HL Deb 22 June 1949 vol 163 cc75-136

2.49 p.m.

VISCOUNT SAMUEL rose to call attention to the need for the encouragement of voluntary action to promote social progress; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, the matter to which I wish to invite your Lordships' attention this afternoon is one which has been comparatively little explored and is not often discussed but is well worthy of our most careful consideration. I propose to end by submitting to your Lordships' House certain proposals which are definite and which I trust may be found practical. Writers on political science and students of that subject are accustomed to dwell upon the State and the individual as though those were the two almost sole factors in our society, and would make it appear that, in the main, politics—social politics or democratic politics—consist in the relations between State and individual. But, when one comes to examine the matter, one finds that that is clearly an error. In between the individual and the State there are two other factors. One is the family. The Report of the Royal Commission on Population, published a few days ago, shows clearly the trouble we have got into through insufficiently providing for the needs and the maintenance of the family as an institution. That, however, is not my theme to-day. The other factor is the voluntary organisations of many kinds which play an important and indeed essential part in the structure of our modern civilised society.

If anyone considers a large industrial town with which he is familiar of, say, 100,000 inhabitants, and in imagination peers into its activities, he will find that on any week-day evening in that town there will be, in all kinds of buildings and offices, scores of committees sitting consisting of, in the total, hundreds of men and women of all ages and occupations, busily engaged in the service of some kind of organisation which they regard as of public value. There are the committees of trade union branches, friendly societies, co-operative societies, schools, churches of all denominations, hospitals, and the local organisations of the political Parties. There are others devoted to child welfare, youth services, clubs of all kinds—athletic, social, musical, dramatic—women's institutes, and many more.

These are often the branches of great national organisations which themselves are combined together within the ambit of the National Council of Social Service. That National Council has published a list of 300 of what it terms the principal national societies; but if the smaller and local societies were included, the list would run into many thousands. All these are worked by a small number of paid officers, but mainly by a great multitude of unpaid workers who during their leisure hours are willing to give time and effort to the service of these movements, and no one can understand the working of our present-day civilisation without taking account of this hidden, all-pervading network of social activity which is silently busy all through the year, all over the land, for all kinds of beneficent purposes. This field of social study has to a great extent been neglected. It is little explored and seldom described. My noble friend Lord Beveridge, who will speak in this debate, has been a pioneer in this field. A few months ago he published a solid volume of 400 pages, carefully documented, with the title, Voluntary Action: A Report on Methods of Social Advance.

This subject is linked with another feature of modern communities, one that year by year is becoming of greater importance—namely, the increase in the amount of leisure available to the population that has to be catered for by various organisations in order to find for it suitable occupation and employment. We have emerged from that state of society in which practically the whole effort of the bulk of the population was devoted to earning a livelihood. "From bed to work and from work to bed," used to be the rule for the mass of the population. Now it is seen that, while earning the means of living is a prime task and duty, nevertheless life is more than livelihood, and in merely earning the means of living people may lose life itself.

Owing to the growth of the use of machinery and of science in general we have enabled our population to be relieved of that extreme burden of toil. Machines are the slaves of the modern world, and our present-day system is much more efficient and far more humane than the system of slavery of the ancient world. The consequence has been that instead of a ten, eleven or twelve-hour day, instead of the eight-hour day which, when I was a young man first studying these matters, was the distant ideal of the more optimistic social reformers, we now often have an eight-hour day as a maximum, and even, not infrequently, a seven-hour day; and in some industries we are working towards even a six-hour day. We have a shorter day, fewer days in the week (now reduced from six to live and a half, and sometimes even to five), longer holidays in the year, earlier retirement from work, and at the same time greater longevity, so that the proportion of elderly people in the population is rapidly becoming larger and larger.

All this means a much greater body of leisure, if I may so term it, in the nation than has ever existed before. This may have two effects. The first is that people have more spare time to give to social services of one kind or another, and now that women take an increasingly active part in all kinds of social life it is on the women that this work largely devolves. Secondly, while there is more leisure that people can give to voluntary organisations there is, as I say, more leisure to be catered for. We must realise how exceedingly important it is that there should be adequate opportunities for the right use of leisure. We now have youth movements active throughout the country, and efforts are being made to provide facilities for recreation and for the enjoyment of amenities of every kind. But there are two needs to he satisfied in order that this great piece of social machinery should work effectively.

The first is that there should be sufficient men and women available to work it. That must depend upon the spirit of the people and the number of those who are willing to give the sacrifice. But the other point—and this is the matter to which I have been leading—is the problem of finance, which is becoming more and more difficult every year. The need for action on the part of all these voluntary organisations is growing, for the reasons which I have given. At the same time the difficulties that face their work on the financial side are also growing, owing to higher costs. Higher costs involve higher salaries and also greater charges of every kind in administration. Then there is difficulty in securing accommodation; it is harder to find and more expensive when it is found. All this at the very time when expansion is necessary over all this great field. And just at the time when the burdens of expenditure are increasing, the sources of revenue are drying up. Most of these organisations have been dependent upon the patron age of wealthy people or upon voluntary subscriptions; now, with the present burden of taxation, both patronage and subscriptions have become more and more difficult. Through the centuries your Lordships' House has always furnished active leaders in all these magnificent social movements. No doubt most of your Lordships who are now listening are themselves presidents or active participants in the work of several of these organisations, and you, my Lords, know full well how difficult it is to maintain the funds from which these efforts have to be defrayed. It has been said that the gentry have become now the indigentry, and great numbers of those who would have left considerable sums perhaps to beneficences are in the position of Rabelais. Some of your Lordships may remember his brief but famous will: I have nothing, I owe much. The rest I give to the poor.

The easy course of providing for the needs of the time in these matters would be to advocate some Treasury grant or subventions by local authorities. To that, in these days, most of us will not consent, for many of us are actively advocating decrease in taxation and, therefore, decrease in expenditure. We do not believe in the easy, popular maxim of public finance: "More from the Government and less from the taxpayer." That is not to be achieved. That is not what I propose. The present Government have, in fact, been finding considerable additional funds for some organisations which could properly be called voluntary organisations, for they are not State-founded or State-managed—particularly universities, which are perhaps our most important non-Governmental institutions. Wisely, they have heavily subsidised the universities, and without in any way impairing their independence or imposing direction. They have subsidised the Arts Council, the Travel Association and several other such bodies, and the local authorities are defraying or contributing to the costs of many community centres. But that is not what I am proposing, and I should not be troubling your Lordships with a disquisition on the virtues and importance of voluntary organisations unless I proposed to finish by making a suggestion which would serve the purpose in view without imposing any fresh obligations upon public funds.

In the first place, there are a substantial number of people who, having accumulated fortunes, small or large, in old age find themselves not quite sure what they ought to do with those fortunes in their wills. They may have no family obligations, and there may be no causes in which they are specially interested or sufficiently interested to make them their residuary legatees. Often, they would bequeath their money to hospitals, but now that we have the National Health Services many are doubtful whether this is necessary in the same degree. Some are even reduced to the somewhat barren and unimaginative course of leaving their money to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the reduction of the National Debt. That has always reminded me of something that was once said by an excited orator at the end of a speech: "It would be a mere flea bite in the ocean." In Scotland, which is often ahead of England and Wales in various matters, they have an institution which has come down to them through the centuries called "the Common Good." The Common Good consists of a number of funds, originated in the Middle Ages I think, by grants in land from the Kings of Scotland to the Royal Burghs. These have since been greatly extended by bequests and gifts and fresh grants, while modern legislation has brought in other categories of towns and has extended, sometimes defining, the purpose of these Common Good funds.

The Scottish Office have been kind enough to give me opportunities of obtaining information about this, and in this connection I would particularly like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, for the trouble which he has taken. I have been given facts concerning the present state of the Common Good funds of Scotland. It appears that their property now amounts in capital value to about £4,000,000 and that the annual, income from all sources is about £400,000. They serve a wide variety of purposes, and the money in general is spent on almost anything which is regarded as being for the good of the community, of the local community, and which is not provided for from other funds.

I would suggest that we should invite the Government to introduce legislation, a general Statute, for providing for the establishment of Common Good funds nationally in Scotland, England and Wales and locally in any town or county which desired to have one established. Central funds would be in the hands of national trustees, and local funds in the hands either of special trustees or of the local authority concerned. The purpose for which funds available might be distributed should be to subsidise any kind of public amenity for which money is not otherwise available. They might, indeed, subsidise some of the valuable existing organisations with which we are all acquainted—the National Trust, the Art Collections Fund and the Arts Council or other bodies of that kind. The allocation, of course, would have to be for purposes of a non-controversial character. The administration might be modelled on the excellent examples of such bodies as the Rockefeller Foundation, the Nuffield Foundation or the Pilgrim Trust.

The administration of such a system need involve no charge on public funds—on taxes or rates: the charges would be defrayed from a small percentage fee on income administered or on the property administered, as in the case of the department of the Public Trustee, a department which has rendered immense service and fulfils a great need in relieving private individuals of the burden of administering estates and now has in its hands property to the total value of about £500,000.000. That department involves no charge on public funds. It is to be expected that a Common Good system of this kind, once established and having gained public confidence and being able to extend to the whole community visible benefit from its existence and its expenditure, would attract gifts and bequests from many quarters, generation after generation; and in the end such a system might be the administrator of very large funds indeed, funds which might otherwise have been dissipated ineffectually bringing about no permanent or substantial benefit to the public as a whole.

There is another source from which these Common Good funds might be benefited. That is from the very substantial amounts of derelict moneys which lie without owners—in banks, in the Court of Chancery and in various charities scattered throughout the country. My noble friend Lord Beveridge has made an intensive study of that aspect of the question and I shall not dwell upon it, but leave it to him to enter into it more fully when he speaks. I will just mention that it is estimated that unclaimed funds in Chancery amount to a sum of about £3,000,000, and dormant and derelict deposits in the banks—the Bank of England, savings banks (Post Office and Trustee), and joint stock banks, amount to at least £20,000,000. Provision would, of course, have to be made for paying any claims that might he substantiated even if they were rather belated. But that having been done, there could be no moral objection to all these moneys being put to some good purpose instead of, as now, being for all effective purposes wasted and lying in the banks and other funds simply as dormant entries.

Furthermore, there are intestacies; the estates of people who have no near relatives, who die intestate, and whose estates fall into the Exchequer. In a recent year for which I have seen a figure, they amount to £150,000, so that, if that is an average and typical figure, it would mean that every seven years £1,000,000 of this kind would fall into the Exchequer as windfalls. This is not Budget revenue, it is not due to taxation imposed by Parliament. And if it were felt desirable to release these aggregate funds and make them available for Common Good purposes, it seems to me that it would be quite proper to annex them for that purpose. That is done in Sweden, where all such moneys go to purposes of social welfare. These amounts must have contributed to the very high standard of social life in Sweden, the care for amenities of all kinds, which places that country in the very forefront of civilisation. Of course, there should not be centralisation in the administration of these funds; they should be spread over the country. Indeed, local funds might make a special appeal to local patriotism, and numbers of people who had no other allocation for their moneys might be anxious to endow t heir town or their county, perhaps in some specified way, so that their accumulations might benefit posterity. There should undoubtedly be considerable elasticity in administration, and that could be achieved if voluntary organisations were weed to the full.

I suggest, therefore, that as a first step the Government should undertake an inquiry into the whole of this matter. There are many views to be ascertained; there are many opinions that should be heard, from the voluntary organisations themselves and from other quarters, and it would be well that a Royal Commission or some other form inquiry should be set up in order to go into this matter. That is the proposal which I venture to submit for the consideration of your Lordships and of the Government, and possibly also of that body of public opinion outside which is deeply interested in these matters. Three purposes would be served if this suggestion could be carried into effect. The first is that it would strengthen and encourage the work of voluntary associations is general, work that is of incalculable value to the community. Secondly, it would help to provide opportunities for the right use of leisure, which has been so suddenly and largely expanded in recent years. Thirdly, it would bring into use vast financial resources, amounting certainly to several tens of millions of pounds, which now lie derelict and useless and which could be made fruitful for good purposes. I beg to move for Papers.

