HL Deb 12 May 1982 vol 430 cc220-51

3 p.m.

Lord Davies of Leek rose to call attention to the problem of world population growth and the need for development policies to include national population programmes aiming at a proper balance between population and resources and making family planning freely available, and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to initiate this debate. I notice, also, with gratitude that pretty well 15 people have put down their names to speak. There is expertise behind me, and among other noble Lords who are to speak, and each one of us could speak at length. But since the Chief Whip has given us that caveat, I shall endeavour not to exceed 12 to 15 minutes, despite the fact that I am opening the debate. I shall endeavour to do that, because I am fully aware that, if I omit something, there are so many experts who will speak after me that they will probably dot the i's and cross the t's which I may have forgotten to do in the brief time that I take to introduce the debate.

What am I going to talk about in moving this Motion? I want, first, to show what is the impact of population growth upon the world's resources and the limits of those resources. I want to show the pressure on individual human beings and the psychosomatic effect of the terrific increase in the world's population on our overcrowded cities. Most noble Members of this House have visited many parts of the world and today, in all the simple things of life that are being destroyed, the psychosomatic effect of over-population is evident. I shall ask the Government a question or two on overseas aid expenditure. Also, I believe that we have to face the phrase "family planning", and not sneakily think that it is a dirty one. Family planning will be needed if we want civilisation to succeed in the future. Time permitting, I shall mention in passing a sentence or two of the famous Ottawa Declaration on the problem of world population. Having said that, I had better get on to the main parts of my speech.

The interest that we all have is due to the impact. All kinds of figures are given, which are all near the truth, and the facts are more or less obvious. The current world population is around 4 billion people. By the end of this century, there will be between 6 billion and 7 billion people who will be parading around and living on this beautiful old world of ours. Thirty-five out of every 100 in the world today are under 15 years of age; in the less developed parts, which most of us here have visited, 39 out of every 100 are under 15 years of age; and in Africa, one of the continents with the highest population growth, 45 out of every 100 are under 15 years of age.

In passing, I want to utter a little warning. When we talk of over-population, we tend to forget the old and those who have served society for even more than three score years and 10. So we should also consider the help that is needed by the aged, and there is a famous organisation which works specifically in this area of population problems; namely, Help the Aged. They point out to me that, by the year 2000, there will be nearly 600 million people in this world who are over 60 years of age. They will be presenting a world charter on ageing to the United Nations World Assembly in 1982. I wish that I had time to deal with that in depth. Nevertheless, it is a question which has to be looked into.

Every noble Member of this House, being an acute citizen of this little old country, knows of the Brandt Report and the present staggering growth of world population which is therein pointed out. The report calls it one of the strongest forces shaping the future of human society. Because of the young age structure in less developed countries, the decline in fertility, which has already started, will make little difference to the numbers on this earth by the end of the century. In 1981, 125 million babies were born, 50 million died and humanity increased by 75 million people. When I have spent one minute speaking to your Lordships, 142 more children will have been born.

Many facts and figures are given in the National Policy on Population. Time will not permit me to quote from it, but to most noble Lords who are joining in this debate those facts are well known. It took 35 years for the worlds' population to rise from 2 billion to 4 billion, and the next 2 billion are likely to be added in the next 25 years. Can the world stand this? Can we cultivate the necessary food and educate people, as well as give them a good standard of life? These are problems of world population. Mortality is declining, while current fertility is high. The marriage age in developing countries is still low, populations are young and the number of women who are in, or are about to enter, the child-bearing years is growing rapidly. All these factors combine with the improvements in hygiene and medicine which tend to increase the population.

Consequently, to sum up, while rapid economic growth helps to slow down population growth, the availability of family planning services is also important. Effective family planning programmes both convey the message that family size is a matter of choice, and provide the means to make the choice effective. I think that it is the bounden duty of mankind to make a choice on the size of family. There is now widespread agreement—in churches as well—that appropriate forms of social and economic change and the diffusion of the means of birth control are necessary to reduce fertility.

Many valuable human development-related initiatives such as bio-medical research on reproduction, contraceptive development and health and family planning projects, lack support. For example, the United Nations Fund for Population Activities is making, a change in its approach which I fail to understand. Probably all of your Lordships know that that fund is cutting its family planning assistance to India—the world's second most populous country—because of China's needs. Is this an indivious choice? Like most noble Lords here, I have been to both of those countries, and some of us have been there several times. But both nations need that assistance and, at the moment, the Chinese seem to be practising family planning more than those in India.

According to the report Global 2000, which was presented to President Carter, the world in the year 2000 will be different from what it is today. I do not want to exaggerate what it said and we may question it. But four-fifths of the world's population will live in the less developed countries and they will have lower standards of life. I could qualify that in depth, but time does not allow that. Therefore, let me pick out a sentence that is vibrating with life; namely, that population growth will be 40 per cent. higher in 2000 than in 1975. That sentence will have to cover a whole lot of boring statistics, which would stop noble Lords from listening to me if I quoted them.

Let me now take the limits of resources which will occupy three or four minutes. We have a finite world, with a population that is elastic. The impact of population growth on our finite world can be seen in three important areas: in fish, grasslands and forests. The biological underpinning of our world economy is often overlooked when we are studying population problems. Lester Brown, the President of the World Watch Institute in Washington, points this out in his book, from which I will now not quote. It is entitled Building a Sustainable Society and it is available in your Lordships' Library. To take the three items—forests, fish and grasslands—in 1950, one-quarter of the earth's land surface was covered by forest. By 1980, this had dwindled to less than one-fifth. I gather that each week an area equal to almost the whole of Wales is cut down for timber and for printing newspapers which are often not worth being printed.

The waste by mankind is absolutely forbidding. Each year this earth's inhabitants—all of whom are users of wood products in one form or another—increase by the equivalent of the population of Mexico and Central America, combined, and each year the afforested area of the world shrinks by an area the size of Hungary. That is another figure of speech for noble Lords to pick up. By 1964, the world production of wood had expanded more rapidly than the population, but after 1964 population outstripped timber production, which led to a decline of one-tenth in the supply of wood all over the world.

I turn now to fish. In many parts of the world the fish catch grew from 21 million tonnes in 1950 to 74.5 million tonnes in 1979. Today, overfishing has become the rule, not the exception, in oceanic fisheries. The critical point in the world fish catch was reached in 1970 when the world population reached 3.6 billion. Since then, the fish catch per person has fallen by 13 per cent., or over 1 per cent. per year.

Finally, the grasslands support ruminants—cattle, sheep and goats—which play an important part in the world's food economy. They are equipped to digest the roughage and to convert it into food that we can eat: milk, meat, cheese and butter, and to provide fuel, fertilisers and industrial materials. Believe me, my Lords, with this rapid, uncontrolled increase in population, the things which we cherish, the philosophies which we love, the music and the poetry of life, will be destroyed unless an intelligent, human approach is made to overcome the problem.

The clock shows 13 minutes. I shall take two more. The effect of population pressure, Lester Brown showed in his books, means that the labour force in the less developed parts of the world will probably reach 780 million by the year 2000. Work has got to be found for these people. I come now to my final piece—I shall skip the other pages—in this short introduction. What I call the psychosomatic effect is shown by vandalism in the great cities of the world. I find it terrifying—it is a Welsh exaggeration but I use it—when I see what can happen to inner cities because of the destruction taking place by vandalism. I find that to be the case in all the great cities of the world and I believe that we are paying too big a price for this conglomerate which we call cities. Some countries have tried to keep down their city populations. We are failing. I think—I am now on my last sentence—that it is important in a noble House like this, including men of all kinds of abilities from all parts of life (I am not making a party speech today), to say that it is important for this country to take a lead in trying to do something about population the world throughout. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers. Fifteen minutes exactly!

3.15 p.m.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, after that panoramic view of the problem which has been put before us by the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, I wish, if I may—boringly, perhaps—to concentrate on one or two narrow but quite important points. From the figures which the noble Lord has given us, may I pick out one which perhaps crystallises the case. Every day world population increases to the extent of 200,000 persons. The noble Lord did his arithmetic. I will do mine. If I stick to my 10 minutes as well as the noble Lord stuck to his 15, over 1,300 people will have been added to the size of the globe between the time I got up and the time that I sit down.

The problem, and its implications, is so horrific that we tend to brush it away, not wishing to think about it and all its implications. We comfort ourselves with the thought that Malthus got it wrong so far as this country is concerned and that therefore we can say, comfortably, that in other countries, as they develop, their population will decline as prosperity rises—on the assumption of course that prosperity will rise. Even if it does, it does not prove that because Malthus got it wrong for this country he will get it wrong for other countries. There are many other forces at work which might mean that in these instances Malthus may prove to be right. So there is no comfort to be found there. If we had longer, the wider implications of this problem would take us very far—would take us most certainly to the Brandt Report and to a range of economic and social policies. But I do not wish to go into that field today. There is not time. There are other matters to which I wish to direct your Lordships' attention, and particularly the attention of the Government.

