Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a further sum, not exceeding be granted to His Majesty, towards defraying the charges for the following services connected with the Trend of the Population, for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1944, namely:—
|Class V., Ministry of Health||£10|
|Class V., Registrar-General's Office||£10|
|Class V., Department of Health for Scotland||£10|
|Class V., Registrar-General's Office (Scotland)||£10|
|Class X., Ministry of Health (War Services)||£10|
|Class X., Department of Health for Scotland (War Services)||£10|
§ Group-Captain Wright (Birmingham, Erdington)
When the Leader of the House stated last week that a Debate would take place to-day on the Trend of the Population the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) rose in his place and protested. He poured ridicule on the fact that this House should be inconvenienced, as he described it, by having to debate a subject which, in his opinion, is already fully ventilated in local debating societies. Neither I nor any of my hon. Friends on all sides of the Committee who supported me in pressing for this Debate feel that we owe the Committee any apology, and if we were required to give a reason for desiring to direct public attention to this important subject, we could not give a better one than that supplied by the attitude adopted by the hon. Member for Bridgeton. I was surprised, because we all agree that the hon. Member is a highly intelligent Member of Parliament, and, from his public utterances and from the political views he holds, we should have thought that he would be intensely interested in this matter, which perhaps affects more than any other the future conditions in which masses of people in this country will have to live. I am sure that many hon. Mem- 545 bers in this Debate will clearly demonstrate, as indeed I myself hope to do, that not only is the trend of the population greatly influenced by the economic and social conditions of the people, but that the economic and social conditions of the people are influenced to an even greater extent by the trend of the population.
My hon. Friends and I appreciate that there are those who are not dismayed at the prospect of a reduced population in the British Isles. They are entitled to their point of view, and, indeed, they may be right, though for my part I feel that we do not suffer so much from over-population as from faulty planning and distribution. This argument is greatly reinforced and strengthened if you regard, as I prefer to do, the British Commonwealth of Nations as the unit. We and our brothers in the Dominions must keep in mind the fact that there are still vast tracts of undeveloped country in the Empire, a state of affairs which can hardly continue much longer, and it seems to me that it would be very much better for these vast tracts to be developed by immigrants from the more advanced races than from those which are more backward. But, whatever the views we hold, there is an urgent need that we should at least appreciate what the present situation is before we plan too far ahead.
My hon. Friends and I, while applauding the efforts of the debating societies which are held in such contempt by the hon. Member for Bridgeton, feel that a Debate on the Floor of this House is more calculated to give to the people of the country information which they ought to have and so to direct their attention to the importance of this vital subject. Unfortunately, it is one of great complexity, and, owing to the lack of a Government population policy and, therefore, to the difficulty of obtaining really complete statistics, and owing to the fact that the resultants of a falling, or, indeed, a rising, birth-rate operate comparatively slowly when measured by the yardstick of the individual span of lift, albeit very quickly when measured by the yardstick of the evolution of the human race, it is difficult to interest busy people more than superficially in a subject which they feel, quite erroneously, is unlikely to affect them very much during their lives. 546 Many of us are thinking to-day a great deal about the vast improvements in social conditions which we hope will develop in the period of reconstruction, and we realise—as I am sure the Minister of Health and those other Ministers who, with him, will be responsible for initiating those improvements will realise—that the trend of the population is the fundamental base on which they must start to build. This being so, we must first of all decide whether we want to live in a community with a rising population, with a stationary population, or with a falling population. Then we must examine what we can do to bring about the state of affairs that we all desire.
Obviously we must have a Government population policy, and in order to find out why things are going differently from what we expected, we must have more complete statistics. Surely it would be a stupid waste of material and energy to lay down a long-term policy for a vast increase in the facilities for dealing with child welfare in all its various forms if, in the course of a generation, the children are not there and we find that what we really need is not a vast increase in the facilities for dealing with child welfare but a vast increase in the facilities for tending the aged. How many people realise that we entered this war with a little over 41,000,000 people, or roughly 4,500,000 more than in 1914?
§ Mr. Sorensen (Leyton, West)
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman referring to the population of this country or to the British Isles?
§ Mr. Mack (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
May I correct the hon. and gallant Gentleman? The population of the British Isles at the outset of this war was considerably in excess of 41,000,000.
§ Group-Captain Wright
Nevertheless, the point is that we have over 2,000,000 fewer children under the age of 14 and that we have 2,500,000 more over the age of 60, than we had in the last war. That is the important point. We have, even, 1,500,000 fewer children than we had at the time of the Boer War. In fact, we have fewer children than we have had in any year since 1876, when the total population of the country was 24,000,000. Again, how many people realise that in 547 1971, although the total population will be approximately the same, there will be So per cent. more people over the age of 45 than there are to-day and no fewer than 100 per cent. more people over the age of 65. To balance that, the number of people aged 45 and under will be only three-quarters of what it is to-clay. It does not, I suggest, require a super-intellect to appreciate the almost intolerable burden of supporting this ever-increasing proportion in the higher age groups, which will be the inescapable destiny of our young people who are fighting so gloriously to-day for a better future.
I agree with Sir William Beveridge when he contends that in 1960 we shall be in a panic about the population of this country, and with Lord Keynes when he says that the first results of the change-over from an increasing to a declining population may be very disastrous. Why should this be so? There are; those who hold the opposite view, who say that if there are fewer people, there will be more to divide among them. They overlook the fact that if there are fewer producers, there will be less to divide and that the steadily increasing number of old persons who must be supported will place a very great burden on the younger and more active workers. It is said, "What about the unemployed? Surely, if there are smaller numbers, there will be more work for all." This argument is also fallacious. Unemployment does not exist because there is no useful work to be done; it results from a flaw in our system of exchange and distribution, which we must take steps to remedy. It is true that at present the greater the population, the more food and raw materials we must import.
It is often suggested that this is a weakness. I regard the fact that we are the biggest buyers in the world as a great asset. Our suppliers are just as anxious to sell to us as we are to buy from them. Our market is, indeed, necessary to them for their prosperity and expansion. True, we must pay for what we import, but since we can only pay in goods and services, surely, if we put our unemployed to work instead of keeping them in idleness on a dole, we should have no difficulty in paying for what we want. We must remember that our whole economic structure is built up on expansion, and this depends on monetary demand. 548 Only part of the national income is spent on goods for consumption. The rest is savings. Savings are only useful in giving employment if they are used for capital equipment. With a falling population there must be a diminishing demand for capital equipment and so a greater risk of resulting unemployment.
I do not want to weary the Committee with a lot of statistics, but there are certain facts we have. to face. After a period of great productivity the birth-rate began to fall about 1875 and continued steadily to decline until the '30's. The actual number of births only began to fall in 1904 and the net reproduction rate, which, of course, is the all-important point, began to fall after the last war. In studying the trend of the population, two important factors to observe are the gross reproduction and the net reproduction rate. The gross reproduction rate shows the actual number of girl children that women are having, whether those children survive or not. The net reproduction rate shows the actual number of girl children who survive to replace in the next generation the women of reproductive age in the present generation.
Since the early '30's the net reproduction rate has oscillated around 75 per cent., at which rate we must lose a quarter of our population every generation. For all practical purposes we can consider a generation as being 30 years, this being the average age of mothers at the birth of their children. The gross reproduction rate, however, was about 86 per cent., and so a decline in mortality appears to give some hope of improvement, but it is important to realise that, if there were no deaths at all of girls or women under 45, which is clearly an impossibility, we should still, in the absence of an increase in the size of families, lose 14 per cent. of our numbers every 30 years. If the present rate of deaths of those under 45 was halved, we should still lose nearly a fifth of our numbers every 30 years. I stated earlier that in 1971 our total population would be the same, but that the numbers of those under 45 would have dropped to three-quarters of what they are at present. Since the under 45's are the only ones who can seriously affect the trend of the population, and since the over 45's will die off in due course, we can for all relevant purposes say that the population will have declined by 25 per cent, by 549 1971. The magnitude of the problem begins to unfold itself. If in 1971 we are not to go into a catastrophic decline, we must make some endeavour to maintain the numbers of the under 45's. To prevent a decline at all, it will be necessary to increase the average size of families by one in three at once, and that is clearly impossible. We shall do better, therefore, to agree that it is now out of the question to maintain our population at its present size. The time has passed for that. If we can do something which will gradually and reasonably rapidly raise the net reproduction rate to 100 per cent., we may be able to maintain a population at about three-quarters of its present size. The Committee will appreciate that I have left out of my calculations any losses that we may sustain in this war. I need not point out that this will have very serious effects on the situation should losses be heavy before final victory is won.
I feel that this is an opportune moment to say a word about the figures published by the Registrar-General. On Tuesday morning all the papers produced figures which, to the man in the street who has not studied the subject, seemed to suggest that all was going very well. The birthrate for the March quarter had risen to 16.8, the highest for 15 years. There was no mention that in 1917, after a precipitous decline of 26 per cent. during the first three years of the last war, the birth-rate was still 17.8. There has been an interesting difference in the behaviour of the birth-rate in the two wars, and it may well repay close study on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. During the last war, in spite of the great prosperity of the people, the birth-rate persisted in falling. En this war it has risen substantially. The number of marriages has increased tremendously, and, while I think the main reason for this is that many women have thought they could serve the country better as mothers than in the Services or in munition factories, we must not overlook the fact that so many people are now receiving family allowances of some kind or another that these may well already be beginning to have their effect, But the Registrar does not point out that during the last decade the average number of spinsters marrying each year was no less than 355,000. On the other hand, the average number of girls born each year between 1927 and 1942 was only 303,000. Of these about 550 275,000 may reach the age of 16, and so, if they all marry at 16, there can only be an average of 275,000 brides in the future, as against 355,000 in the last 10 years. We must not, therefore, be misled by these figures of an abnormal war period. We shall make a great mistake if we consider periods of much less than to years when estimating the trend.
What is the reason for this decline in childbirth, which has coincided with a period of greater advance in general prosperity than at any other time? It is a fact that not only in this country but almost throughout the world—there are exceptions—a decline in birth-rate has gone hand in hand with improved conditions, The most advanced countries, generally speaking, are those with the lowest rate, and it is the backward races which are still rapidly increasing their numbers. For this reason many argue that it cannot be an economical question, and they leave it at that. In my opinion that argument is also completely fallacious. I would go so far as to say that the better the conditions, the more does this become an economical matter. Time was when the child itself was an economic asset. It was put to work at the earliest possible age and was certainly regarded as the mainstay in adversity and old age. With improving conditions, limitations on the working hours of children and young people, the security afforded by unemployment pay, sick pay, public assistance and old age pensions, not only does dependance upon children become less, but the very improved conditions under which the children themselves live make them become more and more a financial liability where before they were an economic asset.
The same advanced outlook which stopped the economic exploitation of children has produced a complete psychological change. The exploiters had no longer need for numbers and so contributed to the decline. Those in the past who were already more advanced in outlook or whose material position and wealth made exploitation unnecessary, found it more difficult to keep pace with a higher standard of living and the ever-increasing costs and taxation, and, being filled with a natural desire to do the best for their children, they endeavoured to achieve this by limiting their numbers. When advocating family allow- 551 ances I have always stressed the undoubted fact that wealth in this matter of family is not to be measured vertically, that is, as between a man earning £3 and a man earning £5as between a man earning £500 a year and a man earning £1,500 a year; but that it is the resulting difference on a horizontal plane between two men, working perhaps in the same factory, living perhaps in the same street, and both earning the same money, but one with a family and the other deliberately avoiding that responsibility. I have endeavoured to drive home that the mere raising of wages generally will never correct that relative position, and since I am convinced that the removal of this inequality of burden is the key to the whole problem, if we agree that children are necessary and are a national asset, the Government, and more particularly the Minister of Health, must take all possible steps to bring this about. I feel that he should create a department inside his Ministry for the purpose of carrying out a detailed inquiry into this whole subject. It would devote its attention solely to the problem of the trend of the population. It would advise the Minister as a result of its investigations as to what steps we should take to correct any tendency in the wrong direction.
It seems to me that our whole policy in the past might have been designed specifically to destroy family life. First, there is this unequal financial burden thrown upon the family man to which I have referred. This can be partly mitigated by family allowances, the principle of which has already been accepted by the Government. The scheme, however, wants developing to meet the needs of all income groups. We must encourage the middle and higher income groups for two reasons. First, it is only reasonable to suppose that this stock is valuable and, therefore, worth preserving; and, second, it is no use shutting our eyes to the fact that each income group looks to what the next one above it is doing. Fashion and social example remain a paramount influence in our society. We must encourage those at the top of the scale to set the example in this matter. I suggest that this may best be done by the adoption of a graduated scheme of insurance such as that which was recently put forward by Mr. Roy Harrod.
552 Equally important is the question of the home itself. Efforts must be made in our future planning to cut out the hours wasted each day in travel from home to work and from work to home. Houses themselves must be built so that they can accommodate families, and, above all, these houses must be equipped with labour-saving devices and some means must be found of bringing all these labour-saving devices within the reach of the poor. The status of domestic work itself must be upgraded. We must kill the idea which has for so long regarded the domestic worker as a sort of half-wit and a suitable subject for music-hall jokes. I hope the Minister will give consideration to the suggestion of a corps of domestic workers, first, with the idea of giving to this work the dignity it deserves, and, second, so that domestic help can be arranged for mothers both before and after childbirth.
We must change our whole outlook towards the family. We must stop this business of landlords refusing to let to parents with children. Why should women be penalised and even dismissed from their jobs if they get married? Has it ever occurred to any local authority that it would be a sensible and convenient thing to do if they gave the same attention which they at present give to providing parking places for Baby Austins to providing places for parking babies? Surely a shopping housewife deserves as much consideration as the driver of a motor car. There are many aspects which must engage the attention of the Government, and particularly the attention of the Ministry of Health. I hope the Minister will take steps to set up some form of inquiry. I do not very much favour a Royal Commisison, because Royal Commissions generally work very slowly. This, I feel, is a matter which should be investigated with the greatest possible speed. I throw the ball into the court of my right hon. Friend, fully realising what a formidable task he will have to defeat such a redoubtable opponent.
Miss Rathhone (Combined English Universities)
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Erdington (Group-Captain Wright) has Supplied the Committee with facts and figures which are surely sufficient to terrify anyone who has the intelligence to grasp them and patriotism enough to care for the future as well as for the present of this country. I shall 553 not deal much with figures, because that is superfluous in view of all that he has said, and also because I want to get as soon as I can to the question of remedies, of what can be done. I have two things only to say about figures. One is that we should let the public know the true import of that rather delusive statement published a few days ago that the birth-rate in the last quarter was the highest for several years. Everyone who has studied the statistics of the subject knows the explanation. I am not going into it at length, because it is rather complicated, but it arises partly from the number of marriages that took place in 1939 and 1940, due to the age limits of marriageable women and partly from a fact to which the hon. and gallant Member referred, but which I am going to put rather more brutally. He said it was because women thought they could be more useful by bringing children into the world than by working in factories or in the Services. That is quite true, but I am afraid one must admit that it is also because, to put it quite bluntly, a good many women, and still more their husbands, saw in this a definite way of evading war service for wives.
The other thing I want to say about the figures is that we must make the public realise the terrifying character of them. The Prime Minister used a much-quoted phrase a short time ago. Speaking of the Empire, he said, "What we have we hold." Whether we call it an Empire or, as I prefer, a Commonwealth of Nations, are we going to hold it if our nation continues to be composed mainly of families with one or two children? Who built up the Empire? Largely it has been built up by the younger sons of families. When there is only one son the parents naturally want to keep him at home to carry on the family business or profession and to care for them in their old age, and usually he stays in this country, because there is a niche ready for him. It is younger sons and daughters, for whom there is no such niche, to whom we must look. But where are those younger sons and daughters? Perhaps their little ghosts are crying out, like the little girl in Barrie's play, "We did not want to be mighthave-beens." I was not so surprised as my hon. and gallant Friend that the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) jibed at the idea of spending a whole day dis- 554 cussing a question like this, because, intelligent as he is, we must remember that he is the leader of a small party which does not think this war is worth winning or fighting for. It is quite natural that anyone who takes that view should not be much perturbed about whether this country will in years hence fall. into the position of a second- or third-rate Power. Some of us who are not Imperialists any more than he is in our opinions and convictions do believe that this country has a world mission. We do not want to see it become a second- or third-rate Power. We honour the small Powers, but what would have been the fate of the small Powers had it not been for us and the United States and the U.S.S.R.? We are going to deliver them from their oppressors. We would rather be among the protectors than the protected. We do not want to copy Denmark or Sweden, much as we respect them.
§ Mr. Maxton (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
Is the hon. Lady remembering at this stage of her speech that it was the aggressor nations who started this idea of stimulating the growth of population?
I do not think we are entitled to go into the position of aggressor nations in this Debate, which is on the subject of the birth-rate.
Without in any way challenging your ruling, Mr. Williams, may I point out that the first countries in Europe to start large-scale systems of family allowances were France and Belgium, and we do not call them aggressor nations. But let us go on. I suggest that the remedies for dealing with the situation are these: First, family allowances; second, educational propaganda to bring the facts home; third, better housing; fourth, improved communal services, more school meals, milk and so forth, and nursery schools; fifth, better education for future motherhood; sixth, greater generosity towards immigrants of foreign stock. I put family allowances first in time as well as in importance. In time, why? Because most of these other remedies—housing, school meals and so forth—must be very slow, as we have not the materials and the labour to get on very fast, but family allowances could be brought about next week by a stroke of the pen if the Chan- 555 cellar of the Exchequer so wished and obtained the consent of the House, which has already affirmed that principle. There are really no opponents in principle worth bothering about. Expert opinion in all parties is practically converted to it. We could have family allowances now.
§ Mr. Cove (Aberavon)
But would that increase the birth-rate, judging from the experience of other countries?
I am coming to that. If family allowances are really to affect the reproduction rate, they must be on a reasonably generous scale. The scale proposed by the Beveridge Report is 8s, a child, beginning with the second child. The Government, I understand, have accepted that in principle, but want to cut the amount down to 5s. a child. But is 5s. a child enough to do the trick? The question has been asked, "Have family allowances affected the birth-rate in those countries where the system has been tried?" They have affected it in this sense, that they have slowed down the mortality rate, have increased the survival rate, but they have not affected the birth-rate as they ought to have done. Why? Because the amounts were so paltry. If parents are hesitating about whether they can afford another child, they arc not likely to be encouraged if the amount is only equivalent to anything from one-fifth to one-half of the minimum cost of maintaining a child, and that is the case in France and Belgium. But were either France or Belgium discouraged in the matter of family allowances because they had not had a greater effect upon the birth-rate? Up to the beginning of the war, for we have not the figures during the war, the tendency in those countries, and in other countries like Germany and Italy which were taking steps to stimulate the birth-rate through family allowances, the tendency was to spend more and more on the family allowance schemes and to take more and more of the cost out of the State. In their original schemes France and Belgium threw the whole cost on the employers. Those countries did not think the scheme was a failure, and I believe that provided you have a reasonably generous scheme it is far the most important step you can take.
556 The main obstacle to parenthood is the financial one, but there are others, many of which are partly only excuses. Parents who are considering whether they should go in for another child have to be willing to lower their standards of life. It always does mean to some extent sacrificing advantages to which they may have grown accustomed, and may see enjoyed around them by other families of similar occupational and social status. When one gets above the sheer destitution level, poverty is a very relative term. We all feel poor when we are deprived of something to which we have been accustomed and which is still possessed by our opposite numbers, as it were. It is an undoubted fact that men and women cannot enjoy the same care-free existence and the same indulgence in luxuries after marriage and when they undertake parenthood, as they did when they were bachelors and spinsters. They must make some sacrifices. They are prepared for that, but in actual practice you find that the reason which influences the ordinary man and his wife is that. they are not prepared to face a crowded and uncomfortable home. He does not want an overworked and tired wife or for them both to be deprived of reasonable holidays and amenities. There is also the prospect of having to bring up their children without the kind of education which they think is necessary for them and which they may see in other families around them. If hon. Members think that that is a selfish motive, I would ask them to consider what happens in the professional classes. Unfortunately the latest figures are somewhat out of date in, this respect, but there is no reason to think that they have substantially changed. The lowest birth-rate of all is found among clergy and ministers of religion, doctors and teachers. It is not that they are unwilling to have children, but they represent the intelligent parents who are not willing to have large families in present circumstances. Clergy and teachers are well known for their love of children, but they continue to have small families unless they can see a satisfactory economic future for them.
Therefore, there are two things to consider. First of all, a flat-rate national scheme should not be less than the Beveridge 8s. per week. The proposed 5s. might do something. It would be higher than the French or Belgian rate, 557 but it is too little. If you want to increase the birth-rate of the higher income groups, a flat-rate national scheme ought to be supplemented by a scheme or schemes financed at the cost of the classes that are to benefit and not by taxes on the general taxpayer. No one would be willing, to contribute more to the upkeep of the children of better-off people than he contributed to the cost of his own class. Any supplementary scheme must be supported by the classes which are to benefit. This is a highly technical and difficult aspect of the subject, and I am not going to deal with it at any length, but there are several schemes afoot by economic experts which show the kind of way in which such supplementary schemes could be worked out. One, put forward by Mr. R. A. Harrod, is that incomes of over £250 per annum should be subject to payments for compulsory insurance affecting at first the younger people, as it would be unfair to tax people who had already brought up families under the old system. The contributions and the benefits for children would be proportionate to the income, up to a maximum contribution which it is suggested should be £50 per annum. It is an ambitious scheme, but it is worth considering.