3.13 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that on your Lordships' behalf I may thank the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, for presenting to the House the extremely interesting discussion which he has opened on this important question. He speaks from a very broad experience of the subject, to me a terrifying long experience, because at the time when the noble Viscount first had the subject under review (I presume when he was Home Secretary), I had not learned to read—a fact, may I add, for which I do not blame the educational policy of the distinguished Liberal Government of that time! But from that time we have passed from what Mr. H. A. L. Fisher called a Liberal experiment to a different type of experiment. Some would call it "the welfare State." I do not much like that term, for it seems to me that the characteristic feature of our present experiment is an obsession for political power. This is felt not only in this country; we can see many examples of it in almost all parts of the world. It is perhaps natural that with the growth of science, which throws immense possibilities of power into the hands of one man, there should be great temptation to accumulate power. Possibly some of the saints in Heaven would not have worked their passage if they had the Supplies and Services Act at their elbow all the time! The test of our democracy in these middle years of the twentieth century is whether or not we can produce statesmen who prefer liberty to power. It is from that angle that I would like to approach our present subject, because it is fundamentally an element of our liberty that we should be able to associate freely for limited purposes.

As the noble Viscount has said, the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, has written an extremely informative book which deals with certain aspects of the whole subject of voluntary action—though the noble Lord will forgive me if I say that he does not touch on more than relatively small aspects of the question. He has put together a great deal of extremely interesting material which would not otherwise have been readily available. I have only one criticism of the noble Lord's book. I am sorry he has not developed rather more the international aspect of the organisations which grew up in this country during the last century. People such as Wilberforce, Shaftesbury and Florence Nightingale founded organisations whose names have spread the length and breadth of the world and who have played a substantial part in the contribution which this country has made to civilisation. The noble Lord's book emphasises two things of very great importance. It shows, if I may venture to use the noble Lord's phrase, that "Beveridge is not enough." I do not think it is a very good phrase, but perhaps it is proper that we should recognise the use of the word. Even the revolting term "Beveridgism" is used to describe the collective social services proposed by the noble Lord. But even "Beveridgism" does not and cannot cover the whole field of human welfare. If it should come clearly from this House that the Beveridge scheme was not intended to and could not cover the whole of human welfare, then we should have clone something of value this afternoon. The noble Lord himself cites certain subjects which are not covered by the scheme, and it is easy to suggest others of vital importance. One which occurs to me straight away is playing fields, an essential requisite of our whole system of education.

What is also important is that these additional social services themselves build up new needs. For instance, since the time Disraeli was Prime Minister we have increased the expectation of life by about 50 per cent. Lord Beveridge says that there are 80,000 people over the age of 80 who are living alone. It may well be that some prefer that, but I should suspect that most of them urgently need friendship, something which is certainly not rationed and which the State cannot supply. Let me give another example. During recent years we have shortened the working week. This has raised some interesting problems. It is common knowledge that in some cases men will not work unless they get overtime. They will even strike for overtime. That is one problem: another is the use of leisure. This has been dealt with by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, both in his speech and in an interesting lecture which he gave some weeks ago. Another example is that the complexity of the system which is growing up has demanded the creation of citizens' advice bureaux. These examples show that there is a great variety of requirements which will always be present. Moreover, welfare is too big and complex a subject ever to be dealt with entirely by the State. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said in his Romanes Lecture at Oxford in 1947: Welfare is a whole; is built up from many connected elements; it includes elements physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual. If I may venture to quote Robert Burns: You may be wise or rich or great, But never can be blest, If happiness ha'e not her seat And centre in the breast. All I am indicating is that there are many factors which make up the human constitution which cannot be provided by the State.

The second point which the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, brings out in his book, and which I think is important, is the danger of the State becoming static. There is a dangerous idea that to-day we are forming the State in what might be a final form and that any progress will be merely an extension, a polishing or development of our present system. To my mind, that is entirely wrong. As the noble Earl, Lord Russell, explained in a remarkable series of broadcasts, in a society there are always a number of dynamic personalities. If they do not find legitimate channels as an outlet for their creative and vigorous powers of initiative they will find criminal channels. An extreme example is the case of Russia, where there are believed to be 10,000,000 people who, for some reason or other, do not fall in with the laws of that State. It is easy to see children in many parts of our urban areas who inevitably find things to do wrong if they have not the right channels of expression. If I may, I would add this. Bureaucracy, in which we are becoming more strongly entrenched, has naturally a vested interest in the status quo. That is inevitable. It is not a criticism of those taking part in it: they have to defend what is taking place. They are, in fact, inevitably trying to justify what is happening at the present time. Any political organisation that is to flourish must have a large measure of adaptability.

The weakness of the position of voluntary action at the present time, as has been said, is primarily due to the burden of taxation and the shortage of funds, which makes it difficult to carry out the work with the former strength and vigour. I will not develop that point but, if I may, I will quote front Mr. Bernard Shaw. It used to be a Fabian maxim that to pay your taxes was really an alternative to paying money to charity. In his book, An Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism, he says: The tax collector should be welcomed. You are probably beginning to feel that the next time the collector calls you will hear his knock with joy and welcome him with the beaming face of a willing giver. The interesting thing is that Mr. Bernard Shaw wrote a letter to The Times in January of this year in which there was no indication whatever of a beaming smile. He then said: Why should we suffer what is virtually a tax on our capital …? It is true that he was talking particularly about the case of authors, who, no doubt, like many other classes of the community, deserve full consideration by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I wilt add only this. We have built up immense social services in this country, amounting probably to something of the order of £1,500,000,000. If one day it fell to any Chancellor of the Exchequer to come down to the House and say: "I have £1,500,000,000 to spend on social services," I do not think there would be any two people in the House, or elsewhere, who would agree on how it should be spent. But we have formed certain very clear-cut lines which it is difficult to change at the present time.

Another point I think worth drawing to the attention of His Majesty's Government is that there is a tendency at the present moment to de-classify existing charities. There is also a difficulty in getting certain fresh charities on the list. By way of example, I would specifically mention the Scottish Families Holidays Limited. That charity has been accepted as a charity by the Customs and Excise but has been refused by the Inland Revenue. For that reason, I suggest that there is here a certain amount of pressure to prevent organisations getting on the list, a matter which no doubt can be sorted out through administrative channels. There is a feeling, too, that certain organisations are being cold-shouldered by His Majesty's Government. I will not go into details of that at the moment.

What I think is of great significance at the present time is that there is a big field where the Government have responsibilities but are unable to fulfil their obligations. I do not say that in criticism, but it is clear and is known to everybody. Take, for instance, the case of tuberculosis hospitals. Obviously those responsibilities cannot be fulfilled at the present time, or in the near future. The seriousness of this situation is that at the same time the Government are preventing local voluntary action from taking any part. There is a big field where the State have responsibility, and where voluntary action cannot be expected to step in and take their place. Moreover, what is perhaps more serious is the Chancellor of the Exchequer's indication that there must be economies in the National Health Services, which seems to indicate that there is a limit to the scope to which the State can go. There arises the question: Who, then, is to fill this gap, if it is the responsibility of the State, which cannot fulfil its obligations, and those obligations cannot be met by the individual?

Certain specific suggestions have been made, and I personally welcome them. The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, said in his book in regard to voluntary organisations that the State should welcome the assistance which can be provided thereby. That inevitably varies a great deal throughout the country. I hope that pressure may be brought by His Majesty's Government to see that the liaison is as close as it possibly can be. I welcome, too, what the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said about the Common Good. We in Scotland are always glad to copy what is worth while in England, and we are delighted to know that our institutions find favour here. I am glad, however, that the noble Viscount emphasised that these should not be on too centralised a scale. I am quite sure that, if anything of the sort is to be developed, it is important that it should be narrowed down as closely as possible to localities or to certain species and objectives. Charity as an undefined objective is not very attractive to the givers themselves. I do not entirely agree with Lord Beveridge in his suggestion of an administrator guardian, because I think there is a danger there of setting up what I may describe as a sort of hot-house, where you plant out people like Shaftesbury, Octavia Hill or Wilberforce, into pots, and when they have matured themselves to the right standard they can then come out into the outer world. I am sure that is not what the noble Lord meant.


Would the noble Earl kindly say a few more words on what he has in mind? I do not quite recognise what he has said.


I apologise to the noble Lord. I think he will agree that he suggested there should be administrator guardians.


I thought the noble Earl said, "a Minister guardian."


I said it appeared to me that there might be some possibility of that method being used in approved channels, rather than allowed to take its own free course.

The third point is that of the Royal Commission. Obviously there is a great deal of tidying up to be done here, but it is an open question how far that can be done with advantage and how far it would, in fact, stop the flow of public munificence. Though there is no doubt a Chamber of Horrors among charities, I think it can be over-exaggerated. After all, if you have liberty you have the possibility of doing stupid or foolish things—that must be confessed. If anyone were to come to this country whose only association with political life was to read the Public Accounts Committee's Reports, and knew nothing else about our administrative methods, I think he would recommend that all Government Departments should be abolished forthwith. If you take one item like that it is possible to reach an entirely fallacious conclusion.

I will end by saying this. I hope His Majesty's Government will do more than pay lip-service to the important work of voluntary organisations. I hope there will be some practical expression of the value and assistance which they look to them to provide, because these organisations are not, in effect, beggars clutching at a straw. It is rather His Majesty's Government who are beggars seeking to mobilise and hoping to fertilise the seeds of vigorous energy and creative ability by which alone the people of this country can make the lives of themselves and their neighbours thoroughly worth while. I hope that His Majesty's Government will make it clear that this is not and can never be a welfare State; that there is, and always will be, ample opportunity and room for voluntary organisations working with and around any State organisations which may exist. I ask them, too, whether they will agree that a welfare State can in fact he only a tyranny.

3.30 p.m.


My Lords, to a vast number of those sturdily engaged in social service up and down the country, and to a number quite unknown but, I am sure, large, who stand perhaps a little hesitant and bewildered at this moment on the brink of social service, the mere fact that a debate upon this subject is taking place in your Lordships' House to-day will come as a genuine encouragement I find myself in general agreement with what has been submitted to your Lordships by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. I think that in some respects, perhaps, he did not bring to your Lordships' attention one or two of those less obvious merits of voluntary service in the structure of the life of the citizens of this country and our British way of life. Not only have the voluntary services for a very long period of years blazed trails; it is to voluntary service in large degree that the initiative has, in the first place, been due in regard to what are now the great social services of the land. They have blazed trails; but they have done something more. They have been schools in the practice of democracy; in the way in which they have been conducted, they have underpinned many of our democratic organisations, and they have afforded a debating ground where men and women of varied upbringings and different outlooks may find a common basis for associating together and may learn once more how much we are all members one of another.

I will not add to the list of objects of voluntary service outlined by the noble Viscount; it could he extended almost indefinitely. But I was interested in his suggestion as to the financing of voluntary service in the future as past sources of finance dry up. He pointed out to your Lordships that very large sums of money, amounting to between £20,000,000 and £30,000,000, at present lie in the various accounts forming this great corpus of dormant balances. Much has been said from time to time in criticism of the rentier. The least defensible kind of rentier is the dormant balance. We should activate those dormant balances; and the scope is wide. A great statesman of the past said that the best place for money was in the pockets of the people where it should he left to fructify. It will never fructify as a dormant balance, but it might well fructify in the expansion and support of those social services which do not lend themselves to support from public funds.

When I read that the noble Viscount was to submit this Motion to your Lordships, I thought it might be useful if I were to say something on my experience in a realm of activity which has of late given rise to some apprehension in regard to voluntary services. When the National Health Service was introduced, there was a wide criticism of the proposal put forward and much apprehension, on the grounds that it might mean the discarding of the voluntary services for so long associated with the hospitals and other manifestations of the health services. It so happens that for a great number of years I have been closely associated with certain voluntary hospitals, and since the incoming of the National Health Service I have been Chairman of the Westminster group of hospitals, Parliament's own hospital.

At a time when this scheme of National Health Service (the undertaking by the State of much that has hitherto been voluntary) was under discussion, there were many who were apprehensive that this would mean that voluntary service was no longer needed and was no longer useful. There were many of those who had given a life-time of devotion to the hospitals who felt that: apprehension. But what has been our experience in practice?

