HC Deb 29 February 1980 vol 979 cc1715-809

Which amendment was: No. 4, in page 1, line 11 leave out 'serious'.

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

9.35 am

Mr. Speaker: I remind the House that with this we are discussing the following amendments: No. 6, in page 1, line 13 leave out 'substantially'. No. 14, in clause 2, page 2, line 34 leave out 'substantially'.

I have had notice of a point of order from the hon. Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins).

Mr. Eric Deakins (Waltham Forest)

I understand, Mr. Speaker, that my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) wishes to raise a point of order that is not related to the Bill. Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House if he were to be allowed to make it now.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Since my parliamentary question yesterday to the Home Office, answered orally by the Minister of State, on guidelines to coroners, the Leicester coroner has made a decision which has virtually brought to an end transplantation in this country. May I ask whether you have received any request from the Government to make a statement on Monday on that decision?

Mr. Speaker

I have had no such request, but no doubt the hon. Gentleman's remarks will have been noted.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)

I should like to raise a point of order on the Bill, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not mind if I take first the point of order of which I have had notice.

Mr. Deakins

I apologise, Mr. Speaker, for the briefness of the notice, but under the circumstances it was somewhat inevitable.

I have three points of order to raise relating to the grouping of amendments, in particular the second grouping. My first point of order is that by any criteria this is a somewhat unusual grouping of amendments for discussion at the same time. Usually the rationale behind the selection of amendments by either Mr. Speaker or the Chairman of a Standing Committee is clear and straightforward, even to the dimmest of hon. Members, but on this occasion I confess that I find it rather difficult to see the logic behind grouping together the five amendments in the second group.

Normally amendments are grouped when they relate to one clause, to one subject or to a group of subjects which are in themselves related one to another. I respectfully submit that those considerations do not apply in regard to the second group of amendments. Amendment No. 7 stands on its own and, on the face of it, seems to have no connection with any of the other amendments in the group. Amendments Nos. 90, 91 and 92 go together because they relate to clause 2. However, with great respect, it is hard to see any direct connection between those three amendments and amendment No. 7, unless it is felt that clauses 1 and 2 are so closely linked that it is inevitable that we should have one debate on those four amendments.

If that were to be the case, I wonder why we have had other groupings of amendments on clause 1 which have been kept separate one from the other. Amendment No. 96 is by any standards a substantial amendment as it seeks to remove at a stroke several clauses of the Bill.

I submit that clauses 3, 4, 5 and 6 are not related to each other, except in so far as they are part of the same Bill. Certainly they are in no way related to clauses 1 and 2. The fact that they are all related in the same Bill is not, I believe, the obvious reason for grouping them altogether. Therefore, since there is no necessary connection between them, certainly on a prima facie look at the amendments, I submit that any debate covering those amendments would range over virtually the whole of the Bill and would, in effect, be another Second Reading debate. That might lead to great confusion, as the debate would switch between clauses 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6—most of the Bill. Surely such a procedure is not conducive to the good conduct of our business.

Could not consideration be given to the possibility of having separate debates on amendment No. 7, on amendments Nos. 90, 91 and 92 and on amendment No. 96? If that is considered to be too drastic, I submit, as an alternative, that amendments Nos. 7, 90, 91 and 92 should be taken together and amendment No. 96 taken separately.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I wish to make a statement. I gave a lot of thought, as the House would expect, to the selection of the amendments. I allowed the hon. Gentleman to speak at some length, although it is not customary to debate the Speaker's selection. The House puts its trust into the hands of the Speaker; and I do my best to be fair to all hon. Members.

The second series of amendments shown on the selection list today, and which appear to have substantial support from hon. Members of differing opinions, would have the effect, if agreed to, of leaving out large portions of the Bill. Should that happen, it would be impossible to move any amendments to those parts of the Bill that have been left out, and it would, therefore, have been misleading to include any such amendments in today's selection list. I stress, how- ever, that this list, like all others, is still provisional, even at this stage. If, therefore, the House were to decide to retain any part of the Bill containing amendments that I have previously selected, I should give immediate consideration to the possibility of revising the selection.

I have also indicated to the hon. Gentleman that, on the grouping that I thought wise, separate Divisions will be possible on amendments Nos. 7, 90, 91, 92 and 96.

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. You have indicated that the House is in a difficult position because of the emasculation of the Bill. Without in any way challenging your ruling—I appreciate your difficulty, and the fact that you are prepared to reconsider some aspects if certain developments take place—I submit that, as the amendments are grouped now, it would be in order to have a wide-ranging debate and that the rules that normally apply might not necessarily apply in this case.