I must declare an interest at this point. I am a trustee of an organisation called Population Services which concentrates on family planning and which has developed a number of initiatives in developing countries. It is I think the only voluntary organisation in this country which is working on family planning clinics in developing countries. So I speak with the experience and the interest of that organisation very much in mind.

The point I want to put to your Lordships' House and to the Government is this. Surely when considering aid to developing countries (to which we are, after all, committed—some of us think we should be more committed than we are but we have a commitment to aid) and the way in which aid should be distributed, contributions to efforts for family planning and the control of population should rank very high indeed in the allocation of resources for aid to developing countries. Of course—this is certainly the policy of the organisation with which I am connected—we should give aid for family planning only when countries have asked for it. It would be intolerable for us to force family planning provisions on to countries which do not want them. But there is abundant evidence that there are far more countries seeking aid than there are resources to meet the requests for aid. So that objection need not effectively be raised.

What I am asking your Lordships' House to do is to reverse the tendency to put resources for population control at the end of the list for expenditure on aid and to give it a priority position when we are distributing resources in developing countries. There are surely a number of reasons for doing this, both economic and social reasons. It must be the greatest possible discouragement and disincentive to economic effort in developing countries to find, again and again, that as their productivity increases, as they have with difficulty made changes in their production methods, and as they have found resources for investment, so do those increases get swallowed up by the extreme increases in population, which overtake the increases in productivity. That must be a disincentive to the kind of effort without which these developing countries can never really reach the standard of living which we all wish to see for them.

Secondly, it must make a tremendous difference to individuals in respect of their ability to make a contribution to the economic development of their countries—individuals who are struggling with excessively large families and weighed down by the sheer difficulty of keeping to anything recognisable as a subsistence level. What effort can such people really put in to the development of their countries in an economic sense? So, if we are helping with population control, we are also helping indirectly with economic development. Thirdly, for countless women in the developing countries, what does must this mean? If we do not have population control and voluntary family planning in these countries, thousands and thousands of women will have the stark choice between amateur abortion on the one hand or a lifetime of pregnancies on the other. If there was no other reason for pushing family planning provisions to the very head of the queue for aid, that by itself would be sufficient.

Do the Government accept that the need for provisions for population control should be a primary purpose of aid to developing countries? Will they give a commitment to that in general terms? If so, what will they do to reverse the trend to reduce the proportion of aid that has been going towards population control, from 1 per cent. of overseas aid in 1980 to only .75 per cent. in 1981? Also, what is the total amount which the Government are prepared to see devoted to these purposes? Finally, with regard to the ODA joint funding scheme with non-governmental organisations, which involves voluntary organisations working in this field, is it or is it not true that the money available through this scheme has been exhausted for the year 1982–83? I do not pretend that this is a matter of particular concern to the organisations with which I am connected, but, if this work is to go ahead, such organisations do need to know where they stand financially, and it is being said that these resources are drying up.

3.23 p.m.

Lord Robertson of Oakridge

My Lords, I am sure that I share the general feeling of thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, for initiating this debate on such an important subject, which has so many aspects which concern us greatly and which perhaps concern us in a different way from the developing world but are still of vital importance to us, and are problems that we cannot afford to brush away. The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, referred to the need for family planning and I would wholeheartedly support him in that. I would also support the plea made by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for increased aid for family planning. My concern is that family planning should be on the right basis. My aim in taking part in this debate is to urge that in matters of population control and family planning the encour- agement of a responsible attitude to sex. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and to see what can go wrong we have to look at what is happening in our own country.

For example, in the case of sex education the Minister for schools the other day rightly drew attention of the other place to certain highly irresponsible books which are to be found in our schools—books which have been recommended for use in schools by the Health Education Council. I have read one of them, called Make It Happy. Its attitude to sex is that anything goes provided that you enjoy it and provided that you take the right precautions. Such an approach inflicts great harm by playing with people's emotions at the deepest level. It is not just a question of taking precautions.

Contraception, while having a valuable role in married life and in population control, is not the all-embracing answer. It is, for example, disturbing that in our own country, again, children under the age of 16 should be prescribed contraceptives without the knowledge of their parents. I was sorry to see that this policy was reported in the Daily Mail on 1st May as being given conditional endorsement by the new Minister of Health.

Still on the subject of safeguards, what we have to guard against at all costs is the idea that abortion is any part of population control or family planning. It might seem unnecessary to say this, but unfortunately some people involved in these fields—only some, of course—do think that this is so. An example of what can go wrong and what can happen if a sense of proportion is lost is seen in the proposals made way back in 1969 by the President of the International Planned Parenthood Federation for reducing fertility in the United States. These proposals included abortion on demand, payments actually to encourage abortion, and the compulsory abortion of out of wedlock pregnancies. While this is obviously an extreme attitude, it is worth noting that IPPF's own publication, IPPF News, reports the federation's interest in legislative changes on matters of abortion and that in this country, despite the requirements of the 1967 Act, it is clear that some abortions are carried out for which there is no medical reason.

I believe that the Christian approach to abortion is that life comes from God the Father, God the Creator, and that for men to intervene in what is His prerogative is to take on a very grave responsibility for which account will have to be given in due course. It cannot be said often enough that sex education should encourage responsible attitudes and prepare men and women for parenthood. It was disappointing therefore to read in the Daily Telegraph on 22nd April that the Health Education Council, again, had rejected books on sex education published by the Responsible Society and by the Order of Christian Unity. These books advocate chastity outside marriage and a responsible attitude to sex. It is to be hoped that the Government will urge the Health Education Council to revise its list of books approved for sex education in schools without delay.

My Lords, by all means let us support and encourage the provision of family planning as part of population control. However, let us be on the watch for any extension or distortion of family planning that en- courages dehumanising immorality and which works against the family. Let education in this field encourage responsibility and a respect for the value of human life.

3.29 p.m.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, if I may say so, I do not think that the warnings given by the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, are relevant to the problem of over-population in many countries of the world. Certainly they are not as relevant there as they may be to the alleged evils of Western civilisation.

There are two reminders that we ought to have in mind as a background to this debate. One is that this is Christian Aid Week. This week we are reading in the newspapers appeals for money and support resting on widespread poverty, sickness and malnutrition in families throughout the world. Also this week there is a conference in Nairobi of the United Nations Environmental Programme, where 100 nations are gathered to consider the ecological problems of the world, which they last did at a conference in Stockholm 10 years ago. The President of Kenya, who opened the conference, and Dr. Tolba, the Director, gave the world the gravest warnings about ecological disaster looming ahead unless Governments act now. We all know the underlying cause of these gloomy predictions.

I have long maintained that to have an economic policy without a population policy is a mistake. It is what we have in this country, and although I think it is harmful in its consequences it is not yet disastrous. But in some countries it can be disastrous. Of course, for a Government to have an economic policy is common form throughout the world. Political parties put it in their manifestoes; authoritarian Governments put it in their five-year plans, and so on. But a population policy is more difficult to formulate, and in some countries is almost impossible to apply. There are many obstacles. I mention a few; ignorance, squalor, lack of communications, lack of technical services, to mention only four. But I do not think we should overlook another, which is religion.

Religious beliefs, doctrine and teaching, are never far away when discussing birth control, and birth control is what we have in mind when talking about population control. Of course it is; it is bound to be. In this context we cannot ignore the moral conflict between right and wrong which surrounds family planning and advocates of population control in every Roman Catholic community in the world. Wherever artificial contraception is condemned as sinful there are obvious difficulties in the way of family limitation and population control. The extent and consequences of this factor are rarely open to investigation and discussion. Take, for example, the Catholic or the Vatican contention that economic, social and political injustices are the cause of poverty and starvation in today's world. That is, unfortunately, valid enough, at least up to a point—an advanced point. But it is not enough, I suggest, to call for a reorientation of the world order, because it will not be brought about in time.

The horrifying fact is that some 10 million human beings enter this world every year without the slightest possibility of a good life or of achieving the human dignity or the human rights which Pope John Paul so rightly proclaims. His strong and repeated condemnation of contraceptives means that more mothers are likely to have more children that they do not want, and that they will not be able to look after properly. This in turn will mean that living standards for whole communities or even nation states may continue to be deplorably low.

