HC Deb 24 March 1964 vol 692 cc231-3
12. Mr. Abse

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has now completed his study of the directive given to the medical services of the Seychelles prohibiting instruction of birth control techniques involving contraceptives; what is the result of his request to the Governor to review the matter; whether he is aware that until the prohibition a family planning clinic had been conducted with the approval of the former Governor for 18 months by the Acting Director of Medical Ser- vices, who protested against the closure; and whether, in view of the population growth and high illegitimacy rate in this grant-aided Colony, he will now direct that the family planning clinic should be reopened.

Mr. Fisher

I have much sympathy with the aims implied in the hon. Member's Question; but I do not think that, in a territory where most members of the Legislature and nearly all the public officers are Roman Catholics, a direction from my right hon. Friend to the Governor to reverse his previous decisions and re-open a Government clinic is the best way to achieve what the hon. Member has in mind. I am examining other possible courses which would not involve the use of Seychelles Government funds.

Mr. Abse

Is the Minister aware that when there was a Protestant Governor there were no such objections in existence and the clinic ran very satisfactorily? Is he considering further alternative means and, if so, what are those means? Is he discussing anything with the family planning groups in this country? Is he aware of such a need in a country over-populated, with a 44 per cent. illegitimacy rate; and how far will he ensure, if given alternative methods, having medical men on the spot who are non-Catholics and outside the medical service there at the moment? Will he say whether such an idea is in his mind?

Mr. Fisher

I think that the hon. Gentleman knows that I sympathise very much with what he has in mind and I am aware of all these factors in the case. I am in touch with the International Planned Parenthood Federation to ascertain whether it could equip a private clinic in the Seychelles, and this may well be a way out of our difficulty if it can.

Mr. Sorensen

Would the hon. Gentleman put it to the Governor that, while one appreciates his own objections to family planning, he should not try to impose them on a large number who do not accept his premise?

Mr. Fisher

I am not so much thinking of the fact that the Governor himself is a Roman Catholic as of the fact that 90 per cent. of the population and nearly all the public officers and members of the Legislature are Roman Catholics, and one must have regard to that.