HL Deb 07 February 1979 vol 398 cc694-814

3.6 p.m.

Baroness FAITHFULL rose to call attention to the International Year of the Child designated by the United Nations Assembly for 1979 and to its implications for the improvement of the conditions of children both in this country and in the developing countries; and to move for Papers. The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. This is a historic occasion on two accounts. First, in the light of the debate in your Lordships' House last week on the need for shorter speeches I propose to make one of the shortest introductory speeches to a major debate in your Lordships' House. Secondly, and of far greater importance, I can find no Hansard report of any full debate devoted specifically to the rights of the child. There have of course been innumerable specialised debates in connection with the family, with education, health, social and financial policies affecting children. There have been debates involving the adults' perception of what is right and good for children. In this, the International Year of the Child, we are perhaps attempting to view the adult world through the eyes of a child listening—and not only listening but hearing—what its needs are: spiritual, emotional and material.

I must confess that I was nervous in setting down this Motion. The fact that 28 Peers are to speak is both encouraging and indicative of the deep and abiding concern in your Lordships' House for the wellbeing of children in this country and overseas. Four years ago, when some of us debated the proposed International Year of the Child 1979, there were among us—and indeed there still are—those who were and are sceptical of the year of anything, let alone the Year of the Child. However, the critics have been confounded. The response has far exceeded all expectations. With the year only in February, well over 400 organisations have sought applications to the United Kingdom Association for the International Year of the Child. This is surely indicative of the concern experienced in this country that all is not wholly well in the care and upbringing of our children.

This response is being harnessed by Lady Soames, the chairman of the United Kingdom Association for the Year of the Child, by her committee and by the small—in my view too small—interested, committed and overworked staff led by the director, Mrs. Stone, working at 85 Whitehall—not in spacious offices, as one newspaper would have us believe. We pay tribute to them and we wish them well.

How did the idea of the International Year of the Child come about? What does it mean, what is being done, and what are the expectations? On 20th November 1959 the General Assembly of the United Nations unanimously adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. There are 10 principles, and they are as follows: the right to affection, love and understanding; the right to adequate nutrition and medical care; the right to free education; the right to full opportunity for play and recreation; the right to a name and nationality; the right to special care, if handicapped; the right to be among the first to receive relief in times of disaster; the right to learn to be a useful member of society and to develop individual abilities; the right to be brought up in a spirit of peace and universal brotherhood; and the right to enjoy these rights, regardless of race, colour, sex, religion, national, or social origin.

The General Assembly called upon parents, married men and women as individuals, voluntary organisations, local authorities and national Governments to recognise and act upon the agreed 10 principles. As the 20th anniversary of the Declaration approached, the International Catholic Child Bureau in Geneva put forward to the United Nations the idea of declaring 1979 as the Year of the Child in order to assess what progress had been made over the past 20 years.

Much has been done but, despite this, in the year 1979 the adult world has a very long way to go before the fulfilment of the 10 principles is even in sight of achievement. For instance, children are dying of starvation in Bangladesh, and the people of Japan are dismayed by the number of child suicides. In this country the number of children living in voluntary and public care and being brought up away from their parents has risen alarmingly. Some European countries, the United States and Great Britain view with concern the rising delinquency rates, the vandalism and the violence. In our own country, and in others, families are living below the poverty line.

What is to be done in this year? First, it is hoped during the year to heighten awareness of the needs of children in all sectors of society, and not least among the children themselves. To this end, discussion groups are being set up throughout the country in parishes, villages, towns, schools and colleges and voluntary societies of all kinds. It is hoped that these local groups will identify the needs and discuss how those needs are to be met in their own communities. Discussion documents and support can be obtained from the International Year of the Child offices in London, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is hoped that these groups will include children. Further, it is hoped that at local level these groups will seek to meet the needs of the community and to take the responsibility of helping children in their areas who are in difficulties.

Secondly, a series of specialised groups have been set up. For instance, I attended the first meeting of the group—and it was a large group—organised by John Bradford of the Church of England Children's Society on the spiritual rights of the child. Thirdly, the International Year of the Child offices are initiating various projects. It is hoped to set up a pilot scheme to help with the problem of "latchkey" children. Work is being done on preparation for parenthood; and there are many other areas. It is hoped, if the money is forthcoming, to set up a legal centre to act as a national centre of expertise on the laws as they affect children and their families. Children themselves are to contribute: for instance, there is to be a parliament for children aged 12 to 17 inclusive, to be conducted at County Hall under the chairmanship of Mr. Clement Freud. Then there will be a series of factual publications reviewing the Government reports which have been published in the past 20 years, and analysing which of them have been implemented and which have not—the Children Act 1975 is a notable example.

In the Palace of Westminster there will be 12 sessions through the year, enabling Members of both Houses to hear from those engaged in work for children in the various areas, and to hear of the problems and the needs. At the end of the year an all-Party parliamentary group of both Houses will consider, in the light of what they have learned, what legislative action they think should be put forward. I have inadequately covered the range of activities, but the International Year of the Child office publishes a news sheet and has much literature which can be obtained from 85 Whitehall.

At the end of the year, what will have been achieved? As I said earlier, we hope there will be a heightened awareness of the needs of the children. As I also have said, legislation will be reviewed. It is hoped to learn from the various projects what can be done throughout the rest of the country.

My Lords, with great restraint, I will not cover my own particular interests, as that will be ably done by all those taking part in this debate. It is my role only to set the scene. I will finish with four points. First, your Lordships' House is always well attended—and surely rightly so—when matters concerning the economy are dealt with. May I say that the soundest investment a country can make is in its children. I am not necessarily asking for more spending, but wise spending of our present resources. Secondly, I was one of those who, two years ago, thought that we should have a Year of the Family instead of a Year of the Child, and there were criticisms of that. As was stated earlier, the 1979 "year" was linked to the year 1959. The first principle laid down was that every child has the right to affection, love and understanding; and surely this must mean from parents, the extended family and the community. The development of children's rights can only enhance the rights of parents, teachers and the adult world. Thirdly, if, through the local groups, the working groups and groups of the 400 affiliated organisations, barriers can be bridged between so many who work for and with children, but who at present work in isolation and not in co-operation, then the barriers will be broken down and all those, including parents, may work together in a partnership of better understanding.

Lastly, what of the children themselves? Maybe we should remember that children mirror the adult world. Perhaps our country should dwell on this thought at the present time. It is hoped that deeply instilled into the lives of our children and young persons will be the concept that rights carry responsibilities; that the rights will be so given by the adult world and in such a way that children will of their own accord desire, need and seek to fulfil the family commandment: "Honour thy father and mother"; and that by the enrichment of their lives they will find happiness and self-fulfilment and be able to give service to the land in which they live. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.20 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, for providing us with the opportunity of discussing the International Year of the Child this afternoon and for introducing the subject to us in the way in which she has. I am quite sure that we all appreciate the very considerable amount of work which she is doing to further this venture in the United Kingdom. The number of noble Lords who have indicated their intention to speak demonstrates the wide interest in this subject, and, of course, we particularly look forward to hearing the three maiden speakers.

How appropriate it is that the International Year of the Child should coincide with the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration about the rights of the child; yet how ironical it is that, as we have been launching activity in connection with the International Year of the Child in this country, strikes have been affecting children's hospitals, preventing children from being admitted to hospital, closing children's schools and withdrawing the service required by children in care. This is not a debate on industrial relations, but surely we must seek better ways of settling disputes and dealing with grievances than by under-mining the very services which the International Year of the Child is designed to improve.

As the noble Baroness said, there are, of course, many people who are sceptical about international years of various kinds and who doubt whether they have any lasting impact, but I am quite clear in my own mind that those doubts need not apply to the International Year of the Child. The main objective of the year is to encourage a significant raising of the level of services benefiting children on a permanent basis—and I repeat those last four words, "on a permanent basis"—and the success or failure of the year will be determined by the extent to which that objective is attained.

What a wide field there is for activity directed to the attainment of that objective! We all know that the world challenge is enormous. For example, health services reach only one out of every 20 children in the developing world today, upwards of 2 million infants and children suffer from various forms of malnutrition, and so one could go on. In these circumstances, it was appropriate that UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, should have been made the lead agency for the co-ordination of activities throughout the world. UNICEF, the Save the Children Fund, Oxfam, Christian Aid—all these bodies have very special programmes to help Governments where these problems and others are acute, and during the next year they will deserve our fullest support.

But the emphasis is on the work in each country on a national basis, and here we shall be primarily concerned with our own children in the United Kingdom, though, as I say, we have to strike a balance between home and abroad. The problems overseas are immense, but we should be profoundly mistaken if we assumed that there was nothing much which needed to be done at home. The opposite is the case and the noble Baroness has given some facts in support of that statement. I ask your Lordships to take a few more facts at random. There are an estimated 1½ million children living in one-parent families in the United Kingdom; the number of children aged between five and 10 left unsupervised during the school holidays is estimated at 300,000; the number left unsupervised after school until their parents return is estimated at 225,000 and there are 120,000 children in care in the United Kingdom. Part of the provision of services for children is, of course, the national Government's responsibility, part is local government's responsibility and part is shouldered by voluntary organisations.

In other European countries, the Government has, in connection with the International Year of the Child, set up a national commission with full Government participation, with Government financial support and staffing support, in conjunction with voluntary organisations. In Poland, it is intended to build a huge children's hospital. In Sweden, they are appointing children's ombudsmen. In Germany, they are improving child care and preventive medicine. I regret that the United Kingdom Government have not felt able to participate in that way. The matter has been left, with some welcome financial assistance from the Government, to the voluntary organisations on their own and, as the noble Baroness made clear, they are making a great effort through the linking body, the United Kingdom Association for the International Year of the Child. However, the Government must inevitably be involved if improvements in the services for children are to be achieved.

In another place on 5th December 1978, Mr. Moyle, answering for the Government, said in a Written Answer that the Government are considering what activities central Government Departments may be able to take during 1979. Perhaps December was a little late to be considering that, but the subjects he mentioned included, laying particular emphasis on such policy themes as reduction of perinatal mortality and handicap; finding foster parents and adopters for suitable children at present in residential homes; reducing numbers of long stay children in hospital; limited expansion of day provision for under-fives —and I ask your Lordships to note the word "limited"— co-ordination of services concerned with disturbed and delinquent children; promotion of safety of children in dangerous environments; preparation for parenthood ".—[Official Report, Commons, col. 623.] The Government were considering those aspects, but I hope that they will make substantial progress under all those heads.

One of the projects promoted by the United Kingdom Association is this. A working group is collating information on where provision for children in Britain falls short of legislative promise, and where the rights of the child are not observed. I believe that this project could be of immense importance. It could lead to the drawing-up of an agenda, a programme of action to improve existing services, which might be incorporated in a five-year programme with a continuing campaign in support of it, in which all the organisations with an interest in the purposes of the campaign would be banded together. In that way, the Year of the Child would be merely a beginning.

When carrying out this monitoring of existing provision, I hope that the working group will make good use of such reports as the Court Report on child health services and the Finer Report on one-parent families, much of which has not yet been implemented. Another report which I hope they will have before them is the report by the Central Policy Review Staff on services for children with working mothers. That report has pointed out that we spend £1,000 million a year on health, education and social services for children under five, but have still not worked out, in their words, any underlying principle governing the way in which that expenditure is distributed". I have already given some figures about the matters covered by this report, but here are some more. There are 900,000 children under five in Britain whose mothers have a job. The Government provide or control full and part-time day care for about 120,000 children in day nurseries and with child minders. So that there is a big discrepancy there. There are a further 2½ million children between the ages of five and 10 whose mothers work, and for whom virtually no provision is made outside school hours. Mr. Moyle spoke of limited progress in nursery provision for children under five, but it needs more than a limited expansion of the present provision. Of course, during this year voluntary organisations connected with children and working for children will take advantage of the increased interest, not merely so that they have a good year in 1979 but to give a permanent boost to their operations.

Finally, it is right and proper that an important part of the International Year of the Child activity should be carried out by children themselves. In this respect there is the "Tidy Up Britain" campaign which is going to concentrate particularly on 7th May. How necessary this is, because we in this country are in danger of becoming a nation of litter louts. Then there is to be the Children's Arts Centre established in London, where exhibitions, performances and displays by children may be put on. There is to be the Children's Parliament where older children can discuss the question of the rights of the child and other matters. There are also to be various projects for schools.

We must hope, in the words of the leaflet issued by the United Nations, that as a result of all this effort the major legacy of the International Year of the Child will be a permanently higher level of concern with children and an intensified and continuing attention to services benefiting them on the part of Governments and of the public alike.

3.31 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I should like to begin by thanking my noble friend Lady Faithfull for introducing this debate. It is gratifying that the House of Lords can debate the International Year of the Child so early on, and no one is better qualified to introduce this subject than my noble friend. I should also like to pay a tribute to Lady Soames as chairman of the International Year of the Child and to wish her every success. May I also extend my good wishes to the three maiden speakers. We are very much looking forward to hearing from them this afternoon.

Although the International Year of the Child is concerned with children everywhere, and with their needs, I should like to use the opportunity presented by this debate to say what I think we in this country could do during the International Year of the Child. I do so not because I am unmindful of the needs of millions of children overseas; in many instances, their needs are far greater than those of children in the United Kingdom. If I do not refer to children overseas, it is not because I believe that there is nothing to say about them, or that nothing should be done for them. However, my noble friend Lord Elton will be speaking about children overseas, and I am certain that many other noble Lords will refer to them.

I should like to preface my remarks by two general statements. In political terms, there is always a real danger that children may be forgotten by Governments. For one thing, children do not have votes and, because they are dependent, somebody else must always speak for them. Secondly, any help in real terms for children depends at the moment upon getting our economic situation right, for unless we increase our productivity and become a much richer nation we shall not have the money to help children, either in this country or overseas. Those who ask for more to be spent on children's services—and I should be one of them, for it is very easy to make out a case for a great deal more expenditure—must recognise that the money has to be earned by the productivity of industry. Compassion, sympathy and fine words by themselves are simply not enough. It is a disappointment that at the start of the International Year of the Child we cannot do more either for our own country's children or for children overseas because our productivity is as it is and because we are left, as is so often the case, to redistribute resources.

There is, nevertheless, one thing which we can do right away. In the present appalling economic situation in which we find ourselves, we can ensure that our country's children go back to school. It seems to me to be simply incredible that the start of the International Year of the Child should be marred by the fact that over 1,100 schools in England are now closed and that half a million children are out of school. I would say to members of the Government that they should always remember that in situations like this it is the poorest and the most disadvantaged children who suffer the most.

As we take part in our debate this afternoon, we ought to reflect on the situation at the moment in Haringey, where many young children must be out on their own somewhere, while many older children's educational opportunities are being seriously reduced, if not destroyed, because of the fact that, just before they take important examinations, they cannot go to school. I hope very much that the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, will say what his right honourable friend in another place, Mrs. Williams, will advise local education authorities to do: whether she will send them a circular indicating that schools could be opened by other people than caretakers and advising them to do so. She has declined to do this so far, but I think that the situation becomes more serious with every day that passes.

This Government have not usually been backward in giving advice to local authorities, either on education or on other topics, and I hope that they will take the opportunity now to say something on behalf of the nation's children. I hope very much that the Government will not hide behind the sequence of legal arguments which I have read through in the proceedings of another place. When I was chairman of an education committee, I understood that local education authorities must provide 200 days of schooling for children, or 400 sessions in a year. I should like to know how the Government intend to see that this provision is carried out. We owe it to our children and we should do it right away.

Secondly, I think that we should see that sick children anywhere get the medical treatment that they need, and they ought to get that treatment when they need it. They ought not to be used as bargaining counters in industrial disputes. We should address all our energies to ensuring that this appalling behaviour by adults towards children stops forthwith.

I speak of sick children, and now I should like to make three positive suggestions to the Government about what they might do, besides these immediate needs for the International Year of the Child. I think that the Government could look again at the Court Report. Members will recall that the Court Report is concerned with medical services for children. The report was published in December 1976 and it was debated in your Lordships' House in February 1977. The Government responded to the report and to our debate by setting up the Children's Committee. Its purpose is to advise the Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Security, by monitoring the provision of services for children covered by a whole range of Acts of Parliament.

This committee will publish an annual report, but there is no machinery requiring the Secretary of State regularly to bring the committee's report before both Houses of Parliament so that Members may know what is going on. I am not one who is in favour of either writing or reading unnecessary reports. Nevertheless, the fact that a report has to be presented does, as it were, concentrate the minds both of those who have to write the report and of those who have to read it. There is, for example, no report overall on the legislation affecting children. This affects the legislation under the Children Act 1969, as well as other Acts. It seems to me that it would be valuable to know, in one volume, what is going on. I should like the Government to consider this proposal.

Were it to be implemented—and this is my second point—we could look again at what has happened to the Children Act 1975. This Act began in your Lordships' House four years ago, and Members of your Lordships' House will recall that it is very largely concerned with adoption. That Act is still by no means fully implemented. Ironically, at the time of the debates, we on this side of the House said that there was not enough money to implement the Act, and that has certainly proved to be the case. If, however, something is not done soon we are, it seems to me, about to achieve the worst of all possible worlds. Hopes have been raised, not just among social workers but particularly among prospective adoptive parents, that they may be able to adopt children, and these hopes are not being fulfilled. Not only are those concerned with adoption worried about the situation but it seems to me that it brings the whole parliamentary procedure into disrepute. Why legislate and then not implement? This is a wasteful and costly exercise and it is certainly not helping children.

Many people, including the Association of Directors of Social Services, have said that the most effective way to make the International Year of the Child work would be to implement this Act; that is, to have the development of adoption services in every local authority and to implement those provisions which the Act has laid down on custodianship. They estimate that these proposals would cost approximately £10 million a year and that this sum could be accommodated by the modest amount of growth now recommended by the Government for the personal and social services, together with the effect of the funds by way of joint financing and the urban programmes. I should be grateful if the Minister, when he replies to the debate, would comment on this and would say whether it is the Government's view that it would be possible, within the finances allowed, to implement this Act. If it is not thought possible then I would urge the Government most strongly to implement under the Schedule to the Act their powers to make rules and regulations about regular reviews for children in care.

The noble Lord, Lord Banks, gave us the statistics and I understand that the draft regulations are now being circulated and these include a proposal that such reviews will be made at a meeting of a number of people. The importance of this is that it is now possible for a social worker to write on the report of a child in care "Case reviewed", without it being reviewed by a number of people so that the child's future can be discussed by those with statutory authority for looking after it, in the same way as the good parent would review the future of his own child. This is important because the number of children in care—now estimated to be about 120,000—continues to increase, and is increasing each year at a more rapid pace. It is increasing with the numbers of one-parent families. Many of these children could either be fostered or adopted if only we had the will to make the necessary arrangements to do so. Not only is it far better for a child to be in a foster home, or even more so in an adoptive home; it is in fact far cheaper for the community.

The third proposal that I wish to put to the Government is to look again at that large number of children with mental handicaps who are now in long-stay hospitals. These are estimated to number between 4,500 and 5,000 children, and I have no doubt that many other noble Lords will refer to them in the course of this debate. We need a programme to take these children out of hospital. Many of the hospitals are Dickensian in their setting and it is no fault of the staff that the care the children get is nothing like as good as they would get in foster homes or in adoptive homes or in very small community homes. The cost of keeping each one of these children in a hospital is somewhere between £80 and £90 a week, and what is required is a transfer of this money from the hospital services to support the local authority services, to support the families who could look after these children. I believe that we need a programme for that.

I have touched on just four main points which I believe could be carried out during this year and which would make a start in our difficult circumstances. I took the point made by my noble friend Lady Faithfull in her opening remarks, that in many ways it is a pity that this has not been called the International Year of the Family. For those of us who believe that our society is founded on the family, I was disturbed to see some of the literature put out by the International Year of the Child, parts of which would appear to be anti-family in its approach. I hope there will not be more of this to come. It is not often that all research points in the same direction, but all research shows—and indeed agrees with what common sense and practical experience tell us is true—that the child from a happy family with parents who care for it has a far better start in life than one from a deprived home. During this year I hope we shall not only think of the child in all that we do but, at the same time, try to support the family in order that the family may look after its children better.

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, it is an honour and a privilege to take part in the debate today on the Inter national Year of the Child, and I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, for introducing this debate. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Young, I am very conscious of the needs of children throughout the world, but I should like to concentrate this afternoon on three points regarding children closer to home. There are three areas which I think come within the ten points of the United Nations Declaration for Children and I think they are pertinent to it.

The first area to which I should like to refer is nationality. For most of us born of British parents in the United Kingdom, this presents no problem: it is an inheritance that both parents pass on to us. But for those children born of British mothers who choose—in so far as any of us are capable of choosing our parents—a father of a different nationality, then the problem is quite different. United Kingdom nationality is passed on to the child through the father. Wherever a child is born, a British father can confer British nationality on his child, but not so a British mother, and this can lead to the most distressing circumstances and situations for both mothers and children, as I have had cause to represent to the Home Secretary on several occasions.

I should like to give your Lordships two examples which recently have been drawn to my attention. The first concerns a British woman whose husband was an Israeli and whose daughter was born in Liberia in 1970. The mother understood that her child had no right to the citizenship of any of the three States involved. She herself could not pass on her own nationality, the child could not claim Liberian nationality, and under Hewbrew law it is customary for the nationality to be passed through the mother; but in this case of course the mother is not an Israeli citizen. The woman is living in Germany, and until 1975, when she renewed her passport, her child was included on it and was thus allowed to travel with her. Since then her husband has died and this British woman wishes to return home and settle here, but she cannot bring her child with her. I now understand that the child may be able to claim Israeli citizenship, but the mother, and presumably the authorities who were dealing with the case, regarded the child as stateless. In any case, it is a situation where a small child does not have the same nationality as her only parent.

The second case concerns again a British woman, now resident in South Africa. She is married to a South African national; therefore her children cannot be entered on her passport and cannot travel abroad with her. Nor, unfortunately, can they obtain South African travel documents in their own right. So here again we have this British citizen who is unable to bring her children to this country in order to visit their grandparents and other relatives. The right to visit grandparents is, surely, something which every child should possess. In both these cases I hope the Home Secretary will use his discretion to allow these children to enter this country with their mothers.

But this is not enough. Today, with communications and interchange between nations and individuals being so easy, leading to mixed marriages and mixed liaisons, all possible steps should be taken so that no child can find itself in such a situation. What is required, I believe, is a change in the law, as I understand is being discussed in another place, which would give the child the right to British nationality from either parent. During the International Year of the Child this is, surely, an important matter for your Lordships to concern yourselves with. The reform this year of nationality law is, surely, an objective that your Lordships' House, as well as other places, could set itself. It would, I am confident, have wide-ranging and all-Party support.

