. Analytically, or a priori, it seems to me that the introduction of the poll tax will be disadvantageous to business in the already backward regions. However, I would not go so far as to say that that view is yet totally supported by a suitable analysis or by empirical research.

I hope that in considering this matter the Government will in due course come to your Lordships' House to tell us more about what they know or what their economists have found out on the likely impact of the poll tax on regional economical activity. For the moment, to say the least, I am pessimistic but my mind is not closed.

I conclude by repeating the proposition that regional problems are important, regional policy is important. The issues lie before us. We have been warned. The time has now arrived for positive action.

7.34 p.m.

My Lords, I share the concern shown by the noble Lord, Lord Sefton of Garston, who opened this debate, about the nature of the problems we face. It may be a surprise to some that I also very much share the views of my noble friend Lord Polwarth about the importance of regional policy. I have long been an advocate of regional policy.

However, I was going to start my remarks with a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Peston, about the inherent limitations of this kind of report. I have to confess to a profound scepticism about this kind of exercise in econometric modelling. In fairness to the authors, I should say that they point out the shortcomings of the approach themselves when they mention that their aims have necessarily been limited to what is essentially a projection of past trends. But all my experience in government leads me to doubt that in a rapidly changing world forecasts based on past events have very much validity. If we are just to take this as a warning of what might happen, perhaps I shall confine my remarks and not make some of the other criticisms which I might have made of this report.

When we look at the regional detail, some of the absurdities become even more manifest in carrying forward projections over a period of 13 years. Indeed, when I look at that part of the United Kingdom with which I am most familiar, Wales, I discover that some of the forecasts have already been overtaken by events and that the forecasts, for example, of unemployment set out in the table towards the end of the report now look pretty nonsensical against a background of 18 months of continuously falling unemployment in Wales.

What has happened in Wales illustrates both the possibilities which are there to be exploited and the difficulty of carrying forward past trends. That is because over the last decade or so we have come to the end, I believe fundamentally, of a great era of industrial change and decline which has gone on for the greater part of three-quarters of a century. It has now bottomed out because it can probably go no further. Those old basic industries are no longer the foundation stone for the Welsh economy, except of course that steel will continue to play a crucial part in the great steelworks in South Wales. But we have seen, as in Scotland, the rapid development of a new industrial base. We have seen Wales, I think for four years running, attract around 20 per cent. of all the inward investment in the United Kingdom with about 5 per cent. of the population, and unemployment has been falling fast, as I pointed out.

The danger of reading the kind of forecasts which are contained in this report into the future too literally is that they tend to reinforce preconceptions and some of the attitudes which cause the most damage. I believe that all our experience shows that changing attitudes both of outsiders to what is going on in a region and of those who are actually in the region about their capabilities and performance can be as important as any act of government.

We have only to look, for example, at the change in the performance of the steel industry in South Wales at the great plants at Llanwern and Port Talbot to illustrate that point, or at some of the spectacular developments that have taken place not just in this country but in other parts of the world as a result of urban renewal schemes in cities which seemed to have no future at all. We find that, for example, in cities like Baltimore or Pittsburgh in the United States. We have heard already in this debate of the extraordinary transformation which has been taking place in Glasgow. Under the guidance of the Scottish Development Agency I went there a couple of months ago and I was deeply impressed by what I saw.

This takes me to a further point, which was raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, when he said that we should not rely on UDCs. I agree with him about that but I do not believe that the Government have been relying on UDCs. What we have been seeing is an important development of regional policy and change in the instruments which can be used. I believe that the growth of urban renewal projects of one kind or another and the introduction of the urban development grant in 1982 were the most important initiatives by this Government borrowed from the United States. The launching of urban development corporations of the kind which have had such success in the London docks have enormous potential for success. South Wales is one example where there is all-party support for the great renewal project around Cardiff Bay. All these are part of a developing regional policy.

If we can transform the urban environment, if we can restore those cities which were in decline and losing their professional classes and the magnetism they once held so that they form a focus for development around them, we will make a very important contribution indeed to regional policy; and I believe that the sort of developments that we have under way in Cardiff will be as important to the Welsh valleys as they are to the capital city. So, yes, we need a regional policy but we need perhaps to change its emphasis.

That brings me to four points which I want to make. In changing that regional policy we must, as the noble Lord, Lord Goold, said in his admirable maiden speech, have as a major objective the need to generate the maximum private sector contribution. We must use public money in order to create a multiplier effect so as to create a partnership between the public and the private sectors, which I believe is the key to our success in this whole area, as indeed it is in many other areas where we face problems, not least the health authorities, which we were considering earlier this afternoon.

We must recognise the importance of new attitudes. That was the central problem that I faced when I first took over as Secretary of State for Wales. There was a view of Wales held in many parts of England and a view of their future held by the Welsh themselves. One of the most hopeful things that has happened is the new-found sense of confidence and pride in performance that we have seen and that we have heard about again this week in another part of the United Kingdom, the North-East, where Nissan has announced major investment, as the workforce rightly said, because of its performance in the first phase of that development.

Thirdly, we have to develop the urban initiatives about which I have already spoken and about which, in view of the time, I shall say no more. Fourthly, we need a strengthening in the regions of the financial and professional services. This is a subject about which I have spoken in the past. Indeed I caused irritation to some of my friends in the City by what they regarded as an attack on them when I referred to the gap that I saw between some of the financial institutions in the City and our old industrial regions. I am glad to say that I think matters have begun to improve, but there is still a gap.

I very much welcome the fact that in Wales we have seen a dramatic reversal of the exodus that was taking place in the 'sixties and 'seventies of the professionals, the accountants and solicitors, as the great firms merged. They are all coming back with strong partnerships and organisations. I wish that we had the strength of the financial institutions that my friends have in Scotland. I believe that if we could do more to create those strong financial and professional units that existed in the old industrial regions in the first Industrial Revolution we would do more than anything else to change the prospects for the future.

That is the point on which I wish to conclude. I frankly do not believe any of the forecasts that are contained in this document. I think that when we come to look at it in 13 years' time it will be very difficult to find a table which bears much relationship to what has happened in practice. What we should be debating today is not the validity of this very doubtful econometric exercise but the policies we need to make sure that the more gloomy forecasts do not come true and that the growth that is forecast in the report is shared by the regions as well as by the South-East.

7.44 p.m.

My Lords, perhaps I may first apologise to your Lordships for not being present to hear the earlier speakers, but I was at a meeting in the Palace where my presence was required. Also I should like to say how deeply I appreciate the title of the Motion introduced by my old friend and colleague Lord Sefton, which is on a subject which is very germane to all of us today. I know that the report covers a national perspective, but I hope your Lordships will bear with me as an indigenous northerner if I retain my cloth cap and speak from that angle.

The possibility cannot be discounted that things are not going to happen. This is a very serious report by very serious people and it states that the one area that does not show signs of improving by the turn of the century is the North-West. I have to say, though I live just outside the North-West, that that is my experience. Let me very quickly give some figures.

