HC Deb 18 December 1973 vol 866 cc1142-4
Q5. Sir Gilbert Longden

asked the Prime Minister if he will seek to implement the recommendations as to population growth of the First Report from the Select Committee on Science and Technology, Session 1970–71, which sought to place upon him direct responsibility for carrying out those recommendations.

Q6. Sir D. Renton

asked the Prime Minister whether he will now appoint a senior Minister to deal with population problems as recommended by the Population Panel in its First Report.

The Prime Minister

The Government accept the broad conclusions of the report of the Population Panel, which was asked to consider population matters in the United Kingdom following the Select Committee's report in July 1971. We have already acted on the panel's only major recommendation for immediate action by providing for the development of comprehensive family planning services as part of the National Health Service in the National Health Service Reorganisation Act 1973 and the corresponding Scottish legislation. For the rest, the Government agree in principle that no further policy changes are required at present but that they should monitor further developments and inform the public of the results of their analysis.

I have asked my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council to undertake ministerial responsibility for coordinating this work. He will be assisted in this task by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Civil Service Department.

Sir Gilbert Longden

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree with much responsible and informed opinion that unless steps are taken, the world population will soon outgrow its resources of food and raw materials? Does he recall that the Population Panel, while not advocating any interference with marital habits, said that Britain must face the fact that its population cannot go on increasing indefinitely"?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I recall that. As I have said, we have taken action on the main recommendation made to us by the panel. For the remainder, it is bound to be a question of public opinion and individual behaviour. As requested, we will make all information open to the public as it becomes available to us.

Mr. William Hamilton

Is the Prime Minister aware that, as the country gets colder, the cutting of television viewing hours makes no contribution whatever to the population problem?

Sir D. Renton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the decision so far taken by the Government in this vitally important matter will be applauded by nearly all right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House? Is he further aware that, during the past seven years in which the policy has been evolved, this matter has had the support of all parties and that we can all rejoice that that is so? Finally, may I express the hope that my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, whose appointment we welcome, will be able to get down to work on this matter as soon as circumstances allow?

The Prime Minister

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for what he has said. He has taken a close personal interest in the report, which I know has had support throughout the House. Of course, since we received the report a great deal of work has been done on it, and it will now be continued by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would raise his point of order at the end of Question Time.