Another scheme, which I believe has high financial authority behind it, is that the present income allowance to wives and children should be placed, not as at present upon a flat-rate basis, but upon a percentage basis, so that the allowance for a wife and each child should represent a percentage of the parental income, subject as before to a maximum rebate for the wife and for each child. I believe that such a scheme could, if necessary, be carried out, without in any way increasing the amount of sacrifice which the national income at present suffers from the scheme. of family allowances on Income Tax merely by a readjustment of that scheme. A third and quite different possibility follows the lines of the existing voluntary schemes. Hon. Members may be aware that there are quite a number of voluntary schemes. Nearly all the universities have schemes of children's allowances, and so have most of the religious denominations, and they are financed out 'of the groups that benefit by them. By far the best known and perhaps the most generous is that at the London School of Economics, which 558 gives an allowance of £31 a year for each child under six and after that of £60 a year up to the end of the school or university education. This scheme was initiated 20 years ago by Sir William Beveridge.
Such schemes are excellent, but they are experiments, and they extend far too slowly. The serious thing is that, whereas you would have expected the State and the local authorities, if they had really apprehended the importance of this problem, to have set an example by starting such schemes for their own services, they have lagged behind private enterprise. Why have we no scheme of family allowances in the Civil Service, in the local authorities or in the teaching profession? If we cannot depend only upon voluntary schemes, we must have some form of compulsion, although it might leave considerable freedom of choice in different occupational groups as to the kind of scheme they adopt, provided that the benefits were sufficiently liberal to make the position of the parent at least as satisfactory as that of the bachelor or spinster.
No financial inducement however will be enough. There must be other kinds of inducement. For one thing, we must bring home the facts to the public. I frankly admit that that is not going to be easy. By all means give the public these alarming figures, but while people are not lacking in patriotism, they are terribly shortsighted. They can see a fact if it is directly under their noses or a few yards away or even a danger that is going to materialise in a few months or even next year, but show them a danger that is coming, as certainly as night follows day, in about 30 years, and they are not much excited. Many of us tried to show people that the war was coming, but they would not see it. Tell them that the population difficulty will not become really serious for something like 50 years, and they will not take it seriously.
There are some things we can do. The Government should take such action as would bring home to the whole world and to the whole public that they set a high value on the services of motherhood and of parenthood. It is quite extraordinary that even now there is an atmosphere of rather contemptuous or amused pity with which the large family is regarded. It is not so bad as it used to be, but that kind 559 of atmosphere is still there. I remember going round the mining areas in 1926, during the coal strike, in connection with the scheme which was then being advocated for family allowances by the Samuel Commission. I never had such intelligent and delightful audiences in my life, but I soon found I was dropping a brick because when I referred to the fact that miners had a higher birth-rate than any other occupational group, there was always an immediate chill in the atmosphere, as though the miners, and still more their wives, were ashamed of having large families, and as though that was something that needed a good deal of explanation. We must change that kind of atmosphere. Though family allowances given by the State at the expense of the taxpayer would do much, there is one more point: Pay the allowances to the mother. Make it clear that it is motherhood that is regarded as the service to the community, just as much as working in a factory or joining the Armed Forces.
There are other steps which have to be taken. An hon. Member spoke just now about the necessity for new houses. He pointed out that it would be a long time before a large number of new houses could be built. Yes, but we could make better use of the houses that exist already. There is one thing which ought to have been done years ago. Do I not know it? I was a member of a big housing committee right through the 'twenties. We spent in the 'twenties millions that came out of the taxpayers' pockets on housing subsidies. Those costly houses were built. How were they allocated? We all know that the private landlord frowns on large families, but the local authorities also frowned on them. They were only too glad to get comfortably-off spinsters or an elderly couple with only two children, because they would treat the houses better. It was only a few exceptionally intelligent municipalities that introduced a scheme of rent rebates in respect of dependent children or in proportion to the size of the income where the family income fell below a certain standard. The Ministry of Health mildly encouraged that scheme. They should have made it compulsory. There is no reason why these costly houses, built at the expense of the public, should go into the hands of people who do not need subsidised houses at all. Cannot they do it 560 now? Why not make rebates on subsidised houses compulsory now?
Then there is the method of school meals and milk, excellent, of course. I value them because they will be supplementing the cash allowance and making things easier for the growing hungry child and easing the burden on the mother. But there is something about this which even quite intelligent people seem to exaggerate—the extent to which the schools meals system can be quickly extended. How many children are getting school meals to-day? The Department is proud of the fact that the number has risen to 1,000,000, which I believe is one in five of the school population. Before the war it was only 2 per cent. Will the Minister tell us how long it would be before it would be possible to give school meals to the whole school population of the elementary and secondary schools?
Another useful provision which is open to the same objection of being slow and expensive is nursery schools. By all means extend them as quickly as you can, but it will take a long time. Therefore, I would say that you must also do a great deal more. You can begin now to educate the girls in the schools for future motherhood. Consider all these unfortunate experiences of evacuated children, representing only a small proportion but very mortifying for those of us who have stuck up for the working-class mother and said she was a marvel, as she is very often, though sometimes circumstances have been too much against her. But the unsatisfactory mother has not been in all cases the slum mother, but also the mother whose education stopped six years before she began to be a mother. That is too long a gap. You must have a raising of the school age and a continuous scheme of part-time education in which extreme attention is paid to carefully-worked-out schemes of preparation for motherhood.
Lastly, I come to one other step, which differs from all those I have been speaking about in this way, that all those are schemes which will not affect the size of the adult population for a long time. I have said it before, but it is worth saying again, that you can hurry up almost everything, but you cannot hurry up the production of an adult citizen; that takes 18 to 20 years. But you can bring in ready-made citizens. That is very much how our Empire was built up in past 561 years. Do we not owe a great deal to the fact that we are just not what Adolf Hitler would call a "pure" race? If ever there was a mongrel race, it is we. We are made up of Celts and Saxons, Norman French and Huguenot French, Jews of every nationality, persecuted people of every nationality. All these strains of mixed blood poured into our blood stream and enriched it. They add enormously to our capacity to understand other races and so be able to manage them.
I do not believe we should have built up our Empire if we had stuck to being a purely Anglo-Saxon race, any more than Hitler can manage his Colonies. But for the last 20 years we have abandoned that generous policy. We have closed the door to foreigners or made it difficult for them to come in. During the war period we have practically denied them naturalisation. We have made it pretty clear that we are pleased to entertain them for as long as it is necessary, but that we hope they will go away as soon as possible. I believe that is a great mistake. We are losing a great opportunity which Hitler's lunacy has offered to us of skimming the cream of European culture by accepting as citizens able people who for one reason or another do not want to be repatriated after the war or have grown to understand and love us. We ought to accept them as fellow citizens. The United States does not adopt that rigid policy. The United States makes admission difficult, but when a person is admitted he is accepted as a citizen very quickly.
§ Mr. Austin Hopkinson (Mossley)
On a point of Order. It seems to me that we are getting a little out of Order. We have discussed family allowances, alien immigration, Home Office passport regulations—
That is not out of Order. I think it is the general understanding to-day that this Vote, dealing with the population of the country, should be of a wide character. I have allowed all those three points because it seemed to me that even in the question of alien immigration, as long as it is limited to the argument that in this way population may be encouraged, it is within this Debate, but we must not go into details of future legislation. The hon. Lady seems to me to have been putting the matter, if I may say so with respect, 562 in exactly the right way in giving illustrations of the way in which the need for increased population might be dealt with.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
Is not the Rule that anything would be out of Order dealing with future legislation? The hon. Member has repeatedly made suggestions which would have to be the subject of legislation.
That is a very definite Rule. We must not deal with the detail of future legislation; that is quite definite. But what I said was that in a discussion of a question of this kind if an hon. Member gives an illustration such as two or three we have had, and refers to them broadly without advocating details of legislation too closely, I think there can be a case, such as this one, when debate may properly take place on them.
I will save the hon. Member any further anxiety about the matter, because I quite see that what he really wants is that I should draw to an end. That is just what I am going to do, but I have not submitted a single point that has not a direct bearing on the problem. Though I have referred to things which might in future require legislation, I have not entered into them in detail, but merely for the Committee to investigate.
I beg the Government to do two things. The first is to lose no more time. We have lost enough time already. I see that Profesor Carr-Saunders, in this morning's "Times," says we want more statistics bearing on this subject. I agree that we do, and, by all means, let us have them. But that should not be made a reason for losing any more time. Every one of the steps which I have advocated could be begun now, because, in principle, they are all accepted; they are steps that we have taken a considerable time to work out, and that could quite well be taken to-day. Secondly, I beg the Government to be bold, to show themselves courageous and generous and imaginative in this matter. You cannot get the public to take the population question seriously if they see no sign that the Government are taking it seriously. There is nothing that the people of this country are longing for so much—I see it every day—as the qualities of bold, courageous, imaginative and generous leadership. That is why they so pas- 563 sionately admire and love our Prime Minister. They would follow him to the death, because they see those qualities in him. Actually, if I may be forgiven for saying so, they sometimes ask, "Who else is there?" It is not easy, however, for the heads of other Ministries to show the same qualities as the Prime Minister because they have not the same opportunities. But here is a subject, here is a problem, which enters into the work of several Ministries, not only the Ministry of Health, but also the Board of Education, the Treasury, and the Home Office, altogether half-a-dozen Ministries, and which calls for those qualities. Let those Departments vie with one another in showing with how much courage, how much boldness and how much imagination they are going to make their contribution to the solution of this problem.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I am sure that every hon. Member feels grateful to my hon. Friends who have preceded me, both for having initiated this Debate and for the quality of the speeches they have delivered. We are discussing today not only an important but a fundamental problem concerning this nation, and I hope the country outside will not think that the character and urgency of that problem are to be judged by the fact that we have relegated this Debate to an extra Sitting Day in the week. We are engaged in a great conflict for our survival as a nation and for the survival of the values which we represent in the world, values which to many of us are even more important than the survival of Britain as a great Power. It is well that we should turn aside in the middle of that great struggle to discuss this question, because our survival, both in war and in peace, depends upon the quality and quantity of our population.
Let me say a word first about quality. Before the war, many people in this country, in the Press, on the platform, sometimes in the pulpit, sometimes in this House, spread the idea that the young generation of Britain was decadent, that something had gone wrong with the quality of the British stock. We are now reaching the close of the fourth year of war, and if anything has been proved, it is that the quality of our stock is as high and as good as ever it has been. The trouble with youth in the 564 pre-war world was not that it was decadent but that it was living in a decadent world, and it was not youth that made the world decadent, but we who were older. The thing we have to remember is that this problem must be related to all that we intend to do in the post-war world, because it touches every aspect of our national life and every phase of our relations as a nation with other nations. We begin, at least, with the certain knowledge that there is nothing wrong with the quality of our stock.
In regard to the quantity, it is difficult for a layman to work his way through the maze of statistics which have been published upon this problem. I have read a good many books on the subject. I have read the Debates upon it and have taken part in at least one of them in this House. There is a good deal of conflict on the figures, even among the experts, and when experts disagree, a layman has to be very careful—although very often when the experts disagree, the layman can bring a fresh view to bear on the subject which makes them almost unnecessary. There is one point which I would like to put to the Minister of Health in this connection. Last year a White Paper on the trend of population was published by the Government, and many of those who are experts upon this problem and who have a great deal of knowledge of it and whose books, pamphlets, and articles I have read and to whose speeches I have listened, cast doubt upon that White Paper.
§ The Minister of Health. (Mr. Ernest Brown)
May I intervene to say that I think doubt has arisen because some have not appreciated the circumstances in which that White Paper was produced and the purpose for which it was intended? I wish to make it clear that the White Paper was produced, not as a contribution to the discussion of the birthrate at all. It was the result of a request from Sir Montague Barlow, who had been charged to report on the geographical distribution of population in relation to industry. It was an attempt to help him in that matter, and it was my responsibility and that of the Secretary of State for Scotland to decide, when there were demands for information, whether we should produce that information which was in existence, rather than wait for some fuller statement requiring longer preparation. It is because many have 565 failed to appreciate that the White Paper was written in those circumstances and to meet that immediate need, that some misunderstanding has arisen.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for that explanation. My point is that the document came to be regarded among nearly all who are interested in this problem, and certainly among those most competent to speak upon it, not as a White Paper, but as a white-washing paper, as a paper produced to try to make the problem appear unimportant and not urgent at all, and to get the mind of the public off the problem. That is the effect which that document had. I read it again only last night, and it certainly seemed to have been written by people who were very complacent and who took the view that this problem was just a hare-brained idea of a few enthusiasts gone wrong, that there was nothing to worry about. The Minister of Health has now said that it was produced for another purpose, and I hope that before the end of this Debate we shall hear something more about that and also hear what the Government propose to do. I join in the hope that at least one of the things that will come out of this Debate will be a decision to have inquiry made as rapidly as possible. We want a clear, authoritative and objective report very quickly, following such an inquiry by the Government. I hope that my right hon. Friend will listen to the appeals which have been made to him, and in which I join, for a reply later in the Debate upon that point.
It seems to me that the facts are clear. Without going into the mass of statistics, the central fact is that we are not replacing our stock. The White Paper does not deny this. Unless we can change this trend in the population, two things will happen to the population of this nation. First, it will decline by something like one-quarter every 30 years. That fact, I think, is undeniable. That is in the White Paper—that every 30 years the total population will go down by one-quarter, unless the present rate of reproduction is raised. Secondly, we have to consider the consequences which flow from that fact. There will be a very great change in the position of the age groups of the population. The figures dealing with this position have been put very graphically by Sir William Beveridge, 566 and I think we owe a great debt to him on this as on other matters. He has made this nation for the first time for many years, if not for many generations, population conscious.
Take the case of the miners. I thank the hon. lady for her tribute to the miners. Of course, they are intelligent people. Look at the political representatives they send to this House. The miners are asking why it is proposed to ask people to go on working until they are 65, and in reply we have to refer them to the facts upon which Sir William Beveridge based that part of his scheme and which he has put very graphically. In 1901 in this country there were more than five children under 15 for every person of pensionable age. There were five children growing up for every adult declining at the end of life. In 1961 there will be only one child at school for every pensioner in the eventide of life, and in 1971 there will be three pensioners for very two children at school.
Those were the facts. Sir William Beveridge not only based himself on the Registrar-General's figures, but checked those figures afterwards, and therefore they are beyond dispute. That change in the age composition of the nation presents an enormous problem, which deserves the full attention of this House, of the Government and of the nation. If the Debate serves no other purpose than to focus attention upon this question, it will have been worth while. Why is it that population is declining? I think the central fact is that over an increasing proportion of our population children are no longer a matter of chance but have become a matter of choice. That has been true of the middle and upper classes for more than a generation, and it is now true of the working class. In discussing population one must be frank. Any Debate would do incalculable harm which suggested that the main concern is about the working-class population. It is a national population problem. The fact is that now over an increasing range, and it will be an ever-increasing range, because war adds to that proportion—the last war did, and this war will—children will be the choice of parents and not the chance, as they were in the nineteenth century.
If we realise that to begin with, then we have to find out why parents are not choosing to have children. This is a 567 parents' revolt. They are refusing to bring children into the world, and if we are going to contribute anything to help in the solution of the problem, we must try to discover why parents are in revolt. The remedies suggested must be such as to induce parents to have families. We must change their minds on the subject. I propose therefore to spend a moment or two in discussing what I think are some of the reasons for the present position. I believe there is a far more fundamental reason than finance, though I do not want to underrate that. There are operating moral, psychological and spiritual reasons. I propose to divide those reasons and to take the material reasons, economic, social and political, as well as social and moral and—to use a word which is not much in fashion to-day—spiritual.
First, there are the material reasons. We have to remember that the last generation, which has seen the development of this problem, has become afraid. Fear is operative. Let me mention some of the things of which people are afraid. First, they are afraid of war. Sometimes I think we need to remind ourselves that this war is a revelation of failure. We must win this war, but at the same time we have to realise that the fact that we have to win it is proof of our failure before it began. If we are to solve this problem and make men and women choose to have children, we have to remember that every mother thinks of her baby son 20 years hence. The other day the "Daily Herald" reproduced a cartoon drawn by the late Will Dyson—of blessed memory to those who knew him during the negotiations over the Versailles Treasury. He showed the statesmen of Europe sitting in a room, and they were interrupted by the appearance of Father Time bearing a child named "The 1942 Class." Father Time said, "Gentlemen, a visitor." I thought how prophetic that was. I want hon. Members to realise that one of the essential things is that at the end of the war we must take whatever steps we can to make perfectly sure that in another 25 years there will not be another war. Mothers will be in revolt against bringing children into the world if other generations are to be devastated by war.
Then there is the fear of insecurity. Please remember that all the time in the interval between the two wars there was 568 scarcely a period, or if there was such a period it was never longer than a couple of months, in which less than one-tenth of our population was unwanted. If you have a social order which allows of unwanted people, population must decline. You cannot expect mothers to have children if they know that their sons when they reach the age of 14 will grow up with no work, no security, no prospects. Therefore, the problem must be approached from the angle of full employment and a chance for everyone. That is the real foundation of the matter. Then there is the standard of living. We have to remove the fear of poverty, the fear of war, the fear of insecurity which has haunted the lives of people in the last generation. Unless we can produce at the end of the war a society in which boys and girls will be wanted, and will count, we shall not solve this problem. The mothers, I say, are in revolt over an increasing part of our population. No child comes into the family unless the mother is willing.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Of course she does. There are two reasons why mothers are in revolt. The first relates particularly to mothers who have had one child and who refuse to have another, and there is an increasing number of such women. A problem which we have not yet solved, and which I do not think we have tackled as we ought, is the problem of maternal mortality. There is still a large and increasing number of women who will not go through the experience a second time. A good deal has been done, and I know that only the war has prevented more being done, but I hope that in the building-up of a national medical service regard will be paid to the fact that it is essential to make motherhood safer than it is now. When I have spoken to my own people in Wales, I have put it to the men in this way, "To be a mother in this country is more dangerous than to be a miner: motherhood is more dangerous than silicosis." We have to make motherhood very much safer. That can be done by a wide extension of our maternity services of all kinds.
There is another reason for the fall in the birth-rate, which has operated particularly in the middle and pro- 569 fessional classes for a long time. Increasingly, women in this country want a career. We have a social system in which we compel women to choose between a career and motherhood. That is very closely related to the fact that for nearly half a century the birth-rate has been falling much more rapidly among the middle and professional classes than among the working classes, because a married woman who has the opportunity for training or who has had a university education finds it difficult to have a career arid motherhood. We have to devise a system by which both are possible. So far this has been largely a problem of the professional women. I agree that in the post-war world we must end those provisions, whoever made them, by which a woman in the professions must resign when she marries. Some of my local authorities in South Wales do this. I always thought it very short-sighted to compel women teachers to resign when they become married. I understand the economic reasons for it. I understand the feeling of the father who is struggling to give his girl a chance, and finds that she is out of work while a married woman is teaching. He says, "Why are there to be two incomes going into one family when my girl cannot work?" But I hope that in the teaching profession, under the new arrangements, there will be room for both the married woman and the single one.
In this war we have millions of women going into industry, hundreds of thousands of them for the first time, single women and married women. They have enjoyed an income of their own, they have begun to enjoy economic independence. At the end of the war a large number of them will want both their careers and marriage and motherhood, and we have to base our plans for reconstruction on that. The character of our industry changes. It calls for more and more work by women. If we ate to develop, as we were in the inter-war years, secondary industries, we have to envisage a period when a very large number of women will want to go into industry. They will also want marriage and motherhood. We must build a system under which both will be possible.
Then there is the question of housing. For very many of our young people in the inter-war years the beginning of married life was not the beginning of a 570 new life. This is of very great importance. The beginning of married life together ought to be the beginning of a new life, the setting-up of a home of their own, a new start, the building-up of a separate life together as young married people. For a great number that was not the case; they began their married life in miserable apartments. We have to remember that babies and apartments do not go together, either materially or psychologically. If we are to deal with this fundamental problem of population, one of the essentials is to make sure that young people start their married life in a new home provided by the State. I know that it is an immense problem, but we have to do it as quickly as we can, and this war has shown the amazing quickness with which we can do things when we really want to.
Let me say a word or two about the reasons beyond the economic and social reasons. I believe they go deeper to the roots of life. My hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) has remarked that this is not only a British problem but a problem of Western civilisation. It is true of all the Western countries that in the last few centuries they have followed the course we have taken, and have developed our civilisation. We have reached a stage in our civilisation which I think has profound effects upon this population problem. It is a very difficult subject, and it is very hard to deal with it in a few words. We have built a mechanical civilisation which tends to destroy human personality and to reduce the dignity of human life. Man has ceased to be the centre, and has become something subservient. The human being is becoming the slave of a machine. I think that that is fundamental. I see it in my own industry. I went to the mining industry at 13½ years of age. It was a great adventure. There were things to learn. At 18 years of age I could become a collier. I began learn a multitude of jobs. I had a feeling that in some respects I was the master of my fate; I could plan my life; I could work towards something; I could achieve something. Now what do we do? We send a boy at 13 or 14 into a place where there are all machines. From the moment he goes in, he begins to shrink. There is nothing to learn. There is no pride in becoming 18 years of age in this mechani- 571 cal civilisation; you are thrown out on to the roads. Fundamentally we have got the fact that in this mechanical age the machine governs our life as individuals, and we have to design a social order in which the machine is made to serve man's needs instead of man being made to serve the machine's needs.
