HL Deb 20 May 1953 vol 182 cc658-703

2.54 p.m.


rose to ask the House to consider the effects of recent social legislation and other influences upon the well-being of the family; and to move for Papers. The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, in moving this Motion, I have no particular axe to grind, no scandal to uncover, no desire to attack the services now provided by the State and local authorities. The subject, as your Lordships will know, has been discussed recently a good deal outside Parliament and it received much attention in the Report of the Royal Commission on Population, which, if my memory serves me, has not yet been debated in Parliament. I will preface what I have to say with a quotation from a lecture given by the present Head of the Department of Social Studies at the London School of Economics a year or two ago. He said that the area of contradiction and conflict stretches over much of our social and economic policy, not because we do not care about the family but because we do not think about the family. I assume that your Lordships care about the family, and require no exhortations from me or anybody else about the sanctity of family life and all that. We believe that the family is part of the established order of things. As birds continue to mate and to nest, in spite of the despoiling attacks of naughty boys, so the family will survive, despite the worst which naughty legislators or industrialists may do; and for precisely the same reason. The family is tough, resilient and adaptable. Human folly cannot destroy it, but it can hurt, corrupt and weaken it. Therefore, I would ask your Lordships to think about the family this afternoon, and I am grateful that speakers more worthy of your hearing than I am, and better informed, will be addressing the House presently.

The family, and the attitude of society towards the family, have been changing in a very fast changing world. A hundred or so years ago it was taken for granted. It was rarely the subject of inquiry, for its privacy was respected. The full-length biographies of the Victorians nearly all become reticent and stylicised when they come to describe the private lives of their heroes. It is roughly true to say that the pre-Victorian family grew, like the seed in the parable, "secretly," and received no proddings from sociological or reformist gardeners. One reason why the family was thus secluded and self-contained was that in those days it was numerous, fairly stationary, and in rural areas was often still an economic unit. Moreover, the mother was occupied for a large span of her life in child-bearing and child-rearing. The members of the family were well occupied in rubbing off one another's corners, and did not need a great deal of attention from outside. And in the process they learnt a good deal about communal life.

How different is the situation to-day! The family is no longer secluded in unself-conscious privacy. It is studied, legislated for, visited, moved about and taxed. It has become self-conscious. Trained visitors are taught and encouraged to give parents advice on their duties and functions, which may sometimes increase their confidence and efficiency but may sometimes lessen their efficiency by undermining their self-confidence. Even the parson adds his meed of guidance, before the wedding if not afterwards. I am not saying that the change is for better or for worse: I am merely emphasising the fact of the change and its magnitude. As there can be no putting back of the clock, we have to make the best of it. Statistically, the outstanding features of the change, as your Lordships all know, are the reduced size of families and the recent increase in the number of marriages, especially of early marriages. We are all aware, these days, of the rapid disappearance of large families—so much so, that when we do meet a family of Victorian dimensions we are apt to assume, I think a little too readily, that the parents are either "R.C." or "M.D." The figures are very striking. The census of 1911 showed that the average number of children per family from marriages contracted in the 1860's was round about six. The census of 1946 showed that the average number of children from marriages contracted in 1925 was about two. And the figure is still tending to fall. In view of this, it is rather surprising that there should at the same time have been an increase in the number of marriages, especially early marriages. I understand that, as compared with 1911, the proportion of girls marrying at under twenty years of age has risen by no less than 200 per cent.

There is another point to be considered as we ponder these figures—a point which, if I may say so, was well made in a paper by Dr. Bliss at the Conference on the Family which was convened last month by the National Conference on Social Work. The new conception of marriage turns away from the idea of marriage as a social institution, to the constitution of marriage—and here I quote: as a freely entered and freely maintained personal relationship worked out by the persons concerned"— that is to say, the personal adjustment of one to the other, creating something new. The question we have to ask is, is this change pure gain for the community or is it likely to increase the sum total of human happiness? The greater emotional tension that it involves and the degree of compatibility and identity of interest which it demands, and also of privacy and physical propinquity, make the risks of failure far greater. One might ask, as that speaker asked, what is the long-term reaction of all this on the adventurous spirit of a seafaring nation? As I asked myself that question I was reminded of an experience I had in the war when I suggested to one much-engaged young parson that he might offer himself as an army chaplain. His reply was: Yes, provided I could assure him that the chaplaincy would be in the neighbourhood of so and so.

May I now pass from the general, which could occupy a great deal of time if one cared to occupy it, to the particular, and single out six points from among the many which might be raised, and perhaps will be raised. It is probably desirable for the nation's life and for individual character and well-being that the size of families should be larger than the low average to which they have fallen. If that is true, then it should be our duty to try to influence public opinion that way and, as legislators, to ensure that both legislation and administration conduce to that end. At present I do not think they do, and I should like to reinforce that opinion by quoting from paragraph 406, the careful conclusion of the Royal Commission on Population. It is as follows: …that social development over the past seventy or eighty years has tended to accentuate the relative economic arid other handicaps of parenthood and that, despite recent ameliorations, these handicaps at nearly all income levels are still substantial. In the process of social advance, until recently, the family has been overlooked or given only a miner place in social policy. On the economic side the most important effect is that for most families the addition of children involves a substantial reduction of the family's standard of living; on the non-economic side the worst effect is felt by mothers who have shared little, if at all, in the great growth of leisure in modern times; and the over-all effect has been to lower the status of the family in the national life. Where there is family poverty of a severe kind to-day it is usually where the number of children is above the average. The incidence of taxation and the modest scale of family allowances are such that pressure is still in favour of keeping families small. A housing policy which, in many cases, results in houses with only two bedrooms, and few with more than three; and housing authorities which shrink from the very considerable trouble of rent rebates, are equally discouraging to larger families. So, too, is purchase tax on clothing. And I personally wish that the Fighting Services would repent of the evil they did in 1946 when they abolished allowances, and that instead of the Services following industry, industrialists and trade unionists would consider more carefully their responsibility to the community and have a concern for their employees and members as family men. On a long-term view, it is in the interests of the family that the principle of equal pay for equal work should go with family allowances. Whilst I should not care to advocate an increase of family allowances on the French scale, they ought to be more than token payments and should be sensitively related to changes in the cost of living and the family budget.

Then, as we all know, there are industrial pressures, some due to the nature of an industry and some in the interests of efficient production, which bear hardly on the family. Full employment and good wages are, of course, an immense boon and blessing; but the price is high if it means a great increase in shift work and in the demand for mobility of labour. The rootless ness of urban industrial populations is a social evil, and incidentally it is somewhat inimical to the life of the churches. Industry affects social life powerfully. Whilst someone has said that a family may be more corrupted by coddling than by difficulties, we may ask industry in framing its economic policies to have thought for the consequences of those policies upon the life of the family and community, and to be prepared sometimes to sacrifice, for a short length of time, a little economic efficiency in order to maintain the stability of the family unit in society.

That brings me to the subject of married women at work, about which a good deal of nonsense is spoken. All through history, married women have been economic producers, and by no means only within the home. The large number of women who were not economic producers in that very affluent period at the turn of the century were an exception to a very general rule; and if in these more impoverished days married women were not to go out to work, the economic loss would be severe. Society would have to pay more for some utilities or else go without. Therefore, the question we have to ask and try to answer is, does the well-being of the family require that price to be paid?

I think it is generally accepted that the relationships which people have or make in later life are much influenced by the relationships made in infancy. Dr. Bowlby, of the Tavistock clinic, at the conference to which I have referred, ventured this assertion: To take the cases of parents who beat, injure or kill their children, I would be prepared to say that in every single instance they had a difficult childhood. And he adds: Our social and medical services are not keyed to the notion that the child's relation to his mother is a tremendously important factor. A happy relationship with parents, especially with the mother, during the first five years is of permanent importance. The value of sheer enjoyment—parent in child, child in parent—is not always appreciated by some moralists and reformers.

Therefore, it may be good that after the child has reached the age of three its mother should go out to work—moderately—and the child should go to nursery school. In a congested house—and a terrible number of the houses in this country are very congested at the present time—they are likely to enjoy one another more; emotions are likely to be less violent when the children are not on top of mother all day long and the mother is not on top of them. Certainly, the nursery used to provide that sort of easement in times gone past in the houses of the well-to-do. And later on the working experience of the mother may help her to keep on closer terms both with her children and with her husband. It has also to be remembered—and this seems to me an important point—that, as Professor Titmuss has pointed out, whereas the Victorian or Edwardian mother may have been occupied with child-bearing and child rearing up to the age of fifty and had a short expectancy of life after that, to-day the mother of a smaller family gets it over sooner, preserves her health better, and expects to live much longer. She needs, therefore, to be able to fill in her time, and not just to kill time and perhaps bore her children in the process. So, I would suggest that, here, again, society has a right to press industrial management to use the labour of married women, whole or part-time, with a careful regard for their responsibilities as mothers. And in industrial areas where women can and do go out to work and overcrowding is deplorable, it would be an ill-chosen economy to close nursery schools and classes or to curtail the service of school dinners.