The second area I would refer to concerns educating and training children for the society they live in. May I pause for a moment to look at present-day society? One sees that it is vastly different from the society in which those of us in this House spent our childhood. Then the norm was for a breadwinning father and a home-making mother, a clear division between the roles of each. Today, whether we like or or not, this is no longer the situation. A new economy and social pattern has evolved, based on technology, both in industry and in the home. Many women no longer feel the need or even the desire to devote the whole of their married life to work within the home. Moreover, in order to enjoy the accepted technology of fridges, freezers, washers and the like, two incomes are usually needed to pay for it. Thus we have a situation where at least half of all the wives in this country are in employment outside the home.

This has important implications for children. For example, how can we best educate and train children for society as it is now, not as it was in the past? The strange irony of our present situation is that despite the increasing pace of change over the past three decades or so, boys and girls, but particularly girls, have expectations based on the past. They still think in terms of employment as only a brief interlude between school and marriage. When faced with family responsibilities they realise that marriage is not the happy solution to all problems but only a part of a complex life. The desire for some independence outside the home, together with the economic drive for a second income, emerges, and at this later stage the majority of women find that this means employment in low-paid and unskilled work.

In saying this I am not underestimating the family's place in society, nor the importance of children within the family—indeed, I believe that the family unit is a sufficiently strong institution to withstand these pressures—but I do suggest that by failing to prepare children for this new pattern we are adding to the strains on marriage. We are also failing to conform to the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child by not adequately preparing children for the world in which they will assume adult responsibility.

I was very glad to hear in the debate that there are discussions and considerations under way on how to equip children for their role in the family. But girls need to be educated and equipped for work outside the home as well as for the role of home-maker. In our society home-making can be the joy of shared responsibility, or, sadly, as the noble Lord, Lord Banks, indicated, to an increasing extent it can be the lonely responsibility of a single parent. But that responsibility falls to either sex.

The third area I wish to refer to follows from this, and it is that in this International Year of the Child we can surely agree, again as the noble Lord, Lord Banks, has indicated, that greater priority should be given to the needs of children of working parents. When both parents are sharing the bread-winning function, there is an enormous gap in the day when neither parent can be present to care for the child. Most parents manage somehow to fill this gap, but often it is on a makeshift basis. For the under-fives nursery and nursery school provision is woefully inadequate. For the older child we have not yet begun to consider what facilities are needed for that mischievous period of the day between school finishing and mum and dad arriving home from work, nor for caring during school holidays.

Therefore, my Lords, I would suggest that each of these three areas to which I have referred is a matter in which we in your Lordships' House could use our considerable influence by discussing and endeavouring to promote yet further the interests and wellbeing of the children of our country.

3.57 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of SALISBURY

My Lords, it falls to my happy lot to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Lock-wood, for her maiden speech, for coming down from the wilds of Yorkshire where she has had a distinguished career in organising one of the sexes, which is not perhaps the easiest thing to do, and to say to her that she will always be welcome as chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission. There are always equal opportunities in this House, and certainly to make records, as the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, has done this afternoon. However many difficulties Lady Lockwood experiences in the cricketing world in Yorkshire, there will never be a boycott either on her presence or on her speeches.

My Lords, first of all I want to declare an interest. I myself was once a child. Your Lordships must also declare the same interest. While any child sitting in the Gallery looking down upon us as we debate this subject might find it easy to remember that fact when applied to the noble and gracious Baroness who introduced this Motion, and introduced it so swiftly, it might be more difficult when gazing down on the snow-headed penguins on these Benches or, dare I say, even upon some of the more highly polished brains of your Lordships. I know that, had his other official duties not prevented it, the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury would have been speaking here today on a subject which is of intimate concern to us all.

I wonder if your Lordships would agree that in these days it seems inevitable that the moment we start talking about marriage the conversation drifts to divorce, and, similarly, the moment we begin to talk about children the conversation seems to drift on to delinquent children or children in care. While I should be the last to be starry-eyed, I am glad to know that in some educational circles in this country the International Year of the Child has been interpreted as a celebration of childhood. Dare I say that I think some adults are tempted to spend a great deal of time telling children or other people what is good for them, rather than listening to children and learning from them of their needs.

Although your Lordships may say that it is very difficult not to listen to children—for the little flowers of St. Vitus are not silent blooms—nevertheless I believe that any of your Lordships privileged to have children or grandchildren will agree that, if we are seriously listening to our children, then our sense of awe is heightened, and their ability to go to the heart of matters is constantly recognised. Moreover, they are great prickers of the bubble of pomposity. Shortly after the War I was showing some photographs to my small son of my distinguished naval exploits. "Dad", he asked wistfully, "were you torpedoed?" "No", I replied. "Were you nearly torpedoed?" he persisted. "No, I don't think so", I answered. "Oh, but you did try, didn't you?"

Theologically, too, they have much to teach us on these Benches and possibly your Lordships as well. The hearse was going by in the street and the seven-year-old turned to her mother and said, "What's in that box with flowers on it?" "Oh", said her mother, "that's Mrs. Robinson at No. 17". "What's she doing in there?" Mother—trying to cook a meal and look after other children—said, "Oh, she has gone to be with God". That night the little one, for the first time ever, refused to say her prayers. When closely questioned about her refusal she explained, "You see, God won't listen". "Oh, but darling", said mother sententiously, "God always listens". "He won't tonight. You see, He'll be too busy unpacking Mrs. Robinson".

The very title "International Year of the Child" promotes the temptation to outline schemes and make suggestions with wide-ranging consequences. But if the year is to have any long-term effect, as two of the speakers have said, it must begin at the local level, it must begin near home. We hear a great deal about bringing up children.

My wife, who is a doctor—we are known as "body and soul" in the diocese—often gives a talk about bringing up parents. Surely we hear far too little about that. So, I hope that one of the first areas we examine, wherever we happen to live or work, is what preparation is given for parenthood. Your Lordships may rightly say to me, "Well, you parsons prepare people for marriage; what are you doing about it?" And your Lord-ships would be quite right. Indeed, I am happy to tell you that many of us bishops are encouraging our clergy to look again at their marriage preparation—a golden opportunity for getting to know future parents at a very intimate level. We are making use of the special insights of many dedicated and skilled women, together with other married couples, to help us in this. The object of all this is that the parential life-style after marriage may come to be chosen more deliberately and more responsibly in the full realisation of its demands, constraints, satisfaction and challenges. Presenting a much enhanced image of home-making and child-rearing should be part of that realisation. Otherwise, I suggest that the dangerous trend towards making children pawns in the quest for economic prosperity and the battle for women's liberation will continue.

I believe that we parents who have some experience must encourage prospective parents into thinking that the woman who wishes to devote herself full-time to the care of her pre-school children should not necessarily have to seek employment outside the home for economic reasons or personal fulfilment. Indeed, the last speaker touched on that point. However, when the children do eventually go to school, the facilities must be provided for others who wish to go out to work and find suitable employment to have flexible working hours to fit in with the relatively short school day and long holidays.

I now turn to the subject of children in care, and I hope that when the Minister replies he will tell me whether my latest figure is too optimistic and the figure of the noble Lord, Lord Banks, is right. My latest figure is that there are 101,000 in local authority care in England and Wales. The noble Baroness quoted 120,000 as did the noble Lord. I only hope that my latest information is more correct. Nearly 33,000 are in local residential homes. Some children are placed in the care of voluntary organisations like the Church of England Children's Society, which estimates that it helps approximately 4,500 children and their families each year, of whom an average of 670 are in residential homes.

An increasing number of families are being assisted, I am glad to say, through the Society's new family centres. Four of those will be opened to mark "International Children's Year". Those family centres give rounded and varied provision for children in special need and all those who may be at risk of being taken compulsorily into residential care. But, as we all know, a child in need invariably represents a family in need. Therefore, a family centre is so named as the promoters seek to support families in areas of social stress and difficulty in order that they may more securely and effectively care for their own children. The centres are in places like Milton Keynes, Rotherham and Telford, and invite every type of support from local people who share their concern for the children of the families served and thus co-operate with the staff at the centre. Here is an obvious outlet for local voluntary effort.

Someone has touched this afternoon on one-parent families. It is estimated that between 50 and 60 per cent. of children in care are from one-parent families. The report of the committee on one-parent families, the Finer Report—which has already been alluded to—confirmed in 1974 that one-parent families suffer severe poverty, are often the last in the queue for housing, suffer social isolation, and risk their children falling behind at school and growing up socially maladjusted. Of a total of 95,000 families receiving an income supplement, 41,000 are lone parents. The guaranteed maintenance allowance in particular, which has not yet been implemented, would help to alleviate the problem of many lone parents, especially mothers.

Another question is that of children still being discriminated against in this country if they are illegitimate. Would it not be a major triumph if, during the International Year of the Child, James White's Private Member's Children's Bill, designed to ensure that the law applicable only to illegitimate children will become applicable to all children without distinction, should reach the Statute Book?

Reference has been made to the Court Report both by the noble Lord, Lord Banks, and by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. The noble Baroness particularly stressed the need for a definite time and a definite body charged with producing a report. Your Lordships may remember that the Court Report, referring to such a report, said: It should be laid before Parliament every three years…Such a report would necessarily review progress in implementing the recommendations of Committees…and preparation [would] impose on the three Departments a more concerted view of their combined responsibilities. Its data would depend on close monitoring of services at local level and could incorporate material on the follow-up of recommendations from HMIs, the Health Advisory Service and so forth". How appropriate if such a report could be laid before Parliament in the International Year of the Child.

The noble Baroness who introduced the Motion reminded your Lordships of what the United Nations had to say about the Declaration of The Rights of the Child. She spoke of the complementary need for a realisation of the duties of a child. I suggest for your Lordships' consideration that, excellent as all these rights are, far more important is the right of a child to have a faith by which to live. I am glad to tell your Lordships, and I was glad to hear reference to it, that, initiated by the Church of England Children's Society to mark the International Year of the Child, a series of seminars has been arranged by an inter-faith group—not just one denomination—concerned with the United Nations declaration, with particular reference to spiritual freedom.

I dare to suggest that spiritual freedom for children is being steadily eroded by the stranglehold of materialism, and particularly its encroachment on spiritual "space' essential for the growth of wonder and reverence in a child's soul. I believe your Lordships will agree that many of our children and young people are crying out for such a faith. It seems to me that a heavy responsibility rests upon those of us of all denominations who call ourselves Christians. The fact that our society has lost its way is our responsibility because we have failed to set a standard before our children which they recognise as something worthy of attainment. In this International Year of the Child we are called to assert the integrity and dignity of children; to do all in our power to provide the possibilities for children to live in trust, in a communion of open fulfilling relationships and in trustworthiness; in creative use and development of their potentialities for the good of us all. I think it was a Lebanese poet who said: Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself". This International Year of the Child encourages us to look at what sort of quality that life shall be.


My Lords, I think it would be appropriate for me to intervene at this stage, in case the right reverend Prelate is not present at the end, to say that the figure given by the noble Lord, Lord Banks, of 120,000 is correct. The noble Lord referred to the United Kingdom. The figure for England and Wales is 101,000.

4.12 p.m.


My Lords, I am deeply aware of the honour which I share in being a Member of your Lordships' House. I rise this afternoon with great humility and much trepidation to make my maiden speech. I am afraid that I have never been a speaker. I have spent the last 40-odd years of my life in the wines and spirits trade, which has not called for much public speaking. In fact, the last time I rose to my feet was to address the Society of Hong Kong Barmen on the superior merits of a certain brand of gin, which, of course, this afternoon shall be nameless. On that occasion my audience felt no pain at all as they had all been regaled with copious samples of the famous brand. I am sorry that your Lordships will not be quite so lucky this afternoon.

Like other speakers, I should like to congratulate and greatly to thank my noble friend Lady Faithfull on introducing this debate on the International Year of the Child. This is a subject which goes far beyond Party politics and in my estimation is one of the most important subjects ever to be discussed in your Lordships' House. At this stage I must declare a small personal interest in that I have been lucky enough to be blessed with 12 grandchildren.

We must always keep in the forefront of our minds the fact that the children of today are the citizens and the leaders of tomorrow. It is vitally important that they are given the opportunity to become good citizens. They must be brought up with a very clear idea and knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. This must be taught them at a very early age by good example from their parents. During their early childhood in the family circle parental influence, love and understanding and kindly but firm discipline are essential. To a large extent the learning of what is right and wrong will also be helped by religion, no matter which. Perhaps it is not for me to hold forth on religion in front of the right reverend Prelates but I often used to listen to my elder brother—God rest his soul—who was a Benedictine monk and who, before me, had the privilege of being a Member of your Lordships' House for close on 20 years. He always stressed the importance of religion for the young as well as for adults. His theme was always: If you are a Catholic, you must be a good Catholic; if you are an Anglican, you must be a good Anglican; if you are a Methodist, you must be a good Methodist, and so on. Good parents who bring up their children with a good moral and religious grounding will certainly help them to become good citizens; and, God knows, we need good citizens.

We hear and read in the Press much about the shocking deeds of juvenile vandals and the continuous rise in juvenile crime. This vandalism and juvenile crime must cost the country many millions of pounds in repairs to property, in extra work for the police, the courts and the corrective institutions. I am not such an idealist as to think that we can stamp out vandalism and juvenile crime altogether, but there is much that can and must be done to curtail it. Much vandalism and juvenile crime stems from the fact that millions of children suffer from extreme boredom and frustration only because they do not know and are not taught what to do with their leisure time. It was Lloyd George who, 50 years ago, in a message to the National Playing Fields Association on its foundation, wrote: The right to play is a child's first claim on the community. Play is nature's training for life. No community can infringe that right without doing deep and enduring harm to the minds and bodies of its citizens". In this International Year of the Child I hope that more positive efforts will be made by Her Majesty's Government and the general public to understand some of the problems and frustrations with which children are faced in their free time; to understand their play and recreational needs and to take urgent action to provide for at least some of them. The harsh fact is that children must depend on adults for their play and recreational needs. By themselves children are unable to provide either the finance or the pressures which adults can and do apply for their own needs.

I should like to give just one example of how we seem to be unable or unwilling to take these children's needs seriously—needs which are utterly basic to their healthy growth and development. In 1973 the House of Lords Select Committee on Sport and Leisure recognised the special needs of children and urged support for the campaign of the National Playing Fields Association for adventure playgrounds. Yet in the Government White Paper, published in 1975, which expressed itself as concerned with the same area as that on which your Lordships' Select Committee concentrated its attention, no mention at all was made of children's needs—not a word.

No one suggests that the Government do nothing about children's needs for recreation. What I suggest is that not enough is being done, either centrally or locally. This glaring omission of children's needs from the Government's White Paper is enough proof of the lack of priority or the lack of importance which the Government attach to these needs. These needs concern many Government Departments, particularly when one accepts the crucial importance of some form of involvement or leadership in the children's play schemes. Perhaps that is only one reason why not nearly enough is being done: there is a readymade excuse for passing the buck.

Would it not be a good and worthwhile idea to suggest to Her Majesty's Government that they appoint a Minister specifically to look after and to co-ordinate children's needs? I feel sure that with the right man in this new Ministry, the nation would reap great benefits. Given better facilities for play and recreation, there would be far less boredom and frustration, with the result that vandalism and crime would not enter the minds of very many children. Vast sums would thus be saved from the many millions of pounds to which I referred earlier. Could not some of this saving be allocated to the many worthwhile and magnificent existing organisations—such as the National Playing Fields Association, the cadets and youth clubs—which are always so desperately short of money?

Surely in this particular year there is a supreme opportunity to make a fresh study of children's problems—a fresh study swiftly followed by action. Until we get real and positive action there will be an ever-growing number of lonely, bored, frustrated and bewildered children, and society itself will continue to pay an ever-increasing cost for this neglect. It will cost us a lot if we do something, but it will cost us a great deal more if we do nothing. My noble friend has already read out the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child. I just want to stress the importance of these, and to say that if we remember these, and that if we always go out of our way to see that they are adhered to, the world of today, and indeed of tomorrow, will be a far better and a progressively happier place.

4.21 p.m.


My Lords, this is not the first time that I have had the privilege of voicing on behalf of your Lordships our congratulations on a maiden speech. In fact, it was quite clear from your Lordships' reception of the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Vaux of Harrowden, how greatly you were impressed by, and approved of, what he had to say. The noble Lord started by saying that he spoke with great trepidation. I detected no sense of that. He spoke with confidence, he was clear, he was concise and to the point. He was manifestly sincere, and he also—and this is to me almost the most important addendum to any list of assets to a speech—spoke with a sense of humour. We all hope that the noble Lord will be heard often in your Lordships' House.

I should like to join my voice with everyone else's in thanking the noble Baroness for giving us the opportunity to debate this most important subject, and to thank her for setting us an example in her brevity, which all your Lordships have followed to date, and I hope to be no exception. It is all the more important because we are discussing a subject today which embraces children and young people, from the cradle to the age of 18—a vast subject with enormous parameters. I have taken to heart the admonitions on the virtue of making shorter speeches in Lord Somers' debate a week ago, and decided that I shall take precisely one theme. I am happy to follow the noble Lord who has just sat down in taking as my subject what the right reverend Prelate referred to as perhaps something of an obsession when talking and thinking about young people, but I make no apology for that. My choice of subject is juvenile delinquency in Britain. It is a complex subject with imprecise grey areas, and I shall restrict myself to certain practical measures to deal with juvenile delinquency and crime which are in use already and which could, and I believe should, be further developed—I am convinced that this is in the spirit of this International Year of the Child—rather than taking your Lordships' time in deploring the manifest defects in our adult generations and deplorable urban conditions in which many young people have to live. That is the background against which there is a great deal of juvenile delinquency and crime, but we should be concerned, and your Lordships to date have been concerned, with what can be done, or begun, this year.

Talking about concern, in the message from the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the President of the UN Assembly and the Executive Director of UNICEF, I noted these words: The International Year of the Child should be a year of care, concern and celebration". The right reverend Prelate referred to that word "celebration". My own reaction to it is that there is at present precious little to celebrate, but I take it that the word implies a call for action so that there may be cause to celebrate achievement before this year is out.

As regards that word "concern", no one needs persuading that juvenile delinquency in Britain is a matter of grave and growing anxiety for the adult generations; but if we also care enough about the young generation, and in particular about children in trouble, it presents a challenge to us too. As regards its gravity, sometimes words mean more than statistics and some words from the Chief Constable of Merseyside in his 1977 report brought it home to me more than any statistics have done for me. He wrote: Some children in Liverpool between the ages of 8 and 12 arc not merely delinquent, they are skilful and daring criminals". But statistics of course supply the dimensions of this alarming state of affairs. In his last report as Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, Sir Robert Mark stated that 56 per cent. of reported crimes in London were committed by juveniles between the ages of 10 and 16. The national figure, I understand, is 30 per cent. With figures of this order of magnitude the problem begins to assume grave proportions indeed.

What should be the strategy for dealing with it? There are two obvious headings. The first, measures to pre-empt, or prevent, juvenile delinquency by engaging the energies and interests of young people at risk (and here I so agree with the noble Lord, Lord Vaux) in programmes which should be constructive in character, and whenever possible involve them in lawful activities in their own neighbourhoods; activities which are meaningful to those neighbourhoods. Secondly, with exceptions, to treat or deal with young offenders where they live, where they go to school, and where they are looking for jobs.

Both those lines of action are equally important; neither excludes the other. Indeed, provision for children at risk, and for those already in trouble, can often be the same, and should be guided by similar principles. Both call for concerted action—here I follow so willingly and closely the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull—in central Government, in towns, and in particular in local neighbourhoods on the part of everyone, and every organisation, which is in a position to make some contribution to this problem, however small.

Some organisations have a statutory duty to do so but they do not, in many areas, as the noble Baroness has indicated, act in close enough collaboration. In fact, she described them as acting in isolation, the one from the other. To work together and to enlist more voluntary support which can be harnessed to the statutory effort is the dual challenge to the police, to the Probation Service, the social services, the education services, in this International Year of the Child. Others—indeed, I would say all others—have a moral responsibility to offer, or respond to requests for, help as volunteers. I would include in that employers' organisations and trades councils; and magistrates too need to play their part by keeping themselves informed from personal contact and first-hand knowledge about the projects and programmes which may provide alternative forms of treatment appropriate to be used in the courts of law.

Most important of all, the challenge in this International Year of the Child should be borne upon members of the public as local residents. No matter what they do, what their occupations are, they all—we all—have a stake in this matter. Indeed, as I discovered in a recent tour in the West Country, some are already the victims of vandalism, of violence, and of breaking and entering. Not least among the value of dealing with young offenders in their own community is the opportunity that may provide for them to make amends, directly or indirectly, for the harm they have done locally. And among the residents, whether or not they have suffered, and indignant though they may feel, caring can and should mean that they could share with young people, whether they are at risk or already in trouble, their own leisure interests and skills, and thus create a link between the adult and the juvenile, a mutual acceptance by one of the other.

I will refer to only three of the initiatives and methods already in use which are showing promise of good results and about which I am personally knowledgeable. First, I recommend to anyone who is not already aware of it to make themselves acquainted at first hand with the initiatives in communal preventive policing in Devon and Cornwall. The chief constable for those two counties has succeeded in creating a quite remark-able degree of co-operation between his police force, other statutory services, local government departments, local councillors and residents in high delinquency housing estates. One result is that in Exeter, offences by juveniles were held down to 4 per cent. in 1977 compared with the national average of 30 per cent.

Secondly, community service orders, though now extensively used throughout the country, are still used on a limited scale. Their value has been amply demonstrated by the successful completion rate of those orders of over 80 per cent., but they are not used anything like enough. I believe that through community service orders we have got closer than ever before to making the punishment not only fit the crime but also fit the offender. I hear the same enthusiastic story at all probation areas I visit. For many of the young people—and we must remember that most of these orders are served on youngsters between 17 and 20—they are beginning for the first time in their lives to discover and care about the problems of other people.

In that discovery lies the germ of a real solution to society's problems; a change in attitudes and values which may remain with some of these young members of the present generation of what I would describe as parentally deprived young people, who have been likened by others to orphans, when they in their turn have children of their own, and in this I am glad to be speaking following the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord, Lord Vaux of Harrowden, in stressing the importance of parenthood. It is greatly to be hoped that the courts will see it as their opportunity in this International Year of the Child to step up the use of community service orders.

My third point concerns intermediate treatment in the community. Among many examples which could be given, I commend this Government's initiative in entrusting to the Rainer Foundation the task of administering public funds for approved projects up to a total of £200,000 in any one year. This scheme is developing well and the foundation has taken up the whole amount of £200,000 in the current financial year. The challenge to Rainer in this year is so to stimulate applications for funds for well-founded projects and resources as to be in a position to demonstrate that £200,000 a year is not enough. The challenge to the Government is to respond to the request for more.

