HL Deb 28 June 1961 vol 232 cc1062-134

4.50 p.m.

LORD BRABAZON OF TARA rose to move to resolve, That further development and education in the regulation of birth would contribute to world peace. The noble Lord said: My Lords, one of the privileges of your Lordships' House is that any Peer may put down a Motion not to do with Party politics but with grave problems of world planning, and have it debated on an afternoon like this. I put down this Motion some time ago, but it has been delayed because my noble friend Lord Casey asked me whether I would postpone it until he returned. I did so gladly, because if your Lordships remember he made a remarkable speech on the international situation in 1960, in which he dealt with the situation relative to over-population. I am very glad that we shall hear him this afternoon. I also made a slight alteration at the request of the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of St. Albans. He asked me to substitute for the word "control" the word "regulation", as he assured me that more people would be able to join in the debate, including Roman Catholics. The change to me is a very subtle one. I do not understand it, but no doubt it will be explained later.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? I think that any Roman Catholic present would be grateful to the right reverend Prelate and to the noble Lord for making the change. I cannot speak for anybody except myself, but I imagine that most Roman Catholics, when they sniffed this sort of breeze, under whatever name it went, would probably have joined in the debate.


I was told they were rather nervous about doing it unless I changed the word. I have changed it, and I hope the subtle difference will be explained to me for my own edification.

The idea of eventual starvation through over-population is a very old one, and it was started by a clergyman, the Reverend Mr. Malthus, who lived from 1776 to 1834. The Malthusian threat has always been with us, but nobody has taken it very seriously, and probably quite rightly. In a debate like this, figures, I must confess, are very difficult to check in any way. I am really very much beholden to a remarkable paper called the New Scientist—rather a new paper, but very vigorous—which has dealt with this situation rather extensively in its columns. It is an interesting fact that it took 200,000 years on this planet to produce a population of 2,500 million people, which is what we are to-day. Now it takes only 30 years to add 2,000 million people. The rate of increase is nothing short of remarkable. Another thing we have to start by understanding is that Asia, which occupies only one-fifth of the land of our planet, has more than half its population, and it is growing faster in population than any part of the globe. Therefore, this increase concerns Asia probably more than any other part of the world.

So far the population has been kept under control by the limiting factors of, first of all, food, then diseases and then enemies. Our own noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Orr, for whom we have great admiration in these affairs, said in 1950 that a lifetime of malnutrition is the lot of at least two-thirds of mankind. He has been taken to task on that remark, but he has never contradicted it; he has never withdrawn it. There are opponents of the theory of eventual starvation, like Mr. Colin Clark of Oxford, who, taking the standard of agriculture in Holland, tells us that if we were to farm properly we could get 1,070 tons of grain equivalent per square kilometre of farmed land; and if we could do that throughout the world we should be able to support the growing population for another two centuries. I am not in a position to contradict that or to confirm it. It seems to me remarkable, and I should doubt the possibility of such world efficiency in farming, more especially due to the shortage of water in some places in the world and also, curiously enough, the shortage of phosphorus, which is so important in agriculture.

Dr. Parker, a Fellow of the Royal Society, confirms the fact that the controlling factors in population are famine, pestilence and war. Whether extermination by atomic methods comes under the heading of pestilence or war would seem to me somewhat academic, but it certainly might solve the over-population problem very adequately. I hope I shall not offend anybody when I come to examine some of the Christian virtues, especially those of pity and compassion. Pity and compassion were never looked upon as virtues before the advent of Christianity, and there is something to be said for the Roman point of view, because nature, which is very wise in these affairs, is anxious about the species and extremely callous of the individual. It is quite ruthless in its extermination of the weak. These Christian virtues are inherited, of course, by medical science, by those disciples of what Mr. O. Henry once called S. Q. Lapious, for whom we have nothing but affection and admiration. In their high moral code they laid down—and who is to question it?—that they must preserve life in every way, I sometimes ask myself whether that is always good. Take the example of two weak people, who normally would die from diseases, being saved and then breeding. The offspring inherits defects from both parents and is condemned to live a life of misery due to the inherited characteristics. I do not find that highly desirable, but you cannot blame the doctors for carrying out their praiseworthy desires.

As to population, it can be increased by two means: by increasing the birth rate, or by diminishing the death rate. I should like to quote your Lordships two examples of the change which has been brought about by medical science. The first one is in British Guiana where, due to insects, death of children at birth was 250 in 1,000. In three years, by the spread of D.D.T., that was diminished to 67 in 1,000—a very remarkable situation. Another example is in Mauritius. There the population was static, due to malaria. Malaria was conquered, the birth rate increased 50 in the 1,000, and the death rate diminished to ten. The result of this is economic crisis in the country. Those are examples of how quickly knowledge and medical science can change a situation which previously was static.

In India to-day expectation of life is 40 years. That is being increased by 2½ years every 5 years. Even if the birth rate were static, that is a perfectly enormous increase. I fully realise that all these figures are very difficult to check. I always understood that when we went to India the population was 60 million, three-quarters of whom were on the edge of starvation. In our sojourn in India we did much in that country in irrigation, drains, medical help and education in every way. Such was our benefit, if one may so put it, to the country that when we left the population was 400 million—three-quarters of whom were still on the verge of starvation. It is a very discouraging thing, after all the work you think you have done for good, to feel that you have really increased the misery of the world.

Mr. Nehru, who has done, or tried to do, wonders for India with his Five-Year Plans, has been up against this same problem. I cannot help quoting again, although it was quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Casey, some remarks that Nehru has made about population. He said: We have found that we can never plan for the nation and our Five-Year Plans have no meaning, if the population grows at this rate. In the same context he said: The necessity for some kind of limitation of the growing population becomes an urgent matter for us. In Pakistan, President Ayub Khan said, some two years ago: If we continue to increase at the present rate it will ultimately lead to a standard of living which will be little better than animals. If you think that the greatest happiness to the greatest number is fundamentally sound, it is obvious that some action should be taken. Japan suffers from a tremendous increase in population and there they legalised abortion for a time. I do not know whether your Lordships have read Miss Alice Jenkins' book on abortion. It gives perhaps a one-sided view, but I do not think anybody would contradict the fact that our present legislation on the matter is very savage indeed; and by virtue of stopping the skilled medical profession from doing anything we are forcing people to be dealt with by the inexperienced, which is very dangerous. But there is another point: the possibility of abortion for the rich and not for the poor, because anybody endowed with wealth can go abroad and have an operation quite satisfactorily and safely performed which cannot be done here without grave danger.

I think we ought to try to analyse if we can the reasons for this vast increase in population. Nature, in its wisdom, has laid down that the act of coitus is one of the most enjoyable of human sensations, and if she had not done that there would be no incentive to procreation; that is, basic to procreation. I do not believe that many men and women really want large families, but they still want and insist on having their elemental pleasures. They will not be deprived of this on the basis of over-populating the world; that, of course, is quite a natural thought. The result is that there are large unwanted families being created in the world. And here I must draw noble Lords' attention to the fact that in this matter it is the male who takes the initiative and it is on him really that restraint should be imposed.

There is now, although not entirely satisfactory, a pill which women can take. It has at present effects which are not altogether wholesome, but no doubt it will be made perfect. But I regret to see there is no pill for the man. On the man's side, apart from castration, which of course is a major operation, there is a new operation called vasectomy, which perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, will speak about a little later, which is a very slight affair. It does not influence the desire or capacity for sexual union, hut the only trouble is that it is irrevocable. However, the experts say that that can be got over. But I still say that any father of three or four children has had enough, and if he could have this slight operation there would be no diminution in his sexual activity or enjoyment of life.

I must draw your Lordships' attention to the present situation. The fear of venereal disease has been largely overcome by the medical profession; the fear of eternal damnation in hell is a thing of the past, very unfashionable, and not believed in; and now pregnancy is under control. I draw attention to this fact because the situation seems to give unlimited licence for the young—I repeat, for the young. I am not going to say any more about that situation; I will leave it to the moralists; but I am sure someone will have some very pungent words to say about it.

I sincerely hope that in this debate the religious side of the question, both the Indian side and that of the Roman Catholics, will be clearly explained to us, because some of us find it difficult to understand them. In parenthesis, I would say that I noticed that in a speech the other day a noble Lord said he would look forward to the day when we had a coloured Peer. I remember very well a distinguished lawyer from India who is a Member of your Lordships' House, so it has already happened; but that is by the side. What I want to hear from those people who feel so strongly in this matter is whether the difference comes as to when you stop birth. Of course when a child has quickened within its mother's womb it is definitely alive; but is it in its earlier stages, in the fœtus stage or earlier still as fertilised ovum? Is it maintained that life starts from the very moment the ovum is fertilised? Because I find that very hard to believe.

Now I come to the political side. I believe, and I am sure everybody believes, that it is the right and desire of everyone that the human race should be free, happy and well fed. Consequently, I think it is our duty to make as clear as we can to the world what the possibilities are in population planning; also that we should be aware of how we can add to human misery by misdirected help. I have a tremendous admiration for those nations that spread from the Caucasus—the Indians, Chinese, Russians, Greeks, Romans, and ourselves. I do not know why; but I have—for no reason; I have never been there—an extraordinary affection for the Chinese, and it is they, of all people, who are rushing towards disaster. I suppose it is too much to hope that they may hear the words spoken in your Lordships' House; but the problem that confronts them is one that they must face up to soon by virtue of their expansion. Already we have seen them, in order to find space for their population, endeavouring to get land at the expense of Russia. If that sort of thing continues, as it must, then a situation could well arise in which the might of Europe might have to be turned to help Russia to check a Yellow invasion. I have good will to both those nations, to Russia and to China, and I hope we shall never see such a disaster arise. I beg to move.

Moved to resolve, That further development and education in the regulation of birth would contribute to world peace.—(Lord Brabazon of Tara.)

5.12 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord has moved his motion in a most interesting and fascinating speech, and with a great deal of thought. That makes it difficult for anyone following him to know what to say. I should like to take not quite the same point of view and to approach the matter in a rather different way. In the first place, it is not my intention to speak at all from the moral point of view of the subject. Indeed, I had not intended to refer to it from the medical point of view, though in view of one remark made by the noble Lord I must say just one thing. That is that we doctors have been trained to preserve life and not to destroy it. Supposing we begin to destroy life, where are we going to stop? That was what we saw occur in Nazi German. It started off with a certain amount of logic saying that people who are mentally defective, or too crippled, should not be allowed to live. Where are we going to stop? That is a point I cannot accept at all.

Following on from that, I wonder whether sometimes one might not say that because a country does not practise birth control to any great extent (one cannot, of course, tell what is done privately; but where there is not a great educational force encouraging birth control) it is probably a satisfactory thing in many ways for the peace of the world and is not necessarily opposed to the peace of the world. For example, if you have a country like Israel, surely it is better it should be a strong well-populated Israel, able to stand as one firm and steady place in the troubles in the Arab region in the Middle East, rather than a country which encouraged the practice of birth control and, therefore, would be far more easily overwhelmed and absorbed by its hostile neighbours. The latter, I think, would not present us with a country as satisfactory from a world point of view as we can see now in the country of Israel.

Then there is another place: I have just come back from a short visit to Poland. We all know that Poland suffered enormous losses of population during the war. I have never seen so many children in my life in any one country, and I was told by people who should know that about 25 per cent. of the population is under 15 years of age, which I think is something very remarkable. Surely one would like to see Poland as a strong and well-populated country which would be able to take a place between Russia and Germany, of some value in keeping some sort of bounds. One would therefore not want to see a country like that practise birth control to a great extent.

I agree with what the noble Lord said in this respect. One can be thankful that the Russians have encouraged their population to breed at a fair rate when they are going to be confronted with the large Mongolian hordes from China. I am sorry to mention the Chinese with this unkind word. Like the noble Lord, I have enormous affection for the Chinese, and unlike the noble Lord, I did once pay a visit to China as a representative of your Lordships' House. It was one of the most fascinating and interesting countries I have ever been to, and I should very much like to go back. But I can see that they can become a danger and one might be thankful indeed for the Russians to be there to assist us to withstand them. In the same way, take an enormous country like Brazil, which is as big as the United States of America—in fact, I think, a bit bigger—and has a population of 60 million, if I remember rightly. Surely that is a country with an enormous amount of potentialities both for raw materials and for food, where the population should be encouraged to expand to deal with this enormous amount of land, which is not lying as an attractive beautiful country but is a rather unattractive unhealthy jungle, which might be cleared and made to produce food for mankind.

I personally have never been too upset at the thought of the increase in population, because, although one read what Malthus said (the noble Lord quoted the date, but I forget the exact date), it certainly has not proved to be right in any sense. Although food is distributed badly, there is more grown or produced than can be consumed; there is something wrong with the distribution of the food, and that, I think, is going to prove that Malthus was not right when he wrote what he did. There, I think, most of us would agree. Indeed there are many empty spaces in the world which could product food, which could produce more people, provided that the distribution of the food was properly arranged.

There are all sorts of difficulties when you begin to regard this problem from various points of view. You have got, for example, in China, with its enormous population, the Chinese suffering from famine, and terrible floods and droughts, where an enormous number of people die each year. Is that because there are too many Chinese? Is it because these natural disasters are inevitable? One cannot quite see which came first. It is like the old problem, of whether the chicken or the egg came first—whether the natural disaster is there or whether it is the large number of Chinese that provokes it. But that is a point I cannot really discuss now; I have not enough knowledge.

