HL Deb 05 July 1996 vol 573 cc1691-778

The Archbishop of Canterbury rose to call attention to the importance of society's moral and spiritual well-being, and in particular to the responsibility of schools; and to move for Papers.

The most reverend Primate said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to initiate this debate. After reading some of what the newspapers have had to say about it, your Lordships must be wondering what to expect. It has been said that I am today launching a new crusade to re-moralise the nation. It has been said that I am about to deliver a boring sermon. It has been said that my main concern is to relaunch my own image. It has been suggested that I shall be enunciating a Right-wing moralistic agenda or, alternatively, a Left-of-centre agenda associated with New Labour. I hope that your Lordships will not be disappointed to hear that I disavow all these intentions. Your Lordships will be particularly pleased to hear that I know the difference between a pulpit and the Bishops' Bench in this House.

I hope that we can avoid a twin danger in this debate. On the one hand there is a temptation to drift into a "golden age" mood in which we assume that in the past our people were better, more moral and more decent than they are now. This is at best an unhelpful over-simplification. We should not, for example, underestimate the strong moral concern of many young people today as manifested in their concern for many forms of human suffering or about the environment. The second danger would be to regard debate about the moral and spiritual dimension of education as a more or less harmless diversion for people of a religious inclination, so they can get a few anxieties about modern society off their chests.

No, we are talking today about a very serious issue for the future of our country which challenges us all, whatever our religious belief or philosophy of life, to own up to the values which we wish schools to impart to our children.

Noble Lords will be aware that this House has a long-standing concern for the moral and spiritual dimensions of education, and was indeed responsible for inserting these as primary purposes of education on the face of the Education Act 1988. It is, I think, a good time to remind ourselves of these wider dimensions of education. We have heard a great deal lately about standards in schools, about examination results and about the requirements of a competitive economy. These are all important and of course laudable concerns. At the same time, it would be a failure if our schools were to produce people with the right skills and aptitudes to take on our economic competitors, but who cannot string two sentences together about the meaning and purpose of life or who have no idea what it means to be a good citizen and a moral person. As Cardinal Basil Hume recently put it: We are not engaged, surely, in producing just good performers in the market place or able technocrats. Our task is the training of good human beings, purposeful and wise, themselves with a vision of what it is to he human and the kind of society that makes that possible".

Against that background, may I pinpoint two major concerns? The first is the moral climate in which we are educating and "forming" young people. If I may use an analogy, we are reliably informed by the medical profession that there is such a thing as passive smoking. That is to say, non-smokers may, without realising it, he affected and even damaged by the lifestyle of others who happen to smoke. The same is true when it comes to the moral health of a nation. One of my most consistent concerns since I became Archbishop of Canterbury has been, in common with other religious leaders, to highlight the dangers of moral relativism and privatised morality. There is a widespread tendency to view what is good and right as a matter of private taste and individual opinion only. Under this tendency, God is banished to the realm of the private hobby and religion becomes a particular activity for those who happen to have a taste for it. Many people now find it embarrassing to talk about either religion or morality in public, and the traditional vocabulary of moral discourse—for example, virtue, sin, good, bad, right, wrong, wholesome, godly, righteous and sober—all these terms have come under acute contemporary suspicion, as though their validity has disappeared along with traditional sources of authority.

The present Chief Rabbi, Dr. Jonathan Sacks, has brilliantly described the dangers of moral relativism in his book Faith in the Future. He puts it this way: It is as if, in the 1950's and 1960's, without intending to, we have set a timebomb ticking which would eventually explode the moral framework into fragments. The human cost has been colossal, most visibly in terms of marriage and the family. There has been a proliferation of one-parent families, deserted wives and neglected and abused children. But the cost has been far wider in terms of the loss of authority, institutions in crisis, and what Durkheim calls 'anomie', the loss of a public sense of moral order. And yet I sense that many, many people of all political persuasions recoil in horror from such a relativistic world, in which there are no firm "rights" and "wrongs" except what we as individuals deem to be true for ourselves. When we see how people react to an event such as the Dunblane massacre and to the efforts of the emergency services, the school teachers and parents and all the others involved in coping with the aftermath of the tragedy, we see that the assumptions of moral relativism simply do not adequately reflect what virtually everybody actually believes. To be sure, we differ over many questions, but we also have important shared values on which our society depends. I believe that there is now a reaction against moral relativism and that there is a growing mood in favour of a more truthful and more constructive way of describing all those things that bind us together.

This takes me into my second concern: how may we strengthen the moral fibre of our nation and challenge the pervasive notion that nothing is ultimately good, noble, true or right? Like some other Members of your Lordships' House, I was privileged to watch several games of soccer in the recent European Cup. It was a marvellous tournament on which the organisers deserve our congratulations. We take it for granted that you cannot play a game of football without rules. Rules do not get in the way of the game; they make the game possible. It is strange that what we take as so obvious for games we deem unnecessary for life. That is not to trivialise what we are debating. Rules which make life worth while and keep relationships faithful and true are inextricably linked to the deepest things we believe about God and values which transcend us all. Our nation, steeped so deeply in the faith and values of the Judaeo-Christian tradition, has traditionally found our rules shaped by the Ten Commandments and the teachings and example of Jesus Christ. And yet we are in danger of squandering this inheritance.

Moreover, we all know that the toughest moral decisions are not always between right and wrong, but between two "rights" which pull in different directions. So we desperately need our young people to learn both the basic rules and the judgment needed with which to confront the constant dilemmas of life.

This brings me to a partnership we need to secure between all involved in the important task of nurturing and forming young people today. I want to emphasise most strongly how wrong it would be to load all our anxieties about the spiritual and moral state of society on to schools. Overall. I am told that on average children spend about one-fifth of all their time at school. We have to remember that four-fifths of their time leaves them exposed to other influences—including the media—and there is relatively little that schools can do if too many of those other influences are pulling in a different direction. In my view, most schools are far more moral places than are the places where many children find themselves outside school. The family is of primary importance. Many school teachers feel that their efforts to develop moral and spiritual teaching are not supported by families, who are giving their children quite contradictory messages. Many other players in the wider society are also very important as role models. Indeed, many young people will not take moral education from people who fail too conspicuously to live up to their own professed values. More generally, I believe that many schools feel that if society itself is too confused and reticent about its shared beliefs and values, it is difficult for schools to have the confidence that comes from feeling authorised by society to teach them to children. It has to he a partnership with families, schools and the wider community all pulling together so far as possible.

That is why I welcome very warmly the current initiative by the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, known by its initials as SCAA, to consult widely about the shared values which society expects and authorises schools to transmit to children. That exercise is in itself a statement that privatised morality, reticence and embarrassment about the deeper things of life are not a satisfactory basis upon which schools can tackle the spiritual and moral dimension of education. It also assumes that society is not simply an aggregation of individuals or like-minded cliques, but that we are in fact bound together by important shared values. For example, there is a great deal of implicit agreement about the essentials of good citizenship, and about the moral goals of a good society. I also think most people will agree about the importance of a series of questions about what makes life worth while; how we can try to seek fulfilment and happiness; how we try to cope with pain and death. Those are moral and spiritual questions, and I personally have to reject any supposition that moral rules can sensibly be taught in isolation from spiritual questions about what life is for and what really matters.

Naturally, as a Christian leader, I believe that the Christian faith and the Christian traditions, which are so deeply embedded in our culture, are enormously important sources of guidance and help in addressing all those questions. At the same time, I want to acknowledge the importance of owning up as a society to what we share in common, and that in this quest people of minority faiths and people who do not subscribe to any organised religion have a vital part to play. I am, therefore, very pleased to highlight that significant SCAA initiative and commend it to your Lordships. It is good news that the commitment and interest are there to motivate such an initiative. There are also encouraging signs that the explicit incorporation of moral and spiritual goals in the 1988 Education Act is working its chemistry in a number of different areas of school life. I am pleased that the moral and spiritual development of pupils is now the subject of Ofsted's inspectors' comments. It makes it more difficult for these concerns to be marginalised. I am pleased that schools have been encouraged to produce more positive mission statements about the values they seek to embody and teach, and the involvement of parents in discussing and interpreting such statements is healthy.

If I may say so—and noble Lords may expect me to say this—I believe that it is a good sign that so many parents obviously wish their children to go to Church schools. Needless to say, I am not trying to score a cheap point here at the expense of other schools, but the fact of the widespread popularity of Church schools shows the importance which many parents attach to the ethos and to the structure of values as a positive framework in which children can be educated.

There is also exciting scope for developing the moral and spiritual dimension right across the curriculum. I am sure that noble Lords do not need reminding of the inadequacy of "ghetto-ising" the moral and spiritual dimension of education in religious education lessons. It should surely be there in the teaching of the arts, of music, of literature, and of course in the endless mysteries of science and in questions about the use of science. I believe that there is a great deal to be done here in teacher training to help give teachers greater confidence, skills and techniques in bringing out the moral and spiritual aspects of many different subjects. What we have to combat is the idea that spiritual and moral matters are add-on extras, contingent on giving overwhelming priority to more utilitarian educational goals. Having said that, I am of course also greatly concerned that the quality and status of religious education should continue to be improved. Again, there is some good news that we can report here.

I welcome the greater attention to religious education in recent years, and the excellent work which has gone into the agreed model syllabuses at national level and which has led on to fruitful engagement in these issues at the local level. I am pleased that the Department for Education and Employment has recognised that RE is a shortage subject and I hope that the recurrent plea for more resources for in-service training to help improve the quality of RE will be heard. In my view, it is good that at least 80 per cent. of primary schools hold a daily act of worship for every pupil, although I would of course much rather that 100 per cent. did so. It is a matter of concern that only 20 per cent. of secondary schools manage to do so. I sincerely hope that one result of the kind of discussions now being carried on under the auspices of SCAA about the importance of moral and spiritual education will in the long term help reinforce the will of governors and teachers to make the most of the rich opportunities of daily worship. The rhythm and the ritual of a simple act of worship at the start of the day will stay with a person throughout life, and will help to focus the whole of learning in a spiritual context.

In conclusion, I repeat that it would be unrealistic to load too many expectations on to schools in isolation from families and the wider community. But I believe that the fight back against moral and cultural relativism is under way and that schools have an important part to play. We all have a responsibility to support those who are seeking to explore in dialogue the shared values and beliefs which we hold dear and which we, as a society, expect our schools to transmit to our children. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

11.25 a.m.

Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach

My Lords, it is a great honour to follow the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. I am sure that I speak for all Members of your Lordships' House in thanking him for raising this extremely important subject, which is frequently neglected and marginalised. As I know from having been in education for quite a number of years and being dean of a business school, raising such issues is difficult because the whole zeitgeist makes it very difficult to cope. However, I fear that almost everything I want to say is to affirm what the most reverend Primate has already told us.

The beginning is the importance of the individual and of personal moral values. I believe that they give an individual dignity, meaning and a structure to life; they give satisfaction. I believe that a moral and spiritual basis is crucial to our institutions. It is crucial to the family. If a family has a moral and a spiritual core, it is much more likely to hold together and much less likely to be dysfunctional. If a school has a moral and spiritual ethos which distinguishes right from wrong, which respects the pupils for what they are regardless of their abilities but recognises that each one of them has different gifts and wants to develop their character, I believe that it is a better school.

If a company has integrity, responsibility and respect for individuals at its heart, in its mission statement and in its business principles, and practices those virtues, I believe that it is a better company and that people would prefer to work for it. If a nation has standards, and trust is fostered within the nation, I believe that it is a better nation.

I remember some years ago reading a hook which had a great impact upon me by Professor Banfield of Harvard University, called The Moral Basis of a Backward Society. In that book, the professor looked at an Italian village which was based on amoralism and materialism and, frankly, the village did not work. It had fallen apart because there was no trust. The reason I believe that a moral and spiritual basis is necessary is that we, as individuals, are made in the image of God, and, if we pursue an amoral existence or if we deny spirituality and simply concentrate on the material, we are denying who we are and why we were made.

I should say that that does not mean that the material is unimportant. I strongly believe in the creation of wealth and in prosperity because, without prosperity, we could never do things in schools, in health, in affordable housing, in welfare, and so on, that we really want to do. If we as individuals and our institutions are driven by amoralism and materialism, I believe that that is a prescription for a backward society.

I believe that there are many forces which drive us in that direction. One is the charge that—it is a very personal thing; it is very subjective and very relative—we do not have any agreed standards. Secondly, it is very much easier to talk in debates in your Lordships' House about benefit levels, tax levels, or changing administrative arrangements than it is to delve into the "habits of the heart".

I am afraid that all of us are up against a prevailing world view which is totally opposed to the Motion of the most reverend Primate that we are discussing this morning. I say that because, in the West, the view has emerged, associated with the birth of the scientific method—which extends not simply to exploring the physical world but which also looks at the way human beings behave, starting with biologists, then socio-biologists and psychoanalysts and now geneticists, and so on—which says there is no basis for objective values, for moral absolutes or for an obligation to do what is right. That world view denies the existence of God; it denies the spiritual basis of reality, and it lacks any moral purpose. I believe that that world view has absolutely swept the board, especially this century. It is associated with the names of great thinkers such as Sartre, Freud and Marx. I am afraid that while I totally agree with the statement of the most reverend Primate that there was never a golden age in terms of morality, nevertheless when one looks at the way sexual mores have changed, or when one looks at the way the traditional family has been under assault, or the way the work ethic has been ridiculed, or self-expression has been exalted, I cannot believe that certain trends we are seeing at present are not the direct consequence of that world view.

As I said, I do not believe in a golden age, but if one looks at the social statistics of this nation on violence, drug and alcohol abuse, divorce and illegitimacy over 30 or 40 years, it is hard to believe that, as these indicators have shown a clear movement in one direction, the spiritual and the moral well-being of our society is not in decline. That is why I welcome the most reverend Primate's call to us to consider the responsibility of schools. They clearly have an important part to play by statute. The education Act states that the curriculum is to, promote the spiritual and moral development of pupils at school and of society". We have collective worship of a broadly Christian character and we have RE. Any head teacher or governor will want to create a school with a certain ethos. That ethos will achieve standards and it will achieve a balance between the academic and the non-academic. It will seek to get the best out of every pupil. That is important.

I wish to affirm what the most reverend Primate said in relation to the search for shared values. I do not wish to quote throughout this speech from books I have read, but I must quote from one other book, The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis. That book had a profound effect on me. It was written in the 1940s and it concerned the teaching of English in our schools. It also concerned moral values and therefore is particularly relevant to this debate. C.S. Lewis stated that if one looks at the great religions of the world, or if one looks at Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics or the Babylonian Hymn to Samos, old Norse and so on, one sees that, all have in common a belief in the doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes are really true and others really false to the kind of thing the universe is and the kind of things we are". I believe people know right from wrong; people recognise fair play, and people know they have certain responsibilities. Any initiatives to support such values—in exploring shared values in the Dearing Committee—should be supported.

My next point is perhaps simply a confession of my position but I believe that initiatives concerned with moral values are much more likely to succeed when they are underpinned by religious belief. The wisdom literature tells us, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom". I am pleased that the most reverend Primate referred to church schools, which are clearly the favourites of parents. They are popular. I believe any initiative which can be taken to extend a Judaeo-Christian basis to the constitution of our schools helps all people of good will who want to build on that. When two years ago I visited a CTC in Gateshead—which is the only CTC to my knowledge which has an explicitly Christian basis—I was impressed by the extraordinary results that had been achieved by a mixed ability intake. That CTC has been driven by a tremendous ethos.

I support what has already been said; namely, that schools can never be a substitute for the family. Teachers rely on parents. The values of teachers must be supported by parents. Parents have an enormous influence. I miss in this debate the late Keith Joseph and the support he gave to Home Start and to parenting. The Forum for Values in Education and the Community has suggested that the key areas of fundamental values are self, others, community and environment. I believe that the family based on marriage, which is so critical in passing on spiritual, moral and cultural values, should also be included in the work of the forum.

In conclusion, this is an important subject. Our society has been shaken by the prevailing assault on traditional values. However, I remain a person of hope. C.S. Lewis is right. All of us who are human beings know that certain things are right and other things are wrong, and that there are certain absolutes. I endorse what the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury has said this morning. I should like us to support his call to do everything possible to make sure that the moral and spiritual life of our institutions and of our nation is underpinned in every possible way by what we do.

11.36 a.m.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

My Lords, the whole House will be most grateful to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for introducing this debate. In the year of our Lord 1939 I was Master Brian Morris, aged eight, a pupil in Marlborough Road Elementary School, Cardiff. My form master was a brilliant young teacher from the Rhondda Valley called George Thomas, later to be known as the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy. We boys were always perfectly able to distinguish right from wrong: if Mr. Thomas said it was right, it was right; if he said it was wrong, we did not argue.

The head teacher was Mr. Theophilus—a fine name. He held school assemblies in which we learned the Ten Commandments by heart, the Lord's Prayer, the Welsh and English national anthems, and tonic solfa. Most of us went to chapel and to Sunday School on Sundays. Almost all of us went home to two-parent families. Fewer than 20 per cent. of us passed the 11 plus, but we all knew right from wrong. Right action was rewarded, wrong action was punished, often severely, and from that day to this I have never coveted my neighbour's ox, nor his ass.

As the most reverend Primate made clear to us, no such simple certainties are available to schools, pupils, or teachers in 1996. In this country we live in a multi-faith, multi-racial society, in which the tenets and sanctions of any religion direct the behaviour of only a small minority of the population. A few enclaves remain: church schools guide children in ethics and spirituality; Jewish schools present children with the requirements of the Torah; Islamic schools teach the Holy Qu'ran and the life and work of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. But the majority of our schools are secular in orientation, and are forced to concern themselves with the national curriculum and their place in the league tables more than with producing saints or ethical philosophers.

Only a foolish analyst would assert a simple, single causal link between that fact and the perceived evils of our society—drugs, violence, sexual offences, the rising crime rates, malice, hatred and all uncharitableness. The families, or lack of them, in which today's children grow up and learn their value systems are equally formative. So are the media, the lyrics of pop songs, and even the instant availability of all sorts of information via the Internet. One must also take into account that, crabbed age and youth cannot live together". The old always deplore the behaviour of the young. As the Old Shepherd says in The Winter's Tale: I would there were no age between ten and three and twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest; for there is nothing in between but getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting". that has a modern ring to it.

However, few would deny that the greatest shaping influences on the behaviour patterns of children are still those of the parents and the teachers; and it may be convenient to consider them in reverse order.

The morale of today's school teachers is not high. Neither is their pay. Their status, the respect afforded to them by society, has been severely eroded, and until all those are reversed their formative influence on the children they teach will not be as powerful as it used to be. This is especially true of religious education teachers. Only recently has the Teacher Training Agency persuaded the DfEE to allow it to take over the bursary arrangements for shortage subjects and added RE to the list. Yet, as the Religious Education Council has pointed out, that does not of itself solve the problems. The latest published evidence of Ofsted inspections shows that, despite some areas of improvement, RE provision remains of variable quality…Only half of secondary schools are adequately resourced to teach RE". That is the view of the Religious Education Council. In key stages 3 and 4, where a quarter of lessons are taught by non-specialists the quality of RE clearly suffers. Most schools are not meeting statutory requirements for RE in Key Stage 4. Post-16, the vast majority of schools do not comply with statutory requirements". Religious education as a subject is a good barometer when we consider the formative influence of teachers on pupils. But in RE knowledge alone is not enough, and teaching skills are not enough. When I had the honour to be the Principal of the University of Wales, Lampeter, the Department of Theology and Religious Studies had a rule: Christian subjects should be taught by practising Christians, Judaism by a practising Jew, and Islam by a believing, practising Moslem. Would it not be a marvellous target at which to aim that in every school in the United Kingdom religious education should be taught by a teacher who personally believed one of the faiths and practised it? For he or she would speak as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Rumour has it that this was suggested to the Secretary of State but that after careful consideration she felt that that would be a step too far just at present.

But the moral and spiritual health of our society does not depend on RE alone. All teacher training should include consideration of how moral values should be inculcated in schools. Much obviously depends on the leadership of the head teacher, but all teachers set an example, whether or not they want to. It is not a simple matter of wearing a tie, a suit, or a frock in front of the class, but of raising moral and spiritual issues as an essential part of subject teaching. This is obviously easy in subjects like my old subject, English literature, as the life and work of Dr. F. R. Leavis makes abundantly clear. But chemistry must include consideration of the moral questions in the use of pesticides; biology must give time to whether animal experiments, euthanasia, and abortion are compatible with reverence for life; and physics must face up not only to the nuclear bomb but to the costs versus the benefits of space research. And these moral issues must be part of the examinations students take, up to and including GCSE and A-level, and marks and grades must depend on understanding them. Otherwise they are bolt-on, optional extras that can be dropped at will when the going gets tough and you are dropping down the league table.

The Secretary of State has announced that there will be a national curriculum for initial teacher training. Good. I urge that. I plead with her to ensure that it goes deeper than numeracy and literacy, and teaches teachers how to encourage children to see into the heart of things "as if we were God's spies". The TTA recently uncovered disturbing misuse of the so-called Baker days when teachers are supposed to be training. Teachers were using them to catch up on administration and to tidy the cupboards. Baker days should be used to teach teachers how to raise and maintain moral tone in schools. That is the highest priority. To do that job teachers must be respected by society, valued by the communities, trusted as professionals by parents, put back in the classroom and paid much higher salaries. It is a sad fact that today respect is given to the highly paid, and low-paid workers are despised. Teachers must not be in that category.

It is easy to say that moral standards must, of course, be established by the family before the child goes to school. Well and good. But divorce, single parenting, working mothers, unemployed fathers, create difficulties of vast proportions unknown to British society 50 years ago. My daughter, a health visitor, told me of one of her flock—a young lone mother with four children under seven by four different fathers, all absent, whose only salvation is the television set because she can plonk three children in front of it, and they will stay there, while she dresses or undresses the fourth. That girl—and there are thousands like her all over the country—cannot set a moral agenda. She lacks the time, the resources, the knowledge and the will.

Parents must be taught parenting through parent education. It does not come naturally any more. Basic parent education must be included in the schools' curriculum—not just how to change a nappy, or bath baby correctly, but how to instil into children basic moral values like honesty, unselfishness and respect for others. There is a wonderful scheme in Liverpool, city-wide. And I think of the marvellous parents' class held in the Sir John Cass School in London run by the City Literary Institute for the Corporation of London where mothers, mostly from the ethnic minorities and often with next to no command of English, learn parenting in the school their children attend, and take their skills home with them. That is the model. That is the way forward. That is the way towards the ideal of a civilised, caring, loving society.

The Schools Curriculum and Assessment Authority which, as the most reverend Primate has reminded us, the Secretary of State has asked to report on shared values in schools, could do much worse than to go to the City Lit. and see how it works. But the danger is that the SCAA will simply come up with the lowest common denominator of moral categories. Shared values means the lowest standards on which we can all agree. What we need is not to be told that to tell the truth is good, and bullying is bad, but to learn how parents and teachers together can raise and maintain moral standards in their own communities. Not "what", but "how".

May I finally offer some unsolicited, unrequested, undigested and possibly unwelcome advice to the Christian Churches as to how best they can take part in the Archbishop's moral crusade? I do so without the authority of episcopacy or even of ordination, but simply as a life-long, regularly communicating, church-going, fully-paid-up rank and file member of the Anglican Communion. In this moral crusade, the greatest asset will be the parish priest, Catholic or Anglican, and the Free Church minister. They, by example—by teaching and by preaching in every local community—are by far the best placed to raise and maintain the moral and spiritual standards of the nation. But they cannot succeed if they are denied the resources to do the job, and that means money. It means that parish clergy salaries must be greatly increased, and that means that the Church must pay for it. Free churches can teach the Church of England a great deal about this kind of thing. They know the value of their ministers and they pay them.

The community must be able to respect its pastor as a professional labourer worthy of his hire. The image of the penurious priest as the loved shepherd of his flock went out with Chaucer and Goldsmith. A priest must be paid more so that he or she can do the job without forever asking the PCC to pay for the telephone, the water bill, a holiday, a decent car to replace the clapped out banger: "Here comes the vicar, you can smell the exhaust". Parish clergy must be given status in society so that they can speak with authority and be heard with attention. People do not listen to paupers.

