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Lord Beaumont of Whitley: Ruskin was one of those who best defined wealth. He said that "wealth" consists of things that are in themselves valuable, "money" consists of documentary claims to the possession of such things, and "riches" is a relative term expressing the magnitude of the possessions of one person or society as compared with those of other persons or societies.
Wealth is wealth, regardless of what other people may have, and I can be wealthy without other people being poor. Wealth implies well-being, and no society can be wealthy which has loads of money in the bank balances of the rich together with unemployment and life on the modern equivalent of the breadline for 25 per cent. of
To say that wealth is important and is a proper measure is not to say that it is the good that we ultimately seek, whatever that may be for each one of us. Wealth is merely a prerequisite to that degree of security, food and equipment we need in order to embark on the search for our own particular good. To use another terminology from one of the previous books by the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, it is the ability to have "life chances" that we need as citizens.
I shall not repeat the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, about the inadequacies of our present measurements of wealth and gross national product. However, certain faults are worth pointing out. The first is that costs that are borne by the environment and by society and are not considered capable of expression in monetary terms, are not deducted from the total, but actually contribute to it in the employment of people to clean up oil slicks, or even of undertakers.
The second fault is that the depletion of natural, as opposed to monetary, capital figures nowhere in the accounts. If you use up a mahogany forest--or, which is much more likely, destroy a whole diversified forest in the quest for a few mahogany trees--that depletion appears nowhere in the sums; whereas the increased price of mahogany arising from the subsequent mahogany shortage does.
The third fault is that if you make do and mend, or use second-hand goods, those wealth-saving activities do not register; whereas if you put them out for the dustmen to cart away and buy new ones, the latter purchases do register, thus ensuring over-consumption. How many of your Lordships have cast away something that was broken when you were quite certain that if you had had a little more skill or could have got hold of the right person, it could have been mended? If you take it to someone to be mended, you are told that it is not worth it, that it is much cheaper to go and buy a new one. It may be cheaper in terms of money, but it is not cheaper in terms of wealth.
Obviously, some more accurate measure of what we receive in satisfaction which also registers depletion of natural capital is needed. There are various alternatives available. The "genuine progress indicator" produced in San Francisco, or the "index of sustainable economic welfare" pioneered by the Stockholm Environment Institute of which versions have been produced in this country. This would take into account the value of household labour.
For instance, Hazel Henderson has produced a diagram rather like a layered cake showing how real wealth is made up. The bottom layer is the natural environment, which must be preserved at all costs. It consists of resources and of sinks for the absorption of waste. The next layer up is a co-operative social economy: unpaid housekeeping; parenting; mutual aid; the voluntary sector; and production for use--for example, allotments. Neither layer employs anything but the minimum of actual cash. Above that we come to the
We are often told that the important thing in economic life is improving domestic productivity. But if that means merely producing more goods--which may be wanted but are not necessarily needed-- more cheaply and with fewer workers, thus achieving more unemployed, poverty and crime, it is hard to see who is the gainer, except for a few fat cats. The economists say that is none of their business; it is the job of politicians to distribute the wealth and they merely tell people how to gain it. In fact, however, there is little or no extra wealth to distribute. There is only money. Whereas we are all in the first instance grateful if we are the recipients of some extra money, money is no substitute for wealth, as some winners of the National Lottery could tell us.
To gain true wealth for the planet we need to ration our mining of non-renewable resources, administer our agriculture and forestry on a strictly sustainable basis, maintain biodiversity, conserve non-renewable energy, make the most by education and training of the enormous capabilities of mankind, and encourage an ethical climate which will persuade us to diminish the extremes between rich and poor both nationally and internationally.
If we are to have more employment and stop increasing unemployment throughout the world, it is necessary to look more closely at the nature of unemployment. When we do so, what becomes immediately apparent is that there is no question of there not being enough work to do. It is the nature of the priorities of the work that is changing. The problem is that we have not found an economic mechanism for switching money into the new priorities.
The priorities 40 and 50 years ago had to do with the production of goods. How did we produce enough cars and dishwashers to meet the need, and when the demand flagged, how did we stimulate demand? Now there are more cars than society can deal with and many more people have dishwashers than need them.
The new priorities are obvious. We need teachers at a high ratio per pupil; we need nurses in hospitals and experts in preventative medicine in society; we need an increasing number of people who listen intelligently to their fellow human beings and who have learned enough about human nature and the ways of the world to help those who find modern life difficult--which is almost everybody--to pick their way through it.
These are no new needs. They used to be met by the extended family, at one remove by the GP, by the local pastor, and even on occasion by your friendly neighbourhood bobby. Now the cult of capitalist individualism has dispersed the extended family and overloaded the GP and the bobby. If we are to have a civilisation we have to put it together again, although it
Of course it would have to guard against the dangers of bureaucracy and over-regimentation but it would cultivate the values of conviviality. Above all, it would recognise the different contributions made by different temperament types and different natural gifts. It would train people to work together in ways which respected each other's gifts and needs. The most obvious and simple example would be the formation of teams using the talents of both extroverts and introverts with understanding. That this may sound somewhat Utopian shows just how far our educational system lags behind our understanding of human potential. That it will need a massive transfer of money and a certain transfer of wealth over a period of time is undeniable. But the difficulties have been wildly exaggerated, largely by those who would be at the dispensing side of the transfer. To put it at its crudest, Professor Peter Townsend calculated not all that long ago that 17.4 per cent. of income transferred from the top 20 per cent. of the population, in income terms, would double the incomes of the bottom 20 per cent. No political party is really tackling this problem at all. The only one section of the Conservative Party which has it in its tradition to do so is the so-called "one nation" side, a phrase coined not from the one nation itself but from the "two nations" of Disraeli's Sybil which still exist in our country today.
The obvious machinery for starting the movement is a "citizen's income" which would ensure a minimum income as a right for every citizen. The noble Lord, Lord Desai, will perhaps talk about that. It is an idea already widely accepted. There appear to be two objections which prevent it going further. One is the cost and the unreadiness of the rich to shell out for others. The other is the suggestion that it creates an entitlement mentality instead of an obligation mentality. That comes richly, I may say, from some of those who advance it but, in the context of which I am speaking, it loses most of its validity in that a civilisation aware of the need for sustainability--and our Government are committed to sustainability--will have taught itself an obligation mentality anyway. The inclusive society is one which will take seriously the needs of others. The word "needs" is used advisedly and strictly. It is not a question of gratifying people's desires but of assuring them of the possibility of leading lives as whole human beings.
Lord Roll of Ipsden: My Lords, I should like to follow the noble Lord who has just sat down in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington of Oxenford, on his maiden speech. It was a most interesting speech, if I may say so, on an extremely important subject. I am all the more happy to congratulate him because I particularly agree with what
I join with other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, for introducing the debate and for the report which was produced by a group of independent experts under his chairmanship. Despite its modest size and appearance, it is a most important document and is, I believe, an extremely valuable addition to a happily growing volume of studies, referred to in the report and mentioned also by the noble Lord, Lord Borrie. It enables us increasingly to look at the connection between the wider social issues raised today and in the report and the more mundane, if you like, nitty-gritty task of wealth creation.
Although much has been said about inadequacies in our real surroundings, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, one might have gained the impression from today's debate that at any rate intellectually and in the perception of the intimate, indeed the organic, connection between social cohesion and wealth creation, everything is well. I wish that were really so. Alas, it is not generally so and, curiously enough, from time to time every generation or every second generation has to try once again to sweep away old fallacies and old prejudices. The report should enable us to do that. One of the reasons why it is particularly apt today is that in recent years the emphasis put by opinion formers and policy makers in regard to economic activity has been very much to stress the need for wealth creation and for macro and micro-economic policy to be directed to that end. I entirely agree with that. It is entirely right and perhaps necessary to put the emphasis there. But too often the urge for individual gain from the process has been extolled as the single most important or perhaps the only engine of wealth creation. Patently that is not the case. The urge for individual gain is natural. It may not always be approved of from a moral point of view, but it is natural and, I believe, a useful and necessary ingredient in the process of economic advance. However, to make it the exclusive engine and to address macro and micro-economic policy almost exclusively to that end is in the end counter-productive.
The report seems to me very relevant to at least two issues plaguing us today. I want to mention particularly competitiveness and the welfare state. As regards competitiveness, one would have thought that we had long since abandoned the fallacy that poor working conditions, the absence or inadequacy of public services and the absence or inadequacy of social provisions somehow or other represented a low unit cost of production. Of course they do not do anything of the sort. We have long since realised that when this country ceased to be the workshop of the world in the last century and when the great new industrial powers of Germany, the United States, France and even Italy arose, it was not by maintaining our dark satanic mills, child labour or the Victorian sweat shops that we met the new challenge.
I remember well when I was an undergraduate in the late 1920s and then later when I was a teacher and researcher in the early 1930s people were at a great loss to discover what was the real cause of the economic difficulties of that time, particularly our lack of competitiveness--very similar to today. You could pay your penny and take your choice. Was it the absurdly low wages in India that were destroying our textile industry? Was it the inventiveness and talent of Japan in imitating western manufactures that were causing the troubles in many of our manufacturing industries? Or was it the high technology of Germany in the chemical industry, the electronics industry, and steelmaking that was our problem? All those very different reasons were put forward.
It was said too at the time that if only every Chinese worker could afford one extra pair of blue cotton trousers Lancashire would be saved. Indeed, in a manner of speaking that is what happened--not exactly with blue trousers, but it happened. So when we look at competitiveness today, we must be extremely careful--alas, one often is not--especially when considering the growing industrial countries of Asia, in putting the emphasis not on the persistence of low wages and poor working conditions here and there but rather on the increasing standard of living in those countries (for example, China, to a great extent, India, and the countries of south east Asia and the Pacific) as the ultimate way in which we can resolve those problems.