Mr. Speaker

It would be in order to talk about any of the amendments that I have grouped together.

Mr. Ian Mikardo (Bethnal Green and Bow)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understand your ruling, which you have given with customary clarity. Of course, we cannot consider amendments to parts of the Bill that may have disappeared. With respect, Mr. Speaker, although these amendments would have the effect of removing large parts of the Bill, there is no amendment that would have the effect of removing clause 2. Therefore, the question of the best wording for clause 2 remains, irrespective of whether amendments Nos. 7 and 96 are carried. Therefore, amendments Nos. 90, 91 and 92, which seek to amend the text of clause 2, should be considered separately from amendments Nos. 7 and 96.

The question whether the House wishes to amend the present text of clause 2 is not dependent on, or in any way related to, the question whether clause 1 disappears, or whether clauses 3, 4, 5 and 6 disappear. The House will be anxious to ensure that since, in any event, clause 2 will be included, it will be possible to conduct a debate on the three amendments and on the wording of clause 2 that is uncluttered by any other considerations.

Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, Central)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise a similar point in relation to amendment No. 96. That amendment seeks to delete clauses 3, 4, 5 and 6. It is difficult to understand, if that amendment is accepted, how Members could vote separately on each of those clauses. Some hon. Members may have strong objections to one or other. There is no provision, as of now, for independent votes on each of the clauses.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is correct. Having studied the Amendment Paper, I decided that I would take this grouping. The House can decide for itself whether it wishes to deal with the amendments in that way and delete the others to allow separate votes on amendments Nos. 90, 91, 92 and 96. I shall give further consideration to the matter.

Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I appreciated the way in which you have dealt with this matter, but there is considerable concern throughout the House about it and about how it should be dealt with in order to ensure that the debate proceeds in the best possible way.

I hope that I am not anticipating your remarks, Mr. Speaker, and no one is questioning your ruling, but, in the light of the representations that have been made, will you make a fresh statement to the House about the question of selection, taking into account the remarks that have been made? That would be of great assistance.

Mr. Speaker

The right hon. Gentleman has made a reasonable request. I am prepared to consider it, and to return in a short while and explain to the House the result of my consideration.

Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)

On a slightly different point of order, Mr. Speaker, am I right in thinking, bearing in mind my experience in promoting a Private Member's Bill, that the promoter of a Private Member's Bill is in the same position as a Minister in charge of a Government Bill? If an amendment is tabled by him, the Chair will automatically give priority to that amendment. If this were a Government Bill and such a dramatic change had been proposed, would we not have had a statement before we proceeded, so that we knew what was being proposed? That would be the normal parliamentary procedure. Is it not possible for us to have a statement so that the House can be enlightened about the intentions of the promoter of the Bill?

Mr. Speaker

Such a statement will be made when we reach that stage of the Bill.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

It is unfair for us to continue with points of order that are time-consuming, when time is a factor for all hon. Members in this debate.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Last week in your provisional selection you listed amendment No. 50—one of my amendments—which proposes to leave out the whole of clause 2. This week, for the reasons that you have given, that amendment is not included. Going by your logic, Mr. Speaker, I suggest that it should be included, and perhaps you will consider that when later you make your statement. The amendments that you have called are designed to leave out clauses 3, 4, 5 and 6 and to amend clause 2. Amendment No. 50 is designed to leave out the whole of clause 2. In those circumstances, could it be taken with the other amendments?

Mr. Speaker

Of course I shall consider what the hon. Gentleman has said. We would return to his amendment if amendment No. 7 failed. However, I suggest that we now continue with the debate. I shall make a brief statement later in reply to hon. Members.

Mr. Roland Moyle (Lewisham, East)

As I was saying when the debate was adjourned, this is the most crucial group of amendments. I notice that the Minister for Health is in his place. It is the fate of Ministers of State in the Department of Health and Social Security inevitably to become embroiled in the controversy on this subject, whether they wish to do so or not.

We are discussing an amendment to clause 1(1)(b), to delete the word "substantially". But clause 1(1)(b) is affected by clause 1(1)(a), which, as a result of the decision on the last occasion, now refers to a pregnancy which has lasted for "less than 24 weeks". Clause 1(1)(a) is related by the word "and" to clause 1(1)(b).

