HC Deb 07 April 1949 vol 463 cc2183-5
5. Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in the light of the recommendations of the Harris Committee, he is yet in a position to make a statement on the grant-aiding of local marriage guidance councils.

7. Mr. Eric Fletcher

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to implement the recommendations of the Harris Committee that local marriage guidance councils should receive financial support from public funds.

Mr. Ede

Under Section 136 of the Local Government Act, 1948, a local authority can, subject to the consent of the Minister of Health, contribute towards the expenses of a local marriage guidance council. Having regard to the general arrangements for Exchequer assistance to local authorities, His Majesty's Government do not propose to adopt the recommendation of the departmental committee, that half the expenditure so incurred by a local authority should be met by a special Government grant. I propose to ask the House to authorise for the current financial year the expenditure recommended by the departmental committee on grants towards the headquarters expenses of the National Marriage Guidance Council, the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council, and the Family Welfare Association, and also on selection and training of marriage guidance counsellors by a body which I propose to set up for that purpose.

Mrs. Castle

Is my right hon. Friend aware that local marriage guidance councils do not benefit from the grant made, or proposed to be made, to their headquarters, and that many of them are in serious financial difficulty and will probably will not be able to carry on unless some help is forthcoming soon?

Mr. Ede

That may be so. If that is the case they should make application to the local authority for their area.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

Can my right hon. Friend say what type of person is serving on these marriage guidance councils; and has he any control over the nomination of people to serve on them?

Mr. Ede

No, Sir. On the whole these people are doing quite good public service in this connection, and I should hesitate myself to act as a censor.

Mr. Osbert Peake

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether his proposal will necessitate a Supplementary Estimate; and, if so, does he hope to find the Chancellor of the Exchequer in either an imaginative or a receptive frame of mind regarding it?

Mr. Ede

These sums are included in the Estimate, and I took the precaution of securing the prior approval of my right hon. and learned Friend.

Mr. Fletcher

In view of the departmental committee report, will the Home Secretary ask his right hon. Friend the Minister of Health to urge local authorities to see that adequate steps are taken to succour and assist these local marriage guidance councils, who are really in very desperate straits as a result of lack of funds?

Mr. Ede

I should have thought myself that it was the duty of the local marriage guidance councils to approach their local authority.

Mr. E. P. Smith

Was not the best advice to young persons about to get married tendered some years ago by "Punch"?

Mr. Ede

I think I should await the report of the Royal Commission on Population before I answer that question.