Between 1979 and 1986 there was a marked sectoral shift in the nature of employment. During that period the number of people employed nationally in manufacturing fell by 28 per cent., while service sector employment increased by 7 per cent. The processes of restructuring and closure in manufacturing industry have had the greatest impact in the northern regions, whose economies historically have been reliant on a manufacturing base. Manufacturing still accounted for 28 per cent. of employment in the North-West in 1986, compared with only 21 per cent. in the South-East. While there has been some manufacturing job loss in the southern regions, this has been largely ameliorated by the increase in employment in the service industries. Unfortunately, the North has not benefited from a similar experience.

In the period 1978 to 1987, some 46 per cent. of the net increase of 0.2 million people employed in service industries was located in the South-East. By contrast, the North, the whole of Yorkshire and Humberside, recorded a reduction in the numbers employed in services. We have heard repeatedly from Government Ministers that the reversal of the tremendous unemployment figures that we were experiencing would be brought about by a substantial increase in service industries. This is obviously not a lifebelt that is being thrown out to people in the North-West.

But what are the answers? Immediately after the election, the Prime Minister indicated that the main thrust would be to refurbish and regenerate the hard core of our inner cities. Some of your Lordships may remember that I initiated in your Lordships' House on the Tuesday before we rose for the Summer Recess a debate about the inner cities, through an Unstarred Question. I was commended by the Government Front and Back Benches on the reasonable way in which I asked what were the Government's intentions. Surprise, surprise! On the first Wednesday that we returned after the Summer Recess the Government themselves chose to discuss the problems of the inner cities in a full day's debate in which I did not take part. But I was a little disappointed that I heard nothing more forthcoming than I had heard in July.

So what is happening now? The Government have stressed all along that they expect a substantial input of private capital to make an impact on this refurbishment and regeneration of the inner cities, but now what has happened? First, we have had an addition of three more urban development corporations announced, which in my opinion were not necessary, because, overwhelmingly, local authorities involved are in the process of planning and negotiating. Elected members and their officers are at the point of producing schemes of their own volition and dealing with investment people, planners, builders, etc. I have said before in this House that the Government are insistent on these urban development corporations. I do hope that they will adopt a reasonable and commonsense approach and that in some of the places where they are insisting on urban development corporations they will approach the local authorities concerned or their representatives as regards initiatives.

However, there is something that is more distressing to me. I do not say this in an over-critical way but rather in a helpful way. There was a Question asked of a Minister in another place by Mr. John Heddle. It was replied to on 1st December. The Minister replied that of the 30 schemes that had been submitted to the Government for urban regeneration in a variety of ways only one had been approved. He said that the others were still being appraised.

I put it to the Minister that that is not good enough. I have previously been a little sceptical about whether private industry would become involved in this issue. I know now that the national chairman of the Phoenix Partnership, which is involved through its initiative in drawing people together to produce inner city development without the costs of a development corporation, has expressed concern about the imposition of urban development corporations when he and his officers are making progress. I have to say that they are deeply concerned about the lack of government progress on this matter.

I am told that the Government have not employed one additional officer to deal with the task of progressing applications for inner city renewal. I know reputable people personally and their companies in the private sector individually who have a lot of money to invest and who are literally queueing up to do so. They are at the point where schemes are almost nearing fruition but they are now wondering whether the Government are really serious. I must put this to the Minister and I hope he will take it seriously, because it is a very important point. If the Government are serious, will the Minister ask the Secretary of State in another place to set up an organisation apart from the Department of the Environment and the Department of Trade and Industry that will cut across the obvious jealousies that we all know have arisen and do something about this matter? There are rumours that a special Minister who will be responsible for this area will be appointed in the near future.

If the Government do not do something about this it will be sad to think that the very people who are prepared to put money into our inner cities—as is desired by all of us: Government, Opposition, Conservative local authorities and Labour local authorities—will start to back off. That will occur if no action is taken and no rabbits come out of the hat. They will do that because there are plenty of other places in the world where they can invest money. In my opinion once they start to back off we can forget for evermore any possibility of inner city regeneration in the nation as we know it.

7.53 p.m.

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Sefton of Garston has done us a favour in introducing the debate on this report. I shall be as brief as I possibly can because I wish to allow the Minister his full time to reply to this important debate. I do not particularly wish to comment on the report itself in any detail other than to make some points about the analysis. The first concerns the general growth rate up to the year 2000 of which my noble friends Lord Peston and Lord Crickhowell were critical. I think that they were probably quite right. One cannot say now what will happen in future or place any confidence in forecasts.

Nevertheless if we look at the rapid growth scenario in the report it still turns out that a regional disparity exists. So whether we have a slow growth or a high growth the major problem that the report sets out still exists. The problem that the report refers to in very considerable detail is the increasing disparity on whatever growth scenario one might adopt between the different parts of the United Kingdom. Whether one puts the line at the northern edge of the Midlands as is done in the report or whether one puts it lower or whether one suggests that it is a problem of the South rather than the North or vice versa, the report makes it absolutely clear that there is a major problem here and that it is getting worse.

We must now see what must happen if the problem is to be in any sense cured and if the trends are to be in any sense reversed. I believe it to be absolutely true that in the past decade, or at least in the 1980s, there has been a much lower emphasis on regional policy than previously. My noble friend Lord Jay referred to the post-war period. I think that was a very successful period in terms of regional policies as my noble friend pointed out. The noble Lord, Lord Walston, remarked, as does the report, that in monetary terms regional selective assistance from the Department of Trade and Industry has halved in real terms between 1979 and this year.

There have been of course a number of successes. The noble Lord, Lord Goold, in a very distinguished maiden speech which we were all glad to hear, pointed to Glasgow. The noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, also pointed to Cardiff. In my view those are two outstanding examples of co-operation between central government, in the form of the Scottish Development Agency or the Welsh Development Agency which are agencies of central government; local government; and the private sector.

We should all support those initiatives but I return to the point that was made very well by my noble friend Lord Peston. Those initiatives depend on an injection of public money. One must start with the public money in order to get the multiplier effect to which the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, referred. We should certainly support that approach to the regeneration of some of the very rundown areas of the United Kingdom which have, as the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, said, suffered from the closing down of major parts of their former basic industries of steel, coal and shipbuilding. That is certainly an approach that we on this side of the House would endorse.

I was very sad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Blease, refer to the situation in Northern Ireland. That is a depressing situation. I do not think that we have had any equivalent initiative in Northern Ireland. One would certainly like to see that. I wish to ask the Minister if he would be good enough to respond to the question which underlay what the noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, said and which certainly underlay what my noble friend Lord Peston said. Yes, the DTI is undertaking a study of regional policy. Can we now hear in which direction that policy is to go because there was, as I understand it, a fairly deliberate leak in the Financial Times on 1st December which is headlined:
"Britain plans to limit regional aid".
It is alleged in the article that the Government plan to end industry's virtually automatic entitlement to aid in Britain's assisted areas, in other words to abolish regional development grants.