In every parish or community the churches must find and found a modern version of the Sunday school which will attract and hold and teach children the basics of the faith. Raymond Raikes' invention was a marvellous success, but it no longer works in that form. The replacement may mean operating through the state schools, or nursery schools, or playgroups or youth clubs, or via television or radio, but it is, in my submission, the first priority if any crusade is to succeed. It must be operated by properly resourced local clergy and it must start now.

We have the Turnbull Report, so we can stop worrying about management structures in the Church for a bit; we have reached a generous conclusion in the long battle over the ordination of women, so we can go forward the stronger for it; there may even be a modest détente in the argument about liturgy. I will say no more of that. Now is the hour, with a general election approaching, to consider the moral and spiritual state of the nation in the light of the ideal. Sir Richard Livingstone said: Moral education is impossible without the vision of greatness". We may say: "Where there is no vision the people perish".

11.51 a.m.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, I hold strongly the view that elderly, childless spinsters should not pontificate about the education and upbringing of the young. So I intend to confine my remarks to rather general statements which I hope will none the less have some bearing on the subject we are discussing.

I was glad when the most reverend Primate reminded us that there never had been a golden age. It would be a great mistake to think that we are in a condition of decline in relation to all that went before us. The slightest knowledge of history must surely correct that illusion: Restoration England, the England to which Wesley took his mission, full of drunkenness and vice; Boswell's London. I have here evidence given to the 1816 Royal Commission on the police in which a witness said: Numbers are brought up to thieve as a trade … others are orphans, or completely abandoned by their parents. They subsist by begging or pilfering and at night they often sleep under the sheds and in the marketplace. When in prison no one visits them, nor do they seem to possess one friend in the world". There we have it: the abandoned child, the absence of family, homelessness, crime rampant throughout the City of London. That is the record which any delving into history will give.

That is not to say that all is well today; far from it. As it was put so graphically years ago in the Old Testament, the devil is marching to and fro upon the earth, seeking whom he may devour. It is the job of every generation to see that he goes hungry. But let us not imagine that we are in a state of total abandonment and that our forebears were so much better than we are.

Let us start with some reasonable optimism about where we might go and how we might handle the problem. Of course there is a great deal wrong; I would not deny that. But previous speakers have outlined the major issues—drugs, thievery, abandoned children and so on. How can we begin to deal with those issues? What is different today and what can be done to put things right? We shall never completely conquer the evils of the world; there will always be new evils, new battles to be fought, but it is our job to fight the ones that are here.

The most reverend Primate spoke about the development of relativism, the prevailing doctrine of relativism that there is nothing absolutely right or absolutely wrong. I wonder whether that is not more a subject of seminars, the chattering classes and the dinner tables rather than what is discussed and is taken for granted in pubs throughout the country. I doubt that relativism ranks high in subjects which are considered by ordinary people everywhere.

Also, are the relativists all that consistent? What relativist, faced with the Holocaust, would hesitate to say: "That is totally and unqualifiedly wrong"? Once that is said, the relativist has denied relativism. If you think something is totally wrong in one particular, then you cannot continue to be a consistent relativist. So while the development of relativism is unfortunate and to be deplored, I do not believe that it is anything like as all-pervading as many would have us think.

What is different and what can be done? One major development is undoubtedly the overall pervasion of the media, in particular television. I do not wish to indulge in television or media bashing, but an important change has taken place. There were always the media and the written press, but they did not penetrate into people's lives in the way that television does now. I find it staggering that we are told—and something becomes a fact if it is repeated often enough—that the population as a whole spend 27 hours a week looking at television. That is new. There was no opportunity for it in Victorian times; people would have done it if they had had the opportunity, but they did not. That puts an enormous responsibility on the television people. They have a penetration into society which no other organisation has—educational or whatever it may be.

Like all of us in this House, I have been involved in television. People come up to you but they do not say: "I've seen or heard you", they say: "I know you". That is because you have been in their house and talked to them in their sitting room. It gives us a power quite unrivalled by any other medium. It puts an enormous responsibility on people who control television. We do not know how they can exercise that responsibility more effectively. It has been said that what is on television does not influence behaviour, and research findings are mixed on it. It is difficult to believe that what people see on television fails to influence behaviour. If it does not, why do all of us in the teaching profession spend so much time developing visual aids? They are in order to impress on people that that is the way in which youngsters and "oldsters" learn. There can be no doubt that what people see on television has an effect.

People imitate. One of my brothers was responsible for the maintenance of the tallest building in Melbourne. Because it was the tallest building, it attracted would-be suicides to go to the top and throw themselves down. Incidentally, he was told: "Don't bother about anything except the top. If you are going to commit suicide, you want to make a show of it". The police told my brother: "Whatever you do, get the mess cleared up before the press come because, as soon as it gets in the press, other people will imitate the suicides". With the self-confidence of a good engineer and a former naval officer, my brother said: "In the end I got clearing up down to three- and-a-half minutes".

People do imitate. Television is a wonderful way in which they learn to imitate. How we can control this I do not know. But I put it very strongly to those who control television that their responsibility today is greater than that in any other unit of society. It cannot be done by measures that are seen to be contrary to freedom of speech. It can be done only by self-control inside the media. If I do nothing else today, I want very much to draw attention to that point.

While I am on this subject, why do radio, television and other media have to concentrate so much on matters of sex when they discuss ethics and morality? I heard an example early this morning, when the most reverend Primate was interviewed. The interviewer immediately began cross-examining him about adultery. I am bored with the subject of adultery. That may not sound a very responsible remark. However, if we examine the world's great religions and the world's responsible humanists, of whom there are a very great many (I speak as an Anglican) there is a very wide measure of agreement about what moral standards should be. Where across the world do people deny that you should not kill, should not steal, should not lie and should not bear false witness? But the one area in which there is difference is sexual behaviour. It is rather important for us to consider that. After all, there are very responsible societies which accept polygamy. I suggest they accept it for very sound social reasons.

Years ago I did a job in Nigeria and was very much impressed by the problems that arose when polygamy broke down and its place was taken by what I call serial polygamy—having a single wife, one after another. But there were no ways in which women could earn their living. That had given a fair basis to polygamy, for which no substitute had been found. After that visit I had the opportunity to discuss the matter with a Catholic priest who had been in the mission field. I asked him: "Do you accept polygamy in the mission field, or not, in these circumstances?". With all the realism of the Catholic Church, he said, "No, we do not accept polygamyx2014;but we are very careful whom we convert".

The emphasis on sexual morality in relation to all the other most important forms of morality is grossly overdone. If only we could shift attention away from it. I suspect it is there solely because it sells newspapers and increases radio ratings. Perhaps that is an unworthy assumption on my part, but I suspect it is not far from the truth. Use of the media is one of the major issues to which we must try to find a solution.

Let us be practical about the things that could be done. Compulsory schooling does not begin until the age of five. Was it not the Jesuits who said, "Give me a child until he is seven"? So the schools have only two-sevenths of the time in which to do the essential job. That essential job starts at home; it always has. Throughout the ages it has been done badly, and it has been done well, in different ways and in different places.

Not so long ago I was at a party where there were three young professional women whose careers were going very well. They had just had children. They were saying: "I had intended to go back to work at once, but I am not so sure I really want to do that". Putting it very briefly and succinctly, one of them said simply: "I want him [her baby boy] to grow up to be a man who can love. So I have got to love him". She wanted time to do that.

We have to take that point very seriously indeed. Women will continue to have careers, and that is right. We invest a great deal of money in that, and I for one would never wish to deny them that opportunity. But we have to make it a very great deal easier for them to do the real mothering job, which takes time and energy. How many of us meet exhausted mothers who are trying to do about three full-time jobs and as a result cannot do any of them properly? We need to consider the issue in great detail. There are no simple answers.

One answer is to give better standing and opportunity to part-time work, so that people can happily take it up. Another is to make possible their return to work, when mothers are satisfied that they have done the basic mothering job to a point at which they feel free to leave it. But I hope that we can get rid of the awful sense of guilt experienced by so many women, so that they feel unable to do these very important jobs properly. The fact that they are loaded with guilt in trying to do them handicaps them in the work that they are trying to do.

My time is running out, and I shall be brief. We have talked a lot about day nurseries. Everything that we are saying today underlines the point that, if we are to have good day nurseries, they must provide proper nurture and care, as well as education. I say once again: that cannot be done on the cheap.

There is a further point I wish to make about the development of moral standards in all of us, but especially in the young, about whom we are primarily speaking today. I have observed, both in myself and people I know, and in young people I know, that nothing develops one's sense of right behaviour and the problems of arriving at decisions on right behaviour as being given responsibility, having to make choices, and being answerable for the choices made, so that people are confronted with real, practical, ethical issues. I beg that we all pay as much attention as we possibly can to finding ways in which the young can be given opportunities to take on responsibility.

National volunteer organisations do a very good job in a number of ways in trying to bring youngsters into responsible positions and help them to carry them. The same kind of thing goes on in schools. Schools were not all wrong about prefect systems. Those positions may have been abused in a number of ways, but they did put before youngsters the necessity of facing difficult decisions and making judgments. I remember on one occasion finding myself at the BOSSI Institute—subsituting for somebody else, needless to say. The one thing I got from that experience was the importance of making a decision whereby one had to choose the lesser of two evils, and the idea that to choose the lesser of two evils was in fact right. That took a great deal of understanding, and I have found it extremely useful ever since.

As a society we have lost our understanding of the importance of symbolism. Symbolism is a way of conveying meaning which we find difficult to convey through ordinary methods of communication. Symbolism seems to be dying in our society. I am not a rampant nationalist—far from it. But I have, as I am sure everyone in this House has, a deep regard, affection and respect for my country. One may or may not believe in having flags. But if flags are anything, they are symbols. It does not please me to see flags turned into the Union Jack, or a carrier bag or a cocked hat. That is a denial of symbolism. Let us scrap the flag altogether if we do not want it, but it should not be a cocked hat.

Similarly, symbolism has fallen away in human personal relationships. The use of the christian name used to mean something; it meant friendship, responsibility and commitment. Today, it normally means that people cannot remember what your surname is—or, in my case, can never aspire to spell it. I suppose that is supported by some extraordinary idea that if we all call each other by our christian names, we are all equal. The nonsense is that the great joy of human relationships is that they are all different; they are all unique and none is exclusive. But calling people by their christian names does not enhance that in any way whatsoever. A kiss used to mean something. There could be arguments about what it meant, but it was meant to mean something. Today, it is just an insanitary habit.

Symbolism is a very important issue. We did not light the beacons on VE Day throughout Britain because it would enable people to see a little better that night. It was an expression of something too deep for words.

12.11 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Winchester

My Lords, I warmly welcome the initiative of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury in tabling this Motion for debate. I count it a privilege to speak in your Lordships' House in this debate, although it is a daunting prospect to experience your conventions and to use your modes of address for the first time. I reflect that that must be good for a bishop who feels out of his depth.

I bear in mind the words of the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, having spent so much of this week, as my right reverend friends will have done, ordaining new clergy, and therefore seeing a very high proportion of the parochial and other clergy of my diocese. I welcome his support and encouragement for the parochial clergy. I accept his point, as I expect we all do, about their stipends, but I noted his sense of himself when he used the phrase "paid up member". He will be aware that the responsibility for the clergy stipends now lies squarely on him, on me and on all of our contemporaries today. I imagine he is well aware of that and it is a point worth making.

I wish to draw your Lordships' attention to some of the shifts in the attitudes and assumptions of many of us over the past 30 years or so, which make this morning's subject matter both so necessary and so hard to approach effectively.

First, our society puts a high value on, as the advertisement of some years ago put it, taking the waiting out of wanting: that wants and desires should he gratified, and speedily. Contracts of employment, criteria on which many a project is evaluated, and many relationships are short term and few people begin work thinking in terms of a lifelong career. These trends, amazingly in my view, are generally welcomed rather than regretted by those whose voices gain attention. I suggest that this short-term environment is desperately stony ground for the basic human project—the highest earthly goal of human beings—of maturing through life-long attention into an increasingly consistent goodness, humility, compassion and wisdom, whatever religious or social traditions we hold, while and through collaborating with others in the building of a human society that is local, national and international. That is particularly relevant in terms of the work so recently done on the Floor of your Lordships' House. In terms of this life's work, marriage, itself in principle lifelong, is for so many its essential heart, its training ground and encouragement.

Secondly, I believe that we need to be clear about the disparity in resources and sheer power that now exists between the forces that may sustain and argue for moral and spiritual values today, and those that stand against them. Here, I reflect on what has been said by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. To the fresh freedoms gained for entertainment and the media in the 1960s and 1970s, we have added in the 1980s and 1990s both substantial deregulation and a vastly increased and toughened competitiveness. That, it seems to me, has made for a climate in which it has become deeply, even ridiculously unfashionable, to advocate whatever things are pure, lovely and of good report; a climate in which it requires the greatest courage and skill to develop an informed and appropriate nuanced argument on a moral or spiritual subject, in the face of the contemporary fashion for the soundbite, the pressure to reduce such crucially important subject matter to simplifications that are ultimately untrue, or to an unfruitful confrontation of opposite poles. There is no speaking truly if everything has to be forced to the extremes.

As for financial resources, your Lordships have worked long hours in this House on the Family Law Bill, some of those long hours on the likely costs to the public purse of properly resourcing marriage support services. Consider by contrast the financial resources devoted in the course of any evening's television or any day's newspaper to the portrayal of marital infidelity as mature, attractive, modern and, above all, the norm.

Thirdly, for those engaged in manufacturing industry, in commerce, or in finance I increasingly understand that the uncertainties of the contemporary international and political scene, and the globalisation both of markets and of currency movements, make the business of management ever more complex and unpredictable, and its intellectual and conceptual challenges immensely demanding. Nevertheless, many—and among them many people both of Christian and of other faiths—still seek to take account, although under huge pressure not to, in their planning and decision making of ethical considerations, of justice and compassion, of the claims of poorer nations and indigenous communities, and of the basic "What is it to be human?" question. As lawmakers I believe that we need to encourage and, where necessary, to defend such people.

Finally, individuals make moral and spiritual choices, not in a void, and not, it seems to me, first as individuals—and here I recognise that I may disagree with other noble Lords—but in a context of formation and education. It is institutions of all sorts in this, as in any other society, religious institutions among them, which are the repositories and the representatives of visions of the good society, of moral and spiritual values. In a society which has in many ways gained in health by becoming less deferential, we still need models and traditions of behaviour, traditions of values and beliefs and good practice. It seems to me that it is cruel and restricting, as well as mistaken, to suggest to people of any age, as so many do today, that there is no wisdom into which they can tap and need to tap, that there are no models to look to, no traditions upon which they can depend, and within which we can be formed as we grow through life to maturity.

Of course, institutions need, and through history have received, regular scrutiny, but we will, I believe, be wise as a society now to do more cherishing of our institutions and of those who represent them and less scorning. We should remember that they are complex systems which are much more quickly destroyed than they are built. We must remember too that we human beings, precisely as such, need constant and careful encouragement and assistance if we are to choose what is good for ourselves and for our society.

I believe that this is a time for giving very serious consideration indeed to the subject matter of this debate. We shall do so by each of us recognising our own personal responsibility consistently to be speaking about these matters, however difficult it may be to do so in today's climate. We must also recognise our responsibility consistently to model and seek to grow into the values and beliefs that we profess, whatever they are. But also we must seek to take fresh care that we cherish and encourage those to whom in a very wide variety of professions we look to model and advocate moral and spiritual values in what they mostly experience as a distinctly unfriendly environment.

12.20 p.m.

Lord Elton

My Lords, if convention did not require me to congratulate the right reverend Prelate on his maiden speech, I should be tempted to do so and add that clearly he was not out of his depth. The state of the tide in this debate means, I think, that I shall very shortly be so, but clearly he was head and shoulders above the water.

I do not believe any more than the most reverend Primate believes in a vanished golden age, but I cannot help observing change. It is the steady erosion throughout this century of an implicit consensus on moral and spiritual truth that has given rise to this debate. That consensus underlay the teaching in both the public and denominational schools which between them provided the whole of education in the opening years of this century. Exceptions to it command our attention, but they do so because they are exceptions from the norm.

Much of the motivation for this country's astonishing fortitude in embarking on and seeing through the Second World War rested upon the remains of that consensus and the belief that it was the consensus itself that was at stake in face of the Nazi onslaught. In the literature of the time, it was seen as a war in defence of Christendom, of society built on Christian foundations. That struck a chord in the heart of the nation. I remember at the age of nine arriving 15 minutes early for church on the national day of prayer for Dunkirk and finding the church as hard to get into as a tube train in rush hour. And how that prayer was answered!

But even then the consensus was weakening. In 1941 the most reverend Primate's predecessor, Cosmo Gordon Lang, with his colleagues of York and Wales, issued a statement which began with the words: There is an ever deepening conviction that in this present struggle we are fighting to preserve those elements in human civilisation and in our own national tradition which owe their origin to Christian faith". The statement immediately went on to say: Yet we find on every side profound ignorance of the Christian faith itself". It then indicated the remedy in terms which his most reverend successor could almost have used today. He said: There is evidently an urgent need to strengthen our foundations by securing that effective Christian education should be given in all schools to the children, the future citizens, of our country. The need is indeed so great and so urgent that former denominational or professional suspicions and misunderstandings must be laid aside and that all who care for the place of Christianity in our common life should stand together". The statement goes on to quote a revealing message from a county education authority's circular to its headteachers—not one, I think, that one might read today— Religious instruction should not be looked upon merely as one of a number of subjects to be taught, but as the foundation of the education given at the school". Then it quoted from a unanimous resolution of the Headmasters' Conference expressing its strong conviction that the Christian faith should be the basis of the work of member schools.

If we compare the ready resort to a national day of prayer, the frequent reference to God in public speeches and the constant petitioning of Him in communal prayer in those times with the guarded and apologetic references common today, we can see how far we have come. During this century, our material prosperity has increased and wealth has been enormously more widely dispersed among our people. That is wholly to be welcomed. But it should dictate neither priorities nor policy. The latter part of this century has seen a steady elevation of material gain into the first aim of both public and private policy until it is as tacitly assumed in the '90s of this century as moral and spiritual priorities were asserted in the '90s of the last.

Of course, I overstate the contrast. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, put the lie to that. Of course, Victorian commercialism was a powerful exploitative engine then and much of what we have been harvesting since has been the fruit of what was then sown. But the fact is that the self-discipline and self-denial that were widely regarded as virtues then and which were essential to our victory in two world wars are increasingly regarded as weakness, folly or simply irrelevant now. Yet self-discipline is near to, and self-denial lies at the very heart of, our Lord's teaching.

History shows, I believe, that one cannot arrive at a just society without those two essential virtues: self-discipline and self-denial; but directed not by any political philosophy but by the love of our fellow men that Christ taught us as the second great commandment. The Jacobin atrocities of the first French Revolution and the horrors of both European and Chinese Communism have made that painfully obvious.

We may argue across the Floor of this House about the means of getting there, but a just society is where members of all parties want to be. It follows from what I have said that the only way to get there is through the re-establishment of the Christian consensus, not to the exclusion of those of other faiths but as the matrix within which they are free to live at peace within society. Without that matrix, they will not long live at peace.

That brings us back to the schools and to the former and present most reverend Primates, because it is in the schools that the character and beliefs of our children, and hence of the nation in years to come, are formed, so far as public policy can reach them. Cosmo Gordon Lang led a delegation of all the Protestant denominations to present the statement from which I have just quoted, with five specific requests, to RAB Butler, the then new President of the Board of Education. The archbishop later wrote: As the President was new to his office and had to consider other interests, he was guarded in his reply"— and concluded: but I ought to add another unprecedented fact: at the end, the President asked me to offer prayers for guidance". The result was the incorporation of religious education into the school curriculum, religious knowledge qualifying for teacher's certificates at training colleges and religious education being opened to HMI inspection.

With that groundwork done and with the support of later legislation, we have to look to the teaching profession for a crucial contribution to what is now needed. But we cannot expect them to deliver it either alone or in their present condition.

Consider what is needed. In addition to equipping children for adult life and adult earning, teachers are collectively the trustees of the nation's entire stock of usable knowledge. But school teachers in particular are also entrusted with one of the most precious tasks performed in any society. It is not just the lessons they teach; it is the people they are that matters. What they do and what they do not do will have a profound influence on the lives of every one of their pupils in whatever kind of schools they teach and however big or small the classes. That influence is often exerted entirely without their knowledge and its results can be measured either only very approximately or not at all. Yet taken generation by generation, it will determine both the character of the British nation and the quality of British lives, not necessarily in terms of wealth but certainly in terms of fulfilment.

That quality is, without question, changing. Children today are being released into a world which is morally as well as physically more dangerous than the world of my childhood and that of most of your Lordships. It is certainly more materialist. During a period which historians will doubtless describe as stable, there has been a series of revolutions.

The credit revolution, referred to by the right reverend Prelate in his excellent maiden speech, was launched by the introduction of credit cards with the slogan—worth a great deal of thought at a later date—"Take the waiting out of wanting". The communications revolution which accompanied it has elevated children of 10 and 11 to the status of a powerful market sector targeted by television advertising. There has been a revolution of what I can only call "explicicity", to which the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, referred, accompanying television, which means that the content has changed too. The revolution in television and the media has removed from all but the most diligent parents, and even from some of them, their control of their children's access to wholly inappropriate media channels and programmes.

The sexual revolution, regarded as some sort of liberation in the 1960s, has been rendered incalculably more dangerous by the advent of AIDS. The drugs revolution has brought prohibited and sometimes lethal substances within children's unsupervised reach. The employment revolution has meant that no one now entering a career can be certain of finishing in the same job or indeed profession. All that in a world in which moral standards themselves are seen by some as at best optional and by others as irrelevant. If teachers are not aware of all that and do not take it into account, the danger to our children and grandchildren would be far greater than that of any decline imaginable in academic standards.

The service which teachers render their pupils does not consist only in imparting knowledge and academic skills. It includes providing them with a framework of reference for the conduct of their lives and relationships. And it must be honestly taught. As the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, readily pointed out, nobody spots hypocrisy quicker than a schoolchild. He did not have a hypocrite teaching him. Are teachers adequately trained to deal with that? That question leads, appropriately in a debate launched by an archbishop, to a tiny fragment of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans: Thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?". Paul's example is perhaps rather stark. But the principle is valid and it does apply to the integrity of teaching. I recall that in my committee's Report on Discipline in Schools we found it necessary to point out that teachers who required their children to have good manners and to dress tidily should themselves dress tidily and have good manners. Other lessons—a fortiori!

The example teachers set must be consistent with the lessons that they teach. As the noble Lord opposite said, the example that teachers set must be consistent with the whole matrix of moral and ethical standards they wish to see in the world in which, by their teaching, they are preparing their pupils to live. It does not mean that they must be perfect; that would be absurd. But it does mean that they must strive to be.

It is the implications of that that make teaching such a very exacting profession. Having myself taught for 10 years I know that I am merely emphasising and repeating what is already well known in the profession. But surely it is worth emphasising and repeating. It is not just a question of believing what one teaches; it is a question of living it. To do that requires more than training; it requires dedication. Some of the most valuable things teachers can impart to their pupils are transmitted unconsciously, simply because of the sort of people they are.

Of course, not all teachers are, or will be, Christian; but all teachers should, I believe, subscribe to the basic moral tenets which undergird our society and flow from our Judao-Christian heritage, and honour them in deed as well as word. Those teachers who are Christian have a special responsibility. If the example they set is not consistent with what they teach, the lesson will not be received, the standards will not be transmitted and the young will not be fitted to cope with the revolutions of the post-war years, let alone to control them.

In conclusion, this points to a need for specialist training and the input for that training points to a responsibility to the Churches, and resourcing it, to the Government. But we cannot expect teachers to do all that single-handedly, even with such support, against the grain of contemporary society. It lies with the Churches to tackle that grain, under leadership such as that given by the most reverend Primate. Nor can we expect them to tackle it without sufficient specific training and professional support.

