§ Order for Second Reading react.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ The Minister of Health (Sir Kingsley Wood)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The House will recall a number of Debates concerning this important matter, and I think it can be said that in respect of many important issues which arise in connection with this Bill the question of population is of most vital importance, and that further investigation is urgently necessary. As to that, there has been general agreement expressed by representatives of all parties. In the Debate on 10th February last, on a Motion which was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for King's Norton (Mr. Cartland), I think general acceptance was expressed so far as those two propositions were concerned. I observe that in that Debate the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker), who spoke for the Labour party, said:A decline in the number of the population is a very serious matter … We assume, in our national life to-day, that we shall go on with the same size of population as now, or a somewhat larger one, but if the population should decline, serious consequences will result to agriculture and manufactures, especially the manufacture of consumable goods."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th February, 1937; col. 498, Vol. 320.]The hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Acland), who spoke on that occasion on behalf of the Liberal Opposition, said that unless we take steps to prevent the decline, it will produce alarming results within the lifetime of our children. In his final observations, the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones), who wound up the Debate on behalf of the Labour party, said what will secure general agreement:It is not necessary that we should agree with all the analyses of the causes, nor with some of the solutions and remedies … but that there is a case for inquiry we are abundantly convinced."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th February, 1937; col. 526, Vol. 320.]I think it can also be said that the House generally agrees that this problem is a vital one which cannot be left to look after itself. It is, indeed, a matter that considerably affects our social and economic policy, as well as our national 1718 destiny. In fact, anxiety as to the future trend of population is growing in many nations in Europe to-day. So far as our own country is concerned, until recently the trend has been unmistakable, and if we accepted certain assumptions our population would fall in 3o years to 35,000,000 and in 100 years to 5,000,000. From 1871 to 1933 the birth rate has steadily declined. In 1871 it was 35 per thousand of the population; in 1901 it had dropped to 28; by 1921 it had further declined to 22; and in 1933 it had reached the low figure of 14. Thus since 1871 the birth rate in this country has more than halved itself.
Another factor of importance that I desire to bring before the House is that it is probable that our population in the immediate future will contain a much larger proportion of older people. On the other hand it is true that since the birth rate reached its lowest level in 1933, it has, during the last three complete years which have elapsed, remained without further decline and with a slight upward tendency. Too much must certainly not be built upon this, and I hope that the House will agree that the more the check in the decline is prolonged, the more hope it offers that continued decline is not irresistible or inevitable; and if as a people we can get further facts and information, it may show that forces exist having an upward tendency and which when identified may well provide a basis for constructive policy. The real position is that we require much more information on the whole subject before policy can be considered. We certainly require much more complete statistics, as I hope to explain in detail later. But I desire to assert that ascertainment of certain facts is an indispensable preliminary to the formation of any policy or plans.
In my judgment we have delayed in this matter too long and are certainly behind other nations. Many other countries have long ago taken action in the collection of the necessary data, and, compared with these nations, our statistics and information are incomplete and unsatisfactory in this vital respect. Countries like Norway, Holland, Sweden, South Africa and many others have long ago put this matter in hand. The steps taken by Australia and New Zealand are particularly interesting to us. Their peoples are much like our own in thought and outlook, and I think it can be said 1719 that they would be amongst the first to resent inquisitorial or unnecessary investigations. In both countries fertility statistics have for many years been fully and unquestionably given by their citizens. For instance, questions are asked and answered as to the date and place of marriage, ages and birthplace of the parents, ages and sex of previous issues of the marriage. But there is this material difference, I should say, between their practice and the proposals of the Bill, that their statistics are entered upon the public register and copies are freely obtainable. It is in fact recognised not only by the peoples of Australia and New Zealand, but by many other nations, that so far from the furnishing of statistics relating to fertility being in any way an undue interference with liberty or rights, they are in fact essential to a proper consideration of a matter which is vital to the well-being and the preservation of the respective countries and their people.
§ Mr. Alan Herbert
Before my right hon. Friend leaves the important question of Australia and New Zealand, I would respectfully and with apologies at this point say that there is a great deal of nonsense being published in the Press this morning on this particular subject. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not desire to mislead 'the House or the public; he would be the last person to desire that; but before he goes on and leaves that subject I hope he will make it quite plain that no single State in Australia, so far as I can discover by researches, or in New Zealand, asks the particular kinds of questions to which my hon. Friends and myself object. In order to make my meaning clear I would say that we do not object to—
§ Mr. Herbert
This is my question, then: Can my right hon. Friend name any State in Australia or any part of New Zealand in which the following questions, as contained in this Bill, are asked: Records of former marriages; brothers and sisters and dependants of former spouses; brothers and sisters and dependants of father and mother registering the child; 1720 particulars of former issue where the child is illegitimate; or any questions tending to incriminate father or mother, or to give information that may be in issue in legal proceedings, namely, concerning adultery, bastardy or bigamy?
§ Sir K. Wood
Perhaps my hon. Friend will give me time to consider that question, which is rather a long one. There are no proposals in the Bill to put any questions which will incriminate anyone. So far as the issue of former marriages is concerned, I would like to say that I have here a copy of a typical entry in the register of Australia. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me now to deal with certain other matters as I proceed with my observations? The furnishing of information relating to fertility is, of course, nothing new or strange so far as this country is concerned. That is partly an answer to my hon. Friend. Of the items in the Schedule to the Bill, everything in fact has been previously asked and answered in the course of censuses in this country, except three things—the duration of and issue by a previous marriage—and much of this was covered by the inclusion of step-children in the 1921 census inquiry as to dependants; secondly, the issue of unmarried women, as to which I will say more later; and thirdly, particulars of the number of brothers and sisters. Those are the three additional questions.
Therefore, so far as this country is concerned, except in those three matters there is nothing new, surprising or strange. I have read—and the hon. Member has alluded to it—that under this Measure some new dictatorship would be established and that inquiries of a certain nature were designed to ascertain private secrets, and that there would be a general resentment and refusal in respect of the questions. Fortunately, we are able to look back. For instance in 1911, over 6,000,000 couples answered the fertility and other inquiries, without, as far as I can ascertain, any complaint or difficulty whatever. Pictures have been painted that the penalty Clauses in this Bill would result in queues of citizens being dragged before the courts because they refuse to answer the questions. In the 1921 inquiry, there is no record of more than one prosecution out of the many millions of people concerned. It was the case of rather an obstinate man with a 1721 grievance against all constituted authority, who refused to make any return about his large staff of servants or to allow the enumerator to save him the trouble by getting the particulars direct from them. That was the only case.
In 1931, again out of many millions of people, there were only eight prosecutions, of which two were withdrawn and one dismissed. None of these cases represented objections to answering any particular question on the ground that it was inquisitorial, but all eight cases were of refusals to make any returns whatever. These eight people may have had their reasons, and one of the cases which was ultimately withdrawn was that of a lady who refused to make a return at her residence but disclosed, in the early proceeding; of the case, that she had slipped away to an hotel on the census night and was included in the return there. That is an illustration of eight or nine cases out of many millions of people.
The position, therefore, in respect to fertility inquiries in this country is that they are not new, that all but three of the matters specified in the Schedule have previously been the subject of question and answer by many millions of men and women, and that there has been no resentment, but rather a proper appreciation of the reasons for such questions, and a general and full compliance with the requirements that had been approved by Parliament. Nor is there any ground for the suggestion that the answers so made will not be treated with complete secrecy or not respected as wholly confidential. In the compilation of the census inquiries many thousands of enumerators were employed in all parts of the country, and in the case of one census 40,000 enumerators were employed, and the same conditions as to secrecy which are contained in this Bill were then laid down. The answers of no one were disclosed; complete nondisclosure was observed.
§ Sir K. Wood
I will make some inquiries about that. Exactly the same position which I am endeavouring to develop has taken place in regard to the census on two previous occasions in which millions of people were concerned. It should be noted that under the registration method of inquiry proposed in this Bill, informa- 1722 tion will not be given to enumerators as under the census, but to the various registrars of births and deaths. None of the information obtained under this Bill will be entered in the register, nor will it, in fact, remain with the registrars themselves. It is not that I have not complete confidence in them, but all these answers will go direct and immediately to the Registrar-General, in whose custody alone they will remain as long as they are in existence. I would also like to assure the House—for again I have seen the statement made—that they will not be used for any other purpose than that set forth in the Bill, and they will be used, I need hardly say, by the Registrar-General as impersonal material for the extraction of statistical facts, and the present public register will contain no more information than has previously been included.
I would like to say a word as to why we have decided to proceed by the registration method of inquiry, and the first reason is, that it will be much more expeditious, and, I think, convenient for the public themselves, if the information is given regularly in this way. It is obvious to anyone who looks at the census—it was so in 1911 and 1920—that the census method of inquiry is already very much overloaded, and, what is most important, as this matter is of some urgency, there will be no census until 1941, and results would not be ascertainable until six or seven years from the present time. That is too long to wait, if we are to move with expedition, as, I believe, is generally agreed to be necessary. The House will attach considerable importance to the control by Parliament in this matter, and in that respect we have adopted the method of Parliamentary control which has been fully approved by successive Parliaments in relation to the census, and have applied it to this further inquiry. I think that I can say—and I can find no trace of anything to the contrary—that that method has been found adequate and satisfactory.
The first two paragraphs of the Schedule, as the House will see, indicate generally the questions that will be asked, and, of course, we can consider them further on the Committee stage of the Bill. I would like to emphasise particularly to my hon. Friend, who has put a number of questions to me, that when Parliament has approved the Bill and 1723 these two particular paragraphs in the Measure, the specific questions founded upon them—it is dual control—will be inserted in the draft Orders which will be presented to the House, and Parliament will then be able to examine them. They will comply strictly with the terms of the Act itself, but if any questions should arise, provision is made in a Clause of the Bill that no further proceedings can be taken in relation to it if either House before the prescribed period, presents an Address against it or any part of it.
As regards paragraph 3 of the Schedule; again a considerable amount of misunderstanding has arisen, no doubt from a hasty glance at the Bill. This again follows previous precedents. It is provided that in the event of any other matter of inquiry being found necessary, nothing can be done without the express approval of both Houses of Parliament, and, in fact, no such Order will have any effect unless both Houses approve of it by Resolution, or, if any modification is desired, except as so modified by both Houses. It is obvious that it is not only a convenient method, but one which ensures complete Parliamentary control, and I am telling the House, because example is perhaps better than any assumptions and statements, that it was found necessary and convenient to follow this method in connection with the census inquiries of 1921. It was in connection with the impending legislation in relation to widows and orphans pensions, and it was found essential by the Government Actuary that information should be obtained of the number and ages of children, step-children and orphans under 16 years of age, and, therefore, questions were inserted in the draft Order in relation to this matter. The Order had to be presented to the House and, as anyone could see by referring to the records, it had to be approved affirmatively, using Government time.
§ Mr. Alan Herbert
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether that Order had permanent effect and is in force now, or was it, so to speak, one single operation?
§ Sir K. Wood
I was endeavouring to explain to the House that that was a matter which arose in connection with the widows' and orphans' pensions legislation, and that it was necessary for that 1724 legislation that that information should be obtainable. What I am concerned to state is that that information was freely given by the people of this country without any objection whatever. I do not think that anyone would have suggested that it would have been desirable or convenient to introduce fresh legislation for such a purpose, and the Order was duly brought before Parliament, and considered and approved by affirmative Resolutions. I, therefore, suggest to the House that Parliamentary control was then complete, and I do not think that, in following out the provisions which have already been approved by Parliament, and have been found to work satisfactorily, with full liberty of the subject, and without any undue interference, there can be any question of Government or other dictatorship in these proposals.
Perhaps the House will bear with me while I deal with the questions in the Bill, and I will, first of all, say a word generally about the subject matter of the information proposed to be authorised by the Bill. Yesterday, in one of my favourite papers, all sorts of suggestions were made, with a considerable wealth of imagination. I do not know whether hon. Members have seen it, but the writer stated that he had found one of my colleagues who said that "it was going a little too far." I think that colleague of mine, whoever he may be, would have been right if the suggestions made by the writer were correct. It was suggested that some of the detailed inquiries to be made would be as to whether any member of the household had been convicted of any criminal or motoring offence, and what diseases, if any, the householder or his family had ever been afflicted with, and so forth. I do not think it necessary to say more than that it is pure fiction, if indeed, one can apply the word "pure" to a statement of that kind
§ Sir K. Wood
I do not think that even the most vehement opponents of these proposals would suggest for a moment that any Government would ever institute inquiries of that kind, and I can at once assure my hon. Friends that nothing of of the sort will be done. It is also suggested that questions are contemplated 1725 about birth control and similar matters. I assure the House that no such questions will be put.
§ Sir K. Wood
I am glad to hear my hon. Friend's question, because I can at once reply to him. Apart from considerations of more public importance, to put questions about birth control suggests a hasty and superficial view. It is obvious that such questions, even if answered, would not take us any further. Contraceptive methods may well be one of the means, but are certainly not the cause of the decline in the birth rate, and that is what we desire to ascertain. There is a world of difference between the two. With regard to the detailed questions contemplated by the Bill, as I say, all but three have been put at the census inquiries, and I think only one raises any real question of delicacy, and I shall be glad in Committee to consider carefully the opinions of the hon. Members on that matter. The inquiries concern a given couple, their ages, the date or duration of their marriage and the number and some other particulars about the issue of their marriage. There may be step children—a number of hon. Members have spoken to me about that—and particulars are necessary as regards them. In the 1911 census, particulars were freely given about the ages of married couples, the duration of their marriage and the number of children whether living or dead. This information can also be found in the statistical records of many other countries and Dominions. The date of marriage is, and always has been, inserted in the Scottish birth register, and full certified copies of such entries can be obtained by any member of the public.
As regards duration of and issue by a previous marriage, much of this has already been covered by the inclusion of step children in the 1921 inquiry as to dependants. It is true that the number of brothers and sisters is not included but I should have thought myself that that is unobjectionable. It certainly helps to elucidate the question of any element of heredity in relation to fertility. Then there is the question of the issue of an unmarried woman. The illegitimate births in Great Britain are some 30,000 a year, so that this matter has some bearing on the fertility statistics. I would point out, however, that information on this 1726 matter is strictly limited. On the registration of a legitimate child, the mother can only be asked as to her issue by her husband or by any previous husband. It is only in the case of the unmarried woman that the question of illegitimacy is raised. I say at once that if there is any feeling in the House upon this matter, I shall have regard to the opinions expressed when we come to the Committee stage. I think it is desirable that we should endeavour to reach a conclusion in agreement with the general opinion of the House on a matter of this kind which raises no political issue. I have taken responsibility for including this proposal in the Measure. It is not, perhaps, a very pleasant thing to do, but I am advised, and believe, that this information would be useful, though I am prepared, as I say, to listen to any opinions which hon. Members may feel compelled to offer upon it.
§ Mr. Thurtle
Why has the right hon. Gentleman made a sex distinction in this matter? Every child has a father as well as a mother. He proposes to call upon the unmarried mother to disclose these particulars about her child. Why not call upon the father, who is also responsible, to give particulars about his child born out of wedlock?
§ Mr. Bellenger
I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that information as to an illegitimate child could not be asked for from a mother who was married, and that it was only from the unmarried mother that such information could be obtained. I wish to ask, therefore, whether this proposal is to apply only to the unmarried mother?
§ Sir K. Wood
The only question that would be put as regards illegitimacy under the Bill in its present form, would be in relation to the unmarried mother. We have next to consider what it is hoped to achieve as a result of these inquiries. When the inquiry is in progress we shall have regular annual figures showing area by area, and for the country as a whole, the number of children born to parents of particular ages and occupations with varying duration of marriage. The figures will be tabulated by areas, and so enable us to see any local variations in fertility. 1727 We shall, for instance, be able to see whether any variation from the average fertility exists, say, in depressed areas or in industrial regions in which particular occupations are followed, or in areas where female labour is prevalent. All these are vital to a further consideration of the subject, and when all the material for the whole country has been collected and standardised, it will enable us to tabulate the effect of the ages of the parents upon fertility, and the separate effect of the age of the mother and the age of the father.
Again, when the information obtained has been grouped according to the occupations of the fathers, we shall be able to ascertain any variations in fertility as between different occupations or types of occupations. From these primary tabulations we shall be able to ascertain whether greater or lesser fertility is associated with the conditions of particular localities, the ages and occupations of the parents. I wish to emphasise this point however—that any such associations would not, of course, be evidence of causation. But I think everyone who has given any attention to the subject will agree that the methods which I have indicated will furnish valuable and indeed essential information upon which an inquiry into the real operative causes could be thoroughly pursued, whether by a commission or by some other means. I have already said that valuable work in relation to fertility has been done by many other countries, but at present the results of such work cannot be applied to our own fertility conditions, because we do not know what they are. But when we have collected our own fertility statistics we can use them to apply the conclusions which have already been obtained by foreign research. It is true that the populations upon which this foreign research has been based are different from ours, but when we know the conditions in our own country, it will be possible to make allowances for those differences, and obtain what I believe will be valuable help from the conclusions reached in other countries.
§ Sir K. Wood
I am sure the House will not expect me this afternoon to enumerate what other countries have done, but in Italy, for instance, various schemes have been put forward, and whether or not these proposals have been successful is, in my judgment, no reason why we should leave this matter alone. I hope there is no one here who would say that nothing should be done in connection with this matter, because, undoubtedly, other countries are taking steps to deal with it. What I am endeavouring to contend is that such information as has been obtained by other countries, and such evidence as they have secured, cannot be applied to our own country until we ascertain the facts. I would utter a word of caution as to a number of the reasons which have already been suggested for the fall in the birth rate in this country. One hon. Member during a Debate in this House some time ago expressed the opinion that it was due to the action of this Government or past Governments in decontrolling houses. This explanation appears to ignore the fact that there has been a fall in birth rate in other countries where there is no question of control or decontrol of houses; that the major reduction in the birth rate in this country took place when houses were not decontrolled, and that it is only during the last few years when houses have been decontrolled that the rate has become steadier.
Then, one hears it said constantly that the fall in the birth rate is due to the fear of war. It is said that people, quite properly, do not desire their children to be used as cannon fodder. But, again, that does not appear to be a substantial reason from which we can found a conclusion of that kind. In the years immediately after the War, when the risk of war was appreciably lessened, there was a decline in the birth rate, while during the past four years, when many people believe there has been a greater risk of war, the decline in the birth rate has been checked. Nor would it appear on present assumptions that poverty is the main cause. The wealth per head of the population has steadily increased during the same period as the birth rate has declined. In fact, the birth rate has declined during the period in which there has been a continuous improvement in the condition of our people. But all these matters are obviously conjecture. What 1729 is needed is research of a scientific kind; we require much more exact information.
Let me say a word, in conclusion, on the Amendment on the Paper by hon. Members opposite. I hope the information I have been able to give the House will allay any misgivings they have in this matter. I was rather disappointed when I saw their Amendment on the Paper, because I thought there was no difference of opinion between hon. Members opposite and myself as to obtaining additional facts. When I referred on the Estimates in June last to the need for obtaining further statistics and set out most of the items in the Bill as necessary, I thought there was no general dissent, but rather that the official spokesman of the Labour party took much the same view. The hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) said:From whatever angle we view it, we must all look with concern on the fall of the school population, particularly as it means that the average age of the country is considerably higher. There seems no likelihood of the problem being arrested.…There should be an investigation to find out the real cause."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th June, 1937; col. 1627, Vol. 324.]The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) went much further, and expressed general approval of the course I indicated. He said:In the earlier part of his speech he made reference to the steadily declining birth rate and the trend of population. That, obviously, is an outstanding psychological problem of first importance. I am not going to say anything about policy, but I think it is clear that we ought to know what is happening, and, as far as possible, to learn why it is happening. As I understand the right hon. Gentleman, he is not at this point concerned with the problem of policy but with the facts and tendencies out of which future policy can be formed. It will be at that stage that there may be a severe clash of opinion. But I think that the Committee will agree that ignorance is no guide to future action, and if the right hon. Gentleman can extend our knowledge of this complex problem I am sure he will receive the thanks of all sides of the Committee."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th June, 1937; col. 730, Vol. 325.]I hope this is one of the measures of thanks I am going to receive. Those were the right hon. Gentleman's views, and they come with particular force from him because he had much the same responsibilities as Minister of Health as I have. As far as the exact questions a re concerned which I have set forth in the Bill, and also the position of hon. Members 1730 opposite, it should be recognised that as long ago as April, 1930, the scientific and statistical advisers of the Labour party were pressing for the permanent establishment of a fertility inquiry, and the information they suggested as being necessary they asked to be included as a permanent feature in every census and in the birth register. The Registrar-General at that time thought it necessary to resist a proposal for this addition to the birth register, for the reason that such information would not be confidential, but would be available to the public. That is the reason why he refused that proposition of the Labour party at that time; he thought it was information that people would not like to appear in the public register.
A deputation was received by the Registrar-General in April, 1930, from the Science and Public Health Advisory Committee of the Labour party, an expert body which had given a considerable amount of time and consideration to this matter. They pressed for the permanent establishment of the fertility inquiry in every census, and, in particular, for each married woman, the duration of marriage, the children born alive of the marriage, the children who had died, the occupation of the father; and that the birth register should include a statement of the ages of the parents. They urged that the birth entries in England and Wales should be brought into line with those of Scotland by including a statement of the date and place of the marriage of the parents. A further request was that death entries should include a statement of the date and place of birth and of the marital relation. I think that as such a proposition was put before the Minister of Health in those days and the Registrar-General—coming as it did from an expert body of the Labour party—it cannot be unreasonable for me to say that I hope hon. Members opposite will not feel bound to press their Amendment. Obviously, there is a general agreement among all people who have considered this matter that the information is desirable. I am anxious to secure the support of hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. Charles Williams
The right hon. Gentleman is trying to get the support of hon. Members above the Gangway, but has he not told us that what hon. Members above the Gangway did in 1930 was almost always wrong?
§ Sir K. Wood
I think my hon. Friend has mistaken the year. On this matter I am desirous to obtain general agreement. As a great deal of this information has already been urged upon us by the Labour party, I do not see that they can legitimately make any objection to the main proposals of the Bill. If there is any objection or suggestion of rejection in any part of the House—I do not want to address my remarks solely to the Labour Opposition—on the question of illegitimate births, I shall be prepared to give consideration to the opinions of the House when we consider the Bill in Committee. Mr. John Burns dealt with this matter, among others, in relation to the 1910 census. At that time the present Lord Addison, then Dr. Addison, was supporting the inclusion of an item which was being resisted by the late Lord Banbury and others of the wordsduration of marriage and the number of children born of the marriage.Realising that no question of illegitimacy was raised, Lord Addison said:So far as delicacy is concerned, I think the time has arrived when we might abandon matters of this kind in regard to questions which vitally concern the national wellbeing."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st June, 1910; col. 301, Vol. 18.]While I wish to do everything to meet the desires of Parliament and of the country, that consideration should certainly be borne in mind.
I am moving the Second Reading of this Bill because I believe we can by it obtain this essential information in a matter which is vital to the future wellbeing of the nation, and later on, when we are in a position to proceed with a proper investigation of the causes of our birth-rate problems, I assert that the provisions of this Bill will enable the necessary information to be compiled with proper regard to confidence, and also fully preserving the rights of Parliament. I ask the House to record its approval of this Measure as one of considerable moment to our country and its citizens.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House, while recognising that the collection of some additional facts regarding the population may be desirable, cannot assent to the Second Reading of a Bill which 1732 instructs the registrars to elicit confidential and intimate information not urgently required for statistical purposes.No one could have failed to detect a lack of buoyancy in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman in moving the Second Reading of this Bill. To me it seemed peculiarly lame and laborious. The right hon. Gentleman was a good deal happier in the unofficial Second Reading speech which I read in one of the morning papers to-day, because there he was able to skate over the principal defects of the Bill by choosing the most innocuous parts and getting away with such convenient phrases as "for instance." I do not know the form in which the communication which appears in the daily papers this morning reached them from the right hon. Gentleman, but if it was an article written by him I suggest that it is unsatisfactory, and not respectful to this House, that hon. Members should have an unofficial Second Reading speech delivered to them with their morning paper before they hear the official defence which the Minister has to put up to this House. In the House the words of the Minister are open to direct challenge and interrogation, whereas in the columns of a daily newspaper he is able to slide over many of the principal difficulties and to represent the thing in a way to which we are all accustomed on the public platform and in the Press, but which does not appertain to the considered judgment which this House has to give.