I should like to give the Minister of State early notice that I have received a statement from his union, the British Medical Association, concerning the controlling clause 1(1)(a), which relates to clause 1(1)(b). It says: The suggestion made at the last minute by Mr. Corrie which will result in the deletion of large sections of his Bill has made matters far worse. The Bill as it now stands would mean that a doctor could go to prison for ending the pregnancy of any woman known to be carrying an abnormal baby. The absolute ban at 24 weeks with no exemptions in any circumstances would also mean that a doctor could not terminate pregnancy even to save the life of a mother. The BMA is appalled at the drastic implications of this suggestion which goes far beyond the original intentions of the Corrie Bill to which we nave already objected strongly. The Minister is responsible for administering the Abortion Act 1967. If the Bill were ever to become law, he would be responsible for its administration as an Act of Parliament. He was good enough to come to the House on the last occasion on which we debated the Bill and to give us his medical advice concerning termination of pregnancy at 20, 22, 24, 26 and 28 weeks. In view of the comment of the BMA, which relates to the amendments that we are considering this morning, I feel that he ought to make a statement on the implications of the administration of the Bill, if it were to become an Act, from the point of view of his Department.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer), in the course of the debate on these amendments on the last occasion, said that they reflect the anxieties of lawyers. I believe that for that reason they will reflect untold anxieties among doctors to an even greater degree. The amendments will also cause considerable anxieties among the electorate, and especially among women.

When I was a Minister of State and had for about two and a half years the responsibilities that the Minister now carries, my impression was that section 1 of the Abortion Act 1967 worked very well. It has been a good law in the sense that respectable people, wishing to keep within the law, may act with confidence in seeking to apply that law, and without having to look over their shoulders in case a policeman is waiting to pounce upon them. There have been few, if any, prosecutions under the Act. When a law operates without prosecutions it is an indication that it is a reasonably acceptable and good law.

Unamended, the subsection would impose considerable restrictions on the clinical freedom of doctors. Although I am not a purist or a dedicated defender of what doctors often call their clinical freedom, I believe that, unamended, the subsection would represent a substantial interference with clinical freedom.

Considerable sums of money and resources are spent on training a doctor. The unamended clause would bring about a totally unwarranted interference with the clinical freedom of doctors, to the extent that they would be seriously inhibited in carrying out their functions. A doctor would be wrong in terminating a pregnancy if he thought that the woman's life might just be at risk. He would have to come to the conclusion that the woman's health would be "substantially" at risk. That is a very difficult position in which to place a doctor.

A doctor might, for example, be of the opinion that a woman would be in danger of losing her life if her pregnancy were to continue. In all normal circumstances, her husband would be most anxious to preserve her life. If the clause remained unamended, the doctor would be most unwilling to terminate the pregnancy if he merely thought that the woman's life was at risk. In the case that we are considering the woman might die and, possibly, the foetus would die with her. The doctor, in those circumstances, would have the great comfort of having maintained his legal purity—or would be? He would have had to reach some conclusion as to what the word "substantially" meant. If the life of the woman would be at substantially greater risk if the pregnancy were to continue, under the unamended clause he could operate.

We have to come to some conclusion as to what is meant by "substantially". In this connection, I should like to remind the House of the speeches made on the last occasion by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West and my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo). My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow has a puckish manner. There was a great deal of humour to be extracted from the interpretations of "substantially", and of "grave" and "serious". Nevertheless, my hon. Friend was deadly serious in what he had to say. He reached substantially the same conclusion as that reached by my right hon. and learned Friend, who is an expert in these matters, in a more weightily delivered speech.

The words "substantially" and "serious" are imprecise in terms of the operation of the law. They would be almost pointless and superfluous if they were to be included in the Bill. In a subjective test, they would provide no protection for the views of the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie) and those who think like him. So, in the unfortunate circumstances that we have considered, perhaps the doctor should have terminated the pregnancy. But if a vague and imprecise phrase could endanger life it could also permit the saving of life and the woman could possibly have been saved.

On an objective test the phrases are so confusing that it is unlikely that they would be of any help to anybody in the absence of a long series of judicial decisions endeavouring to give some sort of precision to the meaning of these phrases by interpretation. Even that might be a possibility not open to us. It may be that the courts would decide that "substantially" and "serious" were matters that could only be decided on the facts of the case in every case. That would mean that a long series of interpretive clauses and cases would be ruled out. Therefore, the ultimate fate of any woman, the termination of whose pregnancy may have to be seriously considered, would be totally speculative with these words in the Bill. I was responsible as a Minister for administering the Abortion Act 1967 for some considerable time, and I would say that that would be most unfortunate.

10 am

None of the decisions under this subsection would fall directly to be decided by Ministers, but I am sure that pressures would build up on the Minister concerned to do something about a situation that forced doctors either to take their fate in their hands—without knowing what the outcome of their decisions would be—or made them act very cautiously.