The report is equally variable in approaching the problems of the welfare state which so agitate us today. I have often wondered whether the words "welfare" and "welfare state" have outlived their usefulness and whether they are perhaps counterproductive. They smack somewhat of the "do-gooding" attitude, of which I spoke earlier, so often applied whenever anybody mentions the words "social" or "social cohesion" in connection with economic activity. Moreover, the present debate on the welfare state too often lumps together elements of very different character which, to my mind, require a different approach.
The great public services of health and education, for example, should not be regarded as a cost only. On the other side of the balance sheet must be set lost working hours, lost productive powers and lost security and the essential basis of putting one's best into one's work. Obviously, the financial cost to public funds is much more easily calculated in one case rather than the other. But it is very important to consider those other issues. That is without prejudice to the continued examination, review or revision of arrangements so as to make them as effective as possible but at the same time as economical as possible.
The social provisions, the so-called transfer payments--the support of the old, the unemployed and the poor--admittedly present a more difficult problem. But again a great deal of work has been done--for example, that in his later years by James Meade, one of our most eminent economists and one of the very few British recipients of the Nobel prize who has only recently been taken from our midst. Some of his work is sometimes dismissed quite wrongly as utopian. In all kinds of ways he tried to discover arrangements, practices and even legislation by which such transfer payments could be made as effectively and as economically as possible and above all so as to prevent the kind of social divisiveness which sometimes arises when those who happen to be in work and earning a modest income--both, alas, rather precarious these days--resent having to support through the tax system those who are out of work or otherwise in need of support.
In conclusion, let me refer to one other subject which I know is highly controversial. It is not directly included within the subject of the report we are debating but it has a certain family relationship with it; namely, the relationship between what we do here and what is happening abroad. Not so very long ago in certain quarters it was quite common to hear the view expressed that our social provisions and public services were far and away the best in the industrialised world, far and away the costliest, and therefore a great burden on our competitiveness. That was not true. The provisions in Germany, France and even Italy mostly were as good as ours and often better. The fact that those countries are now grappling with the same problems as ourselves should not dispose of the basic facts to which I referred. Certainly it should not be a cause for schadenfreude, which is not only an unworthy emotion but, in this case, a stupid one.
The economic problems of our best trading partners on the Continent are certainly of no comfort to us. Certainly, if they can solve their problems, we shall be all the better off, not only in solving our own problems but in our own economic activity. I fear that what distinguishes the way in which they tackle these problems is that they are trying to achieve a solution by consensus. Alas, consensus has become a somewhat unfashionable word in some quarters here. That is very wrong and not conducive to finding the right solution. For example, just the other day in Austria agreement was reached by the political parties and the trades unions on a package which will maintain social provisions of all kinds at a very high level but with some
Above all the report invites us to look with a fresh eye and an open mind at problems to which we have all too often given an instinctive and prejudicial answer. It should enable us to free our minds of what the 19th century sociologist Pareto called the "residues" in our thinking--the sort of sludge at the bottom of our minds of which only too often we dredge up obsolete answers to new problems.
Lord Beloff: My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, for having initiated this debate. There are two reasons for that. First, it has given us an opportunity to hear the noble Lord's reflections on our economic and social predicaments, and it is always instructive for this House to hear his views. Secondly, it has impelled me, and no doubt other noble Lords, to read the report, which otherwise we might not have done. Having read the report, we have learnt something of great importance; namely, the extreme conservatism of the centre Left in this country.
The report makes statements with which no one can seriously disagree but it fails to look at matters which are a great deal more worrying than its authors appear to believe. That is possibly because, if they directed their attention to them, they would find that that collection of the intelligentsia who would be so welcome any evening to any dinner party in Islington do not like to think about ordinary people.
Let me give the House a few examples of what worries me. Yesterday, the inhabitants of New Hampshire put Mr Pat Buchanan, an isolationist and protectionist, at the top of their list as favourite for the Republican nomination. It may be a small thing; nevertheless, it is worrying. On a larger scale, a few years after we were proclaiming that the free societies had rolled back communism for good, there is hardly a country in the former ex-communist world--there are only one or two exceptions--which has not elected a communist or near-communist government. Someone reported from Moscow the other day that the one thing certain about the Russian presidential election is that they will elect a communist; the only question is what his name will be. That should make us think. Why would people want to go back to institutions which were rightly condemned as oppressive?
When one looks at this country--after all, we are supposed to be talking about our own fortunes--what worries me most (it has already been referred to) is the alienation of the young in particular, but of many sections of society, from the whole political process. The fact that eminent politicians believe that they must appear on stages with pop music bands--the very corrupters of youth--in order to stimulate political interest in the young, is a damaging reflection on our society and the way in which the young are brought up.
It is a product of recent years that we have overlooked--I thoroughly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, and his colleagues in this regard--the sense of what ordinary people mean by "wealth"; that is, security of employment, adequate shelter and adequate food. Those are the main requirements of civilised living. What do we find in our policies? We believe it to be more important to put a computer in the hands of every primary school child than to see that every primary school child is fed.
We find reversals of values. We dig up the streets of London, to do what? It is to enable us to watch more television channels as though four were not more than enough for any reasonable person. We invest large sums of money--not only we, but also other countries--in the latest development of information technology, the Internet. What does the Internet do for the ordinary citizen? It enables Mr. George Soros to make money; it enables Mr. Nick Leeson to lose money; but that is not much help if one is trying to bring up a family on a small income.
The Internet has "fringe" benefits, to use a fashionable term. It enables Chinese peasants to watch Dutch pornography and one may ask: should they be denied those simple pleasures? It is a symbol of the way in which we not only do not produce enough, but also devote so much of our energy and skill to producing things which are of the second order.
Much has been said about exclusion, and it is correct that the usual figure is four-fifths included and one-fifth excluded. The Americans are beginning to look at it in a different way, with 20 included and 80 excluded. That is the secret of Mr. Buchanan's appeal. Ordinary people feel that hard work and traditional values are not sufficient in a society, the direction of whose talents is dictated by a small cross-section indulging in what a famous sociologist once called "conspicuous consumption".
That goes very deep. It is important, as the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, said in his maiden speech, to which we all listened with attention and pleasure, that technological skills should be more widely spread. The question is: what technology and to what end? People rarely point out that there are branches of industry of great importance in which we--this is true also of other industrial countries--have been a total flop. Why is it that residential buildings--tower blocks--which were built to such a fanfare of applause 30 years ago, are now being blown up, not by terrorists but by the ordinance of local government which first commissioned them? Is not that a reflection of our inadequacy in a major technology?--namely, the provision of shelter. Will that be in any way improved by the direction in which we are pushing technology in other forms?
I come back to the view that, if anything, the report underestimates the real difficulties that we face. There are various calculations as to how much extra residential accommodation of decent quality will be needed by the
We hear a great deal about advances in the biological sciences. Yet recent figures suggest that the world output of edible grains is actually falling at a time when world populations are still increasing. What are we doing with our biological skills? One can see that that kind of blockage makes it difficult for anyone seriously to advance solutions. What we need most in this country is not economics; it is the pen of Jonathan Swift. We live in a society which has had an absurd reversal of values; which has not found any way of absorbing into its bloodstream the important and valuable advances in our knowledge of the natural world which explains the advance of the global economy and the other structures with which we are confronted.
In the end it is the preferences of people that will decide. The Russians appear to feel that they would rather go back to a guaranteed roof over their head, a guaranteed meal, even of a poor quality, and guaranteed employment even if largely fictitious, than see the spectacle of a society dominated by the culture of western consumerism.
In our own society we have this alienation, particularly of the young, and I doubt whether the abstract and admirable, but still abstract, opinions and sentiments expressed by the authors of this report and by other noble Lords, are really going to trigger a new social consciousness. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Roll, that we ought not to rejoice in the hardships which are now befalling our continental neighbours since the immediate economic repercussions will be serious for us. However, as these things are now happening in Germany it somewhat cuts the ground from some of the references in the report to what I believe was called by the noble Lord, Lord Roll, "consensual capitalism". It may be that all of us have got it wrong and not just the British.
Perhaps I may end on my usual Euro-sceptical note. The commitment of this report--admittedly, it was written as long ago as last July--to the Maastricht Treaty and all that kind of thing is very old-fashioned. That also is a feature of the past. I would argue that if one wishes to inspire in the younger generation of this country a return to the idea of public service and the public domain, one has to persuade them that if they attain political power through our political processes, through Parliament and elections, institutions will be created that do in fact make the decisions and are not subject to institutions in Brussels over which they cannot have, and never will have, control. There is a lot to be said for adding innate patriotism to an innate sense of social solidarity if we are to make any progress towards the goals which we all share with the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf.
Lord Desai: My Lords, it is always a pleasure, and something of a problem, to follow the noble Lord, Lord Beloff. I start by apologising to the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, that I may not be able to be here towards the end of the debate. I have an engagement elsewhere which I could not rearrange. We shall see how the debate proceeds.
I have always enjoyed reading the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf. He is my friend and he used to be my boss. As he knows, there is much in which I agree with him. A literature is emerging. Indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Roll, pointed out, there is the report of the Commission on Social Justice chaired by my noble friend Lord Borrie, there is also the Rowntree Report and the report which is out today from the Policy Studies Institute. They are now describing a consensus, not on the solutions, but at least on the problems.
