CARDINAL FOLLY?; Winning Is Challenged over His Claim That Mothers Should Be Paid to Stay at Home

Article excerpt

IT started out as a response to a question about Tony Blair's new policy on the family ... Cardinal Thomas Winning gave it his support, with one reservation.

He claimed they should be paid to stay at home and raise children - a remark that also put him on a collision course with the Government, which - as revealed in the consultation paper on the family - is helping young mums back to work.

Last night, the controversial Cardinal's comments were attacked by a senior lecturer on women's issues at Glasgow University, who described them as a "futile crusade to turn the clock back".

Sociology lecturer Barbara Littlewood said: "It's degrading to women, paying them to be breeding machines."

Cardinal Winning, the leader of Scotland's 750,000 Roman Catholics said he agreed with many aspects of the consultation paper.

But he took Tony Blair to task over working mums.

He said: "While such support is laudable in certain circumstances, for most people a preferable approach would be to pay the mums to look after their own babies, rather than bring in outsiders.

"The concerted media conspiracy to present working mothers as happy, fulfilled, high earners must ring hollow with the many hard- pressed mothers emptying parking meters and stuffing giblets into frozen chickens in a desperate bid to keep their families together."

He also suggested a system similar to that in Norway, where young mums are paid pounds 4000 for their first year of staying at home.

He argued that it has gathered 70 per cent support, and added: "There is nothing to suggest the take- up would be any different here."

Yesterday, Social Security Minister Alistair Darling refused to be drawn on Cardinal Winning's proposals.

He claimed he had not seen the suggestions and would, therefore, not be drawn into detailed discussion about the proposals.

But he pointed out that child benefit had just been increased by the largest amount ever to pounds 14.95 a week for the first child.

And he emphasised that no lone parent would ever be forced into work against his or her wishes.

Last night Cardinal Winning defended his stance, insisting he has nothing against the idea of women developing their own careers.

He said: "I am not saying the woman's place is in the home.

"But what I am saying is that women should not be forced into having to choose between career and motherhood.

"They should have the freedom of choice. So many women feel pressured into going back to work. But they shouldn't be placed under that pressure. …