As one who, like the right hon. Gentleman, has had a good deal to do with questions of economics and statistics, I have no objection to an attempt to collect better information with regard to the vital statistics. Quite the contrary. I welcome steps which are properly designed to obtain additional information. The defence which the right hon. Gentleman made on that score was all very well as far as it went, but was largely irrelevant to this Measure. Probably most of us read in the columns of the "Times" this morning a valuable letter by Professor Carr-Saunders. For the most part I find myself in sympathy and accord with that letter. There is only one word with which I am in disagreement, and that is the word "merely," in the sentence in which he says:the Population (Statistics) Bill merely gives power to ask the necessary questions.1733 I think the Bill does a great deal more than what is really required. The right hon. Gentleman gave, as his defence of the Bill, that this was only the same kind of thing as had been done in the census of previous years. Does he suggest, and does the House really believe, that what he is asking should be done by a registrar under this Bill is on the same footing as what is done in a census return? I suggest there is a fundamental difference. When the right hon. Gentleman says that another census will not take place until 1941, I can retort that the amount of information he will get in the census of 1941 will be far more comprehensive than that which he will obtain by dealing with the comparatively few births that will take place between the passing of this Bill and that census. All the people who really desire statistical information about the vital facts of life have urged on the Government repeatedly that we should have a quinquennial census, which would keep the persons engaged on it in continual work, and would give us a n up-to-date picture from time to time throughout the whole period.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
There is no question of party in this Bill. There is a large number of hon. Members in all sections of the House who feel that this is a thoroughly undesirable Bill. The right hon. Gentleman says it is innocuous; he wants only to find out how many children a man and woman have, and how many brothers and sisters the parents have. If that is the object, why does he not say so in the Bill? It would have been easy to introduce a Bill so that when people went to register a birth they would be asked those simple questions. No Member of the House would have taken exception to a Bill of that kind. But this Bill deals in an entirely different way with the whole question.
§ Sir F. Fremantle
Does the right hon. Gentleman consider these questions would have been sufficient for the purpose required?
I am dealing with what the right hon. Gentleman has said. I understood him to say that that was the object which this Bill was designed to secure. My contention is that had the right hon. Gentleman wanted that, it 1734 would have been perfectly easy to bring in a Bill to obtain it. This Bill is of an entirely different character. Its terms are wide and ambiguous. The Schedule refers to matters with respect to which particulars may be required, and then, in paragraph 1 (b):In relation to the father, and to the mother, and to any present or former spouse of either—age, occupation, profession, trade, employment, birthplace, dependants, brothers and sisters.What is the information that it is sought to obtain? This Bill does not say that persons shall declare how many brothers and sisters the father and mother have. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but if he can point to the words which do say so—
§ Sir K. Wood
That is the Parliamentary draftsman's way of expressing it, and the right hon. Gentleman can take it from me that it is so. If there is any question about that, and anyone can put it any plainer, I have no objection at all.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
It is not expressed in this Bill as far as the ordinary man can understand, and I have discussed the matter with a number of lawyers who think it is exceedingly ambiguous.
§ Sir John Withers
Am I not right in saying that no questions can be asked until the regulations are laid before the House, and that the House will have every power of objecting to them?
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
That is a different point, and I am coming to it. What I am dealing with now is what the Schedule empowers the Minister to put into these regulations. I cannot question what the right hon. Gentleman's draftsmen tell him, but the phrases used in this part of the Schedule are certainly wide and ambiguous. If it be true that they mean only what the right hon. Gentleman says, I think that other words, which would have been more understandable to the man in the street and to a number of lawyers, would have been much better than the words he has chosen. What is the reason for the Bill being drafted in this form? There are certain things the right hon. Gentleman wants to know. He says to his Department, "Let us have a Bill to get this information." The Department says, "That is all right, but we may as well 1735 spread the net as wide as possible; you will get all you wish and it will not do any harm." That may be all right for the right hon. Genteman and his Department but it is not all right for this House.
It is the business of the House to see that the powers of the Minister are limited to those things which the House is prepared to give him. I recognise that this Bill can be made operative only by the Minister promulgating orders. These orders are of two classes. There are the orders relating to the first two sections of the Schedule, which have to be supported merely by the negative acquiescence of the House; and there are the orders relating to the third section, which have to be supported by affirmative Resolution. It is true that the Minister may not use the powers, but the question the House has to consider is whether the Minister should have these powers, not whether he will use them. The Minister said, "The Bill says this, and what we propose to do is this, that and the other." That is not the question the House has to decide. The House has to decide whether it will allow the Minister in the first instance to spread the net as widely as he proposes to do. It is against that that we are moving this Amendment.
Look at paragraph 1 (c) of the Schedule. That is the only place where a woman is bound to tell the number of her illegitimate children. With regard to the third part of the Schedule, the House is giving an exceedingly wide power, almost unlimited, but it is subject to the affirmative Resolution of the House to any order. An affirmative Resolution is something a great deal less than the assent required in an Act of Parliament. It is only the single decision of the House, and it may be that the House would refuse any wide use of the power. But I think it far too wide a power to be left subject only to a single vote in the House, and for the Minister then to be able to do what is proposed here.
Having dealt with the facts of the situation, let me consider what will be the results. A great number of people will go to the registrar's office to register the births of children, and they will be asked all these questions. If the mother goes to the registrar's office she will be asked questions about her age, occupation, profession, trade, employment, birthplace, 1736 dependants, brothers and sisters, and also the same questions with regard to her husband. I do not know what may be the right hon. Gentleman's experience, but my experience is that a great number of people who are not well-to-do lose sight of many of their relatives, and forget how many brothers and sisters they have themselves. Still more do they not know, or forget, how many brothers and sisters the spouse has.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to address his mind to this question. Supposing a person goes to the registry office to give particulars about the birth of a child and the registrar asks a considerable number of questions which that person cannot answer, what will happen? It is a serious point. Will the person be told by the registrar to go home and find out the answers, and to come again at some later date?—and then probably not have obtained the particulars. I have helped a large number of people to fill in forms, and I know that it is with the greatest difficulty that they give the right answers to the questions they are asked. The unfortunate person who goes to register the birth of a child will probably have to make two or three visits to the registrar's office before he or she will be able to give answers to all the questions that are asked. I think that will be a very great hardship, and that it will cause very great annoyance to the people of this country.
The right hon. Gentleman will recognise, moreover, that if there is anything that people want to hide, they will not give the correct answers to the questions that may be asked under paragraph (c) of the Schedule, and will take the chance of the £10 fine. What woman who goes to the register officer to register the birth of an illegitimate child will tell the registrar about all the other illegitimate children she has had, possibly by some other man, in the course of her life? Of course, she will not give that information. The statistics will be quite valueless, because they will be almost wholly incorrect. Anyone who knows anything about human nature knows that that will be so. Therefore, it seems to me that, as far as these two parts are concerned, there is a very great deal of sound objection that can be raised to this Bill. In the Financial Memorandum of the Bill, there is the following statement: 1737The Bill provides that such further particulars shall be obtained in confidence for statistical purposes only, and not for entry in the register.I have looked through the Bill with very great care, but that is not explicitly stated in any place in the Bill. The only place where there is a reference which might cover it is in Clause 4, Sub-section (2), but even there it is not stated directly. I would like to know whether this is some mistake, or whether again the right hon. Gentleman prefers not to be clear, as in other parts of the Bill. I do not see why the Financial Memorandum should be so explicit and the Bill be left vague. But even if the Bill were to contain an explicit statement in that respect, I think that it ought to be definitely laid down in the Bill that the registrar, in putting any additional questions, shall be compelled to state specifically to the person concerned that they will not be entered in the registry and will not be made public. That would be some sort of safeguard against the improper use of the information obtained. I have no doubt that the great bulk of registrars are most worthy people, and they are particularly chosen for their reliability. If 999 people out of 1,000 in this country are good, sound, honest people, probably 9,999 out of 10,000 registrars are. At the same time, I do not think it is desirable that any body of persons should be in possession of information which they might use to their own advantage. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that it is undesirable that the registrar should have the additional intimate information which is permitted under paragraph (c) of the Schedule.
It may be said that these are Committee points, but I do not agree. If it were a matter of altering a word or two here and there in the Bill in order to clear up a few matters on which some of us have doubts, I should agree that it was a matter for the Committee; but I think the objection which I have lodged against the proposal goes to the root of the method of handling the subject in this Bill. Consequently, I should not be satisfied with mere alterations in Committee. As the Bill, and particularly the Schedule, contains words which seem to me to leave the door open for the obtaining of very much more detailed information than the right hon. Gentleman seems to wish to obtain, I think that the Schedule, at any rate, has to be funda- 1738 mentally altered if it is to conform to the ideas which prevail, not in one section, but in all sections of the House. However much we may want the information, we do not want it to be obtained by harassing, irritating and annoying large masses of respectable, quiet citizens in this country. That is what I believe the Bill will do.
Before concluding, I wish to say a few words on the larger issues which lie at the back of this Bill and to which the right hon. Gentleman referred in his speech. What we are primarily concerned about is not this Bill and these statistics, but the larger issues relating to what may be a serious decline in our population. We do not really want to find out how many brothers and sisters people have, but the reason women produce and bring to maturity fewer children than in previous years. I say women advisedly, for in the last resort it is the women who count in this matter. Those who have followed the statistics know very well that the recent method of discussing the increase or decline in population is whether a hundred women of this generation are bearing and bringing to maturity more or less than a hundred women of the generation which follow them.
If hon. Members look back into history, they will find that there have been roughly three periods. The first period, which extended until comparatively recently—and which still prevails in savage tribes—was that in which the natural wastage of war, pestilence, famine and the normal diseases of life and old age accounted for at least as many as the number of children which women could bring into the world and bring to maturity, with the result that women were held in very great respect because their activity was essential for the preservation of the race. At the end of the last century, the situation was fundamentally changed. The ravages of war, pestilence and famine had been very considerably checked, and the number of children born very much exceeded the number requisite to maintain a stationary population. Then the attitude of the public changed very much, and instead of praising that, a large part of our people were scolded for having too many children. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health looks surprised, but surely he has read books in which the authors have written about the improvidence of the working 1739 class. The right hon. Gentleman cannot deny that books were written dreading the time when the number of mouths would far exceed the possibilities of feeding them.
Now we have come to the third period. Because of the knowledge of birth control which is possessed by the great mass of the population, women now have it in their power so to limit population—and are so limiting it—that the danger is what it was originally, and there is fear lest the race should be jeopardised by the number of children born being insufficient to make up for the number of deaths. That brings me to discuss the direction in which a remedy can be found. The only remedy that can be found is to satisfy women that in bringing children into the world they are achieving the objects which they have in view. I remember very well that when the suffragette agitation was at its height, one of the things which women demanded was that steps should be taken to cut down the infant mortality rate. If we look back to those years we find that concurrent with that agitation of the suffragettes there was an immense fall in the rate of infant mortality, and in a very few years, the figure of 130 per 1,000 had fallne to something like 65 per 1,000. But there is to-day still a very high maternity death rate. I know the right hon. Gentleman has done a good deal to reduce that rate, but a great deal still remains to be done.
Over and above that, there the still larger question which the women of this country are putting to this House, to the Minister, and to thinking people in this country as a whole. What sort of world are you asking us to bring children into? Is it a world that we have a right to bring children into? Is it a world where our efforts and our labours, all that we are giving in risk, in health, in vigour, are going to be squandered in the tragedy of war? On the other hand, in this great, rich country of ours, are the children, as the heirs of all the ages, as the descendants of all the people who have lived in this country in times gone by—are they or are they not going to share in the great heritage and the great possessions which have been wrung from nature and life by the energies of men in the industries and inventions of their forefathers?
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Kingsley Griffith
I should like to begin by thanking the Minister very heartily for arranging that this Bill should be taken at an early hour in the evening. It is one of those Bills which there is a certain temptation to Ministers to smuggle through at a time of night when what are usually disguised as "other Orders" are taken. The Minister has not tried to do that, and thereby he has ensured an adequate discussion of an enormous and important question. I believe, with the last speaker, that this is not a party question. It is many weeks since I put down a Motion to reject this Bill, and I did so without consulting any of my hon. Friends in my own party, except the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot), who is sitting next to me, who seconds my proposal. I put it forward simply as a private Member of Parliament, desiring, on behalf of my own constituents, that they should not be worried unnecessarily with intimate, irritating, and, as it seems to me, irrelevant questions; and it is on that basis that I oppose the Bill to-day.
I am not very much interested if the right hon. Gentleman can find some kind of precedent for some part of these questions in the Liberal Census Act of 1910 or in the Census Act of 1920. They are not all covered by these questions, by any means. The questions that I object to most are not covered at all, but I can only say that if I had had the power, I would have opposed those questions when they were put forward. I am not greatly impressed either with the precedents of the Dominions and other countries. It is said, in the letter in the "Times" to which attention has been called—I am not sure that the two names at the bottom of that letter ought not really to be on the back of this Bill—that the experience of other countries shows that these questions lead to no public protests. If that means that nobody has actually shot a registrar or broken up the office, I dare say they are right, but how can they know that there has not been a great deal of discontent? You have to remember that these questions are asked of people one by one, as the individual births or deaths happen to occur in each individual family, and there is not much chance then for organising a public protest meeting, because each man's questions come upon him separately and not, as in the case of the census, together with. the whole of the rest of the people.
1741 It seems to me that the really crucial question with regard to the Dominion precedents was asked by the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis), in an interjection which he made in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. This experience has been gained in the Dominions and other countries, but what have they done with it, what positive measures have resulted? What effect has been obtained, by all this knowledge that has been accumulated, upon the birth rate in these countries? If we do not have that information, it appears to me that the Dominion precedents are of very little value to us, and until we are cold what positive results have been obtained in other parts of the world, I shall continue to regard this Bill as a typical product of the official and expert mind, the mind that wants to collect facts as some people collect omnibus tickets, without any clear idea as to what the value of such collecting is. Those of us who served in the War—probably many of us—had the kind of experience of being rung up on the field telephone by a voice, probably in the middle of an intense bombardment, asking why our nominal roll of the number of Baptists under our command had not been made up, and would we please expedite same.
It is the same kind of thing that I seem to observe in this Bill. It is, of course, a very laudable instinct in the official mind to collect facts, but I think the Minister should also remember that there is an equally natural public instinct not to give facts, intimate, personal facts, unless they are positively necessary, and we are entitled to ask, I think, that the Minister should hold the balance evenly between those two instincts, one inside the Department and the other outside. It really does not interest me for the Minister to say that it does not matter asking these questions, because the results are to be confidential. These questions are going to be asked in a great number of poor families as well as rich ones and in my view—and the psychological factor is very important—the people in the poor families, with tremendous pride of family, never really believe that the information will be confidential. They do not even believe that the ballot is secret, and, quite apart from that, they will object to giving this kind of information, even to an official who, for all they know, may be 1742 living in the next street. They hate to think thatA chield's amang you taking notes";and the most abusive epithet they can offer to anyone is "Nosey Parker." There are these questions being asked under a £10 penalty for refusal or concealment, and it is no good the Minister saying, "Oh well, of course, we would not impose the penalty except in very serious cases." We in this House are taking the responsibility of passing a penal Statute which enables these penalties to be applied, and we, at any rate, cannot take refuge behind a discretion which we imagine that other people will exercise in not employing the powers which we are now giving to them. We have to realise that the imposition of these penalties is our responsibility, which we are now taking.
Now I want to turn, I hope at not too great length, to the actual questions in the Schedule, because the sting of this beast is in its tail, and that is where we have to look for the mischief which I apprehend.Matters with respect to which particulars may be required.On registration of birth or stillbirth.I will not read (a), because I do not object to it. It simply asks whether a father or mother was married before. That might be embarrassing to people in Hollywood, who could not count up, but I do not think it will worry anybody much in this country, and after all, if it were standing alone, I should not have put down a Motion for the rejection of the Bill. But when we come to (b), I am quite amazed to hear that there can be any doubt as to the width or the extent of this provision.In relation to the father, and to the mother, and to any present or former spouse of either—age, occupation, profession, trade, employment, birthplace, dependants, brothers and sisters.That definitely means, and cannot mean otherwise, that you are entitled to ask the occupation of the brothers and sisters and all the rest of it of a former spouse. It cannot mean anything else, but I want to ask, What is the relevance of this kind of question? When I first saw this Bill, I put down a specimen piece of information, and I may say that I put it down before a certain article appeared in the present issue of "Punch," and so I feel 1743 that I am not infringing copyright in mentioning my own words. "My first wife was a chorus girl, aged 17, and born in New York. She had three brothers, four sisters, and a paralysed aunt dependent upon her." These particulars could be asked under a £10 penalty, if the person making the entry attempted to draw a veil over the paralysed aunt. He has to tell the truth about the whole thing, and what conceivable relevance can there be in those questions? Mark you, they are particulars about people who are no relation whatever to the baby whose birth is being registered, and it appears to me that one might just as relevantly ask of the father, when registering, whether his previous spouse supported Oxford or Cambridge in the boat race or what was the name of her favourite flower. It would have just about as much relevance to any vital statistics.
I really have tried to work out for myself some kind of relevant information which could be obtained from these questions about the relatives of former spouses. Say, perhaps, a former spouse had had no brothers and sisters. Perhaps the Minister would try to deduct this, that the weak, infertile strain was on that side of the family and nothing to do with the problem. But it would be a most unsafe deduction to make, and you could not draw it at all unless you had a great deal more information to go upon. You would have to ask questions about the father and mother of the previous spouse in order to have any real information at all, because the father or mother of the previous spouse might have died immediately after the birth of the previous spouse, and that would amply account for no more children being born; or the mother might have had to undergo some operation which unfitted her for further child bearing; or the parents might have become divorced or separated; or they might have bought for the first time the works of the celebrated lady who writes on birth control. Any one of these things might have happened, and unless you had all this information, the other information would become purely irrelevant.
I suggested to myself another kind of abstruse calculation that might be made, and I think this is a genuine calculation. The figures might show that a woman who married a barrister as her first hus- 1744 band is more likely to have children by her second husband than a woman who married a solicitor as her first husband. It seems to me that that information could, if the facts supported it, be quite genuinely obtained. Where do we go from there? What do we do next? You cannot compel a woman to marry a barrister, though some of them do, and you cannot prevent her marrying a solicitor. It seems to me, therefore, that this kind of information leads to absolutely nothing. I observe that the Minister, in making his speech, made no reference whatever to paragraph 2, as a separate paragraph on the registration of deaths. I expected to have from the Minister some indication of why he put in this information twice, because the information on deaths:The like matters as are specified in paragraph 1,will to a considerable extent be a duplication of what has been given on births, and, of course, all my objections apply again, but they apply with this addition, that you are now asking these worrying, intimate questions about a person who is recently dead and at a time when there is mourning in the family.
Therefore, any objections I have to paragraph I apply with even greater relevance to paragraph 2. The Minister has foreshadowed a concession under paragraph 1 with regard to the unmarried mother. The Minister has realised apparently that here there would be a storm of protest. I would point out, however, that if the Minister does leave out this question he will leave out the one question which is most obviously related to the inquiry about the birth rate. I am grateful that he is leaving it out, but is he doing so effectively? It appears to me that the only offer we have from the Minister, if it be an offer, is that he will consider leaving out paragraph 1 (c), but it still leaves it open to bring in the same question about the unmarried mother under paragraph 3, which is the omnibus paragraph at the end of the Schedule.
There is no limit to the questions that may be asked under that paragraph, and if hon. Members are to be attracted by this indication of a concession they should realise what it is. It does not mean that this question could never be asked. It means only that if it is asked it will have to be asked under the machinery of 1745 paragraph 3 and not under the machinery of paragraphs 1 and 2. We shall have to get an affirmative Resolution in both Houses before it is asked rather than a mere Order in Council which will lie on the Table and have effect unless it is voted against. It is, therefore, necessary that I should consider paragraph 3 in order to see whether the safeguards proposed are really adequate. It is obvious that under paragraph 3 you could ask the most embarrassing questions. You could ask how many cases of venereal disease there had been in the family, and it would be a most relevant question. Nobody can deny that. You could ask the practice of the father and mother with regard to the use of contraceptives, and that again would be a most relevant question. The Minister may say that he has no intention of asking offensive questions like that, but I would remind him that he may not be sitting there indefinitely. There may be another Minister whose little finger is thicker than the right hon. Gentleman's loins, and whereas the right hon. Gentleman delightfully chastises us with party whips the other may prefer scorpions. We have to look to the future and see what questions may be asked. What I am afraid of is that we shall part with this Bill satisfied with some minor concessions to paragraph 1, and satisfied that we shall have another chance of objecting to anything that is put forward under paragraph 3. What will happen will be that some Minister will come here and say, "There are a few more questions that I simply must ask. I find that unless I have questions (a), (b) and (c), which are now asked to be affirmed by a Resolution of this House, all my other Information will be quite useless," and he will appeal to the House not to stultify the position he took under this Bill by refusing consent to the questions for which he asks. The result is that we shall slide from question to question. Members will think that they may as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb and that they may as well allow the questions to be asked.
We should make our fight here and now on the ground that we believe these questions to be unnecessary and embarrassing to the people of whom they are asked. I believe that these questions are useless for any practical end except when they are offensive. That is the difficulty of this inquiry. It is only the 1746 questions which will arouse intense resentment which will be of any great service in the inquiry. If I am right that these questions are useless, then I think that without exaggeration, it is an affront to human dignity that they should be asked at ail. Lord Baldwin, in a speech in the City recently, urged statesmen to have regard to the essential dignity of the human soul. That is a matter which we may rightly call into consideration in dealing with a Measure of this kind. I ask that this Bill should be sent back to the pigeon-hole from which it ought never to have emerged. For want of it the birth rate will not fall, and we shall if it is rejected, save those to whom we are responsible from a great deal of unnecessary annoyance and irritation.
§ 5.50 p.m.
I rise with great diffidence to address the House for the first time. I have the honour to be the fourth generation to sit in the House of Commons. My great grandfather took his seat in the Reform Parliament of 1832, but I find that this fact does not give me any great confidence, and I crave the indulgence of the House while I say a few words about this Bill. When I first read the Bill I did not altogether like it, but I admit that I have changed my mind, which perhaps, in the case of a woman, is excusable. May I put four points with regard to it? The first point that matters is whether we really mind whether the population decreases or not. It is true that there are many people who may say that they think the population of this country is already too great, and that it would be better to have a smaller and more healthy population. That point of view is understandable, hut, surely, for those people this Bill should be of importance because, sooner or later, if the population continues to decrease, the moment will come when inquiries must be made in the matter.
The second point is whether the Government are responsible and should be interested in the question. Again, apparently, there are many people who feel that it is a matter much better left alone. It seems to me that there cannot be many serious-minded people who do not view this question with anxiety, and who realise that sooner or later it will have to be dealt with. The third point is that if the Government are to take action, the only 1747 department that can deal with it is the Ministry of Health, which is responsible for the health of the people. Then the fourth question arises as to what policy the Government are to adopt. Obviously, from the Minister's speech, the Government are determined to act in time, for if they are to be ready to instigate inquiries they must have facts, and the facts must be obtained by some means or another. This Bill, I understand, is intended to enable them to collect data and statistics so that they may see what action is necessary, and so that they may be able to place before the country a policy based on facts, and not on suppositions.
