HL Deb 01 July 1964 vol 259 cc610-700

4.6 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, I am sure that noble Lords on both sides of the House thank the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, for initiating this interesting debate which gives us an opportunity of making an individual contribution on a pressing world problem. I say "individual" because I presume that there is no Party policy in this matter, and therefore, when every noble Lord speaks, he will be speaking solely for himself. I think also, that special significance attaches to the debate to-day because it has been opened by the Chairman of the Family Planning Association.


My Lords, I hasten to disabuse the noble Baroness. I am not the Chairman of the Family Planning Association; I am only Chairman of the Appeal Committee.


My Lords, I should have said that the Appeal Committee was the most important part of the Family Planning Association. Surely to-day, in 1964, the principle of birth control has not to be argued between modern politicians, and indeed modern theologians, with the exception of the Roman Catholic Church, whose views, of course, we all respect. But it seems that even the Roman Catholic Church is now, by slow degrees, adjusting itself to the concept of family planning—that is, if we are to be guided by recent pronouncements from the Vatican. As the noble Lord says, we look forward to the autumn to learn the final decision of the Church—a most important decision, because so many countries have big Catholic populations.

May I just at this stage say (because the noble Lord in his Motion refers to "practical measures") that if the Pope finally approves of family planning, I hope that he will at least protect Catholic women from methods which may prove harmful. Among these—and here I am speaking for myself and for a number of others who feel as I do—I include the contraceptive pill which has been given world-wide publicity, with the result that innocent and ignorant women believe that, because it appears in the papers, there is a tacit approval by authoritative sections of society and organisations. Another "practical measure" is called the plastic coil. I would remind noble Lords that years ago there was a thing called the "Grafenburg ring", which became totally discredited after it had been used by innocent and ignorant women.

At this stage, when we talk about this matter in terms of practical politics, we must not fear to face up to the tremendous propaganda which is being conducted by those who have a financial interest in the matter. There is, I fear, a tendency to approach this question in a state of panic, with the result that contraceptives which have not been adequately tested for harmful effects are put on the market and sold in countries where poor and ignorant women are bound to suffer. In these great overpopulated countries about which we have been talking this afternoon—and I listened to the noble Lord's statistics with careful interest—there is, as the noble Lord probably realises, a dearth of doctors, a dearth of nurses, and a dearth of all those people who can protect these women who, it is suggested, should be taught some form of contraception. It should be borne in mind that there are two parties to any pregnancy and that birth control should be a shared responsibility.

We know—and the noble Lord has mentioned this—that insecticides and antibiotics have made possible enormous advances in mass control of mortality in underdeveloped countries; and perhaps it is not fully realised that a major portion of the cost is borne by Western countries alone and acting through international agencies. Accordingly, in these primitive countries the death rate can fall irrespective of the culture, the economy and the Government of a country. Furthermore, a higher birth rate is most likely in consequence of a reduced incidence of those diseases which tended before to sap the virility of a population.

However, in my opinion, it is an oversimplification of the whole question to argue that if an international agency distributes contraceptives in the overpopulated areas the birth rate will decline. May I remind your Lordships—and this has an important application to the present position—that neo-Malthusianism started with the writings of Francis Place in the 1820's, and from England the movement for birth control was carried first to the United States and then, at the end of the 19th century, to Europe.

Many attempts were made at the beginning of the century to establish clinics—to establish them as the noble Lord has mentioned—in a number of other countries, but without great success. The noble Lord has quite rightly brought to the attention of the House the fact that various clinics in Chile and South America are doing well, but these are isolated little clinics. An effort has been made for many years. We sent a powerful group—the noble Lord will see this when he looks up the history of the Family Planning Association—to India in the early 'thirties, but they have made very little impact; and it was assumed in those days that the world-wide success of the movement was only a matter of time since it is fostered by industrialisation. The only country in which effective control has been established outside the Western world is Japan. It is only in those communities where procreation up to the physiological limit was never traditional that family limitation has become general. We must look to see what are the traditions of these great countries.

It seems, therefore, that the population theory cannot be discussed without reference to the nature of a particular society. In a traditionally agrarian society many social wants can he satisfied only through the family, and therefore persons seek to establish one as soon as possible. Let me remind your Lordships that in India, which we have just heard about— and I have the greatest respect for Dr. Mehta; he knows so much about the subject. and is a doctor of medicine—as well as in other countries there is no old age pension; therefore a man or woman may well say, "The bigger family I have, the greater insurance I have against poverty in my old age". What does the noble Lord think a birth control clinic in these crowded villages can do in those circumstances? In an industrial, urban society the family is less important and there may be little pressure on the individual to marry early and have children.

Of course, Malthus was an economic pessimist, for the Malthusian theory rests fundamentally on the view that poverty and indigence are the inescapable lot of man. Chadwick, the great 19th century reformer, repudiated Malthus. He asserted that the limits of subsistence had not been reached in England and that improvements in production were more conspicuous than diminishing returns. Indeed, if we examine the figures we shall find that the development of Western economies offers a complete rejection of the Malthusian theory. Where substantial improvements have taken place in living standards, the absolute level of population has risen but the rate of population increases has diminished. In Great Britain the birth rate had fallen from 34 per 1,000 of population in 1851, to 15 per 1.000 in 1938.

The causes of this decline in fertility are not far to seek. The amount needed to support a family is determined by social habit and custom as much as by physiological needs. We understand this well in the age of the "mods" and the "rockers"—these boys who demand motor cycles from their fathers before they have even left school, as well as wanting expensive holidays, expensive suits, and so on. People must live up to the Joneses, the amount needed to support a family is determined by social habit, and the desire to have children may be measured by modern standards of living. Children are expensive, and in a developed country they compete with other needs.

Nevertheless, the desire to have fewer children can be implemented only by a knowledge of birth control, and the information available suggests that in ancient and mediaeval Europe and in Japan fertility was held under the physiological maximum. In Europe this control was effected primarily by marriage patterns and to some degree by infanticide. In Japan infanticide was a common practice. I agree with the noble Lord that they practised abortion. It was traditional in the first place for them to limit their families; therefore, in the last century infanticide was practised. Later on that perhaps was regarded as rather primitive; and so abortion became prevalent. Now birth control is accepted by the Japanese. Of course, in these areas enough children were born to maintain population and to provide for a small growth, but the margin was not great; whereas in some of the countries—and the noble Lord has not mentioned China—in old China and India, for example, girls married at puberty or before and there was strong social pressure on everyone to marry and have many children.

That is the background of the situation. What can we do in these circumstances? It seems to me that family planning can only follow in the wake of a higher standard of living and literacy and an enlightened approach to family welfare. It cannot precede it. They have tried to do it that way in India, but we have to realise that family planning just cannot come first. What is required, surely, is a co-ordinated programme whereby all the industrialised countries could contribute an adequate amount over a period of years through a world development authority. Furthermore, it calls for a global approach. In order to control the populations of China, India, Africa and Latin America, there will have to be a persistent and costly effort to promote industrialisation and education. I feel, my Lords, that the Western world is only trifling with the situation. Now that the old imperial structures have been destroyed, the gulf between the coloured nations and the rest may widen, and the suspicions and the frustrations which accompany widespread poverty must be aggravated.

President Kennedy said in an address to the two Canadian Houses of Parliament that Canada and the United States between them could produce enough food to feed the whole present population of the world at an adequate level of calories. Yes, my Lords; but of course this can be achieved only if the food produced in North America is given away to other parts of the world; or, alternatively, if the people in those regions are provided with effective purchasing power. In order to produce the maximum, the whole surface of the globe must be treated as a single unit for the purposes of food production and distribution. Of course, this was actually achieved a few years ago at the end of the Second World War and just after it. It will be recalled that the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency took control and was responsible for rationing the world's population.

Unfortunately, immediately the crisis was over, nationalism directed the destiny of nations. Let us hope—those of us who are interested in promoting a World Government—that the executive organ of a World Government will provide a similar agency. For hunger, my Lords, is still a stronger power than nationalism. Then, working in conjunction with this organisation, the World Health Organisation could provide an agency for birth control information. All the things that the noble Lord describes can be provided by this very fine authority; and I agree with him that it has done magnificent work.

My Lords, human beings have bred to the limit as an insurance against the huge toll taken by famine, disease and war. Nature's way is to let both the birth rate and the death rate run at a maximum. But from man's standpoint this is both inhuman and sub-human. It is an offence against the dignity of man and, especially, of woman. We want to bring into the world only the optimum number of human beings, and that is the number that can have the best possible life.

4.23 p.m.


My Lords, I think it might be helpful if the Government's view on this Motion were stated early in the debate, but I look forward very much to hearing the whole of it, and I shall still be at your Lordships' service if any of you would like me to add anything further at the end. My noble friend Lord McCorquodale of Newton has argued that we should press the United Nations to help those countries who desire it "to spread the idea and practice of voluntary family planning." I shall therefore tell your Lordships what the United Nations has been doing lately about this. I shall also indicate what line our representatives there might take in future; and, also, what we ourselves might be able to do—which I think my noble friend recognises is probably very little—unilaterally, and not through the Agencies of the United Nations.

The General Assembly of the United Nations, at its Seventeenth Assembly the year before last, 1962, discussed the relationship between population growth and economic development. The Assembly adopted a resolution—resolution No. 1838—which I should like to say a word about, which does not authorise any operational activities such as my noble friend would like to see, but only requests that the Secretary-General and the special Agencies should undertake study and research, and should conduct an inquiry among the Governments of Member States of the United Nations. The replies of a great many developing countries which had been received by the Secretary-General were published in a Report by the Secretary-General, which will be presented to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations this month. I have obtained a copy of this Report, which I have put in the Library in case your Lordships might like to study it.

Resolution 1838 originally contained a recommendation that the United Nations (it is rather similar, I think, in its terms to my noble friend's Motion) should give technical assistance as requested by Governments for national projects and programmes dealing with the problem of population, and these words were approved in the Second Committee of the United Nations. But on the Report stage in the Plenary Session of the Assembly, it was decided to deal with this proposal as a separate Motion requiring a two-thirds majority, and when the vote came there were 34 in favour and 34 against, with 29 abstentions, so it fell to the ground. The United Kingdom delegation voted in favour of retaining the clause as it had stood in Committee, but it was not carried. The Resolution now in force is therefore confined to a study of the problem and the collection of information.

My Lords, my noble friend's Motion refers to the "world emergency created by the population explosion". I do not know where it was first described as an explosion: I think it was in the book by Richard Fagley. But, anyhow, one feature of this emergency or explosion is that the growth of population is more rapid in those countries which are unable to provide their multiplying numbers with food, work and homes. There are two obvious remedies for this state of affairs. They are not mutually exclusive; they can be applied together. One is that the world should produce a great deal more food—either in North America, or elsewhere—and other necessities of life, and should find means of transporting these things to the people who need them. The other remedy is that people whose economic progress is being delayed, or perhaps even reversed, by excessive population should try to have not quite so many babies until the growth of production has caught up with the growing number of human beings.

The first remedy, although of course it contains many technical difficulties both of production and of distribution, at least does not present us with any kind of moral uncertainty. No one, I think, will dispute that it is a good thing to double and to re-double our production of food, so that the growing number of hungry human beings may be fed. We should, of course, seek to use surplus food produced by richer countries, as the noble Lady has quite rightly suggested, for the consumption of those who are hungry in other parts of the world. But the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation have always held, I think rightly, as a matter of general policy, chat it is not only far less difficult but also much more effectual that we should export agricultural capital and technical knowledge, so that the underdeveloped societies may grow more of their own food, rather than try to export a vastly increased quantity of food grown by the richer countries, and to export it for thousands of miles. But, however it may be done, the world as a whole is certainly capable of supporting not only its present large population but a far greater population than it now contains. The trouble is that, whatever means might be taken to distribute food, the population is growing faster now than food production can be increased.

The merits of the other remedy, voluntary family planning, are less certain, both morally and scientifically. Even in the most sophisticated Western societies it is only within the last two or three generations that family planning by means of contraceptives has become respectable, and it is a much shorter time since the Lambeth Conference, representing the Anglican Communion from all parts of the world, declared that family planning in such ways as are mutually acceptable to husband and wife is a right and important factor in Christian family life.

But, my Lords, in the General Assembly of the United Nations, which rejected the proposal to which I referred a moment ago, the Anglican Church is less well represented than it is here, and the number of delegates who uphold what is still the traditional Catholic opinion on birth control are, proportionately, far more numerous in the General Assembly of the United Nations than in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. As the noble Lady said, there has been some public discussion lately among Catholics about this question, and whether the Church of Rome might or might not modify its traditional teaching, either next autumn or at any other time, is a hypothetical question into which I do not think I can go. I thought that the noble Lady was perhaps a little rash in asking that the decision this autumn should be a final one. If it were one she did not like, she might wish it to be not quite so final. However, we do not know what may happen about that.

The practical situation with which we have to deal is that for the present, at least, the Governments of most Catholic countries, in the United Nations and elsewhere, are against State-aided and State-sponsored birth control. And, my Lords, it is not only the Governments of Roman Catholic countries who are opposed to State action. So far as I know, the African Negro States—not all the Arab ones, but I think all the African Negro States—are very much against it on moral and other grounds; and so are the Communist countries—possibly for different reasons. Of course, any of these countries, Catholic or African or Communist, or any group of countries, might change its views sooner or later, but at the present moment they constitute a very large proportion of the world. And this is, surely, a subject on which we should—and, indeed, must—respect and tolerate opinions which we do not ourselves hold. We must not assume too readily that the prevailing contemporary opinions in the part of the world where we happen to live are invariably right, or even that all ecclesiastical opposition is necessarily wrong.

Not so long ago the practice of private duelling was regarded by many excellent and upright people as a necessity of honour in certain circumstances. It was always condemned outright by the Church, whose teaching was rejected and disregarded by many of the most honourable men, both Catholic and Protestant. Now, in the twentieth century, public opinion of every kind, Christian and non-Christian, has come round to the Church's point of view.


My Lords, might I interrupt my noble friend? I am grateful to him for what he has said, but he mentioned that African Negro opinion was definitely hostile. I think he will find, on inquiry, that there is a big change coming, especially in East Africa, and that there is a great demand among Africans for knowledge on these matters.


I said, my Lords, that it is possible that any of these countries, or any group of countries, may sooner or later change its opinions; but we have to deal with the present situation, which is that the Governments representing these countries are not in favour of this—and if we were to try to obtrude our opinions upon them it is very likely they would think that we were envious of the increase of the coloured population compared with that of Europe.

I think that probably the majority of your Lordships would very likely agree with me in not accepting the argument from natural morals against birth control, because it seems to me that the argument is neither intellectually conclusive nor morally convincing. But if I had lived two hundred years ago I might easily have said exactly the same about duelling, because our rational processes are so often influenced by the prevailing fashions of thought and of belief by which we are surrounded. And, my Lords, when we look at the scientific side of this subject, I think we should be equally careful to distinguish between a working hypothesis and a proved scientific fact. The noble Lady has very cogently pointed out that we cannot be certain, and we may not know for a long time, what will be the long-term effects upon human health of certain well-known kinds of contraceptives; and I am not sure that we are really in a position to be dogmatic about the long-term relationship between birth control and changes in the growth or decline of population.

I suppose there is probably less birth control in the Irish Republic than in most Western countries, yet their birth rate is very low; and even if there were no emigration, it would still be a matter of concern. In the Report to which I have already referred. the Irish Government say this: The failure of population to increase is an impediment to economic growth, which is in turn an obstacle to a population increase. The breaking of this vicious circle is the main task facing the Irish Government". So it would seem that in Ireland they have exactly the opposite problem to that which afflicts so many of these underdeveloped countries and the suggested remedy for which is family planning and birth control.

On the other hand, I think it is fairly certain that in the United States of America there is now a great deal more birth control, a great deal more widespread use of contraceptives, than there was in the period between the two wars, but the increase in the American population, though not quite on the Asiatic scale, is now vastly greater than the increase in the inter-war period. It has already reached 190 million, and seems likely to reach 240 million by 1980, and 340 million by the end of this century. As for our own country, your Lordships have often been reminded lately of the fact that all our educational planning for the next generation has been completely upset by the sudden and unexpected rise in the birth rate, which has caused all these plans to be revised.

Now, my Lords, I am glad that my noble friend has stressed in his Motion and in his speech that we should take practical measures to help only those nations which desire it, because on a matter of this kind where opinion is so deeply divided it would be quite wrong that we should take the initiative in proposing to help any country whose Government is not pursuing a policy of family planning and whose Government has not first requested us to give help or advice. Indeed, it might be counterproductive; it might have the effect of putting them against it.

If your Lordships would like to read this Report which I have put in the Library you will find an interesting comparison of the views collected by the Secretary-General from 43 countries. There are many who, although they stress the fact that their population is increasing too fast for their economic development, do not approve of family planning as a remedy; and there are others who are not very much interested from any point of view. Some of the Arab countries show a slight interest. India and Pakistan are two of the best-known examples of those who try to pursue a positive policy. The late Mr. Nehru and his Minister of Health often said that all their efforts to achieve a higher living standard will be frustrated if they do not take effective steps to keep their population within proper limits, and an important aspect of their work is to evolve what they call simple and readily accessible contraceptives. Thousands of clinics have been established all over India, and the central Government pays 100 per cent. of the costs. It is not only a question of illiteracy, although that is important as an adverse factor, but the population is so huge and communications are so difficult that the vast majority of the Indian people cannot avail themselves of these facilities; and the effects so far have been exceedingly small.