May I pass on to say a word about the family as a unit. Here we get near the heart of the trouble. There is a growing awareness, one is glad to note, of the danger of dealing with the problems of families piecemeal, and of trying to care for children individually instead of treating the family as a whole. The most radical criticism of the operation of recent legislation is along this line. The sick child is taken off to hospital, where the parent is regarded as an intruder. The education authority, except in the case of the fairly well-to-do, decide how and how long the child shall be educated. The problem of the problem family is still too often solved by putting the children in an expensive institution and the mother in an expensive prison, the family being evicted and its goods and chattels sold up. As we all know, to move any child from its home is not only a very expensive act; it is also a very serious one. Then again, visits by an unco-ordinated army of specialists may, as I have hinted, undermine the little self-confidence of many parents, and disrupt the family in the very effort to help them. What is needed in social work today, is the equivalent of a wise general practitioner—a sort of social family doctor.

Some of the most constructive pastoral work will always be done by voluntary bodies working in good liaison with statutory authority, because they usually can do it with a little more elasticity. I should like to express my immense admiration and praise for the work of the Family Service Units, a really heroic venture of love and care and the kind of remedial work which is best done on a voluntary basis. So I would ask this question: Is enough thought being given to the selection and training of suitable persons for this sort of work? Not every person who can get a diploma in social studies and who likes the idea of getting busy on the lives of other people can safely be let loose on defenceless families. Important and necessary as factual and technical knowledge are, they are not all that is needed. One notices that short-term, rather ruthless, solutions always tend to attract the sort of person who never sees beyond or round regulations, for lack of a coherent philosophy of life and of a deep respect of persons.

Discriminating work in the sphere of human relationships will usually be done well by men and women "of true Christian love and charity"; that is to say, who have convictions about the purpose of life and the nature of the good life. About this, Christianity has a word to say and the Church has work to do. My own Church, through training centres like the Josephine Butler House and the William Temple College is doing a little, but a great deal needs to be done. I would leave it at that, only adding that when good housing, good planning, wise advice and comprehensive social and medical services have done all that they can do, there remains deepset in human nature stupidity, inertia, selfishness and sheer lack of self-discipline; and with ordinary folk only a dynamic religious faith can get to grips and deal radically with all those.

In conclusion, I should like to say a brief word about the old people. As things are going, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, it seems to me, may soon have to consider revising its charter and becoming the National Society for the Protection of, and the Prevention of Cruelty to, Old People. In a span of seventy years or so, we are told, the average expectancy of life has risen from forty-plus to sixty-five plus, and is still rising, while the size of families has declined. There are fewer young folk to care for more old folk. Institutions are not the best answer—although more large homes and hospital provision there must be. It is in part a housing problem and in part a social amenities, a pensions and a health problem; but there are no administrative alternatives to the exercise of love and Christian decency. The way in which a family or a society cares for its old folk is a very good test of its moral and spiritual temper and morale. In spite of what I said in this connection I should like to call attention to the unsatisfactory accommodation provided in a good many places (I could not say how many) under Part III of the National Assistance Act. We are told that old folk are often mixed up with others in a very unsatisfactory way, while husbands and wives who have been evicted by the Lousing authorities are separated. The squalor and misery of some of these places is quite unbelievably bad.

I have already exceeded my ration of time and I would only say this: there are always two ways of using the benefits provided by the social services—one can either use them intelligently or lie back on them indulgently. Parents and others have to be encouraged and very patiently educated to use them so that they can do their duties in life better. In my observation, this is rarely achieved by exhortation, moralising, or even by threats. Those who operate the social services, like some organisations, have to aim all the time at making themselves dispensable and the family a self-sufficient responsible unit in the community. True charity slips quietly away when its work is done. I beg to move for Papers.

3.23 p.m.


My Lords, I believe that I am expressing the sentiments of the whole House when I describe the speech of the right reverend Prelate as far-reaching, elevated and impressive in every way. He has spoken for what seems only a few minutes—indeed, I think we could all have listened to him very happily for twice as long—but he has said a great deal in that time. His speech, clearly, was based on long years of social work and searching, disinterested reflection, and it flowed from a profound humanity. We speak from a number of different angles this afternoon. I hope that in what I venture to say I shall adequately express the outlook of noble Lords around and behind me, but on one or two points, easily detected, I shall seek leave to speak only for myself. The right reverend Prelate said that if one sees a large family, one usually assumes that the parents are either R.C. or M.D. Well, I am R.C., and I may be regarded as the other thing as well—but perhaps that will be for the House to judge when I have finished.

Before coming to my main argument, I should like to make one preliminary observation. This thought struck me with special force last autumn at Oxford, after I had played a part in a conference organised by the British Committee of the International Union of Family Organisations, a Committee that is doing valuable work, as I think the right reverend Prelate would agree. That conference, widely publicised at the time, was attended by representatives of twenty-eight countries. Its theme was the stability of the family. I came away convinced that there was no other subject in the world which forms such a bond of possible sympathy between the nations as the human family does. Indeed, in the world to-day I should regard the family as the strongest possible force for universal peace, if we knew how to use it aright.

We come to this matter from various angles both in the House and in the general discussion that is raging up and down the country on the subject of the family. I do not know whether that is altogether a matter for rejoicing, or one for regret; but certainly there is widespread anxiety about the family at the present time, as was voiced in the right reverend Prelate's speech. This may not necessarily be a bad thing. It may not be a retrogression, but a prelude—and I hope and pray that it is—to a greater regeneration of the family. Compared with other noble Lords, I have not been a member of your Lordships' House for long—about seven or eight years—and I cannot recall a debate here of quite this kind, although I may be wrong. But the fact that we are having one this afternoon seems in itself a pretty encouraging sign.

Few of us would find it easy to agree, perhaps, on the precise indices by which to judge the health or sickness of family life, because things of that kind do not admit of statistical definition. To focus our thoughts early in the debate, I should like to give the House one or two quotations. The first is from a searching article in The Times at the end of last year, on December 1, 1952, in which we were reminded that, compared with the years before the war, the number of indictable offences known to the police had nearly doubled—that is, all offences, not only juvenile offences. Though there have been ups and downs, there is no sign yet of any halt to the general increase of crime which has continued since 1930. That alone is a somewhat sobering thought. Turning to the juvenile side, I would remind the House of a passage in the last Home Office Report on the work of the Children's Department, which was published in May, 1951. We are told there that The continued high rate of juvenile delinquency is a cause of concern. It was not surprising that a major war, with its disturbing effect on family life should, as in 1914–18, bring about an increase in the number of juvenile offenders. The serious aspect is that the number is still far above the pre-war level. Paragraph 147 of the same Report assures us that emphasis has come to be placed on the broken home as a prime predisposing factor, an argument heard more than once in recent years in your Lordships' House.

It is now generally accepted that a failure to meet the child's need of security and affection is responsible for a great deal of juvenile delinquency. Incidentally, yesterday afternoon in the precincts of the House I was discussing the causes of juvenile delinquency with half a dozen young men from a famous boys' club, in my prejudiced eyes the finest of all boys' clubs. I asked these young gentlemen what they thought were the outstanding causes of the prevalence of juvenile crime. Various answers, which were quite illuminating, were given. One young man was inclined to suggest that the adolescent of to-day had more money than he knew what to do with; but this was not a popular or prevalent view among them. There was a general disposition to blame the fact that so many mothers go out to work—and I agree that it may be an important factor when the children are younger. Emphasis was also laid on the harm done in mixed clubs which are not properly supervised, and, generally, by unregulated dancing. This may be a local problem, but I do not think it is. I record those as first-hand opinions from young men who are now growing up. But all agree with the Home Office Report that broken homes are a supremely deleterious factor.

We have not time this afternoon to pursue statistics very Far, but if we turn to Table XI of the Civil Judicial Statistics for the year 1951, as a whole, we find there the figures for divorce. There we notice that 6,000 divorces were granted in 1938—a far greater figure than for twenty or thirty years further back; that 58,000 were granted in 1947 (that, of course, was the immediate post-war peak), and that 28,000 were granted in 1951, which is still more than four times the pre-war figure. The House will not be surprised to hear that I am strongly opposed to all divorce. But, whether one believes in easy divorce or vigorously rejects it, and even making some allowance, as one should, for the new divorce facilities of recent years, we must surely all agree, as a matter of fact, that there are many more broken homes in England to-day than there were in times past. That must be treated as a contemporary feature of our society, however it is explained, and in consequence, I submit that our children are paying a terrible price.