The main opposition to the Bill is the fear of interfering in the private affairs of people. The Government have already announced that the inquiries are merely an extension of those already made, and I do not believe that the bulk of people will resent the inquiries as long as they understand why these facts are needed, and as long as the Bill is not misrepresented. It appears to me that this is the kind of Bill which can be easily misrepresented to the people. It is a great pity that that should be done, because I am sure that most people are only too willing to help if they realise that the matter in which they are helping is an important one. I am satisfied that as long as the realise—and this is the important fact—that these particulars are to be treated as confidential, they will not mind giving them when they are asked. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) seemed to consider it dangerous to give the details, even in confidence, to the registrar, because one in 100 or one in 1,000 may not be trustworthy. If the right hon. Gentleman feels like that, he might say that, although most bank managers are dependable people, he will not put his money in a bank because of the fact that one may not be trustworthy. The Minister of Health mentioned an article that appeared in a newspaper yesterday, and the great anxiety of that newspaper that the private lives of people should not be interfered with. I am glad to see that a newspaper is recognising the need of the value of privacy at the present moment.
Other countries are already far ahead of us with their inquiries, and if the matter appears to be urgent for the smaller and 1748 more self-contained countries, surely, with a country such as ours, with a vast Empire and all the responsibilities which it carries with it, these inquiries must be more urgent than in the case of those countries. To those of us who are interested in social problems, particularly in housing, there are many reasons that we can see at once why the population is declining. Many of us would like to put forward these facts. They are obvious facts to us and to the Government, but they are no good unless they are used in conjunction with other statistics. When these inquiries have been finished and made known, the Minister will have to take into consideration all the obvious facts to which I have referred, as well as the facts which he hopes to collect as a result of these inquiries. At the moment the picture is incomplete. The Minister hopes to complete the picture by making the inquiries which will be permitted by this Bill. It is because I am interested in social problems, because I believe that these facts will have to be taken into consideration by the Government, and because I believe the Bill w ill be helpful to the Government in making their inquiries, that I have every intention of supporting it, May I thank the House very much for their kindness and consideration, and the sympathetic way in which they have listened to my speech?
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Herbert
I am quite sure that the Noble Lady who has just delightfully delivered herself of her maiden speech will not misunderstand me if I say that I am sure she feels, appropriately, as if she had just had a baby. I know that I did. As one who on that occasion did everything that was wrong and disgraced myself in every possible way, I most heartily offer the Noble Lady congratulations, which I know will be shared by the entire House, on the modest, charming, and witty way in which—not for the last time I hope—she has spoken. This is a most important subject, and I, for one, do not approach it in any flippant manner. It is not a Bill or subject on which misrepresentation is permissible on either side. In fact, I do not think there has been, but, if anything, my present feeling is that the misrepresentation has been on the side of the Bill rather than against it. If there has been, as I think there has, a misunderstanding, I respectfully say to the right hon. Gentleman that he, or 1749 rather his advisers, are entirely responsible. This is an important and vital objection to the Bill, because, in spite of all his talk about precedents, if he had followed precedent and placed upon page 6 of this Bill not this incomprehensible Schedule, but a clear indication of the questions he proposes to ask, as was done in the Birth Registration Acts of 1812 and 1837 and all the Acts of the States of Australia, with the exception of two, and of New Zealand, there would have been no misunderstanding whatever.
My main objection to this Bill is the fundamental one that it puts the wrong questions to the wrong people. What is the main question to which we are addressing ourselves? It is "Why are there not more babies?" To whom is this question going to be addressed? (A) To people who have just had a baby, and (B) to those who have just passed away. [Laughter]. This is not a joke. It is the fundamental objection to the whole of this Bill. By every canon of practicality and common sense, this question should be addressed to those who have not had a baby, and are still alive. Somebody the other day—I think it was Father Woodlock: I do not know what was his evidence for it—announced in the public Press that there are now 1,000,000 married couples without children. If that is true, those are the people to whom the right hon. Gentleman should address his questions.
I do not know—it would be indelicate of me to inquire; it is not recorded in the works of Whitaker or Burke, or even Dod or Vacher—whether the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench have, if I may use the expression, ceased to breed. We should all agree, I think, that it would be a deplorable fact if it were so, but one thing that is certain under this Bill is that nobody is going to ask them why, and nobody is going to the Parliamentary Secretary to ask him why he has not even begun. If the right hon. Gentlemen think, as they may well do, that these questions are too personally directed, I am prepared to put them to myself. I am a grandfather. I have four children. I think I have ceased to breed. I am not as young as I was, but I am lusty, and I hope I maintain my powers, and, indeed, I am prepared on certain considerations to increase the population, but nobody is going to ask me 1750 about that until I die. That is really a serious point.
The Government are taking a small, fortuitous cross-section of the race, a very small one, amounting to about 1,000,000 every year, and trying to ascertain these facts. If they are going to take a cross-section, why not take a larger one? Why not go to those who apply for wireless licences—there are 7,000,000 of them, instead of 1,000,000, as here—or those who desire to license motor cars, of whom there are about 2,000,000? I shall not object if the Government line up the whole nation and put almost any question you like to them—if they say, "This is a great national crisis, and you must submit to it": in other words, why not have a census, and have a census now?
We live and learn, and we are accustomed to surprises. But I was surprised to read this morning in the "Daily Express" an article, placed appropriately enough adjacent to one by my old friend Beachcomber, by the Minister of Health, in which he said:Practically all these questions were asked at the 1911 census"—With great respect, that is not quite true—and they could perfectly well be asked in the course of the next census, but we shall have to wait until 1941 for that to be taken.Why in the world have we to wait until 1941? I have here the Census Act, 1920, and the right hon. Gentleman knows that five years after the last census, which was in 1931, the Government may at any moment arrange for an Order in Council, and we can have another census. We can have a census next February or, indeed, to-morrow. I seriously put this fundamental point to the House: that if the situation is so grave that we have to ask questions of anybody, let us do the thing thoroughly and take a census next year.
May I add to that the very important point that questions which would be quite unobjectionable, or fairly so, in a census may be wholly objectionable in this form of birth, marriage and death registration. I say that for two reasons. A census happens once in a while. You get your Order in Council and ask the questions, and you cannot ask them again until there has been another Order in Council; but if we pass this Bill any questions authorised under it will be part of the law of the land for ever. It is no good point- 1751 ing out that under Clause r an Order in Council may be revoked, because we all know what are the chances of that happening. The second point in favour of having the census is that the questions in a census are answered by the householder, the intelligent head of the house, who can do it at his leisure and after he has gathered his household about him; but the questions under this Bill are going to be asked from day to day, and sometimes of poor women lying in hospital beds. I was talking to a registrar the other day, and he said that he did not know what he was going to do if this Bill became law, because as it is he often has to spend an hour and a half at the bedside of patients in a hospital ward, and finds it difficult enough already to get the information.
The machinery of the registration of births was never intended for the collection of collective statistics, although, incidentally, it has produced valuable statistics. It was intended originally for the benefit of individuals, and later for the prevention of abuses. Hon. Members might like to hear the Preamble of the Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1812. I think it is a great pity that the practice of having Preambles to Acts of Parliament has fallen out of use, because if there is a Preamble we do know the purpose of the Act. The Preamble of the Act of 1812 was:Whereas the amending of the Manner and Form of keeping and preserving the Register of Births, Baptisms, Marriages and Burials of His Majesty's subjects in the several parishes and places in England will greatly assist the proof of pedigrees of persons claiming to be entitled to Real or Personal Estate and be otherwise of great public benefit and assistance.As in the case of a passport, what was intended originally as a personal privilege gradually becomes an instrument of inquisition and oppression and, eventually, perhaps, of taxation by the State. I most seriously put forward the view that if the situation is so grave as has been suggested we should have a census straightaway and face the thing frankly.
As I said, one objection which I have to all this business is that the answer to the main question is known to all. I suppose I shall be called facetious if I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look around him at the bountiful processes of Nature. 1752 There is the rabbit, that paragon of productivity. There is the cat, a model of maternity. If they are frightened they devour their young. Look even at the prize bull, or even at the race horse. The hero of a hundred races, when his competitive days are over, and he is placed on the daily and congenial task of populating the paddock, at a fee of £250 for services which most of us would do for nothing—even he does not approach his duties with the same alacrity if you fire off guns all round him and place a heavy load of taxation on his back.
There is a more serious answer than that, and that is that the statistics we already possess, which we are told are so inadequate that they must be replaced, are, in fact, most valuable and fruitful statistics. I ask the House to refer to a certain letter which was in the papers this morning. There was a great deal of misrepresentation on the side of this Bill in the papers this morning. Professor Carr-Saunders who, I imagine, is a constituent of mine, said:We are ignorant as to the extent to which different groups, occupations and classes vary in their contributions to the next generation.With all due respect to the learned professor, that is not so. In the "Times" too—the "Times" of all papers—there is a leading article which states:We have…no means of finding out whether the birth-rate decline is common to all parts and classes of the nation or not.It simply is not true. Then the Minister, who has butted in to my profession, as if we had not enough competitors in journalism already without his assistance, states in the article to which I have referred that it will be possible if this glorious Bill becomes law.to deduce from these new figures as a result of concrete evidence, and not by rough calculations, what variations from average fertility exist, say, in a particular industrial region.But we have got all that information already.It will be possible to compare the fertility of different age groups and to assess the separate effect of the age of the mother and the age of the father.I agree that we have not got figures to do that now, but Heaven knows what would be the result if we had. It goes on:Again, we shall know from these figures the relative fertility of different professions, trades and occupations. It w ill be possible to 1753 observe the effect in areas where female labour is widely employed.I have here the Registrar-General's statistical review of England and Wales for the year 1935. From what I have quoted, the House will observe that two of the important things on which it is desired to have information are the regional fertility and the occupational fertility. If we have not got the figures of occupational fertility, that is entirely due to the laziness of the Registrar-General and his staff, and to the neglect of Governments from time to time, because for a hundred years every man who has registered the birth of a child has given particulars of his occupation, and to that extent nothing new will be produced by this Bill. I admit that what will be new will be the occupation of the mother, and I give that small crumb to the right hon. Gentleman. I have been through this book, and if the Government are really in doubt about the answers to their questions I will tell them what I have found.
The highest birth rate, a great truth which I am sure will astonish my hon. Friends opposite, is in the industrial districts, and especially in the North.
§ Mr. Herbert
We all know that. The highest rate is in Durham and Northumberland, 17.2 per thousand of the population. The general rate for England and Wales is 14.7. Next to Durham arid Northumberland come the adjacent counties of Cumberland, Westmorland and Yorkshire, with 16.6 per thousand, and then South Wales with 15.7. These are very high figures, comparing with 14.7 for England and Wales and only 13.9 for London. For Jarrow the rate is 17.8, Billingham 21.1, Seaham Harbour 21.3, West Hartlepool 20.2, Whitehaven 21.2, Liverpool 20.3. Let us come to London. The right hon. Gentleman wants to know about occupational figures. Here you are. The Chelsea birth rate is only 10.2—half that of Seaham Harbour. Hampstead is only 11. The figures for Poplar are 15.4, Islington 14.9 and Westminster 8.5. The right hon. Gentleman has said that the purpose of the Bill is to observe the effect in areas where female labour is widely employed. I can tell him that now. Let us look at these: figures again. In Yorkshire, the average rate is 14.7, in Huddersfield it is only 12.3; in 1754 Bradford 13.5, in Blackburn 12.0, and in Bolton 12.8. Whether that is a case of post hoc or propter hoc I do not know, but these figures tell me just the kind of thing the right hon. Gentleman wants to know by means of this Bill.
Let us turn to the figures for London, and let me put it in this way. These are the boroughs where the birth rate per 1, 000 is over 13: Battersea, Bermondsey, Bethnal Green, Camberwell, Deptford, Finsbury, Fulham, Greenwich, Lambeth, Peckham, Poplar, St. Pancras, Shoreditch, Southwark, Stepney, Stoke Newington and Woolwich. These are the boroughs with a birth rate of under 13 per 1,000: Chelsea, Hampstead, Holborn, Kensington, Lewisham—strangely enough—and Westminster. I do not think that I need develop the point revealed by this comparison. We all know very well that the birth rate is less among the middle class and more among the poorer class.
§ Sir Francis Fremantle
Is it not a fact that the people who live in Chelsea and the places in the short list are comparatively aged?
§ Mr. Herbert
I have already dealt with the point about age and, as I think I said, I do not see the reason for connecting our age statistics with those of the marriage rate and the birth rate, unless you are going to say that people are to marry only at certain ages. We know much more than that. We know that in the county boroughs and rural districts the birth rate is higher than in the urban districts. For the county boroughs the average figure is 15.4; for urban districts, 14.8. The exception to this, and to every rule, is the comparatively little-known urban district of Roxby-cum-Risby, because it has the record birth rate of 26 per thousand—and no bastards.
I mention that because it is an important point. I am going to give from these old-fashioned statistics, which we have been accumulating for over 100 years, and in which we are said to be so far behind other countries, a few items of information about the bastard rate—that is, the proportion of illegitimate children to total births. This is most interesting. I do not know whether hon. Members are aware that the lowest birth rate is 1755 in certain areas, such as Chelsea and Hampstead, which seem, however, to have had the highest bastard rate. I would remind hon. Members that the normal figure of what I may call the bastard rate is 4 per thousand for the country. In Chelsea it is 9.3.
I see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) in his place. I should like to inform him, with congratulations, that in Poplar the rate is only 2.6, that is, half the normal rate of the country. Whether that means there is a higher degree of chastity in Poplar or of veracity in Chelsea, I do not know. I might contrast the two boroughs of Woolwich and Westminster. The Woolwich total rate is high—14.0. In Westminster it is only 8.5, but in Westminster the bastard rate is 13.3, and in Woolwich only 3.
We know that the bastard rate is higher in the country than in the towns. I do not know whether the hedges have anything to do with it. Proximity to the water is highly dangerous—or advantageous, whatever way you may look at it. The average legitimate rate is 14.7, but in Dover it is 16.1, in Liverpool 20.3, and in Sunbury-on-Thames 17.3. Now look on the other side—at the bastards. The ordinary average rate is 4.1, but in Maidenhead it is 8.4; in Blackpool, 8.9; Brighton, 8.1; in Cromer, 11; in Fish-guard, 10.9; in Westminster, 13.0. All these figures are more than twice and the last is three times the average rate. Then in other health resorts we have Margate, 7.6; Bognor Regis, 7.4; bracing Skegness, 7.0; Littlehampton, 7.0; Folkestone, 6.1.
My main intention is to show that we have, in fact, all we want to know in this little book, and I invite the Government to have a look at it before they proceed with the Bill. If more bastards are wanted, the Government might come to the conclusion to give holidays with pay by the sea, and if more legitimate children they might do something in the Bill to help middle-class parents to pay for the education of their children. I can tell them one or two places where they might give such assistance. I can tell them other directions in which they might put a few questions. The Minister might ask the First Lord of the Admiralty or the Government what they are doing about the marriage allowance 1756 for naval officers. They might ask the Secretary for War why it is a soldier cannot come upon the married strength until he has reached the advanced age of 26. They might ask the Treasury why people pay more Income Tax when they are married than when they are living in sin. They might ask the President of the Board of Education about maintenance allowances under the Education Act.
I should like to ask a few questions of my old friends the Bishops, who invite us to blaspheme and fulminate against second marriages, yet say that the primary purpose of marriage is the procreation of children. I should like to ask my predecessor, Lord Hugh Cecil, why he is going about declaring that anybody who marries a second time is committing adultery. I do not want to go beyond the point of suggesting that we have all the particulars that we need, but I should like to make a couple of points relating to what the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) said about the actual questions which it is proposed to put. Let us look at the Schedule to the Bill. My first objection to the ostensibly innocent questions, in paragraph 1 (a) is that they are very boring and tiresome, and that is a matter which we ought not to minimise. The Conservative party have always said that, on the whole, their policy meant that people had to fill up fewer forms than under the policies of other parties. Let them, therefore, not think it a small thing to impose these tiresome and unnecessary duties upon people.
Let us just look at the case of a man and woman each of whom has been married before. The other day there was a story in the papers about an old couple who had been happily married for 50 years. Each of them had been married before. If I understand this Schedule aright, every time that couple register the birth of a child, they will have to answer 44 questions. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to purse up his mouth in that virginal way of his. I hope he will check and correct me if I am wrong. The first eight questions are those imposed by the present law: child, where born, when, name of father, occupation of father, name of mother, signature of parent, date when registered. I hope these particulars will bore the House, because it will show how 1757 much more bored the unfortunate people will be when they have to answer the additional questions.
Now come the questions under paragraph 1 (a) of the Schedule: father, whether married now, and whether married before; and the same questions to the mother. Under paragraph (b), the occupation, birthplace, dependants, brothers and sisters. Under (c) and (d), issue by present spouse, and issue by former spouse, and in relation to the mother, whether she is married now, was married before, her age and occupation. I do not object so much to the questions about birthplace, age and occupation, but I certainly object to all these questions about dependants, brothers and sisters, issue by present spouse, and by former spouses, and, in the case of the mother, if married before, whether the father of the child is a person other than a present or former spouse, and her other issue. That makes 30 questions, without having reached the question about the father's former spouse and the mother's former spouse. In both these categories there are seven more questions, about age, occupation, professions, birthplace, dependants, and brothers and sisters of the father's former spouse and the same of the mother's if she has been married before. The total number of these questions is 44. Any contradiction? No.
Is that really a vital need? Why has the country refused to ask certain questions and very often put that refusal into the Statute Book? There are rules against asking questions of an incriminating character; there are statutory provisions relieving fathers from registering bastards. The reason is not only that the State ought to show a certain delicacy, but: that the State thinks it undesirable, and rightly so, to put forcibly to the subject questions of a character likely to cause the subject to lie or commit perjury. That is the real reason. That is also the reason why some of the questions authorised by the Schedule should not be put. If I understand the Schedule rightly questions may be put under it relating to matters which may be the issue in cases of bastardy, adultery or bigamy. It is all very well to say "Confidential," but there are some questions which cannot be put in Court even in camera and which are wholly undesirable, whether they are to be confidential or not. That principle should be recognised in this Bill.
1758 I will not say much about paragraph 3—it is too easy—but I must say that, when the right hon. Gentleman, in his plausible, innocent way, says that these words were in the Census Act, 1920, he is perfectly correct, but look at the difference. In the Census Act these questions were put once, and once alone, whereas, once anything is done under this Measure, it will be a part of the law of the land for ever. I am much more concerned, however, with my right hon. Friend's references to Australia and New Zealand. I interrupted him on the question of Australia. A great deal of nonsense was talked in the papers this morning about precedents in Australia and. foreign countries. That does not impress me very much. For 20 years I have been asking the Government to observe the practice of Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and France with regard to licensing and divorce, and what have they done about it? There is no reason why, if Australia does a silly thing now, we should do it, too. In Australia, for example, the public-houses shut at six o'clock.
When the right hon. Gentleman said, and when I saw it stated in the papers, that these questions were asked in Australia and New Zealand, I was impressed, and I took the trouble to inquire into the matter. I rang up the offices of the Agents-General of all the States of Australia, and of the High Commissioner for New Zealand. This is rather a shocking thing, to which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will pay some attention. I should be the last person to suggest that he would consciously mislead the House, but I do suggest categorically that he has been misled, either by his advisers or by the experts who are advising them. There is no justification whatever—I have all the Acts here—for saying that all these questions have been accepted either by the Australians or by the New Zealanders. The questions put in their Acts relate to the age, the date of marriage, the birthplace and occupation of the father and mother, and the issue of the same marriage. I do not object to these questions. With one or two exceptions in one or two States, those are the only questions that are asked in Australia, and not here. All this stuff about previous marriages of the fathers and mothers, and relatives, dependants, brothers and sisters of present or former spouses, are not asked 1759 in Australia and ought not to be asked here. I take rather a serious view of the situation when the right hon. Gentleman, with all his cares, can be misled by someone to the extent, not only of announcing in the newspapers, but of his saying it in this House. I say that with great regret.
§ Mr. Herbert
I may have appeared a little too solemn about this affair, but I regard this Bill as a most serious Bill, which ought to be seriously considered and which, with great respect, I think ought to be withdrawn. As I have said, I am not against proper information; I am not saying that it is not important. Some of the questions I have indicated may be legitimate, but they will make very little difference, and I do not like this technique of bringing down to the House for the first lime this vague and unintelligible Schedule, when it would have been perfectly easy to put the questions in clear, precise form, as they have always been put before, and to ask the House on the Second Reading: "Do you like it or not?" I hope the House will resent this insidious advance of bureaucracy. If I have been too solemn, perhaps I may be allowed to relax at the last. I found the other day, while looking over some old papers, that a year ago I anticipated the anxiety of His Majesty's Government on this question, and wrote a memorandum on the vexed question "Why are more babies not being born?" If the House will bear with me, I will read the memorandum. I do not know whether it is in order to read a memorandum in verse:
- "In 5937 was a rumour going round
- That Income Tax was soon to be six shillings in the pound;
- The cost of education every season seemed to swell;
- And to everyone's astonishment the population fell.
- They pulled down all the houses where the children used to crowd
- And built expensive blocks of flats where children weren't allowed;
- So if father got a job there wasn't anywhere to dwell,
- And everybody wondered why the population fell.
- Five hundred brand-new motor cars each morning rode the roads,
- And flashed about like comets or sat motionless as toads;
- Whichever course they took they made the public highway hell,
- And everybody wondered why the population fell.
- The laws were very comical; to bet was voted lax,
- But your betting was the only thing that nobody would tax;
- You couldn't have a wine unless you'd sandwiches as well,
- And everybody wondered why the population fell.
- Great Science nobly laboured to increase the people's joys,
- But every new invention seemed to add another noise;
- One was always on the telephone or answering the hell,
- And everybody wondered why the population fell.
- The taverns were controlled by men who didn't want to drink,
- The newspapers were run by men who hadn't time to think;
- The cinema was managed by a man who couldn't spell,
- And everybody wondered why the population fell.
- Abroad, to show that everyone was passionate for peace,
- All children under seven joined the army or police;
- The babies studied musketry while mother filled a shell—
- And everybody wondered why the population fell.
- The world, in short, which never was extravagantly sane,
- Developed all the signs of inflammation of the brain;
- The past was not encouraging, the future none could tell,
- But the Minister still wondered why the population fell."
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Sir Francis Fremantle
I feel some diffidence in rising to speak after the hon. Member who represents my University of Oxford. I think that perhaps I had better not follow along his line, but had better take his word for it that he is not opposed to proper information on this subject. That is the whole basis of the Bill, and I cannot understand the point of view of some who seem to think that information on this subject is not required. The hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. A. Herbert) says that he wonders where the Minister got the idea of this Bill, but he must realise that it comes from those who have studied this subject. I rather imagine that my hon. Friend himself has not studied it for very long, but has just dabbled occasionally in it. Those who have studied it from any point of view know that there are riot sufficient facts to go upon, and you must have facts in order to be sure of your foundations in the controversy that must arise when you are proposing to take action. It is easy enough in an airy kind 1761 of way to make suggestions with regard to the measures which should or should not be taken to deal with this extremely important question, but when the matter comes to be debated, as we have seen in this House, and still more outside, no one is prepared to lay down any basis for legislative action or administrative action on the subject, because we have not sufficient facts. The Member for Oxford University says, "Look at this books the Registrar-General's report; let the Minister study it." But surely he ought to know that the Bill originates from the reports of the Registrar-General. If the Registrar-General himself says that we need this information, what does the whole speech of the hon. Member for Oxford University amount to? It amounts to nothing. He asks the Minister to refer to the proper people for advice, and points to the Registrar-General's admirable report. But the Registrar-General says that these facts are required to enable us to draw actual conclusions on the subject.
