HL Deb 14 January 1976 vol 367 cc134-270

2.53 p.m.

Baroness ELLES rose to call attention to problems involved in the sex education of children in schools and elsewhere; and to move for Papers. The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this Motion was originally inscribed in the name of my noble friend Lord Hunt of Fawley, but regrettably he was unable to undertake the introduction of this debate on account of over-riding responsibilities recently connected with the National Health Service. As I understand it, he is the only practising doctor in this House; your Lorsdhips will, therefore, appreciate the importance of his contribution to recent difficulties arising within the Service, and I know that we regret very much that he is not able to undertake this introduction. A large number of noble Lords have been good enough to put their names down to speak in this debate. I should like to take this opportunity of thanking them for doing so, and we all look forward to the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich.

The subject to which I draw the attention of your Lordships—the problems of sex education for children in schools and elsewhere—is of fundamental importance to families with young children in schools as well as for future generations. It raises many issues, be they legal, political, moral, social, financial, of course educational, psychological and physical health as well as explicitly medical considerations. The matter rightly is of deep concern to head teachers and their staffs, to parents and indeed to young people themselves, and with so much public discussion which has been taking place on sex, on sexual morals, on sexual education, and medicines connected therewith and other inter-related subjects, it is indeed time that this House should be able to discuss these topical issues, as they are so intimately connected with the wellbeing, both physical and mental, of all the children in this country, apart from, as well as in connection with, the established norms or standards of conduct which we still possess in the United Kingdom.

To some the subject will arouse deep emotions. Others may be cynical. But whatever our personal feelings, regardless of political Party or moral approach, whether based on religious belief or absence of any religious belief, all Members of this House will, I am sure, share deep interest in the health and happiness of our children. And by "children"I mean any boy or girl under the age of 16. Although I may mention the term "young" or "young person" during the course of my speech, in general terms my remarks will concern and be confined only to children under 16 because, certainly in my personal view, the problems of those over 16, who are more formed and who have different approaches and different considerations to make, are a completely different issue, so I hope that noble Lords will appreciate that I am confining my remarks to those under 16.

Although speaking from these Benches, I do not necessarily represent the opinions of my Party, although I hope that some of my noble friends will follow my views. I should, I suppose, declare an interest in that, as a very ordinary member of the Church of England, I accept that my religious beliefs will influence my views in precisely the same way as the views of every one of your Lordships, whether Roman Catholic or of any other religious denomination, or as a member of the British Humanist Association or National Secular Society or whatever it might be, will be coloured by their beliefs.

In drawing attention to the situation in regard to sex education in schools, it must be said from the outset that it varies greatly both as between local education authorities and within local education authorities. It is well to recall that there is no statutory obligation on head teachers to provide sex education as such in the school, nor, if it is taught, for it to be confined to any particular course. The Education Act 1944 lays down the obligation on local education authorities to contribute towards the spiritual, moral, mental and physical development of the community by securing that efficient education throughout those stages—and that refers to the three stages within the school system—shall be available to meet the needs of the population of their area. It also specifically places a responsibility for the school curriculum on local education authorities, on school governors and managers. In fact and in practice, considerable freedom is given to school heads and their staffs.

Unlike the teaching of other subjects, such as history, geography or indeed mathematics, which are concerned primarily with the imparting of information and the extension of knowledge with the effect of developing the mind of the child, sex education can and does influence not only the mental understanding of a child but also has, or may have, an immediate and future impact on patterns of behaviour, social attitudes, emotional, psychological and physical experience. It affects a very personal area of a child's life, and the results of such education can be far-reaching and lasting.

It can profoundly affect his or her physical and mental health as well as personal relationships both now and in adult life. While the purpose of education has been, and still is, to provide children with every possibility of developing their full ability and potential to take their place in the society in which they live, many people consider that sex education as such is best left to parents.

I believe no one would disagree that parents who answer, honestly and truthfully, the questions put to them by their children and who satisfy a natural curiosity are the best educators. However, we all know that not all parents feel able or are sufficiently educated to do so. Such people leave the onus on schools to undertake this task. Even where parents do undertake this task, some schools nevertheless undertake the teaching of this subject. It may appear that the people who should really be educated and should receive instruction are the parents, who should then impart the factual and informative teaching to their children within their own moral code of behaviour. Indeed, I have always felt that parents and married couples should go to family planning clinics or similar institutions which, in very many cases, would save unhappy marriages. In this context, family planning clinics and similar institutions undoubtedly play a very important and useful role in society.

What is sex education about? It does not deal only with sexual matters, as the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, rightly pointed out in the debate two years ago. It also deals with moral education. It can have the effect of bringing up children to live according to the rules accepted by society as being reasonable and in the best interests of all within society, or it can be directed to changing the climate and mores of society. Therefore, the importance attached to this subject is considerable, equally in the manner in which it is taught, in who teaches it, in the aims and objectives of those who teach it, in where it is taught, in the effects of such teaching and in how far these effects can be measured, either scientifically or otherwise. The view was expressed in a report in 1972 by the then president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists that no effects of sex education are known so far. It would certainly be true to say that they cannot be the same for every individual, owing to the difference in the emotional and physical development of a child at any stage, according to when it might receive the particular form of sex education.

The head teacher must be aware of the various approaches to this subject and has the very difficult task and responsibility of choosing and checking the kind of teaching which is best suited to the type of school, the area in which is is situated, the age grouping of pupils and so on. In fulfilling the responsibility to ensure that accurate and clear information on biological development is given, he has to take into account the deep feelings of some of the ethnic and religious minorities represented in his school and to respect the different traditions and cultures which may rightly expect to be respected by educational authorities. Apart from Christians, I am here thinking, in particular, of the many Muslim groups which rightly object to their daughters being taught by men and wish for segregated classes for girls and boys above a certain age, in particular when classes on sex education are being given.

Above all, head teachers must be keenly aware of the views, feelings and beliefs of parents, particularly those in the lower income groups who are captive to the neighbourhood school and who cannot, except with difficulty, move their children if they object to the teaching which is being given. If they object, as we well know, there can be cases of victimisation if children are withdrawn from classes, for they may be made the butt of laughter and derisory remarks on the part of their school companions. It is therefore all the more important that head teachers should consult closely with parents to know what they want for their children.

I would therefore ask that, whenever sex education is to be given, parents should be warned beforehand and given an opportunity of seeing the books which are to be used and the films which are to be shown in this process of education. Parents have a direct interest in and responsibility for their children and, consequently, for the ideologies and information imparted to them. Let us face it; whatever the Press and other media may like to tell us, the overwhelming number of young people in this country still want and look forward to marrying and —this has been proved by statistics—do I so and have healthy children and a happy family life. Head teachers and parents have an important role to play in helping the young to achieve their deeply felt aims and ambitions.

While close co-operation between head teachers and staff in full consultation with parents is a prerequisite of successful sex education, through courses in biology, moral education, social attitudes and other disciplines—for instance, art and literature—not all head teachers with heavy administrative responsibilities can undertake this task. Some turn to outside organisations such as the National Marriage Guidance Council, health education authorities and church organisations. There are also organisations which are now moving more directly into the dissemination of sex education, such as youth advisory clinics, the Brook Advisory Centre and the Family Planning Association. There is in relation to this last an independent registered charity which has for some years contributed in this field—a duty as well as a right to address ourselves, as legislators and politicians, to consideration of the form and substance of its teaching, because the organisation receives large grants from the Department of Health and Social Security for the training of teachers in sex education. According to a Press release from the FPA, it received £26,000 last year and at least £7,000 in 1974. Head teachers and parents should be clearly informed of its policies and objectives and those of its associated organisations such as Grapevine. The FPA published a statement in September 1974 on its policies on sex education. I am sure we would all agree with its statement that: The task of sex education belongs primarily to parents, to the Churches for those interested and involved in religious activity, and to the schools. What is slightly more controversial in this statement, published in FPA News in September 1974, is a statement that among its objectives in sex education is the provision of, an incentive to work towards a society In which archaic sex laws, irrational fears of sex and sexual exploitation are non-existent. I know there are many distinguished Members of your Lordships' House who are closely associated with this organisation and anything I may say directly refers to its activities among the young. I quite accept that many distinguished Members may not be aware of or, indeed, support all the activities and policies of this organisation. Many of us belong to organisations with whose policies and activities we do not always wholly agree, so I make this statement advisedly. Nevertheless, the policy which I have quoted is a continuation of those policies and activities of pressure groups which have already succeeded in changing so many of our laws in relation to family life over the past nine years.

Curiously enough and in complete contradiction to the statement on sex education put out by the FPA, the former director of the FPA stated that: The associaton's sole aim is birth prevention. This statement appeared in GP on 26th October 1974. There may be a link between the two or it may be that the then director resigned and that his statement is no longer the policy of the organisation. Nevertheless, the change in so many laws over the past nine years has been the result of certain pressures. A member who was one of the leading forces in the Abortion Law Reform Association way back in 1966/1967 and who was highly successful also served on the Divorce Law Reform Association and is now chairman of the managing committee of the FPA.

The secretary of the Abortion Law Reform Association of the day has announced that she is now public relations officer to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. She has, no doubt correctly, said that that body is the highest supplier—and I emphasise the word—of private abortions in the country. Also in the same pressure group, the professor who was the leading expert on the abortion law reform committee is now serving on the Criminal Law Review Committee to consider the reduction of the age of consent at which girls may have sexual intercourse. A distinguished journalist, in an article published in the Press in this country, referred to the activities of this lobby as, the most savagely damaging lobby that society has ever had to confront. It is perhaps also worth noting that the Chairman of the Management Committee of the FPA also ran very successfully the birth control campaign which advised the takeover of family planning clinics by the DHSS and, incidentally, recommended the sale of contraceptives in slot machines and in other public places. His policy, as I understood it, was based on frightening projections of an increasing birth rate. That was the threat, as we remember—the myth that has now been exploded—of overpopulation. This was despite the fact that since 1964 the birth rate has continuously fallen each year. As I raised the question just three years ago and drew attention to this point and said that by the 1980s we should be reaching ZPG, I must only regret and apologise to the House that I was wrong. We reached it in 1975, and today's figures, in The Times, show that the birth rate has fallen from 876,000 in 1964 to just about—although this is not confirmed 600,000, and with the net emigration flow the population has come below stability level.

While individuals have every right—and I recognise this right, as obviously all your Lordships will do—to form pressure groups and to circulate their propaganda, equally politicians have not only the right, but the duty, to point out to your Lordships and to the general public the doubtfulness of such propaganda and what the effect of such pressure groups are or might be, in particular when it comes to the question of children. There are three aspects which I wish to deal with in particular, bearing in mind the work of the organisation already mentioned in supplying contraceptives to all ages and, in particular to those under 16, and to girls, whether they are married or unmarried.

The first question that arises is that of financial gain of this organisation. I refer to the 38th report and accounts for 1969 to 1970 of the FPA. On page 23 it clearly states: As fees from patients and the profit from the sale of pills provide the FPA with more than 85 per cent. of its income, the Finance Sub-committee "— et cetera. I believe that this states quite categorically that at any rate at that time, the FPA was making its profits from the sale of contraceptives. Nobody objects to that if it is a purely commercial enterprise. But we also read in the report of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission on contraceptive sheaths, printed on 5th February 1975, at paragraph 99 on page 31: The FPA is allowed a 5 per cent, retrospective rebate on all its purchases of LRI "— that is, London Rubber Industries— contraceptive products other than intra-uterine devices….The rebate to the FPA has been in operation for many years and is regarded by LRI as a contribution to FPA Head Office funds. The company has told us"— that is, London Rubber Industries— that it considers it justified "— I ask your Lordships to take note of this very important sentence— because the FPA's educational activities widen the market for contraceptives. If one studies the income and expenditure account for 1974–75 one sees that the fees received and sales of supplies and literature amounted to £5,700,000 or so. The expenditure on those items in terms of cost of sales of supplies and literature was £1½ million. Medical services are shown at just over £2 million, and the figure for general administration was over £1½million. It must be a remarkably badly run organisation, if nothing else! Excess of income over expenditure for the year was £399,000. Any company or industry is entitled to go into the sales business. But are these the people who should be teaching children to ask for the goods which they supply and sell? That is the crux of this particular matter.

There is another aspect to the situation: what appears to be deliberate misrepresentation of the facts to encourage the young to use contraceptives. Regrettably, I have seen rather too much literature on this matter lately. For instance, there is a booklet called Learning to live with sex, and various other publications with enticing titles. In all this literature there are no notices of the failure rates of the non-medical supplies which they are purporting to give or which they are encouraging the young to use. In the same report of the Monopolies Commission it states quite clearly in Appendix 2 that the failure rate—this is the strict standard applied in order to use the British Standards institution's kitemark —is a maximum of 0.5 per cent. That, even at the strictest level and where properly used in every conceivable way, means that every thousand times such sheaths are used there is an immediate possibility of at least five pregnancies. These figures have been very much increased, even by the Pregnancy Advisory Service, which recently published figures which show that in a thousand cases—of which, incidentally, 697 were single girls—there was a 40 per cent. failure rate of contraceptives.

There is also an attractive, or what one might consider to be an attractive, little booklet, coloured red and white, which was circulated by Grapevine, an organisation belonging to the FPA, at a recent show. Incidentally, this was produced by schoolgirls in Liverpool and, furthermore, it is not stated in this booklet who printed it or where it came from, and so I do not know whether, technically speaking, it is a legal document. The booklet has a heading: "Reliable Methods for Young People ". Immediately beneath that heading there appears the words: "Durex Sheath ". As we know, that is the brand name for London Rubber Industries, and so, to say the least, this is a form of advertisement for London Rubber Industries. Indeed, I think it is rather remarkable that a Socialist Secretary of State for Social Services should be indirectly subsidising such a capitalist outfit!

Further down the same page of the booklet it is stated: The Pill. A simple safe and effective method of birth control. The headline on this page is: What are your chances of getting pregnant tonight? Fairly good, I should say, to judge by the figures I have quoted. No information is given to parents, or even the family doctor, if a girl is put on the pill. No warning is given of the possible side effects of the pill. As I have read out, there is no question of saying that there might be dangers or that it might effect a young girl. I am not here to frighten people about the pill. There has been much in the papers to warn people about using it. But if a person is under a doctor's control, or under medical supervision, that is quite another matter. I am referring to young girls of 13 upwards, to whom this literature is addressed, being indiscriminately put on the pill without, any protection or information. No facts are given about the consequences of sleeping around—particularly on the pill—that lead to sexually transmitted diseases, the rate of increase for which has gone up astronomically. This is another basic principle that we must accept, and I hope that it will be accepted by your Lordships; that is, that if children are not too young to be told by means of coloured photographs about sexual intercourse between men and women, they are not too young to be told the total truth about the physical risks and dangers involved in such an episode.

Next, there is the insidious changing of the laws of the land, and the encouraging of the young to break the law and have sexual intercourse whenever they like, so long as they are so-called "protected". We are now being told that so many young are sexually active and that the law should be changed. Yet in not one pamphlet that I have seen addressed to these age groups, to these young teenagers, has there been any mention whatsoever of the law with regard to the age of consent. All the literature that I have seen—although, here again, others might be able to indicate other literature—has been related in terms of sexual partners being a boy and a girl. This literature is directed, as it says, to young teenagers, aged from 13 plus. Children are not being warned of the legal consequences of their acts.

Just before the Abortion Act was introduced we were told that there were 250,000 illegal abortions and that this was a very good reason for introducing the Act. The maximum number, after eight years during which the Abortion Law has been in force—whether or not we like it—has been 110,000. So the figure of 250,000 was an entirely bogus figure, not based on facts or reality but merely used to arouse the fears of those who were against abortion. I shall not go into the merits or demerits of it, but this is a dishonest way to carry out propaganda on this subject.

It should also be noted, with regard to the age of consent, that an ad hoc committee of the Women's National Commission clearly stated in its last bulletin the finding that: There was no support from any member of the committee or in the Women's National Commission as a whole for any change in (lowering of) the present age of consent—16 years: to lower the age of consent would be to accept as the ' norm 'the behaviour of a minority and would appear to give legal blessing to the emphasis placed today on physical sex. It further goes on to say: The Commission had agreed their committee's support for ' any reasonable means of preventing the intrusion of indecent material on a public not wanting it—and on a public of all ages too '. While there might be arguments in favour of making the law more widely known and of more education in this area, it could also be argued that such ' education ' was as likely to arouse interest and a desire for experience as it was to serve as a deterrent. For those of your Lordships who do not know the Women's National Commission, it is the most important body on which representatives of all women's organisations serve; and perhaps I may also say that there is only one representative from the Women's National Advisory Committee of the Conservative Party, which I had the honour for some time to be, whereas there are at least 10 representatives from trade union organisations, so it can in no way be accused of being balanced in favour of my Party —very much the reverse.

My Lords, the second area in which there is an effort to change the law and pressure is being applied concerns doctors seeing young girls under 16 and giving contraceptive advice. In 1971 the Brook Advisory Centre wrote: Partly because of our persistence it is now widely recognised that doctors may give contraceptive advice and prescriptions to girls under 16, with the consent, as for all medical treatment at this age, of a parent or guardian. Now we have reached, as the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, so rightly reminded us, 1976. In the Memorandum on Guidance on Family Planning, which was in fact published in May 1974 and confirmed in FP News of July 1974, it said: It is only a couple of months since doctors were given the go-ahead to advise and prescribe for youngsters under 16, without necessarily getting their parent's consent, but the Brook Centres were doing this long before the decision was taken nationally. The FP Fact Sheet in December 1973 confirmed word for word what was in the Memorandum on Guidance. I can only congratulate the Department of Health and Social Security that they have such an active member of family planning within their organisation.

The other aspect of this which has very serious consequences on the health of a girl, in particular, is the fact that when a girl who goes to a clinic to see a doctor and is put on the pill, the doctor who prescribes the pill has no obligation to inform not only the parents but her general practitioner. This can, of course, lead to very serious consequences, because if that child should be ill at any time, if she should have some pulmonary infection or anything of that kind, a doctor seeing her would of course not ask, "Are you on the pill?", particularly if her parent might be there and there was confidentiality between the patient and the doctor. But what would that doctor prescribe? I am not a doctor, but I understand from doctors that this is a very grave and serious problem and that they feel totally hampered in being able to give good advice, and proper and adequate treatment under their Hippocratic oath, to children who have been put on the pill and who are then given this further medical treatment without the doctor knowing what measures should in fact be taken. So in this respect in particular I would ask the noble Lord the Minister to consider this point very seriously.

The pill itself, of course, comes under the Schedule 4 group of drugs and is controlled under the Poison Rules of 1970, and can be given only on a doctor's prescription. But in a very well argued booklet entitled The Pill off Prescription by, regrettably, again, the then Chief Medical Officer of the FPA, Dr. Smith, he declares: Sufficient information is now available about oral contraceptives to allow review of the method of distribution ". He then goes on to say how it should be distributed, and I think this is perhaps worth notice because undoubtedly, of course, every attempt will be made to reach this conclusion. He says: It is, therefore, suggested that the distribution of oral contraceptives in the United Kingdom should be delegated to nurses, midwives and health visitors, under the responsibility of a doctor to whom they can refer problem cases ". Here again, once more, my Lords, we have their efforts, which, to say the least, if they are not illegal cannot be said to be legal.

In The GP of 13th September 1974, under the headline "Nurses take over FPA Pill clinics", it says: Specially trained nurses are supplying, oral contraceptives to clinic patients seen for the first time, without a doctor being present at the consultations, the Family Planning Association disclosed this week. The nurses examine the women, check for contra-indications—and hand out the Pill. After patients have left, the doctor is merely sent the prescriptions for signing, along with the case notes ….The practice of using nurses for oral contraceptive prescribing began experimentally in FPA clinics as long as five years ago ". I hope that noble Lords will now appreciate the deep concern we have about this type of activity, which so affects the lives and health of these children.

Reference is also made in this pamphlet to the interim report of the Royal College of General Practitioners, and I must refer to this because I think this, too, is a matter of some importance. It concerns the way official bodies set up so-called scientific studies on a particular subject. They are not properly quoted; nor is the information properly used. In the pamphlet The Pill off Prescription, nearly all the excerpts from this report say that it is a safe enough method, that contrary indications are very few, and so on. However, I obtained a copy of this report, which does not pretend to be a complete report at all but is an interim report. It says that of the 46,000 tested and controlled patients, 11,000 dropped out before the end of the period, which I think was two or three years, and in no case was a girl under the age of 15 tested in this exercise. So that none of the findings of the report refers to young teen-age girls.

Secondly—and, regrettably, I did not warn my noble friend about this; I know I should have done, but I must refer to it—when the previous Government introduced the National Health Reorganisation Bill and the free availability of the pill was debated, in response to concern expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, the Minister of the day replied: I can only say to the noble Baroness that we are content to take the advice of our own very highly professional expert committee, the Committee on the Safety of Medicines, which has advised us that there is no reason to fear ill-effects from the pill ".—(Official Report, 12/12172, col. 492.) Interestingly enough, at the time—and this was available to whoever furnished the reply to the Minister—the report by the Committee on Safety of Medicines entitled.Carcinogenicity Tests of Oral Contraceptives quite clearly referred to the possibility of breast tumours; and, as a result of the eventual scientific investigation on this matter, one certain brand of pill was withdrawn which had in fact been issued by the FPA as an FPA clinically-tested pill.

My Lords, I know I have been speaking for some considerable time, but I think that all these matters are of vital concern to this House. I can only say that if this is the kind of health care which the public and, in particular, children are getting from Government health services and related organisations under any Government—I repeat, under any Government—it is time that a clear inspection was made of the methods and scientific procedure by which such care is exercised.

So, my Lords, I would say this. I would merely request, through the noble Lord, that the Ministers representing both the DES and the DHSS take into account certain recommendations. Before I make the recommendations I should like to make a short statement which was given me by a very distinguished professor of the Institute of Education at London University. He is not a Christian but he said that he deplored the type of sex education which no longer connected sex with love and sex with procreation within marriage; because he has to deal with the end and tragic results of the education now being given. He also said that he never hears or sees any more the discussion of sex which results in children and encouraging girls to develop a maternal affection. For myself, although I know it is unfashionable, if I had to say which were my most satisfactory and enjoyable years, I should say they were those when I was bearing and rearing my children. It was time somebody got up and dared to say that in the climate of opinion that we have been suffering from in recent times.

In conclusion—and I apologise for keeping your Lordships so long—I would just read these few recommendations. First, to withdraw from and withhold public subsidies to organisations concerned in the sale of contraceptives and engaged in commercial activities and the providing of abortions for profit in the private sector. Second, the right of parents to withdraw their child from any class on sex education without fear of reprisal either to the parent or to the child. Third, the maintenance and strong enforcement of the laws of the land, laws which are here to protect children, and, in particular, those laws which relate to the age of consent, to proper information to parents and to the family doctor and to the distribution of oral contraceptives. Fourth, the adequate control of films shown to children (wherever they may be) and shown with no censorship and with considerable licence. Fifth, the failure rate should be shown on non-medical contraceptives. If the Government can arrange to have warnings on packets of cigarettes which create a danger merely many years ahead, why should not a warning be put on contraceptives which in five minutes can cause tragedy to at least one if not two human beings? Above all, Government policies should take into account their responsibilities and should be concerted to support and not to divide the unity of the family and to take positive steps to protect the health and happiness of our children. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.33 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Baroness has drawn attention to a subject which is of great concern to all, whether as parents or members of the many professions and others involved with children, including teachers and youth workers, who have responsibility for the young. I think I must make it clear at the outset that there are four Government Departments which have a particular interest in this subject. The Department of Education and Science in its responsibility for the Education Service including schools and colleges of further education has perhaps the major interest. My noble friend Lord Crowther-Hunt will be taking the greater part of this particular burden of responsibility. The Department of Health and Social Security is also closely concerned because of its general responsibilities for sex education. It may be helpful to your Lordships if I address myself mainly to the aspects of sex education which affect the various professions with an interest in this subject within the National Health Service. The Scottish Home and Health Department and the Welsh Office have responsibility for these matters in Scotland and Wales. I shall not attempt to cover the Scottish situation which is very different. I leave it to my noble friend Lord Crowther-Hunt, who will be speaking at a later stage, to deal with the general question of the sex education of children.

I personally not only welcome this debate but am glad to have some small part in it—not, however, as big a part as I should like to have. I was involved in this subject just before the last war when I was a founder of the National Marriage Guidance Council. I think we can claim to be the first group of people in this country to pioneer sex education on a highly and sensitively controlled basis. I must not speak about its work, but let me say that the National Marriage Guidance Council, through its local marriage guidance councils, is running regular weekly groups in hundreds of schools and colleges of further education as well as among youth leaders, teachers and social workers. When I was a member of the London County Council just after the war I did at least persuade the Education Department to consider this matter and was responsible for the publication of the first ever book on sex education; so I have an interest in this and ought perhaps to declare it.

My Lords, there are many disciplines within the framework of the National Health Service involved from time to time in some aspect of sex education. There are those who work in the field of health education, and the nursing profession, including health visitors, are often involved, but perhaps I could return to that aspect later. First I should like to talk about the medical profession which so often has an involvement in what I think many of us have come to call the "casualties of sex ", which are very high. The medical profession is in the forefront of those who see the distressing results of unwanted pregnancies, whether in the sphere of abortion, emotional stress or even mental illness, physical illness or illness with a much longer term effect needing a good deal of after-care; or in the growing number of psycho-sexual problems. There is also the problem of sexual ignorance in relation to marital conflict and the sad effects of such on the children of the marriage.

The question is, how much can sex education do for boys as well as girls, when offered in a controlled situation, with due sensitivity, to avoid much of the misery caused by the unwanted pregnancy? As anyone in this field knows— not least the members of the medical profession—this is something which it is extremely difficult accurately to assess. I am aware of the concern felt by many doctors on matters of health education in general and contraceptive advice in particular. Many members of the profession feel that doctors should work with the health educators to help reduce the number of casualties of sex to which I have already referred. But we must realise that the difficulties are considerable.

There are a number of your Lordships in this House today. I wonder how many different groups we would fall into if we were asked the say how this matter should be tackled; what should be done, in what circumstances, and what ought to be the content? There would not be just one or two groups; there would be a large number of groups, so the difficulties are very considerable. We cannot have a plan either as a Department, Government or nation, unless we can see clearly what we are setting out to do. It might be thought simple enough to give young people information which would ensure that they understood the importance and real significance of family planning; but this in itself is a more complicated matter which is also bound up with considerations not only of behaviour but also of standards, attitudes and values. To some extent, schools have to be guided in what they can do by the attitudes of the community. There are some communities that take a strong view against any idea or concept of sex education.