Within the scope of my own observation and experience—and I doubt not that it applies equally to other organisations within the Health Service—it has been that all, or nearly all, those who were formerly engaged in valuable public voluntary service in connection with the hospitals and the health services in general, have been found a suitable place for the exercise of their experience and activities in which they were engaged before the new Health Service came into operation. Therefore, the scheme is working almost indistinguishably, so far as that particular aspect is concerned, from the way in which it worked before. The voluntary workers, whether they be on committees or assisting the hospitals in this or that respect, still have the opportunities to do that which they seek to do, very much as they did before, by the provision of voluntary service within the limits of their particular capacity and experience.

I think it has been useful to find that as a result of experience there is nothing incompatible with a Health Service organised under a Government Department and the voluntary work which does so much to humanise what might otherwise become somewhat rigid. Few of those who have been associated in the past with voluntary hospitals would question that ample opportunity has been given to them to perform much the same services now as those which they gave in the past. I hope that when he replies to this debate on behalf of the Government my noble friend the Minister for Civil Aviation will speak in sympathetic and friendly terms towards those who devote so much of their time and energies to the public interest. I have mentioned hospitals only because they happen to be within my own personal experience; but there is an enormous field in which voluntary service of one kind or another may be found, as was indicated by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. I hope my noble friend will also give some positive information to the House, so far as he is able to do so to-day, as to whether or not the Government are inclined to assert their powers to activate the dormant balances, by encouraging testators to bear in mind some such fund as the Common Good, which, as has already been mentioned, prevails in Scotland, and perhaps to apply to like purposes the funds made available by intestacies.

I believe, too, that it is of real importance that there should be a factual inquiry into this whole field of voluntary service. We know too little about it. We have no precise information as to the number of those who are engaged in it, or even as to precisely what they do, what they spend or what control is exercised from this source or that as to the manner of expenditure so as to ensure that the funds are applied to the purposes for which they were primarily designed. That and a considerable number of other cognate subjects are a suitable subject for inquiry—especially at this time, when in the minds of men and women who are attracted to it voluntary service is a little in the melting pot. It is necessary that they should be given an assurance that the Government look with sympathy on their aspirations and activities, and will set on foot some kind of inquiry, whether by Royal Commission or otherwise, to ascertain the facts and perhaps to lay down lines of policy for consideration by Parliament which will enable this vast fund of good will and unselfish activity to be directed to the common good.

3.44 p.m.


My Lords, the whole House should be grateful, as indeed my noble friend Lord Samuel knows I am grateful, to him for initiating this debate. The thesis underlying what Lord Samuel said is a simple one. It is that it is impossible to make a good society, in Britain or anywhere else, by a simple combination of State action and the pursuit by the individual of his personal selfish interests, and that a third type of action is needed. You need State action; you need the pursuit by the individual of his personal interests; and you need voluntary action for social progress to improve not only your own conditions but the society in which you live. Voluntary action means action not directed or controlled by the State; it means, in effect, a private enterprise for social progress. Whatever doubts some noble Lords opposite may have as to the merits of private enterprise for gain I hope that to-day they will make it plain that they have no doubt at all as to the necessity of private enterprise for improving society—improving the conditions of life for oneself and one's neighbours. That is voluntary action for social progress, and it has been an outstanding feature in Britain in the past. It is necessary only to recall the lives of the great philanthropists or the great organisations to realise this.

I want to say a word about some of the organisations which have not been mentioned hitherto, the friendly societies and similar organisations. Their services to the advancement of social conditions, historically considered, have been immense. I cordially accept the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Selkirk that perhaps I have not sufficiently emphasised in my book how much of this work had an international side and how much, in leading, the way in social progress in this country, we set at the same time a beneficial example in other countries. As I have said, voluntary action for social progress has been an outstanding feature in Britain in the past. I hope that nobody has any doubt that it ought to continue to be an outstanding feature of our national life in the future. But one has to realise that there are very considerable difficulties in making it as important in the future as it has been in the past. There is, however, more than one type of voluntary action for social progress, although all the speeches made this afternoon have concentrated upon that one type. In the book to which such kindly reference has been made by several speakers I have distinguished two main motives which in the past have led to voluntary action for social advancement. One is the motive of mutual aid, the consciousness among simple ordinary people of the needs of others—a feeling for others in like position with themselves, and the banding together for mutual aid.

This was typified in the work of the friendly society, consideration of which led me to make the study which resulted in this book on voluntary action. I hope that in this debate we shall lay some stress on what is often forgotten—namely, the immense contribution of these voluntary organisations, the friendly societies, beginning a hundred years ago or more, to the movement that has led to State action in social insurance such as we now have. All that social insurance of a compulsory type, all that "Beveridgism" that we have to-day, would have been impossible but for the experimenting and the pioneering of the voluntary agencies of friendly societies. I want to place that on record. But I think one must go further and say that in recent times these friendly societies, with their 8,000,000 member, have had a rather raw deal from the State. First, they were married to the State machine for social insurance in 1911, and now by unilateral action, they have been divorced from the State. They have been sent back to live in their own homes and the state is undertaking the whole administration, contrary to the advice which it so happened that I gave. I do not want to go into the details of this rather raw deal, but I want to mention it because I think it is one of the arguments for suggesting that the State should now approach the problem of the friendly societies and see whether there is anything that the friendly societies need in the way of legislation or administration to make amends for that rather raw deal in the past.

There is a third comment I want to make about the friendly societies. It is that, although the State is still doing so much in the way of guaranteeing minimum incomes to everybody, in return for contributions, in sickness, old age, unemployment and so on, I am certain that there is an immense task and opportunity, as we still hope, for the friendly societies. I hope that the State may make it possible for the friendly societies in the future to live up to that task. In the time that I shall occupy to-day, I cannot possibly deal with any of the other forms of voluntary action inspired by the mutual aid motive, but there are many others. I mention the friendly societies only because they are the largest numerically and in some ways the most important.

I want now to turn from the mutual aid motive, which has not been mentioned by other speakers, to an aspect which they have mentioned, the action inspired by the philanthropic motive—the motive of social conscience, I may call it: the case of the person who, being fairly comfortable himself and not being conscious of some material need of his own—perhaps, indeed, possessing all his own material needs—is yet made unhappy because of what he sees in the lives and the unhappiness of his neighbours. Social conscience is the state of being uncomfortable so long as one's neighbours are in material want or in any other kind of want, however happy one may be in one's own position. That is social conscience. That and the philanthropic motive have led in the past to this immense proliferation of all these agencies for dealing with various evils. The philanthropic motive is essentially a crusading spirit. It is typified by someone who sees a particular evil, whether it be hunger, cold, want of housing, ignorance, sickness, a crippling disease or loneliness, and sets out to find the remedy. From that crusading specialist interest in dealing with particular evils has come this immense variety—it is impossible to classify or number them—of philanthropic agencies in this country.

The State has now taken over many things which these voluntary agencies did in the past, but what I hope will emerge clearly as the view of all those who speak in this House is that, however much the State has done or may yet continue to do, Philanthropy will still be needed. Of course, I accept entirely what my noble friend, Lord Selkirk, said: that "Beveridge is not enough." It has never been enough for Beveridge, and still less, I think, is it enough for anyone else. Philanthropy will still be needed. It will be needed to pioneer ahead of the State. The State has taken over many things which occupied the philanthropists of the early nineteenth century—elementary education and housing, for example. The State has taken over many such things. That means merely that there is a perpetually moving frontier for philanthropic action. That is all well illustrated by the remark which was made about herself by one of the great leaders of philanthropic action in the nineteenth century—Octavia Hill. I am glad to mention her because, as my noble friend Lord Samuel has said, this is a field in which women have been very conspicuous in the past and, I hope, always will be. What Octavia Hill said was: When I first started working in London people said to me: 'We are very happy to give you money for the necessaries of the poor, but what on earth do the poor want with recreation?' Then, when I had persuaded them that the poor ought to have some recreation as well as their necessaries, and I went on to something else—namely, open spaces, I used to he asked: 'Why on earth do you want to worry about any open spaces in London?' Just think of anyone being asked that now! Octavia Hill and her friends were responsible for the fact that London has any lungs at all, as was proved during the nineteenth century. London owes its lungs to voluntary action.

All those things are now taken over by the State, but there will always be fresh pioneering things to be done by voluntary action. To my mind there are certain things which should in no circumstances be left to the State alone. One is the use of leisure. We shall reach the last stage in totalitarianism when all our use of leisure is dictated to us by the State. In the use of leisure it is essentially a matter for the individual citizen who has ideas to try them out upon his fellow citizens. They may be good or bad. I agree that one of the drawbacks about voluntary action is that it may produce bad as well as good ideas; but the bad and the good are much better than direction by the State. Adult education is another matter which certainly ought never to be left wholly to the State. If the State took all the adult education as well as all the other education, we should be well on the way to totalitarian conditions. In the field of advancement of research in science the State can do some things, but obviously the real advance must be made by some form of voluntary action.

There is one more thing I wish to mention: it is of interest because it has become rather topical of late. That is, the giving of advice to citizens as to their rights and wrongs in this tangled world of regulations and relations with their fellow citizens. But the idea of the citizens' advice bureau must essentially be that of one citizen giving advice to his fellows, one citizen who has taken the trouble to learn up the problem; it must not be the State giving advice to the citizen, because if the State gives advice the State will make certain not to disclose some of the weaknesses of its own administration.

There is another reason why voluntary action is needed. It is to render services which it is not easy to secure through pay. We have to realise that there are some forms of misery and unhappiness, attendance upon which is not in itself pleasant. We think of lepers. Fortunately, there are now very few lepers in this country. However, there are the blind, the deaf and the crippled, all of whom are rather tiresome people to deal with; and for them to be dealt with merely by people who do it for the sake of the salary they are drawing will not ensure the right kind of service. Those are the physical handicaps. Then there are the socially handicapped people like the released prisoner, or the unmarried mother and her child. I do not say that it is impossible for a civil servant or a servant of a local authority to want to treat his job as a vocation, but you cannot be certain that he will do so; whereas you can be certain that a voluntary worker will do it only as a vocation. These things can be done only by people who work for the citizen. The old are often tiresome people to look after, and they need a very great deal of looking after.

May I refer to one figure which the noble Earl mentioned—namely, the 85,000 people living alone? That figure did not come from my own researches; it was produced by the Assistance Board of which one of my colleagues in this Inquiry was a prominent member. I owe to her that particular figure of 85,000 pensioners living completely alone. Looking after them, even if you have no other family duties to perform, is not always an attractive job unless you do it as a vocation. You may be paid to do it and do it well, but you will do it better if you take it on as a form of voluntary service. I need not dwell at any great length upon that point except to say that I do want to strengthen the faith of any who have doubts about the vital necessity of keeping alive voluntary action as much in the future as in the past if we want a good society.

But it is not going to be so easy to get as in the past. We have to face the fact that, for one thing, the mere fact that the State is doing so much does lead in some quarters—I agree they are ill-informed quarters—to the idea that that is all that is needed, and that voluntary action is unnecessary. But even the people who realise that voluntary action is needed do not always find it so easy to give at present as was the case in the past. It is true that there are probably as great surpluses of money and of leisure to-day as in the past—on the whole, our standard of living is higher to-day than it was, certainly in the early and middle nineteenth century—but those surpluses are more evenly distributed; they are more widely spread among the vast mass of the people. There are very few people who are any richer and who can endow, as the "cranks" of the nineteenth century used to do. There are many excellent institution to-day which were actually built up by "cranks" who were able to get endowments and grants from their rich friends; hut there are very few of those rich friends available—not nearly so many as there were.

To get over these difficulties, of course, the first thing is education of public opinion. We want the democracies to realise—as I am quite sure they are able to realise—this main thesis: that you cannot get a good society merely by pursuing self-interest and correcting mistakes by State action.. You must have voluntary action. Therefore it should become the duty of all to do something in the form of voluntary service. I was looking at some remarks I made, I think during the war, when I was addressing a diocesan conference. I said that irrespective of a person's particular religious views or the body to which he belongs, the possession of a sense of social values means that there is something in his life which he does for the good of other people and not for himself alone. It is that sense of social values which we have somehow to instil in the minds of our people.