There is a crying need for a new professional body in charge of professional teaching standards, most especially in schools. The need would be pressing in any case; it is now urgent. It must be developed within the profession and not imposed on it. At present there exist three different embryonic forms of that body: the General Teaching Council, the College of Preceptors and the Education Council. They are now in conversation together to produce a single voluntary body which I hope will embrace all professional teachers. If that single body comes to the Government for recognition, I hope that they will listen to it with great care.

12.36 p.m.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, like other speakers, I join in saying how grateful we are to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for taking this unprecedented step in giving a lead towards the renewal of moral and spiritual values. We all think of him as a humble man in the best Christian sense, a man who would wash the feet of his disciples in the way that his Master did. But we now realise that he is ready to cleanse the temple and in that we all stand resolutely behind him.

He has beside him the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester, whom we welcome and who spoke so impressively. I am happy to think that he will be the spiritual guardian of one of my grandsons, who has just won his way to Winchester. I am not in favour of selective schools but with Winchester I make an exception.

There are good Christians in all parts of this House. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, leads a prayer group which I have not yet ventured to attend. I am summoning up courage to do so. I attend a prayer group presided over most inspiringly by the noble Lord, Lord Ashbourne, and in time I hope to be allowed to visit the prayer group of the noble Lord, Lord Elton. We heard from another distinguished Conservative, a man of religion, the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths. Perhaps I may say respectfully that I have been and remain a severe critic of so-called "Thatcherism". But I am well aware that the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, is a religious woman. I was always glad to know that she had the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, beside her. I felt that as long as he was there, Thatcherism could not be all bad.

There are other Christians in the Chamber, good Christians. My noble friend Lord Morris spoke magnificently—I was going to say on behalf of the party; I hope he was speaking on behalf of the party. At any rate, we know that the Leader of the Party is a devout Christian whose practices have aroused a great deal of attention, which I shall not explore further this morning. Beside me sits my noble friend Lord Howell who will speak later, also a strong Christian. In the past he has referred favourably to the Moslems, which I do not understand. Perhaps he will explain his point of view.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, is not in her place and perhaps that is just as well. I was going to say that I am not sure that Mr. Gladstone would have been altogether happy with some of her comments. Mr. Gladstone it was, the leader of the great party that the noble Baroness represents, of whom the noble Lord, Lord Salisbury—the Prime Minister of the day and the great-grandfather of our present leader—said, when he died, "He kept alive the soul in England. He was a great Christian man". One of the younger Conservative Ministers said to me the other day, when I asked who he thought was the best speaker in the House, "Baroness Seear". I hope that when she next speaks in an explicitly Christian sense, she uses that splendid eloquence.

I wish to add one more personal comment about independence. Alas, the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, is not going to speak. Many of us know that he has suffered distressing illness in recent years. His example is worthy of the highest traditions of Christianity and of Christian suffering at its utmost.

I speak as a Christian. I speak in a country where the majority of its people still say, when asked, that they are Christians. I am not speaking in Saudi Arabia or China where one might hope that moral renewal will take another form. But in this country it must mean a Christian renewal. That is basically so, but, as the Archbishop said, there are minorities who play a vital part in our society. But they remain small minorities when added together. If there is to be a moral renewal here, it must come from Christianity.

Perhaps I may say just one thing about the Jews. I know I am to be followed by someone who has added so much to the spiritual strength of this House, the former Chief Rabbi. I shall not agree with him about forgiveness. He denounced forgiveness to the applause of the Daily Mail, but not to the applause of any Christians whom I have met. That is by the way. He will speak for himself in a moment or two and no doubt he will pull me to pieces. However, he does not speak for all Jews. I know of Jewish Rabbis whose view of forgiveness today is exactly the same as that of Christians. They claim that it comes from the Talmud, but wherever it comes from it is the same. We can take that point of view if we so wish.

I say boldly that I speak as a Christian and renewal must come from Christianity if there is to be such a moral renewal. But what about the humanists? I have known humanists in this House. I had the honour of introducing a noble humanist, Lady Wootton. When she was introduced there was a long delay while someone fumbled to find the alternative form of words. A noble Lord sitting on the ex-Ministerial Bench on the other side of the Chamber said, in a very loud voice—to the grandfather of the present Earl of Swinton, "What's the trouble, Philip?" He shouted back through an ear trumpet, "She doesn't believe in God". The query came, "Doesn't believe in who, Philip?". The reply was, "She doesn't believe in God". "Why the devil not, Philip? You had better ask her". That was my experience of introducing a great humanist into this House. My noble friend Lord McIntosh has carried on the worthy tradition of humanism and so have many others.

When all is said and done, humanists lack sacred books and an agreed moral code. I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, has left the Chamber for I am going to stress this point. If one asks 10 humanists about adultery and whether it is right or wrong, one will get 10 different answers. If one ask Christians, there can be only one answer, which the right reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury has given in recent times. It is sinful and an act of sin. So there is that great difference. That is where I disagree very much with the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, when she says that there has been too much talk about sexual morals. That may be so in the form in which it has been presented in the tabloids. Basically, what has been wrong with society in recent years has been the decline in sexual morals. That has not come from every direction. I find young people on the Tube offering me their seat which I would not have done to an elderly gentleman when I was their age.

We are not living in an evil society. I do not believe that my 26 grandchildren are growing up in a worse society than I did, but as regards sexual morals there has been a steady decline. I am very sorry that, so far in this debate, no one has mentioned that. Without such a renewal of sexual decency we shall never see a general moral renewal. I have said before in this House that sex before marriage leads to adultery afterwards; that leads to broken homes and they lead to crime. We have seen crime increase tenfold in the past 50 years and the divorce rate and the decline in sexual morals have gone up accordingly. No one can say that there is no correlation between those two. We must face the fact that if we want moral renewal, there must be a renewal of sexual morals.

Finally, perhaps I may say what Christians in particular have to add. I have written small books on forgiveness and humility, but I cannot say that they circulated in large numbers. Nevertheless, no one has disputed the claim that forgiveness and humility are special Christian contributions introduced into society by Christ. When one turns to charity, one may say that all societies aim at what might be called "The brotherhood of man". But Christians have that special inspiration which comes from the life of Jesus Christ. I usually go to more than one prison a week now. I prepare myself before I go in in the same way. I remember the words of Christ in St. Matthew, Chapter 25: I was in prison and you came unto me …In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me". I never live up to that properly, but there is the attempt. Christians in this predominately Christian country must give a lead and the Archbishop has given us a wonderful start today.

12.45 p.m.

Lord Jakobovits

My Lords, I am sure that we are all sensitive to the very special and indeed elevated character of this occasion. I believe that it is not since the "Call to the Nation" by the then Archbishops of Canterbury and of York in 1975, if my memory serves me correctly, that the state of morality in the nation has been given this billing, as it were, at the top of the national agenda as it is in this House this morning.

The most reverend Primate, my friend the Archbishop, in general spoke for all denominations. We are intensely grateful to him for his initiative. Perhaps I may add some thoughts on the very rich contributions that have already been made. I note with particular satisfaction the emphasis on schools. I welcome this debate, convinced that if our children are raised in a moral vacuum then an essential ingredient of our civilization will progressively disappear, with incalculable consequences for the stability of our society.

In the limited time at my disposal I shall address myself to three themes: first, the facile argument against moral instruction as indoctrination—in other words, preferring that moral judgments should be left to the individual conscience; secondly, the need for a balanced assessment of moral successes as well as failures in our age; and, thirdly, the importance of hope as an essential factor in moral regeneration.

We live in an age of rebellion against all authority. We are told all too often, particularly as professionals, to be non-judgmental, as though morality can be neutral.

In relation to children's education we encounter much opposition to what is called "indoctrination". We are told, "Let children grow up to decide for themselves on the moral choices before them. Let them discover on their own what is right and what is wrong". That is pernicious advice. Imagine if we were to adopt a similar attitude to, say, teaching science. Can we really leave it to our children to discover for themselves the laws of nature as revealed by Archimedes, Newton or Einstein?

We are urged, "Leave it to everyone's conscience", but there are as many consciences as there are people. Biblical morality condemns that attitude as, everyone doing what is right in his own eyes". It spells moral anarchy.

Is it really suggested that we should leave it to our children to rely on their own intuition? Can we expect all our children to have the genius of an Abraham to discover monotheism, or of a Moses to proclaim the Ten Commandments, or to develop by themselves the moral passion and insight of an Isaiah or a Micah without teaching it to them? Shall civilisation start afresh with every new generation because we refuse to build on the accumulated wisdom and inspiration of the past? What a hollow argument.

I do not share the widespread despondency about the moral collapse of our times and the inevitability of further retrogression. I share with the right reverend Primate the note of hope that he has struck. I agree that some trends today are alarming enough: the shocking rise in the crime rates; the catastrophic breakdown of family life and marriage; the growing incidence of business dishonesty and, more universally, the continued diabolical disregard of human rights in many countries and the rampant spread of international terrorism, now potentially setting every human life on earth at risk. All of those are undoubtedly indicators of moral decay, and children in our schools must be alerted to those perils if they are not one day themselves to become victims of that collapse.

However, I think that we underestimate the obverse side of progress in this moral accounting. There is a very hopeful side. For instance, I believe that in many ways our world is far more caring than it ever has been. We have indeed to thank the media for that—guilty as they may be and much they may have to answer for as purveyors of smut, perversity, corruption and faithlessness. Nevertheless, it is largely thanks to the media that all of us all over the world have become sensitive to suffering in the remotest parts of the world where formerly we remained entirely indifferent or ignorant. There has always been the threat of famine in East Africa or the suppression of freedom for millions all over the globe, but no one cared in the past. Today, massive efforts are being made throughout the civilised world to remove those stains on our humanity. The moral outrage of the civilised world succeeded, as never happened before, in bringing to an end the evil of apartheid in South Africa where only a few decades earlier an uncaring world allowed the monstrous inhumanity of the holocaust to be perpetrated with impunity and without effective protest.

We have moved forward. The most important part of moral education, particularly in schools, is to nourish that hope and expectation and to strengthen the conviction that it can be achieved if only we try hard enough. With all our moral failures, we should recognise our immense successes as well.

I was deeply impressed by that advancement in our recent two great debates in this House—on the Family Law Bill and on the Asylum and Immigration Bill. We were all agreed on all sides of the House that marriage ought to be strengthened against any alternative lifestyles. There was no dissent from that view. All that we argued about was how to achieve the stability of marriage and how to handle failures. Similarly, we were all agreed on treating with compassion genuine refugees from oppression—no one dissented from that—including with regard to their entitlement to social benefits on a basis of equality with any native-born citizen. We debated only how to deal with abuses. That unanimity represented to my mind a great moral triumph.

We must encourage and transmit to our children that still overwhelming commitment to the dictates of righteousness and goodness. We must not allow instruments of public opinion to suggest otherwise—for nothing is as powerful in influencing our children as the peer pressure created by the assumption that everyone follows the line of least resistance. Despair breeds accepting things as they are, while hope feeds the determination to improve things.

Finally, could it be that the greatest moral failure of our time is the stress on our rights, on what we can claim from others—human rights, women's rights, workers' rights, gay rights and so on—and not on our duties, on what we owe to others? In our common tradition, the catalogue of fundamentals on which our civilisation is based is not a Bill of Rights, but a set of Ten Commandments, not claims but debts. Part of what we must seek to achieve is to redress the balance, to convince our children, particularly in their youth, that the permanent values which have propelled the civilised world will eventually triumph in a better humanity, in a humanity bent on making the times good, even more than on having a good time.

12.58 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I am glad to follow the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, and I agree with his reflections on the contemporary scene. I commend also to your Lordships an article in today's Times by the present Chief Rabbi, Dr. Jonathan Sacks, in which he emphasises the role of groups within small communities, smaller than those that can be much influenced by government and its agencies.

I welcome this debate and I thank the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for the way in which he introduced it. In my view, it is entirely appropriate for him to have taken this initiative as the leader of the main Christian Church in this country. His message is one for Christians and citizens of all faiths and none. I disagreed with the opinion reported in the press a day or two ago that this afternoon we would be listening to a boring sermon. That has already been disproved completely. The article also said that the unnamed Peer—who I am sure was misreported—predicted that right wing Peers would then rant about bringing back hanging and complain about sex education. I do not recognise myself from that description or indeed anyone else on the list of speakers.

I am glad that the most reverend Primate referred both in his Motion and in his speech to the part played by schools. In schools and at home young people can be made aware of the difference between right and wrong. My generation benefited from that, although now it is probably an old-fashioned view. It was a long time before I learnt that there was a difference between sin and crime, that something which was sinful might not necessarily be a criminal offence. I suspect that our teachers were in no hurry to enlighten us on this matter. Like the teacher of the noble Lord, Lord Morris, and the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, no doubt it suited them if we feared that we might go to prison if we misbehaved in class or were guilty of similar school sins.

I regret the widespread lapse in all parts of Britain of school assembly with prayers. It provided simple opportunities to instil standards and indicate what good conduct in ordinary life comprised. Of course, in these matters I am more familiar with the scene in Scotland than in other parts of Britain. I am a member of the Church of Scotland—yet another church that enters into this debate—which is, of course, Presbyterian and does not have bishops. The most reverend Primate stated that the factor which prompted this debate was a statement of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority. He also referred to the Education Act 1988. Neither the authority nor the Act applies in Scotland which has its own curriculum separate from the perhaps misnamed national curriculum. It has its own legislation on education and its own education department in the Scottish Office. I am pleased, therefore, to speak in this debate as someone whose home is in Scotland. In my view, the Motion is equally relevant to life north of the Border, although the institutions and systems are different.

I find it distasteful that when scandals occur at various times in public life and elsewhere emphasis is concentrated on whether actions have been legal or illegal, overlooking whether they have been thoroughly disreputable. Whether or not an action is legal is very important. However, skilful lawyers and shortages of evidence mean that findings in court do not necessarily answer the questions which give rise to concern at the time. I suggest that a more fastidious attitude should be adopted to those activities which may not be strictly illegal but are sordid or disgraceful in the eyes of most people.

I am a trustee of the Centre for Business and Public Sector Ethics based in Cambridge. Today I speak solely for myself. I will touch on one or two areas of British life. As regards business and industry, there are two causes of continuing concern. One is insider dealing. Although recent legislation has attempted to clamp down on it, cases are still being reported in the press and investigations initiated. It is a difficult field to regulate and monitor, but confidence in our financial and industrial systems depends on refining detection arrangements. The other matter is commercial espionage. The use of eavesdropping devices (also known as "bugs") has an ambiguous legal status, although clearly it is an invasion of privacy of a particularly offensive kind. I should like to see progress on legislation to clarify the situation, or at least codes of conduct.

As to Parliament and public life, I fully support the mission of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nolan. The centre of which I am a trustee has contributed papers to his secretariat. In recent years I have been greatly disquieted by the prevalence of leaks and the apparent widespread acceptance of them nowadays. Usually, these are breaches of trust, which I deplore, by people in the public service. It has been made easier by the ubiquitous modern photocopying machine. My observation of the incidence of the leaking of information when confidential or before its publication is that often the intention is not simply to disclose facts or events but to get in first with the views of one side of a controversy so that those views gain an advantage. The one-sided or distorted version obtains publicity before the whole picture is known.

Besides the betrayal of trust involved in leaking, there is a limit to the freedom of information owing to our cabinet system of government. The principle of collective responsibility by which our system has functioned for many years requires that discussions and arguments between Ministers and departments are confidential during the process of reaching decisions. When a decision has been taken all Ministers are expected to abide by it. If a Minister is still much opposed to the decision the proper course is for him to resign; otherwise, he publicly supports that decision, even if he was in the minority arguing against it. That system of collective responsibility would become unworkable if in the early stages accounts of disagreements were regularly supplied to the media or documents revealing the discussions were treated as public property.

I turn to the professions. The principal ones have their own rules and arrangements for regulation and discipline; for example, doctors and lawyers. The conventions on protecting patients and clients and confidentiality are upheld, although I notice that sometimes changes are suggested within the professions. Within those professions practitioners can be struck off registers or removed in similar ways. I hope that the professions will maintain their high standards. In particular, I am not in favour of a recently reported suggestion that the medical code applying to doctors and their patients should be relaxed in sexual matters.

Twenty years ago the report of the Salmon Royal Commission on standards of conduct in public life made a helpful contribution. Its recommendations prescribed formulae which were generally accepted and guided subsequent reforms and changes. I am glad to say that surviving members of that commission include two Members of this House, my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing and the noble Lord, Lord Allen.

I fully support the theme of the most reverend Primate and I wish him well in pursuing it. I know the immense trouble he takes when he embarks upon a subject or project. Two years ago I had experience of this when the 50th anniversary of the Normandy campaign was being commemorated. His sermon at Portsmouth on D-one was appreciated and admired by the veterans and their families, because clearly he had taken great trouble to understand their feelings about life-and-death events half a century earlier. Only yesterday, I heard from someone just returned from South Africa who had attended the service to celebrate the retirement of Archbishop Tutu. The sermon of the most reverend Primate on that occasion had again impressed the congregation as having struck exactly the right note. That occurred only a few days ago. I am sure that on that occasion he had not spared himself, in diligent preparation, with sensitivity and firm purpose. Today he has shown the same flair, and the campaign that he is launching deserves our strong support.

1.10 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, I, too, warmly congratulate the most reverend Primate on introducing the debate. I shall introduce a different note but that diminishes in no way my feeling that it is important that this kind of subject should be brought forward. I can think of no one who would do so better than the most reverend Primate. In addressing that important body, the Bishops' Bench, perhaps I may express my appreciation of the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester. I have every hope that we shall hear more from him.

I decided to add my name to the many already on the list on receiving my copy of the new Labour draft manifesto. On turning its pages it seemed to me that the aim of, a fundamental change in the values of Government", and, a new vision for Britain", might very well meet the Archbishop's call for recognition of, the importance of society's moral and spiritual well-being". The three things appear to go together.

Personally, I am fully and fervently aware of that importance. In my case that awareness does not stem from religious conviction. My experience has led me from a strict Christian childhood to a position of agnostic humanism. However, having no belief in any after-life renders one the more anxious for humankind to make the best and not the worst of life on earth.

Neither am I ashamed of old Labour. I am an unrepentant Left-wing parliamentary socialist. I recognise that my verbiage is old hat but I believe that socialism is still the best political idea there is and the only one which can deliver the moral and spiritual well-being which the most reverend Primate rightly seeks.

Alas, modern history shows that nations claiming God to be on their side can kill and injure innocent non-combatants by tens of thousands. Perhaps that puts adultery into perspective. At Dresden, at Hiroshima and elsewhere the majority of those murdered and maimed were women and children. I do not recall much protest from the Churches at the time.

Now the leadership of my party thinks it possible to combine Christian beliefs with the declared manifesto intention of following the example of the present and previous governments by retaining and deploying a weapon whose murder and maim capacity extends up to hundreds of thousands and beyond to the edge of possible extinction in a world nuclear holocaust. Let us hope that the amended version of the manifesto will at least (and I have some hope that it might) commit a new Labour Government to taking the lead in seeking urgent world-wide and verified nuclear disarmament. It does not do that and I believe that it should. I do not believe that I am alone in that view.

In the RAF during the war we used to call the chaplains God-Botherers. I do not think that they bothered him enough. Certainly I find it sad today that the Church is not leading the struggle to get rid of the most immoral weapon ever invented. But I will be asked what all this has to do with the moral and spiritual well-being of the nation. A great deal, I think.

I have been extremely impressed with the views I have heard today, although I have not agreed with them all. The debate is genuinely of a high level. Is it only chance that concern about a decline in standards seems to be felt not only here but in the other nuclear powers, markedly in the supernuclear powers; the United States and Russia? I am not certain of the answer. Does not the possession of weapons of mass destruction indicate the ultimate lack of concern about society? Can we really worry about the spiritual welfare of beings whom we are prepared to destroy utterly? Are they not fundamentally the same as we are?

Here is the rub. Do people matter? If they do not, if we are prepared to kill them, why should people bother about the kind of life they lead? Why should they bother about others or about any thing?

By chance, there came into my hands recently a little book edited by Michael Horovitz called Children of Albion. It contains a collection of the work of lesser known poets and some prose. It was published by Penguin in 1969 and I was quite unaware that it included something that I had written to the New Statesman in 1966 when I was Member of Parliament for Putney. The print is so small that these old eyes have difficulty with it. It was at the height of the war in Vietnam. I hope that I may be forgiven if I conclude by quoting myself. There was, of course, a Labour Government in power at the time. I wrote: The truth is that the American Government has dehumanised itself towards Vietnam as the Germans dehumanised themselves towards the Jews and all of us who countenance this, going about our daily tasks and averting our minds from the reality, are as guilty as were the German people in the last war. The British Government and in particular the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary are infected by this dehumanisation, for they do not permit themselves to condemn the burning of children and they answer questions by saying, in effect, that to become human, to plead with the Americans for mercy towards the children of Vietnam, would be to lessen their standing with this monstrous Government and so handicap them in their search for peace. They add that the other side is also killing people and they would like it all to end. The Tories call, "Hear, hear", and that is the end of that. "In the meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party, as has been reported, I asked the Prime Minister to agree that the resumption of bombing was a mistake. He replied by saying that it was inevitable. No doubt that was said about the killing of the Jews, the dropping of the Atom bomb and the slaughter of Dresden. But none of those things was really inevitable because men shut themselves off from what is being done, from fear that they should go mad. In that fear, they deprive themselves of the pity which alone can save mankind of man".

1.20 p.m.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

My Lords, your Lordships have heard from the noble Lords who have preceded me a valuable development of the theme so inspiringly inaugurated by the most reverend Primate. With your Lordships' indulgence, I shall diverge slightly although not, I think, as profoundly as did the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney. I wish to touch on the relationship between the moral code and the legal code.

Of course, they have separate spheres. Religion speaks, as I understand it, of grace. The law speaks primarily of justice. The Church speaks of sin while courts of law speak of fault. But, although there is that divergence, there are many respects in which there is an inter-relationship between the moral and the legal code and, indeed, it is lost at our peril.

I propose to deal with three examples which raise different aspects of that inter-relationship: the first is the law of testate succession; the second is the law of divorce; and the third is the penal law—the sentencing of offenders.

As regards testate succession, it may seem very far from the moral code, but in fact at the very outset there is a profound moral question; namely, the justification of private property. In the middle of the last century Proudhon said roundly that property is theft. That was repeated even in my lifetime by Bernard Shaw. Your Lordships will remember that at the end of the "Threepenny Opera" Brecht makes Mack the Knife say that the man who founds a bank is as guilty as a man who robs a bank.

That sort of nonsense is of course far away from the doctrine from any of the mainstream parties today.

Moreover, it is not the doctrine of the Church. As I read the 38th Article of Religion, it speaks, I think, in theological terms but underneath, beneath that, is a moral consideration; namely, that private property describes a sphere in which an individual owner can make moral choices of his own. It is because there is that sphere of moral choice defined by private property that we should be wary about the encroachment of the state. So much for private property intra vires.

However, testate succession is concerned with the post mortem use of property. Property may not be theft but it is power. Is it right for the private individual to exercise power after his death over those who come after him? The answer under our present law is yes. It gives unlimited testamentary licence. A wife may be disregarded entirely in favour of testament to a mistress. Children may be disregarded with preference given to a cats' home. Is that right?

It was not always so. That branch of the law was for centuries ministered by the courts and the Church and they came to a very characteristic compromise. The estate was divided into three parts: one-third was the widow's part and there was no right to dispose of it by will; the second part was the bairns' part and, again, it was inviolable from testamentary bequest; it was only one-third of which the testator could dispose freely.

That system subsisted for centuries in this country up to the time of the Restoration—that prefiguration of the swinging 60s. It went on a little longer in the northern province and subsists even today in Scotland. Is that not a more moral code than the one of testamentary licence? Would not such a system reflect a concern for the family as a moral pillar of society?