All these lines of action involve to a greater or lesser degree the Probation and After-Care Service. That service has, I believe, been given a misleading image in recent years and, in regard to its planned and published intention to mount a salaries campaign, a misleading image in recent weeks. Except in terms of comparability, I do not think it proper for me to speak for the service on this matter. However, I am glad to take this opportunity to praise the highly professional skills, dedication and social concern of its members in carrying out their diverse, difficult and very responsible tasks. I believe we could be in danger of losing valuable officers by underrating and under remunerating the considerable contribution the Probation Service makes to the nation among young people.

I have referred to only three lines of action. There are of course, more and, I would say, the more the better because flexibility in the options open to the courts, the probation and social services is all-important. My plea—and here I am summarising what I have said already—is for closer collaboration between the statutory services with voluntary organisations, and more use of volunteers in a dynamic programme to prevent and reduce juvenile delinquency and crime now. To the extent that this plea is acted on, I believe there could be something to celebrate in many of our cities, as there is already in Exeter, before this year is out.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he is advocating that community service orders should be made for juveniles under 17 in the juvenile courts? As he will be aware, at present they are made only for people over 17.


My Lords, the noble Baroness will forgive me if I do not begin a lengthy discourse on that subject. I think the answer could be, yes, although one wants to be careful not to bring the age range too far down, to an age at which it would not really be possible to do an effective and meaningful job in the community.

4.37 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Baroness Faithfull for enabling me to take part in this debate. I feel that the International Year of the Child should not pass without drawing your Lordships' attention to the increasing need for full recognition of the dyslexic child in this country. Dyslexia, as we know it today, is not a new condition; in 1895 and 1896 a Glasgow eye surgeon named James Hinselwood wrote to the Lancet on the topic of "visual memory and word blindness." The work and research continues today, with such well-known names as Dr. Macdonald Critchley, Prof. Vernon, Mr. T. R. Miles and Mrs. Nardo, Director of the Word Blind Centre for Dyslexic Children, to name but a few.

The dyslexic child is one who has been assessed by a trained psychologist and diagnosed as such. The child is handicapped in spelling, writing and reading, and there are of course degrees of severity of the handicap. Those who live in London are fortunate when we seek help for our children, in that three of our famous teaching hospitals offer help; Guy's, St. Thomas's and St. Bartholomew's. I wonder how many of your Lordships know that St. Bartholomew's provides the only clinic in England run entirely under the National Health Service. The dyslexic unit was started over 30 years ago and has developed since. As a teaching hospital, Bart's (as I shall call it) accepts students to train as dyslexic therapists, and this year it had its highest intake ever—40. Today, the hospital assesses 240 children a year. The list is full for this year, and a mounting list awaits 19S0. This means that the minimum waiting period from when a child is referred by its doctor to the hospital for assessment is bound to be at least one year. After assessment, if a child is found to be dyslexic, treatment will be offered without delay.

On the staff at Bart's are 10 full-time therapists, and there are 14 fully qualified therapists who give their time completely voluntarily, thus helping to make this service possible. One hundred and fifty patients are seen a week on a one-to-one basis, the time allowed under the National Health Service being 40minutes per session. A successful treatment is obtained in two years, bringing the child the standard of spelling, reading, and writing which accords with his or her age.

So that your Lordships may appreciate the efforts and the concern of parents to find suitable treatment for their children, I would refer to three cases at present receiving treatment at Bart's clinic: one from Birmingham, one from Coventry and one from Norfolk. Cases flood in from the home counties and the southern counties, often entirely at the expense of the parents, as grants for travel are not always given by the educational authorities. This must lead us to the conclusion that there is an overwhelming need for full recognition of the dyslexic child and its needs, as well as an urgent need for State-aided units, and the setting-up of more clinics spaced throughout England.

With regard to the increase in training for qualified therapists, I should say that the facilities are still grossly inadequate, and that provision should be made in our teacher-training colleges at the start of a teacher's career; otherwise, we shall surely slip into the grave pitfall of thinking that the treatment of a dyslexic child lies in the remedial class in our schools, whereas the proved successful treatment favours a one-to-one basis with skilled help. Can we not, my Lords, give especial support to this pressing need in this year, and give every dyslexic child an equal opportunity here at home?

4.44 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of NORWICH

My Lords, I count it a great privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord De Freyne, and on behalf of us all to thank him for the very moving, detailed, and particularly important information that he has brought before us concerning dyslexia. Dyslexia was little known to many of us a mere 10 years ago, whereas now it is clearly becoming most important among a small group of children that they be released into the fullness of life which they cannot have until dyslexia is both recognised and then carefully and faithfully treated. I know that we all look forward to hearing more from the noble Lord, Lord De Freyne, as well as from the noble Lord, Lord Vaux of Harrowden; and it was encouragement to all of us to be told that whatever our denominations, we have to be good ones anyway. I felt that this was helpful to me, and I am sure that I speak also on behalf of my brother Bishop. It was also a privilege to hear at least part of the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood. I apologise for not being present to hear it all.

I must also apologise to your Lordships' House for being late on parade: I shall afterwards be receiving suitable strictures from the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull. I can only say that we had a lunch at our house in Norwich for 30 leaders in our diocese who are concerned with the question of marriage and the child, and, because we bishops are rather better at preaching than practising, I felt that I could not cut that lunch to which we had invited 30 people, saying simply that I was going to make a speech about the matter, rather than do something about it. So I attended most of the session, hurried my lunch, and I am here. I apologise through your Lordships to Lady Faithfull.

A hymn we sing is entitled "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones", and so it is a particular encouragement to us to see that there are some children present in the Distinguished Visitors' Gallery now, at the beginning of the International Year of the Child. We are all strengthened and encouraged by the fact that there are children listening to us. I hope that those two minutes will be counted to me for righteousness by the Short Speech Society and that they will not count in relation to the speech I am now about to make.

We must recognise the fact that, because we have only a year for IYC, we must have our metaphorical skates on from these earliest days if we are to see a lot done. Judging from the literature which all of us have received and have been studying, it seems that one can look forward to the possibility of various forms of legislation being introduced by the end of the year. Here I wish to refer to Command Paper 6494, the Observations on the Eleventh Report from the Expenditure Committee, relating to the Children and Young Persons Act 1969, which was presented to us in 1976. The paper contained a reference to the building of remand centres, and stated (in 1976) that it was hoped to have remand centres opened in Rochester and Norwich within the next 12 months. I do not know about Rochester, but the remand centre in Norwich is open, and it is a fine establishment. I wish to make one point about it. It is the custom of many right reverend Prelates in this House to go to prison on Christmas Day. If we are lucky, we get out again. I was there as usual on Christmas day. I had my robe case with me, and when they saw me with the case in my hand, they said, "Welcome, Bishop, clearly you have come to stay." The Governor asked, "Bishop, can you spare time again to come across with the Chaplain to the remand centre for the short service there?" I did; there were 60 boys on remand. I talked to them, and on asking their ages I discovered that there were three aged 15, spending Christmas Day on remand in the remand centre. The Governor said to me, "You see, some of them come from rejected homes; others have been in care all their lives and they have nowhere else to go, even if an order was so made." I thought: here is a simple, clear-cut issue—in the week of Christmas it ought to be possible for secure foster families to offer to take in for a week over Christmas 15 year-old boys who are on remand. Such a practical development may well arise from our concentration on children in this particular year.

I find a tremendous unity of purpose in government, social societies, and voluntary church societies. All of us who have anything to do with voluntary organisations were heartened by the greeting which we received at the beginning of the year from Her Majesty, when she wrote to IYC: I am glad that the voluntary organisations are taking the lead in celebrating the International Year in our country. They have great achievements to their credit—and we look to them for fresh inspirations". The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury has spoken fully about the Church of England Children's Society. I am pleased simply to support him in this, and to say how humbly proud we are in the Church of England that we have a society of this size and of this ability which is really entering deeply and fully into the needs of children. We have heard of the family centres which are about to be opened. This society not only helps to keep us informed about the work among children but also helps in the actual task of caring for them.

Secondly, I should like to mention a society which is deeply involved in the care of the child, and that is the Mothers' Union, which usually receives a not very good Press even though it does absolutely first-rate work throughout the dioceses of the country. They are planning a great central service, I gather, in Westminster Abbey; but I have been impressed by the local initiatives through the Mothers' Union. They are having competitions for banners, the best one to go up to the Abbey; in our diocese, they are encouraging people to give one sensible, properly written, relevant and cheerful Christian book to each child in the area; and they are seeking to work on a rather delightful series of Family Days of Faith and Fun.

I say this because I think it is important for us to remember that the International Year of the Child is not going to be a gloomy year or a legislative year or a "tell them to shut up" year, but is going to be a joyful and cheerful year, when children actually get a chance of being heard themselves. Certainly, if any of your Lord-ships would like to come to the 14 Family Days of Faith and Fun among the fields, the Broads and the beaches of Norfolk—and the sun shines, as always, on Norfolk; it was shining a little time ago, anyway—we would welcome it. The Mothers' Union and many other Christian organisations are entering fully into the work of this International Year of the Child. TEAR Fund are seeking to raise interest in local churches in order to raise money, workers and services for children in the deprived parts of the Third World, so this is not just in our country. It is, of course, the International Year of the Child, and I am glad to say that voluntary organisations in the Church are reaching out to them.

I want to make one particular, concerted comment, if your Lordships will allow me so to do, on a particularly important book—more important than its thickness suggests, I think; it is quite a slim volume. It is called The Spiritual Rights of the Child, and it has been written by John Bradford and produced, again, by the Church of England Children's Society to alert us to the fact that Principle 2 of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child—20 years old this very year—made this point: The child shall enjoy special protection, and shall be given opportunities and facilities, by law and by other means, to enable him to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner…". I would commend this book, The Spiritual Rights of the Child, as well as the interfaith meetings which are taking place quite soon in this area, for most of the major religions are concerned with this, because it touches upon an issue which we could easily miss, with all the other areas of caring for the child. It touches on the spiritual development of the child.

In fact, it is a very fair document, because it reminds us that, not only have we a responsibility for the spiritual care of the child but we have to be careful not to coerce that child into ways which would appear to make it religious rather than to help it become religious in its own desire to respond to the good, to the right, and I, as a Christian, feel, to Christ himself within the Christian faith. It is necessary", says this brief report, for a child or young person to have a first-hand experience of the mainstream spiritual tradition of his or her culture, for him or her to be able…to 'read off' emerging spiritual trends…". It takes up Article 18 of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion", not only privately but to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance". It is with some sense of responsibility that now, at the end of this speech, I make specific reference to Spiritual Right No. 5 in this booklet: A child or young person, especially in his or her early life, has the right to such protection from spiritual damage and handicap as is reasonable and appropriate". When I say that I seek to act responsibly here, I recognise that we in this House are privileged by ancient custom, but it seems to me that we are coming to the point where we need not only to think but to speak fairly openly about the Unification Church, or the Moon Church, as it is called, because of the problems that many young people in many parts of our country are now facing in a coercion (to use the word of this booklet) which appears to be coming to them. I quote from Time in June 1976, when the founder of this particular Unification Church, which has 30 different names now used in this country and throughout the world, said: God is now throwing Christianity away and is now establishing a new religion and this new religion is Unification Church. All Christians in the world are destined to be absorbed by our movement". This seems to be an heretical movement; but, secondly, it seems to be a dominating one. The author writes: I am a thinker. I am your brain. When you join the effort with me you can do everything in utter obedience to me …". I am glad that FAIR—Family Action, Information and Rescue—on an absolute shoestring of a voluntary budget, is seeking to care for a number of young people who have become enmeshed and controlled in that particular movement. So it is to me an encouragement to see in this very useful book, which no doubt will be used in study in these coming months in the inter-Church and inter-faith study, that the danger of children being hurt spiritually is clearly set out; that they may not have a spiritual handicap. My Lords, with those comments I would hope that this may be a year which we shall never forget and which will be for the good, physically, mentally and spiritually, of all the children of Great Britain and of the world.

4.58 p.m.


My Lords, I thought I was going to make my maiden speech on this occasion, but according to the Whips' Office I made my maiden speech in Committee. Your Lordships will therefore excuse me if I do not conform to everything that is laid down, and so on; but please take this as my maiden speech in this House. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, for raising this matter, because it is a subject that I have worked on all my public life. I have been chairman of a education committee for 22 years, and have just presented a report (which will come before your Lordships within, I think, the next few months; I hope so) on an educational Bill, on managers and governors of schools, and so on. So this debate gives me an opportunity to say one or two things that I want to say about this.

I think the noble Baroness has done a first-class job in asking for Papers in the way that she has, and is to be congratulated on the way that the debate has gone forward this afternoon. But I get extremely worried. I get worried in this sense. Do we look carefully at the child who is not eligible to go to school—that is, the child under three, or from three to five where local authorities now do not take them? Then I get worried about what Parliament has done in the past in encouraging young people to stay on at school when they do not want to stay on at school or when they would be better off playing their part as apprentices in industry and so on. These are points that worry me greatly and I am sure they worry quite a number of people.

I was hoping that this debate would not be a political one, but the noble Baroness, Lady Young, brought in the political side and I am sorry that she did so. I was hoping that we should be able really to cross the Floor on this subject and bring in points that we all felt, that we had all experienced, on one side or another, points that would help us a great deal in trying to influence local authorities and Governments of whatever Party.

First, I think that we should look very carefully at what we are doing in this country at the moment, because even though it is the International Year of the Child, it is important that we look at our own children first. I get very worried about our own children, our own children who are not being allowed to go into school at an early enough age. Secondly, I get worried about the way in which teachers are not bringing forward subjects in the school that will help our own children in their after school life in industry and commerce. Thirdly, I get worried also about what is happening to our children when they leave school: about whether they are taking up the right sort of career, whether they are being advised in the right way, whether we are taking on careers masters and mistresses in schools who are just doing that job as a secondary occupation rather than after a first-class training, and so on. I should like these matters to be considered by the Government at the moment and I should like them to be considered as further points as we continue with the debate.

5.5 p.m.


My Lords, it is as a doctor that I have been invited to speak today on the care of children under five. I, too, must declare a special interest in this subject although I cannot claim to have as many grandchildren as my noble friend Lord Vaux of Harrow-den told us of in his excellent maiden speech; but my wife and I so far have five grandchildren under four, and at this rate we hope that we shall soon catch up with my noble friend. The International Year of the Child's Fact Sheet tells us that there are about 3½ million children under five in Britain today. Their physical, emotional, social, spiritual and intellectual development is of enormous importance for the future of our country. There is a saying attributed to the Jesuits: Give me a child for the first seven years, and you may do what you like with him afterwards". The Jesuit Information Office could give me no old reference to this. In fact they almost disowned it and said that the Jesuits did not start training children until the age of 10. But Mr. Kenneth Woods, an Assistant in your Lordships' Library, found for me a reference in a four-volume work by Vincent S. Lean published in 1902 in which it is referred to as a "Jesuit maxim". (Proverbs (English amp; Foreign) Folk Lore amp; Superstitions Vol. 3, p. 472.)

Others have said much the same thing. Lenin, in 1923, talking to the Commissars in Moscow, said: Give us the child for eight years, and it will be a Bolshevist for ever". Proverbs tell us (xxii. 6.) Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it". If we can start these children on the right road it should be easier to help them throughout their school years and far beyond. Money spent now on children in this way may mean that less has to be spent later, perhaps, on illness or on delinquency.

My Lords, in a short speech, I shall try to outline very briefly what mothers and families, statutory bodies and voluntary organisations are doing at present and what more they should do in the future. First, parents and families. The role of the parents is, in most cases, crucial. Mothers play by far the greatest part in a young child's life; but fathers are taking now a larger part than they did before. Young children can be very fond of their fathers and like to talk about them in their nursery schools. Grandparents usually help as much as they can if they do not live too far away; so do other members of the family and close friends. A mother's continuing, tender love for her child is terribly important. Robert Frost wrote: A child misses an unsaid 'Goodnight' and falls asleep with heartache". (The Black Cottage, 1914.) In our society there is no substitute equal to the loving, mutually enjoyable relationship between most mothers and their young children. My belief is that mothers should stay at home with their children whenver they possibly can. When the mother cannot be there, we recognise a particular need for a reliable, consistent, mothering element in any alternative arrangement which may have to be made. Continuity of this care is important. Children do not like changes.

A great number of mothers, fathers and their families manage extremely well on their own without help from outside; but many need services and support for a multitude of different reasons—far too many for me to mention them all here tonight—which vary from severe illness and bad housing to divorce. Any one or more of the supporting professions may have to give a helping hand and, again, there are a great number of these—from the family doctor, the health visitor, child minders, nursery officers and teachers, to play-group leaders. The important thing is that they should co-operate together and work with the child's parents.

About four to five per cent. of mothers of young children in Britain go out to work full-time. About 25 per cent. do so part-time. They may do this because of a need to increase the family's income which helps everyone, or because they feel they need a change from poor circumstances at home for at least part of the day. Some mothers realise that they are not good at looking after their own babies; they recognise their own limitations, especially if they have handicapped children, when they are only too willing to accept help from others who do it better. Some mothers have no real choice between whether they stay at home or go out to work, and little or no choice between types of services provided for their children.

In Russia, 19 years ago, I saw many children's kindergartens where mothers left their children on their way to work, to pick them up again in the evenings. In Britain, place-of-work nurseries like this are being developed, but only very slowly. I am told that in Russia and Hungary this trend is being reversed, partly because of expense; and that mothers are being encouraged to care for their children at home with financial help from the State. In France and Hungary, a salary is paid to mothers comparable with that of trained teachers. In Sweden, one or other parent may have seven months' leave, on full pay, after the birth of a child. We are told that about six per cent. of fathers take this.

In our country, the status of mothering is now being upgraded and regarded as a worthwhile job, financially comparable with other careers. It has been suggested that training for parenthood might soon be introduced into our schools and establishments for higher education, as a major academic subject for study by girls and boys.

Some child-care teachers, as in other professions, have been among the academically less able. But there have been many extremely good and professionally-well-qualified and experienced people in the forefront of the child-care field in Britain who have made wonderful contributions. My noble friend Lady Faithfull is an outstanding example.

Turning now to our statutory bodies, what many of us believe has been a very great step forward has been made recently by the implementation of the recommendation of the Court Report that a Children's Committee be formed to combine the work (connected with children) of the Central Health Services Council and the Personal Social Services Council. This Children's Committee is now chaired by Professor Frederick Brindlecombe. It is not a statutory body itself, although it is paid for by the Department of Health and Social Security; but it has been given a special brief to advise the Government of the day on the development of supporting services (national and local) for children and their families, working closely with the child-care professions and with academic bodies such as the British Paediatric Association and the Royal Colleges. Much of its work is done through study groups; and one of these is concerned now with the care of the under-fives in families. It is generally agreed that education, social and medical services should work closely together, hand in hand, and with more co-ordination between them.

Resources at present available for the proper care of the under-fives fall far short of what are needed, although in 1976 about £850 million of public money was spent in the United Kingdom on social services and health education of children under five. The range of services vary greatly in quality and quantity from place to place; there is no clearly-defined policy or co-ordination of central and local government programmes throughout the country as to what type of provision should be made available and the level of financial resources required for them; there is patchy recognition of priorities and not enough research is being done into what is really needed.

A TUC working party has quite recently issued a report with 14 major recommendations and 50 interim suggestions Many of these are right; but with some, one must disagree. This report merits careful study. Its main recommendations are, shortly: A national programme for the care of under-fives must be drawn up by the State jointly with the trade unions. (I should like to see parents, voluntary and academic bodies, and others involved in the care of children, taking part in this planning, too.) Pre-school services must be available on demand to parents or others who use them. These must be free of charge; and a statutory duty must be placed on local authorities to provide them.

The importance of day care is stressed in this report—quite rightly—most of it based on nursery centres with health services, child minders, play groups and other workers attached to them for back-up and training purposes. There must be close co-operation between parents and all child workers in these centres, with classes for parent instruction in child welfare, and with book and toy libraries.

New legislation, the TUC suggests, should be introduced for child-minders, for whom new minimum standards should be laid down, and their training, pay and pension rights reviewed. Many more nurseries at places of work where mothers can leave their children should be developed. The job status of everyone working for the under-fives should be improved. There should be changes in maternity rights and in National Health Service benefits for mothers and children. Maternity grants should be increased from £25 to £100—so the TUC suggests.

Another controversial recommendation in the working partys recommendations concerns amendments to the Employment Protection Act to cover women who have had the same employer for six months or more. They should have the right, the TUC recommended, to 29 weeks' maternity leave on full pay (that is for more than half a year), during which their employment should be safeguarded with a right to resume their jobs up to a maximum of one year after their babies are born. Fathers should be entitled to two weeks' paternity leave; and leave to either parent should be granted to look after a sick child.

All this would be enormously expensive, my Lords, especially when girls have several babies in a row! How it is to be paid for is not made clear in this TUC report. Will the State pay for it all or will some of the financial burden have to be carried by employers?

This brings me in conclusion to the last of my three headings, the voluntary services, which the TUC in their recommendations have not mentioned. One more very important development in child welfare in our country, recently, has taken place through the initiative of Lady Plowden, who founded the Voluntary Organisations Liaison Council for the Under-Fives—called VOLCUF for short. It is a federation of voluntary bodies to promote the interests of young children and their families. It co-ordinates the work done by a great number of voluntary organisations (from the Save the Children Fund and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, to Dr. Barnado's Homes) which are providing non-statutory support for young children and their families, much of it directed to single-parent families.

VOLCUF is making the voluntary sector much more effective and complementary to what is being done by statutory bodies. Mr. Roland Moyle, Minister of State, told us recently that voluntary services in Britain make a larger countribution to child care than they do in any other country in the world.

Some people think that speed of action, innovation, flexibility, experiment and freedom from political bias are all more easily attained by voluntary bodies than by statutory ones.

The VOLCUF council has recently made suggestions, some of which are much the same as those made by the TUC working party, with four important additions. These are: (1), that the Government should ensure full participation, continuity and a permanent role for voluntary organisations involved in child care; (2) meaningful co-ordination of all workers at all levels should be encouraged with the breaking down of barriers between the statutory and voluntary services; (3) parents should be able to choose which service they want for their children; and, (4) more funds should be allotted to the voluntary services.

My Lords, these recommendations of the TUC working party and of VOLCUF, the initiatives of the Children's Committee and the work done by the British Paediatric Association and by the Royal Colleges all show us the way ahead. They all support the objectives of the International Year of the Child campaign.

5.21 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join with others in congratulating all our maiden speakers today, and particularly my noble friend Lady Lock-wood. I should like to apologise to the noble Lord, Lord De Freyne, because during his speech I moved out of my seat. I was not aware at the time that he was making a maiden speech, but I listened with great interest indeed and I would congratulate him on the conciseness and clarity with which he made his first speech in this House.