Regional development grants are giving value for money in creating jobs, which is what they were meant to do. They work on the principle of no jobs, no grant. Again I turn to Wales. Last year in Wales 1,180 projects were approved for regional development grants at a total grant value of £56 million. Over 17,000 jobs were associated with those projects. That is a cost of £3,000 per job which is approximately half the cost of keeping an unemployed person while he is unemployed. Therefore the regional development grants really do give good value for money. I cannot for the life of me see why the Government wish—if they do wish—to abolish such a system and revert to the complex and difficult system of selective regional assistance.

I want to give the Minister time to reply so I shall pass over a number of points that I wanted to make. I want the Government to listen to the advice of Mr. John Banham which he gave at the annual dinner of the Wales CBI Council as reported in the Western Mail. The paper stated that it was:
"extremely unwise to change a situation that was apparently working so well".
We have had so many changes in different kinds of regional aid programmes. If one is working well why change it?

Finally, will the Minister tell the House when the Secretary of State will be making a Statement on the matter? It was promised for the new year. My sources tell me that the date of 11th January has been pencilled in. If that is the case, we should like to know about it.

Your Lordships will all be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, for raising this matter. I have covered my points as quickly as I decently could in order to allow the Minister time to reflect and reply. I believe that however one treats this particular report, we have debated an essential and important issue in the Britain of today. I hope that the Minister will come forward with an adequate response.

8 p.m.

My Lords, this has been a most worthwhile debate on a subject of considerable importance and I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sefton of Garston, for introducing it today.

The authors for the report that we have been discussing are to be congratulated on attempting the heroic task of forecasting economic prospects for the remainder of the century and on their clear and digestible report. I do not wish to dwell on the intricacies of forecasting but I should like to make a non-technical observation. If accurate forecasts of employment, population, unemployment and output in the regions could be made so far ahead, infrastructure and other planning would greatly benefit. But it will be 14 years before we know how good the forecasts are.

Meanwhile, I am sure that the authors of the report will forgive me if I say there are some good reasons for questioning the forecasts. First, the report says that the UK unemployment rate will fall below 10 per cent. just before 1995. In fact it did so in October, before the report was published. I agree with my noble friend Lord Crickhowell that the largest falls in unemployment in the period between June 1986 and October 1987 were in some of the parts of the country about which the report is most pessimistic. In Wales, for example, the reduction is from 14·5 per cent. to 12·1 per cent.; in the West Midlands it is from 13·1 per cent. to 10·8 per cent.; and in the North·West unemployment has fallen from 14·6 per cent. to 12·4 per cent.

The noble Lord, Lord Sefton, referred to the report's prediction of 85,000 jobs to be lost in Scotland by the year 2000. Any projection over such a long period must be highly speculative and I should add that in 1985 output per employee in Scottish manufacturing was 6 per cent. above the UK average. Since 1979, real manufacturing output per head has risen by 5 per cent. per annum. That pace of improvement augers well for the future.

Secondly, the forecast is based on projections of the national industrial structure. Others have found this an unreliable way to forecast regional employment one to two years ahead, let alone 14. Regional forecasts are, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Blease, subject to particular uncertainties. In looking at the recent development of the national economy we have the benefit of more comprehensive and up to date figures. It is very encouraging, therefore, that expansion is indeed what those figures show.

Your Lordships will be familiar with the strong—indeed remarkable—recovery in output, in productivity, in profitability which has taken place since we passed the trough of the recession in 1981. The gross domestic product has been expanding by an average of almost 3 per cent. each year, productivity is up by half and the profitability of non-North Sea activities, is, at 9 per cent. for 1986, at its highest level since 1973. Recently, the recovery in manufacturing output has been particularly strong.

What is equally encouraging is that the strong performance in the economy is expected to continue. As my noble friend Lord Young said earlier, it was clear from the CBI's recent survey of industrial trends that industry shared that view, and that confidence had not been dented by the falls on the stock markets. That has been confirmed by the latest CBI survey published this week. That should be reassuring to those of us—all of us—who see growth in the national economy as a vital element of success in the regions.

For several years the Government have been creating a climate of economic and fiscal policies which, when applied nationally, are conducive to the prosperity of all parts of the country. Clearly, the Government's prudent management of the economy is providing the basis for regional disparities to be tackled effectively.

Those disparities are sometimes represented in terms of the North versus the South. I do not subscribe to the media notion of a North-South divide. Policy measures have to go beyond a geographical dividing line and look at the areas of real need wherever they are. In my view a more relevant distinction is between those areas which have been able successfully to embrace change in technology, consumer demand and competition and those which have found it hard to adapt. In the latter category I am thinking in particular of those areas where the great labour-intensive heavy industries of the past were concentrated, including in our older industrial cities.

It is true, as the report shows, that regions to the north and west of the Severn-Humber line were particularly severely affected by the recession in the UK and other industrial countries in the early 1980s. The report usefully summarises some reasons. A higher proportion of jobs in the North were in manufacturing, which suffered much more than employment in services. The North has a higher proportion of old urban areas, which have been losing jobs to small towns and rural areas. But there is no reason to believe that those special factors will persist. As I have illustrated, the figures show that the benefits of economic growth are accruing to all regions and projecting the trends of the early 1980s into the next century serves no useful purpose.

I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Jay, that the Government's policies are designed to target support on the areas and on the people that most need assistance, wherever they are. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has, for example, taken measures to assist the North through the derelict land programme, while much of the initiative taken in inner cities has been directed to the North through the urban programme, the urban development grant, the Urban Development Corporations and the enterprise zones. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, that the UDCs which have been set up will show what can be achieved by positive attitudes to private sector development. Only last week my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment announced that he proposed to set up mini-urban development corporations in Leeds, central Manchester and Bristol, as well as to extend the Black Country's development corporation to take in parts of Wolverhampton.

There has been a sustained and determined effort to bring publicly owned idle land back into use. In the past 12 months over half the 10,500 acres brought back into use has been in the North. Proposals for a unified business rate and revaluation of non-domestic rateable value will help businesses which want to establish in the North or are already there.

I have already mentioned the inner cities. The inner cities initiative which is the responsibility of my noble friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is an important part of our strategy for regional regeneration. This is a new concept, working at ground level with the local communities, local businesses and local authorities. The initiative consists of 16 task forces in pilot areas, with the specific aims of improving employment opportunities, encouraging enterprise, improving employability and improving the environment of the community. This year, the task forces have a budget of £14 million, mainly for pump-priming projects. Although the initiative has only been running for 20 months, the results are already very encouraging, particularly in terms of our success in drawing in private sector support. For example, over 200 companies are now directly involved with task forces, and over 300 projects have been approved. Over 250 businesses have been helped by task force projects.