Let me mention a second thing, which affects the communal life. Whole communities found in the inter-war period that the whole of their life was outside their grip. It is true that we felt it mostly in the depressed areas, but it was felt everywhere else as well. Great combinations have come, in which some half-dozen men sitting in an office in the City can determine the fate of great numbers of workers. Over all there is spread the feeling that somehow we are in the grip of some terrible machine which has made us subservient. It is true of all peoples. I do not hold with the political philosophy of Russia, but Russia is the only country in the world that has, so far, been successful in building a mechanical civilisation without giving the idea to the people that they are slaves. That is Russia's greatest contribution. It has built a mechanised industry and at the same time given the people the idea that it is not something which is gripping them but that they are gripping industry and sustaining it. We have to do that. We have to get hold of all these economic forces which in the last 25 years have made man subservient, tossed him about, put him into work and put him out of work, depressed his standard of life and destroyed his individuality. Man has become subservient, human personality has lost its value and dignity. We have to put personality back in the centre. All these things ought to be and must be made subservient to that. Ruskin said nearly a century ago:There is no wealth but lifeThe supreme values of life and of human personality have become subservient in our society. I beg the Minister and the Committee and the country to realise that the individual must feel that he is in the community and is part of it and that the things around him do not engulf him, but that he has them in his grip and is building and controlling his own life. These are some of the fundamental things which we must bear in mind when 572 dealing with this problem. If the Committee and the nation pay attention to these material considerations and to the deep psychological, moral and spiritual phases of it in this stage of Western civilisation, I believe that this British nation of ours, given a feeling of consciousness of that mastery, will recover its faith and, recovering its faith, will solve this problem.
§ Mrs. Beatrice Wright (Bodmin)
I want to deal with one particular aspect of this problem which is common knowledge to us all. Many women are permitted under war conditions to stay at their work too long and to resume their work too soon after their babies are born. If we do not look after this particular aspect, we are going to lay up an enormous amount of trouble for ourselves in future. There are three reasons why this is essential. Preeminently we need every pair of hands we can lay hold of to work on the war machinery of this country, and that necessity is the activating motive in the whole situation. But as yet there has been no proper legislation to prevent women from ruining their health in this way, and there is the further reason which has been mentioned by previous speakers—the financial necessity of these women which prevents them from being free to be away from their work for any length of time.
Family allowances will meet this, I agree, and I want to divert my attention for a moment from this subject to pay a very warm tribute to the hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone), who has for a quarter of a century fought out this question of family allowances, argued it and pegged away at it. It must be a great moment in her life to see that at last she has been able to persuade the House of Commons to support her in this and to see that the Government are realising the position. It is incumbent upon all to see that, although it takes 25 years, you can get somewhere in that time.
Of the women engaged in war industry to-day there is not an insignificant number who are wives of Service men. Until the Government look into the question of Service pay and make some general arrangements for the benefit of the wives and children of men serving in the war, we shall have this problem of financial necessity among these women. There is one tale which has been well and many 573 times told, of the Service man's wife with a large family and the industrial man's wife whose husband is earning large wages in industry. One has a fur coat and the other one has not. It was said to me that you cannot argue away a fur coat. I realise that the Minister of Health is conscious of this problem and is probably turning his attention to it, but I beg of him to take some action soon on the problem of young mothers in industry, to see that they do not ruin their health for any reason that can possibly be avoided.
The whole problem is not only financial, but psychological. Every Ministry under the Crown is concerned in its solution. You cannot ask people to build their families on the quicksands of insecurity, and one must remember that for the last 25 or 30 years young couples starting out to establish their families have been confronted by the possibilities of war, unemployment and financial stress, which might, naturally, prevent them from wishing to establish large families. Parents, in order to be good and willing parents, must have faith in their future. They must be assured of good employment and see that there are good health services in this country, good schools and good housing. To those people who would propagandise on this subject I would say, "Create the right circumstances, and your problem is finished." Women should never again have to go on living a life of dudgery in their homes. However much a mother loves her children, if she has to work all day and half the night to keep her home even partially clean—some of the homes in this country cannot be kept wholly clean—and look after her children, it is no great joy to her to have a large family. I suggest that in the future we should put great concentration on the question of housing in confronting the problem of the birth-rate of this country. I go further and say, that no block of flats or new housing estate should be put up in this country which does not provide nursery facilities, where women can leave their children for certain hours of the day in order to have freedom to go about their own business.
his war has proved that a good education is as important as child education. How are your women to go out and educate themselves when they are tied to their homes and drudgery and have to look after their children the whole day and 574 half the night? Women in this country should take great interest in the education of their children, but it would be premature to say anything about it to-day, as we shall have other opportunities of discussing that problem. I believe that a partial solution of this whole problem would be that children should have the opportunity of undergoing a course of domestic science in the schools. This House has a very great responsibility towards future generations, in view of what it is now demanded of the people. Our concern should not only be to see that the quantity of the population of this country is increased but that the quality also is increased. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) rightly said that the youth of the country has shown itself to be exemplary in time of war. In many instances, that is in spite of circumstances and not because of circumstances.
We must never again appeal to this country to increase the birth-rate unless we give to the mothers and fathers of this country the realisation that we have their interests at heart and will give them conditions in which to bring up their children compatible with the very best hopes for the future. I beg of the Minister to meet the very urgent need there is to-day for some sort of legislation for these women who are to-day working in industry and are deprived of the possibilities of looking after their own children by working too long and going back to work too soon. I beg the Minister to pay attention to that particular aspect, and I will not keep the Committee any longer except to beg them to remember that the young women of this country will not be content with anything but the very best possible opportunities for their children in the future.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) has now been convinced that this discussion to-day was well worth while.
§ Mr. Lipson
We are now dealing with one of the fundamental problems of our national life. The question of our survival as a world power must depend upon the answers to the problem with which we are dealing to-day. We have to ask ourselves whether this war in 575 which we are engaged to-day and in which we are making so great a contribution is intended to be the swan song of the British people and, having survived enemies abroad, we are to remain in danger of falling away to internal decay at home through not making sufficient provision for the nation to be, equal to the responsibility which it will have to face in the future. I for one would be extremely sorry if, through a decline in our population, the British people were unable to play in the future the great part which, I believe, is its responsibility. The British people in the past have made a very great contribution to human good in what they have done for freedom and justice, and, therefore, it must be a matter of regret if anything should happen which would lessen their influence in the future. We have been reminded to-day that the real wealth of the nation is its men and its women. As a Greek poet said over 2,000 years ago:It is men and not walls that make a cityWe are dealing therefore with a problem which is fundamental to our national life and indeed to our survival, but it is not an isolated problem. It is not a problem only for the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland. When we ask parents to-day to bring children into the world they, naturally, will turn and ask us, "What sort of a world are you proposing that we should bring these children into?" Therefore it is a problem which concerns the Government as a whole. The greatest contribution which they can make to solving this problem is to establish the freedoms which we have been promised under the Atlantic Charter. We were reminded by the hon. Lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) that France and Belgium took steps before the war to increase their population by a system of family allowances. But let us remember what happened to those children that were born as a result of those family allowances. These are the children who are being brought up in these countries under enemy occupation, short of food and suffering hardships of all kinds. Is it any inducement to mothers to-day to ask them to bring children into a world which is still overshadowed by the dread of war? Therefore, unless you can solve the problem of security, the problems of freedom from 576 fear of war and freedom front fear of want, you are not going to get very far in solving the population problem.
The hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities reminded us that the worst offenders with regard to the population question in this country are those whom she described as the intelligent classes. She instanced doctors, clergy and teachers. If you start on the assumption that they are intelligent classes, that they have decided that it is right to limit their families, you will have to make out a very strong case not only to convince them that they are wrong but also to convince other sections of the population who are apt to follow their example.
§ Miss Rathbone
I would not like to let it pass that I described these people as belonging to the intelligent classes. I said that these three classes could not be suspected either of a lack of intelligence or of indifference to childhood.
§ Mr. Lipson
I think it is fair to say, and I am sure the hon. Lady would agree, that these people, who belong to classes which represent some of the best educated and most intelligent sections of the community, having a freedom of choice in this matter, are deciding against large families. It seems to me that that is bound to influence other sections, who will be likely to follow their example. The economic question is an important factor. Parents ask themselves whether they should have children and, if so, how many they can afford. That is because of economic conditions, which to-day bear increasingly severely on parents. I do not believe that it is for the most part selfishness which makes parents limit the number of their children. Often the cause is an increased sense of responsibility; parents are alive to the insecurity of present conditions. They are anxious to give their children as good a chance in life as possible, and it is for these reasons that they limit their families, because it is only by doing so that they can do what they want to do for those children they have.
The Government, in my opinion, must give the country a lead in this matter. I do not believe that our people, generally, regard the question of the decline of population at all seriously. Why should they? During war, it is true, the question of man-power is all important, 577 but before this war there were about 2,000,000 unemployed, and you cannot convince most people in such circumstances that we should be better off by having an increased population. It is only by a striking lead on the part of the Government that the people can be convinced. I plead, like the hon. Lady, for a system of family allowances, but I do not do so because I think that they will necessarily tend to increase our population and that women who have not had children, or who have limited the number of their children, will, because of these family allowances, have more. I plead for family allowances as an act of justice. It is only right to do something to redress the economic inequality which exists between those who have children and those who have not. Those who are showing a greater sense of responsibility to the nation and have accepted the responsibility of parenthood have a very heavy burden to bear under present conditions.
Everything seems to conspire to make it increasingly harder for the parent. A rise in the cost of living affects a parent very much more than a person who is single. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, by some of his taxation, such as the Purchase Tax, the Entertainments Duty and other taxes of that kind, makes it still harder for the parent in these days to meet his financial obligations. Under present conditions I should feel a very great sense of responsibility in going to my constituents and telling them that it is their duty to have larger families, because I know under what conditions many have to bring up their children in these days. Many families are now living in basements or houses which have been condemned. This is not only a purely war condition. Even before the war every local authority in the country had long waiting lists of people who needed houses. Those who are most affected by the shortage of houses are those with large families. There is also a shortage of maternity accommodation and midwives, and until these things are put right it is with great reserve that one must approach this question and give advice to others as to what they should do.
We are faced with this serious fact, that every section of the population now having a choice as to whether they will have children or not, the tendency is to reduce the size of families. The Minister of 578 Health has to face that fact. There can be no doubt that one result of the war will be that many women, having gone into industry, will want to stay there, so that the question of the decline of population may become more serious after the war than it is now. I think the Minister of Health can help in the provision he is prepared to make for maternity accommodation, by making it illegal for anyone who owns a house, whether a private individual or a local authority, to refuse accommodation to people simply on the ground that they have children. That sort of thing ought not to be allowed. It ought not to be possible for local authorities or anybody else to dismiss women simply on the grounds of marriage and motherhood. I was glad to hear the hon. Lady refer to the possibility of dealing with this problem of population by pointing out that it would be to the advantage of this country to welcome immigrants from other countries. I think we have pursued in recent years a very shortsighted policy in this matter. Under present conditions there is a very great opportunity. Millions of people in central Europe have been dispossessed from their homes; it will not be possible for many of them to go back even, if they wish, and this country might set an example to other countries by opening her doors much wider. The decline in population is not only a British problem; it is also an Imperial problem, for every part of the Empire is crying out for an increase of population.
I am doubtful whether anything we are likely to do will interfere with the tendency which showed itself in 1870, which has been increasing ever since, and which conditions in the future will greatly accentuate rather than diminish, namely, the tendency to have smaller families. But there are large numbers of men and women, exiles from other lands, who would make very good citizens and potential parents and who would bring new blood and life into this country. Therefore, I hope that the Minister of Health will fry to persuade the Government to take a more generous view of this question of admitting immigrants into this country after the war and giving them naturalisation, particularly to those who have fought with us in this country during this war. I believe it is the policy of the United States Government that 579 those who fight for them during this war shall be entitled to naturalisation. We have not been willing to do this, which has not only caused distress to those affected but has been a foolish and shortsighted policy. It is difficult to stir up concern about the decline of population and at the same time pursue a narrow and intolerant attitude towards the admission of immigrants into this country and refuse them naturalisation. The Government are faced with a big problem, and I hope they will deal with it in a big way, not in isolation, and will realise that many Ministers and many aspects of national life are concerned. Certainly, upon the solution of this problem in a broad and generous spirit depend the future of this country and our Empire and the part they will play in the post-war world.
§ Captain Elliston (Blackburn)
I feel sure that this Debate will be most encouraging for those who have felt for a long while past that the time has come when the House should express serious alarm at the decline of our population as a menace to our race and Empire. Many of us are equally anxious, in the words of the Motion which was tabled some time ago:to urge the Government to take all possible measures, whether economic, social or educational, to avert the danger.The statistics of this problem have been so well expounded to-day that one need say no more about them now, but we must face the fact that we are threatened With an ageing and declining population at the very moment when we are considering vast schemes in connection with housing, pensions, family allowances and schools. Unless we arrest this decline the time will come when all that will be left to us will be to pay one another maintenance pensions.
Although we were warned years ago that the causes of the decline in fertility are numerous, complex, and difficult, "The Times" has reminded us to-day that so far we have hardly begun to collect the essential facts for considering or dealing with the problem. We made a very modest start towards acquiring information. in 1Q37 when the Government brought before the House their Population (Statistics) Bill. The reception of that Bill did us no credit. It was treated with irresponsible levity from 580 the very moment of its introduction. Four or five speakers gave apologetic support to the proposals of the Bill, and the remainder mainly confined themselves to exaggerated protests against so-called intrusion on the privacy and liberty of the subject, with a sprinkling of Rabelaisian comments. The Bill was put through by the discipline of the Government and nothing else. Happily to-day the Committee is approaching the matter in an entirely different spirit. It realises that we are up against a problem of the greatest gravity. It will be surprising if the Government are not impressed by the general feeling to-day that something has got to be done, that we have not only got to adopt such measures as those already approved in principle in connection with family allowances, domestic amenities, the provision of better houses and so on, but that must no longer postpone a serious inquiry into root causes.
What are the explanations most generally accepted for the continued fall in the birth-rate? We are told there is no evidence of increasing physical sterility, but that there is a deliberate policy adopted by parents to limit their families to one or two so that their children may be brought up in greater comfort and greater security with greater educational advantages and a greater prospect of advancement in after life than are available to families of six, eight or To. It has been said already that there is evidence of an increasing sense of responsibility among parents, and though the result may be so serious for the future of the country the motive cannot be condemned offhand without some very careful consideration. We are also told that with children remaining longer at school thrifty parents feel that a child is no longer an asset which will contribute in its early 'teens to the family budget. Pensions also operate against the value of the child, because parents have no longer to look to their sons and daughters to provide for their later years. But there are other contributory causes. With the improving standard of education which is now becoming so marked, thrifty people realise that they wish to enjoy those amenities of life which are impossible to parents of large families. They want holidays and travel. They want perhaps a small car or motor bicycle and sidecar; all those things which are adding so much to the full 581 enjoyment of life are denied to parents who are devoting their resources to raising large families.
For these and other reasons it is generally accepted that parents are more and more resorting to birth control. A distinguished health expert, when I told him this Debate was approaching, said, "If you want to solve this problem Parliament has only to pass a Measure prohibiting the sale of contraceptives, and it is settled at once." Others are not so sure that the availability of contraceptives is wholly responsible for the decline in fertility. They believe that there are other factors at work. There are many who feel that this is very largely a woman's problem, and I am glad to see that the hon. Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) is in her place. Things that she is so competent to discuss are involved in the problem, and I want to hear what observations she has to offer on them. It is suggested that when we come to an inquiry—and there certainly should be an inquiry by Royal Commission or a Departmental Committee—there are certain points on which women can give very valuable evidence. In the first place, we want to know whether it is true that there is a definite and growing reluctance among women to bear children. I do not know that there is any evidence available, but it might be collected. Again, is it true that since the emancipation of women they shrink from accepting the handicaps of motherhood, which hampers them in professional, commercial or industrial competition? Is that true to such an extent as to constitute one of the major factors of the problem? Is it admitted that the present slight recovery in the birth-rate is largely due to a certain type of woman who desires to escape the call-up for the Services or for munition work and prefers to accept pregnancy in order to escape her obligations to the country? Does their righteous hatred of war make women resist the production of "cannon fodder"? Is it equally true that their desire for a better world is so keen that they are coming to believe, as I was recently told, that a smaller population would mean the preservation of the beauties and amenities of life and a countryside unspoilt by bungalows, pylons, pitheads and slag heaps? Is that another factor which has persuaded women to avoid the responsibility of 582 motherhood? These points may sound trivial in this House, but they must be carefully considered sooner or later, and I hope the Minister will tell us he means to make an early start on securing all the information necessary for our guidance in seeking the solutions that we have to find.
There is an even more important matter which I hope will be dealt with by my hon. Friend the Junior Member for Cambridge University (Professor A. V. Hill). What is going to be done in the matter of scientific research? There was recently an interesting discussion in another place, when it was argued that scientific research is the first thing necessary when tackling the decline of the population. Lord Geddes made a very serious statement coming from a responsible man of science. He suggested that the decline in fertility is a biological problem of the most serious import, and that the germ plasm has ceased to be actively reproductive. He was immediately supported by another noble Lord, who said that his valuable herd of cattle had recently shown signs of sterility, at any rate, deferred fertility. He was seriously concerned, and he summoned research workers from Cambridge who made suggestions as to alterations in dietary and so on, and the result already gives promise of averting a serious threat to the future of the herd.
Perhaps my hon. Friend is confusing the time of the research with the date of the noble Lord's speech. But my point is that if you are going to take such precautions in the case of cattle, can you not make similar provision for research when the preservation of humans is concerned? There is another point which calls for scientific investigation, namely, the longterm effect of contraceptives. As far as I know, scientists have not yet reported what that effect is, or whether it is. rendering women less liable to pregnancy when that condition is desired. There is much talk about the "spacing" of families. But most of us know of parents who are grievously disappointed by the non-arrival of children when they are ready for them. These points are such sufficient justification for asking the Minister to set up some machinery for scientific 583 research very soon. These matters call for inquiry by some such body as the Medical Research Council, the Royal Society or the universities. The fact that such research has not yet been started shows how we have lagged behind in giving serious consideration to this very grave matter.
A Motion has been on the Paper for some time asking the Government to take all possible steps in the very near future in the matter of economic planning, welfare schemes and so on to remove the obstacles which at present prevent so many young couples from risking the responsibilities involved in parenthood. The hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) and others have summarised very well all those things which call for attention. I would add one more, namely education in this connection. The Ministry of Information has shown how people can be led by reasoned arguments and adequate information to suffer inconveniences and sacrifices for their country. In the same way our potential parents might be persuaded to restore the birthrate to something like its normal height so that our race may continue to play the great part in the world which it has done in the past. We all hope that when peace is restored the overseas Dominions will become more anxious to welcome settlers from this country. When that time comes it will be a grievous thing if we can no longer send out adventurers to assist in developing the resources of the Empire. That is one of the great considerations which many of us have in mind in this Debate. Apart from the happiness associated with family life and the future prosperity of this country, we should have sons and daughters to spare for all the tremendous opportunities that we enjoy of perfecting the best traditions of our race in the Dominions overseas.
§ Mr. Murray (Spennymoor)
I have spent some time looking over tables of statistics, graphs and curves which explain the trend of population in this country, in Sweden, Russia, Norway, Austria, France and many other countries over a long period of years. These figures are very interesting, but it is said that you can make figures say anything. You can make up what statistical tables you like, you can engage the best experts you wish, but the masses of the poor people of 584 this country care nothing about tables of statistics. They are to them as cold as ice and dead as a door-nail. I feel that the Government of this country over a period of years must take full responsibility for the condition of mind which has led to the present position. I believe that it is a condition of mind that operates in this question and that the trend of legislation has both moulded and fashioned the minds of the people. I need not argue about the position of labour that has existed over so many years, the insecurity in the labour world, the lack of opportunities for education, the terrible housing situation that many of us have had to live through. I remember as a boy 10 of us living in three rooms, washing in the kitchen, baking in the kitchen, doing everything that was possible in the kitchen.
In the 1931 census Durham had the largest number of three-roomed houses in the country. The number of one to three-roomed houses in England and Wales was 883,896, or a percentage of 14.5. In the county of Durham there were 88,526, or a percentage of 42.9—three times the average of England and Wales. The proportion of the percentage decreases with the larger houses. The number of four to five-roomed houses in England and Wales was 3,146,320, or 51.8 per cent. In Durham there were 99,302, or 48.1 per cent. Of houses of six rooms or more, there were in England and Wales 2,046,141, or 33.7 per cent., while in Durham the number was 18,525, or 9 per cent. I would ask the Committee to notice the difference in the percentages. The Durham percentage for three-roomed houses was three times greater than that for England and Wales, whereas it was only a quarter for six-roomed houses. When we talk about housing we must inevitably think about health. It is impossible to separate the two. I want to draw attention to a little pamphlet which has been issued by a gentleman called R. F. Harrod. He says that the decline in population is not due to adversity:Reproduction did not fall because of poverty, unemployment, insecurity, or the fear of war. In England, which may be taken as the most flagrant case, the fall began at a time when the mass of the people—and it is with the masses that we are primarily concerned—had achieved a standard of living unknown before in human history, and the fall continued through a period in which that standard was doubled and in which the miseries of sickness were greatly reduced. Unemployment, it 585 is true, became more severe in the later part of the period, but the standard of living of the unemployed people was on the whole better than than of the employed before the fall began. We may be quite sure that the decline has not been due to adversity.With that I thoroughly disagree. In my boyhood days I made a firm resolution that if I had a home of my own, I would never have I() children to battle for. That was the resolve which was based on certain conditions which I will enumerate. I made up my mind that I would never have to face the problem of feeding 12 mouths every day of the week. I was the oldest boy but two in the family. On Monday mornings in every week I was called on to clean 24 boots. If I got them cleaned in time, I had my breakfast. If I did not, I had to eat my breakfast running to school. Are these conditions that the Committee likes to see operating? I am sure it does not. On Tuesday I never went to school, for as I was big enough to work at home I had to stand at the wash-tub on that day every week. I was never asked why I was never at school on that day; they knew. I was standing at the wash-tub. On Wednesdays and Thursdays I had to help in the general cleaning of the house. There was the routine work of the house to do, and it was baking day. On Friday I had to leave school at 3 p.m. so as to help get on with the week-end work. On Saturdays I had to do the same thing.