I feel that people should be able to control the number of children they wish to bring into the world. That may appear a rather strange remark for somebody who is not married and has no children, but whether it is possible to do that be encouraging people in birth control I do not know. There seems to be some biological factor involved somewhere. One is quite familiar, visiting churchyards in this country, with the sad tombstones with the enormous families who are buried with only one left; or of families of twenty-four or twenty-five with only four or five children surviving. One good example is in Westminster Abbey where there is a tomb of one of the Dukes of Gloucester and nineteen infant children of Queen Anne. One cannot see it now, because it has been covered with a carpet; but it was in the Abbey. Supposing those children had not all died from whatever disease afflicted them, the Queen would not necessarily have had nineteen or twenty children—she would of course have had enough if the infantile mortality had not been as great as it was. Therefore, I think one is going to find that, for some reason which I cannot quite explain, if the infantile mortality is reduced, although the birth rate will increase it will not increase at the same rate as when the infantile mortality rate was running at the enormous figure at which it ran in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Another point which we have to consider when thinking about controlling or regulating birth is whether that is not becoming a quite natural thing to occur. The more people become educated the more their standard of living increases in the country where they live, and, to return to my former point, the more infantile mortality tends to fall. I am sure that if we see that these underdeveloped countries which are now making progress get proper food and that their educational processes are highered, we need not worry about the possibility of dangerous increases of population in the future.

5.22 p.m.


My Lords, this is not the first time that an increasing population has been viewed with alarm. I am sure we are all glad that the noble Lord. Lord Brabazon of Tara, has had the initiative to introduce this debate. I must confess that, on listening to him, I felt that I was listening to a modern Malthus, for indeed basically his arguments are very similar and equally fallacious. The noble Lord called him a cleric. He was a cleric for a few years, and then he became an economist. I think the noble Lord will agree that economists are not always good prophets.

The noble Lord talks of war. Surely in these days numbers should not be considered as the sole determinate of war. Surely, to-day war may be precipitated and won by the country containing the highest percentage of well-trained scientists. Malthus was born in 1766. I have the highest regard for the modern approach of the noble Lord to transport. Indeed, I thought he had a rather modern approach to many of the things which concern us to-day. But I must say that on the subject of birth control or regulation (and I am with him in this: I do not understand the subtle difference between "birth control" and "birth regulation") the noble Lord is quite outmoded.

The essay which Malthus wrote in 1798 was called An Essay on the Principle of population as it affects the Future Improvement of Society. He asserted that the population always increases up to the limits of the means of subsistence, and it is prevented from increasing, as the noble Lord has told us this afternoon, by war, famine and disease. But Malthus also added, because he was originally a cleric, by vice. From this, Malthus argued that the Poor Law of the day encouraged a large population and was to be condemned. I tremble to think what Malthus would have said in the days of the Welfare State.

Malthus also advised moral restraint to keep the population within check, and he advocated the postponement of the age of marriage accompanied by sexual continence. He certainly had no faith in the power of human beings to control their numbers by the exercise of prudence and restraint. He did not visualise, as I am sure the noble Lord did, the development of transport which has so greatly increased the area from which foodstuffs and raw materials can be imported. He forgot also that another mouth to feed also means another pair of hands in the agriculturally primitive countries. I think the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, has emphasised that in a primitive country an extra pair of hands is most important. But Malthus completely failed to anticipate, as again the noble Lord has done this afternoon, that improved standards of living would contribute to raising the marriage age and lowering the birth rate in Western countries.

I am aware, of course, that there are those who believe that the low birth rate in the Western countries, let us say in Britain, in the United States and in Europe, is simply a reflection of the demand for the emancipation of women. I should like to quote from an authority on this subject, because it is absolutely relevant to the question under discussion. Professor Titmuss, in an essay on The Welfare State, at page 91 says this: It would seem that the typical working class mother of the 1890's married in her teens or early twenties, and experiencing 10 pregnancies, spent about fifteen years in a state of pregnancy, and in nursing a child for the first year of its life. She was tied for this period of time to the wheel of child-bearing. Today, for the typical mother, the time so spent would be about four years. He goes on to say: A reduction of such magnitude, in only two generations, in the time devoted to childbearing represents nothing less than a revolutionary enlargement of freedom for women brought about by the power to control their own fertility. This private power, what Bernard Shaw once described as the ultimate freedom, can hardly have been exercised without the consent—if not the approval—of the husband. The amount and rapidity of the change together support such a proposition. Finally, he said: We are thus led to interpret this development as a desired change within the working class family rather than as a revolt by women against the authority of men on the analogy of the campaign for political emancipation. My Lords, it is significant that these two generations in which there has been such a spectacular reduction in the time devoted to child-hearing, are the first two generations of a literate working class in this country. I agree that in the East the Malthusian principle obtains, but I believe that there is ample evidence to prove that the social and economic forces which have operated in the West will be equally effective in the rest of the world; for we must remember that social progress is a by-product of economic advance.

I hope your Lordships will forgive me for quoting figures, which are always boring. These are the figures which the noble Lord said he was not sure of. I obtained them from the Library only yesterday. In the world there are approximately 44 per cent. of illiterate people. Illiteracy is highest in Africa, where the proportion is 83 per cent. In Europe it is about 8 per cent. In South America it is 43 per cent., against North America, where the figure is from 3 to 4 per cent. In India, the country which the noble Lord quite rightly has mentioned for its large population, illiteracy is 81 per cent. and the population has grown from approximately 341 million in 1946 to 408 million in 1960. Illiteracy, superstition and poverty tempered by fatalism and resignation are the lot of the Indian masses. The Government of India now favour birth control, but of course they cannot compel people to adopt it.

The noble Lord mentioned vasectomy. Of course, that is nothing new: it has been practised for one reason or another for the last 60 years. The fact is that in India, in their desperation, I think they have been offering ten rupees to any man who is prepared to undergo quite properly the simple operation. By a curious coincidence, there is an article on this subject in the Guardian to-day, in which they mention it and say that the figure of men in India who have submitted to this small operation of vasectomy up to date is 38,000—of course, a very small number considering the tremendous increase in the population. No Government can impose birth control on a population. I say that they will get co-operation only when the people have reached a certain economic standard and a certain degree of literacy. In India the most effective results come from that section of the community where the limitation of numbers is, of course, least desirable. That is inevitable.

Now I come to this question of the approach of the Churches, which has been mentioned before. Apparently birth control is no longer a matter which divides the churches—and that is something for which we should be very grateful—because we were told very recently, I think only last month, by the noble Lord, Lord Fisher of Lambeth, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, that in principle he and the head of the Church of Rome were in agreement on the subject. It was a tremendous advance for the Archbishop, as he then was, to make that announcement publicly in this place, and it has certainly not been repudiated by the Pope. Nevertheless, it must be very curious to many devout men and women that while the principle is accepted the means which each religion accepts differ.

I understand that the Family Planning Association, an organisation which has done some excellent work in this country and, of course, in other countries, has recently produced a booklet (this is not a substitution, but an addition to other booklets) on the Rhythm method, which is available in their 340 clinics, in order to serve all denominations. I have only this to say—and everybody who has spoken has said why he has adopted or mentioned some aspect of this matter—having a great knowledge of the consulting room and of the confidences which are imparted to a woman doctor. Can it be argued that this is a humane method, since it advises abstinence at the very time when a woman is least disposed to be abstinent? Is it in the interests of marital harmony to starve her when she is hungry; to feed her when the appetite is diminished? The Rhythm method of birth control, besides being far from certain, thwarts women in their natural desires; indeed, the very laws of nature are violated. The tenuous theological distinction drawn between one method of birth control and another needs careful examination, if I may say so, by people like my noble friend Lord Longford, who should bring his intelligence and humanitarian approach to bear on this important subject.

In conclusion, may I say to the noble Lord who was responsible for initiating this interesting debate that I am quite sure that he will command general support if, as a major contribution to peace, he places the first emphasis on improved economic and educational standards with aid liberally administered pari passu with birth control in vast areas where we know there is misery associated with over-population?

5.35 p.m.


My Lords, I must begin with a word of appreciation of the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, for a debate on this supremely important topic is timely. As the noble Lord has said, he was good enough to alter one word in his original Motion. I wrote to him because I was given to understand that the word "regulation" would be more acceptable to members of the Church of Rome and I passed on this information. I was not aware that anything I said in my letter to the noble Lord could be construed as implying that members of the Church of Rome would be at all nervous about contributing to this debate. My purpose was to make a constructive suggestion, and my hope was that we might debate a Motion that would be as widely acceptable as possible.

My Lords, we speak to-day for the relatively prosperous in Britain, and we are debating the needs of the desperately poor. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, and others have referred to the poverty in India and indicated that the situation is worsening. The line I want to take in this debate is admirably defined by Richard M. Fagley in his book The Population Explosion and Christian Responsibility. My starting point is a summary of the position as it was then known. It was put before the Bishops of the Anglican communion at the Lambeth Conference of 1958. It was published under the title The Family in Contemporary Society, and I believe that it is still fundamentally an accurate and up-to-date survey, though the figures will need some revision. The problem is now more urgent than we then believed.

It is important, my Lords, to follow the example of other speakers and try to consider this subject at least through Eastern eyes at some stage. Some of those judge that the Governments in the West are doing little or nothing either to spread the knowledge of existing methods or to promote research into more satisfactory ones; and I expect they criticise the Churches in the West, too. It is important to remember that Her Majesty's Government are contributing extensively to the world plan to raise 2,000 million dollars to assist in India's third Five-Year Plan. It is not to relieve the Indians from working out their own future; it is something of a rope to help Indian society struggling in the quicksand of a rapidly increasing population to pull itself out of age-old poverty. A recent article of the Delhi correspondent of The Times threw sharp light on India's problem. Her per capita income is £20 10s., and how this pittance affects population problems is shown by a Madras doctor who has said—and I quote him: Shocking as it may seem, in many rural areas the cost of having a baby would be cheaper than the price of birth control equipment. This "population explosion" does not spring from responsible choices but follows medical knowledge. As hospitals and clinics extend their control over disease and reduce the death rate, millions more survive. For the most part, these millions become parents within fifteen to twenty years. Therefore, we find that the populations of the critical regions, China, Japan, South-East Asia, Pakistan, India, Egypt, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and Latin America are young populations. Some of them have 50 to 55 per cent. of their total population under the age of twenty. Here we have young populations reproducing themselves at an unprecedented rate. Certain medical precautions are easily learnt, and they will be improved, so that we can only expect that the population will multiply at an accelerating rate.

May I read your Lordships an extract from The Family in Contemporary Society: If our conscience will not tolerate, when we know how to prevent it, a torrent of infant death, no more should we, with the knowledge we have, encourage an ungoverned spate of unwanted births. Men therefore plan for the regulation of birth, and regulation comes from two sources: from propaganda and aggressive education, or from the people themselves under the pressure of hunger—the certainty, for instance, that if another child is born the others will starve. Striving for control, when no better means are available, people resort to abortion (and the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, has already dealt with that, and the position in Japan) or to sterilisation—and as the noble Lady has said, you have the figures for vasectomy which appear in to-day's Guardian. People in the East are driven to these remedies, not least by contrast between the life they know, with this perpetual struggle for mere existence, and the life which they hear about on the radio and see on the cinema. The noble Lord's Resolution points to the better way, and so I speak in support of it. It desiderates "development and education in the regulation of birth".

I have mentioned Government action, but our principles and our belief in personal relationships oblige us to put a very strict limit on Government action, for the responsibility rests squarely upon the parents. I quote resolution 115 of the 1958 Lambeth Conference: The Conference believes that the responsibility for deciding upon the number and frequency of children has been laid by God upon the consciences of parents everywhere: that this planning, in such ways as are mutually acceptable to husband and wife in Christian conscience, is a right and important factor in Christian family life and should be the result of positive choice before God. That resolution, my Lords, was set in a social context. We did not isolate it. We went on: Such responsible parenthood, built on obedience to all the duties of marriage, requires a wise stewardship of the resources and abilities of the family as well as a thoughtful consideration of the varying population needs and problems of society and the claims of future generations. We stressed responsible parenthood, and we did not distinguish one means of family planning from another. We did not declare some permitted and some not. We said the means should be such as were mutually acceptable to husband and wife in Christian conscience. Some of your Lordships may think that here we allow our people an embarrassingly wide area of liberty. We do so because we believe that liberty is an essential condition of responsibility, and because it is part of the ministry of our clergy to help our people to use their liberty responsibly. It should be added that what we at Lambeth declared for our own people is closely matched by what non-Roman churches have declared for theirs.

My Lords, the education which I hope we look for in the terms of this Resolution is an education in responsibility for parenthood; education in the meaning of love, marriage and parenthood; education in the meaning of respect for personality, for children as persons in their own right; education in the responsibilities as well as the joys of family life; education in ways by which the family may share the life of the community and the nation. The word "development" in the Resolution presents more difficulties, for if it is hard for us in Britain to develop responsible parenthood and reach the standard of education to which. I have referred, how infinitely harder it must be in the under-developed countries. Development must begin with improving the social circumstances of their lives, and does that not mean generously increased aid for social development in these countries? Whether the strain on sterling makes any increase possible just now is for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to advise, but if he cannot give us new hopes will he at least give us a new slogan? That we have "never had it so good" has had an innings. How about, "We have never shared so widely" as a definition of our aim?

My Lords, there must be development, too, in our understanding of the physiology of reproduction, and so of the means by which husbands and wives in culturally backward societies can be helped to exercise control. We shall be wide of the mark if we assume that we have only to export to them a means of family planning widely used in the West. We should help them if we could promote further research into the process of ovulation, the means of determining the date of it and, perhaps, of regularising it when there is need. Then we should have to research into ways of teaching an understanding of these things to simple people; but if we succeeded we should do much for their domestic peace, and so for the stability of society and the peace of the world.

This Resolution deals with families, with real husbands and wives and children; with God's children in this naughty world which is yet His world; with God's children, many of whom look to the Churches in the West to help them by Christian teaching given in simple terms. It is widely recognised that the Lambeth resolution I have quoted both marked an advance in the thinking of Anglicans and encouraged other Christians to wrestle with this problem. It is not generally known that theologians from many Churches are continuing their researches. Finally, my Lords, a sentence or two on this research. These theologians would oppose as a violation of human rights any attempt by the State to enforce family limitation, whether by compulsory sterilisation or by abortion or by punitive taxation upon large families. They would oppose as both immoral and politically imprudent any attempt to attach compulsory family limitation as a condition of economic aid to under-developed countries. Many Christians would wish to encourage facilities for medical advice on contraception to married people who were religiously persuaded of their duty to regulate their families. This Resolution takes us into deep waters; into the realm of the providence of God, and of His ceaseless activity. May our debate persuade many that we must be more active in our duties of loving provision for our neighbours, particularly those in under-developed lands!