Therefore, I shall spend my time talking not about what I agree with but what I disagree with, because that will be a better use of my time. Perhaps I may, first, point out one or two major omissions from the discussion today. I shall mention them briefly.
First, the problems we are talking about are those of the rich countries. They are the countries which have 15 per cent. of the population and 85 per cent. of the resources. In these countries, after 50 years of continued prosperity, there is beginning to appear high unemployment. Everyone is talking about the end of work. Work has not ended. It has not ended for the Chinese, the Indians, the Malaysians or the Indonesians. That is not to say that there are not problems in the third world. There is a great deal of work going on out there. The last development report from the World Bank showed that the number of people in work is increasing. We must put into perspective the fact that these are serious problems but they are problems of the minority in the world and not the majority. The minority may have to learn to live in a different way, as the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, pointed out in his very interesting speech.
Secondly, I do not see raised prominently in the report the exclusion which happens in any case on grounds of gender and race. If one is to create a multi-racial and just society, those dimensions will have to be brought in specially and not just en passant.
The noble Lord mentioned GDP as a measure of wealth. His critique is well taken. A number of developments are taking place across the world in which people are adopting new measures. The World Bank has recently produced a report which takes into account an estimate of what it calls, "natural capital and human capital", as well as ordinary money capital. I have had something to do with the human development index of the UN development programme. It points out the non-income dimensions of well-being that the world should look at. The new economic commission has produced indices which emphasise natural and environmental considerations and so on.
In all these respects perhaps the commission is pushing at an open door. However, my problem is that, while all these measures are very good and tell us something, they will not solve our problem, which is capitalism. Its revival in a dynamic and vigorous form at the end of the 20th century was the least expected event of, at least, my lifetime. Over about 30 or 40 years, we have got used to a different kind of capitalism created by Keynes and Beveridge. That at least is the simple story. But I believe that we have forgotten what it means to be involved in seriously competitive capitalism which is innovative and dynamic. Indeed, our 19th century forebears would know it perfectly well.
As perhaps I have said before, today's world would be very familiar to both Karl Marx and Gladstone. It is a world in which governments cannot do very much, if anything. The costs of living in a dynamic market economy have to be paid in order to derive the benefits from that economy. Any cushioning that we may want to provide--because we are all very good people--has to be very carefully applied so that it will not disrupt the working of that market economy. It is easy to say, "a dynamic market economy", but its destructive forces are as important as its constructive ones.
Perhaps noble Lords have heard me say before that we have now entered an era in which wealth creation is no longer accompanied by job creation. Because in the market economy the number of jobs will shrink while wealth expands, we shall have highly skilled people employed in manufacturing, finance and other tradable services. That will leave a great many other people who have useful things to do, but they will not be the kind of things which will afford rising incomes.
The problem of redistributing income in one way or another from those who will have the good jobs to those without them, let alone those who will not have any jobs at all, is a central issue. If we do not face up to the problem of wealth redistribution, we shall have a continual erosion in our quality of life as well as an increase in the cost of the welfare state. Indeed, the welfare state is costly because it is mean, inefficient and niggardly and because the problems have not been thought through. I shall return to that later if I have time because the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, has already mentioned my penchant for a citizen's income.
However, before I get into that, perhaps I should point out that where I profoundly disagree with the report is its critique of the British economy and especially the idea that something is wrong with the City and this country's financial structure. It is often said that we would all be much better off if only we could have a financial structure similar to that of many other countries. The paradox is this: the debate on the British disease has been going on for about 100 years, while in the past 50 years we have had the best growth rate of the past 200 years, historically speaking. Since the Second World War the United Kingdom has enjoyed a very high growth rate. It is true that there were two recessions in the 1980s and one at the beginning of the 1990s, but apart from that we have had a better growth rate than ever before. The City has been around for ages and nobody has been able to explain to me why, given the
There is some confusion not only in the report but also in much other literature about exactly what are the longer-term problems of the British economy as opposed to its immediate short-term and cyclical problems. I believe that many of our problems are very short term in their nature. The noble Lord, Lord Roll of Ipsden, has recently written a learned book pointing out how many macro-economic failures we have had in the past 50 years. I believe that many of our problems are capable of simple solutions. They do not require drastic solutions. That may come as something of a surprise to your Lordships.
In particular, the paradox is that the UK's most successful "industry" is the City. It can take on global competition. It is quite the most efficient of our activities. However, everybody seems convinced that we should have less finance and more manufacturing. For the life of me, I cannot understand why. What does it matter how we make our living? All that matters is that we do make a living. Britain had an agricultural revolution and a financial revolution before it had an industrial revolution. Unfortunately, economics was born after the Industrial Revolution and as a classical economist I got stuck with a liking for solid things which labour can create. We have all been hung up on the idea that we should be nervous if we are not making solid things.
However, we would cause great damage if we unthinkingly tried to modify the City. I am not saying that it does not need regulation or that there are no problems. There are problems and they need to be thought out. But I do not believe that the problem with British industry is that we pay out too much in dividends and have private bankers serving on the boards of our companies. Each country has its own culture, as the report rightly points out. The UK has a different way of making its money and of having successful finances. Therefore, I do not think that we should swallow too easily criticisms about short-termism. Although there is a lot of short-termism in macro-economic policy-making, I do not think that we can go too far into that.
I part company with many of those who criticise by saying that the German or Japanese way of doing things is somehow better than the British way. After all, for the past five years the Japanese have had severe problems with their banking structure. The Germans are also having problems, although perhaps only temporarily. The problems facing the German and French economies do not relate solely to the social chapter. They are facing the problems which the British economy went through in the early 1980s. When it happens to less developed countries, it is called "structural adjustment". It is called "restructuring" here. It means that you have savagely to revise the employment structure of your companies to make them more globally competitive, and that means downsizing. There is no escape from it. The Germans will have to grasp that fact. Although it is a harsh thing to say, I believe that what we suffered in the early 1980s when
Increasingly we shall have to realise that the creation of economic and financial wealth requires few people. We shall have to find ways of diverting some of that wealth so that we can employ people to do other things which are more socially useful.
As I have already spoken for 13 minutes I shall make only one or two comments about a basic income. I believe that the current welfare state is both wasteful and mean. Paradoxically, the solution to the problem is not to spend less; it is perhaps to spend more, but to spend it properly. Of the £90 billion that we spend on the social security budget--there are in addition health and education costs--about £60 billion goes on personal transfers under a variety of classifications. We have created many pigeonholes with different classifications with a benefits difference of only 50p here and there. We insult our citizens and invade their privacy while all too often discouraging people from claiming. I honestly believe that a universal citizen's income, expensive though it is, is the best solution to the problems of the welfare state.
I suggest that citizens should have an entitlement to income irrespective of whether they are employed or unemployed, old or young. That could fall within one's taxable income. That would help to tackle the problems of fraud and moonlighting. We also have to consider people in jobs which are dirty or low paid. All those issues become less important with a universal citizen's income, which would also solve the problems inherent in a minimum wage. A universal citizen's income would also mean that many people who currently do jobs just to get a little in income could spend their time doing worthwhile things for which there are no paid jobs available. There is much cross-party support for that idea, including from within the Conservative Party. I refer to Mr. Alan Duncan. Other supporters of the idea are, among others, James Meade and Sam Brittan. I think that its time will come, although it is not yet. I am sure that the Minister will ask whether my party is prepared to spend money on that. The noble Lord well knows that I do not speak for my party, so I hope that he will not try that ploy. However, I believe that we shall have to start thinking along those lines.
Perhaps I may say in tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, that his report and that of my noble friend Lord Borrie have made us think seriously and adventurously about such issues, which is why I welcome this debate.
Lord Holme of Cheltenham: My Lords, perhaps I may add my thanks to those of other noble Lords to my noble friend Lord Dahrendorf not just for a most readable and interesting report but for having promoted this debate to which there have been so many interesting contributions. It is a great misfortune to follow the noble Lords, Lord Beloff and Lord Desai, who speak without
The debate is timely. This is a country which once had a notably stable society, a successful industrial economy and an unrivalled set of international connections throughout the world. There will be no noble Lord on any side of the House who does not acknowledge that to some extent, as an economy and society, we are in the doldrums. If one reads the opinion polls, let alone trusts one's own judgment, there are low levels of self-respect and national respect in this country; there is every sign of shattered social cohesion; there are high figures of the brightest and best of our young people wanting to emigrate; and, on the margin, there are minorities which are by no means the same, both of the excluded, of whom my noble friend has spoken, and of the new barbarians who do not share the values of a common society and have a low social affect.
If we then look at the economy in which of course there are many bright spots but which as a whole is operating below par, under-investing and too often producing goods and services of indifferent quality, the question is whether there is a link between those phenomena. I believe that there is. We should do what those in industry do, which is to benchmark against best practice. We should look at what some of our best companies do. That is the subject about which the noble Lord, Lord Laing, with his great expertise, talked. If we look at the best companies in this country there are lessons for the rest of industry and for the country as a whole to learn. How would one characterise the country's best companies? I would say in three ways. There is a high level of shared trust; there is a real pursuit of excellence; there is a sense of responsibility. I do not speak of all companies. Would it were so. I speak of the best, whether large or small.
I shall talk about trust for a moment. What form does trust take in a modern industrial company? Those noble Lords whose experience of industry is long past or derived second-hand should know--I am sure many noble Lords do know--that modern companies work on the basis of openness, shared information, flattened hierarchy, team working, and with a great deal of devolved initiative. That characterisation is the characterisation of a good company.