There is no wonder that some men are bitter on the question of big families. Not one of our family had the opportunity of a secondary education, not because we had not the ability to take advantage of it, but because we had not the opportunity. In fact, we scarcely had the chance of a real elementary education, because of the economic circumstances under which we were living. Ours was not an exceptional case. The Committee may be amused to think that we saw the seaside once in a year for one day, but it is a tragic fact in human life that many families—for this was prevalent—in the county of Durham never saw the seaside except for one day in a year. Then it was on condition that we recited our little piece at the Sunday school anniversary and got a free ticket to take us there. Is it to be wondered at that the offspring of the nine boys and one girl in our family are only r9? Cannot hon. Members see what these conditions have meant upon the minds of that family? It is a condition 586 of mind that has been produced over a number of years, and it must be changed. We have to make it really worth while to have increased families if we want to increase the population.
Last week I raised this point with one of my constituents who is a friend of mine. I said to him, "Bob, what kind of a family had you?" He said, "To be quite frank, Jim, we had 19. My mother was married twice, and there were 21 of them when they sat down to table." I asked him, "How many have you?" He replied, "One." I asked him, "Why one?" He replied, "I used to look at my father cobbling boots at the week-end and doing other essential jobs, for we had no money to pay for them. As a boy I had to draw coke at the coke holes before I went to school." He went on to explain that at the present time he had 15s. for himself, 15s. for his wife and 4s. for his child of 14, and he added, "Don't you think it is time you were doing something for the unemployed man? He has to live in the same market and buy the same things at the high prices that exist today." He mentioned something else that was interesting. He said, "Do you know, Jim, that if I take a child to be billeted on me and she is five years of age, I get 10s. 6d. a week. If the child is from 10 to 12 I get 11s., if from 12 to 14, 12s., if 14 to 16, 13s., if 16, 15s. 6d., and if 17 and over, 16s. 6d." That meant that if he took two children of 17, he would get 335. Then he explained what he had to pay out: 8s. 6d. rent, 16s. for groceries, 3s. 6d. for meat ration, 1s. 4d. for milk, 2s. 8d. for coals and light, and 2s. for mutuality clubs, making a total of £1 14s. od. I asked him what about his union, and he said he had to leave something out of these items when he had to pay the union.
There are those who will tell me that, after all, these things are not as bad as all that now, but what is operating now? My friend said, "I love children. I would have had more, but on account of the economic circumstances that operated when I was a boy I made up my mind that I was not going to bring children into the world to have the same outlook in life, to have to make the same sacrifices, as I had." No, I want this Committee to realise that the schoolmaster of experience has been going his rounds. The masses of this country are making their own observa- 587 tions and drawing their own deductions from them, and the mothers of this country are playing no small part in this matter.
If we want mothers to bear children, the Government must realise that there is a price to be paid. There is a condition of mind that must be changed, there is a spirit of bitterness that must be overcome. There must be greater security for the masses of this country than there has even been before. Children are the greatest joy in life, they are the most wonderful attraction upon this earth. But let this Committee beware. It is not the closed fist and the clutching hand that will change these conditions. The condition of mind to which I have referred has been inbred over long years. People do not want this clutching hand, they do not want this tight fist, nor do they want the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table. They want a little more of the beauties and joys of life than they have had before. Parliament must change its outlook, It must be liberal and generous, and with that liberality and generosity it ought to be just. Let the Committee remember that the Beveridge Report suggested as the minimum subsistence figure for a child—the minimum—8s. a week, and the Government have recommended 5s. a week, 25. 6d. in kind. Do hon. Members think the country is not watching these things and does not note that the Government are prepared to give much more as a billeting allowance? For the Government to say that the 8s. subsistence minimum must be reduced to 5s. is simply niggardly. They are closing their eyes to the facts as they exist.
Whether the Government will take any notice of what I am saying may be a matter of little concern, but the mothers of to-day will see to it that the terms they have received in the past are not the terms they will accept in the future, if this country wants to increase its population. Army posters portray wonderful things; there have been grand artists at work, calling on us to "join the Army and see life." Believe me, we have not only to draw wonderful pictures but to deliver the goods. We shall have to build better houses; and give better opportunities for education—and they will have to be there and not merely something which is promised. They will have to be there, before the eyes of 588 the people, so that advantage can be taken of the opportunities. When the people see that there is going to be employment for the worker, and better conditions for the children and the aged people, the mothers of the country will give to the Government what they require, and it will be to our own advantage and our own glorification.
§ Sir Edward Grigg (Altrincham)
I rise only for the purpose of asking a question and making a suggestion, but before I come to my two points I should like to express the obligation which everybody here to-day must feel, I think, to those who inaugurated this Debate. It has been an impressive, an enlightening and a moving Debate, and a very timely one as well. Nothing is of greater importance at the present moment. In particular, I should like to express my appreciation of the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). I thought it a most enlightening and deeply pondered speech, and it made a very great impression upon me, as I believe it did upon other Members of the Committee. I should like to add one footnote to it. I agree with him that the spiritual causes of our present difficulties respecting the birth-rate are much more important than the material ones. We have had moving descriptions of conditions which are preventing parents from having children. Heaven knows, those conditions are bad enough, but they were much worse 30 or 50 years ago, when the birth-rate was rising faster than it has ever risen before. What has happened since is that there has been an appreciation of the conditions, a feeling of exasperation with the conditions. It is a change of mind that has caused the changed attitude towards maternity.
I think hon. Members opposite have a responsibility in this matter which is even greater than attaches to some of us on this side, because they can state a case on this matter in some ways more effectually than we can. I would beg them to bear one point in mind. There is a great danger that in this matter the mind of civilisation will defeat itself, that civilisation will extinguish itself by saying that it will not do the thing that is absolutely necessary for its survival. That is a danger we face. I have heard hon. Members say, "We do not want national power. Why power? We want decent 589 conditions of life." But national power is an essential condition for getting the kind of life the people want. After all, for what are we fighting? We are fighting for power, fighting for power to order the world of the future as we wish to order it and deprive Hitler and Mussolini and Tojo of the power to order the world as they wish to order it. It is not only a question, believe me, of getting that power at the present moment, but a question also of keeping it. If we want to have a world which is in accordance with the ideals of the great majority of the people of this country, the people must have power, power in the world, power for the good of the world as well as for their own good, and population is an essential element of power. The problem is not peculiar to this country but peculiar to civilisation as a whole. The danger is that the most advanced races, out of fear of the conditions which will exist, will pursue the very course which is bound to make conditions worse and to imperil the future of such children as they produce. Therefore, do not let us shrink from power. We have got to have power, but we have to use it well, in the interests not only of our children but of mankind.
§ Mr. Sorensen (Leyton, West)
Does the hon. Gentleman mean power over the world, or power in the world?
§ Sir E. Grigg
I do not understand what is the differentiation that my hon. Friend wishes to make. Power in the world is power over the world. I do not mean dominating the world, but preventing somebody else from doing something in the world which I think wrong. What we are doing at the moment is grasping power, manufacturing power, building up power to prevent men whom we detest and despise from doing to the world what they want to do. That is something which we have not only to do at the present time but to keep on doing if we want a world which will be fit for the children of this country to live in and for the mass of mankind to possess.
There is one special aspect of this population question which has caused me profound anxiety in my own part of the country and elsewhere. It concerns the organisation of the maternity and child welfare centres. More than one hon. Member has: spoken of the importance of giving safety to motherhood. Pre-natal care and 590 post-natal advice are vital, and most mothers get them at these welfare centres, assisted by the voluntary workers who go out everywhere and help. I believe that these centres are mostly set up at the instigation of the Government, but through the action of the local authorities, and that whether they continue their activities in war is really dependent upon the local authorities rather than upon the right hon. Gentleman's Department. I find that in many instances local authorities are persisting in using maternity and child welfare centres for war purposes—for A.R.P., Civil Defence, decontamination and so forth—and refusing to allow the more important maternity and child services to be carried on there. I shall not give specific instances, but I have come across one very bad one lately. I attended a discussion that, frankly, horrified me. It is absolutely essential that maternity and child welfare centres, where they exist, should be restored, at any rate for part of the time, to the service for which they were intended, and that where they do not exist they should be created as fast as possible.
There is one question I should like to ask my right hon. Friend the Minister. He has explained his absence, and I am sure the hon. Lady the Parliamentary Secretary will pass this question on or reply to it if she is replying to the Debate. The question is: Do the Government agree with me, and I believe agree with the great majority of this Committee, that maternity and child welfare services at the present time should be regarded absolutely as first-line services, to be subordinated to nothing else? That is vital. I would like to know whether that is the policy, or whether the Government accept the view that A.R.P., decontamination, and such things come first, and that child welfare and maternity welfare can be pushed on one side, or be sent to very inferior premises or not be able to carry on at all. The other question is: Are the powers of the Minister in this matter adequate, and is it not time that the House of Commons equipped the Ministry of Health with greater powers in matters of this kind? I should very much appreciate an answer on that point. Where local authorities are obviously recalcitrant and are not doing their duty, or only half doing it, can the Minister effectively intervene? I 591 have seen signs that there is a great deal of opportunity for effective intervention. So much for my questions.
Now, briefly, for the suggestion. I do not believe that the country or this Committee will be satisfied with any statement that the Government can make at the present time. I believe that the various services connected with the growth of population are in a tangled condition. We ought to get some very clear statement as to what the present condition is and what is needed to be done. I believe we need to have a really authoritative inquiry. I do not mean a long delayed inquiry, but one which will report very quickly, as it could. The facts are all there; let us have them clearly put before us, and let us know the difficulties with which we have to deal. I do not think that they are clear to most Members of the Committee. I do not know whether the Ministry of Health has this in mind, but I make the suggestion to the Government, and beg them to consider the advisability of having now an authoritative inquiry which will report without delay.
§ Mr. Rickards (Skipton)
We all agree that the problems after the war will be the greatest and some of the most difficult in our history. This prospect makes me think of one of the maxims of Confucius, the greatest Chinese sage, who said, "If you want to know about the future, and plan for it, study the past." I believe we can learn and be encouraged very much by the actions of a man who influenced the whole of Western Europe, including ourselves, more than any other human being, and that was Augustus Caesar. His influence has been so great because we have drawn our laws, civilisation and our culture so much from the Roman Empire, which was founded by and upon what Augustus Caesar had done.
Why that is so interesting at the moment is that at least 75 per cent., which is a very conservative estimate, and probably go per cent., of the problems which we shall have to face after the war had to be faced by Augustus, and he faced them so satisfactorily his life is perhaps the most interesting chapter in the whole history of the world. We shall have to try to pull this country and the world out of the Slough of Despond, after a decade of war—in 30 years—but the problem before Augustus was far greater. He had 592 to pull the world together after not one decade but Do decades of civil war, and he did it magnificently. Naturally I cannot describe what he did, but I can only touch upon two or three things which I think are germane to our position to-day.
One of the things he was keen on, and the first plank in his programme, was agriculture. He said that no country could be prosperous unless it had a prosperous agricultural community, and he not only spent much money and gave much land towards this object, but he conducted a great deal of propaganda. Many people do not know that much of the most beautiful Latin which was ever written was paid for by Augustus Caesar simply as propaganda—such as Horace and Virgil. It was simply a campaign to persuade people to go back to the land. He was tremendously keen also upon health and housing. Housing was a much more difficult subject for him than it will be for us, on account of the difference in the conditions of transport, as they had no Underground and no buses, people had to live near to their work, or otherwise to walk a long way. The result was that the proletarian class lived in tenement flats, which could be compared to our present New York skyscrapers. Augustus was very much disturbed on account of jerry-builders, so many people lost their lives through fires and buildings collapsing, and he had to pass a law that no house should be higher than 70 feet. By the time of Tiberius, the 70 had been reduced to 60. I only mention these facts to show that his difficulties were greater than ours.
Another thing which confronted Augustus was one that we shall have to consider. He said that the great danger to Western civilisation was the German menace. I remember hearing Mr. Baldwin, as he was then, make the famous speech in which he said that our frontier would be the Rhine, and I wondered then whether he realised that he was simply repeating what Augustus had said. Augustus not only decided that the Rhine should be the frontier, but he created an army to defend it, a small but well-trained army, and, thanks to Augustus, that frontier was defended for 400 years.
Finally, we come to the question of population. Many of us who have been in this House for years, long before the Beveridge Report, were keen on chil- 593 dren's allowances. We only thought about it, but Augustus acted. He had children's allowances. He appreciated not only the military point of view but the economic. If our population is allowed to drop so that the average in family is only one, we shall have such poverty in this country as we have not had since the early Plantagenet days. Why? It is only common sense that, if families are limited to one, in a short time the family will be made up of four grandparents possibly wishing to live on old age pensions, one man working, and his wife looking after the house and perhaps the old folk and the one child at school. In those circumstances, it would not matter whether we had a Right wing or a Left wing Communist Government in this country. With only 14 per cent. of the country working and 86 per cent. living on its efforts, the result would be starvation. That is another thing which Augustus thought of, 2,000 years ago.
I have spoken upon this subject because what he did encourages me very much indeed. How he managed to do it was not merely by using common sense and good plans; he had the whole Empire behind him, and to do so he had to become a semi-dictator. We must do as well as or better than he did, but by democratic and Parliamentary methods. I believe the problem will be so big that it will not be solvable merely by a Conservative Party, a Labour Party or any new party. It will have to be done by us all, united. I do not mean that we should have just one party. By all means let us have opposition, but not factious opposition such as they had in the Senate in Rome. Let us work for the same ideal, and if we do that, seeing that was done by one man in 40 years in dragging the world from poverty and chaos to peace and prosperity we can say that it ought to be done, and done by Great Britain. We must go one better and say that no matter to what party we belong, we pledge ourselves to do our best to make Great Britain happy and prosperous and prove to the world that a democracy can do better than the most gifted dictator.
§ Dr. Edith Summerskill (Fulham, West)
I have listened to the hon. Member with great interest, and I only wish he had developed the point of his speech and told us whether the family allowances intro- 594 duced by Augustus Caesar did in fact increase the birth-rate. I did not add my name to the Motion on the Order Paper on the subject of family allowances, although I had always been a staunch advocate of them, because I do not believe that the proposal of the Government of giving 5s. a week per child will bribe any woman in the country deliberately to increase her family. I go further than that and say that 8s. a week will not act as a sufficient bribe to any woman to increase her family. The Government do not understand the women of the country. Otherwise they would not be so shortsighted as to try to emasculate the Beveridge proposals, and they would not for one moment think that family allowances on the scale proposed would stimulate the birth-rate.
France has had family allowances. I would like to remind the hon. Member who mentioned the birth-rate and asked whether contraceptives were responsible for the reduction in the birth-rate, that contraceptives have been prohibited in France for many years, but still the birthrate in France is declining rapidly. One thing I have learned to-clay, after listening to all the speeches and hearing so many quotations from experts, is that this Committee and the experts are still baffled as to the reason for the declining population. We have heard many people here mentioning the increase of the population in Eastern countries and they have wondered why, whereas the women in the East have large families, the women in the West have small families. I should like to tell the Committee, with all humility, that I am ultimately going to suggest a solution which has not yet been suggested by anybody and which, I know, will be entirely unacceptable to every male Member in this Committee because what we do not like we do not accept. If we do not like it we will always rationalise and explain that the person who suggests it is entirely wrong. But I shall leave that until the last.
The most significant fact of the population statistics is that in most countries where women have been literate for two or three generations the birth-rate has declined. I think that if you look at the whole world you will find that is true. My friends may. say "What of Russia? The birth-rate there is increasing," but the women there have not been literate for 595 two or three generations. We have been reminded in this Committee by many people that the decline in the birth-rate started in 1870. It should be remembered also that education started in 1870. We have, I am sorry to say, heard parenthood and motherhood talked about in rather an abstract way. I want the Committee always to remember that it is the woman who decides the size of a family and where the woman in the home has been able to think, read and write and compare her lot with that of other workers, we find that she is in a condition of silent revolt.
My hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. Griffiths) talked about a book called "Parents' Revolt." I look on it as the woman's revolt in the home. She has refused to produce the most valuable commodity in the world, the embryo worker. What would the Government do if they were faced with a shortage of any other valuable commodity in the country? They would immediately examine the conditions of the producers. What effort have the Government made to examine the conditions of the mothers or to find out what the modern woman thinks? As far as I know, no approach has been made to the problem from that angle at all. It is rather interesting to think that motherhood was the first occupation to be reserved in this country and the last to obtain any recognition in wartime.
I just want to mention the social services to illustrate my point that the conditions of mothers are ignored, but I do not for one moment suggest that these matters that I shall mention now are directly responsible for the fall of the birth-rate. We have already heard what happens to the pregnant woman in industry. In this country, an advanced country, the pregnant woman in industry today has to go on in industry until she is far advanced in pregnancy because we do not give her National Health Insurance benefit. Some societies only give it during the last two weeks of pregnancy. She cannot go to an employment exchange, because she is unfit to work. The Service allowances are so small that she is forced to remain in industry. Have the Government done anything? No. The matter has been brought up at Question time. Members have tried to raise the matter on the Adjournment. I have 596 sat on three occasions vainly waiting for the Adjournment Motion. The Government have not moved in the matter.
As regards hospital accommodation, hon. Members know that maternity accommodation in their constituencies is overcrowded, that women are unable to get accommodation for their babies. Do the Government do anything? Nothing. Queen Charlotte's Hospital is turning away now 200 expectant mothers every month. What do the Government do? Nothing. Take midwives. Everybody knows the great shortage there is; they are grossly overworked and grossly underpaid. Yet nothing is done. And what of the pregnant woman in the war? Although I myself submitted evidence to the Ministry of Food 12 months ago from hospitals showing that the pregnant woman was under-nourished, only last week, after four years of war, did the Government recognise that the pregnant woman was trying to sustain two lives on one ration.
It is no good talking of these problems, of the Prime Minister coming to the country, of the Home Secretary coming to the country, saying that the population problem is one of the most serious in the country, when we can show that every Government Department ignores consistently the demands of women, of the mothers. I would like to mention anesthetics. They were introduced for midwifery 100 years ago. To-day 75 per cent. of women have to have their babies in primitive conditions. I know some male Members will say, "My grandmother never had anæsthetics, and she had 13 children." I would remind them that the housewife in her home is no more willing to submit to the conditions of 100 years ago than the worker in a factory will tolerate the industrial standards of the last century. It is no good quoting what happened in the last century. We have heard it in this Debate. We have heard Members expressing wonder why women of the last century had eight, nine or ten children. The modern woman is a different proposition. She will not tolerate those conditions. Therefore we have to think anew about this problem.
I say that the solution is not to be found simply in an improvement of the social services. I say that the root of the problem is economic, but not in the same way as many people have interpreted it to-day. I say that the root 597 of the problem is economic. This is something which even the fairest-minded of men, I believe, will refuse to recognise. The hon. Member for Llanelly did begin to approach the problem, but I want to tell the Committee again, I want them to remember that it is the woman in the home who decides the size of the family, and you cannot emancipate women outside the home and expect the woman in the home to remain unaffected by the change.
This is what I want to say. First of all, I realise that the Committee will probably say, after I have developed this part of my argument, "Yes; what about the wealthy women? Your arguments cannot apply to them." I want the Committee to realise that my remarks apply to about go per cent. of the housewives of the country. The To per cent., the privileged few, have all sorts of other factors affecting their lives. I know perfectly well that the wealthy mother is never very anxious to feed her own baby, because she has so many social functions to attend to. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman says "Never." I happen to have seen more expectant mothers than lie has. It is a fact that social affairs outside the home are an important element in the lives of many wealthy women. Therefore you cannot argue from those particular cases. You cannot say, "Wealthy women are only having two or three children." I have studied the conditions of the go per cent., those who spend their lives in their homes, who devote most of their time to housework and all the chores of a home.
Listening to the Debate, I feel that the housewife is so rarely-discussed an entity that people must almost think that she is an unthinking automaton. That is not so. She thinks, she reasons, and she asks herself in her little brick box, What is her standing in the community? Any Government publication will give her the answer. She is described as a dependant; she is described as non-gainfully employed; and she has been described as an unpaid domestic help. And yet she knows as a thinking individual that, given the opportunity, she could earn a wage equal to that of her husband. In fact, the Minister of Labour recently told the country that he had found that two women were doing the work of three men. In normal times she stays at home doing a full week's work while her husband goes out and brings in the wages, but I wonder who will say 598 which is serving the State most usefully. Yet the wife in the home is not entitled to one penny for her services. Do you think she is not aware of this? Of course she knows it.
The modern woman is fully conscious of her economic position in society. wonder how many Members remember the Blackwell case of a few weeks ago. Mrs. Blackwell had some savings in a cooperative society. Her husband claimed this in a local court in Oxford. Mrs. Blackwell over a period of 17 years had, out of her housekeeping money, the only money she handled, saved at a rate of 2s. 4d. a week. She had saved for 17 years when her husband discovered it, and claimed the money. The judge said that he had every right to that money, that it was his, that the woman in the home, working, bearing children, was a dependant, that she was handling his money. Anything she saved out of it was his. Do you think that case went by without notice among the women of this country? I had more letters on that case after putting down a Question than on any other subject during the war. At every women's meeting I have addressed since, every woman has been alive to the particulars of that case.