5.49 p.m.


My Lords, two requests have been made by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, who has left the Chamber, of the Roman Catholic Peers. One is that we should explain the difference between the term "regulation" and the term "control". With that request I will very gladly comply. It is simply a matter of the way words are used. The words "birth control" have come to mean, rightly or wrongly, contraception by artificial means. The word "regulation" is a neutral word that has not got those connotations. The word "regulation" may, therefore, be used to cover methods that are legitimate, such as complete abstinence; abstinence for a time; the use of the "safe period"—methods which Roman Catholics consider legitimate. It may also be used to cover contraception, abortions, and other methods which are not, in our view, legitimate. That is why the use of the word "regulation" in this Motion enabled me to accept the Motion—accept it, that is, in my sense, which may not be the sense of the rest of the House.

The other request that has been made to me is that I should explain the moral theology which underlies the rules which govern Roman Catholic behaviour in this matter. I would ask your Lordships to excuse me from giving you a lecture on moral theology. I do not believe that your Lordships' House would endorse that particular request by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara. It would take me a great deal of time. I should have to explain a great many terms with which your Lordships are unfamiliar. It would certainly bring me into controversy with the right reverend Prelates. And, after all, my Lords, I am a layman with a good many things to do; I do not claim, and never have claimed, to be an expert in these subjects.

I accept, as a loyal son of the Church, the moral theology of my Church. I could give some account of the reasons for my Church's theological attitude, but I think it is wholly unreasonable that I should be asked to do so, or that any of us should be asked to do so here and now in your Lordships' House. I will make the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, an offer to put him in touch with those who can explain it if he is curious. I will go to the trouble of sending him pamphlets and hooks in which he may study that attitude. If he wishes, to the extent of my pocket I will provide him with a nice little library on the matter, and I am sure that the study of theology will interest him very much indeed. He will enjoy applying his acute brain to this interesting and worthwhile subject.


My Lords, I thank the noble Earl very much for his kindness. If I may, I will send him books on the other side of the question.


That is a different matter, I agree there, my Lords! But as regards the Motion, I accept it.

With regard to the method, a great deal of development has taken place. The calculation of the date of the "safe period" has become rather more precise. I think. I do not want to express medical views, I want to keep off that; but I understand it has become fairly precise. I am told that two tests, one by temperature and one by an investigation of sugar content, may be used to check the tests of "safe period", and I dare say that further development in that subject is possible and desirable.


My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to intervene for a moment? Is he not treading on very dangerous ground in suggesting that artificial means should be used to calculate the "safe period"?


Perhaps I am, but I do not see why. I should have thought that it was morally unexceptionable, but if the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, whom I respect, has fagots ready for me, I will walk with due wariness.


My Lords, might I ask the noble Lord, as he has mentioned his moral theology, whether it accords with his philosophy to violate the natural laws?


That is going to lead us into those rather deep waters which I was trying to keep out of. I am treading on a narrow and slippery path between the scientist and the theologian; your Lordships will give me your indulgence. As I was saying, I accept the Motion. I agree that the explosion of world population might lead to very terrible wars indeed, and I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving us the opportunity to discuss a vital matter.

My Lords, on the question of rhythm, the legitimacy of that use of birth regulation, I and many others are in agreement. On the legitimacy of the use of contraceptives, I am—and I think it important that this should be made quite clear—in complete disagreement with what the Established Church now considers right. I am in agreement with the Lambeth Conferences up to 1920. I am afraid I cannot—I wish I could—express agreement with their later views.

I am not going to deal with the question of food. It is an interesting and very important question, but it has already been mentioned. There are many possibilities of finding food that will suffice for a very great world population indeed. But I am bound to say that I am glad that I shall not be here to see the day when we have to exist on a diet of plankton, or on a scum called "Chlorella", which I understand tastes rather less appetising than boiled vegetable marrow. However, there is no need that the better types of food should fail us if we avoid acts of complete folly, such as exterminating all the salmon in the sea and exterminating, as some people allege we are doing, the herring and the cod to boot.

I want now to deal with some facts about birth control. The Royal Commission on Population in 1949 found that our birth rate was very low and came to the conclusions that this was due not to any lack of fertility, for which they said they found no evidence, but to widespread use of birth control, of family planning. That sounded very encouraging for those who believe in family planning as a really effective means of reducing population. But since that Report was issue some other facts, very curious facts, which I do not pretend to understand, have come to light.

The United States of America has a very high birth rate—24.1 per 1,000 in 1960. That is rather less than it was a few years earlier, but still, by any reckoning, it is a high birth rate. Yet the United States of America is undoubtedly a country which uses contraceptives to a wide extent. It is estimated that 90 per cent. of married women of child-hearing age use some form of birth regulation. In 1955, a sample survey of 3,700 women of that age revealed that 73 per cent. were using contraceptives, and in the six years that have elapsed since that survey, there has been a great deal of intensive propaganda for contraceptives, and I have little doubt the figure has gone up. Is it not an odd fact that, despite the very widespread use of contraceptives and of the safe period method, the birth rate of the United States should be so comparatively high?

There are several features about this birth rate which ought to puzzle us and which we cannot quite explain. For one thing, it appears to contradict Double-day's First Law, first announced in 1837, which states that if a country gets more to eat and becomes more prosperous, the birth rate will fall. There are various ways of stating Doubleday's First Law, but the effect of it is, the higher, the fewer: the higher the standard of living, the fewer people born. The high birth rate in the United States seems to contradict that law and it is throwing population experts into considerable distress and confusion. It makes one think that some-how the inverse relation between extended contraceptive facilities and instruction and a low birth rate cannot be so simply established as was supposed on the evidence of the 1949 Commission.

This high birth rate in America has a further effect. High-minded Americans have been going to the undeveloped countries and establishing birth control clinics and urging restraint upon the inhabitants. And the inhabitants reply: "Why should we use all this prudence and control our population, when your white population is rising so rapidly? A little example is worth a good deal of precept." These answers have made the path of progress rather hard for high-minded birth controllers.

What appears to be the case is that the use of contraceptives may postpone the population explosion but can hardly be expected to prevent it. It appears also that those who are most enthusiastic for contraceptives and family planning in general, those who are most enthusiastic for the limitation of world population, are now becoming somewhat doubtful about the applicability of contraceptive methods to those large areas in the East and elsewhere where population is increasing so rapidly. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, has paid a great and deserved tribute to Dr. A. S. Parkes, C.B.E., F.R.S. I will quote his article in the New Scientist of June 8, 1961. It is common ground that established methods of birth control are so crude as to be a disgrace to science in this age of spectacular technical achievement. More pertinently, they are such as to be virtually useless to those most needing assistance—illiterate and over-crowded peoples without privacy or domestic amenities. These are the words of a most responsible authority.

That brings me to a point which deserves consideration in this matter—that is, the genetic effect of contraceptives. Those who are most careful, who have most technical skill, who take most trouble, those, generally speaking, of a higher standard of life, will tend to have smaller families. But science progresses, and we have the pill which was invented by a brilliant biological chemist, Dr. Pincus. Let us call it the Pincus pill—a most interesting discovery. It was hailed with great enthusiasm; it was going to simplfy everything; it was the ideal method of birth control. This is what Dr. Parkes says about the pill: The oustanding problem of the Pincus 'pill' is not as to whether it works, but as to the extent of uncomfortable side-effects, and the possibility of danger arising from the long-term frustration of the focal gland of the endocrine system. Its general practicability is also seriously in question. It is not enough to postpone ovulation: it must be suppressed completely, and this involves extended treatment during each menstrual cycle. As a result 'the pill' is not a pill, but a multitude of pills-20 a month during reproductive life, and one may well question the global applicability of such a method. One may, indeed, my Lords! Now let me turn to the Colossus of the free world to the Communists.


I have listened carefully to the various methods of birth control mentioned, and I find is rather curious that the noble Earl is not dealing with his own pamphlet. As he has dealt with every method of birth control and denounced or ridiculed it, why has he not dealt with his own pamphlet, which the young men and women can get in this country, called The Rhythm Method.


Anything to oblige the noble Baroness. I have not read the particular pamphlet.


Have you not? This is the noble Earl's method.


Are we not rather bogging ourselves down with technicalities?


I am in the hands of the House.


I am quite happy to hand to the noble Earl this pamphlet, The Rhythm Method.


I cannot help feeling that we are rather bogging ourselves down with technicalities. The Motion is in rather general terms, and I am not sure that the House would welcome an exact description or justification of all the possible methods available to mankind.


Perhaps I might be able to follow the advice of the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, and the noble Baroness and I might possibly have an interesting discussion afterwards.

I now come to the Communist world. The population question may be—indeed, certainly is—most important. The question of the rival ideologies of East and West is urgent and vital. I think we must remember that the Communist world denies that there is any population problem. The Communist doctrine is that any over-population that appears to exist is purely the result of capitalism, and the Communist world refuses to have anything whatever to do with the propagation of birth regulation. I know the point that the noble Baroness is going to make, but it is getting rather late.


I was not going to make a point.


The Communist and the Free World are trying to convert the undeveloped nations each to his own ideology. To which will they listen? Will they listen to the prudent calculating Free World's view of birth regulation, or will they be more attracted by the grand promises of the Communist world: increase and multiply; replenish the earth? And what of these nations which the two sides are approaching? The Chinese throughout the world, with their cult of ancestor worship in the tombs of many parts of the world. And fertility is at the very basis of the Hindu religion. No object in a Hindu temple is more sacred than the lingam. Then there is the African. Everybody who knows anything about, or has had any experience of, Africa knows the importance which the African attaches to the matter of fertility. Things are pretty critical in Africa. Do not for goodness' sake! associate the name of Britain with birth control in Africa. That really would be very dangerous indeed.

We are told that Roman Catholics have no answer to these questions, and that we are irresponsible. I will tell your Lordships of a Roman Catholic country which has a comparatively small birth rate. Five or six years ago the birth rate there was so small that growing fears were expressed about the possible depopulation of the country. The birth rate in the Republic of Ireland, though bigger than the birth rate in England and Wales, is less than the birth rate in Northern Ireland, and very much less than the 24.1 per thousand of the United States. No birth control instruction can be given in the Republic of Ireland. The answer there, as everybody who has studied the problem will know, is late marriages. When you have said that Irishmen marry very late and so have small families, you have not quite explained the whole problem. But I think the Irish are enabled to wait so long for the joys of marriage because they have had a certain education—namely, an education in chastity and self-control. I know of no other answer than that, in the long run, to the problems that we are discussing.

6.18 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that all noble Lords must be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, for giving us this opportunity to discuss this vitally important question. I personally am grateful to the noble Lord for having been good enough to postpone the introduction of the Motion until I could have an opportunity of taking part in the debate.

More than half the world's population lives in the relatively narrow confines of Asia, and that population, of over 1.600 million people, is increasing at a rate that will double the population in probably under 35 years. As the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, said in his introduction, Asia has one-fifth of the land area of the world, and yet it contains more than half the world's population. I find it difficult to see how the competitive efforts of individual Asian countries (not naming them precisely) to expand their living room in Asia can be avoided in well inside the next generation. The same thing might be said, to a lesser extent, possibly, of the Latin American countries. Hence my support of the noble Lord's Motion to-day. I propose to speak solely about the situation in Asia, of which I know a little and, practically speaking, not at all in respect of the population problem and the birth control problem in this country or in Europe.

There is a constant competition for the attention of men in any country as between domestic problems and international problems, and in that competition domestic problems almost always win. The noble Lord's Motion is not a domestic problem; it is a problem that has its focus in Asia, 8,000 miles away, and so is very much less in people's consciences—even in thinking people's consciences—than are a host of domestic matters. Not only has this problem its focus almost the other side of the world, not only is it geographically distant from this country, but it also appears not to have immediate importance in point of time. Yet more than half of mankind regard it as of the highest importance within the next ten years. I myself believe that, not long after the end of ten years from now, the problem which is inherent in the Motion may be of nuclear importance. I believe that peoples of the West are not politically aware, to any appreciable extent, of the vast problems of the overcrowded countries of Asia and the menace that their overcrowding presents to mankind. The menace is not only to themselves; the menace will be in due course for the world, and for us.

The problem of population pressure and birth control is appreciated in this country by a relatively small number of dedicated people, but not, as I think I have said, by anything like a majority of the thinking people of this country. In this country the Family Planning Association, which is a member of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, does remarkably good work, as well, of course, as a large number of scientists and scientific associations, and all without any financial assistance from any Governmental source. In the United States there is a great deal more work going on on this subject. One name which will be known to many noble Lords is the Population Council in New York and there is also the heavy financial aid towards this end of population control by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and, I think, a few others. I believe that the world cannot remain indefinitely by any means in its present state with, roughly speaking, one-third of mankind relatively prosperous, and two-thirds of mankind on the breadline and poverty-stricken. I believe that that is a situation with explosive possibilities for the future.

We have all developed our arguments in the years since the end of the war about economic and technical aid to the under-developed countries by the developed countries, with the great resources of the West—notably the United States of America and the United Kingdom. I believe it is acknowledged to-day to be an obligation on the part of the developed countries to do their utmost to help the under-developed and underprivileged countries. But there is a limit to the aid from the developed to the under-developed countries, a limit imposed by the problem of the balance of payments, particularly in the two great countries, the United States and the United Kingdom. I believe that the balance of payments problem, as it is at present, and as it unfortunately looks as if it may continue, will be a bar to any appreciable increases in international, technical and economic aid. It would seem—and this is a side issue—that more thought should be given to getting more international liquidity. But that is another problem, and its solution does not yet appear to be in sight.