If doctors were forced to be cautious the, perhaps unintended, effect of this Bill would be substantially to reduce the number of legal abortions. It would not have an overwhelming impact on the number of abortions. As we all know, there were abortions in large measure before the 1967 Act and no doubt there will be abortions in large measure whatever happens to the Bill. But it will affect to a considerable extent the way in which abortions will be carried out. If doctors are forced by legal means to be legally cautious, we all know what the implications of that would be in practice.

Therefore this clause has been given the form that it has through incompetence, inadvertence or malevolence. If the words "grave," "substantial" and "serious" are in the Bill through incompetence or inadvertence, now that the matter has been drawn to the attention of the sponsors, I am sure that, given the willingness that they have shown in the last few days substantially to amend the Bill, they will seek for more balanced legal adjectives to control the situation that we are discussing.

If, on the other hand, the intention is malevolent, the sponsors should withdraw those adjectives and try to come forward with procedures and measures which, in their minds, would specifically but precisely limit the occasions when a legal abortion could take place. We could then have a rational debate in which we would either be for or against these restrictive amendments. But at least everybody would know precisely what they were talking about and, if, by some chance, the measures were passed into law, the Minister, the rest of us, the legal profession and the patients would have a clearer idea about when a woman would be entitled to a legal termination of pregnancy.

What will happen with these phrases in the Bill is that the medical profession will be forced to carry the burden of deciding for us what a legal abortion is. We shall appear to be running away from our moral duty—if we allow the clause to go through unamended. Our duty is to give the medical profession the clearest and most unequivocal guidance possible as to how it should carry out its duties. How does the Minister of State see the 1967 Act, as amended by this unamended clause, being administered by his Department in future, if ever the Bill becomes the law of the land?

There are two questions. First, I should like the Minister to comment on the implications of the BMA statement that I read out at the beginning of my speech. Secondly, I would like to know how his Department sees the possibility of clause 1 being administered in its unamended form. If he has any suggestions from the Department as to how the clause might be amended to achieve greater clarity—which I agree is difficult because it is not easy to understand the minds of the sponsors of the Bill—I am sure that it would be helpful to the House to learn of them.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)

Does the right hon. Gentleman attach the same importance to the word "serious" as he does to the word "substantial"?

Mr. Moyle

That is a good point. My researches lead me to believe that from the legal point of view both words are fairly vague and imprecise. If either of them was left in the Bill the courts that will have the job of interpreting them—indeed, the doctors who will have the day to day job of trying to interpret the Bill—would be in a difficult position. All the adjectives involved in these amendments should be considered seriously with a view to their removal. I call upon the sponsors of the Bill to do that or to produce more precise ideas of what they have in mind.

The Minister for Health (Dr. Gerard Vaughan)

The right hon Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moyle), at the beginning of his constructive and thoughtful speech, put some observations to me. I am sure that he will understand if I do not pursue them at this stage as they refer to the next group of amendments and not to those now before us.

The House would not wish me to go over all the detail of the various legal arguments that have been put forward in the debate on these amendments.

Mr. Moyle

Provided that the Minister is willing to come to the House and give his views on the BMA statement, I would not wish to press him as to the time when that statement is made. But that guidance would be useful to the House.

Dr. Vaughan

I am aware of that. But we wait to see how the debate develops today.

I was saying that I do not believe that the House would wish me to go over all the detail of the legal arguments that have been put forward on these amendments. No doubt the House has already come to its own conclusion on many of the points that have been put forward. However, I know that some hon. Members are anxious that the wording of the criteria should not be capable of a purely statistical interpretation, even theoretically. Each case must be judged on its merits.

If the House feels that there should be some change to make this clear, my advice is that that would be best achieved by the addition of the word "substantially" alone. It is not necessary to include both the word "serious" and the word "substantially". I have discussed this with my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General and this is also his view.

Therefore if hon. Members feel that some change should be made they should support amendment No. 4 and opose amendment No. 6.

Mr. Peter Archer (Warley, West)

I hope that the House will bear with me while I intervene once again, not in an attempt to reply to all the points that have been made in the debate but because, on reflection, I do not think that I gave a proper answer to a question that was put to me on 15 February by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen), who is not here at the moment.

I was arguing that a doctor would have to make up his mind, in a practical situation, whether there was any risk of serious injury and whether that risk would be substantially greater if the pregnancy were allowed to continue. I said that the doctor, having formed that view, with the concurrence of a colleague, would then have to act on it, and then subsequently the matter might have to be considered by a jury which would not be bound by the doctor's view. If it formed a different view, it would follow that the doctor had committed a criminal offence.