This is a matter of deep regret—that the literally crying need for a strict and effective programme of family limitation appears not to be recognised by the Roman Catholic Church. If they could change their position on this and join with other religious leaders in facing the grim realities of the modern world, there would be more hope for mankind. As the New York Times, said on 14th July 1980, after Pope John Paul's visit to Brazil: The world would profit if John Paul would find the words that harmonise old doctrines with new and desperate needs. But he did not find those words, not even three and a half months later as the Synod of the Bishops ended, at which we understand he was under considerable pressure to do so. Nor has he found them since. That is the great pity of the matter.

It is fortunate for the world that religion is not an obstacle to population control in China. The Chinese Government are trying to introduce on a vast scale the first one-child family state, with the limitation of population which they hope will keep within 1.2 billion in the 21st century. China is the most populous country in the world, and if they can achieve that it is a most hopeful sign of what might be acomplished elsewhere. There is a bonus, too, in Mexico where a state family planning service has been introduced, almost under the very nose of the Catholic Church. It will be a grave mistake if we listen in silence to a good man giving bad advice.

In an article by Conor Cruise O'Brien in the Observer on 14th October 1979, he spoke of his own experience of the power of love in a Catholic community. He wrote: All the more need then for that power to be brought to bear on the world's suffering". I will not quote the end of that article, because he used some very harsh words indeed about the attitude of the Catholic Church. I ask, when shall we hear from Pope John Paul what enlightened and compassionate opinion throughout the world is earnestly waiting for?

3.37 p.m.

Lord Gisborough

My Lords, it is not necessary to repeat the figures to prove that the world population is increasing, but increasing it is. But I think it is useful to repeat the problem of the resources. There is likely to be a 50 per cent. increase in the population in the next 20 or 30 years, and the income disparity between North and South is going to increase rather than decrease. In 1970 there were approximately 2.6 people getting their living off each hectare of the world's cultivable surface. By the year 2000 it will need to be four people for each hectare. The fishing is being over-fished already and there is little increase likely to come in the harvest. The energy will be scarcer and there will be no relief from the energy problem. Water itself will be an increasing problem to the larger population. Pollution will become a very much greater problem, particularly in some of the less developed countries where it is not being taken seriously at the moment.

There will be an ever-increasing demand for land, which, taken with the demand for timber, is forcing forestry down at the rates we have heard. My own particular simile is that the equivalent of half of California is being taken down every year. By the year 2020 all accessible forestry will have been felled. The price will be rising and this will particularly hit the third world, which of course uses wood for fuel. There is a grave danger that the lack of forestry will destabilise the soil, the temperatures, the rainfalls, the nutrients, of all the countries where the forestry is taken down, and particularly of course Africa and South America, and large areas of presently fertile land will become barren.

In addition to this, there is a very real threat, which is not understood, of the liability of the increase of carbon dioxide, which will create the greenhouse effect which we have all heard about, which again could create catastrophic results. It is estimated that the result of a very high population will also lead to the extinction of many thousands of animals and plants. The scarcity of land in the underdeveloped countries will also lead to migration which will destabilise the developed countries.

However, all is not bad because fertility is supposed to be decreasing. While the population will certainly rise to the year 2000, thereafter it could stabilise. Education has been a very large factor in this regard as well as in respect of encouraging later marriages and the understanding of family planning methods. Also, the provision of better food and better health and other services has led to the view that children will have a better chance of survival and that, therefore, it is not necessary to have so many children as has been the tradition in the past.

But where there is gross inequality and gross poverty then a high increase in population must be expected. Those countries where there is a very great increase, will increasingly experience problems as regards jobs, health and food in catering for the large numbers of young people of disproportionate age groups. The cost of urbanisation in some of the African countries will also become a severe factor. Longevity, which is a factor at the moment and which will account for the increase to the year 2000, will be another factor which will mean that there will be more people to be supported by a smaller working age group.

What can be done? There was an extremely good report from the Parliamentary Conference of July 1981 in Nairobi. That highlighted the problems and made some very good recommendations, and we should do what we can as a country to support those recommendations. Many countries are tackling the problem and we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, about China. I think one could say that China has, in crude figures, a rate of population of 234 people per square mile. China has a quarter of the population of the whole world. I know one English lady who had three children but would not have a fourth because she had heard that every fourth child was a Chinaman! If the Chinese are worried with their 234 people per square mile, how worried should we be with our 594 people per square mile—well over double? I find it difficult to believe those figures, but I have taken them from The Times Atlas.

Most families in Britain are controlled. We are not a country which has big families. However, just like in the third world where the large families occur in the less-educated and poorer countries, so in the United Kingdom the increase comes from the poorer socio-economic groups. The less educated the parents in this country, in many cases the more children they have. Those who have sat as magistrates will well know that, of the young lads and children who come before the courts, many of them are from families of 10 children, or whatever the number may be. They started life with hardly a chance of staying out of the courts and they have a very difficult time. Indeed, it is difficult to educate them because so many of the less educated families find it difficult to educate themselves. That results in the crowding of schools and the worst conditions in this country.

We have all read about the problems in our crowded schools. Many of these children probably grow up with little education and they in turn have large families. It is these groups—and I think that we have all come across them in our home towns—who probably live on the dole and have to be supported by a smaller proportion of people who are working and who are well-educated with reasonably sized families. That leads to overcrowding in the poorest areas and like the noble Lord who opened the debate, I am sure that it is responsible for many of the riots and muggings in the poorer areas.

Society is blamed, but society does provide schools, hospitals, houses and services of that kind, yet they are not made full use of. However, just as in the third world countries, they will become increasingly difficult to provide in this country. We need a population policy in our country just as we need a world population policy. If we are to try and keep down large families or reduce the number of big families, then it must be recognised that here is a thorny problem and one that is difficult to put across without being objectionable. However, it must be faced.

We should give more publicity to contraceptives and to family planning policies, and we should try particularly to help those who are in need—for example, those wives who are least able to sort out the problem themselves. We ought also to try to encourage more sterilisation, particularly for those people who are probably least capable of managing their own families. Education is certainly the main factor that seems to have succeeded in other countries. We must decide on our desired rate of growth and aim for that rate. We must also understand the problems of zero growth because that itself has problems; for example, there would be a situation of disproportionate ages, with few people in work looking after a great many others who are retired. Unless we deal with population growth there will be much greater crowding in our cities; there will be much greater pressure, much greater crime, for example, riots and mugging—indeed, there will be an increase of everything that we want to do away with.

3.48 p.m.

Lord Vernon

My Lords, I have been making speeches in your Lordships' House on the subject of population for the last 10 years. The first occasion was in 1972, when I introduced a short debate suggesting that there should be a population policy for the United Kingdom; and the last occasion was in the debate on the Brandt Report last month.

Like the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, I should begin by declaring an interest, because I am chairman of the trustees of the Birth Control Trust, and I am also a member of the executive committee of Population Concern. I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, for giving us this opportunity of discussing the situation yet again this afternoon. I often wonder why it is that those of us who think as I do have such difficulty in persuading others—and by "others" I mean successive Governments and the media—of what to us is crystal clear: that is, that the exceptionally fast rate of population growth in the world since 1945, which is continuing at an ever faster rate, diminishes the quality of life for all of us living on this planet. That is the important point that I want to stress. It is not just a question of whether we can feed the 12 billion to 15 billion people forecast for the middle of the next century—perhaps we can, I do not know. But the point is, what sort of a life will those 12 billion to 15 billion people have, knowing that so many of the 4½ billion today live in such abject poverty? If one raises these matters one is so often criticised as being a doomwatcher, or what have you.

In the last debate the noble Lord, Lord Soper—who is not here today—described my remarks as "apocalyptic". One is told that human ingenuity will find a way of solving these problems; that it is merely a question of improving the standard of living in these countries and, sure as sure, their birthrate will fall. One is told that the theory of Malthus was disproved in the last century by the prosperity flowing from the Industrial Revolution, which enabled Western countries to absorb the huge increase in the population of that period, and that it will be disproved again with development in the third world. I wonder.

The situation in the third world today is very different from the situation confronting the Western nations at the beginning of the 19th century, and there are also no spare continents available on which the surplus population can be put. No, these countries must come to terms with reality and persuade their people, by one means or another, to limit the size of their families. This should go hand in hand with a programme of economic development and education, and particularly education of women. We in this country can only encourage them and help them. The question is: are we doing enough?

In the course of a short speech I should like to suggest a five-point programme of what additional steps the Government might take. First, no development aid of any kind should go to countries unless they have vigorous and effective family planning programmes, otherwise the aid is wasted. Secondly, we should increase the present 1 per cent. of overseas aid devoted to family planning to 2 per cent., and even a doubling of our aid in the family planning field would still not be a very generous proportion. Thirdly, we should reestablish and strengthen the Population Bureau, which was set up to advise our own Governments and foreign Governments and to do research into population prob- lems, and which the present Government have not exactly destroyed but have absorbed into the ODA. Inevitably, that leads to a diminution of the importance which we, as a nation, attach to population matters, and, incidently, it is in contradiction to what Sir Ian Gilmour, the Lord Privy Seal, said in, I think, 1981.