I have had the privilege, if it be a privilege, of being a member of various Commissions that considered this subject. The first was appointed in 1910, and reported in 1914, and there was another that reported, I think, in 1916. As I was abroad, I could not serve on the third one, which reported about 1922. Those Commissions produced voluminous reports, which went into the whole subject, but the difficulty of making their conclusions operative over the country at large is that they are not based on the broad basis of statistics, but on suggestions such as we have had from the hon. Member for Oxford University to-day. They are not sufficiently comprehensive, and the position is—the Minister did just refer to it at one point in his speech—that in thinking of this subject we are confused as between the means and the real cause of the problem. Those who first think of it naturally think of it simply in terms of contraceptives, but, as the Minister said, we have to get beyond that. That is the means to the end. What is the real reason why people limit their families, and so lower their reproductive rate? There are factors of which we are all cognisant, such as poverty, the limitation of housing room, and, still more, the fact that the new houses which are being built will be a 1762 grave drawback to the population of the future because of the limited room that they afford for families. The one thing which we do not know, and which is the most difficult, is whether there is some vital factor in modern civilisation—not a voluntary factor, but some involuntary, unconscious factor—that is undermining the fertility of the people generally in either sex. We do not know that.
I remember that, when we were discussing this subject at the Society of Medical Officers of Health before the War, and when everyone was naturally saying that it was simply a question of contraceptives and birth control, one of the most distinguished of my colleagues, the medical officer of health for Glasgow, now retired, read a paper the object of which was to show that there was some further question of decay in fertility, which might be associated with the greater pace at which we live, or the undue athleticism of girls in their girlhood, or some other cause. Anyhow, it gave us to think. The only way in which the question can really be tested is by taking figures over the whole nation as far as you can get them over a series of years, beginning at one year and continuing for every birth that occurs. The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) asked what were these figures, and he deplored them. It is no use for me or any other Member of the House to try to suggest the scientific reasons—I do not say medical, but scientific reasons—for the actual figures. The scientific reasons for fertility are innumerable, but are quite definite, and they must include these questions of the spacing out of the family, the ages of the parents when children are born, and the period in the fertility life of the mother during which the family is produced.
Obviously, we want to include the whole range of fertility, and get as many figures as possible. If it may be inexpedient, in the view of this House, for other reasons, to get certain facts, we have to rule them out; but all I will say is that if you rule out any set of these facts, unless you have the broadest possible view, giving the widest series of facts you can get, you are going against the scientific view. You must not try to circumscribe the facts that are to be obtained. I quite agree that it is a great 1763 mistake to accumulate unnecessary facts; yet, from the scientific point of view, you must have a lot of facts that may not be necessary for your examination. You must allow these facts to be scheduled on a large scale in so far as it is thought that they will be useful for this investigation, and then curtail them if, after a year or two, or say, five years or so, you find them to be unnecessary. I do ask everybody in this House on both sides, if they are not used to scientific investigation—as would appear to be the case with several of those hon. Members who have spoken either from those benches opposite or from this side—that they will consult the scientific people, I do not care from what line of science, and ask them whether they would curtail the investigation, or whether figures of this kind are not necessary to be considered and revised as necessary by the Registrar-General when considering the subject. We have to face up to the fact that there will be misrepresentation, and hon. Members in this House may, unwillingly and unintentionally, be guilty of a great deal of misrepresentation. I ask them to realise the intense gravity of the whole subject. If we believe in the one motto which ought to be at the bottom of all statesmanship, principiis obsta, it is possible that we may, in considering this subject, take a wider view.
We should take steps to get whatever we think is right and, at any rate, to avert an utter disaster if the extremes happen that have been foreshadowed should the race go on as it appears to be going at the present. It is an absolutely vital question for the future of all classes, and for the future of this and every country that we have to consider. Do let us, first of all, have the proper facts before us; let us have the facts which are said by those who have studied the position to be necessary. Let us give this Bill a Second Reading, and be prepared to criticise it in Committee, when we know the Minister will be called upon to give us the explanation and reason for each of these facts. Let us limit our criticism to the Committee stage, and not obstruct this Bill, which is a most essential Measure for any progress in dealing with this serious national question.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Pilkington
We have heard a great deal of criticism of this Bill from the 1764 hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. A. Herbert), but it seems to me that the whole effect of that criticism was blown away by the point made by the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle), when he said that when the Ministry, with all the avenues for discovery which it has at its hand, wants these questions which are in the Bill, they should be accepted by the House. It seems to me that that answers the criticism of the hon. Member for Oxford University. There is apparently an incurable habit in this country of letting things go so far before anything is done, and then acting with a swiftness and vigour which are extremely annoying to the much more logical and sapient foreigners, who have already dealt with those factors which the stupid Englishman has ignored. But it may be that one day we shall neglect things too long, and the ominous words "too late" will haunt the last—and final—chapter in our history. It is hoped we have not been too late over rearmament, and we must hope that we shall not be too late over this terrible decline in our birth rate. The response to speeches up and down the country and to warnings by the responsible part of the Press and the B.B.C., are very encouraging. The "Times" remarks that economists have shown an unusual unanimity in deploring our present decrease of numbers, while politicians have shown an intelligent apprehension, except those who cannot discuss the matter without seeing it as disguised Imperialism. But, although the facts are beyond dispute, the gravity of them has unfortunately not been digested by the people as a whole; and I am afraid that that applies to some hon. Members of this House.
The Minister has given us examples to illustrate how serious the position is. I will, if I may, refer in a sentence or two to two or three more examples. Firstly, the school population in 1940 will be 2,000,000 less than in 1930. That is the thing about which we can do nothing at all. That decline is inevitable. Secondly, within the next 40 years the number of people in the country over 65 will be double the number at present, and they will be supported by a working population far smaller than exists at the present time. The Minister himself has shown that if the present rate of decline continues the present population of 1765 41,000,000 in England and Wales will in 100 years have fallen to only 5,000,000. He has told us how our birth rate has continually fallen, from a figure of 22 per 1,000, to 14 per 1,000 in 1933, and that in the last few years it has remained more or less stationary, between 14 and 15 per 1,000. But this calamitous collapse has not taken place everywhere. The town of Widnes, which I have the honour to represent in this House, has shown a vigour and robustness which I think is most remarkable in contrast to the general supineness of the country. Whereas we have been told that the average birth rate for the whole country is about 14, that for Widnes is as high as 20.
But it is not only, I submit, this island and the problems which face it that we have to consider. We have to consider the Empire. We know that the four great Dominions have a combined area twice the size of China, but that their combined white population is very little bigger than that of Rumania. We know that their birth rate is declining also. We cannot refuse to consider the seriousness of this question when we have a man like Mr. Lyons of Australia saying that because of this, Australia is losing more lives per year than in the four years of the Great War. Emigration at present is at a standstill, chiefly because each Dominion has its own problem of unemployment. Can anybody doubt that, in a fairly short time, we shall have all the great Dominions clamouring for people from this country to go and fill the empty spaces? What are we to say to all these appeals, when the reservoir in this country is dry and we have scarcely enough to satisfy our own needs?
And what are we to say to those hungry nations whose ideals are so different from our own, and whose needs are so similar? We have to consider what is happening in the rest of the world. [f present tendencies continue, the whole white population will begin rapidly to decrease, while the teeming millions of the coloured races, rapidly assimilating all the knowledge and power we can give them, will continue to increase. Other European nations have been far more alive than us to this danger. In France, Italy and Germany large families have been encouraged, by propaganda, by persuading women that their place is in the home, 1766 by giving good jobs to married men and by financial assistance. In two of these countries, the decline, although it may have been checked, has not been reversed. In one of them, it has actually been reversed. In France, the birth rate per thousand in 1920 was 20, but in 1933 it had fallen to 16, and in 1936 to 15. In Italy, the birth rate in 1920 was 30 per thousand, while in 1923 it had fallen to 24, and in 1936 to 22. In Germany—and that is the country in which the campaign for bigger families has been most actively pursued—the tendency has been not only checked, but reversed; for in 1920 the birth rate per thousand was 23, in 1933 it had fallen to 15, but in 1936 it had risen again to 19. In not one of these three major countries of Western Europe is the birth rate so low as it is in this country.
§ Mr. Fleming
Will the hon. Member tell us whether in Germany such questions as these in the Schedule have been put to the people, and whether they have been answered?
§ Mr. Pilkington
I cannot say how closely the questions which the Government propose to ask under this Bill resemble the questions asked by the Nazi Government, but I am perfectly sure that the Nazi Government would have no hesitation in asking the most intimate questions. I know it may be argued that the Italian figures suggest that nothing can be done about this decline, but surely the answer is that not enough has been done. After all, a certain amount of time is bound to elapse before any substantial change can be brought about in the present tendency. Hon. Members in that part of the House may from time to time feel rather tired of being told how much better this country is than others, but in this matter at least we are most woefully behind. This Bill has been criticised in its details to-day, but, as we recognise, it is not a Bill for action, but a Bill to obtain only the first preliminary information which is necessary before action can be taken. The questions which will be asked under the Bill are directed towards elucidating circumstances which must be known before we can hope to influence those circumstances so as to produce larger families. And we shall have to know far more than this Bill actually demands. We shall have to know what part is played by economic conditions, by a 1767 general fear of war, or, on the other hand, by the modern way of looking at things, which see children not as a consummation of happiness but as drags on people's pleasure.
But, however we proceed to get this information it will take time, and we have to consider what might be done while that information is being collected. There is, I think, a great deal which could be done. The Chancellor of the Exchequer could, as has been suggested, improve the lot of the married man. In all the countries which I have mentioned it is financially advantageous for a couple to get married; in this country alone is such a couple heavily penalised. The only section of the people in this country who are financially encouraged to have children are the unemployed on the dole, and it is at least open to question whether that section alone of the people should be encouraged to have large families. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] I said "alone." I myself, when this subject was discussed in the spring in this House, was rash enough to suggest a tax on bachelors, and I was very glad to see that that suggestion has had a salutary effect, at any rate upon some hon. Members in this House; although, when I was told that I myself as a bachelor ought to lead the way out of that unhappy state, I had to point out that my function was rather that of a signpost to be followed, than of a road to be trodden on.
The Minister of Health, who has this subject very much at heart, could help by encouraging the building of a greater proportion of large, instead of small, houses. The Minister of Labour could use his influence to stop the present deplorable practice by which certain firms, municipalities, universities, schools, and even the Civil Service, insist upon having unmarried men and women in certain jobs, and sometimes go so far as to dismiss men and women when they want to get married. I think that, in present circumstances, that is a deplorable practice. The Minister of War could reduce the age limit at which young soldiers may marry, so that they need not wait until they are 26 years of age. This is a hardship which applies both to officers and men, for if there is any section of the population which should be encouraged to have children it is that which lives the healthy life of the average 1768 soldier. The Home Secretary could do the same as far as the police are concerned. But there is something which is even more important than these preliminary steps which the Government could take. I think that eventually they will have to tackle the mental outlook of the people. In many cases, no doubt, it is financial reasons, but in many more cases couples just do not want to have children; they regard them as a burden and a responsibility. And it is people who for the most part are well off who have fewest children and whose mental outlook will have to be tackled by the Government.
§ Mr. Pilkington
I think that is perfectly true, but let us hope that the bad luck will change with the passage of years. But at any rate there are some people who do not even try. It was pointed out by Lord Baldwin when he was in this House that there is one inevitable disadvantage in a democracy, and that is the time-lag between what the Government sees as good for the country and the slow and gradual change in the convictions of the people and the action that follows. If the action which has been taken in the dictator countries is so tardy in producing results, I am afraid we must anticipate a much slower reaction in this country, unless indeed it proves that our people are sufficiently educated to realise the gravity of the situation.
This is a matter in which everybody can co-operate. They must lift their gaze from the problems which concern us so vitally at the moment, however important those problems may be, and earnestly consider this question of the falling birth rate which, if it is to be dealt with it at all, must be dealt with now. It is a problem with which everybody who has the vision to see the future as well as the present must concern himself. It is, after all, a question of the saving of our race; and if we believe that there is anything of value in the British Empire and in the ideals for which it stands, if we believe that there is anything of value at all in Western civilisation, which has been so laboriously built up, in its philosophy and in its religion, we shall have to combine for this purpose to save, not our- 1769 selves but our children and our children's children.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Hayday
I regard this Bill and the collection of statistics which it proposes as so much mockery and as a Measure which does not in any way touch a problem that is very apparent, and must be well known to every thinking person. In the past it has been the poor people who have had large families. The wealthy have thought more about their loose pleasures, not of their responsibilities, and among them the birth rate has been, and still is, very low indeed. I would preach rebellion against the answering of any of the questions that will be submitted on the lines suggested in this Bill, because the individual is asked merely to register numbers and facts, and not to offer any explanations or reasons. Why is it that there are not many large families now? Well, I think I can speak with a little knowledge on a matter of this sort, and I can tell the House what was thought on this subject by people of about my age and by my forbears who were responsible for the bringing up of large families. We know that families have been without sufficient income to enjoy the full life to which they are entitled. Lack of education, lack of proper clothes, lack of good food, lack of real, sound housing accommodation have brought such anxiety and worry to people with large families as ought never to be the burden of any man or woman.
The reason for the diminution in the size of families is to be found, I am certain, in the constant fear arising out of the experiences of the past 24 or 25 years. I know one large family that sacrificed six sons, and those members of that family who have married will not undertake the burden of rearing children which will bring to them, in turn, the immeasurable anxiety that fell to the lot of their mother. When you think of the families that were depleted during the War period, it is small wonder that in this unsettled world they fear that they will only be showering their love on their children till the State takes the male child to make secure the wealth of those who refuse to have children themselves, or to have more than one or two. I know a family which at one time numbered 17, seven of whom have married, but they have only 15 children 1770 between them. That is a typical case, and no amount of statistics will get round the fact that people do not have large families because of the mental worry and the anxiety that comes to them in periods of sickness and domestic hardship. For such people to be told to think in terms of the population for the safety of the Empire is so much mockery, aimed at them at the time of their distress, and really only embitters them, with the result that those who marry will not undertake the responsibility of rearing large families.
Do hon. Members ever realise what it means to have four or five members of the family unemployed? Have they had sons crippled as a result of the last War, without pensions in some cases, presenting themselves as a warning to the younger members of the family about to marry, and causing them to ask whether that is what they have to look forward to? People deliberately refuse to have children, and I acquiesce in their refusal and encourage it, unless they can see some prospects of their children being able to obtain a secondary education and to develop their minds to their full capacity, instead of having the gates closed against them without the possibility of increased knowledge and usefulness. It is not that the State will gain by mere numbers; it is the quality that counts. This is not a question of somebody being willing and ready to do just what they are told'. We are a population of thinking people who desire to develop our minds in the direction of contentment and peace, and the things that are good.
Whenever we discuss this problem a cry of horror always goes up from the employer that he cannot get young labour to satisfy his desire for profit, or it is said that the State cannot get young men to supply the armed forces to defend the Empire. People have known what they have been called upon to sacrifice and that for which they have had to fight with respect to the Empire. They know the kind of homes that heroes might expect after the sacrifice has been made. If any preaching is required it should be to those people who have exploited the large families of the poor while having no families of their own. Let it be to those people who think more of nursing a pet puppy-dog rather than to those who are in the by-ways thinking more of the 1771 little human angels. The little human beings should have first consideration instead of all this flashy show. This may sound humorous to some people but these are the facts which every hon. Member knows, and yet we must needs have a Bill asking a whole series of questions providing for something more than even the family tree without the right to express an opinion on the whole matter.
I have had a good many responsibilities in my time and I do not want to detail them, but I can well remember the time when one of my children was born in conditions other than decent housing. It was not when I was employed, but while I was being victimised by an employer, who, for all I know, may now be one of those who are crying out for an increase in the population. I had to resort to things to which I would not dream of resorting now in order to provide for my family. What does the State think of me? What does it think of hundreds of thousands of other Haydays who have been responsible for large families? Nothing at all. What does the Minister of Health care about them? What does Parliament care about them? What do the well-to-do care about them? Nothing, only so far as they can exploit them. There is joy in having a family if that family can be assured of possibilities, and not be handicapped from the very commencement. The housing problem to some extent is a deterrent. I know of many young couples who have to pay 15s. for rent out of wages of 45s. [Interruption.] I am told that that is a lot. This is in the provinces, but if you take 15s. from 45s. it leaves 30s., which is a fair average of the amount which goes into a working man's home with one or two children between the ages of one and four.
What do you expect from them? What measure of satisfaction will it give you if these people fill in all the statistics for which you are asking? That is not the way. Let us have an atmosphere with a greater sense of security and the possibility of the old British family life coming back again, the happy family circle ready and willing to bear their share of the anxieties, which, I am sure, the people would be prepared to do if they had something like fair living conditions. If you ask that people should produce children in order that they may be exploited as soon as they leave school, and 1772 if you mean that they are only to be produced in order that they may defend the Empire, and that when they are 18 years of age they are to be taken over by the State, then I tell the House honestly and frankly, I would not undertake the task, and I would certainly advocate that none of the working-class population should help you out of any such difficulties as might be foreseen.
As to providing surplus population for the vacant spaces in the Colonies, I would ask what had happened to those who attempted to colonise in both Canada and Australia? People were taken to Australia, too far away to ever come back again, and left there stranded in conditions that were not exactly to the credit of Australia or to the agencies that sent them out. No, we have to give a better and more secure basis to society, and then will begin the task of making family life what it should be, instead of perpetuating the despair, misery and fear that prevail in too many of the homes in this country to-day.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Macquisten
I should have thought that after the speech of the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Herbert) the Minister would have withdrawn his Bill. I can see no purpose in the Bill at all. All the vague words of the hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) and appeals to science, as if the subject was something of a very monstrous and abstruse kind, should be allowed to go by the board. There is no science in this Bill; these statistics will not procreate another single child. There will he no more children born in spite of any kind of information. It is absurd to ask all these questions. I cannot make out sub-paragraph (c) in paragraph 1 of the Schedule. I cannot believe it means what it says. Is it really possible? What does it mean when you ask in relation to the mother:If the father of the child is a person other than a present or former spouse, her other issue.What does that mean? I cannot make head or tail or it. To ask, when a child is being registered by a married woman, whether her husband is the father of her child—what an insult. I could not believe this when I saw it. I have never read anything like it. It is worse than some of Balzac's coarse jokes in the story of the man who came in and he who had 1773 wronged him said are you going to slay "the father of your children." It is monstrous that people should conceive such a Bill with a question of this kind. I do not care whether it is the Registrar-General or whoever it is: he is a person who should be put out of court. He has no sense. It would be dreadful and an insult to a poor woman, perhaps not long since free from the agony of child birth, that she should be questioned like this. It almost makes one's blood run cold. There is no need for an inquiry such as this.
The fall in the birth rate is due to the hardship and stress of modern life, and also to the fact that in this generation, for the first time in the history of our Western civilisation, women need not have children unless they want to have them. They have never been in that position before. They used to have no option in the matter. They just went on and on. Their mothers and grandparents had families of 16, 20 and 23, and so on, and on they went. A certain percentage of the children survived, and the rest just died. Food was cheap, the country was spacious, and there was not the same struggle and stress. But now all that has passed away. There was not in those days education that enabled people to think quite sensibly, and which made them discontented with their lot. Maybe they thought that every child came from divine sources, I do not know, but they now have the choice, and they are not going to have babies in quick succession. They will not have them. That is the real reason. It may be wrong. It may be that Western civilisation may perish at the hands of the prolific East. The Kaiser used to urge that all European races should unite together so as to be able to defend themselves against the Yellow Peril. It may be that we may go down, but we shall have to go down as other civilisations have.
People are not going to live in the miserable circumstances in which they used to live when huge families of children were brought up and exploited. One reads of terrible things; of little boys of four years of age being sent out to work in the coal pits to open and shut the gates to let the trucks through in the bowels of the earth. When Queen Victoria went to Midlothian in 1837 or 1838 she saw women climbing up and down shallow pits with coal creels on their hacks sing- 1774 ing a groaning song as they climbed and singing a song of rejoicing as they came back with empty creels. Those were the conditions in which people were living. They had big families in those days, and there was a terrible wastage of child life. A large part of this problem is economic. Whenever there is prosperity there is an increase in the birth rate. It is the same in all latitudes. Those who used to go on expeditions looking for the North Pole and distributing supplies, stores and clothes and knives and spears to the Esquimaux so that they were able to secure more food for themselves, whereupon immediately the population began to increase. The middle classes took the hint first and started to limit the size of their families. They could o not procure the domestic assistance which they used to get. One infant is a woman's full-time job, and if she cannot obtain domestic assistance as her grandmother used to do, she will do with a smaller family. There was always sufficient assistance which could be obtained from working girls who were glad to come in for a comfortable home. That was in our grandparents' time. That cannot be got now.
Besides, there is also the difficulty of finding employment. With these huge combines which have grown up and absorbed everything into one great octopus, there is not the same chance for young men of the middle class to start a concern of their own. They have got to find their way into one of the huge combinations. Will the falling off of the population be such an unmitigated disaster? This is a very overcrowded country. We had a population of 5,000,000 in the time of Queen Elizabeth, and this was a great country' then. I do not want to see a population of that size, but I do not want to see a great increase. A Bill of this kind is wholly unnecessary. The statistics you will get here will not amount to a row of pins. They will be no help but the cause of a great deal of friction and annoyance, and people will say, "Was it the National Government who told Mr. So-and-So to come round and insult me?" Opposition Members should chuckle at this Bill, because it is we and our party who are putting our foot into it and bringing this Bill in. It is a useless Bill which will lead to nothing but a large bureaucratic staff going round and annoying people. The information could all be got, as the hon. Member 1775 for Oxford University suggested, by another census, instead of annoying decent people in their own homes.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Bevan
The Government have no cause to complain that this Debate has lasted for such a time, because up to now the great bulk of the time has been occupied by supporters of the Government. I make no complaint about that, particularly as it has elicited one or two brilliant speeches. I am going to occupy the House for a very short time, because most of the ground has been covered. My hon. Friend the Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hay-day) has a very strong title to speak in this Debate, and I perhaps, also, have some title as belonging to the next generation. He is the father of a large family, and I am one of a large family, and I suppose that it would be correct to say that my attitude towards this problem is the attitude of a large number of young middle-aged men at the present time. I have no children, although my mother had 14, and one of the reasons why, unless things change considerably and providence intervenes, I shall not have any children, is because my mother had 14. I daresay that when my hon. Friend's children grow up many of them will also be influenced in this matter very largely by the domestic experiences that they underwent in his household, because the present generation are, to a large extent, the children of these large families, but they have grown up a much more sophisticated generation, making many more demands on life, with a far greater knowledge, increased sensibilities, with a wider and fuller culture, and also with knowledge of how to control birth.
The fact is that it you want to increase the birth rate you have to convince these people that you are going to provide the sort of world into which they will want to bring children otherwise this silent, secret sabotage will continue. Hon. Members opposite may congratulate themselves that in general election after general election they are returned in overwhelming majorities, and that they therefore have won the vocal franchise of the population; but they are losing the silent franchise which we are discussing to-night. The hon. Member winces.