There is another aspect about the status of the housewife. I wonder whether hon. Members read a Question which was put down for the Minister of Home Security, I think last week. He was asked whether, when a woman left her husband, she could claim part of the furniture. Obviously the wife, working in the home for many years, by giving her services contributes to the furniture. Now in the courts up and down the country the husband can claim every stick in the home. The Minister of Home Security said he was sorry, but that he could not interfere. I ask every signatory to this Motion on the Order Paper to-day whether, if they had the same status as the housewife, the mother, has in the home to-day, any one of them would, if it were possible, bear large families? Of course they would not. In the old days, we have heard from Members, having children was having stock, that the children were sent out to work and brought in money. Now the modern woman knows that her dependency increases in direct proportion to the size of the family, because the woman with a large family is irrevocably tied to the 599 home. That is fundamental to the position.
As I say, my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly did begin to approach the problem, and I hoped that he would arrive at the solution. I believe he is well on the road. He said he had given very deep thought to the matter and had come to the conclusion that in the postwar years women who are outside the home with a career would want to keep the career and have a family. Yes, but why? Simply because the woman who has enjoyed economic independence, who knows the joy of economic independence, will only give it up grudgingly. I want to suggest that it is absolutely impossible to have a large family and a career at the same time. We have seen women in the factories to-day trying to do a full-time job and then going back at night to clean the house and look after the family. You cannot have both. Any woman who has tasted a career and tasted, the joy of earning a wage in a factory would be quite willing to go back to the home and have a family and stay there if she had economic independence.
How are you going to get that? First of all, there must be family allowances. You might begin with 8s., but the Government must not make it a decreasing scale. There must be an increasing scale, and it must increase with all subsequent children after the first. If the State needs babies, it must recognise in a practical manner the pain, suffering and effort entailed in bearing and rearing children. The suggestion of a 5s. allowance will not make the slightest difference in the birth-rate. If you make it 8s. and then have a decreasing scale, going down perhaps to 5s there will be no stimulus to the birth-rate. Of still more importance is the economic independence of the housewife. In a leaflet sent to me the Family Endowment Society timidly recognises the economic dependence of the mother in the community, and urges that family allowances should be paid to the mother in order to establish her economic independence. That is not going to do much for the married woman. Are you going to have the woman in the home producing babies as a kind of junior partner? We want something more than that.
Until we face up to that position the birth-rate is going to decline, and decline 600 so rapidly that we shall have a middle-aged or elderly population in 20 or 30 years' time. We want something more, and we will get it. Apart from children's allowances on an increasing scale the wife and mother in the home must be given a legal right to a share of the family income. I know that the opposition to that will be very great, that it will be more difficult for women in this country to achieve this reform than it was to enter the Palace of Westminster. Some of my friends here will say that if a wife in the home has a legal right to a share of the family income, it surely will only be so in theory, because in most homes there is not a penny left after expenses have been paid. I recognise that, but still the woman will have the dignity and status of a partner instead of the everlasting humiliation of a dependant. I am fully aware that this will mean that men will be asked to relinquish the power of the purse strings in the home, and everybody knows how sweet that power is to many people, but the alternative will be a declining birth-rate.
I say to my friends who tell me that this is revolutionary that before we ask for Socialism in the country we must practise Socialism in the home, and here is a method of practising real Socialism, real sharing in the home where the wife and husband are legal partners. My friends from Wales will say that in Wales, where husbands are perfect—I know, because I am married to a Welshman—the men go home every' Friday night and say, "Here's the money; take it, my dear." But you must remember that 200 years ago, when it was suggested that a law should be introduced to prevent men beating their wives, objection came from some men who said, "But I never beat my wife." All the same it was very necessary to introduce that law. Therefore, I say to all good husbands that they should go on sharing, certainly, but that we should make this legal. If you had a husband and a wife legal partners, sharing equally—I am speaking of the, wife who works in the home, of course—in such conditions I should be quite willing to give family allowances to the husband and the wife who share equally in partnership. If we had such allowances, starting at 8s. weekly on an increasing scale, I believe that for the first time the decline in the birth-rate would stop and there would be a rise. 601 The alternative which must be faced by all far-sighted men and women is that within 50 years we shall be a middle-aged, elderly population unable even to finance our social services out of the taxes of able-bodied workers.
§ Sir Francis Fremantle (St. Albans)
I agree with the hon. Lady who has just spoken that the present Debate must depend very largely upon the position of 90 per cent. of the people and not the 10 per cent. of the so-called upper or more fortunate classes. It is from that point of view that she and I as members of the medical profession can be trusted to look at the question, and to speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But while I recognise the hon. Lady's wonderful power of presenting quite clearly her own case, and persuading herself, I imagine, that it is the whole case, I am afraid she does not realise what the wife would lose if she had equal position and responsibility for the home instead of the husband paying Income Tax and rent and the cost of upkeep and the care and protection of the home. I think that is a matter that it would be worth while to consider, and that it should be brought out in the inquiry which we hope the Government will engage in. The loss of protection which the woman would suffer might prove to be much harder than the hardships of her present dependent position. The hon. Lady's attitude seems to be one of complete devotion to materialism', and the decay of the race, but I will not pursue her further.
This subject falls into four parts, and I think it is a good thing that people should recognise that, because it seems to me they are liable to mix up the different parts—the facts, the results, the causes, the remedies. In the first place, we must look at the facts. For a long time I have been trying to get the facts recognised, both when I was a medical officer of health and since as a politician. I believe those facts are now recognised sufficiently. I agree with the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) when she said that Professor Carr-Saunders' plea for further statistical inquiry was useful but not required for the real purposes of the problem. We all recognise the dangers of a decaying population in quantity and in- 602 creasing age, and that need not be argued further.
Next we must look at the results. The results of a declining birth-rate are shown in the loss of leaders, the loss of younger sons and the sons of the clergy. If we had had the present birth-rate years ago, we would never have had Sir Walter Scott, who was a ninth child, or Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who was a 10th child, or Darwin, who was a fifth child. We should have been without John Wesley, who was a 15th child, and Charles Wesley, who was an 18th child. We should have been without Livingstone, who was one of 18 children, brought up not in an up-to-date house, but in a two-roomed bothy. We should never have had Alfred Tennyson, James Watt, Wellington or Nelson; and, most important of all, Lord Randolph Churchill would never have been born, and therefore we should not have had the present Prime Minister in the world to save the world and civilisation after Dunkirk.
§ Mr. Sorensen
Might I ask the hon. Member to explain what is the point of this? Does he mean that people ought to have families of 18 and 20?
§ Sir F. Fremantle
No; but that you would have had only one-tenth or one-fifth of your present leaders and men and women of genius.
§ Mr. Sorensen
The hon. Member has not answered my question. I want to know whether we are to encourage families of 18 and 20 being born in two rooms?
§ Sir F. Fremantle
The idea should be to encourage families of four and five. Then we should have had Lord Randolph Churchill and the present Prime Minister. That would be better than families of two or one or no children. Elie Bois in his book, "The Truth of the tragedy of France" explains it when he says the men were no longer there; France had no longer men like Poincairé, Briand and Ciemenceau.Our families are dwindling away," cried Jules Simon, "our country is dwindling with them, our race is doomed.We see the importance of population when we look at the British Empire. Max Nordau, in dealing with neo-Malthusianism, said the point was not that a limited acreage of country could support a certain population, but that 603 science had increased fertility to such an extent that by intensive cultivation as practised in China, Europe could support 1,000,000,000 people instead of 400,000,000 people as at present, Canada could support 120,000,000 instead of only 11,000,000, and Australia 50,000,000 where there are now only 7,000,000, South Africa could support a white population of 20,000,000 instead of 3,000,000. Kenya and Rhodesia are practically empty. As contrasted with that, we have the teeming millions of China, India and Japan, ever increasing in number. Is it possible that we can continue to keep these blank empty spaces of the Dominions for the white races, let alone our own race, in the face of these teeming millions who are gradually being educated to Western ideas and perhaps learning the professions of the Atlantic Charter, and the rights of all nations? Is it possible to contemplate that without intense anxiety? That anxiety was felt by the great Commission into the Birthrate in New South Wales, about 1900 or 1902; which showed their recognition of the problem. Yet nothing has been done; their birth-rate has not been increased. This Debate will help to show how the public then, as now, had not got to the root of the problem.
Then, thirdly, we have to take account of the causes. Attention has been drawn to the influence of contraceptives. They are not the cause generally of the decline. My hon. Friend the Member for Skipton (Mr. Rickards) gave us an analogy, which is generally interesting but a little difficult to follow, in relation to the history of the Roman Empire. He seemed to think that Augustus Caesar had tackled the problem by improving health and housing, and I am not sure that he did not say in schemes of maternal welfare, child allowances and so on. He did not say that nevertheless, in the opinion of all historians, Rome perished for lack of population: that it was the decline in the birth-rate which brought about her fall.
§ Viscountess Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)
Did not Christianity have something to do with the fall of Rome?
§ Sir F. Fremantle
No, it raised its power in every way. Historians all agree upon the causes of the fall of Rome. I would refer my hon. Friend to Sir John Seely. When a nation gradually gets into 604 a position that she is developing from a material standpoint, she naturally falls into the trap of material luxury. The rest follows. If you are dealing with children from a purely material standpoint, they are against material luxury; as it was in the old days of Greece and Rome, and right back to older civilisations; more primitive people are brought in to help in domestic and manual labour, and by degrees those imported people get to the higher positions, as the slaves did in Rome. They intermarry, the purity of the race is diluted, and the race disappears. There were alternatives to contraceptives in those days, such as abortion and infanticide. Therefore, those who condemn contraceptives nowadays are lending themselves to a tendency, which we in the medical profession unfortunately know only too well, towards abortion, although not infanticide. Contraceptives are undoubtedly a means, though not the cause, of the decline in recent years. Are they to be condemned wholesale under every condition, as they are by Catholics? This is one of the vital questions we must consider. It has been suggested in the Debate to-day that they should be absolutely excluded. I think that any of us who has any knowledge of the population, and of the younger generation especially, knows that that is impossible. Moreover, it is a wrong principle.
Contraceptives are the result of the human mind being given to invention in order to defeat the less pleasing side of nature that is surrounding it. They are on the same analogy as anæthetics, which similarly were denounced by the Church, especially when they were brought in to save women from the pains of childbirth. Such things as these, and gunpowder, petrol, electricity, chemistry, come to speak to the churches in their own language—by the hand of the Creator. They are part of the struggle of man against his surroundings. They have a use. I consider that the use of contraceptives for the natural and proper spacing of families is right, and indeed that it is enormously helpful if we see that they are used only for that purpose. They should be used properly, but they must be regulated. Prohibition, no. We have the example of prohibition of alcohol in the United States too vividly in our minds. I think that something can be done in the way of regulating the use of contraceptives. Those 605 of us who have been in touch with social work among the people, especially among the younger generation, during this war must be alarmed, and indeed horrified, at the extent to which sexual promiscuity is going on. It seems almost the rule in certain very large circles. It is the natural result of contraceptives and of the urge of life if you have no spiritual or moral authority against it. The tendency nowadays is to discount moral or any other authority until it has shown the power to make you obey it, In the days before the Reformation the Church had recognised authority. That was thrown off, and the authority of the Bible was substituted. Now the authority of the Bible has gone. It is still preached in the churches very largely in such an anachronistic manner that the morals do not appeal to the younger generation. That is one of the things to which the churches must turn their attention. They must re-establish the reason for the moral ride.
One of the reasons why we in the medical profession are so alarmed is that the use of contraceptives, used apparently harmlessly, is believed to be to a great extent—we do not know to what extent —responsible for much of the unwanted sterility at present. I have reason for saying that, not least in a debate which I attended at the Obstetric and Gynaecological section of the Royal Society of Medicine. It seems perfectly clear that the virgin womb is largely affected by contraceptives, with a sterilising result II that is proved true, that should be preached right and left to the lay mind. I believe the strongest moral law to lay down to the population is to tell every boy and girl that the girl's virginity is—to put it in their own language—her ace of trumps. That is to be impressed not only on the girls but on the boys they have to respect the girl's ace of trumps. There is a great deal of unwanted sterility at the present time, and I believe that when we go into the matter we shall find that much of it is due to the abuse of contraceptives. I am not sure that one of the lines to be explored is not that contraceptives, on the analogy of poisons—without putting them under the Poison Acts—should not be allowed to be, directly or indirectly, distributed to the unmarried, at any rate under a certain age, and that they should be allowed to be distributed and sold only under a definite certificate, as regards 606 their use being right or wrong, from the justices or the medical profession. I do not put that forward as a definite proposal, because it requires a great deal of thinking about and of discussion.
Another obstacle which should be removed is the obstacle of housing. A most disgraceful case was brought before me only last week. It happened outside my constituency but it was thought to be inside, and I dealt with it, besides sending the facts on to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Watford (Group-Captain Helmore) for him to deal with also. A woman wrote to me, saying that her husband was working in a factory in Watford. They had one small room between them. She was expecting a baby and the landlord had given her notice that, because she was expectant, she must leave. They could not get any alternative accommodation in Watford, and they have had to go back to Kent, to the small cottage which he and his wife had lived in there, and to travel back and forth from Kent to his work. That is absolutely shameful. The local authority were informed, but they did nothing; I suppose they could do nothing. A solicitor was approached, and he ruled that the landlord was within his rights and that nothing could be done. That is a matter to be looked into. The idea expressed from the other side that motherhood should have special rights as regards employment will, I hope, be dealt with. Those of us who had responsibility for housing after the last war know only too well the pressure that there always is to have small houses with only two bedrooms, because a very large number of families do not want any more. There must be a few such houses, but the mere fact of there being a number of houses with only two bedrooms, or one bedroom and a landing, is a factor in keeping down the birth-rate unnecessarily. We must deal also with the material proposals of the Beveridge Report, family allowances, school care and so on.
But the main cause was well expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) in his splendid speech. It is that the family instinct is gradually being suffocated by the love of comfort and pleasure. Primarily women in the industries and professions want to earn money. As the hon. Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) has said 607 over and over again, they desire a career, taking it for granted that the career is essential. The only point I should like, not to quarrel with but to argue quietly with my hon. Friend the Member for "lanelly about, is that I think he is bypassing the real problem if he is going to try to get a scheme to combine the external money-making career of a woman with her home family obligations. I do not think it is possible. It will be strongly pushed forward by women with the ability of the hon. Member for West Fulham, with a large number of her sex behind it, but opposed by a number of others of her sex, including the council of seven who have distributed useful literature on this subject. Sooner or later we shall have to recognise that is, if we are to keep up the population of this country and of the Empire—that this war has given us a wrong turn. There is a great temptation because women have discovered means of making money and of being better off than they were. I do not believe that that is compatible with family life. There have been good reasons for sex equality but if you really examine it, you find that it does not work out as suggested. The women's movement has become an anti-population movement, very largely because there is a wrong division of the male and female shares in national life. That is what the inquiry for which we are asking the Minister will have to go into; what is the proper division of the male and female shares in national life. I do not want to under-rate the magnificent work of women in the world, but we do not want to shift burdens from men to women, or relieve men of their responsibility to women, or to weaken our instinct of chivalry. Woman has to be protected, not only because of the nature of her being, for she is very often stronger both spiritually and morally. Teachers—naturally from the nature of their calling—are often spinsters and these, again, cannot be said to be able to speak of family life in the same way as married women. There must always be some bias against the family point of view in the teaching profession and that is one of the difficulties which have to be met.
Finally, there are certain definite remedies and that is a fourth part of the problem. There are the material remedies with which I have already dealt and there is the remedy of teaching both the 608 adolescent and the adult the joy of family life. When there is proper provision for it, there is joy in family life and in the relationship of brothers and sisters to one another. I may be prejudiced, being one of a large family, but I look back with intense satisfaction and delight on the help, support, fun, and happiness derived from the brothers and sisters with whom I was brought up. I want the churches to recognise the need for spacing of families and in order to do that, to recognise the need and the value of contraceptives. They have to face this problem as they faced the problem of anaesthetics. When Bishop Samuel Wilberforce denounced the use of anaesthetics it was Queen Victoria who made use of them, to give the example; and the objection was overcome. In the same way the proper value of contraceptives must be recognised. I propose that there should be legislation to control the sale of Conservatives. [Laughter.]
§ Sir F. Fremantle
I meant, of course, the sale of contraceptives. I withdraw any reflection I may have made on any one political party. I think we must try to find the remedy mainly in public opinion. It is public opinion that can recognise the need and deal with it. Families have to be based on the natural laws of reproduction and on ideas of Christianity. There is an ideal, which is the ideal of classical art, and the more you can teach people the ideal of classical art and duty, the more they will approach this subject in the proper way. We must take up a stronger line with regard to divorce. We cannot always blame those who indulge in it, but divorce is of the devil, and ought to be recognised as such. People who marry should recognise that they marry for better or worse, and not only for better. That should be recognised by public opinion, as it was until the last 50 years or so. Ministers should emphasise family life as being essential to patriotism. I have asked the present Minister and previous Ministers of Health to pay attention to this point when dealing with patriotism, but so far they have not done very much in that direction. Ministers should recognise the importance of 609 family life in relation to the post-war planning. Medical ethics should be part of nursing education. Doctors and nurses could perhaps do more to influence the population for good and also influence the underlying ideas of the younger generation. For the most part young people hide their difficulties from their elders and so-called betters and from their moral teachers, but they do not hide them in the same way from doctors and nurses. Eugenics should be an essential part of physiology and of public health. The family doctor, the district nurse, the health visitor could do much to get this. reorientation of the idea of family life. We want a general and not a statistical inquiry. But we must beware; for most civil servants and most of us in this Committee are prejudiced, perhaps unconsciously, by the fact that most of us are sinners in this way. How many of us are there who can say that we have had a family of half a dozen or even four?
§ Sir F. Fremantle
I know the hon. Lady can. The hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Hayday), who used always to speak of it with pride—and rightly so—has a family of at least 14 children. Lastly, I hope that in addition to this inquiry we shall urge the Dominions and the United States to consider this problem now with a view to the post-war world.
§ Viscountess Astor
I really think that the last speech showed us the necessity of bringing another point of view into this Debate. The hon. Member made a sneer at maiden ladies.
§ Viscountess Astor
Yes, you did. If we had listened to maiden ladies for the last 50 years, we would not have been in the mess we are now. Some of the greatest reformers who have ever lived have been unmarried women. There is nothing I resent more than the idea that because women are unmarried they do not know anything about children. The greatest social work that has been done in this country has been done by unmarried women.
§ Viscountess Astor
Not only was she a great nurse but she was a great organiser. I have been in this House for a long time but I would not have dared to make statements that I have heard men make to-day on a subject on which I do not consider that they know a great deal about, but I do not want to be rude. It is amusing to hear them talk in the way they do. This is an interesting Debate and it is particularly interesting to me because the question of population has, all of a sudden, begun to rouse the country. They are all getting worried and do not know what to do about it. I agree with some of the things in nearly every speech made. I believe that the hon. Lady the Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) may get what she is asking in 25 years, and I do not promise it to her earlier than that.
§ Viscountess Astor
I absolutely approve of it, but I know that even the richest men do not want to tell their wives what money they get. I know that. They will tell you almost everything but not what they have got, and women are just as bad If they happen to have anything, which they seldom do. The question of population is really vital, but I am far more interested in the question of the kind of population than I am in numbers. An hon. Member referred to France. It is not the size of your population that is so important, but the quality. I recently read a speech by a doctor, rather a wise doctor in some ways, who made a plea that there should be a Ministry of Reproduction, separated from the Ministry of Health and divorced entirely from surgery and medicine. He went on to say that the Ministry he would like to see should be run by men who had given their lives to the study of motherhood and the origin of life. Run by men! Childbirth is a subject of supreme importance. We are seeking a new philosophy. I believe that our Christian philosophy went fundamentally wrong. The Churches have to get the right outlook on the question of women. Give the women some of the privileges of the Church, and let them do the preaching and the men do the practising, and then you would see a great change.
It is all very well to talk about the size of populations. We are talking about 611 Western civilisation. What has made Western civilisation? A grain of Christianity has made Western civilisation. We do not think that it is perfect, but it is paradise compared with the Eastern civilisation. I do not believe so much in numbers as I do in qualities. I am not worried about the great masses in China and in the East as long as we in this Western civilisation are true to our principles. A woman can give a child birth but she can only give it spiritual life by giving it some concept of God. I read this morning something from St. John which struck me forcibly:And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.Man has assumed that God made man in His own image and not woman. The Archbishop of Canterbury is making many reforms in the Church to-day, and one of the fundamental reforms he has to make is to get spiritually-minded people, whether male or female, to do spiritual work. We have to get a Christian outlook on life. That is not a thing we can sell, but a thing we have to give. Bad as our society is, it is far better than any other society in the world. I want it to go on being better, but it will not be better until the House of Commons and the country change their outlook about women. I could go far back to St. Augustin and the time of 18 children, but I will not, except to say—that I agree with family allowances—that the happiest people in the country to-day are those with large families. They have the best time, because the fact that they have so many children makes them forget themselves and think about others. I know of families of six, seven and eight, some in three rooms and some in four, which are far happier than those in the Ritz Hotel or who are dodging life in other ways—not that the only dodgers are in the Ritz Hotel or in the West End; there are dodgers in the slums as well. Some people want large families and will have them. I do not think the Government can do very much about this question of the birth-rate. Women must settle that for themselves. Some women after the war will want large families. Young people have said to me, "I was the only 612 one in the family, and if I marry I want to have a large family." But a great many will not want large families. I think the suggestion made by the hon. Lady the Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) was one of the most constructive which has ever been made in this House, but because it is so constructive we shall have to wait 25 years before its fulfilment is realised.