Fourthly—and in some ways I think that this is the most important—through the educational system we should make our own young people aware of the damage which is done by excessive population growth and of the importance of limiting the size of families. Lastly, we should take a close look at our own population level in the United Kingdom in the light of our changed economic circumstances since the last century. What a marvellous thing it would be if we in this country, with—as the noble Lord who preceded me said—one of the highest population densities in the world, set an example to the rest of the world by actually reducing our populaton from its present relative level of stability.

In the last 20 years a series of scientists and laymen of different kinds have warned of the very real dangers involved for our planet if the present indiscriminate and growing rate of population increase continues. I simply do not accept that the people who give these warnings are doomwatchers. They are asking world leaders to look ahead to the next century and to exercise a reasonable amount of prudence and foresight, and that is what I am asking the Government to do this afternoon.

3.55 p.m.

Lord Noel-Baker

My Lords, I offer an apology that I shall be obliged to leave the debate before the end in order to attend an emergency meeting on the danger of war in the South Atlantic. I should like, respectfully, to support what the noble Lord who has just sat down proposed about our rate of aid. I wish, indeed, that his proposal could be adopted and that our economic aid for the development of the backward countries could be raised to 2 per cent. of our GNP. It would not be more than the generosity and the riches of the British people would justify.

Statistics have been offered about population; I offer only one statistical fact which illustrates the main point that I want to make. In 1900 there were 11 cities in the world with a population of more than one million; in 1985 there will be 173. Population has increased and is increasing at an alarming rate, and the population is being urbanised at an even more alarming rate. The people are not growing their own food on their own land. Far too many of them are congregating in towns where they will find it extremely difficult to find useful employment. That means that the problem of hunger will undoubtedly confront our descendants within a fairly early future, and long-term planning by all Governments for the increase of food resources, farming of the seas, the expansion of agricultural land, the improvement of farming methods, and all the other measures that can be taken to increase long-term food supplies, should now be under the most urgent study.

But I want particularly to draw your Lordships' attention to the problem of starvation and poverty which we have today. It is not generally realised by the people in the affluent countries that the poverty of the developing countries is a very grave scandal to mankind. There are at least 2,000 million people who have no adequate shelter, who live in mud huts or shanty towns. There are hundreds of millions who are victims of preventable disease every year—malaria, trachoma, yaws, leprosy—diseases which we used to have and which we have forgotten, diseases where there is no clinical problem but where it is merely a matter of resources. The resources are not provided, with the consequent burden of human suffering and economic loss on a great scale.

There is the problem of the people who cannot read or write. The worst form of poverty, poverty of the mind, which closes the path to economic, social, political, cultural progress of any kind. There are 1,200 million people and 400 million schoolchildren for whom there are no schools. There are a great number of people who are on the verge of starvation. It is estimated that 800 million people never have a solid meal from the cradle to the grave. This is a scandal which should be dealt with.

It was put in its proper proportion and first considered by Governments in a paper which I have called the greatest paper in human history; the final document of the first special session of the General Assembly of the United Nations devoted to disarmament in 1978. That document pointed out that more than half, perhaps two-thirds of the human race suffered the poverty of which I have spoken. They point out that 500,000 million dollars a year are spent on armaments, and 149 Governments in that special session pledged themselves to the policy that the nations of the world must carry through a treaty of disarmament. Disarmament, general and complete, down to the level at which no Government keeps more armaments or forces than it needs to maintain internal order and to make a manpower contribution to a United Nations peace force.

The document pointed out that the expenditure on arms would enable the problem of poverty to be dealt with if the wealth were reallocated away from destruction to human development instead. I am hoping that our Government will take the lead in the second special session of the General Assembly which meets in New York in two or three weeks' time. I am hoping that our Government will take the lead in putting forward a plan for a world treaty of disarmament which will demilitarise the society of nations; which will transform that society from warfare to welfare, and that our Government will propose that the wealth now given to armaments shall be given instead to improving the lot of the countless millions who are suffering the poverty which I have described.

4.3 p.m.

Viscount Craigavon

My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, for introducing this important Motion in his usual robust way. In my view, there can never he too much discussion about these problems. I find the statistics that we have heard today, especially recently from the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, rather mind-numbing. I was looking at the debate in 1979, in which I spoke, about population and development prior to the Columbo Conference to see whether things had improved since then. I feel slightly more optimistic, at least in that broadly ground has not been lost, though perhaps not much has been gained. In this field standing still is something of an achievement. That is the measure of the problem.

May I give the example of India, which has had selective pockets of success. As I understand it food production and resources have increased, but relatively so has the population. The awful dimensions of the problem are still there, but it has been prevented from becoming a worse problem. One of the main difficulties, particularly for politicians dealing with this subject, is the long delay between cause and effect. If the actions of today do not present problems until 10 or 15 years later, politicians find them easy to ignore. I would hope that especially in this House we should be able to focus more readily on the longer-term problems presented by the pressures of population.

As well as endorsing the various practical and financial appeals made today to the Government for the devoting of a higher proportion of aid to population programmes, I would emphasise the enormous amount of persuasion of minds and beliefs that is also required. There are indeed moral problems in trying to influence other countries to new attitudes, but we also know that people of many countries would willingly take up any increased help on population programmes that we could give.

If I may generalise, the World Fertility Survey has found that among women who want no more children, half are typically unprotected. As a member of the British Parliamentary Group on Population and Development one gets sent the excellent quarterly magazine, People. When one reads the articles on different problems and successes of various countries, one cannot help being aware of the enormous complexity and diversity of the problems facing them. One realises the considerable sensitivity and understanding needed to make any impact on the diverse needs of less developed nations. There are no simple answers.

The magazine, People, is very much part of the collective progress that is being made in changing people's minds and prejudices, and in spreading a high level of knowledge on this subject throughout the world. The magazine is part of the excellent work of the IPPF—the International Planned Parenthood Federation. I hope that the Government will continue to support their work fully and whole-heartedly in the future, and also that they will safeguard their contribution to other international bodies. Finally, I hope that the Government will respond positively to the suggestions that have been made in this debate.

4.8 p.m.

Lord Caradon

My Lords, I have had the opportunity, the privilege, of working for 20 years or so in, or for, the United Nations. During that time there have been three main international enterprises to which the effort, the time, and the determination of the United Nations as a whole have been given. The first was the question of economic development and the search for a fairer balance of the resources of the world between rich and poor. The second was the long effort to arrive at a better provision regarding the wealth of the seas; to make the wealth of the seas the common heritage of all mankind. The third was the effort to adopt an international policy on questions of population.

It is indeed sad, if it is not shameful, that the first two enterprises have come to grief for lack of support from the Western world, particularly from the United States but also from our own country, and that the present Government reduced the contribution to the development fund of the United Nations as one of their first acts from £28 million to £15 million. When it came to the almost unanimous report on the Law of the Seas, the United States decided to oppose and the United Kingdom to abstain. The work of nearly 20 years on those two main international purposes has been set aside.

I am glad to say that in relation to population growth the effort is not over. However, there has been a further reduction in our contribution, from nearly £5 million a year—not a particularly high contribution in a matter of such enormous consequence—to about £2½ million. But even at that rate, which I regard as a somewhat miserly contribution to a world effort of that kind, the work continues, and it is encouraging to be able to report that in the past 10 to 15 years there has been considerable progress. Twelve developing nations came to the United Nations and demanded that their population problem should be tackled—that they were not content with the UN decision at that time that nothing should be done—and I am glad to say that following the demand by those 12 nations for action from the United Nations in 1966, they got action.

What has been achieved under the leadership of Raphael Salas, head of the United Nation's Fund for Population Activities, in the past 10 to 15 years is something of which the world can be proud, with the response of one country after another, each with its own problems. I will mention only a few of those countries. One has been Mexico, and I was reading only yesterday of Indonesia rallying urgently to the support of the United Nations enterprise. They have plenty to worry about in Egypt at this time, not least the fact that their population increases by about 1 million a year, and that, in relation to the economic troubles of Egypt, is a terribly large figure. When years ago, I was in the island of Jamaica, we thought, having discovered bauxite then at last we had the opportunity for economic advancement, but the population of Jamaica has doubled since I left, and that is creating problems in the island and it is difficult to see how they can be solved. One country after another, be it Bangladesh or Sri Lanka, has made a great contribution.

