HC Deb 06 February 1973 vol 850 cc204-5
5. Mr. William Price

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many abortions were carried out during 1972; and how many of them were outside the National Health Service.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. Michael Alison)

The provisional number of abortions notified between 1st January and 27th December 1972 in England and Wales was 156,714. Of these 100,665 were for abortions performed outside the National Health Service.

Mr. Price

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some of us who supported the Abortion Act are appalled by those figures, particularly for the private sector? Is it not becoming apparent that vast fortunes are being made by some of the most unscrupulous people in the medical profession, with no regard for moral issues? Is not the time coming for us to say that abortions will either be carried out under the National Health Service or not at all?

Mr. Alison

The Government believe that there is a place for the private sector. But some of the hon. Gentleman's points will certainly have been considered by the Lane Committee, which I hope will report in the summer.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Is it not clear that those who initiated the legislation on the subject could have had no idea of what they were about? Is my hon. Friend aware—I think he will be from an earlier supplementary question of mine—that I do not agree with him that there is a place for the private sector in this matter and that it would be far better, if the matter has to go on, to bring it under the National Health Service so that it can be more subject to his supervision and that of Parliament?

Mr. Alison

It was precisely because of the misgivings we had about the operation of the Abortion Act that we decided to set up the Lane Committee.

Mr. Loughlin

While the figures are very disturbing, does not the Minister agree that but for the legislation other figures involving the back-street abortionist might well have been included? Even if that is true, however, is it not opportune for the House to have another look at the whole question of abortions, particularly in the private sector? Those of us who supported the Act are disturbed by its effect. Will the hon. Gentleman look into the matter for us?

Mr. Alison

These matters will all come before the House in the context of the report of the Lane Committee. I am certain that the aspect to which the hon. Gentleman has referred will be discussed by that committee's report and that the House will have the opportunity to discuss it fully.