The first remedy, therefore, which lies within the power of the community is surely the provision of the best marriage guidance, or other advice, which will enable husbands and wives to make a greater success of their marriages. We discussed this topic quite recently in this House in relation to Marriage Advisory Councils. I would only add to that discussion—and here I am sure the right reverend Prelate will be with me—that a lot more than is at present being dime could be done by community effort, in parishes and elsewhere, by way of mutual encouragement and self-education. Today, however, though I hope to be reasonably brief, I feel bound to go a good deal wider in discussing the whole impact of recent social trends and social legislation, and their effect on family life—indeed, when I use the word "recent," I cast my mind back over a good many years. Taking the last century, as a whole, and more particularly the last fifty years, and waxing, if you like, absurdly dogmatic, I would say that certain trends have, on the whole, been unfavourable to the family, and that certain legislation has, on the whole, been favourable. I would submit, realising that broad generalisations of this kind are subject to a hundred qualifications, that legislation has done something to correct the trends, and that the trends would have been a good deal more damaging if legislation had not intervened. I throw that out as my personal conviction, for what it is worth, though I realise that it is difficult to distinguish trends arid legislation in this way.

Let us take, first, social legislation, the establishment of what is called the Welfare State. Put quite simply, the wider and more equal distribution of wealth involved, the creation of minimum standards of housing, health, education and social security, seem to me, and to all of us on this side of the House—in fact, I think throughout the House generally; at least, I hope so—not only to be in line with Christian ideas of justice but also, surely, to render it much easier, in the material sense, to raise a family. Surely, they render it much easier to provide a material basis on which to construct a spiritual ideal. That certainly seems to me to be the passionate preoccupation of the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, who I am glad to see is to follow me in this debate, although naturally it is rather a nervous work for the old pupil to be followed by the master. Certainly it was the noble Lord's preoccupation when he was doing his most famous work. For that reason, although the noble Lord, if I may say so, has always been reluctant to describe himself as a Christian—some years have passed since he showed that reluctance, and perhaps he has overcome it by now—he has always seemed to me to be a much better Christian, in practice, than he would ever admit to being, and, indeed, a much better Christian than many of us who make more noise about our beliefs. I hope that I do not do the noble Lord an injustice in those respectful observations.

No honest champion of the Welfare State can deny that there are possible dangers involved when you remove or lessen the material sacrifices involved in parenthood. In an ideal community, in a community that was infinitely rich and far removed from our present one, we should all have enough to provide an adequate upbringing for our children, and to pass a little on to them at our death, without the intervention of the State. The State would come in only to see that adequate safeguards were maintained, and to provide those services which could be more cheaply organised on a collective basis. But that picture is fantastically far removed from the prewar world, although in this one respect, the world in which we are now living is not so different from the pre-war world as is sometimes supposed. I have not the most recent figures—I do not think they are available—but before the war it was calculated that one man in a hundred possessed as much property as the other ninety-nine put together; and, according to a well-known calculation, only one man in three—some say one in four—left as much as £100 when he died. If that is the situation, the State has got to step in to rectify these glaring inequalities. Yet I agree that the Welfare State brings its own dangers, and these we must tackle as they arise. But those dangers are small indeed in comparison with the sufferings and degradations which the Welfare State has already done so much to eliminate. I leave out from to-day's discussion the question with which we have so often dealt, or tried to deal, in this House, of how far the nation can afford, in an economic sense, the global amount of social service actually provided. The view of noble Lords on this side of the House in regard to that question is well known; and it is not, I hope and believe, confined to this side of the House. As the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, used to say so often when he was challenged about his Report, "We cannot afford not to abolish want." I hope that in these later days that is the language the noble Lord is still talking.

I must pause for a moment on the question which was dealt with authoritatively by the right reverend Prelate, whether within the total of social service the family has had its share: whether sufficient attention has been paid to the family, as such. On this point the locus classicus is perhaps the passage of the 1949 Report of the Royal Commission on Population, from which the right reverend Prelate quoted. I will not quote the same passages again, but I do not think he quoted paragraph 402—it is to the same effect as paragraph 406—in which we find these words: …in the process of social advance the family has tended to be overlooked or given only a minor place in social policy. Various illustrations of that comment are given, some of which were used and quoted by the right reverend Prelate. The Royal Commission's Report mentions a number of important ways in which the family has benefited, along with the other members of the so-called lower income groups. It refers to maternity and child welfare services, the school medical service, the school milk and meals scheme, nursery schools, rent rebates and other things: and it mentions war-time developments, such as rationing and price fixing, food priorities for mothers and children; and it goes on to add to the list.

As the right reverend Prelate said, when all is said and done, weighing up the benefits to the families against certain disadvantages that have accrued, the conclusion is the one he quoted: that social development over the past seventy or eighty years has tended to accentuate the relative economic and other handicaps of parenthood. That is the conclusion of the Royal Commission, and it is surely a conclusion that we cannot dream of glossing over. The Royal Commission put forward a number of remedies which have hitherto received surprisingly little attention. Personally, I am glad that one of their suggestions is not likely to be strongly supported this afternoon—at least I hope not. I refer to the suggestion for easier birth control. I restrain myself from discussing that further, except to say that I regard it as utterly deplorable.

There are a number of very important proposals in the Report of the Royal Commission which have been mentioned to your Lordships: more and better housing; home helps; nursery schools; day nurseries; holiday or rest homes for mothers; more children's playgrounds; more free allowances under the Family Allowances Act; improved income tax allowances, and other things. Those are very important suggestions, and I am sorry that as a whole they do not seem to have received the considered attention of the nation or of Parliament that one might have had reason to expect. Along with the Report of the Royal Commission, I would call the attention of the House to certain considered recommendations of the British Committee of the International Union of Family Organisations, a Committee I mentioned earlier. They stressed the desirability of granting family allowances in respect of first children as a top priority in social advance; a more generous provision for the widow or deserted wife, and the need for treating the preparation for family life as an integral part of the educational system. I must pass over a number of other very carefully thought out conclusions—for example, the interesting suggestion that the new cost of living index should pay much more attention to family needs such as children's clothing and shoes, and less to beer and. tobacco. I would end the list by referring only to what appears to be the most important of all their contentions—the view that there is a close connection between family life and religious teaching in schools.

Those are the practical topics this afternoon. I have not had time to do more than place them seriatim before your Lordships. Obviously each one of them could receive the full measure of a day's debate, arid I must draw towards my own conclusion. I join wholeheartedly—we all do on this side of the House—with any who decline to see what might be called "holy poverty" in the conditions under which the great majority of our people have been forced to live in the past through no fault of their own. We glory in the great reduction in want, malnutrition and disease that has been effected of recent years, partly through the advance of science, but in our century still more by the organised protest of the disinherited masses and by the development of an ever more sensitive conscience among men and women of all types, classes and views.

I agree that, in any future extension of the social services, we must be much more zealous than in the past in avoiding the reproach of neglecting the family as a unit which the Royal Commission on Population has levelled at the British nation, with a justice which it seems to me impossible to deny. I would suggest that these material easements and compensations will neither be forthcoming—the nation will never throw them off—nor even, if they are forthcoming, do more than provide a starting point for spiritual improvement unless our whole national attitude is inspired in the future by a far deeper appreciation of the significance of the family than it has been in past years. It is agreeable for all who are interested in the family to find a recovery of interest in the family under the impact of such painful phenomena as growing juvenile delinquency or a declining birthrate. Such dawning awareness, white it is better than nothing, is only, surely, the beginning of wisdom. Surely, the supreme responsibility of all of us who play any part in public life and assume, however timidly or unworthily, the name of Christian, is to believe ourselves, and help others to believe, that marriage is not just a practical convenient arrangement but a divinely appointed sacrament; that in marriage we literally co-operate with God to bring into the world anew life and an immortal soul.

Against that background, as was finally said in a recent broadcast by Professor Colin Clarke: No political leader, however powerful, no economist, however learned, has the slightest right to interfere with the birth of children. No—it is the other way round; it is parents who have the right to demand of Prime Ministers and economists that they should so organise the world that children should have enough to eat. But if parents have rights of that kind, their duties are no less imperative—duties of hard work inside and outside the home; of solicitude and self-sacrifice, and tenderness and absorption in the family. Given a better lead—and there are some signs of a better lead than in the past—I believe that the parents of Britain to-day are as anxious as they have ever been to perform a task which, when properly understood, is as natural as it is sacred. Our influence in this House is not unlimited, but it is very considerable. I hope and pray that we send out this afternoon a powerful message, not only of material but of spiritual support for the Christian idea of the family.

3.47 p.m.


My Lords, after the thoughtful and deeply moving speeches to which we have listened, I hope you will not expect me to traverse again the same ground that has been so admirably covered by both the previous speakers. I want to concentrate mainly upon one particular piece of social legislation and one particular point in which it is falling far short of what it should accomplish. The piece of legislation with which I am concerned is the National Insurance Act, 1946.