The Government here recognise the seriousness of the world population problem and we feel it would be difficult to carry out the aims of the Development Decade unless the rate of population increase is more in accordance with the growth of material wealth. We are prepared to give bilateral technical assistance to family planning projects on the same terms as we give it in other fields. A few months ago the Secretary for Technical Co-operation, through our Ambassadors and High Commissioners, informed a number of Commonwealth and foreign Governments, as well as some colonial Governments, that we are willing to apply to family planning exactly the same principles as govern our aid generally: namely, we should seek to respond to requests for technical assistance made to us by overseas Governments.

There is no question of our becoming involved in countries where there has not been a decision to promote family planning; but for countries where there has been such a decision we are prepared within our technical assistance programmes to finance visits or periods of service overseas by British medical and scientific experts or experts for the organisation of family planning, and also to provide the finance, the training and the research in this country for suitable people from overseas. We do not expect that the results of any aid we can give in this way will be very sensational or large. I think that most of the countries which are likely to carry out policies of this kind have as much technical information as they want, and I do not think they are very likely to ask us to give them more. But we are glad to do what we can.

My Lords, as to the United Nations—and that is what my noble friend was primarily thinking of in his argument—so far their activities have been pretty well confined to demographic science, and the Population Commission, which is a branch of the Economic and Social Council, have been fairly active in this field. They have given considerable help with the taking of censuses in underdeveloped countries and with ensuring that there is a proper analysis and evaluation of census data. An Asian Population Conference was held by the Economic Commission in December of last year and a World Population Conference is going to be held in Belgrade in September, 1965, to which we shall send a representative. Its objects are to improve understanding of population problems, especially the demographic aspect of the problems of economic and social development; to stimulate interest in scientific research; to collect data relating to these problems; to enhance the value of such research and data by an exchange of ideas and experience among specialists in the relative fields.

Anyone may say: "Why go on doing this talking and scientific research when the world population may increase so much as to lead to terrible famine or war?" But we cannot stop people from breeding and we must have more knowledge if we are to persuade them to do it themselves. My noble friend said a great deal about the necessity said a great deal about the necessity of acquiring more scientific data, and the noble Lady opposite was, I think, very probably right in saying that we must make people literate before family planning can become effective; and that cannot be done in a few days. But the Government are prepared to consider sympathetically any proposals for assisting the developing countries where this problem is pressing, if in the United Nations the question of practical action should be raised again—and my noble friend hoped that it might be. We are willing to support measures which are desired by the majority of developing countries and we shall be guided by their wishes in this question.

We are also prepared to consult other friendly Governments—my noble friend mentioned the United States—to consider what measures could usefully be taken at the United Nations. We think the technical assistance through the United Nations should be available to assist States which show a desire to spread the idea and practice of voluntary family planning. I am sure it is right that we should do what we can to disseminate information, but I am equally sure that family planning in the world will not become a reality until many hundreds of millions of families have the knowledge and the means—which they have not yet got—to take the necessary individual decisions which they believe to be morally right.

4.47 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, for allowing us the opportunity of considering again this vital question of the mounting increase in the world population. In his introduction the noble Lord has given us the statistics and there is no need for that field to be traversed again. What they show, I believe, is that in the total world picture we have a situation of emergency, but that there are areas where there is already a crisis situation. It is perhaps important to keep these two pictures to some extent distinct in our thoughts.

The Office of Population Research at Princeton has estimated that in four countries in Africa the rate of population increase exceeds 3 per cent. per annum. Other agencies tell us of eight countries in South America where it exceeds 3 per cent.; and since population increases in geometrical progression, a 3 per cent. annual increase in any region means that the population doubles in 23 years. When we combine these figures with the known facts about the level of nutrition in various countries, we can see that the largest increases in population are taking place in those very regions where the food shortage is to-day most marked.

Half the world's population is undernourished and the number of those suffering from under-feeding or hidden hunger is likely to double by 2,000 A.D., unless food production can be raised overall by something like 200 per cent. We realise the nature of the problem that has to be faced, and faced realistically. Much is being done to increase agricultural productivity, but unfortunately it is not yet evident that the necessary increase can take place in those areas where it is most needed. Indeed, the rapid rate of population growth is already acting as a brake on economic development in these countries, as has already been mentioned in the debate this afternoon.

There are two problems: a total world population increasing at such a rate that the future adequacy of our total resources has at least to be considered, and certain regional populations already so dense that life is lived at the lowest level of poverty, and those populations increasing so rapidly that local resources, at the highest predictable rate of increase, cannot be expected even to maintain the present level of bare subsistence. Behind these facts are the human problems—families living in conditions in which anything like family life is impossible: children born only to suffer and to face a life of malnutrition; mothers and fathers condemned to yet greater misery as they see the effects on the children whom they have produced.

When everything has been done that the generosity of individuals in the more affluent countries can do, the problem in some areas still remains intractable and insoluble on any short-term calculation. The magnificent response to War on Want, Oxfam, Freedom from Hunger, Inter-Church Aid and other appeals has its own inherent importance and value. That individuals in one country should care sacrificially for other individuals in other countries on a world scale is vitally important, because it is personal and not merely official. I hope that for this reason we shall continue to give every possible help to this kind of voluntary effort. But we shall delude ourselves if we believe that this can do more than scratch at the problem of world hunger and of the increasing need for productivity.

So, too, we must give every possible support to such Governmental sharing of resources as has already been referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Dundee. Yet these, by themselves, are not going to solve the question. I believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, was essentially right when she referred to the need for the improvement of education as the long-term solution. We can believe that the spread of education and a rising standard of living—and how desperately that is needed in some parts of the world! —will lead not only to an increase in productivity in the most hard-pressed regions, but also (though of this we cannot be quite certain) to a voluntary reduction in the size of families. What the noble Lady said about the importance of social background in various areas in relation to the problems of population limitation is extremely important and is all to little understood and considered.

As the UNICEF Report on Children of Developing Countries has pointed out: A country's personal potential is limited by the number of children who are able to complete their preliminary and secondary schooling. And the recent UNESCO Report estimates that in South and South-East Asia alone 87 million children still lack the facilities for elementary education, and that by 1980 in those areas there will be a further 130 million children to be educated. While we in this House have viewed with some alarm the effect of our own modest population increase upon our established standards of education, a problem like that makes our own problem pale into insignificance, and perhaps makes us wonder whether we are not being too niggardly in the encouragement that we give to sending some of our best teachers to help in the improvement of education abroad, even if it may mean a temporary lowering of our own educational standards.

Throughout the world, in the developing nations there is a hunger for knowledge which is no less important and no less real than the hunger for food—and the two are intimately related. The World Council of Churches is sponsoring a world appeal for literature as a small voluntary contribution to solving this particular problem, and I hope that when the time comes the people of this country will play their part in supporting this and similar appeals.

But, my Lords, are we really serious when we talk about sharing our educational knowledge with other developing countries? Only a fornight ago I read in the Press that the Community Development Clearing House, established in 1949 by the University of London Institution of Education, will close on December 31 this year for lack of the necessary funds, which seem to amount to the magnificent total of £5,000 per annum. This is a very small thing. Perhaps the Community Development Clearing House, over its years of existence, has been able only to scratch a little at this problem of mutual assistance in the field of potential education, but I am sure that it has done something of great value. Can we afford to let even one little agency like this go, when so much remains to be done and there is still so much to be known?

Although I believe that in the long term education is the only answer, we must not overlook the essential part of the education of women. The noble Lady referred to this—and rightly so. In many countries of the world the education of women still lags behind the education of men. It comes second when there is any need for the reduction of facilities. Yet, as Aggrey of Ghana used to say frequently, in his early days as Vice-Principal of Achimoto, "Educate a man and you educate an individual. Educate a woman and you educate a family". And everything that has happened in Ghana, since that country moved into the field of education, has shown how right was his judgment.

Is there not a need, also, to consider short-term action? This I take to be, basically, what the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, is asking us to consider. We need education, we need research, desperately badly; but in the meantime the populations increase. Are we driven to believe that we must do what we can to encourage some kind of family limitation? I find myself driven to that conclusion. And the Christian Churches—I believe that this can be said to be true without exception—do not disagree that family planning is right. What they differ on is the rightness of the methods which can be used. And here there is already a common field which needs to be explored. More research is still needed about the various methods which are available. Such research should be supported in every possible way.

Within the Christian Churches there is an urgent need, which I believe is now being met within all the Churches, for a reconsideration of traditional moral theology, which was developed when the crucial need was for increased population, and which has still to come to terms with the obligation of parenthood under the threat of over-population. The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, has already referred to the Lambeth Conference resolution of 1958, in which it was asserted that the responsibility for deciding upon the number and frequency of children is laid on the conscience of parents, and they must be free to decide, according to their conscience, what methods should be used and how limitation might be secured.

Within marriage—and I cannot emphasise too strongly that, from my understanding of the Christian point of view, it is only within marriage that any form of contraception can be considered as morally defensible—there are methods of contraception which may prove to be acceptable to Christian conscience and sufficiently simple to be capable of effectiveness in an illiterate or semi-illiterate society. But with the present rate of female illiteracy in the underdeveloped areas, any sophisticated methods are just not practical. The noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, referred to this. I hope that the warning which she gave against the foisting upon illiterate populations of unproved methods and methods where the side effects or the long-term effects are not known, and the fact that they must be safeguarded against this, will be heeded.

This is perhaps part of the pooling of knowledge and experience for which the noble Lord asks in his Motion. We do not know very much about it yet, and I think we have to be honest enough to admit it. Certainly we do not know enough about it in terms of taking what may work with a relatively educated society here to another people with a different social tradition and background, with very little understanding as yet of the problems which are involved, and certainly not capable of any sophisticated methods. We need, then, more study and research, both medical and theological; and we can be thankful that this study is in progress. It needs the support of all of us.

The knowledge that we possess already, and the warning we have ourselves gained, should be available for all countries to consider. That, I understand, is basically what the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, is asking for in this Motion. It imposes no attitudes on anyone; it asks only for such information as there is to be made available to those Governments which ask for it. If through that means something may be done on a short-term basis to alleviate distress and misery in a crisis situation, I should myself feel bound in conscience to give it such support as in a personal capacity I am able to give.

5.4 p.m.


My Lords, I believe we are all equally grateful to the right reverend Prelate for his moving speech, because, although he said he spoke in a personal capacity, I have no doubt that he was reflecting the view of many of his colleagues and that he was giving the blessing of most of the members of his Church to the promise of support which the Government have given at the United Nations and to individual Governments for efforts that are being made to bring about population control.

Those of us who spoke last week in support of the United Nations Development Decade can hardly fail to speak again to-day in support of the noble Lord's Motion, and to endorse what he has said in his wise and very instructive speech. I am glad, indeed, to see the names of several noble Lords who spoke last week on the list of speakers this afternoon. Your Lordships will remember—perhaps I may remind the House briefly— that the United Nations target of a 5 per cent. per annum increase in the national income of the poor countries by 1970 was based on two assumptions. One was economic aid, which we discussed last week. The other assumption, to which the United Nations attached, and still attach, equal importance, was population control. For the possibility of reaching this minimal target by 1970 depends on an average rate of increase in the population of the poor countries of not more than 2 to 2½ per cent. per annum. This assumption has, unfortunately, though we are nearly halfway through the Development Decade by now, not yet been realised.

Many of the poor countries in Latin America, Africa and South Asia have a population which is increasing at a more rapid rate than 3 per cent. per annum; and, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, mentioned Costa Rica, which has a growth rate of 5 per cent. In some of these countries large families are still linked with personal or national pride and family economics. There has, in fact, been little population control in the majority of these countries since 1960–that is to say, since the start of the Development Decade. Some Governments, notably the Governments of India, Pakistan, Ceylon and Tunisia have initiated a nation-wide campaign for family planning; and these Governments provide clinics where advice and instruction are given. But such Governments are an exception to the general rule.

In the majority of the poor countries there has been no Government lead or official support for family planning, which has been left, as it was for many years in this country, to the pioneering efforts of voluntary societies. In this field. I am sure your Lordships will agree that the International Family Planning Association has played a noteworthy and very creditable part. This decision of the countries in question may be foolish, and they may regret it later on. But we obviously have no right to impose our views on other countries or on individuals who do not agree with us. What we can do is to set an example by our own national policy, which should be to give support to all countries and individuals who desire to limit their families in the general interest.

Here I come back to the noble Lord's Motion. He asks us to support the United Nations in helping member nations that want help with their family planning; and the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, made an important statement on this subject. But may we look for a moment at the present position of the United Nations? It would not be unfair to say that the support of the United Nations for family planning hitherto has been a bit half-hearted and timid, and has been limited rather to ascertaining facts and demographic studies—in fact, to disseminating information which, though of importance and valuable, is not nearly so important as more practicable steps. The attitude of the United Nations was well described by the President of the Population Reference Bureau a few years ago. With your Lordships' permission (it is the only quotation that I intend to make) I should like to read his words. He said: … the United Nations has been impeded in any realistic, curative attack on the population problem because of a three-way split in thinking concerning policy formulation. The Communist bloc has steadily maintained that 'Neo-Malthusian efforts to reduce the population or to restrict its growth are unscientific and reactionary'; the Roman Catholic bloc, while agreeing quite explicitly in principle that over-rapid growth in regions of intense population pressure can be disastrous, has opposed any consideration which might imply the use of means of control morally unacceptable to the Church. The third group consists of the demographic representatives of the Western nations, who recognise the gravity of the crisis, but who have been disposed to evade the issue because of the fear of political consequences. At any rate, as the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, pointed out, we supported the proposal that the United Nations should give technical aid. On that point, I think our behaviour is beyond blame. But we appear not to have pressed this matter in the United Nations with the degree of support it deserved. I hope we shall not continue to be regarded as being in any sense neutral or timid, and that the voice of Britain at the United Nations will be heard in support of any country that asks for assistance in dealing with its population programme.

Of course, we and the other Anglo-Saxon countries, as several noble Lords have already pointed out, have a Catholic minority. The right reverend Prelate emphasised the fact that there is a wide area of agreement between Catholics and non-Catholics. There is no difference of opinion, I think, about responsible parenthood. It is entirely a question of the method or means by which this responsibility should be carried out, and this matter is being considered by the Catholic Church at the present time. In the meantime, we are surely entitled to expect that all minorities will accept the public policy supported by the Government and by Parliament in respect to these family problems.

Clearly, as the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, said, the proper organ of the United Nations for co-ordinating research and scientific knowledge of these matters, and for disseminating the results of research among the poorer countries if they ask for guidance, is the World Health Organisation. I know that family planning is at present excluded from its agenda—and perhaps the noble Earl will deal with this in reply—but I hope the British representative will be instructed to press for a reconsideration of this very unfortunate decision, because I am sure the World Health Organisation is the right organ of the United Nations to take up this great matter of assisting countries which want assistance with information and, if required, technical aid for the control of their population.

Apart from the United Nations, there are two other ways in which the wealthy countries can help the poor countries. One is research. I am sure there ought to be co-ordination and pooling of research in all the advanced countries. I will not go into that, because others are much better qualified than I am to deal with research. The other is to give financial and technical aid, either bilaterally or through the United Nations, to those countries that are trying to solve their population problem and who ask for our help in doing so. The noble Earl made a very important statement on this subject this afternoon. I think it was a declaration of policy that has not been made by any Minister in another place, and I hope it will be widely studied and widely reported in the Press. I think this is the first time the Government have said publicly that they support the principle of technical aid for developing countries who ask for it.

If I were to criticise the speech of the noble Earl in any way it would be that he seemed a little doubtful, a little pessimistic, perhaps even sceptical, about the possibility of applying this principle. I did not think he showed a sufficient sense of urgency about this matter of providing technical aid. Bilateral aid to poorer Commonwealth countries who want assistance in family planning seems to me to offer us a splendid opportunity for a fresh initiative in Commonwealth policy. After all, the great majority of the Commonwealth people live in extremely poor countries. By taking this initiative we should not only open a new field for constructive Commonwealth cooperation; we should also set an example to the rest of the world in co-operation between economically advanced and economically backward countries. I greatly hope that this will be one of the matters discussed at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference next month, and I hope the noble Earl will submit this proposal for the consideration of his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Commonwealth. We know that economic aid will be on the agenda, and population control is the logical corollary of aid, for without it the purpose of aid will undoubtedly be defeated.