I remember someone saying that after the last war the reason for our high standard of living was because of our financial investments abroad. I am not at all certain that this generation is not living on the spiritual investments of our forefathers. Unless people live what they know to be true this country will not go on. There is a feeling in the country to-day about which the Government know very little; if they did, they would have been bolder. They would he worried about the things that matter. They have never given a lead on all sorts of social and moral questions. The Ministry of Health have been thoroughly unprepared to deal with the problems that have arisen. I am amazed that in the fourth year of war we should be advertising for matrons to look after hostels for evacuee children. Before the war began some of us went to the Ministry and warned them of what would happen, but nobody paid any attention. The Ministry will soon get up and present us with facts and figures, but we all know that if a little more vim, vigour and courage had been shown, and that if the people who-know had been consulted. things would have been far better. Hon. members have talked about social conditions which, they said, had come as a shock to the country. It was no shock to us. We have known for years that out of 600,000 children born 25,000 were still-born, that 33,000 died before the age of one and that 11,300 died between the ages of one and two. We had the remedies for it. which we have been trying to impress on the Government for a long time. We knew that of 800,000 children between two and five only ro,000 went into nursery schools. When I used to ask how many school-children there were with infected heads I used to be jeered at and told that I was insulting the working classes. I used to be yelled down. What have the Government, the Churches and the country done about the question of birth control? Our Lord preferred a 613 harlot to a hypocrite. There is a lot of hypocrisy being talked about birth control. If the Government had shown courage, they would have arranged for birth-control advice at health centres before 1930. Nearly 4,000 women have died in childbirth, many as a result of abortions because they could net get the proper advice. I do not believe in the free sale of contraceptives; it is all wrong, but it is. the Government's fault. If they had controlled them in the way they should have been controlled, married women would have been able to get the knowledge they required. It is a serious, dangerous and terrible thing, for which we must blame ourselves, especially the men of the country, because they have been in control of the Government. Women have had very little say.
I came to this House in 1919. It took a war to get women the vote. The Labour Party appointed one woman to a job which was the worst in the world and at the worst time. The Tory Party had a woman Minister of Education but did not keep her long, and there are only two women members of the Government now. Women have always been given the subordinate positions, and the country has suffered. I see it everywhere I go. One of the reasons is that in the last war we lost 1,000,000 men, a great many of whom if they had lived would have been social workers, and the consequence has been that you have very good women trying to work out the policy of second-class men. One has to be a good party woman to be appointed to the Government. I resent being told that I am a Fascist. I am an agitator, not a dictator. This Committee must change its whole outlook. I do not like being reminiscent; I only look back to go forward, and I cannot look back too far. A great many Committees have been appointed since the war. The Ministry of Health have appointed II Committees. On the Midwives Committee there were only 12 women out of 25; on the Rushcliffe Committee 17 women out of 41.
§ Viscountess Astor
On another Committee there were no women at all; on the Central Housing Advisory Committee there were only three women out of 23 members.
§ Viscountess Astor
The Government do not know the good people of the country. When the war started I went to some members of the Government and asked them to direct their attention to the good and knowledgeable women. Nobody paid any heed. It is outrageous. The Government still take a backward view, but the women of the country are thinking about these questions as much as anyone. If I worked as hard as the Minister of Health, I might have been on the Front Bench myself. I know a good deal about children; I have spent 20 years in this House and have always stood up for nursery schools and social welfare. Was I ever asked for my advice? No. I was never consulted. I could have saved the Government a lot of trouble. I could have told them that if they wanted married women and children, they should provide nurseries for children from two to five and let women with children under two years of age stay at home, because that is where they ought to be. In fact, I did tell them this, but they did not heed it. They said they would have minders. It is disgraceful. I am all for the Government's social services—I would stand up and fight the Russians or any others about them—in 25 years we have made enormous strides. But we have spent the money wrongly, because of the psychological-superior air of men. I believe we have the nucleus in this country to build a really good paradise. The hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) made the kind of speech which we seldom hear in this House. There has been no bitterness in this Debate, no pointing of fingers at one another. We are all together; we want to build a new kind of world founded on Christian ideals, but we shall not be able to do it unless there is a complete change of attitude on the part of the Government.
The Government must use the best material they can. They cannot afford not to use it. The war has shown us how few people there are of really first-class ability. The country will need every one of them. Before the Plymouth blitz, if anybody had asked me whether I would take an administrative job, I would have refused, but after seeing the way men have done their jobs I would take one to-morrow. You must get rid of the "duds," not give them jobs. You 615 have to make decisions quickly and not be afraid. You cannot tell me that women have not the right kind of courage. We have shown physical, spiritual and moral courage, and we are willing to do anything for our country, both in peace and war. I beg the House of Commons to keep at the Government and make them give the lead we all want. That is all I want to say. I am getting nearly as longwinded as the men.
§ Mr. Maxton (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I feel I ought to make some sort of apology to the promoters of the Debate. I entered what I thought was a mild protest against having the hours of labour in this establishment unduly increased. I have always taken the view that additional Sittings should be held whenever there was some really urgent, important matter which required immediate attention. When I heard that we were being summoned for an additional day specially to discuss the trend of the population, I felt that it was not so urgent as to justify the inconvenience that we should be put to by being drawn from other activities when we had established for ourselves freedom from Parliament at the weekends. I had not understood from the title, "Trend of Population," that it was to be a day when we should roam over the whole field of human effort, human activity and human endeavour and consider both this world and the world that is to come, that we should look forward to preparing for the 1967 war and that we should look back and take lessons from Caesar Augustus, which was, I think, some time B.C. I am not going into the merits or demerits of Caesar Augustus. The days when I was a classical student are so far away that I could not do justice either in supporting Caesar Augustus or opposing him. All I know is that he was a dictator and that he has been dead some 2,000 years.
So far this has been a great Debate. It takes me back to the piping times of peace, when a very diminished House on a Friday afternoon talked at large on any topic that happened to come into their heads, and always went out by the same door as in they went. Though I have enjoyed the Debate, and hope to continue to enjoy it—I have listened to every speech that has been made—I think it is a gross misuse of a Supply Day, and I 616 hope the House of Commons will be sufficiently alert not to allow this to become the established practice, or we should very soon lose the controls over financial matters which have been established after a very considerable period of experience.
Both the first two speakers have used the occasion and the subject to advocate certain social reforms which I support. Indeed, I think my own political party 20 odd years ago was the only one which definitely stood for family allowances, and, if I am not mistaken, we introduced a Bill on the subject during the 1929–31 Parliament. But I never dreamt, when I was advocating family allowances, that they were going to influence the trend of population upwards or downwards, nor would I dream of using them for that purpose. I may have very old-fashioned views about the relationship between the sexes, family affection, the feeling between husband and wife, and father and daughter, but I cannot bring myself to believe that these things should be regulated by the offer of petty bribes, nor do I think they should be influenced by longterm considerations of statemanship like those which the hon. Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) raised. As an individual human being, putting myself out of the way as a politician or statesman, I do not want to regulate my personal life or to control, inhibit, or give rein to my personal affections because of what is going to happen to the British Empire in the year 1990 or 2000. I know that that is old-fashioned and unscientific and sentimental, but that is my view, and I have a feeling that that is the view of a tremendous number of ordinary people like myself.
§ Sir E. Grigg
All civilised individuals must be interested in the question whether civilisation is on the way to extinguish itself. That is the point that I raised.
§ Mr. Maxton
I agree that it is an interesting subject for thought, and I hope I give it as much thought as most people. I read right through the debate that Noble Lords had a few weeks ago, and I read with very great interest one that they had some three years ago, and I have read sundry books on the subject. It is an interesting topic for conjecture. But the hon. Gentleman does more than that. He says in so many words that we must maintain the power of Great Britain and the British Empire.
§ Mr. Maxton
The Noble Lady agrees with the hon. Gentleman that we must maintain the power of Great Britain and the British Empire and that that power depends upon our numerical strength [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman said so. He was interrupted by the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and in response said, "Yes, power."
§ Mr. Maxton
The hon. Gentleman made a speech about the necessity of increasing the population of the country so that we should be in a position of power in relation to the other peoples of the world.
§ Sir E. Grigg
The hon. Member is representing me as saying that numbers are the only thing that matter. I said nothing of the kind. I said the population is important but, of course, the quality of the population is just as important as the quantity. That is what he is refusing to recognise.
§ Mr. Maxton
I could discuss with the hon. Gentleman the question of improving the intellectual and moral quality of our people, but to-day we are not talking about that. We are talking about quantitative increase so that in future wars, or at council tables, we can go to the table with bigger battalions behind us. You are setting both the men and the women of the nation a tremendous task if you ask us to get an terms of numerical equality with the people of China or Russia, or even the United States. It is going to take some doing to bring ourselves from some 45,000,000 to be able to face up to other nations of the world on grounds of numerical strength.
§ Mr. Maxton
I know that there are people of British stock situated in different parts of the world, but the hon. Member will remember the part of the speech of the hon. Lady behind me, which I appreciated most, in which she pointed out that, although we had suffered repeated defeats by the Romans, the Normans, the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes, we had acquired national characteristics that had made us the finest agglomeration that 618 could be found in the world. The hon. Gentleman cannot hope that people of British origin will go to the four corners of the globe to live under different political conditions and still retain the same characteristics that they had when they were on this island, nor can he assume for a minute that when they come round the council table the descendants of British stock in South Africa, or the United States, will necessarily take the English view of the problems to be confronted.
I think we want to know, as a nation, first of all what we are trying to do with this population question. Though we have been discussing this for over four hours, everyone has tacitly accepted the view that we want the population to increase. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not to decline."] Is it the one or the other? [An HON. MEMBER: "First one and then the other."] You want to maintain our present 40,000,000 odd and then to get more and more. Is there to be any upper limit? I think that some of the problems of India and China have arisen just because there was no upper limit, no consideration of prudence and forethought at all. You say we can afford to go ahead increasing our population recklessly? [Interruption.] I understand now that we have got to have it rationalised, that we must do it by numbers, as it were. I gather that what we want is first to stabilise our present population somewhere in the neighbourhood of 45,000,000. Why that number, and not 40,000,000 or 35,000,000 or 30,000,000? I do not know why that number should be regarded as a good number. Having stabilised it, we want to start and increase it, but there should be no upward limit and it must be done carefully at so much per annum. The people who tell us this are the same people who tell us that 'they object to Socialism because it means regimentation. I have felt that hon. Members have talked to-day about human beings very much as I have heard Ayrshire farmers talk about Ayrshire cattle. In that part of the world we are very proud of our Ayrshire cattle. They have tremendously good records. They are the finest producers of milk. They have held the British championship on several occasions. I have felt that a lot of the discussion to-day was talking about human beings and the most intimate, most sacred, most private human relationship 619 in the same terms as these farmers talk about their Ayrshire cattle.
§ Mr. Maxton
I always thought there was some little distinction between a human being and a cow. The present position, after much experience, thought and cogitation, seems to be that people are not reproducing their species in the reckless way in which they did it in the century preceding about 1870. There has been a suggestion running through the Debate that there was something unpatriotic, some dodging of responsibility, some bad ideas in the minds of the people because they were not reproducing their species in the same reckless way that the mayfly and some other of the lower species in nature reproduce. I am certain that that is not the fact. It is because man has become a very reasonable, a very sensible and very forward-looking individual, and not because he is bad or vicious or mean or lacking in the sense of responsibility.
Two or three years ago we had a Debate in the Scottish Grand Committee on a Bill to make it compulsory in Scotland that still-births should be registered. I was practically the only opponent of the Bill. It was urged as being a necessary thing for the study of infant mortality, maternal mortality and the population problem that still-births should be registered. I could not see the point of it. I could not see how it could help the study of infant mortality, maternal mortality or the decline in population that the father of a still-born child should walk to the registry office and pay 6d. to have it entered in a book.
§ Mr. Maxton
The hon. Gentleman does not know. Members of the Scottish Grand Committee, some of them as eminent members of the medical profession as the hon. Gentleman, could not tell me. I asked the Committee, "How is it going to help us in the study of the problem of declining population?" and I suggested that members of the Committee should start the study nearer their own homes. I pointed out the fact that the then Secretary of State for Scotland, the Under-Secretary, the Lord Advocate and five other prominent Members of the Committee, all men of normal age, good physical 620 specimens, all above the average of intelligence, all men who had demonstrated their public spirit and their interest in the welfare of the nation—eight of them sitting in the Committee Room in Westminster Hall—and there was not one of them who had provided one child for the next generation.
§ Mr. Maxton
Where is the shame? Will somebody get up and explain what was the wrong that they were doing?
§ Mr. Maxton
These were men who, I am satisfied in my mind, wanted to do the best for the times in which they were living. It did not enter into the minds of any of them that procreating their own species was one of the responsibilities that they ought to shoulder.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)
There are other considerations with regard to procreation besides the desires of the man.
§ Mr. Maxton
When we come on to this ground I do not think the Legislature has anything to do except to agree with the hon. Lady the Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) in the necessity for changes to make sex equality a real thing, but in my personal experience, as one who has been married twice, the man who wants to be a father is not met with any opposition from a woman on the ground that she does not want to be a mother. I do not want to pursue it any further, except to say that in my experience the urge on the part of the woman to be a mother is stronger than the urge upon the man to be a father. I do not accept that as an alibi for my hon. Friends on the Scottish Grand Committee. Nor would I put it forward as an alibi in my own case. I am a father only to the minimum extent of one child, but that is not because of personal selfishness on my part, not because I was tremendously concerned with my financial or social position, not because I wanted to save money or anything of that sort, but because I wanted to be out and about doing a 621 hundred and one things that I thought were of first-class importance; and I felt that if I were to be a father on a large scale, I could not be wandering about all over the country and be fair to them and to the mother.
I spent a weekend a fortnight ago with a brother of mine in the country who has four delightful little children of five, six, seven and eight. When you talk about pleasure, entertainment and amusement, you cannot get anything finer than spending time with youngsters of that age. The mother, a woman of academic attainments, a professional woman, has now been on the job steadily for nine years. When somebody spoke about professional women having children and carrying on their careers as well, it is just not possible. Both that father and mother, although they have wider interests and other activities, have made up their minds that for this particular section of their life it will be their work, their pleasure and their recreation to have children. Others of us have said, "No, we. want to do the other thing, to get out and about and do the things that are worth doing, mainly, in my view, intellectual things, and we cannot afford a scramble of kids running about our heels all the time." In my view, that is the frame of mind which tends to improve the quality of the race.
There is another thing and a more serious thing operating when it comes to the question of bringing children into the world. An increasing number of people are asking themselves, "What for? What is the purpose of it?"—asking that question quite apart from the horrors of recurring wars. After thousands of years of recorded history, after all the advances in science, after all the preaching of religion, they are asking themselves whether the game is worth the candle. I was reading not long ago a book by Dean Inge, his autobiography.
§ Mr. Maxton
That may be; but he has lived longer than most of us, and his lines have been cast in very pleasant places. In summing up his life, he puts himself on record as agreeing with Lord Haldane, who had also lived longer than the average, and whose life had also been cast in pleasant places, that he would not try it 622 again, that once was enough; and I am satisfied in my own mind that unless we can find better ways of living, better kinds of human relationships, more intelligent objectives for the human race, getting solutions for the cruder material problems and getting rid of the idea that the acquisition of material things is the chief end of man on this planet—unless we can get that, then the human race will more and more come to the conclusion that they are not going to take the responsibility of bringing children into a world which has not proved to them worth the trouble of living in. I do not see how the Minister of Health is going to make the necessary changes in the world and in human relations that will bring to men a new urge in life and a new interest in life. My own faith is that since man from primitive beginnings has gone on, and on the whole progressed, and on the whole, in my view, in spite of the present condition of the world, become better and finer, has got through periods of downness and depression and recession and decadence, so I believe the men of our time will get through, and that new ideas and new urges will come into men's souls to make them appreciate the greatness of the adventure of life and the worthwhileness of it. But if that is going to come along, it is going to be by great revolutionary changes and not by offering mothers 5s. a week for the first child and 6d. more for the second.
§ Mr. Higgs (Birmingham, West)
I rise to support the line of thought that was expressed in part of the speech just delivered by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), but I must also inform the Committee that I have not the slightest intention of joining his party.
§ Mr. Maxton
The last part of that statement is of first-class importance to this proposal that we are discussing. I presume the hon. Member's reason is because he would not then be on the side of the big battalions. He prefers quantity to quality.
§ Mr. Higgs
I have not got a reply to that. Increasing population is usually coupled with prosperity and decrease in population with depression. Of course, that is so if the standard of living remains constant, and it is only good for those nations which can feed themselves. I consider that a gradual decrease in the population of this country could not be 623 detrimental. Why is it that this arbitrary figure of 46,500,000 has been represented as the right figure for the population of this country? The hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) referred to the population of China. Every province of China is much less densely populated than is this country. We have 700 people to the square mile, in a country with an area of something of the order of 58,000 square miles. In the Chinese Republic the population is something of the order of 210 to the square mile. Europe, it has been said, could carry 1,000,000,000. If Europe was populated to the same density as this country, Europe could carry 1,400,000,000.
People do not realise our economic problem, which is entirely different from that of any other country in the world. It is very doubtful whether we can feed ourselves. If we plant more trees, we know we have to do with less mutton. If we have more milk, we get less corn. We are striving by every means to maintain the present population. We are not feeling the pinch to-day owing to a great extent to Lend-Lease. We have to look this fact in the face, that our conditions after the war will be very different from what they were pre-war. The hon. Member referred to fighting this war with a smaller population, and how we might have been at war with a country such as Russia, with her population of 160,000,000. I thoroughly support him when he says that we want a smaller population or a population better trained and better looked after. I would refer the Committee to an extract I have from a German Army Year Book of 1937, where it was stated:England's position in the world through the way her population is developing is serious and almost irretrievably threatened.The writer goes on to say that by 1950 Germany would have at her disposal 13,000,000 men of military age, between 20 and 45, whilst Great Britain would have 8,700,000. Where is that principle landing her to-day? What advantage is she gaining by having advocated an increased population, and achieved it, in the years between 1913 and 1936? Anyhow, we could not have fought this war alone. Another ro,000,000 population up or down would have made no difference whatever. I agree that the contraction of industry and the contraction 624 of population are painful processes. On the other hand the risk of maintaining the population is, I consider, greater than the possible benefits of it. I am not a little Englander, but I realise our natural limitations. Do not let us fool ourselves. We have got to feed ourselves. A short time ago I was in Mevagissey, where the pilchards come from. They were being gutted and the gulls were feeding. The gull population of Mevagissey is proportionate to the quantity of pilchards gutted. It is just the same with the human population. Nature will adjust it according to sustenance.
During this Debate the question of emigration has been referred to several times. At our peak period of emigration, from 1881 to 1891, 26 per cent. of the population went overseas. During that period our rate of increase of population was four times as great. We are proud of the fact that we have populated Australia, New Zealand, part of Canada and other parts of the world. We supplied the original stock only. Emigration will not settle our population problems.
The White Paper forecasts the condition of the population 30 years ahead. The fallacy of forecasts has already been exposed in this Debate. In the hungry 40's of last century, who would have dared to suggest an increase in population? Yet there was an increase of 100 per cent. in the next 50 years. That illustrates the difficulties with which we have to contend when we suggest that we can foretell the population years ahead. In a few years hence the White Paper will be forgotten or will have to be readjusted. Some people try to forecast the population Too years ahead. Statements have been made of that kind to the Committee today. We cannot say what will happen. It is impossible. The problem with which we have to concern ourselves in the immediate future is how we are to support the population we shall have immediately after the war. Before the war we were a great exporting nation. I have no doubt that as time goes on we shall ultimately achieve that position again; but the problem in the immediate future in the years following' the war is, What have we to export in order to pay for our imports?
We cannot maintain our standard of life without importing such commodities as non-ferrous metals, rubber, and leather. We have to send something overseas to get 625 those materials, and we have only coal and the products of labour. In addition to that, unless we can grow sufficient agricultural produce ourselves, we shall have to import a certain amount of food. When the war is over, other nations will not send us their goods and commodities unless we send them something in return. There I come back to the problem of maintaining our population. We have the most densely populated country in the world, but it will not be beyond our power to solve those problems. Those problems will not be solved more easily by increasing our present population.
Social legislation has been advocated as the means of increasing the population, but in the aged particularly social legislation is apt to work in the other direction. Having children is a sort of insurance against old age, but when the State is providing for the aged, children are not so necessary. I am not advocating an increased population, but I was referring to what I consider to be a fallacy. A little time ago I wrote to "The Times" and suggested that a gradual decrease in population would be beneficial, and I received a lot of correspondence, much of which was very contentious. I am surprised that during this Debate there have not been more speakers advocating a stationary or decreased population. The question we have to ask ourselves is: Will the larger population or even a stationary population improve our housing problems, clothe, feed, or govern our people better, or contribute to greater happiness? I say that in no case will a stationary or an increased population contribute to those things. I have great faith in the future of the British race, and even if our population does not increase, I am sure that our race will not become extinct.
§ Mr. Sorensen (Leyton, West)
It is obvious that as this Debate goes on, the population of this Chamber is going to decline considerably, but I hope that it will last a few more minutes, at any rate. I shall try to abbreviate my remarks, leaving on one side what has already been said and much of what I would like to have said, had we more time at our disposal. I was interested to note that the hon. Member who has just spoken was the only Member to refer to the incidence of emigration on the population of this country. It is rather ironical to reflect 626 that, only a few years ago, people were advocating the need for drastic emigration as a primary remedy for poverty and unemployment in this country, and that many facilities were being offered by our own country, and in other lands as well, to that end. Now, of course, things are altered and here we are very much concerned about the fact that, partly through the emigration that has taken place, our population has probably reached a stationary level and is likely to decline.