We also have to bear in mind that there is no certainty about the influences of education on behaviour, particularly when the young people at risk are exposed to so many commercial and other influences. This is a point which the noble Baroness was making. The Standing Medical Advisory Committee of the Central Health Services Council, which advises my right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for Social Services and for Wales on matters relating to the medical profession, gave some initial thought to these matters. It proposed—and, I am sure some noble Lords will think, not before time—that some of the members should get together with educationists to consider the practicabilities of a study of the effects of sex education. As this was a subject which concerned professions other than those of doctors and teachers, it was decided that the study would need to be a joint one and should include people from the Schools Council, Health Education Council, Personal Social Services Council and the Standing Nursing and Midwifery Advisory Committee as well as the Standing Medical Advisory Committee. It would thus include people with a very wide range of experience.

Although the remit of the study has yet to be finalised, it would be able in its work to consider all available evidence relating to the casualties of sex among the young and to the effects of sex education. It is highly desirable that we should know this. The results will be available not only to the two Departments concerned but also to the advisory bodies which I have mentioned and will, we hope, enable further consideration of this subject by all concerned to be undertaken in the knowledge of a wider picture which we believe the study will produce. The Departments of my right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for Education and Science, Social Services and Wales will be involved in the work. However, the many other pressures to which the staff of the Departments have been subject have meant that preparations for the study are not yet complete. I know some noble Lords are going to say, "We have heard all this before ". But let us face the fact that Government Departments are under a very severe strain. There is more work being produced for the benefit of the community than many noble Lords realise. There is only a limited amount of time, and while we should have liked the preparations for the study to have been completed long since, we hope that that completion will take place very soon and, if it is any comfort to the noble Baroness, very much helped by the debate today. It never does any harm to prod a Government.

Several Noble Lords

Hear, hear!


I thought I should have some agreement.

I now turn to the activities of the Health Departments and the National Health Service in the field of sex education for children. First, there are the health education officers who play a very important part in many areas drawing up programmes on health education in general. These programmes include a significant element on personal relationships. Sex education goes so much further than the knowledge of anatomy and physiology; it covers a wide range of personal relationships, the attitudes of couples towards each other as persons, the family and society in general. We have to see that marriage, for example, is made up of three relationships. There must be a personal relationship in every marriage; there must be a sexual relationship in every marriage; and there is for the vast majority of families—whether or not they want it—a parenthood relationship. We ought not to consider sex education in isolation; we have to see it as part of a personal and human relationship.

Terms and conditions of service of health education officers have now been settled, and Area Health Authorities are proceeding to make appointments. Let me hasten to say that some appointments have been made. We can therefore hope for an expansion in the field of sex education in the National Health Service very soon. In this context, the Government hope that close relationships are being maintained between the medical, nursing and health education staff of health authorities, the staff of local authorities' social service departments and the education authorities.

It would be opportune for me at this stage to say a word about the Health Education Council whose functions include advising on priorities for health education, advising and carrying out national and local or regional campaigns in co-operation with various authorities and undertaking or sponsoring research and training in health education work. The Council is concerned at the national level with the promotion of healthy living. Directly or indirectly, it seeks to help people to take care of their own health and, in doing so, to take care of the health of the community.

Secondly, I should like to refer to the role in sex education and preparation for family life played by nurses, especially health visitors and school nurses. Health visitors have a unique opportunity, as they meet mothers in the home, at mothers' clubs and child health centres, to help mothers to teach sex education to their children. I could not agree more with the noble Baroness when she says that this should be the function of the parents; but anyone who has worked in this field knows that they are the last people to do it. They often need a great deal of help and guidance. I once said this to a couple, who informed me that their children were years ahead of them. Therefore we have to undertake through health education officers some counselling and education of the parents. Health visitors and school nurses are also able to teach and promote health in schools and, when invited, can offer guidance to teachers in preparing the children's sex education programmes and if necessary because this is something not all teachers want—take part themselves. It is all very well to say the school ought to undertake this, but a good many of the teachers do not want to do it. Therefore, it is going to make a valuable contribution if we can get nurses and health visitors to undertake this if they are asked to do so by schools.

Further development of the services is subject to the availability of health visitors and school nurses. The Department of Health and Social Security is at the present time sponsoring from central funds an experimental course on sex education for health visitors. This is being run, as the noble Baroness knows, by the Family Planning Association in conjunction with the Health Education Council and the Central Council for the Education and Training of Health Visitors. The Family Planning Association is also involved in arranging sex education courses for teachers, health educators and community workers in co-ordinating youth work, and it is not the only voluntary body which is doing this. The courses attempt to discuss sex education in a very wide context. Topics include the history and philosophy of sex education and the role of sex in personal relationships as well as the more detailed aspects of sexual behaviour and contraceptive practice. The Department of Health and Social Security is meeting the central costs of the Association in running these courses.

I do not think I ought to speak any longer. I hope that the noble Baroness and your Lordships will realise from what I have said that the Government are very much aware of the problems involved in the sex education of children and that they are by no means inactive in using the opportunities offered by the National Health Service to get across the message of sex education, bearing in mind that we ought not to let loose on the public people who have to undertake this task unless they themselves are qualified to do it and realise what is involved.

The noble Baroness asked a number of questions and she was good enough to given me advance notice of them. I do not know that I shall be able to satisfy her to the full in my replies. She raised the question of the financial position of the Family Planning Association. I shall not go over that again, and my reply—a short one—is that I understand that the Family Planning Association is reimbursed the cost of clinics run on an agency basis for health authorities and the related headquarters expenses. Any overpayments or underpayments are adjusted in subsequent years. I understand that this is the only money the Association is getting from the Department of Health and Social Security for this specific purpose. If the noble Baroness has any information to the contrary I shall, as always, be very glad to have it.

The noble Baroness also raised the question of the FPA literature indicating that nurses in its clinics issue the pill without doctors' authority. I can only tell the noble Baroness my understanding of the situation. Obviously we shall not agree over this and I shall have to look into it. Oral contraceptives are available, according to my information, only on prescription by a registered medical practitioner. I understand that although nurses sometimes issue oral contraceptives in the clinic situation, this is done under the authority of the doctor, who takes the final responsibility. The possibility of an extension of the availability of oral contraceptives is at present being considered by the Working Group on Oral Contraceptives, whose chairman is the noble Baroness, Lady Robson of Kiddington. The prescription of oral contraceptives by midwives, nurses and health visitors is one of the matters under discussion.

I should now like to deal with the passing of information on contraceptives between the family planning clinic and the general practitioner. In the Family Planning Service Memorandum of Guidance issued to health authorities in May 1974, the Department of Health and Social Security advised that, subject to the parents, yes—all of us—and here I should be notified as early as possible of the attendance of one of their patients at a family planning clinic, and should also be told of the treatment given. I cannot take it any further than that: I think this is as far as the Department can go in issuing a memorandum of this kind. However, we will look at the various matters raised by the noble Baroness, and if there is anything further that I can tell her, she knows from past experience that I shall write to her.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down I wonder whether he could answer just one question which was left obscure in his most interesting speech. He referred to the significance of sex in personal relations, and used phrases of that kind several times. He also referred to the importance of sex education and its message. Could the noble Lord tell us whether he or the Government consider that sex education must be coupled with instruction in right and wrong, in the principles of chastity before marriage, and above all, that such education should be divorced from the marketing of contraceptives for a particular company?


My Lords, I cannot speak for the Department, nor for the Government, in this matter because I do not know that it has ever been considered in the way in which the noble Earl has raised it. I can speak for myself, but that may not be very satisfactory to your Lordships. I think that one of the things society must do is to get people to see the place and significance of a certain type of act. Also, if that act is done outside accepted convention, society must make people understand the difficulties, the misery and the unhappiness that can stem from it. I do not think I can add anything, further.


My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether the FPA is really making a profit at present? Is it not true that at the moment it is in dire financial straits, and not making a profit?


My Lords, again I have to say that I am not informed about the finances of the Family Planning Association. The only information I have heard regarding the financial position of the Association has been that quoted by the noble Baroness herself, but obviously, in the light of certain statements which have been made and which are to be made, my noble friend Lord Crowther-Hunt and I will have to look at a number of matters rather carefully.

3.57 p.m.


My Lords, may I plead your Lordships' indulgence for a maiden speech. I know that by the ancient traditions of this noble House the speech should be comparatively short; so, not being very good at maths, I added together the length of the last two speeches, which came to 63 minutes. Half of that would be 312 minutes, but I promise to take much less time than that and so I hope that side will be taken care of. Secondly, I gather that it is proper for a maiden speaker to beware of anything unpleasantly controversial. In my ignorance, I put my name down to speak on this particular subject, imagining that all was sweetness and light and that it would be the easiest thing in the world about which to be non-controversial. I remember that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Sheffield, on my right, waited a long time before making his maiden speech, and he actually made it in connection with the Hare Coursing Bill. Of course, being able to run with the hare and chase with the hounds, he managed to sit upon a knife edge—as anyone from Sheffield presumably can do.

We do not necessarily do things as well as that in Norfolk, and therefore I want to speak more specifically from the broad moral Christian and Judao-Christian principles, because I believe that the subject of sex education in schools is in fact a very broad one, and one in which not only people who take a Christian line or a Jewish moral line, but many who take a rather undefined but quite definite moral line, feel that we should try to do better than we are doing at the moment. I think there is a certain amount of confusion in this field.

Whose responsibility, therefore, is it to set high standards of sexual behaviour and then to share those standards with others? The noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, made the point that schools are guided by the attitudes of the communities around them. The child cannot be asked to set those standards, through lack of knowledge, age and experience; the parents, yet—all of us—and here I declare an interest. We have a large and, I am glad to say, fairly happy and diverse family ranging from 27—that is not the number of children; that is the age of the oldest one—down to one who became a teenager last month, and so we draw from that interest.

I remember the mother—not in our family—who was asked by her child, "Mummy, where did I come from?" So bravely, as a mother should, she gulped and began a long and helpful discussion on the kind of subject that we are dealing with today. Whereupon, her small boy said, "Fancy! The new boy at school said that he comes from Manchester." So she put that explanation back into cold storage again. But, on the whole, I believe that the setting of standards of sexual morality is something about which all of us who have any area of leadership—and, by virtue of our position in this august House, we have that area of leadership—should be doing something.

We cannot simply say that we are a little old aid what will do for us is inappropriate to younger people, because younger people are wanting guidance in this vexed, difficult and, I think, tremendously important field. Therefore, I believe that we must stand for unselfish, and moral and quite simple Christian values and principles based upon the Bible, and should not be afraid of being thought naïve, simplistic or even old-fashioned. Love is pretty old-fashioned anyway, and I believe that young people today are wanting help and guidance from leaders about ordinary straightforward moral behaviour.

I noticed at the Westminster Underground station today a heading which presumably had to do with this debate — "Everyone needs Standards". Our duty is, with sympathy and understanding, to help young people to overcome their temptations, to gain victory over the down-draw of the natural, selfish and sexual temptations to irresponsibility which all of us have, and I believe that victory is worth fighting for. I say this with special interest, because three times running my famous football team has been trying to beat Rochdale and last night, at long last, victory came our way. It was worth fighting for, worth waiting for and now all the Canaries are singing even more brightly than Gracie Fields herself from Rochdale. I believe that we need to help our young people to love, to channel their creative drive into positive activity and into victories like this, in which they have a right to ask us to guide them, and we ourselves have responsibilities to set standards of this kind.

I ask myself a second question. What are our young people in the nation really like today? In our work as Bishops, we constantly come in touch with young people. I meet them in assemblies, in comprehensives, in visits to village schools, in preaching at public schools, in giving out prizes for life-saving, in playing hockey with them, in sixth form discussions and so on, and one is in touch with young people nearly all the time. I find them first-rate and open and adventurous and with a strong social concern, many with a real Christian faith and wanting to find life at its best, yet facing colossal pressures to be materialistic or selfish, or to conform to a supposed pattern of sophisticated immorality which they think is general, but which I believe is a minority pattern and is nowhere like so general as some would think. What are youngsters really like today? Two important new surveys which your Lordships may well have studied, Geoffrey Gorer's Sex and Marriage in England Today and Michael Schofield's The Sexual Behaviour of Young People, show that the majority of young people are not nearly as sexually permissive as the media sometimes lead us to believe they are. Geoffrey Gorer's research, based on Opinion Research Centre work, argues: Despite the impression given by contemporary mass-communications with all the emphasis on ' the permissive society 'and the prevalence of erotic themes in much fiction, England still appears to be a very chaste society. His figures of 46 per cent. of men and 88 per cent. of women having no inter-course before engagement for marriage are paralleled by Schofield's figures after three year's research for the Central Council for Health Education. He said: Pre-marital sexual relations are a long way from being universal among teenagers, as over two-thirds of the boys and over three- quarters of the girls have not engaged in sexual intercourse. Therefore, in my judgment, it is cruel and not compassionate to suggest that we should lower the age of consent just as it would be to suggest that we should take the white lines away from the middle of roads or remove any other barrier which is a help to young people to grow up steadily, moving slowly towards fulfilment of their sexual life in engagement, in marriage and in parenthood. It may seem so obvious as hardly to need stating, but I believe it is important to state that the tradition of our country, and the Christian teaching which has been intermingled with our country's history for so long, is still, in general terms, chastity before marriage and fidelity within marriage and the gift of God of home life, to be worked out in unselfish and giving ways so that people may find within that home life both the support they need as youngsters and the example they need for their future.

Why do I say this, my Lords? Let me give an illustration. A doctor who does a good deal of student counselling shared with me what a schoolmistress had told him about one of her girls of 13 or 14. The girl had gone to her schoolmistress and had said, "All the other girls say that they go to bed with a boy. I do not. Does that mean that I am queer?" The girl thought that there was something odd about her, because she tried to live a straight and moral life. I believe that in such a debate as this we should encourage—I was going to say "demand ", but that is not the right word—schools to provide responsible, balanced and moral sex education, as the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, has reminded us, in the setting of personal and social relationships. I so much valued that statement from him.

Secondly, Christian insights, wherever they may be given easily and in conscience by those who are able to do so, can lead towards a permanent marriage relationship. When all is said and done, the proportions of those who are married in the churches of our land, and of the children who are baptised at the fonts of our churches of all denominations, are very large. Therefore, the pluralistic argument for the lowering of the Christian content in the education for personal relationships is a weak one when the figures are added up. Yet, as a director of education put to me, the pupils are almost entirely at the mercy of their teachers, and I believe our task is to make sure that those who give sex education in our schools know that they have encouragement behind them to make the content good and strong.

A Christian headmaster put it this way to me: From a Christian teacher's point of view [I believe that we need broad terms concerning sex education] related to personal and social relationships, this to include (a) the dangers of the social evils "— and he lists them— (b) the physical aspects of growing up…. (c) the social and the moral aspects of growing up, the individual's responsibility in regard to sexual relationships—of thinking of others—this must lead into discussion on chastity before marriage and faithfulness within marriage ". He goes on to speak about the way in which he has conducted such courses with health visitors and others and the thanks from parents and children that he has received.

If we can help to establish the families and the homes of the future we shall be doing something great in our day. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury put it this way: The surest bulwark of a stable society is a loving Christian home We have to find imaginative ways of helping our young people to see that morality, chastity and straightforward, clean and victorious living is the best way of living. A clever theologian put it this way to me: Promiscuity is a dreadful bore Young people are beginning to find this out. Dedication to something or someone really good is genuine chastity which brings joy and self-forgetful satisfaction as well as a few black eyes ". I myself think that this quality of standing for the right, for the truth and, I believe, for Christian moral values is one of the exciting things which we have to encourage our schoolteachers and all those, as the noble Lord has reminded us, who are engaged in this field to inculcate, so that the next generation may grow up with an even better opportunity for a full and a good life than we ourselves have had. I thank noble Lords for listening to me for so long.

4.12 p.m.


My Lords, it is my pleasant task to be the first to speak after the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich and to congratulate him on a speech which must have impressed everybody here by its sincerity and, indeed, its wit. I had the great pleasure and privilege of sitting with the right reverend Prelate in the old Church Assembly. Although we did not see eye to eye on every subject—as, indeed, I feel we may not do even in this House—I grew to respect him and to value all the contributions that he made. I know that your Lordships will do so also.

The noble Baroness, Lady Elles, has raised some very important matters and we know that she speaks with very deep sincerity about them. I myself support the Family Planning Association in almost everything that they do. I say "almost ", because I do not claim to be an expert on all that they do, but one has only to study their leaflets about their aims and some of the things that they do to appreciate their great work. For instance, one matter which has not been put better by anybody is their statement of the qualities that are needed in those who are concerned with sex education.

There may be cause for concern in relation to one or two matters connected with the Family Planning Association. I myself was a little alarmed by what the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, said about the kick-back, if I may call it that, which the Family Planning Association get from the London Rubber Company. However, I must ask noble Lords to bear in mind that today a highly detailed case has been presented against some of the activities of the Family Planning Association and that almost certainly we shall not have an opportunity of hearing a proper reply.

So far as I understand it, until last night the Family Planning Association did not know about this debate, and certainly they did not know this morning about some of the detailed matters which would be raised. I lay no blame at all on the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, in this respect. Indeed, I lay considerable blame on the Family Planning Association who are a large body who should be aware when these matters are to be discussed in Parliament. However, noble Lords ought to bear in mind that they are unlikely to hear a rebuttal as detailed as the case that they have heard made today against some of the activities of the Family Planning Association. Indeed, we have already heard from the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, that at least part of the case that has been levelled against them is based on the misunderstanding that a grant is made to the Family Planning Association when, in fact, no grant from public funds is made to them. There is just payment for services, as happens with a great many different bodies.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, will the noble Lord kindly allow me to ask whether there was misinformation in the Family Planning Association's Press release of December 1975 that they received £26,000 as a grant from the Department of Health and Social Security towards the training of teachers? I apologise to the noble Lord for raising this point at this stage. Perhaps he will check the matter later and accept now that this information was published by the Family Planning Association.


My Lords, I am quite prepared to accept what the noble Baroness has said. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, will consult his colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, who has said that no grant is made so that we may have a definitive answer about this by the end of the debate.

I should like to take advantage of this occasion very briefly to make a point about sex education which is unfashionable and may even be rather novel. I think that the discussion of sex education is bedevilled by concerning itself with two subjects which are completely different but which many people insist upon treating as one. The first subject is human biology—how the sexual mechanisms work; how conception can be prevented, if that is wanted; how to give pleasure to one's partner; what diseases can be transmitted and how to guard against this; the growth of sexuality and its physical and psychological accompaniments. The other subject is responsibility in using sex—in other words, moral education.

The reason why these two subjects tend to get confused is because there is a strong feeling, and a justified feeling, that you have got to teach both, but I do not think that necessarily means that you must teach them together. We are told, and we are told quite rightly, how demoralising it is and how much of an encouragement to promiscuity it is to teach children in graphic detail how to make love without teaching them about love and responsibility. We are less often told, although it is just as true, how much misery can be caused, given all the love and responsibility in the world, by sheer ignorance of what is a complicated and delicate subject. Masters and Johnson estimate that in marriages in the United States there is a 50 per cent. rate of sexual dysfunction, or sexual difficulty. This may or may not be true. It is not easy, even for Masters and Johnson, to measure this, but even from the experience of the people all of us must know about and know, there is a considerable amount of truth in it, and ignorance does a lot of harm.

The argument is that if these two subjects must be taught then they must be taught together. I doubt whether this is so. I do not think moral responsibility is much illuminated by diagrams of the human body. I think that biological lectures are often very much harmed by moral exhortation and by the peculiar atmosphere engendered by any teacher trying to decide exactly what to say and how far he or she can go. Each of these two subjects needs to be taught as rigorously as any other subject is taught in schools, and taught more rigorously than most because they are vital. We all know what happened to the man in Saki's short story who could not remember whether Novibazar was in St. Petersburg or Baker Street. But on the whole ignorance of geography does not result in one getting hanged, as it did with him. But ignorance of the biology and the psychology of sex can end with VD or abortion or, worst of all, an unwanted child. The headmaster who has been quoted as saying that a little ignorance does no harm is not only guilty of trahison des clercs but is, in fact, much worse than that.

Many people still are prepared to say that there is too much knowledge about sex. Survey after survey shows that there is still too little. Even in sophisticated circles there is a lack of understanding. John Wilson, whose book in the Penguin series Logic and Sexual Morality is still in my view by far the most sensible thing written on this subject, quotes many examples of intelligent educated people lecturing in this field to the distinguished public school at which he was a master. We all know, of course, that homosexuality stunts the human spirit. That was to the sixth form who were studying Plato's Symposium that year. Some of you will be worrying about what happens when you approach the age of puberty. That was by a distinguished visitor to a class of 16-year-olds. No really great author needs to use obscene language. Troilus and Cressida was one of the set books that year. When women reach the age of about 45 sex becomes unimportant. At that stage Mr. Wilson's mother walked out of the room. No harm presumably was done by these comments, but how much harm can be done by ignorance when speaking and teaching to the ignorant!

There is also a real need for moral education and this is the main point that I want to get over this afternoon. This has nothing to do with exhortation. It has a certain amount to do with religious education, which is far from being the same thing, as those of your Lordships who have had to put up with my speeches on the subject of moral education before will know. It is a rigorous academic discipline—a fairly new one which aims at teaching children how to make moral judgments for themselves and, in my view, it is a tragedy that the Government are not putting more resources into the training of teachers in this subject. I can think of no other cause in this country which needs such support and it is a great shame if, as it is rumoured, the Government are even going backwards on this matter. Because this is what it is all about. Not "Willie, this is how you do it but make sure that you love her ", but "Willie, learn how to make moral judgments about how to treat coloured people, about voting, about honesty ". If Willie learns that, one does not have to teach special sexual morality. Morality is indivisible. A person who has learned how to make moral judg- ments will make moral judgments about sex as he or she will about anything else.

It is true that he or she will not necessarily abstain from premarital sex. Some people seem to think that just teaching children to say the letters "N.O" is all the sexual education that is needed. But contraception which, if used intelligently and under a doctor's prescription is at least as danger-proof as most other things we do in this life, like being a Member of Parliament in the days of the IRA or even crossing the road in Parliament Square—contraception and various other modern inventions, like central heating or, even, to take a trivial example, the zip fastener, have all changed society and there is no point in pretending that they have not. But people properly taught to make moral judgments will use their freedom responsibly. Not necessarily according to the religious beliefs of all of us in your Lordships' Chamber but responsibly with regard to other people, and some of the most moral and really responsible young people I know are quite happily living in a semi-permanent relationship with someone else and exercising their responsibility in that particular way.

If it is permissible just to qualify slightly one of the things which the right reverend Prelate said, in fact we have very few figures as to what the present situation is. Michael Schofield's figures are way out of date. I do not know how recent Gorer's fieldwork was, but I ran into Michael Schofield two days ago in the London Library and told him I was taking part in this debate and asked whether there were any figures which he knew of which were at all up to date, and he said, "No". I do not think we have much idea about some of the figures that have been quoted.

Surely what we want is a responsible and a moral society which will avoid pain and cruelty and exploitation of others and which we will try to keep free from disease, which will not bring unwanted children into the world and we can have this if we try to do all the things that we are doing with regard to sexual education. I was pleased to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, said in regard to what is being done already. Let us concentrate a great deal more on moral education, which I think is extremely important, but let us get one thing clear. Just as one cannot take sexual morality and isolate it from other morality, so you cannot take sexual morality and isolate it from the society in which we live. To the extent that the sexual life of this country is sick—and one can argue about this—it is sick not because of a surfeit of sex but because society is sick with greed and alienation, because we condemn the wrong vices and we praise the wrong virtues; sick, not because we teach too much but because we teach—and learn—too little. Sick, not because we love too much but because we make love, and love, too little.

4.27 p.m.


My Lords, I am just trying to ponder the last remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley. I am bound to say that if my original hearing of them was correct I do not think that I agree with them. Nevertheless, I am sure your Lordships will be very grateful to my noble friend Lady Elles for having introduced this subject today. It is a subject that is of concern to a great many people and I am grateful to her for having introduced it with such a degree of breadth and so carefully and for having come to some conclusions at the end of it.

I am also particularly glad that it has given the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Norwich, the opportunity of making his maiden speech. Those of us who have the privilege of living in his See have already come to know of his forthrightness and his charm when he gets up to speak, and today has been an example of when your Lordships might avail yourselves of that facility. If I may be permitted to say so, I thought his message was a very simple one and all the more impressive for that. I hope there will be many occasions when the right reverend Prelate will come and give your Lordships the advantage of his views on other matters as well as those we are discussing today. What we are discussing today is, I believe, one of the most difficult subjects to discuss with reason or with precision because it is in essence wholly abstract. It concerns the moulding of people's minds, the inculcating, or the deliberate exclusion, of ideas into the thoughts of children, which will determine the nature of the child and its behavour and attitude to society, both as a child and when the child emerges as an adult.

In this debate we are bound to be prancing in the realms of teaching and education—and they are not the same thing; of morals and ethics—and they are not the same thing; and of humanism and humanity—and those are not the same things. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, that it is a difficult and delicate area in which to move about—so it is, and, still more so, one on which to be positive or right. Yet it is a subject on which people hold very strong and sometimes totally divergent views, based often on instinct and yet which in this modern day and age society demands them to justify and to account for in terms of logic and argument.

Of one thing I am certain—this immediately makes it a point of controversy, which is not intended. In this general field—when I say "general ", I contrast it with the limited subject of sex instruction—there are no experts, and thank goodness for that! So vast and fundamental is this subject when looked at in its totality that each person has a right to consider his views of at least equal importance, and possibly of equal rectitude, as those of anyone else, and especially those of the expert. Here, I should make it clear that although I speak from this Dispatch Box, I express only my own views, views formulated, as is inevitable, by one's upbringing, one's experiences, one's responsibilities and thought as a parent. They are void of all Party or political affiliation whatsoever, and I speak for no one but myself.