But, apart from that, we have to deal with the practical difficulties we find in voluntary action, and there I think we have to come to the Government. That does not mean that I want the Government to undertake voluntary action; that would be a contradiction in terms. But they, by their action, can make it easy or difficult for individuals to give voluntary sere ice for social progress. In the book I have written I have set out an eight-point programme for the Government. I will not go through all those points but I would like to mention a few of the main heads. If I may go back to that with which I began, first there are the friendly societies. I believe there is a great deal for the friendly societies to do even on the strict insurance basis of giving additional benefit above the "Beveridge minimum" or the Government minimum to people who want more. But, more than that, I think there is a great deal for them to do in the provision of services for the social life of old people, such as in the provision of convalescent homes. I am not sure that the friendly societies can do that under their present powers without risk of losing their privileges of exemption from taxation.

If you look at the Friendly Societies Act you will see that the societies themselves act under Section 8, subsection (1). But in that Act there are other sections allowing the Registrar to register societies for benevolent purposes—under Section 8 (4) societies for social purposes, and under Section 8(5) societies for any number of specially authorised purposes. I suggest that the Government should consider whether they should re-define the powers of a friendly society so that it can do any of those things and still remain a friendly society. I know objections will be raised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but I suggest that those objections should not be regarded as final, if we want a great democratic organisation for mutual aid to widen its scope and, instead of going in merely for money insurance, go in for services to its members and thus to society.

I come to the second point, which in a sense is perhaps the most definite thing the Government could do. I hope they will look into the question of the friendly society legislation, but this second point calls for an authoritative Inquiry. For myself, I would like to see established a Royal Commission upon Charitable Trusts. It may be said that that is a little different from the locking up of dormant balances. I do not say that that matter should not be inquired into, but it does not come into the book which I wrote. I accept it as a valuable addition from my noble friend Lord Samuel, and from the noble Lord, Lord Nathan. I think there is something to be said about the dormant balances at the banks, but there is far more money in the charitable trusts.

Now I want to say what I mean by a "charitable trust." Charitable trusts are trusts which a man on dying or during his lifetime leaves for a specific purpose. A trust may have been formed perhaps 300 years ago, perhaps 500 or 200 years ago. In course of time the circumstances alter completely, but the charitable trust, subject to certain adjustments, goes on being bound by the original purposes of the testator. The law of charitable trusts has really not been touched since the time of Elizabeth and if your Lordships were to consult some of the Law Lords I think you would find that a good many of them feel a little troubled about the state of the law in this regard. They have to do some very difficult things. Quite recently, after fifty years of holding that anti-vivisection was a charity, they decided that anti-vivisection was not a charity. Certainly, they have to solve very difficult problems as, for example, whether giving prizes for chess is or is not charity. I think you will find that the law on charity and, even more, the law as it affects the administration of charitable trust funds needs carefully looking into.

We have, of course, a Charity Commission. But the Charity Commission have no power to alter trusts except under what is known as cy-près, which generally needs the consent of the trustees. More than that, I say frankly that the Charity Commissioners do not know enough about the charities with which they deal. There are to-day some 60,000 charities which are supposed to make annual returns to the Charity Commissioners. One would think that from those 60,000 returns some kind of summary, some kind of picture, would emerge. You would think it should be possible for the Commissioners or someone to say how much money there is in those 60,000 charities. But no-one can tell you. Recently the Nuffield Foundation made a survey of those trusts which deal with old-age pensions. Of course, it is clear in the case of all those charitable trusts which provide pensions for old people that they are really not needed for that purpose, because old-age pensions come from the State. In fact one of the results of such charities is merely to reduce the money that people can obtain from the State. On the other hand, old people want a lot of things besides pensions—clubs, companionship, visitors and so on. It is not at all certain that you can turn charities to help them without some amendment of the law.

It is known that for old-age pensioners there are some 5,000 charities, with a total income of £5,000,000 a year. That is only 5,000 out of my 60,000. If the rest of the 60,000 each hold funds of somewhere about the same size—and in some cases they may be much larger—the total income per year may be £10,000,000 or £20,000,000, or even more. I am not going to say that all that money is being badly spent, or that very much of it is being badly spent; probably most of it is being well spent. But we do know from experience that often when charities have been going on for a long time they do not use their funds to the best advantage. There was a famous Royal Commission on Charities of the City of London in 1878. As the result of the inquiries by that Royal Commission, it was found that some charities which had come down to the City of London from hundreds of years earlier had been largely frittered away and were doing very little good. As a consequence of that, the Commission set up a Parochial Fund, with an income of £160,000 a year, which is about double what they started with, and with which magnificent experiments are being made. They are dealing with such matters as playing fields, old-age pensioners' homes and any number of other charitable things. I have no doubt that the City of London has more old charities than other cities, but there are other old cities—Westminster and Norwich for example.

I want at this point to refer to one thing which the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, said. I am not suggesting that all these charities were foolish when they started. Even if they were I would still wish them to be allowed to continue in some form; but I want to see some power enacted to alter a charity when, through lapse of time, it becomes unsuited to the purpose for which it was originally designed. Let me cite just one case which the Royal Commission of 1878 discovered in St. Clement's Eastcheap. They found that in the year 1491 a man had left money to produce an income of five shillings a year for a "love feast" in St. Clement's Eastcheap. The idea of the "love feast" was that every Maundy Thursday the churchwardens were to call together any of the citizens who had quarrelled during the year and give them dinner together to reconcile them. That charity was founded in 1491. By 1878 the income had multiplied a number of times, and the "love feast" had become a dinner at Richmond, given to about 60 or 70 of the richer ratepayers of the district, whether they had quarrelled with one another or not. The churchwardens explained that they found it difficult to carry out any inquiry as to whether these people had quarrelled, but that the money for the feast was there and so they used it for the purpose which I have described. When the churchwardens were asked: "Do you invite the poor?" they said "No." The Commissioners said "We suppose the poor never quarrel" and the witness who was appearing before them at the time answered: "Probably not." The matter of that particular charity has been cleared up, but there must still be many absurdities going on now which have not been cleared up. That is why I want a searching inquiry. No one can say how much money there is in these charities, because, for one thing, the Charity Commissioners have not the staff to make use of the returns if they had them. No one really knows. That is why I beg to the Government to make certain that this matter is looked into.


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord but I would like to put one point to him for clarification. He has referred in terms to charitable trusts coming under the Charity Commissioners. I do not know the relative numbers, but there are vast numbers of charities which are not technically charitable trusts, though they are charities. I ask the noble Lord whether he can make it clear that he is not seeking to limit to charitable trusts, in the strict sense of the term, the purview of the inquiry which he suggests. All charitable trusts are charities, but all charities are not charitable trusts.


All sorts of associations are charities. They receive contributions from their members. What I am concerned with especially is a trust whose founder is dead; I am concerned with the dead hand from the past. I have in mend the case where a man has left money for a certain purpose, and where the conditions are such that under the law as it stands the charity can be adjusted only to a very limited extent. That is a charitable trust, but of course there are some very important and very valuable charitable trusts. The Nuffield Foundation, with an income of £400,000, is one, and the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust is another. But in the cases of such trusts the founders have generally been wise enough to leave their trustees immense freedom of action, and the trustees have got away from the dead hand. What we really want to do is to get money out of dead hands into living hands. Let me hasten to make it clear that when I say "into living hands," I mean into the living hands of private citizens, and not into the hands of His Majesty's Government. I am not suggesting an inquiry into charitable trusts with any idea whatever of getting funds into the hands of a Government Department of any sort or kind.

My Lords, I have already gone on longer than I intended. I will conclude by referring to one point which was mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, when he criticised me for suggesting what I did suggest—a Minister guardian of voluntary action. What I have in mind is this: that somewhere in the Government structure there should be someone with adequate power to see that the interests of voluntary action are watched over. Let me give an illustration of what an effective Minister guardian of voluntary action could do. In 1946 the possibilities of giving money for charitable purposes were violently reduced at a stroke of the pen by the Chancellor of the Exchequer altering his treatment of charitable covenants. Until 1946 they escaped both income tax and surtax, both of which went to the charity which benefited by the covenant. I am not saying that that w as right, and I am not saying that the change was not worth considering, but we can see what happened. Until then it was possible for a man who was paying 19s. in the pound tax—there are such people—to give £1,000,000 to charity, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer lost the tax. I think there was a case for the Chancellor, but he did at one blow strike at the resources of many charities.

All I want to suggest is that there ought to be somebody in the Government who on being consulted would tell the Chancellor the effect his action would have on voluntary action. I do not want to leave the principle of voluntary action entirely without a guardian in the State machine. The position is somewhat analogous to funds given for the advancement of science. These are to some extent under the control of the Lord President of the Council. The Lord President does not himself direct the use of the funds, but he is there to see that there are adequate funds for the advancement of science. That is his interest. The philanthropic motive is curiously like the scientific motive. The scientific motive is directed towards finding an answer to a question; the philanthropic motive is concerned with finding the remedy for a particular evil. I think there is some analogy there. I do not stress this point. I merely indicate what happened through the unilateral decision of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1946, and I feel that there ought to be somebody who can hold his hand and ask him to consider it further. That is what I have in mind.


Is not the Chancellor of the Exchequer the testator of charities in his position as keeper of the King's Conscience?


I am afraid I am unable to answer that question. I do not think that the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor would say, if he were here, that he regarded the Chancellor of the Exchequer as the defender of voluntary action in the Government. If he were, then he would be my Minister.

I hope that in replying to this debate the Government will do two things. I hope they will make it plain that they consider that national insurance is not enough, as I have said that Beveridge is not enough; that all the State does is not enough, and that therefore they want voluntary action for social progress. But I hope that, having said that, they will go beyond words and do some of the things which are needed to get rid of the difficulties in the way of voluntary action. I am afraid there is always a tendency to utter pleasant words. Even housing societies have nice things said about them by the Government, but in fact their work to-day is made almost impossible. I hope that the noble Lord who is to answer for the Government will not just say nice things about voluntary action—though I hope he will say them, because when said from those Benches they will be much more important than anything said from here—but will also be able to say that the Government will take some definite steps to make voluntary action in future easier than it is at the present moment.

4.26 p.m.


My Lords, your Lordships who have listened to this debate will agree that the Motion is a most opportune one, and we are grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, for moving it. The case has been well made out. At this hour I want to put only one or two reasons why I strongly support the Motion, and to suggest one or two points to which I think further thought should be given. We are all well aware and proud of the fact that voluntary action and voluntary organisations have been a distinguishing feature of British society. I believe that one of the chief reasons why the change from feudalism to more democratic modes of Government has been a peaceful evolution in this country was the large scale of voluntary action, "which provided bridges between the classes and made for understanding and sympathy. I believe that that is a continuing function.

The arrival of what is regarded, rightly or wrongly, as the welfare State, has not lessened the need for voluntary action. I believe that voluntary action, whether for philanthropic ends or mutual aid, is one way of checking the natural bias of the welfare State towards totalitarianism. The arrival of this State is making necessary a change in the direction of voluntary action, and therefore a great deal of thought needs to be given to its planning and to its re-direction. One important aspect of this matter is that of the co-operation between the statutory auhorities, whether national or local, and the voluntary organisation. This has been one of the happiest developments of our time, of which one could give any number of illustrations. While it is working out very well, there are still a number of people who do not understand it. And it is possible that a change of mind might sweep through Whitehall and end that happy relationship.

In various quarters people still feel that if a social need exists on any scale it should be met by the community, working through the statutory organisations. But I believe your Lordships will agree that experience has proved that, not only in the case where fresh experiments have to be made but also in a wider sphere of social service, particularly where it deals with the needs of human beings one by one, voluntary action is better. People prefer voluntary organisations to statutory action, not because those who work for statutory organisations are less humane or less friendly, but because, by the nature of the case, they are more limited by regulations. Therefore, I plead strongly that these opportunities for co-operation between statutory and voluntary organisations should always be considered on their merits that we should not be biased by any prejudice, either for or against voluntary organisation, in deciding whether or not this is a matter which is better dealt with by voluntary agencies.