That brings me towards my second theme via this consideration. In order for a married woman to enjoy rights of ownership in the matrimonial home, she must either become a widow or become divorced. Is that really tolerable? An amendment was moved to the Family Law Bill to obviate that moral anomaly. It was resisted, although it had been advocated for a long time by the Law Commission. Indeed, it was not supported by those who I think should have supported it.

That takes me to the law on divorce. I do not think that it would be proper to explore in detail the various matters that fell for consideration in debate. However, I believe that I can come straight to the conclusion that what we are landed with now is, unquestionably, under the name of marriage, an arrangement for the parties to live together until one, without cause and without any reason being shown, repudiates the other. Is it not plain that that is a potential of grave injustice? Indeed, it is an affront to any moral consideration as to the status of marriage.

I believe that we arrived at that position by not realising the relationship in this sphere between the moral and the legal codes. All the highest ethical systems enjoin us to love our neighbours as ourselves. The law cannot enjoin people to love each other; but what the law can and does do to assist is to enjoin that we shall not harm our neighbour. Of course, one's spouse is one's closest neighbour.

So much for my second theme. I turn now briefly to my third theme; namely, sentencing policy, the penal law. Traditionally, again for centuries, sentencing responsibility has been vouchsafed to judges. However, we have recently had a proposal that there should be minimum sentences, thus taking away the discretion of the judge to fit the punishment to the crime—indeed, minimum sentences which can be alleviated at the discretion not of any judicial authority but by that of the Home Secretary.

In his famous lecture on the ethics of penal action, Archbishop Temple would only allow one ethical basis for punishment and that was retribution: society's vindication of its moral and social code. The main difficulty with that in human terms is that vindication is very close to vengeance. It is really only a moral and psychological attitude which separates the two. I have quoted before, and shall do so again, what was said by the great American jurist, Justice Frankfurter. When he was asked what were the three most important judicial qualities, he said, "First, detachment; second, detachment; and, third, detachment". It is the detachment of the judge which enables the retribution to be uncontaminated by any desire for vengeance.

I have dealt with three very different aspects of the many respects in which the moral and the legal codes interpenetrate. In the first, testate succession, we are faced with a position where the moral code calls on us to reform our law and to reform it in the direction which we knew long since and have now lost awhile. Secondly, with the divorce law, we have taken a decisive step—at any rate, a decided step—which it may be difficult to retrieve. I think, probably, that its only hope of retrieval is if those who have advocated the new law recognise earlier its mischief. I prophesy without any fear that the immediate result of the next two years will be a startling increase in the rate of divorce, mainly the "quickie divorce", which the Government would not accept should be abolished when the Bill received Royal Assent.

Thirdly, I spoke about the penal law and sentencing policy. That is an issue which lies ahead in the next Session. I very much hope that anything said in today's debate will reinforce the valiant words of my noble and learned friend Lord Taylor of Gosforth in his last public appearance as Lord Chief Justice; namely, that we should try to keep sentencing policy in the hands of the judges and out of the hands of an Executive responding to party clamour at a party conference.

Mr. Balfour once said, "I would no more take my party policy from a party conference than I would from my valet". Well, valets are pretty thin on the ground these days, but, from my experience and my reading, I understand that party conferences are pretty much the same. It is very dangerous ground for recruiting policy. I hope that second thoughts will prevail.

1.36 p.m.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

My Lords, I should like to begin by congratulating the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester on his splendid maiden speech. I last saw him as a callow youth of 14 when I was a fellow ordinand with his father at Westcott House. I congratulate him on his progress since then.

At the turn of the century, a then very popular London newspaper carried out a survey of religious observance within the boundaries of the old London County Council, round about 1901. It was a very careful and methodical survey which found that about 20 per cent. of the population attended any place of worship. Now it would be somewhere between 5 and 10 per cent.—under a million Anglicans practise their religion with any regularity. The situation is the same in other parts of Europe, and there is even a fall away from religion occurring in Southern Europe.

I should, therefore, like to argue that over the past 80 to 100 years those societies have become the first societies in history not to be guided by some religious or similar ideology. It is true that there are relics of belief among those who do not practise their religion—a kind of religious folklore, with faint echoes of the original big bang—but I feel that its influence is weak and declining. Some would argue that that development is wholly for the good—away with superstition, no more crusades, no sectarianism and no more restrictions on an individual's right to self-expression. You know the words: Pale Galilean you know the world has grown grey from thy breath". About 20 years ago I heard an anthropologist give a lecture on the nature of society. If I may, I should like to quote from it. The anthropologist said: The most important thing about religion is that it provides the believer with an ideology—a world view about how I am related to the world around me and how parts of the world are related to one another. Religious ideologies presented their moral principles placed within the context of an orderly universe. Human beings need such a moral order in that, just as we impose order on our physical world [through science and analysis], so we need for our security moral order—[knowing] what's right and wrong". He continued—and this is a telling phrase and a rather ominous one— if we lack confidence in our ability to recognise clear-cut boundaries, it would not just be a matter of arguing whether the sea shore was part of the land or the sea or whether whales should be rated as fish or mammals; it would be more worrying in that it would involve the means by which we distinguish between right and wrong, clean or unclean. We would face moral chaos". In essence he argued that without some form of ideology to guide and give structures, society as a whole faces insecurity and uncertainty.

For five years I served on the Parole Board. One of my tasks was to interview prisoners in preparation for their report to the board. In the course of my five years I must have interviewed 200 to 300 prisoners. Most of them were serving sentences of six years or more. Many of them served those sentences in Dartmoor and other West Country prisons. To me those people at the very bottom of society—the casualties of society—represented the problems that can occur in a society which has lost moral direction and lacks a coherent ideology.

All the prisoners I interviewed were young men aged between 26 and 30. Apart from the sex offenders and professional bank robbers, their life patterns had an almost ominous similarity. After their birth the relationship that produced them broke up. This occurred in the case of almost every prisoner I interviewed. Their mothers then went through a series of subsequent relationships. The stepfathers usually resented the child and abused him, usually physically but sometimes sexually. The child went in and out of care because the mother wished to relate to her new partner. Then the mother had moments of sentiment and recalled the child home. Inevitably the child truanted from school, committed crimes and usually—as he grew up—began to take drugs and to suffer from alcohol abuse.

The child left school with no qualifications whatever. He moved on to more serious crime and ended up in the situation where I interviewed him. Such young men had no experience of family life and no model on which to build loving relationships. More ominously, the young men had often been involved in similar relationships to those of the parents and in some cases had left behind three or four abandoned children conceived between the ages of 16 and 26. These are the casualties of our society's lack of an agreed system of values. The cases I am discussing are the casualties of the collapse of the family. The fact we have to face is that parents, schools and society at large—this is what this debate is about, and I value the fact that we are allowed to speak about this—have to try to build up a system of moral values in a society which has no agreed ideology.

I was a teacher for 37 years and a headmaster for 18, albeit in privileged schools. I agree with the most reverend Primate that schools should attempt to assist in resolving our society's problems. However, I also agree that the atmosphere in which they have to do this is difficult. There is much in the present ethos which militates against schools exercising a moral influence. I mention three factors. The first has to be moral relativism—I mention that first to underline how important I consider it to be, although others have already mentioned it—that is, the idea that there is no set of values which can be deemed to be better than another; that morality is a matter of taste and opinion and there is no such thing as moral error. There is agreement that horrors such as the holocaust should not occur. In general there is agreement that one should not kill. But in all other areas of life there is considerable disagreement. I agree with the noble Baroness that moral relativism is not discussed even in a saloon bar, but it is portrayed on our screens and in our papers every day. Society is steeped in it.

The second is that moral relativism is compounded by a sort of determinism. In part that springs from Marxism and Freud. That is the idea that individuals are not responsible for their actions either because of their early upbringing or because of the social structures in the societies in which they live. Once one removes individual responsibility and says that poverty is the cause of these problems—I accept that the horrors of poverty can cause trouble, although in the case of the prisoners I interviewed I would rate the collapse of the family as a more decisive influence—one is on a slippery slope.

Thirdly, no individual ought to be restricted in his freedom to choose. On the whole, primacy ought to be given to the individual's desire for self-expression.

The problem is that schools have to deal with parents who are subjected to these influences. Schools' attempts to find a common pattern are often disputed. I have dealt with privileged parents. But I realise that, if there were 12 sets of parents in 12 houses in a street, there would be 12 sets of moral ideologies, ranging from simple issues such as when a child should go to bed to issues such as how much freedom a child should be allowed at the weekend and other matters. Even boarding schools cannot influence behaviour if there is no family support. That is not to say that efforts should not be made. But our society has sought individual freedom and material success and placed those factors above the need to seek an objective system of values which should and could govern our lives.

I must declare my interest. I have a personal commitment to a revealed religion. I realise that we have to face a society in which few are prepared to accept such a commitment. Naturally I regret that. I feel it is hard for a society to have an agreed system of values where there is no agreed picture of our universe or our place in it. I and others who think like me—who believe in a personal and loving God in whose image we are made and whose purposes we are to work out in our lives—believe that that sort of ideology can sustain a shared and agreed system of values. However, of course I accept the secularisation of our society. But my plea is that even in our present society we must try to realise the values and disciplines that in the past were attached to faith. We have to accept that that will mean that all of us will have to face some restrictions on our present modes of behaviour and our deep attachment to unbridled freedom as regards the use that we make of our money, our sexuality and everything else. Even without faith there can be discipline. What we must address above all is that all of us, in every moment of our lives, have to face the fact that we have to make serious moral decisions and at times say what is right and what is wrong. I commend to all Members of the House the practical and eloquent suggestions of the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, in one of the finest speeches that I have heard.

1.50 p.m.

Lord Winston

My Lords, we are all exceptionally grateful to the most reverend Primate for introducing the debate. The way in which he introduced it is deeply appreciated by all sides of the House and by all people with varying views, both religious—of different disciplines—and non-religious.

There is a view of morality which is propounded perhaps most eloquently by a great friend of mine, Professor Richard Dawkins of Oxford University. Noble Lords will recall that Professor Dawkins—he is a professed atheist—regards our morality as essentially of genetic origin. He says that our altruism is due to a form of self-protection which we have learnt by selection of the species through the years. There is an alternative view of morality: that it is primarily religiously based; and that it is God-given.

As a geneticist, and as someone who has been extremely interested in the selection of the species, I find the view that we are in some way genetically controlled to be moral a false presumption. It seems to me that the notion of a religious morality must be right. It is one which has some universality through many different religions. For example, in the Judaeo-Christian view there is a notion of the ultimate sanctity of human life. We give that protection to human life because we believe that we are made in God's image. From that notion come the beliefs which I derive.

It seems undoubted that the crux of our morality is the family. I suspect that I may well disagree with many of your Lordships about the nature of the family. I am not entirely convinced that the nuclear family which so many noble Lords respect—I respect it, too—is necessarily the only version of the fundamental aspect of that morality. I believe that it can be derived from different kinds of marital relationships or indeed quasi-marital relationships. I shall refer to that in a moment.

The current Chief Rabbi, Dr. Jonathan Sacks, in his article in The Times this morning talks about our society as one which has propounded the ethics of success. Two or three years ago I gave a little scientific paper to an audience in the United States. During the coffee break afterwards, one of the American doctors said to me, "Oh, that stuff you talked about—I thought you were dead". I was then still in my early 50s. One of the factors that we have to understand about this notion of the ethics of success is that we are as dust on this earth. It is an important notion for us to understand. I shall refer to it when concluding.

If one is a Nobel Prize winner, within 15 years one becomes a point type at the bottom of a chapter. How many noble Lords can recall the Nobel Prize winner for chemistry, physics or medicine of 15 years ago? It is extraordinarily difficult. I wonder how many Members in another place can recall the Cabinet of 15 years ago. Our true immortality lies in our children. It is that which is so important to the nature of the human race and the human position. Our children are our immortality and they are born of that morality.

The first book of the Bible, Genesis, is essentially about the family, and family relationships. It deals with many other aspects, too, but there is a central theme of the family. What is extraordinary is that the book shows the family in all its aspects, warts and all. There are many examples where the relationships of the patriarchs are far from desirable. There are many examples where there is no such thing as a moral or even a marital relationship.

Some noble Lords may know that I am particularly interested in human reproduction. When we talk of children, I find it interesting to note that when we consider the Book of Genesis in which four matriarchs are described no fewer than three are infertile. Sara is infertile, Rebekah is infertile, and the most favoured wife of Jacob, Rachel, is also infertile. In her anguish she says to her husband, Give me children, or else I die". That cry echoes down through the centuries. It is an important theme in our understanding of how we have valued children throughout time and throughout society. It is that essential stability that we have to value. As has already been said in the debate, sometimes we neglect that value, not least, as my noble friend Lord Morris said, in the way we value our teachers. It was poignant to hear him give his respects today to the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy.

I give seminars to schoolchildren as frequently as I can. I have quite a number of calls to speak on scientific matters. However, the seminar that I am most reluctant to refuse is one given to schools. I find that when I talk to children about science they are interested in the moral aspects of that science and its impact on society. I believe that there is huge cause for optimism. It does not matter whether I talk to a private or a state school. The conversation always turns to the moral values of what I am doing.

Perhaps I may make a suggestion on the side issue. It seems to me extremely important that scientists learn how to communicate in English and to teach young children. We must advance technology which is seen to be a threat to our morality through the process of that education.

I am optimistic about our moral status. I do not share the problems which have been expressed by some noble Lords. There have been many examples of the excellent state of our morality, not least of which have been in this House. In 1990 we sat through the debate on human embryology. At that time I was not a Member of your Lordships' House and sat by the Bar. There were many times when I wanted to jump over that Bar and to join in the debate. Alas, now it is too late for me to do so. But there was an extraordinary flavour in your Lordships' debate which encapsulated what is good and moral about parliamentary discussion. What is more, that debate subsequently influenced the House of Commons and Committee stages. Since I have been attending in the Chamber great moral issues have been debated.

People talk about my subject as though it threatens morality. Perhaps I may make a brief aside. The practice of in vitro fertilisation does not threaten our morality; it is at the very essence of it. In vitro fertilisation is a good example of that morality. We are using the products of creation. We are not creating life, but we are using what God has given us to enhance human life. This is imitatio dei. It is one of the highest expressions of the human existence.

Although the flavour of the debate might suggest a moral decline, I believe that there is a resurgence of religious values. It is seen in different ways. I do not wish to be political, but it has been seen in some of the debates and the way in which the Government have agonised over the issues of asylum. We see it in the charismatic leadership of Mr. Tony Blair, who has strong religious values which he sees as affecting his political views.

Looking back in history we do not need to turn to the Greeks, who have been mentioned. Let us bear in mind that the Greeks regarded women as slaves. We merely have to look back at what we celebrated, or regretted, last week, the occasion when 50,000 men went across the Somme and were mown down by German machine guns on the first day of the battle in 1916. We merely look at how we neglected the real issues of the holocaust until it was too late. Our society has learnt a great deal from those events and I believe that its moral fabric has never been better.

I conclude with a thought which occurred to me during the debate. It comes at the end of a lengthy prayer which is recited by Jews three times a day and four times on Saturday. We say: My God, guard my heart from evil and my lips from speaking guile". It is a quotation from the Psalms and, with respect, it precedes what my noble friend Lord Longford said. The idea of forgiveness runs right through the Jewish as well as the Christian tradition. The prayer ends: And to them that speak evil against me, may my soul be as dust". That expression of forgiveness and humility seems to me to be a valuable moral message for all society. It is particularly relevant to the way in which we conduct our debate in this House.

2.2 p.m.

Lord Moore of Wolvercote

My Lords, I too am very grateful to the most reverend Primate for having initiated the debate. I am in little doubt that during my lifetime there has been a widespread fall in standards and this is rightly causing great concern.

The Motion refers to the moral and spiritual well-being of the nation. Personally, with respect to the most reverend Primate, I would put the spiritual before the moral; but Kant would have agreed with him since Kant believed that it was our awareness of the moral law which led to the proof of the existence of God.

My reason for putting the spiritual first is that I believe inevitably, sooner or later, there comes a time in the life of every person when he or she begins to wonder about the origins of the universe, why one is on this earth and whether there is a God. These thoughts have occupied the mind of man since time began.

There is therefore a great responsibility on our schools to make sure that young men and women have received some spiritual and moral education before they go out into the world. Indeed, religious education should have the highest priority in the curriculum. Children should be made aware of the eternal spiritual and moral questions and of the answers given through the ages by the great religious leaders. In Britain, the religious teaching must centre around Christianity since this is a predominantly Christian country and the whole of Western civilisation is based on Christianity.

Of course, the inculcation of spiritual and moral values should first be the responsibility of parents. But inevitably there will be many homes where parents either fail in this duty or are ill-equipped to instruct their children. So a heavy responsibility falls on the schools. If the curriculum provides properly for religious education and if teachers are adequately trained, we can at least be assured that children will have received some education in spiritual and moral values by the time they leave school. But there is a big "if' here. Are our teachers properly trained to instil in children an awareness of spiritual and moral values? Perhaps the greatest challenge we face today lies in the training of our teachers.

I wish to make one other important point. The most significant influence on children today is television. But religious programmes on television remain very inadequate, especially during the great Christian festivals of Christmas and Easter. We have the most brilliant television producers and writers in this country and they should be encouraged to give us many more religious programmes, both as instruction and as entertainment.

The Government have rightly stressed the importance of the three "Rs" as the basis of education. I should like to add a fourth "R"—religion.

2.6 p.m.

Viscount Caldecote

My Lords, long years ago when I was young, we used to sing a hymn at home which started: Dare to be a Daniel". It went on: Dare to have a purpose firm And dare to make it known". It is clear that the most reverend Primate agrees with that sentiment. I greatly welcome his courageous initiative in starting the debate. I hope that his speech and the whole debate will be widely and accurately reported in the media and not denigrated or distorted by snide comments.

Some people will no doubt assert that we do not want a nanny state. I agree. But equally, we do not want a nation whose motto is: "I'm in the boat, Jack, shove off', a nation where the vulnerable, particularly the young, can be exploited for whatever motive.

An amoral society is not a happy society, nor does it promote satisfaction and fulfilment in life. It is impossible to maintain a moral society without spiritual well-being too, for that gives a meaning beyond the daily task of living and satisfying personal aspirations.

In days gone by it was widely accepted that such spiritual well-being was the outcome of religious belief. That is still true today. But today we tend to forget the enormous contribution to our laws and customs made by the Christian faith and ethics, and elsewhere by other religious faiths. How different, how much happier and more fulfilling our national life would be today if the principles of the Ten Commandments were more widely practised.

Morality in society, with high standards set, is the cement that binds together the stability and quality of our national life. For instance, in the whole field of business and commerce, without mutual trust and honesty, fraud and slick dealing abound and many innocent people suffer, as we have seen recently in all too many cases.

In all we do, nothing is more important than protecting children from exploitation, providing them with the best possible teaching and instilling high principles of conduct. Much has already been said about the corruption of the young, especially through television and other modern means of communication. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, drew attention very clearly to the great power of television which comes right into our rooms.

The freedom to exploit children is often justified by asserting the right of freedom of expression. That right has come to be rather misunderstood. The fundamental freedoms of our democracy are to express views and opinions and to enjoy freedom of worship; they are not to damage society in exercising such rights. For example, we must all be free, if we so wish, to express our opinion that drugs should be legalized—but not to peddle drugs to young people. It is right, too, to give the maximum opportunity for creative talent in entertainment, but not to the extent of harming and corrupting children, as happens all too often today.

Teaching is surely the most important profession of all. It affects people for generations to come. The majority of our teachers are dedicated and competent in carrying out their demanding task. But too many have passed through teacher-training institutions without attaining the high standards that the profession demands. I believe that a major factor in the low morale and relatively poor standing of teachers with parents and in society generally, pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Morris, is the lack of a respected, well-recognised and independent professional institution for teachers, run by teachers. The idea was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Elton. Such a professional institution exists in all other important professions. We must have one in the teaching profession, too.

Over the years attempts have been made to establish such an institution. There was for instance a Royal College of Education; but it was disbanded, I believe in 1969, through lack of support. In Scotland, there is the General Teaching Council for Scotland; and in Australia there is the Australian College of Education, a truly professional body. Two bodies now exist in this country having as their objective the provision of such a professional institution for teachers in England and Wales: the College of Preceptors, to which my noble friend Lord Elton referred, and the Education Council. Both are admirable organisations. But neither is well known, nor does either yet provide an effective professional body. I share my noble friend's hope that those bodies will get together with others who are interested and find a way forward to form such an institution.

The Government's policy, as I understand it, is that they accept the value of such an institution but rightly believe that it must be created by teachers and be independent of the Government. My hope is that the Government and all those connected with education will do everything possible to facilitate the formation of an effective professional institution for teachers in England and Wales. It would be of enormous value in ensuring high quality in the training of teachers and in raising morale and respect for this vital profession.

One important need in schools, which is not easily covered by teachers themselves, is pastoral care, especially for children who are disturbed or who have personal problems which are likely to lead them to begin a life of crime, leading to the sort of problems so clearly described by my noble friend Lord Pilkington of Oxenford.

There is clear evidence that such care can often best be provided by specially trained independent workers invited into schools by the head teachers. One fine example of that is a charity called Schools Outreach which trains workers fully and carefully and send them into schools, solely on the invitation of the headteachers. At present the field of their work is sorely limited by lack of financial resources, but practical experience has shown the enormous value of their work, and it has been confirmed by several headteachers.

This idea is good for children and a good investment for the country because it nips crime in the bud, and helps to reduce the huge cost of subsequent crime detection and prevention among young people who leave school in a disturbed state.

I implore the Government to look again at the funding of Schools Outreach, and other charities doing similar work in schools. That would make a major contribution towards creating the sort of society advocated so clearly today by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury.

2.16 p.m.

Lord McNair

My Lords, I too am grateful to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for initiating the debate and for the way in which he did so. Clearly, all is not right with the world and particularly not with our part of it, and by that I mean the country in which we live. In fact the moral and spiritual wellbeing of our society has been so undermined in several parts of the country that the kind of society that does exist is not one that assists the survival of its members, but one which engenders fear, insecurity and despair.

Agreements about what is important and how to behave towards other people are the things that hold a society together. I could go further and suggest that a society is simply a group of people bound together by certain agreements, a certain liking and respect for each other and a common voice. I perceive that these are disintegrating. There is a temptation for some to regard matters such as we are discussing today as grist to the mill. For a journalist, social decay may provide material for so many column inches per week; for a politician, a platform; and for a drug company, a lucrative new market. This militates against progress in resolving them.

I have intervened in today's debate because I have what I know is a constructive suggestion to make, one which is promoting moral and spiritual wellbeing wherever it is introduced. First, however, I would like to pick up the point which was made by the most reverend Primate, by my noble friend Lady Seear and also, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach, about moral relativity. I can shed light on possibly the main source of this doctrine by quoting some brief extracts from some speeches that were made at a gathering in Ottawa in 1944. The first is: The reinterpretation and eventually eradication of the concept of right and wrong which has been the basis of child training, the substitution of intelligent and rational thinking for faith in the certainties of the old people, these are the belated objectives of practically all effective psychotherapy". The speaker continued: If the race is to be freed from its crippling burden of good and evil it must be psychiatrists that take this original responsibility". He then unwittingly foreshadowed our present predicament when he said: The pretence is made … that to do away with right and wrong would produce uncivilized people, immorality, lawlessness and social chaos". No comment. So how were this supposedly omniscient psychiatrist and his colleagues proposing to establish their new social order? One of them told the same gathering: We must aim to make [our point of view] permeate every educational activity in our national life: primary, secondary, university and technical education are all concerned with varying stages in the development of the child and the adolescent". He continued: … we have made a useful attack on a number of professions. The two easiest of them naturally are the teaching profession and the Church: the two most difficult are the law and medicine … If we are to infiltrate the professional and social activities of other people I think we must imitate the Totalitarians and organise some kind of fifth column activity! That is what they did.

All these statements were made by the two founders of the World Federation of Mental Health, Dr. R.J. Rees and Dr. Brock Chisholm, at its inaugural meeting in Ottawa in 1944. There was much more in the same vein. We have only to look around us to see how far these gentlemen have succeeded in their endeavours.