There are eight very good reasons why I should welcome and support the objectives of the International. Year of the Child, and they are in Northern Ireland: they are my five granddaughters and three grandsons, whose ages are from one year to eight years. As others of your Lordships have, with great pride, declared their grandchildren, I thought I should also like to get it on the record on this occasion. Like most grandparents, my wife and I would wish to see our grandchildren grow up healthy, happy and able to enjoy the fullness of life. Again like most grandparents, we should also like to think that in the process and the experience of growing up they may be enriched in character and knowledge, so that they in turn may be able to join with persons of goodwill in the promotion of general community wellbeing and in the sharing of human happiness. I am sure these are the modest hopes and aspirations of all grandparents in this House.

I think it can be said that throughout the United Kingdom most of our children grow up in love and in the relative comfort of home and family life. Experience and records show that most of those children who have been socially disadvantaged and who have perhaps been deprived of a normal family life also grow up to become respectable parents and citizens. However I need hardly remind your Lordships that we live in a very imperfect world. Even the strong, the able and the healthy find it difficult to cope with the complexities of modern society. Alongside the children who enjoy love and care and hope, there exist among children of all groups and sections much unnecessary and preventable suffering, sorrow and tears.

The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, in her Motion called attention to the implications for the improvement of the conditions of children both in this country and in the developing countries. Last week I received a typed note about the International Year of the Child programmes. It was headed: "The International Tear of the Child". Some poor harassed typist had made a typographical error; but that mistake brought me a significant message. It is the tear of the child that we are concerned about in this Year of the Child. The tear of the child in Birmingham, in Belfast and in Bombay can be a sign of unnecessary suffering and it can be a cry for help. The International Year of the Child is important because it should awaken us all to take a fresh look at the way we treat our children. It may also provoke us to take the necessary measures to alleviate some human suffering and to remedy some of the problems of children and parents.

Although I have spoken in very general terms, I fully realise that sympathy must be translated into positive action and that words must generate effective commitment and deeds. I should be one of the first to admit that there is no single solution to the problems of children that we are considering here today. We may recognise and identify many of the problems. Some are genetic, some biological, some environmental and some arise from deep-seated social conditions, from economic change and from politically-generated differences and difficulties.

As we have heard today, over 200 organisations at national, regional and specialist level have embraced the objectives of the International Year of the Child. These organisations and bodies are sponsoring programmes covering a wide range of projects and events. While I am sure it would be an impossible task for the United Kingdom Association of the International Year of the Child to examine and vet the various programmes, I would hope that only genuine projects would be approved, endorsed and publicised by the Association. I may be wrong, but at this early stage I can detect some very "gimmicky", doubtful and publicity-stunt-riddled proposals.

Perhaps I am being over-cautious—maybe even cynical—but, in my opinion, far too often the effectiveness of machinery which is set up to achieve chosen ends remains the subject of speculation rather than of knowledge. Time and money are spent in establishing social apparatus which it is hoped will be the means of achieving stated objectives, however vague those objectives may be, but little time and effort is spent on assessing whether the social apparatus is appropriate for the purpose. It has been my experience that, when objectives have been vague and the means devised to achieve them not thoroughly assessed, the achievements are at best limited and at worst wasteful and damaging to future projects. I should like to suggest that, for lasting and beneficial results for the improvement of the conditions of children, the projects should be thoroughly researched both as to objectives and as to the remedial and social apparatus.

If I may, I shall attempt to give an example of what I mean. In dealing with the educational problem of an individual child, it is not unknown for 14 or more various professional interests to become involved. Among them are the teacher, the school administrator, the career specialist, the welfare worker, the child psychologist, the social worker, the medical officer, the school liaison teacher, the referral officer and sometimes the parents themselves. However well-meaning they may be, the child becomes a case number, and sometimes a case number in a big bureaucratic machine. Unfortunately, I believe that at times the child becomes a thing to be looked after rather than a person to be cherished.

In conclusion, I should like briefly to mention four practical points. First, I should like to commend as a basis for the International Year of the Child projects the excellent Warnock Report, which was published in May 1978. The Warnock Committee studied the problems of the education of handicapped children and young people, and produced a very comprehensive document containing some 29 pages of recommendations. The report stated: The evidence of the surveys of the proportion of children with special educational needs suggests that about one in six children at any time, and one in five at some time, during their school career, may require some form of special education provision". Those facts are staggering and they demand immediate attention by specialists in this area. The report also recommended that, wherever possible, there should be greater recognition and involvement of parents, as the main educators of their children during their earliest years. Here I must again apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull. I was not here when she opened this debate today, but I understand that she referred to the basis of our society being firmly rooted in family life. I wholeheartedly agree with that, and the Warnock Report underlined that in the educational field.

My second point is the importance of broadcasting in International Year of the Child projects. Here I must declare an interest as a member of the Independent Broadcasting Authority. I am aware that the BBC and Independent Broadcasting Authority television and radio companies are mounting a series of very helpful television and sound programmes dealing with International Year of the Child objectives. One of the documents which I have, dealing with the IBA proposals, indicates that, out of 34 million people covered by independent local radio, 6 million or 18 per cent. are children aged between 4 and 14. I suggest that the powerful influence of broadcasting should be encouraged to participate fully and to be very much involved in IYC projects.

Thirdly, I am very pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, dealt in some detail with the TUC report entitled The Under-Fives, of which I have a copy here. He went into a considerable amount of detail, with much of which I fully agreed. There ought to be wider discussion of this report, and it should not be confined merely to trade unionists. Trade unionists are parents who are involved in living and are part of society, but there is a wider remit than just the narrow field of trade unionism. The report aims to focus attention on the pressing need for the development of a nationwide programme to provide facilities for preschool age children, and it makes 64 recommendations which could be usefully undertaken by some of the IYC project promoters. In spite of the earlier remarks made here about the current industrial strife, I am confident that genuine cooperation will be forthcoming at national and local levels if such a programme is set up for discussion.

Lastly, I believe that the Northern Ireland Regional Committee of the International Year of the Child have some of the most difficult and deep-seated problems of children to deal with. At the same time, the Committee have an advantage in that the Government, through the Northern Ireland Office, have given priority to the development of services for children over the past few years, and various reports, studies and research projects have been undertaken for some time. I do not want to recite a litany of the problems of Northern Ireland, because this is not the time or the occasion, and they are relative to the whole problem of children throughout the world. But there are some very sad facts about suffering and hardship in the Northern Ireland situation.

I believe that the Northern Ireland Regional Committee of the International Year of the Child are tackling these problems in a positive and objective way. They are building up their approaches to remedies by the provision of suitable social apparatus and measures to deal with the problems in Northern Ireland. They are dealing with these in a very positive way, and have started to analyse existing research reports and studies about child problems. This is the correct starting basis, so that in this year we can build upon what has already been done in this field, by devising measures and providing the necessary structures by which something may be achieved in areas of need.

I am glad it has been said in this House that the International Year of the Child transcends Party politics, because the child is paramount. The future belongs to our children. Finally, I wish the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, every success in her position as chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Panel and I am sure that, as the year goes on, we shall hear more from her on this subject.

5.36 p.m.


My Lords, it is a great honour to take part in this debate on such an important subject. In much more than a formal sense, I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, for introducing the debate so well and I express my good wishes in all the work that lies ahead. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child recognised that children need to develop their spirits as well as their minds and bodies, and it is on spiritual nurture that I should like to offer a few thoughts and, in particular, to stress the role of the family in this field. I acknowledge my lack of qualifications being only a not very good lay Christian; my qualifications do not compare to those of the two right reverend Prelates who have spoken. In fact, my qualifications or achievements in spiritual nurture are minimal, since I have only one three-year-old son. Great joy though he is to us, I have still to convince him that when you go into church with a Sunday school for the Communion part of the service, it does not do to go in sucking a lollipop, and it certainly does not encourage your neighbour to concentrate on his devotions if you poke it into his ribs!

Most, if not all, children at some time or other seek for spiritual fulfilment, whether consciously or not. As has been said by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich, we cannot use this seeking to coerce them towards faith in a living God. However, if we do not lead them and help them, there are plenty of other influences abroad who will guide them into blind alleys; for example, into astrology, transcendental meditation, spiritualism or the occult. These areas can be extremely dangerous for children and everyone else, because they involve the use of spiritual forces which we neither understand nor can control. Just as dangerous, the child may become a prey to those pseudo-religious cults to which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich also drew attention.

Who is it, then, who can try to meet the spiritual needs of children, who can tell them what God has promised them, and who can give them a vision of what acceptance or rejection of that promise involves? The State and the public authorities can do only a limited amount through religious education and, in my view, religious education is an ally of spiritual nurture, rather than spiritual nurture itself. Only a spiritual body can provide spiritual nurture, and that means the Church or the family. Of course, the Church has an important role through its teaching of the Gospel, through Sunday Schools and through the fellowship of Church members. However, it is parents who have the ultimate responsibility for their children, and, in general, only parents can give them the necessary time, love and understanding.

What can we parents specifically do for our children? I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Fawley, drew attention to the role of the father in this respect. I feel that five points can be identified in spiritual nurture. First, we can pray for children; secondly, we can teach them; thirdly, we can talk freely with them about spiritual and moral issues. I am thankful that it is easier for my generation to discuss these matters with young people than perhaps it was for previous generations. Fourthly, we can do our best to lead children by example. If we cannot show children how to live a Christian life—by, for instance, parents having a row and then making it up and apologising—then we can never expect them to do the same. Lastly, we can train children with loving discipline.

Yet many parents feel themselves to be up against it. With our so-called advanced urban civilisation, we have perhaps allowed the role of the family to be diminished. It is possible that we have much to learn from what might otherwise be regarded as more primitive societies. Then there are also the constant attacks upon anything which has been learned from past generations and the denigration of authority—including parental authority—and the holding of Christian or other moral values, often made under the guise of increasing personal liberty.

To take one example, small in itself, there is a recently published book on sex called Make it Happy. Its theme I think can fairly be described as, "Anything goes, as long as you enjoy it". Regarding the laws on sex, it says that the basic idea behind many of them seems to be that all sexual activity is bad unless it is between a married couple in order to have a baby. It comments, and I quote its comment: Such an old-fashioned view of sex needn't matter to most people". One might dismiss this as unimportant, but it is disturbing that one finds that the Health Education Council has supplied illustrations to this book and that the Family Planning Association recommends it as a book that should be in every teenager's library. Perhaps the Family Planning Association's recommendation is not entirely surprising, as the book agrees with the Family Planning Association that contraceptives may be supplied to children under 16 without informing the parents.

Especially in view of the outcry that there has been in Yorkshire and Suffolk against this practice, may I respectfully suggest that perhaps the Department of Health and Social Security should look again at their family planning service memorandum of 1974 which, fairly or otherwise, is used as a pretext for what I believe to be an infringement of parental responsibility. For I look upon the upbringing of a child by its parents as something done as a trustee on behalf of God and of society. The exercise of that trusteeship, which equates with parental responsibility, appears to me to be not only a duty but a basic human right. It therefore seems to me to be reasonable to ask the Government to continue and to increase their help for the family and to look very closely at any support, financial or otherwise, given to organisations which might undermine the family.

In an earlier debate in your Lordships' House, the suggestion was made that there should be a Minister for the Family, and the noble Lord, Lord Vaux of Harrowden, has suggested that there should be a Minister for Children. This may or may not be the right answer, but is there not some way of building into the system of Government a means of ensuring that the needs of the family are taken into account in the framing and implementation of legislation?

So far as the education authorities are concerned, I would call for priority to be given to the education of children in parenthood and family life within the context of marriage and for that to be the main theme of sex education. To take one point, I believe that we simply have to get it across that, whatever impression is given in teenage magazines, or whatever example is set in some quarters, there is a world of difference between living together and getting married, not only for the happiness of the two people involved but because of the need to provide the children with a fair chance of growing up in a stable family background.

Lastly, perhaps I may address a word to the Church. Perhaps the Church's greatest problem is to provide the young with the vision and the challenge that they so desperately need. Much can be done by teaching the Gospel without watering it down and by developing Sunday School facilities for all ages. Nevertheless, we in the Church still have much to learn about working with and through the family structure. Perhaps in all our varied church activities we need to be more family-minded. Certainly we need to redouble our efforts to encourage and to enable parents to follow up the declarations made at the baptism of their children.

I was wondering how to end my speech when, last weekend, I came across a letter from my own vicar in our parish magazine. I found that in a few lines he had put a great deal better what I have been trying to say during the last 10 minutes. May I end, therefore, by quoting some lines from what he said. Writing that the Church, as opposed to the State, must assume a far greater responsibility for the spiritual nurture of the child, he says: But the resources and the time factor of the Church are limited. In one hour on a Sunday morning you cannot achieve the spiritual formation of the child. This can only be properly done in a Christian home. In this Year of the Child let us not only pray for the child alone but pray for our young parents that they may love the Lord Jesus and by their example bring up their children in the knowledge and love of Christ".

5.48 p.m.


My Lords, we have listened to an extremely interesting and very moving speech from the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge. I would endorse everything that he has said, but, if the noble Lord will forgive me, I shall not follow his line because it is not the one which I intend to take in this debate. Nevertheless, I have been most impressed by what he has said during the last 10 minutes.

May I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, for inaugurating this debate. I do so with particular pleasure because I am very interested in the work which is done by the United Nations in its sponsorship of different subjects for one year so as to alert the world to the many different problems which are facing us today. As some noble Lords may remember, I was closely associated with the World Refugee Year which took place between 1959 and 1960. It was an outstanding success. We in this country were charged with raising money. It was not the same kind of year as this one: it is not a question of raising money this year, in the sense that we are going to give it away. The purpose of the International Year of the Child is to initiate projects in the countries which are members of the United Nations. On the occasion of World Refugee Year, however, we raised in this country alone £10½ million. World Refugee Year was followed by other years. Not so long ago there was a year which I think was called International Women's Year. That was also important and a great success.

At this point I should like to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, who unfortunately is not in the Chamber at the moment. However, the noble Baroness has taken on the onerous task of being chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission. I think that she is making a great success of it, and I was glad to hear her make her maiden speech today on this subject. It was extremely interesting. We have also had two other—or almost three other maiden speeches since the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Blackburn, has assured us that he considered his to be his maiden speech; and I should like to say to him, as he was speaking as someone with a great deal of experience of local government, that I too have had enormous experience in local government and I also feel very strongly that the subject which we are discussing today is shared by all political Parties. That some of us may have different views as to how to do something, does not mean that we are not in favour of any political Party with a good idea putting it into effect, if it is going to help the principles upon which this debate is being conducted.

We are all agreed, and it has been stated over and over again, that there is no more important subject in any nation in the world than the child, and how to give children a good start, and how to make grown-up people more concerned about children. I think in this country on the whole we are deeply concerned about children, but I am sure that cannot be said of many parts of the world, and I hope that the propaganda and the widespread interest of the United Nations will spread this feeling of concern for children throughout the whole world, because then it will have had the desired effect of making people conscious of this vital subject.

I should like to thank the office of the International Year of the Child for sending me a number of interesting documents. Doubtless many other noble Lords have received them, and I thought they were extremely good. Figures have already been quoted in the debate so perhaps I should not quote them again. I am particularly interested in the pre-school matters that arise, either play groups or any other kind of pre-school work. I have seen how important and how successful they can be. One figure which impressed me was that today the number of children in play groups—and after all they are easier to organise than almost any other kind of pre-school work—has risen from 13.9 per cent. to 23.7 per cent. It is not a very large figure but it is a rising figure and I hope very much that the work which will be undertaken through the International Year of the Child will concentrate on the pre-school provision, and will give the play groups the credit they deserve for what they are doing.

I suppose that to some extent one always speaks from one's experience because that is the only way in which one can make a contribution. For 20 years I was the chairman of a children's committee which subsequently became the social work committee. Our problems were largely with the children who for one reason or another came into the care of the local authority. Here I always found it more satisfactory to try to get the child adopted or into a foster home for real individual family care, rather than into a residential home. That does not mean to say that the residential home does not have an extremely important part to play, because there are some children who cannot be fostered and cannot be adopted, and many of the residential homes, which now are in much smaller units than they used to be, are of great importance.

Also, of course, we have the problems in this country—and I am sure they do elsewhere—of refugee children belonging to different races and different nationalities. Very often if they are orphans one can only really care for them through residential care. I should like to encourage very much, through the work that is being done, the National Foster Care Association which, as I read from the documents sent to me, has admirable plans to increase the provision of foster homes, the training of foster parents and the adequate remuneration of foster parents. All those are badly needed and local authorities—and here I am only speaking from my own experience—are happy to co-operate with the voluntary organisations in these matters, because it is largely the co-operation with voluntary organisations that brings about so much of the change in the administration in this country. Taking another figure from the literature, there are 34,109 children being fostered. No doubt that is not so large a number as we should like, but it is certainly quite a large number.

I should like to say one word about the handicapped children. It is difficult to get even adult handicapped people accepted into the community of able-bodied people. Probably one would not think that one would have to say that in 1979, but it is sometimes even more difficult to get children integrated into the community life of other children. I should like to see more day centres started which could be attended by handicapped children and also by some able-bodied non-handicapped children, in order to create the atmosphere of ordinary life, rather than concentrating on one side of life, namely, the handicapped children. Here I would commend an organisation called the Physically Handicapped and Able-bodied, run by one of the great voluntary organisations, the Youth Club Organisation, which has done a wonderful job in trying to integrate both the handicapped and the non-handicapped. In the case of children that is extremely important.

Another group which I think has been mentioned tonight is the one-parent family. There are 1.5 million children in this country who are in one-parent families. I am sure your Lordships will agree that that is far too many; but we are faced with that position, and anything we can do to help the one parent in such families, so that they can give their children care in day centres—and again the idea of day centres rather than residential is important—is something which we could add to the many things we want to do during the International Year of the Child.

I remember that when I was working in local government I tried very hard to get classes for mentally retarded or handicapped children in ordinary schools. It was sometimes easier to get special classes outside schools than to get them integrated into the schools. People are frightfully busy and it slows things down if there are handicapped children in classes; but whenever I succeeded it was wonderful to see how the transition could be made of the handicapped child into the class with the non-handicapped children. It was far easier than if one had to bring them from somewhere else and put them into the ordinary class at school. I should like to support any local authority which is trying to have the retarded and mentally handicapped children in a class within an ordinary school rather than outside it.

It has taken many years to persuade the ordinary public that in many conditions a bridge between mentally handicapped and physically handicapped into the ordinary life of the community can be built with a great deal of success. I have been particularly interested in the publications of the National Children's Bureau, an admirable organisation for which we are indebted to Dr. Kellmer Pringle for having started it some years ago. They have published a small booklet called Shared Care which gives a fascinating account of centres in London, Yeovil, Coventry, Manchester, Southend-on-Sea—to name just a few—where the shared work of doctor, social worker, parent, teacher and child is obviously working wonders for the mentally and physically handicapped. I should like to add one more name to that—Somerset Court for Autistic Children and Young People. All these centres are pioneering new operations and new approaches to the problems of handicapped children. This is wonderful work, and I hope that the International Year of the Child can spread these ideas not only throughout the United Kingdom but also in other countries. We would give great help to children suffering in this way if we could get other people interested in this type of work.

I am sure your Lordships will not mind my making mention of Scotland. In Scotland they are, in this International Year of the Child, mobilising as many of the voluntary organisations as they can in order to get as much help as possible, because through voluntary organisations you get at a wide circle of the community which, if you only deal with the professional side you do not get. The Girl Guides in Scotland are running a great scheme of linking young people, first of all from the big industrial centres, with the country centres and rural areas, and then linking the slightly older groups, Rangers and others, with children overseas in other countries, possibly in the Girl Guide movement, but in order to bring together a linkage of children throughout the whole world in this idea of the International Year of the Child. I am sure that will have a great effect. It may be slow; it may not go as fast as we want. But we are on the right lines; we are on lines that have the future in all this. If we can arouse, not only in this country but throughout the world, the kind of interest which the United Nations aroused in the other "years", particularly the World Refugee Year, then we will have taken part in a great work which I am sure will be of benefit to the whole of mankind.

6.2 p.m.


My Lords, I join with others in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, for her Motion and for her most admirable speech, and in congratulating the maiden speakers on their notable success. I would gladly follow the noble Baroness who has just spoken in speaking of day centres for the handicapped. I have some experience of the importance of such centres. I would gladly follow those who have spoken of violence, of juvenile delinquency, and I should like to urge that the right use of sport and music could reduce the incidence of violence, of juvenile delinquency, could save as much taxation for prisons, police and courts, and could enrich our national life. It would mean a big investment in both sport and music, but it would pay the Treasury a very handsome dividend indeed. I leave that for another day.

In the interests of noble Lords who still wish to speak, I shall confine myself to the second part of the noble Baroness's Motion, the children of the Third World. As others have, I desire to speak about their poverty, but to paint the picture with a rather broader brush. Their poverty takes many forms. To me the most grievous is their ignorance. Incredible as it may seem, there are 1,200 million children in the world who cannot read or write, and their number grows. Their number grows because there are 400 million children for whom there are no schools. Can noble Lords contemplate the future of these unhappy little folk, condemned from a tender age to no hope of progress or advancement, economic, cultural or political? To them the words "democracy, co-operation, intellectual achievement" are words and nothing more. They are doomed to join the vast assembly of the voiceless who have no knowledge or power to improve their status or to influence the blind force of destiny that shapes their lives.

The poverty of education in the Third World, in institutions, in personnel, in resources, even in ambition, is something which imposes a grave wrong upon the children and which is a tragic mockery of what could be and ought to be. My Lords, education is closely allied to shelter. In a bad house it is not easy to read. And in the Third World shelter is another grievous problem—the mud huts of Africa and India. A little while ago 15,000 people were killed, no one escaped, when their mud huts were flattened, simply swept away by a tornado wind. The shanty towns of Calcutta, Buenos Aires and Mexico contain dwellings made of petrol tins and bits of wood: perpetual discomfort, no protection against the extremes of heat and cold—and in those cities they have both—mud and dust with every meal, water problems, lighting problems, washing problems at every hour of every day, nagging and acute discomfort until they die.

Shelter is connected with preventable disease, and preventable disease plays a major part in the poverty of the Third World countries. Malaria is a horrible affliction; I have had it and I know. It saps your power to work; it comes back and back. Children get it. It can stunt their bodies and their minds; it can ruin their lives. In 1978, 200 million people were victims of malaria. Trachoma makes you blind. Children get it. They are burdens to themselves and to their families till they die. Leprosy makes you a social outcast. In the Middle Ages lepers in Britain were made to wear white clothes, to carry a bell, to call out as they walked about "Unclean, unclean". Yaws covers you with hideous ulcers—body, legs and arms. You can neither work nor rest nor play. These diseases impose a vast burden of suffering and economic loss on the children of the Third World now.