The noble Lord, Lord Nathan, referred (I thought in rather optimistic terms) to the possibility of this kind of co-operation in the sphere of hospital service. That has been an immense sphere for voluntary action, and there is stile a great deal of scope. I would, however, call attention to one point which I think should give anxiety. We are now informed by the Ministry that it is not desirable that private persons who serve on hospital management committees should also serve on the committees of those organisations which contribute to amenities or to convalescent treatment and so forth. If that advice is more than advice, and is actually a direction, and if that direction is obeyed by the members of the hospital council of which I have the honour to be the chairman, then we have to choose between our service on the management committee of a hospital, and our service on the committees of these very considerable contributory schemes which still exist to give various services. I cannot for the life of me see why we should be forced to make a choice of that kind.

A good deal has been said this afternoon, and very properly said, about the difficult financial position of the voluntary organisations. One way in which the statutory and voluntary organisations co-operate is through the grant aid which comes to the voluntary organisations from the statutory organisations. It would be of immense advantage, and would help to maintain the essential efficiency of service, if that grant aid could be directed to maintaining at a high level the administration of the voluntary organisations and in seeing that their personnel are well equipped. A good deal has been said, also, about the way in which over a period of time charities tend to become obsolete, and a great deal of money lies dormant. That must be within the experience of every member of your Lordships' House, who could quote examples of that kind of thing. In the old boroughs and parishes of many of our towns there are still these old charities which have long since ceased to serve any useful purpose and, which, indeed, are mildly demoralising. If the capital which lies behind them could be re-directed it might provide for some very useful extension of service. The same is true of the large endowment trusts connected with education. Some of these are still performing useful services; but some are not. If all that money could be inquired into, and if powers could be taken to re-direct it into useful channels, a great deal of valuable financial help could be given to voluntary organisations, and also, I think, some real stimulus to voluntary action.

The last point to which I want to call attention is the need of maintaining the motive for voluntary action in the modern State. There is, I fear, a fairly widely diffused belief that with the vast and beneficent increase of statutory social service the need for voluntary action has been greatly diminished. That is not true, and it never will be true if we want to aim at a rich community life. But people have to be persuaded that there is some danger of the loss of personal desire to care for one's neighbour. I would remind your Lordships that in this country one most powerful dynamic in social service has been religious faith; that the Christian Church, using the term very broadly, has probably been the good cause by which all these other good causes have been fed in the past; that the sense of duty to neighbour, which is, thank God, deeply embedded in the life of the people of this country, finds itself there tied up with, and a sequel to, a sense of a duty to God. Therefore, the continuing impulse for social service, as well as the spreading of the sense of social responsibility and the maintenance of all those friendly contacts which oil the wheels of society, depend—perhaps a good deal more than some people realise—on the persistence of religious faith in the community and the vitality and freedom of the Christian Church.

4.37 p.m.


My Lords, in rising to address your Lordships for the first time, may I ask for the customary indulgence which I know is accorded in your Lordships' House? I am only too conscious this afternoon that one of the proud but nevertheless justifi- able sayings of your Lordships is that this is a House of experts. I can only hope your Lordships will not mind listening for a few minutes to one who, at any rate, has the novelty not to be an expert on anything in particular. It was the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, who said a moment ago that he had hardly learnt to write when the mover of this Motion was Home Secretary. I can go much further than that and say that I am much shaken to find that I was not even in this world at all.

I cannot say that I have any detailed knowledge on this subject, and really the only reason why I have risen to speak on it is because I feel strongly about this question of voluntary action in social welfare. To-day there can be little doubt that we have the most comprehensive and widespread social service in the world. Much of it, as we know, has been brought about in the last few years. Many of us may say that it has been brought about before we can really afford it. The fact is, however, that we now have these social services, and all Parties have an equal part in supporting them. Therefore it is obvious that from time to time we should pause to examine the defects in the system of social security which we are still in the process of building up, try to remedy those defects and see in what way we can produce improvement.

I hope no noble Lord will think I am trying in any way to introduce a note of controversy if I say that I think the social services to-day are in many respects suffering from the same disadvantages and defects that exist in some of the nationalised industries. There can be little doubt, in particular in connection with the Health Service, that there is a certain extravagance in administration; and unfortunately there is the same absence of accurate financial calculation in balancing the question of cost against benefits. In addition, I think it is true to say that there is a certain tendency towards remote control of local interests. Many people who at one time used to help in hospitals and institutions of that nature have unfortunately been turned away since the Health Service came into operation. Many of them, I am glad to say, have been taken on, but there are no doubt a great many whose services have been discarded. In addition, and perhaps worst of all, there is a certain lack of inducement for personal initiative and not sufficient esprit de corps which should invigorate the whole system of social security if it is to be a success.

It is a matter of great regret that for so long there has been held up in front of the social services—I do not blame anybody in particular for it—a distorting mirror which, to all intents and purposes, says to everybody: "Come along; it is all free. You can use it as much as you like and hang the consequences!" I am bound to express concern lest, by failing to establish some system of voluntary cooperation in the present application of social security, we may undermine some of the national characteristics of the British people. There is to-day an excessive preoccupation amongst most people with materialism and security. The cynics nowadays say that people have very little emotion above their stomachs. A lot of selfishness is rife and there is undoubtedly a considerable lack of courtesy. As someone said, there is so much petty pilfering going on that we are in danger of becoming a nation of shoplifters rather than of shopkeepers. I think this is resulting in a tendency for people to lean far too much on the State and to take everything for granted.

I must say that it is a very depressing thought that the average person to-day seems to care so little for his own independence and for family responsibility. At one time the family was the most powerful influence for good in the State, and I hope that we shall make it so again. In fact, in the last few years—it may be the aftermath of the war, although I do not pretend to know the reason—there seems to have been a numbing of the national mind of Britain. The whole spirit of adventure and glory seems to have gone out of the British way of life just for the moment, and the will to help other people seems to be lacking. I have often wondered how many people would agree with John Wilkes, who said that it is better have a dangerous liberty than a tranquil slavery. The Royal Commission which was set up to inquire into population issued its Report two or three days ago, and noted the decline in intelligence in this country. I do not know whether that is a pointer to the fact that there is a delusion among people at the moment that it is only hard and fast security which matters in the world to-day.

I cannot sufficiently stress the advantages of voluntary action. To start with, it is obvious that voluntary action will save a great deal of administrative expense and waste, and will also free a lot of people's time. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said that people undoubtedly have much more leisure to take part in social work. I quite agree, and one has only to look at a cinema queue and notice the length of it to see how many people are prepared to stand for an hour or more, waiting to see a film. Voluntary action cannot help but bring in the sense of comradeship and good feeling which is so needed in this country to-day. It will provide more local interest. One has only to look at the Boy Scouts or the British Legion gatherings in order to see what I mean. Perhaps most important of all, those who undertake to do voluntary work obviously have a definite urge, a sense of vocation, to do that particular work. Therefore, it is likely that it will be done better than if they were actually paid to do it. I think stress might also he laid on self-help in social security. Many people have voluntarily provided for themselves against old age and sickness with private insurance companies. Often this has been at considerable initial sacrifice, bat the fact is that they have done so and have been able to provide against adversity in the future. I think it is a matter of considerable regret that this has now beer threatened.

There is no doubt that much splendid work has been done in the last few years in the field of social security. If it has been brought about too quickly, or with too little thought, that is only a human failing quite common to all of us. I will say, however, that all these fine achievements in the field of social security have one big danger, of which we must all become aware. It is that when we have built up what many people are beginning to regard as a dazzling social security, we may find that its foundations are on quicksands of false hopes and delusions, and that it is supported by pillars of idleness and absenteeism. In the field of housing His Majesty's Government have wisely decided not to build many prefabricated houses but mostly permanent houses. I hope that they will also lake this good opportunity to build a permanent framework of minimum social security, outside which scope is allowed for self-help and benevolent schemes for helping others. If we can do this, not only will it promote social progress, but it will help the national revival of character so badly needed today; and I think we shall then be able to say, with some pride and justification, that we have the finest system of social security in the world, not only in theory but in practice also.

4.48 p.m.


My Lords, it is a great pleasure and privilege for me to be able to follow the noble Lord who has just sat down. I am sure your Lordships will agree that it has been one of the most remarkable maiden speeches which we have had the pleasure of hearing for a long time. The noble Lord said, quite wrongly, that he could in no sense speak as an expert. I think the speech he made showed that he understated his potentialities a great deal, and I trust that he will speak on many more occasions in the future.

There are one or two points which I wish to bring out in this debate, although much of what I have to say has already been said and I do not wish to repeat many of the general phrases. There are, however, one or two comparatively important points which I have come across in my own work, which mainly concerns the form of voluntary work dealing with social services, and particularly with social services in connection with the National Health Service in its broadest and biggest aspect. So far as I can see there is at present no need for any despair about the combination of voluntary and State effort in the working out of the National Health Service. There have been certain difficulties in the past, and there will be certain difficulties in the future, but one of the most encouraging signs is the interest which has been expressed by the Minister of Health, and also the valuable circulars which have been sent out by his Department to local authorities to encourage them to do all they can to co-operate fully with the voluntary bodies in their part of the world.

I understand that this advice has been taken by a large number of local authorities, and that many of them are working very closely indeed with the voluntary bodies. But the same remark does not apply to all authorities. It is difficult, I know, for the Minister to insist on local authorities doing these things; local authorities are very jealous people, and they do not like any central direction. And in that respect I think we must entirely agree with their point of view. It would be catastrophic if a central Government were able to tell local authorities what they have to do. But I trust that the Government will encourage, cajole and persuade local authorities who are not playing their part at present to enter into the scheme as much as they possibly can.

That the place of voluntary work is just as great as it was is shown by a great number of experiments which have been carried out. One to which I should like to refer in particular is the Peckham Health Centre. Here is a case of a very big and important body carrying out an interesting, if rather expensive, experiment which is going to create a great deal of interest, not only in England and Scotland but also in foreign countries. There have been a number of visitors from France to the Centre, and there have been broadcasts about it on the French radio. That seems to me one of the cases where the Centre should be allowed to operate as a purely voluntary body; but because they cannot raise enough money to carry out experiments they require some kind of subvention by the State. It need not be a subvention requiring a great deal of control. I think this experiment is a very valuable one, and ought to be encouraged.

Then there are various forms of experiment under the National Health Service. One I have particularly in mind I read of in this morning's paper. The King Edward's Hospital Fund has a large sum of money at its disposal and is establishing homes for old people who are not sick enough to be patients in hospital, yet not well enough to go into the normal establishments run by the local authority or to go back to their own homes. Many workers have helped with this important scheme, but although we are certain we are right, yet we cannot say that the Government should take over that work as a part of the National Health Service: we cannot insist that the Government will agree to its continuance until we have had a chance to show that our experiment has been successful. The fact that this large sum of money has been provided for this purely voluntary purpose is an important sign of progress.

It is, however, essential that we should not over-centralise voluntary effort or create programmes too big to work out properly. We have to bear in mind that there are many people who like to support causes which, though not likely to be permanently unpopular, may be temporarily so, and it would be a great pity if there were too much central planning. If there is, some causes which are for the time being unpopular may be quashed out of existence—causes which later on may become popular causes by reason of some change of thought or some fresh discovery. Therefore I, for one, do not want to see over-planning. For instance, it is known roughly how many people in the country are blind, and what are the various requirements of these people. There are several bodies looking after these requirements, and one cannot help feeling that there might be a certain amount of overlapping. I am not suggesting that that is so, but I quote this as the kind of case which I have in mind as requiring consideration if any inquiry is made.