§ Mr. Bevan
The silent franchise is this decision on the part of the population not to bring children into the sort of society for which hon. Members opposite are responsible. The hon. Member shakes his head. There has been a report which I have here; a book called "The Struggle for Population." It is the report of a committee which sat under the chairmanship of Mr. Carr-Saunders, the author of the letter in the "Times" to-day, and probably the author of this Bill. They sent out a man to investigate population problems on the Continent of Europe. It is a very useful book, containing a vast mass of statistical information very intelligently and lucidly presented. He has investigated the way in which Belgium, France, Germany and Italy have faced up to this problem, and he describes the remedies they have applied. I know of no country in the world with a bigger appetite either for assimilating or providing statistics than Germany. He examines their remedies and comes to the conclusion that they have all failed. He refers to penal legislation and to the bachelor tax introduced to drive men into marriage. That has failed in Italy. As the Noble Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) said the other day, the combined efforts of Mussolini and the Pope have not increased the birth rate of Italy. The decline in the birth rate has not been arrested in Germany. It is certainly true that immediately after Hitler came to power there was an increase in the birth rate. That was not due to the accession of Hitler to power, but to an improvement in the economic situation which occurred right throughout the world, and there was a considerable increase in marriages right throughout the world.
There is no Government in the world that has the solution of this problem in its hands unless it is prepared to take very revolutionary steps. Attempts have been made to wring our withers by statements about the hordes of the East overrunning the West. But the rise in the population in Japan has been arrested, and a decline has set in. We can expect that all nations, as Western methods become available to them, will go through the same experience. There is only one nation where, I understand, the population is progressively increasing at the moment, and that is Russia, but even there Members are entitled to say 1777 that Russia is undergoing an industrial revolution, and is therefore obeying the same laws as applied in this country at an earlier date. It seems to me, therefore, that there is no case for the Bill, because all the known remedies in the possession of Governments have been applied and have failed, and it is not to be supposed that the possession of more information will make this Government more inventive than the others. But the compiler of the book concludes with a very good sentence which I commend to the Parliamentary Secretary. He will find earlier, and may quote it against me, a recommendation that we should obtain statistics in Great Britain, but that recommendation conflicts with his conclusion. The expert always wants more statistics. But he says:There are only two points on which we may be fairly positive at present. First, repressive measures are unlikely to be effective. What appears to be much more necessary is the creation of a general environment"—I hope the House will note the phrase—conducive to the bringing up of relatively large families. Secondly, if there is to be any significant increase in the birth rate, the major part must come from the working class. Consequently, no action is likely to have a permanent influence unless it provides conditions in which the working class is able to bring up children without thereby suffering from economic and social hardship.Earlier in the book he points out that the mining population are the people most inclined to have large families. Why is that? I was brought up in a milling village, and 50 and 60 years ago there were no amenities. In a mining village there were no distractions except the pub arid the chapel, and in those days it is very probable that the pleasures of the flesh became the only outlet for an otherwise bored population. But since the corning of the cinema, the growth of literacy, the coming of wireless and the greater diversion of modern civilised life, what the psychologists skilfully call sub-limitation has taken place. Energy which was largely canalised in one direction then is now diffused over a much wider number of pleasures. So that it is no use thinking that you are going to produce any conditions in which the mining population will reproduce its own procreative fertility, because you cannot recreate the kind of society in which that fertility took place. No hon. Member would suggest that you do that. Even the case for an increase 1778 in the birth rate has not been made out; I do not consider that there is any special virtue in quantity. Even if that case is made out, it will have to be met; hon. Members must face the realities of the matter.
We have had the Bill commended to us on the ground that science demands it. I know of no scientist worthy of the name who would search for obscure remedies when the obvious remedies are at hand. This is cant of the worst and most despicable kind. It is nauseating cant. It is an attempt to persuade the country that the Government are really concerned about the population figures. The House has only to consider three Debates in close juxtaposition to see what humbug it is. Malnutrition last Wednesday, Air-Raid Precautions to-morrow, and Population Statistics to-day, and on a Vote next Thursday you are going to take £50,000,000 from the Unemployment Insurance Fund for the liquidation of debt. It is difficult to find language in which to describe this kind of cant. An hon. Member recently pointed out that in Pontypridd, Ebbw Vale and Monmouthshire, the maternal mortality rate was the highest in Great Britain, and yet with £50,000,000 at your disposal you are going to give it to the moneylenders in the City of London and keep it back from the people. Cannot we have an end to this cant?
§ Mr. Bevan
I am not entering into any details because Mr. Speaker would very properly call me to order. But the hon. Member knows that the House only very reluctantly consented to any repayment at all. Now, after £50,000,000 has been accumulated by the privation and malnutrition among children of the unemployed, you are going to dispose of it, give to the moneylenders, while suggesting seriously that the way to deal with the population is to have thousands of Paul Prys asking for this information. If you want to have an inquiry I suggest the Government should make an inquiry into juvenile salaries and wages, the wages paid to stenographers, errand boys and young children. Even this House would be staggered at the figures. The wages of skilled stenographers, 15s. a week, and young lads of 15 and 16 years of age, 9s. a week.
§ Mr. Bevan
I dare say that is perfectly correct, but, with all due respect to the hon. and learned Member, a boy of 16 and 17 of to-day is much wiser than he was at that age, and when he grows up and is a father he is not going to have children brought into the world who will have to go through the same experience. If hon. Members opposite really want to increase the birth rate, they need not have any examination into physical fitness; the human race is physically as fertile as ever it was. But there is social and economic infertility. It is not a lack of virility on the part of men and women, but an intense, almost self-conscious, dissatisfaction with the kind of society in which they are, and being responsible people, more responsible than ever before, they are passively refusing to bring into this sort of world any more children. This will continue whatever you do. Whatever information you collect you will have the same experience as Italy and Germany. This private and secret sabotage of the ordinary man and woman will continue until a kind of society is created in which they themselves can get pleasure and delight.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
I do not know whether the reply is to be made by the Minister or by the Parliamentary Secretary, but whoever does reply on behalf of the Government he can scarcely say that he is pleased with the reception the Bill has had to-day. It is a long time since a Measure introduced by the Government has met with such obvious dislike in all parts of the House, and been so ridiculed with criticism by speaker after speaker. I rise only to draw attention to one or two points which have not been touched on yet, because in spite of the speeches which have been made by the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. A. Herbert) and others, I do not think hon. Members have realised fully the iniquities of this Measure. I invite the attention of the House to Clause I. It has been assumed as a matter of course, in dealing with the Schedule, that the things to be asked for are the things set out in the Schedule. That is not quite what the Clause says. The Clause says:such particulars relative to the matters specified in the Schedule to this Act as may be specified in the Order.1780 It is conceivable that if we rely on these words, the questions may be much wider than the information set out in the Schedule. I agree that there is some doubt about it, and I think it should be cleared up. It means that as long as the questions are related to the subject set out in the Schedule, it will be possible to put them in the Order. Then a little further in Sub-section (2) it is provided:An Order made under this Section may make provision with respect to—The obvious question is to whom? I take it, "appear necessary" to the Minister who brings forward the Order. There can be no excuse for using words of this kind in an Act of Parliament. If "such matters as may be necessary" were used it would be entirely different, because the Minister himself would not then be the final judge. But if I interpret these words correctly the Minister himself is the sole judge of what may be necessary and expedient for the purposes of the Order. In other words, is not this one of those forms of words which are put into Acts of Parliament for the express purpose of ousting the jurisdiction of the courts to inquire into the validity of an Order? That is a matter on which the House is entitled to have some information. It is remarkable that nothing much has been said about Clause 3, and I would invite the attention of hon. Members to that Clause. Here we are dealing not with the Orders that may be made and must have the affirmative sanction of the House, but with the regulations the Minister may make, and it is provided:
- (a) the persons by whom and the persons with respect to whom the particulars aforesaid are to be furnished;
- (b) such other matters as may appear necessary or expedient for the purposes of the Order."For the purpose of enabling an Order in Council directing particulars to be furnished to be carried into effect the Minister of Health may make regulations—(a) requiring information to be given to the persons liable to furnish particulars by persons with respect to whom the particulars are to be furnished;If any one does not furnish the particulars he is to be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine. What does that mean? It means that the people who have to fill up forms under this Measure will themselves become inquisitors. It is possible for a wife or husband to require her husband or wife to give all the in- 1781 formation that is set out in the Schedule. That seems to me to be an extremely undesirable power to put into the hands of a private citizen, and before we pass the Clause surely we shall have a word of explanation about it. There is no precedent for it in any Act of Parliament; and the Minister did not say a single word about it. It is true that these regulations have to be laid before the House and may be annulled if the House so desires, but in this case, where we are giving considerable powers, the Government do not ask for affirmative sanction of the House. The matter has to be raised within 28 days, and we know how difficult it is to raise these matters late at night and get sufficient interest to compel the Government to change their views.
One word about the safeguards. I know we shall be told that we need not trouble because there are these particular safeguards that Orders must be laid before the House and the other House for affirmative assent, and that if an Order is made carrying out the provisions of paragraph 3 of the Schedule, then, apparently, it will be possible for us to modify the Order. Nobody is complaining that that safeguard should be in the Bill, but it really is complete nonsense to suggest that because that safeguard is in the Bill we need have no reluctance to give the Government powers of this kind. There is considerable difference, as was pointed out by the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence), between passing legislation and passing an Order. I have listened to many speeches made by the Secretary of State for Scotland when he was Minister for Agriculture on agricultural marketing schemes. Under the Agricultural Marketing Acts you have a provision by which schemes may be brought forward under the 1931 Act, and before they can come into effect they have to be laid before both Houses of Parliament for affirmative assent. From time to time we have opposed these schemes and the Secretary of State for Scotland has got up and told us that we were not entitled to oppose the scheme because we voted for the Act of 1931; and what was the use of doing that if we were going to vote against the schemes when they were brought forward? I have heard that argument more than once from the Secretary of State for Scotland, and if the House passes this Bill and these Orders are brought 1782 forward, the same argument will be used against us from the Treasury Bench.
Finally there was a most remarkable argument put before us by the Minister in introducing the Bill. He dealt with paragraph 3. It it a remarkable thing that no one has yet attempted any defence of paragraph 3 of the Schedule. We have heard only two speeches, apart from that of the Minister, in support of this Bill, and neither of the hon. Members saw fit to say a word about it, although it appears to be the main point of contention in this Debate. The Minister did not suggest for a moment that those words were not very wide. He dealt with an allegation made in a newspaper yesterday to the effect that all sorts of questions might be asked under this paragraph, and that a person might be asked what diseases he or she had had, or even how many motoring offences he or she had committed. He went on to say how absurd it was to imagine that these powers would ever be used in that way, but he did not deny that the powers could be used in that way. I do not suppose that the Parliamentary Secretary, when he replies, will deny it.
It is clear that if these words were passed into law and if an Order were made, any questions could be asked which happened to be in the Order. There would be no limit to the interrogation that could be made if these words became law. What was the Minister's defence? He did not deny that these powers could be misused in this way, but he said that nothing of the kind is contemplated. What an argument! I hope we shall not hear it repeated either from the Front Bench or from any other bench in this Debate. The right hon. Gentleman said that he could exercise his powers in that way, but he did not intend to do so. As was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Griffith) the right hon. Gentleman will not always be Minister of Health, and this Bill, when it becomes an Act, may remain on the Statute Book for very many years to come. It has frequently happened that powers have been used in a way which was never contemplated at the time when they were first given by Parliament, and we have no assurance that that may not happen in future under this Bill, when it becomes an Act.
1783 I would like now to say a few words about the article by the Minister in a newspaper this morning. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) and with the hon. Member for Oxford University that it is remarkable that on the morning before the Second Reading Debate on the Bill, there should be an article of this nature contributed to a newspaper by the Minister. It is still more remarkable when it is one of the most misleading documents of its kind that I have ever seen. I do not say that any statement in it is actually incorrect in itself, but after reading the article with some care I cannot but think that if someone had not seen the Bill—and, of course, the vast majority of those who read the article had not seen it—and read the article, he would imagine that the Bill was a perfectly innocent Measure designed to get particulars as to age, occupation, date of marriage, number of children, and number of brothers, sisters and dependants. There is no suggestion anywhere in the article as to the questions that might be put under paragraph (c) of the Schedule with regard to a woman having issue by a man who is not her husband. There is no suggestion anywhere in the article that there is anything of that sort in the Bill. There is no suggestion of the existence of paragraph (3) of the Schedule, under which any question could be asked. There is no suggestion that there is in the Bill the power to make regulations to give those who fill up the form the power to put questions, on pain of penalty, to third parties. Surely, it is rather remarkable that the head of a great Department, on the day before the Debate, should try to prejudice the issue in this way by publishing an article which, although it may not be incorrect in itself, gives an entirely false impression of what is proposed in the Bill.
I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten), who said that if the Bill were passed supporters of the Government would be held responsible for it. The hon. and learned Member is correct; they will be held responsible for it. If the hon. and learned Member were present, I would 1784 point out to him what I am now about to point out to his colleagues who are still present, that it is a responsibility which hon. Members are not bound to shoulder. It is open to them, if they will pluck up the courage to do so, to defeat this Bill on Second Reading. There is no need to wait until the Committee stage. During the last three or four years, in this Parliament and the last Parliament, my hon. Friends and I have endeavoured to offer some resistance to what we regard as the encroachment of the bureaucracy on the rights of ordinary citizens. It frequently happens that we get some expression of sympathy from hon. Members opposite when we raise these points, but rarely do we get anything more than sympathy. It is amazing how that sympathy evaporates when a Division is challenged. I hope that will not be the case to-day. The hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire and other hon. Members opposite can show that they are not prepared to take responsibility for passing a Measure of this kind by coming into the Division Lobby with us and voting against the Second Reading.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Beamish
This is a Bill which, like many other Bills, immediately awakens hostility and criticism because of the allegation that it interferes with the liberty of the subject and the intimate details of family life. I have no fears of that sort. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) addressed his remarks very properly to the Front Bench, and no doubt they will be answered from the Front Bench; but after looking through the Bill, I would inform him that I am not frightened about Clause 3. I do not see the slightest reason why anything that is utilised under that Clause should not easily be controlled by the other provisions of the Bill. With regard to the remarks of the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday), who is not present at the moment, I would remind hon. Members that the Bill is, so to speak, a statistical Bill. I would also remind the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), if it is possible to comfort him in any way, and similar critics, that the whole of the social services of this country are based upon scientific investigations and statistics, and that the object of this Bill which is statistical, is to better the condi- 1785 tion of the people. That being so, I cordially support the Bill.
The hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Herbert), who has now left the House, has recently been responsible for the very able conduct of a Bill, which is now an Act, for the betterment of marriage in this country. Now, the hon. Member provides the House with a great deal of excellent entertainment by complaining that by this Bill, the Government seek to attain some statistics about marriage. The hon. Member spent his time very successfully in bringing about, by a system of trial and error, the betterment of what I would call the human factory. Now, because this Bill seeks to provide regulations whereby the partners of the human factory may have their circumstances looked into and because we want to keep a sort of record of the output, the hon. Member is distressed. We shall never get anywhere unless we follow the line of investigation which this Bill holds out. The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough. (Mr. Griffith) said that the Bill is very largely due to the curiosity of the official mind. It is very odd to think how slowly that curiosity works, because the form which it is now proposed shall be changed by the addition of extra questions, has been in use for over 100 years. Surely, it is time it was brought up to date. It is not as though there had never been any protests, for more than 6o years ago a very strong protest was made in the report of the Registrar-General in 1867, when it was remarked that:Two grave defects in the registers of the United Kingdom, deprive them of much of their utility as pedigrees and as records of facts for the solution of the great problems of population. Neither the age of mothers at the births of each of their children, nor the order of birth, is recorded so that the number of children borne by women at different ages, and in the course of their lives, cannot be ascertained.It was' not until 50 years afterwards that that was followed up. There was then a conference of Government officers on the subject of statistics concerning the British Empire, which accepted a resolution to the effect that all births registers should record the age of each parent and the number of children previously born under the same marriage, distinguishing between those living and those dead. I hope that those hon. Members who are determined to oppose this Bill will realise that it has been very carefully thought out, and that 1786 the complaint that it comes straight from the official mind of somebody at the Ministry of Health is not substantiated. Let it be remembered that Somerset House controls the statistics that are drawn up on this subject. For years they have been pressing for some Measure such as this to be carried into effect. Now we have this Bill.
Nothing which I have said and nothing which anybody else has said really affects the basic principle on which this Bill is founded, namely, that the rate of mortality is going down and that the rate of fertility is not known in this country, but that the birth rate is steadily declining. It would be as foolish for anybody to be frightened by the prospect of the population falling from what it is to-day to some 4,000,000 in 100 years time, as it would have been for anybody who lived 100 years ago to have supposed that the population of to-day would be 40,000,000. But that does not affect the urgent necessity which underlies this whole matter. It is possible that we may be dealing with something which is inevitable or with some fate which awaits us, but I do not think that is the case. I think that the necessity for improving the stock and the fertility of the people of this country is paramount. I cannot see that anybody has produced any arguments which should deflect us from our purpose of ordering and shaping our own destiny. That destiny can be inquired into by scientific investigation, by good will and by understanding. The Bill has one other thing to recommend it very strongly, and it is that for years there have been societies which have made it their business from day to day to investigate these difficulties in the population question in this country. All of them have arrived at a similar conclusion. For these reasons, I heartily support the Bill.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Sorensen
One would gather from the remarks of the last speaker and the statement of the Minister that this was an innocuous Bill with no sinister significance whatever. But statistics are not gathered save for a purpose, and obviously in this case the intention behind the Bill is that of trying not only to stem the decline in population but also to try to increase the population. We all know that this Measure has arisen out of a general alarm which has been caused by the decline in the British birth rate. Frankly, I am 1787 convinced that if proper conditions of life were provided for the majority of the people in this country, we could achieve stability in the population figure. I do not say that we should necessarily increase it, but we should at least aim at stability. In the mind of the last speaker, and of many others who have spoken on this subject, there is a genuine alarm lest the population of this country should not increase. But why should we be alarmed because there is a probability that the population will reach a stabilised level? What value is there in quantitative expansion? References have been made to the menace of the Far East. We have been told that there are 400,000,000 Chinese and 80,000,000 Japanese and 350,000,000 Indians, and that, together, these races challenge the Western world. Are we to infer that our duty is to tell the women of this country that they must breed as fast as they can, in order to catch up with the dark-skinned races of the East?
§ Rear-Admiral Beamish
Surely the question is not one of whether the population should or should not be stabilised, but rather one of preventing what appears to be an inevitable decline, which has nothing whatever to do, for the moment, with the social condition of the people
§ Mr. Sorensen
I have already submitted that while it is impossible to guarantee an increase, and while I see no value in an increase, it is the case that if the population of this country were granted proper conditions and environment there would be a sufficient birth rate to stabilise the population at the present level. We find middle-class families who have their three and four children per family, and according to all authorities three or four children per family would stabilise the population. If the conditions which are enjoyed by middle-class families were granted to working-class families, I am positive that you would have approximately three or four children per family in that section of the community also. That is all I am interested in as regards this part of the question. I am not interested in attempts to increase the population. The other day I heard the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) deliberately suggest that steps should be taken to increase the popula- 1788 tion, in view of the fertility of other races, I ask, again, is it intended that we should request the women of this country to breed more children in order to catch up with the populations in other parts of the world?
I look around this House now, and I do not see one of our women Members here. I am not surprised. Probably the 11 of them are in their own little drawing-room in the corridor giggling and saying to themselves in their feminine privacy "What fools these men must be." With the exception of one solitary speech this Debate has been conducted by men from a masculine standpoint. The best way to find out why smaller families are the rule to-day is to ask the women, and I wonder why not one of our women Members of Parliament has realised her responsibilities in this matter. As I say, one woman Member did speak, but if she will forgive me for saying so, she did not deal with the underlying issue. Perhaps that is natural because it was a maiden speech—on which I offer her congratulations. But the other women Members who have longer experience of this House, and who probably have not much more than to children altogether, should at least have been here to have made their contributions to the Debate from the women's standpoint. If they had spoken they would have told the men here why there are smaller families. It is because the women themselves are determined not to have so many children. That is not merely for economic reasons—and here I may disagree with some of my hon. Friends. The economic factor is, I know, very powerful. Many friends of my own have deliberately restricted the size of their families because they could not afford to have any more children. I know excellent parents who have only one child and who deliberately refrain from having a second child, because a second child would interfere with their only child's chance in life.
Some dubiety was expressed by the Minister as to whether the fear of war prevented people having children. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that there are thousands of young people who deliberately refrain from having more children because they hate the idea of that most precious work of art, a child, being smashed into bloody pulp on the field of battle. But although those are factors in the situation, the main factor is the atti- 1789 tude of women themselves. Every woman Member of Parliament knows it, and would confirm what I say. Woman to-day wants to live her own life and to have a measure of freedom which was denied to her mother and her grandmother. She wants, if you like, greater opportunities to be in Parliament, to take part in social, civic and political life. Maternity to her is a natural function but it must not be a tyranny, as it has so often been to woman in the past. Let any hon. Member ask the women in his constituency why there are so many families with only one or two children. I have spoken at scores of women's meetings, and I have taken classes of women in connection with co-operative guilds and other bodies. I have often asked them to explain why the young wife of to-day does not want to have more than two, or at most three children. They have at first said that it is because of economic conditions. Then I have put to them the hypothetical question, "If you were on an economic level which enabled you to live in comfort, how many children would you have then?" I have tested the matter by putting that question to 200 or 300 women, and the answers worked out at 2½ children per family, or five children for two families. I give that for what it is worth, but it is not an accidental or extravagant statement, and I believe it to be typical of the existing state of affairs.
That is why I regret that our women Members of Parliament have not thought sufficiently of their responsibilities to-day, to explain why in the case of some of them they are unmarried, and why some of those who are married have so few children. Perhaps they would give the House an insight into the attitude of the greater portion of the population. It is extraordinary that we men should be blessed with such impertinence as to discuss this subject as we have been doing, when, to us, parenthood is an incident while to woman it is something which may involve life and death. When will the statesmen and politicians of this country realise that there is a totally different approach to this question from that which they are attempting? When will they try to appreciate even the standpoint of their wives?
Some of my fellow Members here have large families, of 18 and 19, I believe. I would like to speak to the wives of 1790 some of these men and to ask them whether it is their choice that they have 18 or 19 children. If I did, if their husbands allowed me to do so, I might have some interesting revelations. I am convinced that there is no woman who wants 18 or 19 children, or a dozen children—very few women perhaps who want more than six or seven children. Some may want as many as that, but most of them, I am convinced, do not want more than three or four; and I say, that for the Minister of Health to come forward with an irrelevant, superfluous, and impertinent Bill like this, is indeed to offer an insult to the women of this country or, if not that, is certain to provide a source of hilarity to the women Members of this House and to hundreds of thousands of women about this country.
I have already said that, of course, we want to prevent any decline in the population. I believe we should bend our energies to doing that and I am certain that we have sufficient information now to know how we can prevent that decline. We know in our own constituencies, and Members opposite who sit for working-class constituencies know full well, that if we could guarantee to all our poor supporters a decent house and garden, security in old age, a relief of burdens when they have children, and all other necessities of that kind, there would be, not an extravagant increase in the population, but a sufficient increase to get the population stabilised. But many wish to go beyond that. And yet we are all the time trying to catch up with our own tails. Part of the problem in life in the past has been this rapid expansion of population, which has involved colossal expenditure of energy and money merely to catch up with that expansion, and I suggest that the more we try to establish a qualitative standard of life instead of a quantitative standard, the more shall we know and understand what is the real significance of human life.
It is interesting to notice the terminology of some of our colleagues in the House when they are dealing with this question. The previous speaker talked about a father and mother being a human factory, and I am afraid that that does reveal the attitude that unconsciously many people take towards this population question, an attitude of mind which, 1791 when you analyse it, comes very near to a standard of indecency. After all, are we going to think of the women of this country as merely factories to turn out children who can work in the industrial factories of the country or be employed as cannon fodder in the next war, or are we going to think of the creation of human life as something sacred, as something precious, not to be interpreted automatically, mechanically, or statistically, but something so precious that it must be left to the decision of individuals? If we are going to interpret it in the latter way, the sooner we get rid of this irrelevant and impertinent interference with the intimacies of life, the better.