As three of the new Asian Commonwealth countries, India, Pakistan and Ceylon, are already engaged in family planning programmes, and several of the African Commonwealth countries have asked the United Nations for assistance —I think if the noble Earl looks back he will find that I am correct about that —I am sure that this initiative on the part of the United Kingdom Government would receive a favourable response. This limited amount of technical aid need not add to the total cost of our overseas aid expenditure, and I am quite certain that other forms of aid could be subtracted from the programme without any loss if we were to give technical aid instead. I hope that family planning, like education, will become an important part of our technical assistance programme to Commonwealth countries. Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to quote the example of Sweden, a country that in this, as well as in some other respects, appears to be a little ahead of us. Sweden did some time ago what we perhaps should have been doing, and what I hope we shall do in the future. I quote the example of Sweden because it shows that this principle to which the noble Earl adheres can be, and has been, applied successfully, and should be applied in the future. In 1958, the Government of Sweden made a bilateral agreement with the Government of Ceylon to co-operate for three years in the implementation of family planning in Ceylon, with the ultimate aim of extending the successful features of a local programme to the whole of the Island. The fourfold aim of this joint project was (1) to assess attitudes in the villages towards family planning; (2) to investigate the possibilities of applying family planning; (3) to give instruction in methods of family planning, and (4) to assist in training a Singhalese health staff in this kind of work.

The project has been highly successful. During the first four years since the agreement was signed the birth rate in the village area where this experiment was made has dropped sharply as compared with the birth rate either in its own district or in Ceylon as a whole. My only regret about this operation is that it took place between Sweden and Ceylon, and not between Britain and Ceylon. But there is still time for us to follow this Swedish example. Further delay would, I am sure, be disastrous, because it would by then be too late to check the population explosion. We cannot wait until other parts of the world reach the standard of living reached in Europe and North America. This is a matter of the utmost urgency, and the time factor is all important. I hope that the Government will act now to support family planning on every possible occasion at the United Nations, among its agencies and on all its committees, to encourage and co-ordinate research into family planning methods. I am sure we have much further to go in that respect and into human fertility research—research which has been done in the advanced countries—and to assist any country, particularly if it is a member of the Commonwealth, who ask the British Govern- ment for help in carrying out its own programme of population control.

5.19 p.m.


My Lords, we must all be most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, for creating this opportunity to discuss this subject of major international importance. In spite of the fact, as the noble Lord told us when he started, that this subject has been discussed on a number of previous occasions in your Lordships' House, I believe that it cannot be discussed enough. I do not come to this subject at all unprepared, and it is my belief that in Britain this subject of world-wide importance is not nearly enough in the minds of the people who count; and, with great respect to the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, I would include in that the members of Her Majesty's Government.

This subject comes to us from time to time under a number of headings: family planning, research into the reproductive cycle, birth control, reference to the World Health Organisation, which, indeed, is the subject matter of the noble Lord's Motion to-day. But all these headings add up in the end to the same thing: the discovery by research of a socially acceptable contraceptive, suitable to tropical conditions for the developing countries. That we have not yet obtained, in spite of the very considerable amount of research that has been done.

My Lords, my interest in this subject is confined to the intense problems created by population pressure in the developing countries, of which perhaps the most typical are the two great Commonwealth countries of India and Pakistan. They are not, of course, alone: Latin America, Ceylon, Singapore, parts of Malaysia and many others have been mentioned; but for my purposes I am concerned mainly with the two great Commonwealth countries in Asia, India and Pakistan. I am not in the least concerned with the situation in this regard in respect of the densely-populated and highly industrialised countries, of which, of course, the United Kingdom is a paramount example. That is not in my field of interest; I am concerned only with the developing countries which have the most intense problems arising from population pressure. With that short caveat, I should like to address myself to the subject matter of the noble Lord's Motion.

This Motion is moved against a very considerable background of documentation. This matter has been threshed to death, particularly in the last five years, demographically in the public Press and elsewhere. There is no lack of knowledge for those who want to have knowledge of this subject, either on the demographic side or on the social and political side, of the effect of population pressure if nothing is done. I would say, with respect, that those who are not yet convinced are probably in the same category as the individual who is supposed to have said, "I regard the works of Robert Burns as immoral, and for that reason I have not read them."

The simple facts, if I may burden your Lordships for a very few moments, are these. India and Pakistan are most densely populated countries and are daily becoming more so. By reason of constantly increasing population pressure their economies are threatened in the future— and not necessarily in the very distant future. The population pressure of these countries, and other countries similarly afflicted, is stopping any rational rise in living standards, and at no very great remove is threatening social and political stability in those countries, in particular, in that regard, in India and Pakistan. Let me just state very briefly the reason for my being able to make those very positive statements.

India to-day has a population of over 450 million people, increasingly annually at a rate of at least 10 million. Pakistan has nearly 100 million people, increasing at a rate of 2½ million a year. Each of these two countries is very poor indeed, as those of your Lordships who have lived, worked and served there, will realise. Their standards of living are probably one-twentieth of that in Great Britain or my own country, Australia. They suffer very high rates of unemployment, and still higher rates of underemployment. Their Governments are trying desperately to remedy this situation and, as your Lordships know very well, some years ago instituted a series of Five-Year Plans. India is in its third Five-Year Plan, and I think that Pakistan is now in its second.

These Five-Year Plans entail a very great deal of money—not the normal budgetary sums, but developmental money. In this year of her Five-Year Plan India is spending the equivalent of well over £1,000 million, of which over £300 million is provided from outside India. The figures for Pakistan are that this year she will be spending the equivalent of £350 million on the fourth year of her second Five-Year Plan, of which about £120 million comes from abroad. These great sums of money are spent on improving the infrastructure of those two great countries; on improving their industries, their power production, irrigation, transportation, and the like. The result, of course, is that many new industries are being created and, in consequence, at a short remove, the production of a wide variety of goods in India and Pakistan is being increased.

If the population were static or with a rationally small percentage annual increase, that increase in production would inevitably improve the pathetically low standard of living. But that is not happening in any appreciable degree that can be noticed with the naked eye. With this tidal wave in India of 10 million new mouths and bodies to cope with every year, and in Pakistan 2½ million, it is not a question only of feeding them. They have to be educated, employed, clothed and housed; and their health must be looked after. People speak from time to time as if the feeding of these extra mouths were the only thing. But it is far from being the only thing. I believe that these large expenditures—they would be large for any country—are doing little more than keeping the already very low standard of living in these countries from falling still further. In other words, these great sums of money provided from domestic resources in India and Pakistan, and from other well-disposed Western countries—including, of course, Britain herself, and other Commonwealth countries—is being very largely wasted if we look on their purpose as being that of helping to improve the standard of living of these countries.

These countries are not going to be content to stand still, though at the moment, so far as their standard of living is concerned, they are running very fast in order to stand still. I do not believe myself, with some little knowledge that I can claim of the Asian Commonwealth countries, that they are going to be prepared to stand still indefinitely. They see, and are well aware of, the constantly rising prosperity in the West, and perhaps almost in particular in this country, and of the widening gap between the prosperity of the West and the lack of prosperity in their own countries. The economic gap is widening and not narrowing, as those of your Lordships will realise who know the results of and have followed some of the discussions in the three-month United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in Geneva which ended quite recently.

In the light of all this, India and Pakistan attempted family planning as a national Government policy a number of years ago. The problem was, and is, that all they have to work on are the rather old-fashioned, complicated and expensive methods of family planning which the West have been using for a number of years but which I believe to be wholly inappropriate to tropical Asian conditions. The central target, I think, is the illiterate Indian village woman who first, cannot afford, and secondly cannot understand, the rather complicated procedures that existing methods, even the most recently developed methods of coping with contraception, necessitate.

The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, spoke of the family planning clinics that exist in India. I obtained the numbers of them only this morning from the Indian High Commission in London. There are over 8,500 family planning clinics in India, and something like the equivalent number in Pakistan. They do a great deal of good work, have no doubt, particularly among the relatively sophisticated members of their respective populations. They do, I am quite sure, good work in respect of motherhood and the like; but they cannot do their prime purpose because the contraceptive which is both suitable to their conditions and socially acceptable has not yet been devised. I believe that is the simple fact of it.

Various methods of coping with the situation that I am attempting to describe have been suggested in the past, some from the West and some originat- ing from Asia itself. One is that there should be exhortation for people to take advantage of the so-called safe period. That was tried in India on a large scale ten years ago and failed completely, and there are current reports from the Government of India on it. Other people —cynical people, I believe—say "Grow more food". I suppose you could grow more food to cope with the tidal wave of oncoming new population, but there are a number of "ifs"—if you had a new system of land tenure in India and Pakistan, which I cannot see any Government in prospect being able to bring about; if you spent the vast amount of capital monies necessary to bring about the necessary irrigation works and fertiliser plants on the grand scale, and a great many other "ifs". When you have done all that, if you do it, you have still to cope with the employment of these ten million new people a year, and their clothing, housing, education, and seeing to their health. The combination of all these things, I believe, is beyond human capability in those countries.

There are other individuals—I have heard noble Lords in this House express this— who say that this should be left to the countries who suffer from it, India and Pakistan in particular. I have never heard a more cynical remark than that. Anyone who knows India and Pakistan, as I claim to do a little, knows that they have not the scientific resources to evolve the contraceptive they need. I think that is a cruel remark, trying to throw it back into the laps of the countries suffering from the problem.


My Lords, I do not know who made this remark.


It was Lord Hailsham who made the remark, now Mr. Hogg.


The remark has been made on more than one occasion in this House. I think it was made two years ago when I had the privilege of introducing a Motion on this general subject.

Then there are others who say, "Do nothing; let nature take its course. That, again, is, I believe, a cynical point of view. I believe there is only one solution of this problem— and my opinion is as nothing compared with the many experts who have had a lifetime's experience of it—and that is more scientific research into the long and intricate chain of male and female reproduction, in an effort to find a chink into which it may be possible to interpose some deterrent—I do not say what sort—that would inhibit conception. And for Asia the contraceptive to meet that specification has not yet, as I have said, been evolved. It may be evolved in the future. It has been said in this House to-day that we must not impose our views on India and Pakistan. Heaven alive—impose our views! On what? Do not India and Pakistan know very well, having created their national family planning departments, what they are doing? They do not need our view that they should indulge in family planning; they thought of it a very long time before we did. But what they have done is to ask to be supplied with the results of scientific research in this country and the United States to enable them to do the job themselves. Nobody is trying to tell India and Pakistan what to do; they know very well. They have appealed in particular to the United States, time and time again, for this degree of expedited scientific research.

There has been a great deal of response in the United States. There has been intense agitation, particularly in the last five years, agitation from a wide variety of well-informed people and institutions, towards the taking of more positive steps to aid other countries to a solution of their population pressure problems. And this agitation in the United States has met, I think, with increasing results, beginning with the American President's Draper Committee Report of 1959; then came the National Academy of Sciences Report in 1963—and that body, as your Lordships know, is the equivalent of the Royal Society in this country —which called for an expansion of research laboratories for the scientific investigation of the bio-medical aspects of human reproduction.

Then, again, also in 1963–and may I commend this to the noble Lord—there was a statement by the late President Kennedy himself, who, I may remind noble Lords, was a Roman Catholic. He said, in effect (these are not the precise words but they are a careful cut-down): The United States should do more investigation of the whole reproductive cycle and give the results to the world. In May, 1963, just over a year ago, there was an official Government announcement on behalf of the United States Administration that they would give a substantial contribution to the World Health Organisation for research into human reproduction.

As to what has been the position in this country I am less well aware, and that is not because I have not tried to find out. But perhaps the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, when he replies towards the end of the debate, would be good enough to lighten my darkness by adding to what he said earlier on about what has been done and said by Her Majesty's Government and their instrumentalities—by the National Health Council, for example, which I would expect to be the relevant instrumentality, and others, to encourage further research into this problem. I have some idea of what is going on in certain fields in this country. To the extent that a layman can know, I know what has been done by the Society for the Study of Human Fertility, with its several hundred members, most of whom, I think, are devoting themselves to the general problem we are discussing to-day. I know the work and writings of Professor A. S. Parkes, Professor of Reproductive Physiology at Cambridge. I know the work of the Family Planning Association and the very many contributions it has made to constructive publicity for this problem, under the distinguished Presidency of the noble Lord, Lord Brain. I have tried to discover what the Medical Research Council has done and said, presumably on behalf of the Government, but I cannot discover. I should like very much to know.

The things that have been said in the United States, either by Governments or by high-level scientific bodies, I think have given great encouragement to the great Foundations in the United States, in particular the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, who between them have spent a number of millions of dollars a year for no less than 12 years on this subject of human reproduction. A very considerable amount of work has also been done by the ten principal pharmaceutical companies in the United States, endeavouring to find a chemical orally-taken contraceptive. I have inquired in many quarters what the relationship is between the amount of money spent on this subject in this country and in the United States. I have had many shrewd guesses that the Americans are doing ten times as much; I have been told in another quarter that they are doing twenty times as much, and I have heard even more extravagant figures than that.

I do not believe there is anything like sufficient high-level interest in this subject in this country to enable research to be stimulated and encouraged. I do not know—perhaps the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, will be good enough to tell me if he happens to know—what British Ministers have discussed this subject with, say, the late Mr. Nehru, with Ayub Khan of Pakistan, with Mr. T. T. Krishnamachari, with Mr. Nanda in India and with Doctor Chagla, and the various Ministers of Health over the last few years. Have these subjects been discussed? I am certain that if they had been, any of the gentlemen I have mentioned would have expressed themselves in most direct and concrete terms on what India wants and what Pakistan wants. But whether or not there has been that degree of personal contact on this highly important matter, I do not know.

When I ask, as I frequently do in this country, what is the reason for the relative indifference in this country, certainly from the Governmental point of view, I am frequently told—in private, of course, not in public—that it is the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. To-day, I took a little trouble to look up the percentage of Roman Catholics in this country so far as this has relevance to what I am saying, and I find it is under 10 per cent. The proportion of Catholics in the United States is 25 per cent. Yet, in spite of that greater percentage of Catholics in the United States, they find themselves able to do—what is it?—ten times, twenty times, anyhow a great deal more than is done in this country. And, even from a Catholic President, it is made the subject of a public statement of considerable consequence.

I have probably spoken for too long on this subject; but it is one that is close to my heart and one to which I have given a good deal of attention in the last ten years. I repeat my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, for having given us all, and myself inferentially, this additional opportunity to discuss it. I finish only by saying that I support his Motion with great enthusiasm as dealing with one of the really pressing world problems, if not the most pressing world problem, short of a nuclear war breaking out. Also I believe, as I have said, that this subject is one of the least realised of the important subjects with which the world is faced to-day.

5.42 p.m.


My Lords, in rising to support this Motion, I heartily agree with the noble Lord who has just sat down. I am quite convinced that the subject of this debate is one of the most important in the world. When you think that it has taken us 200,000 years to reach our present population of, I believe, about 2,800 million, and we are told that by A.D. 2000 we shall probably have doubled it, or even exceeded that total —that is in only 35 years—if that is not a world problem, I do not know what is. Equally, as other noble Lords have pointed out, over half of this increase is in Asia which covers only one-fifth of the world's surface.

We have heard the noble Lord, Lord Casey, say that we pour millions into the under-developed countries to raise their standards, but of course our object is, to a great extent, completely nullified because where we have sought to increase the diet and the hygienic conditions in those countries, instantly the number of mouths to feed has doubled. I have seen a little of this myself in various parts of the world. Some say—I think we have heard this to-day—that provided we increase food production, we can keep pace with increasing population. But all the evidence is now against this.

It is perhaps possible for a few years to increase food production so that two-thirds of the world is living at a subsistence level, but the time is bound to come when food production cannot do even this. As we have heard, several Asian leaders are acutely aware of this. The late Mr. Nehru frequently said that his Five-Year Plans were being frustrated by the ever-increasing population. India has courageously embarked upon great family planning organisation, but according to current population figures from that country this does not appear to be having the success it deserves.

This is a heart-rending subject. We have appeals from OXFAM. Anyone who has seen under-nourished people or children who are hungry knows that it is an appalling thing, but I cannot help feeling that if some of the finance that goes to OXFAM could be spent on education in birth control in these countries it would really do more good. If you bring food into these countries you are really only aggravating the problem. I quite agree that you ought to do everything to improve agriculture in these countries. But in the long term it is cruel to bring in food artificially unless it is kept up in ever-increasing quantities.

We have heard from one eminent professor, Professor Kay, that although the amount of home-grown and imported food brought into these underdeveloped countries is increasing, it is still well below that needed to meet the net rate of population increase. I do not think that it has been mentioned in the debate to-day that the situation in regard to home-grown food supplies in Asia and Africa has not been altogether aided by the upheavals that have attended the granting of independence to these countries. Food production there has hardly increased at all since pre-war days. In some areas it has even decreased owing to the dispossession or disappearance of the European farmers. Only a short time ago a friend of mine who has just come back from Morocco told me that in the days of the French it had a thriving agriculture, but now it is going backwards. I am also told that the same state of affairs exists in Ceylon and in quite a few other countries in these parts of the world.

These underdeveloped countries must understand that if their agricultural production is to increase, as it must increase, they must give every encouragement to the European farmer to remain there. I cannot understand how anybody can say that birth control is not an absolute necessity in such countries, for otherwise one is going to have an ever-increasing number of people, countless millions of them, living almost like animals. I have seen many of them in such conditions, as I am sure have many of your Lordships. It is quite impossible in these conditions for people to develop their full spiritual nature as human beings.