The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, raised the question of some kind of inquiry into the dormant moneys in banks, and also of charities set up a long time ago whose purpose has now changed. As regards dormant moneys in banks, I think it would be extremely good if this money were put to some purpose. There is surely no point in its lying in some person's current or deposit account. And when we come to the question of an inquiry into obsolete charities, I do not think anybody could object. But I suggest that we ought to be careful, if any such inquiry is made, to ensure that it is made with great care and skill. One might well find that certain unpopular or peculiar or strange charities might suffer at the hands of someone with whom they were personally unpopular, and who happened to be one of the persons making the inquiry. One knows of several cases where some charitable person has given almshouses—perhaps many decades ago—and with them some kind of pension to the people who would live in them. The pension has become unnecessary in present conditions, and it was never, I suppose, the intention of these charitable donors to subsidise the State. The money which was given for the pensions, therefore, could be applied to modernising the buildings and making them more comfortable to live in.

I recently saw in Holland a good example of what can be done in this sphere. There was a beautiful seventeenth century almshouse which, like many of those we have in this country, had become unfit to live in. The organisation responsible modernised the building and turned it into a number of cottages, all of which are quite suitable for occupation, yet they have preserved this valuable architectural relic. That is the sort of work that can very well be done. I am sure that one of the great values of this debate is that it will encourage a number of people who are worried about the question of charities. They are not the really big donors of the past; they are the little people who like to contribute something but who have become a little doubtful as to the future, whether or not the charity is going to be taken over. I am sure that the expressions of opinion that we have heard in this debate to-day will do a great deal to calm their worries and apprehensions, and to make them realise that there is still a good flow of voluntary effort required to be made in parallel with, and to complement, the work which can be done by the State.

5.1 p.m.


My Lords, the debate has been largely concerned with principles. These principles have been illustrated by noble Lords who have spoken, and I want briefly by way of illustration to refer to the application of the principles of voluntary action in a particular field. I want to say a few words about voluntary services in connection with youth clubs. Of recent years, education authorities have been anxious, and rightly anxious, about the large numbers of boys and girls who have left school and are drifting without any attachment to a guild, club, educational or religious society or group of any kind. The authorities have attacked this problem along two lines. They have offered assistance to voluntary organisations under certain conditions—the Scouts, the Guides, the guilds, church clubs and so on. They have also themselves established new clubs unattached to any existing church, club or guild. On those new clubs they have spent large sums of money. They have secured and fitted up premises, and they have put paid organisers in charge. Dances, games and canteens have been provided, together with other more definitely educational activities.

But the results have often been sadly disappointing. Taking the country as a whole, the effort and expenditure seem to have been distinctly unremunerative. I am very much afraid that, unless the education authorities drastically revise their methods, the results will continue to be unsatisfactory. The task that they have set themselves is one of a degree of difficulty which I think they hardly recognise. They are trying to rope into club life not only the clubbable but the unclubbable. This praiseworthy enterprise creates a delicate situation for, if the management are not extremely skilful, the unclubbable will influence the clubbable towards disorder more than the other way about. The youth organiser or club leader must be a person of quite unusual personality, strength of mind and character. A number of youth organisers and club leaders are persons of that calibre, but it seems to me that they will always be in short supply. If I were a young man wishing to take up social and educative work of this kind, I am afraid I should not offer myself to a local authority for the post of club leader or youth organiser. I should be afraid that I should not be given enough freedom; that I should be up against regulations and limitations, and that I should be too much at the beck and call of the local director of education.

Moreover, future prospects under a local education authority are far too poor, not from an immediate financial point of view, but from the point of view of eventual vocation. If I desired to give myself to this kind of work, I should become either a teacher or a parson. There is a reasonable future before a teacher or a parson but one could not picture oneself as a youth organiser or a club leader for the rest of one's life. For such reasons as those—and there are others—an adequate supply of the right kind of youth organiser is not to be expected under present conditions. Accordingly, I submit that the education authorities must revise their whole scheme. In the first place, they should pay still more attention to encouraging existing voluntary organisations—for instance, the Scouts, the Guides, the Boys' Brigade, the Church Lads' Brigade, Church clubs and so on. They should offer them facilities, equipment, camp sites, lectures, instructions and grants.

The best holiday camps for boys that I have ever known were those run by the Student Christian Movement. The officers (if we may call them so, although there was very little of the "officer" about them) were all university men who gave their services. Everybody in the camp shared in the various activities—games, expeditions, washings-up, and camp "chores"—and every evening there were camp prayers as a vital and essential part of camp life. After a week or a fortnight of such life, friendships sprang up and inspiring memories were carried away by all concerned. Camps of this kind are a great stimulus to sound living. I do want to emphasise the special value of youth work carried out in a healthy religious atmosphere. That work is best done by voluntary societies. I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, stressed the importance of the philanthropic motive. We want more of that, but how are we to increase it? I think we must look to religion for the increase of that motive. Amor Dei, the love of God, was the great motive in the past and is the best and the securest motive of all.

Let me return to the clubs. If new clubs seem to be urgently needed, unattached to any existing organisation, then much more care should be taken in starting them. In my opinion, from the first they should so far as possible be associated with the schools. Very often the club could be run by the old boys' association, which would be able to carry over in the background a certain salutary but quite unobtrusive sense of discipline. The leaders of such a club would be the old boys themselves, and the masters would take an interest and have an opportunity, without any intrusion or pressure, to lend a hand. That suggestion leads further to this: that if the masters are to undertake extra responsibilities of this "out-of-school" kind, the pressure under which they are now working must be relieved. I will not pursue that suggestion any further now, because it would take us beyond the orbit of this debate.

There is another and altogether different point to which I wish to refer before I sit down. One very important kind of voluntary work is work done on various councils and committees. The work of the local education committee is a good example. But who are to serve on such a committee? Many of the people who are the very people to serve on an education committee are nowadays by no means men and women of leisure, and unless special efforts are made to facilitate their attendance, they really cannot be expected to manage it. What we are now actually finding is that the local education committees include too many elderly people and too many people with the slenderest educational experience. The word should go out from the centre and be passed round everywhere that special effort should be made to welcome as committee members some, at least, of the busy people whose qualifications make their counsel of special value. The business should be so arranged that the attendance of such members might, if necessary, be a minimum attendance—a minimum attendance recognised and not resented, but welcomed by the whole committee. If we want the help of our best and most active brains in public work of a voluntary kind—which we certainly do—then the machinery of a great deal of our administration must be overhauled and modernised.

5.11 p.m.


My Lords, I join with others who have spoken in expressing gratitude to the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, for initiating this debate. It is a debate that has been keenly awaited in many quarters, as I know from my own correspondence. The Government have been most anxious to learn what was in the minds of members of the House who were going to speak, and I believe there are up and down the country many people—thousands, and it may even be more than thousands—who are genuinely anxious to find out what is the fundamental attitude of the Government towards this whole question of voluntary action. I would offer the opinion respectfully that all these speeches have been of much value; certainly they would all appear to have been based on great experience. But perhaps I may be allowed to single out the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ellenborough. I would like to say from these Benches how closely we followed him and how we hope he will speak often in this House again.

I have received an expression of regret from the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, at his involuntary departure; he has gone on a voluntary action for social progress elsewhere. I have been asked by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk—whose speech I think everyone enjoyed very much because it obviously came from deep conviction—to say that "Beveridge is not enough." Well, I am ready to agree, as indeed I think is the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, that "Beveridge is not enough." At one moment Pelion was piled on Ossa and there was a document published called "Beveridge on Beveridge." But even "Beveridge on Beveridge" I do not think was ever considered by Beveridge to be enough. If I concede that to the noble Earl, however, I hope that he en his side will concede to me that at the time the Beveridge Report was published it was thought by many people, mainly people in the noble Earl's own Party, that Beveridge was too much. That view was widely expressed. I do not say that it was the prevalent view but it was very strongly held, and I can recollect that at that time the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, received no further employment from the Government of the day and w as forced to fall back on voluntary action by himself, from that day until yesterday when it was announced that the present Government have asked him to undertake the inquiry into the working of the B.B.C. But all is well that ends well.


What about new towns?


The noble Viscount corrects me. He is working on the initiation of a new town. I am not quite sure where that comes in the classification. I do not know whether it counts as official or voluntary action. At any rate, he has been asked to undertake work by the present Government on one of the new towns, but I am bound to say that the noble Lord was never asked to do any more work for the last Government though he was most anxious to do it. I only say that in the course of friendly debate. The noble Earl has asked me to repudiate the welfare State. I am forced back on the old question: what does one mean by the "welfare State"? But certainly in the sense that I think the noble Earl has in mind, I am ready to repudiate it—namely, the State in which all welfare is to be provided by the State itself. I certainly repudiate it in that sense, though there are other senses in which I applaud the conception.

May I, however, straight away pass, as I think is the wish of the House, to a careful and rather prolonged description of the Government's attitude to voluntary action? We consider that the voluntary spirit is the very lifeblood of democracy. We consider that the individual volunteer, the man who is proud to serve the community for nothing, is he whose personal sense of mission inspires and elevates the whole democratic process of official Governmental effort. We are convinced that voluntary associations have rendered, are rendering, and must be encouraged to continue to render, great and indispensable service to the community. I hope that that deliberate expression of our basic Governmental attitude will carry far and wide. I hope that it will establish firmly in the public mind the value of voluntary service as we see it, and, in particular, I hope it will prove decisive for good with any citizens, young or old, who are thinking of joining or starting voluntary bodies but are wondering whether such activities are now adjudged really significant; who are wondering whether that kind of thing is really needed, and whether their own sacrifices are really wanted in the Britain of the present day. I want to remove all possible doubt from their minds, speaking from this place in the most emphatic manner.

We have moved far from the era of laissez faire. We have entered what Lord Lindsay and others have called "the era of the positive State." But, even at the cost of repetition, I want to make it plain, beyond any shadow of misunderstanding, that, in the view of the Government, democracy without voluntary exertion and voluntary idealism loses its soul. All forms of democratic government are dependent on that same spirit, but the Socialist form most of all. We are certain that voluntary social service organisations have a part to play as essential in the future as any they have played in the past, and with the steady development of our social conscience we must look to them as time goes on to put even their own fine records in the shade.

My Lords, there are in this matter great difficulties, even impossibilities, of agreed definition. I will pass over them rapidly this afternoon. We could argue indefinitely as to what is meant by "voluntary action for social welfare." The noble Viscount who, I should judge, has received part at any rate of the same documentation as myself, quoted the National Council of Social Service. They have recently published particulars, as he told us, of some 300 of the principal national societies affiliated to them. They mention that the number of smaller or local organisations amounts to many thousands. Among the activities included are child welfare, youth services, women's work, old people's welfare, mental health, the blind, industrial welfare, physical recreation, advisory services, education and the arts, marriage guidance, town and country planning, and international activities, which I was very glad the noble Earl called to our attention.

At first hearing a list of this kind would seem fairly comprehensive, and yet it does not include the trade union movement, the co-operative societies, the friendly societies (each of which headings covers a wide variety of member bodies and millions of individual members) and it makes no mention of the churches whose point of view was laid before us so effectively this afternoon. The influence of the churches on social progress is, or should be, greater than that of all the other bodies put together. I entirely agree with both right reverend Prelates who have spoken in that sense. However, I must not try to pit my authority against theirs. In this connection I would only take leave to quote what one whom I was always proud to call a friend, the late Archbishop Temple, once said when speaking at a meeting of the Oxford Union—and it was one of the finest endings to a speech that I have ever listened to, at any rate as he delivered it: Only religious faith can make the world safe for freedom; only religious faith can make freedom safe for the world. That, I feel, is as far as I can take the matter this afternoon.

It is difficult to classify the Churches in this connection and, of course, in the list of the National Council no mention is made of the independent schools and universities, of the unpaid members of political Parties—because although we do not often mention them these political Parties really are respectable bodies—and of local authorities. If we leave out members of another place, who may be held to have forfeited their amateur status, what about non-Governmental members of this noble House? Are they not an example of voluntary action for social progress? I say that even of the members who do not belong to what is officially regarded as the progressive side in politics. In truth, my Lords, there is more than one ambiguity in this concept of voluntary action. We start, I suppose, by opposing the volunteer to the conscript, but apart from National Service men there are few conscripts in peace time. We pass on, and think of the volunteer as a man who does something for nothing, the idealist who gives unpaid service to a good cause; indeed, as I think Lord Beveridge points out in his book, it was in this way that the group formed to run the good cause came to be known as a voluntary organisation.