And they are all preventable. With none of them is there any clinical problem any more: they can be cured. The problem is resources, and nothing more. Give the World Health Organisation—the WHO—the resources that it needs and it can wipe them all out in a short period of years. The resources that it needs are 500 million dollars to deal with them all. It sounds fantastically low, but that figure was given to me by Dr. Martin Kaplan the very able Head of Medical Research in the WHO, and it is a real figure. The WHO has just finished the job of wiping out the scourge of smallpox in 30 countries where it was still endemic on an epidemic scale. To do that, it spent 83 million dollars: one B-1 Bomber costs 90 million dollars to produce.

Poverty means ignorance. It means slums, mud huts and shanty towns. It means preventable disease but, above all, it means hunger. There are 300 million children in the world who are hungry and who will be hungry—unless things change—from the cradle to the grave; who never have a proper meal and who are kept alive by a minimum of food. I repeat, 300 million. The social indicators show the terrible result. In most Third World countries infant mortality is 200 per 1,000—in other words, one baby in five dies in its mother's arms before it is 12 months old. The expectation of life for the parents who should bring them up is often less than 40 years. They die by millions before their time—indeed, decades before their time—because they do not get enough to eat.

Famine sometimes comes to strike the hungry. The rains fail or floods wash the crops away. Famine starts death by starvation on a major scale. I knew it in Russia in 1922. I cannot describe to noble Lords the full horror of what it means. However, has anyone forgotten that picture in the papers a year or two ago of the little black boy—the little Ethiopian—who was begging for food? Has anyone forgotten his spindly legs, his swollen stomach, his protruding ribs, his wizened little face and his frightened, pleading eyes? Tens of thousands of them turn their frightened eyes on the richer Governments to ask for food, and the richer Governments answer coldly: "No, we cannot afford the paltry millions it would take to keep you all alive. We must spend £200,000 million on armaments instead".

In 1979 the world stands at a crossroads. If we want our children to have children we must end the poverty of the children in the Third World, and we must start to end it now. There is only one way in which it can be done: we must reallocate the unimaginably vast resources which the Governments now spend on preparing for the war which we know we dare not fight. If that urgent and indispensable reform cannot be achieved, then we may drift on with the mounting arms race until at last we fight the war, and—who knows?—the great heritage of man's genius may perish and our planet Earth may go on spinning through space as silent and as desolate as the moon.

6.16 p.m.


My Lords, this debate covers so wide a range of matters that it is certain that no one person can cover the whole of it. I have listened with great interest to what other noble Lords have said and to their ideas on the subject, and especially to the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, who is not only deeply interested but outstandingly experienced in this field.

As has been said before, and of course I agree with it, today's children are tomorrow's parents and we must do all we can to help and prepare them. In this, the International Year of the Child, we should surely give every baby who is conceived a chance to be born, whether the mother is married or not, and give her all possible support. There are many different child rescue agencies and among them the Roman Catholic bishops have guaranteed a place for every child that is brought to them and every help the mother may need.

In one way our society has made very remarkable advances in the conquest of what used often to be called the "childish" diseases. Fifty years ago or so, in the spring, measles, mumps and the rest were widely prevalent and often with serious consequences. We can, to some extent congratulate ourselves that preventive medicine has largely eliminated the childish diseases—but, alas! only for them to be replaced by others. I refer particularly to the increase of psychological troubles among children. The Samaritans even have children of nine years ringing them up, and I have been informed on most serious authority in York that the services of psychiatrists are in ever-increasing demand for the troubles of children.

We can say, therefore, that our society has succeeded in educating parents so that they take advantage of preventive medicine as a matter of course, but the increase of psychological problems among children, and especially those under five years, has yet to be tackled from the point of view of educating parents. In York I am told that the money available for research in this sphere is inadequate. My guess is that that may be so throughout the country. I wonder whether savings could not be found somewhere, and the money thus saved channelled into this research.

Mr. Edwin Brown, the Director of Social Services for North Yorkshire, has written to me: Most of all, we need to put more resources in to the under-fives, because this is where all our problems begin, and the research conducted by such bodies as the National Children's Bureau has shown that we can detect incipient problems even at this age". One of a number of reasons he mentions—and I agree with him—is high-rise flats where mothers have no opportunity to mix with others in similar situations. That is but one of the symptoms we should be tackling at the earliest possible age. Other casual factors are one-parent families or families where there is an inadequate or intermittent father.

It is encouraging to learn that schools are giving courses for 15 and 16 year-olds on parenthood and child development. Perhaps the most important aspect of this must be the prevention of psychological disturbance. The status of parenthood has been greatly devalued in the course of what we call the liberation of women. Of course, I can feel no objection to the liberation of women, but this must not be at the expense of children. Rather, it is a challenge to treat the status of parenthood with new respect—and by "parenthood" I mean, of course, father as well as mother.

In this respect a number of commendable efforts are being made to help young parents. For example, the Open University has two courses, each of eight weeks. The first is on "The First Years of Life" and the second is on "A Pre-school Child". There is other good material on the radio as well as in TV programmes. There are also some valuable hand-outs. The most noteworthy is the pamphlet of the Voluntary Council for Handicapped Children, published by the National Children's Bureau, called Help Starts Here for parents of children with special needs. It has been distributed free to parents and has been very well-received.

The Warnock Report pays particular attention in Chapter V to the needs of children under the age of five with learning difficulties, either mental or physical. I have just referred to the Warnock Report on Children with Special Educational Needs and I feel strongly that we should be having a full debate on that report and do all we can to implement its recommendations quickly. That report laid great stress on the training of children under the age of five with learning difficulties. It is not merely a question of the prevention of trouble later on; that is clearly indicated by the increase in psychological illness to which I have already referred. It is of the greatest importance that disabilities or other special needs should be diagnosed at the earliest possible opportunity. Once the diagnosis has been made—and this may involve a number of persons professionally—the co-operation of parents becomes the key issue. Mrs. Warnock's committee regards it as essential that a named person should provide a continuity of advice for the parents. Parents need to be informed of the facilities available to meet the special needs of their child, whether they are provided by the State, or by voluntary agencies.

But all the advice that a health visitor can give is in vain unless early educational opportunities are available. Mrs. Warnock wishes to see a fully developed peripatetic teaching service, and I see sound sense in that. I very well recollect the excellent visiting teachers at the Wingfield Orthopaedic Hospital in Oxford when my son had to spend several months in bed there at the age of 10. Some local authorities have already provided this service, with teachers visiting mentally handicapped children below school age.

I am, of course, not against Mrs. Warnock's recommendation of nursery schools for two to five year-olds, but I am greatly fearful that they may become dumping grounds so that mothers can go out to work. Again, I am not averse to mothers working, but when chidren are little, and especially when they are handicapped, they should have the security of a stable home and the first call on mother. This was especially brought home to me by the experience of one of my daughters. For several months she looked after two small girls whose mother is a state registered midwife and on duty by day and at night. Until their father rejoined them after an absence abroad, when my daughter then left, she took them to school, fed them and generally acted as mother to them. Last week she called to see them and the five-year-old hugged her legs and said, "I love you. Will you come and look after us again?" This surely demonstrates that sort of desire for security and affection that I have been talking about, especially in regard to the disabled.

As regards handicapped children, there is great concern among aging parents about the fate of their children when they themselves become incapable or die. The parents are concerned with the difficulty of finding residential accommodation when a handicapped person needs caring for. There are orders of Roman Catholic nuns who do this kind of work, but always for the more seriously handicapped. Perhaps some way could be found to help the less seriously disabled in this respect.

In this, the International Year of the Child, we should be listening to those who deal with children of all ages, and seriously review their needs in conjunction with State bodies. One area of great concern is the plight of the handicapped young person who has reached school-leaving age and has no occupation. The parents of these young people need help and advice, especially when they feel that they themselves are getting older and less able to cope. There are grey areas of handicap, and if the International Year of the Child means anything, it will perhaps focus on a few problems such as these.

6.26 p.m.


My Lords, in this particularly important debate we are discussing the future generations of this world, not only in this country but internationally. It is a privilege to be able to take part in such a vitally important debate and to listen to so many brilliant speeches. In my view every child who is born into this world should have three essentials: love, health and security. Those are my words, taken from my experience.

This evening, for a short time—thinking of the debate we had last week—I want to say a few words about each of those. To me "love" means cherishing and caring for a child, preferably by both parents, by foster parents or by one parent, but at least by one person per child. I also believe that a child needs discipline. In my experience a child needs to be taught the way to go and needs to be told what to do; he should not be left on his own, to find out what the world is about for himself. I looked up the meaning of the word "discipline". "Discipline" means: An instrument of penance or punishment". Or it can mean: A training or mode of life in accordance with rules; subjection to control and order". In these days, especially in our country, I think we have seen a lack of discipline. Through that lack and through the abrogation of the responsibilities of the parents for disciplining their children, we have had an escalation of juvenile crime. I shall not go into that branch of the debate, because the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, covered it so very well.

One of the disciplines which teaches a child that he shall do what he is told is to ensure that he goes to school. I have been chairman of a juvenile court in a vast area which covers part of Haringey, the whole of Tottenham and Enfield. One of my main troubles is the lack of discipline caused by parents who do not instil discipline into the children: the children do not go to school and they get into trouble. If a child in this one instance is made to go to school, is made to get up every morning and is made to come home at a certain time, I believe that that is one step towards discipline. A long time ago I was at boarding school and there was a very rich fee-paying school in the same town. I well remember that the headmistress decided that the children should decide for themselves what to do in school hours. They had to conform to eating at the right time, but what they did between their meals was entirely up to them. I am sure that you have all guessed that there was complete chaos in the school, and the headmistress had to be relieved of her post.

I had another instance of discipline not long ago in the juvenile court. I had sent a child to a detention centre for the maximum of six weeks, which the Home Office think is the correct period for a child. He came before me again after three months. I said, "Bill, what on earth are you doing, coming before me again?" He said, "Please, Miss, can I go back to that nice place? I was told what to do, and I did something all day, and I throughly enjoyed it. Please may I go back?" He had offended again to try to go back to discipline.

Those are two facets of love, but of course there are many more. The noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, has given us an insight into the Third World as regards health. I was going to say a few words on that, but he has told the House so brilliantly of the disaster in many cases that the children of the Third World face, that I feel that I cannot say more than one or two words from my own knowledge of our erstwhile colonies when my late husband was Secretary of State for the Colonies. I was visiting Africa recently and was in two countries. They were suffering there from malnutrition, blindness, deafness, leprosy, poliomyelitis. But I am only skating over that particular disastrous pond in order to pay a small tribute to the noble Lord who is to follow me, and that is the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth. Until recently he was chairman of the Save the Children Fund; a Fund which has done remarkable work throughout the world. I should like to say what a marvellous job they have done, I know they are doing, and will continue to do.

My third word is "security". A child needs security. If he cannot have the loving arms of his mother or father he needs to know where to go home to. He does not want to be a latchkey child. Also, he does not want to be a member of a family living in a high-rise block where, although mother or father may be at home, he has no friends, he has no security and he does not know where is is coming to or going from. As we all perhaps recollect, if we have been fortunate enough, as I certainly was, to be brought up in a happy home, it was going back to mother after school that one remembered so well. In these days perhaps some parents—naturally not all, but some—do not pay attention to the fact that they are the most important people in their childrens' lives and that they should be at home when the child comes back from school.

In talking briefly about school, I should like the Government to consider an idea that I know some education welfare officers have, and that is to ask voluntary workers to "chase up", I suppose is the word, and look after children who do not go to school; find out why they do not go to school, and then see to it that they are taken back on to the path of attending school in a disciplined way. This is done in many boroughs by voluntary people and would cost the Government absolutely nothing. I think it ought to be done more widely. This debate is vitally important. The very fact that the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, is being followed by 29 speakers speaks for itself. I can only say that anything that I can do in any way as a mother, grandmother or chairman of a juvenile court, to help the future generation I will always try to do.

6.35 p.m.


My Lords, may I say right away that if my short speech is a little incoherent it is all the fault of the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod of Borve, because I have suddenly received this wonderful tribute to the organisation of which I had the privilege of being chairman for six and a half years. I know that those who work for it will be immensely grateful for these kind and generous words that she has just spoken. Perhaps, as I am no longer active in the Save the Children Fund, although I am still a member of the Council, I may thank her on their behalf, and may I also thank all those who are still working for it for so well deserving the tribute she has paid.

I had thought that perhaps the best subject to refer to would be abroad because most of the speeches, quite naturally, have been about home. This is absolutely, as it should be, but there are one or two special things to say about abroad. Perhaps I should fit in one word also as regards the Save the Children Fund and also our friends at Oxfam and the Churches, and say that we are much happier in this age than we were just a few years ago in the 1960s, when it was the fashionable pursuit of lots of extremely clever young people to explain that voluntary organisations were wasting their time, and other people's money, doing what was not needed. It was a disagreeable experience to go through that, and one is happy that that seems now to be over.

Perhaps I may give one little picture of what it is like to be doing work round the world with an organisation of that kind. You just simply have so many photographs left in your mind; photographs of feeding Korean children in the bitter cold winter of that country before it had recovered its economic equilibrium. I have a wonderful picture in my mind of witnessing a thrilling football match in Morocco played with great zest by crippled children. Perhaps the most vivid of all was landing with my wife in a small aircraft in Bangladesh—I was so glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, began with Bangladesh—and being received with rapturous cheers (which I have never had before or since) because we were feeding and taking care of innumerable small children in that terribly over-populated country. We saw how these children came in from the countryside and they walked to a little clinic, not as you might suppose, in a house or a hut but on board a small boat. Those are the sorts of experience which leave this kind of work for children in your mind for the whole of your life.

While I am on the work abroad, perhaps I might share with your Lordships two ideas about this which I gather are gathering some support. It seems to me that my noble friend Lord Hunt of Fawley touched on the matter with his usual wisdom by talking about young people helping each other. I would expand that by saying that there is, I think, from the speeches and also from what I have seen, a growing understanding that one of the best ways to help children, or young people, is for older young people quite definitely to help younger young people. Young people are enormously used to being bossed about by grown-ups, and I think one can probably say that it was Lord Baden-Powell who first discovered the virtue of getting older young people to help younger young people in whatever the activity was. That has surely been the secret of the vitality of the Scout movement.

This can certainly be applied particularly in the thickly populated developing countries, where family ties remain much tighter and farther reaching because populations in each family are much greater.

One constantly sees older children looking after younger ones. That shows of course a difference in civilisation there, when compared with what happens in an urban population in a country like ours. It means, nevertheless, that this technique can be used—by Government aid, charity or whatever it may be—to spread the help given to children and to make it something indigenous rather than something done benevolently by others, older people and foreigners.

By extending that principle, I hope we shall see growing in the developing countries a concept which can be taken from example—namely, that if one works for quite a time in a particular country one sees the beginnings of a certain hankering for the work to be done by the people of that country. One must not, in considering this, lump together all the developing countries at a certain economic level, because there are all sorts of low levels, but differing ones. I am sure that another development which should be greatly encouraged is for the more developed under-developed countries to assist other countries that may lag behind. I am sure this could be done and I am equally sure it would be a welcome development, giving the developing countries a feeling of being able to do something by themselves for themselves. I am sure we should exploit and expand that idea as far as we can.

Those are some positive ideas for the future and I should like to think we could leave this debate in a happy state. I have therefore been doubtful about saying anything on the gloomy side, but the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Young, has given me courage to do so. A few days ago we saw, unhappily, a children's hospital being visited by a Minister of the present Government. The day after we saw that hospital shut by, not to use too dramatic a word, pressure, and the children forced to go home and do without medical care. I found that monstrous and I hope not only that this country will do something to make that impossible in future but that all concerned with the welfare of children will feel a duty to try to remove the possibility of that sort of thing happening in our so-called civilised life.

I should like to feel there is a real response here and I believe that that response is growing, but I am sure we must all work for this objective. It will not be easy to accomplish and I am not kidding myself. It is desparately important both if we are to be considered a civilised country and for the sake of the suffering children. Happily, we have heard a great deal on the spiritual side today. I conclude by saying to the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull: Well done, good and faithful servant.

6.44 p.m.


My Lords, as other noble Lords have said, it is a great privilege to take part in this debate because this issue and the way we are debating it is proof of what this House should be all about in terms of the conditions by which it can survive; namely, that it shall be the House of the future and not of the past. In other words, our constituents are posterity. What we are discussing today is an indicator of the sort of things with which we must deal, and the wisdom with which this subject has been discussed today adds emphasis to that.

My brief speech has been made all the more easy because of the speeches that have gone before. I shall therefore contract out of all the things I might have said and instead follow, as an economy in time, the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth. One of my main justifications for speaking is my concern with the Third World, a concern that goes back a very long time. I have been a consultant to UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, ever since 1948, a consultant to the Children's Fund and to the partnership of that fund with the World Health Organisation.

I could take noble Lords to places in the world today and introduce UNICEF's grandchildren, the children of the children we saved in those countries. We began with dried milk, followed through with maleria control, consolidated with mother and child health centres, eventually moving in recent years, even more so today, into the whole business of growing-up which is the kind of family responsibility of UNICEF; in other words, they have grandchildren. Generations have grown up and the first children of UNICEF have had children and they have children. That is the commitment we have.

As my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker said in his magnificent speech, we live in a world of great suffering and privation. In many parts we may be a long way short of famine and starvation, but we have malnutrition the world over; that is, children are not only being deprived of a square meal, but in many areas, including Bangladesh, no child goes to bed at night with a full belly, and no child in many places knows what it is to have a meal adequate for wellbeing.

The tragedy we are facing every hour of the day is that we are confronted now, and have been for some years, with a generation of people afflicted by our neglect—I do not mean the gross neglect of saying, "Don't worry about it"—by the deficiencies of our own services to those countries, including the deficiencies of the nature of our famine relief. We are seeing in some countries of the world millions of children (I think about 70 million) who are crippled mentally, physically and psychologically by the nutritional deficiencies of our relief supplies.

We talk eloquently about investment in human resources and we say that if we invest properly in human resources today we will get a full return in material resources. But I fear that in the circumstances of which I speak the investment in human resources will not provide human assets; they will be liabilities causing social problems. We must look again—in fact, we are doing so and have been looking at this matter—at the whole nature of the relief problem. That brings me to Lord Gore-Booth's point about the need to recognise (though I must tell my noble friend that in United Nations circles it was recognised certainly 20 years ago) that the one sure way to produce results from anything being done, including the big material developments, is by encouraging the people to do it themselves. I believe we did a great deal of harm, and I say this advisedly, in our well-meant and well-intentioned interventions in the Third World by going in and doing it for them—imposing our ideas—when we should have been encouraging them to do it for themselves.

Now, in the principles of the WHO and UNICEF itself, we are back among the people. We are back in the villages again; we are back giving them the resources which will make it possible for them to do something about their problems in their own way, provided we can supply the back-up. But there is an education problem here, and, as my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker pointed out, the tragedy of education is stark. When we are talking about the shared knowledge and skills we see that there is a considerable handicap if in the first place, in terms of clinical manifestations, there are mentally handicapped products of our good intentions, while on the other hand they cannot be educated because there are no schools, or because they do not have enough food, or the state of their health is such that they cannot take advantage of education. This is a matter which is now paramount.

My experience with UNICEF, Save the Children Fund, War on Want, Oxfam and other organisations, with which I have been associated both here and in the field, shows me—as has been properly said here—that much that we want to do is better done by voluntary movements not relying simply on Government re sources expressed in terms of money, but expressed in terms of dedication to what is being undertaken. Here I want to support the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth. I have seen how, in the circumstances of improvisation, living, working and identifying with the people, you in fact help them to identify with others. Again, in the United Nations' picture there is what I call the relay race in which one brings up people to a certain standard in one country, or perhaps one reinforces their standard sufficiently for them to lend people to go elsewhere and help. Such people are much nearer to those whom they are to help than would be those who come out of a more sophisticated society. Well, this is—


My Lords, I should like to make a point in order to be fair. The noble Lord has been extremely kind, and I am most grateful to him. In fairness to Governments, it needs saying that there is a period at the beginning when probably the overseas country has to do more than it wants to, and then it gradually hands over.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that intervention; it clarifies what I was trying to say. I was about to consider what would be the situation if there were the resources within Britain for greater support not only for UNICEF and for the World Health Organisation, but for all the overseas development, which I may say at the moment is running at a fairly generous level. But the point I was trying to make is that with the Government underpinning I have mentioned, we hope eventually to see a propagating of ideas of the right kind by depending on the people to develop in their own idiom the nature of their own requirements. In the 30 years that UNICEF has existed we have seen generations grow up with all the problems in the developing countries that we have been talking about in terms of our own country—above all, problems of delinquency, and so forth. But poverty breeds conditions in which there is no exemplar existing to persuade children who are neglected, or who are in circumstances where rural life has broken up and they have drifted into the towns and have become the surplus population of the urban development. One then sees exactly the same picture. We must have a social imagination not only to deal with child problems within our own country, but one which will transcend our own needs and which will make a very substantial financial, as well as imaginative, contribution to the problems of the world at large.

6.54 p.m.


My Lords, what a very excellent thing my noble friend Lady Faithful has done, not only in introducing this important subject at this very apposite moment, but in introducing it with such startling clarity and brevity, in which she has been followed to an extent almost unique in the annals of this House by those who have spoken after her; and not merely by the three maiden speakers who have made very workmanlike and welcome introductions to their own careers in this Chamber.

Since my own childhood the perception that we have of this world has changed in one remarkable sense, because since those days we have all, thanks to television, gone out into space, circumnavigated this globe, looked down at it from every side, photographed it, and summed it up. Thus, when I was a child and I said, "the whole world", or referred to the human race, I meant in fact an abstract concept which stretched beyond the horizon of possible conception. But when I say now, and when many of us say, that in discussing children we are talking about the future of the human race, I am using an idea which we can all of us grasp. That means that in a real sense for the first time we are all members one of another, and that is not true merely of poets, saints and novelists. Therefore, in asking your Lordships to consider a tiny segment of the child population of this world—one so distant that it takes the very sunrise seven hours to get from their home to ours—I am in fact asking your Lordships to consider your neighbours.

Since man can remember Indo-China has been riven by strife, and recently it has in fact been tarnished by unmentionable atrocities committed in the name of ideologies which seek to eat up the diminishing freedoms of the world. In Cambodia about 2 million out of a population of 7 million have died in the last 10 years, half of them in warfare, and half of them in political purges. From this seething and venomous cockpit, and its neighbouring Laos and Vietnam, have escaped a steady, a growing, and an entirely tragic stream of refugees.