Alongside the initiative, there are the five city action teams in London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester/Salford and Newcastle/Gateshead. Those city action teams have budgets of £1 million each to spend in 1987–88 on projects aimed at regenerating our inner cities. So far the city action teams are making good progress in committing their funds across a broad range of enterprise and employment-related activities.

Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna. that the Scottish Development Agency, which is the main instrument of economic and environmental regeneration in Scotland, has had its budget increased by 9½ per cent. in real terms since this Government came to office. Its total expenditure since 1979 is in excess of £760 million. I am in agreement with my noble friend Lord Polwarth and the noble Lord, Lord Williams, that the role of the SDA is to prime the pump for local initiative and enterprise.

I congratulate my noble friend Lord Goold on his excellent maiden speech. Given the range of difficulties of multiple social and economic deprivation faced by people in such areas, a wide range of policies is bringing help. The Govenment's policies are crucially important for people in urban areas in Scotland. The Government are committed to an effective regional industrial policy. In 1984 the Department of Trade and Industry made changes to its policy so that the assistance under the department's regional schemes of support was more closely targeted on the areas of the country most in need. This was in keeping with the objective set out in the 1983 White Paper, Regional Industrial Development, of encouraging the development of indigenous potential within the assisted areas with the long-term objective of self-generating growth in these areas. Since 1984 the DTI has given financial support totalling £735 million towards projects in the assisted areas of England which will generate investment and new economic activity.

I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Walston, that the regional policies of the Government go a lot further than just the provision of large sums of money. It is incidentally no coincidence that the assisted areas map which was revised in 1984 covers 70 per cent. of the working population of the North (taken as the North-East, the North-West, Yorkshire and Humberside) compared with 22 per cent. in the rest of England. In Scotland and in Wales the figures are 64.7 per cent. and 89.4 per cent. respectively.

As your Lordships may be aware, the English Industrial Estates Corporation has an important role to play in furthering the regional policy objectives of the Department of Trade and Industry. It provides manufacturing, traded services, warehousing and office facilities. It manages over 4,500 small factory units where previously many businesses could not set up or expand because suitable premises were not available. It has pioneered the provision of special rental terms with the aim of helping small start-up businesses located in assisted areas.

English Estates has been asked to undertake a new development programme to provide managed workspace in inner city areas in order to stimulate local employment and enterprise as important aspects of the process of regeneration. To secure the maximum impact locally in furthering the climate for enterprise, English Estates will seek substantial private sector and local community involvement, particularly in the running of the workspace. English Estates is particularly well placed to take on this new programme given its wide experience in recent years of developing small units in the assisted areas and its increasing involvement in urban regeneration schemes.

My noble friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has recently set new objectives for his department. These are designed to produce a climate which will promote enterprise and prosperity in all areas of the country not least by building on the strength of successful industries and developing new enterprises. I can tell the noble Lords, Lord Williams of Elvel and Lord Peston. that in the light of these new objectives my noble friend is looking at the whole range of his department's activities, including those of a regional nature, to ensure that they support in an effective way the department's prime objective of assisting in the wealth creation process. It is hoped that an announcement will be made in the new year.

I say to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, that while the interest cut on 3rd December was indeed the third cut since the stock market fall, we remain committed to keeping downward pressure on inflation.

My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me for interrupting, I was dealing with the summer interest rise and not the recent interest cut.

My Lords, I was dealing with the recent interest rate cuts, which are very important in the management of our economy.

The Government are committed to increasing the prosperity of all our people in whatever part of the country they live and work. Our policies have improved significantly the performance of the national economy and our achievements provide the basis for regional differences to be tackled effectively. This is an objective in which we can all share.

My Lords, does the noble Lord propose to sit down without dealing with the important issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, namely the deployment of central government departments into the more deprived areas?

My Lords, I have outlined a number of the Government's initiatives which in themselves add up to many projects for dealing with these problems.

8.14 p.m.

My Lords, there are eight minutes left to the time when this debate should finish. I shall not take up the whole of the time because I think that I should make recompense in some way for the fact that I pinched three minutes of the time of other speakers. I apologise to them.

I should like to offer my congratulations on a good maiden speech to the noble Lord, Lord Goold, I am sure that he and many other noble Lords in this Chamber would not wish me to agree with everything that he said. We look forward with interest to hearing him speak again, because there are bound to be more debates of this nature. It is evident that almost everyone who spoke in the House today contributed to the idea that there is a major problem.

We have just heard, as I forecast that we would, the brief from the Government. It was the same brief as I heard from Labour Governments; it was the same one sent to Liverpool City Council and Merseyside County Council and even to the regional economic planning council. The brief is always the same.

The problem remains and as one drives down the M.1 one can see encapsulated in a few words the attitude of some people towards our system, because, on a bridge over the motorway is written "Elections change nothing". That is a reflection of the thoughts of some people in the outlying regions of this so-called United Kingdom.

I am not going to attempt to reply to everything. I should like to thank everybody most sincerely for taking part in the debate. I thank the people who have produced this report. Let me say loud and clear, so that no misunderstanding arises between falling interest rates and rising interest rates, that I look forward with interest to a detailed examination by the Government of the problems of the South-East of this land. Are we going to tolerate, as a civilised society, the spread of congestion and homelessness and all the other problems associated with expansion in the South-East'? I believe that that will be the major problem for the rest of this century. I look forward to the review which is to take place and about which we are to hear very shortly concerning the Government's intentions about regional problems.

I conclude, although I am still within my allotted time. I am amazed that I have kept within time. Let me repeat my questions. Do the Government consider the report sufficient to give a studied response to it'? Are they prepared to give this House their backing and have a committee coolly and objectively examine all the problems of the region?

Those are two specific questions and I do not ask for answers tonight. Over the last nine years whenever I have raised the question of major developments in the South-East I have been told that I am wrong and I should not do it. I am now taking the first opportunity to raise the matter completely divorced from anything else. Therefore the Government cannot dodge the answer. I hope the Minister will write to me and tell me whether the Government intend to proceed on these lines by means of either a Select Committee, a Standing Committee or a Royal Commission? May we have a response from the Government to this report? With those words, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

Land Registration Bill Hl

8.21 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—( The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD HAYTER in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [ Open register]:

Page 1, line 12, at end insert ("(other than leases or charges or copies of leases or charges)").

The noble and learned Lord said: This amendment is moved with the knowledge and approval of the Land Registry and would bring into play the same practice as is now employed. It is not the practice of the Land Registry when granting inspections with the authority of the proprietor to make available office copies of all the lengthy mortgages and leases. The amendment will enable the Land Registry to follow that practice when the registry becomes open. I beg to move.

The Government support this amendment moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Templeman. It does not represent any departure from the Law Commission's policy as stated in its report. It simply clarifies the Bill so as to reflect the position that the commission meant to take up. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for introducing this clarification.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Page 1, line 13, leave out ("but not referred to in the register") and insert ("relating to any land or charge but not falling within subsection (1)(b) of this section").