At that point, the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West asked me whether, in my judgment, the test to be applied by the jury was objective or subjective. I have studied the Official Report, and clearly at that point I became either inaudible or incoherent—more so than usual. But, even apart from the Official Report, it struck me afterwards that I had not given the hon. Gentleman a proper answer to that question. I was anxious not to turn a debate on a real human problem into a debate on lawyers' technicalities. But it was a fair and a relevant question, and I think that in courtesy to the hon. Member, and to my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon)—and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Silkin), who mentioned this matter at a later stage in the debate—I really should essay an answer, avoiding lawyers' jargon in the process. It is an important question.

In plain English, the hon. Gentleman was asking whether, on the present text, all that the jury would have to consider is whether this doctor, in this situation, formed the view that the injury in contemplation would be serious within his definition of that word, and without regard to the way in which that word is normally used, and similarly whether a jury would have to ask whether he formed the view that the risk was substantially greater within his definition of the word "substantially". If the answer to that question were affirmative, the text would be less worrying, because an honest doctor would normally only have to say that he had formed that view, and probably a jury would accept it—unless he was very unfortunate either with his facts or with his jury.

I am bound to say that, having listened carefully to this debate, I found it hard to believe that the hon. Gentlemen who are responsible for the present text as it emerged from Committee intended that result. I think that they intended to subject doctors to a much more complete review by a jury. But I agree with the purport of the hon. Gentleman's question. It is relevant to ask: have they succeeded in that purpose in the text which they have produced?

I have thought about this question again. When I look at the way in which the courts have approached this question, certainly I would hesitate long before I would advise any doctor that, provided he was honest, he would incur no risk. That is the question that I think the House really wishes to have answered. I believe that a jury would be invited in the first instance to consider whether he had addressed his mind to the right question. I could conceive of a doctor being asked in cross-examination "Supposing that the injury were"—and then there would follow a factual description of the injury—"would you consider that to be a serious injury?" If he said "Yes", and if the jury took a different view, I could conceive that it might be asked to conclude that he had directed his mind to the wrong question.

The kind of approach which I had in mind was the approach of the courts in cases such as Tameside, of unhappy memory. There, the Minister had to ask himself whether a local education authority had behaved unreasonably, and it was the Minister's opinion which mattered. The court accepted that the Minister had applied his mind in good faith. It said "Although he thought that he had formed the opinion that the council has behaved unreasonably, he really formed a different opinion because he misapprehended the meaning of the word 'unreasonably'."

This was the reasoning of the Master of the Rolls, as reported at page 672 of the report. He said: It is on this point—on the interpretation of unreasonableness—that I think the Secretary of State must have misdirected himself. Then he considered some of the reasons of the Secretary of State, and he said: All these are reasons why the Secretary of State thinks that the new council are acting, or proposing to act, erroneously. But none of them in my view is reason for saying that the new council are acting, or proposing to act, unreasonably." A little later, he said: All things considered, I do not find any evidence on which the Secretary of State could declare himself satisfied that they had acted or were proposing to act unreasonably". 10.15 am

That kind of approach was adopted by the Court of Appeal in relation to the 1967 Act itself, in the case of The Queen v. Smith, reported in the All England Law Reports, 1974. There, of course, the criteria which were being considered were the criteria in the present 1967 Act. It is fair to say that essentially the issue was whether a doctor had reached a conclusion in good faith. But the court said, as I understand it, that a jury was entitled to consider whether he had asked himself the right question, and whether a medical man could form the view which he had formed.

The judge's direction to the jury included these words: If two doctors genuinely form an opinion in each case that they deal with that the risk of continuance is more than the risk of termination, it does not matter whether they are right or wrong in that view. If they form that opinion genuinely and in good faith, that in fact comes within the Act, and there is no guilt attached to it. Then he went on: You have to wonder in the case of —Dr. Smith— whether such a view could genuinely be held by a medical man, whether it was held in the case of Miss Rodgers in particular. Then he considered some of the evidence, and he said: You have to ask yourselves, was there any balancing of the risks involved in allowing the pregnancy to continue and allowing the pregnancy to be terminated? The Court of Appeal held that a conviction following that direction was to be upheld. There, of course, there were no words of value judgment such as the words that we are considering here.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

In seeking to arrive at the conclusion whether the doctors directed themselves properly to the correct question, would it be open to call as a matter of evidence other doctors to give their evidence as to whether it was possible that the doctor could have so directed himself reasonably?