That is not to say that we do not need research. There is a vast amount of research already at our command. Reference has been made to an interesting book, published, I believe, under the editorship of Mr. Can-Saunders. I have read that book and as many books as I could on this question of population. Let that work go on—it is a very valuable piece of research. But that is an entirely different matter from the statutory inquisition which this Bill envisages; and I ask all those who want to see a population that is free in the real sense of the word, a population that does not drift towards the evils of the corporative State which we see in Italy and Germany, but a population which, with dignity, will help to control its own life, to oppose this Bill. I hope that all those in every part of the House who want that finer kind of community will realise that this is not the right way to go about it. The right way is to encourage both a higher standard of life and a higher conception of life, and the more we do that, the more certain will it be that this problem of population will solve itself.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Lewis
When I read the text of this Bill, I felt sorry that the Minister had thought it necessary or desirable to introduce it, but I thought there must be some weighty reason for the Bill, a reason of which I was ignorant. Therefore, listened with more than common interest to the Minister's speech in moving the Second Reading of the Bill this afternoon. He spoke, I think, for a full hour, but I did not hear him utter a single argu- 1792 ment of any weight in favour of the Bill. I thought that a large part of his speech was completely spoiled by the fact that he made two assumptions which apparently he considered so obviously true as not to require argument in their support, but assumptions which, in fact, are very arguable indeed. The first of those two assumptions was that it is necessarily an evil if the population declines. I do not think that is an indisputable point. I venture to say that it could be argued that a large part of the population of this country would have been much happier for generations past if we had not allowed our population to get as large as it is, and in particular if we had not allowed our population to get so grossly disproportionate to the natural resources in the way of food and so on of this country. Moreover, the development of economic self-sufficiency on the part of many countries that have previously been among our best customers will, I venture to say, drive us, whether we wish it or not, to reduce our population to some extent in the future. In any case I submit that it is not an assumption that can be made without argument in support of it that any decline in our population is necessarily an evil.
The second assumption which the Minister made was this, that the inquiry provided for in this Bill would in some way prove to be the first step in enabling this or some future Government to stem the decline in the population. That assumption appeared to me to be so amazing that I ventured to do what I never like doing, and that is to interrupt the Minister in the course of his speech. I asked him whether he would tell us, in the case of those countries which he had already quoted as having for some time collected this particular information, what any of them had done when they had got the information collected—any single thing that anyone of them had done to arrest the decline of population. Those who were in the House at the time will support me when I say that the Minister appeared somewhat surprised at the question and was, in fact, unable to mention any single thing that any of those countries had done as a result of collecting that information. I quite appreciate that the Minister, suddenly interrupted like that, on a point that he has not anticipated, might be liable on further reflection, to answer it quite easily. I, there- 1793 fore, turn to the Parliamentary Secretary, who has not the excuse of having been taken by surprise. He heard the interruption earlier to-day, and he has his permanent officials in the Box. If there is anything that can be told to show that any of these countries which we are informed have so wisely been collecting this information, let him tell us what it is, and let him, further, give us some general indication as to the way in which he or the Government consider that such action would be suitable in this country.
Let us have some idea, some illustration of what these statistics are to lead to. At the moment the only indication that we have from the Government is that given by the Minister that they are to lead to a further inquiry by some commission or other. I do not regard that as a very cheerful prospect. We have heard a lot this afternoon about the inadvisability—the unkindness, if you like—of asking some of the questions provided for in this Bill. That point has been dealt with so exhaustively by the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) and the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Herbert), that I do not propose to add a word to what they have said, except to express the opinion that anyone who heard either of those speeches must be impressed by the strength of the case against allowing many of these questions to be asked.
There is an aspect of the Bill on which not much stress has been laid, although it was mentioned by the hon. and learned Member for Argyllshire (Mr. Macquisten). It is an aspect which appeals to me. It is that the Bill is a waste of time and money. If it be true that our population is about to decline, it is abundantly evident that, as it declines, it is desirable that the proportion of those engaged in productive occupations should increase relative to those in other classes. The most cursory examination of statistics shows us that for some time past the reverse has been the trend of population. We have had a smaller number of men employed in coal mining, the cotton industry, the shipyards and agriculture, and a greater proportion employed in the distributive trades, the amusement industries and the Government service. These other classes have ultimately to be supported by the producing industries. It may be argued that we are asked to spend only a small sum and to create 1794 only a small number of additional officials. Never mind, let us refuse to do it on the ground that even to that small extent it uselessly adds to the burden that industry has ultimately to carry.
One argument in support of the Bill was put forward by the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle). He told us that these statistics were asked for by the Registrar-General, and he argued that they must, therefore, be proper statistics to be secured. The Registrar-General collects statistics as another man collects stamps. It is his job and his hobby, and naturally he wants more. I am not in the least impressed by the argument that he wants statistics. I should be surprised if he did not. We should hesitate, although the amount at issue is small, before we authorise expenditure of money which will to some extent divert labour from more useful occupations, and will be used to make inquiries which, in the opinion of many experienced Members of the House, will be greatly resented, and which will cause a good deal of pain and distress.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Price
Although I agree with most of what the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) has said I cannot altogether take the view that we can look with equanimity on the decline of population, which I gathered he did not think was a very serious matter. I cannot take that view, because we have big social service schemes in this country, which we hope will become wider and better; and if a decline of the population goes on, we shall have too large an old section of population, and too small a middle-aged and producing section to bear the burden of financing the social services. Therefore, it is desirable to take steps to arrest any decline. I am inclined to share the view of my hon. Friend who spoke last from these benches that we should resist all arguments that an increase in the population is desirable, for they come too often from suspicious sources and from those who desire an increase in the population purely for Imperialist and militarist purposes. There have been two points of view in this discussion—the scientific and the human. There is the scientific mind, or in this case, one should say the pseudoscientific mind, which just wants to accumulate statistics. That was shown in the 1795 speech of the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle). I do not consider that the Registrar-General is the person to whom I should be prepared to put the decision on this important matter. It is the ordinary man-in-the-street, who is represented in this House, who should have the last say in it.
As an old science student of Cambridge University, I am the last person to want to belittle the use of science in the study of human relations. The accumulation of statistics undoubtedly has its place, but surely there are other things of a more intangible nature involved here. It is not just a question of figures that we have to consider. We cannot tabulate human feelings and emotions. That is what is involved in the question of the trend of population. It required the brilliant tongue of the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. A. Herbert) to show the House what the real issue on this matter was. Satire may be often a danger and a two-edged sword, but it can be a wonderful educator as well, and the satire of the hon. Member showed the House where the real issue was. In ancient Athens it was the great satirical writers like Aristophanes who played an important role in formulating public opinion, and it is on the shoulders of the hon. Member for Oxford University that in this respect the mantle of Aristophanes has fallen.
The hon. Member for St. Albans also gave us a very interesting speech, and I was particularly struck by two points which he made. He said that we want this information because we do not know enough about the reason why women do not have children, why there is not that reproduction of the race which we desire. He referred to the pace of modern life and to the athleticism of modern girls, and I have no doubt that those factors may have some effect on the decline of the birth rate, but how on earth are we to find that out from the questions in the Schedule which are to be asked? No; the Government have given us no evidence that the questions which they foreshadow will give us the information we require to solve this most difficult and important problem. As my hon. Friends on these benches and elsewhere have said, the economic factor is all-important.
As one who has lived all his life in the country I remember how, when I was a 1796 child, agricultural labourers living in tiny hovels, under appalling conditions, and with a wage of 16s. or 17s. a week, were rearing families of seven, eight or nine children. Like others I have seen the growth of education even in the depths of the country. Village halls have been built and schools have been extended, and if the village labourer still has to live in his hovel at least he is going to have only two or three children instead of eight or nine. It is true that of late housing conditions have improved in the country, although there are still some local authorities in whose areas the conditions are still not good enough, but even where there are better houses the effect of improved educational facilities have to be taken into account. A husband and wife may very likely prefer to have a wireless set or to buy a few more newspapers to having so many children, and who can say that that is wrong? This is a problem which we have to look at from all angles, not merely from the scientific aspect of statistics but also from the human side, and because the Government have not given us the information which we feel to be necessary I hope that they will either withdraw this Bill or that the House will refuse to give it a Second Reading.
§ 8.48 p.m.
§ Commander Sir Archibald Southby
In common with other Members of the House, I thoroughly enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. A. Herbert), but, although I enjoyed it, I do not agree with all that he said. It seems to me that hon. Members who have spoken in this Debate—and I have heard nearly all the speeches—have been more concerned with the use to which the statistics which this Bill is designed to produce are to be put than with the method by which they are to be obtained. While supporting the Government, if they consider that some form of information is necessary, I should like to ask the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary to give us an assurance that there shall be some safeguards applied to the methods by which these statistics and this information are obtained. Interest in the question of population is all very well, but I cannot help thinking that the preservation of a reasonable amount of family and personal privacy is something which is just as important as the provision of a great deal of statistical information.
1797 By all means take power to make inquiries, but do let us set some very definite and concrete limit to the scope of the operations of the bureaucracy who are to obtain the information. I may ask in passing, "Is a small population anything that we really need be very much worried about? Is it a bad thing in itself?" I believe that a teeming population is one of the causes of international friction, one of the things which may lead to war. The hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. Pilkington) quoted some figures with regard to the difference in the birth rates in Italy and Germany since the Governments of those countries took steps to stimulate the birth rate. I was interested to hear him quote those figures, certainly so far as Germany was concerned, because it seems to me that the success of the efforts of the German Government to raise the birth rate has coincided with an increase in the truculence of the German Government. I have heard hon. Members ref erring to the efforts made by other countries to deal with a falling birth rate, but I do not know that that is any reason why we should necessarily follow in their footsteps.
It is not very often that I find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), but I think he put his finger on a spot which should commend itself to the attention of the whole House. One of the reasons why there are smaller families to-day is that parents are desirous that they and their children should have a greater measure of happiness and freedom from worry, and a wider cultural outlook, and, also, that they desire to shoulder the responsibility for those whom they bring into the world and are not content to let them he looked after by the State. Overcrowding, unemployment, high taxation and the modern tendency to live in flats are all factors which probably influence the birth rate, but I think that in the main the lower birth rate and the limitation of the size of families arise from the desire of the people to have for themselves and for their children a fuller, a better and a happier existence. Let us beware of officials and experts, and more particularly of medical and scientific experts.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) is not in 1798 his place because I think he referred rather unfairly to what he called the obstruction of the Bill by those who may not agree with all its provisions. The scientific mind is rather inclined to call criticism obstruction. I am old-fashioned enough to think that the fertility of the people is primarily a matter for the people themselves, and only secondarily a matter for the community. It may be necessary—I believe it is necessary—for proper information to be obtained on all sorts of subjects by the Government Department which is so ably presided over by the Minister of Health. I think it is necessary that inquiries should be made to establish, if possible, why the birth rate is declining, but the Schedule of this Bill is something about which not only Members of the House but people outside are quite reasonably and seriously exercised in their minds. They require some definite, concrete assurance that the provisions of the Bill are going to be exercised wisely and temperately and within due fixed limits.
The Minister referred to private secrets. Who is to determine what are secrets, and which of them are to remain private? The registrar has to obtain certain information. I should certainly like some assurance from the Minister in regard to paragraph 3 of the Schedule, as it seems to give very wide powers of bureaucracy. One can visualise certain questions being asked after the decease of an individual which it might be very painful for those left behind to answer. I do not believe it is the desire of the Minister to probe into people's private affairs, but my fear is that unless we get some assurance from the Minister that due limitation will be set to the scope, the number and the direction of the inquiries foreshadowed in the Bill, people outside will be antagonistic to the very object which the right hon. Gentleman rightly desires to obtain.
One's mind is most exercised by the fear that the information, which will remain, I am sure, secret in the hands of the registrar—I do not suppose for a moment that it will be disclosed, such is the purity and probity of our public life—may have to be disclosed in a court. If it is considered necessary to have all this information, it is important to make it impossible for it to be produced in a court of law. People make confidants of their doctors and lawyers, secure in the knowledge that what they tell them will 1799 remain secret between them and their advisers. If it be desirable to have so wide a field of inquiry as the Bill envisages, I hope the Minister will give us a definite undertaking that the information obtained for purely statistical and State purposes shall remain absolutely private, and that it will in no circumstances be possible to insist upon its disclosure in a court of law.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
I did not intend to take part in the discussion, but after hearing the speeches I am tempted to rush in. Angels rush in where fools fear to tread. [HON. MEMBERS: "The other way round!"] No, I put it that way because it just suits me. From the point of view of experience of population I possess, without a doubt, the most unique possition of any Member of Parliament who has ever been in this House, right from 1268, when I believe Parliament first started. I do not believe that any Member has come through that door who has claimed Queen Anne's bounty from three Kings for three separate lots of triplets in three separate years for three separate wives. [HON. MEMBERS: "Your own?"] No, not mine, but three colliers' wives. I have been in this House for only 3½ years, but I made application to the late King, and he sent the bounty, to ex-King Edward, and he sent it, and I have made an application to the present King, and he has sent it. From the standpoint of population I think my position is almost at the top of the league.
I have never known such a Bill as this and I am not surprised that the Minister of Health has been so uncomfortable since half-past four. I have never seen him so uncomfortable. He has been unable to sit down for two minutes. The destructive criticism that has come from every part of the House will undoubtedly lead him to do to-day what the late President of the Board of Trade did when he had brought in a Mining Bill; he took it out at half-past seven and we have never seen it since. It never came back. If the Minister of Health senses the opinion of the House to-night, he will do something similar.
Childbearing is the most dangerous occupation in the world. In the case of 585,000 births in 1935, more than 3,000 women died either in or arising out of 1800 childbirth. We say that mining is a very dangerous occupation, but when you come to look at the figures of mining against those of maternal mortality, mining is nowhere by comparison. In 1935, 778,000 men were working in mines and 865 were killed. We look upon that occupation as very serious. Not only is childbearing most dangerous but child-rearing is the most important occupation. I know that the Minister of Health prides himself upon having got on to the Statute Book a Midwives Act which he hopes will mean something in the future, but I want to say here that I do not think it can mean as much as has been prophesied for it. While I have been a Member of this House a monkey has had a baby in the Zoo. They put two men to look after that monkey and her baby for six weeks and they did not leave it. If the mothers in our hospitals had been looked after with such care as was given to that monkey, many women who died would be alive to-day. That is one of the reasons why the population has been declining.
I have been, not amused but a little curious, that supporters of the Bill should be crying out for more population, and yet those self-same Members went through that door on 23rd March, 1936, to tell the agricultural workers that they must not have more than three children. One of the hon. Members for Fulham, who wants to get up and speak now, voted that no agricultural workers in the country should receive, when they were out of work, unemployment pay for more than three children. That is the birth control of the Agricultural Unemployment Insurance Act. It states quite clearly that the agricultural worker shall not have more than 30s. a week, that is to say, 14s. for himself, 7s. for his wife, and 3s. for each child up to the number of three, so that, if he has seven children, he has to keep the other four on nothing. Now there is a desire that the population should increase. I support every word of what the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Herbert) said. There was a tremendous amount of truth in it, and I hope that the people all over the British Isles tomorrow morning will read it. It touched the kernel of the question. He said in so many words that a lot of the middle and upper classes prefer the baby car to the baby in a car. They are not having families, and those are the people 1801 who can afford to keep families. As regards those who have been having families, there is now on the Statute Book an Act which says that they are not to have more than three children. I hope that the agricultural workers will take account of that, and will see to it that, if the population is to increase, it must be increased by the people who voted against the agricultural worker having more than three children.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Captain Elliston
The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) and another hon. Member complained that nobody had attempted this afternoon to defend paragraph 3 of the Schedule. They complained that the Minister himself had studiously avoided any justification of that part of the Schedule. I do not know whether those hon. Members have been in the House all the time, but it seems to me that there has been a very full justification of that provision. We have to remember that this Bill, unlike the other Registration Bills referred to by the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Herbert), is unique in that it is a research Bill. Its purpose is to provide the information required by the Minister before he can interpret the fall in the birth rate that seems to be assured in the near future. The Minister told us fully of all the safeguards which are provided in connection with the Orders in Council concerning the particulars covered by paragraphs 1 and 2. Nobody with an elementary knowledge of research can suppose it to be possible to define in advance the lines of progress that this research may take. It is impossible to say to-day what will be the next stage of the information required as the work opens up. Therefore, unless the Government are to come back again and again for further legislation, this Bill must provide for the extension of research as and when required.
Of course, if the Bill allowed unspecified items of information to be asked for, it would mean that wide and undefined powers would be removed from Parliamentary control, but the Bill provides that asking for such unspecified items can only be sanctioned by a Resolution of both Houses, so that any research beyond the items included in paragraphs 1 and 2 must secure the consent of Parliament. We have heard about the powers that we are putting into the hands of the Minister, 1802 and so on, but I ask the House seriously whether it is possible to have any greater safeguard than the necessity for coming to both Houses of Parliament for this sanction? I consider that, in view of that provision, the result of the Bill has been grossly exaggerated this afternoon. That is the only expression that I can use.
My hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) made a great deal of the fact that it has been stated that in Germany and in Italy the Governments of those countries have done something to make it more attractive for the people to have big families, and he asked to be given specific information on that point. Surely, however, it is common knowledge to everyone who reads our newspapers that attempts have been made by the Governments of both Germany and Italy to bring about a recovery in the birth rate, and it is because those attempts have proved ineffective that the Minister tells us that he wishes to avoid making that mistake—that he wishes to avoid the adoption of remedies before he is sure as to what exactly are the troubles that have to be put right.
It has a little shocked me that in all this discussion to-day there seems to have been no sense of the extraordinary gravity of the problem which has to be examined. It is not only what we expect may happen; it is what is happening already. Since 1901, the percentage of people in this country aged 60 and upwards has increased from 7.4 to 11.6, an increase of more than 50 per cent. A figure like that is so grave that it surely behoves us to inquire what is happening' in our social life when we are drifting into a position which in a very few years must result in a rapid and growing decrease in population.
It seems to me that this problem is one which makes all other public problems absolutely insignificant. During the past six years we have spent months of Parliamentary time in this House in discussing maternal mortality, infant mortality, the loss of life through venereal disease and tuberculosis, and so on. By dealing with those problems we hope to save a few thousand lives, but here we are going to see a loss of population running into millions and yet we treat the problem in an airy way to-day, as if it were quite unnecessary and uncalled for for the Minister of Health to bring forward such a trivial Bill for our consideration. It 1803 seems to me that the House is losing its sense of proportion in the presence of a problem which is of the gravest significance from the point of view, not only of our own country, our own industries and the provision of employment for our own people, but of our responsibilities to the British Empire in all parts of the world. Are we to say that we can no longer man those Dominions, or help to man them? Are we to leave it to other countries to carry on that work? It is no matter of mere flag-waving or anything of the sort; but is a people worthy to carry on the greatest Empire in the world if it is afraid to reproduce its race?
Speaker after speaker has said, "Why do we want research?" We want research in order to discover whether it is desirable, or possible, to arrest this decline in population by some action of government, and, if it is not possible, we, surely, want to avoid wasteful efforts to achieve the impossible. We want to know where we are in connection with this problem. For that reason it seems to me that this House, as a responsible House, should welcome the proposals of the Minister to secure for us the fundamental information we must have. If we wish the decline to continue, as some Members have said we do, surely we have to prepare to cope with the consequences. We have to devise adjustments in our national life and our whole social and economic structure, according to the depth of the level that we are going to allow our population to attain.
I have said more than I intended at this late hour. But by some mischance the speakers this afternoon, in my opinion, have not reflected the general opinion of the Members of the House. It happened by misfortune that those curiously assorted people who are opposed to this Bill, people of the most curious comradeship, have had an undue measure of good fortune in catching the eye of the Speaker. I refuse to believe that the great majority of this House are going to withhold their support from the Government in a matter of such tremendous significance.
Reference has been made to the fact that the Minister this morning contributed to one of the newspapers the intentions of this Bill, and complaint has been made that such publicity was improper. Has anybody protested about the 1804 continuous flow of propaganda against this Bill that has been appearing in this paper for days past? One million English families had their Sunday spoilt yesterday when they were told by a certain paper of the terrible inquisition proposed in this Bill. It is a very good thing that the Minister, or some other well-informed person, should tell the people when they have been grossly misled by a Press campaign. We have had an undue share of argument against this Bill. I appeal to the quiet, solid body of Members to support a Measure which, in my opinion, is absolutely necessary if this country is to have the information which it ought to have on a problem which may affect the whole future of our race.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Thurtle
The hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken, apparently defending the Minister of Health in publishing that article in the "Daily Express," appears to overlook the fact that there are certain rules governing the incursions of Cabinet Ministers into journalism, and that it is on that basis that we protest against the article by the Minister to-day. It appears to me that the hon. and gallant Member was much more candid about the real objects of this Bill than the Minister himself. The hon. and gallant Member led us to believe that what was really behind it was a desire to produce more cannon-fodder for the Empire. That confirms the suspicions of some of us who see in this a desire to get more soldiers to defend the Empire.
He also replied to a speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby), who asked the Minister to give some assurance that there would be some limit to the demand for statistics. The hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken has replied to that, and has told us, in effect, that the particulars which are to be asked for now are only a beginning. Later on, when we get these particulars, we shall want more and more. It is quite clear that these statistical people cannot be appeased; they cannot be satiated. They are like a man-eating tiger, who, once he has tasted human blood, cannot be satisfied. We know from experience that the kind of bureaucratic-minded people who want this information would pry into the private lives of individuals and turn us inside out, if they had their will.
1805 I want to discuss this question from the point of view of the civil liberties of the individual. It seems to me, and no one I think can deny it, that this is essentially a piece of inquisitorial legislation for prying into personal and private matters. It might be necessary for certain major reasons of State to allow those matters to be inquired into by the State, but before this House, as the particular guardian of our personal liberties, allows such inquiries to be made, it must be satisfied that not merely a strong case, but an overwhelming case, has been made out for such an inquisition. I suggest to all hon. Members who heard the Minister's speech to-day that he did not make anything like a strong case for it; in fact, I have listened to the right hon. Gentleman on many occasions, but never I think, have I heard him make a speech full of more specious argument; and, if he will forgive me for saying so, that is saving a great deal.
One point lie made in defending this Measure was that practically all the information which is now being asked for has been asked for in the census paper. He seemed to think that that was a satisfactory defence. I submit that it is nothing of the kind. These questions which are to be asked as undeniably questions of delicacy and privacy. There is a material difference between giving answers to these questions on a census paper and giving answers to them on a certificate of birth.
§ Mr. Thurtle
There is no copy kept of the census paper. It is filled in by the head of the household. In the case of a birth one of the spouses has to go and give this information to the registrar. Now, although this is not going to be put into the public book I take it the Minister will not deny that the other spouse—the husband or the wife as the case may be—would certainly be entitled to have all the full particulars.
§ Sir K. Wood
So far as that matter is concerned, the position would be the same as in the case of the census. In both cases the papers will go to the Registrar-General, they will remain in his sole custody, and they will not be available to any other person.
§ Mr. Thurtle
Am I to understand that in the case of a wife registering a birth, and 1806 giving full details, the husband will not become privy to those details?
§ Mr. Thurtle
In that case the particular point I was going to make is destroyed. Earlier this afternoon I interrupted the Minister when he was speaking to urge upon him that he should, in these days above all, have some regard to the equal rights of the sexes. He is proposing to ask the unmarried mother to disclose the information about her child. Why should the unmarried mother be singled out in this way? This information is based upon the need for getting statistics as to fertility. Fertility is a matter involving both sexes. If you insist upon the unmarried mother giving this information, why should you not also insist upon the unmarried father giving the information? It is said that proof of maternity cannot be established. I agree that in some cases it cannot be established, but in very many cases it can be established through actions in the courts of law. It seems to me there is no reason at all why you should differentiate in this way, and I think it is a very evil thing that you should start asking the unmarried mother to disclose the secrets of her past when you do not make the unmarried father do the same thing.