The noble and learned Lord said: This amendment is merely to clarify the position so that the documents which can be inspected are documents relevant to titles and do not, for example, include documents compiled by the Land Registry for unrelated, internal purposes. I beg to move.

I do not in any way oppose the amendment in principle. My difficulty is the wording of this subsection, as it will be, read with subsection (1)(b) with which we have just dealt. Subsection (2) will provide that the inspection is to be available for,

"Documents in the custody of the registrar relating to any land or charge but not falling within subsection (1)(b) of this section".
"Relating to any land or charge", relates to documents referred to which were in the custody of the registrar other than leases or charges or copies of leases or charges. I am sure that the noble and learned Lord is quite clear what that means and that one can work it out but it is not the simplest language, if one has to go round in circles. I wonder whether, before the next stage of the Bill, the draftsman might apply his mind to a simpler and easier to understand form of wording.

I support the amendment as it has been put down. I think it is fair to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Templeman, to say that he had the assistance of parliamentary draftsmen in the preparation of these amendments. No doubt, he would like parliamentary draftsmen to have an opportunity of reconsidering the position in the light of the noble and learned Lord's comments.

I am obliged. I am always mystified by the drafting of Acts although when they have been drafted and I have been asked to construe them, I do so without any difficulty at all. I acknowledge the difficulty raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Silkin of Dulwich, and will take further advice. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 1, line 19, at end insert—
("(3) References in this section to documents include references to things kept otherwise than in documentary form.").

The noble and learned Lord said: The amendment is designed to bring us into the age of the computer. Documents now include articles stored on a computer and therefore it is necessary to widen the normal meaning of "documents" to make sure that we can get at the computer, as well as any written document. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 2, line 2, at end insert—
("(e) section 52 (4) of the Housing Associations Act 1985 (inspection of register etc. for information relevant to reduction, suspension or reclaim of housing association grant);
(f) section 33 of the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986 (inspection of register etc. for the purpose of drug trafficking investigation);
(g) paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 to the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987 (inspection of register in connection with exercise of power to vest former diplomatic or consular premises in the Secretary of State).").

The noble and learned Lord said: With the leave of the Committee, perhaps I may deal with this amendment together with Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 which make additions to the schedule to the Bill. Amendment No. 4 and the other two amendments are additions to the schedule. The amendments bring the Bill up to date. Alas, a good deal of water has passed under the bridge since the Law Commission recommended this Bill. In the interim, there were one or two nibbles at opening the register partially from time to time for various favoured classes of examinees. Now that we are taking the plunge and making the register open to everybody, it is logical to get rid of the minor exceptions and it is with that object that I move Amendment No. 4, and speak to Amendments Nos. 6 and 7.

I support Amendment No. 4 and in due course I shall support Amendments Nos. 6 and 7.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [ Short title, commencement and extent]:

moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 2, line 6, leave out from ("force") to end of line 7 and insert ("on such day as the Lord Chancellor may by order made by statutory instrument appoint.").

The noble and learned Lord said: This amendment is designed to give effect to the undertaking which I gave on Second Reading; namely, that in order to avoid the Land Registry being swamped with work too early, the commencement of the Bill should be postponed:

"on such day as the Lord Chancellor may by order made by statutory instrument appoint".

On that occasion, I expressed the hope which I now repeat, that the Bill may be brought into force within a year or two and that we shall not have a very lengthy postponement.

I am grateful to my noble and learned friend for proposing this amendment to which, of course, I am happy to agree. The considerations set out on Second Reading support the reason for the amendment. I hear what my noble and learned friend says about the desirability of bringing the Bill, once it becomes an Act, into force as soon as possible. I share his aspirations and we shall certainly do our best to fulfil them.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

In the Schedule:

Page 3, line 36, at end insert—

("1985 c. 69.The Housing Associations Act 1985.Section 52(4).
1986 c. 32.The Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986.Section 33.")

The noble and learned Lord said: As I indicated, this is one of the tidying-up processes and gets rid of the sections in the Housing Associations Act and the Drug Trafficking Offences Act which open the registry to certain limited classes of persons. I beg to move.

I am reminded that I forgot to put the Question, That Clause 3 stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Part 3, line 42, at end insert—

("1987 c. 46.The Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987.In Schedule 1, paragraph 2."

The noble and learned Lord said: Amendment No. 7 is proposed for the same reason.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with amendments.

Landlord And Tenant Bill Hl

8.30 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill he now read a second time.

This Bill is that appended to Law Commission Report No. 161, Leasehold Conveyancing, laid before Parliament in the spring of this year under the Law Commission Act. It is the Bill as printed but with the correction of two small printing errors. The Bill is intended to ease and improve the conveyancing of leasehold properties. It applies to all commercial and residential leases containing what is generally referred to as a,
"fully qualified covenant against assignment",
That is, a covenant,
"not to assign without the landlord's consent",
such covenants being subject to the stipulation that the landlord's consent shall not unreasonably be withheld.

The Bill imposes on landlords the statutory duty to give consent to assign where it would be unreasonable to withhold consent. I should explain at once that where I refer to "assignment" the Law Commission Report and the Bill refer not only to "assignment" but to both sub-lettings and charges on leases as well as to partings with possession of land included in leases. The Bill does not apply to all leases. Some leases, including some leases of flats originally let on long leases on consideration of a premium, contain no covenant against assignment. Such leases are not touched by the conveyancing problem that this Bill deals with, and the Bill does not apply to them. A few other leases contain an absolute covenant against assignment and this Bill does not apply to leases which contain absolute covenants against assignment.

As I said, the provisions of this Bill apply to the many leases which contain fully qualified covenants against assignment. Such covenants generally start with the words of absolute prohibition:
"The tenant shall not assign the benefit of his lease".
They continue with words of qualification:
"without the landlord's consent".
To bring such a qualified covenant within the scope of the Bill it must be fully qualified by a stipulation in such words as,
"but such consent is not to he unreasonably withheld".
Such a stipulation is deemed, except in the case of agricultural tenancies, to be included in covenants not to assign without the landlord's consent by Section 19 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1927. I should add that the 1927 Act applies to leases of land belonging to the Crown, the Duchy of Cornwall and to government departments—a point to which I shall need to return later. Thus, the position is that, with the exception of those agricultural tenancies where there is no stipulation as to the unreasonable withholding of consent set out in the agreement, a qualified covenant not to assign without consent is in all cases subject to the stipulation that consent may not unreasonably be withheld.

Nevertheless, a landlord under a lease where the covenant against assignment is fully qualified incurs no liability to his tenant if he fails either to give or to refuse consent within a reasonable time; if he unreasonably withholds consent; or, which amounts to the same thing, if he gives consent subject to unreasonable conditions. As the law stands at present a tenant faced with an apparent wrongful refusal on the part of his landlord, or with inaction, has two courses of action open to him neither of which is entirely satisfactory.