I mentioned excellence. What of excellence? Again, similar companies will be addressing themselves to how they add value; how they pursue quality, whether through total quality management or other quality programmes; how they instil a sense of pride in each individual employee in what he or she does each day.
There is then the third characteristic I mentioned, which is a sense of responsibility. That applies internally to employees and externally to suppliers, longer term relationships with suppliers, not relationships of mutual exploitation but of mutual understanding. The whole theory with which some noble Lords will be familiar
I wonder whether we should not try to relate those three characteristics of trust, excellence and responsibility to the wider society and economy. Some of your Lordships will have read the new book by Mr. Fukiyana entitled Trust. It is called Trust, and it is about trust. He makes the point that successful economies are based upon trust; they depend upon trust; they depend upon the trust that contracts will be honoured, that the truth will be told, that people's words are their bonds, that institutions are responsive and accountable. They depend upon trust. Is there not something of a breakdown of trust in our society? How do we rediscover it? How do we rediscover that sense of the shared experience, and the shared life? One of the routes must be through a rediscovery of the idea of equal citizenship.
I am by no means opposed to, or uninterested in, the idea of the stakeholder society which my noble friend Lord Dahrendorf advanced, and which has been picked up so notably by the Leader of the Labour Party. The notion of a stakeholder is an important and helpful one, but there is an older and more fundamental idea: that we are equal citizens in this society with what someone talked about earlier as parity of esteem. That leads in certain directions. It leads, as my noble friend Lord Beaumont of Whitley said, in the direction of ensuring that there is some safety net of a minimum income under every citizen, that every citizen is protected against disaster, that there is information, that there is freedom of information, that there are equal rights, that there is a Bill of Rights. It depends upon citizenship education in our schools.
Makes that and th'action fine".
If one thinks of excellence, in a modern competitive world it must mean better education, more investment in education, the higher acquisition of skills, the individual learning accounts, with which my noble friends Lord Dahrendorf and Lord Rochester have concerned themselves; vocational skills, to which the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, in his notable maiden speech referred; and the notion of building on our human capital.
Finally, to try to apply the notion of responsibility to the wider society, I am struck that the Government, at least in their earlier incarnation, were keen on the idea of spreading ownership--ownership of shares, ownership of houses--those aspirations somewhat dented no doubt by the fact that Sid seems to have left the stage and house prices are not what they once were. Nevertheless, it was a cardinal objective of earlier Conservative governments.
Those who doubt the case on exclusion made by my noble friend Lord Dahrendorf should just look at Northern Ireland with which from these Benches I have to interest myself. There is a history of 50 years in which the minority was excluded systematically from social and economic power, and, in some ways, even from basic civic rights. We are now living with the consequences. The only society that can work--economically as well as socially--is one in which there is a sharing of rights and responsibilities.
Lord Skidelsky: My Lords, perhaps I may congratulate my noble friend Lord Pilkington of Oxenford on a characteristically forceful and erudite expression of his views. We all look forward greatly to hearing what he has to say in future.
I was overwhelmed--almost defenceless--against the barrage of high-minded sentiment and noble rhetoric with which the debate started--an atmosphere happily dissipated subsequently by the realism and caustic wit of my noble friend Lord Beloff.
Two noble Lords said that they thought that the remark made by the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, that there is no such thing as society was the most stupid that has ever been made. But I thought, no, it is an essential corrective to the kind of opacity that this subject too often generates. Although it is not a complete social philosophy it is very important that it was said when it was said. I fear that I shall forfeit all sympathy by having defended that remark.
Naturally, I welcome the Labour Party's conversion to stakeholding. The idea of stakeholding is pure Conservative doctrine expressed not in that particular language but in the language of a property-owning democracy based on the wider ownership of homes, shares and pensions. The noble Lord, Lord Holme, asked why they did not extend that to the notion of a shared ownership of society. But ownership of such assets is a means to a shared ownership of society. The ownership of houses and shares is a stake in the economy through which people acquire a shared stake in society.
It seems to me nonsense, therefore, to say that we on this side of the House did not ever believe in a stakeholding society and that it was a new thought recently discovered by the Leader of the Labour Party on a lightning trip to Singapore. It is a very old tradition and one that I support. The issue is not stakeholding but
Although the debate is about wealth holding, no one has mentioned competition, yet that is the best form of social accountability. Competition is the real guarantee that people will not be exploited either as consumers or as employees. Consumers can switch between different suppliers, and workers can switch between different firms. That is the guarantee that a free economy offers against exploitation. It is a very powerful guarantee too.
From the point of view of a socially accountable capitalism it is true that a great hole in our political economy is the insecurity of employment. The freedom of workers to switch jobs is less valuable if too few jobs are available and they are of too poor quality. However, less secure patterns of employment are not the fault of this Government. They are the result of world economic events, in particular of changes in technology. We have lived through such periods in the past and always when we encounter them people despair of any possibility of a return to full employment. Yet there always has been a return because improvements in technology generate extra wants and demands which provide extra jobs. That has been the history of industrial society since the start of the Industrial Revolution. I see no evidence to suggest that this is not a transitional period through which we are living and that we shall not secure a return to full employment if our institutions allow us to do so.
One problem is special in the developed world as a whole. It is that the supply of unskilled jobs has fallen faster than the supply of unskilled labour. That is what is driving down the wages of unskilled labour, and we need to address the problem through education, particularly through education in the basic skills of literacy and numeracy which will equip our population with the ability to sustain high waged employment. Unless we do that we shall risk an increasing number of people falling to a wage level that is below the level of poverty. I agree with all that side of the analysis.
However, we must also be honest enough to ask ourselves how far the social arrangements which many Opposition spokesmen have been urging on us do not contribute to the exceptionally high levels of unemployment which are current in Europe today. In that connection, I wish to point out that our own levels of unemployment, though much too high, are lower by two percentage points than the average on the Continent of Europe and are falling.
The main cause of high European unemployment is practices which price people out of jobs; for instance, non-wage costs, social security contributions and taxes, hiring and firing costs and so on. Therefore, we need more flexible labour markets--and that should not be contentious--not more social chapters.
At the same time, I accept the need for some element of Keynesian policy. I accept the need for government and central banks to promote a growth of spending in the economy sufficient to support non-inflationary growth but not so much as to finance a resumption of inflation. I believe that a stabilising role still exists for
The noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, spoke of the global economy. He rightly said that it was not so much global as international. We now have global capital mobility and increasingly mobile tax bases. They make it more difficult for governments to manage their national accounts with the independence which they once considered was their right.
A more decentralised economy is a more insecure economy and for that reason it is right that we should maintain our welfare state. No noble Lord on this side of the House would deny that. However, I should like to see the return of a more austere tradition. It is right that people should have a choice of lifestyles, but is it right that everyone's choice should be financed by the taxpayers? That not only discredits the idea of the welfare state but it also creates tax resistance which leads to public finance problems.
People have emphasised the idea of a job friendly welfare state but I should like to see a family friendly welfare state too. Only if we support the family as a unit of self-help and social support can we hope to stop the increasing nationalisation of welfare which has sent the social security budget ever higher.
The noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, spoke also of the importance of freedom. Freedom means, among other things, the freedom to spend as much of one's wealth as one has earned, subject to the necessary tasks of the state for which it compels compulsory contributions. But we must not end up believing that the state is the only benevolent actor in a world of greedy capitalists, because that way is the road to perdition.
My idea of a stakeholding society is one in which there is widespread property ownership, flexible labour markets, a social safety net which helps to adapt people to changing circumstances, and government attention to the state of effective demand.
I wish to conclude by talking about another kind of stakeholding. It is the kind of industrial stakeholding on which Opposition spokesmen are particularly keen. In currently fashionable jargon, the company is supposed to be responsible not just to its shareholders or its workers but also to its suppliers, to its consumers, to the local community, to the national interest, to uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all. That seems to me to have no operational meaning whatever and is simply a charter for management to do what it likes without any accountability.
Of course, I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Laing, is an excellent employer. I should like to see more employers like him. But I do not believe that good employership can be fostered by state regulation or control. The inward investors to our society--the Japanese and German companies--may come here partly because wage costs are lower, but they are good employers. They are good employers--the results show that, though their employees' may start on lower wages, their productivity increases faster than in British-owned
My answer to the inclusive society is a free society. Provided that our resources for self-help, association and compassion have not been fatally eroded by compulsory benevolence, I should prefer to leave it to the operation of freedom to decide how much inclusion and how much social cohesion we should have. I would certainly not impose it.
Lord Ashburton: My Lords, all your Lordships will know how daunting it is to rise to speak at such a late stage in a debate like this when very nearly everything that one felt one wanted to say seems to have been said by somebody else.
I join all noble Lords in welcoming the report and in saying what a pleasure it has been to read it. It is a great pleasure too to be able to participate in this debate. Why do I welcome the report when I do not agree with all of it? There are two main reasons. The first is because its tone is optimistic and not depressing. It outlines some depressing characteristics of our society but it looks forward and tries to suggest ways in which they can be improved. It is cheerful and, as I said to the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, in the Library yesterday, it is not grumpy. A great deal of what one reads at present is grumpy. Last but not least, it seems to avoid very successfully the more strident party political flavour which makes serious discussion of so many social issues today very difficult and frustrating.
I welcome also the report's explicit avowal that social cohesion and wealth creation should be the product of individual co-operative activity and, wherever possible, at local level. The state's role is not to be heightened but rather held at arm's length and lightened. Moreover, the firm is seen as a good and valuable organisation in all this. I find that a realistic and practical point of view.