Mr. Archer

I think that the answer is undoubtedly "Yes". In the case of Smith, there was a discussion about the very fact that medical evidence had been excluded, and I think that the court accepted that the evidence would have been relevant in asking whether a medical man could properly have arrived at that conclusion. It was relevant to consider the evidence of other doctors.

Therefore, the question to which I think that the House also wishes to address its mind is this: can a doctor say to himself "I think that there is a risk of injury. In my view, an injury of that nature would be serious. I think that the risk is greater by X per cent. if the pregnancy continues. In my view, X per cent. is substantial. If my colleague shares that view, I can operate without any fear of a criminal conviction." I think that that is the question.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Will my right hon. and learned Friend address himself to the argument used by the Minister in order to defeat this amendment on the word "substantially"? What he said was that the House would be against a statistical balance and that it would want more. Surely if "substantially" is included in the Bill, what we should have is a statistical balance on one reading of the word. It would just be a higher statistical balance. Instead of 50–50 it would be 60–40 or 75–25. The real difficulty about the word "substantially" is that we would not know which statistical balance it would be. It would be one thing to a jury, and another thing to a lay doctor. Surely this kind of confusion and doubt is exactly what is intended to be imported into the Bill by "substantially."

Mr. Archer: I entirely agree. It is not quite the point on which I was addressing the House. I wanted to elucidate my answer with a slightly different question. But I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. If the House is concerned that there shall be a balancing, we do not need the word "substantially". My hon. Friend and I, in our contributions on 15 February, dealt with what has been called the statistical approach. I think that on the present wording that is undoubtedly an incorrect approach. I an comforted by the fact that the Lane committee took that view. I do not understand how the addition of "substantially" is necessary if that is all that the House wishes. If "substantially" is added, something else will have to be done to the balancing. We will have to say "The risk in one case is 10 per cent greater than the risk in the other, and 10 per cent. is substantial" or "is not substantial".

That is a totally different exercise. As I understand it, the Minister was not recommending the use of the word for that reason. He was merely saying that that was the purpose as expressed by those who were responsible for the present text.

Mr. S. C. Silkin (Dulwich)

My right hon. and learned Friend may draw some assistance from the provisions of the Abortion Act. In section 1 (1)(a), with which we are concerned in the proposed revised form, "substantial" does not appear. In subsection (1)(b) we are dealing with the risk that the child would suffer from physical or mental abnormalities when born. When speaking about a child in the womb, the word "substantial" is used.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the difference between the two provisions in the 1967 Act is designed deliberately to make the test a stiffer one when we are dealing with the foetus? If we introduce the same test and the same word into the subsection that deals with the health or life of a pregnant woman, we shall be using it—and the courts will construe it—in the same sense as it is now used in relation to the foetus and, therefore, as meaning something not minimal but considerable.

Mr. Archer

I totally agree with my right hon. and learned Friend. I am comforted by the fact that the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Serkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) is nodding to indicate that that was his intention in including "substantial" in the Act. As my hon. Friend the Member for York said on a previous occasion, if "substantially" is added the courts will attempt to give some meaning to it. They will not assume that Parliament added the word without intending it to mean anything.

I said at the beginning of my remarks that I sought only briefly to intervene because I did not wish to appear discourteous in respect of a fair and relevant question put to me by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West.

Mr. Moyle

We know what the Government's advice is, but we have had no indication why that advice has been reached. It may be—I have some sympathy with the Minister—that the Minister will find himself in difficulty as a non-lawyer if he attempts to give an explanation. If that is the position, will be arrange for the Attorney-General to address the House to explain the reasoning behind the advice that the Government have given?

Mr. Archer

The House and the Minister will have heard what my right hon. Friend has said.

The question that a doctor will ask himself will be the one that I have attempted to pose. As I understand it, I was being asked "If a doctor answered the question honestly, could be be sure that he would not find that he had comitted a criminal offence?" I do not believe that there is a lawyer in the House who would confidently advise the doctor that the answer to that question was in the affirmative.

Mr. Orme

The Attorney-General is now with us.

Mr. Archer

The Attorney-General has heard what has been said, and he may wish to intervene.

The conclusion that I have reached, subject to correction, is that any doctor who terminates a pregnancy, assuming that the existing wording of the Bill were to reach the statute, would have reason for real anxiety about his future, except in the clearest case. Those who were responsible for the existing text have substantially achieved in that text what I believe to have been their purpose. In the interests of justice to doctors and of compassion to their patients, I hope that the House will reject that purpose.