It is worth noting that the smaller territories have often done the best, no doubt because they find it easier to communicate; in a country like Bangladesh it is difficult to communicate with people compared with, say, Sri Lanka, where they have had a marked success in their efforts in this sphere. We look round the world and see there has been a rallying to international leadership in this matter, with one country after another saying to the United Nations, "Give us the best advice and leadership in the world and we shall be glad to take it, and with it we shall go forward". The time has come, therefore, when this country, instead of reducing our contribution to such a main cause, should be prepared to consider a substantial increase.

The purpose we have in mind is that of giving freedom to the individual, of making a family a blessing instead of a burden, by creating a situation in which people have some hope of going forward to economic independence; and it is admirable that my noble friend Lord Davies should have given us this opportunity to look at the problem, welcoming the fact that we have continued to make our small contribution to this international effort and hoping that we can now take a lead in the enterprise, even if we are failing shamefully in others.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Davies, to whom we are grateful for initiating the debate, and others have provided a number of statistics on population and the degree of poverty in the world. As a result, I need not, with the exception of a few additional points, go deeply into those matters. We must never lose sight of the fact that one-fifth of the world's population is today under-nourished and very hungry. We must also keep in mind that the estimated increase in population over the next 25 years is as great as was the whole population of the world in the early part of this century. That shows the degree of the population increase.

The increase of population in the less developed regions is nearly three times that of the developed countries. The highest average annual rate of increase of any region occurs in Africa, where it was 2.1 per cent. in 1950 but 2.9 per cent. in 1980, and it is estimated to grow by 3 per cent. annually until the end of this century. A report from the Food and Agriculture Organisation covering 1970 to 1978 showed that food production in 1978 in the developing countries grew more slowly than did their rates of population increase.

It is encouraging to note developments in the population limitation sphere; that some 35 developing countries in the third world have officially adopted family planning programmes. But I understand that the United Nations Fund for Population Activities is able to meet only two-thirds of the requests made to it for assistance. Although there have been encouraging trends, such as those in China to which my noble friend Lord Houghton referred, let us not forget that even at their present decreased rate China will have a massive increase by the year 2000, from about 1 billion to—the very lowest estimate—about 1¼ billion.

Despite those encouraging trends, the developments must be regarded as insufficient because the population figures continue to rise and, as has been stressed, some countries still refuse to adopt official family planning programmes. The experience of various programmes is that family planning services succeed far more when they are linked with general improvements in education, health and the development of community responsibility; that where there is a proper movement forward for higher living standards, family planning is liable to succeed much more. We have much scientific knowledge; we have knowledge to improve food production and examples such as Israel, where they can make the deserts bloom, but still we have appalling mass poverty and insufficient funds for health, family planning and agricultural development programmes. When chatting to a friend the other clay, he observed that many countries were able to buy massive amounts of arms, yet seemed unable to provide general sewerage services and water supplies for their people.

That brings me to the theme of my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker, and I must remind the House that total world military expenditure is approaching £250 billion a year. Figures of that magnitude roll off the tongue, so instead of expressing it in billions, let me say that world expenditure on arms is now running at £250,000 million. Compared with that, spending on official development aid is only £11 billion, less than one-twentieth of what the world is spending on arms. The World Health Organisation, with its programmes to abolish malaria, trachoma and other diseases, is short of funds; those programmes would eventually cost only £250 million, one-thousandth of what the world is spending on arms. Arms sales from the North to the South account for about 70 per cent. of all arms exports. One of the gloomiest statistics is the expansion of military budgets in third world countries. In constant prices the poor nations have expanded their military spending by 400 per cent. since 1960, and between 1974 and 1978 the average yearly increase was 25 per cent.

Many people think of the United Nations only in terms of the Security Council; many people are cynical of the United Nations. Little is known of the work of its agencies: UNICEF, the World Health Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, and so on. I believe that the media, and perhaps even the Government, could do far more to let people know of the activities of these agencies and of the fact that they are short of funds to do the vital work which must go hand in hand with family limitation.

I should like to echo the plea of my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker. In a few weeks' time there will be the second Special Assembly of the United Nations on Disarmament, and it is a chance that must not be missed. In my view, tackling the problem of world disarmament and the massive build-up of arms must be linked to giving confidence to the nations of the world in a security system and to releasing funds, first of all from the strong nations, the industrialised West, so that they can give far more in the way of positive aid. Furthermore, the under-developed countries must be enabled not to spend a massive figure on arms when their own people need it for development. It is an opportunity which must not be missed. We have not yet had a proper lead given by the Government, but I hope that they will listen to the pleas this afternoon and link them to the general question of development of the under-privileged nations.

4.22 p.m.

Viscount Barrington

My Lords, I am the last back-bench speaker in the debate, and I shall relieve your Lordships by saying that I only put down my name at the last minute. I intended to be brief, but I shall be even briefer because everything that I intended to say has been said—in particular in one speech—much better than I could say it. I think that everyone has already thanked the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, for introducing this extremely important subject. I agree with everything that the noble Lord said and what has been said by most speakers, with one reservation; that is in the part of the noble Lord's Motion which refers to the extension of family planning. This is not be- cause I am against family planning—I think that it is absolutely essential—but I believe that it is a term which is in great danger of being misused. Reference has been made to family planning associations. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, mentioned one of them, and so long as she is a member of it I should have great faith in it. There are also a few family protection groups, of a less international kind. There is even a Child and Family Protection Group, and indeed even an Unborn Child Protection Society, of which I had the privilege of being a founder member at the time of the 1967 abortion debate.

I have always wondered why it is so difficult to persuade people that a child is already a member of a family before it is born as well as after. I think that there is less excuse for that now since there are some amazing films being shown, or films which can be shown, showing what an unborn child looks like at the age of one month and how it behaves. The noble Lord, Lord Davies, rightly mentioned several times the word psychosomatic. No one has ever doubted that a foetus is "somatic", but they have doubted that it is "psycho" in the sense of having a soul, or mind—however one interprets the term. I think that the reason for that is that most people have not seen one, except those who operate on it.

To quote St. Paul, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, did, I would say: The things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal". Personally, I have no doubt—and this is only a personal view—that the common motion that taking unborn lives on the massive scale on which it is being done is one of the most reputable as well as easiest ways of reducing population is based on the fact that it is not seen. Obviously there is not time to go into that point at length, but it has been made very well and made clearly.

Abortion is no more a part of contraception than destroying a town is part of planning it. I can quite understand not wanting to build a town of a certain size on the Wiltshire Downs, but if once started it is not part of a "plan" to knock it down halfway through or even a quarter of the way through.

I have already spoken for three minutes, but nine is a square number, and I shall not go on to number six. So I think that the quickest way that I can emphasise the point is to mention that at the time of the 1967 debate I tried to reduce the arguments which I was opposing to a rational form in verse, and it did not come out very well. With your Lordships' permission I should like, if I can, to quote from memory the first eight lines or so and possibly the last two. It was on the general attitude to a foetus, and it went:

  • No creature so invites our scorn
  • Than one that dies before it's born:
  • Not less so when from sheer goodwill it
  • Is our unwelcome task to kill it.
  • What is a human foetus? We
  • Need only look at one to see.
  • The one thing we can all be sure
  • About it; it is Immature.
  • It lacks to start with—at the start—
  • The semblance of a human heart;
  • Which would itself invite derision
  • Should it appear on television.
  • 239
  • When later, (if allowed to grow)
  • It graduates from the embryo,
  • The change is purely one of name.
  • Essentially the thing's the same.
  • At three weeks old no Foetus knows
  • That it has fingers, feet and toes;
  • There being, as one must presume,
  • No education in the womb.
  • Though it has ears it cannot hear
  • The plainest Message of Good Cheer
  • True, it has eyes: but cannot see
  • And recognise its own MP.
  • Feet has it? Well, it doesn't walk
  • It dangles on a sort of stalk,
  • A formless, gormless, gumptionless
  • Epitome of helplessness,
  • With no Diplomas, no IQ,
  • No Civic Central point of view,
  • No Sales-talk—in effect no throat—
  • And (more important still) no Vote.
I think that last is one of the main reasons why the foetus has been neglected. I believe that it should have many more rights than it has, and more and more people are beginning to realise that. They realise the enormous way in which the Abortion Bill has escalated—to use a bad word. That is all that I shall say on this subject. I am afraid that I have already taken up two-thirds of my time.

4.28 p.m.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, the noble Viscount is not, I fear, the last speaker, nor indeed, I understand, am I. I had not intended to intervene in this extremely important debate because of the constrictions of time, but having heard some of the speeches that have been made, and realising that perhaps we have a few minutes left, I hope that your Lordships will bear with me if I make one or two comments on some of the things that have been said.

