Friday, September 23, 2011

In a Flather about fertility

She's at it again! Dolphinarium's favourite politician, Baroness Flather, has hauled herself back onto her pet hobby horse: children and why there should be fewer of them especially among certain sections of the community.

This time dear old Shreela used the occasion of the second reading of the government's Welfare Reform Bill in the Lords, a piece of legislation she admitted in her opening remarks that she "found very difficult to understand" to argue that "people should not be getting the full raft of benefits for any number of children."

She elaborated,

"I feel that the first two children should get a full raft of benefits, the third child should get three-quarters and the fourth child should get a half."

The Baroness observed that minority communities in the UK, she specified Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, "have very large numbers of children" and demonstrating her noteworthy skills as a reader of human minds, opined that "the money that follows the child is an attraction".

She went on,
"there is no doubt that six or seven children give you a far larger income than three or four. I think it is about time that we stop people using children as a means of increasing the amount of money that they receive or of getting a bigger house."
Notice the emphatic language the Baroness used in making her point? The twin themes of barely-concealed disgust at the Asian immigrant working-classes and their fertility on the one hand and coercion, on the other - "it is about time that we stop people" were reinforced in her closing peroration:

"In the countries of origin, these people-Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and even Indians-have large families because there is no safety net. When you get old, it is only your children who are going to look after you. That does not apply here. Every old person will have their pension and will be looked after. It is time to introduce the pattern of this country and to tell people that they must start following it."

As my opening paragraph makes clear, this isn't the first time that Baroness Flather has suggested that the less well-off should be told to have fewer children.

Six years ago she ventured substantially the same argument that she would make in the Lords last week, positing a correlation between smaller families and better educational outcomes and singling out fecund Bangladeshis for particular haughty disapproval. Last week Flather, who hails from a top-drawer Indian mercantile family - her great grandfather, Sir Ganga Ram, was a noted philanthropist - again referred disapprovingly to large Bangladeshi families, who she bracketed with Pakistanis in her Lords' speech as having "no emphasis on education" which indicates how mightily exercised she remains about these communities' fertility patterns. She went qualitivately further in the Lords, however, by arguing for a system of financial disincentives for those with more than two children, thereby passing into serious anti-natalist policy territory.

It remains only for me to note that the noble Baroness holds a senior position in an organisation which provides its services in a country which has one of the most notorious anti-natalist policies of our times and which enjoys such warm relations with that country's government that it hosts discreet tête-à-têtes between its senior personnel and that country's minister for the creepily entitled State National Population and Family Planning Commission at its London offices. Baroness Flather is a director of Marie Stopes International.