HC Deb 10 December 1963 vol 686 cc194-5
10. Mr. Abse

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, in view of the present great increase in population in the Seychelles, and the grants paid to this island by the United Kingdom, he will withdraw the present directive by the medical services of the Seychelles prohibiting instruction of birth control techniques involving contraceptives.

Mr. Fisher

The directive was issued after it had become clear that instruction by a Government medical officer in birth control techniques involving contraceptives was widely criticised in Seychelles on religious grounds. I am studying the problem further.

Mr. Abse

Is it appreciated that in this island the rate of illegitimacy last year was 44 per cent.? Would it therefore be noted that it seems highly improbable that there is a large section of the population of the Seychelles who would object on religious grounds? Whatever the views of the Swiss order of priests over there, if there are—as I gathered clearly from my visit—a considerable number of people who want such instruction, will the hon. Gentleman look at this matter again? Will he see that there is freedom for all people, irrespective of their religion, to have what they have a right to have and what the taxpayer in this country, who pays grants in aid for this Colony, has a right to see they get?

Mr. Fisher

I am personally inclined to agree with the hon. Member that in a territory where there is unemployment and over-population family planning or migration are the only alternatives, but we must bear in mind that 90 per cent. of the people there are Roman Catholics and we must take account of public opinion, whether we agree with it or not.

Mr. Sorensen

Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that there is a good deal of religious objection to contraception in this country but we do not allow that to be imposed upon those who wish to practise contraception? In the circumstances, could the hon. Gentleman make it clear to the Government of the Seychelles and to the hospital authorities there that, while no one is compelled to employ contraceptives, those who wish to do so should be at liberty to do so?

Mr. Fisher

I am inclined to agree, but of course our population is not 90 per cent. Roman Catholic. It is probably the other way about. There are therefore special circumstances, but I am sympathetic and I am asking the Governor to look at the matter again.

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