Sainsbury's, Tesco, Asda, Marks and Spencer and United Biscuits--to bring in a topical subject--and their competitors have done huge good in improving the range of foodstuffs available to ordinary people, but at what cost to small shopkeepers and to the shopping life of many city centres? There is a balance of advantage in the changes that those great grocers have brought about. Explaining otherwise to our fellow citizens and suggesting that we should return to what there was before would be impossible. But it is a balance of advantage and not an unmitigated good.
Another good example is the way in which the fantastically cheaper air travel now available has brought overseas tourism within the reach of ordinary people everywhere. Places like Florida, California, the Seychelles, Africa and the whole of the Mediterranean littoral are all within the reach of people who live very ordinary lives in this country. Our tourists and those of other countries have brought great material prosperity to the people in those areas but at what cost to their intangible well-being, when one looks at their coastlines?
The idea of a wealth audit has an attractive ring to it, precisely because it sounds as though it will address the measurement of just that intangible prosperity that I have been talking about. But I must confess that I am not entirely convinced that such an audit could be made sufficiently objective to satisfy the diverse opinions which are bound to exist about the value to be put on the varying forms of intangible wealth. It is a lovely idea, but can it, for example, hope to differentiate between the good investment referred to in the report and the investment which, on balance, would do more harm to intangible prosperity than good to the GDP? Would its feet really be on the ground? Is it practicable? Could it be communicated widely, comprehensively and seriously? I have no doubt that the noble Lord and his fellow authors will be putting flesh on the bones of that idea and I hope to be convinced.
There are a number of other points and issues raised by the report, most notably of course the obstinate persistence of unacceptable levels of unemployment which increasingly affect the whole of Europe and which the extension of the European Union will, at least at first, make worse. Much good analytical work has been done on that but members of the public have to rely on what they see on television and what they read in the newspapers. They are not often told more than the headline figures. They do not see that significant numbers of people are unemployed because they go from one job to another over a quite brief period; but the number of jobs created each year is just as significant for understanding the problem as the number of jobs lost, which are dwelt on with gloomy foreboding and far too uncritically.
I know it is easy to appear as if one believes that little can be done about unemployment, but it would be not only faint-hearted but also wrong to do so. However, public understanding of the problem is vital if solutions are to be found. The role of the media--which we certainly do not have time to discuss now--is a matter which our society needs to try to address. I should like to see the importance of long-term currency stability recognised as an important help towards getting long-term investment. I should like to see brought into the material versus the intangible prosperity equation the fact that, as we become more materially prosperous, we take up more room and more space. We can drive cars and we can get in each other's hair. Where populations are increasing, that effect is multiplied. This means once again that my increase in material well-being can all too easily impinge unfavourably on your intangible but vital enjoyment of life.
Finally, I must refer to this "magic" stakeholder concept. It is enjoying great popularity at present and there is a great deal to be said for it. I most sincerely pray that the worthy concept will not be asked to bear more weight than it can withstand. For those of us from the business world the idea that customers, employers, the local community and the nation as a whole have a stake in our activities--or perhaps an interest in our activities--is not a new one. The word "stakeholder" sounds prosperous, comforting, inclusive, and even powerful. All the groups I have mentioned, and others, are vital to the economic and social success of any business. But nine out of 10 of the people who decide to start businesses--if not 99 out of 100--do so not to employ others; not to provide better services or widgets; and not to benefit the local community. They do so to earn a living or, if they are ambitious, to build up capital and improve their material lot. Large businesses grow therefrom and are mostly well aware of their responsibilities, even if on too many occasions they fail to fulfil them.
In all these matters we have to be realistic. We have to keep our feet on the ground, and that, on the whole, this report has done. It is not perfect by any means but it is good as a means of widening debate on the subject. We owe the noble Lord and his fellow authors sincere thanks for enabling us to debate it, not least because it has brought forth what I would regard as a high level of speeches today from all sides of the House.
Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach: My Lords, like other Members of your Lordships' House I, too, wish to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington of Oxenford, on his maiden speech. It was characteristically eloquent and forceful. I am sure that with his distinguished record in education and the
The subject of globalisation and its effects on our society is extremely important. The report has many interesting things to say and novel proposals to make. In his opening speech the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, gave vivid examples of what exclusion meant. That is the core of the debate and I consider it the most important issue in our society when one contemplates the people who are excluded and who have a sense of total despair and meaninglessness in their lives. It is important for anyone who is involved in public life to address that issue. However, I not only felt compelled to read the report, but also to reread it, and to reread again certain sections of it.
I find it difficult to be totally enthusiastic about it because as I read the small print I found reference to higher taxation--the report suggests we should break the taboo on discussing higher taxes--and to compulsory contributions by employers and employees to individual learning accounts. The report suggested that there should be no more privatisation; that we need more public investment in large-scale projects and that we should make it more difficult for takeovers to occur. The report indicates that we should increase the powers of stakeholders in business and that we should create a host of new bureaucracies from community education trusts, to local investment agencies and to those managing individual learning accounts. Then it is suggested that we should have an expansion of the activities of local education authorities and an employment service with a more far-reaching mandate.
It is impossible to comment on everything in the report. I wish to single out three issues and comment on those. First, I do not share the report's enthusiasm for its definition of a stakeholder society. In fact I believe that it is bristling with difficulties. The report recognises the strengths of British experience and the strengths of the economic institutions of this country which it labels shareholder capitalism. However, it contrasts that unfavourably with stakeholder capitalism. I believe that a number of points are raised by the discussion in the report of stakeholders. There was a glaring but highly significant omission in the report's list of stakeholders. We read about employees, employee organisations, banks, suppliers, local communities and about the rather ugly sounding expression, civil society organisations. However, I was intrigued to notice that there was no mention of the consumer. The consumer is a sort of residual and marginalised stakeholder in this report.
Secondly, I noticed that each of those stakeholders has a direct financial interest in raising his stake. For example, employees do so by means of more compensation and more security in their jobs. Banks do so by increasing their return on capital. Local
Thirdly, nothing was said about the fact that shareholders in our society are primarily pension funds and insurance companies whose objective is to secure long-term returns in their investments in order to match their long-term liabilities. I am not as critical of short-termism as some. I draw your Lordships' attention to an article which appeared in The Times Business News by the chairman of Mercury Asset Management, which itself is one of our great success stories, on why the company sold its stake in Forte to Granada. It was a model statement, indicating how the senior executives of Mercury Asset Management had agonised over whether to sell the company's 15 per cent. in Forte and the principles on which they had done so. It was clearly not short term or purely for individual gain; the executives were acting as trustees in the long-term interest of pensioners and those who save through them.
Fourthly, and most important of all, I believe that any attempt to strengthen and enfranchise stakeholders by law must lead to higher costs for business. It will either mean higher wages, higher redundancy payments, a higher cost of capital or higher taxes. In a global economy--and the report starts with globalisation--with increasing competition, higher costs in this country, where the prices are being determined globally, must lead to a reduction in employment, which exacerbates the problem with which the report begins.
Therefore, as I see it, if you pass legislation which empowers stakeholders you end up doing precisely the opposite of what you want to do. In that sense, in my judgment, the movement to a stakeholder economy is a dead hand on wealth creation which has shades of the social chapter about it.
The second aspect of the report to which I would like to draw your Lordships' attention, is that I believe it does not recognise sufficiently that the shareholder economy is itself rediscovering the importance of values in shareholder companies. The kind of statement that I found difficult to accept was the following:
Certainly in terms of the service sector, which I know a little about, I believe that all of the thinking today is on the importance of service itself. The logic is very simple. It is that profitability in a typical service business depends on customer loyalty; that customer loyalty comes from a perception of value for money; that value for money depends on employee productivity; that employee productivity depends on employee loyalty; and that employee loyalty depends on employee satisfaction. In other words, profitability comes directly from an ethos of service and a recognition of the self-worth of employees. Hence the emphasis on training, the dignity of work, the values of the company, backup technology and so on.
One reason for mentioning that--and I declare an interest--is that I am a director of an American company, which is now a global company, which is one of the leading service management and consumer services companies in America. We manage part or all of more than 1,000 hospitals and more than 600 schools, colleges and school districts, including the public schools of Washington DC. As one can imagine, that is a very tough assignment. Some employees remain as part of the public sector institution but are managed by us. Other employees are employed directly by us.
I asked myself whether, if some are directly employed by us and others still belong to the public sector institution, it makes sense to make such a sharp distinction between the market domain and the public domain. I do not believe that it does. I believe that successful firms now recognise that service is fundamental to good business. I also believe that it was that, and recognising the value of business, that led the Government to introduce changes in education, health and affordable housing. It was recognised that those areas would never be privatised, yet those values which were being renewed in business could play a key role, so, for example, giving choice to parents and patients, delegated budgets for schools and GPs, providing innovation in institutions such as grant-maintained schools and quality through the Citizen's Charter, and so on.
I therefore find the report too negative and stark from that point of view. I should like to suggest that the spirit of the report should give greater recognition to the fusion of the public domain and the market domain, because I believe that the market domain is changing fundamentally.
The third issue to which I should like to draw the attention of the House is that the report recognises the importance of values. The report argues that social cohesion in our society ultimately means changed values. It argues that we will change values by changing structure. If only we can create stakeholders and citizens
I wonder whether changing structures is enough. I was very impressed by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham. I should like to refer to the publication to which he referred, namely, Professor Fukayama's book, Trust. He argues that social cohesion depends critically on trust and that trust itself is not something that one can easily engineer but that one has to dig deep into the wells of tradition, history and even religion. He calls his final chapter:
In conclusion, I welcome the report. Even when my blood pressure was rising slightly I still wanted to carry on reading and re-reading it. Regretfully, I cannot give three cheers for the report, but I can give two.