My Lords, I find that the consideration of this problem poses two questions. The first is in this general field: what is it we are after? The second question is, what is it we are getting? There must be very few people—although I recognise there are some, and here I agree so much with the right reverend Prelate who would not consider that the basis of our society is, and should be, the family and the home. He or she who enjoys a happy home and a happy family, enjoys a greater prize than any material progress can bring, and if society has the advantage of people with a happy home life, that society is the better. You do not have to be rich to achieve that; you do not have to be educated to achieve that; you do not have to be religious to achieve that. Here once again I agree with the right reverend Prelate. You cannot achieve it by being selfish or self-indulgent. Inevitably, for the benefit of all, you have to subject yourself to certain disciplines, otherwise the outfit just does not work and corporate unhappiness ensues.

My Lords, I venture to suggest that that is the message in its simplest form that we ought to be trying to get over to our children, whether in the home or in the school, so that when their turn comes, they can try to adopt that philosophy. Inevitably and immediately, that brings into sharp focus the position of sex within the family, within the person, and within the society. Divorces and marriage breakdowns are greater now than they have ever been; they leave a trail of misery among all those affected, whether they are the people themselves, their parents, their children, their friends, or their relatives. As the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, said, those who claim to be knowledgeable in these matters say that sexual dysfunction—as the jargon has it—is prevalent in at least 50 per cent. of marriage break-ups. Therefore, the argument is that sex education or sex practice at some time has probably been inadequate or incomplete.

At the other end of the scale, there are those who take the view best put by Mr. Caspar Brook of the Family Planning Association when he said: sex is to be enjoyed, and we want to provide knowledge so that people will not be anxious about it ". So with these two weapons in its armoury, society proceeds to set about its children, to bombard and to inform them, not knowing whether they are right or wrong, because the effects of sex education can never be measured or quantified. We use the word "educate"; it sounds better than "inform". It gives the impression that children will emerge more balanced, sensible and happy, the children of choice, not in docrination. But I wonder whether they are more happy and more balanced. In an age when, as never before, the viability of all previously accepted standards is under an attack which demands their justification—whether those standards are principles of religion or the practices of religion, or the standards of morals, or even the value of morals, or the requirement of authority, of whomsoever that authority be composed—it is not surprising that sex and society's attitude towards sex, in its turn becomes the punchball for differing views.

My Lords, in this turmoil of upturned values, the children are so often left directionless because the honest teacher and parent fears to impose his views, which, he believes, in the eyes of others may seem to be imperfect, on a receptive, younger and tender mind. But very often in a tempestuous sea, the traveller longs to see clearly the stakes marking the guidelines to the harbour entrance which others have seen fit to place there in times of lesser challenge. In the commendable desire not to impose one's views on another generation, one may find that the receptive mind is filled, not by the result of the child's deliberate choice, but by the views of the less scrupulous who see a perfect opportunity open to them of sowing the seeds of their views into the minds of others.

It can be difficult in this day and age for a teacher with principle to teach principles. Without question, there has been a vastly more liberal or licentious attitude towards the teaching of sex both in and out of school. Some consider this move justifiable. At the other extreme there are those who consider in certain cases it has now become an affront to young and old alike, and one is entitled to ask, "Has it been successful?" If the divorce and abortion rates are to be any guide at all, our efforts over the past decade have proved somewhat poor. "But", says the realist, "what are you to do?" We live in a grisly world. The world is permissive and children must be warned, and taught to protect themselves against it. Few can find fault with that argument.

So, rightly or wrongly, we decide to tell the children everything, with no holds barred. We tell them how wrong it is to bring unwanted children into the world and, therefore, how necessary it is to have the facilities of abortion. We tell them how, in order to avoid abortion, contraceptives must be used, and we tell them how best to use them. We bombard them with leaflets, coloured booklets, films and classroom instruction which leaves nothing, even to a sterile imagination. We tell them what a unique and wonderful thing sex is, and, having instructed them as best we possibly can on how at the same time both to copulate but not to procreate, is it not surprising that the children then go and try it out? It is really no use people then throwing up their hands in horror and saying, "But we never thought this would happen". Of course it will; and mistakes are made. More pregnancies ensue, and so the vicious circle starts again, leaving a trail of scarred emotions and bruised, even ruined, lives in its wake.

My Lords, then come the new breed of avant-garde teachers who take the view, "Catch them young, before the age of puberty, and before they start to feel any natural instincts". Mrs. Freda Parker, on behalf of the Educational Service of the Family Planning Association, said: Contraceptive education has to be given very young. It is almost too late when children get to puberty. The children in school are a captive audience. Of course they are. That is why they go to school. So we have the sight of children of five years old, six years, seven years or eight years old, being taught all about the facts of life and contraception in order that, having learned it all, they should know they should not use it. To me, this approach is both pathetic and wholly wrong. What is one of the greatest attractions of children if it is not the innocence of youth? It goes so soon, and I believe it to be almost a desecration of youth to destroy it prematurely because the "expert" says that the child will be the better for it. The evidence does not point that way.

In 1969, the number of abortions in girls under 16 years of age was 1,231. In 1973, four years later, the figure rose to 3,478. During the same period, abortions of girls aged between 16 and 19 years rose from a figure of 8,059 to 31,666. If sex instruction has anything to do with these figures, they point not to the success but to the failure of the methods used. Yet, as the figures get worse, so the pressure to intensify the effort increases. I can do little better than to remind your Lordships of the words which the late Lord Fisher of Lambeth used when he said: There is no unreasonable argument which cannot be proved reasonable by reason. In all this so much depends on the teachers. The noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, said we must not let loose on the children people who are not qualified. I accept a lot of that, but it is not so much what is taught as the way it is taught. It is not the qualification which the teacher has that matters, but the character of the teacher. It is not sufficient to teach the physical and mechanical facts of copulation and contraception if such teaching is not given within the context of love, marriage and family life. I am bound to say I was slightly amazed when the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, answering a question from my noble friend behind me, said that he could not speak for the Government on that point; he thought the Government had really not looked at the problem from that point of view. I realise that that was an "off the cuff" answer, but if that is right then I should hope that the Government will consider it from that point of view.

Too often the instruction is given for "partners", inferring, with a degree of acceptability, that such unions will be outside the context of marriage. It is not sufficient to teach the art of sexual intercourse if you omit the effect of the emotional intercourse which that act necessarily stimulates. It is debasing to infer that to use contraceptives is responsible, without making it plain that promiscuity, which contraceptives inevitably encourage, is socially irresponsible. It is dishonest to teach or to claim that contraception is safe, for no method of contraception is safe, either for pregnancy or for health. The pill has hit the world by storm, and it is to me a source of amazement that people are prepared to drug themselves daily, not to cure an illness. but to alter their bodily functions, in the happy belief that there will be no ill effects. The British Medical Journal stated these ominous words: Despite the recent all-clear given to the pill, there is no doubt that a variety of metabolic abnormalities and adverse side-effects may follow its use. A study of 12,000 women by the University of California State Health Department shows that the pill can cause breast cancer and cancer of the cervix. There is, therefore, no such thing as a safe contraceptive. In 1973 3,600 girls between 11 and 15 had abortions, and the majority of these thought that they had used reliable methods of contraception. My noble friend Lady Elles referred to a survey carried out by the Pregnancy Advisory Service on 1,000 women, of whom 697 were single girls, who had been referred to them for abortion, 40 per cent. of whom had become pregnant accidentally while using comparatively reliable methods of contraception. Every method of contraception has its hazards, including the pill, and this should be made abundantly clear in any form of teaching, as should the dangers of venereal disease.

I agree with my noble friend that the Government should resist pressures which are currently being exerted to make the pill freely available off prescription. The point is made only this week, in the current issue of the British Medical Journal. They say, referring to diseases caused by the pill: This grisly collection of contraceptive-induced disease reinforces the opinion held by many doctors that administration of these drugs must be as closely controlled as that of any other potentially hazardous therapeutic agent. My Lords, there is a right place to do this teaching, and that presumably is at school. I think the majority of people are fed up with seeing so-called educational material being put over on television and in cinemas and in newspapers. I took my 10-year-old son the other day to a "U"film about animals, in our local cinema, only to find ourselves obliged to watch an advertisement feature, a movie, inviting us to go to the local family planning clinic to get ourselves fitted up with contraceptives. Well, my Lords, if this is sex education for children, I do not want my children to have it that way. Nor indeed do I particularly want to have it that way myself. If it is aimed at adults, then it should not be shown at cinemas where films suitable for children are being screened.

In this subject we are in the somewhat ethereal area of emotions, character and attitudes, but the waters get fouled by hard materialistic interest which must be fully recognised. That is the interest to which my noble friend Lady Elles referred, the interest of those who manu- facture contraceptives. They are there to sell contraceptives. They are not there for any philanthropic purpose. They are not there to curb world population. They are there to make money. They have not been unsuccessful in this, either. The Monopolies Commission report that the London Rubber Company, which is the sole manufacturer of sheaths in the United Kingdom, made a profit in 1968–69 of£3.14 million, and in 1972–73 of £5.2 million. As my noble friend said, the Family Planning Association is allowed a 5 per cent. retrospective rebate on all this. The Company told the Monopolies Commission that they considered this justified, and the words were, because "the Family Planning Association's educational activities widen the market for contraceptive devices." My Lords, what a shocking reason, even if it is an honest one. There is here, therefore, a direct confrontation, or involvement, of commerce with emotions, ethics and morals, and I for one believe this to be very dangerous, particularly when it comes into the field of education.

I know that much of the Family Planning Association's work has been initiated and carried out by highly responsible people working in the public interest. But I do believe—and I must say this quite openly—that some of the material which is put out by this body, a body which the Government also support, is wholly unsuitable and even mischievous. Even if the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, has studied it, I wonder whether he has studied a recent leaflet, which they saw fit to call an "amusingly illustrated" leaflet, called, "Getting it on". It depicts in cartoon form, and in a vulgar and pornographic manner, the advantages of wearing a condom, and ends with the caption, "If you have it off, have it on "I am frankly amazed that such a serious and personal matter can be treated in such a flippant and offensive manner by a body which expects public respect and which commands public money. Such a publication does nothing other than to invite, and, by inference, to condone, promiscuity.

So also does a large advertisement, inserted in the newspapers by the same Association, of a half-naked girl and a young man, with bold letters, saying, "Play Safe, ask your chemist for contraceptives ". The whole advertisement implies intercourse between young unmarried couples. It correlates sexual intercourse with playing, or commendable relaxation, and it infers that if you do this with sheaths purchased from the Family Planning Association then you will be safe. Safe from what? Pregnancy? That is not so. Disease? That certainly is not so. Reprimand? Well, even nowadays that could happen. Or emotional upheaval? They do not say anything about that. In all these instances this advertisement is shamefully misleading, and I venture to suggest is socially irresponsible and debasing. Yet this is too often what the children, and even adults, are subjected to under the mantle of education.

And it is this body, working in a controversial field, and in, to many, a highly controversial manner, whose clinics are to be taken over by the Department of Health and Social Security. One is entitled to ask, are the same personnel and the same methods to be employed under the aegis of the DHSS as are at present employed by the Family Planning Association? And are the views and actions of the Family Planning Association to become the accepted policy and practices of the Department, and, therefore, of the Government? I ask the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, this, although I have not given him notice that I was going to ask it. I do hope that he will be able to answer it, because if his reply is in the affirmative, I am bound to tell him it will cause many people some concern.

Governments are always frightened of this general subject—and I do not blame them. I venture to think that, in all this, the Government, any Government, are not always as helpful as they ought to be. A recent report in the Evening Standard of 2nd December was headed rather graphically, "Fagged out? Then give sex a try". It said, "Carry on making love, girls, it's good for you. But do try to give up smoking". The report continued, "That was the message from the Government at today's London Conference. Baroness Birk from the Department of the Environment said, ' While sex is healthy and enjoyable, tobacco may be enjoyable but is not healthy ' ". I know that was a newspaper report. The noble Baroness may not have been speaking in a ministerial capacity but, if so, that was not made clear. I am bound to say with, I hope, both respect and humility, that that kind of advice from that kind of source with that kind of publicity is, in my judgment, nothing short of disgraceful.

Governments have traditionally shied away—and I think rightly so from pontificating on morals, or delineating on morals and moral values. What they cannot do is to ignore the effect on morals, or moral values, of their actions, whether they are actions by way of speech or by legislation. Over the last decade or so and my noble friend Lady Elles has referred to this—public people and Parliament have spent time and effort reforming laws. There are, and have been, campaigns for divorce law reform; marriage law reform; contraception law reform; abortion law reform; homosexual law reform. If, in all this, adults do not know where they stand, how can children possibly know? If adults do not know, how can they teach children with responsibility? Some parts of most of these campaigns meet with the approval of many people, but that does not mean that all parts of each campaign meet with the approval of many. But when taken together they can well alter the face of family life and society as we know it. I do not, for one minute, believe that that is the universal wish of the majority of people in this country. I think that it is the wish of a few. Running through these campaigns is, as my noble friend Lady Elles said, usually the common denominator of a pressure group —sometimes the same one—and Government and people should be aware that, though vociferous and persuasive, they do not often reflect the views of the majority.

There is now a campaign for sexual law reform, which seeks to liberalise laws on homosexuality and incest and to lower the age of consent to 14. I wonder how many ordinary people with teenage daughters want to see the age of consent lowered to 14. My guess is very few. I certainly do not. In all these changes it is the family unit which takes the knock, and yet it is the family unit which we ought to seek to support. It is in this arena of wildly conflicting ideas that we have to try to bring up our children and, in the process, pass some of the responsibility for doing so on to others—the teachers.

My Lords, youth is impressionable—that is why you have to teach. If it were not impressionable there would be no point in teaching. Of course, there must be sex instruction, but it is the type of sex instruction which matters. This cannot be dictated by Government or even by headmaster or by syllabus. I agreed so much with the right reverend Prelate when I think he quoted a headmaster who said, "Pupils are at the mercy of their teachers". The right instruction will help youth and improve society, but the wrong instruction will damage youth and will deprave society. The right instruction will be given by the right man in the right way. The wrong instruction will be given by the wrong man in the wrong way. And if parents consider their children are being subjected to wrong or scurrilous teaching, then they should have the right to remove their children from such classes.

If we have gone wrong—I think that we have and that we are in danger of going more wrong—it is not an easy enemy to fight. It is rather like punching a bag of feathers. There is no one specific thing you can get hold of and say, "That is the cause of it ". There is no one simple answer, unless it is that what is important is the choice of teacher, and the choice of him who chooses the teacher. In this sphere I venture to suggest that what we need is fewer "experts" and more teachers with that wonderful gift of common sense. I remember someone once saying, "What will destroy this country is not the atom bomb or the hydrogen bomb, but the inability to discern between right and wrong ". My Lords, it is the ability to discern between right and wrong over which we, the adults, need to give the children the greatest help and which the children, believe it or not, look to us, and want us, to give.

4.56 p.m.


My Lords, before I express my gratitude to the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, for raising this issue in this House, may I say how much I enjoyed the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich, and how much I wish to congratulate him on it and look forward to his speeches in the future, although I am not a Christian and cannot go along the whole way with him. I also usually find myself greatly in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, and today particularly I found myself in that position.

To come back to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, I wonder whether we should really congratulate ourselves on raising this issue again now. It seems to me that we could, and should, have dealt with these issues before now. I think that these issues could have been dealt with if perhaps views such as those of the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, were not so prevalent. I greatly deplore the almost libellous attack by the noble Baroness on the Family Planning Association. I use these strong words because I have supported the Family Planning Association for over 50 years, and many of its members, the women and men who worked there and still work there, are my friends. They work there without any remuneration. They give up their time and their energy, and through the efforts they have made they have been of incalculable benefit to thousands, even millions, of women in this country. I know that some of the propaganda that they have put out has been rather foolish, some of it has been mauled about and misinterpreted today by those who have spoken in this House, but they have made the lives of thousands of women in this country both happier and easier.

I am going to speak about sex education. I am not going to wander off into abortion or sexual practices, and all the matters that we have concentrated so much on today. Many parents have shirked their responsibility. They have left their children to acquire like vagabonds their knowledge about sex. Here we are, in this mature House of Parliament—and perhaps the word "mature" is a euphemism, especially after some of the things that have been said here today —perpetuating and adding to the mountain of myths about sex, and not setting about reducing the ignorance and guilt which have been such a legacy from Victorian years.

Today, when we are able to acquire a degree from the University of the Air, when a fund of information and education can be plucked from the air continuously about every subject on the earth, most people regard sex education for children as a dangerous thing. It is dangerous only when we do not answer their questions and satisfy their curiosity honestly and plainly. For most parents this is not an easy thing to do. There seems to be a dearth of educators, and we still suffer not only from the sins of our fathers but from the silence of our fathers and mothers. We must look elsewhere for educators, for people who are less personally involved and who have less fear than have parents in this matter.

As I said, I have been critical of much of the propaganda that has been put out about sex education, but I have been much heartened by the latest statement made by the Family Planning Association, although I do not know whether the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, has read it. It is written with such a deep understanding of the delicacy that this subject still demands, unjustifiably I believe, that I do not think anyone can take exception to it. Up till now the Family Planning Association has been concerned only with contraception, but now it has ventured into the sphere of sex education. I quote from the FPA's latest statement: Responsible teachers in medicine, theology, law and education have not in general yet taken their rightful place as purveyors of full and promised information. That is what we in this Chamber must today contemplate and discuss, and not all the other issues. That is not to say that we should not discuss the moral issues because, of course, they are involved the whole time. The statement continues: The task of sex educators belongs primarily to the parents, to the churches and to the schools. What could be more decent, more plain and more sympathetic than that?

Apart from the media, the most important people to influence young people are the teachers. I do not believe that we have yet reached a liberated generation of parents capable of being candid with their children about sex. The FPA believes that sex educators have a responsibility to be trained and qualified and has started a training course in this field. The point to remember is that they must be trained; we are not talking about expert teachers in this sphere but about trained personnel, and these must come from various fields. Personally, I think that sex education for children should be an important part of teacher training in teacher training colleges and not dealt with just by the Health Education Council or even the Marriage Guidance Council. They can play their part, but they cannot fulfil the complete role in sex education for children.

The Department of Education and Science should set up a committee or council of social workers who specialise in this subject for the curriculum. We all know the difficulties, the obstacles and the hurdles that must be overcome in a field in which values are continually being challenged, but it is high time that parents were able to communicate with their children about sex they should not regard this particular field of knowledge as either dangerous or morally subversive. Silence and ignorance are more dangerous than simply telling them what goes on in the world. The sins of silence and ignorance spill over to the next generation, and that makes things worse. The time has come for people to stop saying that sex education for children is either pornographic or a passport to promiscuity. By maintaining this attitude they are eroding their responsibilities.

While parents have not had enough responsibility, teachers have been given a responsibility for which they are not qualified, and so we have a terrible mess in certain aspects of this subject. Pontificating and moralising will not solve the difficulties we are in. We have to be frank with our children, and we have to answer their questions when they ask them. "Is it right to have sex outside marriage?", "Is it right not to be faithful on occasion?". "Must marriage last a lifetime? "All these questions must be answered frankly and there must be far less hypocrisy about the whole subject. My goodness! today I have been shown how much hypocrisy and how much lack of frankness still exists.

The Earl of PERTH

My Lords, I have listened to the noble Baroness with great interest. Would she agree that it would be better if the parents rather than the children were taught by these special educators?


Most certainly, my Lords. Because the speeches so far have been rather long, I left out a good deal of what I had intended to say. I must attend an engagement which will mean my leaving the Chamber, but I will return as quickly as possible to hear the rest of the debate. I absolutely agree with the noble Earl that it is the parents who need to be taught. I thought that I had made that clear when I spoke of their lack of responsibility in this matter.

5.7 p.m.


My Lords, before I even come to my first point, I wish to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, for initiating this debate and for speaking so splendidly on its terms. I also thank the Government, despite some strictures which were rightly put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, for the information that they are going into this issue. Let me straight away declare my interest. I am a Minister of the Church of Scotland as by law established. Let me, next, declare my subject, which is the real issue at stake: it is the Christian understanding of creation in all its manifestations. That is my first point, as it will be my last point. Having said that so brusquely, let me declare my apprehension lest some noble Lords, having heard it starkly stated, are now expecting something puritan, obscurantist and out of date. This I would utterly deny, but to convince noble Lords that it is part of a larger issue than merely the sex issue, one can see it only in a larger setting.

Others in this debate—those who have spoken and those who are about to speak —are right to concentrate in the strict meaning of the word on the adulteration of sex education by reason of its separation from the faith, as today it is too often being expounded. I want in the main to speak of the Christian understanding of creation, not just in sex but right across the board—of politics and economics as well as sex—because unless we see the sex issue in its wider setting we shall never get it right, like today's politics and economics are never got right and are descending and descending. The real problem of the world as I understand it today is the extent to which we have departed from the big issues and have departmentalised them into things by themselves as if there was the sacred on one side and the secular on the other.

Noble Lords may know the story of the young man who was going to become a doctor, who went to the parish in which he was born and met the old doctor who had brought him into the world. The old man said to him, "I hear you are going to become a doctor", to which the young man replied "Yes". The old man asked, "Are you going to become a general practitioner? "and the young man replied, "No, I am going to specialize." "What are you going to specialise in?" asked the old man, and the young man replied, "I am going to specialise in the nose." The old man asked, "You mean the ear, nose and throat?" The young man said, "No, that is too large a subject; I am going to specialise in the nose." The old doctor asked, "To which nostril are you going to devote your life? "

This departmentalisation makes it impossible to discuss the real issue because it has been separated. Nor do I apologise for saying that I shall speak in these terms because this is one of the few legislative assemblies left in the world which is not truly convened unless it has been opened with Christian prayer. That is to say, all our work is under the ægis of the Christian faith, short of which there is no solution to anything. That is why I feel that the representative of the Government was a little inadequate in saying that the Government might not be going into this sort of issue. Is it not essential, if we are not constituted at all except in terms of the Christian faith, that we should be concerned with this issue? We must see the issues of creation in the Christian context. We must see our duties in terms of the Decalogue.

I should like sincerely to congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich on his first speech among us. He seemed to say almost in passing at the beginning of his speech that he would not speak in Jewish terms. I do not know whether he meant that we should not be going back to the Decalogue but, if he did mean something of that kind, I must remind him that except our righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees we shall in no wise enter the Kingdom of God. Therefore, quite bluntly, we must get back to "Thou shalt not kill" in terms of politics. We must get back to "Thou shalt not covet" in terms of economics. We must get back to "Thou shalt not commit adultery ' in terms of sex as the starting point for the discussion of all these truths.

Today, everyone in the Western world is asking what is the matter. They are all asking why we have inflation and so on. I wonder whether we might not all get further if we asked rather, "What is matter?" Matter is the identification of the material with the etheric. The greatest discovery of science in this century has been the theory of relativity which says essentially that one cannot divide the material from the etheric. That is the kind of word that is exciting to the scientist. Einstein summarised it in a sentence when he said, The ultimate form of the atom is light energy. That is to say that the material can no longer be separated from the ethereal.

If it is exciting for the scientist, surely it is intoxicating for the Christian. In Bible, pre-scientific times, the only thing people could do was to talk in terms of pictures, but they had got right through to relativity by their prophetic insight. Thus cried the psalmist, "Every thing cries glory." I emphasise the word "thing". St. Paul says, The whole creation is groaning waiting for the revealing of the sons of God. Jesus said, I am the light of the world ". He did not say that He was the light of the Church or of the individual soul. He is that because He is light energy. He is the answer to the whole blessed thing. Secular and sacred are demolished and "at one ment "has taken place. This is perhaps best summarised in the story of the Transfiguration because that is the only way people could speak in those days. When our Lord was speaking to the ethereal powers, Moses and Elijah, in the heavenly places and talking to the disciples on the mountain top, His whole body was transfigured and became translucent. He was shimmering. Was He spiritual or was He material, was He ethereal or was He part of matter? He was the "at onement". This is the theory of relativity declared in pictures in the Bible.

As many of you know, the Feast of the Transfiguration is on 6th August, which is the day when we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. We took light energy and used it to kill 100,000 people before the night was done. We took the body of Christ and used it for bloody hell. I am trying to keep my language as accurate as possible. Nobody noticed. I am not being cheap. I did not notice. I was celebrating the Feast of the Transfiguration all robed up on the Island of Iona when we took the body of Christ and thus used it. There is nadir for our society and the world in the extent to which we insist on keeping the secular away from the sacred and thereby understand neither and can get on with no kind of solution if the whole of our Government is to be started with Christian prayer.

President Truman said that he had allowed the bomb because it was bound to teach the nations other ways of settling their disputes, but that has not happened. We have had a non-proliferation treaty and since that treaty the nuclear arsenals have quadrupled. We have military research and development to find deadlier weapons for war. How many people know that in the last recorded year over 400,000 scientists around the world were giving their whole time to developing deadlier weapons to deal with the situation and that £11 billion—not dollars—is being spent every year on research in these matters? That is slightly more than is being spent by all Governments for research of every other type—medical, educational and so on.

This is the extent to which, if one separates the secular and the sacred, the crisis gets worse. People become impatient and say we must have nuclear capacity for détente. But are we quite sure? Seven years ago, China spent £6 million a year on nuclear device consultations. Last year, she spent £600 million on that subject. And now that China has a great border with India impoverished India must have nuclear power, and the Pakistanis have recently asserted that they too must have nuclear power for that reason. Up and up mounts the gathering tribe. The USA now has locked up in cupboards nuclear power for warlike purposes equal to the Hiroshima bomb dropped every day for the next 120 years when 10 such bombs would destroy the whole world. What are the others made for? They are made for money.

Pope John has declared that there is no longer any such thing as a just war. It is impossible to conceive of a just war in a nuclear age. Liddell Hart—no pacifist parson he but the greatest war Correspondent of our generation—said before he died that an body who talked about winning the next war was a menace to humanity. He went on to say that nobody could win the next war and that we must teach the Governments of the world that non-violence is a workable policy. This was a war correspondent speaking.

Again, I am simply making the point of the irreducible relationship between the secular and the sacred in the kind of world which we have. In the ethics of economics things are getting worse. In 1970, the previous Government of Portugal started the Cabora Bassa dam in Mozambique and put thousands of Africans off the land to build it in order to give sweeping power through water to South Africa and its industries. One of the British banks was putting up millions of pounds, and some students went to the annual general meeting to protest against the use of our money for this sort of purpose, each having bought a share in the company to allow them to attend. They were not allowed to bring up the matter at the meeting, but afterwards the chairman of the international section got the students into a room and said, "You young men must understand that international trade is now so intertwined that if you bring principle into it there will be no international trade." The original Gaelic for that is, "Where profit is concerned, to hell with principle." Do not get me wrong the man who said that is a man of complete and absolute integrity. On the one side we have people of integrity and on the other side there are the issues which we have been dealing with, which are called the secular issues, and the situation is getting worse and worse.