I shall be asking your Lordships to consider the whole question of refugees in a larger context on this day week, and if any of your Lordships feel able to contribute to the subject, I shall be most grateful. But at the moment it is about the children that we are talking, and I want to talk about those who are caught up uncomprehendingly in the tides which have engulfed their families. Often they have witnessed appalling atrocities, undergone extreme dangers, and borne great hardship on the way to safety; and I do not refer only to those who travel by sea. Great as our compassion must be, extreme as their predicament and danger is, immediate as their need of rescue has been proved to be, and despite the large numbers that have descended on the coasts of Malaysia and the harbour of Hong Kong, none the less this is a small fraction of the problem of Indo-Chinese refugees.

When they eventually reach sanctuary they are instantly a burden to the country in which they have arrived. They have to be fed, clothed, housed, and very often cured of malaria, malnutrition, and simple nervous exhaustion, as well as countless other ills. I shall not dwell upon the political and administrative aspects—I will be going into those next week—but I wish to commend to your Lordships the work of one or two British voluntary organisations that are particularly concerned with young people and children, and to suggest that they are showing a humane and admirable courage which we ought to admire and support, and which shines in a dark world as a precious light.

The most remarkable of these organisations in my view—it is invidious to choose an order, but I must speak of those which I know—is a very small concern, which I mentioned once before in this House, called Project Vietnam Orphans. It was born of a chance remark in a vicarage sitting room some years ago, and now supports six young volunteers working full-time, with one part-time assistant, in two camps in Thailand. One camp is at Aranya Prathet, the other at Surin. Aranya Prathet, on the Cambodian border, I visited 15 months ago. Things have changed a little there, but I should like to describe briefly what I saw and what I deduce. It had been built inside a high-wire compound for a population of 4,000. There were 7,000 inhabitants in it when I was there. The latrines had been constructed for the original population and were, almost without exception, not in working order. The area around them was foul beyond description. The drainage was surface drainage, and, although the water was in danger of running out at that time, in the wet season it did not suffice to prevent the roads from becoming oceans of mud. My Lords, 47 per cent., as I recall, of the camp population was malarial at the time I was there, but that was not the main ill; the main ill was malnutrition.

These young volunteers had worked every day to combat both the demoralisation and the threat to health, to which, of course, the young people were the most exposed. They had organised, and are still running, a system for the distribution of reconstituted liquid milk by teams of distributors, valuably drawn, as the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, has said, from the refugees themselves. My Lords, 1,900 children got a mug of this very valuable supplement to their diet every day. Each member of the team of British volunteers went with a different team of distributors each day, so every family was visited and quietly checked for signs of distress and disease, for referral, every other day.

They also provide 120 under-nourished children between the ages of one and six with a daily bowl of high-protein and vitamin-supplemented soup; 100 babies whose mothers cannot breastfeed them get extra milk and cereal protein; mothers are given instruction in hygiene, and are given weight charts; and newly-born children are provided with clothes, soap and mosquito nets. These people also run play groups for 400 pre-school-age children, and English and French classes for both children and adults. Here, again, they are assisted by the refugees. They do a lot else besides for the adult refugees, and I will not go on about it this week because I shall be going on about it next week; but your Lordships will realise that, if you help parents, you in fact help the children as well, so this is relevant to what we are saying.

Aid, I believe, has been increased since, and conditions improved, though the population has gone up by a further 500, despite of resettlement in third countries of many of the inmates who were there when I was. Those people have left tin, sacking and wood cubicles, very small, to start new lives in welcoming countries. At this point I should like to say that, whatever lessons we may draw today about the need for more money, laws and regulations to solve the world's problems, one thing is quite clear and much more important, to my view. It is the generous, dedicated and unselfish spirit of young people like these that is finally going to lick problems that will never be solved by all the money in the world and all the laws in every Statute Book in it.

But, of course, money is needed, my Lords, to buy the materials; and it is needed by other organisations, such as the Save the Children Fund, who have six medical teams operating in eight camps in Thailand. They are supported on a pound for pound basis by the Overseas Development Ministry, who also support other efforts in Cambodia. The Ministry has given £127,000, I understand, to voluntary agencies on this basis in Thailand alone, and I thoroughly commend this way of channelling aid. First, it is easier to get money from the public if they know that every pound they give will be matched; secondly, it is spent by people on the ground, who can see that it is effectively used and know how to use it; and, thirdly, as they are in effect spending their own money, they are going to do it carefully anyway. I was delighted to learn that the Prime Minister last week told the executive committee of the International Year of the Child that they would use this method of supporting children's projects in the Third World provided they were approved by the IYC. I think that is very good news indeed.

The third organisation I should like briefly to mention is the Ockenden Venture. Most of your Lordships will know of the admirable work they are doing in taking responsibility for refugees arriving in this country and for getting them settled in homes and in society. They now plan an education and training scheme for young refugees in Thailand that will draw in the local population also, and so help to relieve the tension between refugees in the camps and the local community. When you remember that the local community is often living below the poverty line, and in some cases is working enormously hard every daylight hour of every day merely to be able to give a meal to their family on most days of most weeks, and that they see the refugees sustained, without work, the other side of the wire, you can see that there is a dangerous political problem there.

My Lords, the world is a small place, and when I said so I implied that we are able to know it and to know its problems. But those implications were wrong in one sense, and I wonder how many of your Lordships knew, for instance (I did not know until recently) that over and above all the refugees I have spoken of so far, the 205,000 in South-East Asia, there are a further 150,000 Khmers who have fled to Vietnam from Cambodia since 1977, of which approximately 70 per cent. are children under the age of 15. That puts a new perspective on the problem, and a new obligation on us to support the United Nations Human Rights Commission, which at present has programmes running for them to the value of 126,000 dollars. I must not go on too long, but I think nobody that I have heard has referred yet to a publication called The Refugee Child. It is published jointly by the UNHRC and the International Year of the Child, and it contains lists of 27 projects directed directly to refugee children. It is an invaluable thing, and I will not further plead their cause.

My Lords, in dealing with child refugees we are dealing with young people who have suffered injuries which go too deep to be clearly seen and will last, I think, beyond absolute cure for the whole of their lives. So many of them have seen their parents, brothers or sisters humiliated, brutally treated or actually killed. So many of them have seen what they thought was the centre of the universe and the source of all security in their lives swept away or driven from them—if they are lucky, able to drag the children with them to safety. My Lords, the emotional and mental shock that this provides does, as noble Lords have already said, add another dimension to the problem, and one which means that merely providing for them in the camps and hoping to assist in sending them to new countries is not enough. I think we have to look to see what we can do.

Let us remember, then, as we weigh up what it is that we owe, that these extra, hidden burdens add to the balance, and let us take them into account when we measure what the extent of our own generosity ought to be. When we decide that measure, I hope it will include living room for as many of those children as our own excellent voluntary agencies are able to place in our own country, and that that process will be speeded up wherever possible, because there is nothing more demoralising than sitting inside what is really a prison camp, however humanely it is run, wondering when your life is going to begin. Unsettled as our country may seem to us now, it is a paradise of calm and of wealth compared to what these poor mites have had to come through. Let us give them the warmest welcome we can.

7.9 p.m.

The Countess of LOUDOUN

My Lords, I am President of the Burton-on-Trent Branch of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and I should like to say a few words about two groups of children, those under the care of this Society and the mentally-handicapped children in subnormality hospitals. In this International Year of the Child, it is a sad and immensely sobering exercise to calculate the unbelievable total of over 9 million children who have been protected by the NSPCC since its inception in 1884. The latest figures show that in just 12 months the society helped no fewer than 58,000 children.

In focusing public attention on the needs of children in this Year of the Child, there is an urgent need to extend the Society's network of special units for the treatment of battered children. At the moment, these units exist only in Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northamptonshire and Coventry. The special units maintain central registers to help in the early detection of non-accidental injuries and in monitoring the progress and safety of an abused child. The Society has been greatly encouraged by the reduction in the physical and emotional damage to children which has been brought about by the work of these units. But there is a need to extend the network and this will only be possible if adequate grants from statutory funds are made available to meet the costs.

The Society's reliance on voluntary income to fund its work is due in no small measure to the accident of history which determined that it should not become involved in children's residential work. Because it is committed to the protection of the child in his own home, and because of the difficulty of measuring the value of time given to any case reported to the Society, there is no agreement as to the value to the Social Services department of a local authority of having a NSPCC worker in its area. The lack of this has led to a situation where funds from local authorities for the work of the Society's inspectorate are sufficient to meet operational costs for about one week in every year.

The Society has always had difficulty in trying to discover the children who need its help. Its work is greatly inhibited when those who know of a child's distress prefer to remain silent in the mistaken belief that to speak out will lay them open to legal action should their fears for the child prove to be unfounded. So the Society was very relieved when this House ruled that it cannot be forced to break its promise of confidentiality for people who report cases of suspected child abuse. This important judgment may help to overcome some of the reluctance to report suspected cases and enable the Society to do what is its prime task and prevent cruelty before it starts, so that every child will be safer in its own home.

These children are being helped to remain in their own homes; but now I turn to the plight of the mentally-handicapped children not in their homes but in sub-normality hospitals. Despite quite a sharp drop over the last decade in the number of young children admitted to mental-handicap hospitals, there are still about 5,000 children living in these hospitals today. The present situation is not fair to these children, their parents and families or to the staff caring for them. The Government provide homes for children unable to live in their own homes—those "in care" for example—so why should the mentally-handicapped children in hosiptals not have the same advantages, a chance of a real home with the normal patterns of social life which would help them grow up to share in their own community? If the Government would make it mandatory on each local authority to provide for each mentally-handicapped child from their own area now in a mental-handicap hospital, within their normal range of provision for children not able to live with their own families, the children's wards could close.

Successive Governments have reaffirmed the priority which should be given to mentally-handicapped children; but as it has not as yet been made mandatory on local authorities to provide the care needed, local authorities are free to do as they themselves dictate—and that, too often, means that they do nothing. I realise that the very severely-handicapped, both physically and mentally, need more than a home; but many are being successfully fostered and many are living in ordinary children's homes. Others are living in special children's homes, in ordinary houses or at special residential schools.

My Lords, we are never going to have enough specialists to run our normal community services and provide the same standards in mental-handicap hospitals. The only way these children will have access to all the help they need is to bring them out of hospital into a caring community. Well, here is another plate asking for more. So many problems can be solved, apparently, by release of funds. I have heard it said that one of the aims of the International Year of the Child is to make children happy, but we cannot provide happiness by legislation. Even the best of parents cannot always provide it for their own children. I think, in the case of children who are handicapped or in danger, we have no choice but to concern ourselves with their immediate needs; but in the case of normal children, "in care" for various reasons, the happiness of the child should be secondary to encouraging growth of sturdy independence and good citizenship.

7.17 p.m.


My Lords, I am not one of those who think that to designate "Years" as being particularly in favour of one thing or another is a bad thing. I think that it definitely helps to concentrate the mind, particular in areas where there is a great deal of general goodwill; but one needs to turn one's mind to the particular problems involved. It is that function of concentrating the mind which this debate is having in this House, concentrating the minds of us, of the Government and of the civil servants in the Departments concerned. For that reason, we must be more than conventionally grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, for starting the debate—as also for all the work that so clearly she is doing for children. We know how much she has done in her life; but the attitude which she has taken since she came to your Lordships' House in getting hold of the people who have goodwill towards children, both here and in another place, and getting them to meet together and become more organised is one which I know will have a lasting effect and will have been helped by the fact that in the International Year of the Child it is right that we should be studying some of the problems and thinking of some of the solutions.

Among the suggestions for concentrating our minds, another that we might take seriously is one which has been mentioned in this House in this debate. I must apologise for having missed the intermediate speeches (although I heard the earlier ones) owing to a couple of unavoidable engagements. But the suggestion which I know has been put to a number of noble Lords by Lady Lovell-Davis is that the Government should be asked to produce three-yearly reports, putting together the responsibilities of the various Government Departments in one, so that we can look at and, if necessary, debate the progress which is being made in all fields.

My Lords, there are all sorts of things that we could discuss today and I should be tempted to discuss a number of them. Education is something in which, as your Lordships know, I have been interested over a long period of time Again, my environmental interests mean that I think that we ought to be considering—and I should like to consider in depth—the whole environment in which our children are being brought up: the situation in some of our inner cities; and what is to be the future of the town child as our cities seem to get worse and worse in their environment, despite all efforts.

But the one subject on which I am going to speak briefly is the question of money; because I agree with the noble Countess, the Countess of Loudoun, that in fact money can do a great deal of good; and it is in this field of children that very often a small amount of money goes a long way. As one of my tasks in life, I am working professionally for a body called "Make Children Happy", the posters for which some of your Lordships will undoubtedly have seen. The object is to try to extend the amount of money available for charities and children's work by tapping in a more professional way the whole commercial field; not in any way by asking for money which is already going to other charities as donations, but by earning more. Therefore, we are particularly aware of how much a little extra can do.

I have a particular point that I should like to put to the noble Lord who will reply to the debate. I apologise very humbly for the fact that I have not given him advance warning of this. Although he may be sceptical, there were reasons why I was unable to do so, partly, I confess, because I did not receive the brief on this particular point until very recently. It comes as part of the campaign which the Child Poverty Action Group have so rightly and so successfully been fighting over the past few years. We must pay a considerable tribute to the changes in policy on child allowances, and to the amount produced which this Government have produced over the past year, and are producing. But there is still more than can be done.

It is in fact the family with small children which over the past 10 or 20 years has suffered most under inflation and under the burden of taxation and national insurance. The tax take on a single person on two-thirds average earnings has increased by 54 per cent. over the years since 1964–65. For a married couple with the same level of earnings, the tax take has increased by 76 per cent., as opposed to 54 per cent., while, for a married couple with two children, the tax bill rose by 186 per cent. This transfer of burdens from the childless to the families with children is something which really must be reversed. In the category of households with children, tax has increased even more for the poorer families than it has for the better-off ones. That is just a generalisation and no doubt it is a matter which the Government will be considering and which we should be right to keep on asking them to consider.

The particular point I wish to ask the Government about is really almost an accident which has happened. The introduction of child benefits, and the consequent getting rid of the child allowances for income tax, while in some ways a very good thing, obviously has taken the money which will be going to families to support children out of the allowance system. In the last Finance Act, that allowance system was in fact indexed by an Amendment in another place, so that unless the Chancellor of the Exchequer decides not to do so, all personal allowances will in future be indexed according to the cost of living. Taking the child allowances out and turning them into child benefits has turned them into an unindexed fund of money going to families. It will be the only allowance which is not indexed. Obviously, this could have a very retrogressive effect over a period of time particularly in a period of inflation. The Government might find themselves—we might all find ourselves—back in a worse position than we were before the Government took this extremely good and courageous action last year.

Therefore, what I am really asking the Government is: what are they going to do about this? Do they intend to index the child benefits in the same way as the tax allowances would have been indexed had they stayed in that particular category? With that very specific and, I hope, slightly helpful suggestion, that this might be a contribution which in this year the Government might make to stop things slipping backwards, I should like once again to thank the noble Baroness for this debate, and for all that we are going to learn from it and from the contributions of individual noble Lords, including the extremely important, useful and helpful speeches by our maiden speakers.

7.26 p.m.


My Lords, preparation for parenthood is one of the five main themes of this International Year of the Child and it has already been referred to by several noble Lords. I wish to draw attention to some of the demographic developments of the past 30 years which have affected the institution of marriage and the lives of children, and which must be taken into account in this area when shaping attitudes and policies concerning children.

There has been a dramatic swing to higher probabilities of marriage in the past 30 years, so that today in the age groups in which nearly all marriages occur only 6 per cent. of women and 9 per cent. of men are unmarried. Fewer than 30 years ago, some 16 per cent. of such women were unmarried. Not only does a startlingly high proportion of the population marry but a significant section of it does so early in life. Since the end of Hitler's war, the proportion of brides marrying in their 'teens has doubled and stands today at almost one-third. Only 10 per cent. of bridegrooms are under 20 but that proportion has increased four-fold in the same period. Although the Family Law Reform Act reinforced the popularity of marriage among youngsters in 1969 by lowering the age of majority, the proportions of teenage brides and grooms have now flattened out. However, no one can yet tell whether this will herald a marked trend towards later marriage.

There is little information about the characteristics of these couples and their families. We know that teenage brides nearly always marry manual workers and that they are more likely than their older contemporaries to be pregnant at the time of their marriage. Indeed, 10 years ago this was the case with nearly 40 per cent. of them; but by 1973 there were significantly fewer because more than half of them were taking the pill. We know, too, that women marrying under the age of 20 tend to have their children earlier on in their marriage than happens with older wives, and that there is a greater likelihood that their completed family size will be larger than the average. Moreover, there is a very much greater risk of divorce for any duration of marriage in which the bride was under 20. If the groom was also under 20, the risk of breakdown is very high indeed.

Accordingly, the great increase in teen-age marriage has been associated with high rates of breakdown and has contributed disproportionately to the steep increase in the number of one-parent families and to the distressingly disadvantage lives of the many children involved. On the other hand, it may be pointed out that the highest remarriage rates among the divorced population—and they are very high—occur among the youngest age groups. Even so, there is no statistical data to show what the chances are that mothers of different ages with dependant children will be able to marry again and hence to bring them up on a new two-parent family.

In addition to these significantly higher rates of recorded breakdown, mothers under the age of 20 share with those over the age of 35 a heavily disproportionate experience of having illegitimate children and abortions. These statistics underline the recommendation of the Finer Committee that: the concept of the best years for child-bearing should be examined by those responsible for family planning services, with reference to the desirability on medical, psychological, social and economic grounds, of incorporating specific advice about training for pregnancy into courses in health and social education directed to the young". The committee further said: We hope to enable people to choose not only how many babies to have but when best to have them". In her notable maiden speech, my noble friend Lady Lockwood emphasised similarly the importance of training boys and girls about the transformations which have taken place in the last 30 years in their still too-often conflicting roles within the family and in the labour market. This silent social revolution in marriage habits which I have been describing has attracted little study, despite, as I think, its great importance. We do not know what influences have drawn working-class girls in growing numbers into marriage during the last generation. We might speculate perhaps that they may feel socially rejected within the educational system; that they may look with distaste upon a labour market which offers them the least skilled and worst trade jobs in the whole community; that they may desire to escape from parental restraints and hence flock into marriage as refugees from narrow lives and bleak prospects.

I do not know what the explanation may be, and speculation would not be helpful. Nevertheless we know enough to make us at least sceptical about two assertions which are becoming part of the conventional wisdom. The first argues from the cumulative removal of restraints both of custom and of law upon certain forms of sexual satisfaction and behaviour and upon their public portrayal to an assumption of widespread sexual promiscuity in a permissive society, especially among the young.

It has never been easier to secure the sexual advantages of marriage without troubling to enter the institution: yet there is little evidence of sexual permissiveness either in the recent behaviour of the young or in the Registrar-General's marriage statistics. Such surveys as we have suggest that even the young girls who are pregnant when they enter marriage become pregnant because they intended to marry and are thus conforming to a European marriage habit which has persisted over many centuries. Of course, some are promiscuous, but many boys and girls pair off very young nowadays and they seem to me to behave much more in accordance with mid-Victorian standards than ever the Victorians did.

Why, then, should their marriages have an exceptionally high rate of breakdown? Here we come to the second assertion about which I am sceptical; namely, that young marriages often break up because the spouses are immature and irresponsible. There is a very different possible explanation. We all think that young people—indeed, we all think that everybody—should start married life in a home of their own. Unhappily, married teenagers have a worse access to housing than any other section of the population. Many of them have to share accommodation and to start their families in the most testing and difficult of circumstances, where the realities of bad housing mock the promises of welfare.

I do not believe that the young are less able than their elders to make a sensible choice of a spouse. Marriage is, as John Stuart Mill observed: a romantic lottery, and whoever is in a slate of mind to calculate the chances calmly and value them correctly is not at all likely to purchase a ticket. Those who marry after taking great pains about the matter generally do but buy their disappointment dearer". Finally, my Lords, I join with other contributors to this debate in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, both for her initiative and for her elegant and succinct introduction.

7.36 p.m.


My Lords, may I first thank my noble friend Lady Faithfull for putting down this Motion today. She and I are very old friends from Oxford days, when she was a formidably powerful officer of the City Council and I was a humble, though noisy, member of the City Education Committee. I remember one tremendous row about alarm clocks for enuretics. I am afraid your Lordships are unfortunate tonight, as one professor follows another: the professor who has just sat down, the noble Lord, Lord McGregor of Durris, wrote what is undoubtedly the most informed and readable study of marriage and divorce which has been published in this country. I think his wise words will certainly commend themselves to this House and to those who read Hansard tomorrow.

In the past quarter of a century I have travelled extensively in the Third World and in the past year I have visited no fewer than 11 developing countries. The condition of the children there is, of course, frequently appalling. I had occasion to reflect when I was in Bangladesh this last time that some of the hungry babies I saw might just be the grandchildren of the hungry adolescents whom I saw there 25 years ago. In that time the position of the child in Bengal has, if anything, worsened.

There are parts of the Third World where there has been a real improvement in the condition of children—India is a good example—but, generally speaking, the problems are enormous. There are two solutions which go hand in hand. The first is economic development—in other words, to try to raise the standard of living—and the second is population limitation. Where living standards rise, there is inevitably a rise in the rate of population growth as infant mortality drops, but then, as we have seen in Korea and Japan, there is a dramatic fall in the birth rate.

However, it is not principally about the Third World that I want to speak tonight, though it seemed to me important to make this point because this is the International Year of the Child. I want to talk about our own children here in Britain. In my own view, it is a basic scandal that so many of them are still being brought up in conditions of great material deprivation. I will not use the word "poverty" because I think that word darkens counsel. Who can talk of poverty today in Britain if they have seen what life is really like in Bangladesh?—because all our children, whatever the condition of their homes do have the right and opportunity to, for example, free and adequate educational and medical services. Nevertheless, the fact remains that a great many of our children grow up in families which are really hard up. I want to put two questions tonight. First, how many children live in these really deprived conditions; and, secondly, what, if anything, can be done about it?

According to my friend Frank Field—I am delighted to see that he has been chosen to succeed Mr. Dell as the Labour candidate for Birkenhead; I suppose it is one of the few seats that might survive the flood—there are in this country about 1½ million children under the age of 16 who live in families which are at or below supplementary benefit level. I shall not blame Frank Field for these figures, because they are my own calculations. Not all those 1½ million children are permanently in that condition; people obviously fall into poverty and come out again. But many of the people are permanently really hard-up, and about half of the 10 per cent. of the population of whom we are speaking probably spend virtually their entire childhood in families that are really hard-up.