Very few Members who have spoken have given any indication to the Committee of what it is we need. Again, I am grateful to the last speaker, because he suggested that we should aim at a stationary population. That is my own position. I see no virtue at all in the everlasting multiplication of the human species. There must, obviously be a limit and that merely relates itself to a purely quantitative criterion. Equally I can see great dangers in a declining population. Although it is difficult to get, with mathematical certainty, a stationary population, I feel that i+ is at that we should aim.
In addition to the cumulative incidence of emigration over the past few years it is ironical to an even mordant degree to realise that war is accelerating that very decline of which we are so apprehensive. India, China, and other vast lands to which reference has been made, can afford to lose up to 10,000,000 people without the loss making much difference, whereas if we lose 1,000,000 men in this war it will make a profound difference to our future population. When one thinks of the extraordinary increase in the population in India alone in the last 10 years —a matter of 40,000,000—one can easily make some crude deductions. One comes to realise that in 1971, the date quoted by Sir William Beveridge, it is highly possible that India will have a population of 600,000,000, China some 700,000,000, the Soviet Union about 250,000,000, and the United States some 200,000,000, while we shall have a population of some 46,000,000 or less. Whatever other deductions we may draw from that comparison, at least there is this one, that will be a very severe challenge to every one of us: How can we expect, when we reach 1971 with those approximate figures, still to claim some kind of direct or indirect domination over other portions of the earth? Could any of those four 627 countries alone, with a total population of about 1,800,000,000, be dominated by ourselves with 46,000,000? Does it not indicate clearly that from the quantitative point of view at least, our day of domination is passing?
We have had many estimates of the future population. Professor Cannan as far back as 1895 was predicting that in 1971 our population would be only just over 37,000,000. Professor Bowley estimated that it would be by that year some 48,000,000 or 49,000,000, while Mr. D. V. Glass, basing his estimate on the figures reached by Dr. Enid Charles, gave us these figures: in 1971, on the lowest hypothesis 33,500,000 and on the highest hypothesis, 43,000,000, whereas at the end of the century the same authority estimates that on the lowest hypothesis we shall have 15,000,000 and on the highest hypothesis 38,000,000. Sir William Beveridge uses the figure of 46,000,000. All those predictions are subject to drastic qualifications from such influences as famine, war, pestilence and disease. The breaking up of political unity will also have an effect, possibly a stimulating one, on the birth-rate. I would say in passing that deliberate attempts on the part of States like Italy and Japan to stimulate their birth-rate are on the whole failures. Of course, immigration and emigration will both have their effects.
What will be the effect on us, for instance, of the large temporary or permanent émigré population from the oppressed countries? What will be the effect of marriages now taking place between thousands of Canadian, American and other soldiers with British girls? We do not know. All these will qualify any estimate, however accurate they otherwise might have been. Certain it is that whatever estimate we accept regarding the future, it is highly probable that our population will show a decline, whether drastic and catastrophic or gradual. This decline will obviously have a definite effect upon our social life. One thing that it may mean, I am sure, is the loss of influence by this country. Although we denounce rightly the Herrenvolk theory, we have largely practised it ourselves in the past. We cannot for all time proudly and somewhat arrogantly sing about Britannia ruling the waves if we find that 628 our numerical strength to maintain that ruling is gradually shrinking. Beyond a certain limit, quantitative factors induce a certain qualitative effect. The influence of a declining country begins to fade away until, when you take it to the extreme, a population of only a few thousands is most unlikely to have the influence enjoyed by a population of the size we have to-day.
Arising out of this argument, I would stress again the fact that British Imperialism and British domination will therefore inevitably decline, so far as one can estimate. Heretofore, we have assumed that our domination is one which we can impose upon others, but in view of cogent facts that assumption must fade.
It is certain, according to Sir William Beveridge and many others, that we have not only a declining population, but a top-heavy population. We shall have a population which, according to Sir William Beveridge, who bases his estimate on many authorities, of 20.8 per cent. of women over 60 and men over 65 years of age in 1971 and 16.5 who will be under 15 years of age. Obviously we shall then be looking backward, for most of our people will be elderly, and elderly people prefer to look backwards, having nothing very much to look forward to. If we had a juvenile population, it would have to look forward. From that standpoint alone I feel that this matter is worth the consideration which we have given it to-day.
There is another fact to which some reference has been made, and that is the economic effect. It is bound to have the effect of a certain economic transformation and contraction. In this connection I would like to quote from Mr. D. V. Charles, who has written on this subject. These words concisely express what I feel to be a large measure of truth:Our standard of life will be lower. Commodities we buy to-day are cheap largely because they are made by mass production methods.… If our numbers fall the whole cost structure of industry may be changed radically because it may no longer pay to manufacture goods in such quantities. This in turn may lead to the abandonment of the more efficient large-scale methods of production, with the result that the prices of most goods will rise.I have no time to analyse that, but there is much truth in it. In other words, it is quite likely that in years to come all those industries and people previously engaged 629 in making babies' bottles will then be making hot water bottles and those now making prams will be making bath chairs. We shall have a remarkable transformation of our economic system, not only with material results, but with psychological and ethical results as well. We shall have a contracting section of the population having to maintain the rest, and only if we can enormously expand our economic power shall we be able to meet the growing social demands of a new and enlightened electorate. I know there are those who point to small countries like Denmark and Switzerland and say, for example, that Denmark, with only 3,000,000 population, has a level of comfort and happiness without a large population which we might easily copy. The fallacy lies in the fact that Denmark and Switzerland are themselves largely dependent on larger countries. They are exporting countries or, as in the case of Switzerland, depend largely on the tourist traffic. I do not want to see this country reach a stage when it has to depend on visitors, say, from America and Russia who have to pay 2s. 6d. to see how we work in this House and 1s. 6d, for the other place. I would like to see us stand on our feet and, while warmly welcoming visitors, yet feel that we can do without them in the narrower sense of the economic value they mean to us.
The decline in population at least presents us with the pressing necessity for discriminating between mere quantity on the one hand and quality on the other. Therefore we should be considering now how we can make Britain great in a rather different sense of the word than has been associated with it in bygone days. Great Britain up to now has been frequently associated with magnitude of economic or military or naval power. I believe that under the stress of immediate facts we should look forward to a Britain great in cultural and moral values. Ancient Greece, a small country, has proportionately probably given more first-class men to the world than any of the Great Powers in the modern numerical sense. So it is possible for us to be small numerically and greater in the deepest sense of the word.
To glance briefly at the causes of this decline, many references have been made already. Emigration I have referred to. May I be permitted to underline yet 630 another cause to which I have made some brief reference—the cause of war? Let us realise that if we lose another 1,000,000 men in the course of this war, 1,000,000 potential fathers will be removed, and the process of decline will consequentially be accelerated. Few people appreciate the position. I have estimated in a very rough way that the net effect of this might very well be to make our population in 1971 not what it is estimated it will be by Sir William Beveridge, amounting to about 46,000,000, but perhaps some two or three million less. Further than that, we have to realise, as I said just now, that economic factors are undoubtedly directly or indirectly bound up with the question of population.
I would also point out that in bygone days working-class families were often lectured severely for their profligacy in producing families. Frequently they were told they had no right to have such a large family, though little was done in order to sustain that family and to enable that family to bear its burden. If one had time to refer to the various estimates of the minimum financial level to enable a family to live decently one could have quoted Sir William Beveridge, Sir John Orr, Cohn Clark, Seebohm Rowntree, the B.M.A., the T.U.C. and others who have brought very forcibly home to us this fact, that if the working-class population in the last 20 years had refused to bear children without a guarantee of economic standard of subsistence, the population of this country by now would have been at least 3,000,000 less than it is, including at least r,000,000 fighting men. So we owe a great debt to the "profligate" working classes in the slums of our country years ago for bearing more children than some said at the time they were entitled to bear.
But whatever significance there may be in the economic side, I am in entire agreement with one or two other speakers when I say that the basic cause, though contributed to and accentuated by economic factors, is not economic at all, but psychological. Surely that is borne out by the fact, though many, I know, have thought and assumed otherwise, that it is in the poorest families that numbers are largest and that as you go up the scale almost in the same ratio so you find a decline of the family. Among my friends of the lower middle class who are just comfortably off, 631 having nothing for luxuries but just enough to keep going, I found working it out that, taking a hundred of them, they average just over two children each. Had not one or two of them had four or five children, the figure would have been less. It is not for economic reasons, but because in my estimation the woman herself, often in agreement with the man, who wants to enjoy motherhood but does not want motherhood to become a tyranny. It is the tyranny of motherhood, not only economically but psychologically, that has caused revolt on the part of countless numbers of women. They want some measure of freedom, not to give less but to give more to their children, and to develop their own minds as well as their bodies. More women are saying, "Say what you please, we are determined to have greater fulness of life than our mothers or grandmothers had," not merely for selfish reasons, but often for really unselfish reasons. When we hear about small families arising from human selfishness, does it occur to those who say that to ask how many people have children for purely unselfish reasons? How many have them because of this abstraction which we call the State? An insignificant number. They have them because they want them or because they cannot stop them.
The question of selfishness does not enter into it in that way, although it does in the selection of our scale of values. I note that here many of us have found some unity to-day. Family allowances will help, and so will the Beveridge scheme. Some have spoken of the need of better housing and better education. All that will certainly help and are urgently needed, but in the long run when all these things are secured we may still find a declining population unless our whole scale of values is changed. That change of values, I think desirable, will only come back to us when we recover our deeper belief in life. Now, the old purpose is gone; the old standards have crumbled. The tragedy to-day is that most people have no standards of value. They have no purpose and are breathing a cynical atmosphere. In this war they go on with grim determination because they feel there is no alternative, but they are apprehensive, doubting, all the beliefs having gone from them and a spirit of bitter resignation seeping into their hearts. They have 632 a feeling that they are gripped by impersonal forces against which they cannot fight.
That, I know, is the feeling in a greater or less degree in an increasing number of people to-day, including younger people. They have no rich faith, no positive belief in life. Only when that belief in life and a creative purpose is restored shall we find children being born because they are looked upon as the most precious things in the world. So long as a woman thinks that these precious things are to be desecrated by war and treated as mere cannon fodder so long will she say, "I have other values than this and prefer those to bearing and creating life." Something must be wrong with society, something must be diseased, if it is declining. It does indicate that faith in creative life is passing away and that we are becoming passive instead of creative and dynamic. One phrase from the New Testament sometimes comes to me to keep my soul alive in these grim days. It is that New Testament reference to "The glory that shall be revealed in us." I apologise for quoting that if it is out of Order, yet I do so because I think that when men and women feel that there is a hidden glory in man that can be expressed in creative life and therefore in family life, then, and not until then, will they prove that life is stronger than death and feel that the greatest of all arts is the creation of children. The most creative aim of Britain should be to establish social security—in order that the true glory in the life of man might be more perfectly revealed.
§ Mr. Wakefield (Swindon)
The hon. Member, in the very fine words with which he concluded his speech, I think gave an answer to the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). He said that too many people in these days did not have families and children because there was no purpose in life, that they were without faith, that they had nothing really to keep them going. I agree with him that it will be necessary—and I think the war has played a part—to revivify and revitalise the need and demand for faith. You cannot tell me that our people, fighting as they are in the air, on the sea, in the Mediterranean and elsewhere, are fighting with that virility and purpose to come back merely to see racial suicide take place, 633 because if it is a sin for an individual to commit suicide, surely it is just as great a sin for a race to commit suicide. What I think concerns Members of this Committee is that there is now concrete evidence to show that we at this juncture are committing racial suicide.
When the hon. Member for Bridgeton said that this Debate was a gross misuse of the time of the Committee, I could not have disagreed with him to a greater extent. After all, if it was necessary in peace to prepare for war, surely it is just as vital now in war to prepare for peace. The sooner we do it the better, because of the great lapse in time which is bound to take place before any measures which may be put into operation now can take effect. Therefore, I would like to thank those responsible for initiating this Debate and for the facts which they have put before the Committee. Rather more than a year ago I raised this whole matter in my constituency, and it caused great interest, and indeed in some places great concern. The people in my constituency did not realise the position. I am sure that is equally so in the constituencies of other hon. Members. That is why I think it is a pity, whatever may have been the reason—and the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health gave reasons—that the Registrar-General's Report was issued in the way it was, which gave a false impression of the position.
Again in recent days the way in which the Press has pointed out the increase in the birth-rate tends to give a false impression that because of that increase all is well. I hope that the Government will take steps when reference is made to our reproduction position clearly to state the position. I drew the attention of my constituents to the position, and I said that while everybody, quite rightly, wanted a better standard of life for old age pensioners, that was not possible if the younger generation were not coming along to do the work. I said that no old person must expect to take out of the pool unless he had put something into the pool, and I asked how it could be expected that old age pensions could be paid if we did not reproduce. Failure to recognise that responsibility would have the result that instead of the present generation looking forward to higher old age pensions, they might have to look forward to no pensions. Startling 634 figures have been given showing the change-over of the position so that instead of one old person to five young the proportion is being steadily reversed.
The hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said he thought the reason why there was a decline in population was that women would not reproduce because they had fear of old age, fear of unemployment and fear of insecurity. But surely at the time when reproduction was greatest, it was because of that fear that the women had children. A family then was regarded as an asset. People had fear of old age but felt that if they had children the children would look after them in old age. They wanted children to help make the family more secure. Owing to social changes, that fear of insecurity has been largely removed, but it seems to me that we must press home the idea that unless you reproduce you cannot have security in old age.
The second point I would like to make is this: While agreeing that we must take the psychological aspect into consideration, we must also pay attention to the material aspect. So long as men and women who have families are substantially worse off than single people or childless couples, so long will you fail to find the necessary young people coming along. I would like to say that family allowances of 5s. or 8s. will not really make a family better off. I would like material advantages so given to the family that it is a disadvantage to be a single man. The family of one or two should be at a definite disadvantage compared with a family of four or five. If that were done, then I think there might well be a change in the position. I see no reason why it should not be done.
The hon. and gallant Member who opened the Debate made reference to a very interesting little book by Mr. R. F. Harrod, and in the concluding pages of that book there is a very interesting scheme set out to show that, whatever scale of income people may have, by taxation or compulsory contributions to insurance, it is possible to enable the family concerned not to be at a disadvantage because of the number of children. I hope the Minister of Health and the Government will study that to see what progress can be made along that positive and constructive road. The hon. 635 Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) quite rightly pointed out that people could not think 40 or 50 years ahead. They want some immediate target, something which they can see near and which they can readily understand. They can understand old age pensions, and if the position in regard to old age pensions is clearly put, that might make people realise the seriousness of the position.
When I said in my constituency that if we were to arrest the declining population it was necessary for each family to average four, which meant that if each family had only three children another must have five, I think that almost without exception my constituents were surprised. They thought that if they had two children, they had acted up to their national responsibilities and that that would maintain the population. Information of that kind should be more widely given to the country, so that people should know the size of family it is necessary to have if this country is not to decline in population. If we are to play our part in the world, if we all believe we have a mission still to discharge and a destiny still to fulfil—not a Herrenvolk mission of force, but with a democratic purpose and a mission of leadership, to show our way of thinking and our way of living to the world—we must make up our minds to see that a young and virile race follows in our footsteps.
§ Wing-Commander James (Wellingborough)
So much of the statistical basis of the subject has been touched upon that I only want to make a few observations. I have taken an interest for many years in this subject and both in this House and in my constituency have stressed the need for calling attention to population problems. I am surprised that in this Debate no reference that I have heard has been made to the appalling revelation made by evacuation of the conditions of a certain section of the population. A very interesting book which I think has not yet been referred to has just been published by the Oxford University Press, called "Our Towns: A Close-up," with a preface by Miss Margaret Bondfield. If there were anybody except one hon. Member on the opposite Benches, that should disarm them. I think this book gives the true answer to one very challenging and mis- 636 leading statement made by the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) in his otherwise interesting speech. He said—I hope I am not misquoting him—"There is nothing wrong with the quality of our population." May I make two very brief quotations from this book? The first is this:The tendency sometimes manifested in public life to stigmatise any reference to the more sordid aspects of social conditions as grossly traducing the working class is an unhealthy and obstructive one, while, incidentally, by no means all the children complained of came from the homes of the poorest.With that condemnation in mind, let me quote from another paragraph in the book in reference to what is called the submerged tenth. It is this:Within this group are the problem families," always on the edge of pauperism and crime, riddled with mental and physical defects, in and out of the Courts for child neglect, a menace to the community, of which the gravity is out of all proportion to their numbers. It is a serious matter that no study of this class of the population exists, and if this book serves only to focus attention upon the need for one, the authors will be well satisfied.In considering our population problem, this terrible problem of the submerged tenth is nearly always ignored. Many reforms cannot be effected unless this problem group is recognised. Nothing in any Debate has astonished me so much as to find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen), who in his concluding remarks rightly pointed out that the problem of population was not primarily an economic one. Quite obviously, since declining fertility is associated with a rise in the standard of living, the problem is not primarily one of poverty. I want to emphasise my point about the submerged tenth, the problem group, because no social problem worries me more than that of the child in the abnormal home, the child which has been exposed to view by the evacuation. It is a terribly sad problem and one to which I hope the Minister will refer in his reply.
The fact has been emphasised that the family must be the basis of home life, and that brings me to make reference to the difficult question of contraceptives. Whether it will be desirable, if possible —which I doubt—to abolish contraceptives at this stage is not a matter to which I want to refer now, but I do want to say that the unrestricted exposure of contraceptives is an unmitigated evil. I do not 637 know what power the Minister has, or whether legislation is needed, but it is so fundamental to the population problem that attention must be directed to it.
§ Mr. Sorensen
May I ask the hon. and gallant Member if he realises that where contraceptives are prohibited by law population still declines and that there are other methods of securing contraceptives than by purchasing from shops?
§ Wing-Commander James
I was only referring to this matter in passing, and I do not want to argue the question of contraceptives, because it is outside the scope of this Debate. It has however a direct relationship to the present position. When anybody of any age or sex can go into a chemist's shop and be served over the counter, that is a deplorable state of affairs. The hon. Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) dealt with the question of family allowances, and there I must express a measure of agreement which to me is rather surprising. On family allowances I would like to make a brief observation. The more I think about family allowances, the more I am driven to the conclusion that they should be given rather in kind than in cash, in order to make certain that they go to the child. The hon. Lady said they should go to the mother, but in many families even then they would not go directly to the child.
§ Viscountess Astor
I am perfectly certain that it is far better they should go to the mother, even if a few mothers do neglect their children. My view is that if they are given a sense of responsibility and money, they will do better.
§ Wing-Commander James
Had the Noble Lady been in the Chamber at the time she would have known that I was talking of the social problem group. It is in that group that this will operate, the submerged tenth. I regard family allowances as a matter more of the welfare of the child than of the encouragement of the birth-rate. There is a weakness in the Beveridge Report which seems to me rather surprising. I do not see how Sir William Beveridge, with his vast knowledge, came to overlook, when recommending a flat-rate scale of children's allowances, the social problem group. This is the more surprising as, a few weeks after his Report was published, Sir 638 William Beveridge, giving the annual Gal-ton Lecture, very directly referred to the social problem group.
Since the question of benefits in the higher-income ranges has been mentioned, I am going to quote very briefly from Sir William Beveridge's Galton Lecture. On the question of family allowances, Sir William Beveridge recommended in his Report a flat-rate scheme, beginning with the second child, payable to families in all income groups, but in the Galton Lecture he made it clear that in his opinion it was not only possible but desirable that there should be graded family allowance schemes, applicable to higher-income groups, to be administered concurrently with a flat-rate scheme. I believe that is a very important angle in relation to the encouragement of, or rather in the removal of deterrent from, a higher birthrate. Of course, Mr. Roy Harrod comes to it on his concluding-page. I very much hope that the Minister is going to tell us now that he will cause the necessary statistical basis, as asked for by Professor Carr-Saunders in "The Times" to-day, to be made available. We do not know quite enough about the problem yet, so I make a plea for a really strong inquiry, at the earliest possible moment, to supply the needed statistical basis.
§ Mr. Linstead (Putney)
In the short time that remains after the very long and wide-ranging Debate that we have had, there are one or two points which I would like to emphasise. I would like to join at once with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James) in the hope that the Minister will find it possible to put before the country some authoritative statistics and deductions from them. The more one goes into this population problem, the more one is faced not merely with statistics but with deductions from them, many of which are warped to suit preconceived theories. Before we can get a considered line on the subject, we need both the statistics and adequate deductions from them. The hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) seemed to me to put his finger upon the main cause of this decline in the population. I would join issue with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wellingborough when he says that a certain part of the problem is due to the use of contraceptives. What we, are 639 dealing with is a symptom and not the disease. The fall in the birth-rate is a symptom, as the hon. Member for Llanelly said, of a wide fear over this country to-day of such things as war, poverty, unemployment and lack of opportunity for children. It is those things that have to be remedied.
§ Wing-Commander James
I was not arguing about the effect of contraceptives on the birth-rate; I was dealing with the general moral question of allowing them to be exposed for sale without restriction.
§ Mr. Linstead
In that I whole-heartedly agree with my hon. and gallant Friend. I was saying that the actual fall in the birth-rate is not the disease, but only a symptom of what people are thinking about and worried about to-day. Remedies have been suggested in the Debate, and the remedies really involve a complete drive for vial improvement in every possible direction in the country. It is a question of new houses and of better health services. It is a question —and this has scarcely been touched upon to-day—of encouraging agriculture and country life, where you undoubtedly get a higher fertility rate than you do in the big towns. We must encourage opportunities for emigration; we must have a wholehearted employment policy and a wise nutrition policy. This is a challenge to the House and the country, to make a drive along the whole of that front; and, as the social services improve, I believe that you will find, automatically, the birth-rate being raised.