We have heard a lot of talk about education and, obviously, education and family planning go hand in hand. But if one has people who are desperately under-nourished, it is extremely difficult to educate them. Their brains are undernourished and they cannot concentrate. Their conditions are so appallingly squalid that for any man to rouse himself out of the apathy which such conditions induce requires superhuman effort. Somehow one has to teach them birth control, but education takes a long time.

The situation in the British Isles, about which I should like to speak for a few moments, does not, of course, cause the same concern as the problem in Asia and Africa. An extraordinary point about the position in the British Isles is that Eire has not had any population increase at all. The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, made this point. Of course, the reason is probably emigration. I have often thought that if one had the Dutch in Ireland one would probably have a population in Ireland of 25 or 30 million. But, on the other hand, if one had the Irish living in Holland one would eventually have nobody there at all because they would probably forget to repair the dykes and would all get drowned—but presumably that will never come about.

We have hope in this country because, as we have heard to-day, all the denominations of the Christian Church have now agreed on the necessity for family planning, which is, of course, a step forward. Probably the noble Earl, Lord Longford, will correct me if I am wrong, but so far as I am aware the only difference between the Christian Churches, the Church of England and the Roman Catholics, is as to the method employed for family planning. The Church of England, I believe, has now come round to the idea that it is far more Christian to have two or three children and to bring them up decently and in good conditions than to have twelve children and to bring them up in poverty. I quite agree with that view. The Church of England, I understand, in order to achieve that aim, allow the use of contraception.

I understand that while the Roman Catholics agree it is better to have three children brought up in decent conditions than it is to have twelve in poor conditions, they maintain that contraceptives are evil. Their idea of family planning is by self-restraint at certain periods. I cannot understand the logic in the Catholics saying this. I can understand, from the moral point of view, that it is good for everybody in every walk of life to indulge in self-restraint and self-discipline, but I cannot understand why Catholics say that they do not agree with contraceptives because they interfere with the natural laws of nature, whereas the whole time we are interfering with the law of nature in other ways. After all, we keep weak, unhealthy people alive, and one cannot interfere more with the laws of nature than to do that. So I really cannot understand the logic of that argument. If nature had her way there would be no problem at all, because nature is very callous so far as the individual is concerned and she is only interested in the survival of the species.

Obviously, in relation to the population problem in the British Isles, one cannot have anything like a Government direction in relation to the size of families, but I believe that what one has to do is to take into account the great financial responsibility involved in having children. After all, highly educated people, quite apart from the religious question, control their families; they have only as many children as they can afford. But the majority of the population, as their children are to all intents and purposes supported by the Welfare State, do not have this onerous burden. I have often wondered whether the family allowances are not nowadays out of date. I should prefer to see the money spent on other things, such as education. I am sure there is a point here for future Governments. In any event, we have no guarantee that the family allowances are spent on the children. I know several cases where I am quite sure they are not, and I think they are spent in the pubs and on gambling. This is a point in which I have always been rather interested.

In this country we now have no need at all for a large population, as the days of vast armies are over. We have automation in industry and one does not need a vast population for industry. So I really think it is up to us, for the future happiness of mankind, to do everything we can to encourage the control of population. I should like heartily to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, upon introducing this debate, and I warmly agree that this matter is, from the global angle, the responsibility of the United Nations. Here is something really worthwhile that the United Nations can do. The United Nations have not always been successful in their political junketings around the world, but here is something which, if only it can be well organised through them, will add very greatly to the happiness of mankind. Of course the problems are absolutely immense. There are racial suspicion, ignorance and tribal customs; and the greatest of all these is suspicion. The reason why the lead has to come through the United Nations is that, if it came solely through the Anglo-Saxons or through the Europeans a great number of Asians and Africans would, I am sure, feel that perhaps it was a white trick to "do down" the coloured races. That is, of course, completely absurd, but we cannot have them thinking that. I can only say that if something is not done soon, on a world-wide scale, there will probably be, owing to this great pressure of population, either a war, in spite of the deterrent effect of nuclear arms, or a terrible plague—and if there is a plague it will sweep across the whole world. I heartily support the Motion.

6.4 p.m.


My Lords, "Population explosion". I wonder whether it would not have been more scientific to put that word "explosion" in the plural. It is true that the decrease in the death rate has something to do with the various population explosions that exist to-day. But it is to my mind fallacious, and unscientific, to stress too much the common elements in these separate population phenomena. There is a population explosion, for all I know (but we know very little about it), in China. There is a population explosion, as we know very well, in Southern Asia. There may be the danger of a population explosion in Africa; and South America was also mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton. These four phenomena do not have very much in common.

In South America as a whole there is no population problem; but there are appalling population problems in a great many of the South American towns. Conditions in the shanty towns of Santiago are indescribably horrible, and in those conditions there is intensive population increase. Yet South America is an under-populated continent. I have some figures here of statistics of persons per acre in some South American countries. In Bolivia there are 3 persons per square kilometre; in Paraguay there are 4 persons; in the Argentine, Peru and Venezuela there are 8 persons per square kilometre; and there are 9 in Brazil, 11 in Chile, 13 in Colombia, 16 in Ecuador and 35 in Uruguay. That compares with 217 persons per square kilometre in Britain or, if you take England and Wales separately, with 307. Therefore I say that South America is an empty, under-populated country, and needs, through just and sometimes drastic legislation, a better distribution of its population. I say that, my Lords, because we are too often inclined to attribute to population pressure ills that arise through human injustice and economic incompetence.

I remember well in the 'thirties, when we were suffering so terribly, that we had people saying, "Britain is overpopulated". I well remember a debate in this House in which mass emigration was put forward as a solution for the economic distress and unemployment from which we were suffering. Of course that was nonsense. And I believe it to be equally unscientific to speak of the population problem in South America without reference to the social conditions that produce the slums of Santiago.

But in Southern Asia there is undoubtedly a great and serious population problem. And it is worse in Malaya and Singapore than in India. But India is the country on which our thoughts should be concentrated, for India is the first underdeveloped country to seek to remedy its population troubles by a neo-Malthusian campaign.

Three other countries have tried neo-Malthusian campaigns, with marked suc- cess. The population of Sweden was drastically reduced by such a campaign; it was also successful, according to its objects, in Denmark; and it was very markedly successful in Japan, as has been mentioned. But these are highly-developed, industrialised and well-educated countries. It could have been predicted that, granted the materialistic outlook which also distinguishes these three nations, a neo-Malthusian campaign would be successful. But now India is attempting the same remedy for her troubles. Much has been said about India, and many interesting statistics have been quoted. What has not been quoted is the remark made by the late Mr. Nehru when he opened the Asiatic Population Conference in December, 1963. I have not been able to obtain a verbatim report of his speech, although I have made every effort to do so from India House. But, through the courtesy of the noble Lady, I have obtained an abbreviated report of the late Mr. Nehru's remarks. He said, when opening that Asiatic Conference, that India's birth prevention campaign had been a failure. When considering the evidence we cannot possibly ignore a remark like that.

The problem of Indian overpopulation arises from many factors, notably from one which has not yet been mentioned, and that is the child marriages. I myself believe that the true remedy for India's excessive population would be to abandon those child marriages, which are so shocking to us in the West. I speak with respect of this institution of a great civilisation, but it is very hard for us to reconcile ourselves with this particular social phenomenon. But what has India been doing in its neo-Malthusian campaign? It has opened 8,000—or is it 8,500?— clinics, and these clinics have attracted a great deal of interest. Indians are respectful to their Government, whatever their Government may be, and an initiative of this kind by Congress Raj has naturally engaged the interest of the people. Unfortunately, however, an Indian Government publication tells us that interest has been chiefly among women over 35, for these wretched women who have been having children, child after child, for 20, 22 or 25 years naturally feel they must find a remedy. I have every sympathy with them; but, of course, the effect on the birth rate of teaching contraceptive measures to these women of over 35 is negligible.

The clinics in India have provided material free to all the poor who come, and that has enabled them to keep some check on the degree of persistence in contraception which has prevailed among their clientele. It is admitted that the standard of persistence has not been notably high. The Indian married couple learn these methods with interest and curiosity, but they do not persist with them, and that has been part of the trouble. In point of fact, India, with its millennial tradition behind it, will not easily be persuaded to change the basic pattern of its marital life. Of course, let me agree at once that, among the more intelligent classes in India, the better-educated classes, the Westernised classes, the campaign has been a great success. Of course, they take to it very readily; but they are so few, and I cannot wholly welcome a development which brings about small families among those intelligent and educated people who are best fitted to bringing up children.

There has in fact been a tendency to take less interest in contraceptive information and to concentrate more effort and more expenditure on sterilisation. Sterilisation camps have been set up throughout the country, and they move about from one place to another. They have attracted a very large number of Indians, and they have had a considerable measure of statistical success. An Indian Government publication informs me that, between January, 1956, and June, 1963, more than 250,000 men and 150,000 women submitted to sterilisation. One would nave thought, would one not, that that was a simple and effective method of population control? Unfortunately, most of the candidates for that operation have proved to be men who are over 40, and, again, the effect on the population has not been very great.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt, but I would say just for the accuracy of the case that page 15 of the book we have both been looking at gives the number of sterilised as 242,000 men. Is that the figure the noble Lady gave?




I am sorry to have interrupted.


I was supplied with that book and with another. I will not quarrel about whether it is 242,000 or 250,000. It is not a very great matter.

These are the facts that we have to face. However much some noble Lords may dislike them, they must be taken into account. Nobody thinks there can be any virtue in asking the United Nations to support a neo-Malthusian campaign when the signs are very much against its being successful. But as a matter of fact, the United Nations are supporting it. India receives substantial sums of unallocated aid—in other words, aid for which the Government of India do not have to account—in its development programme. It is clear that this unallocated aid helps the Indian Government bear the expenses of the campaign in question.

When we come to the United Nations, we find it divided into three parties. Two of these are the neo-Malthusian party and the anti-neo-Malthusian party. The latter, as the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, said, comprises the Communist States and the Catholic States. I do not pretend to be competent to expound the views of the Communist Governments. I imagine, however, that their condemnation of birth control has something to do with their propaganda. I think it might be a very useful point when spreading propaganda among simple and uneducated people to say, "The Colonial powers are so mean that they would even deny you the right to have a family. If only you take up Communism all your troubles will be at an end." That is very much what one of the Communist delegates said at the United Nations Conference. I had the greatest interest in reading the Report, the Hansard of that Conference. With the Catholic States, it is quite simply a matter of conscientious objection; and we in this country who have had such long, honourable and liberal dealings with conscientious objectors know very well that it is not very much use arguing with a conscientious objector. For that reason I will not follow the noble Lord who preceded me into his profound theological dissertations about the Catholic attitude. It is not a thing that can be very much affected by argument. There is of course the possibility that, in view of the re-examination of the question which is now going on in Rome, some modification of the Roman Catholic attitude may take place. I do not know in what direction. I do not know what the Pope may allow; but I know very well what the Pope will not allow. I feel on very secure ground in saying that there can be no accommodation between the Roman Catholic Church and sterilisation, or certain other methods referred to in this book which form part of the teaching given in the "population campaign" in India.

The third party to which Her Majesty's Government have hitherto adhered appeals to those who feel there is great need for more information to study the matter. In that respect I heartily endorse the words of the noble Lord, Lord Casey. We need a great deal of study on three points: first of all, the social effects of a neo-Malthusian campaign. There are difficult points here; you may interfere with the balance of age groups if you drastically reduce the number of children born in one generation, and the problem arises of who is going to look after the older people. Then there is the balance of sexes. That comes into it, too, especially in Asia. In Asia, where our correct Western ideas of the equality of the sexes have not very much penetrated, every man wants to have a son. He will go on having children until he gets a son. If possible he will get two sons; then, if he is using birth control, he will stop; but of course the result of that is that there is bound to be a great excess of female births. It will throw the sexes out of balance and make many other social problems which will need to be studied.

Then there are scientific problems such as those connected with the long-term effect of the sterile chemicals, and there are also problems connected with the whole subject of fertility. But really there is a vast amount we do not know about fertility. For example, why in some epoch in history a nation may immensely increase and why, in another epoch, it will greatly decrease. There is very little we know about the matter and one of the best pieces of news we have had for a long time was that the Ford Foundation was financing a world-wide study of fertility on a scientific basis. I do not know whether the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, can tell us how long that is going to take or whether he can give us any more details.

My Lords, I was going to end my speech by congratulating Her Majesty's Government on keeping in the neutral group in this matter and being content, as their representative was in 1962, with a demand for closer study of the problem. I was very much surprised at the announcement which the noble Earl made this afternoon. The noble Earl explained that perhaps not very much help bilaterally would be given. "It is only a little one"; but it is a decision in principle; and, though, of course, I recognise that I belong to a small minority, I very much regret that that decision has been made, and I regret that it is apparently endorsed by a representative on the Front Bench of the Labour Party. I can say no more. I wonder whether the noble Earl will feel the need to go a little further and to tell us a little about the methods which we are going to teach. I have spoken of sterilisation. Will British doctors be used to instruct in vascectomy? The noble Baroness Lady Summerskill has spoken about sterilisation pills. What is the attitude going to be to that matter? Are we going to instruct bilaterally in that? I leave these questions to the noble Earl.

6.30 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to support the Motion which has been introduced so eloquently by my noble friend Lord McCorquodale of Newton, to whom we are deeply grateful, if for no better reason than that this debate follows closely on the heels of the debate a week ago on the United Nations Development Decade. I feel that today's debate is highly important, because it allows us to see last week's debate in the right context.

My noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard sought some information about the policy of OXFAM on family planning. I hope that I may be permitted to furnish him with such details as I have. At the present moment—I say "at the present moment," because this may be revised at a later date—OXFAM does not have a policy on family planning. What OXFAM thinks is this. We do not question the right and the duty of other qualified people and bodies to explore responsibly the many complicated technical and moral questions involved in man's increasing control, not only of his environment, but also of his fellow men. As a non-sectarian body we cannot advocate methods of birth control, which we know are at present disapproved of by a large section of our supporters. That is the official line taken by OXFAM, which my noble friend requested. I will pick up as I proceed one or two of his points.

The question of whether the Western countries do or do not appreciate the importance of over-population in the East, or the Northern countries the over-population in the South, is largely a hypothetical one. A great part of the problem, as we are well aware, is centred in Asia and is perhaps best looked at through Eastern eyes. For a large number of reasons, Western views are suspected of having some neo-colonial connotation. A distinguished Indian, Mr. Chagla, who has been quoted this afternoon and who is very knowledgeable on this subject, made an eloquent appeal for research into oral contraception. This appeal was quoted three years ago in your Lordships' House by the noble Lord, Lord Casey, who said so much on this subject, on an objective line, this afternoon. At the risk of wearying your Lordships, I feel that this is so relevant that I should like to repeat it.

Mr. Chagla said: 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 home to live in, no employment when they grow up and may spend their lives discontented and dissatisfied and become bitter human beings, a prey to any new idea which may promise them better prospects and more tolerable conditions. I am very impatient of arguments which are advanced against birth control and family planning on grounds of morality. What is this morality which condemns millions of children to poverty and destitution? Surely it is the purpose of the Freedom from Hunger campaign and the United Nations Development Decade that this poverty and destitution should be remedied by expanding food production and distribution. However, in certain areas, all efforts to increase production are overtaken by the growth of population at an even greater rate. This does not contradict the fact that total world production is still just keeping a little ahead of total world population. It is on a regional basis that things have gone badly wrong.

I hope that the noble Lord who introduced this Motion will permit me to digress for the purpose of quoting an example of a regional problem. The North African area is one with which I am well acquainted, and perhaps I may quote the example of Morocco, which has already been referred to by my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard. In Morocco, production can feed a population of only 10 million, whereas a young and rapidly increasing population is now reaching a height estimated at between 12 and 13 million. That means that about 3 million have to be fed through the auspices of the United States Share Our Surplus programme, though naturally this will not go on for ever.

Where can this expanding population look but to the Sahara for room in which to make a livelihood? Climatic changes can be brought about only gradually, through a change in the ecology. The first steps in this direction have already been taken by the countries bordering on the Northern fringe of the Sahara. My noble friend said he thought that the Moroccan agricultural programme had gone back. I beg to dispute that point with him. Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya have substantial tree-planting and agricultural programmes. In Egypt, I million acres have been reclaimed on the Western bank of the Nile, and in Nigeria, in the South-West of the Sahara, conservation is preventing the advance of the desert. But this is not enough. Reclamation on any large scale requires a vast international effort. Research on this effort has been going on for some years. A Sahara reclamation programme would need the full weight of F.A.O. behind it, but I feel that if the United Nations were to take the initiative this would have the support of, and certainly would be acceptable in, a large number of African countries.

Over-population has many side effects. Professors Barque, of the University of Liège, writing in the New Scientist recently, spoke of "the cage effect" which mankind is likely to suffer—the noise, the relative lack of solitude, the invasion of open spaces. These are all familiar phrases, indicating some of the unpleasant features which are increasing in our daily life in this country. I believe that many other evils of to-day can be ascribed to overpopulation. The noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, felt that this was incorrect; but I suggest that such things as housing shortage, land scarcity, overspill conurbations, the destruction of our beautiful countryside and the thrombosis of transport, can in part be ascribed to the over-population of these islands. I suggest that this over-population has been actively encouraged by successive Governments over a long period. They have encouraged immigration and population growth. This is a short-sighted policy, when we cannot expand our land area and when we have no convenient large area to reclaim on our shores. When we examine in detail some of the difficult problems, such as transport and town planning, I think that we shall entirely agree with the noble Lord who proposed this Motion, that the population explosion is one of the most important questions of our time: and of this country, in particular.