Leaving the brave new world envisioned by Dr. Rees and Dr. Chisholm in 1944, we now journey back in time to the fourth quarter of the 19th century. The year 1879 saw the start of the career of Wilhelm Wundt, the father of psychology. Moved by a strong conviction that man was an animal, a biochemical machine, Wundt presented his view to the world as scientific doctrine. His students later boasted that psychology had at last become a science without a soul". As a historical footnote, that theory had immense attractions for Bismarck: if man had no soul, then it mattered not what you did to him nor what you made him do to others. Moral considerations were a thing of the past. Subsequent events in Germany may well be seen in that light.

Wundt's ideas have had an immense effect on our subsequent social history and particularly on education, though through two separate but not so different paths: psychology and psychiatry. Both those approaches can easily be demonstrated to have had a malign effect on both education and morals. One of the effects obviously was the World Federation of Mental Health.

Education has traditionally embraced the teaching of both moral and spiritual values. That principle was specifically targeted by the pioneers of "educational psychology" as inappropriate and "unscientific". The introduction into schools of "social training" was based on the psychological idea that it is stressful and unfair to educate or discipline children away from violence, sexual promiscuity and drug taking. That has led to an erosion of the values taught in schools. Self-discipline is regarded as producing stress and therefore it should not be taught.

One operation based on the strategy of the World Federation of Mental Health was to persuade religious organisations to take up the idea of psychological counselling and thereby to undermine the idea of personal responsibility. One psychologist by the name of Coulson—I regret that I do not know the church or denomination with which he was involved—pursued that endeavour for about 25 years and then came clean when he realised how destructive his work had been. Noble Lords may have noticed how, every time there is some natural or man-made disaster, the psychologists are on hand with their stress counselling. How much better it would be to provide practical, down-to-earth help and pastoral counselling which emphasises the spiritual aspects of life.

There is a particular approach which anyone who cares about the teaching of morals should fight to the death. It is called outcome-based education. What has happened is that psychologists have wrested control of the purpose of education from educators. That is definitely something which any politicians who try to rescue education from academic disaster will have to tackle, otherwise their efforts will founder.

Reflecting on the increasingly multi-faith nature of British society, it is clear to me, at least, that the conflicting, competing but often overlapping philosophies and theologies cannot all be true in an absolute sense. Apart from a few of the adherents of each with completely closed minds, most people would allow that there are many paths to developing one's spirituality or understanding of oneself in relation to life and the infinite. But today unfortunately many people have fallen away from any understanding of themselves as spiritual beings at all. I have friends who are members of the Baha'i faith. I have been taken with their view and definition of spirituality, which is that it is found in those thoughts and actions which express the higher aspects of our humanity, such as being worthy of trust, respecting oneself and others, caring for others and one's environment, loving and helping children and so on. If we think about it, it should be obvious that all those expressions of humanity are in fact expressions of human spirituality and are in fact pro-survival. That is the connection between the moral and the spiritual well-being of society. Making those precepts part of one's operating basis not only enables one to survive but increases the survival of others.

So how do we promote the moral and spiritual well-being of society? I have one suggestion, which is offered to the House with a sense of humility. I am acutely aware that there are many noble Lords in this Chamber and many speaking in this debate who have devoted their lives to exploring and understanding the matters that we are discussing today. I have here a small booklet which is a commonsense guide to living a better life. It is the subject of an essay-writing and practical project competition involving 300,000 children from about 4,000 schools in the United States. It was officially credited with helping to prevent violence during South Africa's first multi-racial elections.

In one town in Alabama the recidivism rate among young offenders has been reduced from 80 per cent. to around 10 per cent. by using the booklet as part of a programme of basic education. It is also used most effectively in around 450 prisons in the United States as a tool for rehabilitating criminals. Over 52 million copies have been distributed in one form or another around the world and always it has a calming effect on whatever dangerous situation obtains.

The problem with moral codes is twofold. First, they tend to be religion specific. Secondly, they tend to be presented as simple imperatives. What is needed is a code that can elicit the agreement and activate the participation of the increasingly large majority of our people who do not consider themselves actively religious. Some do not even understand that they are spiritual beings. It must appeal to the head as much as to the heart and be widely accepted as the basis for relations with others as well as with the physical environment and other life forms.

The guide is written in plain modern English and has been translated, so far, into 20 other languages. It is not prescriptive, but rather engages the mind of the reader to reflect on the consequences of being in proximity with others who do not practise the 21 moral precepts that it contains. That enables the reader to make inferences about his own behaviour. It proved exceedingly successful in all the contexts I mentioned earlier.

By approaching the teaching of morals in this way it is possible to build a shared sense of what is ethical and right behaviour. That shared sense is, by definition, the regrowth of the agreements, the mutual respect and the feeling of being in communication with one's fellows to which I referred at the beginning of my remarks. It also forms part of the programme used by the World Literacy Crusade. That movement started in south central Los Angeles, the epicentre of the 1992 riots, and is now spreading to other towns and cities in the USA as a result of its success in persuading children to leave the gangs and continue with their education.

The World Literacy Crusade has the active support of several famous people, including Isaac Hayes, the Black American composer and singer. I would like to see programmes based on that commonsense guide to better living piloted in the kinds of situations I mentioned. I would welcome approaches from anyone who is really looking for a way to improve the moral basis of society. Since the booklet is completely secular it could be used, for example, by a youth club that was specifically Christian, specifically Islamic, specifically Hindu or any other kind to excellent effect in teaching moral values to its members.

The guide, called simply The Way to Happiness distils the essence of the moral teaching of the world's major religions into secular form and provides a common basis of understanding and communication among people of all ages and of different cultures. Using it, people find that their shared humanity transcends the apparency of cultural or racial differences. At a school where it is used as the basis for teaching morals, children can be heard telling their peers disapprovingly, "That's not the way to happiness".

I was pleased that the most reverend Primate was encouraging about the wide consultation being undertaken by Dr. Nick Tate at the School Curriculum Assessment Authority. In fact, earlier this year I met Dr. Tate to discuss the contribution that this moral guide might make to his initiative to bring the teaching of morals back into sharper focus in our schools. It may be that some aspect of that approach will find its way into the national curriculum. I rather hope so. One point I should like to stress is that, although it is written in secular language, it should not be regarded as representing a lowest common denominator of moral teaching; but it is a most valuable starting point.

The booklet's author, L. Ron Hubbard, wrote in an essay on the subject of ethics and morals: The origin of a moral code comes about when it is discovered that some act is more nonsurvival than prosurvival. The prohibition of this act then enters into the customs of the people and may eventually become law". This introduces the idea of survival into ethics and morals. If you think about it, it is clear that the agreements that keep a society together are what enables it to persist into the future and overcome threats to its survival in the present.


The Lord Bishop of Ripon

My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for initiating this debate and for putting it so well into context. I would like also to express to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester my appreciation of a fine maiden speech.

The Education Reform Act 1988 placed on the statute book a requirement that schools should provide opportunities for the spiritual and moral development of pupils. Much of the debate today in your Lordships' House has focused on the significance of moral behaviour. Like the noble Lord, Lord Moore of Wolvercote, I wish to look for a moment at spiritual development and to suggest that moral behaviour and indeed learning itself, are both dependent on spiritual development.

Morality is only in part a matter of learning rules and keeping them. More profoundly, it is about developing a capacity to recognise moral obligation and to exercise moral discernment. These require spiritual development. In relation to learning, a quote from David Trainor, until recently responsible within Ofsted for overseeing the inspection of spiritual and moral development within schools, puts the point well. He said, Spiritual education, for example, is concerned with developing a better understanding of ourselves at a particular point in time and space. It gives particular prominence to developing self-confidence and self-esteem. These factors are not only important in determining what sort of people we become but also how we learn. One of the principal obstacles to learning is a lack of self-esteem and self-confidence and if we improve on those qualities we improve the whole educational process". In April 1993 the then National Curriculum Council, under the strong personal interest of its chairman, David Pascall, produced a paper on this theme. Among the aspects of spiritual development which it mentioned were the following: the development of beliefs and an understanding of how they contribute to personal identity; a sense of awe, mystery and wonder; feelings about transcendence; a search for meaning and purpose; the growth of self-knowledge and self-respect; the ability to build up relationships; the exercise of imagination, intuition and insight; the sense of being moved by beauty, hurt by injustice. There are others that we might wish to add; for instance, the sense of grief and loss and the sense to which the noble Lord, Lord Winston, has already made reference, of transience.

These are not religious capacities although religious people should be expected to have them. They are, as the noble Lord, Lord McNair, has just pointed out, human capacities, which all of us should be developing. The close link between these and moral behaviour is clear. To take one example only, the ability to build up relationships and the ability to recognise moral obligation are closely linked.

The recent initiative of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority builds on the work of its predecessor and is designed to continue a debate about morality, values and the interior life and their relationship to one another.

The matter of how schools are to be inspected on their effectiveness in enabling such development to happen in their pupils is not an easy one. Early Ofsted guidance focused on the pupils and how far they could be judged to display certain outcomes. By May 1994 the emphasis had shifted to school provision, although it was unclear what sorts of provision might be more rather than less effective. By October 1995 the guidance had moved on again, making suggestions for effective provision. These included a curriculum and approaches to teaching which embody clear values and enable pupils to gain understanding through reflection on their own and other people's lives and beliefs and on the environment in which they are set. Particular reference is made in that guidance to collective worship and to religious education.

Good acts of collective worship are an aid to spiritual development in the widest sense. Primary schools have a good practice in that area and I hope that the good practice which some secondary schools embody in collective worship will be universally adopted throughout the secondary sector. Religious education, which needs to be differentiated from nurture in a particular religious tradition, also helps pupils to consider the fundamental questions of life and to reflect on their own beliefs or values in the light of what they are studying in religious education.

However, it is the whole curriculum and the life of the whole school which provides the setting for spiritual and moral development. To give one example within the curriculum, I recently visited Sir Ron Dearing, chairman of SCAA, to talk about the need for the curriculum guidelines in science to take account of the spiritual dimension, a dimension evident every time I see a primary school child looking at the structure of a leaf from a tree. The way teachers relate to pupils is a key aspect of whole-school life in the provision of opportunities for spiritual development. Teachers who take relationships with their pupils seriously are able to develop in those pupils a capacity to respond in relationships and a sense of self-worth.

As has already been said, one of the difficulties with which schools wrestle is the conflict between the values they embody and the values which are being expressed outside the school. To take just one example, a school may lay great emphasis on mutual respect between individuals, communities and nations only to find that value contradicted by what is said in the home and even in some parts of the national press.

Valuable pieces of work are already being done, some through the Churches. The National Society, a Church educational organisation of which I am chairman, recently received a grant to carry out research on the spiritual development of pupils in primary schools. The further education sector, within which there are more 16 to 19 year-old students than there are in school sixth forms, has been the focus of some work which the Church of England Board of Education has undertaken in collaboration with the Methodist Church and FE colleges. They have produced a series of reports on values in the further education sector. The latest publication, Student Entitlement to Spiritual, Moral and Personal Values in the Further Education Curriculum, highlights 32 examples of good practice across academic and vocational education courses. Those findings provide a timely endorsement of the review by Sir Ron Dearing of qualifications for 16 to 19 year-olds. In particular, the report reinforces Sir Ron's recommendation that spiritual and moral values should be explicit in mainstream examination subjects and vocational courses, a point to which the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, has already drawn attention.

It is clear that the debate cannot focus solely on schools and colleges. I hope that the outcome of the SCAA report on the deliberations of the various interest groups which make up the SCAA forum will be a national debate on those core values which as a society we should hold in common. Religious communities have a key contribution to make. In the words of the Chief Rabbi, Dr. Jonathan Sacks, in an article in today's Times, which has been referred to several times in this debate: The power of the Judaeo-Christian tradition is that it charts a moral reality larger than private inclination. It teaches us to value the things we share above the things we privately own. It talks unashamedly of good and evil, duty and fidelity, love and obedience". The public debate will owe much to the religious traditions which have shaped us. I suspect that at the heart of that debate there will be a conflict between those who hold to shared values and those who believe that values are individually chosen. Spirituality, morality and values are shaped by belief, and outside of a religious or social tradition they are more difficult to articulate. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury has already drawn attention to the fact that church schools are among the most popular in the country and are a substantial, if minority, proportion of the total school provision. I dare to think that church schools have much to offer county schools in the field of spiritual and moral development, not least because they are institutions where belief in a particular religious tradition—and, in the Christian case, in the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ—fashions the whole life of the school.

Educational institutions have a key role in enabling young people to contribute to the national debate and to influence it. We need to give to these institutions the confidence that this is an issue with which they must be concerned, to principals, heads and members of governing bodies the confidence to plan, articulate and share their policies on spiritual and moral development, and to staff and teachers the confidence and training to deliver the opportunities for such development to their pupils. The young people that our nation needs should be not only skilled and trained but spiritually aware and morally responsible. Perhaps they will have something to teach the rest of us.

2.41 p.m.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, it is a tradition of your Lordships' House that at least when we speak from the Back Benches we try to do so from personal experience. I imagine that the subject of today's debate, being no less than our moral and spiritual well-being—or perhaps our lack of it—stretches all of us to cur limits, and indeed a good way beyond.

At the risk of over-simplifying the Motion of the most reverend Primate, I see our moral well-being as depending in large part on our ability to know the difference between right and wrong and to act accordingly, and therefore as a matter for which our schools can and should take a leading responsibility. But I see our spiritual well-being as being a deeper matter which requires the ability to know the difference between good and evil, and for which I would allocate the leading responsibility to our religions, to their leaders and to their pastors.

My humble contribution today on our moral well-being will therefore draw on the 10 years that I spent in our state education system validating courses in what used to be called the non-university sector. My contribution on spiritual well-being will draw on a religious experience that I had 19 years ago when the anaesthetic failed during an operation I was having, although the paralysing drug continued to operate most effectively. In those circumstances, deprived of the ability to move or scream, and in the absence of a piece of rope on which to bite, one dies, goes mad or goes to God. I believe I was lucky enough to be offered the latter, although I appreciate that many noble Lords would prefer to think that I merely experienced the blissful effects of endorphins released in the brain. Other noble Lords, perhaps those of a more Europhile bent, will have concluded some time ago that I took the second course and merely went mad.

I come back to schools and their influence on our moral well-being. My 10 years in the polytechnic sector forced me to examine a large number of courses, the most relevant of which to today's debate are teacher-training courses, because teacher training is the soil in which the roots of our primary, secondary and indeed university systems feed. There is much that one can criticise about these courses, such as that they eschewed as elitist the phonic method of teaching children how to read, with results that are only now becoming obvious. More generally, they were controlled by a large, powerful, vicious and insular education establishment which was, and I fear still is, too much influenced by the starry-eyed and experimental sociology of the 1960s. This became more sinister when it developed into "the long march through the institutions" (as it was known). That march is still led by those soldiers of political correctitude, the gender, race and class brigade. The educational philosophy successfully promoted by these destructive forces contains at least two fatal strands for an understanding of morality in our schools. It blurs the difference between right and wrong generally and it promotes the multi-faith mish-mash in religious teaching.

When I say that this philosophy is still far too prevalent in our schools and state education system generally, I know that my noble friends on the Front Bench start to feel a little nervous. After all, we Conservatives have been in power for 17 years now and so why have we been so slow in not putting a stop to this cancer in our schools and elsewhere?

It is not so easy to apportion blame, however, between the political parties for this tragedy. When I entered the state system of education 13 years ago I assumed that politics stayed out of education. It came as a great shock to me to discover that this assumption, widely shared by the honourable leadership of all political parties at the time, had led to a vacuum being created and that that vacuum had been filled by the people to whom I have referred, closely associated with the hard Left of our political spectrum. So if one is trying to apportion blame one must point out these anti-educational activists were and are closer to the Labour Party than they are to us. So perhaps the Labour Party should have done more to expose what was happening and to have been more publicly critical.

But, of course, that was not easy for Labour either, because inherent in the activities of these ideologues was the promotion of socialism. Not the kind of honourable compassionate socialism espoused by noble Lords on the Benches opposite but something altogether nastier. So I suppose that one can accuse the Labour Party of turning a blind eye to the activities of their uncomfortable political cousins and of thus facilitating their progress—

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, what is the noble Lord telling us? He is saying that during the 17 years of Conservative rule, against the wishes of the Labour Party, a sinister group has somehow taken charge of our education. Surely the noble Lord, who is highly intelligent, is not going to ask us to believe that.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, if the noble Earl will bear with me, I am about to say what I think the Conservative Party's mistake may have been. And, yes, I do expect the noble Earl to believe that there has been a very unfortunate association of people in our education system who have promoted relativism and a lack of the Christian values, which he so rightly espouses, to the detriment of many of our children.

The Conservatives, on the other hand, can be fairly accused of clinging for too long to the ideal that politics should not have interfered in education, thus allowing the cancer to spread. I am fairly sure of this because I must have beseeched every Education Minister from 1983 onwards to see what was going on and to take action. But they always looked at me as though I had just said that I had seen the Loch Ness monster. They always said that the Government should not interfere in academic freedom and that we had to trust the system. No doubt the noble Earl, Lord Longford, would have agreed with them.

So, I believe that blame can be distributed fairly evenly between the political parties. New Labour is now starting to make some encouraging noises and the Government have at last taken strong action. They have set up a new teacher-training agency, which I hope will collaborate actively with Ofsted. The trouble is that the cancer runs so deep now that too many of the inspectors upon which the new inspection systems depend are inevitably people who were brought up under the discredited ideologies to which I have referred.

But that is a problem which will face new Labour if, almost inconceivably, it ever comes to power, just as much as it faces us. So I take some comfort from the present state of political agreement over education. Whatever our differences may be—and they are, of course, substantial—I feel that both new Labour and the Conservative Party now see clearly that the "long march through the institutions" must be turned around and marched back. It will be a long and arduous process. It will still leave a generation of children educationally deprived by the wayside, but it will allow space for the five Rs to be returned to the curriculum and it will therefore eventually do much for the moral well-being of our society.

I come now to our spiritual well-being which, I suggest, includes seeking to know the difference between good and evil and doing our best to associate with good in the fight against evil. I accept that our spiritual welfare is primarily our own individual responsibility, of course. But we should be aided in its quest by our religion, by our priests and by our religious leaders. Generally speaking, in the modern world we are not getting that guidance, that spiritual leadership from established religions.

I know our religious professionals face enormous difficulties in their promotion of the spiritual dimension, difficulties which did not exist only 100 years ago. The most reverend Primate and others have referred to the pernicious effects of moral relativism, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, in one of the best speeches I have been privileged to hear in your Lordships' House, dealt very wisely with the colossal new problem of television. I feel sure that detailed examination of our media and cultural studies courses would go some way to explaining some of the moral abyss which appears so regularly on our television screens.

But I was a little shocked to notice an obvious omission from the most reverend Primate's speech. He rightly pointed out that responsibility for our moral and spiritual well-being lies not just with our schools. He said that that responsibility is also carried by families and by what he called the wider community. But I did not hear him mention the Church, which many of us feel is not providing the spiritual leadership so desperately needed by modern society.

Your Lordships will be relieved to hear that I have no intention of embarking on a verbal crusade against the Church, but I have three requests for the most reverend Primate and his colleagues on the Bishops Bench. The first two are of a fairly secular nature; the third will take me into deeper and more spiritual waters.

First, could the most reverend Primate satisfy himself that the courses in our theological colleges do not suffer from the moral relativism to which he has referred? I admit that I have not been closely in touch with these courses for some two years now and it may be that they are less unhealthy than they were; but I feel that an open-minded analysis would still be very valuable.

Secondly, could I ask him to see whether there is not some way in which our truly spiritual clergymen could be promoted more often than their less spiritual but perhaps more academic colleagues? Could I put it to him that it often matters less what a priest says from the pulpit than how he says it, than with what spiritual charge he speaks? Could I put it to him that our parsons must get back to helping us with the salvation of our souls and that they must become less concerned with general social problems which are now dealt with, however inadequately, by the welfare state. With the greatest respect, I believe that the Church should stop worrying so much about our collective guilt and get back to helping us confront our personal sin.

Finally, I turn to the deeper waters, to the spiritual dimension. Here I feel bound to draw on my religious experience 19 years ago, which of course remains vividly with me today and which delivered too many insights and messages, some of them controversial, to mention now. But were I to pick out just one of them, it is that the Church must start to take evil, the reality of evil, seriously again.

I know that we have to be very careful about defining what is evil, but the word exists and it must have a meaning. I would suggest that the holocaust was not just wrong, it was evil; and Stalin's murder of so many millions of people was evil. It is perhaps evil which showed its head again in Dunblane. I am sure that your Lordships can think of many other examples.

If we do not believe in evil, and take it seriously, how can we really believe in God either? There does not seem to be any point in good unless evil exists as well. I fear you cannot have one without the other. So I hope the Church can look again at the reality of evil and to proclaim it more widely. If it can do so, it will start to lose the image of a glorified social service where everything can be forgiven and repaired on this earth.

I end by reminding the most reverend Primate that Jesus did not tell us to turn the other cheek to the devil. In doing so, I thank him for introducing this invaluable debate today and may I wish him Godspeed on his extraordinarily difficult mission.

2.55 p.m.

Lord Borrie

My Lords, society's moral well-being is, or should be, an important objective for people of all religions and, indeed, for those who have none. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury has, no doubt very rightly, put an emphasis on the responsibility of schools. I was delighted to hear him say—I believe that he used the word "ghetto-ised"—that matters of religion, morals and ethics should not be just slotted into one particular subject. Moreover, as my noble friend Lord Morris of Castle Morris said, I believe that such matters should not be taught simply as a non-examinable subject or subjects and, therefore, spotlighted, as it were, to pupils and students as being in some way less important, less significant, than other subjects.

To my mind, morals and ethical standards should inform and be an integral part of many subjects. Most obviously, I suppose, I have in mind English literature and history, but, as my noble friend Lord Winston and other speakers have pointed out, the moral implications of science in its many forms are equally important. At university level, morality should, it seems to me, form an explicit part of commerce and business studies; as, indeed, should political theory, as well as the more obvious subjects of jurisprudence and divinity.

However, this afternoon I should like to stress not just the responsibility of schools and other educational institutions, and, of course, parents, in all such matters, vital though that is, but also the responsibility of influential leaders in our society. Most obviously, I refer to our politicians and our business and commercial leaders. I suppose that there is also a responsibility, though it may be less easy to persuade them, on all the people whose utterances and behaviour have an impact on citizens of all ages, especially the young.

I include among those people editors, sporting heroes and pop stars. They can be role models. They may not choose to be influential but, whether or not they choose to he so, their impact through the publicity given to their activities and behaviour both on and off the sports field and on and off the stage involves, to my mind, a responsibility to behave in a moral and ethical way.

I should like to focus particularly on business ethics and the responsibility of business men and women for society's moral well being. There may be people—there may even be people in this House—who are so cynical as to suggest that "business ethics" is an oxymoron. But I take the view that, in a competitive marketplace at any rate, a company's own enlightened self-interest dictates that the business should behave in an ethical manner. If a commercial organisation wants to create a good, long-term reputation with customers, employees and other stakeholders, it should, as a matter of its own choice and probably in its own best interests, do more than simply comply with the bare requirements of the law.

One of the key ways of competing for market share may well be to demonstrate high ethical standards. I am talking about establishing a reputation for integrity, honesty and fair dealing that is both deserved and consistent and, I think, made more firm as time goes by. I am happy to note that the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach, who has spoken in today's debate, said something similar in a lecture that he gave earlier this year in the United States. He said: The most critical factor in explaining the superior performance of excellent companies [is] the concept of 'shared values' based on honesty, trust and employee satisfaction". Yet there is a paradox here, which I seemed to note being recognised in the excellent maiden speech today of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester. The paradox is that the very keenness and intensity of competition in the marketplace may push businesses into taking not the long-term view but the short-term view and cutting corners and reducing standards. It seems to me that unbridled competition can indeed tempt even the normally reputable firms to lower quality standards and to lower standards of moral behaviour in order to survive.