On the subject matter of what I am attempting to discuss to-day, I suppose that as an Australian one is more conscious of what is going on in Asia, because Australia is cheek-by-jowl with Asia. We visit it constantly, and I suppose that, all told, I have spent a number of years in my life in Asia. So one is likely to be, by the same propinquity of our country to Asia, much more aware of the problems of Asia than any country can be that is half the world away from it. The standard of living in Asia, as I think we all know, is pitiably low. Put at its highest, I have seen it estimated as one-tenth of the standard of living of the average of the West. I should think myself that that is an unduly high figure. I think it is more like one-twentieth of the standard of the average of the West.

Asia has become highly conscious in recent years, since the end of the war, of the fact that she is, in the popular term "living on the smell of an oil rag", when the developed countries of the world are in Asian eyes getting more prosperous every year. Moreover, in their eyes the gap appears to be widening constantly. Whether that is a fact is another thing, but that is what they are beginning to believe. The Asian Governments have made Himalayan efforts in recent years to raise their pitiably low standards of living, but all their efforts are being defeated by the relentless annual population increase. There are the beginnings of uneasy stirrings in a number of the Asian countries, and I believe these are likely to grow. They are beginning to believe that the situation is a hopeless one so far as improving their standard of living is concerned, because as they produce more material things more mouths are created to consume them.

May I venture to comment on some figures that the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, gave? She said that the population of India to-day was 408 million. I think she was speaking of what was estimated before the last Census to be the probable result. In actual fact, the Census turned out to be not 408 million, which had been the anticipated figure, but not less than 438 million. In that regard my noble friend Lord Brabazon of Tara has quoted Nehru most effectively, and also Ayub Khan, for Pakistan. I would add only one short quotation by Mr. Karmarkar, the Indian Minister for Health in charge of the Family Planning plans for India. He said: All our efforts to achieve a higher living standard will be frustrated if we do not take effective steps to keep our population within proper limits. An important aspect of the work is the evolution of suitable and readily acceptable contraceptives. How has this vast population increase in Asia, perhaps more particularly in India, come about? It has come about perfectly simply. About fifteen or twenty years ago the death rate in India was 30 per 1,000 every year, and the birth rate was about 40 per 1,000 every year. As an unfortunate by-product of a commendable and successful policy to reduce the death rate by public health measures, the death rate in India has come down from 30 per 1,000 to 20 per 1.000 per year, whilst the birth rate has remained relatively steady at 40 per 1,000. In other words, a net increase has come about in a fairly short period of not much over twenty years, of 1 per cent. to 2 per cent.; that is to say, the increase in population per year has doubled in less than the last generation, largely, if not entirely, due to the reduction in the death rate. The death rate—and we must, of course, commend it—is still dropping in India, which will only make the net increase in population larger than it is to-day.

May I quote a distinguished Indian, Mr. Chagla, the Indian Ambassador to the United States, who about a year ago made a most eloquent public appeal to the people of the United States in this connection? He reminded his listeners of the firm policy in favour of birth control by the Government about five years ago. He mentioned that in each of the three Five-Year Plans, and now the present Five-Year Plan, greater amounts of money were hypothecated for family planning. He said that the aim of the Indian Government was to reduce the birth rate by half so that the birth rate and the death rate could be in balance and the population stationary, Realising that the present methods of birth control in India were relatively ineffective, Mr. Chagla made a fervent plea for very much increased scientific research in the United States towards the evolution of an effective oral contraceptive pill. Mr. Chagla went on to say this about the policy of neutrality of the American Government in respect of birth control and family planning in India: I say to you with all the emphasis that I can command that on a question like this a great country like the United States cannot afford to be neutral". He then went on I want you to imagine what it means for millions of children to be born in underdeveloped countries, children who will suffer from malnutrition, who may have no proper homes to live in, no employment when they grow up, and may spend their lives disgruntled, dissatisfied and bitter human beings—a prey to any new idea which might promise them better prospects and more tolerable conditions. I am very impatient of the arguments which are advanced against birth control and family planning on the grounds of morality. What is this morality which condemns millions of children to poverty and destitution? Mr. Chagla ended by describing uncontrolled population increase as "one of the greatest dangers that the world faces".

It is, I think, admitted by people who study these matters that the existing means of birth control are unsuitable for widespread use in India. I think it was the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh who quoted words from Dr. Parkes' recent paper in the New Scientist. I have read his paper and discussed the article on this subject with Dr. Parkes, and he was not complaining but making clear the fact that the existing means of birth control, even the Pincus pill, are inadequate, particularly for use in the Asian countries. He describes them, in the terms quoted, as being crude, and also I think he said ineffective, because family planning in Western countries is quite a different thing from family planning in the countless Asian villages. Even the recently evolved Enovid pill, although I think it is quite effective, needs as the noble Lord who preceded me said, to be taken twenty days in every month; but to an illiterate woman in an Asian village that is far too exacting a procedure to be carried out. Other methods which are available are either not effective or can be eliminated on the score either of inconvenience or of expense. What is clearly needed, and in this I quote Dr. Parkes again, is an oral contraceptive pill that can be taken once or twice a month; and this, unfortunately, is not even beginning to be in sight.

Immunisation against unwanted pregnancy is a possibility, I believe, which is envisaged by some of the scientists, but I think even the most optimistic of them believe that the development of this will need several years at least of patient research before it is likely to be successful. In other words, the search for the optimum and the socially acceptable deterrent is going to be a long one. It will entail a vast programme of scientific physiological research into the whole male and female reproductive cycle, in an effort to find the means of putting the reproductive system out of balance without temporary or long-term disadvantages or even inconvenience.

Appreciable research in these various directions is going on, mainly in the United States of America but still quite a lot in this country, but not nearly enough, either here or in the United States. I have had figures taken out for the cost of research into these problems both in London and in New York, and the figures arrived at in each case bear remarkable similarity to each other: that in respect of the means for contraception there is something under £2 million in all being spent in all countries in the world that are conducting scientific research into it. I give figures in terms of money because that is the reflection of the amount of scientific work being done. When expenditure of under £2 million is compared with roughly £20 million spent on cancer research, and thousands of millions of pounds spent on nuclear and missile research, I think it will be seen that the relative importance of these matters bears no relation.

To those who say that all this business of birth control and contraception is wholly unnecessary, that an increase in food production can quite easily take care of the situation, I say that that is not the fact. I believe that food production cannot possibly keep pace with population increase. If it could, then you would still have the problem of clothing and housing, educating and employing, this enormous torrent of new population each year. I believe that the evidence is incontrovertible that family planning is the only possible solution of the population pressure problem. At any rate, although my word might not be taken for a great deal in this regard, the word of the Governments of India and Pakistan, totalling nearly 50 million people, is that they believe that contraception and family planning is the only cure, because both those great countries with their enormous populations have adopted family planning as official policy; and they are waiting for an effective population deterrent, which unfortunately they have not got.

I realise that circumstances exist that make it extremely difficult for Governments to take action to stimulate research into contraception matters, but perhaps I might be allowed to suggest to the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, the Minister for Science, that it might not be impossible for the matter to be brought more forcibly to the notice of the nongovernmental scientific organisations in this country, and also the great foundations that finance them, so that the tempo of scientific research in this country into contraception matters might be drastically speeded up. I can conceive of no greater service and no greater benefit that could be given to the overcrowded and underprivileged countries than that scientific research in this country should be devoted much more intensively to the solution of the many problems that must lie ahead before the optimum and socially acceptable means of contraception is brought to light.

On another matter to which perhaps I might draw the attention of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, is the resolution of the World Health Organisation that it has been forecast will be moved in respect of planned parenthood. The resolution, as I understand it, will be designed to emphasise the need for information and help in respect of planned parenthood, to be made available by the World Health Organisation to those countries that need it and ask for it. I hope very much that in due course when this resolution becomes a fact it will have the support of Her Majesty's Government in the relevant World Health Organisation body.

In the terms of Lord Brabazon's Motion, which I believe is definitely an understatement—which rather surprises me coining from him—"that further education in the regulation of birth would contribute to world peace", I say that I believe it to be beyond doubt that unless the growing populations of Asia are brought under control, frustration and disillusion, of which there are signs already, will be followed by social and political unrest, and peace in Asia will definitely be menaced. Birth control and family planning can be regarded, I think, as an aspect of preventive medicine. I believe we all realise that timely preventive medicine is much more effective and less costly than, eventually, the cost of having—


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord, who is being most interesting and is a great expert on Asia. Can he tell us what he thinks of the present situation in China with regard to the very matter he is discussing?


I do not know. I believe China a, few years ago was sponsoring family planning and then that was stopped, and although I am not well informed on the subject I believe that at the moment it is a matter of personal choice. I think there is no centralised Governmental mandate one way or the other, but I am afraid I am not anything like well enough informed on that matter. So, my Lords, I support very strongly the Motion that has been brought before us for discussion to-day by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara.

6.50 p.m.


My Lords, I must apologise for addressing you twice on the same day. I have never done it before and I shall try very hard not to do it again. I have no notes in my hands, and I shall therefore address you very briefly indeed. As the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, has already said, the inclusion of the word "regulation" in the Motion made it possible for a certain number of people to accept the Motion, which they would not otherwise have been able to do, since, as lie explained to us in great detail, regulation can mean a lot of things. Regulation of one sort is acceptable to some of us and regulation of another sort is not. He made it perfectly clear that artificial means of birth control are unacceptable to a substantial number of people in this country, and will remain so. I have no intention of saying anything more on that issue, which has been well dealt with already, and I am much looking forward, as no doubt other noble Lords are, to the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Longford, who doubtless will submit anything the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, left out.

Perhaps I may for two or three minutes query the words of the Motion right from the start. It is on the subject of over-population. If any of your Lordships would care to look at a new Oxford atlas which has come out recently, you will see that it has an excellent population map of the world on which the densities are clearly shown; it is most interesting. You will see that the world, far from being over-populated, is probably really under-populated. That is a statement which no doubt will cause eyebrows to be raised, but if you look at it and go on looking at it, you will see that, apart from the enormous densities of India, the plains of China and to a lesser extent Europe, this country, Belgium and so on, there are vast areas of the world in which virtually nobody lives on at all.

We are told, "Yes, but it is the climate"; or, "It is a question of the available resources in that area of the world." A few years ago one was told that a lot of things were impossible. For instance, 30 or 40 years ago if you had been told you could live 350 miles into the Sahara desert without doing yourself very much damage you would not have believed it. Now the French oil lines are there and very many people are working there. If 40 years ago you had driven from Tripoli towards Mersa Matruh along the coast, you would have found some development for a mile or two miles inland, but not more. Now as you pass through cities like Benghazi you will find development going in a very long way. One was told, "It is desert; it cannot be done". It has been done. I have a young friend with land in Patagonia, in the extreme South of America; he looks after 100,000 acres. He told me he could have another 100,000, but it is more than he can deal with There are no people. The climate is excellent. It is a country in the south of Argentina, full of prosperity. No doubt when railway facilities exist people will start trickling down into it. If you look at the map of South America and North America and Canada you will find that the whole of these huge continents are under-populated. You can drive across Texas and see nobody for a couple of hours. We are told that the United States of America is busy thinking of means of birth control and spending money. One wonders why.

With regard to China, I do not know whether the noble Lord who addressed us last has been in China; I think he told us he had never been there. I have, not very long ago, and the question of over-population on the plains of China is tremendous. But as soon as the Chinese have made enough railway lines and opened up the Western Provinces, such as Sinkiang the population will get on the move and the problem will be solved by going to the West, a fact of which Mr. Khrushchev is probably uncomfortably aware. There are other areas, Australia for one. I am sorry the noble Lord, Lord Casey, has just left us, because obviously he is an authority on this matter.

Selfishness, often concealed under the cloak of patriotism, is at the bottom of this maldistribution of the population of the world; the "haves" are not going to give anything to the "have-nots" if they can possibly avoid it. It is a humbling thought that every day you read in the papers of some new miracle of science, somebody put into space, somebody on the moon, these wonderful scientists spending billions of money in every country to do something about another planet when this one is not particularly organised. I have a great regard for the ability of the noble-Viscount who leads this House, but I wish instead of holding the place he holds he were Minister for Distribution of the Means of Living. If such a Ministry existed and people tried to share and share alike, they would find there is enough in the world for everybody and there would be no need for this business of what is called family planning, a politer word for birth control.

Before I resume my seat, may I remind your Lordships of the words of President de Gaulle in Westminster Hall a year ago, when he ended his, as I thought, remarkable speech by saying: "Ceux qui ne manquent de rien, n'ont pas le droit de refuser à ceux qui manquent de tout." That is: Those of us who lack nothing have no right to deny those who lack everything. I think those are words which nobody could gainsay, and I only wish that we may live long enough to see one day all these artificial barriers lifted and population on the move towards areas which at the moment are held to be uninhabitable. Have we the disinclination to tackle this thing, or the inability? If it is the disinclination, there is very little hope for the human race. If it is lack of ability, that can be put right with goodwill. I do not believe the world is over-populated. Neither do I think there is any need for these methods for artificial restriction of population, which are entirely abhorrent to a great number of people in the world to-day.

6.48 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat has, I think perhaps unwittingly, advanced arguments which seem to me to be strongly in support of the Motion of the noble Lord. It is no doubt true that there are parts of the world where it is still possible to produce great quantities of foodstuff and to which people from the over-populated parts of the world may emigrate. That gives us a little time in which to put our house in order, because those parts of the world are not really so extensive as the noble Lord has suggested. By and large, those areas of the world which are not populated are not populated because the soils are barren and the opportunities for expanding agriculture and industry are not propitious.