6.40 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord who has just made such an interesting speech informed us that an eminent gentleman, Mr. Chagla, had expressed impatience at the introduction of any moral arguments against birth control. I hope that Mr. Chagla is not listening this afternoon and that the noble Lord himself is ready to tolerate a few arguments of that kind. All of us here this afternoon —and I think this applies widely outside this House—recognise the problems which are caused by the unprecedented increase in the number of human beings in certain areas of the world. I am not quite so gloomy, even on the statistical side (and, so far as I remember, I am not going to introduce a single figure), as the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton. who, if I may say so, introduced this debate in a way that we all expected, and who speaks for a great many dedicated people. I am afraid I did not take down the noble Lords words, but I think he said that something very frightening was certain to happen, and I believe he said it was certain that the population would reach a certain point by A.D. 2000. At any rate, he implied that this tremendous increase in population, to which he referred, was bound to happen. I am afraid I do not think that certainty exists in this field: far from it.

Many of your Lordships will remember —the noble Lord will recall this, because he was in the Government, which is far more than I was—that the Royal Commission on Population was set up in this country in 1941 because they thought the population was vanishing; but by the time the Royal Commission had finished, the trouble seemed to be the other way. Then down went the population, from 1947, and people brought out all sorts of plans for the schools, prisons and everything else, in the belief that the population was going down. But then, quite unexpectedly, it swung round, and from 1955 or 1956 it started to go up, and it has been going up—I am talking of this country—ever since. So even here, where we have far more information than they can possibly have in the rest of the world, we have been surprised again and again by developments. I am afraid I do not take the view that these colossal figures which were mentioned are bound to happen.

I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Sandys—though I think he slightly understated it—brought out that the world food supply is still increasing faster, as a whole, than the world population. Nevertheless, I do not want to argue the matter with the noble Lord on the statistical side this afternoon. I am ready to agree with the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, and all other speakers, that probably the utmost gravity is raised by these issues, particularly in the underdeveloped areas of the world. I admired the general approach of my noble friend Lady Summerskill, who once again brought up the fact, as it seemed to me, that, whether one thinks birth control is or is not important, even if it is accepted, and in whatever form it is accepted, it is only a part, and not a major part, of the tremendous effort that must be made by the wealthy countries to help those countries that are in need. But when. I say that we all recognise the gravity of the problem, I would add that we are, at the same time, aware—and if we had not been aware before, the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, has informed us so—that many of the leading countries of the world are strongly opposed to any such Motion as that which has been brought before us this afternoon. The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, reminded us that this was true of Russia and the South American countries— I think he spoke of the Catholic countries generally—and a number of African countries. We must reflect that what might be called the leading countries on the Continent, namely, France, Western Germany and Italy—and they might or might not be called Catholic countries—are opposed to the line of policy suggested by the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton.

As the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, is well aware, it has been the general policy of the United Nations not to try to give help on broad lines. There are, of course, controversial decisions among those who receive such help and those who are asked to give the help. Quite apart from the moral aspects, which, with the permission of the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, I will come to in a moment, I very much question whether a Motion of this sort would be of ultimate benefit to the underdeveloped countries themselves, if only because of the divisions it must create among the great nations. Although I have no reason to suppose that the Motion will be pressed to a Division, I must make it clear that, if it were, I should in some way have to register my vote against it.

I would also endorse what the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, said about a certain anxiety. Perhaps I did not follow things quite so closely as he did, because the middle of the afternoon is my worst time of the day, but I share some disquiet if the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, indicated that in the future more help on family planning is going to be given to backward countries than in the past. He played it down, so it seemed to me in my not very alert condition; I thought he said it would not amount to much, anyway. But then I heard it said that this was a departure in principle, and, if so, I would express strong disquiet. I should like to echo the question raised by the noble Earl, Lord Iddlesleigh, of what kind of advice we are going to give, to whom we are going to give it, and what are the conditions we should consider satisfactory. It may be said—it has not been put quite in this way this afternoon—that it is no business of ours: that when you see a distressed country asking for help, you ought to give it without asking how they are going to use it. I gather from the noble Earl, Lord Iddlesleigh, that a certain amount of help is given in that way.

But I wonder whether many noble Lords would press that argument very far. They would hardly suggest that we should give help to countries to embark on a large sterilisation campaign. Supposing we found that a particular country was giving the help, or a considerable part of the help, to unmarried persons—and when I say that I do not mean people about to be married, but those who have no intention whatever of ever getting married: should we favour giving help to a country that was going to use it in that way? The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of London spoke impressively about his own strong opposition to any policy of that kind here. Suppose that we find countries abroad doing the same thing, do we oppose it?

If I am told that this is a bit fanciful, may I remind noble Lords that the excellent organisation, the Family Planning Association, have adopted an ambiguous attitude on this point of aid to unmarried girls? I need not go into it in detail, but a motion which would mean that this aid was actually given in the clinics of the Family Planning Association was defeated at a recent conference; but an amendment was carried saying that the unmarried should be referred to the Youth Advisory Centres —and I stress these words—the setting up of which the Family Planning Association should encourage, and at which medical advice on sex problems, including advice on birth control, should be available. The Family Planning Association, willing, as it were, to wound, but yet afraid to strike, are not guilty of giving this advice in their own clinics, but recommend the establishment of centres where this advice should be given. If they believe it is right to do it here, presumably they think it right to do it elsewhere. Therefore, when we talk of giving bilateral aid we are entitled to ask whether the Government attach any importance to the conditions in which that aid is given.

I know that the House will bear with me a little if I say something, in addition to what fell from the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, about the Roman Catholic attitude. It is known that among the world religions opposed to certain methods of population control are the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Catholic churches of the East. The reasons for this opposition of my own Church are sometimes not appreciated; and there has been some speculation lately, and a great deal of discussion in the Catholic Press, as to whether the Roman Catholic Church may modify its views in the near future. So I should like to say a few words on the Roman Catholic attitude to birth control and the likelihood of any change in this attitude this autumn, or in the future beyond that.

Let me say at once—and here I am at one with what has been said by various speakers about the attitude of all the Churches—that the Roman Catholic Church recognises the rightness of responsible parenthood by parents everywhere. That is true, irrespective of population problems. Anybody who has a number of children and is acquainted with the problems of young married people would agree that, even if the world food supply increases ten times faster than the rate of the world population, these issues still lie at the doorstep of all of us. Therefore, let there be no doubt in anybody's mind that this principle of responsible parenthood is accepted as, in that sense, family planning.

The Roman Catholic Church denies, and has always denied, the rightness of contraception. By "contraception" is understood any deliberate intervention in the act of intercourse, or in the body's reproductive functioning, precisely in order to render voluntary acts of intercourse infertile. That is a definition which, I need hardly say, I have drawn up with some advice, because one must be careful in one's use of words. But I do not want the House to think that I am speaking officially for anybody, and if I am repudiated to-morrow I hope the people. I am afraid I did not take things. But I believe that that particular definition would be accepted as good. For nineteen centuries the Catholic Church has maintained this attitude to contraception. In the early centuries, coitus interruptus was the common method, and a doctor friend of mine tells me that it is much commoner to-day than I supposed. Then there were the sterility potions which women drank to prevent pregnancy, and which we find condemned in the writings of the Fathers. They were the things which developed from the 19th century, when all sorts of new methods began to come up for consideration. As each of these different methods has been proposed, the Roman Catholic Church has replied that it is morally unacceptable when used in a contraceptive sense. That, therefore, is a consistent line of policy.

However, in order to understand why the Catholic Church has condemned, and still condemns, contraception, I hope the House will allow me to range a little wide and to look for a moment at the sources for the Church's authoritative teaching in moral matters. These are two-fold. I can speak only for my own Church, but at any rate here there are two sources. First, revelation by God to man in Holy Scripture—for example, the ten Commandments in the Old Testament, and the teaching of our Lord and the Apostles in the New Testament. Secondly, there is the continual search for a further understanding of Truth through man's own God-given power of reason. So there is revelation and reason. From these two sources—and here I should think nobody would disagree with me—we believe we know several things about man. We know that he is born with the power to act responsibly and to love. We recognise his tremendous power to dominate the world, and at his best to control himself. That is the first thing —the tremendous potential of man. But also we recognise his great weakness through his fallen nature and, thirdly, we are aware of the Divine help which is available to every human being if it is sought.

In addition, we recognise—and here again I think that I am saying what is accepted by all Christians—that even when aided by God the vast powers of man are subject to certain limitations through our being, after all, creatures. We have not absolute power over our own life, and we certainly have not absolute power over the lives of others. We have not absolute power to give life, and all these considerations are bound to be the starting point of any Christian discussion on our subject to-day. But we have to go further than that: that is just the starting point. Another question then arises— and this divides some Christians from others. As we try to work out the consequences of this standpoint we search for indications of God's will in the Holy Scriptures and in human nature itself, and still we may reach differing conclusions.

A noble example of an attempt to arrive at the truth on this subject was the discussion at the last Lambeth Conference which was referred to this afternoon in that important speech by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of London. It was a very deep study of the whole matter, and with much searching of conscience. The final conclusion was a careful one, endorsing family planning in such ways as are mutually acceptable to husband and wife in Christian conscience. That was the decision of the Anglican Churches, and I respect very greatly what went to form that decision. But the presuppositions of the Roman Catholic Church are bound to be rather different. We regard our Church as divinely founded and guided to sate-guard, to interpret, and to clarify truths for mankind, some of which we cannot reach, at any rate with any certainty, by unaided human reason. It does not absolve us from using our reason to the utmost extent. This does not mean that in my Church we would claim that at any time it is in the least likely that the whole truth about a matter of this sort is going to be pronounced officially. In the first place, there is the use of human reason in applying general principles to any particular case. But even in the doctrine of the Church there is an evolution as new knowledge is acquired, and as changing circumstances enable further implications to be seen; this process of continual evolution and the fresh study of new truths being caught sight of as new situations are investigated. All this has been going on with particular intensity in this very matter of the control of population whose gravity, of course, my Church, like all serious people everywhere, fully recognise.

Last week the Pope spoke on this question, and perhaps the House will allow me to quote a passage or two, although I cannot quote as much as I think would be appropriate. The Pope said: It is an extremely serious problem. It touches the source of human life. It is an extremely complex and delicate problem. The Church must also affirm its own concern, that is, God's law as interpreted by the Church. and the Church must proclaim this law of God in the light of scientific, social and psychological truths, which lately have come in for new and ample study and documentation. I should like to repeat the emphasis laid by the Pope on scientific, social and psychological truths which lately have come in for new and ample study and documentation. He said last week: It will be necessary to look carefully at the theoretical and practical development of the question. And this is what the Church is actually doing. The question is being considered as amply and deeply as possible, that is, in the most serious and honest way demanded by such an important matter. We hope soon to conclude these studies with the collaboration of many distinguished scholars. I thought it was right to repeat all that, and also to quote one more sentence. He said: But meanwhile we frankly say that so far we have no sufficient motive to regard as superseded or not compulsory the rules outlined by Pope Pius XII in this regard. Therefore they must be considered valid at least until such time as we may conscientiously feel obliged to change them. Noble Lords must form their own opinions as to whether that foreshadows a large change. I myself believe that it would be misleading the House to interpret this statement as an indication that there will be any fundamental change in the sense of a reversal of the Church's teaching. In fact, the Pope warned us against this interpretation. But I repeat: faced with recent developments the whole question is now being carefully studied in the light of what are admittedly new factors and what would seem to be called a new medical situation.

My Lords, I must say a few words about the pill, although I am sure that doctors and other scientists present will point out to me that it can be rather a misleading term. It is a rather omnibus expression which could cover a good many different drugs; but this is obviously one of the new factors under consideration, though I do not for a moment say it is the only one. Let me say, first of all (and I have no doubt that doctors present will entirely support this approach), that it would be wrong to expect the Catholic Church, or indeed any Church, to underwrite or to bless any particular drugs or their uses. All the Church will do in a matter like this is to pronounce on the morality of a medical hypothesis. In other words, the Church does not say, and I am sure would never say, that a particular pill would have a particular medical effect. She says to the doctors: "Assuming that it will have the medical effect you attribute to it, so-and-so is our judgment of the morality or otherwise of using it in that way." But one thing that is quite certain is that the Church will not come forward and recommend a particular pill only perhaps to find it discredited on medical grounds.

Let me just remind the House of what, in fact, is already permitted by the Catholic Church. The use of the so-called pill, on which we agree with non-Catholics, is the correction of menstrual disorders, including the attempts through a course of treatment to give subsequent regularity to a woman with irregular cycles. This can obviously be of benefit to some married women who are hampered by irregularity of cycle from making adequate use of the rhythm method. As the House is aware, the rhythm method is accepted by our Church as morally right. In our view, it respects the indicated order, to use that rather technical expression, in human nature, while we consider that contraceptive use of a pill, for example, violates human nature. I would remind the House that a good deal of progress has been made in recent years in the use of this method, and no doubt we can go into that aspect on some other occasion.

But let me remind the House that while the therapeutic use of a drug of this sort, something of the type of the pill, is permitted under a statement of Pope Pius XII in 1958—a statement which does not seem to be in this respect as well known as it might be—any attempt to use these pills as contraceptives was firmly forbidden by Pope Pius XII. The question of what is and what is not a contraceptive use is no doubt one of the points, I should assume one of the main points, now under discussion. But even with the expert advice available to me it is not easy to put an issue of this kind in a nutshell. But to me, as a layman, the supreme test seems to be whether a particular use can be said to be in accordance with human nature, or if this other language is found more helpful, whether it can be said to be in accordance with the dignity of the human person. If it is in accordance it might be accepted; if it is not, in the view of the Church, it would be forbidden.

My Lords, I must come to the end. One of the main problems in the whole of this complex matter is certainly that of education—I mean education in the widest sense: an education for life as a responsible human being, with particular regard to life as a parent imbued with a sense of responsibility for marriage and for the family. Here, in this ideal entertained so strongly by my Church, we are all at one. And it is here, above all—and I am not now speaking, as your Lordships can imagine, off the cuff, although I have no authority to say this—that we Catholics can already see a change of emphasis in the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. In a sense, much more important even than this tremendous issue of the regulation of birth is the fact that there has always been in the Church's teaching an extraordinary optimism, a great belief in the capacity of man to attain self-mastery with the help of God. But so often in the past, the emphasis, especially among the moral theologians, of my Church—and it may be in other Churches, too, though of course I cannot speak for them—has been on the negative side: on the avoidance of this or that; on the wrongness or sinfulness of this or that form of behaviour, which has sometimes been stressed to the exclusion of everything more positive and inspiring.

The greatest capacity of the human being, the capacity for love, seems too often to have been ignored by the moral theologians who have laid down the rules. But this is changing, and changing faster than a few years ago I should have thought possible. There are a number of theologians who perhaps should be especially mentioned, so that history may recognise those who have played the chief part in this development. Father Joseph Fuchs, of the Gregorian University, and Father Bernard Haring, of the Lateran University, are outstanding; but there are others. Above all, there has been the inspiration of the late Pope John XXIII, who has been saluted everywhere throughout the world for his creative lovability that reached out to all mankind. I must not presume to suppose that in anything I have said I have lived up to the spirit of Pope John XXIII, but if I have even in the smallest degree conveyed the new spirit, I hope that my message will linger for a while with the House.

7.7 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, for initiating this debate and for his interesting, lucid and comprehensive speech, with which I wholly agree. This is a subject about which I have always felt very strongly, religiously though not theologically. This debate follows logically, almost relentlessly, on the debate of a week ago on United Nations Aid. One could argue that it should have come before it.

I am afraid that this afternoon your Lordships have been pelted with statistics and quotations, and I hope I shall not fire more than my fair share of these projectiles. It is inevitable on a subject like this, when we have to go to the fact finders, the economists and the sociologists who have investigated conditions in Asia, Africa and Latin America. It is difficult to find a dissenting voice among them. These experts display a gloomy unanimity in their conclusions about the conditions necessary for the developing countries to raise their very low standard of living in the next 20 or 30 years. To-day, the most vital solution they advance is population control.

All the economic help and efforts to give these people a better life are annulled by the increase in their population, the number of mouths to feed, children to educate and jobs to find. Incidentally, while we are on this subject, I may say that half of the children in the world have never seen the inside of a school. The population explosion is the great new problem of the 20th century. Until now famine and disease have kept a balance between birth and death rates. All aid founders when the number of people goes on multiplying yearly at the present rate.

I should like to quote Ian Little, who has written on the subject of United Kingdom aid to Africa. He says: £1 million of Government money spent on intensive research into birth control methods, with emphasis on their applicability to underdeveloped countries, might do more for economic development than the entire world aid programme to date". And then he adds: All aid will probably turn out to have been wasted if birth rates are not soon reduced…the Treasury and its Ministers, who are supposed to see that the taxpayers' money is not wasted, should be begging the U.K. Department of Technical Co-operation to spend at least£1 million a year on research relating to birth control. These are not the words of a travelling journalist shattered by his first encounter with massive poverty. This is the considered judgment of an eminent economist after visiting Africa.