Viscount Thurso: My Lords, I too begin by congratulating my noble friend Lord Dahrendorf and his colleagues on the commission for the publication of a report which is, I believe, not only central to the future of our society but also concise and readable. I should like to thank my noble friend for the opportunity to debate it today.
Having listened to so many distinguished noble Lords today, I rise with a certain trepidation to give what can only be called a worm's eye view. There are two areas on which I should like to comment. The first concerns my business life and the second my home life in the north of Scotland.
I was particularly interested to hear the views of the noble Lord, Lord Ashburton, and the noble Lord, Lord Laing, because I believe that they are representative of many in business. I am confident that the report and many of its conclusions will be warmly welcomed by businesses of all sizes. Social stability must be a primary requirement for businesses to flourish. This point was made most forcefully to me yesterday by the deputy chairman of one of the largest companies in this country. He expressed his deep concern at the social divisions in our society and foresaw that social unrest would become a major threat to his company's profitability in the future. This was one of our country's most senior businessmen, endorsing the view that economic growth must never, as the report says,
My own business is right at the other end of the scale. As the managing director of a small but expanding leisure company, I have to say that I rather expected that this would be a dry and dusty tome laden with jargon and of perhaps little relevance to my business. Instead, I found it so gripping and relevant that I was able to
My business, which is in the provision of luxury leisure, is obviously a people business. It is a people business because all luxury hotels and leisure businesses depend on giving high quality personal service to their clients. For that they depend on highly trained quality staff to deliver those services. In my business the labour cost is 50 per cent. of our turnover. More than most, my managers see both the potential of the human resource and the weakness and inadequacy of the current education and training system for the exploitation of that resource to the full. Perhaps because we are in a people business, we regard it as self-evident truth that investment in people and not simply in skills training, but also in personal education and development, is a direct driver for future success and profits within the company.
Another section which will strike an immediate chord with many managers is that which comments on the inadequacy of the capital markets in this country when it comes to funding investment in small and medium companies. Anyone who, as I have done, has spent time trooping from institution to firm to institution in the City trying to raise venture funds or equity for a small company, knows intimately the frustration of having researched and prepared a comprehensive business plan only to fail because one could not meet the internal rate of return requirement of perhaps 30 per cent. with a guaranteed exit after four years.
In my business I am lucky. I have investors of sufficient wealth and confidence in my team to have invested in an expansion programme that will continue over some five or six years without the need for either City or bank finance. It is perhaps telling that my investors are from overseas.
I met recently an old friend who is a senior director of a small but well known merchant bank in the City. It was his opinion that 90 per cent. of the business done in the square mile is generated by some 100 of the top companies on the Stock Exchange. Furthermore, over the past decade investment by individuals had declined markedly as investment by institutions had grown. As a provider of capital he decried that trend since, as the report so clearly underlines, institutions are by nature short termist in their investment decisions--I believe that investment managers are judged mostly on their quarterly performance--whereas on the whole individuals tend to hold shares longer and to be more loyal to management and long term strategy.
The report highlights to me the grotesque inversion that has taken place in our society, where the rule of the market has become the master of human endeavour rather than its servant. I know from my own work on various trade committees that many other chief executives share my views; and I am certain that the report will be welcomed by those businessmen.
The other area on which I should like to comment is one to which the report refers in its conclusion but which, as it states, has not been pursued in depth. I refer to democracy and in particular local democracy. I was very glad that in his opening speech my noble friend made reference to this issue and its importance.
A central theme of the report is citizenship and the need for inclusion. An important part of inclusion, or another definition of it, must be participation. It is a symptom of the failure of our democracy that participation in local democracy is at an all-time low and local institutions are held in such poor esteem. Here I make two points. First, in my home in Caithness the seat of local government is now more than 120 miles from my door. That is roughly the equivalent of asking an inhabitant of Westminster to go to Bristol to attend a meeting. I would hardly call that local.
Secondly, it is imperative that power be returned to local governments so that they may properly be held accountable by their own electorates for their own actions. Surely the time has come to trust local people to take local decisions for which they can be held accountable. If the doctrine of subsidiarity is so good for this country in Europe, why is it so bad for local government in this country? Inclusion and citizenship must be founded on participation, which in turn must begin with local democracy.
If the conclusions of this report are implemented, then many of the fears that I have for my children will be unfounded. I congratulate my noble friend on this uplifting, optimistic but, above all, realistic report.
Lord Vinson: My Lords, I, too, am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, for bringing the report to our attention, not least because it gives me the opportunity to hear again the noble Lord, Lord Laing. It may amuse the House to know that about 20 years ago I was touring his factory with him under the auspices of the Industrial Participation Association, of which I was chairman and he a prime member. I asked one of his employees what he thought of the business. He replied, "Sir, working here is better than a religion". I say that because the example of my noble friend Lord Laing of the quality of leadership in management is one from which we could learn much.
Returning to the report, it makes an honest effort to look at many of the intractable problems that inflict all modern societies. It speaks in a tone of olympian wisdom, but I am afraid it appears to be rather thin on diagnosis and remedy. I wish to try, albeit inadequately, to remedy that deficiency in one area in a spirit of constructive criticism. At this late hour, I wish to talk about employment alone.
The report repeatedly stresses the need to stimulate investment in order to create jobs, and there is nothing wrong in that. But, no doubt due to the composition of its membership, it totally dodges the issue when it comes to the question of the non-financial obstacles to economic growth which many of us, certainly on this side of the House, believe to be a primary cause of unemployment.
Any analysis of the economic growth of this country and America shows that jobs are being created in the small firm sector, while being shed by the larger corporations. It is inescapable that we have to look to the small and medium enterprise to create the jobs of tomorrow. That point was well made earlier in the debate by the noble Lord, Lord Ashburton.
There is a whiff of mothballs and corporatism about the report and it fails to address the fundamental issue that in the past year in this country 250,000 new businesses were formed but over the same period 195,000 businesses closed down. That is a failure rate equivalent to some 80 per cent. of the new starts. Manifestly, anything that can be done to improve the survival rate of small businesses will improve employment. Most large firms were small firms once upon a time.
The reason so many businesses fail is not hard to find. The sheer complexity of running a business today is bad enough when one has others to whom to delegate, but it is virtually a nightmare when one is on one's own. Small firms easily drown in the regulatory morass. They are operating in an increasingly hostile bureaucratic environment. If the survival rate of small businesses could be improved by some 25 per cent., literally hundreds of thousands of new jobs would happen
The problem could not be better illustrated than the case earlier this month of a hotelier who advertised in the jobcentre for "chamber persons". Perhaps we are all Chamber persons here! After interviewing a number of candidates who were sent to him by the jobcentre, he phoned up the clerk and said: "Please don't waste your time and mine by sending me any more scruffy men with rings in their noses. How about sending me some presentable young girls who might make good waitresses?". That honest remark brought the hotelier before the Equal Opportunities Commission, where he was warned, but fortunately not fined, for being in breach of the equal opportunities Act. Bearing in mind that any employer still, just, has the right to pick and choose those put in front of him, that prosecution was monstrous. The Equal Opportunities Commission acknowledges that the employer is entitled to exercise choice but not to express it--not even to the agency attempting to help him. How farcical.
Under the circumstances, it is a wonder that he felt like carrying on his business at all and did not decide to pack it in. What we shall never know after reading about a case like that is how many potential small business people were put off and, as a consequence, how many jobs are not created. That type of case could be repeated a thousandfold. The macro-economy is often the micro-economy writ large. It is at that lowly level that we need to look to uncover some of the constraints of job creation.
I have talked to many small businessmen and I make a point of asking them why they do not take on an assistant, a mate or an apprentice as they used to. Why do they just battle on by themselves? Invariably their reply is that it is not worth the hassle. The cost of dismissing staff and the threat of prosecution over unfair dismissal (often because the employers have technically failed to give statutory written warning when they should have done--something that is difficult to do on a one-to-one and one-to-two basis in a small firm) all make it so unpleasant that they cannot face doing it again. They would rather soldier on alone. As a consequence, hundreds of thousands of potential jobs remain unfilled today in this country.
If we make it more expensive and difficult to employ people, the employer--particularly the smaller employer--will employ fewer and consequently it will be more difficult for those out of work to get themselves into work. The report dodges that fundamental issue. It is over-regulation that is destroying employment in mainland Europe and beginning to do so here. Governments need to recognise that one of the primary sources of new employment is self-employed people turning themselves into small businesses and small businesses taking on additional staff. Every effort should be made to assist and not hinder that process.
Those who call for more Euro-style regulations claim that they merely want more fairness for workers. But in fact a regulatory fortress is being constructed for the benefit only of those in work, greatly to the detriment
The development of resident small businesses in inner cities is the only hope of creating jobs locally in those areas. With those small businesses comes the regrowth of local communities and the local community spirit which lies at the heart of social cohesion. That is one of the only practical routes to let the excluded become included. That is why the treatment of small businesses matters so much. I am grateful for the opportunity of this debate to make that point.
Lord Ezra: My Lords, as we draw to the close of this stimulating debate, we owe a double tribute to my noble friend Lord Dahrendorf. The first is for having chaired the commission that produced the report; the second is for having chosen this moment to introduce it for debate in your Lordships' House, thus providing us with a subject for which I believe, in our collective wisdom--if I may use the word "collective" without anyone objecting--we are well suited to debate. The experience this afternoon has shown that. What has been remarkable is the very small intrusion of political views. Almost all speeches have been from the point of view of the experience of the speaker and of bringing a positive contribution to this vital subject.