Of course, to-day there has grown up a considerable body of salaried officials of voluntary societies, though the National Council of Social Service point out—which should not be forgotten—that the great mass of all the work of all the voluntary societies engaged in social service is done by the unpaid spare-time efforts of individuals, drawn from all walks of life and from all political Parties. For example, the National Association of Boys' Clubs, in which I happen to be particularly interested, reports 204,000 members of affiliated clubs, 600 full-time salaried club leaders and administrative staff, 200 part-time salaried club leaders, 1,800 instructors provided by local educational authorities to teach specific activities and 24,000 voluntary leaders' helpers, instructors committee members and so on. So, broadly speaking, with a membership of 200,000 there are only 600 full-time salaried leaders, and at least 24,000 voluntary helpers. I think that gives a fair picture of a typical voluntary movement at the present time. To-day, when talking of an individual worker for an organi- sation, whether a State organisation or otherwise, the volunteer is contrasted with the paid official. But when we are talking of organisations, the voluntary organisation means the organisation free, or relatively free, from State control, and it is contrasted with the statutory body.

When I began my remarks by expressing cordial approval of voluntary action I included, of course, the activities of unpaid individuals working for social purposes in all spheres, including therein city councillors, unpaid members of State airport committees, business men and others (and there are quite a few of them) who give their services for nothing to Government Departments, and countless others. It is quite wrong to assume that nationalisation of any social service excludes the volunteer. I do not think that anyone has made that mistake this afternoon, but it is sometimes made outside. I would give the House the example of the wealth of voluntary service which is being placed at the disposal of the National Health scheme, where no fewer than 10,000 men and women are serving without payment on the regional hospital hoards and on the hospital management committees. However, the character of this debate leads me to concentrate mainly, with the permission of the House, on voluntary organisations for social progress, and with those I shall be primarily concerned.

This Government pride themselves on being a Government of planners, but have we a Government plan for voluntary organisations, a fundamental unifying attitude, one of encouragement and anxiety to help? Moit certainly the answer is "Yes." Have we a series of flexible schemes by which the different branches of Government assist the various voluntary societies to achieve the end which the Departments and the societies have in common? Again, most certainly, yes. A striking example is the splendid results achieved since 1940 by the cooperation between the Ministry of Education, the local authorities and the multitude of voluntary bodies in promoting the youth service. If I may, I will quote from the annual report of the National Association of Boys' Clubs for the year 1947–1948. I do not think anyone will suggest that they have been "got at" because they are a most independent body of people. The report states: The Ministry of Education has continued to extend substantial aid and to make partnership a reality in all its associations with our work. To those who frequently assume that statutory intervention involves restrictions and loss of freedom, it would be an encouraging experience to enjoy the relationship that exists between the Ministry and the Association. I feel that that is interesting coming from that quarter.

But a single Government plan for promoting the kind of action whose whole raison d'être is its freedom from external control—as Lord Beveridge has pointed out—its spontaneity, its uniqueness, would surely be a fundamental contradiction in terms. Superficially, it may at times appear to the bewildered student of the myriad forms of voluntary organisation in this country—many of them overlapping, and the whole set-up untidy and asymmetrical—that there is nowhere a clearer need for a major planning operation. The Government, however—and I believe the whole House will agree in this—heartily endorse the views of the National Council of Social Service that probably there is nowhere a greater danger that a successful operation of this kind might be fatal to the patient. In other words, the State has got to be immensely anxious to help, but extremely sensitive about the manner in which the help is rendered.

As is well brought out in the fine book of Lord Beveridge, much of the history of voluntary action in this country (it was particularly true in earlier times, and it has not yet lost its validity to-day) is wrapped up with the struggle against acute poverty and other forms of dire distress. Apart from the general economic progress of the country and the exertions of those, whether employers or employees, who have added steadily to our standard of life—for, after all, the industrial effort of the country has provided the essential conditions of social progress—the attack on poverty has taken three main forms: first, that of private charity, embodying what Lord Beveridge has called the philanthropic motive; second, the attitude of mutual self-help, apart from the State; and, third, the political struggles to induce the State to assume responsibility for the social security of its citizens, a responsibility which in earlier times was associated with Socialism, but which more recently has been taken up by a great many who are not Socialists and finding its culmination in the Beveridge Report, which was endorsed by all Parties.

The two first motives bore the heat and burden of the day during the nineteenth century, but social legislation which has been placed on the Statute Book recently bids fair to liquidate such extreme poverty as was known in the past, provided always that the national income holds up; and we are all at one in agreeing that we must not only maintain the total national income but increase it continually, so that social benefits can be completely safeguarded. In these circumstances, there is a disposition in some quarters—quite a natural disposition, often a well intentioned disposition, though one which springs from human weakness—to wonder whether voluntary organisations have not perhaps had their day, and to suggest that the State is already doing all they used to do and will soon be doing what they are doing now and doing it very much better. Any such easy-going approach is totally mistaken and I am sure will be regarded as such by any responsible Government in power, and will be regarded in that way by the whole House.

Along with the immense increase during the present century in the responsibility for well-being assumed by the State, there has come an equally remarkable development of voluntary organisations. Voluntary organisations, so far from falling off, are still steadily expanding. At the present time, in the view of the National Council of Social Service, there are probably more voluntary organisations with a greater total membership than ever before. There was at one time a real danger of a conflict between the champions of the statutory and the voluntary principles. It seems to me that to-day there is a clearer recognition all round, to which the Government certainly subscribe, of the truth that the statutory and voluntary social services are not contradictory but complementary, and that neither will be able to fulfil its highest purpose except in partnership with the other. There is a clearer recognition that the statutory organisations should endeavour to strengthen the voluntary and that the voluntary organisations should endeavour to supplement those of the State. It is not easy—indeed, I think it is impossible—to generalise with precision, either about the kind of tasks that should be left to voluntary as opposed to statutory societies or about the relations that should exist between the two types. So much depends—indeed, everything depends—on the particular service and on the particular locality.

Let me take boys' clubs, for example. My own contacts have lain with boys' clubs of a voluntary character and I have always assumed that that was the natural basis of boys' clubs, but under the Youth Service the local authorities have power, as the right reverend Prelate is aware, to provide such clubs directly. Their task is "to encourage existing organisations, but to fill the gaps not covered by such organisations." I believe that a number of their clubs are doing excellent work. I must confess to a sneaking weakness for the boys' clubs I have known, but that may be because I have not been brought into personal contact with clubs run by local authorities. I know from what others tell me that a number of local authorily clubs are doing exceedingly well.

A few broad propositions about respective spheres may be enunciated. The State is obviously under a duty to provide a minimum of social security and social benefit in the widest sense. Particularly where such a minimum can be provided in a standardised form, above all in the form of a fixed monetary payment, the State can usually do the job more cheaply and efficiently, and in many vital cases cannot afford to run the risk of others failing to perform it. I have never studied the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, but it has always seemed to me to be extraordinary that this service has been left to voluntary action. It is a remarkable example of what voluntary action has achieved. But there are many cases in which we cannot run the risk of leaving such things as the safety of human life to voluntary action. There are certain limitations likely to attend statutory action. I am far from saying that these can never be overcome or cannot be overcome much more successfully in future. Statutory action naturally gives effect to a policy publicly approved. Unless one is careful, however, it tends to become hedged round with general rules.

Again, I would give an example from the sphere of boys' clubs, and I give this example without prejudice to the merits of the particular case. I recently visited a club where there was an extremely good leader in whom everyone had the greatest confidence. There is a danger that under any general rule laying down age limits for youth leaders, such a leader might be excluded. I give that as one example of what may happen if we try to standardise things for voluntary organisations. Statutory action has that tendency, and it is up to all concerned to see that that tendency is kept in its proper place. Voluntary action finds it easier to express the social ideals of a minority, a religious minority or any other. It embarks more readily on controversial experiments. That was the only point that worried me a little in what the noble Viscount said. I was a little concerned whether restrictions of that kind might not defeat the broader purposes the noble Viscount himself had in mind. Voluntary action is more disposed and is freer to move ahead of general opinion, to modify universal regulations in the interests of a particular case. It seeks to comply with the infinite variety of human taste and human talent. These generalised distinctions must not be pushed too far.

Of one thing I am very certain. We get every kind of devotion to the community in this country; but between the intensity of the devotion to the public service in the ordinary sense and the devotion to voluntary bodies, it is quite impossible to discriminate. Who can say which is the more admirable: the national spirit which animated the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, to build up the Royal Air Force, or the more localised self-dedication which leads a lady in my own office to act as unpaid secretary to a Church of England Young People's Club of thirty members, meeting four nights a week? I do not think we can say that at the Last Day one would go in before the other. I think they would go in hand in hand in the front line. Both forms of social inspiration are embedded equally deeply in our national traditions. They are equally valuable to our democratic way of life. And may the day never come when either is less useful than in the past or at the present time.

The question of the relationships between the State and voluntary bodies brings me to the first of the eight points set out in Lord Beveridge's book. He spared us one or two of those points this afternoon and perhaps the House will not wish me to deal with all of them at this moment, but I must clearly touch on some of them, including those the noble Lord placed before us to-day. The noble Lord's first point is the co-operation of the public authorities and voluntary agencies. In his book, he rightly describes this as an accepted policy. It is certainly the policy of the Government. The expansion of statutory social services must on no account be allowed to result in the drying up of voluntary effort. Both economy and the health of our society depend on our strengthening and encouraging the voluntary effort, wherever possible, rather than supplanting it.

I have already referred to the youth service and the way it has been built up in the last few years. If I may pick out one more recent example of successful co-operation in the development of a new service between the statutory and voluntary sides, I would pick on the citizens' advice bureaux. The local authorities are now empowered by the Ministry of Health to provide a service of this kind, and may either set up their own information centre or use the services of a voluntary organisation. But whichever of these two plans is adopted, in the majority of places we find the citizens' advice bureau continuing to co-operate in running the service, and they themselves are assisted in many ways by the local authorities. I would like to illustrate the point by saying that in 1948 the bureaux dealt with 1,668,250 inquiries, many of them relating to the public social services—which suggests either that the public social services are very obscure, or that we are a very inquisitive people. However, I must not begin picking and choosing between organisations where all have done so well.

The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, did not to-day make much of the fact that financial asistance should be given by the State to voluntary authorities. As he is well aware, a great many voluntary organisations are in fact assisted by the State, and it is all done on a departmental basis. When Lord Beveridge was writing his book he was supplied by the Treasury with a list of about ninety classes of bodies that are aided in this way by the various Departments, and I shall be pleased to let any member of the House interested have the list in question. I should say that the Government take the view that grants in aid of the work of voluntary associations should be given by the Department for the purposes in which they are particularly interested in a departmental sense. Generally speaking, the policy of the Government (and I am sure there is no Party question at stake) is that as proof of its vitality a voluntary organisation should raise a significant amount from voluntary sources. We regard it as fundamental—I say this to the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, who clearly had this in mind, and to the right reverend Prelate—that those concerned in the Departments with the administration of such grants should encourage the voluntary character of the body aided, and should stimulate it in every reasonable way to maintain its flow of voluntary resources.

I cannot pass over entirely Lord Beveridge's suggestion—made in his book, though, as he said, he did not press it on us to-day—of a Minister guardian. He repudiates the idea of a Minister for voluntary action—neither he nor any of us wants this super-planner—but he would like a Minister guardian. That would, in fact, cut across the whole plan that wins general approval, of allowing each Minister responsible for a Department to help his own area of voluntary action. I am in a position to mention that the National Council of Social Service, whom we are all anxious to assist to the best of our ability, would not themselves desire to see a Minister guardian of this kind set up. They feel that the present departmental basis of assistance is much more satisfactory. I think the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, will concur that the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, did not this afternoon press this point of a Minister guardian.