With such increases in population as exist to-day we shall soon be back to the death rates of the last century, in spite of all the palliative measures we are taking. The fact that these measures actually help to increase fertility puts an added brake upon progress. None of the voluntary and Government-aided programmes of family planning welfare match the need. Even in the countries where the Government has adopted a birth control policy, as in India, not enough money is being spent on the projects. And here I should like to point out to my noble friend Lady Summerskill that it is because neither those Governments nor the affluent societies are helping in this respect that the results are not good enough.

Robert Neild, another economist, says that in the next thirty years, if the number of people in India continue to multiply at the present rate, India will need to absorb an increase of 70 millions in its working population; that is, a labour force equal to the total present labour force of the United States. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations in 1961 estimated that 500 million people to-day suffer from hunger and another 1,000 million from malnutrition. How, in contemplating these figures, can anyone wish to deny to the poorer people of the world our knowledge and practice of family limitation? A sample survey in this country showed that birth control in one form or another covered almost all of the married population—87 per cent. Surely what is good for the affluent society is desirable and essential for the underdeveloped one.

My Lords, a tremendous drive is needed to help all Asian and African countries where birth control is Government policy, in order to make their efforts properly effective. No one has suggested compulsory birth control. There is no law which forbids or even discourages people anywhere from having as many children as they desire or are capable of having. No one slips a piece of contraceptive advice into the pay-packet of a low-paid worker after he has had seven or eight children. The Family Planning Association, a completely voluntary association, has never tried to influence people who do not believe in, or are precluded by their religion from, spacing or limiting their families. So it is really astonishing and somewhat tragic that in this day and age a harmless phrase such as: That the United Nations give technical assistance as requested by the Governments for national projects and programmes dealing with the problem of population was deleted from a United Nations resolution, because, I am told, of pressure from Roman Catholic communities. And I think it is even more tragic because I understand that Roman Catholics are not against family planning as such. If it is only method which divides us, surely a way will be found, man's ingenuity will find a way, a safe and reliable and dependable way, of achieving this.

The figures of the increase in world population are so astronomical that they are hard to assimilate or digest. It is still harder for them to register emotionally because of what they add up to in human misery. We tend to insulate ourselves from their implication, for our own peace of mind. In the next twenty years we are going to be affected by this problem in Britain. Another 3½ million people in the South-East of England will bring home to us some- thing of the size of the problem in the South-Eastern parts of the globe. But to-day our responsibility is for the developing nations, where there is only a limping rise in the standard of life, despite all our efforts in aid. And I am very glad that the Government have decided to help them with this aid. Only the United Nations can organise, on the scale that is needed, the many methods of dealing with, and the research for a solution of, this gigantic problem of the population explosion.

Finally, too many people in the world to-day cannot see a future for their children which holds out enough hope of sufficient food, a job, education and all the good things of life which parents in this country can hope for and count on for their children. Among the poorer countries in the world the population problem is volcanic and grows daily. It does not wait on the deliberations of politicians or prelates.

7.16 p.m.


My Lords, I do not propose to trouble your Lordships with more population figures, for that aspect of the question has already been dealt with very fully by the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, whom I, too, should like to thank for putting down this Motion and bringing this urgent matter to your Lordships' attention. The Motion speaks of the need "for practical measures to help member nations". I would begin by asking what evidence there is that member nations desire such help.

Last month I had the privilege of opening a conference which took place across the road at Church House. It was a conference of delegates from one region only of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, which is world wide. It was the region which covers Europe, the Near East and Africa. Delegates from 46 nations attended, including a few guests from outside the region. Africa was represented from North to South, together with most Mediterranean countries. From Eastern Europe the delegates came from Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and all the rest of Europe was represented except for Spain and Portugal.

Here then was a subject which could bring together South Africa and the other African nations, Egypt and Israel, Turkey, Greece and Cyprus, and Eastern and Western European countries, to sit down together for friendly joint discussions. Our visitors from outside the region included representatives from Canada, the United States and Cuba. This, clearly, is an issue which transcends political differences and, to an increasing extent I am sure, religious differences, too. And the type of representative those countries sent was significant. The delegates were not all drawn from small enthusiastic minorities. Fourteen countries sent officials belonging to or appointed by their Ministries of Health or Ministries of Social Affairs. Two sent their deputy Minister of Health, and one the Under-Secretary of State from that Ministry. And this is not surprising, in view of the fact that 16 Governments in the Federation provide direct support for family planning, and in many more countries municipal support is provided. Several countries are ahead of our own in offering family planning facilities as part of their National Health Service.

It is significant, too, that technical aspects of birth control, though they were, of course, discussed, occupied by no means the whole of the time of the Conference. The delegates were broadly concerned with personal and social aspects of the sexual relationship, and particularly with what could be done to combat the present high rates of illegitimacy and abortion in many countries. To talk about the population problem in terms solely of food supplies is doubly inadequate. First, quite obviously, much more than food is needed to support life. Already we are beginning to hear about water shortages. Problems of irrigation may arise in connection with agricultural needs; but the needs of industrial man for water are enormously greater, and where industrialisation has to play a part in raising standards of living, large water supplies will be required, and some parts of the United States are already worrying about water shortage.

I was glad to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Sandys said about another aspect of the population problem which had not previously been discussed—namely, the effect of crowded communities upon the people who live in them. The large modern cities, where the inhabitants are herded together in millions, have grown up haphazard, and largely for economic reasons. I believe we know far too little about the effects of such a mode of life upon the development of the human spirit. I should like to quote a few sentences from a recent book called "Too Many Americans" by Lincoln and Alice Day. They say: Growth in our society has increased the impersonal quality of many of our social contacts. Communities have more residents, doctors more patients, teachers more students, business men more customers. In the process, the relative importance of the individual is reduced and the competition for recognition heightened. One has contact with more people, but the contacts themselves are more fleeting, more devoid of meaning. Impoverishment of human relationships is not easily measurable, but I believe we are seeing its effects in the unhappiness, the sense of insecurity and other disturbances of feeling from which some inhabitants of our large cities suffer. I do not suggest that this is inherent in city life, because I do not think we know enough about its causation, but at least we might hesitate before greatly multiplying the scale of the problem when we have not yet discovered its solution.

What I said about the members of the Europe, Middle East, and Africa region of the International Planned Parenthood Federation is equally true of its national members in all parts of the world. Here, then, is a world organisation embracing all nations, with a few exceptions of religious origin, which voices the concern of the peoples of the world over the population question and what it means in terms of human welfare and personal relationships. Why, then, some people may ask, is there any need for United Nations action? The answer is simple. As we know so well, many of the world's nations are poor, and though they are doing their best, as I have shown, to pool their information and co-ordinate their scientific resources, this cannot be done adequately at the national level. We need an international body, sponsored by the United Nations Organisation, to collect all available demographic information (and promote the search for it when it is not available), take into account present and prospective supplies of food and water and the economic and cultural needs of growing populations, and review all current scientific work on population control.

I know that the United Nations is already doing something to fulfil these needs, especially, as we have heard already, through its Population Commission and the Population Branch of the Bureau of Social Affairs; and, as we have been reminded, there is to be another World Population Conference sponsored by the United Nations and six of its specialised agencies in 1965. But all this, though certainly valuable, is concerned with diagnosis and not with treatment, and the world needs a combination of the two. If this is to come about, the more enlightened and farseeing nations must take the initiative, and the past record of Her Majesty's Government in this matter is not a happy one. But I am glad to see signs of a change of heart. I particularly welcome what the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, said about the Department of Technical Co-operation.

At this moment the application of the International Planned Parenthood Federation to be recognised by the United Nations as a non-governmental organisation is under consideration. The Admissions Committee has recommended by a majority vote that its name be included on the Secretary-General's register. This application was strongly supported by the United Kingdom, but equally strongly opposed by France, whose opposition secured the downgrading of the Federation from the category "B", which it hoped to obtain, to the inferior degree of recognition implied by being placed on the Secretary-General's register.

This question comes before the Economic and Social Council which meets in Geneva on July 13. Here is a major opportunity for Her Majesty's Government to use their influence. I am glad to know that they have undertaken to try to secure for the International Planned Parenthood Federation recognition in category "B", and I hope that they will do all they can to persuade other delegations to support this, too. This will be a beginning, and a most encouraging one; but I hope that Her Majesty's Government will not think that they can then relax. I am afraid I cannot follow the argument of the noble Earl—I hope I misunderstood him—which was that because some nations may not need help, we are not to try to provide it for those who do.


Is the noble Lord referring to me?


No; to the noble Earl, Lord Dundee.


I said we should provide it only for those who do, and not try to obtrude our ideas on those who do not want them.


I am glad to hear what the noble Earl says. It is not enough, I am sure, to leave future action to voluntary organisations, patchily supported by State subsidies. Action is the responsibility of the United Nations, which should show that the peoples of the world can co-operate for human welfare and devote their resources to the health and happiness, instead of to the destruction, of mankind.

7.28 p.m.


My Lords, it seems to me that this subject really falls under three headings. First, we have the figures of the world population increase. I think they have been given in a most conservative manner this afternoon: nobody has really thought much about extending the graph, and the figures which have been quoted have been assessed on the present birth rate. But if we are to continue to improve and increase the medical help given to some of these countries, the chances are that the population will continue to increase at an even greater rate; for we must remember that it is not the birth rate which is causing the increase; it is the reduction in the death rate. But, even then, I am not certain that the physiological maximum birth rate is in fact being encountered under the present conditions. I am not an expert and would not comment on this point, but it seems to me that there is a real possibility of the rate of population increase becoming even greater in the next few years.

I do not think that anybody has seriously disputed what the figures are or that this represents a serious problem. The nearest anybody got to doing that was to remark, as I was going to myself if they had not done so, that a few years ago Britain was threatening to have an ageing population because the birth rate had reduced. But this was a relatively small amount, and I think that always the possibilities of a change in this birth rate were envisaged, certainly in a country such as this where there are so many factors which might affect it. We should be quite wrong to imagine that something will happen which will improve matters in the Far East countries. The only things I can think of which may happen in this respect are a plague, or pestilence, or national disaster or possibly war.

The next factor one considers is how serious the position is. Everybody has said that in fact it is. Some have tended to play this down. There are a number of factors to consider, one of the most important being the food situation. Nobody has convinced us that food production is capable of expanding at a rate which can improve the present conditions, remembering, of course, that nearly half of the world's population is at present undernourished. Quite clearly, there are places in the world where it is quite impossible, with our present scientific knowledge, to increase the food production to any great extent at all.

The next vital factor to consider is perhaps employment. India has already found, making its maximum efforts, that it cannot create more than a certain number of new jobs a year, and this is falling far below the actual population increase. To do anything more about this problem requires a great deal more capital than they have, or, for that matter, than anybody is going to provide them with. We also should remember that our efforts to raise the standards of living in these countries, or their own efforts, are being completely stultified by these population increases. In fact, their effect, despite the best intentions, is if anything worsening, and certainly not bettering the standards of living.

It seems to me that something must be done. We cannot just go on hoping for the best, because short of a miracle or disaster—and I think noble Lords should face the matter quite clearly—it does not seem that there is going to be very much alleviation of this situation. If a population is increasing, let us always remember that it is terribly difficult to reverse the process. We in England saw this very well ourselves a little time ago, realising what it would mean in terms of the effect of an ageing population. There are also a number of other unfortunate effects. Looking at our history, we also know that where there have been economic pressures this has almost always, or very often, led to war. We hope that war is a thing of the past, we hope that there will be no nuclear war, but we shoul1 be unwise not to realise that this population pressure could possibly bring about another war.

To turn now to methods which might be used to alleviate this situation, nobody has suggested that we should force anything on anybody. We have merely said in this Motion that we should be prepared to provide the help if they require it. One speaker pointed out that the various methods of birth control had not been especially effective, and doubted whether it was possible for them to be so until the level of the standard of living had been raised. Many of us feel that it is impossible to raise the standard of living without doing something about controlling the population—in other words, there is a completely vicious circle. And the least vicious part of this circle, I should have thought, was to tackle the population increase by birth control and other methods.

It is not true to say that the efforts to control population in some of these countries of the East have been completely ineffective. They have had quite an important effect in both Hong Kong and Singapore. It seems to me that there is no reason to suppose that, with the Government of the particular country concerned doing what they can to educate and change people's ideas—call it propaganda, if you like—such measures should not be able to produce at least an important effect.

It has also been said that there is no completely satisfactory method of birth control, and that most methods have various disadvantages possibly from a medical or other point of view. It is true to say that nobody quite knows the effect of continuing to take a pill over protracted periods of longer than two years. But let us remember that there is nothing we can do on medical lines without some slight element of risk. It does not matter whether it is an aspirin, which has now been found in many people to produce the possibility of internal hæmorrhage, or some more drastic drug, each has its own risks. What we do is to decide whether in the circumstances the risk is worth taking to alleviate a particular disease. When one comes to consider this population explosion, knowing that it entails famine, infanticide, abortion, and terrible living conditions for the children, one ought to be able to take what is assessed as the very small risk which is involved in the use of a number of these methods of birth control.

Another suggestion made is that the countries of the West should be able to raise the standards of these Eastern countries by providing capital and helping them to increase their food supply and standards of living. But many of us feel that this is pouring money into a bottomless pit and that it will produce no good results. I think we are entitled to feel that a country must help itself by doing something about the birth control problem. I say with all reverence that there is a phrase that "God helps him who helps himself"; and I think that one is right to regard this problem from that point of view.

One comes to the very difficult question of religious objections. I greatly admired the way in which the noble Earl, Lord Longford, represented the feelings of the Catholic Church on this subject. I respect these views, however much I personally should not agree with them. But one has to consider the point that many of us who also are religious, or who have strong moral principles, feel that this raises an issue, and that we must do something with birth control methods to help these nations. We feel this just as strongly as those who feel that it is wrong to provide them. I think we represent the majority. In fact, according to the Gallup Poll which was quoted earlier on, by far the larger majority is in favour of providing these facilities; and I believe that we should be quite wrong not to do so. I would also say to the Government that, just as it has often been said that Britain should be a leader to the world, I hope that though there is a minority here, and it is a religious minority, they will nevertheless have the courage to press on with such a vital world problem, and not sit on the sidelines trying to avoid offending anybody.

7.41 p.m.


My Lords, by the time this stage in the debate has been reached all the relevant points have been paraded before your Lordships, and all the substantial facts have been brought out. I am not myself so vain as to think that I can produce anything original or any facts of any substantial importance which have not been mentioned by other speakers. I can almost hear your Lordships saying, "Then why speak at all?" I suppose the answer, really, is that when one has been here so long and listened to so many speakers and wished to comment on so many of the remarks, it is very difficult not to get up and speak. Therefore I hope that those of your Lordships who are left will bear with me for a few minutes while I do, in fact, make some comments.

I have long ago abandoned the idea of addressing to your Lordships the speech which I so carefully prepared: I felt all along, as soon as I saw my position on the list, that it was most unlikely that there would be anything new left to say. If your Lordships will allow me to do so, I should like to pick out what seem to me to be the most significant points which have come out in the debate. I should say that the first point which has been a sort of "throb" throughout the speeches in this debate is the extreme urgency of this problem. From the very beginning, with the admirable address of the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, right up to the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, who has just resumed his seat, I think this has appeared in the great majority of the speeches, and there really cannot be any question about it.

The more we have heard, the more facts and the more points, the more clearly that fact has appeared, although I was a little sorry to find that there were a few speakers who rather played down the urgency of this matter. It is like standing round a house when the place is going up in flames, and arguing about whether this method or that is going to be effective, when something quite obviously ought to be done and if it is not done very quickly the house will be burnt down to the ground. For example, the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, took a rather negative attitude in that way. I suppose it is right that a cold douche should be poured on us from time to time, as she did, even if it is only to make those who have fire in their bellies react. I was glad to see that some people like the noble Lord, Lord Casey, who addresses us too seldom, did react in a very forthright way in an admirable speech.

If I may say so, I thought the noble Earl who speaks for the Government made some very good points, but he seemed to me to be trying to take up rather a neutral position. I do not think much of the argument about duelling. As your Lordships know, one must take a stand about this sort of thing at some time or another, and in the end we took a stand about duelling—possibly rather late. In my view, the world has got to take a stand about this business if the world is going to survive, and I think that came out very clearly in the various speeches which were addressed to your Lordships during the afternoon.

There is the problem of the world's food supply, which I was glad the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, referred to in his speech. In his opening speech the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, brought out the fact that the food supply in the developed countries has not even been keeping up with the growth of the population in those countries, where to a considerable extent birth control is practised. It is all very well to bring in places like the United States and Canada, which are still largely undeveloped countries, and say "On that basis we are still ahead." As the noble Baroness, Lady Summer-skill, reminded us, the late President Kennedy said, "We could just keep India and these places going with what we are producing in the United States." But is that going to be so thirty or so years hence, which is the time we were asked to look at, when the population will have increased four times? Does anybody seriously suggest that America and Canada are going to increase their food supply on that scale? No, my Lords. The obvious fact is that in this quite short period which, as I think the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, said, our grandchildren are going to see, there is going to be widespread starvation throughout the world; and if something very drastic is not done—and soon—hundreds of thousands of people will die. So it seems to me quite clear that this is a matter of enormous urgency.