I should like to call special attention to two sections in that Act which are of a rather dry as dust character—Sections 39 and 40. Section 39 requires the Government actuary to make a full report to the Government and the Treasury after five years on how the insurance scheme is working, and whether the contributions are adequate to maintain benefits. But when he has made that report, Section 40 places upon the Government who receive it an obligation of a quite different character. The Government are then asked to review the rates and the amounts of benefit in relation to the circumstances of the insured population, including, in particular, the expenditure which is necessary for the preservation of health and working capacity. Now both those Reports which the actuary and the Government must make and lay before Parliament, are due to be given, I hope, in the first part of next year. If they are to be really good and satisfactory reports, they need taking much thought upon from now onwards. That is my excuse for emphasising these two sections and drawing from them the conclusion that in one respect the National Insurance Act, 1946, in the circumstances in which it has to work, is not satisfactory and is not, in fact, fulfilling the aims with which it was introduced.

I hope I need not ask to be excused from concentrating mainly on National Insurance in this debate. The subject is one in which, ten or eleven years ago, I was a considerable authority. Just ten and a half years ago I made a Report on the subject which, by the wish of the Government of the day, was signed by me alone and therefore came to be called the Beveridge Report. The Report was not in any sense made by me alone. Nevertheless I became an authority on National Insurance, because I was able to consult and get help from all the best experts in the Government Service and, indeed, all the best experts outside it. Between us we produced a Report which astonished the world because all that expert advice was received with almost universal acclamation. That is not a common experience for experts.

Now, my Lords, the central principle of that Report was unified, universal contributory insurance to ensure at all times to all men a subsistence income for themselves and their families as of right; that is to say, without any form of means test or inquiry about what other means they had—a minimum income on which by their own efforts they could build freely and add to freely for themselves and their families. That subsistence principle as of right, which was laid down in the Beveridge Report and obtained almost universal acceptance, is also embodied in Section 40 of the Act of 1946, which ordains that the Government shall consider not merely whether the contributions are sufficient to support the benefits—that is the Government actuary's job—but whether the benefits are sufficient to support the family without anything else at all. That is the underlying, principle of the National Insurance Act of 1946.

But what has happened since 1946? What is happening to-day? I have in my hand a pamphlet prepared by the organisation know as "Political and Economic Planning" which is headed Poverty Ten Years after Beveridge. It compares the actual benefits which have been paid year by year since 1948 with what would be required on the very stringent subsistence minimum laid down by my Report to maintain a family if they had nothing, else. The broad conclusion—and I think it is an undeniable conclusion—of that investigation is that with every year since 1948 the benefits have been becoming less and less adequate, because as the benefits remain fixed the cost of living has gone up and up and is still rising. The other side of it is that national assistance, which the experts and I thought would have to continue on a small scale but would gradually diminish, so far from diminishing is increasing year by year. There are today at least twice as many people—nearly 2,000,000—in receipt of national assistance, subject to a means test, as there were three or four years ago. That is what is actually happening. Social security is not being provided as a right in virtue of contributions of insurance, but by a National Assistance Board which, before it helps a person, satisfies itself that he is poor: that he is in need of poor relief.

I do not know whether other noble Lords feel as I do about this matter, but I feel strongly that any kind of means test is a thing to be abolished, so far as it can be abolished, because it is saying to people, in effect: "You cannot think for yourselves; if you make provision for yourselves and your children by saving, then we will not help you. "It is penalising independence, and I believe that it is because the means test in any form penalises independence that the underlying principle of the Beveridge Report—subsistence as of right, in virtue of contributions—was so widely accepted. But to-day we are going further and further from that subsistence principle. Next year the Government, whatever Government it may be, will be required by Statute to compare the benefits it is giving with a fair estimate of what ought to be given for subsistence. Therefore the Government will be faced with this alternative: either they will have to raise the benefit rates to adequacy for subsistence, or to say (and this will be in 1954) that they formally abandon security against want without a means test, and declare that they drop the Beveridge Report and the policy of 1946.

That is the issue which any Government will have to face, and face soon—within a year, within months—and my main plea to-day is that the Government should take timely thought in order to give a right answer to that question. I hope, of course, that the answer they will give will be that there shall be adequate benefit rates as of right, without a means test. But that will mean a very substantial increase of the money that must come into the Insurance Fund in order to meet the money that is paid out. I ought perhaps to warn the Government—and they can pass the warning on to the Chancellor of the Exchequer—that when the Chancellor comes to look into the matter he will find that there is a very strong argument indeed against getting more of that money by contributions; in other words, a very strong argument for getting more by taxation.

If one studies the Report of the National Food Survey, it will be found that there is a strong argument—and here I am glad to recall the argument of the right reverend Prelate and of the noble Lord who has just spoken—for improving the provision for the family. This National Food Survey was made by impartial people who were not concerned with any political Parties. One will find from reading the Report that throughout the country malnutrition is apt to be concentrated in the larger families. That is because, to my regret, the Government which introduced the National Insurance Act, 1946, insisted on inadequate family allowances—5s, against 8s. which my experts and I advised. Although it has gone up to 8s. now, we all know that the increase was given in connection with the reduction in food subsidies and, therefore, has not really put the matter right. In so far as we are treating people inadequately under insurance, we are treating most inadequately those with large families. Here, I am delighted to associate myself with both previous speakers in their emphasis on the need for providing properly for the family.

I want now to come to a rather different side of this question. The insurance benefit problem, as I have tried to put it and as it will face the Government next year—it ought to be facing them now; I imagine they are thinking about it now—is only part of a much larger social and economic problem that is facing all the people of this country: the problem of how to preserve the value of money. Ever since fighting in the Second World War ended, we have had full employment, more jobs than job seekers. I do not question the necessity of full employment. I remain, as I always have been, a convinced believer in the harmfulness and destructiveness of the fear of unemployment; and I have always wanted full employment, with more jobs than men seeking jobs. But I do not think we have yet realised in this country that full employment is a new climate, and therefore, needs a change from old methods. In a Report which I made on that subject in 1944, I wrote some words which I hope your Lordships will allow me to repeat, because I think they are important: There is no inherent mechanism in our present economic and political system which can with certainty prevent competitive sectional bargaining for wages from setting up a vicious spiral of wages and prices under full employment. That is the danger to which I and many others called attention then. Can anyone doubt that we have that danger imminently before us to-day, when the pound is now worth approximately two-thirds of what it was even so late as 1945, and when insurance benefits, inadequate today, are getting every day less adequate? The insurance problem is only part of the much larger problem, of how to preserve the value of money for all the citizens of this country.

Welfare does not depend really upon the State; welfare depends upon the individual even more than upon the State. All those who, by saving, are making provision for their old age and for their children, to-day find that what they have provided is being cut to pieces by the continual rise of prices; and the value of their money, the value of their savings, is disappearing. I suppose most people of my age are being forced to wonder whether they can afford to live as long as their fathers, and probably to conclude that they cannot do so. Every time that a trade union and an employers' association together agree that more money shall be paid in wages for doing exactly the same work as before, they are impoverishing, without redress, the older people who have retired on their savings and who have made provision for their children in their savings—older people who probably worked as hard as the people work to-day and certainly worked longer hours. They are left now without redress because the value of money is destroyed by agreement between the working population and their employers. That trouble is not dealt with, and will not be dealt with, by raising security pensions from the State. Therefore that makes it necessary for the State to ease the position, with the result that these people become dependent upon the State. Their possibility of being independent in their own right, of adding to what the State is providing for them, is destroyed.

A reasonably stable level of prices is in fact the basis of individual freedom and responsibility. We know that is going to be very difficult to get. In this country, as I suppose in most countries, we are in the sad position that we have full employment because, although fighting has ended, war and war preparation have not ended. In war, when you have full employment, you have also, because of the danger of war, a great and admirable restraint on the part of the work-people, and an admirable restraint on the part of their employers, in their not wishing to demand more and more while the country is in danger. But now, when the country is not in danger, there is this competitive, sectional wage rise which is destroying the value of money, and thus, I suggest, destroying one of the conditions of individual freedom and responsibility in this country. I hope that the Government, facing this problem most seriously, will make a ruthless, serious, unflinching inquiry into the conditions under which and the means by which, even under full employment, with a cold war and without a real war, the value of money can be maintained so that individual responsibility and freedom may be continued.

4.8 p.m.

LORD SALTOUN had given Notice of a Motion to call the attention of Her Majesty's Government to the difficulties which arise from the ambiguity of the term "ordinarily resident" in Section 24 of the National Assistance Act, 1948, and to move to resolve that in the opinion of the House the import of the term should be clarified and the procedure in cases of doubt laid down, if necessary by legislation. The noble Lord said: My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I do not propose to move the Motion which stands on the Order Paper in my name. I will make some observations on the right reverend Prelate's Motion, and I will include in them my question to Her Majesty's Government on the National Health Services, because it is from the angle of the National Health Services that I wish to comment on the right reverend Prelate's Motion.