First, he may assign without consent. That course of action is hazardous because neither the tenant nor the proposed assignee can be certain that the landlord is being unreasonable. In the normal course of events neither will be fully apprised of the landlord's reasons. To assume the landlord's unreasonableness and to assign without consent runs the risk of forfeiture of the lease. There is a way round this risk. It is to take the other course of action and apply to the appropriate court for a declaration that the landlord is unreasonably withholding consent. In practice, the delay which such an application would involve rules it out as a practical or convenient remedy in the real world of buying and selling property.

I am glad to say that usually no serious problems arise. References are submitted to landlords' agents and consents to proposed assignments are given as a matter of routine. Exceptionally, but unfortunately not uncommonly, things go badly wrong and the whole conveyancing process fails. To illustrate what can go wrong I can do no better than quote the extract from a 1986 judgment of Lord Justice Dillon, set out in the footnote to paragraph 1.3 of the Law Commission report:
"One of the difficulties that arose in this case and arise in many cases where there is a sale of leaseholds subject to landlords' consent to assign is that neither the vendor nor the purchaser has any real leverage on the landlords to give their consent or even to act speedily in going through any necessary formalities. What so often happens is that landlords take a very long time before giving their minds to the matter. Surveyors or managing agents have other things to do and are in no hurry. Ultimately the matter is passed to the landlords' solicitors to prepare a formal deed of licence or consent, and rather a large meal is made of it over a considerable period of time at the expense ultimately of the vendor or purchaser of the leasehold interest."
There is a legal maxim that where there is a right there is a remedy whereby it may be enforced. No wrong should be without a remedy. Unfortunately, in the case of these fully qualified covenants to assign the courts, while recognising the wrong, have failed to find an effective remedy. The Law Commission, with the strong support of the Law Society, whose concern dates back over many years, has now recommended that Parliament intervene to put matters right. This Bill is intended to provide something to concentrate the minds of landlords and their agents on what should be the matter in hand.

It would become a statutory duty of landlords, under which a landlord would have within a reasonable time to give notice of his consent or of his reasons for refusing consent. Breach of such a statutory duty would be a tort and would render the landlord liable to compensate the tenant for such damage as the tenant might have sustained as a result of the wrongful refusal.

Clause 1 sets out the statutory duty and the circumstances in which it arises. The duty extends to oblige a landlord to give the reasons why he has refused consent. The clause also imposes on the landlord the burden of proof to show that he has acted reasonably. Clause 2 deals with the case where the lease in question is an underlease and the consent of a superior landlord may also be required. Landlords are put under a statutory duty to pass on tenants' applications to superior landlords whose consents are required.

Clause 3 provides for those leases where a tenant is covenanted not to consent to an assignment by a subtenant without his landlord's consent, and the lease includes the stipulation.
"such consent is not to be unreasonably withheld."
In that case the statutory duty not unreasonably to withhold consent is imposed on the landlord. It is Clause 4 that provides that breach of the statutory duty shall be actionable by the tenant as a tort.

Clause 5(4) provides that the Bill is to apply only to applications for consent served after the coming into force of the Act, which, under Clause 7, will be two months after the Bill has received Royal Assent.

I come now to Clause 6—the Crown application clause—which I should discuss at slightly greater length. The effect of the clause is that the Bill will bind the Crown in its public capacity but will not bind the Crown in its private capacity. It seemed to me, for the convenience of the House, that I should introduce the Bill in the form in which it was appended to the Law Commission's report. Nevertheless, the inclusion of this clause would necessitate lengthy consultations within government and additionally the consent of Her Majesty. I concluded that it was not altogether appropriate for this clause to be included in a Bill introduced by a Private Member. Therefore, I propose in Committee to table an amendment to omit the clause.

The Law Commission, as they write in paragraph 2.9 of their report, did not consider whether the provisions of the Bill should bind the Crown; they merely saw no reason, in principle, why the Crown should not be bound. They concluded in their report:
"We have therefore had drafted a clause which would make the Act bind the Crown in its public capacity. The clause can be deleted if it is not agreed, at a later stage".
I would only add that this is a conveyancing Bill designed to simplify conveyancing. The report was submitted by the Law Commission in the context of their programme for the codification of the law of landlord and tenant. It is not suggested that government departments and other agents of the Crown commit the mischiefs which this Bill is designed to correct.

I agree with the Law Commission that there is no reason in principle why the Crown application clause should not be in the Bill. They point out that the Landlord and Tenant Act 1927 applies to the Crown. Nevertheless, for the reasons which I have already outlined, I shall be asking for it to be deleted in the hope that, with your Lordships' approval, this may enable the Bill to pass speedily to another place for consideration there.

I should like to add that before coming to this House today I took informal soundings of the Law Commission and I understand that it would be in agreement with my decision, for the reasons which I have already given your Lordships. The Law Society is also of the opinion that the Crown application clause, in the context that this is a conveyancing Bill, is not a significant part of the whole and would therefore agree that the Bill went forward without it.

It only remains for me to point out that this Bill, as regards landlords' duties, imposes no more obligation on landlords for the giving of consent—or the refusing of consent—than under the law as it exists at the moment. It is a modest Bill and I would commend it to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—( Lord Coleraine.)

8.42 p.m.

My Lords, this brief and clear Bill deserves a welcome. It attempts to deal with the mischief of the landlord who delays either through dilatoriness or for tactical reasons. If a tenant keeps his side of the bargain by asking for consent in the proper way, it ought to be incumbent upon the landlord to give his answer within a reasonable time.

Of course landlords are entitled to take some time to investigate the financial status of the proposed assignee or sub-tenant and to consider the various ramifications of what is proposed. However, the fact is that some landlords— and often, but not always, they are corporate or trustee landlords—take too long. The result of this is that the tenant loses the deal when the proposed assignee or sub-tenant will not wait because he finds other premises or decides that he does not like the look of' such a dilatory landlord. Third parties will also suffer in some cases because a whole chain of transactions can be lost.

As the law is at present the tenant who does not lose the prospective assignee or sub-tenant but is not prepared to wait any longer for the landlord to make up his mind has a very difficult choice of either going to the court for a declaration, which means more delay and more expense, or going ahead with the transaction thereby risking an action by the landlord, which again just means more expense.

This Bill seems to alter the common law position in that it places the onus on the landlord to justify his reasons. But again I suggest that that is right because, as I understand it, it is consistent with the reforms introduced by the Housing Act 1980. However, I hope that it will also be clear that a landlord who initially gives inadequate reasons for refusing his consent can, as the law is at present, give better reasons at a later date, if only at the court hearing, provided they are genuine.

Various means have been suggested for dealing with the problem of delayed decisions which were discussed in 18 very closely reasoned pages in the Law Commission's report on codification of the law of landlord and tenant in 1985. It is gratifying to see that this Bill is the preferred solution of the Law Commission.

There is, however, one practical problem which it seems to me is not addressed by the Bill. Often the tenant who wants to assign will want to assign to someone who proposes to change the user of the premises. A landlord is in this position. He is obliged, if not unreasonably, to withhold his consent to an assignment or sub-letting but he is not obliged under the present law to be reasonable about consenting to a change of user; in that respect he can be arbitrary and unreasonable. He can thereby frustrate what would otherwise be a perfectly reasonable transaction from the point of view of all concerned.