The second point that I would underline is that this is an international prob- lem. That, I think, has come out again in almost all the speeches. In the words chosen as the title for an interesting book by a well-known American author, Mr. Springfellow Barr, written in the early stages of this discussion soon after the war, "We are all citizens of the world", and we have to realise that fact in discussing this very urgent problem. No doubt the problem will be solved, if it is solved at all, in different ways in different areas of the world. But, quite obviously, we shall fail in the long-term solution if we forget our common humanity, and the fact that we are all in this business and have to solve it together. I agree very much that the differing situations in the differing areas call for different sorts of treatment, and I find myself in complete sympathy with those who have said that a great deal more research is required, a great deal more intensive research, devoted to the situation in the different areas.

In this connection, I very much welcome the initiative of the Family Planning Association in starting their international campaign, in which the noble Lord who introduced the Motion is playing such a prominent part. I felt that my noble friend Lord Longford rather sneered at the work of the Family Planning Association. I am not very closely connected with it; I am connected with it to the extent of welcoming its work, and I feel that the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Brain, in particular, has built it up over these last years has been a magnificent achievement.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord—


I am sorry that the noble Earl was not here—


No, but I caught the word "sneer". I paid tribute to the dedicated work of these people. If that is sneering, then wait till the noble Lord really wants me to sneer at something. Then I can tell him.


I am very glad to know that the noble Earl did not sneer at it, but it seemed to me that he was going very near it when he was talking about the unmarried. After all, the noble Earl must agree that all the efforts of his Church, and of everybody else's Church, over all these years have had very little effect on fornication. There is a natural proclivity for human people to get together, whether or not they are in wedlock. Is it not just as well that they should not produce illegitimate children? That is what my noble friend is really asking for. They are going to produce these children.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he personally is in favour of giving—




No, I will not say that. That again would be sneering: I must keep well on the other side of that. But is the noble Lord in favour of giving birth control advice and assistance to girls who are unmarried and have no intention of marrying? Let him "come clean".


Yes, I certainly am. It is common sense, surely, that you should not have all these illegitimate children produced in this way, as they are bound to be. This is going to continue, quite obviously. The noble Earl knows that just as well as anybody else knows it. The result is going to be illegitimate children, if they do not understand how to prevent it. I should have thought that that was just common sense.


This is the last time I shall interrupt, but will the noble Lord say why the Family Planning Association, to which he has paid these magnificent tributes, did not accept his view and do it themselves?


If they had been there and heard me, perhaps they would have done—but I am not speaking for them; I am expressing my own view about this matter.

However, I should like to complete this little bit of my speech. I nearly always find myself crossing swords with the noble Earl when we are engaged in discussions of this sort, but I should like to continue the tribute which I was paying to the noble Lord, Lord Brain, and the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, for the magnificent work they have been doing in the Family Planning Association over these years. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Brain, is not here now, because I should have liked also to congratulate him on being elected President of the British Association, which is a mark of distinction which has not, I think, been achieved by many Members of your Lordships' House. We have among us, fortunately, scientists and medical men of the highest eminence and distinction, but few of them, if any, I think, have previously had the distinction of being the President of the British Association, one of our outstanding scientific organisations.

If there is anybody in the House who was present at the recent annual meeting of the Family Planning Association he must have been very much encouraged by the report which was given on the success so far achieved in a number of parts of the world with this international campaign. The noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, slightly sneered (if I may use that word again), saying, "A little bit here in Chile, a little bit here in some other place—what does that amount to?". But this effort has been going for only a very short time—


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord what contribution he has ever made to family planning in this country?


I have supported it for a long time—


In what way? Has it been a contribution every year?


In speeches all over the place, and I have been a Vice-President of the Family Planning Association itself for quite a long time. I am not going to be put down by the noble Lady. The noble Lady comes up and says that the whole of the medical profession condemns the ring pessary. It has not done so by any means. There are many doctors I know who do not condemn it. In fact, it is one of the few ways of providing for the feckless type of individual who cannot use the more ephemeral methods of birth control. This new method, which she was not prepared to accept, seems to me (although I am not myself pretending to be a medical man), and seems to many of my medical friends, to have great possibilities for success.

The third way in which I feel this debate has made a considerable contribution to the discussion on this subject is that it has brought out (and I think this appeared particularly well in the excellent speech of the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of London) that this is essentially an educational problem. And in my view it will be solved, in the end, only by educational means. There are no positive sanctions that can be used to enforce birth control—and, even if there were, it would probably be wrong to use them—although I think we shall have to develop a much more positive and dynamic approach to this problem than has so far been evident in the speech from the Government and in the speeches of a number of other noble Lords who have addressed the House this afternoon. Undoubtedly, education in regard to this matter is of the greatest importance, but it is of the greatest difficulty when one considers the low standard of literacy and education generally in so many of those parts of the world where this education is particularly necessary.

I found myself very much in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Casey, when he said that we ought to do a great deal more to support the struggling Governments of India and Pakistan in their efforts to make their policy of family planning in those countries, which are the black spots of this problem, more successful, instead of giving them the rather lukewarm support which they have received during these last years. I suppose that the most persuasive type of education is the fact that, in countries where birth control is being practised, where the family is planned in this way, it is quite obvious to everybody that the health and welfare of a family is enormously increased. That is undoubtedly the reason why, in a country where Roman Catholics and others live together, such a large section of the Roman Catholic population are, in fact, practising birth control at this present time. The more the value of such planning can be brought home to the people in these other parts of the world, the more progress birth control will make.

Unfortunately, of course, the very powerful persuasion of some of the great religious bodies has been thrown into the scales on the other side. One can quite understand how this has come about: it is of historical origin. The hostility of the Roman Church is shared by other Churches, like the great Hindu religion, because in early days the Church had to devote its energy to protecting the very existence of the population, of the tribe, of the nation, against its external foes. It was essential, when war and plague were so prevalent, that a strong population should be built up; and in this way a dogmatic pattern has been formed which, quite naturally, subsists in these Churches. As the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of London pointed out, this situation has now ceased to exist, but it is very difficult to destroy a pattern which has once become established. Nevertheless there are signs that this is happening.

I think that any objective person would be bound to admit that there has been very considerable movement in the Roman Catholic Church over these last years, even if one does not go so far as has been suggested quite recently in the newspapers. At any rate, there can be no doubt that from positive action it has turned to a rather negative one in recent years. I do not wish to push this point any further, but if these great religions of the world could be brought in behind this movement for family planning, as I hope to goodness they will—and, if they are not, it is going to be a sad look-out for the world—then undoubtedly it will be possible to make very much quicker and more effective progress in spreading the policy of family planning throughout the world. Not only should we find ourselves able to keep these great masses of people at a decent subsistence level, but we could then begin to build up for them a really wholesome and decent life. And that, in my view, is, at the end of the day, the most important argument of all in favour of family planning: that it enables one to improve the standard of living; to carry it beyond mere subsistence, mere clothing, mere housing, and to make life a fine and beautiful thing; to make life more than just possible—to make it, as I think Aristotle said, good. It is for that reason that, at the end of the day, I think one must support this Motion. To return to the first point I made, the point of urgency, I remember that quite 40 years ago H. G. Wells, who was one of the most acute social observers that this or any other country has ever had, took birth control rather as the acid test. He said, "Modern civilisation will founder or will go forward, according to how this problem is answered". Everything that has happened from that day to this seems to me to have borne out that very profound diagnosis by that great writer and sociologist. The debate we have had this afternoon seems equally to have borne it out, and we have come now to the crucial stage when H. G. Wells is to be tested.

8.0 p.m.


My Lords, if one penetrates to the very end of the trade routes, as far away from civilisation as it is possible to get, the last two evidences of civilisation which are on sale, I am told, are boxes of matches and packets of Reckitt's Blue. You may well wonder why packets of Reckitt's Blue arc on sale at the very end. The answer is that they are believed to be and are used as abortifacients. It is thought that if you dissolve half a tablet of Reckitt's Blue in half a pint of water and drink it, it will act as an abortifacient. This is believed by many of the so-called primitive people who desire to achieve what we would call birth control. I mention this because we have had so much in this debate suggesting that primitive people are ignorant and incapable of thinking things out and working things out for themselves. In this case, they happen to be wrong. Reckitt's Blue is completely useless as an abortifacient and has no effect at all. But primitive people do think things out and behave in a very much more reasonable way than has been sometimes suggested.

I think the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, ought to be very pleased indeed with the result of his Motion. I think we have had a good debate. We have had first-class speeches from my noble friend Lady Summerskill and my noble friend Lady Gaitskell. With both of them I find myself in complete agreement, and, if I may say so, particularly with some of Lady Summerskill's remarks on the subject of contraceptive methods. I notice that my noble friend Lord Chorley appears to favour the plastic spring or coil which is the latest form of in-dwelling birth control appliance, which has certain advocates.


My Lords, may I interrupt? The noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, was saying that medical opinion was united on this, as I understood it. I am saying that it is not. I know doctors who take another view.


My Lords, if I might "barge in" on this, surely the noble Lord knows that doctors are never united on anything.


We each speak for ourselves.


On this occasion, my Lords, we are united.


Only you two.


My Lords, we happy two are united on the subject of the uselessness of this particular form of birth control and the undesirability of using it. Anything which acts as an in-dwelling abortifacient is much to he deplored.

We have had the very interesting speech of the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of London, and the equally interesting speech of my noble friend Lord Longford. and it begins to appear as though what Lambeth thinks to-day, Rome will be thinking to-morrow; and this is a most encouraging situation. And, so far as I can see, it has all been brought about by the pill. I remember that in the life of Gilbert and Sullivan there was one subject that Gilbert always wanted to write about, a lozenge which changed your personality, and Sullivan always headed him off and tried to push him on to subjects like the House of Lords and the Tower of London. I am no great friend of Dr. Pinkus's pill; and I agree with my noble friend Lady Summerskill that it is unproven as a safe contraceptive, and for primitive people it is not a very desirable thing. Nor is it good for malnourished people, because it depends for its efficaciousness on being given at certain times in relation to the menstrual rhythm. Primitive people are frequently suffering from malnutrition and consequently their menstrual rhythm is irregular. Therefore, as a method, it is not in my opinion greatly to be advocated. But it appears to have had one interesting side-effect—namely, it has put my noble friend Lord Longford in a very difficult dialectical spot because it works both as a contraceptive and also as a therapeutic agent, and this has perhaps achieved more than all our arguments.

Nevertheless, it has been most delightful to discover how much nearer agreement we are now than we were two or three years ago when we debated this subject. I think there is a great growth of agreement, and I think again that the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, can congratulate himself on having reached that satisfactory situation. But I think the best thing he has achieved has been the statement from the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, about the Government attitude. I, like my noble friend Lord Listowel, attribute great importance to what the noble Earl said in his statement of policy on behalf of Her Majesty's Government. He said that we have advocated in the United Nations the taking up of an attitude in favour of United Nations Organisation giving the technical information to member States which desire it; and, having failed to achieve that, he has said we are prepared to do this by bilateral technical aid ourselves; and I do not think any one could ask more than that.

My Lords, a great deal has been said about research and the desirability for research; and it has even been suggested that there has been some withdrawal of research knowledge from the people of India and Pakistan. I do not think this is true. Nobody is withholding any information at all. It is true that research in this particular sphere is not being pressed forward on a very wide front, but a good deal is being done, and everything that is being done is certainly immediately available to the technical people in India, Pakistan, Ceylon and elsewhere. It has been said that this is a great world problem. It is certainly a great Commonwealth problem, and I have often felt how nice it would be if, in due course, we were to have one or two representatives of every Commonwealth country sitting in your Lord- ships' House and perhaps coming for one fortnight a year for a group of Commonwealth debates. I would hope that they might comprise not only men but women, for this problem seems to me to be something that the women of the world have more right to speak about than the men.


Both have an equal right.


My noble friend says that both have an equal right; but I am prepared to say that women have the greater right because they have to do all the hard work and run the danger.


And the nursing.


And the labour pains.


Yes, my Lords, the lot. I think that for men to offer moral pronouncements on the subject of birth control is a bit presumptuous unless they have consulted fully first with the women. It is an odd fact that almost all the great pioneers of human thought, not all but most of the great prophets, have got only a half-truth. It is certainly true of Marx and certainly true of Dr. Freud and also of the Rev. Dr. Robert Malthus, F.R.S., who thought population tended to outpace food production so that death by poverty, starvation, disease or war was necessary to restore the balance. That was a half-truth only. It was based on incomplete knowledge. He could not see the full picture, because he was looking at the Western world of the 1830's and did not know what was going to happen. What happened was very different from what he expected. He was witnessing what was called the second phase of population in Britain, which was the phase of rapid growth. We now know that if we can develop prosperity in any society, the population increase slows down and in due course the birth and death rates come to something near a balance which we should call reasonable.


It has not happened in the United States.


I would consider the United States to be in a state of near-balance as compared with India, Ceylon, Pakistan and the rest. The rate of increase in the United States is a very small one, as it is in these Islands. I should certainly not regard it as a gross state of imbalance. If all the world could achieve what is being achieved in the United States and Britain, we should have no real problem.


My Lords, the noble Lord is not meeting my point. The increase of population has gone up in the United States during the last 20 or 30 years as the country has become richer, which is contrary to the argument the noble Lord is putting forward.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will wait, he will see what I am trying to argue and that what I am saying, is valid. The first phase of population in Britain lasted until about 1730. Up to that time, we had a birth rate of 40 per 1,000 and a death rate of 35 to 40 per 1,000 per annum. We were in a state of near balance. But it was a pretty miserable situation. Forty births and 40 deaths per 1,000 meant an infant mortality of something like eight or nine deaths out of every ten children born. Phase two started about 1730 and went on until 1880. It coincided with industrialisation and, even more important, with the beginnings not of medical improvement, but of sanitary improvement, of sewerage and water supply. The birth rate stayed at 40 but the death rate came down to about 25. The result was a rapid increase in population. That is the phase in which these countries are at present but they have a much bigger basic population to deal with. This is the phase which shook Malthus so much and shakes us so much in looking at these countries.

The third phase was when the birth rate started to come down from 40 to 25 or so and the death rate went on falling. That happened in Britain between 1880 and 1930. Since then, both have evened out. We are now at a 15 to 18 birth rate and a death rate of about 12. So we are not quite in balance, but something pretty near, and as good as we can do from the point of view of civilisation. Exactly the same picture has occurred in France and Germany and in Western Europe as a whole. So far as we can see, there is no difference between Catholic countries and Protestant countries in this respect. It has taken us 200 years to go through this cycle. The Slavic countries are getting into the beginning of phase three. Though their net population is still increasing, the net increase is coming down.

The problem is: can we help to speed up this cycle in the developing countries, in order to get through phases one, two and three more quickly than we were able to do? The Answer is that we know now how to do this, but it is difficult, as has emerged from this debate. It has been done in one country with dramatic speed, as my noble friend Lady Gaitskell has said, and that is Japan. I will come to this extraordinary story in a moment.

There is a whole host of factors involved in getting the birth rate down. It is not just a matter of providing family planning machinery and clinics. The most important factor is delay in the age of women having their first child. If a delay can be achieved in the age at which a woman has her first child, most of the problem is solved, simply because the fertility of women goes down so rapidly after the age of about 25. And this is done without any change in behaviour on the part of the man. He can go on behaving exactly as he did, but the woman's power of producing is that much less. So, with a late age of marriage and with no mechanical or medical contraceptives, countries have achieved a low birth rate. The problem of India—and the Indians know this full well—is the child marriage of girls, the universality of marriage and the non-marriage of widows. As a result of the non-marriage of widows, widowers tend to marry young girls, who are extremely fertile and go on having children; but widows, who are relatively infertile, do not marry again, so that the whole pattern of fertility is increased.

I have no doubt that our recent spurt in the birth rate was largely due to an increase of early marriages in this country. I wondered a lot why this increase in early marriages occurred, and so far as I can gather from the young people it was largely a reaction to their feelings about atomic war. They thought that their changes of survival were comparatively remote, that the world was going to go up, and they thought they would like to have something of a married life before that happened. I believe that this is why so many young people got married so much earlier ten years ago, and I should not be a bit surprised, now that the climate of opinion about atomic war is changing, if we do not see people being a little more sensible, as I should think, and not getting married until they are 24 or 25. I think that this would be all to the good.

As I said, my noble friend Lady Gaitskell spoke on Japan. This is an extraordinary story demographically. Japan is a little country the same size as the State of Mantana—that is to say, about 143,000 square miles, as compared with our 94,000. Incidentally, we are the same as Minnesota. We have 59 million people in our country and Japan has 93 million. The speed of increase of the Japanese population in the immediate post-war period was such that if it had happened to us in this country we might well have had to decide that very drastic measures would have to be taken. Their density of population is higher than ours: 642 people per square mile, as against 552 people per square mile in Britain. They were in balance as regards their population up to the year 1868—that is, as long as they did not have their industrial revolution.