Since "Big Bang" 10 years ago the City of London is of course a more competitive and more efficient environment which has included the growth of financial conglomerates and the arrival of many outsiders from the United States, the Continent of Europe and Japan. What that has meant, however, alongside the greater efficiency, has been that the old club-like atmosphere and the old self-regulatory constraints on behaviour no longer seem adequate to maintain high ethical standards or the avoidance of conflicts of interest. Increasingly, the law has had to be brought in to buttress moral standards. Again and again in the commercial sphere modern conditions seem to require that moral standards are backed by the sort of detailed law contained in the financial services Act, the laws against insider trading and other such measures.

My next point is particularly relevant to today's debate. Surely we as a nation do not wish to rely too heavily on the law and on detailed rules and regulations. They can extend too far. They lack flexibility and they bring an increase in bureaucracy. They can lead to mindless concern with rules rather than with their purpose and with the letter rather than with the spirit. Moral standards without legal underpinning will often in modern conditions be inadequately supported. However, a society that leaves nothing to an individual's sense of what is right and moral is no longer a free society. Society needs legal rules—I accept that inevitably nowadays there are more legal rules than in less complex times—but also a powerful collective shared sense of morality and of high ethical standards. To put it perhaps even more strongly, we also need a strong sense of shame and moral outrage at behaviour that falls below those standards.

Standards need to be taught at school and elsewhere, but they also need to be actively promoted by all organisations—whether in business or otherwise—that have the power to influence and mould opinion among their members. If he did not use the word today, I believe that the most reverend Primate on a radio programme earlier today used the word "action". If action is needed by a number of different institutions, that would include in the context of my remarks action by such bodies as the CBI, the Institute of Directors, the chambers of commerce and others. They can influence the maintenance of high standards. It is a challenge to all in positions of political and commercial leadership to ensure that they have nothing to be ashamed of in the way they allow their organisations to be conducted.

3.5 p.m.

Lord Marsh

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, even though in a previous incarnation he once tried to get me sent to gaol, because I very much agree with the speech that he made. I agreed with the speeches by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and the noble Lord, Lord Winston. I am slightly surprised to say that because I have to declare an interest. Neither I, my wife, my children or my grandchildren subscribe to any religious beliefs. That was the case also with my wife's parents—my late noble kinsman McFadzean of Kelvinside and his wife. And we think that we are a pretty normal bunch. We have a lot of friends. I am ecstatically happily married. So far as I know none of us takes drugs; I, of course, exclude alcohol. And we represent, I think, quite a lot of people.

I am having difficulty, frankly, in finding any points about which we disagree other than on two or three rather obtuse philosophical references. I am aware of the importance of the Church to many people and the comfort which they draw from it. What I do not accept is that people who hold sincere religious views, or any other group of what we must all accept are mere mortals, constitute some moral Herrenvolk, blessed with unique qualities of compassion and concern which are only dimly apparent to the rest of us.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord?

Lord Marsh

My Lords, it is rather early on, and a large number of people wish to speak.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, am I allowed to interrupt?

Lord Marsh

My Lords, of course the noble Earl is, if he insists.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that he is in a small minority in this country and that the vast majority of people would regard him as rather unusual?

Lord Marsh

My Lords, I use a word which is not intended as offensive but purely as an accurate description: that one would describe that as bigotry in its classic and pure sense.

That society is experiencing a period of fundamental change affecting many aspects of social behaviour, including the Church, is beyond argument. But to suggest that changes might lead, in the words of the most reverend Primate, to the collapse of civilisation as we know it, really is, I suggest, a gross exaggeration. As the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said, it does not comply in any way with historical experience.

The issues are not complex philosophical matters. They are practical problems of how and at what cost we improve, for example, teaching methods, in particular in the early years. I shall not develop that point because it is a short debate. However, I have strong views about the impact on society of the way in which children are leaving school at an early age unable to read or write and therefore virtually unable to communicate. Frequently the biggest problem is not that they and their parents become unemployed but that they are unemployable. However, I am already going further than I should. The issues involve how we cope with changing patterns of employment. Those are two examples of the problem.

The most reverend Primate described his concerns clearly in an interview which I read in the Independent. He said: We have lost a sense of community … and a loss of shared values that used to bind us together". As I have indicated, I simply do not accept that that describes the norm in our society. However, he continues: The politicians seem to think that what essentially matters is economic order and prosperity. The real fabric of society is the spiritual and moral fabric. This is the currency that makes civilisation function". To quote one of my colleagues from a different context, "No, no, no". I believe that that is an extremely dangerous view of how society functions.

Germany is and was a cultured and devoutly Christian nation. In 1933 the collapse of economic order and prosperity brought down the Weimar Government. In 1937, only four years later, Buchenwald was opened and proceeded to murder 56,000 people. That was nearly the collapse of civilisation as we know it. It was brought about by practical issues, economic deprivation and the failure of politicians and industry, not some obscure philosophical argument.

The dangerous instability of the former Soviet Union is the direct result not of an ideological dispute but of economic and political incompetence. In South Africa, the future depends not on the moral stature of Nelson Mandela—one of the few political leaders in the world whose standards in every field no one questions—but simply and almost solely on the speed at which he and his colleagues are able to satisfy the economic and material aspirations of the people.

Civilised society in the modern world depends on the ability of politicians to meet ever-increasing aspirations for increasingly expensive material benefits. There is the story of the young American journalist who called on an American trade union leader by the name of Samuel Gompers. He said: "Mr. Gompers, Sir, what do you see as the long-term philosophical and economic aims of the American trade union movement?" Gompers thought and then said: "More".

It is going too far to say that greed is good, but all human beings want more. A good society is able to deliver more. People want better living standards, they want better health care, and aspirations rise the whole time. The Church can and does provide comfort and a sense of security and identity for large numbers of people. I do not dispute that. But the sick, the homeless, the poor, inner city regeneration, education, the maintenance of law and order, all in the last resort rest on the ability of the wealth-creators to produce ever-increasing profits to fund ever-increasing needs. Every element of the social services is about costs—the allocation of costs, the prioritisation of the limited number of things we can do.

Naked greed is ugly and destructive. It is also, in my experience, extremely rare as a condition. Caring and compassion are not the preserve of a moral minority, they are the natural instincts of normal human beings, rich and poor alike.

I wish some of those who flaunt their personal sense of compassion with tiresome frequency would accept that personal wealth plays a major and essential role in a caring society. We have differences between the political parties, but we have a vast range of agreement and consensus. If one takes the distribution of wealth, both sides will have a big argument about who will charge the most tax after the next election. Both parties will fiddle the figures, so it does not matter much. At the moment, the top tax rate in the country, taking into account national insurance, is 50 per cent. That does not apply only to the idle rich, it starts with ordinary professional people like doctors, provincial lawyers and civil servants. Of the total tax take, 10 per cent. of all taxpayers contribute 44 per cent. That is a pretty heavy redistribution of wealth and, to the best of my knowledge, no great exception is taken to it. The top 5 per cent. contribute 33 per cent. to the total tax take.

So this is a society where people who are rich accept a redistribution of their wealth and it is not a major political issue. For example, there are many individuals, such as the Sieff family, who are mega-rich, as are the Sainsburys. They have created hundreds of thousands of jobs. They have made high-quality goods available to millions of ordinary people. Virtually all those family-owned companies control massive charitable trusts.

I declare another interest as chairman of the special trustees of Guy's Hospital. We are investment managers for the charitable funds. The total funds between Guy's and St. Thomas's now stand at around a quarter of a billion sterling. That money comes voluntarily, and almost always totally secretly, from very rich people who feel a sense of obligation. It is right that they should; my only point is that they do.

To misquote, therefore, the late Thomas Hobbes, who became pretty miserable during the course of the Civil War, the life of man is undoubtedly short, but it is not naturally brutish. With the greatest respect, when clerics talk of the danger of general amorality, I cannot help thinking, to use a City term, that they are "talking their own book".

There is one Marxist quotation that I like. It is from a piece at the end of Theses on Feuerbach—which damns it, no doubt. He said: "Philosophers have attempted to interpret the world, when what matters is to change it".

This debate has done a major service in identifying various serious issues. However, I hope I may be allowed to state the obvious. At the end of the day, after we have had the philosophical arguments, only industry and commerce can finance the solutions, and only politicians will be able to put them into action.

3.16 p.m.

Viscount Tonypandy

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Marsh, a quarter of a century ago, sat in the same Cabinet as I did. He is a very gifted speaker, as we have heard. He has a facility for switching away from basic facts as though they were not there, and his eloquence directs our attention in another way. That he should say, "I know the rich can be kind, and I know that we have reached where we are only because legislation has helped them to be kind"! I say to my noble friend: it is the Christian interpretation of the value of the individual that has been responsible for campaign after campaign to raise living standards, to provide social justice and to ensure a decent society in which we can live.

The debt that we owe to our Christian heritage cannot be measured. I wish to thank the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for giving the House the opportunity to discuss an issue that has worried us all for quite a long time. The impressive message that he gave today to the people of Britain is bound to have consequences that we shall not be able to measure.

I congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester on his maiden speech. I was a student in Southampton a long time ago. I used to cycle on a Sunday, which my grandfather thought was sin—the world changes—to Winchester Cathedral (chapel, as I am). In that cathedral, containing the caskets of the old Saxon kings, I found a wonderful peace and sense of worship. I know that it endures. All of us are indebted to those who have held the convictions before.

Allow me to say to my noble friend Lord Jakobovits, Our Lord and His Mother were Jewish. We owe so much to the race. I believe that God spoke to the world through the Jewish people. I have said it before, and I believe it in my bones, that we have had a revelation because God prepared us over a long period of time, through the Jewish people, for the coming of Our Lord.

The second speaker in this debate was my former pupil Lord Moms of Castle Morris. He was merciful to me. I know that he thinks I was not merciful to him. But he was a bright lad and I was very proud when I listened to what he had to say to us today. I know that the Archbishop thinks pride is a sin, but I was very proud because—and at this point I have changed the whole course of my speech, but I have two points to make later—I recall clearly, as older people tend to, what happened years ago. When that lad was in my class I wrote in chalk on the board, and the class had to recite: Speak the truth and speak it ever, cost you what it will. He who hides the wrong he did, does the wrong thing still". I went into politics after that.

I rejoice that this has not been a debate in which we have pontificated or sermonised. Most of the things that I wanted to say have been said, but I shall say a word for the teachers. I am an honorary life member of the National Union of Teachers. It has a solid block within it of militant people, but it also has a very large solid block of people who are not militant. This country will never be able to measure its debt to dedicated teachers. If society has gone wrong, do not put the blame on the schools. If society has lost its way, it is because it has lost its faith. How society lost its faith is another question. Undoubtedly, our faith decides our conduct and our faith decides our moral standards.

My noble friend does not know it, but the standards he enjoys, believes in and practises have been established in our land through Christian believers. I contacted the National Union of Teachers because I proposed to speak in the debate, and, not surprisingly, I found it sensitive to criticisms. In a letter to me it said: It must be recognised that schools cannot compensate for the effects of the wider experience of pupils and it is important to recognise that the spiritual, moral, social and cultural messages given to young people by the wider society in which they live have changed far more than have the values that the vast majority of teachers in most schools seek to transmit to their pupils". The Free Church Federal Council, in its bulletin on education, Bulletin No. 11, said that: teachers have a double role, as learners in their own right and as professionals who do not indoctrinate pupils, but rather lead them toward understanding. Teachers therefore respect pupils, both as individuals and as decision makers in growing control of their own learning. Thus the ethos of the school is necessarily intertwined with the ethical basis of teacher/pupil interaction". We should never underestimate the importance of that. So the Free Church Federal Council said: We support three broad principles"— they were implicit in the most reverend Primate's address— underlying a code of ethics for the teaching profession: the ethic of care; the ethic of competence; the ethic of professional commitment". I do not believe that that is too much to ask of the teaching profession.

When I was just 18 years of age and needing money to go to college, I went as an uncertificated teacher to Dagenham, which was just beginning. I think that it was before the most reverend Primate the Archbishop was born and it was a very long time ago. I had a class of 63 children—63 children and I was a young 18 year-old! I was proud when I could keep order. Why have things changed? At Eastertide I listened at the Conference of the National Union of Teachers to a demand for classes below 30 and I said to myself, "George, in a changing world, make change your ally".

We have all been frightened by some of the changes that have taken place in our society, changes which we can hardly understand. I like to believe that tomorrow's world will realise that it can only be a civilised world if it has a code of ethics. That may be different from the one that we have known but it will need the eternal requirements of decency, integrity, honesty and reliability. One may have great wealth or great scholarship. It is not enough. Life can turn sour. It can turn into dust unless we have a moral basis on which our communal relationships are established. For that reason I am grateful for this debate today.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Ashbourne

My Lords, I am grateful to the most reverend Primate for initiating this debate today and giving your Lordships an opportunity to discuss Christian values and the importance of a spiritual dimension to the peoples of this country. I was also pleased that he added to the Motion the phrase in relation to the "responsibility of schools". That brings the next generation into the discussion, and bringing up the next generation with a spiritual dimension in their lives is supremely important.

I was glad to hear what was said by my noble friend Lord Caldecote in relation to Schools Outreach, a little charity which does tremendous work in schools. I hope the Government will listen to his argument and perhaps even heed it with regard to resources for that charity.

I shall start by saying a word about the breakdown of the traditional family in our nation over the past 50 years or so. The family was ordained and established by God, from whom every family in heaven and earth is named". So says Ephesians 3, verse 15. A godly home is a visual image of the spiritual relationship of Christ to his Church. It is a place to belong to, to grow, to find love and acceptance, to feel secure, to make mistakes and be forgiven, to learn about relationships and right choices. When God's order is established in the home, His word honoured and obeyed, a family is strong. When the family is strong, the nation is strong. When the family life of a nation is under attack, that nation is weakened. Today in Britain the family has become a prime target of attack and is crumbling.

No strong voice of protest was raised in 1979 when the Gay Liberation Front issued its manifesto saying that its aim was to destroy the family. Again, there was little reaction in 1980 when the British Humanist Association, with its view of family life as an outdated institution, boasted, We helped erode the religious foundations of beliefs, attitudes and morality". Today we are experiencing the effects of that destruction and erosion as laws, previously based on biblical absolutes and intended for the protection of the family, have been cast aside. Old values, restraints and taboos have been swept away and new, humanistic laws voted in. Today the Department of Health gives the Terrance Higgins Trust—a sophisticated, highly articulate homosexual organisation—substantial funding, though mercifully less than it used to, and it has gained a marked influence on government thinking.

New permissive legislation has weakened the traditional family structure and children in particular have become vulnerable. God established marriage to reflect his own care and love towards mankind, and what is happening to marriage in Britain today reflects what is happening in the nation's relationship to God. It is breaking down, and the concept of the stable, two-parent family as the basic unit in society is fast disappearing.

The new legislation began with the withdrawal of the prohibition on witchcraft in 1951; then it condoned the exhibition and publication of obscene literary material in 1959; it abolished the death penalty for murder in 1965; removed the protection of the law from the unborn child and decriminalised homosexuality in 1967; it abolished in 1968 the censorship of scripts so that blasphemy, brutality, sodomy and other sexual perversions may now be offered for audience amusement, and paved the way to easy divorce in 1969. It granted protection to cinemas and TV from the obscenity laws in 1977, and in 1990 gave permission for the artificial insemination by donor of single women, authorised the destruction of handicapped infants right up to and even during childbirth and licensed destructive experimentation on live human embryos. Now we have the Family Law Bill, which received Royal Assent yesterday, which has drifted so far from Scripture that one can scarcely recognise any relationship between the two.

As the new permissive legislation was introduced, no strong voice of protest was heard from the Church. Today, there is more protection under the law for ancient buildings and ancient footpaths than there is for unborn babies and a strident public appears more concerned about the rights of animals than of its own kind. One might wonder how much further it is possible to go from what God ordained a family should be.

Easier divorce, intended to aid the greater liberation of women, made it easier for men to shed the responsibility of family life. Today, Britain leads the league for divorce in Western Europe as one in three marriages fails. When a family breaks up children are left with an irretrievable sense of rejection and loss. Seeds of resentment and bitterness are sown and something within the child wilts and dies. One child in four today is born outside marriage, and to say that to be born out of wedlock carries no stigma is not to understand the sense of loss and rejection an illegitimate child can suffer.

One family in six is now headed by a single parent struggling to be both father and mother. The child abuse figures are rocketing. Each week 2,000 youngsters run away from home, some as young as nine or 10 years of age, to live rough on the streets. They are easy targets for homosexual recruitment. Often their only future is to join a growing underclass. All have been given the message, "No one really wants you". How God must grieve for such children, the One who said, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you" (Jeremiah 1:5); the One whose gift is life and acceptance, not death and rejection, and how He must grieve when the Church, those who are called by His name, remain silent.

The need to rebuild the ruined places is very great. History has shown that cultures that do not safeguard the family do not survive, and there is a real need for the family to become a priority in government thinking and for the Church to accept the challenge. In 1986, leading Christian politicians pleaded with the Church to give a stronger moral lead to the affairs of the nation and there appeared to be little response. In 1988, Douglas Hurd, the then Home Secretary, asked for a return to traditional moral values and for the Church to give a lead, saying, What society desperately needs from the Churches today is a clear, definite and repeated statement of personal morality". He went on to say, It is as if, for some, the Old and the New Testament had never been written". But again, there was little response.

Similarly, Paul Johnson, an influential Christian journalist, writing in the Daily Mail three or four years' ago, made an impassioned plea that the new archbishop, the most reverend Primate, should be, as Moses, and proclaim again the Ten Commandments to the nation", saying, If he did so, he would set alight the spark of a religious revival, which is already smouldering". On his appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury, the most reverend Primate was very forthright, describing the Church as, lukewarm, disobedient, sinful and faithless", adding, It has lost sight of the seriousness of sin". In July 1991, he told delegates to a conference in Brighton, This nation is in a make or break situation". These are courageous words and I believe Mr. Paul Johnson was right when he enjoined the most reverend Primate to proclaim again the Ten Commandments to the nation. Unless this happens the future for the family in this country is indeed bleak.

In the Coronation Service, at a particularly profound and focused moment, the Archbishop and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, receiving the Holy Bible from the Dean of Westminster, presented it to Her Majesty, the Archbishop saying these words: Our gracious Queen: to keep your Majesty ever mindful of the Law and the Gospel of God as the Rule for the whole life and government of Christian princes, we present you with this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords", and the Moderator continues: Here is wisdom; This is the royal Law; These are the lively Oracles of God". Now, either those words are true—in which case would we not be wise to heed them—or they are false, in which case we can remove them from the Coronation Service and waste no more time with them; and noble Lords will, of course, judge for themselves where the truth lies.

Regrettably, by and large, the Gospel is no longer preached, Sunday by Sunday, in the pulpits of our churches, but is it not the responsibility of the Church to put the "word of God" into the "heart of man"? In the days of Wesley and Whitfield the congregation tried to sit around the pillars in the church because the preaching was so vivid and relevant that the people thought they were slipping down into hell, and felt that their downward slide could be restrained by holding on to the pillars of the church.

For all those reasons, over the past 50 years or so parliamentarians have not always been spiritually enlightened and accordingly have not always seen the necessity to keep legislation in line with scripture. The result has been that a broad spectrum of unrighteous laws has been passed, as I have sought to show, resulting in an accelerating moral decline in our nation. Furthermore, when the law of the land is out of step with the laws of God, it is more difficult for people to appreciate their own sinfulness. The Government, of course, cannot make people good: only the Lord can—and is it not the responsibility of the Church to show us how, by the faithful expository preaching of scripture?

I should like to say a brief word on the fact that I believe that as a nation we have lost the art of parenting. A number of noble Lords have referred to that, including the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris; the noble Baroness, Lady Seear; and the noble Lord, Lord Moore of Wolvercote. As I have said, I believe that we have lost the art of parenting. When I was in the Navy a number of years ago it used to be said that there was no such thing as a bad sailor, only bad officers. That is still said in the services. It is similarly worth thinking about the fact that there may be no such thing as a bad child, only bad parents.

Finally, I ask the Lord Privy Seal to confirm that the promises made by Her Majesty at her Coronation also apply to Her Majesty's Government, and I urge the most reverend Primate and other spiritual leaders to try to ensure that the Gospel is faithfully preached, Sunday by Sunday, in the pulpits of our nation.

3.43 p.m.

Lord Howell

My Lords, any noble Lord speaking at such a time in such a debate in this House must be overwhelmed by everything that has gone before—and so am I. However, I shall do my best to add what I hope will be a few practical points. This has been a superb debate. The most reverend Primate must be delighted not just by what has been said in this House but by the discussion that he has generated throughout the country. I hope that the theme is taken up from pulpits and in newspapers and in political speeches.

In congratulating the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester on his maiden speech, the thought occurs to me that if bishops, priests and vicars read the report of this debate, it will give them enough material for their next 200 sermons. I hope that they will use it to good effect.

I do not want to talk about the morality or theology which arises from this debate, all of which is very relevant. I believe that I could. However, I want to be a little more practical in dealing with other matters, not least sport but other areas. The most reverend Prelate has had an interesting week. He started it by attending the European football championships, where I had the pleasure of talking to him. (He will be delighted to know that I intend to return to that matter at the end of my remarks.) He followed the remarks made by Mr. Tony Blair about the relevance of politics and Christianity, on which we may agree or disagree. I happen to agree with him. The important point is that he said it. Yesterday the most reverend Prelate dealt with an ethical problem in Lincolnshire. It is not for me to advise him what to do. He may regard it as an impertinence even for me to comment upon it. But what he said had an ethical ring about it. This applies to sport as well as to the Church. People should think of the good of the whole before they think of the good of themselves. That seems to me to be relevant to the problems which face the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester and the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Sunday Times has conducted a poll of bishops which indicates that they are divided on the comments of my right honourable friend Mr. Tony Blair. I believe that that is good. Let them be divided but let them speak out about it. The lifeblood of democracy is argument. For that reason I welcome the speech that has just been delivered. Although I disagree with every single word uttered by the noble Lord, it is most important that these things are said. I am sorry that we do not have sufficient time to take up some of the important issues that he has raised.

Nor do we have time to talk about business ethics, which subject was referred to by my noble friend Lord Winston. I am glad to say that this is a major subject in my church, St. Paul's in Birmingham. We have started an institute for business ethics. Ours is the church in the diocese of Birmingham charged with responsibility for industrial affairs. The noble Lord, Lord Borrie (who has left), will soon receive an invitation to address us on this subject. This is a matter of the greatest importance, but today there is no time for us to deal with it.

I concentrate on the question: what are we to do about these matters? The noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, spoke earlier in the debate. I am sorry he has gone because I am about to chastise him. He headed the Thatcherite think tank. I believe that he was responsible for the comment "There is no such thing as society". I could not disagree more with anything that the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, has ever said. The other day I read a speech of Archbishop William Temple in 1942. In that speech he said: Until education has done far more work than it has had an opportunity of doing, you cannot have society organised on the basis of justice". He went on to say: Are you going to treat a man as what he is, or as what he might be? Morality requires … that you should treat him as what he might be, what he has it in him to become". I believe that to be an interesting moral comment by another of my favourite prelates.

When discussing this matter this afternoon we must consider schools. I am glad that their role has been emphasised in this debate. Schools mean family, as many noble Lords have said.

I was goaded by my noble friend Lord Longford to talk about Moslems and I shall tell your Lordships what I was trying to say to him. It is an important issue. I listened to the most reverend Primate speaking on the "Today" programme this morning about multi-faith issues. It was the only disappointment that I had but perhaps he did not have time to deal with Moslems.

In four years' time at the turn of the century 50 per cent. of all schoolchildren in Birmingham will be Moslems. That is a large number. The debate will totally fail in its purpose unless it addresses the question of how we are to deal with life in a multi-faith society. During the 40 years in which I was a Member of Parliament I visited the mosques in my constituency. This is the point that I was making to my noble friend. The first time I went into a mosque I was utterly amazed to see a picture of Jesus Christ on the wall. When I asked about that I learnt that Moslems regard Jesus as one of their prophets. That allowed me to say when I addressed them, "Jesus means, as we say in my church, one God world without end". I elaborated by saying, "If that is true he must be your God as well as my God and that is what binds us together or should bind us together". That is the basis on which in communities such as Birmingham we must approach the problem.

