HC Deb 10 November 1970 vol 806 cc189-90
24. Mr. Cronin

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will institute a formal inquiry into the working of the Abortion Act, taking into consideration, amongst other relevant matters, the rights of an unborn child.

37. Sir G. Nabarro

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will now introduce legislation to amend the law relating to abortion.

80. Mr. Willey

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will now set up a Committee of Inquiry to report on the working of the Abortion Act.

Sir K. Joseph

I hope to make a statement on this subject shortly.

Mr. Cronin

When the right hon. Gentleman is considering his statement, will he bear in mind that there is widespread public disquiet at the extensive loss of human life that takes place, even though there may well be good medical and sociological reasons for the termination of pregnancy?

Sir K. Joseph

I have come to realise that there are strong elements of disquiet on all sides of this question.

Mr. Deedes

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind before he makes his announcement that some of the difficulties to which this Act is subject can bring no joy to those who supported or opposed the original Measure? Is he aware that it is not a question of which side one is on but a matter of whether the law is working satisfactorily?

Sir K. Joseph

There is much in what my right hon. Friend says.

Dr. Summerskill

Would the right hon. Gentleman, when he reports, refer to regional differences in the operation of the Act and also to his investigations into costs and conditions in abortion clinics?

Sir K. Joseph

I will bear that point in mind.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Pending the statement, would my right hon. Friend give an assurance that he will do everything possible to see that nurses with conscientious objections to abortion are not put under pressure to make them assist?

Sir K. Joseph

If my hon. Friend is aware of any such pressure I would be very grateful to be told of it because it is abhorrent to the Government, obviously.

Mr. David Steel

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider, before making his statement, whether members appointed to such an inquiry will be widely representative of different views expressed both before and during the passage of the Act? Will he consider the differences in the availability of abortion under the National Health Service in different parts of the country and will he also consider the apparent demand for abortion caused by inadequate family planning facilities?

Sir K. Joseph

The hon. Gentleman is jumping to premature conclusions, but I will note all that has been said.

Mr. Ross

Will the statement which the Minister is to make cover the workings of the Act in Scotland or will the Secretary of State for Scotland be making a statement on it?

Sir K. Joseph

The right hon. Gentleman will have to wait for a while.