That leads one to think that it would perhaps have been preferable to have this Bill as part of the wider reforms proposed by the Law Commission's codification report 1985. However, one understands that that is not to be. But to that extent this Bill introduces a piecemeal reform and does not seem thereby to prejudice future legislation which might come before Parliament, one hopes sooner rather than later. To that extent the Bill is a very useful step along the way.

8.46 p.m.

My Lords, I have long been of the view that a tenant who wishes to dispose, in one way or another, of his interest is at a disadvantage which cannot be justified, even when the lease creates the form of protection by prohibiting unreasonable refusal to consent to the disposition. If the tenant, having applied for consent and not received it, boldly goes ahead to carry out the disposition, he is at risk of forfeiture, as is the person to whom he disposes. His alternative to seek a declaration is expensive, productive of delay and risky. The burden of proof of unreasonableness is on the tenant. As the noble Lord, Lord Meston, has pointed out. Reasonableness is viewed through the eye of the landlord. The landlord is not obliged to give reasons in reply to the tenant's application for consent or even, I think, to reply at all.

Faced with those difficulties, and an obdurate landlord, the tenant is not unlikely to agree to some financial way out of his difficulties, whether or not that be lawful—that is to say, if that is within his means—or otherwise it may he necessary to surrender his interest. That places too heavy a weight upon him and gives too great a means of pressure to the landlord.

This Bill is intended to go some way towards redressing the balance. The Law Commission, from whom the concept originated, originally intended to wait until a much broader reform of conveyancing law was effected, of which this would form part. I think on the whole, despite what the noble Lord, Lord Meston, said, that the Law Commission was right to yield to strong pressure from various quarters to give priority to this area, although I appreciate it may create certain difficulties. It, and the noble Lord, are therefore to be thanked for taking up this burden.

Achieving the object of the Bill has plainly not been without controversy. There seems to me to be four main questions which give rise to difficulty. First, will the Bill's solution be sidestepped by the use of absolute convenants? The Law Commission hopes that that will not be so on the ground that it would not be generally acceptable to tenants. I wonder whether that is perhaps not understating the normal difference in bargaining power between the landlord and the tenant. It goes on to say that if it is wrong in that supposition, it would be an additional reason for implementing the remainder of its main report. That report recommends that absolute disposition covenants should take effect as fully qualified covenants. That is an entirely sensible idea. I wonder whether there is any reason that the Bill should not so provide.

The second problem is that the Law Commission considered the best way to enforce the Bill's objective. In particular, it considered whether the penalty for unreasonable refusal or failure to consent should be deemed a grant of consent as the Law Society strongly advocated. The Law Commission rejected the idea of a deemed consent with obvious regret. It had no doubt that would have real advantages if it could be framed satisfactorily. The Law Commission rejected the idea because it thought that the objections, taken as a whole, ruled it out although none of those objections alone did.

The arguments are persuasive, but I am not sure whether they are, as the Law Commission suggested, conclusive. The benefits seem to be so great that the idea should not be rejected unless the objections are unchallengeable. The alternative of a claim for damages is not a satisfactory remedy. I hope that we shall hear the views of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor on that important issue.

The third problem, although perhaps not of the same weight of principle, is that the Law Commission rejects the idea that application for consent should be made on a prescribed form. There are advantages in the greater simplicity which would be achieved by the use of prescribed forms. The Law Commission takes the more cautious line of advising against that suggestion. That is virtually driving the tenant to the lawyer to draft his letter of application for him. I should be happier if the Bill at least enabled the Lord Chancellor to prescribe forms so giving further scope for consideration as to whether they should be brought into operation.

The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor indicated in relation to his Bill yesterday that he has no ideological opposition to the use of enabling powers so as to move by degrees. This is an opportunity to use them which could not be justifiably attacked.

The fourth problem is the one to which the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, referred—the applicability to the Crown. I am bound to say that I hope that in due course the Crown will form part of the Bill in the manner which is broadly contained in the present draft. There are problems, although so much time has elapsed that one might have hoped that they would have now been resolved. No doubt that matter will be considered at a later stage.

I again thank the noble Lord for bringing the Bill before the House. It will be a most valuable piece of legislation especially for tenants.

8.55 p.m.

My Lords, I too should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Coleraine on his initiative in bringing the Bill before the House and on the clarity and eloquence with which he presented it to your Lordships. I also wish to express my gratitude to the Law Commission for producing the valuable report upon which the Bill is based. The consideration which has gone into the formulation of the Bill is typical of the thoroughness with which the Law Commission addresses its task, and I therefore feel that the solution which it has proposed is probably wise in the circumstances.

I have no doubt that my noble friend will consider whether the Bill should be amended to take account of at least some of the matters which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Silkin of Dulwich, raised. I confirm that whatever else may be true of me, I am consistent in being willing to consider delegated legislation as a way forward in this case.

The point I wish to take up in a little more detail is that of applicability to the Crown. The Law Commission report states:
"The Report did not consider the question of whether these provisions should bind the Crown. We recognised that further consultation would be necessary if the Crown is to be hound. As a matter of normal and convenient practice, this consultation is best undertaken by your Department".
That was addressed to my predecessor as Lord Chancellor to whom the report was delivered.

The problem I face is that those consultations are not complete. It is likely that the consultation process will not be completed for some little time. All land-holding government departments require to consider that point and they obviously have other things to do apart from considering it. The priority may not be as high as that required if the Bill is to be urgently considered.

There is another aspect to the matter. As I said, consultation is required to determine whether a clause binding the Crown in its public capacity should be put in or remain in the Bill. The consultation that the land-holding departments of the Crown would require to carry out in relation to the many types of property and lettings that exist throughout the civil and defence estates of the Crown may well throw light on the problems that the noble and learned Lord and others have raised. I feel it preferable that the Bill should not go forward until the consultation has been completed. If it is completed, the two benefits that I mentioned may flow; otherwise, if my noble friend Lord Coleraine follows the course that he has indicated and to which, as he said, the Law Commission has not objected, the result will be that this aspect of the matter will be left unresolved. The principal Bill of course contains provisions in relation to the binding of the Crown.

I therefore hope that my noble friend will feel able, even if your Lordships give the Bill a Second Reading, which I hope you will do, to await the outcome of consultation by the Crown's landholdings departments before proceeding further.

9 p.m.

My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords for the support that they have given the Bill. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Silkin, had four points on which he found ground to query the Law Commission report and the conclusions which followed from it. First, he felt that the Law Commission was too ready to assume that landlords would not be able to sidestep absolute covenants by automatically including in leases prohibitions against assignment. My experience leads me to believe that the Law Commission is right on this point, although it is a matter to which we may return at a later stage. I believe that the question of the right to assign is so fundamental to most tenants who are taking leases that the normal imbalance and bargaining power between tenants and landlords—to which the noble and learned Lord referred and with which I agree—in this case does not apply. I feel sure that landlords would find it extremely difficult in most cases to be able to dispose of their land on terms that the tenant could not assign.