Only last week it was disclosed that one hundred construction companies in this country have been making investigations to find out what has been the average amount paid to the workers and the average paid to the highest of the directors. It is true that the average income in the past year of all the workers in these one hundred construction companies —the actual money given to them—has worked out at £45 per week, but the senior director gets £450. It is also true that last year, because of rising prices, £7 was put on to the weekly wage of the workers in the hundred construction industries, and £37 a week was put on to the salary of all the directors. Do not let us become hoity-toity about the miners or the steel workers and say that they should realise the problems of the country and that they should rise to something, when we have not the slightest intention of rising to something, either in the economic sphere or in getting rid of this vast and unbelievable issue.

We saw in the paper today that £10,000 is the miners' figure on the budget situation, while here we are spending £5,000 million a year on the war which our great war correspondent tells us nobody can win. Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not commit adultery ". Because of the sacred nature of the body this must be the working, driving force of anything in the subject being discussed today. In the issue of sex there is almost complete secularity. There is this irreverent teaching in the schools. It is not intentionally irreverent, but it leaves out the whole of the ultimate relationship between spirit and matter. There is this strange new movement called "Grape-vine ", started by the Family Planning Association. Its essential purpose is to get youth to go to workshops and so become volunteers who can go out and accost other youth. It is confined to people from 17 to 30 years of age, and they are taught all about the various issues which we understand. They accost other youth in the streets, in the pubs, at discotheques, and outside school gates. They start talking to them, and the conversation ends up being about contraceptives and free love. I do not think these young people are teaching free love: the whole issue is divided completely from the sacredness of it.

I have figures un until only the summer of last year which show that over 100 volunteers who have been trained in these workshops have been going out and, by the time quoted, had contacted 260 young people. Of course, the figures are becoming larger over the whole country. There were 100 in the London set-up, and there must now be about 1,000 volunteers who have been working in workshops and who have now come out to explain the situation. They speak about the population explosion, but they do not know about the economics of the situation, and they imagine that the developing countries will bring down their figures, too. But young people simply do not know that people in the developing countries dare not have less than eight children, because of the high mortality rate. The position is that 75 per cent. of families in those countries must have more than eight children if there are to be enough children left in the family to work on the farm. Otherwise the family goes bankrupt and has no social credit.

So the whole question of population comes down to us. They are not going to do anything about it. What are we going to do? Let us consider the complete secularity of the literature of the movements and individuals I have in mind. I dare to refer to this. It is literature I can show to anyone. It is produced by the Family Planning Association. I can let your Lordships see it, if you wish, in order to confirm what I am now saying. The literature to which I refer has a sketch showing what appears to be six people laughing. But these happen to be six erect penises, each wearing a contraceptive sheath, and each talking and laughing with one another. On opening the pamphlet one finds, with the greatest lack of respect and lack of dignity, the phrase "getting it on". Consider this situation in relation to some young people, who have had a bad home background or who have had no teaching in the home, when they find in the pamphlet a reference to a leaflet entitled "Getting it on", quoting the price for 100 copies, including postage and packing, at less than £l These salacious, grinning creatures might easily find a good place in a pornographic magazine.

Presumably young people go out with these pamphlets and move through groups of 15 year olds. Their underlying purpose is to sell the pill or the contraceptives. A man who was a director of the Family Planning Association has written the following; it is from him, not from me. He states: There is, of course, vast commercial interests in promoting sex and also pseudo-educational and political misguidance of the young…and this is the real evil. No one can see anything but harm in such things being put across to thousands of young people aged 12 and 13 by other young people. Unless there is a Christian understanding there will be thousands of broken homes and abortion will rise and rise. I ask that, please, we should not be hoity-toity about the wages of people who are receiving just over £50 a week as against what the directors receive. Nor should we be hoity-toity about what we read in the papers, when we find that there are people about who are indulging in baby-bashing. How many people realise that we are responsible for baby-bashing? How many people realise that while the child is still the foetus it can feel pain, it can cry? So we do the baby-bashing before the birth, and criminals do it afterwards.

We have got away from the inevitable relationship between the sacred and the secular. Whosoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. This is what happens when we relate the sacred to the secular. Of course abortion has to take place, but not for the sort of purposes which have been taught and taught, to the desperation of thousands. We must get back to the Christian interpretation of creation.

5.29 p.m.


My Lords, the fact that your Lordships' House is debating this subject, having debated it on previous occasions, is evidence of the failure of whatever we have done in this sphere hitherto. It is not a new problem. Thirty years ago a considerable amount of money was made available from Government sources, following the last war, for sex education, and in the interval a good deal has happened. I want to speak particularly from the point of view of the schools. Three years ago my own organisation issued a document on this subject and made available 200 sources of information on sex education, all of them prepared by responsible bodies or responsible individuals, some from the Department of Education, some from individual authorities. So it would be idle to suggest that there has not been substantial effort made. I think there has been; but I share the view of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, that it has failed. I should like, therefore, to devote most of what I have to say to trying to ascertain why it has failed and why, in my opinion, it will continue to fail.

My generation—our generation, I think, in fairness, looking round your Lordships' House—were very largely conditioned by ignorance and fear in this respect. Our morality was too dependent on ignorance and fear—not a very sound basis for morality. Today, that would be impossible. It should be impossible because ignorance, unless a young person is blind and deaf, would be absolutely absurd, since he has sex poured at him in every newspaper every day, on television, at the cinema—wherever he goes. So ignorance is no longer possible. And fear, as we have heard this afternoon, is being very largely removed. There are the advertisements for contraception, the pill, and all the other efforts being made by modern science to take the fear element out of sex. Our task, therefore, is to replace morality based on ignorance and fear with morality based on knowledge and restraint, and that is not an easy thing to do.

I do not think there is a major problem in the area of knowledge. I think teachers could be selected and trained to teach sex education in terms of knowledge quite effectively; but knowledge will not succeed. If we have any doubts on that subject we have only to look at what has happened in Sweden, where there is a very extensive programme of sex education but where, on the problems to which reference has been made —venereal disease, promiscuity and all the other things—it has had no effect at all. Equally, our efforts in this country in the last 20 years by way of sex education apparently have had no effect. My Lords, some 30 years ago I accepted that one of the ultimate aims of education—and it is better quoted when you write something and you forget what you have written 30 years ago—could be put in these terms: It is reasonable to expect the school to provide situations which will lead the pupil progressively to direct his action by an integrated and unified attitude in which he increasingly believes "— what I think other noble Lords have been trying to say in terms of a philosophy of life.

This, the knowledge side, I think can be dealt with; and, strangely enough, share the view of those who think that the physical facts of sex should be taught before adolescence, when there is no emotional content necessarily involved. But the greattask is the post-adolescent one of trying to help pupils to come to "an integrated and unified attitude" in which they increasingly believe; and we tend to fail, as we have failed, my Lords, over the whole range of educational work, in my judgment, in the last 30 years—and for the same reason. I believed 30 years ago, in 1945, when the total cost of the educational services of this country was £155 million, that a vastly increased investment would lead to greatly increased productivity, creating wealth in the nation which would sustain all the developments, the improvements, that we wanted to make. We have not succeeded in that. The productivity of the nation has not increased as we had hoped, and, therefore, we have to ask why.

The answer is really very simple. We have succeeded in the sphere of knowledge. This, I do not think, is open to dispute. I suggest to your Lordships that in everything that is measurable the next generation are better than we were. Every record we established has been beaten many more pass examinations at every level than in our generation—and the reason is simple. When we teach children that two and two are four their parents agree, the BBC agrees, the whole of society agrees—perhaps with the possible exception of Government statisticians. But, in general, society agrees. Society reinforces everything we teach in the area of knowledge, and therefore we succeed. But when we come to the problem of attitudes and values, what does society do? It teaches the contrary to almost everything we try to teach. We try to teach that violence is a bad thing, that it achieves nothing. What is society teaching? It is that in every walk of life militancy pays dividends, that force is the ultimate sanction. Indeed, the nation itself would seem to accept that dictum. The failure over the whole of industry and commerce, my Lords, is not due to lack of knowledge and skill: it is due to attitudes and values. This is the problem.

Now that we come to this particular area, in the schools we can, I think, possibly make a positive contribution to knowledge in this field, and I would accept that the parents need the reinforcement of the schools. Whatever we may say, teachers will be asked these questions. A teacher is in loco parent is; a teacher has a responsibility to answer the questions which his or her pupils address to him or her. We can succeed in the area of knowledge, but we shall fail, as we have failed, in the real problem of establishing attitudes and values which bring the necessary restraint to establish a morality based on knowledge and restraint unless society reinforces the teaching of the schools; unless society is prepared itself to establish a set of values which society itself accepts. Here, I agree completely with the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers; this is the problem. Society is not agreed on the values in this area which are acceptable generally. The range of opinion is very great.

Therefore, I am bound to say to your Lordships that unless two conditions are satisfied I see no prospect of success in sex education in our schools. One, the very careful selection of the teachers who should undertake the task and the very thorough training; and, two, society must be prepared to reinforce in the area of attitudes and values as effectively as they reinforce in the area of knowledge. My Lords, those of us who are concerned with education are charged with the duty of making young people fit to live in society. There is a much more fundamental problem: it is to make society fit for young people to live in.

5.40 p.m.

The Earl of LONGFORD

My Lords, we have just listened to a fascinating but I am afraid very depressing speech. I thought that the noble Lord left very little hope in front of us. I hope that personally I am rather more optimistic than he. With great respect to one whose services to education are at least as high as those of anyone in the House, and perhaps higher, I feel that he might have served a better purpose to explain what are the values that society is to propound. He avoided that question as, in another sense, my noble friend Lady Gaitskell avoided that question. Unless public men are prepared to state the values that they stand for one cannot expect society in the abstract, in some remote collectivity, to arrive at any agreed conclusion. But it was undoubtedly a speech which impressed the House.

The noble Baroness led off in fine style and there are many other speakers to follow me; so that it may be asked whether my speech is absolutely necessary. I felt that it was necessary, as I still feel that it is, if I may say so respectfully. In fact I feel it is a little more necessary after having listened to the noble Lord. I was at one point in doubt as to whether it was quite so necessary after I heard the right reverend Prelate who made a distinguished maiden speech. I find myself echoing many of his sentiments but no doubt I shall not put them so well. I must not take up very much time and I will concentrate on the question of what kind of sex education ought to be offered to our children. I am leaving over the other questions which keep cropping up: the question of what kind of sex education is being offered them, whether through the dubious activities of the family planning people or otherwise, and then how, in an administrative sense, we can bring the real, the actual, closer to the ideal.

I should like to submit these propositions rather dogmatically in view of the shortage of time. What I want to say comes under four headings. First, sex education may do good or it may do harm. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, developed that point. One would think it hardly necessary to mention it except that there are people, not merely in this House, who believe that you have only to to call something sex education for some kind of magical effect to take place. The first point is platitudinous. Then I submit that it is impossible to provide a sex education that does not impart values of some kind, positive or negative; in other words, sex education which does not place sex in a moral context teaches immorality. This comes close to the point made by the noble Lord that we failed because we have not taught any moral values or they have not been widely taught. Thirdly, I would say that all who receive sex education should be taught to act responsibly in sexual matters. Fourthly, the aspiration must be the establishment of a loving and secure family and this in turn involves the aspiration of fidelity within marriage and chastity at all times. This has been said more than once by religious and other speakers.

Leaving out the first proposition which, as I have said, is rather platitudinous, I will discuss for a moment the question of whether it is or is not possible to discuss sexual relationships without indicating that some are morally permissible in our own view and some are not. I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, is not here. She is a long-standing champion of the FPA and she said something about them that I had not realised. If I understood her correctly—and the House will put me right on this—I think that at one point she mentioned that up to now the FPA have been concerned only with contraception but that they are going into the field of sexual education from now on. Then she raised certain questions such as: Is sex permissible outside marriage? and other moral questions of that sort, but did not stop to answer them. She said that these questions should be dealt with frankly. I believe that that word "frankly" can be misleading and, indeed, dangerous. One can deal with something rightly or wrongly but to say that one deals with it frankly is ambiguous, to say the worst.

Let us take a subject like promiscuity. One may regard it, as I think most would regard it, as damaging on physical grounds, or on psychological grounds, or on moral grounds, or on all three grounds; but if we can agree as far as that, then surely we ought to discourage it as far as possible in sex education. Although the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, did not get as far as explaining his views on that subject, I imagine that he would agree with me that in the sex education of the future (which he is rather pessimistic about the prospect of introducing) we should discourage promiscuity. I would hope that we could also discourage adultery and fornication. Those who receive instruction in sexual matters without being taught that these activities are wrong will quickly conclude there is nothing wrong about them.

I remember that years ago—I do remember a story but this may lay me open to the charge of pornography so I will not tell it to the House. I told it once before and by some extraordinary mistake in the Daily Telegaph it was attributed to the late Lord Salisbury. I am not making that mistake again; for it might be attributed to the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill. Without that telling anecdote, we can agree I think that adultery and fornication are wrong and if we are teaching about sex that should be made abundantly plain.

My Lords, the third proposition is that all who receive sex education should be taught to act responsibly in sexual matters. That word is freely used by some. It may be used even by the FPA; but, at any rate, lip-service is frequently paid to the words responsible behaviour ". Let us not be under any illusion as to what the words mean to quite a number who are helping to form the opinion of the nation and who incidentally are responsible for giving a lot of teaching in the schools. Many such people simply mean that sexual behaviour and sexual intercourse between young people is acceptable so long as contraceptive devices are used. In other words, as long as contraceptive devices are used there is no such thing as irresponsibility. There is no mention by such people—and I am afraid they have wielded a lot of influence in recent years—of venereal disease, of the failure rate of every type of contraceptive or of the health hazards of many such contraceptives. There is no word about the danger, the emotional damage, that may be done in so many different ways.

Those who advise our young people in the Press or in schools frequently fail to reveal any of the vast body of knowledge which demonstrates that promiscuity is psychologically damaging, particularly for the woman. Such people deliberately conceal the fact that the long-term stable commitment of marriage is the only proper way in which sexual relations can be meaningful and can find joyful fulfilment. Those facts are concealed by many of those who are most active in what is called sex education, either in administering it or promoting it. Real responsible activity must be something different. Sexual intercourse is the signing seal of the complete mutual self-giving which starts a new social unit —the family. The responsibility is simply the recognition of the potential riches of this unique relationship and its unique physical expression. It represents an understanding of the value of family and home, and a willingness to explain these relationships to growing young people. That can be put in different words—more elegant ones—but that is the gist of the responsibility as I see it and as most Christians and others who believe in the family would see it.

This brings us to our fourth proposition: the aspiration must be the establishment of a loving and secure family. I go beyond what I have said—I mentioned this at the beginning of my remarks—and say that fidelity within marriage and chastity at all times are much the strongest foundation for family life. We either accept that or we do not. We either think that those are simply pious expressions or we decide that sex education is to be based on those ideas. I may be told that the idea of chastity at all times and fidelity within marriage is an impossible aspiration at the present time. It is obviously not impossible in the sense that millions of perfectly normal people, few of them saintly, in fact achieve it. We were given some encouraging facts by the right reverend Prelate.

It is still true that the vast majority of people in our country are aiming at a life-long commitment when they marry, although we know too often that does not succeed. That is a perfectly practicable aspiration; we are not asking for something beyond the capacity of human beings. Obviously many excellent people through their fault or misfortune do not pass these tests, or at any rate at certain points in their lives they fail to pass them. Yet we respect them and, in many cases, they may be very dear to us. I am not therefore pleading in all respects for a return to what are called old-fashioned ideas of sex. There was often too much harshness involved in those old-fashioned ideas. The true Christian point of view has always been that we ought to hate the sin and love the sinner. Too often in the old days not only the sin but the sinner were equally condemned. Today, for a number of reasons that I will not try to develop now, a great change has come over the scene. We are much less ready—I am talking of the country as a whole—to condemn the sin and we are more tolerant, though I would hesitate to say that we are more actively loving, towards the sinner. That is true whether the sin takes the form of sexual irregularity or breach of the criminal law. As the House has heard often from me, I have had much to do with criminals.

We live in what is called a permissive age, though the word "tolerant" is more explanatory for good or ill. Additionally, we live in an age where everything is discussed much more freely. I am not saying that, on balance, that is harmful. There have in this area been gains and losses. A man who steals his neighbour's wife may still be more anti-social than one who steals his watch. A society in which adultery was widely applauded would be as unhealthy as one in which stealing enjoyed that status. But in each case—I must make myself clear again on this point—whether we are talking of moral or criminal delinquents, or both, those who deviate from the straight and narrow path should be met with Christian forgiveness. There is no other Christian answer but that one.

This afternoon we are not discussing the question of how far complete freedom of action or expression should be granted or denied to adults. We are concerned with the education of children and the problem of what standards of sexual conduct should be recommended to them in their tender years. I am not resting myself on Christian dogma, let alone Roman Catholic dogma, though I accept the Christian and, for that matter, the Catholic dogma. I am appealing to all —they are still the great majority in this country—who believe that if we destroy the family we destroy the country itself. There are forms of sex education which will bring this disaster close; some of them may be bringing it close already. There are other forms of sex education which can strengthen the family. We have a grave responsibility for seeing that these latter beneficial forms of sex education are employed much more generally than at the present time.

5.56 p.m.

The Marquess of LOTHIAN

My Lords, there are many speakers to come so I shall be brief. First, I should like to declare my ideological involvement in the subject of this debate, believing as I do in an orthodox Christian attitude to sex education which advocates chastity before marriage. I realise at the same time that this attitude is seen by those who accept adolescent sexual licence as normal to be a restrictive one. I was very glad therefore that my noble friend Lady Elles, when she opened this debate, appealed to noble Lords and Baronesses who were speaking and who support organisations which promote what I might call extreme views on contraceptive education, to declare their interest. It is only right and fair to say everyone has done so up to this point. By "extreme views" I mean those who support, for example—and we have heard reference to this already the Brook Advisory Centres, the Birth Control Campaign and the Family Planning Association because these organisations favour the indiscriminate sale of contraceptives through mail order, slot machines or in supermarkets with no questions asked about age and no warnings given as to the failure rates of contraceptives; so in fact children of any age can—and indeed do —obtain these without any form of control. I also mean by the word "extreme" organisations who want to take what are now controlled contraceptives, such as the pill, off prescription to be sold in supermarkets or distributed by social workers who, unlike doctors, are not fully qualified to supervise the health hazards of such oral contraceptives, particularly for young women.

I am aware that there are those who are so genuinely disturbed by the growth of world population that any form of birth control, including abortion, is acceptable. But has this not been also a propaganda vehicle for the sales of contraceptives in this country, and one which is now increasingly discredited? My noble friend Lady Elles drew the attention of the House to the fact that the birth rate has dropped now to the lowest rate this century. We should be thankful that the population gap which is emerging is being filled by immigration.

If I may delay your Lordships for a few minutes further, I should like to mention evidence put out by the Family Welfare Committee of the interdenominational Order of Christian Unity. I must declare an interest in this organisation because although I am not a member of it, my wife is its chairman. The Order's membership is drawn mainly from the professions, that is to say nurses, doctors and teachers. The statement that I have reads as follows: In the past year we have received numerous complaints from Head Teachers and parents deeply disquieted at the way young people today are encouraged to consider sexual licence as normal, without sufficient warnings as to the dangerous results. Of course, it may suit vested interests to ' educate ' school children by pamphlets and strip cartoons which proclaim, for example, 'the only way to have sex and avoid a pregnancy is to use a reliable method of birth control.' But why is no mention made that no method of birth control is entirely safe? Advertisements state that young people can ' play safe '. But why are no warnings given that protectives such as the condom can carry a high failure rate? Or that oral contraceptives such as the Pill may be particularly harmful to young girls? That is the end of the statement, but I think the sense of it has been echoed in many speeches made this afternoon. I believe that such misleading information draws children today into a commercial circle in which they become increasingly imprisoned. First of all, they are advised to buy protectives as being sure and safe and then, when such protectives result in failures, they are drawn into the pregnancy testing and abortion net, and then after abortions they are again counselled to buy protectives. So it is not really surprising that this type of sex education results in increasing teenage tragedies such as abortions and, as has been stated today, the terrible problem of venereal disease. Surely it is up to Parliament and to Governments to do all they can to protect young people, particularly those under 16, from any deceptive sex education; because I am perfectly certain that the majority of parents, teachers and indeed children both need and want sound sex education. I am sure that parents and school teachers in Britain on the whole want children to be given accurate information on biological development and reproduction, and at the same time would wish such education also to indicate the value of restraint, in contrast to the health hazards of permissiveness.

My noble friends Lady Elles and Lord Ferrers drew our attention to a survey carried out on 1,000 women by the Pregnancy Advisory Service who had been referred to them for abortions. It is said that 40 per cent. of them had become pregnant accidentally while using comparatively reliable methods of contraception. I mention that again only because it is the sort of thing that should be told to young people when they are being given sex education. I am sure that your Lordships will know that going on at the present time is a study at the University of Nottingham's Child Development Research Unit on babies conceived in spite of contraceptive precautions. When the results of that survey are published, the report will make interesting reading. I am certain there is no need to remind anyone in your Lordships' House that if an "accidental" baby is a problem to a married woman, to a school girl such a contraceptive accident is a terrible tragedy.

I should like to refer to one further point. My noble friend Lord Ferrers mentioned the remarks made by Mrs. Parker to the effect that children in schools are a captive audience. This indeed is true, but, following this point, what worries me is that now the Department of Health and Social Security and local health authorities are, I understand, absorbing and integrating so many family planning clinics and personnel in the new National Family Planning Service, this must inevitably result in the FPA acquiring an even greater influence from within the National Health Service. Therefore there are dangers that ideological extremes, such as we have heard criticised today, are now even more likely to influence a future generation. Indeed, the captive audiences in schools may be getting sex education from FPA teachers. I hope that the noble Lord, when he comes to wind up, may possibly be able to tell me whether I am right or wrong about this. I shall be very grateful for any comments he may have to make.

I hope that this discussion today in your Lordships' House will encourage more thought about this problem and about the decisions to be taken to provide Britain's youth, and especially young people under 16, with accurate, sound and humane sex education which will prepare our young people for responsible parenthood, rather than permissive dangers. In conclusion, I feel that we have every reason to congratulate my noble friend Lady Elles on introducing this important debate particularly if, as I hope, it contributes towards the improvement and strengthening of sex education in the total picture of per sonal relationships, as the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, so aptly said, and helps to reverse the current trends towards physical and, what is equally important, psychological dangers for our young people.

6.6 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of CHELMSFORD

My Lords, perhaps I might first be permitted to join the rest of the speakers in offering congratulation to my brother Bishop, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich, on the grace and skill with which he surrendered his maidenhead. A number of speakers—indeed I think all of them—have suggested that really the place where sex education should mainly take place is the home, the place where we all learn to discover ourselves and to learn what human relations are about; the place where we become, if we are fortunate in our home, balanced human beings, free and, if I may dare to use the word, responsible—but I see that the noble Lord has gone. It is the place where we gradually learn, as we assimilate the facts of life, the biological facts when in our baths and the much more difficult and sometimes seemingly tragic facts which come with puberty. Natural responses at the natural time are a much better way of dealing with this vast arena of experience than blunderbuss tactics which provide a single curriculum for a whole group of people, each of whom has reached a different stage of development.

This, of course, presupposes a happy, contented, united and balanced home with articulate wives and sensitive parents. No doubt there are many such homes, and I believe that a great deal of positive sex instruction goes on within them. But even in the best of homes, it has been suggested there is very often a silence, especially as children become older. This generation gap, which seems to be promoted by many adolescent magazines, puts a barrier between parent and child. There is certainly abundant evidence of the ignorance to which we are addressing ourselves—abundant evidence among adults themselves of the need for training. If one scans the "agony" columns of women's magazines, as one sometimes does, there are many cork de coeur from women, and sometimes men, who are lost. They write in desperation, and obviously a great deal of their difficulty arises out of sheer ignorance or misunderstanding of the plain facts of life. The same can be said of articles in teenage magazines. All of them have become extremely explicit these days—and sometimes the advice given is very alarming, not to say dangerous.

Again, I suppose that almost every clergyman and minister and marriage guidance counsellor, as well as many others, spends a great deal of time meeting men and women whose marriages have collapsed and whose lives have disintegrated, while all too often the breakdown has really stemmed from an ignorance of sex or false expectations of love, or problems in that area. Many children, as well as some adults, still learn from lavatory walls the main facts as they understand them. There are the hoardings which are very explicit or subtle or insidious. If a visitor from Mars examined the media he would surely be convinced that the society in which we live was obsessed by sex, violence and greed, although we know that good news is not news so we do not hear very much of it.

These people get all kinds of advice and instruction. One was very grateful to hear from the Front Bench the amount of advice which is available. The parent in the one-parent family is particularly vulnerable in this field and needs special help, and it is good to know that there is so much available in State agencies, in the Churches and in many other voluntary bodies. It is right that parents should be able to look to the schools and to share this responsibility with them, but there needs to be what I believe very often does not exist at this time; that is, a confidence between the school and the parent.

On the whole, I think there is great suspicion in this field and I read in one of the papers that was sent to me, which no doubt your Lordships have all had, the statement that parents are the worst people of all to deal with the problems of children. Some would deny that schools should have any place in this field at all, and would say that it should be the task of the parent or of any others whom he calls in. But the school must be involved, because it has to do with the whole of life, it has to do with the whole of the child, and the purpose of education is not to give him the facts of mathematics or of biology, but to train him to become a mature human being.

Perhaps I may quote a definition of "sex education ", which I took from the publication Education. It read: Sex education is the sum total of all those environmental influences which affect people's knowledge, attitudes, sentiments, ideals, sensitivities, skills, understandings, insights, moral standards, satisfactions, emotional maturity, social responsibility, rational thinking, capacity for self-discipline, ability to make balanced judgments, and awareness of the needs of other individuals and of society, in the sexual context. It is therefore in principle co-extensive with education as a whole. One of the points which has to be stressed is that within a school—I do not speak as a professional educationist, except in one narrow field—this instruction should surely be part of the normal curriculum and should not be treated as a special subject which is dealt with in a special kind of way and, if you are not very careful, in a special kind of voice —either a hushed or coy voice or with the coarse ribaldry which we use when we want to hide our embarrassment. It is not just a special subject. It is not something which you cover in one period of biology, and it is impossible to remove the emotional overtones by treating it at a clinical level—perhaps the word "clinical" is not well chosen—and emotions are bound to be aroused in varying degree around a class when the subject is dealt with in this way.