I need hardly say that the studies summarised in Social Trends No. 9—a really excellent publication—suggest that these children come from homes which also have the other serious problems, notably poor housing and delinquency, to which the noble Lord, Lord McGregor of Durris has just referred. If you look at the tables in Social Trends, some of them are almost incredible. Eight per cent. of the boys aged 14 to 16 have been convicted of serious crimes. I do not at all believe that there is a direct link between material deprivation and delinquency, either one way or the other, but there is an association. Moreover, this association of deprivation is associated not only with single-parent families, about whom we hear so much, but also with two-parent families where one of the parents is in full-time work. The hardship of this half-million or so children is really a problem of low wages, both for single-parent families and for two-parent families.

Contrary to popular impression—and I have studied the figures—the main source of the problem is not large families, which is frequently asserted to be the case. It just is not the case. I am very strongly in favour of responsible family limitation. I am a vice-president of the Family Planning Association and I think that we do the most excellent work. The message about family limitation has got across to the general public. There are not very many large families in Britain today. It is interesting to discover how rapidly family building habits have changed during the course of the last generation. The bulk of children who come from really deprived material backgrounds come from families with one or two children and with a low earned income.

What can be done about this number of children?—and let me remind your Lordships that it is about 1½ million at any point of time, and about half a million pretty steadily, year in and year out, who live at or below supplementary benefit levels? I should like to pay a heartfelt tribute to the work of the Supplementary Benefits Commission and to its chairman, Professor David Donnison, for the way in which they cope with these terrible problems, because they have to cope with them within the context of the social policy which is legislated by Parliament, which is what I want to touch on today. The Commission gave evidence on this and has put forward its views, and, substantially, has said absolutely sensibly what ought to be done.

There is one way to tackle this problem of the deprived child. It is a way that I am glad to say both the Government and the Opposition have followed; that is, to raise child benefits. Under Mrs. Castle's Act on child benefits, there has been a massive increase in child benefits—it is 30 years too late, but I suppose it is better late than never—and we are at last following our European partners in a proper system of child benefits. All tribute is due to those who have mothered and fathered this scheme, not least to Barbara Castle and Patrick Jenkin. By moving our benefits up to the European level, many of these means-tested benefits, which people, quite rightly, so dislike, and which are so frequently not taken up, can be abolished. This is the really hard point of what I want to say tonight. At present prices, this would require a rise to a benefit of something like £10 or so week.

Obviously, this is a big commitment. It would have to go with the long overdue reform of our whole tax structure, to which I am delighted to say the Opposition, at least, is very deeply committed. Above all, it would have to go with a restoration of our economic conditions to something like that of our European partners. But that is another story. The truth of the matter is that we can raise child benefit and eliminate the material deprivation of the 1½ million of our own children, and help the 2 billion or so children in the Third World only if we do something about the economy, and that is for another debate. May I say how much I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, about the need to index child benefits in order to keep up with our inflation.

Before I sit down, there are two other points that I want to make about things which we can do here and now, short of raising child benefits to £10 a week at present prices, which ought to be the prime aim of our social policy as the economy is restored. As your Lordships will know from my contributions to other debates, I am very reluctant to advocate anything that raises public expenditure at this or any other time, and what I want to talk about for the next couple of minutes will not increase public expenditure. There are two very simple steps which could be taken and which would not increase public expenditure, and in one case might decrease it and benefit children at the same time.

The first point is this. Quite a while ago, we debated the Court Report on Child Health and it was an absolutely splendid State paper. Needless to say, the other place has never debated it and shows no sign of doing so, and, needless to say, the Government have done scarcely anything about it, which is par for the course with most immediate Government inquiries. But one recommendation the committee made was of great importance. It was that every three years, the three great Government Departments concerned with children—the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Health and Social Security and the Home Office—should report on the present state of the child population. The children fall between those three Departments. There is no Department of Children; they fall into the orbit of those three big Departments.

If there was such a report every three years—a kind of social audit or a report on the condition of children derived from the data already existing in those three Departments—it would focus the mind of the country, and, not least, the mind of Members of Parliament, to a very great degree. It is a very important recommendation of the Court Report. I do not think it would cost anything, because the data is already collected by these three Departments, and the Department of Education and Science, in particular, has an excellent statistical department. It is just a question of bringing things together and focusing them.

The other point I want to make might initially cause a small rise in expenditure but in the long run it would save a considerable amount of money; that is, the implementation of the latter part of the 1975 Act. I refer to the whole question of fostering. When this debate was in prospect, I received a number of letters about the whole question of foster children. We would all agree that it is infinitely preferable for any child or family of children to be put into fostering rather than into children's institutions, first, for obvious psychological and social reasons, and, secondly, because it must be cheaper to have children living with families than to have them in institutions, with all the trade union regulations and so on about paying people, and with the fire regulations and all the rest of it. Common sense tells us that this must be very much cheaper.

However, it looks as though implementing the last half of the 1975 Act will, at the point of transition, raise public expenditure in the short-term, even if there are long-term benefits. We do not want to be pennywise and pound foolish. I am glad that the daughter of a very distinguished Member of your Lordships' House who is present tonight—I shall not embarrass him by naming him—has a family of five children whom she is fostering at the present time. It is something that a lot of people do, and from which they get a great deal of benefit for themselves and the children, and I have no doubt at all that just by implementing this Act, which has been passed by Parliament, we should make a substantial long-term contribution, not only to the health and happiness of a particularly unhappy section of the child population, but to containing public expenditure, which is something that we would all be in favour of. With that, I should like once more to thank the noble Baroness for allowing us to debate this matter today.

7.50 p.m.


My Lords, may I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, for having introduced, so admirably and so shortly, an enormous subject, about which there is a great deal to say. Anything, therefore, that I say at this time in the evening must not have been said before. The only reason that I put down my name to speak in today's debate was because I thought that conceivably I might ask a question. It is not a question which can be answered tonight. Nevertheless, it is an important question to be asked in the International Year of the Child, and it is this: what is a child? Most people would say that a child is a child until it reaches a certain age, but we might differ as to whether a child is a child until the age of 21, or 18, or 15.

As many noble Lords have said, every child is different. To my mind, Children's Year, like Women's Year, would have been a better name than "International Year of the Child". My point is, when does a child become a child? It is not a child if it is too old. Is it not a child when it is too young? I am thinking of children before they are born. I shall not labour this very difficult point, because it has been discussed many times in your Lordships' House. The document from which the noble Baroness quoted mentions that children have 10 rights; but no mention is made of the right to life. However, the third paragraph of the preamble states: A child, by reason of its physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate protection before as well as after birth". Clearly, therefore, "child" may mean something which has not yet been born; but at what stage it becomes a child we do not know.

It seems to me that this is one of the most important questions that this century has to deal with. I believe that in future children before birth are going to be regarded as a neglected species, rather like factory children in the nineteenth century. Very few noble Lords can now conceive of many objections being made—as they were, I am afraid, in your Lordship's House—to children not working a 14-hour day when they were under the age of seven. The reason was that only a few people had seen these children working those hours and it took a very long time to regard them as human beings. It will take a long time before children before birth are regarded as human beings. This is one of the points that should be thought of very seriously in the International Year of the Child.

It seems to me that a child before birth has the worst of all possible worlds. It can inherit various rights—the right to a title, the right to a fortune, or the right to a washing machine—but it cannot get them until it is born. To that extent, it does not inherit the right to life. I remember the late Sir Alan Herbert talking about the marriage laws, which he did a good deal to improve, and he produced a rather moving ballad about a lady who was not legally married because she was married after three o'clock. If I remember correctly, the refrain went: Nor widow, maid, nor wife am I Nor ever hope to be, For I was wed, the Bishop said, Considerably after three". If I were still a foetus—which some of your Lordships may think that I still am—I should be inclined to say: Not vegetable, animal, mineral I, I have no rights on earth, For I was dead, the surgeon said, Considerably prior to birth". I do not believe that when we look into it—as gynaecologists can, knowing what they are doing—we can feel that the present number of children who are being killed before they have a chance to compete in the race of life is justified. Certainly, I shall not go into the question of when abortion is justified and when it is not. We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, some excellent views about delinquent children, with all of which I entirely agree. The opposite to a delinquent child would be an innocent child, and the nearest approach to an innocent child is something as innocent as a babe unborn. We have heard about handicapped children. I am old-fashioned enough to think that to be killed without one's own permission, or without having done anything, apparently, to deserve it, is a serious handicap.

I put forward those points for your Lordships' consideration during the International Year of the Child, because I think that lawyers, doctors and others who are concerned with the problem are thoroughly dissatisfied with the legal status of children before birth. With those words, once again may I thank the noble Baroness for having put before the House such a clear statement. I hope that she will forgive me for raising only this one point, but I believe that it is one which has not yet been raised.

7.58 p.m.

Baroness VICKERS

My Lords, first may I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, for having initiated this debate. When she put down her Motion I told her that I was allergic to international years. My opinion is that up to the present so few of them have done any active work—or, if they have done any active work during their particular year, it has been forgotten and dropped. However, as a result of the excellent speech with which the noble Baroness opened the debate, I have a feeling that we shall take more than one year to consider this great problem. Perhaps I may support what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley: that we should have a three-year programme. One can do so little in a year. It will be finished almost before anything concrete has been done. Therefore, may I suggest that we should consider a longer period programme.

May I pay tribute to Mr. Henry Labouisse who is the Director-General of UNICEF. He has made it one of the most efficient of the United Nations agencies. He has put his heart into UNICEF and has worked out a first-class organisation. That is another reason why I am supporting the International Year of the Child.

What causes difficulty in the United Kingdom is that we have so many charities. In a recent article in the Municipal Review, Dr. Mia Pringle, the Director of the National Children's Bureau, hoped that the International Year of the Child would promote greater co-operation between voluntary and statutory organisations and services. She said this with the object of getting better co-ordination and utilisation of existing resources and also improving the identification of unmet needs. Tonight, noble Lords have put forward quite a number of these unmet needs.

May I endorse what was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Barrington. He is the only person so far who has touched on the question of child labour. It is a fact that there are 45 million children under the age of 14 who are working. What is so sad is that only eight countries have ratified the ILO Convention on the minimum age for admission to employment. Countries such as Brazil have over 2.9 million children under the age of 15 who are working. Haiti has 17 per cent. And strange to say, in 1971, 800,000 children were working on the land in the USA. According to the anti-slavery report, their ages ranged from four to 12 years of age. Therefore, we are grateful to the noble Viscount for having made this point.

The noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, may be quite pleased with the information which I am going to mention now. The noble Lord spoke about books and education—children helping children. A most excellent book has just been produced, called Child to Child. It is simple, and contains excellent diagrams which are capable of being understood by children. One version of the book is intended for children in India; the illustrations are for Indian children. However, it is produced in other languages. If noble Lords would like, I shall be pleased to put a copy in the Library for them to study. We are indebted to Dr. David Morley of the tropical health unit of the Institute of Child Health, which now has co-operation with 14 different countries and people come from both rural and urban areas. This book is couched in very simple language and I think it will be intensely helpful in the future. Four out of five of the world's children are in developing countries and there are 23 times as many episodes of illness among children in their second year in the underdeveloped countries as there are in the industrial countries. Of course the underdeveloped countries have very few doctors and para-medical workers, and in comparison they have very few people with knowledge of health matters.

I now want to discuss blindness. In July last year a conference was opened at Oxford by the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel. This was the first conference of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, and I am glad to say that the director of the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind has been made the first president of this organisation. The main question that was discussed was that of blinding malnutrition. There are two very bad ways in which the eyes are attacked: xerophthalmia which is the initial stage and keratomalacia which is the eventual blinding form. It was stated by the FAO that 300,000 infants are blinded annually through blinding malnutrition. In India, for example, 90,000 are going blind annually, and approximately 42,000 remain alive but totally blind. In Bangladesh which has been mentioned by one or two people, 100,000 went blind in the famine of 1972 despite energetic action by the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind; but 25,000 go blind annually at the present time. The blind population has increased because of the fact that smallpox, malaria and, increasingly, intestinal infections have been to some extent controlled so that the mortality rate has gone down from approximately 30 per cent. to 20 per cent. in some areas of what I call mass population countries. However, in the critical 10 per cent. the people either die or are blinded.

Blind malnutrition is related to the whole complex of poverty. Therefore action can be taken and organisations should be asked to help with emergency programmes to distribute vitamin concentrates, because these can help the healthy children. Also, there should be some preventative work done among those who are less healthy. I realise that it is difficult to reach a lot of them in the rural areas, but if this could be done—and I am sure it can be done eventually—it would save a great deal of eye trouble. Then quite a number of organisations give aid, including dried skimmed milk, and if only they could fortify it with some vitamins it would be a great asset.

One difficult point is nutritional rehabilitation. We know in this country how difficult it is from the fact that when tourists from this country go to Spain they demand fish and chips because they do not care for Spanish food. Therefore it is even more difficult to wean uneducated people off unsuitable food; but if they can only take the green leafy vegetables and add them to their children's diet it would be of enormous help. This has also been suggested by WHO and UNICEF, who recommend this type of diet. It costs about £8 a month to give courses on this aspect, combined with what they are doing in some villages, namely, simple courses for the mothers in selecting and cooking the vegetables in the right way. A film has been produced by the Royal Commonwealth Society for the Blind called Food for Sight and this quite dramatically shows the way in which blindness can be helped to be overcome. If noble Lords are interested I shall be only too pleased to arrange for the film to be shown in the Grand Committee Room in Westminster Hall.

Another point is the vastly increased and improved technology for the corneal and retinal surgery. In Asia and Africa 15 per cent. of the blind children could be helped in this way by means of a small operation. With regard to the rights of the child UNICEF recommend that there should be compulsory education for all handicapped children. Of course that is very difficult in the developing countries. On the other hand, in Nigeria, for example, which is a vast country, there is training in Braille for the teachers, and they are taught how to teach blind children. The blind children are going along, not to special schools but to schools into which they are integrated with other children. Sometimes they have a special classroom and sometimes it is built on to the existing primary school, but the point is that they get an education. Surely, if you are blind you do not want to sit about and do no work.

Finally, I should like to make a suggestion. I have recently been to Morocco, and it was interesting to observe that there were aerials on a lot of the little tin shacks that were mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker. I inquired about these and found that the people were able to see television, but of course they do not have any films that are of real use. I should like to see simple educational films which the women could understand, lasting perhaps half an hour each and showing them what to do in the bringing up of their children, particularly in regard to food, because in a great many of these countries—and particularly, I think, in Morocco—although there is not a great shortage of food, there is not sufficient knowledge of how to cook it. When I was in Malaysia, in the time before television, they used to bring round a film which showed how to cook, how to clean one's teeth and all the essential things for keeping the body healthy. It was a great asset to the people, and now in Malaysia and Singapore there is neither the poverty nor the children who need the great care that I am speaking about now. I hope that tonight we may agree to take action on the lines suggested by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, and in regard to the blind I should like more to be done, so that we can say: He who walks in darkness may see a great light".

8.8 p.m.


My Lords, as I expected when I saw where my name was coming on the list of speakers, everything that I wanted to say has been said already, so I shall not weary your Lordships by saying it all over again. However, I should like to comment on one or two really outstanding speeches. I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Fawley, insisting on the necessity for the guidance of the very young. To my mind that is a very important thing. We all need guidance when we are starting to learn something about which we know nothing, and surely that is very true of young children.

In that connection I was most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, and to the noble Lord, Lord Vaux of Harrowden—who made one of the most outstanding maiden speeches I have yet heard on the necessity for a religious basis for this guidance, because unless one has a belief in something that is higher and greater than oneself I do not think there is any hope of keeping the young on the right lines. The great difficulty, of course, is that unless the parents believe in it themselves it is very difficult for them to convey it to the child; but let us hope that more and more parents will come to believe in it. My Lords, I would end by congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, on having initiated this debate and congratulating her on its having been so outstandingly successful.

8.10 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, in opening this debate gave us the six principles which the United Nations have laid down for the rights of the child.


My Lords, it was 10 principles.


Yes, my Lords, 10. I think those principles can be summed up in one phrase: that they aim to give the child the right to fulfil all its potentialities of body, mind and spirit. In the debate today almost every subject related to the child has been mentioned. I should not like the duty of winding up the debate from the Front Bench. We have heard of the unborn child, the delinquent child, the child separated from its mother and under care, the child who is ill, and the many disasters from which children suffer in the Third World. But I have been particularly pleased that during this debate it has so often been recognised that the worst crime against children is the poverty in which so many of them live, poverty which denies them bodily health, mental development, spiritual expansion, all that human fulfilment needs. And we have to face the fact that poverty exists all over the world. It is one of the most ironic and tragic features of our time that we have now developed a technology which could end poverty in the world within 10 years if that technology were directed to the needs of man instead of the interests of those who control it. That is true within nations and all over the world.

I want to begin by looking at the problems here in Britain, where the poverty resulting in the stunting of child life has actually deepened in our midst during recent years. In 1974 there were 260,000 children living in families below the poverty line defined by the State; that is, the standard of supplementary benefit. In 1976 that number had risen to 500,000. According to the Child Poverty Action Group, which is very accurate in its figures, almost one million children today live in families that are on the poverty line. We have to face the fact that if the aims of the International Year of the Child are to be met, there must be a complete transformation in our social and economic system, so that it may be directed to meet the needs of people instead of the benefits of a section of the people. But, my Lords, I go on to say this. We must act immediately, even while poverty lasts.

I particularly welcome the Government's child benefit scheme, which has been one of the best reforms which have been introduced in many years. In April last year the family allowance was £1 for the first child and £1.50 for subsequent children. Next April it will be £4 for each child and £6 for the children of single parents. I believe that will do more to end the deficiencies from which children suffer than almost any suggestion which has been made during our debate today. That decision embodies the principle that the child is the most important human being in the nation and should be the first charge on all our resources. I should like to see a guarantee that children, in prosperity or recession, should be given a standard of benefits and services which will allow a realisation of the full potentialities of their bodies and minds.

My Lords, one has been pleased to listen to this debate for a second reason. This is to be an International Year of the Child, and therefore we must think of the world as well as ourselves. Many of those who have taken part in the debate have pointed to the tragedy of so many millions of children in the Third World. I pay tribute particularly to the speech which penultimately preceded mine from the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, in her detailed examination of this situation. I pay tribute particularly to the moving speech of my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker, who spoke of the children who were stunted through illiteracy and destroyed by disease. My Lords, can one begin to contemplate this problem calmly? The United Nations survey says that one in eight of the population of the world is actually starving. It says that half of the population of the world suffer from malnutrition. It says that children in the developing countries are 15 times more likely to die in their first year than children born in the industrial territories.

It is not just a question of aid. If the problems are to be solved they must be met by the establishment of a new international economic order which will mean that the economy is directed towards the needs of people instead of to the advantages of great powerful sections within the industrialised countries. We must establish a new international economic order based not on the benefit accruing to the industrialised nations but on the satisfaction of the peoples of the world.

Finally, if people's needs are to be met we must devote the resources of the world to construction and not to destruction. The countries of the world spend £600 million every day on weapons of death. We need to divert those resources to constructive purposes. It is said that preparations for war are safeguards of peace, but all history denies that. If we continue this great concentration on the manufacture of nuclear weapons, a nuclear war will ultimately take place. Therefore, we need to divert these resources not merely for the child but to prevent our children growing up only to be massacred in a Third World War. For the sake of the child, we should, in this International Year of the Child, be exerting pressure on the Disarmament Committee meeting at Geneva with radical proposals from our own Government and the Governments of 15 Western countries; with even more radical proposals from President Carter; and with the most radical proposals from the Soviet Union, which seek to destroy all weapons of a massacring kind. The International Year of the Child gives us the opportunity to save the child from the war which will come unless the peoples of the world determine to take action against it.

8.25 p.m.


My Lords, I am last on the printed list of speakers, or at least the last before the Government reply, and if I sense a wave of relief going through the House I shall try not to disappoint your Lordships. At no stage did I intend to make a long speech and I shall try to make it even shorter than I intended. Therefore, I must be nearly the last speaker to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, on this exceedingly interesting debate, and I hope that at this late hour I shall not be misunderstood if I add my congratulations on her fortitude for listening to it all.

I had hoped to make my speech a cheerful one, and by chance something happened this morning that cheered me very much for the International Year of the Child. Two young men came to see me who are forming one of those unlikely student undertakings—a student company of players to perform Shakespeare all over the world, including Great Britain, and significantly they are calling their company, which is only in the course of formation, "The Poor Players". As your Lordships can imagine, they are in desperate need of funds. However, they were much the most concerned with what could they, as a brand new company scarcely removed from childhood themselves, do for the International Year of the Child. They were busily planning a charity performance at the Mayfair Hotel in the middle of the summer to raise funds for it. That seemed to me most encouraging.

I believe that something of that spirit has been heard in a great many of the speeches in this Chamber today, and I hope that it spreads far beyond this Chamber and all around the country. I find the situation most encouraging. I had intended and had hoped to be able to preface my speech with an honest avowal of an interest—alas! I have been disappointed. I am a practising film maker and when I first heard about the International Year of the Child it occurred to me that, both in celebration and for the purposes of recording, films must surely be needed. So, as soon as there was a director and a headquarters I hurried down to Whitehall to suggest baldly that I might be just the man to make the films. Imagine my dismay when I discovered that the funds available were barely enough to run the organisation itself, let alone afford the luxury of even so much as a foot of film. So, my disappointment was complete, but at least swift.

However, I must say that the enthusiasm of the director, Judith Stone, was such that, in spite of not seeing a future in the film making business, I inquired what film she would have liked to make if there had been the funds available. She told me of one or two exceedingly intriguing projects. For example, she told me about something of which I had never heard before, the PPIAS, which I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, will know about. It is the Parent to Parent Information on Adoption Services, which is an extremely informative information service because it is run by parents. I met the people concerned. It seems to me that they do all sorts of good things, and surely this is the year in which that information service should be encouraged, enlarged and generally better known. However, I am not an expert on these matters and I shall not weary your Lordships much longer on the subject, but perhaps the noble Baroness herself can add to what I have said.

What intrigued me most about what the director told me was a project very close to my own heart because it was concerned with the arts. If I trespass for two minutes more upon your Lordships' time it is because the arts, so far in this debate, have not received much of a showing. There has, very properly, been some mention made of spiritual matters, and I hope that it will not be taken amiss by the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, or by the two right reverend Prelates who spoke in the debate, if I point out that the spirit of man is not the exclusive concern of the Church. Indeed, today's debate has shown only too forcefully that without bread man cannot live at all. However, the notion that man cannot live by bread alone is a notion shared by the clergyman and the artist.