No Moslems have spoken in this debate, which perhaps is a matter of regret. Incidentally, no women have spoken, apart from the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, which is also a matter of regret. She is to be congratulated and she is still the only noble Baroness in the Chamber at the end of the debate.

As regards the family and the problems which face us, one or two statistics ought to be mentioned because they are the challenge of our time. In 1961 there were seven times more marriages than divorces in our society. In 1993 the position had totally changed and there were 165,000 divorces. Furthermore, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of single mothers, which is a challenge in ethical and spiritual terms, if ever there were one. In 1962 there were 5 per cent. of single mothers in our society. In 1994 there were 32 per cent. How are we going to deal with that situation?

I am very old-fashioned but I believe that one of the root causes of many of the problems in society is the fact that working class mothers go to work. I have a suggestion to make which the Home Office will not take up and which the Treasury certainly will not allow it to take up. It is relevant. Instead of sending so many juvenile offenders to prison, which costs a lot of money, would it not be more sensible to pay their mothers to stay at home and look after them and bring back a sense of motherhood to the home, in particular in difficult situations? One cannot blame single mothers for trying to go to work; and I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Seear: I do not want to stop women having careers or going to work—they are perfectly entitled to do so—but, as they are ordained to bear children and to have the biggest responsibility for children, we should spend more time and thought about how we should allow them to do that.

In the years that I was a Member of Parliament—and I held five surgeries a month for 40 years—overwhelmingly the person from a family who came to see me about the problems was the mother, the woman in the household. In working class life, which I know best, it was the woman who was the disciplinarian in the family. When that position no longer exists, that goes to the root of problems in our society.

I often tried to find accommodation for people living in poor housing. Sometimes the women would say that their husbands would not allow them to take the accommodation offered. I would tell them to bring their husbands to see me. I would say, "Why has he sent you to tell me that he does not wish to live in the housing which I have fought hard to get you?" That is an example of the relationship between mothers and fathers in many working-class marriages which we have not begun to understand.

I now wish to move on to sport, which is of some importance. When the most reverend Primate was at Wembley, I do not suppose that he realised—I certainly did not, in my ignorance at that moment—that UEFA, which organised that wonderful competition had produced a code of ethics dealing with football. I have a copy of that code if anyone wishes to see it. It is an outline of good ethics for players, coaches, referees and team officials. It is first class.

As a referee, I am grateful that someone pointed out today that we must observe the rules and, I might add, to acknowledge that the referee is always right even when he is wrong. That is a good precept. The code of ethic states: Through such a code of ethics, sport is recognized as a social and cultural institution which, when played in a spirit of Fair Play, enriches society and promotes friendship between individuals, groups of individuals, nations, etc. Sport offers the opportunity for self-knowledge, fosters self-expression, and encourages skill, social interaction, enjoyment and health. Ethics mean not only adherence to written rules, but also involve a correctness of attitude among players, coaches, referees and team delegates, who should be encouraged to behave in a fitting spirit". None of us could have written that better. It was written by a football organisation. Nobody knows about it because it was not mentioned by the press. I have discovered that UEFA held a conference about it in the middle of the competition. I hope that the Football Association will send a copy of this document to every football team in the country.

My only complaint about that competition was that penalties were used to decide matches. That is an extraordinary decision because matches are then decided on the basis of a failure. Failure is elevated so that it becomes vitally important.

I am also a patron of an organisation called Christians in Sport, which does a great deal of work within sport. That organisation has drawn my attention to what Mr. Bernhard Langer, that famous golfer, said when he missed that vital putt, which we can all remember, in the Ryder Cup. He said that it was not the most important thing in the world to miss that putt on which the whole of European golf depended and that his relationship with God and with Jesus Christ put all that into perspective.

I hope that when Gareth Southgate, who plays for Aston Villa, contemplates the over-exposure of his missed penalty, he will think the same.

I end by urging all teachers to realise that the practicalities of life can be drawn upon by using sporting illustrations. That can be vital to them in their work in schools. There are two regrettable incidents in cricket when the England captain put grit in his pocket to rub on the ball and somebody else tried to pick the seam of the ball to achieve an unfair advantage. Those incidents should have been taken up and discussed in the schools. I agree that ethics cannot be taught but they can be discussed in order to achieve an understanding of them. I believe that sport, probably more than anything else in the lives of youngsters, should enable us to achieve that objective.

4 p.m.

Lord Quirk

My Lords, it is clear from the long line of speakers in this debate that the most reverend Primate has touched a chord that resonates widely, even if with very different echoes. We must of course acknowledge that there has probably never been a time when our people could feel perfectly satisfied with the state of their moral and spiritual well-being. Indeed, just about 1,000 years ago, a most reverend Primate, Archbishop Wulfstan of York, delivered his famous Sermo Lupi ad Anglos, in robust and forthright Anglo-Saxon, detailing and denouncing the degree of moral pestilence in his time that would fortunately be hard to parallel in our own, though the noble Lord, Lord Ashbourne, has done his best to do so. Archbishop Wulfstan lists: the starvation of the poor, the cheating of widows, injustice, perjury, divorce, incest, rape, theft, arson, murder. Some items in his list happen to be familiar to us—not least the hunger and destitution that Wulfstan mentions resulting from the ghastly epidemic of cattle disease then raging.

But Wulfstan attributes most of those contemporary ills to a recent and disastrous moral decline in England, and there is always the temptation to see the present in terms of a fall in standards from some earlier time: standards of literacy, behaviour, honesty, morality. To some extent we may be persuaded by social historians that this is wrong, that we are yearning for a golden age that never was, that we are wilfully ignoring the deep moral concern shown today—not least by the young—for the hungry, for the oppressed, for the environment, for animal welfare and for those experiencing discrimination, especially racial discrimination.

But due recognition of all this must not trap us in complacency. Even as we resist the idea of actual decline, we must recognise that our moral standards have been undermined by the fashion for relativism and that, at any rate, they are not as good as they ought to be. And in fact it is not hard to find indicators suggesting that they are not as good as they were. The farmhouse in which I grew up had no locks on the doors back or front, but we never experienced a burglary. My father's saloon car in the 1930s had no means of locking the doors or even the ignition. But the car was never stolen nor were our belongings ever taken from it. Come to that, my mother never walked in fear of being mugged. Yet those were times when poverty was widespread, the unemployed numerous and the dole minuscule.

And although I mentioned earlier that our stand today against racism calls for a certain degree of praise, it certainly does not call for complacency. Despite widespread consciousness of its evil, backed up by law, this—like car theft and mugging—remains a severe threat to social harmony, as is the kindred sick perversion of patriotism into the gross xenophobia that brought fresh shame upon us in recent days. True, Euro '96 passed off with far more sportsmanlike enjoyment than many of us dared hope. But Trafalgar Square in the wake of the semi-final witnessed most disgraceful scenes of mindless enmity to the nationals of the victor country. Now, Trafalgar Square is striking for its symbols of patriotism—from the very name to the statuary that culminates in Nelson's Column. But a few yards north of the square and within sight of these memorials is another statue, that to Edith Cavell and bearing her last words: patriotism is not enough: I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone". If she could speak so nobly just before being executed so cruelly, how come the hatred and bitterness 80 years later? Our schools? Well, certainly a letter to the Independent from a head teacher last Thursday admitted that children share such sentiments. He asked his school at assembly for a show of hands on whether they regarded Germans as our friends or our enemies. Without hesitation, a clear majority thought of these neighbours of ours as enemies.

So, yes, our schools must certainly be one important starting place in addressing our moral health. It is in part no doubt this that the most reverend Primate had in mind in calling attention "to the responsibility of schools". What he had in mind in adding the words "in particular" was on the face of it less clear. It is not our schools that write, publish, and market the hideously xenophobic comics that are targeted at our children.

Nor was it our schools that were intent on stimulating racial hatred with the tabloid headlines and images which disgraced our free press during Euro '96. Indeed, if "love thy neighbour" is at the heart of social morality, our schools may actually be making a better fist of it than many of us, and we might well look elsewhere to apply this phrase, "in particular". The Churches themselves and religious institutions, Christian and non-Christian alike, are plausible candidates. So are our political leaders—of all parties. But responsibility in my view must be assumed most of all by the paper and electronic media, with their continuous access to every household in the land.

4.8 p.m.

Lord Birdwood

My Lords, I have built into me, as a result of my personal intellectual heritage—part of the clockwork so to speak—the need to measure, to calibrate the world around me. How many, how much, when and what? I distrust those easy words "People say", and "It is generally felt". Oh, yes. By whom? Since when? This distrust spills over into my own first, easy, lazy, unquestioning reaction to the Motion that is before us. Moral and spiritual well-being? There is a lot less of it about say my daily sources of information and opinion. Like millions of others, I lap it up and spew it out, lazily retransmitting the stuff I have read or heard or watched in the past few hours. But then kicks in that hunger for precision with which I began these words. Of course, at the end of the day, I believe the facts about educational standards in schools on maths, spelling or foreign language proficiency because I can measure those things. But I am on much less firm ground if I turn my attention to moralities. Perhaps all the life of a rational human being is the search for moral absolutes, not the finding of them. Something in me says that moral absolutes must lie beyond measurement.

Certain things seem to me to hold true. I am more comfortable in this debate substituting the word "values" for "morals". As is the way of changes in the colour of words, I find it easier to talk about the values in society, the values I hold dear or the transmission of values between generations than I do using the word "morals" in those contexts. Perhaps this already condemns me for quitting the high ground of spiritual certainties.

There are shades of difference between values and morals, but I believe that by focusing on values we are closer to what is real in people's lives and what is closer to being measurable. In both ideas, we can only make pronouncements on the basis of how people actually behave. An orderly, serene community, free of crime, fear and envy can be its own benchmark. But what we are doing is comparing behaviour. What is in people's hearts is a matter for the understanding only of God.

However, we can say that how people act, and how they influence their children to act, together become the defining values of that community and contribute to the stability or otherwise of it.

We all have a deep need for stability and continuity. Seasons, rituals, memories are the cement foundations of individual and collective spiritual well-being. But hectic change is now irrevocably built into all our lives. Technology has seen to that. It is surely this which is behind our unease and the most reverend Primate's position.

Nowhere do these tensions bear down harder than on the teachers in our schools. Professor John Tomlinson of the University of Warwick opened my eyes to the fact that there are three models of education competing, in a sense, for the soul of a school. Beyond politics, there is an increasing individualism. We stress the role of the individual in creating society, and the role of society in developing the individual. Again, decoupled from politics there has evolved the idea of the competitive market. Nobody will be able to put that genie back in the bottle. In the classroom, these constitute two of the three models, and the third is what John Tomlinson has called the "quality control" model, where events in the classroom are moulded by influences outside the school altogether.

When we acknowledge that these three models exist and that schools in the near future are going to be shaped by all three, then we have a template to use in the onward transmission of values. As Nick Tate said in January: Schools, by and large, are very moral places". He went on to make the point that schools, together with other small institutions such as families, churches and charitable organisations are helping to keep the beacon of civilisation alight. The moral and spiritual development of pupils is therefore, says Dr. Tate, inseparable from the moral and spiritual development of society.

It is my instinct—and it is nothing I can measure—that the tide of moral relativism in this country is on the turn. We have been so anxious not to make value judgments that values themselves were starting to lose their meaning. I believe that the virtues valuable to me, thanks to childhood influences in which schools played no small part, are very near indeed to absolute attributes—to strive for and never attain because I, like every contributor to today's proceedings, am only human.

4.16 p.m.

The Earl of Halsbury

My Lords, when the most reverend Primate returns to Lambeth Palace this evening, he will leave behind him 30 grateful Members of your Lordships' House who have been given the chance by him to discuss, without a time limit, a subject that is dear to many of our hearts. It is particularly appropriate to me that the debate should occur now because I have just finished publishing my part of a working party report on violence and pornography in the media. I am not giving myself a puff in any sense because all I have done is to supply ammunition and rations in the form of a series of committee rooms for meetings to take place. The work has been done by Charlie Colchester of CARE and Dr. Clifford Hill of the Centre for Contemporary Ministry. To them goes the credit for the report.

I wish noble Lords to recognise the situation we are up against as shown by a questionnaire. It posed the following questions: "How concerned are you, if at all, about the level of sex and violence used for entertainment in the media nowadays?" The answer was: concerned, 65 per cent. "Do you agree or disagree that there is a link between screen violence and violent crime?" Answer: agree, 71 per cent. "Do you agree or disagree that there is a link between pornography and child abuse?" Answer: agree, 63 per cent. "Do you think the current safeguards to protect children from seeing violence and sex in the media, either through TV or video, are too little, too much or about right?" Answer: too little, 68 per cent.

In the current state of play in the run up to what a Member of your Lordships' House might legitimately refer to as the "All Fools' Day" of a general election, one party is racing ahead with about 50 per cent. of the votes and another party lags behind with 35 per cent. or 40 per cent., whatever it may be. It has all happened before, so it does not mean anything. But those percentages are far greater than for anything of which the public approves either in the Government's programme or in the Opposition's programme. I ask the noble Viscount the Leader of the House: what do Her Majesty's Government propose to do to satisfy the public in their present dissatisfaction with the present state of play in the law?

The report is only one publication that is relevant to my interests at the moment. Another is the current edition of, believe it or not, Reader's Digest, which includes the results of some research. It is research that your Lordships can conduct for yourselves at £300 a go. You need 10 folders, into each of which you put £30 plus the details of your name, address and telephone number; then you scatter them. How many come back to you?

Glasgow and Warwick, two very different social environments, head the list with an 80 per cent. return; London and Basildon (a suburb of London) do not do too badly with a 70 per cent. return; Liverpool lags a little with a 60 per cent. return; and Exeter (I cannot think why) reaches the break-even point at 50 per cent. I am afraid that my noble friend Lord Tonypandy will not be too pleased to know that Cardiff, alas, brings up the rear at 40 per cent.

The situation in Europe is not so very different, except that Oslo heads the list with a 100 per cent. return. (I wonder what Oslo has that we do not have.) Ravenna comes below Cardiff at 30 per cent. The tail-end is brought up by Lausanne and Weimar, at 20 per cent. each. I cannot think why Lausanne should be dragging its feet so badly, but that is the case in point. That is the state of public morality.

It is up to the Government to play their part. The Lords Spiritual will play their part; but the Government need to respond by doing something. We might begin with the state of the law on pornography, where we are at the mercy of the Obscene Publications Act, which attempts a lexical definition of pornography. People who study these matters divide definitions into different classes. One such is "lexical", whereby words are defined in terms of other words; and there is "ostensive", from the Latin word, ostendere, meaning "to show", whereby you show a child an object and repeat its name until the child learns it by heart. You say, "That is a daffodil; that is a teapot", and gradually the child acquires the basic nouns of its language.

We have totally failed in legislation on pornography to provide a lexical definition. We talk of "a tendency to induce depravity" and so on. We need an ostensive definition. We need a library of pornographic literature, and a librarian; and the question to the jury should be, "Does this book belong to that collection?"—on which the librarian can give evidence. It is my intention to work on a Private Member's Bill and see whether I can get collaboration from some of my friends in the legal profession. I am drafting something along those lines which I may bring before the House in some future Session of Parliament.

I now turn to education. We must regard education as being in a state of "unstable equilibrium". I do not know whether your Lordships are familiar with that term. If you take a familiar object such as a cone and make it stand on its base, that is stable equilibrium, because if you displace it it will go back to where it started from. If you lay it down on its side, it is in neutral equilibrium, because if you displace it it will stay put after displacement. But if you try to balance it on its end, that is unstable equilibrium, because it will not continue in the position in which you have put it.

We must accept that any kind of degeneration in the quality of teaching will affect the next generation of teachers. Children who have been incompetently taught will turn into incompetent teachers. The education system has all the hallmarks of a potential unstable equilibrium. We have been through various silly/clever phases in the course of our historical evolution since the war. People have amused themselves with devices and desires of what they would like to see as the perfect educational system, with permissive trends for this, that and the other. We have heard something about that this afternoon.

We have to take this situation in hand and make sure that our educational system is in some way uplifted so that better qualified teachers produce better educated children than at present. All the indications are that the educational system is not doing its job in the way we would like.

Those are my reflections on this subject and I shall now resume my seat, hoping that what I have said has found approval in your Lordships' minds.

4.27 p.m.

Lord Haskel

My Lords, I come from a Jewish background. Some of the issues being discussed about the future of the Jewish community bear strongly on the most reverend Primate's Motion today, and I am grateful to him for giving us the opportunity of having this debate.

In recent years there has been much concern in the Jewish community about the assimilation of the community, with the resulting loss of identity. The community feels that if it loses its identity it will lose its values.

Traditionally, Judaism rested on the twin pillars of the family and study. Study is seen as an obligation for every Jew, but instilling moral and ethical values was always very much the role of the family. Like my noble friend Lord Winston, by the family I mean the family in all its forms: single parents, step parents, families with no parents, working parents and parents on the dole, not just the nuclear family.

Some years ago when Dr. Sachs was appointed Chief Rabbi, he was faced with the problem of the community's declining numbers. One of his first actions was to start an organisation called Jewish Continuity, with the objective of maintaining Jewish identity. Much of the activity of Jewish Continuity was directed towards education, because it was believed that this was the main factor in retaining identity and values.

Earlier this year the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, of which I am deputy chairman, conducted a survey of social and political attitudes and values of British Jews. One of the main aims of the survey was to discover which factors influenced people to maintain their Jewish identity and remain part of the community. The result of the survey was most revealing. It showed that the most important measurable factor was the home and family, and not formal Jewish day school education. Those in their twenties and thirties who remain committed to Jewish religious values, appear to have been influenced far more by the religiosity of their parents, and other factors relating to home and family life, than by formal education.

I think we can all learn lessons from this survey. As the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, reminded us, it is all too common today for the full weight of responsibility to fall upon the education system. It is often held responsible for all our failures—moral, social and economic. Some, like the noble Lords, Lord Pearson of Rannoch and Lord Ashbourne, blame the Church for a lack of moral leadership. Others, like the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, blame government for not setting a good example; but nearly everybody blames the schools.

Meanwhile both schools and young people receive the double message about which my noble friend Lord Morris of Castle Morris told us. Many parents raise their children to be good, to share their toys, to be respectful of elders and considerate of siblings and friends; but as soon as they reach adolescence they hear their parents, and even their teachers, speak of the realities of the world. When young people call on those with power to make sacrifices for the poor, to fight the evils of the world, they are told that they are passing through a phase of idealism which will fortunately soon pass. That message is misleading because moral and spiritual well-being cannot be promoted unless all of us--government, religious groups and schools—endorse values such as altruism, my word is my bond, and love thy neighbour as thyself. However, the message that is coming across to the nation is that acquisitiveness, exploitation and risk-taking are the dominant values of our consumer society. Even some government campaigns endorse that.

Rabbi Brichto, a progressive rabbi and one of those "other Jews" referred to by my noble friend Lord Longford, blames the failure of the Prime Minister's late, but unlamented, back-to-basics campaign on the fact that people find it difficult not only to draw a line between private and social morality but in deciding what is right and what is wrong. He also points to the tension between education which has the objective of personal success and achievement and education which has the objective of moral and spiritual well-being. I find that a serious matter but not a depressing matter. Education and training for our economic well-being and education and training for our moral and spiritual well-being are both important.

Noble Lords know that I speak in your Lordships' House for my party on matters relating to trade and industry. That is where my background and experience lie. I and my party are dedicated to a programme of greater investment in education and training to enable our nation to compete more effectively in the world economy. But we do not worship economic success to the exclusion of all else. That de-sensitises and deadens the moral fibre of individuals and the society to which we all belong. Incidentally, I agree with my noble friend Lord Borne and the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, that it also harms our ability to be competitive.

Therefore, despite the Jewish Policy Research survey, which indicates that the source of moral values lies in the home, I feel that that is too simple. As other noble Lords have said, in these days of mass communication and globalisation, the family and the home cannot be isolated from the moral climate of the times; nor can our schools. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits. Some mass communication provides our children with an understanding of the world and a concern for others. But it also makes them want more.

However, these are weighty matters which are beyond my competence as a mere businessman. There are other noble Lords present who are far better qualified than I to deal with them. But I venture two opinions. First, moral values need to underpin education rather than be taught as a religion. Secondly, we all learn by example. Therefore, real moral leadership, not the back-to-basics kind, will help families to reassert themselves and will support them in their most vital role.

A concerted effort is needed. The most reverend Primate is right. The schools cannot do it alone; nor can the families alone bring about a reassertion of moral values. He is also right to emphasise education. But education is a never-ending process. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester in his maiden speech spoke of lifelong values. He may not be aware of it, but this is the European Year of Lifelong Learning. Perhaps a small start on improving the moral climate can be made by recognising the underlying moral value celebrated in lifelong learning. That project stands for the moral value which recognises and prizes the contribution and worth of every individual at all stages of their lives. I commend lifelong learning to all your Lordships.

4.35 p.m.

Viscount Brentford

My Lords, I too thank the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for introducing this debate today and also congratulate him on the challenging and invigorating way in which he launched a national debate on this matter. I congratulate also the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester on his maiden speech and hope that we shall hear much more from him in the years to come.

I should like to pick up on what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, regarding public and private morality because there are different aspects of both that affect the public well-being of this country. There is the public aspect of private morality which I see in the fact that, nowadays, given the media that exists, the private lives of public figures are likely to become part of the public domain. Whether relating to an incident of corruption or sexual misbehaviour, the private lives of public figures are before us. Morality is indivisible because moral acts flow from the human heart and, however little we may like it, that is a fact of which we need to be aware.

There is what I call a hidden aspect of public morality where, unbeknown to the public, public bodies are again falling down in their behaviour. It may be misuse of funds or permitting the abuse of children in care, but it is a disastrous state of affairs in the country whenever it materialises.

I wish to refer to public policy itself which is part of the moral and spiritual well-being of this country. Let me give just one example by way of a question: is public policy merciful to widows and orphans? I ask that question fully recognising that there is tension between mercy and the financial needs of meeting mercy. I was encouraged this week to read in Hansard what was said by my noble friend Lady Chalker of Wallasey: we may soon be able to increase the aid budget as a whole".— [Official Report, 2/7/96; col. 1301.] Nobody in the world does more than my noble friend to show mercy to the poor of the poorest countries of the world to the best financial advantage. That is but one example.

Having taken an example from this week, perhaps I may go back a few centuries to Mr. William Shakespeare on the subject when he said, in "The Merchant of Venice": The quality of mercy is not strained; It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath: it is twice blessed; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes". To underpin society's moral and spiritual well-being it is vital—as so many of your Lordships said—to have agreed common values. It is as important that they do right as that they avoid doing wrong. Public policy can never be value-free. I have said more than once when debating Education Bills in this House over the past 10 years that if we do not teach moral standards in schools, we are teaching that there are none.

Under the heading of common values come many substantial words such as freedom, equality, justice, the role and nature of the family and non-discrimination. All these are influenced by the beliefs and values which we adopt.

I turn now to the question of relativism which has been mentioned so much in the course of this debate. I believe that it is all-pervasive, but I also believe that many who promulgate it are not consistent. That is perhaps where I depart from what the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said. I do not believe that you have to be totally consistent: you can condemn the Holocaust but yet I believe that many people are still saying, "Do whatever makes you feel good provided that it does not harm others too much". I believe that that is part of this relativism. If we adopt relativism in this country, then common values are abandoned for a privatised world of individual choices, leaving public policy to manage public affairs in an arbitrary and inconsistent way. We need a positive set of common values agreed by people generally.

I come now to the role of the Church in this. It is very important that it continues to teach Biblical standards which are the standards of the Christian Church. The general public expects Church members to live by a higher set of common values than they adopt for themselves. But these standards are, as I have said, clearly set out in the Bible and endorsed by Christian tradition. Perhaps I may make one statement of my personal belief as an example of that.