Furthermore, the whole of the school is an educative body—in sex, in morals, in ideals as well as in class lessons. In one way or another the whole school teaches, and the assumptions and attitudes of staff members are more influential and tend to be more significant than a great deal of the overt teaching which they do. I should not wish to underestimate the vast amount of care which is taken by very many teachers in this field. Properly attempted, it is a veritable minefield and it needs special skills, not just in biology, in civics or in personal relationships, but in pastoral care and in personal counselling. Any situation can crop up in which a man or woman is faced with a crisis. Teachers should be given more facilities to train themselves in these skills, and one is thankful for all one has heard is already available. The power which teachers have is well-known to all of us, and I still wonder at the low worth put on the teaching profession by society.

But, of course, attitudes are important. We are talking about the problems of sex education and, though there are many, I would pick out three possible ways in which harm can be done in a school. I have mentioned one of them. I think that an unbalanced curriculum is harmful, where sex is seen to be something exotic and out of the ordinary and considered apart from the whole network of human relationships, of morality, of religion and of all that goes to make the life of man. Then you get the kind of teaching against a background where sex instruction has been seen to deal with something which, in itself, is smutty and unmentionable and a little shameful; where one giggles about it and writes smutty notes about it—perhaps the kind of atmosphere in which I was brought up. But we have moved a long way from that. It is an advantage that there is more openness about the discussion of these matters. But there is a tendency in this situation to overcompensate and to destroy the proper modesty, dignity and restraint attaching to sex in almost every civilised society and in most primitive cultures, where the act of sex is a numinous thing and has something sacred attached to it.

Then there is a third area of aberration. This is a more positive aberration, in a negative way, and I would not suggest that there are many of them. But there are teachers who represent total rebellion against the social mores of our time; those who would remove all constraints in the area of sex and preach liberation and encourage young girls to have five condoms in their handbag when they go out at night, in case they need them all with five different chaps; those who would deliberately destroy the family as being, in itself, pernicious and narrow, as of course it can become without true love. When these problems come home after school and the parent becomes shocked and anxious and probably guilty, it is absolutely essential that in some way a relationship should be madepossible—I was going to say compulsory—so that parents and teachers can share in them.

What do we say? I speak, of course, as a Christian man. It is no use adopting negative attitudes. In the past, the Church has not had a very happy record in this field. We have sometimes regarded sex misdemeanors as the only sin, but although our Lord sent away the adulterous woman his condemnation was for the smug censorious elders who delightedly caught her in the act. Sometimes, we have laid burdens of unnecessary guilt upon people, because they have misunderstood what is the sin about the Holy Ghost and tortured themselves because we have not been sufficiently clear. We do need not to be censorious but to be positive. Almost all that I am saying has already been said. We have to be positive about the values of chastity and self-control and, as we have heard, many would endorse this. You do not need to be a Christian to believe these things, although one of my advisers to whom I went when I knew I was to make this speech said, "You must not mention the word chastity because they will switch off ". But we must aim at chastity as the ideal.

If I may misquote again the journal Education, surely it must be assumed and made evident that homo sapiens is capable of ideals as well as ideas, of the desire to give and to serve for the sake of love, of making the sacrifice of self-interest for the good of others, of deriving an infinitely greater sexual satisfaction from a deepening relationship with one partner rather than a diminishing satisfaction derived from superficial relationships with many, in which increasing sexual kicks will come only from increasing perversion.

This kind of promiscuous sexuality—and there are few serious-minded people who condone it—is itself anti-sexual. It destroys itself. It destroys what it feeds on as well as being anti-social. The ineffable joy of sex in a stable relationship is destroyed and the person himself is, perhaps, destroyed because he has no true and lasting relationship with anybody. Of course, as has been said, the whole of our society should be demonstrating this positive quality of life. There is something ludicrous in the spectacle of people like us debating this subject. Our actions speak much louder to young people than our words. They watch us rather than listen to us.

I will not say much about contraception because it has been dealt with very widely. It is one of the facts of life and must therefore be treated as such so that as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, children know about contraception as a factual matter. I believe, and my Church believes, that there is a place for contraception in the family, in stable relationships and in other ways; but the responsibility of teaching this particular fact of life to children, in particular to young children, is simply appalling, especially as it must not be treated in vacuo. As a doctor has said, this information could, wrongly orientated, have the opposite effect from that intended. It could arouse curiosity and the desire to experiment among children who are sexually potent but emotionally immature, leading them into a succession of liaisons with no true and lasting love—a labyrinth of disappointment and misery, as it can turn out for many. I suppose that all of us have met casualties.

I am bothered about the Family Planning Association's counselling about contraception and drawing profits from it. I want to be given the facts which have been asked for today. The most loathsome enemy is the person who goes around persuading children into making dangerous experiments by passing to them contraceptive devices, to say nothing of pornographic filth. When we give sexual instruction to children, in schools or anywhere else, we are taking the innocent child and giving him instruction on something that he does not know about already. It is a familiar cartoon that when father wants to talk about the facts of life the boy says, "What do you want to know?"I remember that in 1927 I, as a very innocent, blue-eyed boy in class, was approached by a bully and persuaded, for a small consideration, to see "a loathsome thing", which was what we then called a "French letter". I was 11 years old. We knew a great deal more than we were credited with, and I think that children nowadays know a great deal more than they are credited with; but the information is perverted and isolated, it becomes shameful and dirty, and they are encouraged to think that it is so unless they have this balanced and rounded instruction of which I have spoken.

I wanted to say something about the creative aspect of sex, but it has been dealt with already. However, it is not only Christians, and the Jews supremely, but people of other faiths who see sex as a gift of God which is to be used and enjoyed positively and creatively, not only to beget children but also to deepen relationships. Many Christians view the sexual act as a kind of sacrament, a moment of supreme enjoyment, symbolising and deepening the total commitment of man to woman and woman to man, enriching them both, causing both to grow individually and together and deepening their love.

I have discovered in my reading that one of the cheapest gibes is that the Church barges in with its dogmas. "Dogma" is a dirty word. However, it seems to me that these dogmas are positive. They are dogmas with which many people can identify themselves, if not as an act of faith, and see the point of what has been called "the sanctity of sex ". It intrigues me that so many of the enemies of this kind of positive virtue, to use that word, have their own dogmas. They are on their lips all the time. Your Lordships know many of them: "It is all right, you know; everybody does it." "It's fine. It must be right." "You must consider your own happiness." "You please yourself. You are not harming anybody." There must be millions of our countrymen, religious and otherwise, who are appalled by these pernicious doctrines which seem to me to be anti-social, anti-human, anti-everything that is right, good and proper. Millions seek to foster the positive ideals and virtues of which so many who have contributed to this debate have spoken and in which we hope our children may grow up free, mature and responsible men and women.

6.28 p.m.


My Lords, I must declare my reason for being here this afternoon. I speak as a Vice-President of the Family Planning Association of which I have been a member for a great many years, probably for as long as the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell. I should like to make one, if not two points on the subject of sex education. We in the Family Planning Association are trying to provide more courses to teach teachers about how to introduce their pupils to the delicate area of sex education and the responsible attitude towards sexual relationships which our children need. This does not mean that instruction should be given by the teacher. It should be given by the father, or the mother, or both. Throughout my long life, however, I have found that fathers and mothers are more shy of talking about such subjects as sex to their own children than they are of talking to somebody else's children. I think they will take on sex education or discussion with almost anyone else's children but their own. One must somehow get it into parents' heads that it is their responsibility alone. However, in the meantime we are trying to run these classes for the teachers.

I do not accept the allegations of earlier speakers that, providing this sort of education is done in the right way, it would lead to an increase in promiscuity. The fact of the matter is that patterns of sexual behaviour, among not only young people but, I am sorry to say, throughout society in this country, have changed over the last 15 years and we must defend people from the consequences of such relationships entered upon without the appropriate information and guidance. So somebody must take on this job. At the moment we are prepared to do so or to give any help that the Government want us to give.

At present about one in every three of the pregnancies that occur each year in this country are unplanned and unwanted. Research was carried out by Mrs. Margaret Bone in a survey for the Department of Health and Social Security, and her report states: Of these a great many involved girls aged under 20. For example, in 1973 there were some 30,000 legal abortions involving girls under 20, and in the same year some 20,000 illegitimate births involving the same age group. If we are ever to reduce such figures to the very low numbers that we would hope to see it is clearly necessary that these young girls—and the young men—should be taught at school age the responsibility which they are undertaking in starting a close relationship, and informed of the consequence if they enter a sexual relationship without contraceptive precautions.

In 1975 there were over 94,000 children in care at a cost to the nation of £102 million, an increase of £28 million over the previous year. That is looking at the situation only in financial terms, but when we look at it in terms of human misery it is all the more clear that we must take all possible steps to educate young people about their sexual responsibility and the avoidance of unwanted children. The Family Planning Association is concentrating on educating the educators. That is to say it teaches school teachers and youth workers the way in which they could do something about the situation I have described. I submit that this is the right approach, and that the work is being done with sensitivity and with a strong feeling of our responsibility to future children.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, before the noble Lady sits down would she be very kind and say whether she can truly support the leaflets to which I referred earlier, which encourage sexual activity between teenagers of 13 onwards, providing they use a contraceptive, and without any warning whatsoever that these contraceptives may fail, be they a sheath or a pill?


My Lords, I am not capable of answering that because I do not know the figures, but I know that is certainly taught in the classes that I have attended. It is very much in the minds of our teachers.

6.35 p.m.


My Lords, in intervening in this debate I do so with the feeling that we have been through much of this before in the debate on the Report stage of the National Health Service Reorganisation Bill in February 1973, when we discussed the issues involved in providing free contraception on the Health Service. I do not wish to repeat all I said then; still less to revive the somewhat heated controversy that developed. But I should like to make some further comments on the part that sex education in all its aspects must play in promoting the health and happiness of future generations.

In the debate to which I referred I laid stress on the problem of the increase in veneral diseases throughout the world, particularly gonorrhoea, and especially in those in this country under 16 years of age, for whom as parents or educationists we still have responsibility. Since then there has been a further increase in the incidence of gonorrhoea in the young of approximately 10 per cent. per annum. It is second only to measles as the most prevalent contagious disease in this country. This state of affairs must continue if the so-called "progressives" in sex matters and the leaders of "Women's Lib" have their way.

Two weeks after the debate to which I have referred there appeared in the Sunday Times an article by Germaine Greer in the feature Look with the title, "It's time that VD was socially accepted ". In that article I was violently attacked for the view I had expressed in your Lordships' House, that the increase in venereal disease was "shocking ". After quoting some of my views completely out of context, and ignoring others of equal relevance, and expressing the devout wish that my non sequiturs would carry no weight in your Lordships' House, she went on to give a dissertation on venereal diseases, and in particular gonorrhoea, for all the world as though she were a doctor herself, except that she completely ignored the basic medical principle that prevention is better than cure. She regarded treatment as basically the answer to the problem, in spite of the fact that in many women gonorrhoea may be symptomless for a long period. In fact it is estimated that this is the case in as many as 8 out of 10 girls, to whom in particular I was referring, and that infection is brought to light only when the girl infects her boy friend.

Germaine Greer would have it regarded socially very much as one would regard catching a cold from somebody else—no more significant than that. She went on to say in her article—and I quote: Despite a lifetime of service in the cause of sexual liberation I have never caught a venereal disease, which makes me feel rather like an Arctic explorer who has never had frostbite. I have several times had occasion to verify the fact beyond any doubt and have not always fared well. My NHS doctor in the Midlands fixed me with a terrible stare and asked me what else I expected, given the life I led. My Lords, I still do not fully understand the implications of those last remarks, but I do not wish to make any further comment on the article, except to say how sad I feel that a great national newspaper, for which I have the greatest respect, should have given prominence to such anti-social poison, with its footnote to the article, "Germaine Greer and Times Newspapers Limited ". I take comfort from the fact though that those most likely to be influenced by it would be the last to read it.

Germaine Greer's reference to the National Health Service doctor, though, gives me the opportunity to raise a question that is very relevant in these days of unprecedented strain on the finances and manpower resources of the National Health Service; that is, what is the present cost of those services that she takes for granted, for the diagnosis and treatment of venereal diseases and, what is equally important, what would be roughly the cost of the regular examination of girls and unmarried women who may be at risk, implied in the policy she advocated? As a bacteriologist, I know something of the procedures that would be involved. There is also the further question relating to the increase in abortion rate, to which I shall refer later. What is the cost involved in terms of time given by doctors and nurses, and the provision of facilities to meet the present demand for abortion: and what is also equally important, what would it be to meet the demands of those who scream for abortion for social reasons, and how far would these increase the waiting lists of those with genuinely medical conditions?

If it were not medically unethical and certainly un-Christian, I would wish that when such persons as I have mentioned come to attend hospital in later life—as they may well have to do—for gynaecological disorders, they should be given a special place at the end of the queue. Whatever maybe said about the unfairness of queue jumping, such queue jumping in reverse, in my view, would be entirely justified. Of course, I do not expect answers to these questions today, but perhaps I might be given them, as far as it is possible to do so, at a later date.

My Lords, I should like to mention one further incident following the debate to which I referred. A few weeks later I visited Egypt with the British Delegation of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. While in Cairo, I had a most valuable discussion with the Egyptian Minister of Social Welfare, Dr. Aisha Ratab. We covered a wide field of educational problems, including juvenile delinquency, drugs, and the subject of abortion and venereal disease, particularly in girls, as this was still very much on my mind following our debate. To my questioning, she said, "Of course, these are not really problems with us as we are a Moslem country ". I had the same sort of shamed feeling one has when one hears of Moslems newly arrived in this country who do not wish to send their daughters to mixed comprehensive schools because of the moral dangers involved. Sex equality and women's lib notwithstanding, it makes one wonder whether this country has all that much to be proud of.

Before leaving the subject of venereal disease, I should like to draw attention to an article in The Times of August 1975, and a leading article in the British Medical Journal on the same day, emphasising the consequences of gonorrhoeal infection complicated by infection of the Fallopian tubes, which occurs in about one in 10 cases. According to Scandinavian observers, this complication results in one in five cases ostensibly cured becoming sterile. Gonorrhoea can also cause such a premature birth that the baby may be stillborn or mentally handicapped. What a shadow to have hanging over one on the wedding day!

My Lords, turning now to the problem of abortion in the young, I, for one, would not be prepared to say which of the two is the greater evil; both are deep blots on our society. The abortion rate for girls under 16 years of age has continued to rise in spite of the fact that contraceptives are much more widely available, as are instructions as to their use. I went into the possible reasons as to why this might be the case when I spoke to your Lordships before, so I will not repeat on this occasion what I said then. But from the health point of view, abortion often leads to depression, and either to sterility or premature birth of subsequent children. The noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, will be speaking on the health effects of the pill so I need not go into that.

Before leaving the subject of health in the context of this debate, I should like to refer to reports that cancer of the cervix of the womb is more likely to develop in those who have indulged in promiscuous sexual relationships in their early years. Professor Sir John Stallworthy, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Oxford University, and a world famous authority, among many others, has drawn attention to this. For the latest authoritative view on the subject, I would refer to an article that appeared on the front page of the News of the World last Sunday, somewhat ironically, I feel, in view of what I said earlier. But at least this article will be widely read by many who are most in need of the warning. The article is headed, The perils of sex for girls under 20 ", and the article goes on to say: Teenage girls who sleep around are risking their lives, says a leading doctor. For the promiscuous girl stands six times more chance of developing cervical cancer. The girl who waits until 20 before making love is running only half the risk. The danger time is between 12 and 17, says Dr. Joseph Jordan, senior lecturer in obstetrics at Birmingham University. Girls of this age are especially vulnerable to cervical cancer—in the neck of the womb—because of the chemical changes in the body. And the risk increases with promiscuity. For Dr. Jordan is convinced that the disease is caused by a man's sperm or a virus in his seminal fluid. ' The more men a girl sleeps with, the greater the chance that one of them will be a carrier,' Dr. Jordan said. A survey showed that 20 per cent. of girls who slept around had developed the pre-cancer stage of the disease, compared with 3½ per cent. of other women. Young girls are now dying from cervical cancer and Dr. Jordan is urging the Government to extend their smear test programme to the under-35s. He said: 'The tragic impact of our permissive society has yet to hit us because it often takes 12 to 15 years for this cancer to develop. But its causes often lie in the sexual activity of young girls.' ". Incidentally, Dr. Jordan made the same points when he addressed a conference on fertility control, organised by the Royal College of Physicians at Charing Cross Hospital two months ago.

My Lords, while the consequences to health of teenage sex relations are largely matters of fact, their consequences for the happiness of the individual are more imponderable and less predictable with certainty, a though they may be even more far-reaching, affecting, as they may, not only the two individuals concerned, but also their children. To many, early teenage sex relationships must lead to a more casual and superficial view of sex which is likely to last throughout life. Even if the child, as he or she may well do, starts by going steady, human nature being what it is, they will acquire more and more partners as time goes by. This must be the case the earlier the first relationship starts, which nowadays may be at the age of 12 or 13, as we have heard. With such a series of experiences, it seems impossible to see how, when they meet the one they want to marry, their love can have the depth of feeling that contributes so much to a happy and lasting marriage. Certainly with such a background, there can be little romance left on the wedding day. Something very precious in life has been lost beyond recall. Then, when serious difficulties arise after marriage, as they so often do —sometimes with increasing alienation threatening to lead to divorce—will these previous experiences make reconciliation more or less difficult? I feel there can be only one answer. The fact that there had once been that full and complete relationship, whatever may have happened since, must make a difference and in the end may well be the decisive factor.

My Lords, whatever may be one's views about divorce—and personally I feel that sometimes it must be regarded as the lesser of two evils and the only solution, from the point of view of the children —it is desperately sad; collectively, from the point of view of society, it is a disaster. This was brought home by the New Year message to the nation of the right reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, calling for a strengthening of family life. The right reverend Primate made the point that 95 per cent. of the inmates of borstal come from broken homes. It is in fact the almost unanimous opinion of teachers—and they should know—that broken homes more than any other factor are responsible for the indiscipline and violence leading so often to crime that, if not checked, could be the downfall of our society.

So, as I see it, sex education must involve infinitely more than the so-called progressive educators would have us believe, with their emphasis—even obsession—on the purely biological and physiological aspects of sex, important though these may be. It means in the first place presenting the information in such a way as to avoid, so far as possible, stimulating the latent or underdeveloped natural instincts prematurely, in which some of the modern sex educators seem to take a positive and, I was going to say, almost a vicarious delight. It involves also a full and frank discussion of all the psychological and emotional aspects that mean so much for future happiness, as others have emphasised, such as those I have been discussing. Above all, it means the encouragement, by every possible means and through every possible channel, of self-restraint in the young, as being in the end the only way of avoiding so many of the pitfalls and dangers that lie ahead. In this aspect of sex education in our schools, religious influences—whether Christian, Jewish, and perhaps also those of other faiths in which sex morality is basic—must play a vital part.

So, my Lords, without wishing to be controversial, I come finally to the great change that has been taking place in the educational scene since the last debate on this subject, with the avowed intention of the State to take increasing responsibility for the education of our children, and it is pertinent to ask the following questions. Do the Government accept the vital importance of moral, and, in particular, religious, influences in helping to meet the problems we have been discussing? This question, I think, follows on very closely from what the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, asked earlier. I feel that there can be only one answer to that question, and that is, Yes. If so, what are their plans for co-operating as effectively as possible to that end with the religious bodies I have mentioned, bearing in mind also the increased difficulties experienced in very large schools in developing those personal contacts that are so necessary in giving counsel on such intimate matters?

To what extent, if any, for example, are there plans in operation or visualised for regular visits by Ministers of religion or lay persons? I am sure there must be some, but to what extent can they be extended to comprehensive schools throughout the country, for this purpose, to meet the wishes of parents who want this? This is emphatically, I feel, not something to be left to the head or the governing body of the school, or to the local authority concerned; it is one of great national importance. To very many parents, even in this day and age, thank God!, sex education of their children, and the part that religious influences can play in this, is a matter of deep concern, and in no other field of education have the Government, I feel, with the co-operation of parents, a greater responsibility in helping to cure the ills of society to which I have referred.

6.52 p.m.


My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Stamp, I have made contributions to similar debates on other occasions, and I would apologise to the House if I appear to be repetitive, but I consider that this matter is of such fundamental importance to women and girls that I am hoping that any repetition may well prove of some value.

I listened to the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich with some respect, but my comment on it is this. Men and women, being rational creatures, are always making moral judgments, and consequently too many people dismiss the whole question of sex in the young by advocating restraint. It is a very comforting thing to do for the individual who advocates it, but is it realistic? This Victorian escape fails to take into consideration the society in which we live, the mores of which are too often dictated by the media. As we sit here tonight discussing this subject, hundreds and thousands of homes throughout the country are showing pictures concerning some aspects of sex relationship, with the young children—and often the children do not go to bed until ten o'clock at night—sitting in front of the television and absorbing lessons on sex education. Therefore, when the Bishop says that the only thing is restraint, I feel that he is putting his very nice head right into the sand.

In view of the fact that the media are dictating the mores of the country, I feel that we must give advice which counter-acts the powerful propaganda of those interests which portray for ulterior motives the delights of sex. To withhold information on sex is wrong, and there is no justification for keeping adolescents in ignorance when the media provides the very antithesis of how sex knowledge should be disseminated.

The need of the girl for enlightenment on the subject is greater than that of the boy. When a scantily dressed young woman is shown on television romping with an attractive youth in a bedroom, there is never any warning that one act of sexual intercourse alone may result in pregnancy and venereal disease, which may spoil her whole life. The noble Lord, Lord Stamp, has dealt with this at some length. Of course, if there were a warning it would ruin the story and so affect the commercial interests of the producers, which are paramount, and which largely determine the policy, which is to please the customer and not at any risk introduce an aspect of the subject which is displeasing.

It is of little use treating sex like smoking, about which people have few inhibitions. This has already been said by many speakers. Most parents find it difficult to speak to their own children on sex because they are identified with it. Of course, you may have rather unusual parents. But, apart from them, I believe that the place for sex education is outside the home, preferably in school, but by a special instructor who is wise enough not to concentrate on the physical aspect of the relationship between the sexes, but to emphasise the satisfaction derived from a true companionship stemming from the sharing of matters of mutual interest.

I have mentioned the pill before, and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, for saying that what I said last time has subsequently been proved correct. It is very comforting. Of course I believe in contraception; I hope nobody thinks that because I denounce the pill I do not believe in contraception. Individuals who have only two children must of course have prevented conception during their own married lives. The pill, as I have said before, has not solved the population problem. Undoubtedly, the most striking effect of the pill is to increase the high profits of the pharmaceutical industry, and to increase the risk of contracting those diseases which have been proved to be related to oral contraceptives.

I should like to congratulate Dr. Margaret White and Enid Lucas-Smith for producing the excellent little booklet, Safety and the Pill, which I should like to see read by all those women in the country who have been persuaded to use an oral contraceptive. I am surprised that so few of them know about the complications which may ensue. I presume that it is the pressure of work which prevents a doctor describing the possible side-effects of the pill, or, more probably, the failure of the commercial travellers who manage to get into the consulting rooms of the general practitioners thoughout the country in order to sell their wares; these commercial travellers used by the pharmaceutical industry often do not give an honest asssessment of the contraceptive they are selling.

This, again, has been said. The dangerous argument that adolescent girls should be given the pill in order to protect them, of course, fails to take into account that the majority of adolescent affairs between a boy and a girl cannot be regarded as stable, and the earlier the first act of coitus the greater number of sexual partners a girl is likely to have. What the noble Lord, Lord Stamp, has said about a carcinoma of the cervix is absolutely true.

It was assumed that the pill would provide the answer to the population problem in the Far East. Of course this has proved not to be the case, and the unfortunate women are being persuaded now to use the intra-uterine device which we rejected years ago as being harmful to women—although I am told now that it is being distributed in this country. I am pleased to learn that the dangers to health of this device are now being recognised, and in consequence the pharmaceutical industry must look elsewhere, and they are increasing their production of condoms which are fortunately the safest and most harmless contraceptives on the market.

Sex education in the schools is not enough. It should be provided in all women's organisations. All mothers should be taught in detail, whether they are past childbearing age or not, in order that they can pass on the information to their daughters, and daughters-in-law, and so on. While speaking freely on birth control to them they can also tell them of the risks attached to taking the pill. While publicity is given in the medical press to the dangers attached to the use of oral contraceptives—and of course everything the noble Lord, Lord Stamp, says tonight has been seen in the medical press for years—it is seldom repeated in the news unless an inquest is involved. If there is an inquest, the woman has died from coronary thrombosis, then publicity is given to it. Of course the other details are not given for fear of offending the advertisers of pharmaceutical products.

Added to those pathological conditions which are associated with taking the pill —namely, raised blood-pressure, strokes, loss of vision and thrombo-phlebitis—more recently there have been reports of fibroma of the liver. This was well reported in the British Medical Journal in May 1975. Also the BMA said on that occasion that coronary thrombosis is four and a half times as great in women using oral contraceptives as in those who had not. For these reasons women and girls—these young girls we hear about, what on earth do they know about these things?—children being given this potent pill which changes the whole hormonal regulation of the body, should be fully warned, and the suggestion that it should be sold in the supermarkets and provided by nurses, thus denying a woman the protection afforded by constant medical supervision, should be opposed.

I have spoken very strongly, and I have spoken strongly before, and everything I have said before, as the years go on, has been proved right, because more and more reports are showing that this powerful drug affects women in such a way that they develop diseases. I have spoken strongly again, but not without powerful support, and recent powerful support. Last Friday, 10th January, the British Medical Journal published a warning which should not go unheeded. Therefore, may I conclude with this. They said: This grisly collection of contraceptive-induced disease reinforces the opinion held by many doctors that administration of these drugs must be as closely controlled as that of any other potentially hazardous therapeutic agent. Moreover, it should also provide thought to those paramedical groups who wish to remove the prescribing of oral contraceptives into their own hands.

