HC Deb 05 August 1975 vol 897 cc318-20
Mr. Harold Walker

I beg to move Amendment No. 102, in page 34, line 6 leave out from "means" to end of line 8 and inert the birth of a living child or the birth of a child whether living or dead after 28 weeks of pregnancy;".

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)

With this amendment we may take Amendment No. 103, in page 34, line 16 leave out from "means" to end of line 8 and insert giving birth to a living child or to a stillborn child not more than 12 weeks before the last day of the expected confinement".

Mr. Walker

This amendment arises from criticisms by Opposition Members in Standing Committee about the original definition that we had, and I hope that the words that we have now chosen meet those criticisms.

There is, however, one point on which we may still have some disagreement. In Committee hon. Members criticised the use of the expression "after 28 weeks of pregnancy". They said that since the Bill counted backwards by referring to the eleventh week before confinement, it would be more consistent for the definition to do likewise.

We have looked carefully at this point. However, the Bill has to be consistent with other legislation. In particular, the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages Act links registration of a birth to the 28th week of pregnancy. Before that time any miscarriage need not be registered. After the 28th week it is a stillborn child and has to be registered. It is important that references to birth are consistent with this, and the definition, therefore, counts forward to the same point in time—that is, the 28th week of pregnancy. Notwithstanding that, I hope that hon. Members opposite feel that we have tried to meet the point which they raised in Standing Committee.

Mr. Madel

We are also discussing Amendment No. 103 and I should like to ask the Minister a question. He will recall that in Standing Committee—as reported in column 830 of Hansard—we expressed anxiety on the question whether the clause covered the case of a child born by Caesarean section. My hon. Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan) raised this point. The Minister said: Although I would assume that the DHSS has ensured that the definition covers the situation which the hon. Gentleman referred to—the Caesarean section situation—I would not categorically assert that it does. I just assume that it does. Nevertheless, I think that it is a point that we ought to look at very carefully and also at the other point that he mentions to see whether it is adequately covered by the definition."—[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 26th June 1975; c. 830.] It was precisely for that reason that we tabled Amendment No. 103 again. In other words, we took the amendment that we moved in Standing Committee and tabled it again on Report. In view of what the Minister said about the Caesarean section situation, may I ask him to tell us whether what he thought was the case is in fact the case? He has had some time in which to reflect.

Mr. Harold Walker

With the leave of the House—I have not had a chance to catch up with the precise reference which the hon. Member has given from Hansard—perhaps I should have said a little more in moving Amendment No. 102. I recall hon. Members opposite, particularly the hon. Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan), criticising the definition because it referred to labour resulting in the issue of a living child. This effectively meant that a woman who had a child by Caesarean section, without labour, would have been outside the definition of confinement and technically would not be eligible for maternity benefits. The Department of Health and Social Security ignored this definition for its purposes, but it would not be possible to take this line under the Bill because these provisions are not on the list which is acceptable by the Department.

Mr. Madel

Is the Minister satisfied that the situation is adequately covered? According to Hansard, in column 830, we assumed that the situation was covered. Is that assumption correct? There is no rush. It could be dealt with in another place.

Mr. Harold Walker

I am grateful for the suggestion the hon. Member has just made. I have just found the reference in the Standing Committee Hansard, but it would be unwise to commit myself categorically at the moment. We shall look very carefully at this matter and if necessary I shall write to the hon. Member.

Amendment agreed to.

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