HC Deb 28 April 1966 vol 727 cc936-8
27. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce legislation for the reform of abortion law in this Session.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

I am afraid that I cannot hold out hope of Government legislation on this subject.

Mrs. Short

Is my right hon. Friend aware that that reply will be received with disappointment by the majority of people in this country who want to see this unfair and unenforceable law—a law which is being broken several hundred times each week—reformed? Will he therefore agree to look again very seriously and earnestly at this problem? I know that he is with us on this issue. Is he aware that we are very anxious that the necessary legislation should be introduced?

Mr. Jenkins

I do not dissent from some of my hon. Friend's remarks about the state of the law, but I think that this is eminently a subject for private Members' action.

Sir G. Narbarro

There is no private Members' time now.

Mr. Jenkins

There is time.

Sir G. Nabarro

The Government have pinched the lot.

Mr. Jenkins

We have not pinched the lot. There will be some time, and I hope very much that an hon. Gentleman who secures a favourable place in the Ballot will take the initiative in this matter.

Mr. Lubbock

Since the Home Secretary is sympathetic to the idea of reforming the law on abortion, will he have conversations with his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to see if some time could be given in the mornings for a Private Member's Bill on this subject?

Mr. Jenkins

The position about private Member's time was discussed last night.

Mr. William Hamilton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is growing support in the House as well as in the country for the reform of this law? Will he give an assurance that if, in the event of a private Member being successful in the Ballot and suggesting a Measure of this kind, he goes to the Home Department for advice and facilities for the drafting of such a Bill, he will receive such assistance?

Mr. Jenkins

Without question, if an hon. Member who secured a place in the Ballot wished advice and assistance on this matter, such drafting assistance would be available.

Mr. Buck

Will not the Home Secretary in any circumstances at all say why he will not take the initiative in this matter and place a Measure before Parliament on this issue? Would he not agree that there is widespread alarm in the medical profession about the confusion of the law? While reform is necessary, will the right hon. Gentleman at the same time consider the clarification of the present law whereby perhaps nothing more than codification might be needed? Why will he not deal with the matter?

Mr. Jenkins

The hon. Gentleman has suggested dealing with the matter in a great number of ways in one question. I have already given the reasons why I think this is an appropriate subject for private Members' action.