§ Sir K. Wood
We are adopting in this matter the procedure which obtains at present, and on the last point the hon. Gentleman will realise that the registration of births has to follow immediately after the birth, and there is of course no opportunity in these cases to establish paternity. We are just following the ordinary rule in this matter, and whatever criticism the hon. Gentleman may make applies to the present procedure. I would also remind the hon. Gentleman that, although I have said that I will consider the opinion of the House on this matter, the mother in question, so far as her previous children are concerned, has of course had to register in respect of each individual birth.
§ Mr. Thurtle
May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that there is no reason at all why he should not allow a period of time to go by and still make it an obligation upon the father to acknowledge his paternity—that is, if he really is so concerned with this question of national fertility? And may I make 1807 this further point? He says he is following established practice. But is he not aware that all these lines of established practice were laid down at the time when our women were in a definite state of inferiority, when their status was nothing like equal to the status of men? We have changed all that now. We recognise them as equal fellow-citizens, and if we recognise them in almost every other respect as equal fellow-citizens surely there is a case for recognising them in the same sense now.
It has been demonstrated, I think, beyond argument that practically all the information the Minister wants by means of this Bill can be obtained through the census. If he has got the information, or can get the information, by means of the census, why does he want to worry the House with this Bill, and why does he want to indulge in these further inquisitions into private affairs? And what is it all for? It is for the purpose of another inquiry. And what can you do when you have had the other inquiry? Member after Member has pointed out that there is no means by which you can compel people to have children if they do not want to have them, and there is no means, so far as I know, by which you can prevent people from having children if they want to have them. Moreover, everybody knows that all the information which is going to be collected by means of this Bill will not cover one tithe of the reasons which govern the size of families.
There are a hundred and one most personal and private reasons which dictate what the size of a particular family should be. Therefore I think the Minister is very largely wasting his time and stirring up a great deal of discontent by bringing in a Measure of this kind. He said, "But what are you going to do? Are you going to do nothing about this problem?" I should like to submit this: The collection of masses of statistics upon which no action is going to follow—and I suggest that no action will follow upon this collection of statistics—is not merely doing nothing; it is worse than doing nothing, because it is pretending to do something when you are really not going to do anything.
The only other point I wanted to make was in connection with the labour of 1808 filling up these forms. People in my constituency in the East End of London come to me with the most simple forms, dealing with applications for old age pensions and things of that sort, and they have the greatest possible difficulty in completing the forms. Now you are going to ask them, at every birth which takes place, a long string of questions, probably involving very long, detailed answers. Many fathers have five or six brothers or sisters, and wives often have five or six brothers or sisters. In laboriously registering a birth in this form they will have to rack their memories for the details of the ages, the occupations, and so on, asked for in this Schedule. It is absolutely unreasonable to ask ordinary people to submit to an inquisition of this kind, when the information is really available from another source.
I want to say a final word about the decline of the population. One of my hon. Friends here said he thought it was a matter of serious concern to this country that the population should be at present stationary and was probably on the decline. I cannot say that I share that point of view. We have suffered a great deal in the past from the rapid expansion of our population, due to the industrial era; and if we have got to a point where we are now more or less stationary, I think it will probably be not an evil thing but a good thing. If the population falls still further that will mean that for the population which remains there is going to be a higher standard of living, greater comfort, greater culture, and more security, because I think it is very likely that all those things will follow from a decline of population.
Hon. Members may be more concerned if they are shareholders in great newspapers or industrial insurance companies and organisations of that kind, because I admit that contracting population is bound to hit these great edifices rather hardly. But we are not concerned with these established interests. We are concerned primarily with the happiness and comfort of fellow men, women and children, and I think that, in the long run, this would be a happier country, and the people in it would have a much fuller life, if the population were smaller than it is at the present time. I ask the Minister and his colleagues in the Government to address themselves to the 1809 various points which have been made by my colleagues as to the real problems underlying this question—problems of insecurity, the threat of war, the fact that woman is to-day emancipated and refuses any longer to be merely a household drudge and the begetter of children, and the fact that there is no economic security in this country for a growing family. If they will face, and deal with, these problems, they will do something real to deal with the population problem, rather than rely upon the sham way in which they are attempting to deal with it to-day.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Mr. W. Astor
I will not attempt to follow the hon. Gentleman the Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle) into the many small and large points which he has raised. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health will answer these as effectively as the ones he answered during an interjection, but I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that when he says that the proprietors of a great industry might lose through the diminution of the consuming and buying population, that would equally apply to the workers in such an industry, who would also be laid off if their market were restricted. Vested interest is not confined to the owner in an industry, but includes the worker in it as well. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) did me the very unusual honour of making an attack upon me before I made my speech and before he even knew what line I was going to take. Out of the blue, without giving me any warning, he attacked me for a vote I gave a great many months ago on the Unemployment Insurance Act for agricultural workers, with the idea that somehow this had something to do with a speech I had not yet made and of the contents of which he had not the faintest idea. He did not give me any warning that he was going to do this, and I can only give him a short answer on that point. It is, that the Unemployment Insurance Act for agricultural workers vastly improved the position of the agricultural labourer compared with what it was before and when his party was in power.
§ Mr. Astor
If anything has proved the necessity for this Bill it is the mass of contradictory and inaccurate statements 1810 which we have heard from the opposite side of the House. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about your own side?"] There has been a great deal said upon this topic, and we have heard an hon. Member opposite say that poverty is the cause of the declining birth rate.
§ Mr. Astor
Yet hon. Gentlemen on the same side say that it is the richer middle-class which are, in fact, restricting their birth rate. Surely, that only goes to prove the necessity for getting accurate information on this subject. I want to support my right hon. Friend particularly because I was one of the Members who took part in a Debate on the population problem some months ago.
§ Mr. Astor
Perhaps the apprehension of some hon. Gentlemen opposite may be allayed if they read the speech made from their own side by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Romford (Mr. Parker), who answered many of the points which they had made themselves. If it could only be assumed that a declining population would mean a higher standard of living everybody would look upon it with the greatest possible equanimity. In fact, it means nothing of the sort, as every person who has studied this problem in a scientific way will agree. It is a most serious question because quite apart from any questions of defence or emigration, it would mean probably a reduction in the standard of living and a contraction in the social services.
§ Mr. Sorensen
Does the hon. Member mean that there is a lower standard of life in Sweden with a much smaller population than we have?
§ Mr. Astor
I do not mean anything of the sort. I have a point to answer against the hon. Member, who made an attack upon the Lady Members of the House and said that they did not produce six or 10 children between them. May I tell him, on the most authoritative information, that my Noble Friend the Member for the Sutton division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) produced six off her own bat.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
Perhaps if this Bill passes the Registrar-General will be able to give the hon. Gentleman that information.
§ Mr. Astor
That is a purely hypothetical question. If I may turn to that which is really no laughing matter, there are very strong grounds for saying that if this decline goes on there will be a lowering of the standard of living and a reduction in the social services. If we are to investigate this problem and obtain social progress it must be based upon accurate information. All the progress which has been made in housing, education and health, has been the result of adequate researches. Could Mr. Sidney Webb and his wife have made those researches which produced many important social reforms if accurate information had not been there, and could Sir John Orr have put before Members on both sides of the House his striking Report on Nutrition unless accurate information had been available? If we are to go ahead in social progress, it is essential that we should not take any measures based on lack of accurate information. The same arguments which have been produced against this Bill were produced over 100 years ago when the census was produced, or even several hundred years ago when births first began to be registered.
There is no difference in principle between this Bill and what is an essential and accepted part of our national life. We have every reason to trust the good faith of the Registrar-General, knowing that the party opposite have always been happy to use the statistics he has produced in the past, and I see no reason why we should not trust him with statistics on this point in the future. It is a very serious problem, and I do not think that anybody really would wish to see with equanimity the great decline in the population of Great Britain, which would be followed by a decline in our influence in the world and in the influence of the ideas which we represent. Hon. Members on both sides of the House prefer what this 1812 country has to offer in liberty and democracy to some of the alternative systems abroad. Most people regard the existence of the British Empire as a force for peace in the world. It cannot forward these ideals or be a force for peace if there is a spectacular decline in population. I hope that we shall not try to read too many motives and hidden intentions into this Bill. Let us accept it as an honest attempt to get the statistics by which we can get a beneficial long-term policy on this problem.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Sexton
This Bill is very interesting to me, because I could give the right hon. Gentleman some statistics of population in my own home as a boy. I happened to be the seventh in the family and there were 10 younger than I was—17 children is one family. In our family, a working-class one, living in a small house, my parents had not given the stork notice to quit, but I find on reading various statistics relating to the upper classes that they have certainly not called in the doctor with the little black bag. It is the upper classes who have small families, and the workers are now following their example. They see the wisdom of restricting their family to the size they can afford to keep. If it is anybody who should have a questionnaire put to them, it is the people who are restricting their family so much that they have none at all.
Not long ago we had an agricultural Bill to increase the fertility of the soil. It provided that farmers should get lime and slag to feed the soil. Up and down the country you will find that the horses in racing stables and the cattle in dairy farms are well fed, because the breeders of these animals know, like the agriculturists, that you cannot have fertile soil unless you feed it, or fertile horses and cattle unless you feed them. It is the same way with human beings. The parents of the human family must have sufficient food, and if they want an increased birth rate the National Government should set about it by creating the environment which is necessary for increased families. The National Government have instituted a means test, and as a result of it the children of the workers when they grow up have to keep their parents. They are so bound up in keeping their parents that they cannot afford to get married or have families. 1813 If you want to increase families one way is to abolish the means test and let young people have a chance. How can you expect men living on 16s. or 17s. a week and their wives on 6s. or 7s. a week to be fertile? The Government could do something straight away.
There is the question of agricultural workers. I read a letter this morning in the "Northern Echo" from an agricultural worker's wife. She says:I am a farm worker's wife. My husband and son earn for me £2 8s. Of course, farm workers are rent free and have free potatoes and milk, but in my case there are 13 of us to live on £2 8s. for food, clothes, coals etc.There you have an example of trying to have a big family on a small income, an income which is unworthy of that family. Then we have the underpaid workers throughout the country. There are young men, some in my district, with 32s. a week. They get married. Their rent is 6s. or 7s. a week. They have had low wages all their life and not enough money to save, and they have to get their furniture on the hire purchase system. We have the ex-service men. What is there to prompt ex-service men to have big families, knowing what they have undergone and what they have come back to after the War, thrown on to the streets, and many of them unable to find a job? Is there any incentive to them to bring big families into the world? I have here some evidence from the women's institutes. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman was present at a meeting which was reported in the "Northern. Echo" on 26th November. The lady president, Lady Denman, said something to the right hon. Gentleman in a forthright manner:Your audience is one of the most sympathetic you could possibly suggest. It is also, possibly, somewhat critical. Some of us are critical because we come from counties where even now very little has been done to improve the water supply or where is no scheme for the provision of cheap milk, or where only £50 for providing mothers and children with milk is spent in the whole county area.The women of the women's institutes are dissatisfied with the National Government. Some of them do not call it a National Government; they call it a national disgrace. Lady Denman went on to say:In other rural districts there are so few maternity and child welfare centres that mothers are dying from child-birth because of their suffering from tuberculosis or heart disease, or some serious illness.1814 Science has not found a way to cure maternal mortality. With all your medical equipment, maternal mortality is almost the same to-day as it was 30 years ago. Lady Denman added:It is because we feel all this that we say the Government's scheme for cheap and free milk should be a national scheme, and should not be dependent on the local authorities.We have the evidence of these women that all is not well, and they are certainly not satisfied that the National Government are trying to make an environment for larger families.
There are three points in the Schedule to the Bill to which I wish to refer. First, information has to be given regarding "brothers and sisters." I ask hon. Members, if I were the person and I had to give statistics of my brothers and sisters, 16 of them, where would I get their full records? I cannot carry all these 16 names and ages in my mind. It is almost an impossibility in a case like mine. When we came to sub-paragraph (c) I find that the mother of an illegitimate child is to be asked an appalling question, appalling to the height of insolence, and therefore I object strongly to such a question being asked. Paragraph 3 it says:Any other matter with respect to which it is desirable to obtain information.That is so extensive that it is bordering on the impudent, and therefore no such information should be asked for. The questions to be answered are intimate and delicate questions savouring of a Nosey Parker and this Bill should be rejected.
§ 9.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede
There is no doubt that if the House votes in accordance with its feelings this evening the Bill will be defeated. I have rarely known a Bill which has so reduced the temperature of the Minister of Health. I recall a night during the Debates of 1929–31 Parliament when the then hon. Member for Yarmouth who was a critic of the right hon. Gentleman referred to him as the cheeky cock-sparrow of politics. There has been very little of the cheeky cock-sparrow about him to-day. There has never been a more tame, bedraggled, little house-sparrow, dodging a London fog than the right hon. Gentleman in his speech this afternoon and in his subsequent efforts to retrieve the position. It is interesting to note that there have been four wholehearted supporters of the Bill, two of them bachelors, 1815 one an ex-county medical officer of health, and the other an ex-official of the County Medical Officers' Health Society. That gives a good idea of the strength of the support for the Bill. But not even the County Medical Officers' Health Society would dare to recommend that there should be a large increase of the population of this country from the bachelor Members of the House. Even the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby), who generally misrepresents me, made it quite clear that to-night he will represent me and that I shall have the pleasure of walking into the Lobby behind him against the Bill.
§ Mr. Ede
Generally speaking the hon. and gallant Member is the most reactionary of the die-hards, but this afternoon he really was one of the most enlightened people who care for the liberty of the subjects. This is not the first time in history that this House has been concerned with the population question. One hundred and twenty years ago there were a number of debates in this House arising out of the writing of Malthus, and on those occasions the House was deploring the fact that the population of the country was increasing too rapidly and that we might easily be overwhelmed with a flood of very ignorant, illiterate, improvident people. I think the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. G. Nicholson) should study the works of the only famous man ever born in his constituency, William Cobbett.
§ Mr. Ede
I was a personal friend of George Bourne, but with all my admiration for him I do not put him in the same street as William Cobbett. One knows the fierce denunciation by William Cobbett of the theories of Malthus and of his statistics. Cobbett in the most over-riding way declared that it was impossible to believe that by the end of the nineteenth century this country would be able to provide for 30,000,000 of people. Long before the end of the nineteenth century 30,000,000 of people were living in this country and the forebodings of Malthus 1816 have been amply answered by the state of prosperity to which the country rose during that period of expanding population. During that time large families were not confined to the working classes. George III had a family which would be regarded as improvident in size in these days, and Queen Victoria herself set an example to the women of her time. One has to look only at the memorials one sees in churches, the head of the family at a praying stool and on one side the two or three wives he had had in succession, on the other, and underneath a number of children, generally over 20 in number, some of whom, it is true, had died in their infancy, to get some idea of the size of families in the not very distant past.
Therefore, this problem is not a new one, but it is a problem which is troubling us from a new point of view. I am profoundly distrustful of medical science, falsely so called, when it comes pleading in the accents of the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) and the hon. and gallant Member for Blackburn (Captain Elliston). The hon. Member for St. Albans is assisting the Government in their national fitness campaign. He went down to Kingston-on-Thames and warned the people there about being too energetic on their holidays. He said that when he went on holidays with his wife they went to bed at 11 o'clock at night and did not get up until 11 o'clock next morning, and suggested to the young people of Kingston that it would be better for them if they followed that lackadaisical example. The hon. Member for St. Albans made it quite clear that the Bill is of no use to him unless Clause 3 of the Schedule is implemented. He told us that the medical officers of health were concerned with this question in the years before the War and that a paper was read to the Society of Medical Officers of Health in which the late medical officer of health for Glasgow analysed the problem and suggested certain fresh trains of thought by medical officers of health. He suggested that the two things that needed investigation were, first, the pace at which we live in these days, and, secondly, the effect of athletic training on girls when they come to years when they may expect to be mothers.
Neither of these problems is dealt with in the Bill. I do not know that the first 1817 can be dealt with. It would be difficult in these days to get a sufficient number of people to agree on some pace less than the pace at which we are compelled to live so that there could be a controlled experiment going on side by side with the ordinary population of the country, who seem to be trying to live at even greater pace every year. When it comes to the influence of athletic training on girls it would be difficult to get a series of questions framed which would be of any great help to doctors in deciding whether the fact that a girl was in the netball team of her council school had any real effect on her fertility when she arrived at years of maturity. It seems to me that one point was made by the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Herbert) which deserves to be carried a step further. The hon. Member said rightly that this Bill asks no questions of the married couple who have no child; but also, it asks the question only once of the family which has one child. The one-child family is one of the greatest problems of our social life at the present time, and certainly it is one of the biggest problems of the education authorities and the teachers in the schools. Any real effort to arrive at questions with regard to the fertility of the race should take into account those two types of families and should be able to produce the statistics fairly quickly in order that, if steps are to be taken, they may be taken while there is yet time.
I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that a great deal of the opposition to this Bill would be removed if, instead of taking power to make Orders, the Bill contained the specific questions that are to be put to the people for answer. If those questions were in the Bill, we should know exactly for what we are legislating to-night. I regard as completely illusory the story that under paragraph (c) of the Schedule the House will retain control. Hon. Members know what happens. The Order is put on the Paper, it is taken after 11 o'clock, and one or two speeches are made, but most hon. Members desire to get home as quickly as they can. It it true that one or two hon. Members opposite may make speeches in the hope that they will cause my hon. Friends and myself to lose our late trains, and we have the pleasure of seeing them drive off in their motor cars, while we prepare to use Shanks's mare. We know very well that 1818 there is no effective Parliamentary safeguard. The number of these Orders that ever get adequately debated on the Floor of the House is so small that any hon. Member can reckon them up on the fingers of one hand. I suggest that if the questions which it is desired to put were placed in the Bill, so that the House could vote upon them, the Minister would be quite likely to find that a good deal of the Opposition which he encounters to-day would have disappeared.
Let it be remembered that these questions are to be put to a very large number of people in different parts of the country. They will be put by some people who are married, for some registrars are married. All hon. Members know the story of the revelation of the plans of William the Third to the French King, and the council that William held afterwards to try to discover where the leakage had been. They will remember how the noble ancestor of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) said: "I told no one but my wife"; and William the Third said, "And I did not even tell my wife." One can well understand that it was far more difficult to keep a secret from Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, than from Mary the Second of England. I venture to say that there will be many women, when the questions are put to them, not according to the exact phrasing of this House, but according to the wording of the local registrar, who will fear, if the registrar's wife is a lady known to them, that she will share the secret. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health rolls about almost as though he were in acute stomach pain.
§ Sir K. Wood
The answer to the hon. Member, as I have endeavoured to state in my speech, is that questions of exactly the same sort have been put to millions of people, and there has never been any allegation that there was any disclosure whatever by the registrars of the country. I made careful inquiries into the matter, and I feel sure that there need be no apprehension of this kind. It is really a reflection on a body of servants who are carrying out excellent work.
§ Mr. Ede
I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman did not do me the honour of listening to exactly the way in which I put my remark. I am talking of the fear 1819 in the mind of the woman who imparts the information. As the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) said, one has to bear in mind that a very large number of these people are not yet convinced that the ballot is secret. How is one to expect them to accept, with the easy assurance that we can in this House, the proposition which the right hon. Gentleman has just made? I am not making any accusation against these officers of the State. I am simply saying that in the minds of many women there will be a fear that the secrets which they have to reveal will be shared by people with whom they would not wish to share them. No satisfactory answer has been given to the specific question asked my my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence). If the Parliamentary Secretary had been present, I intended to ask him to reply specifically to this point, for it is a very important one. The right hon. Gentleman dismissed rather airily the penalty Clauses of the Bill with the statement that he did not think they would be enforced. He said that only eight people had been prosecuted during the last census proceedings, and that the proceedings in some cases had been dropped, including the case of a lady who had gone to an hotel and did not want anybody to know that she had been there. The right hon. Gentleman was very airy about the matter.
§ Mr. Ede
I wish to put a question to the Parliamentary Secretary. When a person is asked, on the decease of a spouse, how many brothers and sisters had he or she, and makes the quite truthful answer, "I do not know," what will happen? Take the case of my hon. Friend the Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. Sexton). I understand that he had 19 brothers and sisters. Let us assume that he unfortunately died, and that his wife had to give some answer on that point. Take my own case. I do not know how many brothers and sisters my wife had; I know that she had a number of brothers and sisters who died before I married her, or before I was even introduced to her. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh tells me that he is in exactly the same position. 1820 When people are asked these questions, are we to understand that a hazy sort of answer such as "I do not know" will be accepted? If so, how far has one gone towards providing the Registrar-General, or anyone else, with any very valuable statistics upon which to base the deductions which the right hon. Gentleman wishes to draw from the returns he is to get?
The right hon. Gentleman had no right to quote my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) or my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) in support of this Bill. It is one thing to be in favour of getting further information. It is another thing to be in favour of this Measure and this method of gaining information which, to us, does not appear in all cases to be exactly relevant. Much has already been said about paragraph (c) of the Schedule and I understood the Minister to say that he did not intend to lose the Bill for the sake of that provision, and that if he found the House strongly against it he would withdraw it and have the question put in some less offensive way. I do not therefore think it necessary to say more than that I agree with everything said by the hon. Member for Oxford University and others on that point.
If the Minister desires to get public confidence behind this inquiry, he should ensure that his questions are such that those who have to answer them will not feel that they are going unnecessarily into private details. People should still be able to keep some secrets in their own breasts, even from the registrar. A number of people have skeletons in the family cupboard and they will have the greatest reluctance to disclose their secrets even to the registrar. I cannot help feeling that no sufficient answer has yet been given to the question of the hon. Member for Oxford University about the quinquennial census and the possibility of getting this kind of information on legitimate lines in that census. That would enable us to collect statistics, at reasonably close intervals, about the childless family and the one-child family. A proper investigation into the reason for the one-child family and the effect on the one child of being brought up in that state of isolation, would be far more valuable than anything which the right hon. Gentleman can get from this Bill as a means of find- 1821 ing out, first, why there is this sudden stoppage in the growth of so many families in these days, and, secondly, what are the reactions upon the educational system and the social services of the country. The quinquennial census brings the whole population under review. The questions can be put then and the answers can be sorted out and made available in a reasonable time.
We live in a mechanical age and one of the mechanical inventions of the day is the mechanical calculator. I have, unfortunately, to see on a good many occasions the work performed by this contrivance. It enables all sorts of irrelevant and useless information to be tabulated and preserved. It keeps a few girls at work upon a number of repetitive processes which must be as deadening to them as the results are useless to anybody else. One can get sets of returns with regard to births in this country and punch holes in cards relating to them, and put those cards into a machine in 20 or 30 different ways and get 20 or 30 different sets of results and tabulate them. It provides work for somebody but afterwards nobody ever hears anything about it. What has been said by several hon. Members about the rage for statistics has been well worth saying. We ought not to have the tabulation of statistics merely for tabulation's sake, or the collection of statistics merely for collection's sake.
We have been told by those who are entitled to speak from the medical point of view, that when you have got these returns they will only be the starting point. The hon. Member for St. Albans said that you must not try to circumscribe the range of your inquiries and that this was merely the first ring made on the pool by throwing in the pebble. It would go on and on and on. [HON. MEMBERS: "Up and up and up."] No, a pebble in a pool hardly goes up and up; it goes down and down. But I venture to say that the hon. Member for St. Albans gave us no ground for suggesting that when he had got the whole of his statistics he would be able to draw any conclusions at all from them that he could put into operation.