I regard this as a most important debate. I think it is terribly sad that it should be taking place in this very low-key way, and in the shadow of perhaps greater topical events elsewhere in the world. I think that the question that the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, has raised will continue to be perhaps the most important single international problem that we have to face long after we have forgotten what is happening in the South Atlantic.

We have heard a great number of statistics this afternoon, all of them interesting, and some of them very sombre. I think that most demographers now agree that between now and the end of this century the population of the world will increase, as other noble Lords have said, from where it is now, which is about 4½ billion, to about 6 billion, and there is very little that anybody can do to alter that. I wonder whether it is absolutely clear in our minds what that means; they are just figures. As the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, has said, it means that between now and the end of this century we shall increase the population of the world by a figure equivalent to what the total population of the world was in 1930. It is increasing the world in the next 20 years by the equivalent of 20 new countries the size of Bangladesh, and they will be 20 new countries as poor as the people of Bangladesh are now.

I think what we have to understand even more clearly is that 90 per cent. of that massive growth will take place in the low-income countries of the world, in the poor countries of the world. African women, in the course of their child-bearing life, now bear an average of six children. In South Asia it is five children. In one country in Africa, in Morocco, the average woman during her fertile life bears seven children. That is the average in Morocco. The result of all this is that any economic gain, any increased food output, any growth in the third world, is totally cancelled out, and more than cancelled out, by population growth.

So the fact, often repeated, that there is a gap between the North and the South, and that that gap is growing, becomes almost a cliché, because of the difference in population growth. In the years 1960 to 1980, the last 20 years for which we have figures, there was an increase in population in the whole of the industrial world of 200 million. In the developing world, the third world, there was an increase of 1.2 billion, compared with the 200 million in the industrialised world. This, of course, is where the problem lies. The population explosion is not in the industrialised world: it is in the developing world, in the poorer countries.

The noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, talked of urbanisation, of the impact of population growth on urban conglomerations. That is not a problem for the industrialised world; it is a problem for the third world. If population growth continues at its present rate, Mexico City and San Paulo will have a population of 13 million by the end of this century; and Teheran, Cairo and Karachi will all be somewhere around 14 to 16 million. Baghdad and Lima, which had populations of only about half a million people, 600,000 people, in 1950, will have 11 to 12 million by the end of this century. That is what is happening in the third world.

I mention these figures, not to add to the apocalyptic nature of the whole of this debate, but simply to point out that while we might with some justification make great play with the terrible starvation, disease and deprivation which is going on in the third world, I think we should be careful not to imply too great a sense of guilt for this in the industrialised world. It is not entirely our fault that this is happening.

We have heard those Members of this House with long experience of these things talking of the expenditure on armaments. Much of the expenditure on armaments in the world is caused by purchases of armaments by third world countries who could be using their resources in other ways. It is, I think, easy to point the finger at the arms-exporting countries who sell military equipment to the third world. They could not sell that equipment if people did not want to buy it; and if those countries that bought it would divert their resources to the kind of things which would improve their quality of life more, then perhaps the arms-exporting countries would not have such a jolly and successful trade.

I think that we must obviously agree that the debate that the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, has introduced is one of absolutely primordial importance. This is the problem that we are all going to have to solve in the years ahead, when our little local difficulties are over. I do not think, however, that we shall approach this problem very sensibly if we approach it from the point of view that it is the rich, industrialised countries of the world which are entirely to blame. It must be for the third world countries to do something about the explosion in population that is taking place in their midst. Even if they were to start now they probably could not do very much about it before the middle of the next century, such is the nature of a demographic curve based on the enormous populations that we already have in the world.

But I believe, with other noble Lords, that it perhaps ought to be among the first priorities of the Government of this country and of all other civilised countries in the world to attack this problem. It will be no good, my Lords—I say this in all sincerity—trying, even if we succeed, to solve the problems of food, of water and even of disarmament if we cannot at the same time solve this basic problem of the explosion in the population of the world.

4.35 p.m.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, at this hour I do not rise to make a speech but to make one point only, and I would not be doing this except that I was a member of the British delegation to the World Food Congress in 1963. In fact, I was the leader. What I should like to say is this. The speeches we have heard here today reflect very closely the speeches which I heard made in Parliament shortly after that congress in 1963, with one difference and one difference only, and that is that we can all speak openly about family planning, whereas then everyone was rather furtive about it, whatever he might think.

But, having said that, I should like to emphasise that the main problem today, which we have again just heard summarised, remains as it was in 1963: that the increase in population in the world is outrunning any increase that we can see in food production. I make one plea, my Lords: that we keep that problem ever before us. I hope that more will be achieved in the coming 20 years than has been achieved in the 20 years just past.

Lord Oram

My Lords, we have had a notable series of speeches, and I am sure that my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek must be gratified, as indeed we all are, that he chose to introduce this subject of such importance and that it has led to such an important and fascinating debate. Whenever I contemplate this problem to which he has directed out attention, like other noble Lords and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, I like to start with some simple arithmetic—not that when talking about billions, as we are, it is easy to keep the arithmetic simple.

We have had some graphic illustrations from both the noble Baroness and Lord Chalfont, from Lord Davies himself and from my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker; but there is one sequence of dates and numbers that impresses itself particularly on my mind in this connection, and it is as follows. It took the literally thousands of years of human existence up to about the year 1830 for the first billion mark to be reached; but it took only 100 years after that for the second billion to be reached; it took only another 30 years for the third billion to be reached; and then it took only 15 years for the population to have increased to 4 billion. That, to me, illustrates more graphically perhaps than any other series of figures that the rate of growth is accelerating dramatically—and, as successive speakers have pointed out, not only dramatically but dangerously.

Lord Paget of Northampton

My Lords, would my noble friend allow me to make one point? What he has said is very interesting. I was recently working on a book, and then I found that if you assume that homo sapiens have had a life of about 50,000 years, most of the homo sapiens who have ever lived or are living are my contemporaries.

Lord Oram

Yes, my Lords; I thank my noble friend Lord Paget for underlining the kind of development that I was pointing out.

My Lords, the Motion moved by my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek calls for "a proper balance between population and resources". In my view, that is the only sound approach to this problem. It would be a mistake to take only a negative attitude to it and to put all our emphasis as family planners or birth controllers on contraception and on the prevention of unwanted pregnancies, highly important although they are. We also need to be positive. We need to ensure that the world resources are not wasted or, as so many of them are, polluted or destroyed. We should see that they are developed and increased so that the world's more numerous men, women and children, as they come to be born, can lead more adequate and satisfying lives; in other words, the new billions which have been forecast must not be condemned before they are born to a miserable lot on this planet. Let us make no mistake about it, those new billions will be born. Just as surely as the sun rises on every new day, those billions of children will be born.

As has been pointed out, there are probably now 4½ billion human beings and a large and dominant proportion of that 4½ billion consists of young people, of young potential parents. According to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights those young potential parents have the right: to marry and to found a family". And I am sure that that is something which we would all endorse and, even if we do not, we can be sure that those young potential parents will marry and will found families. Therefore, it is predictable that, however much we spend on family planning programmes—I am one, like others, who advocate that we should spend much more—and, however much success attends that expenditure, those new parents are going to produce children faster than the grandparents die. That is why the demographers, not with a view to alarm us but with a view to approaching this problem in a purely scientific way, can forecast with absolute certainty that the world population at the end of this century will be at least 6 billion.

Surely that presents to us all a tremendous and overwhelming moral obligation, both to do all that we can to lower the birthrate and to increase the resources (as I have said) for feeding, clothing, housing, education and, perhaps above all, for employing and maintaining in health not only the 4½ billion people at present living on this planet but the 6 billion who will be living on this planet—short of a nuclear holo- caust, which is scarcely imaginable. What should we do? I think that essentially—perhaps this is an easy simplification—there are two things that we should do. The first is to try ourselves to understand, and to get more and more people to understand, the real nature of the problem. I noted in the short intervention from the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, that he was pointing over the last 10 years to a remarkable improvement in the situation of people realising the nature of the problem and being able to talk about it more frankly. That is certainly my experience, too. When I first went as a junior Minister to the Ministry of Overseas Development we had to talk more delicately than is necessary now.