The right reverend Prelate might have made one point in support of the family which, I think, would meet with your Lordships' approval on all sides of the House—and that is the observation, which is quite historical and definite, that as soon as an authoritarian Government gets into the saddle and wishes to establish its power, it starts immediately by attacking the family and the sanctity of the family. Your Lordships must have been aware of the many extremely dramatic and drastic examples of that when Hitler established his power in Germany. I say that a strong family feeling as a social influence is one of the most democratic things in the world, and we should certainly foster it, if only as a matter of self-protection. I agree entirely with the right reverend Prelate when he wishes to shield the family from interference by the State. I feel that the State's action in fostering the family should be action at a distance, by removing the disability from which large families suffer to-day and giving them more advantages in the social system. After all, the family is an organisation for the protection of the home—those who by their youth or by their age are weak; and that is the relation which I wish to talk about this afternoon.

I will start with the old. The old to-day number, I think, about 12 per cent. of the population; and so far as I can gather, for every technically old person—that is, a person over 65—whom we have to support, we have the work of some four people in regular active employment. I exclude mothers who look after their families, but if every one of those old people were in need of assistance the situation would be very grim indeed. As far as I can make out, and as the figures which I shall give your Lordships will show, about half of them require, at any rate, observation and attention. One factor that we have to reckon with to-day, which was net in existence fifty years ago, is that the general feeling of the public at large towards the old people has definitely altered. I have had it said to me, by men of undoubtedly high moral standards, that they do not consider children have any duty to maintain old people, and that they themselves do not consider that they have any duty to maintain their parents.

We have to recognise that there is a quite definite change in public feeling on that matter, and one which has to be reckoned with, because once natural feelings have been destroyed they cannot easily be revived, certainly not without considerable suffering and difficulty. For that reason, we no longer feel ourselves charged with the support of our own parents and for that very reason we are charged with the support of the parents of our neighbours. There is a great danger that the four people to whom I have referred may begin to find the charge a rather heavy one. That is one reason, and a very strong reason, why I regard with great distrust the general feeling that seems to be abroad to-day, that the problem of the maintenance of old people can be met by the provision of public hostels.

If your Lordships will consider, I doubt whether it is possible to build or equip a hospital at less capital charge than £800 or £1,000 per place; and when the places have been created I doubt whether it is possible to maintain people in them at a less charge than £200 a year for each old person so maintained. In that case it seems to me a very heavy charge to put upon four people, four wage earners who are in active work, especially when to that sum is added the other contributions which they have to make towards the Welfare State. It is for that reason that I have for some time past pointed out that it would be to the public advantage and economy if families and relatives, or people who are near friends or have a connection, could be given an adequate sum to enable them to maintain these old people in their own homes. It would help the hospitals, because hospitals to-day find, that when old people are admitted their relatives sometimes refuse to have them back when they are cured. But if the maintenance of the old person were adequately covered by the State—say, to the extent of three guineas a week—it would be far cheaper than providing hostels, and it would solve the difficulty of the hospitals.

That is one difficulty. There is another. I wish that the Government would take some trouble to establish legal gradations between complete sanity and mental instability. When people get old sometimes they get senile; but they are not mad, and they should not be put into mental institutions. Yet, with this breakdown in family feeling, one hears of relatives who are only too anxious to have old people certified if, by so doing, they can get them put into a mental institution and so relieve themselves of the burden. In the National Health Services we have a very fine system, a wonderful system, if we can get rid of things in it which are not working well and which go wrong. I am glad that the Government have set up a Committee to inquire into the whole of the National Health Services, to see what improvements can be effected.

Now, my Lords, I come to my own particular Resolution. Very often it happens to-day that a person is old and has retired from work, perhaps with a pension, perhaps with some small means, and is unable to buy a residence or a house of any kind. Section 24 of the National Assistance Act says that The local authority liable under this Part of this Act to provide residential accommodation for any person shall…be the authority in whose area the person is ordinarily resident. Then, the next paragraph goes on to say that where a person is temporarily resident in an area that local authority has the duty of providing temporary accommodation. I should have thought that no definitions could be clearer. Yet it happens to-day (I have given one case to the Minister; I could have given several) that when an old person is in need of accommodation the local authorities refuse to supply it. They are not convinced that that old person is ordinarily resident," or is temporarily resident. I have knowledge of one case, that of an old lady who was moved round London and then moved out into the country to relatives who had no accommodation at all for her at their house. One member of their family had to sleep on the floor in order to accommodate her for a few days because they could not get proper accommodation for her from the local authority. When we get a situation like that, it throws us back to the old Poor Law rules. Under the old Poor Law, a person was dealt with straight away, and the question of liability was fought out afterwards. That ought to be the case to-day; but unfortunately it is not. Moreover, I do not think there is any legislation which compels a local authority, in such a case, to do their duty. I believe that that is essential, and I shall be very much interested to hear what the noble Earl tells me on that point, because if there is a solution to that difficulty then the more widely it is known the better it will be for us all.

4.20 p.m.


My Lords, I welcome the debate which the right reverend Prelate has initiated, because we in this country are operating an immense social service machine, a great deal of which depends upon compulsory contributions, and it is right and proper that from time to time we should examine it thoroughly to see if it is proceeding in the right direction, whether in respect of the family or in regard to other spheres. It has seemed to me that the debate has been rather pessimistic in tone so far. I do not know why we should let even a veneer of pessimism sneak into our consideration of this matter. After all, Disraeli said: Power has only one duty—to secure the social welfare of the people, and we have, in fact, fulfilled it. It has been our proud boast—it is not to-day, but certainly it was in periods previous to 1939—that our social services were the first in the world. That was our proud boast, and that is something about which, far from being pessimistic, we ought to be rather pleased.

The right reverend Prelate has looked back' over a number of years, and I should like to touch on one or two additional points. During that time there have been, of course, enormous changes. We can probably say, as Mr. Seebohm Rowntree has pointed out in his examination of the City of York in the last forty years, that primary poverty has been substantially eliminated. Of course, it all depends on what you mean by primary poverty; but, as a general proposition, I think we could all agree that. Accompanying that elimination have been enormous changes in the spending of the people. For instance, we are now spending nearly twice as much on alcohol, tobacco and entertainment as on clothes. That is a factor which may be good or may be bad. I am told that the researches of U.N.E.S.C.O. show that we are the most determined fans of the cinema of any country in the world. Possibly that is a good thing. At any rate, those are factors of which we are certainly entitled to take cognisance. Moreover—and I think this is a matter of real importance—the status of women has altered materially in the last fifty years. They have entered much more into public life and into the business life of the community, and they have done so to our enormous advantage. Whether this change is associated with the smaller family I do not know. I am sure that it has much to do with the desire for nursery schools. I was glad that the right reverend Prelate did not, so to speak, run down these nursery schools. There is a slight tendency to do that to-day. In my view, we should say clearly that the people who are giving their work in nursery schools are doing an enormous service to the community. I think that ought to be said, because there are undoubtedly some people who criticise that type of thing. I am sure that with the alteration in the status of women has come an enormous improvement in the standard of our modern kitchens.

I would mention here another thing—the increased mobility of labour. That has stopped the growth of the community spirit to a very great extent, but we are trying to rectify that aspect. In that respect, the experiments of dormitory towns such as Oxhey and Boreham Wood are generally regarded as extremely unfortunate. We look for development more on the lines of the new towns, in which the aim is to get together a community in which a man lives within a reasonable distance of his work. The Act which was passed last year, the Town Development Act, is far more in line with what we want; it is an endeavour to build up a community into which families may fit themselves. One noble Lord mentioned shift-work. This is an unfortunate necessity. Unless production is on a sound, economic basis, the whole structure of this Welfare State, or whatever you like to call it, will inevitably fall to the ground. Anyone who has had practical experience of industry will agree with this—that no one is put on night shift if it can be possibly helped, for it is the almost universal experience that night shifts are less efficient than day shifts.

Another question touched upon was that of education; and then there was, what is more important, the question of health. As has already been stated, the expectation of life has enormously lengthened in modern times, and infant mortality has fallen. If I may, I will deal with some of the implications of that in a few minutes. The right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, raised the question of whether the family was receiving adequate consideration in this enormous machine which has been built up. I hope they will pardon me for saying that I thought they were a little vague in their recommendations as to what they would like to see carried out in this connection. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, it is true, said he would like to see family allowance paid on the first child. That would mean paying out a cool £130 million, and would be a pretty big step to take. I feel that in these debates we should try to consider whether we can do things better in the direction we are going, rather than advance at this time into an extensive new field.

It seemed that the right reverend Prelate had in mind the need for better co-ordination of services and for more of a personal touch in the services. He queried whether the development of a sense of responsibility is being encouraged in the structure of the family. With regard to the lack of co-ordination, I think I can say that the children committees which were set up under the Children Act has endeavoured to bring services together so far as children are concerned. A great many specialist services come into this question, and the point is that they should be developed to the highest qualitative level possible. If you produce a comprehensive service for everyone, does it not become almost indistinguishable from the old Poor Law? The difficulty seems to me to be that if you try to make a comprehensive service you are thrown back upon that fact. I can only say that it is clearly a matter which has to be watched extremely closely.