The second point made by the noble and learned Lord concerns the comments of the Law Commission on deemed consent. This was the proposal put forward by the Law Society. This may be a point to which we shall need to refer.

The noble and learned Lord also referred to the question of prescribed forms. My feeling is that the Law Commission has got it about right. To try to prescribe forms to cover all the various types of application that are needed is not practical. If this provides more work for solicitors, it is nevertheless possible for law stationers to produce the forms that will cover the multitude of cases and which anyone can pick up at a law stationer, W. H. Smith or some similar outlet.

The final point to which the noble and learned Lord referred was Crown application. I have already dealt with that, as has my noble and learned friend. I shall return to it later.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Meston, for his support of the Bill. He took up one point that interested me. If a landlord gives inadequate reasons, should he be precluded from bringing forward better reasons if the tenant brings an action against him? Under the law as it is at the moment the landlord has no obligation to give reasons. When and if the law changes, clearly landlords will have, in addition to the need to give reasons, the need to act in reasonable haste. I feel that if a landlord who is under compulsion to act hastily ascertains genuine reasons after he has given his first refusal, he should not be impeded from bringing those reasons before a court, or wherever may be appropriate. This is a matter that may need to be further considered.

I am grateful to my noble and learned friend for his reception of my initiative in bringing forward the Bill. As I made clear in my speech, I should also like the question of Crown application to be further considered. He very kindly suggested that this might occur. He also suggested that if the Bill received a Second Reading I might defer taking further steps until his department had the chance to take soundings and undertake the necessary consultations. I think that this is a very reasonable suggestion and one which I feel is the best way to proceed at the present time. I commend the Bill to the House.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Sunday Sports Bill Hl

9.5 p.m.

Read a third time.

Clause 2 [ Removal of restrictions on betting on Sundays]:

moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 22, after ("than") insert ("the").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. I simply improves the grammar. I do not think that it alters the sense of the provision; it expresses it in a little better English. I beg to move.

My Lords, I rise perhaps for the first and only time. As the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, has indicated, the need for these amendments was foreseen at the last and earlier stages of the Bill. At the Committee stage one recognised that, in some haste and perhaps confusion, insufficient attention had been given to the precise detail in the proposal that I put forward. Immediately thereafter the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, indicated to me that this series of amendments, to tidy up and to make more relevant and meaningful my amendment to the Bill, was best dealt with at this stage. At the last stage the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, gave notice that we would put this forward now.

I rise to make absolutely certain that we are considering not only employees in betting shops but also, when the schedule refers,
"to persons employed in licensed betting offices or in connection with sport",
all individuals who one recognises are part of the horseracing industry. When I moved the original amendment inserting this schedule into the Bill the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, on 5th November at col. 1167 of Hansard, in debating that amendment—which we are now seeking to tidy up—said:
"I object to this amendment".
The noble Lord objected to the amendment in the narrow context of racing on Sunday. It is no secret that an amendment of this kind—which gives statutory rights to allow employees to escape penalty or injury for declining to work on a Sunday—was not proposed by the supporters of the Bill. However, I am very pleased, and accept without reservation, that the supporters of the Bill accept the need for it.

In col. 1169 on 5th November, the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, in speaking to the amendment, indicated that the prospects of the Bill had already caused some change of attitude in a number of employers, and that the minimum wages, negotiated by the principal trade union (the Transport and General Workers' Union), were more likely to be adhered to in the future than in the past. In col. 1169 the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, was frank enough to acknowledge that that matter would be put right by the schedule.

I was also delighted to see at col. 1170 of Hansard on 5th November the words of the noble Lord, Lord Trevethin and Oaksey. Regardless of the merits of the Bill he was anxious to see that the interests of stable lads were protected. The schedule seeks to give them statutory protection.

As one who has taken a leading part in seeking to amend the Bill in other ways, this series of amendments has my full support and I am certain that they will improve it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 3 [ Rights of established employees concerning Sunday working]:

moved Amendment No. 2:

Leave out clause 3 and insert the following new clause:

( "Rights of established employees concerning Sunday working.

3. The Schedule to this Act shall have effect for the purpose of giving certain rights concerning Sunday working to persons employed in licensed betting offices or in connection with sport at the commencement of this Act.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a drafting amendment to ensure that all the workers affected will receive protection from the schedule.

To comment on what the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, has just said, the reason I objected to the schedule when the matter was first raised was that the Home Office wished me to do so on the grounds that it was an impracticable arrangement and that we had not given it enough thought. However, so persuasive was the noble Lord that further consideration was given to the matter and we hope that we have now come up with amendments of the kind which will make the schedule do what it is intended to do. I am happy to accept the schedule and commend the amendments to it.

The noble Lord mentioned that the Transport and General Workers' Union was the major representative of the stable lads. I do not want to quarrel with him this evening but their major representative is the Stable Lads Association, of which my noble friend Lord Trevethin and Oaksey and myself are trustees. It was engaged yesterday in joint negotiations with the Transport and General Workers' Union and with the National Federation of Trainers. We hope that they will make some progress. It would be wrong to belittle the Stable Lads Association. I am sure the noble Lord did not intend to do so.

Amendment No. 2 is designed to ensure that the schedule gives effective protection to the workers. I beg to move.

My Lords, I accept that. When I mentioned the Transport and General Workers' Union it was in the context of the industry, including the betting shops. I acknowledge what has been said about the stable lads. I am delighted that there is rapport on all sides within the industry. That may be the wrong word to use, but I understand that some useful discussions are going on which are bound to benefit those who work in the industry. I am grateful.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule [ Rights of established employees concerning Sunday working]:

Page 3, line 5, leave out from ("in") to ("on") in line 6 and insert ("a licensed betting office or in connection with sport and was so employed")

Page 3, line 9, leave out ("connection with")

Page 3, line 10, after ("or") insert ("on")

Page 3, line 12, leave out from ("in") to ("on") in line 13 and insert ("a licensed betting office or in connection with sport and was so employed")

Page 3, line 17, leave out ("connection with")

Page 3, line 17, after ("or") insert ("on")

Page 3, line 38, leave out ("of") and insert ("to")

Page 4, line 8, leave out ("contract of employment",")

Page 4, line 8, at end insert ("and")

Page 4, line 9, leave out ("and "original contract of employment",")

Page 4, line 10, leave out ("53(1)") and insert ("153(1)")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, may I suggest that these amendments be taken all together because they are drafting amendments to give effect, as accurately as the Home Office and the Department of Employment think accuracy can be given, to the schedule which the noble Lord, Lord Graham, originally proposed and which I personally am now happy to accept? I am sure that the Government are also now happy to accept it.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

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

House adjourned at thirteen minutes past nine o'clock.