The other point of particular interest which was referred to by the noble Lords, Lord Borrie and Lord Roll, is that the document forms part of a widening area of literature. Among the various benefits of the document I found that on page 106 there is a description of material for further reading. What is impressive about it is the number of important reports on the subject which have been produced in the past two to three years. We are reaching quite a historic stage of rethinking where we are going. Such stages have been reached in the past. I can think of the period before the French Revolution--not that I suggest that we are heading for revolution--when the Encyclopedistes, Diderot and the others, were questioning the way in which society was going in those days. We have reached one of those historic moments of questioning. The question has been well put in the report before us today.
Many views have been expressed. The advantage of the report, which is short, succinct and to the point, is that it also contains a very large number of crucial elements that one can pursue. One of the important threads running through it is the emphasis on the need for an economic strategy which can not only create wealth but contribute to the environment and be socially cohesive.
I take a leaf out of the book of the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, who gave us such an admirable maiden speech, and try to be practical on the subject. In seeking to achieve the objectives set out in the report, we have to start from where we are. There is no point in constructing something which, while ideally desirable, represents a major change from where we are at the moment.
In its economic appraisal the report was very fair. It states that much has improved in the UK economy in recent years. It cites higher productivity, greater flexibility--which the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, emphasised--and adaptability, better export performance and low inflation. All are positive developments. The two major weaknesses in economic terms identified by the report are the relatively low level of investment and the relatively low level of research and development.
The report points out that a very large proportion of growth was consumed in the 1980s. Something like 86 per cent. of GDP was consumed; and the residue that was invested was much less than in other competitor countries. There was also a noticeable fall in public investment during that period--from 4 per cent. in the 1970s to 2½ per cent. of GDP in the 1980s, and still falling. In recent years the UK has shown a capacity to adapt and adjust, but it has lagged behind in investment and therefore, literally, in growth creation.
Suggestions on how to put matters right was the theme that I tried to follow in reading the report. The first point made, with which I imagine we all agree, is that there is a need to avoid volatility in economic policy. We are reminded that in the past 30 years we have suffered three devaluation crises, two excessive booms which led to slumps and five major shifts in economic policy. Obviously, to continue along that path does not hold out much comfort in relation to sustained growth.
We need to put in place a stable macro-economic policy, especially on inflation, on which a start has indeed been made. That is perfectly true. However, all our western European neighbours are achieving the same thing at the moment. These things tend to go in cycles. The proof of the pudding on inflation will be when a more disruptive period emerges and some other countries become more prone to inflationary pressures. Shall we then be able to hold our own?
The report states that we need a new framework for public investment and essential infrastructure. It is not just a question of spending more in those areas but of identifying where expenditure should take place more effectively. We have had many debates in this House on that subject. I feel that at times there are cut-backs where there should not be and perhaps more expenditure where, equally, there should not be.
I am also a little concerned about the development of the Private Finance Initiative. It is an excellent idea, to which all parties subscribe. Unfortunately, however (and my own firm is involved in this), the procedures that have been put in place--the cost of tendering and the bureaucratic paraphernalia that must be gone through--are beginning to deter us from doing as much as we would do in that area. The need is for it to be made more accessible and less bureaucratic, less dominated, as we feel, by the Treasury, which lays down such strict rules on public expenditure and investment. These rules are now being applied to the private sector entering the public sector. That needs to be looked at very seriously if we want to move further in that direction.
Next, I refer to the financial framework, particularly in the City, to which reference was made. Undoubtedly, taking the financial centre of the City in its totality, there has been an enormous success. However, there are aspects that are worrying. Reference was made by my noble friend Lord Thurso, in a very impressive speech, to the difficulty that small firms have in raising money in the City. It is perfectly true: there is very great difficulty. Unless they have other sources of investment, it is difficult for them to build up their businesses. During the housing boom the owners of small firms took out second and third mortgages on their homes. But that is no longer available to them. The banks and financial houses are being very difficult. Unless small companies are as lucky as my noble friend in having friends abroad who have faith in the business and invest the necessary money over a long enough period, they could have difficulty in surviving. This therefore raises the question of whether there should be some financial instrument--a matter that has been debated many times in this House--for the particular support and investment of small firms, such as is done in France and Germany and has been for many years.
On a wider point, the City ought to be showing more commitment to managements that have a long-term strategy. The noble Lord, Lord Laing, mentioned that in connection with his own, very important company. I had the great pleasure of visiting him there during my time with the Coal Board. I am glad to say that I had a dual interest. We supplied his company with fuel. (I do not know whether it still uses coal now, as it did in those days.) Also, our pension fund had, quite independently, decided that the company was a good investment. I therefore thought that on both grounds it was a good idea to go along to see what was happening. Most impressive it was. The noble Lord has started something quite remarkable.
He is committed to the long term. He emphasised that he had persuaded the workforce that more of what the company earned should go into investment. Unfortunately, I do not believe that the City is all that interested in companies that devote themselves to long-term development.
I take a slightly different view from that expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, of the recent take-over of Forte. We saw a great company, representing a very wide range of hotels in this country and abroad and contributing to the tourist and leisure markets, being broken up as a result of judgments that seemed purely directed to what has been referred to as "shareholder value". Because the value to the shareholders for the time being could be increased that mighty company was being dismembered. I have no financial interest in either business. I have no shares in either--perhaps unfortunately, since I should have done very well! It dismayed me that a number of major City institutions could make a judgment related to so-called shareholder value rather than to the longer-term interests.
Finally, as referred to in the report, we need to build on sectors where we are likely to see specific advantages. We have certainly built on the advantage we have in the City. We have built on the advantages we have in the pharmaceutical sector. But there are not
There are other sectors we could look at and try to build up by creating the right framework. I should like to refer in particular to the subject raised in the Unstarred Question put by my noble friend Lord Beaumont as recently as the 13th of this month about the environmental industries sector. Here is a market of enormous importance. It is already very large, as was pointed out in that debate, exceeding in world terms the total value of the aeronautic market, and it will grow substantially in the years ahead. For example, it is estimated that by the year 2010 this could be worth £400 billion and is now worth something in excess of £150 billion. We have great skills in this area in Britain, but the leaders in the market are America, Japan and Germany. The reason that they are leaders is that they have recognised that this market demands large-scale projects. We have a very fragmented sector. We are incapable therefore of meeting competition in these large-scale projects. I think this is an area that we should seriously look at. This is a growth market, a highly desirable market, in the technological sector. We have great skill at it, but at the moment we are behind the others because we have not recognised the nature of the market overseas, or indeed at home.
I should like to conclude by saying that this report has stimulated a great deal of thinking in our debate today, and it will certainly continue to do so. This is part of a rethinking process which is going on much more widely than in your Lordships' House--to which we have, however, contributed very valuably today. What is needed in effect is a three-pronged strategy: to maintain economic stability, to achieve environmental sustainability and to bring this about in a socially inclusive way.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, this has been a fascinating debate. It has not been lacking in contributions from noble Lords who have spoken from their own experience in business and society, and it has not been lacking either in political controversy and the range of political views which have been expressed. However, it has been unusual in that respect, in that a lot of people, despite strong political convictions, have spoken for themselves rather than following a party line. I wondered at times whether it might not have been better if we had spoken under Chatham House rules rather than in a public forum in this way. Certainly people have not been afraid of expressing views which do not necessarily fall in with political correctness. I personally have been grateful for that.
The noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, is a worthy descendant of a worthy school of thought, which has had very great and deserved influence in this country and in the western world this century. He is a worthy descendant of Keynes, Beveridge and the late lamented James Meade, and he has brought up to date in many
It was all very well for Beveridge to talk about full employment in a free society when he had the possibility, which had been demonstrated by wartime experience of a particular form of full employment--that form which consisted of a very large number of people who stayed in the same job all their working lives and who had that social cohesion not only because they had jobs but because they had the same jobs or they worked for the same employer, whether public or private. That no longer occurs, and we have to think way beyond the options which Beveridge put to us and which we rightly adopted in the postwar years.
I thought that the most interesting point in the approach of the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, was not so much in the report itself but in the article which appeared in the Guardian at the time the report was first published in July last year, when he said that he:
However, it is contributing these things in the context of the intellectual dominance over a number of years of the radical Right. We have had a number of expressions of the views of the radical Right this afternoon. We have had the noble Lords, Lord Skidelsky and Lord Griffiths; I am sorry he is not in his place because I have been remembering a point he made in the House on 1st March last year and I should have liked to quote it against him. I would wish to have done it while he was here, but maybe I will do it regardless.
The point about redistribution is that the radical Right has had the opportunity to achieve redistribution over the last 15 or 20 years and the redistribution it has achieved is in favour of the rich and against the poor. If we take the period between 1980 and 1994, the poor--this is not just in relative terms but in absolute terms, excluding housing costs--have lost out by 14 per cent. and the rich have gained by 50 per cent. The poor, I may say, are the bottom 10 per cent.; and so the whole thrust of social policy in this country, in the United States and to a lesser extent in many European countries, has been what Marx foretold as "progressive relative immiserisation". The poor have got poorer and the rich have got richer. It is in that social context that we have to look at economic policy and at social cohesion. There are perfectly good reasons for it and we can understand them.
