BY A STAFF REPORTER
THE Catholic Church appeared to be actively harming mankind's chances of ameliorating its population crisis. Earl Cowrie told the House of Lords last week in a debate on the world population increase.
He urged all peers who were Catholics to put pressure on secular organisations as well as on spiritual ones for a "rational approach" to the problem.
"The attitudes of the Roman Catholic Church towards birth control are perfectly respectable. decent. even inspiring in a different cultural context." he said. "They have to shift and to meet our requirements."
Lord Snow, opening the debate, said one of the greatest problems of over-population was feeding people in poor countries. "Unless we can feed this enormously growing population," he said. "we are clearly faced with an intolerable disaster. Some people blindly hope that food will always be forthcoming. That is false optimism gone mad."
Until the poor countries could be got to work within themselves to reduce their rate of growth there was no fundamental answer to the problem. One ray of hope was that educated young people all over the world were extremely sensitive to the problem. Lord Beaumont of Whitley said there were only three ways of controlling the population—starvation, the bomb or the pill. A population policy should be established, with a national family planning service.
"Contraceptives like the loop, the coil and the pill should all be available on the National Health," he said, "as should sterilisation of both men and women. We must advocate and encourage equality for women. Often women have babies because they can't think of anything better to do."
Lady Tweedsmuir, Minister of State, Scottish Office, said: "I must take issue with Lord Beaumont . . . I think every baroness in the House will support me in my condemnation of his view." She went on: "Should the Government of the day decide the size of a particular family?
"We have always felt that a decision on the size of a family must be a personal choice encouraged by education and access to different methods.
"The question of whether there should be a study unit on population growth is being very carefully considered by the Prime Minister. This would help with statistics and estimates. "We are still awaiting recommendations of the resumed Select Committee on Science and Technology, which started its study last year and before long will be coming to a conclusion." The Secretary for Social Services expected to make a statement very soon on family planning. she added.
Speaking after Lord Gowrie, Lord Sorensen said: "We should encourage sterilisation. I am not saying it should be made compulsory. There are still large numbers of men and women who conceive and beget children who should not do so and who pass on imperfect progeny."
Lord Greenwood, from the Opposition Front Bench, said: "People are poor because they are sick; they are sick because they are hungry; they are hungry because they are poor."
• Ignorance or lack of contraceptive methods were not such important factors in the population explosion as they were often supposed to be, said the Director-General of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation, Mr. Addeke Bocrma, at the first Asian Congress of Nutrition at Hyderabad, Pakistan.
He said that, despite the apparent paradox, steps to ensure the survival of more first-born babies in developing countries would reduce the threat to those countries of being "swamped by the flood of over-population."
"A large number of people in primitive societies, largely bereft of social security systems, want to have more children than they or society can afford in order to be sure that at least one or two survive."