In regard to the personal touch, I think that here the voluntary bodies can give a lead. I know it is common policy in this House—it was with the late Government just as it is wits this—that in this connection voluntary organisations should receive the fullest possible encouragement. On the matter of a sense of responsibility to the family, the right reverend Prelate did not argue, as he might well have done, that free legal aid was available to dissolve marriage, but was not available to maintain the married state. He might also have argued that the responsibility at law for children to maintain their parents had been abolished in 1948. Whether or not that has had a fundamental effect on the relationship of the family members is another matter. Most certainly we have to watch that we do not drop back into the family means test. If you put responsibility too closely on the family, it is very easy to drop back into that.

I think it is a matter of opinion whether the family is stronger or weaker, and we can all form our own opinions. I should like to quote from the Report of the Conference which the right reverend Prelate mentioned—the British National Conference on Social Work, who have examined the family and endorsed the views of some ninety working groups who took part. They say something in their Report which I think is very encouraging. It is as follows: Personal responsibility it is thought is increasing but not keeping pace with the increase of community responsibility as shown by its provision of services. The new services probably reveal rather than cause responsibility. The old Poor Law coercion upon relatives masked the attitudes of the times. What is being said there is that the shiftless people stand out more clearly, but on the whole there is no reason to say that family responsibility has lessened. I should like to quote one more sentence: The general evidence of the group suggests that the economic changes of the past 150 years have on the whole made possible a better family allowance, stable and free, and that the greatly increased opportunities for education and creative leisure time make possible a greater enrichment of the content of family life. We are still faced with the problem of why so many families do not realise these potentialities. These are encouraging words, and words by people who ought to know what they are talking about, whether they can speak with authority or not.

The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, raised, as he always does, an extremely important point. The picture he draws of a world in which all the reasonable hazards of life are met by benefits from the social services, with the total abolition of a personal means test, is a picture almost of Utopia. The noble Lord says "No." There is one fundamental thing to be settled first—that is, the stable value of money. No actuarial system in the world will or can work unless the value of money remains stable. It is no good saying that benefits must go up, and then have to put up the contributions, because it is the anterior contributions which go to make up the superior benefit. This is a very difficult question. I should point out that even Lord Beveridge's scheme would not have been fully operative for nearly twenty years. This is not a thing to judge quickly: it takes time to develop in the full sense.

Here I should like to emphasise a point made by my noble friend Lord Saltoun. It is expected that the number of old-age pensioners will increase by some 50 per cent. in the next twenty-five years, and that whereas to-day there are six contributors to every pensioner, in twenty-five years' time there will be only three contributors to every pensioner. That will mean that the cost of retirement pensions will rise from over £300 million to over £700 million, and that the Insurance Fund will become increasingly out of pocket, until in the end we shall have a deficit of something like £400 million. Obviously, these are matters that will be considered next year when the Actuary makes his quinquennial examination. There are two additional reasons for this very big increase: many people entered late in life into the insurance scheme, and the rates of benefit have been raised. The first thing this Government did was to raise the benefits, to bring them back to the level of 1948, when the scheme came into full operation, and to make allowance for the reduction in food subsidies. It is no answer to say that the Exchequer will find the money, because the community has to find the money for the Exchequer; and unless production justifies the increased allocation of resources to pensions, all we have is inflation, and the pensioner will be no better off than he was before. If we do not get an improvement in the position, this is going, to be a very great problem in years to come.

Turning to the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, I think that in this case he is confusing the obligation on the local authority under Part III of the National Assistance Act to provide care and attention in certain cases and the ordinary general duty of providing houses. Although I admit these things run together, they must be regarded as separate.


They are in different hands.


I agree: that is one of the difficulties that arises. In regard to the case which the noble Lord raised, there is some doubt whether the old lady concerned was in need of care and attention—whether, strictly, she came within the limits. But if she was in need of care and attention, it was extremely difficult to know where she was ordinarily resident. The point the noble Lord wishes to have cleared up is whether the local authority take action before deciding where a person is ordinarily resident. The answer is an unqualified, "Yes." The duty of the local authority on the spot is to provide accommodation for those who have that need and to argue subsequently whether or not they are ordinarily resident elsewhere.


What action should be taken by the people looking after the old lady? It would help the country more to know that.


I do not want to argue the details of the case. So far as I know, the action taken was correct, for the reason that the lady was not in need of care and attention; and, moreover, there was no assurance that she was ordinarily resident in London. I shall be happy to go into this point in further detail with the noble Lord, but I think he wants to know the general principle in this matter and I wished to explain it shortly.

Turning to the general question of old people, I think, as has been emerging more clearly in recent years, that we are anxious more and more to avoid public provision, or institutional treatment. What we want to do, so far as we can, is to use the ordinary private home for looking after our old people, both because of economic interests and because it is directly in the interests of the old people themselves. I must emphasise that the whole organisation for the care of old people is designed to provide just that kind of help which will enable old people to remain in their homes—health visitors, nurses, domestic helps of one sort or another, the W.V.S. and other organisations.

I should like strongly to underline what the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Sheffield said about the family service of the Church. I know of no higher Christian service, and I assure him that it is fully recognised by all those who come in touch with it. I thought the right reverend Prelate was a little hard on some of these people who are doing this work, when he said that they were "let loose on defenceless families" I felt that the right reverend Prelate was over-stressing the point. No doubt some workers are less competent than others but, by and large, I should think that roost of those who take part in these services are welcome visitors to that home. One of the requirements of old age is the need to overcome loneliness, and the non-expert can help just as much as the expert in relieving old people's loneliness. When the old people are unable to be looked after, or have no one who can look after them, they have to go to homes. The right reverend Prelate seems to have been very unlucky in the homes he has seen: to speak of "squalor" and to say that they are "unbelievably bad" is far from the truth. I admit that many of the homes are unsuited to their purpose, but I think the words which the right reverend Prelate used were more colourful than was necessary. I can only emphasise again that, whilst there are many difficulties in maintaining people with their families, that is the objective we have in mind.

In ending, I should like to say that we approach the family and the social services with the view that the element of quality is essential to get proper value. I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, this far—I do not think that the present structure of the social services is designed primarily as a method of redistribution of the nation's wealth. I do not know whether the noble Lord meant that, but I do not think it is one of the primary objects for which the social services exist. I would say, further, that to a great extent they are not, as they once were, centred round the problem of poverty. There are many evils which afflict mankind, and poverty is only one of them. The present structure of the social services is designed, so fax as possible, to meet as many of those evils as it can, and also to give training and assistance, by education and health. I would add this, too. We can never fulfil the purpose and intention of the social services simply by the cash nexus; that is to say, by payment over the counter. I am not underestimating the importance of an insurance benefit by right; but that is not the end, and can never be the end, of the social services. I would suggest that if we are to create a strong and secure society it must have roots, and the people must feel that they belong somewhere. I suggest that two things which, more than anything else, give them that are, first, that they have a means of exchange which is stable and reliable; and secondly, that they have a home to which they can go. With those two as the central points of our policy, I feel that we are right in the general policy which we are adopting at the present time.

4.42 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, on his continued efforts for the aged people in our community. Turning to the Motion, I have some difficulty in understanding what it is the right reverend Prelate wants to deal with. First of all, I cannot define what he regards as "recent legislation"—I do not know whether "recent" means ten or fifty years. Moreover, there is no indication in the Motion whether the right reverend Prelate was about to argue that the effects on the family life were good, bad or indifferent. However, I rather gather that he would not be wholly enthusiastic about the advances in social services during recent years and there are certain features that he would not readily like to see extended. I think the best he could say in connection with certain aspects of it was, "There it is, and we have got to make the best of it."

It so happens that all my adult life has been spent in the study of, and working in, the social services for the people. If we are to consider to-day the effect of those social services on the family life of the people, I feel that it is necessary to look back and to see what was the normal family life of ten, twenty, thirty, or even fifty years ago. I should be quite wrong if I were to confine myself to what has happened since 1945, the advent of a Labour Government. I should be less than just to all political Parties if I did not recognise the great contribution in the direction of social welfare that has been made by Parties other than my own. If I were to single out any particular piece of legislation which, while not perfect in itself, has led to many other developments of a much more useful kind to the community, I should choose the National Health (Insurance) Act, 1911. If I did that, obviously I should have to pay a tribute—which I do most willingly—to Mr. Lloyd George, of the Liberal Party of those days, and to Sir Winston Churchill, who is our present Prime Minister. Since those days, legislation has been promoted by Governments of all kinds, so that, in saying what I am to-day, I hope your Lordships will believe that I am not speaking at all from a Party political angle; indeed, I may claim that the whole of my services in connection with this matter have been given, irrespective of what Government were in power, or likely to be in power.