Mr. Foreman (Carshalton)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 183, Noes 147.

Division No. 202] AYES 10.30 am
Abse, Leo Fookes, Miss Janet Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Alison, Michael Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Ogden, Eric
Alton, David Garel-Jones, Tristan Page, John (Harrow, West)
Aspinwall, Jack Grieve, Percy Page, Rt Hon Sir R. Graham
Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Parry, Robert
Beith, A. J. Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon) Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Patten, John (Oxford)
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Pawsey, James
Berry, Hon Anthony Hawkins, Paul Pendry, Tom
Bevan, David Gilroy Heddle, John Penhaligon, David
Biggs-Davison, John Henderson, Barry Percival, Sir Ian
Blackburn, John Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire) Pollock, Alexander
Boscawen, Hon Robert Home Robertson, John Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)
Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West) Hooson, Tom Price, David (Eastleigh)
Bowden, Andrew Hunt, David (Wirral) Raison, Timothy
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Hurd, Hon Douglas Rathbone, Tim
Bradford, Rev. R. Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)
Braine, Sir Bernard Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Bray, Dr Jeremy Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Bright, Graham Kitson, Sir Timothy Robertson, George
Brinton, Tim Knight, Mrs Jill Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)
Brooke, Hon Peter Lambie, David Rost, Peter
Brotherton, Michael Lang, Ian St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman
Butcher, John Lee, John Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Cadbury, Jocelyn Le Marchant, Spencer Silvester, Fred
Campbell, Ian Lester, Jim (Beeston) Sims, Roger
Campbell-Savours, Dale Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Skeet, T. H. H.
Canavan, Dennis Loveridge, John Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Lyell, Nicholas Smith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Mabon, Rt Hon D. J. Dickson Speed, Keith
Chalker, Mrs Lynda McCrindle, Robert Speller, Tony
Channon, Paul McElhone, Frank Stainton, Keith
Churchill, W. S. MacGregor, John Steen, Anthony
Clark, Sir William (Croydon South) MacKay, John (Argyll) Stewart, Rt Hon Donald (W Isles)
Clegg, Sir Walter MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Cohen, Stanley McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, Central) Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)
Cope, John McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury) Stradling Thomas, J.
Cormack, Patrick McNamara, Kevin Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)
Corrie, John McQuarrie, Albert Tebbit, Norman
Costain, A. P. Maguire. Frank (Fermanagh) Thompson, Donald
Craigen, J. M. (Glasgow, Maryhill) Marlow, Tony Tinn, James
Cranborne, Viscount Marshall, David (Gl'sgow, Shettles'n) Trippier, David
Crouch, David Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Urwin, Rt Hon Tom
Cunliffe, Lawrence Marten, Neil (Banbury) Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Dalyell, Tam Martin, Michael (Gl'gow, Springb'rn) Waddington, David
Dean, Paul (North Somerset) Mates, Michael Wakeham, John
Dempsey, James Mather, Carol Waldegrave, Hon William
Dewar, Donald Mayhew, Patrick Wall, Patrick
Dixon, Donald Mellor, David Waller, Gary
Douglas, Dick Meyer, Sir Anthony Wells, John (Maidstone)
Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale) Millan, Rt Hon Bruce White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
Durant, Tony Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch) While, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Eadie, Alex Mills, lain (Meriden) Whitney, Raymond
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke) Mills, Peter (West Devon) Wickenden, Keith
Eggar, Timothy Moate, Roger Wiggin, Jerry
Elliott, Sir William Molyneauz, James Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
English, Michael Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe) Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)
Ewing, Harry Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes) Winterton, Nicholas
Eyre, Reginald Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)
Fell, Anthony Mudd, David TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Fisher, Sir Nigel Neubert, Michael Mr. Vivian Bendall and
Fitch, Alan Newton, Tony Mr. Michael Ancram.
Fitt, Gerard Normanton, Tom
Adley, Robert Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Cunningham, George (Islington S)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Brown, Ronald W. (Hackney S) Davis, Clinton (Hackney Central)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ernest Browne, John (Winchester) Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Buchan, Norman Deakins, Eric
Ashton, Joe Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham) Carmichael, Neil Dobson, Frank
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Carter-Jones, Lewis Dubs, Alfred
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Eastham, Ken
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Coleman, Donald Ennals, Rt Hon David
Bradley, Tom Cook, Robin F. Evans, John (Newton)
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Cowans, Harry Faith, Mrs Sheila
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Cryer, Bob Field, Frank
Flannery, Martin Lofthouse, Geoffrey Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
Fletcher, L. R. (Ilkeston) Lyon, Alexander (York) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Lyons, Edward (Bradford West) Sandelson, Neville
Foot, Rt Hon Michael McDonald, Dr Oonagh Scott, Nicholas
Forman, Nigel McKay, Allen (Penistone) Sever, John
Forrester, John McKelvey, William Sheerman, Barry
Foster, Derek Maclennan, Robert Shersby, Michael
Foulkes, George McMahon, Andrew Short, Mrs Renée
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald McWilliam, John Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Freud, Clement Marshall, Jim (Leicester South' Silverman, Julius
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Mason, Rt Hon Roy Snape, Peter
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Maxton, John Soley, Clive
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Maynard, Miss Joan Spearing, Nigel
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Mikardo, Ian Spriggs, Leslie
Glyn, Dr Alan Miller, Dr M. S. (East Kilbride Steel, Rt Hon David
Golding, John Mitcheli, R. C. (Soton, lichen) Stoddart, David
Graham, Ted Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Strang, Gavin
Grant, John (Islington C) Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)
Grist, Ian Morton, George Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Moyle. Rt Hon Roland Thomas, Mike (Newcastle East)
Haynes, Frank Needham, Richard Thomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)
Heffer, Eric S. Newens, Stanley Tilley, John
Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall) O'Neill, Martin Torney, Tom
Homewood, William Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Townend, John (Bridlington)
Hooley, Frank Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Palmer, Arthur Watkins, David
Howells, Geraint Park, George Weetch, Ken
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North) Pavitt, Laurie Welsh, Michael
John, Brynmor Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) Wheeler, John
Johnson, James (Hull West) Prescott, John Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Kilfedder, James A. Price, Christopher (Lew, sham West) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Race, Reg Young, David (Bolton East)
Knox, David Radice, Giles
Lamborn, Harry Rhodes James, Robert TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Leadbitter, Ted Richardson, Jo Mr. William Hamilton and
Lewis, Arthur (Newham North West) Roberts, Gwllym (Cannock) Mr. Stan Thorne.
Litherland, Robert Rooker, J. W.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the amendment be made:—

