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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.
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,
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.
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 Morris 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:
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:
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.
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.
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,
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
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,
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,
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,
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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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 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.
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
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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
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.
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.
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,
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 Borrie 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.
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:
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 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.
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
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 300lbs 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
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 cliche. If you are going to pursue the perfect, you will rapidly discover that the road to hell is definitely paved with good intentions.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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