It so happens that a few years ago I discovered, to my surprise, the notes of the first speech that I ever made in public. That speech was made exactly forty-nine years ago this month, and in that speech I was calling attention to some evils of family life in those days. I lived near Manchester. You could not pass through the streets of Manchester without seeing the hungry, ragged, barefooted children; and the conditions of life in and around Manchester in those days was something which in these days could not be believed. One of the distinguished members of the Church in those days said, "It is not to be wondered at that a workman takes the shortest cut out of Ancoats,"—meaning that it was not to be wondered at that working men got drunk in order to forget the conditions under which they were living. In that speech, made as a young man, I demanded the abolition of the Poor Law. In those days it was quite a common feature of the village in which I lived to see a procession of miners from neighbouring villages, headed by what was called a tin-whistle band. The procession would go along the streets, and the men would go to the cottage doors collecting pence to keep their colleagues out of the workhouse while they were unemployed. I need not continue along that line; everybody knows that there has been a complete revolution in our social conditions during the last forty or fifty years.

Too often, however, when people are considering the social services, the Welfare State as it is called, they look only upon what I would regard as one side of the balance sheet. They see hundreds of millions of pounds paid away in benefits, or in the costs of medical services, and so on, without thinking for a moment of the credit side of that balance sheet—namely, the better health of the community. Who would dare to put in terms of money the increased health of our children to-day? It is one of the common comments of visitors to these shores that our children are happier and healthier than those of any other nation. Some twenty or thirty years ago I was concerned with a Royal Commission on these matters. We have heard to-day from the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, to whom great praise is due for the Report which formed the basis of many of our social schemes of to-clay. But the same idea was promulgated thirty years ago. The figures were different, but the idea of providing for all the contingencies of life with which man was faced was put forward twenty-five years ago in the Minority Report of a Royal Commission. What was regarded as the greatest danger to family life, and the greatest anxiety to the working people in the past years? It was the fear of unemployment, the fear of sickness and the fear of old age; and, if I may put it this way, the fear of death. I remember that some twenty years ago I was a member of a Departmental Committee on industrial insurance, and we were shocked at the number of old age pensioners who in those days were getting, I believe, 10s. a week and who were paying 6d. a week in order to avoid a pauper's funeral. The fact that the 6d. a week did not prevent their having a pauper's funeral is by the way.

There are a number of people to-day who believe, I think without giving the matter proper thought, that these services are undermining what they regard and speak of as the sturdy thrift of the English working man I wonder. Those of us who have come up know quite well that this sturdy independence which was spoken of was purchased at very great cost. We know that the one fear that went through the whole life of the working class family was, as I have said, the fear of unemployment, the fear of sickness and, above all, so far as the parents were concerned, the fear of old age. So out of their scanty wage—a wage not sufficient to give even a decent standard of living—a shilling or two was put away. For fifty years these shillings would be put away in order that, at the end of their working life, the people would be able to avoid the Poor Law. These were the facts of life at that time, and how anyone can for one moment suggest that the social legislation of this country during the last ten, fifteen, twenty or fifty years has not been beneficial to the family life of this country I really cannot understand.

I would refer to two other matters which are closely related to this, and which were touched upon by one of the earlier speakers. During the last fifty years the infantile mortality rate in this country has been reduced to one quarter of what it was. If we speak of these things in terms of statistics it sounds a simple matter. But if we transform those statistics into human sorrow and tragedy within the homes, then we realise what immense progress has been made in that direction. The same thing applies to what was regarded as the maternal mortality problem. There again, the mortality rate during the last twenty years has been reduced from about four per thousand to loss than one per thousand. Who can measure the value to the family life of this country of the saving of thousands of mothers at the highest time of their endeavour? I remember quite well the time when Sir George Newman, the Chief Medical Officer of the Ministry of Health, was calling attention to this problem. In season and out of season he said that the problem did not end with the death of so many thousands of mothers who might have been saved. It went much further than that, he said, because, for every woman who died of childbirth, scores were more or less permanently injured. And it does not need any great strength of imagination to realise that that should have had a great effect on the family life of this country.

All we can hope for in this connection is that, when people look at what appears to be a colossal cost, they will remember the other side of the balance sheet—the imponderables, the things that cannot be mentioned in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. Within the last few years, through my daughters-in-law I have been able to seethe meticulous care that is taken of young women when they are about to have children, when they have the children, and after the child is born—a care that twenty years ago, in spite of all the child and maternity welfare services, would not have been at hand. Before I leave that, I should like to pay a tribute to the medical profession for the advances that have been made in that direction. No one would dare to claim that this tremendous saving of human life has been due entirely to our social services. But it is true to say that, however medical science has advanced, unless its discoveries had been made available to every woman in the land we should not have had the same reduction in mortality. Therefore, I hope that the right reverend Prelate will be as optimistic as, I was glad to hear, the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, was when he spoke about these social services. I trust that what will happen in the future is not so much that we shall attempt to cut them down but that we shall economise wherever we can. But wherever we economise we can easily use the money in extending the services in further valuable directions.

4.57 p.m.


My Lords, in this or any House it is rather a dangerous privilege to speak after the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge. From the point of view of the Church, I would pay tribute to much that he has done for this country. Speaking for the Church of England, I would say that when we talk of responsibility and discipline, what is intolerable is the discipline of socially imposed poverty. I am happy to follow the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, because I find myself in complete agreement with everything he said regarding our having a note of optimism and facing in good spirit the concrete problems before us. It is dangerous to generalise from a limited experience, when we are dealing with recent legislation and its impact in a few years on the intimate lives of vast numbers of people. I would speak with this authority only: that I have been in touch with a group of people concerned with the welfare services in the district where I live—the headmaster, the probation officer, welfare officers, school psychiatrists and clergy. Our little group has been in discussion.

In anything that I say I do not speak for myself but for this group, and they, as experts on this matter, have brought forward one or two things which I would venture to raise in this House. One is an encouragement. The headmaster in this group—one of the most experienced headmasters in the country—having lived a long term of his life in a slum area in Coventry and seen its development over a number of years, deprecates the attacks in which even Bishops indulge about the irresponsibility of the modern parent. His view is that 95 per cent. of modern parents are immensely interested in their children. He says that they watch the child's career closely, and that whereas formerly they never came to see the schoolmaster except to have a row, they now join the parents and schoolmasters' associations, and come in constantly to see the headmaster or a member of the staff to talk about their children—their health, their future and their careers. He says that the whole physical standard of health of the children is 200 per cent. better than it used to be. Their clothes and their cleanliness are of a much higher order than they were. This is obviously due to the standard in the home and to the increasing interest of the parents in the children. Things, therefore, are better and not worse as is so often suggested by the pessimists.

I should like to raise one point which has been discussed by this group. Here, again, I am entirely with the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk on the need for the Government to watch the working of recent legislation. The most recent piece of legislation, of course, followed the Curtis Report. Here, all this group of representative social workers wanted to emphasise one factor in particular—that of the family. They thought that the post-Curtis Report legislation did not go far enough with regard to the integrity of the family. They said that the family, even a bad family, is the best instrument for training the child. Let me quote, for instance, one thing which might be examined. A family with five or six children is turned out because it cannot pay its rent. Under the present system this family becomes disintegrated. The children are dispersed into children's homes, and this will cost the country perhaps £60 a week. What the group ask is that attention shall be given to the possibility of the rehabilitation of the family. They ask that a policy which is being applied, I believe, in Holland, Denmark and Belgium shall be considered. Under this system houses are allotted by the local authorities to such families and the families are put under supervision and control for rehabilitation as a family. Sometimes, perhaps, furniture has to be provided; but at any rate they are put into a house of their own and carefully supervised. The group said that this question of the rehabilitation of the family is one they would wish to see pressed.

Furthermore, one frequently finds that children who have suffered from cruelty in their own homes still find the home tie very strong and want to go back to it. Therefore, the real re-creation, psychologically and spiritually, of a child can be made only in a re-created family. The exceptions are, of course, where there is open sexual immorality on the part of the father or mother, in which case, of course, the children must be removed. Even there, one finds such cases as one which I can quote from my own experience, where the mother was a prostitute and the elder daughter was on the same path. The second child was taken back from a boarding school to which she had been sent. This seems to have re-created the home. So it seems that a home can be re-created even in those conditions.

There is another point which I think is a constructive one, and I would put it to the Government. It concerns the question of social legislation. Many people criticise State legislation because they say it brings with it hordes of officials. But wherever I see people working on the Government side and people working on the social side, more and more I note with thankfulness how they work together. I see a new corporate sense developing, a new pastoral life, and a new sense of Christian vocation. I see also under these new public services a movement towards equality between voluntary workers and the officials of the public service. I find an increasing liaison between the people in the Government service and those in the voluntary services. I could speak of several groups in Coventry, composed of headmasters, clergy, welfare and probation officers and others, who meet to discuss the problems of their children. They meet once a week or once a month, in the vicarage or elsewhere, and go over the problems of the children in their care. They follow up individual cases themselves.