The Lord Bishop of NORWICH

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, may I thank her for her gracious words in referring to my maiden speech. May I ask her this simple question: what is the difference between restraint on medical and compassionate grounds, which she has so ably and cogently argued to us—she has said to us that early affairs cannot be considered stable the earlier the intercourse the more danger to ill health—and the position that I, with my head either in the sand or, which is the more usual position of a Bishop, sitting on a fence with both ears to the ground, was seeking to argue, from restraint on Christian and moral grounds? I hope that the noble Baroness feels that we are arguing the same point of view from different viewpoints.


My Lords, I do not think so. What the right reverend Prelate omitted was the fact that these children—and I regard 16 and 17 year olds as children—should be taught how to prevent disease and should not be left in complete ignorance, and the advice was simply to have restraint until they marry.


My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down—and I have listened to her speech with the greatest possible interest—may I ask her one question? I think she said that the incidence of coronary thrombosis in women who take the pill as opposed to those who do not is four and a half times greater. Can she tell the House how long the study on this subject has been going on?


My Lords, this was quoted in the British Medical Journal. I can assure the noble Lord that what the British Medical Journal says is repeated throughout the world. It is regarded as a most authoritative document. It would not be put in unless it had received the most careful research.

7.8 p.m.

The Duke of NORFOLK

My Lords, I was going to start my speech by congratulating the right reverend Prelate on his contribution as a maiden, but he now no longer is a maiden after his recent interchange, so I do not think I am going to do it. I shall not detain your Lordships for long. I am only on my feet because I most sincerely feel that this debate should provoke action by the Government because it is uncovering things which need to be changed in our country. I am speaking as a Roman Catholic, as a Christian—I could not be more ecumenical in my feelings. I was brought up in my generation, like most of your Lordships, with the most careful guidance on these matters. They were presented to us by our mothers and fathers, and we then went on to school where we were imbued with the Christian ethics, and we lived in those ways. Now the situation is very different, and in my opinion it needs considerable change.

I think we in this House all agree that the human being is a very delicate creation. He and she are people who, unlike the animal world, need 10, if not 15 years looking after with great care before being fit to live alone. Some animals can live alone after a very short time, but in my experience and from what I have seen—I saw a great deal of the world during my 30 years in the Army —human beings need the care of the family, of the tribe, of their schools and of their country to help them lead their lives.

I do not believe that the sex education that is now being given in our schools is on the right lines. In my view, it is too progressive in relaxing the wise restraints which were inherited by us from the Victorian Christians. The sex education that is now being given tends, in my opinion, to encourage promiscuity. I could not be more pro some of the wonderful activities of the Family Planning Association and the effects they have had on the development of our country, but I do not believe that the FPA is at the moment managing to prevent greater promiscuity among the young, so causing broken marriages later on. The pill should not be something which does not condone pre-marital chastity, which is what is happening. Its distribution, and the selling of wares throughout the country for males, is resulting in many instances in the young cohabiting without proper thought, and temptation is put in their way in such a way that they end up having a succession of experiences which is no way helps their future married life.

In contrast to what I have said, I cannot help but compare this situation with what I saw when I was with the Russian Army in East Germany; we had a military mission there which I commanded for two years in the late 'fifties. The Communists provide an interesting situation in this respect. They totally disagree with the West about our beliefs in politics and some, at any rate, about our beliefs in God, but they very much agree with the Christian standards of morality. They are faced with trying to achieve these Christian standards of morality in a population who do not have the support of the belief in God as the final end to their lives. They are, therefore, particularly careful in their youth education. I could not help noticing how puritanical was the way of Communist life in East Germany; and I know this to be the same, because I have talked to many people, in the other Warsaw Pact States. In East Germany there is, broadly speaking, the most rigorous education of morals on Christian standards. There is the most rigorous concept of moral and ethical life in their youth clubs and in their armies and they are almost more puritanical than were our Victorian ancestors.

I say this only because it is of interest to me that we have in my view gone too far in the opposite direction. We all know how the price of freedom needs eternal vigilance, and the greater the backing and freedom we can give to youthful endeavour to develop their minds and bodies through wise education and adventure into becoming great Englishmen—by which, of course, I mean great Britons—the better will they be. The balance we have to achieve is between free liberty, for which we are so famous, and allowing their lives to become licensed by having too much-liberty. In my view, the education that is being given on the sex side in our schools is encouraging this licence to a very dangerous degree.

I am not saying that this is something that can be put right easily, but I suggest that there is great need for this matter to be looked at, and I believe the positive aspect that we should be looking at is the protection of family life. If we can concentrate on helping the Christian and our own families to be more secure entities in our country, then we shall be doing the right thing. In my view, we spend far too little money helping the Churches in our country, and I am not talking just about the Christian Churches. I refer also, for example, to the Mohammedan and Jewish Churches. I could not help noticing during my time in Europe how in Germany, to take one European country, every Church is assisted by the State. On a proportional system based on the members or followers of that faith, assistance is given to the Church. I do not think even the Atheists get away with it; they are also made to pay something and this money is channelled to the various Churches. I hope to see this debate produce greater assistance to the solidity of the families of our country.

7.18 p.m.

The Countess of LOUDOUN

My Lords, the state of society seems to be a matter of opinion. It may depend on statistics, on politics, on our liver or on news derived from the wonderful world of the Sun or the repeated grey twilight world of the Telegraph. It may depend on an age, for as we get older so the liberation from traditional forms of public behaviour gets more shocking and the dress and appearance of the young more disgraceful. Do not let consideration of this kind influence the guidelines or advice we give to schools. Whatever the state of society, I believe it can be improved through education. Tomorrow's Members of Parliament are today's children.

It would be nice to think that in primitive societies, in a more natural state, sex education was unnecessary, as with the birds of the air, but this is not so. All human groups have rules and the rules suit the group, though not necessarily the child. In China today, we are told, societyfrowns on young love and approval is given to marriage at a later age without any consideration of earlier maturity which Western educationalists always stress and consider so important. There are those who say that knowledge —sex education—is harmful and that the world has turned many times without it, at least without it in the curriculum. The knowledge of sexual behaviour was obtained, sometimes illicitly, in strange and mysterious ways from our fellows; I had better not say from our peers. In days gone by, society was such that an unwanted pregnancy or a suspected one was close to a death sentence. It was the social end, as in the case of my poor misjudged ancestress, Lady Flora, at the court of Queen Victoria. To be pregnant and unmarried was the unpardonable offence, the unforgiveable sin.

"The lessons of the present cannot be applied today because of earlier maturity," says Mr. Anders-Richards, senior lecturer in Education at Totley-Thombridge College of Education, Sheffield. In days gone by, families protected their children by rigorous segregation. Young people were not allowed the opportunity for mistakes. Not so long ago, mothers would interrupt a courtship in the front parlour to ask if anyone would like a cup of tea and Dad would be pushed in at regular intervals to look for his newspaper. They would not have called it chaperoning, but it is still the rule in many societies. It is possible that we have made a mistake in allowing young people to become too familiar and at ease with each other in the mixed schools which I myself favour. However, I digress. In this question as to whether there should be sex education the world is old, but two things are new. The first, is earlier maturity and the second is society itself. Prosperity is almost a dirty word if it is used in relation to our society but, in comparison with the 1930s and with the 1830s of poor Flora, we live in a prosperous and secure society; this might be another world, the change is so great.

Today, the single girl can display her pregnancy with regret, perhaps, but not necessarily with shame. Certainly, she has no need for Thomas Hood's "Bridge of Sighs ". The lesson of the tragedy that would come with an unwanted pregnancy no longer applies. The chaperone is a comic figure and we are left with advice. Let us be grateful for the fact that many teachers are well chosen for their posts and are able to advise. I have great confidence in Mrs. Spendlove, the Headmistress of the Hastings High School for Girls, and her staff. My four daughters have been educated there and one is still there. The school said that sex education was a misnomer, as it was only one aspect of a very much larger subject—that is, education for society. At the High School, small groups of girls take part in a series of lectures, films and discussions under the headings of Smoking, Alcohol, Drugs, Venereal Disease, Having a Baby and Contraception. I believe that if every girl received this same education, society would benefit greatly.

Of course, it is with the particular that we are concerned today. In that, the most distressing aspect is that, while knowledge, information and education on the subject of sex are on the increase, so are veneral disease and schoolgirl pregnancies. The system is clearly failing, at least with this minority which seems to press on to disaster, like lemmings over a cliff. If I could speak to a school with such difficulties among its pupils, I should say, "Make sure you have played your part; make sure you have done all that is humanly possible and that you do not fail because of staff turnover. This is work to be shared by a group and it is not to be shelved because of neglect or carelessness or because of feelings of unworthiness."

Were it possible to remove the dangers of sex through education, a question would still remain and it is basic to this debate; that is, is promiscuity among the young acceptable to society? If the answer is, Yes, that will signal the end of our Western way of life as we know it, based as it is on the family unit. If the answer is that promiscuity is not acceptable, we have neither the confidence to say it nor the authority to be heard. However, there is another solution which lies between permission and prohibition. It enables us all to survive the constant tug of war of life's problems. Our desire to protect what we consider to be most worthy—the home and family life—may well be equalled by the desire of the young to obtain it and to protect it themselves.

7.27 p.m.


My Lords, after all that has been said, I rise only to make a short intervention. Many of the proponents of sex education believe that it reduces the rate of abortion, venereal disease and illegitimacy, so I should like to put before the House some facts and statistics which show that, on the contrary, the increase of sex education has coincided with the growth in the rates of illegitimacy and venereal disease. I feel bound to do this as the coincidence can only pose the question as to whether there is a correlation. In order to sharpen the suspicion in the minds of noble Lords that sex education leads to an increase of venereal disease and illegitimacy, I shall produce a few facts from both sides of the Atlantic and shall add a little information on what has been done in the United States to try to rectify the position.

It was back in 1967 that the Ministry of Education in this country put forward recommendations for sex education in all secondary schools and proposed introductory courses in junior schools. It was also in 1967 that the BBC began its spate of programmes on sex education. To correspond with these developments, Dr. Louise Eickhoff of Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham, informs me that among girls of under 16 the rate of gonorrhoea has almost doubled and that the rate of illegitimacy has more than doubled. During recent years in the United States, sex education has been promoted principally by SIECUS, the Sex Information and Education Council of the United States, which receives a handsome grant from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. However, the sex education programmes of SIECUS have not met with universal approbation and success. California has had more SIECUS programmes than any other State of the United States and, whereas Doctor Eickhoff informs me that in other States the rate of venereal disease has risen by 78 per cent., it has risen by as much as 123 per cent. in California. In 1970, California's Orange County cut its sex education from 40 films to two films, from45 books to 4 books available to teachers and from 33,000 to 9,000 pupils involved. Oklahoma has banned sex education altogether and in other States moves have been made to ban sex education.


My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point, can he enlighten us as to whether the figures for venereal disease and abortions have gone down as a result of these changes in Oklahoma and Orange County, California?


My Lords, I will write to the noble Lord if I can discover the necessary information. I should like also to say something about the political overtones of the promotion of sex education and contraception, which assist in promoting sexual relations outside marriage. Many advocates of sex education promote it in the belief that sex may be indulged in freely and without the rules of previous ages. In this conviction they are the spokesmen of our time. As during the Middle Ages religion occupied the forefront of attention, now the relationship of the sexes has become so much the principal focus of attention that the entertainment industry would not even regard the partners in an illicit union as figures of tragedy.

Engels has shown in his treatise on the origins of the family that promiscuity is filled with political significance. The theme of Engels, briefly recapitulated, is that sexual morality exists to safeguard property. Thus, during the last century when property was sacrosanct, men in Britain were very careful about their sexual morals whereas now it is quite the other way round. Our sexual morality has degenerated to an extent which Engels would have welcomed as the institution of property has become weakened and threatened even to be dissolved.

Let me describe in just a few words the evil effects of such a movement once it has got out of hand, as happened in Russia after the Revolution. After the Revolution in Russia, when private property was abolished and society became promiscuous, just to the extent that Engels would have wished, either party was free to cancel marriage merely by sending in a postcard; no distinction remained between legitimacy and illegitimacy; abortion was permitted; adultery ceased to be a criminal offence. Within a few years the rates of abortion and divorce sky-rocketed and the relationship between parents and children declined so far as to lead to a great increase in the rate of juvenile delinquency, and the birth rate declined so far as to threaten the performance of the Soviet Union in war. By 1935 the Soviet authorities were forced to reverse the sexual promiscuity which had been promoted by Engels. Abortions were stopped; divorce almost so; prosecutions were started for rape; the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate birth reappeared in Soviet law; now the Soviet Union has a more Victorian style of family life than most Western countries.

Such are the consequences in Russia, the United States and this country of sexual promiscuity assisted, I suspect in the United States and in this country, by the sex education, which is the subject of this debate. To reverse such evil effects of sex education much good would come, I believe, from removing the commercial interests involved, reminiscent of Mein Kampf and sinister folk, who, in keeping their own sheets clean, enriched themselves by dirtying other people's. No party should be so dedicated to capitalism as to avow that profits should be allowed to interfere with the nation's morals. In this connection I hope, like other noble Lords, that Her Majesty's Government will consider the Family Planning Association. The noble Baroness, Lady Elles, remarked that the Family Planning Association, as agents of the Health Education Council in the field of sex education, enjoys a discount on products of London Rubber Industries, because London Rubber Industries regards the educational activities of the Family Planning Association as widening the market for contraceptives. The Family Planning Association also enjoys a brisk trade in the sale of sex books and the hiring out of audio-visual aids.

The commercial interests involved in sex education prompt me to say something else. It is the duty of Members of Parliament to act in the public interest, and therefore a careful watch should be kept on the nature of the relationships of Members of Parliament with individual pressure groups. When, a few years ago, a public relations firm took at their expense some Members of another place to see the Greek colonels, the Prime Minister ordered an investigation into the operators of political pressure groups, with the aim that such pressure groups should be brought out into the open and registered.

A discussion in Parliament of sex education would lead me to endorse any recommendation that the operators of political pressure groups should be brought out into the open and registered; otherwise the suspicion may arise in the public mind, for better or for worse, that some Members of Parliament who advocate indiscriminate use of contraceptives do so because they have colluded with organisations which have a commercial interest in the sale of them. It would not do to conclude by suggesting that surely the simplest thing to do would be to abolish sex education as one of those disagreeable things like cocktails which have crossed over from the other side of the Atlantic. Even though many of us may never have had any sex education at our own schools, children are now exposed to far too relaxed a moral climate. Let me conclude by saying this. Let us have sex education, but not as an education in contraception. Stripped of its commercial connotations, sex education must be given within the context of Christianity and marriage.

House adjourned during pleasure and resumed by the Lord Chancellor.

7.34 p.m.


My Lords, like my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk, I speak as a Roman Catholic, but also as a breeder of livestock. My bulls copulate when the females are on heat, as do most other animals. Man is the only animal who does it at any time, so far as I can make out. However, man is not an animal. But having listened to your Lordships speaking today, I believe that we are treating these children—under 16, do not forget—as animals and nothing more, when we should be treating them as human beings. Man has the ability of self-control; the animals have not. Yet, as I tried to point out, the animals do it solely for a purpose, and very often in the case of swans and geese on a completely one-to-one relationship.

We believe that the sexual act of creation is one man, one woman, and God. Not necessarily all people believe that, but at least our beliefs should be respected in this case. Then the act of sex is consecrated and sanctified by the sacrament of marriage. Therefore outside marriage, the joy, fulfilment and love to be found inside is gone; and it is either a mere relief or passing pleasure—and not all that long as some of my animals take.

It is an old-fashioned belief perhaps, but I do not think that those old-fashioned beliefs need necessarily be wrong. Successive Governments have allowed—and we, as Members of Parliament, have allowed—more and more permissive Acts to be put on the Statute Book. As a result, because the young know that it is legal they are apt to think that it is right, and this, I believe, to be a real danger. Look at the Act dealing with homosexuality. We know that some people cannot help being that way inclined. But we know, too, that it is still wrong to commit an act, even though the act is now legal from the Governmental point of view. It is still wrong! But how can the young realise that when there is propaganda the whole time, and there is the fact that certain acts have been made legal? Are we not really teaching them to break the law?

All of this debate has merely been on children under 16. I thought that it was forbidden to have a sexual relationship with a child under 16; yet all of this debate has been about telling them how to avoid conception and what precautions to take. Surely we can at least make clear that it is wrong and, as I still thought in the case of those under 16, illegal. I once spoke in your Lordships' House against the segregation of religious instruction in schools and I thought that we had come to a more puralist society. I spoke, too, about whether priests should be allowed to speak only to those of their own denomination.

Having listened to your Lordships today, I begin to wonder whether I was right and whether it is not absolutely essential to keep our denominational schools as long as possible, while this kind of propaganda takes place in other schools. At least we should keep some clear of it. We need parents, teachers and priests who can tell the young about sex, but who can also say quite clearly what is right and what is wrong. If there are difficulties one can, in our church, go to our priests. This may amaze some of your Lordships because these priests, for the most part, are not married and have little or no experience of the sexual act. But they know more about the male aberrations and problems of sex than do most of your Lordships. They have heard it all in the confessional and they have been trained how to help. However, I also believe that the young are getting fed up with all of this and that, as another noble Lord said, they will turn out to be a better generation than us. But at least let us help them by making sure that the right training is given.

7.39 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join with other noble Lords in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Files, for initiating this debate. Certainly this is a subject which needs urgent consideration, and I believe that the House owes the noble Baroness a debt of gratitude for having given us the opportunity for this consideration. The first point I want to raise is this. Is sexeducation, as it is generally supposed to be at the present time, really necessary, and, if so, why? Of course, it has been recognised for some time that an excessive birthrate leads to over-population, but we have heard from several noble Lords today that the birthrate has come down, so there seems to be no particular urgency about that. It seems to me that the only education that is necessary is, first of all, when to restrain from sexual intercourse and, secondly, the fact that it must be confined to married couples, together with an understanding of the very grave danger of not so confining it.

My Lords, my noble friend Lady Loudoun mentioned, among other social evils, alcohol. What would we think of a Government Department (or, for that matter, an independent society) which was going round educating our young with propaganda that alcohol was a very desirable thing and that you gained a lot of pleasure from it, but giving no warning of the fact that it could lead to very disastrous things? I am not a teetotaller myself at least, certainly not a willing one—but there is no doubt that alcohol can lead to a very grave disaster unless it is used in moderation. It is exactly the same with sexual intercourse. If it is used properly it can be of great benefit and lead to great happiness: if it is used outside the marital relationship it can lead to disaster. But the Family Planning Association are teaching the exact opposite. They are teaching our young people, many of them under 16, that sexual intercourse is a very desirable thing, giving great excitement and benefit, and that you have not really fulfilled yourself until you have experienced it. They divorce it entirely from the love motive, or from marital status for that matter, neither of which two things seem to be of very much importance to them.

They also distribute all these contraceptives to the young, but—and this is very important—they give no warning whatsoever to the young of the failure rate of these contraceptives, which in some cases is quite considerable. Nor do they warn young girls that the taking of the pill can lead to very undesirable effects. That it can and does do so is very ably set forth in this pamphlet by Dr. Margaret White which was quoted by the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill. The noble Baroness did not quote the entire list of things that can happen when you take the pill, and I think I should like to read it in its entirety. It says: The following are all well documented, well known effects of taking the pill: Nausea and vomiting; breast tenderness and enlargement; break through bleeding and spotting; suppression of periods; increased cervical erosions; fungus infection of the vulva and vagina; loss of hair; skin pigmentation and discolouration: erythema nodosum "— I am sorry, but I am afraid I shall have to consult some medical expert in the House as to what that is— erythema multiforma; porphyria variegata ", which is swelling and itching of the skin with associated liver damage, jaundice; increased weight; raised blood pressure—strokes—loss of vision; migraine; impaired vision; thrombo-phlebitis; cerebral vacular accidents; depression; irritability and loss of libido; urinary tract infections, and permanent sterility ". Well, that list ought to be enough to make any young girl think twice before taking the pill. My Lords, this organisation is leading our young people down the slippery slope of amorality, the only result of which can be a totally degenerate population. Is there no one who can come to their aid? They need our help. How can they defend themselves when they are not told the true facts of the case?

Another thing that the FPA have not told them is that sexual promiscuity very often leads to venereal disease. I have here some figures on that matter which have been sent to me by two doctors who are very expert in this subject, showing the very rapid increase in the incidence of this disease during the last ten years. One doctor gives the figures for 1963 and 1973. In that period cases of infectious syphilis rose from 1,390 to 2,171; gonorrhoea from 36,049 to 60,258; non-specific urethritis—these figures are for men only because apparently figures for women are not availble for that particular form—20,001 to 70,440. In the age groups, for the juveniles he gives figures for two years, 1972 and 1973. In the under-16 group, the number of cases among boys rose from 109 to 151; among girls, from 420 to 458. In the 16 to 19 group, the number for boys rose from 4,141 to 4,670; for girls, from 5,854 to 6,629.

The other doctor gives figures for three years-1966, 1971 and 1973—and I will read the figures for those three years in that order. Cases of non-specific urethritis, which is due, apparently, to the virus chlamydia: men 30,000, 60,000, 68,000; women—no figures, 13,000, 15,000. Gonorrhoea: men-37,000, 57,000, 57,000; women-9,000. 18,000, 21,000. The figures for juveniles, again, were even worse for those same three years. These are for gonorrhoea only: boys-53, 131, 151 (these are under 16s, incidentally); girls-153, 410, 458. For the ages 16 and 17: boys-520, 1,065, 1,107; girls-827, 2,193, 2,559. This makes the totals for the two commonest sexually-transmitted diseases, in National Health Service clinics alone: for 1966, 76,000 for England and Wales; for 1973, 160,000 for England only—that is, more than double in those seven years.

Now a new variety of venereal disease, for which no figures are as yet available, has appeared. It is caused by a virus known as cystomegalo. This is known to cause the birth of mentally defective children and 400 such children are born each year from that cause alone, solely due to the promiscuity of their parents. I must end these figures by pointing out that they relate only to those cases that have been seen in National Health Service clinics. The real figures are probably a great deal larger. If anybody can say that those figures are unconvincing I can only conclude that he would not be convinced by anything.

My Lords, to turn now to the question of sex education in schools. I agree very much with the noble Baroness. Lady Elles, that a much tighter control over who teaches it and what is taught is necessary. The ideal teachers are, of course, always the child's own parents. But one has got to recognise the fact that not all parents are as responsible as they might be and therefore we must make some provision for it. But I am very firm about one thing and that is that those parents who wish to do it themselves should have the right to withdraw their children from the instruction in schools.

We now come to the question of the kind of instruction that is necessary. I dare say that there are many who will think that my views are hopelessly outdated and old-fashioned. I do not agree with that. I do not think that Christianity is outdated. It is as new and as vital today as it was when it first appeared on earth nearly 2,000 years ago. I am convinced that this instruction should emphasise the virtue of Christian morality and should make it quite plain that a departure from this is not only morally wrong but physically dangerous. In fact, as I have already said, what young people need is the knowledge that sexual intercourse is not a thing to be played with. It is a thing to be taken very seriously. When it is properly used it can bring enormous joy and benefit to the family; but when it is abused it can be very dangerous and degenerating.

The difficulty about the selection of those who should teach it is that in the much larger schools of today the headmaster does not always find it very easy to know exactly what is going on in his school. Therefore I think we should be very careful indeed as to what qualifications arc required for teaching this subject. Possibly the teacher should have a medical degree. I think that would be important and I, personally, should like him also to be a practising Christian. Many may decry such a view; but we are nominally still a Christian country and I feel, multi-racialism or no, that it is high time we became one again in fact.

There may be some who think we are making a great deal of fuss about nothing. I can assure your Lordships that we are not. Apart from the Christian and moral aspect of it, which I personally consider important, the physical dangers are very great. There is no use, for instance, in thinking that a young girl who suddenly finds herself pregnant and does not wish to have a child can just go around the corner and have an abortion and all will be well. Abortion, apart from anything else, apart from the fact that it is really the taking of life and therefore is morally wrong, can have very dangerous and unpleasant after-effects, both physical and mental, on those who submit to it.

My Lords, we must do our utmost to help the young people of our country. I have worked among the young for many years of my life and I know and admire many of them very much. They have, however, two qualities which I think are worth considering in the light of what we are discussing today. One is that they are very easily led astray by a persuasive talker, especially when he promises them something very exciting and pleasurable. The second is that there is nothing they dislike more than being unlike their fellow schoolmates. If they see them indulging in sexual intercourse they will naturally want to go and do the same. It is high time that we came to their protection. I think that one noble Lord mentioned the fact that we in this House are a lot of very old people. Perhaps we are. None the less, I have not found that the young are unready to listen to the old. In fact, I think that, whether they admit it or not, they are very grateful for our experience and it is time that we came to their rescue. They need our protection from organisations which for commercial purposes are trying to delude them with false and dangerous propaganda. It is up to us to give them that protection. There is no more blessed state on earth than a united family with mutual love and trust between husband and wife and between parents and children. Let us see to it that we do not deprive the coming generation of that blessing.

7.58 p.m.


My Lords, I have to start my speech on a slight note on regret that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich is not here. I should have liked him to hear me voice my congratulations on his splendid maiden speech. However, I hope that some friends will pass on my congratulations. Perhaps he will read them in Hansard tomorrow, but I should have preferred him to have heard me. I also have to congratulate my noble friend Lady Elles on the work that resulted in this most interesting debate. The noble Lord. Lord Somers, spoke about the age of the Members of this House, and there have been criticisms in the past that Members are often seen to fall asleep on the Benches. This is one debate in which, from beginning to end, everybody in this Chamber has been wide awake and alert.

The right reverend Prelate in his maiden speech seems also to have been interested in sport. He mentioned his home football team. He made me think of my football team when, a little while ago, the substitute came out to take the place of an injured player and distinguished himself wonderfully by scoring a vital goal. Here today we have another substitute who has stepped into the breach and done a magnificent job, and so I again add my congratulations to my noble friend.

Clearly, our right reverend Prelates—now alas! reduced to one—might be able to give us the quotation about the wisdom of babes and sucklings. This afternoon we have been discussing the wisdom of teenagers. My noble friend Lord Monckton of Brenchley said that possibly the new generation coming along is likely to perform wonders. I think that is quite likely. I know from my own experience that the young can often "drive me up the wall" with what they do; but they do some good work and I think that that generation will excel.