I have quoted J. K. Galbraith in this House before about the way in which there is a contented majority in most Western countries now, whose whole views are coloured by their need to retain their privileges and to justify them because they believe they deserve their privileges and the enjoyment of them. They believe that it is better to sit tight and let things go by rather than to take longer-term protective measures against social exclusion, because short-term measures might involve tax rises in the short term. They believe that the state is a burden. We saw that in New Hampshire yesterday. They believe that the state is a burden, except when it comes to farm subsidies or tax relief or support for bailing out financial institutions. But all the aspects of the state which go to benefit the poor are a burden on society. It is only the measures which benefit them that are not. The Right-wing intellectuals who justify those comfortable conclusions of the comfortable majority are the ones who have those "highly convenient" social and economic doctrines, as Galbraith put it.
I had no opportunity to reply to that statement at the time because I was not taking part in the debate. But I have not heard anything which was quite so directly the reverse of the truth. In point of fact, over the period in which the intellectual domination of the noble Lord and his friends has been so powerful not only has inequality risen but unemployment has risen. The two have very much gone together. It is exactly the reverse of the claim that the noble Lord made at that time. That is important because we must recognise that unemployment is the key to the problems recognised by the Dahrendorf Report.
In addition to those two trends--the centre Left and the radical Right--I say with a good deal of trepidation that there is the Left; there is still a Left. It may not be a radical Left in the sense that it was in Marx's day, but it is concerned not only with wealth creation but with social justice and dealing with inequality. The report of my noble friend Lord Borrie, which has had some, but nothing like enough, attention in the course of this debate--it has had plenty of attention in the country and deservedly so--has completed the argument in the way that the Dahrendorf Report has not. It recognises the extent to which Beveridge's analysis 50 years ago of social policy is no longer adequate. It recognises the way in which Keynes' analysis, which has been abandoned, ought to have further recognition now. Nobody says that we should go back to a command economy. Nobody says that that version of socialism is still appropriate. But in what is now a post-industrial society, surely we no longer need to talk in terms which are descriptive of an industrial society. Even my noble friend Lord Desai will, I hope, recognise that the problem is not quite capitalism. Capitalism was one way of describing one form of an industrial society. We have a different form of society
I turn back to the report and the issues of wealth creation and social cohesion. The noble Lord, Lord Roll, quite rightly said that wealth creation was a much wider issue than individual gain and that it was not the exclusive engine for wealth creation. He did not say so but I feel that his remark recognised, that wealth creation is not necessarily only in the hands of the private sector. Many things that society does collectively create wealth and they ought to be recognised as wealth creation in the same way. Governments--at any rate governments of the Right--tend not to recognise that.
We have a tendency to think that, because the industrial revolution in the 19th century came about without state support and, indeed, sometimes against the state, the post-industrial revolution in which we are involved now can continue in the same way. I do not believe that that is the case. What we see in the post-industrial revolution is the dominance of financial services and the standards imposed by finance. We see a split between finance and business--all that is properly documented in the Dahrendorf Report--and we see a continuation, at a time when people thought that it might have gone, of the adversarial capital/labour divide.
Incidentally, I ought to have said in response to the noble Lord, Lord Laing, that I see him as being intellectually in the centre Left tradition that I have described. He and United Biscuits are the acceptable face of capitalism. But I am sure that even he would agree that United Biscuits may have changed and other companies certainly as well as other forms of employment have changed much more. The kind of admirable things that he described can hardly apply to the break-up of the Hanson Trust empire or the Granada/Forte fight, which the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, described. Nor can they apply to what has happened to the way in which the employees of privatised industries are now being handed around to Wisconsin transportation companies or French water companies, as though they were just parcels to be moved around.
What is quite clear now is that wealth creation itself is not necessarily accompanied by an increase in jobs. That brings me to what I believe ought to be the theme of this whole debate, not just in this House this afternoon but outside; namely, the issue of unemployment. A report which has not been mentioned at all and was not even included in the index of the Dahrendorf Report, is the Delors Report at the end of 1993. It was called Growth, Competitiveness and Employment. That report starts with the phrase:
If we are to do something about unemployment as the principal cause of social exclusion, which I believe it is--there are plenty more--then we must take the Dahrendorf Report very seriously. But we must also take the Delors Report seriously and ideas which appear to have been kicked into touch. The Dahrendorf Report rightly says--I am sorry that nobody expanded on these points--that in stimulating investment we have to find better ways of promoting physical investment which will involve collaboration between the public and the private sectors. He has a very sensible, thoughtful and constructive passage about ways of achieving investment by increasing the savings ratio. By that, he means, and I would mean, proper pension schemes. He has a very sensible section on investment in human resources.
The noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, whose excellent maiden speech was very appropriate on that point, spoke about education in the sense of expanding the role of vocational education rather than reducing other education simply to being vocational education, as some people believe.
What Delors said, which expands on the lessons of Dahrendorf, is that we should be seeking to improve the competitiveness not only of Britain, but of Europe. I know the Eurosceptics will turn away from that, but it contains sensible points. We should use the benefits of the World Trade Organisation achievements, just as 50 years ago we used the benefits of the Bretton Woods agreement. We should encourage competition by harmonisation in the European Community. "Harmonisation" is often a dirty word; but its purpose is to open up markets, to make room for wider markets. That is another reason, in my view, for supporting that, among other aspects of the European Union.
We should provide a trans-European infrastructure--for example, in transport and energy--to cut down barriers to competition which are themselves barriers to employment and to wealth creation. There is a specific section on small and medium enterprises. As one who ran a small company for 30 years, I simply do not recognise the obstacles described by the noble Lord, Lord Vinson. I never found that bureaucracy was the obstacle. As the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, said, swings in economic policy and economic achievement were the problems and therefore it was the competitiveness of our clients that was the real difficulty.
That leads on to the social policies necessary to complement the economic policies described in the report. I do not have time to go into them. I urge Members of this House to read the report of my noble friend Lord Borrie, Social Justice, even though it weighs 305 grammes as against the 85 grammes of the report of the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf. It goes a lot further. We ought to go a lot further. We should build on and
The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): My Lords, we have had an interesting debate this afternoon and are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, for introducing it. I am not sure that I am totally grateful. I thought that this week I would have a rest from the Dispatch Box and that your Lordships would have a rest from me until I saw the Motion down on the Order Paper and realised that neither of us would have a rest from my voice.
Despite that small reservation, as always I enjoy these debates that come to me as part of my brief to speak up for Her Majesty's Treasury. I always enjoy them because of the large number of economists that come to them. I must say to your Lordships, and I have said it before, that I often think to myself quietly that I am glad in retrospect that I never studied economics. I am afraid I would have found some of their lectures rather dreary. At the risk of damaging his career yet again, that never includes the noble Lord, Lord Desai, of course.
We were all pleased to hear my noble friend Lord Pilkington make his maiden speech. It was an excellent maiden speech. I noticed that he began by saying that he wished to discuss present realities rather than future dreams. I echo that and will come back to it, if I may, when I turn to education. I am sure that we all look forward to hearing him many more times.
The first part of the report of the commission of the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, is about globalisation and the fact that the world has changed. In fact the world is always changing. Anybody who looks back in history can see that. Those noble Lords who know the countryside will know that one can see in many places the housing that was required not all that long ago to accommodate those who worked in agriculture. Today there is perhaps a farmer alone with part-time help, whereas even 50 years ago the farmer would probably have had, in Aberdeenshire terms, a grieve and that grieve would have had a number of other men working on the farm. That change has taken place in my lifetime. Greater changes have taken place in some of the lifetimes of your Lordships who have been around a little longer than I have.
The main point that I want to underline in relation to globalisation is one on which the noble Lords, Lord Dahrendorf and Lord McIntosh, and myself will be in absolute agreement; that is, we realise the importance of an open trading world. My noble friend Lord Beloff, in his usual spirited speech, mentioned the lessons that we ought to learn from the rise, if I can call it that, of Mr. Pat Buchanan, who preaches protectionism in America and the dangers that that would cause to the world economic order. That is certainly something on which we can all agree.
The noble Lord's commission has no doubt that the right approach must be engagement. As I have said from this Dispatch Box on a number of occasions, usually in answer to noble Lords opposite, though occasionally to some of my noble friends, in that regard the Government are absolutely in agreement with the noble Lord. It is important to be fully engaged in Europe. But that does not mean that we necessarily need to sign up to every article of faith being put out by the European Commission or by some or all of our friends. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, agrees with that position; indeed he goes further. In a recent interview with Der Spiegel he went a good deal further than I ever go from this Dispatch Box and said that monetary union was a great mistake; an adventurous, daring and misguided goal that divides Europe rather than unites it. One or two noble Lords--one or two rashly not opposite me this evening--may be interested in that new recruit to their view.
The Government take a simple view, with which I believe the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, would agree. We must wait to see whether it works. As I said in a rather long speech last night outside this House on this very subject, it is not only important for the United Kingdom that it works if we join it; it is important that it works if we do not join it. However many people join it, if it is going to start and run, it is essential for the whole European Union idea, the single market idea, that it does work and that it does not damage the single market we have worked so hard to build up.
We believe that we ought to contribute and are contributing positively to the debate. That does not mean that we shall always agree with our European friends--far from it--any more than my positive contribution to this debate means that I shall agree with everybody who has spoken in it. It is true that European governments in recent years have not had a good record in relation to job creation. Employers have been deterred from creating jobs by excessive regulation, high social charges and over-powerful trade unions. Recently there has been a marked shift in the European agenda, with the recognition that labour costs are too high and that labour market flexibility is an important factor in reducing the high levels of unemployment in Europe. I shall come back to them in a few moments.
Perhaps I may say that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, does the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, a disservice. At page 106, one of the key reports--I am not sure that it is not the first key report--is that of the Commission of the
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