I come now to Lord Beveridge's plea, repeated this afternoon, that an inquiry should be undertaken into the possibility of widening the scope and opportunities of friendly societies. I hope that no words of mine are needed to-day to reaffirm the good will of His Majesty's Government towards the friendly societies, or our hope for their health and prosperity. I cannot, however, accept the noble Lord's argument that they have had a raw deal, and that it is up to the Government to make amends. If I may say so (I am sorry to say it in the noble Lord's absence, but he is such an old friend that perhaps he will not mind my saying it behind his back), I felt that was the least conciliatory way that could have been devised of presenting the argument. One could have thought of a number of other arguments, but that seemed to be the one card that was certain to lose the trick. However, I can assure the noble Lord that we will not allow ourselves to be deflected, even by so provocative an argument, from what we consider to be fair play. We will consider this on its merits. I am reluctant to say anything to-day that would seem to foreshadow any new concession in favour of the friendly societies, because I have no grounds this afternoon for suggesting that such a concession will in fact be found possible or desirable.

Let me just set out the matter, quite coldly, as it has hitherto presented itself to us. The main objects of friendly societies are the making of provision for their members against sickness, old age and death, and, subject to certain limits on the amounts for which they can insure, they are exempt from income tax. These limits were increased in 1948. Lord Beveridge wishes the objects of friendly societies to be enlarged to enable them to undertake other activities, but the Government wonder how far such an enlargement would help them unless it carried tax exemption with it. This, however, is not a final opinion. This afternoon, I can say only that the Government have approached sympathetically the question of an inquiry into the scope of friendly society activity, and pending a study of to-day's debate, have not yet taken a decision either way. However, I must not be thought to hold up any prospect that the Government are likely to add to the taxation concession which was made only last year.

I have left until the end what in his book was the third of Lord Beveridge's points—namely, the proposal that there should be a Royal Commission on Charitable Trusts. Here again, the Government have deliberately refrained from drawing up a concrete plan until after the debate to-day. This afternoon, however, I can say three things. First, the noble Lord, both in his book, and in his speech this afternoon, has once again brought his social searchlight to bear on a dark and musty alcove, and has once again rendered a signal service. Secondly, the Government are quite sure that the purposes which the noble Lord has in mind—as have also many others who have made representations on this matter—would not be well served by the establishment of a Royal Commission. The famous Royal Commission of Lord Brougham sat for nineteen years, and while we might hope for speedier progress in this age of movement and crisis thinking, there is no doubt that an elaborate investigation of the kind suggested in Lord Beveridge's book, poking its nose inevitably, as of duty bound, into every individual trust, would take far too long to deal with what the noble Lord so rightly claims is a pressing problem. Thirdly, I wish to make it clear that the Government agree that the matter cannot be left where it is now. We agree that something needs doing, and doing without delay. In saying that, we are fortified by the very pertinent observations that fell from the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. I repeat that we wish to study this afternoon's debate before going into details, but we will undertake to inquire forthwith into the steps appropriate and necessary to remedy the situation that is admitted on all sides to contain elements of waste, anachronism and anomaly.

I am afraid that I have spent so much time upon the points raised by the noble Lord. Lord Beveridge, that the noble Viscount will have to forgive me if I do not deal with his own speech as fully as its great quality merits. I would like to address myself for the moment to his proposal of the Common Good Fund. Here again, we have awaited the result of the debate and possibly, if the noble Viscount is good enough, the result of further discussions with him, to enable him to elaborate his proposal and find out exactly what is in his mind. I would only say that, so far as local funds are concerned, the Local Government Act, 1933, already allows local authorities to hold and administer gifts of property for any local public purpose or for the benefit of the inhabitants of the area. It would appear, therefore, that no further legislation is needed to enable local funds to be set up in any part where the corporations so desire. So far as national funds are concerned, it has not been altogether clear to us what action the Government are desired to take. We view the proposal with sympathy; we recognise its attractions and, to quote an expression which came in one of the noble Viscount's broadcasts, when he mentioned the numerous attractions—


"Notwithstanding the numerous attractions of the course proposed." The "course" in that case was that he, Gladstone, should write a letter to support a local candidate at a by-election.


"Notwithstanding the numerous attractions of the course proposed" by the noble Viscount, I can only express the hope that he will be ready to discuss with members of the Government the precise object which he has in view, and we will gladly go into the matter and see whether legislation is necessary or what other steps may be required. It must not be thought that I am holding out any promise of legislation in the near future, but we are really interested in the proposal and will gladly follow up and discuss it with the noble Viscount.

I draw towards a close, and would like once again to acknowledge what seems to me the great achievement of the book of the noble Lord. Once again he has stirred up all our thinking—and I am bound to say that he has done so just as effectively without my assistance as in the past. We all agree that there is need for a sense of urgency in this matter. Few of us, I believe, would claim to have laid down his book without some clearer appreciation of the issues involved. In the noble Lord's chapter on the needs that remain in a social service State—a thought which has been in many minds in this debate—he arrests our attention with striking demonstrations that there is a vast amount of unhappiness to-day which could be cured by social action but which is not primarily due to lack of money. The old, the children, the physically handicapped, the unmarried mother, the discharged prisoner, are vividly placed before us. Glancing off for one moment, I do not think one could ever organise the assistance of discharged prisoners in any regular form. If you want to help a prisoner it takes so long, because there are so many odd little things that you have to do that it is quite impossible to draw up a code of rules under which prisoners could be fitted into a position.

The noble Lord quotes the view that voluntarism must be an element in effective personal service. I wholeheartedly agree with him. But that does not mean that I, or the Government, distinguish as sharply as does the noble Lord between the friendship and personal care to be expected from the volunteer and those to be expected from the official. Surely, we must not cling too rigidly to the old distinctions. We have seen a great rise in the standard of life over the last century, and a considerable equalisation of incomes in recent years. The old inspiration of the attack on the more horrible forms of poverty operated among the poor as an urge to help themselves and among many rich people to dedicate their lives and substance to help, out of their greater plenty, their fellows in extreme distress. To-day, in a society where the two nations of Disraeli's novel are all the time drawing, closer together, the mutual aid motive and the philanthropic motive must be expected to become ever more blurred and sublimated in a common group action for purposes which, in many cases, will be wider than those of the particular group affected.

The voluntary societies of to-day and to-morrow must carry over all that is best in both these motives. So must the statutory bodies, as is happening in many cases; while on their side many voluntary bodies have much to learn in routine, efficiency and proper remuneration for their employees, from the official world of Whitehall and local authorities. The partnership between statutory and voluntary bodies will always be intricate. It will, like a good many other things in this country, be impossible to explain to foreigners and difficult at times to understand ourselves. As the cash minimum becomes more and more secure and satisfactory—as we hope it will in future years—so more and more the emphasis for the voluntary effort will fall on the enrichment of the human personality through the creation of community life, whether of old or young, or handicapped people, or just the ordinary middle-aged men and women. I would suggest that even if this country becomes tremendously rich and prosperous, and even if, at some Utopian moment, finance hardly seems to matter, the time will never come when this kind of enrichment of personality through community life will ever be properly superseded, because what we get from the State in the last resort can never do more than provide the conditions of living. On the other hand, this kind of voluntary action, brought into existence by our own common effort of creation, will be an immediate part of what we are intended for and will be the very stuff of life itself. I would like to end by expressing my gratitude to the noble Viscount.

5.57 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure the whole House will be grateful to the noble Lord for the very important and valuable statement which he has made. In previous years—not in recent years—those of us who moved, from this quarter of the House, a Resolution on some general subject of this kind, were fairly sure that, when the Government came to reply through one of their junior spokesmen, the speech to be delivered from that Bench would be divided into three parts. The first part would express the sympathy of the Government with the objects in view, and warm approval of the spirit in which the Motion was advanced. The second part would centre on the word "difficulty," and indicate the number of difficulties Which were seen in the way of carrying out the proposal which was made. In the third part, the key word would he "consideration": that the House could be thoroughly assured that it was their most earnest determination to give to the matter all the consideration that it was found to deserve. On that we had to go away—I will not say satisfied, but dissatisfied.

It is very different to-day. When the noble Lord is replying, we expect that we shall have from him a carefully considered and argued speech inspired by his own zest and interest in the subject which is on foot, and I thank the noble Lord for his speech in that spirit. He began with an emphatic statement which will be widely read and which was quite unqualified. He said that he wished, on behalf of the Government, that the nation should understand that the Government believed in voluntary social service; that they intended to support it, and that, in a word, no one should think that Socialism was necessarily antagonistic to social service. Of course, there was a concealed proviso, to which utterance was not given, that we must expect him to think (though not to say) that nothing in this statement shall be held to apply to production, distribution and exchange!

However that may be, so far as the sphere of voluntary action for social service is concerned the Government could not be more specific and emphatic; and all these social bodies may feel that they will not find in the present Government a Walrus or a Carpenter to whom they will have to play the part of apprehensive Oysters. I agree also with the noble Lord that we do not expect; the Government to produce anything in the nature of an overall plan of what voluntary service should do, what its functions should be, and by whom it should be done. Of course, no one would expect or desire that. As the noble Lord himself has said, a regimented voluntary service would not be voluntary service at all. On that is no difference of opinion.

Turning in the earlier part of his speech to the suggestion of a Common Good Fund and the concomitant proposals, the noble Lord made an observation which I think on consideration he may regard as not well founded. He said that he felt some doubt about my expression of view that controversial matters should not be dealt with by that machinery. Well, I do not think they possibly can be, because if it IN ere found that the Common Good Fund was used either for opposing the politics of one Party or for advancing the cause of another Party, it might immediately become the object of a great deal of hostile criticism and protest and would lose the public confidence. People would not bequeath their funds to an organisation of that kind, since the money might be used for propaganda purposes. No one suggests that we should drop controversial activities; all that is suggested is that these, particular funds should not be devoted to such objects. Controversial enterprises can be set on foot—secularist societies, birth control societies or whatever it may be, pro-Catholic or anti-Catholic, pro-Jewish or anti-Jewish, or any other societies which are of a controversial nature, political, religious or scientific. They can go on as now. All that is suggested is that if something is to be clone under the auspices of a community it should be something which is, so far as possible, generally acceptable.

With regard to the procedure for giving grants in aid to particular bodies by various Departments of the Government, I find the statement of the noble Lord acceptable. The present procedure by which, for example, one Department deals with the Travel Association, another with the Arts Council and a third perhaps with assistance to some other body, is satisfactory and works very well, and nobody wishes to interfere with that arrangement. But we do not wish to suggest that many millions more should he devoted to these purposes at this time, while there are tens of millions available which might be mobilised for such purposes.

Then the noble Lord was averse from a Royal Commission to perform the duties suggested by Lord Beveridge in his book—namely, to carry out a prolonged inquiry into particular charities and the like. I dare say there is a great deal to be said for that, but that was not the suggestion which I had in mind when I advocated a Royal Commission. I thought of nothing more than an inquiry which in a few months should lay down a policy, hear various bodies such as the National Council of Social Service and others concerned and also local authorities, gain experience not only of England but of other countries, and consider whether some such scheme as Common Good Funds, national and local, might be set on foot. Something must he done conspicuously on a large scale, in the sight of the whole nation and arousing public interest, before people would know that there were such funds to which they could leave their money or from which they might hope for assistance for their organisations.

The noble Lord ended by saying that the Government have decided not to make any specific statement to-day but to be guided in some degree by the course of the debate. That seems to me to be a very proper course; it is gratifying that they should be willing to consider the views expressed before coming to a final conclusion. I welcome greatly the noble Lord's final words in which he said that the Government agreed that something needed to he done and should be done without delay. That will be welcomed wholeheartedly, I am sure, by all those concerned, and I do not think we can expect more from the Government at this stage. I hope the Government will take into consultation not only those members of your Lordships' House who have spoken to-day and many others who are fully entitled to speak, but also the voluntary organisations concerned. As the result of this debate, I myself will take steps to communicate with some of these organisations and see whether we can bring together a group who may be taken into consultation by the Government when they are framing their future policy.

I would express my warm thanks to the noble Lord for his speech. This debate was really more Lord Beveridge's than mine. I was inspired by the noble Lord's book with the idea that the House should consider this matter. I suggested that he should put down a Motion that this House should consider the matter, but the noble Lord felt that, he having written the book, it would not be seemly for him to put down a Motion, and he preferred that someone else should do so. I must say I welcomed the opportunity of drawing the attention of the House to a subject which is close to my own heart. I should like to say again that I am grateful to the noble Lord, and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.