My two daughters helped me write my speech today. I have to offer further thanks to my noble friend Lady Elles in a completely indirect way. When I mentioned at home that I was going to speak in this debate it resulted in both my daughters getting up punctually and coming down to breakfast without having to be chivvied out of their bedrooms. We had a delightful breakfast with lively conversation, and it made a beautiful start to the day. The whole epitome of the conversation was that they should definitely have sex education in schools. Sex education is not included in the curriculum of my daughters' present school, although it has been considered. I received a tirade about how many of their school friends seemed to be totally ignorant about sex. This was a condemnation of the parents for allowing them to be so ignorant. I said, "Perhaps you think we parents should receive sex education in order that we can instruct you? ". "Yes, I definitely agree ", replied one of them. This has been mentioned before in the debate, and I think it is a very good thing for parents to receive such education. One of the maxims I was brought up on was always to keep learning something. Parents should be encouraged particularly to learn what is going to be valuable to them and their children. There should be no loss of face about it whatsoever.

We often hear of nothing being done by the parents by way of sex education. To speak in their defence, it is not a case of nothing being done; it is often difficult to find the time to devote to this. Every evening father comes home tired after work, and mother is tired, too, after the work that she has had to do. The youngsters are trying to watch the tele vision or listen to the radio and find time to do their homework. By then it is time for bed. So often the subject is left for another day. Perhaps parents do not know how to take the first step and they wonder whether they might get a rebuff, such as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford referred to, from a son saying, "Yes, what do you want to know? "They feel the children might know more than they do, and that they might look like a lot of "Charlies "in trying to bring the subject up. I believe the happiest place for sex education should be in the home. The noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, stressed the importance of sex education at school from doctors, and I certainly do not want to detract from the importance of that. School classes and lectures particularly from doctors should form a useful part of this education, but not necessarily the whole part.

We know that times are very hard indeed. It is often said, no matter what the time and period in history, that times are hard, and young people must often wonder whether marriage is worth while. They hear and read so many unhappy stories and grumbles about married life from people and in newspapers which are full of divorce cases. They wonder whether it is worth while going through all that, for the responsibility seems to be so heavy. But I repeat my desire that we should hear far more about the marriages which are happy and successful. My noble friend Lady Ruthven (who is not now in her place) referred to the FPA and quoted some startling figures which make one wonder whether anybody responsible for lecturing children on this subject is really going to come out with such simple phrases as: "Do not have intercourse ', and "Learn to say ' No ' ". If anyone askes me whether I think that marriage is worth while I would certainly say, "Yes ". The responsibilities are very heavy but as compensation the privileges are very rich.

One can also consider the history of people who are successful in life, people who are really prominent in public life, politics, art, medicine or science. They are highly sexed people, but all their energy—and sex is energy, it is not just the facts of life, making love and having fun that way—is channeled. There are some bachelors and spinsters who have made wonderful, successful careers; but if you study most of the people who have really achieved prominent success, you will find nearly all of them have been happily married.

My noble friend Lord Sudeley mentioned the sexual freedom of parents in Russia and the near collapse of society which followed. It has often been said that immorality has brought down many great nations. For example, one great empire was the Roman Empire. It is often thought that immoral living brought that empire to an end. But I say it was the other way round. It was when the empire began to break up and institutions which were considered to be so stable began to crumble away, that immorality began to be rampant. In our own country we often criticise the Victorian era because of its stringent discipline and, apparently, no sexual freedom at all. If anybody had sexual freedom they usually had to go to some "den of iniquity," as it was called. Yet in spite of what we may think of Victorian discipline, the Victorian era and morality, this was one of the periods when our country reached one of its highest peaks of greatness.

Therefore once again I welcome this debate, not only from the aspect of sex education, but also because of the opportunity to repeat once again the plea for family stability. We have heard about its being the buttress of society. It is not only that: it is the basic foundation of all society and Government.

8.10 p.m.


My Lords, my contention, as I stated in the debate which was introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, on subversion, is that the International Socialists and their allies are responsible for many of the more notorious cases of sexual mal-education that have been highlighted in the last few months. During that debate I quoted to your Lordships from their Little Red Book on Education their encouragement to 12-year-olds to masturbate and to denigrate the family, and their encouragement of the young to rebel against any standards set by their parents or out-of-date old-fashioned teachers—in other words, to further their anarchist theory that the New Jerusalem can be built only on the complete ruin of society as we know it.

I want to point out the fact that the family as a unit is the basis of our civilisation and that the subversives do not try to hide their aim, no matter whose lives they may ruin on the way.Seven Days, one of their magazines, in October 1971 stated that the belief in heterosexuality is fostered by those who wish to preserve the family as a bastion of capitalism. So Gay Liberation also pets recommended by the FPA as a source of educational material: that was in June 1974. Surely the most obvious of all ways in which to write off a country is to persuade children to become homosexual—and what better chance of doing this is there than to let Gay Liberation reach a child when he or she is going through that stage? Presumably they have had some success at Coleshill Comprehensive School.

The National Council for Civil Licence —as it should be called—sponsors the Children's Rights Campaign, with its anti-parent, anti-authority emphasis on starting sex as soon as possible. Grapevine is another similar organization which has been mentioned by other speakers today, whose activities are blatantly anarchistic and is also sponsored, it seems, by the Family Planning Association. I am afraid that I am one of those who believe that the Family Planning Association should be abolished forthwith. As a parent, I particularly appreciate their spokeswoman's remarks, and again I quote: Parents—they are the most dangerous people of all! Have parents no rights? Are they to be ridden roughshod over by the trendy educational fringe? Daily we get increased limitations on their freedom of choice over education. Parents may withdraw their child from religious education, but not from sex education, even though it may be taught in a manner which is repugnant to them. Apart from sincere Christian parents, what about the Moslem parents, now an increasing factor in this country today, with their strict views on mixed education? I strongly resent the increasing lowering of standards in our educational system. Standards of morality drop with, or faster than, any other standards, and anyone who tries to halt the decline is immediately branded as an élitist.

So far I have dealt with what I consider to be the subversive side of sex education. I should now like to turn to what I consider to be the constructive attitude adopted by the headmaster of an 1,100-strong school in South-East London, 30 per cent. of whose pupils are West Indian by origin and another large percentage of whom come from one-parent families. This man deals with the subject by having an extremely strong and strongly encouraged parent-teacher association. So far as sex education is concerned—to take the heat out of the subject he prefers to call it "health education "—he makes the point that it should not be a sub-discipline without careful and open staff consultation and parental consultation. This obviates untrained and unacceptable teachers taking on the job. The parents simply would not allow it.

Secondly, he makes the point that sex education is now a part of many other educational disciplines such as science, religion, environmental studies, history and physical education. He insists that the academic staff must take the responsibility for the subject and that it cannot be taught by somebody "coming in ". It cannot be left to an individual, however much he clamors for the job, for therein lies professional disaster and the seed beds of parental complaints. Furthermore, the school must have a view on the subject, and it must not be treated without reference to the moral or spiritual values which invariably intrude. It is essential that the parent-teacher association should meet and discuss the subject so that they can accept the material they would like to see used. He tells the story of one of his mothers, a district nurse, who was heavily pregnant, saying she would like to tell them something—that she had six children and "nothing works ". The parents voted that she should join the team, which she did with great success.

How much better to do things this way than to call in the agents of the London rubber industry. This school approaches the subject with a robust, professional, academic attitude, which is sensitive to the needs of the area which it serves, conditioned by the sensible, earthy, human approach of the consensus of most parents. What works in Wigan does not necessarily work in Woking. At this school, once the parent-teacher association has agreed on the syllabus a letter is sent to all parents saying that this is to take place and asking them to agree that their son or daughter should attend. If they were not at the meeting then the head teacher says that he is willing to discuss the matter with them. How much better it is for the State-run schools to organise their sex education in this way rather than to allow the extremists and the pressure groups to take over—for few of them could stand up against an audience of parents. The headmaster insists on this practice and says that the only complaints he has ever had have been—and here I quote—"when some arrogant BF has decided, for no reason other than that he is a BF, not to follow the scheme prescribed ".

I suggest that some such scheme be made mandatory in all State schools. In independent schools the head teacher loses his job if the parents rebel, but in State schools the teacher is as secure as a bishop, and if he is disciplined he can run to his union. Some of the worst publicised cases would never have occurred if some such scheme was a part of the accepted plan. It depends on a strong parent-teacher association, and that really depends on the headmaster and head teacher. A good CO makes a good regiment; a good headmaster makes a good school. Sex education in State schools must be in the hands of the right teachers, and the subject matter must be agreed by the parent-teacher association. It must not be allowed to fall into the hands of the kinks, the queers and the vendors of dubious contraceptives.

The comment of a male chauvinist pig friend of mine on hearing the title of this debate was, I am all for sex, but it should be ex-curricula." In this day and age sex education is not a separate educational discipline; it is part of several disciplines and, therefore, it cannot be ex-curricula. It seems to me that in these circumstances parents' rights can be best protected by a mandatory, strong parent-teacher association. If there had been some such prior consultation there would not have been the trouble which we had in Exeter, when the educational authority made a ham-fisted reference to teaching homosexual relations. Again, by thus avoiding outraged parents rushing to the media, one can more easily control the "way-out" teacher, whether he be politically motivated or an extremist in sexual aberrations. Whatever the Government decide to do—and for God's sake, literally, they must do something! —we should all be very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, for initiating this debate at this very apposite time in our educational reorganisation and crisis.

8.22 p.m.


My Lords, one would like inevitably—and everybody has liked—to begin one's speech by congratulating the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich on his maiden speech, which came like a breath of fresh air. If one may use the Greek word pneuma for air and spirit, it had a breath and a spirit about it and, if I may say so with the very greatest respect to his fellow Bishops, there is sometimes less spirit from those Benches than we ordinary Christians in a pew expect to get. But we got it today and we were very grateful, and we appreciate and welcome the arrival of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich to our counsels. His speech was a tonic to us all.

Also, one must, of course, join in congratulating my noble friend Lady Elles on a brilliant speech. We knew it would be brilliant, and those of us who remember her startling intervention three years ago on whether a clause should stand part, during the Committee stage of a Bill, in which she spoke on the problem of the population statistics of this country, will remember looking forward to another such performance and it must be said that today our three years' wait was well rewarded.

The debate this afternoon has, of course, thrown up some of the familiar red herrings. There has been all the business about unwanted pregnancies and their cost. But if an unwanted pregnancy costs a lot of money, what about a wanted pregnancy? That costs more still because the child is born, reared, brought up, it quarrels with its parents, is eventually reconciled and, hopefully, marries satisfactorily, but all those are expensive items. However, do not let us waste time at this late stage of the night with red herrings. As the twenty-fourth speaker, I am a tail-end Charlie and, of course, my notes have had to be torn up

The test of a civilisation, it was said, is its estimate of woman. It was also said that the most civilised are as near to barbarism as the most polished steel is to rust. Nations, like metals, have only superficial brilliancy. Only a fool could say of contemporary Britain that our society is not sick and neurotic. It is one where cash payment is the sole nexus of man to man, It is one where the cheapness of man is everyday's tragedy. Despite prodigies of material attainment—cancer detection, the fact that we are longer lived and better informed, to say nothing of the trivia such as motorways and electronics—are we sturdier as well as better fed? Are we happier as well as more pampered? Are we wiser as well as more informed? Are we more or less at peace with ourselves, with our children, with our parents and with society? The touchstone of all this, the touchstone of the social viability of a system, is the family. It was Renan who wrote that the family virtues are indispensable to the proper continuance of a society, and I cannot think that the progressive thinkers of the Party opposite or of my own Party would challenge the authoriship of Renan.

The accumulated wisdom of the human race in society has surrounded sex with safeguards, because the earlier a girl has sexual experience, the more likely that girl is to swap partners, and many times; the more likely that girl is to produce children out with the family and unwanted; the more likely that girl is to contract and spread disease. The human race has known this for millions of years, and for that reason its collective wisdom has surrounded sex with every kind of taboo, if you like to use the old term, or safeguard, to use the more contemporary term, to protect society's future and the future of the race. And, of course, any mere encouragement of idle pleasure, any mere hedonistic instruction away from right and wrong and away from moral choice, panders to the sickness of society.

The Government's share in our decline and fall cannot be gainsaid. This is not a Party point that I am making, because I am bound to say that when I was on the Benches opposite I chased and challenged the Tory Government for their slippery slide down this very same slope. But Governments of both Parties in this country have a share in our nation's decline and fall which cannot be gainsaid. The mast recent example is the free availability of contraceptives without regard to marital status. That was a major blow at the family as a social institution. My deep regret is that one has to say in this House that the Government—and, after all, we respect the Government even if we disagree with them; we obey them; we obey the laws; we owe respect to the Government of the day even though we form part of Her Majesty's loyal Opposition—have uttered a whole serious of degrading deceptions.

Many of them have already been outlined and there is no special purpose in my repeating much that has been said about the Family Planning Association. Noble Lords and Ladies on both sides, who are personal friends of mine and whose sincerity I respect and whose integrity I know to be as pure as the light of cay, have, none the less, not managed to prevent things of which I cannot but feel they would be bound to be ashamed. But is it proper that the Family Planning Association, relying, at any rate to some extent, on the sale of non-medical as well as medical devices, financed at least in part by the London Rubber Company, should be the chosen instrument of sex instruction on the basis of stark hedonism?

Just a few days ago there came into my hands a letter from an anguished parent in Sheffield about the King Ecgbert Comprehensive school in that city which said: We enclose a pamphlet which was given to our daughter…at the [King Ecgbert Comprehensive School]. She was then aged 13½. The underlining is our own. We were appalled at the way sexual intercourse was presented as the norm ' "— and I stress "as the norm"— as much a part of life to the reader as catching a cold or playing a hockey match. As you can see, not only is there not one shred of moral guidance but there is no encouragement given to turn to one's parents for advice—rather the opposite, an encouragement to deceive their parents. The lectures were given to mixed classes who were then almost pressurised into asking questions. Although our daughter had already learned the facts from us, gradually, as she was able to absorb them, this experience at school was little short of traumatic. We had difficulty in getting her to attend. She begged us not to, as she put it, ' make the situation even more awful ' by contacting the headmistress, and we, rightly or wrongly, respected this request. We did however complain to the Chief Education Officer in Sheffield who wrote assuring us that the subject was dealt with at this particular school by qualified people ' ". The question I want to put to the Government is whether that is still the case. Of course there will not be an answer now, but I am asking the Government to write on this point a proper letter that is not full of verbiage and evasions. Is it proper that the Government and, with their encouragement, local authorities, should use as their chosen instrument a body whose book list a little while ago included this hedonistic horror? This was in 1972, and let us hope that reform has taken place. May I say for the Record—for this debate will be studied and churned over by others and the Government will be taken to task over it—that the 1972 book list of the Family Planning Association included a book called Sex Education—The Dangerous Zone which contained the following passages: You (girls) have the advantage of being able to masturbate rather more secretly than boys can because your physiology leaves no traces. Your masturbating is no-one's business but your own, so privacy is appropriate. Make the most of it. You might feel it useful to practise coming quickly, in case you take as your lover a boy who hasn't been fortunate enough to read Maurice Hill and Michael Lloyd-Jones. If your lovers are to be girls. the need to hurry is one minor nuisance among several others which you will luckily avoid. It is important for this debate to have the facts on the Record, and I will continue with another quotation from the same source: We no longer believe in telling the young what to do, but if we were asked for advice on this topic (moral rules) we would say something like this. 'Make love if you both feel like it, but first make sure that you are safe. If you cannot be satisfied without reaching orgasm, there are many ways of doing this without danger of conception, such as manual stimulation, or oral or anal intercourse; but remember that if the penis even touches the vagina there is a slight risk of conception. That is a quotation from a book that is in the recommended book list of the Family Planning Association, the chosen instrument of this Government.

Before this debate ends, we expect something better than the rather brief answer that I obtained earlier today when I put a question to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell. My question was not intended to bowl out the noble Lord. I am quite certain that his heart is in the right place, but I asked him this question which I am now going to repeat. Do the Government agree that sex education must be coupled with instruction in right and wrong and in the principle of chastity before marriage? Above all, do the Government agree that such education must be divorced from any contraceptive marketing efforts? The noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, who was taken unawares by my question which was stimulated by his speech and his endeavour to help us, could not give a considered reply, but he said words to this effect: "I do not know that this matter has ever been considered in the way that it has been raised ". If it has not been so considered, when will it be? Can we have an answer tonight? If not, can we have a real letter, devoid of verbiage, that will give the answer?

It has been said that many very old people are Members of this House, and it is largely elderly people who have spoken today. Stimulated by that remark, and also by Lady Summerskill's great, realistic and, I thought, understanding comments on the pressures of the media upon the young, I take leave to read to your Lordships this extract from something that was said by Miss Mona Nash, aged 21 and a London borough councillor, at a meeting on these premises not very long ago. I will quote verbatim: Youngsters today are being forced into accepting sex before marriage as not just normal but almost obligatory. We are being forced to think about sex all the time, to be obsessed with it, to divorce it from love and humanity, from marriage and children, and all the things which make it beautiful and put it in perspective. Just think for a moment of the things which affect us. What, for instance, about television? When was the last time that you heard a fair discussion on marriage, when chastity was defended or even given a proper chance in debate? When was the last time you saw a play or film specifically for young people when the young people didn't sleep with each other as a matter of course?…What about the magazines directed at our age group? Look at Honey, Petticoat, Nineteen and see what general impression you get. Anti-parent propaganda is the most forceful message that comes over. We are told that our parents are old-fashioned. They refuse to listen. Our one aim in life should be to get away. Then the contraception propaganda. Every single meaning of personal relationships either in the fiction, in the feature articles or on the problem page takes it for granted that every reader is going to sleep with her boy friend. The only matter for discussion is which sort of contraceptive to use, how to keep it all from the parents, or which are the most reliable abortion methods. The smutty little stories and the feature articles are illustrated with lurid photographs better suited to the dirty raincoat brigade. All are owned by one company—IPC. Then sex education. Of course the Family Planning Association's aim is to stress sex in the raw. Their latest booklet is called, Learning to Live with Sex. What about the initial decision about whether or not to make love? What about the whole emotional experience of lovemaking? What about the future prospects of marriage? Not a word. I will continue with a final quotation from this source: And now the Government is actually handing us the contraceptives to do it with. I want to say "— this is age 21 speaking; it is not someone with a bald head like you and me— …very seriously that the people who put forward this scheme for free contraceptives for all are going to have a great deal to answer for in a few years' time. A whole generation's experience of emotions, relationships with people, ability to make decisions, bring up families, care for other human beings and organise their own lives. Then, in the words in which she anticipated the Archbishop of Canterbury, she said: What kind of a society do we want to live in? These men have much to answer for.


My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down may I ask him a question. I have not read any of this kind of propaganda from 1972, but I should like to ask whether he has read the latest statement from the FPA. If he has not, I should be very pleased to show it to him. It is all very fine going back to 1972, and I deplore that propaganda and think it is disgraceful and frightfully silly, but I should like him to read this document and then make a speech afterwards.


My Lords, I am so grateful to the noble Baroness, whom I count as a personal friend, that she is back in the Chamber, from which we know she had to be absent, and that she is able to join in the concluding stage of this debate. I have not seen the document that she has referred to. While she was out of the Chamber I went out of my way to say what I think and mean, that without any question at all noble Lords and noble Baronesses on both sides of this House who are officers or directors or take some part in the work of the FPA do so with motives which are "as pure as light "— that was my phrase. The noble Baroness knows very well that I do not doubt her integrity and I know she does not doubt mine.

I have not seen the document she has referred to, but I look forward to seeing it. I recognise that some of my references go back some time and I hope that they are out of date. I should like to know that they are archeology; I should like to have her assurance that they are archeology. I should like to have it from those who are operating now. But I have one document which has already been referred to earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Macleod of Fuinary, called Getting it On, published by the Family Planning Sales Limited, concerning the use of the contraceptive sheath. I do not know whether the noble Baroness has seen this. There are a number of copies about. I have a couple in my briefcase but they are not handy at the moment. I do not know when these were issued, but I rather gather that it was quite recently.

The noble Baroness knows that she and I do not want to make a personal issue of this at all, but there are two sides to the coin and I hope—I am sure every Member of your Lordships' House hopes —that those who take an active and responsible part in the FPA will pay heed to the things that have been said (as I am sure they will) and no doubt we can look forward to (shall we say?) a happier performance in the future.

8.45 p.m.

Viscount INGLEBY

My Lords, I should like to assure the House that I have the document to which the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, has referred and I shall be referring to it myself in a few minutes. But before doing so I should like to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, on what he has said. I fully support him, and indeed the quotation which he has just given, but he did get one thing wrong in his quotation. I feel I ought to say for the benefit of the lady concerned that her name is "Joanna" and not "Mona".

I should like to start by giving a quotation from a senior medical officer of a family planning clinic. This is what she writes: It is essential to provide sound sex education for school children. This means guidance towards happy relationships in marriage based on the ideal of chastity before marriage and fidelity thereafter. Responsible sex education should be given by medical and educational authorities, as opposed to commercially-sponsored information, which exploits youth so as to extend the indiscriminate sale and supply of potentially harmful drugs and devices, and gives no warning of the failure rates in the use of contraceptives, which cause increased teenage abortions and VD. She goes on to say: For young people to be given a full understanding of the unique marvel of human development and relationships at all stages—including our sexual relationships—this must be based on accurate, sensitive and health promoting information. The need for secure relationships is basic to human beings. A girl by her nature has deep needs for giving and receiving caring love and security. A sexual relationship arouses her maternal instinct about a home and babies. It is emotionally disturbing when this happens to her before she knows her own mind about choosing a partner for life; and can be cruelly frustrating. Public relations people are paid to get results, so ' free sex ' propagandists and commercial interests (including some teenage magazines) exert pressures deliberately aimed to exploit vulnerable young people—by giving only one side of the picture; saying ' do your own thing: have sex: and use contraceptives '. They do not ask ' who makes the money from all this? ' Such deception "— she goes on— is an oppressive modern cruelty, sold to the public as a modern benefit. It is patently dishonest as it does not give young people the real choices. It suppresses the facts about consequences—or manipulates them—and has led young people into unhappiness, disease and abortion. It can also be a means of alienating adolescents from parents, leaving them in a vacuum. I believe that a majority of parents in this country still support the Christian ideals that we have been hearing about this afternoon and this evening, the Christian ideals of chastity before marriage and fidelity within marriage. I believe that myself, not only because they are right but also because they lead only to unhappiness, indeed to misery, when they are not followed. This will be confirmed or otherwise by the Minister when he replies at the end of the debate, but we were told by the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, when she quoted its own statement, that the Family Planning Association has received £26,000 for the purpose of training sex educators to go into our schools.

The Association has produced the document to which the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, referred a few moments ago and which is dated 30th August 1974. I can find no reference in it to chastity; I can find no reference in it to fidelity. The only reference I can find in it to marriage is one quoting that Masters and Johnson, the American researchers, have estimated that at least 50 per cent. of marriages are sexually dysfunctional. This is the only treatment I can find that the subject of marriage receives in Family Planning Association's guidelines on education.

The Earl of LONGFORD

My Lords, can the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, tell us what the word "dysfunctional" means?

Viscount INGLEBY

My Lords, I will leave that to others more qualified than I. This is the official statement of the Family Planning Association. The Association has also produced a booklet for teenagers, which has also been referred to this afternoon, called, Learning to Live with Sex. In that booklet also, there is no mention that I can find of marriage. The Association produced the little pamphlet which various people have talked about this afternoon, which finishes with the words, "If you have it off, have it on".

My Lords, we know also that the more contraceptives sold by the Family Planning Association, the more money it gets itself. Quoting from the 1975 Report of the Monopolies Commission, it says: The Family Planning Association is allowed a 5 per cent. retrospective rebate on all its purchases of LRI contraceptive products other than inter-uterine devices. I would ask the Government and the parents of this country whether they think that the people who produce this kind of literature are the sort of people they would like to go into schools to teach children about sex.

The Family Planning Association is not the only body active in this field. I have here a strip cartoon produced by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, which was distributed at the Liverpool Show in August 1974. It is the usual "Boy meets Girl "strip cartoon. They go to the cinema and they go home afterwards. He says, "Aren't you going to invite me in?" She says, "Memo wouldn't like it, but she's away at me sister's ". The strip cartoon goes on, and the girl meets her girl-friend the following day. Talking about the boy-friend she say, "He's great. I would like to sleep with him, but I'm scared of what might happen." The girl-friend answers, "Why don't you go along to the clinic and get fixed up? "If you look inside, it says in capital letters, "You can really enjoy making love if you do not have to worry about getting pregnant ".

My Lords, young people get quite a lot of—I was going to say "instruction ", but "advice" would be a better word. from the magazines that they read. I can quote from a magazine called OK. In the issue of 26th April 1975, someone wrote in asking about Lesbian relationships. The answer they were given was: Homosexuality in itself is nothing to be ashamed of, though it can cause some problems. One might ask the writer whether he or she was really concerned with the long-term happiness of the 12-year-olds and upwards who would be reading that answer. On the 10th May 1975, there was a brief article called, "Will you make Love? ". In the course of this article the writer said: Contraception is now widely available to the teenage girl who is willing to approach sex sensibly. My Lords, in conclusion, I should like to ask the Government and the parents of this country whether in fact they believe that a happy, stable family is the best way to a happy, stable society. Are they really concerned for the long-term happiness of school children? Do they believe that chastity and fidelity are still the ideal standards to set before young people? If they do, why are they giving £26,000 to an organisation which produces the kind of literature I have been describing, where the words "' chastity and fidelity "are not mentioned, and the subject of marriage is not even seriously discussed? I would suggest that if money is to be given, it should be given only to bodies who uphold these Christian ideals. I understand that in Gloucestershire there is an excellent scheme of personal relationships, and I would hope that the money might be given to encouraging other local authorities to follow their lead.

8.56 p.m.


My Lords, I have been very greatly heartened by listening to the speeches in the debate today, heartened because so many speakers have brought to this most sensitive and difficult subject the qualities of compassion and understanding which I believe to be essential in any serious thinking about it. Sex education evokes strong passions and strong prejudices: it challenges us to remember honestly our own childhood and adolescence and to have sympathy for young people of today, in their very different circumstances. It forces us to face up to questions of values and morality which are immensely searching and testing. I have been impressed during the debate by the way in which these profound issues have been recognised and, if I may say so, illuminated by considerable wisdom. Here may I add my tribute to those already paid to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich on his maiden speech, urging on all of us the need to give guidance and leadership. He managed to be largely non-controversial when speaking on such a potentially explosive subject.