I believe that all those who hold any position in any branch of the Christian Church—it does not matter whether they are ordained clergymen or lay members—should lead celibate lives or restrict sexual intercourse to within the marriage relationship. While I certainly accept that there is a place for repentance, forgiveness and restitution following failure, I would certainly encourage the most reverend Primate to exercise his influence fully within the Church of England so that all who hold any position should adopt the highest standards, not only in this one example but in every other way as well. In this way we need to teach and set an example to the rest of the nation.

Having touched on the question of marriage, in contrast to my noble friend Lord Ashbourne, I believe that marriage has been strengthened both by the Family Law Act and also by the work of my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor and his interdepartmental committee on the support of marriage. These two go together. I am grateful for all the hard work that he is putting in on this subject.

I turn now to the responsibility of schools. The Times Educational Supplement of 21st June discusses further education and states: Tutors are having to turn informal courses which encourage debate on moral questions into programmes leading to qualifications. [A report has] endorsed the value of 'enrichment activities' such as courses dealing with moral and spiritual development. but there is a concern in the sector that they may become casualties of the efficiency gains driven by the funding mechanism". I ask the Government to keep this question under review because the debates on moral and spiritual development are very important for those in higher education.

I now turn, as others have, to Dr. Nicholas Tate. I have before me his address at a SCAA conference on 15th January. Some parts of this speech have been quoted already, which saves me doing so. However, I would like to read out one or two more sentences at this point: Moral and spiritual education in schools is only possible if the society which maintains these schools is clear about its ends". Here we have the start of the relationship between the moral and spiritual well-being of society and that of schools. They are interrelated. Dr. Tate then went on to highlight the differences in schools, referring to the death of the headmaster, Philip Lawrence. He also pointed out that a great deal is being done by schools to shore up the moral fabric of our society. I find all that very encouraging because we normally hear reported only the negative aspects, whereas there is a great deal of positive good going on in our schools today.

I quote the speech again: education, at its core, is about promoting the moral and spiritual well-being of society … we share with other cultures and religions"— and, to pick up what the noble Lord, Lord Howell, was saying― traditional Islamic education measured its success by the extent to which it stimulated the community as a whole to take an interest in higher issues". I believe that that is very valuable. There is two-way traffic between society and education.

I believe that relationships are a good starting point in producing agreed moral values. Relationships are important because they can impact greatly on both family and community values. Relationships can promote city-based initiatives to tackle social problems such as crime and unemployment. Relationships between patients, medical staff and health service managers significantly influence both the quality and the efficiency of the care provided.

I conclude with a final quotation from Dr. Tate: although there is often a big gap between what we and young people say and what we all do, there is no doubt that we have lost the robust intellectual basis for our moral life we once had. If ever a dragon needed slaying, it is the dragon of relativism". He also said: young people grow up with a sense that there are objective and enduring values, that some things are certain". We need to ensure that that continues to happen.

4.47 p.m.

Lord Addington

My Lords, after such a debate one wonders whether to try to sum up what has been said or to address the questions that have been asked. I have become slightly more confused about spiritual and moral values during the course of the debate than I was at the beginning. That is probably to your Lordships' credit for the simple reason that noble Lords have put forward different points of view and made me question what is going on around me.

When we talk about the spiritual and moral well-being of our society, it is well worth remembering that we are talking about a society which bases its moral and spiritual traditions on the Judaeo-Christian tradition, totally influenced by the classical scholars. We all have that intellectual background in common—not only in the whole of Europe, but probably throughout the western world. We all have a common moral basis and most of the philosophies that have come up to challenge it have come from within that tradition. We have a common origin.

We may depart from it on other points, but I always feel that deep down inside one does not really know what one's moral values are until they are challenged. How many of us actually know where we are prepared to draw the line intellectually until we are pushed to it? Very few, I hope. We have to keep questioning if we are to remain a civilised society. We have heard much about civilisation today, but if we do not have some absolutes before we are asked questions, everything breaks down. I feel that one truly knows one's moral standpoint only when it is questioned and forced to the fore.

Having said that and turning to what else has been said in the debate, I find that I am constantly pushed back to a series of questions about what one regards as unacceptable. We have disregarded certain things about the family. I have always felt strongly about the tradition of the family because we are told that the breakdown of the family leads to the decline of everything that is good in our society.

Having come from a broken family, at this point I feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Where the mother and father do not like each other very much, are actively hostile, violent, row the whole time and take out their frustrations on the children, I cannot believe that that situation is beneficial to the children. There is a point beyond which one cannot go because of an ideal. Of course, if both parents are involved in the economic and spiritual welfare of the children it is beneficial, but a dysfunctional family may cause far more damage to the children than one parent who cares. All those who decry divorce as totally unacceptable should remember that one is concerned with the upbringing of the children.

One of my moral stances is that one should not impose an ideal where it is not practical. It is probably a very uncivilised act. It can lead to a society which justifies barbaric acts in the name of that society. Unless one stands back and says that one can take an ideology only so far, ultimately one crucifies, destroys and distorts moral values.

I am afraid that my noble friend Lady Seear has had to leave because of a medical appointment. She said that there never was a golden age. The most reverend Primate has also referred to that. We tend to look back to a time when usually we did not have to lock our doors. Someone once pointed out to me that there was less housebreaking when the most valuable object to be found in the average house was the kitchen range. If one discovered a person leaving one's house with 3001bs of iron on his back one would be unwise to try to stop him. The fictional character Raffles, the gentleman thief, would break in to steal the silver; now a burglar breaks in to steal the video because it is easier to sell and there are many of them. The economic realities and changes in society reflect activity in society at all levels. Every activity is determined by the economic realities.

The noble Lord, Lord Marsh, was absolutely right when he referred to the well-being of society in purely economic terms. Marx must take a little credit for pointing out that one can never totally remove economics from society. No matter how one interprets society, everything reacts with everything else. There is always an interaction. This is not an excuse but a reality. When people talk about the past they fail to take into account what we know now. For example, sexual abuse takes place. We have discovered that it went on in the past but was never reported.

What goes on in society today is probably not all that different in essence from what went on before. In the past, much was suppressed and not reported, because to report it was not acceptable. People could not comprehend that such matters took place. For example, the laws dealing with homosexuality are totally dominated by this attitude. Queen Victoria refused to believe that lesbianism existed and therefore it was not a crime. This is a classic example of failing to accept what goes on in society and ignoring it. When such matters are exposed they are regarded as new.

I turn to the role of schools in our society. Schools are the most convenient whipping boy for all problems and teachers suffer most of the blows, for the simple reason that, unlike in most other professions, they cannot plead the great defence, "We speak our own jargon. We know best. We are defended by mystique". Everybody meets teachers; everybody knows about teachers; and everybody has an opinion about teachers. They are ultimately exposed to most of the problems in our society at the sharpest end.

The policies of schools have borne upon the political ideology of all parties and none since the Education Act 1944. Everything that has happened in society can be traced back to the bringing up of children and in that regard the easiest point of pressure is the teaching profession. Teachers must bear an unfair weight in respect of that.

We must try to build up the teaching profession. I believe that the only way we can do that is to enhance their financial position. As has been said by many noble Lords, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, no one respects a pauper. If we enhance the status of teachers we may give them a little more prestige. They need prestige to do the job because they have to lead.

Occasionally, families are dysfunctional. That has always been the case. Sometimes teachers have to do a repair job on people who are socially dysfunctional. Often they cannot do that within the conventional classroom. So much time and energy would be spent on only a few pupils in a class that the rest of the children in the class could not be taught. Since I have been a Member of your Lordships' House increasing emphasis has been placed on passing exams. By increasing the emphasis on imparting information and being able to argue it we are increasing the burden on teachers. Surely we must look at ways in which we can help them not only by enhancing their status but perhaps by bringing in more specialist teachers to help pupils who have difficulties. If the state is to absorb that responsibility I cannot see how else it can be done if it wants fewer dysfunctional people in society. In today's society educational failure is the safest guarantee of unemployment. Those in our society who are unemployed and have no earned income become the sub-class; the people who do not fit in. We must bear that in mind.

The noble Lord, Lord Morris, said that we should try to instil a degree of moral ethics in everything that is taught. The noble Lord, Lord Winston, followed that on. I suggest that we should be most careful about that, because if we bring it in do we examine on it? If we examine on it, do we have a set series of answers? If we have a set series of answers, are we in danger of having merely a mantra that we quote as opposed to something to think about? There is always a danger in having absolute answers and we go away from the issue with which I began; the idea of questioning. One person's set of absolutes and morals will not be that of another. One cannot guarantee that something will be accepted for ever. If something is rejected out of hand it totally loses any benefit. For instance, Right-wing politics or Left-wing politics are always discredited by people who take them to extremes. Such people discredit those around them. The same is true of moral answers; we must be very careful about what we do.

Finally, when we look at our spiritual well-being we must refer back to the ability to distinguish between the lesser of two evils as opposed to what is perfect. Perhaps your Lordships would allow me to use one cliché. If you are going to pursue the perfect, you will rapidly discover that the road to hell is definitely paved with good intentions.

5 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne)

My Lords, I can follow the noble Lord, Lord Addington, in a great deal of what he said and I listened to him with great respect. I have only one small quibble which is that I well remember in the 1960s when my parents suddenly decided that it was about time that they closed the shutters and locked their doors at night. So perhaps to some extent, things have changed.

This has been a long debate, and I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I fail to answer many of the points which have been put to the Government this afternoon in the interests of relative brevity. Of course, I undertake to write to noble Lords in the usual way.

I am sure that the whole House will feel that congratulations are particularly in order this afternoon to two distinguished representatives of the Bench of Bishops: first, to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester who, if he will allow me to say so, made a most distinguished maiden speech in the best traditions of the occupants of his see; we greatly look forward to what I hope will be his frequent contributions to our proceedings; and, secondly, to the most reverend Primate for initiating this debate. It is perhaps yet another example of the value of this House. It is interesting to me that the most reverend Primate knew that this House would be the right forum for what he had to say and to attract the widespread interest that it has attracted.

This has been a week for great House of Lords occasions. Yesterday and the day before we discussed matters temporal. Today we are definitely discussing matters spiritual. Of the two tasks I have had to perform, there is no doubt in my mind but that today's is the more difficult to address. I say that in my personal capacity, but also secure in the knowledge that there is nothing so unattractive as a politician preaching morality rather than, as the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, suggested, leading by example. The risk of appearing not only didactic but sanctimonious is high and I hope that your Lordships will at least do me the honour today of acknowledging that I know that I run that risk. Nevertheless, we all accept that the questions are important and it is incumbent on politicians of all shades of opinion not only to think about them but to share their thoughts with the public.

We all, including, I noticed with interest, the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, have been brought up in a long historic tradition on this subject. There were Hogarth's pictorial tales of gin-soaked, vice-ridden 18th-century London. We know that the enlightenment of which those pictures were an early glimmer stimulated a national feeling of shame that people should live in such conditions. Wesley, Wilberforce and the Clapham sect, Dickens, Shaftesbury and Mayhew's studies of the London poor in the 1860s all contributed to a flowering of national effort to improve the condition of the poor. It is interesting to note that the national effort was partly directed at improving material conditions, but it was also accepted that that was not enough. Material improvement could not be sustained unless moral improvement accompanied it. It is also interesting to note that a great preponderance of the early efforts into this work came from active Christians—both Tory and Radical. What they were attempting was what has recently been called in some quarters in America "the remoralisation of society".

Of course—and this has been acknowledged from all parts of your Lordships' House this afternoon—they did not succeed in eradicating poverty at its most grinding and miserable—far from it. Nor did they succeed in making the population of this country paragons of virtue. We are told, after all, that the poor are always with us and, equally, we know that man is not perfectible. I do not believe that I need add any more to the wisdom expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, on the implications of that. I particularly noted with interest the article, to which many speakers referred, which appeared in today's Times by the noble Lord's successor, Jonathan Sacks, in which he refers to the values we share above the things that we privately own. The article talks unashamedly of good and evil, duty and fidelity and love and obedience. It suggests that that not all choices are equal, some lead on to blessings while others lead on to lives of quiet despair. I believe that it is those lives of quiet despair that have agitated many of your Lordships here this afternoon.

I return now to the 19th century remoralisers, if I may call them that. I believe that what they did was to establish a pattern of material improvement in the condition of the people and, at the same time, as my noble friend Lord Elton said, build a broad consensus as to the values by which society should live. It was a hierarchical society, even though there was, perhaps, more social mobility than is generally realised today. It was based, yes, on the family, on self-help and mutual aid. The state played a remarkably small part, although admittedly an increasing one, in helping with the material needs of the very poor. There were severe penalties based on moral censure for those who transgressed the rules of the consensus; for example, the stigma of illegitimacy was strong. The authority of the father was largely unquestioned. What have come to be known as "traditional Christian values" were generally accepted in what was overwhelmingly a culturally homogenous country.

Broadly speaking, it seems to me that that consensus delivered a great many benefits as long as it lasted; and I believe that it lasted, perhaps, until as late as the 1960s despite, as has been pointed out by a number of speakers, the horrors of unemployment in the 1920s and the 1930s and the social earthquake set off by the Second World War. Of course, I agree with many of your Lordships who observed this afternoon that it was not a golden age. Of course, it was not. There never has been a golden age in the history of humankind.

I believe that most people, by definition, adhered to that consensus at the time. Therefore, policing it—if I may use that word—was cheap both in the literal sense of the word and in the intellectual sense. Those who did not accept the disciplines that the consensus imposed were relatively few in number, and society could concentrate, if you like, its fire on them. The resources that were needed to do so were, therefore, modest and the sympathy that the rulebreakers evoked was pretty small.

We know that in the past 30 years that has changed—a change that has occurred with astonishing rapidity in my adult lifetime. It has been driven by many things and I will not attempt to undertake a comprehensive account of them. It would certainly be tendentious and probably, in your Lordships' view, idiosyncratic. However, there have undoubtedly been two contributors. First, there has been the transformation of this country into a society of many cultures and, secondly, we have experienced technological change. In that respect, I do not think that it is just a question of ganja and the pill; but it has certainly affected the way that we live, the way that we work and the speed and range of our travel. Indeed, the communications revolution and all that are combining to make society more mobile, more independent and richer.

More power is flowing to the individual through the rapid dissemination of knowledge. We are becoming less hierarchical and, as some noble Lords have observed, less respectful as a result. I agree very much with the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, about the responsibility of television in that respect. All I can say is that I look forward to seeing the results of the work that the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, warned us that he was about to produce.

It may surprise your Lordships to learn that I think, on the whole, that those developments are an extremely good thing, to use, if I may, the Sellar and Yentman over-simplification; not that what I think matters a jot. There is very little that any of us could do to resist them in my view, even if we wanted to. However, there is no doubt that, like the parliamentary reforms to which the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, referred in his notable speech yesterday—and I am glad to see that the noble Lord is present here in the Chamber—those developments have had, and are having, unintended consequences.

Among those consequences is what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester called "the desire for instant gratification". Indeed, I believe that that is part of the most obvious of those unintended consequences; namely, a sense of moral disorientation. People of all ages are seeking spiritual and moral guidance. I am not surprised that gurus of every kind flourish and people of all ages look to them for guidance.

The costs of this moral disorientation are, above all, mounting up in each of us. The outward and visible signs are everywhere. In an age of increasing material prosperity crime is still too high and the number of people who do not accept a moral consensus is—I wholly admit—worrying. I do not wish to exaggerate the numbers involved. We all know—as indeed the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, pointed out—that the overwhelming majority of our compatriots are honest, generous and kind. That was supported to a surprising degree by the statistics mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, although I am sorry to find that the Welsh come bottom of the pile, as ultimately I am a Welshman myself. The astonishing level of charitable contributions, the flourishing voluntary sector—I agreed with what the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said about the importance of trying to build that up—and the fact that family life flourishes perhaps more than many give it credit for are evidence of that goodness. However, the numbers who behave badly have undoubtedly increased—although perhaps only marginally in overall terms—and the cost in terms of social cohesion and, to put it crudely, in terms of taxpayers' money is colossal.

As clearly material prosperity is not enough, it seems to me that we need to rebuild a consensus. The fundamental values on which we build that consensus should not be based on the moral relativism which the most reverend Primate has rightly condemned but on absolute standards. I am glad that speakers have agreed with that, almost without exception. The most reverend Primate referred to football, as indeed did the noble Lord, Lord Howell. I would have been most disappointed had he not done so. I say to both speakers that in a small way we saw an example recently of the power of moral consensus. The tabloid press had tried desperately to whip up anti-German feeling before a recent sporting contest which seems to have attracted some public notice of late. The public and the crowds in particular were not going to stand for it, and they did not. Is this, like the speech of the most reverend Primate, perhaps a straw in the wind? I hope so.

Of course the Government have an important part to play. However, I do not think they can impose a consensus on a nation in the throes of technological revolution and a nation with a tradition of personal liberty. I shall mention some areas, if I have the time in a minute, where there is a clear government role. However, I think that building a moral consensus must start with the individual, as a number of noble Lords have said. Indeed perhaps the nature of the technological revolution which we have talked about so much today is to emphasise the power of the individual. Self-discipline therefore becomes even more important than in the earlier hierarchical age which I have attempted—however inadequately—to describe. I am most conscious that the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, attempted to teach me history many years ago. No doubt he is making notes for my end of term report even as I speak.

In any case, it must be axiomatic that the individual be judged for his actions and that he also will be asked to account for them. He is free to use and abuse his talents. I say with due diffidence in this company that our Christian salvation depends on our using those talents rightly. I think the Christian believes that that places an obligation on him to love his neighbour as himself, with all that that implies. However, I am not sure that we discharge that obligation by redistributing taxpayers' money to poorer members of society—I do not wish to be misunderstood in what I say—although of course public policy may deem (and indeed does deem) that that is desirable. But I am not sure that the individual fulfils his real duty by conscripting others to fulfil it for him.

That perhaps is the danger posed by the dependency culture. We know that policies which expel accountability for the lives of those who depend on social security exclusively are morally and physically debilitating. If I may make a bipartisan point—which some noble Lords opposite may feel is somewhat unusual for me—that is why I am pleased that the party opposite is, like us, looking for ways of providing ladders out of dependency into employment. We hope the new job seekers allowance will prove effective in that regard. Our training programmes are of course designed with the same end in view.

Of course man is a social animal. Social stability is as important for him as for the nation of which he is part, particularly in a time of rapid change.

For all of us the family, both nuclear and extended, as a number of noble Lords have said, surely must continue to be the basic building block of society. Anyone who has enjoyed the blessing of a stable home and an extended cousinage—and that is perhaps as important as anything else—has led a privileged life that gives self-confidence and a feeling for what is right or wrong. That is why I hope that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor's Family Law Bill will strengthen the institution of marriage. By making people think hard about the consequences of divorce, by giving reconciliation a greater chance and by giving more time before a divorce can become absolute I believe that it will do so.

I know that some of my noble friends feel that it will have the opposite effect and, naturally, I am distressed by that. However, divorce is not exactly difficult at the moment and we must hope that my noble and learned friend's judgment, as so often before, will be amply vindicated. As I say, I hope and believe that it will.

I do not wish to emphasise this too much, but in last year's Budget, we have sought to reward family life financially as well. I hope that the efforts of my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will do so. For instance, a family on average earnings gained £60 per annum more from my right honourable friend's measures than did a single person.

The most reverend Primate has laid great emphasis on education and, of course, his Motion singles out the responsibility of schools. Nevertheless, as many noble Lords have said, schools cannot bear the burden alone. The rest of us must help above all those who are parents. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, referred to the status of part-time employment. It is a point that we should take extremely seriously. In that respect, I hope that the reforms that we have introduced, in particular as regards parent governors, will encourage the development of a partnership between schools and the community they serve. Many schools already have a flourishing partnership of that kind. Meanwhile the Government are encouraging schools to play the part that the most reverend Primate envisages, as many noble Lords have acknowledged. I am grateful for the most reverend Primate's acknowledgement. In particular, there are the careful arrangements that we have made to promote religious teaching; and the fact that in every syllabus religious traditions in Great Britain are in the main Christian while taking account of the teaching and practices of the other principal religions, a point referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Morris.

We welcome Dr. Tate's initiative to launch through SCAA an examination of how schools might promote spiritual and moral values as the national curriculum is revised.

Despite what I have said about the importance of parents, sadly, in some communities schools are among the few institutions which are in a position to promote such values, and the vast majority of them do so. But they are responsible for producing the parents of the future. And here, like the noble Lord, Lord Howell, I wish to pay tribute to the contribution of parents of other faiths who, all too often, give a better example than Christians of the standards we wish to promote. As Christians we should be reminded that Islamics are also people of the Book.

I am pleased that progress is being made. There is a great deal more to be done, but the Government want to and must play their part, in particular in the issue of raising standards.

This has been a most notable debate. As I say, we should all be grateful to the most reverend Primate for initiating it. In my remarks I have tried to emphasise the moral rather than the material, the absolute rather than the evanescently political. This does not mean that material prosperity is not to me a wholly desirable aim. Of course it is. Like the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, and, I am afraid, unlike some early Christians, I can see no moral advantage in squalor. What I do say is that prosperity only delivers well-being if we know how to use it. In that, our ancestors in the 18th and 19th centuries, the reformers, were right to emphasise that the importance of morality and the advance in material prosperity should be tackled in tandem. Our world may have changed, but I doubt whether either our means or our objectives have.

The Archbishop of Canterbury

My Lords, I wish to thank the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, for what he said and for the excellent way in which he has drawn together the threads of the debate. I shall not detain noble Lords because we have had a long day. As I was musing over the contributions, it seemed to me that this has been an optimistic debate. We have not looked back or looked forward in despair but addressed real issues with a sense of purpose.

I also found myself musing that this is an extraordinary assembly in many respects. What other parliament throughout the world would devote a whole day to moral and spiritual matters in the life of the nation? Perhaps it says something about the value of an assembly and Chamber like this that it is able to be a witness and a sign of what a democratic society stands for.

It was said in some of the newspapers earlier this week that I was calling for a moral crusade. I have already rejected that understanding of the matter. The Motion on the Order Paper is "to call attention" and perhaps I may point to three areas which I have picked up to which we have called attention. First, we have called attention to the importance of nurturing young people to capture a vision of moral values as central to a responsible and caring society. Your Lordships have echoed that again and again. Secondly, we have called attention to the centrality of our schools and affirmed the crucial role of our teachers. We want to encourage the initiative of SCAA. Thirdly, we have called attention to the need for all sections of society—parents, the media, the entertainment industry—to exercise their responsibilities on behalf of us all.

In all the marvellous contributions we have heard, that of the noble Lord, Lord Marsh, stands out for me because he took me on. I wonder whether, with respect to him, I may be allowed to take him on and offer three points for him to reflect on, because I enjoyed his contribution. First, I have invited people of good will, of different religions, whether or not they are believers, to explore with us what are the shared values that hold society together. I have not claimed a monopoly for Christians or the Churches.

Secondly, the noble Lord referred to wealth creation. I thoroughly agree with that and with other speakers who mentioned it, but it depends on morality—honesty, thrift, hard work, trust, fidelity in all we do. If we do not agree about that, society could easily degenerate into gangsterism and we have evidence of societies in our world where that is happening.

Thirdly, to imply that Nazi atrocities are understood mainly as a failure of economic management is a great over-simplification. It is not enough to imply that if you get the economy right morality will look after itself. Perhaps I may re-quote the noble Lord's friend: "No, no, no!". You simply cannot take moral behaviour for granted and it needs redefining, re-exploring and nurturing again and again. That is why the debate has been so important.

So the debate ends, but it is my hope that we shall find ways of strengthening the moral fibre of our society in the days ahead. We can build on much: the good will that there is around, the idealism of young people and so on.

When I was younger, these were among the words of the Bible that I was taught: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom". Perhaps that idea has gone out of fashion these days, but perhaps your Lordships learnt it as well as I did. I have noticed that, although the word "wisdom" has not been used by many speakers in the debate, there has been wisdom in what we have said. Therefore, I think we can look forward with a sense of hope. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes past five o'clock

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