As my noble friend Lady Summerskill said, they achieved this by a combination of abortion and infanticide. This was the classical method of classical Japan of keeping down their birth rate up to the time they started their industrial revolution in about 1870. Then they went ahead, in typical Western style, increasing their population, so that from 32 million they were up to 55 million by 1920. And they had the sort of trouble which India is now going through, but in a much smaller area, including the rice riots of 1918. But somehow they got through it all.

Then phase three, the slowing-down phase of increase, started towards the end of the Second World War. The birth rate started to fall, and the rate of increase declined. But by this time there were 72 million people in Japan. Then, between 1945 and 1950, they had another enormous spurt in birth rate. It was due to the return of the soldiers from the war. They had a baby boom just like ours. Their birth rate was 34 per 1,000, and their infant mortality rate was going down. In this period of five years their population went up by 12 million, to 84 million. By this time they were getting quite scared, and in 1948 the Japanese Diet passed their eugenic protection law to permit induced abortion and sterilisation, and also to make possible the use of the official machinery for propaganda about birth control.

The effect of this (I am only describing what happened; I am not condoning it) was that in the first year there were 200,000 official abortions. In 1955 there were 1,200,000 official abortions—a tremendous figure. I understand that it went down last year to about 900,000; but that is still an enormous figure. At the same time, the use of contraception has greatly increased in Japan. The extraordinary thing is that the Japanese now have their birth rate down to practically the same level as ours—namely, 17.55, which is only half what it was in 1947. In spite of that, their population in the next ten years will go up by 6 million—of that we can be fairly sure—compared with the 12 million growth that I described in the five years of their peak period. But they have by these brutally tough methods defeated the population explosion, and they have done it in fifteen years.

I do not think it is for us to criticise the Japanese about their abortion law. They have had their history of abortion as a common practice up to 1860 or 1870, and they have not a great deal of guilt feeling about it. In many ways it is arguable, as a purely scientific policy, that abortion is less objectionable than sterilisation; because although people claim that sterilisation can be reversed, in my experience it cannot be: it is just nonsense. Once the tubes have been tied in either sex, the chances of undoing this are virtually zero. But with abortion it is possible for a woman to have more children. That does not excuse it, of course—it merely explains the situation a little more clearly.

I want to mention one more point which I think is of great importance. The fall in 1880 of the British birth rate, and the fall in the French birth rate, which started in the early 1800's, occurred long before mechanical or chemical contraception became widespread. It was not due to sexual abstinence, but to the widespread use of the process known as coitus interruptus, which my noble friend Lord Longford said his Church condemned, and has always condemned. Over a large part of Europe this has been the commonest method of birth control. For most of the population it is simply withdrawal. It is still used, so far as I know, by about 25 per cent. of couples in this country. The only country that has got rid of it (if that is the right way to look at it) is the United States, where it is thought to be used by about 2 per cent. of the people. I was brought up to believe that this was a very bad thing to do from the point of view of the psychological position of the marital partners. My French friends say that I am wrong. It is widely practised in France, and they say that if it is properly practised, no harm occurs from the mental point of view to either of the marital partners. I can only say that it is done, without any apparatus at all, by people of remarkable degrees of primitiveness in other respects.

For most people the world over the size of family is, I am convinced, a rational family judgment based on consideration of the social and economic position. Here I agree entirely with what my noble friend Lady Summerskill said: that what really matters is the social question, whether it pays to have children. If there is a high death rate and there is no social security in old age, so that sons are essential to keep one when one is old, it is common sense to go on having children until you have enough sons. And people do this the world over. But given the chance of bringing up a relatively small family in good health, and given some economic security for old age, the people themselves will choose to have small families.

I can give your Lordships figures for the optimum family size. The sort of family wanted among the upper educational groups of the Indian people who have been asked is, broadly speaking, a small family of two or three children; and so it goes down. I could give exactly the same sort of figures for Japan. This is the sort of family that they want to bring up. I can give the same figures for Britain in April, 1964. Here is the choice of the British people: 46 per cent. say that the ideal family size is two children; 27 per cent. say three children; and 16 per cent. say four children. There are clearly some—but they are not statis- tically significant—who want large families; but the average choice of family size in Britain is 2.6 children.

I have already said—but I should like to repeat it—that in my view it is presumptuous for men to pontificate about family planning. This is a matter for women to decide. In the developing countries of Asia the women are not necessarily downtrodden by the men. They often look after the family money, but on intimate matters they will not go against their men. So the men have to be convinced.

As regards the attitudes of the great religions of the world towards birth control, at the end of the nineteenth century there was nothing to choose between the Anglican Church and the Church of Rome. The interesting thing we have heard is how the Church of England has changed, and we see how the Church of Rome may be going to change—I will not put it higher than that. Islam is changing. There was a Congress at the Islamic University in Egypt to discuss this question, and they decided that birth control was justified as a method of dealing with poverty, mental health, or for other humanitarian reasons. As a result, our Indian and Pakistan friends can with good heart go forward with family planning programmes. I believe that in Pakistan the women have been the fighters to get family planning established. Among the countries of the Far East who are not interested in this subject, or are actively opposed, are the Philippine Islands, which of course are predominantly Catholic; Burma, which is itself underpopulated: and Indonesia (where there is a mixture of Islam and Roman Catholic) which is, officially, uninterested.

It is worth remembering that the success of birth control and of family limitation all over the Western World has been achieved almost entirely without Government support. It has been done by the people of the Western World themselves: by their making the choice, whether they used rubber, mechanical devices, coitus interruptus, or whatever it was. They have, in fact, done this, and I have no doubt that a sufficiency of people in these developing Eastern countries will be benefited by family limitation in the fullest sense of the word, and will be able to bring up better families if they are small. And they will do it.

I must say that I regard the Motion itself as unexceptionable but limited. One feels that there is more important aid and other kinds of aid that we can give. It is true that the Eastern countries are receiving a great deal of aid from the West on this subject, but it is mainly from the Ford Foundation, as one noble Lord mentioned, from the Population Council, and other great American Foundations. I am equally certain that noble Lords are right when they say that exhortation from the West is regarded as highly invidious, patronising and offensive, and can easily be misconstrued. Their real problem is their shortage of trained people for help in developing and evaluating family planning programmes. Already, the World Health Organisation can help in evaluation, which is no more than a proper population study. The United Nations should be able to help in teaching their teachers to teach family planning if the people want it. I hold, with the Anglican Church, that this is really a matter for each individual family to decide. But I do not see why anybody should be denied this information. Already two demographic research centres, one in Bombay and another in Santiago, in Chile, have been set up by the United Nations, and, clearly, the more there can be in the way of the regional meeting to which the noble Lord, Lord Brand, referred, the better and more helpfully these things will be able to develop.

In conclusion, I roust say this. If we are to achieve the necessary agricultural and industrial development of the developing countries; if we are to achieve a proper level of education for them, so that the ghastly position to which my noble friend Baroness Gaitskell referred, of half the children in the world not knowing what the inside of a school was like no longer obtains; if we can make sure that children get their schooling and go on at school, and, above all, if the girls get schooling and stay on at school, there will be no population problem. I believe that it is on achieving these things that we must put our greatest emphasis and to which we must devote our greatest energy.

8.34 p.m.


My Lords, as the noble Lord sits down, may I say that although it has not been possible for me to he present at this debate to-day, except in these last few moments, nevertheless my noble friend the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of London has kept me informed of what has been happening, and I have learned the general drift of the debate. For what it is worth, I should like to say that, speaking from this Bench, I endorse and support everything that has just been said by my noble friend Lord Taylor. As I look across the House, my one regret is that my other noble friend, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, is not present to hear such an important speech. I should have thought he would regard it as his duty to be present. Having said that, I endorse all that has been said. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, will read, mark and inwardly digest what has been said in the debate.

8.36 p.m.


My Lords, I agree with the right reverend Prelate who has just come in in endorsing practically everything that has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor. I am particularly glad to have heard his speech because it was so sensible and scientific and has put this matter in the right perspective and proportion. He was so right when he pointed out that family planning in Western countries has not been achieved as a result of effort on the part of Governments but by the people who have made the decision for themselves. As for his remarks about India, of course we must all be conscious of the fact that India is spending millions of pounds in an attempt to get about 5 per cent.—which is all they can touch of the population—to learn about these matters, whereas far better results could be achieved if it were possible simply by persuading people to marry a little later.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for making these observations, and many others which he made. The only slight criticism I feel of what he said was that I can imagine other possible reasons for early marriages besides the fear of having a hydrogen bomb dropped on us. I think there are other reasons for it. It is a point which I am making merely in a conversational way, because the noble Lord's speech was so interesting. It is perfectly true, of course, that if they marry later they have not such frequent fertility, but at the same time—though I cannot justify this—I think we may find, when we look into it, that women who marry at 25 now tend to have larger families than people of the same age who married in the 'twenties and 'thirties. I do not think it is entirely due to early marriages that our birth rate is going up.

I am not going to say anything more. I am glad that I spoke earlier, partly because I think we owed it to your Lordships to state early in the debate what the Government's ideas were on this subject, so that the debate might not proceed in ignorance of what we were proposing to do. Also, I cannot help hoping that by doing so I may have perhaps shortened the debate a little, because our estimate of the time at which it would end was about an hour or one and a half hours later than now. I have noticed during the debate perhaps a slight undertone in most of the speeches—all of which have been excellent—of what I would call insular Imperialism. We cannot get rid of the idea that when there is a world problem, we are the people who should say how it should be solved, and everybody else in the world should do as we tell them. I have no doubt that there is something admirable in this attitude. The noble Viscount behind me said that we ought to be leaders, and I certainly think we ought to have the ambition of being leaders in what we think is right; but, in the 1960s the people of this world do not want to be bossed or led by Britain or by America or by anybody else. They are glad to have our friendship and to have any aid we can give them, but they have their own ideas and do not want us to run their affairs or to formulate their policies.


My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Earl, I should like to make it quite clear that I did not suggest that we should lead them or cajole them in any way. I was merely suggesting that we should provide a lead in giving any information for which they might ask.


Yes, but do not let us over-estimate the results of what we are capable of doing. Some of your Lordships have suggested, for some reason or other, that I was trying to play down the results of our willingness to give aid in connection with family planning. I do not want to play down at all. I think we should like to give what help we can, but the fact is that we can give actually very little and we have not had one single request for this aid since we let it be known that we were willing to give aid if we were asked for it. We have let a number of the Commonwealth countries know—India, Pakistan, Malaysia and Ceylon—that we are willing, but so far they are not interested. We can quite understand that because, after all, there is little we can give them.

Here perhaps I might take the opportunity of answering a particular question that was put to me by the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, and the noble Earl, Lord Longford, about sterilisation. They wanted to know whether we were going to pay for experts who would go out and teach sterilisation to the Indians. I will try to answer the question, although I have not been able to get any official verification. If I make a mistake perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, can correct me because he knows much more about medical law than I do. I think I am right in saying that in this country there is no law against sterilisation as there is against abortion; that is to say, you cannot be prosecuted for sterilising someone.


My Lords, as a matter of fact, there is an ancient law, the law of mayhem, which stops us from sterilising people unless there is a medical reason for sterilising. So, if a patient goes to a doctor in Britain and asks to be sterilised, the doctor normally refuses to do so, and the patient quite often goes off to another country and is sterilised. Of course, if there is medical need for sterilisation, then it is done.


I am most grateful to the noble Lord. I know that doctors would not sterilise unless there was a good health reason, and they would not do so simply in order to enable the sterilised person to avoid having children. I do not know whether there have been any prosecutions under this law of mayhem. I thought the real point was that in this country it was part of medical ethics that sterilisation should not be Performed unless there was some good medical reason, but I may be wrong about that.


My Lords, I was of the opinion that if a woman pressed a doctor to sterilise her for social reasons, and he did so, the law is such that her husband could bring an action for assault against the doctor.


I suppose that is not so in other countries. I do not know whether it is so in India. I should have imagined that if a doctor went to India he would take the same view about sterilisation as he took here; but it is so unlikely that the question would arise at all, because sterilisation is such a simple operation and the Indians know perfectly well how to do it. It is hardly conceivable that they would ask for an expert to be sent out all the way from Britain, at considerable expense to the British Government or to them, in order to teach them something which they already know perfectly well how to do. So I do not think the question is really a very real one.

In my own remarks I made some attempt to point out that we ought not to assume that oar own ideas which nearly everybody in this country entertains and takes for granted are shared by the rest of the world, and that of course includes the Catholic world. I think your Lordships appreciate the position of the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, who have spoken so well to-day from the point of view of the Church of Rome. I was in my remarks trying to do justice in advance to their position.

The noble Lord. Lord Chorley, got things completely the wrong way round. My point was that the Roman Church was against duelling and was also against birth control. When the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, says we had to take a stand against duelling.— which we did, and stopped it—of course, the answer is, Yes, and maybe in another two generations we may take a stand against birth control, in both cases coming back to the teaching of the Church of Rome. That is the point I was trying to make.


My Lords, may I venture to say that it was about the best point made during the whole day.


I am very much obliged to the noble Earl. Does he mean my point, or that of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley?


That of the noble Earl, Lord Dundee.


What we cannot do is to impose our own moral and social ideas, at least not all at once, upon the rest of the world, and we have to act with tolerance and circumspection in these matters.

The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, who apologised for not being able to remain here, particularly asked me to reply to one point. He wanted to know whether we were going to press the World Health Organisation to take a more active line in this connection. It may be a good thing that the World Health Organisation should be persuaded to do this, but it is a terribly sensitive subject for the World Health Organisation, and I do not know that we should achieve any good by pressing them to try and to adopt an active attitude, which might result in a great many of the Catholic and other members resigning and breaking up the organisation.

That is all that I think your Lordships would like me to say now, and I will conclude by telling my noble friend Lord McCorquodale of Newton that I agree with him that it is the United Nations which is the best medium for action in this matter. We can, perhaps with the help of our friends like the Americans, do far more through the medium of the United Nations than by any kind of bilateral action. It may be that the United Nations is also the best medium through which the right kind of research is carried out. We have certainly taken note of what the noble Lord, Lord Casey, said about this subject.

I think our line probably should be to try to get research carried out to fulfil the purposes which are asked for by the underdeveloped countries. That should happen in the United Nations. It is through the United Nations that the kind of progress which is the only useful kind will be made; progress which is the widest possible consensus of opinion among all different types of countries of the world including we hope the Communists, Africans and the Catholic countries whose position at the moment it is possible may be modified, although I am not making any prediction about that.

8.49 p.m.


My Lords, it only remains for me to thank your Lordships, which I do with the utmost sincerity, for having taken such a distinguished part in what I consider to have been a fine and interesting debate. We had from the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of London, and the noble Earl, Lord Longford, two profound and obviously tremendously thought-out exposès of the positions which the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church at present adopt. I thank them both for having taken so much care to prepare statements which are of the utmost interest and importance, and I am very grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, for his speech.

From my own point of view, I am highly gratified with the debate, for, with the exception of two noble Lords of Roman Catholic persuasion—and the slightly lukewarm attitude, as I think Lord Chorley described it, of the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, which I believe was on our side but not so vigorously as some expressed it—I think we have had a unanimous acceptance of this Motion in the terms in which it has been put before the House. I am particularly grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, for announcing what I think is a very important step forward on the part of Her Majesty's Government. He announced it in terms which are probably less urgent than the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, would have wished, but, speaking as he did for the Government, I can quite understand that.

I would say that I am delighted that Her Majesty's representatives are going to press for this matter in the United Nations. It was very nearly carried last time. I am informed that the Economic and Social Committee accepted the principles we have endeavoured to put here. It was not carried only because some clever people realised that if it was to be passed as a matter of urgency in the Assembly it would need to have a two-thirds majority and not a simple majority. I am informed—I have not been able to check whether it is right—that on that vote, which was actually the crucial one, on whether it was an urgent or an ordinary motion, Her Majesty's Government failed to vote. I do not know whether that is true and I have not been able to check it, but that was what I was informed.


The crucial vote was 34 to 34, with 29 abstentions. The United Kingdom delegation voted for it.


That was the crucial vote when the Assembly came to this point. But the actual fact was that it got put down as of such importance that it had to have a two-thirds majority and we had no hope of getting it. But I think we—that is to say, the people who are interested in this matter—will need only a simple majority in the Assembly next time; two-thirds is very difficult to get. I am very pleased with the noble Lord's assurance that, so far as Britain is concerned, we will once again endeavour to get what I regard as essential things through the United Nations.

I would thank all those who have taken part in the debate, but at this late hour you will not wish me to elaborate and praise you all. I was delighted, and all my friends would have been, with the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, with the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Casey, and with many others whom I should like to mention. I think we have had a worthwhile debate. I believe it has been a very valuable debate. I only hope the country outside will take some notice of it. If I may make one small point, it is this. It was mentioned that India was spending a vast amount of money on family planning. India is not spending a vast amount of money; it is spending as much as it can afford, but it is not a vast amount in view of the problem facing India. But that is only a minor point. I thank everybody for having taken part in this debate. I hope that the United Nations may take some notice of it, and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.