An interesting point is that the Government workers themselves insist on the invaluable contribution of the voluntary worker. They say that the vicar can go into houses into which they themselves cannot go, and that the voluntary worker can go in where the official worker would not be welcome: he would be looked upon merely as one who was paid to do his job. I see a continually increasing co-operation of this kind between the officials of the Government service and the voluntary workers, each benefiting from the experience of the other. That was not always so, and it is a great encouragement that it is so to-day.

A further point which I should like to mention is the extra year at school provided for under the last Education Act. This extra year was the basic contribution which that Act made to these problems. One of our great problems, one which is recognised by the shop stewards and management and all concerned, is the terrible impact of this extraordinarily alien adult world of mass factory life on the child of fourteen. It is such as to destroy all that he has been taught at school and at Sunday School; it is disastrous in its effect. Now, this extra year at school is a most valuable one. All those who are experienced in these matters recognise it as such. That extra year makes all the difference. Moreover, in spite of criticisms to the effect that the teaching is not good, and so forth, a headmaster I know who is in charge of a very important school in a district in Coventry has told me that he gets 100 per cent. attendance in this last year. He pointed out with justice that if people were not interested there would not be likely to be that 100 per cent. attendance.

People talk about irresponsibility. This so-called irresponsibility of young married women who are going into an industry—whether or no it results from the policy or, as is much more likely, the accident of full employment—can be represented as being due to selfish motives. But to-day young people who are starting to build up a home find—the cost of rents and furniture being what it is—that this work helps to give them a start. They want a home which is worth living in to bring up their children. Young people have to build up perhaps £500 before they can make a start, or they have to work for four or five years before they can build up the home that they want. The cost of building a home is a factor which the easy moralist might well consider. One other great danger is the family which cultivates the "pub" and the club. I was referred to one case of acute difficulty, in which the local authorities were concerned, where the children were all astray and the father and mother were the two best darts players in the city. They spent the whole time perambulating the clubs and "pubs." winning competitions. It is more likely that that home will go astray than the young family where the mother works in a factory as long as she can in order to build up a home, and the children are in nursery schools. A lot of rash and dangerous talk is heard about that.

The fundamental question is, how far Government legislation can cope with this situation. I was approached not long ago by the chief probation officer of the whole of the Midlands area. He said that he was speaking for all the people concerned with the court work and probation work, and for the approved schools for the whole of the Midlands area—in fact, for all who were concerned with young people in trouble. He asked me: "Will you come and spend a week-end with us in conference?" He told me, "There is only one answer to this problem of young people in trouble—we all know what it is: that the Christian faith should come back into the life of the people. Will you join us in our discussions, and take the service on Sunday?" Again, I spent part of the day at the famous National Police College, a remarkable place, run with 250 very able police sergeants, all with enormous experience, who were having a six months' course. I spent part of the day discussing the question of young people in trouble, after a remarkable woman police-officer had given the picture of the issues. All the police said was, "What are we facing?—more police forces, more policemen, more patrols, more probation, more approved schools. We never catch up in this expanding circle. What is the answer? What does the Church and Christian faith say?" That question was not addressed to me particularly, but it is in the answer that the solution to this trouble, to the problem of these children and homes, lies. That is the question addressed by the police, if you like, to the conscience of a Christian nation. That is where the issue finally lies. I would reiterate my support of the whole tone and approach to the problem of Lord Selkirk's speech. I thought it was a fine statement of encouragement, and I warmly agree with it.

5.15 p.m.


My Lords, I do not want at this hour to compete in the rather wide surveys that have been made on this important and interesting point, but there were two matters which I was intending to raise before your Lordships: one regarding young children, and one relating to old people. The first point, I am pleased to say, has been very well expounded by the right reverend Prelate who has just sat down, and therefore I do not need to go into it in any great detail. I have just seen a pamphlet which has been produced by the Children's Officers Association, entitled Cruelty to Children, in which they emphasise strongly the importance of keeping some kind of family life together. It is a simple matter to take a child away from a mother who is unsatisfactory, or if the father has got into trouble, but it is better if a certain amount of money can be spent on building up that family again. From a purely financial standpoint, it works out much more cheaply; and from a spiritual and moral point of view it is the much more satisfactory thing to do.

One would like to see more use made of the powers of the courts to put families as it were on probation, rather than that the family should be broken up in that kind of way. One of the very pertinent sentences in the Report of this Association states that: A tithe of the money spent on maintaining neglected children in Institutions apart from their parents could provide, throughout the Kingdom, a first-class family service that would considerably reduce the incidence of neglect. I think that is an opinion with which all of us who are engaged in any kind of social work would be in agreement. Although it is difficult to see how it can be done from any legislative or instructional point of view, it is a principle one would like to see spread over the country. One of the troubles that the right reverend Prelate mentioned was that of the appalling expense involved. There is the case of a family of six, where the father had got into trouble and the mother was living with her children in a poorhouse or institution, from which they were quite properly removed by the appropriate Department. Those six children are now being kept in various institutions for children, at a cost of £48 a week to the local authority concerned. I do not know whether that is a common case but I believe it is rather more common than one imagines. Certainly, it is the most glaring case that has come my way up to the present time. The great difficulty, of course, arises through the shortage of housing; and although building is progressing, it will be a long time before there is sufficient accommodation for all these families.

The second point I wanted to raise relates to the old people and their accommodation, a matter which is dealt with in Part III of the National Assistance Act. The right reverend Prelate who moved this Motion referred to the poor accommodation that exists now, and most of us who work with old people realise that there is not at present enough accommodation available for them. I do not want it to be said that it is impossible to build any more. I do not wish to build any more. I think there is enough accommodation in the country to go round if it is properly used. It is a point I have made several times before, and I am more and more convinced of the truth of it. At the present time there are, comparatively speaking, many fit and well people who are being taken care of in hospitals by the National Health Service, and there are a large number of sick people who are being taken care of under the Welfare State by various institutions. There seems to (be very little chance, apart from purely friendly exchanges on certain occasions, of getting those people put into the right place. The trouble is that if those sick people are not kept in the institutions, it is not long before they become irremediably sick. With two separate Acts of Parliament, the National Assistance Act and the National Health Services Act, we find that separate Departments are looking after the two types of people.

We have heard a good deal said about the old Poor Law. One of the goad principles of the Poor Law was that the "sick or destitute, "as they were called—it is not a pleasant phrase—were kept in the same building and could be easily transferred from one part to the other. That principle has now almost disappeared. But I am sure that if these beds were properly used a larger amount of accommodation would become available, with no extra building and no extra beds required. It is far cheaper, far better and far more humane to keep old people in their homes, with services that are laid on by the local authority and by various voluntary bodies.

I should like to say a word about family life and adopt the encouraging line of the noble Earl, because my experience in the comparatively poor part of London in which I work is that in the majority of cases family feeling and responsibility is still very strong. In that district one finds a certain number of families who are quite well oft and some who are very poor indeed. I have great sympathy with the young and middle-aged families who live in this part of London, in appalling housing conditions, in grim, squalid flats, parts of family houses built in the latter part of the last century. The thing which has encouraged me greatly is that these families are anxious to take back their parents or their elderly relatives when they have been sick. The chief thing they are anxious about is to see that their relatives shall come back to them from the hospital better than when they went away—that they shall really have improved in health. I think that is a perfectly justifiable demand to make.

The second thing these young or middle-aged people would like (and I think it is greatly to be encouraged, when somebody is living with them for a long time) is to have the chance of a break, possibly during the summer, so that there can be some kind of holiday period in which they are relieved of the burden. I know of a case where a comparatively young woman spent nineteen years looking after a semi-invalid mother. She had not had one day off from that situation, and about the time that the mother died the daughter broke down. I do not think it would be too difficult to arrange for these old people to go into some sort of institution during the summer months, when the call on the beds is not so great, and it would do a tremendous amount to encourage people to take care of their families.

There is one other point that I should like to make. It is sometimes difficult to get a home-help to go into a house where the children are at work all day and the parent is left behind. It may be that the parent is fragile and the children do nor like to go away, but if somebody could come along from the local authority to assist in keeping the house tidy then the family is often willing to carry on with its duties. Various other attempts to provide assistance could be made in this respect. It is possible to keep some of the more senile members of the community comparatively fit if they are given some kind of employment. During the day they could perhaps be brought up to an institution by car and given some work to do, be given a midday meal, and then be taken back home. I think that is a more economic way than to take them into an institution where their whole social background collapses. I should therefore like to put forward a strong plea to Her Majesty's Government to see whether it is possible to arrange for a better exchange of the sick and infirm and the healthy between the National Health Service and the Welfare Service, because then I think we can carry on in the more optimistic way to which the noble Earl referred, and achieve some success in our work.