It would be a great deal better if the Parliamentary Secretary could get up now and announce that his right hon. Friend, having listened to the Debate with a patience that he rarely shows—he has interrupted us very little this evening 1822 compared with what he usually does, which is some tribute to the extent to which his spirits have been depressed—was prepared to withdraw this Bill and: to bring in a Bill more in conformity with the declared wishes of the House, so that in this important matter the House could go forward unitedly, because, if there is one kind of topic on which it is desirable that there should be no misgivings in the House, this kind of personal inquiry into the private lives of the subjects is the question. I sincerely hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to make that announcement tonight. If he cannot do that, at least he must rest assured of this, that he will have to face in Committee a very long and bitter fight with regard to the questions that will be permissible under this Schedule, and I suggest that it would be far better to withdraw this Bill and to submit a Bill which does contain the questions, so that we should be giving a clear and decided vote on issues that we clearly comprehended and that would leave no room for misgivings in the country outside.
§ 10.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Maitland
I have listened to most of the speeches during this Debate, and most of the criticisms against the Bill have been levelled at cases which, in my judgment, would form a minority of cases under the operation of the Bill. We have heard of the objection that too large Ministerial powers are given in the Bill and that the nature of the inquiries is inquisitorial. We have, wherever we sit in this House, a very great objection to questions, particularly regarding our personal concerns, which border upon the inquisitive, but unfortunately, much as we should like to avoid them, it is not always possible to do so. I would like to refer for a moment to what I conceive to be the value of the purposes of this Bill. I think we have been rather led away from the real value of those purposes by the kind of criticism in which we can all join, that we object to inquisition and to giving to any Minister powers which we would prefer to keep in our own hands.
On those grounds, Members on all sides would be almost unanimous, but if we get back to the real purposes of this Bill, cannot we all accept this position? There have been many interesting, if unauthoritative, statements with regard to 1823 the trend of population, and, as the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has said, in the past estimates in this respect have been largely falsified. The statements which have been made have been made with so many qualifications that it is almost impossible to arrive at a right conclusion. We can, however, agree that to-day the birth rate is below the rate which will reproduce the population at its present level. That will be accepted on all sides without one going into details as to the degree. Is it not also true—and this is one of the problems which the Government have to face—that unless the birth rate takes an upward more or less quickly turn, either by its own volition or by being induced to do so, there will be a definite decline in the population. Can Parliament afford to treat that as a matter on which no action need be taken? I am one of those who believe that the British race is worth preserving.
This position brings an important responsibility to Parliament, to local authorities, and to all those engaged in social welfare work. I will go so far as to say that if the birth rate declines at too rapid a rate our whole social economic and financial structure may very well be affected. I cannot at this late hour go into detail, but it will be accepted without my enlarging on it. The problem we have to face is not confined to this country. We have never attempted by direct State action to deal with this problem. It is true that by indirect or oblique methods we have done something in order to maintain the population, such as maternity benefits, maternity and child welfare services, education and relief by way of Income Tax. These methods, however, have not originated in questions directly aimed at an increase in population. Some other countries have taken direct action, but it is too early to expect that any reliable information can be given of the success or otherwise which has attended their efforts.
In this matter two critical questions emerge. The first is what are the causes of decline in population, and no doubt it will be said that there are a number of causes. The second and important question is whether the operative motives are such as might be responsive to any deliberate action by the State. It is to that ques- 1824 tion—can the State take any action which will have a tendency either to increase or reduce or stabilise the population?—that the Government of the day, whatever its political complexion, must find the answer. I do not believe there is any hon. Member who would dogmatise about it. In a Debate a few months ago the Minister told the House that there was a Departmental Committee already sitting, and that probably they would work in close co-operation with the Population Investigation Committee presided over by Professor Can-Saunders. I should like to ask whether there has been close co-operation between those bodies? Have they been consulted with regard to the questions which are likely to be covered by this Bill, and are they satisfied that the answers to the questions will materially assist them in their investigations? If that is so I think the House finds itself faced with a responsibility.
The Government of the day have asked not for specific legislation to do something, but for specific legislation to make further inquiries upon what is admitted on all sides of the House to be a very important matter. For myself, I discard the suggestions which have been made as to the unpopularity of this Measure. Measures which may be temporarily unpopular are not always wrong, and if a Government ask permission to take steps which may arouse unpopularity in the country that is, in my judgment, evidence of the earnestness of the Government. Complaint was made about the particular questions in the Schedule, but the Minister has indicated that in Committee he will be guided by the opinion and feelings of the House, and it is in Committee that we shall have the best opportunity of thrashing things out in detail. I say that in a matter of this kind, which has no party political significance, it is the bounden duty of the House to give to the Government the facilities for which they ask for obtaining information which will enable them to formulate a policy on a matter which affects us all.
§ 10.33 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Mr. Bernays)
In rising to reply to this Debate I have to answer not merely for the alleged sins of the Government but also for my own alleged personal sins. I was attacked tonight for having committed the atrocious 1825 crime of being still a bachelor, but surely there is still plenty of time. I am not an old man yet. I see before me the hon. Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest). I went to speak in his constituency in the by-election, and I remember that above the din at one meeting I heard the flattering insult hurled at me, "We want a man to talk to us, not a boy."
§ Mr. Bernays
I did not accuse the hon. Gentleman of that. If I may give the House a little secret on this question of my bachelorhood, it is that I have always heard that really great men are the sons of elderly parents, and I want a son of whom I can be proud. Let us not forget the background upon which we are discussing this Measure. It is the serious and continuous decline in the birth rate which is a matter of concern to all parties, and not least to the party opposite, as is evidenced in their memorandum to the Registrar-General as long ago as 1930. We have had no kind of answer from hon. Members opposite as to why they have changed their attitude to-night, following the leadership of the Liberal party and of Oxford University.
The problem of population cannot be ignored. To do so would be to ignore the verdict of history. The one disease that afflicts nations and from which there is no recovery is sterility. The history of the Roman Empire alone should be sufficient to show that a declining birth rate is a danger signal which nations ignore at their peril. I will try to answer to the best of my ability some of the questions that have been put. It was argued by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) that the statistics for which we ask are unnecessary. I would like to couple with my answer an answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (M r. Maitland), who asked whether we were in close consultation with Professor Can-Saunders and his Population Investigation Committee. The answer to this is "Yes." We are, and we have been in close consultation upon the kind of information which it is thought useful to have.
§ Sir Arthur Salter
Has Professor Can-Saunders urgently asked for any of the 1826 classes of information to which principal objection has been taken to-day? Is it not the case that he and those who work with him would be satisfied with answers to the questions to which, so far as we can judge from the Debate, there has been no objection from this House?
§ Mr. Bernays
I can give a specific answer. He has asked for and has approved all the questions which are mentioned in the Schedule. What do we want to find out? Nearly all of us have some theory as to the reason for the decline in the birth rate, but we cannot come to any kind of conclusion until we have proper fertility statistics. There is the bare possibility of some pervasive, widespread physical factor militating against the birth rate, apart from all the considerations mentioned this afternoon of social customs and economic obstacles. That is what we want to find out, and that is what these statistics will help us to find out.
§ Mr. C. S. Taylor
I listened very carefully to the Minister's speech and tried to find out what the Government were trying to find out by these statistics. During the whole of the Minister's speech I could find no reason for these statistics being necessary. He said that we needed them but he did not tell us why. Can we hope for some explanation from the Parliamentary Secretary why these figures are necessary?
§ Mr. Bernays
I will try to answer the points which have been made so strongly if my hon. Friend will only give me time and will allow me to proceed. These suggestions will help us to learn what conditions in the family—their ages, their occupations, the places where they live, and so on—appear to be encouraging or discouraging the birth rate. These statistics, produced continuously year after year and gradually accumulated, are bound to show up any marked differences in fertility in relation to the conditions upon which information is sought.
§ Mr. A. Herbert
I apologise for interrupting the hon. Gentleman. I interrupted the Minister, and would not have interrupted the Parliamentary Secretary now, but for the answer that he gave to my hon. Friend. He has said that, as a result of these new statistics, we shall learn (a), the ages, (b), the occupations, and (c), the places where the people live. 1827 He has already, as I pointed out this afternoon, the occupations and the places where they live, and the only new item he has mentioned is the ages. To asking for these, as I pointed out, I do not object at all.
§ Mr. Bernays
If only my hon. Friend and other hon. Members will allow me to proceed, I will deal with the points they have raised. If such differences are found—they may not be found; we do not know until we make inquiries—they will not, of course, necessarily be evidence of cause, but they will narrow down the scope of the conditions among which the causation may rest. If by this means we can obtain some perception of what forces may be tending to a recovery of the birth rate, whatever Government is in power at the time will be in a position to examine measures to stimulate those forces. This small Bill is brought forward as a means of obtaining information upon which large-scale action may in the future be taken. We are not attempting to create a new statistical intelligence system, but merely to stop a gap, a small gap, though in our opinion a vitally important one, in the existing information. We believe that investigation must precede action. The argument that investigation should come first is reinforced by what is happening in Germany and Italy, where very drastic action has been taken. I understand that there if a man passes the age of 26 and cannot show due cause why he is not married, and he is in a Government job, he loses that job. It would be very unpleasant to put such a provision into operation here; I am afraid that the ranks of the Under-Secretaries would be decimated; and I dare say hon. Gentlemen opposite, if the time comes when they have to form a government, would also find a similar tendency. All that Draconian legislation has had but very moderate success, because the whole problem of fertility, as we believe, has never been submitted to any form of scientific examination.
I come now to the questions of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Mr. A. Herbert). He says that the statistics already existing do all that is needed. Let me examine for a moment what is left out of the existing statistics. I admit that we know the proportion of 1828 births to the population of Westminster, Chelsea, Hammersmith, or wherever it is, but that does not tell us m ho are having the children or what is the size of the families. With regard to questions that he raised about our occupational fertility statistics, all that we know now is that in a given year so many children are born to miners or solicitors or university professors, or whatever category it is. We have no idea how many children they previously had. We want to know whether the child born this year is the second or third or fifteenth. In other words, there is an important gap in our statistics, and we are asking for powers to make good that gap.
§ Mr. Bernays
The hon. Member was not here during this Debate, and it is not fair of him to start asking questions before I have even finished my argument. Now I come to that problem of, why do we not have a census now—a very pertinent question put to me by my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University. The answer is that we should not get the material for such a census for four or five years at least. It takes at least a year to prepare for a census. If we get this Bill we can have some material provided in annual evidence from within probably less than a year of the date of the Third Reading. We can also, by these means, keep a watch on the current trend of population. In a census you can only get the material up to a certain date, and there is then a gap of another period of at least five years. This is the only method of keeping the situation under continuous review.
§ Mr. Herbert
This is really a most serious point, which the hon. Member has made in answer to a serious point which I made. He is saying that in one year from the Third Reading of this Bill—if it happens, which God forbid—he will have sufficient information to do all the wonder- 1829 ful things expected under the Bill. May I remind him—because this is what he said—that the numbers of persons affected by the registration of births and deaths in one year are 1,200,000, I think—he will correct me if I am wrong. How can he possibly say that, by one year's examination of the affairs of 1,200,000 people, he can possibly get data which will govern the whole future of this question?
§ Mr. Bernays
I never said that. I said that we should begin to get the material, and keep it under continuous review thereafter. Then I come to the next question which my hon. Friend asked, as to why there is no information about sterile marriages. My hon. Friend thought that that was a very important point, and I agree that it is. And I think my hon. Friend has overlooked paragraph 2 of the Schedule. Under that we shall be able to obtain the statistics with regard to sterile marriages and that is also an answer to my hon. Friend the Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith). Complaint was made that there was a duplication of information, but valuable information we believe would be obtained under paragraph 2 which could not be obtained under paragraph 1, and my information is that part of that information will have relation to sterile marriages. Now I come to a point raised by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who asked me whether we would not consider putting down in the Bill the specific questions which we want answered. Well, my right hon. Friend will certainly look into that, and indeed he will look into all the very important questions which have been raised in the Debate, and will try to remove apprehensions as far as he can. He also complained that it was a very awkward question to ask anyone how many brothers he might have.
§ Mr. Bernays
Well, of course, if they do not know, they cannot give the answer. Everybody will answer, of course, to the best of his knowledge and ability.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
May I put this question? The answer which the hon. Gentleman has given has not met the point at all. The case is this. This Bill specifies a very large number of details 1830 that a person in going to register the birth of a child is expected to give. The point I put was this. Large numbers of these people will not know the answer, and will say so. What is going to happen then? Is the person who is going to register to go back and get the answer and come again; or is the registrar going to take the answer that they do not know? Because the Minister must decide, and it is a very important issue, how many times the person has to be brought back to the office until the whole of the details have been filled in.
§ Mr. Bernays
We shall act reasonably on this, and there has been no difficulty about the questions on the census up till now. I come again to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for West Middles-brough, and I am very sorry to have to cross swords with him twice on consecutive Parliamentary days, but at any rate he cannot quote my past speeches on population, because on this subject I have no record. He raised the question of a mother registering an illegitimate child and being asked how many others she has had. My right hon. Friend says he will have an opportunity of reviewing that in Committee, and will take into most careful consideration any representations that may be made. I come now to another point made about the Schedule, and that really has caused, I think, the main objection to the Bill—the point in connection with the words:any other matter in respect to which it is desirable to obtain statistical information.I can assure the House that there is no plot to turn the Registrar-General into a sort of Paul Pry. These powers may never be invoked, and no information other than that specified in the Schedule is thought to be necessary. But in considering the problem with regard to the future population of the country something may arise upon which it may be necessary to require other information, and this provision is included to meet such an emergency.
The situation which we have in mind is that which arose in the census of 1921. There was one important but quite unexceptionable inquiry left out. It had relation to orphans and dependent children: It was not included, and under the provision of paragraph 3 we were able to include it, and I suggest that these are ample safeguards. I would ask my hon. 1831 Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot)—and I am very sorry that I should have to come out on this occasion against my old friend like this—[An HON. MEMBER: "Do not be sorry."] I am sorry, because when I first came into this House he and I used to sit there like a pair of brothers. The procedure about which he made such eloquent remarks, procedure by Orders in Council, regulations by the Minister of Health and information being given to a third party, has been adopted in successive Census Acts. I would ask him to look at the Census Act of 1920 and he will find the procedure set out as it is here. I cannot believe that it is the new Liberalism to oppose census legislation. If it is, it is not the Liberalism upon which I was brought up.
§ Mr. Bernays
Do I understand then that it has been opposed by a Liberal party? As far as I remember the Grand Mufti of Liberalism was in power in 1920. It was also said that powers could be used to obtain undesirable information. I would say, first of all, in answer to that, that powers have not been used and cannot be used without the consent of Parliament. There could be no information required except by Order in Council which could not become operative until specifically approved by both Houses of Parliament. It is not a question of an Order merely being laid on the Table of the House. There would have to be an affirmative Resolution, for the discussion of which the Government would have to give time. We all know how zealously the Government guards their time and it is inconceivable that they would ask for such an Order unless it was one that did not violate the general sense of the House as to what questions it was to include. The hon. Member for Dundee knows how sensitive the executive is to the feelings of the House, especially upon questions like this. Exactly the same safeguards are provided as have been in the Census Act since 1920, when Parliament put in safeguards in order to meet apprehensions of this kind. I would give the specific assurance to the hon. and gallant Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby) that nothing will be done under this Bill that 1832 can be regarded as an affront to anybody; nothing can be done because it would require, first, the authority of Parliament and Parliament would not give that authority.
§ Sir A. Southby
Would he answer the point I put with regard to this information being used as evidence in a court of law?
§ Mr. Gallacher
On a point of Order. Why is it, and is it in keeping with your conduct of this House, Sir, that a Minister should make such a reference to me when I rise as "Sit down," but should give way immediately to his own supporters or to someone from the Front Bench.
§ Mr. Bernays
I did not wish to give offence to anyone. It is extremely late. The right hon. Gentleman is an ex-Law Officer, and naturally I gave way.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Would the hon. Gentleman mind giving us the answer which he gave to the hon. Member behind him? None of us heard it.
§ Mr. Bernays
I am sorry. The answer is that the procedure is the same as that in operation at censuses, and is not privileged.
§ Mr. Greenwood
According to the financial memorandum of the Bill these particulars are to be obtained in confidence.
§ Mr. Bernays
That is the point I am making. It is why secrecy is of such importance, and why we are putting, as we believe, in this Bill every safeguard, because it is not privileged.
§ Mr. Dalton
Do I understand the hon. Gentleman to say that because this information is not privileged, although he hopes it may be kept secret, yet not being privileged it may be used against a person who is giving it in a court of law?
§ Mr. Bernays
It is exactly the same as in a census, and we are taking stronger 1833 steps in this Bill to preserve secrecy than under the Census Acts. A different procedure is adopted under this Bill from that at a census. There will he no question of a door-to-door visitation. All that a citizen will be required to do will be to give the details asked for to the registrar in private. These details will consist merely of impersonal material for the extraction of statistical facts. [HON. MEMBERS: "Impersonal!"] Yes. When the Registrar-General comes to examine them he will not know who they are.
§ Mr. Herbert
I am sorry again to interrupt, and I sympathise with the hon. Member and the right hon. Gentleman, but really he cannot expect this House to accept without laughter and derision a statement that the registrar is going to ask a poor woman who has had 12 children, reluctantly, either in the hospital bed or across the counter at the registry office, impersonally, "How the devil did you manage to do this?"
§ Mr. Bernays
There will be thousands of these returns from all over the country, and one name will mean absolutely nothing to the Registrar-General. Nobody else will have any access to them at any time for any purpose. In fact, this very elaboration and preparation for secrecy has perhaps suggested the idea that my right hon. Friend is conducting some kind of unusual and unwarranted inquisition. I come again to the question of secrecy which is very important. There is no breach of secrecy at a census where in addition to the Registrar there are 40,000 enumerators as well. Very few complaints have been received about breaches of secrecy, and on the last census none was supported by sufficient evidence to warrant proceedings in the courts. Now there is no question of enumerators; the work will have to be performed by the official staff, and by the official staff alone. There is no shadow of doubt but that complete secrecy will be achieved. There is a severe punishment for a breach of secrecy, and in Clause 4 hon. Members will see that there is a punishment of two years' imprisonment or a fine, or both.
In conclusion let me just touch upon another point raised by the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough with regard to the penalty Clause. Obviously every law must have its sanctions. If statutory duties are imposed on citizens there must be some punishment if they are not ful- 1834 filled. In the Registration Acts there are penal provisions, and Clause 4 is merely a reproduction of the penal provisions of the last Census Act. The Bill really is in fact merely a question of machinery. The problem of a declining population is one that has been the subject of inquiry by the Ministry of Health for a long period, but its inquiries have hitherto been hindered by lack of information. The Government are now proposing to obtain that information by the means of this Bill. The House has on several occasions shown its great concern about the problem of population and has demanded proposals from the Government to meet a danger which is plain for all to see. All we are asking in this Bill is power to obtain that information, upon which in the judgment of the Government certain proposals can alone be made.
§ Mr. Thurtle
I wish to exercise a well-known Parliamentary right by asking the Parliamentary Secretary to reply to a very material question put to him by the hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Herbert). The Minister said in his speech that similar questions to those embodied in the Bill are being asked in Australia and New Zealand. The hon. Member for Oxford University flatly contradicted that. May we have that point made clear?
§ Mr. Bernays
I intended to answer that point, but there were so many points to deal with, that I missed it. My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University said that all the questions mentioned by my right hon. Friend were not asked in Australia and New Zealand. I do not know on what he bases that information, but I have made fresh inquiries, and I find that my right hon. Friend was right in every particular. My right hon. Friend said that there were included in the inquiries the date and place of marriage, the ages and birthplaces of the parents, and the ages and sexes of previous issue. I find that all those questions and similar questions are asked.
§ Mr. Herbert
My statements have been directly challenged by the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary. I do not want to quarrel with that, but the 11 o'Clock Rule has been suspended—
§ Mr. Speaker
If the hon. Member wishes to ask a question, he may do so, but he may not make another speech.
§ Mr. Herbert
I intended to use the formula of asking the hon. Member, before he sat down, whether he was aware, and so on. I wish to ask him whether he is aware that the statements which he has received, I do not know from what sources, are not correct? Is he aware that any statement that all the questions in this Bill are contained in Australian or New Zealand Acts is not correct? Is he further aware that I still
§ give him and the Ministry a direct negative to the suggestion that all the questions contained in this Bill are contained in any single Australian or New Zealand Act?
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 197; Noes, 125.1837
|Division No. 29.]||AYES.||[11.13 p.m.|
|Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead)||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Munro, P.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Gower, Sir R. V.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Grant-Ferris, R.||Nicholson, G. (Farnham)|
|Assheton, R.||Granville, E. L.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G. A.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Grimston, R. V.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake)||Peaks, O.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Balniel, Lord||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Petherick, M.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Ponsonby, Cot. C. E.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Hambro, A. V.||Porritt, R. W.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Hannah, I. C.||Procter, Major H. A.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Harbord, A.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Reed, A. G. (Exeter)|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Bull, B. B.||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Burghley, Lord||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Butler, R. A.||Holmes, J. S.||Rowlands, G.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Royds, Admiral P. M. R.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hudson, R. S. (Southport)||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hutchinson, G. C.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Channon, H.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Christie, J. A.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Clarke, F. E. (Dartford)||Keeling, E. H.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Clarke, Lt.-Col. R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Scott, Lord William|
|Clarry, Sir Reginald||Kimball, L.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Colfox, Major W. P.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Latham, Sir P.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.|
|Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Lees-Jones, J.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Spens. W. P.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Levy, T.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'l'd)|
|Cox, H. B. Trevor||Liddall, W. S.||Storey, S.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Lindsay, K. M.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Cross, R. H.||Lipson, D. L.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Loftus, P. C.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Thomas, J. P. L.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lyons, A. M.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Denville, Alfred||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Touche, G. C.|
|Dorman-Smith, Major Sir R. H.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Drewe, C.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.|
|Duckworth, Arthur (Shrewsbury)||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Turton, R. H.|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||McKie, J. H.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan|
|Duggan, H. J.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Magnay, T.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Dunglass, Lord||Maitland, A.||Warrender, Sir V.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Waterhouse. Captain C.|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Watt, Major G. S. Harvie|
|Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Marsden, Commander A.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Emery, J. F.||Maxwell, Hon. S. A.||Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Errington, E.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Wragg, H.|
|Furness, S. N.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel Sir T. C. R.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Fyfe, D. P. M.||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)|
|Ganzoni, Sir J.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon Sir J.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Captain Hope and Lieut.-Colonel|
|Gluckstein, L. H.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Kerr.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Guest. Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Price, M. P.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Quibell, D. J. K.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Hayday, A.||Ridley, G.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Riley, B.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Ritson, J.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)|
|Batey, J.||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Hopkin, D.||Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)|
|Bevan, A.||Jagger, J.||Salter, Sir J. Arthur (Oxford U.)|
|Bromfield, W.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Sexton, T. M.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Kelly, W. T.||Shinwell, E.|
|Chater, D.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Short, A.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Kirby, B. V.||Silkin, L.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lathan, G.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Lawson, J. J.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Dalton, H.||Leach, W.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lee, F.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Day, H.||Leonard, W.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Dobbie, W.||Leslie, J. R.||Stephen, C.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Lewis, O.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le.Sp'ng)|
|Ede, J. C.||Logan, D. G.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Lunn, W.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||McEntee, V. La T.||Thurtle, E.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||McGhee, H. G.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Foot, D. M.||Maclean, N.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Frankel, D.||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Walker, J.|
|Gallacher, W.||Macquisten, F. A.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Gardner, B. W.||Maxton, J.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Messer, F.||Welsh, J. C.|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Milner, Major J.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney, S.)||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Muff, G.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Nall, Sir J.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Nathan, Colonel H. L.|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Oliver, G. H.||Mr. Mashers and Mr. Anderson.|
|Groves, T. E.||Paling, W.|
Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House for Tomorrow.—[Captain Margesson.]