Here and there, it is perfectly true, there may be the possibility of producing more food, and there may be the possibility of increasing the population but in the parts of the world which he himself has already stressed there are enormous difficulties. I was reading in LL book by a member of his own faith, in which there is a most objective article on this problem, that if Australia were placed at the disposal of India over the next years, some 15 million people born in two or three years in India would be all that Australia could take over a long period of years. The noble Lord, Lord Casey, to whom we have just listened would no doubt be able to confirm that—it is an enormous continent where the possibility of expanding agriculture is most limited.

But the reason why I wish to say a word or two in this debate is to bring to your Lordships' attention once more a matter which was raised in your Lordships' House some months ago by the noble Lord, Lord Jessel, on an occasion when I supported him, in regard to what is almost a vendetta waged by the Roman Catholic Church in this country against the activities of the Family Planning Association and every attempt which that admirable or4anisation makes. I should perhaps declare an interest, in that I have the honour, which I much prize, of being a Vice-President of that organisation. Its attempts are checkmated, or sought to be check- mated, all the time. Its advertisements in the papers are attempted to be prevented by those who are perfectly entitled to object to birth control, but who I feel are taking their objections to a stage at which civil liberties are at stake.


May I ask the noble Lord to substantiate that? On the face of it it seems a most extraordinary statement.


I am referring to the going back on the acceptance of an advertisement by the Transport Commission. The advertisement had been accepted and was afterwards withdrawn at the request—indeed, more than at the request, at the threat of what would happen if they did not withdraw it, which came from the Roman Church. What I am objecting to is not so much the action taken by the noble Lord's co-religionists as the action of the Transport Commission in giving way to these threats.


May I ask the noble Lord who is waging the vendetta? Is it the Transport Commission? He has mentioned civil liberties. but his objection is against the Transport Commission. I think we are entitled to know to whom he refers.


I would say to the Transport Commission, in regard to the civil liberties of the country, in reply to the threats of the noble Lord's co-religionists.


Would the noble Lord be so kind as to say what form the threats took? Can he give any details of the threat which made it so powerful?


I understand that the Transport Commission were strongly advised to withdraw this advertisement which they had in fact accepted. It seems to me that that is the type of threat which is continually levelled in this sort of way and which ought not to be given way to.

In an admirable article in his book. Mr. St. John Stevers, who is a well known Roman Catholic author, agrees that, apart from the Roman Church, overwhelming social opinion in this country is in favour of the birth control movement. The Family Planning Association is working in close harmony with the National Health Service. Many of its clinics in which information about these matters is given to women who require the information for the purpose of planning their families, are in fact held in National Health Service clinics and other places under the National Health Service. It seems to me that it is quite wrong for a nationalised organisation like the Transport Commission to behave in this way.

I remember very well some twenty or thirty years ago a famous Member of your Lordships' House, Lord Buck-master, who had occupied the seat of the noble and learned Viscount, moving in this House a Motion to the effect that further information about these matters was most desirable in the interests of the community. That Motion was accepted by your Lordships' House somewhere in the late 1920's. It seems to me that it is altogether wrong that a national organisation like the Transport Commission, in the face of Parliamentary opinion of that kind, should withdraw an advertisement which it has accepted, and I wish to protest against their attitude in doing so. I think your Lordships would be entitled to have the advertising manager, whoever he may be, who took this course brought to the Bar of your Lordships' House, because, your Lordships having expressed an opinion that it is in the interests of the community that this sort of advice to women is good and is in the public interest, it seems to me to he flying in the face of Parliamentary opinion for them to act in this way. I hope that, on reconsideration, they will decide to withdraw this ban on a most proper and sensible type of advertisement.


Before the noble Lord sits down, I should like to point out that he has accused a large body of his countrymen of threats. He has made no attempt to identify them, but has ridden off on the back of some different body.


Does the noble Lord deny that it was at the insistence of the Roman Church that this advertisement was withdrawn? I should be glad if he could say that it was not. It was said at the lime that it was so and so far as I know, nobody has denied it. If the noble Lord can deny it I should be most gratified.


I have no desire whatever to deny it. I do not know the facts. But I think they had every right to protest, as would the noble Lord if the Transport Commission put up some poster which seemed to him most obnoxious, unpatriotic and generally detrimental to the public welfare.

6.57 p.m.


My Lords, I have noticed that it is customary when addressing your Lordships' House for the first time to plead for the indulgence which is generously given here on such occasions. The fact that when a Bishop speaks he frequently does so with the protection afforded by the pulpit is perhaps a disadvantage when he finds himself face to face with a body of distinguished experts such as are to be found in your Lordships' House. It is, however, because the Motion proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, seemed to me to be one about which the Church aught to have something to say, because it so deeply concerns the lives of people and as so obviously hound up with human relationships, that I venture to say something which I hope will prove helpful in clarifying the situation in so far as it is related to the well being of all peoples and particularly of those in this country.

Previous speakers, including the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of St. Albans, have envisaged the problem of over-population from a world angle. As one whose pastoral experience in the Ministry is limited to the homeland, it is from this angle that I would desire to make my contribution. The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, and others of your Lordships have, as I expected, spoken about the "population explosion", and as I anticipated have appealed for a more intensive programme of birth control in overpopulated regions. I fully understand this, though I find it difficult to comprehend how we can interfere with the lives and customs of the teeming millions of Asia and Africa over whom we have no, or increasingly little, control, and in some cases no contact or influence.

If, as is believed, the Chinese, for instance, number 670 million, and are increasing in population to the extent of some thousands a week—and this at a time when scientific and medical knowledge is preserving the lives of infants who in former days would have, by the natural process of disease and infant mortality, died by their thousands—it seems that at present in many places the door is likely to be shut to this kind of settlement of the problem for a very long time, and by then it will have got out of hand altogether, if it has not already done so.

The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of St. Albans, with whom I am in agreement, has spoken of the overpopulation problem over which there is universal Christian concern and about which much was said at the Lambeth Conference in 1958. He has emphasised the point on which I think there will be general agreement, that the regulation of birth cannot be considered in isolation from other factors, and that economic and educational matters have a distinctive bearing upon the whole problem.

In resolution 115 of the Lambeth Conference a great deal was said about responsible parenthood and, as has been pointed out, the emphasis was laid upon the fact that from our point of view the solution to the question of family limitation lies in keeping the balance between State intervention and the ultimate and most fruitful source of solving the problem, which lies in the spiritual realm of inward discipline and obedience to faith.

I pass on to what is really my view of the vital question. First the solution of the problem by charity: that is, freeing vast economic aid and the introduction of freer immigration policies, myself feel that both these methods would be ineffective, or at any rate would do little to settle the problem, because there is a limit as to what this country can do financially; and, secondly, there are severe restrictions, not of our making, where we could implement such charitable desires. And, again, the encouragement of a vast number of immigrants from the Commonwealth to this country is likely to raise problems of over-population here to such an extent that its ill-effects will fall with disastrous consequences upon our children and grandchildren and will heighten the problem rather than solve it.

The solution of the problem by what is known as the "licet" method—that is, no artificial contraception but birth regulation by the safe period method of co-habitation—would, in my view, fail utterly, for it would seldom, if ever, be used by the people whom it is most necessary to control. I should be the last to wish to expound views on this subject which suggest any criticism of those sincerely held by other branches of the Church. It would be discourteous to do so, and, in any case, this is not the place for theological arguments of that kind. The point I would make is that, in my view (which is upheld by the Lambeth Conference resolutions of 1930 and 1958), there is need for a balanced and therefore regulated birth rate in our own economically highly-developed society, and that artificial contraception does not offend the conscience of the Church I represent, provided always that its use is confined to the limits of conscience laid down in the Lambeth resolutions.

It is important, my Lords, to observe that there was a remarkable degree of solidarity among the Bishops in 1958, though it was on Indian initiative, and not European, that the subject was considered at Lambeth, in contrast to all other discussions. The Lambeth Conference of 1958 published eight resolutions on marriage of which one, No. 115, affirmed that family planning was a positive Christian duty, leaving the means to the conscientious decision of the parents. The Conference believed that the responsibility for deciding on the number and frequency of children has been laid by God upon the conscience of parents everywhere, and that this planning in such ways as are mutually acceptable to husband and wife is a right and important factor in Christian family life and should be the result of a positive choice before God. Such responsible parenthood, built on obedience to all the duties of marriage, requires a wise stewardship of the resources and abilities of the family as well as a thoughtful consideration of the varying population needs and problems of society and the claims of future generations.

It goes much further both in the responsibility it demands and in the liberty it allows, than did Resolution 15 of 1930, which affirmed that where there is a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood the method must be decided on Christian principles; that the primary and obvious method was complete abstention from intercourse, so far as may be necessary, and a life of discipline and self-control lived in the Power of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, in those cases where there is such a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence, the Conference agreed that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of the same Christian principle. The Conference recorded its strong condemnation of the use of any method of contraception control from motives of selfishness, luxury or mere convenience.

It is interesting to note the change from the absolute condemnation of 1908 and 1920. In 1908 the Committee of Bishops responsible recommended the prohibition of the sale of neo-Malthusian appliances and the prosecution of all who publicly or professionally assisted preventive methods, but the resolution merely commended doctors who would have nothing to do with them. In 1920, the extension of their use was said to threaten the race, and teaching which under the name of science and religion encouraged married people in a deliberate cultivation of sexual union as an end in itself was steadfastly opposed. Is the advance to 1958—the Church showing realism and the desire to please, or the Church showing expediency—a retrograde step? I submit, my Lords, that this is not so. In 1958 the Conference stiffened its attitude to marriage and its meaning. It emphasised the indissolubility of marriage in Church, but allowed, quite rightly, for the pastoral care of those who were divorced.

It is well to remember that the Bishops who were largely responsible for the 1958 resolution had made a careful study, as has been referred to by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of St. Albans, of a book entitled The Family in Contemporary Society, which contained a summary of the facts concerning rapid social change, multiplying populations and an impossibly low economic potential in many of the regions from which the Bishops came. They were made aware of a world in which two-fifths of the population enjoy great wealth because their advancing skill in prolonging life has been matched year by year with mounting wealth and a general reduction in the number of children per family born, while the other three-fifths endure dire poverty; and there was the threat of worse, because the prolongation of life was begun a generation or two ahead of economic growth and of the complex of social and cultural change which produces the motive and the means to restrict family size.

The Bishops took account of this; it was expedient that they should; hut the earlier Bishops did no less. In 1908 the theme was the falling birth rate and the concern was confined largely to England and Wales and the Colonies. The fear then was lest the English-speaking peoples, diminished in numbers and weakened in moral force, should commit the crowning infamy of racial suicide and fail to fulfil the high destiny to which in the providence of God they were manifestly called. It was expedient that the practice of birth control should he condemned then. In fifty years or so the facts have changed. It is expedient that we should note the change and, having arrived at the conclusion that there is a danger of over-population, examine the theology of the whole question. In 1908 restriction except by self-control was abhorrent. In 1958 the purposes of marriage were re-examined most carefully and the relationship of husband and wife, having a value in Christian marriage of a sacramental nature apart from the conception of children, was given an emphasis which, if not previously denied, had been obscured. The "mutual society, help and comfort that the one ought to have of the other" in both prosperity and adversity received greater emphasis.

I turn now to the position in our own country, which makes one feel that some form of birth control is both necessary and essential. We must halt the acceleration of population in overpopulated regions, and in our own country it is necessary to keep a balance of age structure. The Registrar General's most recent prediction is this—I quote from the quarterly return of April, 1961: Projections of the populations of England and Wales show that (on certain assumptions, one of which is that annual births will average 750,000 in the first five years, thereafter rising gradually to 925.000 at the end of the century) the total population will increase from 45,862,000"— that is at June 30, 1960— to 50 422,000 in 1980 and 55,646,000 in the year 2000. The projections show that the excess of 1,510,000 females in 1960 would decrease gradually until, in the year 2000, there were only 404.000 more females than males. The proportion of the population of pensionable age"— that is, males of 65 and over, and females of 60 and over— which is at present 14.9 per cent., will increase to 17.4 per cent. by 1980 and then decline to 17.2 per cent. in 1990 and to 15.6 per cent. in the year 2000, if assumptions are borne out by events. Meanwhile, my Lords, our population structure is, to say the least, unshapely. At the top we have a large generation of elderly and old, the last product of the Victorian and Edwardian family size. At the foot we have the post-war larger families, headed by the "bulge" which has grown up always a year or two ahead of the new schools and class, rooms built for them. In between, we get the "thin" generation: the products of the small families between the wars; the generation which just accepted modern birth control and took it negatively and to excess. This is the generation which has to produce the wealth which is to keep the generation at each end of the scale, as well as to invest for the future and contribute something to the needs of the underdeveloped world. I am not unduly worried about the unbalanced population structure—the ageing population. This is temporary, and an inevitable phase when one generation cuts the size of the family and, at the same time, better medical and social care and better food and living conditions prolong the expectation of life. This distortion will pass once the family size becomes stabilised again.

In conclusion, may I say that it was after the First World War that I myself first came face to face with this problem. I remember, in the course of my duties, visiting an East End parish where the vicar was a conventional, very con- servative type of clergyman, whose theological views might he considered by many to be "narrow and straitlaced." I visited houses and flats in his terribly overcrowded slum parish at night, and I saw children in their scores playing in the streets and gutters—many of them locked out until their parents returned home from the "local" to let them in to sleep under the bed in the overcrowded tenements. I was then Metropolitan Secretary of a Home Missionary Society, concerned with pastoral problems, and I ventured at the end of a long day to ask the vicar what kind of help he most needed in his parish, expecting him to ask for some financial help or for increased clerical or lay help. "What is your greatest need in this parish?", I asked. I shall always remember the answer—it came to me as a shock and a surprise. He said, "A birth control clinic".