The project that I heard about was so exciting that I thought that I must tell your Lordships a little about it, in the hope that it will be an encouraging end to the debate. The project concerns an international centre for children's culture. I hope that that notion will commend itself to the noble Lord, Lord Vaux of Harrow-den, because he was much concerned with the use of leisure time put before children. I should also like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the maiden speakers on their speeches because I enjoyed them all. But I particularly enjoyed his, and I should like to echo the congratulatory remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Fawley, by saying that when the noble Lord, Lord Vaux, said that he was speaking with some trepidation, if that is how he speaks with trepidation I am agog to hear him speak with confidence!

This project, I hope, will also commend itself to the right reverend Prelates. In case I have offended them already, let me put myself in their good books by saying that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury was concerned that this should not be a year where parents or grown-ups simply tell children what to do. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich was concerned that in this year children should be heard to speak for themselves. This project does exactly that—it is for a children's art centre; a centre for children's culture. Which of us, indeed, has not been excited by children's prowess in the arts? Which of us has not had insights and visions from children's art exhibitions, from children's drawing, painting and sculpting?—which are often more and different in kind from that which we get from adult art. Which of us has not been excited by the remark-able youth orchestras which, it seems to me, are proliferating happily through the land? Which of us has not been excited by the sheer directness and simplicity of children's acting in the theatre, and dancing?

It seems to me that we now have an opportunity to set up a place where children can do these things. If by some chance noble Lords are so excited by the words I have just spoken that they determine tomorrow to go to see a children's art exhibition or hear a youth orchestra, they would find it very difficult to do so. It is only occasionally and by chance that these wonders appear. They are like comets in the artistic world; they appear rapidly and disappear. This would be an opportunity for a centre where children could display their excellence in the arts all the time. They would not always be the same children; there would be a continual turnover of children.

This would require premises with a theatre, with performing spaces and with studios—because one must not forget the arts and the crafts of pottery and sculpture. However, premises can be come by. Of course, this would need funds. Funds can be sought. It would have ramifications of great complexity. Of course, adults would be needed to administer it. It would need experienced staffing by those who knew what they were about in the arts. Above all, it would need tremendous accommodation. A perpetual turnover of several hundred children is obviously an accommodation nightmare. A hostel of some sort might be needed.

The question arises where this centre should be located. Should it be in London, which is the place most visitors make as their first target, or should it perhaps be elsewhere?—because London and the arts is always thought to be a spider that attracts too much to itself. As yet we do not know. However, just at this moment a very exciting prospect has arisen which seems to have much to commend it. As many noble Lords will know, the Brighton West Pier is in desperate straits. It needs refurbishing to prevent it from simply falling into the sea. Above all, it needs a good use. As I understand it, having estimated that for safety reasons it would cost £300,000 to demolish, the Brighton Council has said that it would much rather give that sum as a contribution towards a real purpose for the pier. If that fairyland of a pier is one of our architectual curiosities, it is surely one of our architectural wonders. Might not it be exactly the place where children could perform?

Having said all that and having put this exciting prospect before the House, I would add that it is the international centre for children's culture that is being planned. I am well aware of the implications of the Third World and, indeed, of nations throughout the world in this debate. Like all noble Lords, I was literally stopped in my tracks by the sheer power and eloquence of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, about the Third World. Nevertheless, I am sure that he will not disagree with me that, however dire the physical needs of the children of the world, their minds and their spirits must not go unattended.

This centre would be neither a college, nor a school. It would not be a teaching academy. However, it would be able to perform one marvellous teaching function; that is, teaching by example. The thought of children from all over the world and in all arts and diciplines meeting to perform, to see each other's work and merely to come as visitors to see the work of their contemporaries, must surely be an excitement to them and it must surely be an excitement to us.

I have gone on at some short length about this simply because I wanted to finish on an optimistic note, and I think that that is an optimistic note. Noble Lords will gather that it is too early for me to lean menacingly towards the Government Front Bench and demand funds, but in due course, no doubt, such approaches will be made. When they are, I only hope that they will be listened to sympathetically, because I believe that it is projects like this which it is precisely what this year is for. If we could build such a centre and, looking back, say "We built that in 1979", why, we could be proud of the year.


My Lords, I should like to make a suggestion. I believe that the noble Lord could do immense good by producing a film himself—with or without funds—of the Emperor's New Clothes. It would not be a nudist film but a film putting into effect the substance of this debate, that we can learn from children. It would have only one part for one child with only two lines to learn. I believe that it would do much good.


My Lords, like all artists, I am always happy to steal ideas.


My Lords, if my noble friend goes to South Wales, he will discover that we already have an international college on the lines that he indicated.

8.36 p.m.


My Lords, may I be permitted to say that if noble Lords rise when a speaker sits down, they are required to ask him a question and not make a statement. I mention that because it has happened quite a number of times of late.

As everyone knows, the Motion has stimulated a very lively and informative debate. I am in some difficulty, as I always am on matters of this kind when we have a large number of speakers, because I can only take up a certain amount of your Lordships' time. It means that one cannot answer adequately most—I shall not say "all"—of the questions which have been put by noble Lords taking part in the debate.

I should like to add my personal thanks to the three maiden speakers and I am sure we all hope that it will not be too long before we hear them again. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord De Freyne, who raised a matter of some importance in the medical field without criticising the Government or the National Health Service—it must be almost a record for some considerable time. I wish to apologise for being out of the Chamber for most of the speech by the noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, and the whole of the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod of Borve. It was beyond my control. But notes were made of what was said and I think I can say that I know their contributions.

The fact that the International Year of the Child in the United Kingdom has, at this early stage, already met with an enthusiastic response from the Press, the television and radio, as well as from the general public, is a tribute to the wisdom of the United Nations in designating 1979 as a special year for the child throughout the world, and to the energy of all those, including my noble friend Lady Faithfull, who have been working for its success. The Motion refers to the improvement of the conditions of children both in this country and in the developing countries. Therefore, in replying on behalf of the Government I should like to refer not only to what we hope the International Year of the Child will mean to children in this country and what voluntary and other bodies and the Government aim to do here, but also to what we are doing for children in the developing countries through the Ministry of Overseas Development.

It seems to me to be highly appropriate that in this country, where voluntary organisations have played such a vital part in the development and provision of services for children, a group of voluntary bodies should have taken the lead in co-ordinating the national response for the Year. I know that we have been criticised—and by "we" I mean the Government—in some quarters on the grounds that we are the only European country in which the Government themselves have not taken the lead. However, I believe that that criticism is fundamentally mistaken. The co-operation between the Government and the voluntary bodies is something absolutely peculiar to this country. We have a tremendous record of voluntary service which is unmatched by any other country in the world. I believe that we have achieved what we have achieved today because of this partnership)—regardless of who has been in power—between Government and voluntary organisations. I believe that this will have a real measure of success because I think that the Government have come in in one respect and said to voluntary workers, "Now, we are prepared to do this if you are prepared to do something else".

I should like to say to those who are participating in this that they are not only making a contribution in that field as co-partners with the Government but are in fact making a quite unique contribution to what this is all about. The Government are therefore particularly happy to assist the United Kingdom Association for the International Year of the Child, and I should like to take this opportunity of paying tribute on behalf I of the Government, because I have been asked to do so, to Lady Soames for her energy and imagination and the part that she herself has played and is playing in it. In a few short months since its inception, the Association has stimulated so much activity and interest that hardly anyone in this country can be excused for not knowing the special significance of 1979.

Noble Lords will be aware, as I am, of the programme of events which the Association has published, and I should like to refer to these for a moment or two. The Government have made, as many of you may know, a contribution of £125,000 over two years for the Association's London headquarters and its committees in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The London headquarters is provided in rent-free accommodation at 85 Whitehall, and the Property Services Agency—that is a Government body—are supplying the furniture and services. Arrangements have also been made for the Central Office of Information to circulate the Association's publicity material free of charge. This contribution has recently caused some misunderstanding, and I should like to make it clear that it was after considerable thought that the Government decided to make a modest but realistic provision towards the central administration of the Association, its secretariat and regional committees.

The director, Mrs. Judith Stone, has a very small staff—and I want to emphasise, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, the word "small"—who have performed wonders in stimulating national awareness, in designing a really first-class programme and, for that matter, in raising money from voluntary sources to finance it. Some people have complained at the grant being used for administration, while others have criticised it for not being enough; but, let us face it, unless there is money for administration you cannot get anything off the ground at all. This was the reason why the Government came in. Having regard to some of the difficulties that we are all facing, the progress which has been made by those responsible for the International Year of the Child says a great deal.

I believe that your Lordships have some idea of what the Association's programme is. As you know, the Association has seven working groups, and each group will cover a particular aspect concerning children. I do not propose to go into that in any great detail. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services, who has overall responsibility for co-ordinating the Government's response to the year, has told representatives of the Association that the Government Departments concerned with services for children will give special consideration to applications from voluntary and other organisations for grants in support of worthwhile schemes connected with the year—but they must be worthwhile schemes. We have received quite a large number of applications so far.

My own Department has a major campaign for the reduction of perinatal and infant mortality and handicap, including a campaign of vaccination against rubella. We have one on the treatment of young offenders in the community, one on the ending of prison remands for girls under 17, and a seminar on preparation for parenthood (which is jointly undertaken with the Department of Education and Science and the National Children's Bureau). I think it right to mention that the Department of the Environment is including in its 1979–80 urban programme projects related to children, guidance on safety in children's playgrounds, and follow-up programmes related to the problems of children in high-rise blocks and the needs of one-parent families.

The Department of Education and Science has a research project on preparation for parenthood, and some further expansion of provision for under-fives which it will undertake jointly with my own Department. In the Department of Transport there will be continued emphasis on child safety on the roads. Although some of your Lordships may feel that this is relatively unimportant, the casualty rate resulting in death on the roads among children in this country is much too high. I shall not say anything more about the perinatal programe. I had intended, had I had the time, to say something more or less in detail about that, but in view of the time I shall not do so. We are also proposing to do something about environmental and social deprivation, and we have a scheme and a policy for that.

I should like now to turn to the developing countries. The Government think that the major aims of the International Year of the Child as defined by UNICEF are sensible—and I do not say that in at all a patronising way—and should result in practical improvement in the condition of children in both the developed and the developing world. They particularly welcome the third of the youth aims—to promote recognition of the vital links between programmes for children on the one hand and economic and social progress on the other. In addition to this and our aid programme, there are also certain specific areas where our aid is likely to be of the most direct benefit, and that is in the medical services, includ- ing primary health care, mother and child care and family planning.

I myself represented the Government just over a year ago at the Fifth Commonwealth Medical Conference in New Zealand. This meets every three years. This Government are spending a great deal more money than many people realise in combating sickness and disease in the Commonwealth countries. I was able to address the Fifth Commonwealth Medical Conference on our ideas for the forthcoming three years.

We also have plans for nutrition and food production, and for education, for aid to multilateral agencies such as the United Nations Children's Fund, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, the World Health Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organisation, and also for aid to non-governmental organisations active in assisting children. We welcome also the IYC's emphasis on national and local action programmes which are likely to be of particular value in developing countries, and which we hope will lead to a concentration of expenditure on activities on the ground. We therefore strongly support the United Nations Children's Fund's decision to make 3 million dollars available to the developing countries to help them prepare such programmes.

As an indication of our own support, our contribution to UNICEF has been increasing steadily over recent years and has gone up by £1.3 million to £5.8 million this year. In addition to this contribution, we shall, subject to Parliamentary approval, contribute a sum of over £1,622,000 to UNICEF for projects which are projects identified by UNICEF and for which regular funds are needed and are not available at the present moment. We are doing something similar in Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, supplying them with capsules, drugs, diets, supplementation kits and so on.

The Ministry of Overseas Development has contributed £40,000 towards the cost of a conference in London organised by the Institute of Child Health as part of the Child to Child Programme. I pointed out that one must have money to launch such projects and get them off the ground. That programme aims to encourage school children in developing countries to concern themselves with the health and welfare of their younger brothers and sisters or other younger children in the community, and where this has been done it has proved more than worth while.

In addition, the Ministry of Overseas Development has made grants of £150,000 over three years to the IYC Secretariat so that they, too, can undertake a good deal of planning and projects. I wish to stress that the United Kingdom is concerned that the IYC should be a success not only nationally but internationally. Lady Faithfull was right to remind us that the vast majority of the world's deprived children are living overseas in developing countries and that we should have them in our minds during the whole of this particular year of activity.

I have hurried through what I wanted to say because I think it only right that your Lordships and the country at large should know the Government's view, the Government's response and what the Government are doing and are prepared to do. I will try now to answer some of the questions raised in the debate, though I appreciate that they will not be adequately answered because of the time factor. The noble Lord, Lord Banks, reminded us of 900,000 children under five of working mothers. I do not think it was his intention—indeed, he did not do so—to suggest that there were 900,000 children who were being abandoned by their working mothers and in need of some kind of day nursery. While it is absolutely true that there are 900,000 children of working mothers who undoubtedly want to do something with them while they are at work, we must bear in mind that the capital cost of a day nursery place is £4,271, so we should need about £4,000 million if we were to provide day nursery places for that number. I appreciate however, that it was not proposed that we should provide that number. The running costs work out at £1,410 per child per year, so it is a problem.

We do not have enough, and we recognise we do not have enough, day nurseries. A combined nursery school with day nursery is so expensive to set up and run that they will always be thin on the ground. We are alive to that and, as I say, we know there are not enough; but we must face the fact that for a considerable time to come there will not be enough because of the enormous cost involved.

But, having recognised that, we must ask ourselves whether there are other ways of dealing with the problem, and perhaps one way to deal with it is through voluntary people and organisations, who made such a contribution years ago in this field; say, through an army of child minders, with all the usual safeguards. As I say, it is not that the Government are unmindful of the problem, but just the very considerable cost.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, raised a number of points including that of the inappropriate admission of mentally handicapped children, a point also raised by the noble Countess, Lady Loudoun. Last June we sent out a draft circular for consultation which asked health and local authorities jointly to set dates by which alternative services would be available in the community to avoid and prevent inappropriate admissions to hospital. The circular made it clear that some children were always likely to need the specialist services which were available only in hospital. Moreover, it stressed that children should not be discharged from or refused admission to mentally handicap hospitals unless suitable alternatives were available.

A large number of bodies commented on the draft circular and most of them welcomed its aim, but some organisations also called for the discharge from hospital of mentally handicapped children who were admitted for inappropriate reasons in the past. That would entail considerably more expenditure than the prevention of inappropriate admissions, a fact that we must face; it is a fact of life. It is not something we like, and as soon as we can do something about it we will do so.

The noble Baroness also raised the question of the Children Act 1975. I have said before that much of the impetus for current development in family placement came from the passing of that Act, which contains major reforms of law on adoption, custody and the care of children, and a number of important provisions came into force in 1976. Some provisions not yet in force would require substantial increases in resources to be made available, but we hope to be able to introduce custodianship orders within the next year. I cannot hold out a great deal of hope of being able to do anything other than that.

The noble Baroness also raised the question of reviews of children in care. My Department had discussed the possibility of introducing regulations to govern the conduct of reviews of children in care with the local authorities. Decisions have not yet been made. The important aspect is the development of good practice, whether or not based on the regulations. As I say, this is something we have taken on board and we are doing as much about it as we can, though final decisions as to what we have been or shall be able to do I cannot give at this stage.

The noble Baroness then asked what the Secretary of State for Education was doing about the opening of schools. The short answer is that I hope the noble Baroness, along with all noble Lords who are feeling "uptight" about this—that is, most of us—will read the Statement in yesterday's Hansard made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education, in which she gave details of steps which are being taken to mitigate the effects of the industrial action. I appreciate, and have some sympathy with the view, that a number of your Lordships feel that that is not enough. She urged local authorities to open and keep open their schools wherever possible; to make provision in suitable alternative accommodation, such as church halls, for the teaching of children who are preparing for examinations; and to arrange where possible to set homework for children in other years. That is a definite request made to local authorities: that if they cannot open schools they should try to provide accommodation in church halls and elsewhere.

My noble friend Lady Lockwood raised a matter which I knew nothing about myself, and my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor was good enough to pass me a note stating that the problems referred to had been discussed in the Home Office Affairs Committee on Monday, when the Home Secretary had said that he proposes to deal with the matter in question administratively, without the need for legislation. We shall have to wait and see how soon that happens.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, raised one or two points regarding community service orders. He also spoke of the work of the probation officers. Those of us who have been associated with them know the value of their contribution. I would mention, particularly for the benefit of the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod of Borve, that we fully agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has said about community service generally. My own Department had been funding community service volunteers centrally for pioneer schemes with the 14 to 17-year-olds who are under supervision orders. We have not said very much about this. It is an experiment which is taking place in, I think, five or six places, and we believe in keeping our light under a bushel until it is advisable for us to bring it out for all to see. There are a number of local schemes backed by local authorities. I do not want to say very much about it now, other than to mention that it is a community service volunteer scheme for the 14 to 17-year-olds who are under supervision orders, mainly under the supervision of a local authority social worker.

The noble Baroness also suggested that something might be done by the Government to reduce the gap relating to those children who simply do not go to school; she suggested that perhaps voluntary workers should be brought in to deal with this. This is a new idea, and I should like to put it before my right honourable friend to see whether we can do anything about it—


It is done in some boroughs, very satisfactorily.


My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that information. The noble Lady, Lady Kinloss, referred to the Warnock Committee, which reported in May 1978. As she knows, the report contains 224 recommendations. The Government decided that there should be the fullest possible consultation before decisions were arrived at. A consultative document was issued in July 1978, and we have requested those to whom we have sent it to let us have their views and observations by the end of this month. The Government are anxious to take account of all the views on future education provision for handicapped children, and as soon as we receive all the views, and we have been able to assess them, I hope that it may be possible to have a debate on this question.

The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, asked in particular why child benefit is not index linked. I can give the noble Lord only a short answer; namely, that our first priority is to get a good rate of child benefit. We can then consider whether child benefit should be index linked, although one must bear in mind that it is not a maintenance benefit provided against the interruption or cessation of earnings, as are all the other social security benefits. It is a separate benefit. However, once we have a reasonable level of benefit, I expect that we would wish to see whether we can have it index linked.


My Lords, the comparison is not with the other social security benefits; it is with the personal allowances against income tax which are now index linked, and which the child benefit system replaces.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Vaizey also raised the matter of child benefit, and I understood him to say that we ought to try to raise it to £10 a week. We have been thinking about this, and the figure we got round to was £9.35 a week, which is not far short of what my noble friend suggests, but when we worked it out we found that that would cost no less a sum than £3,000 million; and we have not yet recovered from the shock of that. Thus, I think it hardly likely that we shall be doing very much about it in the foreseeable future.

My noble friend Lord Vaizey also raised the question of the triennial report which was recommended by Court. When my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services considered the matter in detail he felt that the volume of reports published by Government was, if anything, already too great, and he was doubtful about the benefits of adding to it. My right honourable friend feels that such reports are time consuming, costly to produce, and often somewhat tedious to read. Periodical reports in particular tend to attract less attention than White Papers and discussion documents directed to specific problems. But I must admit that my noble friend Lord Vaizey was rather convincing, and in the light of what has been said, I propose to put this matter to my right honourable friend.

I believe that if I have not answered all the questions which have been raised in the debate, I have certainly answered all the major ones, even if not to the satisfaction of noble Lords and noble Baronesses. In view of the time I do not feel that I ought to continue, other than to thank the noble Baroness for raising this subject. We are so good in this House in dealing with matters of great moment that are not raised in another place. There is such a wealth of experience here, as I have said before, and such a fund of knowledge, that at the end of such a debate one cannot come to any other conclusion than that a great deal of good sense has been talked. I therefore express my own gratitude to the noble Baroness.

9.8 p.m.


My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships' House for very long, but I wish to make just a few comments. First of all, may I now congratulate our maiden speakers. I think the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, must have had quite a shock when she heard that between the time of her speaking and the time the Minister spoke her troubles over nationality had been dealt with—and not by law! It will be very interesting to see exactly how this is going to happen, and we look forward to hearing about it from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. But we are very grateful to the noble Baroness for her comments on the change in the social scene. Not only has it changed, but it is even changing again.

We are deeply grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Vaux of Harrowden, for his speech. At the moment, in my own area, I am having a slight contretemps over the whole question of recreation, and I think we all agree with him that recreation is one of the things we need to think about in this year. With regard to the noble Lord, Lord de Freyne, who spoke of dyslexic children, we know very well what a great struggle the Association for Dyslexic Children have had, and we are very glad to hear that the noble Lord will be speaking in your Lordships' House on their behalf. To the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Blackburn, may I say that, although he said he was not a maiden speaker, I am going to regard him as such because I believe that will put us into the Guinness Book of Records as having had more maiden speakers than in any other debate. I therefore say that he is a maiden speaker for that reason. But, apart from that, we are very grateful to him for his contribution.

My Lords, I thank all speakers. The noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder—and this was followed up by the Minister—said that there was great knowledge, great depth and great commitment. I am almost inclined to say to the noble Lord the Leader of the House that perhaps all those who have spoken today, together with the Government and the Opposition, could well run the country and improve everything within a year. I will not detain your Lordships' House much longer, but I think I must just say that, in the speeches, great knowledge has been shown as to the needs of children under five, parental responsibility, poverty, handicap, delinquency, planning for parenthood and the spiritual rights of the child. Here, perhaps I may say that I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Birkett (and could I say that the last are often first?), will have a drink with the right reverend Prelates and with the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, so that we can see how wide are the spiritual needs of children and how they can be met on a very wide plane.

My Lords, of the speakers, seven and a half spoke on the needs of children overseas, and what they had to say was deeply moving and deeply realistic. With my committee, I was responsible for bringing up a boy from the age of 16 to 18. He was a photographer, and he was sent to Bangladesh. He took a photograph which was so very moving—in fact, deeply moving—and I said to him, "That photograph is so painful. What made you take it?" He said, "That is how I felt when I first came into care. I was therefore able to take the photograph, so that other children who suffer as I suffered will be able to benefit."

That brings me on to the question of action. May I say that I think children can often help children, as has been said by many noble Lords. If some of our children could be shown films and could be taught of the sufferings of children overseas, as was suggested by the noble Lords, Lord Noel-Baker and Lord Brock-way, by my noble friend Lady Vickers and by many others, we should enrich our own children if they felt they could help other children less fortunate than themselves.

My Lords, on the triennial report I would say to the Minister that I hope very much that he can give thought to this. I would also say that, generous as the Government have been, it might be helpful if they were a little more generous on the question of administration and staffing. But I leave that with the Minister. I should like very much to support the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, and I hope he gets the Brighton Pier. I thank your Lordships again, but may I also thank the Minister for his very able reply, both for the first part of his speech and also for taking the individual points of speakers that have spoken. It must be very difficult. It is very satisfying to those who speak, to feel that he listened and felt with and for them. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.