I should like to identify perhaps four aspects of the problem which seem to me to have been brought out during the debate. The first is common knowledge, but it is worth making the point, and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, made it quite vigorously; namely, that the problem we are talking about is overwhelmingly a problem of the developing countries. This does not mean to say that countries with advanced economies like our own do not need to have a rational approach to the size of the population. This was a point made forcefully by my noble friend Lord Houghton and by the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, and—although I do not think he was advocating a population policy—by the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakbridge, whose remarks related more to the problem of a developed economy. Certainly, we in the developed world need to think about these things in relation to our own economic development, but it still remains that it is the poor countries of the world which have an excessively high growth rates—something like twice the growth rate of the developed countries—and, therefore, as we look at the future, it is the countries in South-East Asia, Africa and Latin America whose populations will form the bulk of the huge population that we expect.

Another point that was made, again by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, is that it is in the developing countries that the bulk of that huge population will live. It is estimated that by the year 2000 something of the order of 85 per cent. of the world's population will be living in the developing world. This means that the strain on our resources will greatly increase in those very regions where the strain is already insupportable. It is in those regions where there is dire poverty (except for the privileged few) where, unless we make gigantic efforts to change the facts which have been deployed in this debate, the growth of population will cause more hunger, more disease, more homelessness, more unemployment and more ignorance. In a word, it is in those regions of the world that we shall suffer more human degredation.

It is there in those developing countries that this population problem expresses itself not in the bare statistics that we use in the debates here, but in a whole series of complex human problems. A major one is food. As my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek pointed out, already our fisheries, forests, grasslands and crop lands throughout the world are coming under mounting pressure as populations grow. If we look at it, as many of us have had the opportunity of doing, at the village level where the people are actually living, we know that each family has a tiny plot of land on which to produce the food to keep itself alive. It is inescapable logic that if there are more and bigger families, then those tiny patches of land will be tinier yet. The problem comes through essentially in the food problem.

But let us take education. As we have said, the child population is increasing faster than the population as a whole. This means that the demand for school places is outstripping the supply of those places. This in turn means that although we can take some satisfaction from the fact that today in the world there are more people who can read and write than at any other time in human history, it is also true that the number of illiterate people is increasing, and increasing at a still faster rate than the number of the literate. So when we talk of numbers of people, we need, as I have stressed, to talk about their lives, the lives of the individuals. That logic comes through not just in food, education and literacy, it comes through in housing, jobs and health services. They all come under pressure from increasing numbers of people.

The next aspect that seems to me to have been brought out by one or two speakers which is worth summarising—and it was particularly noted by my noble friend Lord Noel-Baker—is that this population problem is getting worse and worse because of the process of urbanisation. It is not just a question of numbers of people, it is a question of where those people live and where they are seeking to live. It was a point again that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, brought out.

May I illustrate this from my personal experience? He quoted a number of cities and the figures of their growth. It so happened from my personal experience of travel in the 1960s and early 1970s that I visited a number of the cities to which the noble Lord referred. I will give only two by way of illustration. Bogota in 1960 had a population of 1.7 million people. Fifteen years later it had doubled. In Lagos in 1960—not much before the time that I visited it—there were fewer than 1 million—some 800,000—people. But in 1975 there were over 2 million people. I could quote other figures comparable to those which have already been noted.

Lord Paget of Northampton

My Lords, would the noble Lord give way for one second? Another figure which precisely bears him out is that 70 years ago more than two-thirds of the urban area of the world today was open fields. That is one lifetime.

Lord Oram

My Lords, again, I am grateful to my noble friend for underlining the point that I was making. Here again, I want to get away from the figures because the picture that is in my mind of those teeming towns, as I look back over those travels—which many of your Lordships have equally made—is not of the city centres, not the offices, factories and hotels, but the shanty towns on the outskirts of these cities. They are vast obscenities of geography. They are masses of shacks made out of tins, cardboard and wood which, to the bulk of the human race, are home. It is one of the most frustrating sides of this problem that we are debating that we see people from the countryside in a process of futile migration to the towns. I say "futile" because they go there in the hope of finding a job and a better life than they had in the village. What they find when they get there is no job and a worse life than they had in the village. That we can think of in terms of individuals; but, when we think of it in the massive terms in which we need to think of it, it is an overwhelming human problem.

The next point that I should like to make was not made during the debate. We are accustomed in this kind of discussion to think, as we have been thinking today, in massive, global terms. My noble friend Lord Caradon, with his experience, referred to the building up of the United Nations organisations like the fund for population activities; and in the voluntary field there is the IPPF and other organisations. They now comprise a huge network of organisations which have a massive and global approach to this situation. But I suggest, on the other hand, that while necessarily taking that view, we also need forever to be conscious that when we are thinking of human procreation we are thinking of one of the most personal, intimate, private and individual of human experiences. The very great conundrum that faces all of us in this matter is how to reconcile the massive global public social need in these matters with the individual human personality.

It follows from all that I have said that family planning must go hand in hand with measures of economic and social development. One hears the argument that all we need think about is economic development; that if living standards, particularly of education, are raised, then, just as happened in the developed world, this problem of population control will go away. I thought that my noble friend Lord Vernon put that argument in order to destroy it, and he destroyed it most effectively. I would only add to what he said, that economic development is painfully slow and the population explosion is alarmingly fast. Therefore we need both approaches. We need family planning programmes of increased effectiveness, and we need to tackle with far more determination than hitherto this mind-boggling problem of world poverty.

This brings me, in a very brief conclusion, to a direct point to the Government and to the Minister—not in any detail, because particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, asked some pointed questions in her speech. I merely echo them and I hope that the Minister took note of them and will be able to respond to them.

My noble friend Lord Vernon, not in the form of questions but in the form of suggestions, put forward some other most important points. I believe that it is important—vital—for the Government to take note both of the questions that were asked and the suggestions that were made, and to ask themselves whether the policies and expenditures which they are pursuing are adequate in answer to those questions and in response to those suggestions. I know the answer will come, "It will cost a lot of money". I am glad to see that the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, is shaking his head. I shall look forward all the more eagerly to his speech. He will agree with me that when we discuss these questions of overseas aid it is a negative reply in terms of expenditure that we so often get.

Whether we agree or not, I want to make that point, that all that I have in mind—all that my noble friends have in mind—will cost a very great deal of money. Controlling the world's population increase is a colossal task. It is also, as I tried to suggest, not only a difficult but a very delicate task, and if disaster is to be avoided I suggest to the House that it is a task which the nations of the world, including our own, dare not neglect.

5 p.m.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I should like to begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, on two things. At the risk of infuriating one noble Lord, and of your Lordships castigating me for being contrary, I should like to start with the second one. Since your Lordships started short debates nine years ago they have proved to be a most valuable addition to the routine of your Lordships' House, but they were limited to one day a month. Speaking as a minor capillary, I suppose, among the "usual channels", I am delighted that the noble Lord has helped to persuade his colleagues that a day set aside for a main Opposition Back-Bench debate should be split into two parts so that we can debate two most useful subjects in place of the usual one. I hope that noble Lords on all sides of the House will see that today a precedent has been set—one which we on this Bench would like to see repeated in the not-too-distant future.

Turning now to the debate itself, the first thing upon which I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Davies, is his choice of subject and the level of debate he has achieved. It is not platitude to say that this is an important subject and one to which your Lordships devote far too little attention. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Oram, would agree with that. After all, world population and its growth is something which concerns every single one of us whether, by accident of birth, one lives in the western or the eastern hemisphere, the north or the south. The noble Lord, Lord Vernon, said that he has made this point regularly to your Lordships since 1972. I can tell him that I wrote that last sentence before this debate started without reference to any of his previous speeches, but I must point out that this is not the forerunner of a new SDP Alliance.

I have listened with great interest to the views which have been expressed here today and I am bound to say that the Government freely share the concern which has been expressed. As noble Lords have said, the scale of the problem of population growth is truly vast. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, is obviously very conscious of this. Indeed, the addition to the world's population over the next 20 years will be roughly equivalent to the total global population which existed in 1930; and that has already been remarked upon. The noble Lords, Lord Chalfont and Lord Oram, are equally conscious of the geography involved in this particular problem, and I shall have more to say about this shortly.

Going back to the figures for a moment, by the year 2000 the number of souls upon this earth will probably exceed 6 billion. I would, however, take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Oram, on the demographic certainty of this. It is easy to overlook in these figures the wide variation that exists between different regions of the world. My noble friend Lord Gisborough drew attention to the physical results of the increasing population in varying parts of the world, and I must say that I agree with him.

Lord Gisborough

My Lords, would my noble friend give way? He says that he doubts the certainty of the increase by the year 2000, but surely it is not a question of the birth-rate increase up to then but the longevity of the people now existing which makes it certain?