This gave me food for thought; and when, after the Second World War, I left London to serve in the Northern Province, amongst the mills and the mines of the West Riding of Yorkshire, I found that the results of the unemployment problems of the hungry 'twenties, when unemployment had eaten bitterly into the hearts and minds of people and a generation of unemployable had grown up through little or no fault of their own, were that the social and economic conditions of those days, brought about by bad housing, widespread poverty and extensive unemployment, had accelerated the early, negative enthusiasm for birth control. Unable to do anything creative, men turned inevitably to the one creative outlet left to them—the exercise of their sexual powers. But this was also stifled by fear of pregnancy and of more mouths to feed, and hence the deep personal frustration of the 'twenties and 'thirties which found an expression in the sexiness and pathological pastimes of the age.

My Lords, I fear that I have said enough—indeed, I have gone on far too long in this debate—but I should like to conclude, if I may, by expressing the hope that education and development as broadly outlined should lead to a sounder, healthier family life of our nation; that this will exercise its own effect upon a new generation: that we shall see a reversal of some of the disturbing trends in the sexual morality of some sections of our youth to-day; and that this, in turn, will produce among our own people a nation more fit to be of service to the world and to bring in its train peace and happiness, which is the by-product of contented and tranquil human relationships. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, for moving this Resolution, which I feel is one of great importance, and which I believe my Church can honestly and sincerely support. If, by chance, I have to go before the Government reply to this debate, I would ask your Lordships' pardon. It is only that I have an engagement in the Midlands for which it is vital I should catch a train later. I apologise for that, because to me this debate has been one of great interest, and, I think, of very great importance to the life of the nation.

7.17 p.m.


My Lords, I am a member, although perhaps a poor one, of the Church of England, and so I am very glad indeed that it should fall to me to congratulate the right reverend Prelate on his delightful maiden speech. It did not help us that by some little accident in the printing of the List of Speakers the usual letter "M" was omitted, so that it was only when he started speaking that I knew he was addressing us for the first time. It made one feel very pleased to belong to the Church of England to hear from him the sensible views about birth control and contraception which were propounded at the Lambeth Conference. I think that the Church is absolutely right, and that the right reverend Prelate was absolutely right in all he said. They have adopted a sound, constructive approach to what is a very difficult moral problem. I am very glad I am not an agnostic and have not been engaged in the war between the agnostics and the Roman Catholics which has been going on this afternoon. I think the middle way might well be the right way; and I hope we shall often hear the right reverend Prelate speaking again.

When he was speaking I was reminded of a remark by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, when he said of young people that fear of V.D. was gone, that fear of eternal damnation was gone and that, with pregnancy under control, there was unlimited licence for the young. That really is, I think, a most odd view. He said, quite rightly, that sex is very enjoyable and a very good thing, but what he did not say was that marriage is an even more enjoyable and an even better thing. That, surely, is the view which the Church of England is adopting, about which they are absolutely right, and which makes all the difference. Inside marriage, I myself can see no objection whatever to contraception.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord to say that I enthusiastically agree with him, because I have been married 54 years myself. But that view is not shared by everybody.


My Lords, I think it is shared by an enormous number of young people, as is shown by the very encouraging fact that they are getting married in increasing numbers and ever younger, which I find a very good thing. What is more, they are having their families early, which is another good thing. I do not think there is any ground for being dispirited or downcast about the young.

As one listened to this debate, it became obvious that there were two schools of thought. There were the "explosionists", those who thought that in the world there would be a great explosion of population—namely, the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of St. Albans, and the noble Lord, Lord Casey. They all thought there would be a great explosion of population, I suppose some time around 2000 A.D., or maybe a bit further on. On the other side was my noble friend Lord Amulree, my noble friend Baroness Summerskill, and one or two other noble Lords, who felt that things would be all right somehow. I must confess that I am a non-explosionist; I do not think that there will be an explosion of population.

I could not, in fact, in all honesty, support the whole of the Motion, because I do not believe that this has very much to do with world peace. I think it has a lot to do with world prosperity and happiness, and I am all in favour of the first part; that is to say, the encouragement of the teaching of birth control, and more knowledge about family planning. That will be an excellent thing. But I do not think there is any evidence that modern wars have been caused by over-population. It seems to me that they are more often due to psychopaths in power and to idiotic nationalistic creeds. Countries with an enormous population usually have very much ill-health amongst them, and could not fight a war if they wanted to. I agree with my noble friend Baroness Summerskill that it is much more likely to be a small and powerful group with atomic scientists who would cause a war, rather than the quiet and mal-nourished Indians.


My Lords, would the noble Lord not say that Japan possibly made war because it was overpopulated?


I should have thought not. I should have thought that Japan made it because it was an extremely nationalistic society—an excessively nationalistic society. After all, I should have thought that China was even more over-populated, as well as the adjacent areas. I do not think overpopulation was the cause, but I am open to correction there.

I should like to return to one point which the right reverend Prelate made in his very interesting speech. He rejected the so-called "safe period" as a method of birth control as being impracticable in these primitive countries. He is absolutely right, and for the simplest of reasons: that in these primitive countries the majority of women are suffering from anæmia due to hookworm. Their menstrual periods are quite irregular, and therefore the "safe period" cannot be calculated—it is as easy as that. Equally, Dr. Pincus's pill is likely to be useless, because that depends on exact calculations of the time of ovulation, which is only possible if the time of the menstrual period is known. So I think that is "out".

Of course, there is a real problem about competition between increasing populations and food supplies; but the picture is not as grim as the neo-Malthusians would paint it. Nevertheless, it is desirable for rapidly expanding populations to restrain themselves, and in this process birth control will play a part. But other factors will be equally important. It is not legitimate to draw a graph of world population and then project forward the increase in the existing rate. It just is not true; it does not happen like that. Population stays steady for a while, then it rises for a while, and then falls for a while. But these "whiles" are quite long, and may be 50, 70 or 100 years. Even to-day there are declining populations. Ireland has had a very severe population problem, as the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, said. The Eskimos are a declining population. Pre-war we were very nearly a declining population, and France was a declining population.

There is a demographic cycle, and it is a fairly long cycle. The population starts out stationary, when there is a high birth rate and a high death rate, and at that point they cancel each other out. Lots of babies are born, lots of babies die, and the population goes along at a steady level. At this point the birth rate is usually about 45 per 1,000—very high. Then, for some reason or other, the death rate starts to fall, the birth rate remains high, and the population goes whizzing up. This is the period of early expansion, the second phase. The third phase is the period of late expansion, when the death rate is still plunging but the birth rate has started to fall. Although the birth rate is still above the death rate, the rapidity of expansion slows. Then the thing becomes stationary as the two balance out; and finally, the population starts to decline again.

It is probable that Rome reached the fourth and fifth stages in the second to fourth centuries A.D. We can see it happening in some countries in the world to-day. Ceylon is a very interesting one. In Ceylon the death rate has come right down to 10, but the birth rate is still way up at 38, not much below the 45 figure. In other words, Ceylon has a tremendous natural increase of population taking place at this moment: it is in the second phase of the demographic cycle. India, on the other hand, to which the noble Lord, Lord Casey, referred, unless my figures are wrong—and I checked them with Professor Fraser Bockington's excellent book on world health—has got into the third phase of a diminishing rapid increase. India's death rate is 13, but the Indian birth rate is now down to 25; it is no longer 45, but down to 25. I believe that India is not doing at all badly. Indeed, I think India is succeeding in its tremendous job. It has to do more, but it is doing very well already.

believe I am right in saying that a similar situation, where the death rate is coming down a lot and the birth rate is already beginning to come down a bit, applies to the Soviet Union, to Japan, to the Argentine, to Poland, to Italy, to Spain, and to Chile. This, clearly, if it be correct (and I think it is) has nothing to do with whether the population is Catholic, or Protestant, or agnostic, or whether it is a Communist country. The situation is more or less static in Western, Northern and Central Europe, in the United States, in Australia and in New Zealand; but as the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, said, it is quite right that the United States' population is going up; the birth rate is going up. In France, the population was going down before the war—a Roman Catholic country, but it does not make any difference whether it is a Roman Catholic country or not—but now it is going up again. The French have reversed the trend, and the Americans have reversed the trend.

The truth is that nations are beginning to learn how to regulate their populations by social and economic means, which is a very good thing. We in Britain have done this a bit. We have kept our population steadier than the Royal Commission on Population thought we should, and we have a rather higher birth rate than they expected. Each nation tends to regard its own culture as the finest in the world, and none readily contemplates its own extinction.

Why do populations increase or decrease, and why do the speeds vary? May I, with all due deference to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, quote the case of Ireland? Up to 1750 Ireland was in stage one—that is to say, the population was quite steady. It had a high birth rate, a high death rate, and it was a pretty tough country to live in. Then the potato was introduced, and at once the death rate of infants started to go down as the result of better nutrition, due to potatoes, and the population went up from 2 million to 8 million between 1750 and 1840—a fourfold increase. Then the weary potato gave way under this burden—because for all practical purposes it was a one-crop country; there was a potato blight, followed by famine, disease, and emigration. Then came tremendous depopulation. When the blight was over, one might have expected a rapid population recovery; but there was not one, it just went on going down. It has been going down steadily, until now it is half what it was in 1840 when the potato blight occurred.

This is partly due to emigration. But who are the people who have emigrated? They have tended to be the more fertile stocks, because the method of inheritance of farms in Ireland means that the farm goes to the eldest son, so the larger the family, the more boys and girls who know they have no chance on the farm and off they go. So the more fertile Irish boys and girls go abroad. That is why there are more Irish in the United States and elsewhere than in Ireland.


My Lords, I should doubt whether the noble Lord could produce evidence to show that the more fertile emigrate from Ireland. If he means that the one who remains is married late and would not have children as soon as those who went somewhere else, there might be something in it.


My Lords, I was saying that the larger the family, the greater the number of emigrants: and the larger family per se is more fertile. That is one of the signs of fertility. Therefore, by losing more of the fertile boys and girls the Irish tend to be more unfertile. I see the noble Viscount shaking his head. I think he will find that this is good genetics.


My Lords, my experience of Western Ireland is in accord with what the noble Earl, Lord Longford, says: that the eldest son inherits the farm when his father dies and cannot marry until then, when he is often about 40. It has nothing to do with his fertility but with the fact that his married life is comparatively short.


My Lords, I entirely agree with both noble Lords. They are absolutely right. But the point is that many people elsewhere get married in their twenties and thirties—and blow the consequences! The Irish do not. It may be that that is why they are infertile. They are not the marrying type, as the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, said.


My Lords, I do not want to engage in an argument at this time of night about Irish genetics but the noble Lord earlier gave the impression, which he has admittedly qualified, that the Irish population is going down because of infertility. It is going down because of emigration. I think he will find that in the Highlands of Scotland, where similar economic factors are at work, there is the same decline.


My Lords, may I say that I have up-to-date and exact figures from Ireland, which I cannot quote at the moment, but they show that, when the Irishman does marry, he shows no signs of infertility at all, and that the Irish produce children in considerable numbers but later than is customary in other countries. On the matter of fertility, were it expedient to do so I think I could convince the noble Lord that he should modify his statements.


My Lords, I do not think that I really will modify my statement because I think I am probably right, but manifestly I have failed to convince a couple of noble Lords. I am sorry I introduced this red herring, because until we got to Ireland I thought we were going along fine. It was a fatal thing to do. I was only quoting Ireland as an example of one of the reasons why population goes up and down. I suggest that sometimes this is due to genetic factors. I think that the noble and learned Viscount is still not convinced about genetics and fertility, but it is possible to find very fertile women and very infertile women. I am sure he would agree about that.


My Lords, the only point from a scientific aspect about which I am at all interested is that nobody knows enough about human genetics to say any one of the things the noble Lord has been saying and even if they did, they would not be able to give the results over three generations—that is, a hundred years.


My Lords, in fact I was talking of the work of Dr. Goodhart, who is a zoologist at Cambridge. I had not intended to be controversial on this matter, and I am sorry that I have got involved in this strange issue of differential human fertilities, about which I thought there was no doubt. I thought it was universally admitted that some ladies tend to have large families, and others small families. I had thought that this was established at least by a study of existing families.

However, I am not greatly concerned with the genetic factors in fertility but far more with the economic factors. The giving of family allowances acts as an economic "booster" to large families. Free education and pride in one's nationality work the same way. When the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, asks why the United States birth rate is going up, I should say it is because parents like being United States citizens and want to have children. That is all it is. If we look at the people who live in the new town where I work: and where we have a flourishing family planning clinic but also a big birth rate—there is no connection between the two—we see that people want to have larger families because they are happy, decent citizens. And they are spacing their families out in a sensible way with the use of family planning. As we give people a decent life, they tend to have rather bigger families, though fortunately they do not have very big families, such as one sees in primitive communities.

By and large, so far as I can see, the number of children people have responds very much to the economic situation. If children are an economic liability, as they are in nomadic communities, people tend to have small families, which sometimes they achieve by horrible ways—for example, by female infanticide. If children are an economic asset, then people may have large families. Indeed, in some communities the men want to make sure that their wives are capable of having children before they marry. As the standard of living rises, the cost of having children rises, and the economic value of children to parents comes later and later; the education of the children grows steadily longer, and the age of marriage is later, so that the chances of having larger families go down. It is exactly the same with women's emancipation. The employment of women outside the home and the family means that women tend to have fewer children. It is a straight economic proposition. She and her husband between them can give their existing children a better time and have a much better family income. I find it is often the best mother who goes out to work and not the worst. Often the worst mothers are those who are "slutting" at home. So, again, the size of the family is determined by its being an economic benefit not to have too big a family.

As my noble friend, Lady Summer-skill said, the gloomy predictions of Malthus for the 19th century have largely been proved wrong. Improvements in productivity more than keep pace with the increase in population, but the difficulty is that the natural causes of population decline are slow, whereas the unnatural causes of population increase—by which I mean medical activities—have been very quick. That is why birth control is essential to help these countries which are, as it were, "out of phase" to get things right again. I think that India is winning its battle under the third Indian Five Year plan, which calls for an increase of family planning centres, from 1,800 to 8,200. My Indian medical friends tell me that the problem is not so much technical as the general attitude of laissez faire, the unwillingness of women to take action without the encouragement of their husbands, and the actual cost of appliances. Those are problems for most Indian villages. I understand that Japan has actually controlled its population and is now just over the balance.