My Lords, although we can look back to our own past, and perhaps also call on the experience of our children and grandchildren, it is immensely difficult for the generations mainly represented in this House today to comprehend the true nature of the very different circumstances which face the young people of today. It is worth while to emphasise just how much has changed in their environment. Adolescence in a real sense has become longer as the age of puberty has declined, and as children have stayed on longer at school. During adolescence, and even before it, children are exposed to commercialised sexual stimulus, as the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, emphasised, on a scale which did not apply even five years ago. Public attitudes are being tested across a wide spectrum, encompassing not just the basic issues of sexual morality but also, for example, the discussions on the role of women. The abortion law has been reformed—or, if I may use a more neutral phrase, changed. Contraception is both more effective and much more easily available. There are many other factors which I could bring in evidence to indicate how much the environment and intellectual climate in which the young people grow up has changed in these last few years.

Given these pressures on the young people of today, I do not believe that older generations can shrug off their responsibility and simply hope that parents will give their children the help they need to come to terms with themselves. Indeed, there has been no such indication of this in your Lordships' House today. Such research as has been done shows that only a small minority of children receive adequate sex education from their parents, and a large majority of young people would like to have been taught more at school. I am sure that most parents welcome help from the schools, and that many would feel embarrassed, or indeed inadequately informed themselves, if they had to face their children's questions entirely on their own. There are, of course, some parents who believe with great sincerity that sex education is wrong in principle and even dangerous, but I am convinced that the case for sex education in the schools, if given in the right perspective, is proven. We are, after all, not faced with the choice between children learning from their parents and teachers or not at all; the alternative is being misinformed by school friends and picking up a selection of sexual folklore in an atmosphere which may do lasting damage.

Another and more tangible sign of the need for helping young people is the profoundly disturbing number of abortions and illegitimate births among girls of school age, to which reference has been made today. It is profoundly disturbing, since each one is potentially a tragedy for the girl herself and those around her, and since each and every one could have been avoided. There are no grounds for optimism that this problem is declining in scale. In 1974, the latest year for which full figures are available, there were 1,569 births and 3,242 abortions in England and Wales to girls aged 15 or under. This total of some 4,800 pregnancies compares with just over 3,000 in the same age group in 1970. Schools are now facing the difficulties of dealing with pregnant 16 year olds who remain pupils because of the raising of the school-leaving age.

But distressing as schoolgirl pregnancy is, we should not get it out of proportion. It remains true that in any one year well over 99½per cent. of girls under 15 do not become pregnant. And there is some comfort to be found in the still very low incidence of sexually transmitted diseases among the population of compulsory school age, suggesting that, despite some prophets of doom, promiscuity is exceedingly rare among children under 16. This tits in with the figures that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich gave in his maiden speech.

My Lords, so far I have tried to sketch the pressures on today's young people and the reasons which seem to me to compel acceptance of the case for the school having a role in sex education, but I have not so far tried to define what I mean by sex education, or to consider the questions of who should teach it, when it is best for the first teaching to be given, or where teachers stand on giving moral guidance to their pupils. In trying to deal with these questions, I must of course preface any remarks on these subjects by the reservation which has become all too familiar to me in my spell as an education Minister. I have no powers to prescribe the details of the curriculum in schools in England, and my Department's role in curriculum development is limited to giving advice and providing channels for the exchange of information. Furthermore, school education in Wales and Scotland is the responsibility of Departments other than my own, and in Scotland the arrangements for curriculum development differ from those which I shall now go on to describe.

Given that I have no power to bring about changes, I do not think that I am thereby constitutionally prevented from describing and thinking aloud about what the schools are already doing in this field. The first and dominant point I should make is that sex education is an inadequate name for what is being taught in the schools;it is, I hope, recognised everywhere that biological facts need to be seen in their emotional and social perspective. Schools may organise all this in different ways. Sex education may form part of a broader course entitled "human relationships", or "health education ", or "social biology ", or any one of a number of other names, or the information which is given in science or biology lessons may be added to the discussion and thoughts about human rela tionships which can be drawn out from many other curriculum subjects. This is in line with what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford was saying and suggesting, and also in line with some of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley. There should be differences of approach in the schools, but it is important that the school should see that the subject is covered in its breadth and in an integrated way which matches the stage of development of the pupils concerned.

There are at present a number of initiatives up and down the country designed to help teachers come closer to the ideal in matching what is taught to the needs of the children and presenting it in an integrated and comprehensive way. My Department has published its Handbook of Health Education, which attempts to inform teachers and to provide sources to which they can refer, rather than telling them what to teach. There are also under way at present two specific health education development projects. The first is run by the Schools Council and is concerned with the presentation of health education in the primary and middle schools and the first years of the secondary schools. The second is run by the Health Education Council. It is designed to investigate the way in which adolescents learn their health behaviour, and to develop materials for use in schools to promote education in personal relationships. Publication of the results of these two projects is expected to take place next year. The Schools Council's earlier projects on moral education and general studies, and its Humanities Curriculum Project, also produced a great deal of valuable and relevant teaching material.

A large number of schools are also making use of the broadcast programmes prepared for children of different ages by both the BBC and the IBA, and I should draw attention in particular to the programmes which are available to primary schools. An increasing number of primary schools are now showing programmes which present a simple and straightforward account of the facts in their emotional context, and both the BBC and IBA programmes have met with approval from the great majority of parents.


My Lords, I am very sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, who is speaking at such a terrific pace in order to get us all home to bed, I know. I want to intervene before he leaves the last point. He was talking about health education and health behaviour and these matters being taught covered in breadth and in an integrated way. Could he tell us what those words mean? Does that, or does it not, mean that children are taught that things are right and that things are wrong, and that there is a merit in chastity before marriage? Is the answer "Yes" or "No"? I am not trying to pillory him; I am just trying to get an answer.


My Lords, I cannot give the noble Earl a precise "Yes" or "No" to that question, because precisely how these things are taught differs in different schools, differs in different local education authority areas, differs in different contexts, and it is not for the Government to prescribe precisely what is taught nor precisely the form of a curriculum at a particular school. Noble Lords would certainly think it wrong if the Government were giving precise directions about curricula, and precisely what is taught or how it is taught in individual schools throughout the country.


My Lords, we appreciate that. The noble Lord began to raise our hopes by saying that although the Government cannot dictate curricula they can give advice. We want to know in which direction the advice is given. If noble Lords on the other side scowl at my interruptions they will have to scowl at lot more if we do not get a proper answer. I know the noble Lord will help us.


My Lords, I think that I shall be covering some of the points more precisely later on. At least I shall do my best so to do. I have now forgotten where I got to precisely. I was talking about the programmes which were being developed and put out by the IBA and by the BBC and being received in the schools.


My Lords, the noble Lord is perfectly right, that is what he did say, and he also went on to say that they received fairly widespread approval. Is he aware that a number of them showed young children being issued with contraceptives, and that that did not meet with the approval of a lot of people?


My Lords, I was not aware of that particular point; but I was aware, and was going on to say, that there may be some in this House who feel—and some people have felt—that some of these programmes are aimed at children too young to benefit from them. But there is much to be said, as the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, has pointed out, for teaching children to acquire understanding of the facts early on, so that later teaching can build—

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, may I—


May I please finish a small point? It was so that later teaching can in fact build on it. I should perhaps remind the House that a significant proportion of girls are now reaching puberty while still of primary school age.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, I apologise for interrupting because I know that the noble Lord is trying to finish his speech, but he did mention the question of wide approval of these BBC and IBA programmes. The report that I saw said that 85 per cent. of the schools did not want these programmes. I wonder what would be the noble Lord's definition of "wide approval"?


My Lords, I have not seen the figure that the noble Baroness speaks about. The information that we have is that a large number of people have expressed appreciation of what is being done, and we have not come across the extent of the complaints that the noble Baroness has put forward. If she would be good enough to write to me about this I shall take it up with her precisely and specifically.

What I have been trying to suggest is that as time has gone by local education authorities are taking advantage of the increasing wealth of teaching material and expertise which is available, and they are taking a fresh look at the way in which health education—to use the phrase that the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, prefers to "sex education"—is taught in their areas. Each year a number of local education authorities establish Working Parties to consider the subject and to prepare recommendations. There are several in session at present. It is useful for these Working Parties to include representatives of the medical health care and social work professions so that all those who are involved can understand each other's methods and objectives. They also have in common the characteristic I mentioned earlier—that it is now universally recognised that sex education should be approached as an element in a broader part of the curriculum which emphasises the importance of feelings and relationships, and raises moral issues for the pupils to consider.

Combined with the development of this Working Party approach go local in-service training and discussion courses for teachers. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools also play an essential part in the exchange of information about curriculum developments. They have organised conferences during the last four years in collaboration with the Health Education Council, conferences for chief education officers and their professional colleagues to consider the need for health education and to examine the questions involved in its development; they have held joint conferences with the Association of Teachers in Colleges and Departments of Education to consider health education in teacher training, and they have held short courses on health education subjects open to teachers and college lecturers. I hope that this goes some way to meet some of the points made in this context by my noble friend Lady Gaitskell.

It must also be remembered that schools are not concerned just with providing information and stimulating and encouraging young people to think about consequences and responsibilities. They are also concerned about individual pupils. Secondary schools aim to have pastoral arrangements which should enable young people with personal difficulties to feel that they have someone they can turn to for help and advice. When young people need help, it may also be important that the other services are brought in. Those who are involved with pastoral care also need to have good links with medical, nursing and social services.

Looking at the country as a whole, the picture which emerges is one of steady evolution and, to the best of my knowledge, broad parental approval for what the schools are doing, in spite of the isolated example cited by the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, regarding Sheffield. That occurred a number of years ago and I will write fully to the noble Earl about that. The amount of time spent on sex education may vary considerably between schools, from those where it still forms only a small part of a biology or a religious education course, to those which are attempting a more ambitious social education programme; and the emphasis which local education authorities give to health education may vary as well—points which were made by the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, in her opening speech. But there is a growing awareness of the value of education in personal relationships and. I think, a gradual convergence to a common realisation of its importance.

That description which I have broadly been giving of curriculum development and of what we are trying to do about it should not lead the House to conclude either that progress is smooth or that I and my colleagues are complacent about it. I fully recognise, as I said at the beginning of my speech, that sex education is a sensitive and difficult subject which arouses strong passions and prejudices, and I will, therefore, comment now on some of the more contentious aspects. First, the relationship between parents and the school. There are parents who, for conscientious or perhaps religious reasons, wish their children to be withdrawn from sex education lessons, as the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, and the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, pointed out. Ministers are sometimes asked to amend the law to make such withdrawal a statutory right, and this was one of the recommendations with which the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, ended her speech.

There would be very considerable practical difficulties in doing this, especially when the subject is taught as part of a broader course. I am convinced that it would not be appropriate to make such an amendment of the law. In my view, parents must also face the fact that the alternative for their children would be a more or less garbled version of some parts of the lesson retailed by their friends. I hope none the less that local education authorities and head teachers, as the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, said, will consult parents freely on these matters and take account of their views; and an admirable example of this was given by the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, when he was quoting one particular school in this context. It is not for me to instruct local education authorities in their duties in such a sensitive area, but I am sure that they will apply their customary good sense in respecting parents' wishes.

Next comes the question—to which the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potter-hill, referred, and it was also mentioned by the noble Lord. Lord Somers—of the very careful selection of those teachers who are to be involved in sex education work. I feel sure that local education authorities and the schools would agree that those who embark on this, whether as part of a specific programme or within other subject areas, need opportunities fully to consider their own attitudes and the possible consequences of the views they may present.

I can see that any system of selection, including who decides which teacher should be chosen and which not and by what criteria, is bound to be difficult. I have even seen it suggested that divorced people should not be involved. The need for selection and the criteria must be a matter which only the local people, the local education authorities and the schools themselves can decide on. But, most important, we must also remember that children will turn to discuss their problems to those teachers whom they respect for their personal qualities and that to some extent they will always carry out their own selection themselves.


My Lords, if it is to be up to the local authorities to decide who should be selected to do this teaching—which I quite understand—and if some local authorities choose people who are unsuitable, why should the parents not have the right to withdraw their children from the classes?


My Lords, the role of the parents is, in this context, not so much to put pressure on their own school as to take notice of what goes on in the school and establish the sort of co-operative relationship which the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, so admirably described. If that can be satisfactorily achieved, that seems to me to be the best way ahead in this context.

I should like to take up a further point made by the noble Lord. Lord Alexander of Potterhill, because I feel that this touches—as the noble Lord so frequently touches—on the heart of the problems which surround us in this area. He was saying that attitudes and values were crucial. He drew a distinction between knowledge which he pointed out was easy to teach because there was fundamental agreement about knowledge both within the school and in society, and attitudes and values, which he said were crucial. He went on to argue that schools cannot succeed unless they are supported by the values and attitudes of society. I agree. Indeed, I go further than that. It seems to me almost inevitable that what is taught in the schools about attitudes and values will itself be influenced —and substantially so—by the attitudes and values prevalent in society as a whole. One cannot insulate one from the other. This is where moral leadership is so important, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich said. Most of the criticism which has been expressed today has been not so much criticism of sex education in the schools—for, apart from a few isolated incidents, there has been no criticism of sex education in schools—as criticism of the exploitation of sex by society as a whole and by the mass media and others for commercial purposes. That is where the main area of criticism has been. That is the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, was making in her speech.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord again but what he has said is not correct. The main area of criticism is the way in which the teaching is done, not the fact that it should not be taught.


My Lords, with respect, no one has talked about the way teaching is done in the schools. There have been criticisms of the Family Planning Association—and I shall come to deal with those in a moment—and of what it has been doing as far as some of its courses are concerned. However, none of the courses are themselves for school children and the Family Planning Association is not concerned with teaching in the schools and is not directly engaged in teaching in the schools.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, I apologise for interrupting, but Grapevine is a subsidiary of the Family Planning Association and it does teach in schools. One headmaster in North London had to ask for the teacher to be removed from a class. I am sorry.


My Lords, may I come on to the points I want to take up about the Family Planning Association. I want to come on to this specifically. First, I was asked in this context by the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, and the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, if I could clear up the question of whether the Family Planning Association was receiving grants from the Department of Health and Social Security for running courses. I am informed that that part of the reimbursement of headquarters' expenses of the Family Planning Association referred to by my noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell is for the cost of the headquarters' element of the courses it provides. According to my information, in 1975 £21,000 was included for this purpose, and of this £19,000 went towards the provision of basic training and appreciation courses for doctors and nurses. The central Government contributions to the limited number of courses which are attended by teachers and others involved with the sex education of young people is very small. The teachers who attend such courses either pay their own costs, or they are paid by the local education authority. It is entirely up to the local education authorities and the teachers themselves as to whether they attend these courses.

However, I can say that our Inspectorate have seen nothing offensive in them, and I do not think, whatever the leaflets may say, that the noble Baroness need fear that an undermining of values is taking place here through these particular courses. In this context I stress that so far as I know—and this is my advice in this regard—the Family Planning Association is not giving courses direct to pupils, as the noble Lady, Lady Ruthven of Freeland, as a vice-president, herself confirmed. If the Association is doing this, it is doing it only by the direct invitation of the school or the local education authority. I should add in this case, in reply to the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, that when the Family Planning Association courses for teachers and other adults were first announced they included on the reading list the National Secular Society book to which he referred as an example of the type of literature which was available. But as the reasons for including it were clearly misunderstood, this was, I am advised, removed in 1972.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for dealing with that point, but can he assure us that there was other literature made available and brought to the attention of these people which would stress the values of right and wrong? We have tried to get an answer on this point throughout the debate. We have heard great words about education and evolution—goodness knows to what! Can we have a simple answer? I am trying to get an answer in the most good humoured way possible, because we do not want to raise the temperature at this late hour. Can the noble Lord tell us merely whether alongside the other material, material explaining the Christian—or Jewish—values of right and wrong was also put before these people?


Of course, my Lords, this type of information is also available—


My Lords—


May I try to answer the noble Earl, please? I do not want to raise the temperature any more than he does, and I am trying to be as helpful as I can in this context. The background to what I am trying to say is that what is taught in the schools is a matter for the local education authorities and for the teachers themselves, and it is determined by the relationship between the parents and the teachers in the schools and the local education authorities. It is not for Her Majesty's Government to lay down precisely what is taught here, or precisely what values should be put across, whatever those values should be—


The noble Lord is very patient and I do not want to test his patience. But he began his speech by saying that although the Government cannot instruct local authorities they can advise them. But do they advise them, or do they not advise them; and, if so, in which direction? I am trying to keep my temper, and I know that really the noble Lord is always very kind and that he is not as angry as he looks; nor am I.


My Lords, I am glad that both of us are not as angry as we look. Of course, the Government put forward all the information and all the advice over a very wide range, and this is made available and is drawn to the attention of the schools and local education authorities. We cannot do more than that.

May I take up the point which the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, made in this context? He asked whether the policies of the FPA will be those of the DHSS and the Area Health Authorities now that the FPA is relinquishing the provision of these agency services. The House will not expect me to comment in detail on what was said on both sides about the FPA. The services referred to are not within the responsibility of my own Department. I can only inform your Lordships of the facts which are, I understand, that general guidance to all providing services in this particular context was issued by the DHSS in May 1974 and also that the Family Planning Association's agency services are gradually being taken over by the Area Health Authorities and will have ceased by September 1976. I am not aware of any further guidance that the DHSS contemplates sending to the health authorities, but I shall be happy to send a copy of the May 1974 guidance to the noble Earl and to other noble Lords interested in this context. I feel that I should add that there arc many people in this country, as the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, and the noble Lady, Lady Ruthven, said, who, whatever they may feel about some of the literature of the FPA, feel grateful for all the work of the members of this Association in the past.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that answer, but he has slightly oiled round it. He said it was not in his Department. He will realise that he speaks for the Government. I consider the question to be extremely important. Will he be kind enough to go into it properly and give me a written answer on behalf of the Government?


I will go into this in detail, my Lords. I am aware of this particular document. It is rather a thick—


My Lords, the question that I asked—


My Lords, I shall certainly give an assurance that I will go into this and produce a written answer.

I should next like to take up the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Stamp. He asked to be sent information about the cost of abortion and VD services. I will see that this is done.

Finally, there comes the question which all teachers must face and answer: that of what moral leadership they should attempt to give their pupils. This is not a new question. I should not myself have the temerity to offer advice to the teachers, but I hope the profession will agree with me on three brief conclusions which I have reached. The first is that it will always be immensely difficult to identify specific actions or methods which will influence pupils in their moral attitudes. Each generation will come to its own conclusions, drawing on its own environment, including the formal content of the school curriculum but also including a large number of at least equally potent other influences. The second is that teachers individually and together nevertheless exert a very considerable indirect influence by their personalities and attitudes. There is, in fact, no practical way in which teachers can avoid influencing the way in which boys and girls arrive at their moral decisions.

Thirdly, we can only hope and expect that teachers will continue to be for the most part people of integrity and maturity, with a commitment to those qualities of compassion and understanding which I described as essential at the beginning of my speech. Young people will challenge their views, but they will continue to respond to that kind of example.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, for giving us the opportunity to have this extremely useful debate today. My Department and the Department of Health and Social Security will take careful note of the points which have been made during the debate, some of which I have not had time to deal with, and I have no doubt that some of them will be taken up, too, by the study to which my noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell referred. I hope that I have been able to show that a great deal of work is going on in our schools and elsewhere, both in teaching the subject in all its aspects and in curriculum development; and I must say that I personally have been very much impressed by the efforts which are being made here. I believe, in conclusion, that, in consultation. with parents, our schools are moving in the right direction, and this is what we should encourage them to continue to do.

9.35 p.m.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, before thanking other noble Lords, perhaps I may say that I will of course read with the greatest of care the speech which has just been made by the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, but I must say that I have never heard a more unsatisfactory answer to the speeches of 25 Members of your Lordships' House. Definite and specific questions were put to him, and I do not think he has acquitted himself, on behalf of the Government, as a responsible Government should. If the Government are going to nationalise and change the whole structure of education and the whole structure of the National Health Service, it is up to the Government to provide what they have taken away from the schools, which is the teaching of religion in religious schools and the preservation of health for patients. I think the Government have totally failed to show any responsibility—


My Lords, could the noble Baroness please say where we have taken away the teaching of religion?

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, the Government have forced very many religious schools to close down or to become independent schools, or to become comprehensives, where it is very much more difficult for them to give the religious education which they were able to do under the direct grant system.


My Lords, would the noble Baroness recognise that one of the major contributions that the Government have made in this area has been the increased grant to the voluntary schools? That does not seem to me like discriminating against religious schools; indeed, on the contrary. If the noble Baroness is really trying to bring direct grant education into this debate, I really cannot accept that. If, on the other hand, she wants to maintain privilege in the public sector, by which richer parents are subsidised by the taxpayer to buy privileged education for their children, then this is something about which I will be willing to exchange with her, and in a bad tempered sort of way as well; but this, my Lords, seems to me to have nothing whatsoever to do with sex education in schools.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, I am sorry the noble Lord should take this particular view and should lose his temper on this particular matter, and I should perhaps like to discuss it with him privately on another day. Nevertheless, I feel that the Government have failed to answer the questions put to them by the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, about the question of chastity before marriage and about the Government's views on marriage. As the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, quite rightly said, it is leadership from the head that counts. It is leadership from the Government as the responsible education authority that counts. They have not yet said what advice will be given, and I think we should like to know. I quite understand if the noble Lord is not able, or does not feel willing, to give an answer on this question at this juncture, but I would hope that he would feel that he could put in writing what his views on this particular matter are, and that a message could go forth from the Government that they do approve of chastity before marriage for young children and that in the schools of this country sex education will be taught within the context of marriage. I am not expecting a reply from the noble Lord but I know he wants to get up, and I will of course give way to him.


I must confess, my Lords, that I am surprised to note the totalitarian demands for a totalitarian society which are being made by the noble Baroness opposite. What she is in effect saying is that the Government must determine what their views are on a whole series of issues, which are normally issues on which private individuals make their own views known, and that, having taken a certain line on these, the Government must ensure that this is what is taught in all the schools of this country. Now if the Government just happened to take a contrary view to the view of the noble Baroness, she certainly would not be urging that the Government should ensure that values contrary to those which she wishes are taught in the schools of this country. What the noble Baroness is talking about is a totalitarian concept of society which, my Lords, is one that I fundamentally reject.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, I think it must be getting very late for the noble Lord to have made such an incredible reply.


My Lords, I am not losing my temper about this. If the noble Baroness does not know what is totalitarian and what is not totalitarian, I will be very happy indeed to give her some tuition in political science.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, I will refrain from having tuition from Members of the opposite Benches of this House. I think we are all beginning to know what a totalitarian society is like. We are getting it tonight by the sound of it. I would remind the noble Lord that the marriage laws of this country are still in force, and it is surely up to the Government to support the matrimonial and marriage laws of this country. Whether or not they wish to is another matter. Had the noble Lord listened more carefully, without being so cross and angry about it, I think he would have heard that I asked "What advice will be given? ", not" What is the policy of the Government? ". What my noble friend Lord Lauderdale asked was: "What advice would be given by the Government?" I will read the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Crowther-Hunt, most carefully. But I think he definitely referred to the fact that advice would and could be given by his Department. May we leave it at that at this stage in the proceedings, because I think there has been some misunderstanding in this cross-exchange of language. I will refrain from accusing the noble Lord of totalitarianism; but I will refuse his kind offer to have any political instruction from him.

I should like to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate today. All the contributions have been incredibly valuable, regardless of belief and regardless of moral approach. We have been able to come to some very valuable conclusions and recommendations which I sincerely hope the Government will listen to. I also hope that from this House will go a message to all head teachers, staff and parents that the vast majority of the Members of this House, regardless of totalitarianism, still believe in Christian marriage and still believe that girls should be brought up in chastity, and that there should be fidelity in marriage. I am not saying we all believe it; I am not proposing any totalitarian system; but I believe the vast majority of those who have spoken today have spoken in those terms.

The noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, did not, I think, hear what I said about the Family Planning Association at the beginning of my speech. I strongly recommended all the work it had done, in particular for married couples. I did not condemn by any means the vast majority of the people who have done excellent work in the Association. I would ask the noble Baroness to have the courtesy to read carefully tomorrow in Hansard what I said about the work of the Family Planning Association. I accept that she may not have seen all the recent leaflets which have been published. They have caused deep concern, as she will have realised from the many examples which have been produced in your Lordships' House today. This has probably been the finest collection of obscene literature which has ever been displayed in this House. With regard to the little pamphlet called Learning to live with Sex to which she referred, and to which my noble friend Lord Lauderdale referred, which was published in 1972, she will find in the FPA report of 1974–75 that 92,000 copies have been sold during the year. So I presume it is still in circulation. Perhaps she might like to check that. I would ask her—and I mean this sincerely —in earnest good faith between all sides of this House that she would, as vice-president of the FPA, agree to look into this literature, see whether she approves of it and, if she does not, use her influence to withdraw some of the more obnoxious and vulgar examples that we have seen today. I speak profoundly and with concern regarding the effects this kind of literature is having, and I should be grateful if she would look and see what the FPA is now producing. She may not know about this; she may not be responsible for it; but I would ask her to look and see what is now being produced from the FPA in Mortimer Street. Finally—


My Lords, may I answer that? I am not convinced by what the noble Baroness has said. I did not misunderstand her. I still maintain that she made what was practically a libellous attack on the FPA.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, I am very grateful for at least those honest words from the noble Baroness. Lady Gaitskell. One final word, my Lords. The Government with their new structure have undertaken new responsibilities. I would remind them that they have ratified and are legally bound to certain Conventions, and they have supported certain Declarations at the United Nations. If they would look very carefully at the wording of the Conventions and Declarations, they will see—and I am speaking now of past Labour Governments since the War—that they have ratified Conventions which contain support for the family as the basic unit of society. For that, if for no other reason, they might consider themselves to have an obligation not only to the citizens of this country but to serve as an example to other countries still to support the family. If this Government fail to support the family, we are no longer a progressive society but are going back to the caves.

If the Government do not like the word Christian ", or if they do not like the family Christian ethic, I would remind them of the words of Aristotle—and I am sure that the noble Lord, who is such a distinguished scholar, will appreciate them—which were: The family is the association established by man for the supply of man's essential wants. I can find no better reason than that why we, from your Lordship's House, should demand from the Government strong support for the maintenance of family unity and that this principle of family unity should be taught throughout the whole of sex education which is given in our schools. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at fourteen minutes before ten o'clock