I would like to make one reference to the economic side of this subject, for there are economic as well as social causes, and when you have been preaching, as you have for years past, the value of thrift, of War Savings and of making provision for your old age, it is not surprising if your people begin to think in terms of being economical in children. To put it picturesquely, we might regard the State as a sort of highwayman, saying to the parents, "Your money or your life." If they get the money, they will not get the life. I think we can put these things together: the low birth-rate and the high rate of taxation and the big pressure upon people to save money. There is a challenge to us to remove those fears. If they can be removed, I am certain that the young men and 640 women of this country are as anxious to have families as ever their parents and grandparents were. If you can remove the fears, which, I think, prevent people from having families to-day, you will remove this disease about which we have been talking.
§ The Minister of Health (Mr. Ernest Brown)
I am sure that if there had been any doubts about the wisdom of using a day for discussing this subject, they have been dispelled in the course of the Debate. I gathered that even my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) had undergone at least a partial conversion. He made, in about five or six minutes, a really moving contribution to the Debate. I would say to the hon. Member if he were here that the rest of his speech was not in line with his usual abilities, largely, I think, because he takes rather a cynical view of the problems involved. But the Debate has been helpful, and the Chair has helped. My vote is on this occasion only a peg. It so happens that I answer for the Registrar-General, and I am glad to do so; also, I am responsible for the maternity and child welfare schemes of the country. But the Debate has shown that the topic of the trend of population is universal in its scope, and does not merely raise issues affecting this world, but involves other values than the values of this world.
I have detected at least four notes in this Debate. The first is a note of concern; the second a note of questioning; the third a note of suggestion; and the fourth, a very surprising note to me in the light of my experience in this House, an almost universal note of humility. Right through the Debate not one speaker has got up with the idea that he or she had a clear-cut solution for the problem that each had posed. Of course, all have not posed the same problem, but, on the whole, I think I shall be summarising the Debate accurately if I say that the majority of Members showed concern at the decline in population, not so much now, as in the years ahead, although there were some, like my hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Higgs), who were not quite so much concerned as others. If this topic had been raised 20 years ago in this House, I think there would have been more who would have shared his view. and fewer who would have shared what seems to me to 641 be the majority view in this Committee to-day. This note of humility is most interesting. It shows that even when Members have read this professor's book and that professor's book—and it is necessary to read all the experts with one thought in mind, namely, that they all leave something out, and that it is what is left out that matters in summing up conclusions—they have all been very Cautious in the conclusions that they have drawn. There has been a note of concern. It was expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) in his admirable speech. Now that my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton has returned to his place, I will tell him that I said that I thought he was, at least, partially converted to the idea that it was a useful thing to have had this Debate. I said that I was profoundly moved by five or six minutes of his speech, but, for the rest, I thought it had a note of cynicism which was not up to his usual form. Having said that in his absence, I thought I should repeat it in his presence.
§ Mr. Brown
I would agree with my hon. Friend as to the sadness, but my sadness is due to the fact that I do not like to think of cynicism in connection with my hon. Friend. I have found it a refreshing thing in all my contacts with him that he has rarely shown cynicism. I think that on this particular problem his speech showed that his sadness was rooted in an element of cynicism. I do not withdraw that unless he says that it was not so, and then I shall say that my reading of psychology was at fault.
There has, then, been a note of concern. Let me look at some of the facts and see where the concern lies. As I have already pointed out, this Debate has ranged over fields, national, imperial, international and universal, in the sense that a number of speakers have rightly stressed the profound significance of the spiritual issues involved. I am reminded of another thing in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton. He was making a comparison between the cow and the human being. One of the great distinctions between the other mammals and the human being, as far as we know, is that the human being can take thought for the future. That is what we are doing here, and that is why we are concerned. The 642 majority of the Committee are concerned. The concern arises because of the understanding in the Committee that there are many factors and feelings, very delicate and difficult ones, involved and that there is a great field here uncharted in terms of thought, feeling, argument and knowledge that somehow or other ought to be charted, that ought to be looked at wisely and nobly, and looked at not merely from the point of view of men but of women too and of little children.
Whatever cynicism there may be in an elderly House of Commons, I have myself always this refreshment in my soul, that if I am getting a little cynical and dubious about the future—and I do not often get that way—that life after all is processional and that coming in at the tail of the procession there are thousands of little boys and girls of whom we can say, as the father of William the Conqueror said about him when he went off to the Crusades—of the very small boy he said, "Yes, he is little, but he will grow." The small boy is little, but he will grow, and it may be that it will be found 25 years from now that some of the dubiety of this Committee was quite unwarranted and, on the other hand, that some of the optimism also of this age had proved unwarranted. About that I cannot prophesy, but we must say what we know, and that is why the Secretary of State for Scotland and I said, when this issue was raised, that we should be very ready to hold a discussion and give what information there was on the subject, of an authoritative character. The White Paper which has been referred to several times was prepared, as I said in reply to the hon. and. gallant Member for Erdington (Group-Captain Wright), for an entirely different purpose. It is for that reason that the announcement was made in another place in a recent Debate that we are preparing a paper in succession to that to examine the position rather further.
Perhaps I may now dispose of this point. I have been asked by one or two hon. Members, including the hon. and gallant Member for Erdington and especially the hon. and gallant Member for Wellingborough (Wing-Commander James), to answer the plea of Professor Carr-Saunders in "The Times" to-day. It is true that our information is incomplete as to numbers of families with one, two, three or any other number of children or the differences in family patterns exhibited by definite occupational groups, 643 but this information could be obtained only by a Census. That Census would have been taken in 1941, but owing to the war, with families broken up and dispersed as they are to-day and with a large proportion of fathers and mothers either in the Forces or engaged on war duties bearing little relation to their ordinary occupation, the information obtainable from a Census would be of little value and might be altogether misleading. That sort of inquiry must be postponed until conditions become more settled, and then it will take place. Any further statistical matter which we can formulate to try and assist in this question we will bring forward in the further document that has been promised.
The motive forces here, as hon. Members have pointed out, are many more than material forces. The motive forces governing the birth-rate are deep in human nature and no doubt include such things as confidence in the future, the sense of a purpose in life and the fundamental belief in human goodness and progress. The hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) need not apologise for quoting that glorious message from the Scriptures. It has been customary for centuries to quote that revelation in this House, and there is another sentence that I will quote, on the question whether life has a future tense to it about which men and women can say,Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard,the things which God hath prepared.It is because of these spiritual issues that in an answer I gave some months ago to the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) I put the spiritual factor first. I can assure those who argue the question in economic terms that economic forces have grave effects upon the trend of population, but I am sure that those who strive merely to construe the trend in material and economic terms see only a segment of the circle. We have to take all these issues into account—the spiritual, moral, psychological, material, economic, political, all those things which come into the imagination and cultural life of men and women. All have and have had and will have an effect upon the trend of population, and that is the more so the richer and the more diverse and the more cultivated civilisation becomes.
I want to say a word now about a particular aspect. It is clear that the Com- 644 mittee are especially interested in the statistical aspect of the population problem. With regard to the White Paper on "Current Trends of Population," the defect, if it be a defect, that it fails to take account of the period beyond 1971 is easily remediable, and will be remedied in the new paper that we have promised. The White Paper demonstrated clearly that the definite maintenance of fertility at the average level of 1934–37 would lead to a maximum population in the decade 1951–61, from which a decline, small at first but with an increasing tendency, would inevitably ensue. That is what the White Paper set out to make quite clear, and this, so far as I am aware, no one disputes. We have common ground.
Another point about this to which I want to call attention is this. Whether the apprehension regarding the present birth-rate prospects is well founded or not, there is little doubt that that apprehension has been heightened by the steep and long protracted fall which took place between the years 1876–80 and 1933. May I ask Members of the Committee to bear in mind that understanding of the basic differences between population conditions then and now is essential unless a wrong interpretation is to be drawn? It is a complete misreading of the situation to regard the reproduction rates of the r9th century as normal. They were not normal rates. The high reproduction rates experienced in this and other western nations resulted in a quite exceptional growth of population, which has been characterised by a very competent thinker as "one of the great population surges of history." In Great Britain the population more than trebled during the hundred years, and has substantially increased to its present size of between 46 and 47 millions with a density in area which is the highest on contemporary record.
§ Sir F. Fremantle
Surely the high birthrate was not at all abnormal. It was regular. The reason for the surge was not a surge of fertility; it was a surge due to improvement of public health.
§ Mr. Brown
Let me go a little further. If that rate of growth in the 19th century continued indefinitely, it would mean that by the year 2001 the population would rise to rir,000,000 and more than 300,000,000 by the year 2101. My hon. 645 Friend the Member for Llanelly said that we do not know whether we want more, the same or less, and that was one of the reasons for the inquiry urged by hon. Members in the course of the Debate. I think the deduction from the figures I have just given must be that from that high rate a check would come sooner or later. It did come. I do not want to say that the check has not gone too far —indeed, I would not say that it has not gone perilously far—but there is no justification for the expectation of a further decline in the birth-rate solely—and I emphasise the world "solely"—by reason of what has happened in the quite different circumstances of the past. That is the reservation I want to make. In actual fact, the birth-rate, as has been pointed out to-day, ceased to fall in 1933 and has shown a small increase since that time with the improvement in economic conditions after 1932. The response of the birth-rate to immediate changes in employment has been marked over the whole period between 1924 and 1939, during which the reproduction rate has been below standard. The contours of the birth curve follow those of the unemployment curve for the country as a whole with remarkable fidelity, showing that the economics of the matter have a very big effect. I want to assure the Committee that we will add as fully as we can to the information published in the White Paper. All that the Secretary of State for Scotland and I wanted to do was to bring the paper out of the archives, for, unfortunately, it was not bound up with the evidence of the Barlow Commission. Had it been so bound up, I think that one or two of the misunderstandings which have occurred might not have arisen in what in some quarters has seemed an aggravating way.
§ Miss Rathbone
I am a little afraid that what the Minister has just said may give the impression, perhaps wrongly, that he takes a fairly optimistic and placid view of the situation. He said that there is no reason to feel apprehensive about an increased fall. Will he admit that if the birth-rate even continues at about the same level as from 1933 to 1939, that will inevitably lead to a dangerously steep decline in population in 30 years' time?
§ Mr. Brown
That shows the great difficulty of discussing this thing with so highly gifted a person as my hon. Friend. 646 I chose my words carefully; I tried to make it clear that I was dealing with one sole factor and was trying to correct the misapprehension which had arisen from discussion of that factor alone. I chose the word "perilously" deliberately. I do not think I could have gone further than that. I have not noticed that word used before in this connection, but before I finish my speech I will try to put the point, not in my own language, but in the language of one who is entitled to speak for the Government as a whole in a way which I cannot do, namely, the Prime Minister himself. Perhaps that will put it in a proper perspective, so that there will be no undue complacency or optimism, nor any unfounded suggestion that the Ministry of Health or the Registrar-General's office are filled with optimism. One of the greatest jokes that I have heard is the suggestion that the Registrar-General and his statisticians are unbounded optimists.
The second note in the Debate was the note of questioning. The questions covered every kind of topic. I made a summary of the speeches of at least five Members, and I will put together all their points. They questioned as to whether there was a national loss of fertility or not, as to the effect of pleasure-loving upon the trend of population, as to wrong objectives in education, as to people's confidence in the state of the world, as to their pessimism about our economic future, and as to their fear of war. There were other questions dealing with people's outlook on life. All kinds of questions were put about these things, including, of course, the whole range of social issues and reforms. I think another title for this Debate, rather than that of "The Trend of Population," might well have been "The Trend of Reconstruction," because in the course of the questionings and suggestions every conceivable topic from emigration and immigration to housing, family allowances, the whole structure of the Beveridge scheme, improvement of maternity services, and other subjects which belong to a dozen different Departments, has been raised. I can only say that I think it has been a good thing to have all these various issues of a social and political character brought together in one Debate.
My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir E. Grigg) asked whether I regarded Civil Defence Services or the maternity and child welfare services as 647 having the higher priority. May I say in reply that in my view the immediate needs of the war must come first, but when they have been met I should give very high priority to the maternity and child welfare service?
§ Sir E. Grigg
I am grateful for what the right hon. Gentleman has said, but the definition that he has given for priority for maternity and the child welfare services might be differently interpreted by different local authorities. What we want to know is whether he has the power of seeing that the principle which the Committee insists on, that these services should not cease to exist in time of war but should be carried on if possible, is really observed. Has he the power to see that that is done?
§ Mr. Brown
I do not know that I want special power to do that if the hon. Gentleman means a universal rule. I have to take into account the views of the local authorities concerned, but I am sure that the relations between the Ministry and the local authorities are such that we can use our influence to secure a proper solution to the problem. At various times in the course of the war we have had to adapt our administration and change this particular bias to that particular bias as the course of the war went. There were conditions when Civil Defence was absolutely vital, in the very first line of our war activity, and but for the success of the Civil Defence forces, and their having the material to operate the defences, we might have had a very different situation. But I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's point, and he may take it for granted that there is no subject in the Ministry of Health on which we are keener; and I do not think it can be said that we have not been active on this subject in the last three and a half years. I will bear in mind what he has said.
I am asked, in giving the latest figures for this year, why I did not put in 1917. That is a little hard, because the newspaper proprietors would have something to say about it. They would say that 1943 was news. 1917 might be news, but it would be relative news, as compared with the absolute news of 1943. I will bear in mind the point that we should not encourage an unduly optimistic view because of our temporary war experience. It is interesting, and it has a bearing on 648 the remarks of those who take an over-gloomy view of our population, that the attitude of men and women towards war is not apparently the same in the two wars. The circumstances are not the same. When we have a large armed population training in our Island, that is one thing. When we had a large armed population overseas for a long period in the last war, that was another situation. We may assume from the experience of the last war that the behaviour of both marriage and birth-rates is likely to be of short-range effect. It will have little bearing on more permanent trends. Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that the movements in this country have so far been generally of a far more favourable character than they were in 1914–18, both absolutely and in comparison with those of enemy or enemy-occupied countries. Marriage-rates, instead of falling markedly below peace-time averages, as they did in 1916 and 1917, rose in 1939 and 1940 to levels higher than any hitherto recorded, and they are still higher than the comparatively high rates of 1935-38. Birthrates fell continuously and precipitously between 1914 and 1918, whereas on this occasion, though they recorded. decreases in 1940 and 1941, they were small, and they have. been more than restored in 1942 by a rise to a position not previously recorded since 1931. We have had six succeeding quarters in which there have been increases. My information is that there is a prospect of still further material improvement in the present year. This recovery has, no doubt, been aided by the high war marriage-rates, but in so far as these have had the result of raising the proportion of young married women in the population, that good influence on consequential fertility must be expected to be prolonged for some time. We have only had scanty information about conditions in other European countries, but all the information we have is that their birth-rates generally are falling seriously, some to points disastrously below their peace-time levels.
Looking at the maternity picture as a whole at home, these are the facts: The vital statistics affecting mothers and young children have improved. Last year we had for England and Wales the lowest maternal mortality rate on record, the lowest still-birth rate, the lowest infantile mortality rate and the lowest 649 death-rate from diphtheria. In the fourth year of the war that is a very remarkable tribute to the wonderful cooperation of Government, local government and voluntary efforts, with their wonderful cement of good will, which is the cement of our society. It takes more than statistics to prove that in the fourth year of the war our young children are healthier, taken all round, than they were in peace-time. But, allowing for the sad experience in the evacuation period and the light thrown on the dark shadows of our social life which would not, perhaps, have been revealed save for that evacuation, it is still true, taking the child population as a whole, and it is a wonderful thing to see the babies now. I agree with everything that has been said about quality. It is not only quantity. The nation must be concerned with its quality also. There are lovely babies in the fourth year of the war, not only in Kensington Gardens for poets to write about, but in Camden Town and in the valleys of Durham and South Wales.
I share with other Members of the Committee the desire to see a real reform of the housing conditions of our country at the earliest possible moment, taking up the work begun years before the war. It would be my desire to see a higher standard, for the house must be a home; it is easy to make a good home in a house which is worthy to be called a home structurally and which helps the mother to solve some of those burdens to which my hon. Friend the Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) referred, the burdens of hard work, of caring for a home. I do not know that I wholly agree with her in her analysis of the family relations in terms of income, although I am sure there is a good deal in what she says. I know of many families where the economics are not on that man-woman basis which she referred to. It is easy for us all to generalise from what must be a limited experience. I am a little more optimistic about the human and affectionate relations of husband, wife and child than she seems to be when she presses so much for reform in the relations of husband and wife merely in terms of cash. For a woman to run the home is to-day the greatest work that can be done in helping to secure a healthy, happy and vigorous family life and a population which is 650 worthy to demand that its racial stock ought to be spread not merely throughout its lovely borders but all round the world, helping other people to share the great gifts that are bred in our free population, where men and women by democratic action, by bringing spiritual, ethical, social and political influences to bear upon the common life for a hundred years, have made this Island slowly but surely the envy of the world in settled and solid progress. It is for that reason that I share the concern of those who do not want to see a catastrophic decline in national population.
My next note is a note on humility. Every Member in the Debate has posed a query in the course of his or her speech, but I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly focused the whole Debate upon this point of view for us all with great advantage to the Committee, for he really based the problem not on any merely material terms. We have to think not merely of material things but also of the medical aspects. The other House had its attention called to profound problems in biology, and we have to-day discussed almost every other question connected with this problem. We have been asked whether we would have an inquiry into this matter. I gathered from the Debate that what was wanted was an inquiry about the extent and character of the decline, about the causes of the decline, the effect of the decline of the birthrate and the whole trend of population, and about the economic, national and imperial aspects of the problem. The suggestion was made also in the Debate in another place recently—and I was glad to hear emphasis on it in many quarters to-day—that there ought to be a formal inquiry. A promise was given on the Government's behalf in the recent Debate that a further document on the lines of the White Paper would be issued bringing that paper up to date and discussing the whole statistical aspect of the matter. But a statistical study, necessary though it be, forms a small part only of the whole. It is clear that something of a much wider range and scope is in the mind of the Committee. This is a matter to which the Government have given grave thought. We recall the words of the Prime Minister in his broadcast of February last:One of the most sombre anxieties which beset those who look 30, or 40 or 50 years 651 ahead, and in this field one can see only too clearly, is the dwindling birth-rate.In 30 years, unless present trends alter, a smaller working and fighting population will have to support and protect nearly twice as many old people; in 50 years the position will be worse still.I hope that this will reassure my hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone).) The Prime Minister also said:If this country is to keep its high place in the leadership of the world and to survive as a great power that can hold its own against external pressure, our people must be encouraged by every means to have larger families.I am authorised by the Government to say that it is their intention to institute an inquiry on the broadest basis into the whole question of birth-rate and population. What form the inquiry will take and what the precise terms of reference will be, are matters now under consideration. The issues are so many and so varied, as this Debate has shown, ranging as they do from problems of a highly technical and scientific character to political, moral, social and religious considerations of the broadest possible kind, that it may prove convenient to pursue simultaneous investigations—I do not know.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
May we have one assurance from the right hon. Gentleman as Minister of Health? Will they inquire in the first instance whether it is true or not true that the greatness of a nation depends upon numbers?
§ Mr. Brown
It has been answered in the course of this Debate many times by those who have said that not only quantity but quality matters. I only say that these things are matters for decision in the immediate future and I can only add that we recognise that no such inquiry would be complete or valuable without the fullest participation of women, and in particular of women who have themselves had the experience of motherhood.
§ Mr. Brown
Oh, surely. My hon. Friend may depend upon that. In answer to my hon. Friend the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor), I thought she was a little unfortunate in her quotation of the Committees of the Ministry, because it was quite clear that a very large proportion of women were on the Committees on Nurses' and Midwives' Salaries, and when she reads my speech—she did apologise for being unable to remain on account of another engagement—she will see that the Minister of Health is not wholly in control of the personnel of those two Committees. He was in control of the choice of the bodies to come into the inquiries, but not in control of the members chosen by the various organisations. There was one Committee which she did not mention—it was not quite like her to omit it, but I think she had got flurried over her notes. There was one Committee over which I had whole control and which I appointed, and that was the Advisory Committee on the Welfare of Mothers and Young Children, and I want here to pay them my tribute for the very great work they are doing. They are one of the very best Committees that I have ever worked with in my experience as a Minister or outside this House. That Committee, over which I have the honour to preside, is composed of 24 women and seven men.
§ Miss Rathbone
The inquiry which the Minister has foreshadowed does suggest that it will be of alarmingly large proportions and take a very long time. Could we have an assurance that every practical step that can be taken will not have to await the end of the inquiry? Further, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether something is to be done about family allowances?
§ Mr. Brown
My hon. Friend really must be forbearing. Technically, I cannot answer that question, because that is something that cannot be done without legislation, though I am glad the Chair has taken so very wide a view of this Debate. But she will understand that the Government have made their decision known to the Committee and put it on record, and she must not ask me as a Departmental Minister for that information, for family allowances, of course, are not within my Departmental concern 653 but are a matter for the Government as a whole. But she must keep pegging away and pressing the Government, and I have no doubt whatever that when the very busy people who are working very hard on the ramifications of this vast problem are further advanced the Government will make it known, and she may get some fruits for her long labours.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Is it proposed that the machinery of the inquiry will be set up within a reasonable time?
§ Mr. Brooke (Lewisham, West)
May I ask whether it is the intention of the Government to wait until 1951 for the next Census, or to hold another Census as soon as circumstances permit; and, secondly, will my right hon. Friend, in the speeches which he makes throughout the country from time to time, repeat the Government's anxiety about this question of the future of our population, which he has made so clear to us in this small audience to-day?
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again" [Major Sir James Edmondson], put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon the next Sitting Day.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.