I must say that I think this problem will solve itself without any dramatic population explosion. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, for having introduced an interesting and, I think, valuable debate. I am quite sure it is most important that we should do all we can to encourage family planning wherever it is legitimate, good and worthwhile; but I certainly do not think the noble Lord is right in feeling that over- population will necessarily, thank goodness! lead to war.

7.41 p.m.


My Lords, I have listened as we all have, with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, and I found myself in large agreement with him except when he got near Ireland. I think the noble Lord could easily put that right if he would visit Ireland more often, and he would be most welcome there. Perhaps I may be allowed a word of personal explanation, in view of the protest that I thought it right to make on the suggestion from the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, that my Church had been involved in threats of some kind against the community. I thought that the noble Lord's attempt to justify that was no attempt at all. But asked him whether he would not. feel justified in making a protest against a body which seemed to him unpatriotic, and one or two other things. While my general point still remains, I should not like the suggestion to go out from me that the Family Planning Association is an unpatriotic body. So far as I know its work, I think the Association is animated by high ideals. I felt it right to remove any suggestion of that sort at the beginning of my speech. The other explanation I would make, which I think might well be taken for granted, is that in this debate I am speaking for nobody but myself.

We are all deeply grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, for bringing forward this Motion, and to him and the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of St. Albans for toning it down between them, if I may say so, in order to suit the susceptibilities of my co-religionists. As I said earlier, I hope we should never be persuaded, however unwelcome the terms of a Motion, from playing our part here; but I appreciate that the noble Lord has tried to make it as congenial as possible to us; and the two Roman Catholic Peers who have spoken with a great deal of eloquence have apparently accepted the Motion. I think I should say that I would reject it in order to demonstrate that we are not a totalitarian society. However, it is a marginal case, and I do that mainly to prove the high measure of liberty that exists in our Church. I appreciate very much the attitude of the right reverend Prelate in making the suggestion to the noble Lord, because it shows, if I may say so, the very fine initiative which is being shown by various Churches, and most; prominently by the Church of England here, in the direction of Christian unity. I think it right to make a special acknowledgment there.

Certainly this word "regulation" appears to be much more suitable and agreeable to us than the word "control", and for the reasons explained. They are reasons, as one might say, of verbal association, but they were set out clearly in that fine speech of the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh. To emphasise the point that we attach importance to it, I would refer the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, to a book which has just come out (I do not know whether it can be called an official book, but it is an important one) written by a Jesuit, Father de Lestapis, where under a chapter entitled "Birth Control or Birth Regulation," he says: … birth control which tends to satisfy and to encourage the excessive growth of the appetite for pleasure … and—on the other hand—birth regulation calls for self-mastery out of respect for the nature and the vocation of the husband and wife. I hope the noble Lord will feel that he has not changed his Motion in vain, but that he has done a great deal to meet our point of view.

I felt more troubled by another remark that fell from the noble Lord when he said that anyone who had had four children had had enough.


Very wounding.


Yes, very I am told that it did not me. There was one noble was here earlier who children, and he has the House. No doubt he was deeply pained. I have no doubt that any noble Lords with larger families were very much upset by this.

I am glad that my noble friend Lord Moyne, who has had eleven children, was not here to-day, and I hope that these remarks of the noble Lord will be kept from him. I feel that this is one of the few cases where one would perhaps be entitled to modify Hansard, or at any rate, the special version of Hansard that goes over to him. I am reminded of Psalm 127, verse 5: Happy the man that hath his quiver full of them. They shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the Gate. I hope that I have no enemies here, and certainly not the noble Lord, who has been so kind to me in so many capacities. I do feel that those of us with larger families should not necessarily hang our heads, in spite of this grave rebuke and the suggestion by the noble Lord that we should have been operated on at an early stage. My sixth child has just won a minor scholarship to Cambridge after a long Oxford connection. I agree that one does not send any child before the sixth to Cambridge; but if my wife and I had had but five children, we should never have had the opportunity of entering on this new way of life, not to mention my child. That would be one thing which the noble Lord would have denied us.

With regard to these calculations about populations and so on, I tend to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, when he questioned whether there were too many people in the world. And the question that naturally follows is: is the population of the world increasing too fast? One noble Bishop arrived at some conclusions about the probable population in the country. We remember, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said, the Report of the Royal Commission on Population here. They were appointed in 1941, at a time of great alarm because the population was disappearing; but by the time they had finished, the population was going up rather fast, and in the meanwhile one member of the Royal Commission had had twins. I was refreshing my memory about that, and she apparently sent a telegram to the Commission: Report two contributions to net reproduction rate. I thought that was in the highest tradition of sociology and statistical science. Perhaps someone can explain this to me. Apparently it was the net production rate" because they were both girls, but if they had been boys it mould have just been the "reproduction rate". So it was a technical telegram. I remind the House of this only because these calculations nearly always turn out to be wrong.

Is the population increasing faster than the food supply? No-one has said to-day that the population is increasing faster than the food supply of the world. I find in one pamphlet (admittedly it is a Catholic pamphlet, but I have tried to check this with sources whose authors would take a different view), published in 1959, that food production in the world has been increasing by about 2.7 per cent. per annum annually since 1948; and that is almost twice as fast as the population growth. The report of the Food and Agriculture Conference in 1957 was somewhat less optimistic, though the figures were rather earlier. They said: The present production rate (agricultural) only barely exceeds the rate of population growth and supplies are unevenly distributed. On the other hand, farming techniques are being improved and the rate of improvement can be accelerated, thus increasing the yield per unit. They go on to mention the vast potential resources which could be developed.

We have heard a quotation from the noble Lord himself, quoting Professor Colin Clark, who believes that, without any absurd assumptions, the food supply of the world could be multiplied tenfold. I came across some calculations in some reputable document—I cannot remember which at the moment—which pointed out that at the present time the sea supplies only 1 per cent. of the total food, and that if the sea were properly used it could produce as much food as the land now produces. I take all these calculations with reserve. If one believes that artificial birth control is unnecessary—and that is a point on which I will make a few remarks, though I am not theologically trained, as your Lordships are aware—one will not be distracted or elbowed off that position by these calculations of population and food, because, so far as one can discover, the world's food supply is increasing faster than the world's population.

Of course, I shall be told that, as the noble Lord, Lord Casey, in that striking speech indicated, the danger lies not in the total shortage of food, but in the fact that there is a shortage of food in certain areas, and it is likely to become worse as time goes on. I do not think any of us underestimates the shortage of food in the world at the present time. I do not want to question this. We on this side and, I have no doubt, noble Lords on all sides, agree that two-thirds of the world are near the subsistence level. If we take not the present position, but the possibilities of improving that position, I would side with those—and I think they have risen from all sides of the House, but certainly the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, said this very strongly, along with other things I did not agree with—who say that, by any Christian standards, the wealthy countries of the world cannot be thought to be doing their duty by the poorer countries.

If we are talking of world peace—and that is why I venture to incline towards the view of the Motion taken by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, in the link-up of these arguments for world peace—and also if we are talking about world prosperity, surely the major positive contribution should be development and education of the poorer countries and peoples of the world. First, there should be a fairer distribution (and I think, in general, everyone agrees with this, though some go further than others) of the earth's resources, and a rapid development of the resources as yet untouched in the underdeveloped countries. We all know that that means an education of those countries in the positive sense, which does not enable them to cut their numbers, but enables them to produce far more than at present. That is the overwhelming duty of those of us who live in these rich parts of the world. All have agreed with that in one way or another, and I will not labour the point at this time of night.

I should like to say one word on something that is certainly close to the Motion, the suggestion that any form of regulation, whether legitimate or not by Catholic standards, could be of much benefit at the present time to these undeveloped countries or in any future that we can foresee. The noble Lord, Lord Casey, was quite emphatic that existing means of birth control are unsuited, for example, to India. I myself take the view, which I think has had a certain amount of scientific support this afternoon, that even if we could expand the understanding of birth regulation in any form, legitimate or otherwise, it would not make much difference. I think that is the view of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor.


No, my Lords. My view was that ordinary mechanical methods of contraception were probably best for primitive people, and this would make a substantial difference. I did not think that these chemical pills were likely to be any good.


I thank the noble Lord. At any rate, I am assuming this for the moment, and I will come later to the question of the principle that certain methods are legitimate by Catholic standards. I should be glad to see knowledge of those methods held out to these peoples, and in that sense I support the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara. I do not think for a moment that we should deny them anything we ourselves are fortunate to possess, and I think it would be our duty to put them at their disposal. I was only saying that, from a Catholic point of view, I cannot believe that is going to make such a colossal difference. At any rate, it will not affect the issue in the near future to anything like the extent that other remedial measures could.

I am assuming, of course, that contraceptives are evil. When I say "evil", I need hardly say that those who use them are not wicked people, and I hope that many are better than I am. I regard certain things in this world as sinful. I hope that everyone regards adultery as sinful, and I am afraid I must say that, in the view of Catholics, those who use artificial birth control methods are guilty of a sin. The Catholic Church has always condemned contraception and maintains that traditional position. Pius XI, for example, reminded us that the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, and therefore those who, in exercising it, deliberately frustrate its natural effect and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious. Those were the words used, and I think it is only right to remind the House of them, because otherwise we shall be sailing under false colours.

I think the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, and the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, made that abundantly plain. Therefore, as we say, we are all in favour of planning, and that it is only a question of the means. There is a sense in which that is true, and a sense in which it is not true. If one regards a means which others consider as perfectly legitimate as being evil from the point of view of one's own Church, there is a large difference which it would be affectation to conceal. Nevertheless, it is true that, so far as planning is concerned, there is no difference, and in that sense there is agreement in principle. I would quote one thing that was said on the subject by the late Pope. He referred to an earlier statement of which he was reminding his hearers. He said: We affirmed the legitimacy, as well as the limits—which are actually quite broad—of regulating' births which, contrary to what is called birth control', is compatible with God's law. We may even hope that medical science, to which, of course, the Church leaves the final word on the matter, will eventually be able to give a sufficiently sure basis for this legitimate method. The most recent information seems to justify this hope. So the ideal of planning is accepted by all the Churches. The argument is about method, though there is still the greatest difference as to what methods are, in fact, legitimate.

If one asks whether birth control, widely practised in poor countries, or in this country, would do much more good or more harm, one could embark on a great sociological investigation, and I have no intention of doing that now. I think there is one field which must he mentioned to-day. If artificial birth control is made too easy to the young people of this country, one is encouraging premarital intercourse. I think no one can deny that the encouragement of premarital intercourse has been one result of the spread of this knowledge. Having mentioned that one point. I do not want to suggest that that necessarily decides the question. I indicate it only as a point against birth control which has not been brought up this afternoon.

I am not going to try to argue the very speculative long-term effects of artificial birth control. I would rather indicate what seems to me the fundamental view of my own Church of this matter—and the noble Viscount, certainly, and other noble Lords will be aware that we do not simply, so to speak, find out what the Church has said, assume that that is all we need know, and then go rushing about the place proclaiming it until the next directive comes along. Any Catholic who took up that attitude would certainly have no claims to call himself a well-educated or rational person.

Basically, however, the view is that self-control is a necessary element in a loving marriage and that artificial birth control would tend to weaken self-control. This is what I would say is our view; and when I say "our view", it is how I personally sum up a great deal of the matter. It is true that we are ready, as a Church, to take advantage of all the developments of science so long as one is not interfering with what we regard as the natural process. I am well aware that there will be those who argue, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, that our suggestions interfere with nature just as much as theirs. That I am not going to argue now, but from such little experience of the matter that I possess I would say she was totally wrong. But I am not going to add more tonight.

The point of view of my Church has been put better than I can put it by the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, and the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. I would only comment by saying that I hope no one will go away with the idea that the Catholic ideal of the family is the same as any secular ideal. I will leave out the comparison with other Churches because it would be impertinent for me to speak of them, but I hope it will not be thought that the Catholic ideal of the family is the same as any secular ideal except that it is slightly more restricted. In our view the whole conception of the family is that it is a God-given institution. The family ideal must be based on love in the first place and in the second place on the conception that there are certain limits beyond which one must not pass without committing sin. We believe that if you do pass beyond these limits you sin against human nature and in that way sin against the highest form of family devotion.

I believe that the human race, whether in this country or other countries, has a long way yet to journey along paths of self-control and sacrifice, but the further we journey along these paths the more rapidly shall we learn what it really means to love.

8.3 p.m.


My Lords, what has surprised me perhaps most about this rather curious debate has been the tacit assumption by so many speakers that the Government have nothing to say about such matters. I think they have quite a lot to say—although how much I, in what I say myself, shall be representing the views of my colleagues I have not with great care sought to find out. The noble Lord who moved the Motion has, I think by common consent, raised one of the most important subjects in the world, and I would define that subject as the prospective relationship between world population and world food supply. And to that extent we must all be grateful to him for giving us the opportunity of discussing the matter.

At that stage I begin to ask a number of questions. Has he defined the issue correctly by limiting the Motion to birth regulation, as it has now come to be called, and world peace? What does he mean by education and what does he mean by development? The noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, says birth regulation cannot be imposed, and this much is at any rate certain. What methods have we in mind? What is meant by over-population? Is it a problem of birth or a problem of nutrition? Why have so many speakers ignored the possibilities of a correlative increase in the food supply? Is over-population, supposing one to be in favour of birth regulation, either the best or the only reason for advocating it? Is birth regulation an alternative or a concurrent remedy with others? Is birth regulation a practical remedy at all?