Lord Skelmersdale

Yes, my Lords, I agree; but what I was trying to say was that a lot can happen in the space of 15 years and, as various speakers have pointed out, a lot has happened in the space of the last 15 years. The noble Lord, Lord Paget, referred to the last 70 years; so we are talking about a time-scale all the time, and I think that should be borne in mind. But there has been progress, particularly in the last 10 years, in reducing the rate of population growth. Fertility rates have fallen in a wide spectrum of countries with substantially different cultural, social and religious settings. This slackening in the rate of global population growth at the end of the 1970s represented an achievement on the part of developed countries, international aid agencies and non-governmental organisations working in the population sector. But most of all it was an achievement on the part of those developing countries which saw the threat that increasing populations presented to their economic and social development. My noble friend Lord Gisborough, and indeed the Motion itself, as the noble Lord, Lord Oram said, put flesh on the bones of this rather bald statement which I am afraid I do not have time to elaborate upon. The noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, said there was some ground for optimism since he had last spoken shortly before the Colombo Conference. I agree that there is some ground for optimism, but there is still a great deal to be desired.

Lord Paget of Northampton

My Lords, does the noble Lord have in mind what happened to poor Mrs. Gandhi when she tried to do something practical about it?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I will come to the practicalities a little later in my speech, if the noble Lord will be patient with me. We cannot, however, afford to be complacent since the trend towards lower growth rates needs continuing reinforcement and assistance. I suspect that we may have seen success in only some of the areas which are easier to address and that major difficulties remain in tackling effectively the more intractable problems. The noble Lord, Lord Davies, mentioned the older generation and I know that the idea of an old-age pension in third world countries is being considered. However, I must emphasise that whatever scheme is decided upon—and I address this directly to the noble Lord, Lord Paget—must be right for a particular country at a particular time.

We should be prepared to accept the challenge, understand the differences between regions and cultures and try to help whenever we can with commitment and sensitivity. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, about religion, even though Her Majesty's Government can hardly be expected to respond to the Pope. However, ultimately the responsibility for population policies must lie with national Governments —that is, in those "host Governments", as they are called in aid terms. Developed or donor countries are willing and able to help, but our assistance is worthless without the political, moral and financial commitment of the countries concerned. Perhaps the invidious choice between aid to China and aid to India which was pointed to by the noble Lord, Lord Davies, might be judged in terms of this last remark of mine and so indeed might the chat with his friend that the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, told us about. It is for all Governments to decide on their own priorities, both the host Governments and the donor Governments.

What should be the role of the international community? Clearly the action which is taken in the next 20 years will significantly affect the ultimate size and distribution of the world's population. We have been much encouraged by the prominence given to population matters in the Brandt Report and in the summit meetings in Ottawa and Cancun, which all drew attention to the implications of world population growth in terms of the demand for food, raw materials and energy. They echoed many of the fears which had led to the convening of the World Population Conference in Bucharest in 1974. At that meeting the World Population Plan of Action was adopted and it recognised, among other things, that family planning information and services were basic human rights and that population and economic and social development were inextricably mixed. The noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, was concerned about this. These two ideas have gained national and international recognition in the past decade, and over 100 developed and developing countries how acknowledge that natural increase in population can act as a deterrent to national development.

We in this country are active in these advances. The Government have attached, and continue to attach, great importance to population activities within the aid programme. Our assistance started in a modest way in the mid-1960s and has grown markedly since. In 1971 we provided about £1 million in assistance, but by 1980 this had increased to over £7,500,000. Behind the expenditure of these sums is a strong belief that, although family planning is important, it is only part of a population policy. The size, structure, rate of growth, distribution and movement of population are all linked with development.

Providing family planning services alone will not entirely solve the problem of world growth. It is necessary to create in the developing world a social framework which is conducive to fertility regulation. This means helping the developing countries to relieve poverty and raise their living standards; it means reducing infant mortality rates so that parents can be sure that their children will survive; it means educating people to understand the advantages of family planning and to be able to make informed decisions on how many children they want, how to space them and what contraceptive method to use; it means improving the status of women, and it means improving the quality and quantity of managerial manpower in the developing world, to ensure that population programmes are well run.

For these reasons, the aid which the Government give to population encompasses a broad range of activities. Our aid programme is not allocated by sectors, so there is no fund for population aid as such, but population activities are represented in all the major types of assistance that we give. As my right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development announced last September at the United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, we have increased our contributions to multilateral agencies dealing with population to £5 million in 1981–82 and to £6 million in 1982–83. The United Nations Fund for Population Activities, to which we have pledged £2 .4 million in 1982–83, works with Governments to develop and run population programmes. The international Planned Parenthood Federation, to which we have also pledged £2.4 million in 1982–83, works at the grass roots level, providing family planning services through its affiliated family planning associations. These are the major multilateral agencies that we fund—

Lord Paget of Northampton

My Lords, would the noble Lord again be very kind? Would he recognise that he has just told us that our total contributions to the most important of all the factors in the world is slightly less than the cost of a minesweeper?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, the noble Lord is pre-empting me again. I wish he would not, and would let me finish my speech in my own way. Then, if he would like to cross-question me, I should be delighted to respond. On the bilateral side—I was not talking about the bilateral side before—we hope to spend £4.3 million on population during this calendar year. This, I think, is a partial answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. But I must tell her and the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, that we have done more. In 1981, about 0.6 per cent., or £6.47 million, of the gross aid programme's estimated expenditure is likely to have been spent on population as such. It is too early to provide a percentage for 1982, but we expect the expenditure to be in the region of £11.3 million, including a rise of some 25 per cent. on bilateral aid.

I am sure that noble Lords will welcome this as a mammoth stride in the right direction. Her Majesty's Government do not enjoy the cuts any more than anybody else. However, we take a little pride—perhaps not as much pride as we should—in being brave enough to make them for as long as is appropriate in each case. When the economic situation improves, as indeed it is beginning to do, then—to use a phrase of a noble Lord who spoke yesterday—we shall be in a completely different ball game. I hope that noble Lords will recognise this in the context of what I am talking about.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, asked me a specific question relating to NGOs. I can confirm that the funds available for the joint funding scheme are now fully committed for 1982–83, although of course they are not yet spent. So any applications for these schemes would have to he considered for the following year, and not for 1982–83. In practice, these figures, including our spending on bilateral population activities, is dependent on requests from recipient countries. But my right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development has directed that all new projects financed from the aid programme should, wherever appropriate, take account of, and if possible include, a population element.

In the past year, we have continued to work with the voluntary agencies under the joint funding scheme. Population is a development sector in which much can be, and in some countries is, being achieved by non-governmental organisations. The House will know that I have been a major fan of non-governmental organisations ever since my arrival in your Lordships' House. In this context, the importance of NGOs—both local family planning associations and more general charities—in the provision of family planning services has been widely recognised. As an indication of our support for this sector, population projects under the joint funding scheme receive 100 per cent., rather than the 50 per cent. maximum assistance which is applied in all other sectors.

I hope I have demonstrated to your Lordships that this Government do indeed attach a high degree of importance to the problem of world population growth, and that we are continuing to give population activities a high priority within the aid programme. We look forward to playing an active part in the forthcoming 1984 United Nations World Population Conference. Although expenditure forecasts are always liable to be proved wrong, we have strong expectations that 1982 will see a substantially increased level of total expenditure on population activities compared with last year, with much of the increase arising from bilateral projects. If these plans are realised, I think your Lordships will agree that this represents a considerable achievement, particularly given the pressures on the overall aid programme. I am indeed grateful for the opportunity which has been given to me by the noble Lord, Lord Davies, this afternoon, to explain our attitude and activities, and for the large measure of agreement that has been shown in many parts of the House.

Lord Vernon

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I say that I put five suggestions to him. I did not give him notice of them, so I do not expect an answer today. But I wondered whether he would be willing to write to me about them.

Lord Skelmersdale

Most certainly, my Lords. I omitted to say that I knew there were various points that I had missed, and had not had time to reply to in my speech. I will most certainly write.

5.18 p.m.

Lord Davies of Leek

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who took part in this debate. I am tempted, because I made copious notes, to mention each one in reply. I shall not do that, because various noble Lords who made constructive points during this excellent little debate have been mentioned from both Front Benches, and it would be wrong of me to go through them again.

I want to mention merely one point. My Motion asked for family planning, and it has been pointed out two or three times that an endeavour should be made to balance population with natural resources in various parts of the world. Both the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, asked that we should not dehumanise humanity in family planning. That kind of stir was going right around your Lordships' House. Of course we are not talking about family planning in those terms, and procreation and life should be talked about with dignity, understanding and humanity.

I shall not give the figures relating to bilateral and multilateral aid. They are to be found in this little blue book. May I ask the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, since the report on population was published about two years ago, to consider supplying Parliament in the near future with a new set of statistics based upon it.

This has been an excellent debate, and I thank everybody who has taken part in it. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

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