The noble Lord, Lord Casey, if his evidence was correct, although he advocated passionately the use of something which has not yet been discovered and which he gave no hope would be discovered, established, if his evidence is correct, that there was nothing in it at all for this purpose, because in the parts of the world where it was most required according to the noble Lord, Lord Casey, the methods known are likely to be ineffective. Above all, has it been wise at intervals, at very little below the surface, to introduce the emotionally charged subject of sin and even of race at one stage? How far can we afford to ignore the question of natural morality when those with whom we happen to disagree take a different view of it? If we are going to ignore the views of the Roman Catholics, how can we ignore the views—and such matters as the dietary regulations—of such people as the Muslims and Hindus, and indeed the Jews, all of which are equally devotedly held and have a very close bearing on this particular matter. I thought myself that the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of St. Albans struck a very right note early in the debate by reminding us that this is a society of prosperous people discussing very largely the affairs of those who are not prosperous, and that this ought to introduce a note of considerable caution and delicacy into our debate.

These are obvious questions, and I think some of them ought to be discussed, and although I might not be able to give definitive answers I must say, to begin with, that I consider the problem is best discussed objectively in the terms in which I stated it just now—the relationship of population to food supply. This is the true problem, and it is in these terms that I should like to consider it for a moment in my capacity as Minister of Science. Having said that it interests me in that capacity, I hasten to say that any judgments or figures that I quote, although some of them may be obtained from official sources, are in fact my own assessments, because in truth there is no collective wisdom upon this matter upon which I am able to rest with any degree of dogmatic certainty; nor is my Office equipped with authoritative advice on this subject except upon technical matters which I do not propose to deal with.

First, then, the problem. Some noble Lords have tended to underestimate it, I think. The population of the world to-day is difficult to number, but I should judge that it is not far short of 3,000 million souls. Food supply is equally difficult to judge. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Orr, was quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, as having said that two-thirds of the world are undernourished. I have seen this figure repeatedly published. I think this is certainly an overestimate. But does that dispose of the matter, if one-third, or a 1,000 million individuals, of the world are under-nourished, and undernourished in the strict sense in that they have too few calories in their diet; and if probably to this one must add 500 million souls who have imbalance in their diet—that is to say, by reason of shortage of food may have adequate calories but an inadequately balanced diet, either because of protein deficiency or vitamin deficiency or for some other reason? I think this ties up with what the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, was saying at the beginning of his speech.

In this country the facts are masked. They are masked by our own increased food production of recent years, masked by our colossal imports of food, and by the system of social security and full employment. The estimates can be erroneous, but what appears to be certain is that the world population is increasing fast. I have seen a ratio of 0.9 per cent. given, but I have also seen 1.6 per cent. On the other hand, contrary to what the noble Lord, Lord Casey, said but as correctly stated by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, the best view appears to be that food production is also increasing, and increasing somewhat faster than the population of the world. But the increase is uneven, in that in the Far East and Africa it is still far below the level it was before the war. If we take a possible world population, for this kind of calculation, as something like 4,000 million souls by 1980 and 6,000 million by 2000 A.D.—and I must say that despite all the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said I should be astonished if by 2000 A.D. it was less than 5,000 million-' then, making every due allowance for appropriate increases in diet, as we ought to do in planning ahead, it must be estimated that world cereal production should be increased by one-third before 1980 in order to provide, at any rate, an adequate diet, and should be doubled by 2000 A.D. The production of animal proteins, which in many ways are more important in order to provide a balanced diet, should double by 1980 and probably quadruple by 2000 A.D.

My Lords, here indeed is a problem which does require drastic action on any view. Is it receiving it? I have the impression that it is not receiving the attention which it deserves or the action which it deserves. Yet I should have thought that the achievement of an adequate standard of nutrition for the population of the world by 1980, or even 2000, was an object at least as worthy of humanity as a space station on the moon or a trip to Mars.

Is it a possible achievement? I will return in a moment to the question of birth regulation, but I think it is neither irrelevant nor unimportant to claim that to double the world's food supply might be more easily and rapidly achieved than to halve the world's population by means of anything short of genocide. We doubled our own food production in about seven years from 1939 onwards by the use of perfectly well known techniques, from a level of production which was already high. It may be desirable for many reasons to limit the number of live births in many countries where infant mortality is high, where women are treated with insufficient respect and where polygamy is the rule. But the population will continue to increase rapidly, particularly with improved health, unless the birth rate declines to a level which seems at present barely possible. We certainly could not have halved the population of the United Kingdom in seven years, as we doubled its food production.

It is, I think, my duty first to say that, whatever is done in birth regulation, an increase of food supply is one of the prime duties affecting humanity. Here I must claim bluntly that neither the newly developed countries nor, broadly speaking, the Communist world are really taking their responsibilities seriously enough. Again and again agriculture has proved the Achilles Heel of Marxism-Leninism. In Russia, East Germany, almost everywhere, production declines under Communist control, whilst we, the unrepentant capitalist West, accumulate surpluses which it appears difficult to distribute.

I must turn now to some possible solutions and actual undertakings. One solution that has been suggested is the distribution to scarcity areas of the grain surpluses at present being produced in the more developed countries. During the past decade these have amounted to over 125 million tons, enough, in theory, to supply the full calorie needs of 45 million people for a year. Some such movements of grain surpluses do in fact take place, but there are tremendous difficulties in achieving its widespread distribution. Moreover, once the present surpluses have been distributed, only an annual surplus of 10 million tons will be available for disposal—which is by no means sufficient to enable the distribution of surplus grains to affect appreciably the calorie levels. And to alleviate malnutrition, what are required are protein-rich foods, not cereals—though grain surpluses have proved to be an invaluable aid in the alleviation of famines and severe food shortages in particular areas.

Another suggested panacea is the world-wide adoption of vegetarian diets: but on the whole it is now generally recognised that universal adoption of vegetarian diets would exacerbate rather than solve the problem. The tendency is for populations to increase the proportion of animal products in their diet as they progress from adequacy to plenty. But it is inconceivable that the continents of North America and Europe would revert to the dietary pattern of many years ago. One problem is the lack of indigenous drive. Instability of government may also be a cause. Another is that population changes have been so rapid that Governments have not appreciated that the adequate feeding of an expanding population must become an object of overriding importance. Lack of capital, outdated land tenure systems, and over-population in the agricultural sector, are other difficulties. What is generally needed, therefore, is an attack on the psychological and social handicaps that harass the hungry countries.

Modern techniques can be of enormous help, but they must be properly controlled. In many countries, what is required is not so much the more intensive cultivation of cereals or root crops as a form of husbandry that will convert waste lands from arable crops via livestock into dairy and meat products. For the last fifteen years the Food and Agriculture Organisation has been playing its part in the attack on world hunger. It collects, it analyses, it disseminates information. It convenes many international meetings for the study of specific problems, and assists Governments in determining policy. We have always in the United Kingdom supported the Food and Agriculture Organisation, have played a full part in its work, and have been the second largest contributor to its funds.

In July, 1960, the Food and Agriculture Organisation launched a world-wide Freedom from Hunger campaign. Among its aims are research and action projects designed to improve food production and distribution in less developed countries. The campaign is to last five years and is not aimed at the temporary relief of hunger and malnutrition but at its progressive removal. This is, in effect, an intensification of the work of the Organisation. We have again given our full support to this campaign, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food have appointed a national Committee under the Chairmanship of the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, to organise the campaign in this country. His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, has graciously agreed to be Patron, and my right honourable friend the Prime Minister is a Vice-Patron.

This is a subject which I should have liked to develop at greater length. I feel that here we are on certain ground, and that much that has been said this evening has been extremely uncertain, in whatever direction it has been argued. If we, during seven years could by known techniques double our food supply, by how much could the world's food supply be increased if all did likewise, even if they limited themselves only to known manures and fertilisers and only to known varieties of seed and known tools of agriculture and irrigation?

If we are going to disregard religious prejudice, which I myself do not recommend people to do, we cannot stop at offending the Roman Catholics. What about the refusal of the Hindus to slaughter bull calves? What about the diet regulations of the Jews and the Moslems? But even without this, are we really right to encourage great areas of the world to be given over to industrial agriculture? Ought not all countries who pursue mono-culture of foods like sugar, which they export, to do a little more to raise protein foods for their own people? If we here can increase our use of man-made fibres and plastics in substitution for natural fibres, there must be immense potential food supplies in a7eas at present given over to industrial crops. Sooner or later we shall be able to distil sea water into fresh water for the purpose of irrigating deserts. And the universal substitution of* fertilisers for animal manure on the farms would make a great difference to the available food.

I could go on increasing examples like this, but I think it is right to say at the outset that there is a great deal of room for increased and improved methods of agriculture, and serious methods of research into improving food supplies, which ought to be considered much more seriously than they are in relation to this problem.

But now I return to ask some more questions about the regulation of birth. For myself, I think it would be wrong to express any personal view about the question of natural morality of which the noble Earl, Lord Longford spoke. But how much do we really know of the real factors influencing a decline or growth in populations, large and small? How big a part is played by psychology? How much is the birth rate affected by acts of voluntary postponement of the marriage age, abortion, and, as I have said, in modern, societies, by deliberate methods of contraception? Do we know? Is it known whether, and how far, these methods have succeeded? A number of pieces of evidence have been brought this evening to indicate that we do not.

Several noble Lords have referred to the case of France, where the population declined between the wars and has risen since. The United States birth rate declined between the wars and has since risen again. There is the situation in Ireland, which has been gone into by several noble Lords. Yet knowledge of contraception during this period is likely not to have varied so much, and the social policy itself of these countries is as likely as not to have been the consequence, as well as the cause, of an underlying desire for a higher reproductive rate. Can it be that we do not know as much about these things as we think we do? If so, it might be well to encourage research into the facts of demography and human relations.

For myself, I recognise two fundamental political principles which, at least to my mind, are essential, given a proper discussion of this subject. The first is *See col. 1135. my genuine belief that, at least in conditions such as ours at home, the decision as to whether or not you use particular or any methods of birth regulation is an intimate question of personal conduct and conscience. It should not be made a matter of social or political pressures in either direction. I realise, of course, that the social or political consequences may be serious, but individual rights and individual consciences are of serious importance, too. It is this reason which leads me, at least, to decline to go into those realms of moral theology.

I find myself therefore in favour of existing practice in this country. This practice makes information readily avail, able, but in confidence. It is available through the medical profession. It is available through reputable private societies such as the society of which the noble Earl spoke. It is not the subject of State propaganda, and it is not the subject, in that sense, of Government action. Moreover, whilst the information is available through both Government and private sources, the means are certainly not available, I understand, through the Health Service at the public expense. This, I think, follows from the fact that the choice is a personal one. In cases where genuine health hazards exist, the contrary applies, although of course, the choice still remains a personal one.

But I would say there was a second principle. If and in so far as it is a matter of social and personal choice, then I am fundamentally opposed to international interference. India, for instance, favours contraception and voluntary sterilisation. As we have heard, Ghana and Burma do not. Only to-day. I read in the Guardiana message from the Minister, I think, of National Planning of Burma, who said: Behind all the talk about population pressure and the need for control in Asia is the fear and bad conscience (of the Europeans) that one day soon large masses of Asians will erupt and inundate with fire and sword the prosperous areas of the world in sole occupation by the European races. For this and other reasons any lecture about population pressure appears unreal if not nonsensical. He said that it was the remarks of Lord Casey which aroused such a strong reaction.


Burma is an under-populated country. I was talking mainly of India and Pakistan, which admit that they are over-populated and have formally adopted voluntary planning and are seeking for an adequate contraceptive to suit their own conditions.


I was not adding my criticism to that of Mr. Thakin Tin. I was only pointing out that this was an extremely sensitive international topic, and I was saying that the only inference I drew from this was that it should not be a matter of international interference, and that we should he extremely careful about the way in which we spoke to Asian peoples of the desirability or otherwise of their adopting methods otherwise than in keeping with their own choice, whether or not we approve of either extreme or the contrary. Whether or not we should agree that internally that may be made a matter of social Policy, that is surely part of the sovereignty of nations. They should pursue their own methods and we cannot interfere, even if we should wish. We should not interfere. If we are asked for our view in a matter of this kind we can give it in confidence. These particular matters are better dealt with in confidence and put through unofficial rather than official channels.

In the meantime, our recent experience in the United Nations and elsewhere confirms that this must be a matter on which the Government should tread extremely cautiously. We have always been opposed to referring it to the United Nations, as it has proved an explosive issue upon which feelings run very strongly. This can be established by a number of different recent events, and I feel that we have been guided wisely in taking that line. If this be true, I think one can say that the Government should be careful not to impose views, external or internal, on so delicate a matter. My own feeling is with those noble Lords who have spoken in that sense, that these are things that will in the end sort themselves out, and that by far the most fruitful source of action by Governments in the immediate future is to concentrate upon the essential need to provide more food for the people.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, who moved this Motion, that the instinct which is the origin of problems of population is an extremely powerful one. It was strong enough to keep the human race going for 500,000 years in conditions which would not be tolerated to-day even in the most overpopulated countries of the world. And I personally feel, too, whether or not one accepts methods of birth regulation which are offensive to the Roman Catholic Church—and the spokesmen for the Roman Catholic Church have at any rate much to be said in their favour—that nobody who has reflected on this matter at any stage can really avoid the conclusion that nobody can come to peace with himself, and no society can come to peace with itself, until it comes to live with that instinct in terms of self-control and of the peculiar and unusual state of mind that we call purity.

8.30 p.m.


My Lords, nobody can vie with me in my admiration for the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, and his new technique in winding up a very complicated debate of asking himself a series of ques- tions to which he knows the answers—it is quite admirable. I must congratulate him upon the immense work he has done on this subject and which he expounded to us in a most interesting way. I think it has been an interesting debate and I am much honoured that two Bishops should have taken part in it, and also honoured that "my Lord Cardinal Longford" joined in. But I am very upset. When I said that I thought that four children were enough, I was not really saying it on any personal lines only having four children does double the population. I can assure my noble friend that the more Pakenhams there are the better for the world, and I congratulate him very much not only on the quantity of his family but on the quality. I have nothing more to say at this late hour except to ask whether I may withdraw my Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at twenty-eight minutes before nine o'clock.