The House proceeded to a Division

Dr. Glyn

(seated and covered): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the amendments to go through without the Attorney-General having given us, on the Floor of the House, a definition of the word "substantially" so that we could consider the effects that it would have on the Bill if we voted for them?

Mr. Speaker

First, may I say that I much appreciate the embarrassment that the hon. Gentleman had in addressing me with a hat on. I noticed that he kept wanting to take it off.

Secondly, the House has decided that the Question should be put, which precludes any other statements.

We seem to be a long time waiting for the other Lobby.

The House having divided: Ayes 201, Noes 145.

Division No. 203] AYES [10.38 am
Adley, Robert Cadbury, Jocelyn Dubs, Alfred
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ernest Carmichael, Neil Eastham, Ken
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Carter-Jones, Lewis Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke)
Ashton, Joe Cartwright, John Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire)
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham) Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Ennals, Rt Hon David
Eagier, Gordon A. T. Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Evans, John (Newton)
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Coleman, Donald Faith, Mrs Sheila
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Cook, Robin F. Field, Frank
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Cope, John Flannery, Martin
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Costain, A. P. Fletcher, L. R. (Ilkeston)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Cowans, Harry Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon) Crouch, David Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Crowther, J. S. Forman, Nigel
Berry, Hon Anthony Cryer, Bob Forrester, John
Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West) Cunningham, George (Islington S) Foster, Derek
Bradley, Tom Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Foulkes, George
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Davis, Clinton (Hackney Central) Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Brooke, Hon Peter Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford) Freud, Clement
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Deakins, Eric Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Garrett, John (Norwich S)
Brown, Ronald W. (Hackney S) Dewar, Donald Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)
Browne, John (Winchester) Dobson, Frank Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Buchan, Norman Dormand, Jack Glyn, Dr Alan
Golding, John Marshall, Jim (Leicester South) Sever, John
Graham, Ted Mason, Rt Hon Roy Shaw, Michael (Soarborough)
Grant, John (Islington C) Maxton, John Sheerman, Barry
Grist, Ian Maynard, Miss Joan Shersby, Michael
Havers,Rt Hon Sir Michael Mellor, David Short, Mrs Renée
Haynes, Frank Mikardo, Ian Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Heffer, Eric S. Millars, Rt Hon Bruce Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Henderson, Barry Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & eddltch) Silverman, Julius
Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire) Miller, Dr M. S. (East Kilbride) Silvester, Fred
Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall) Mitchell R. C. (Soton, lichen) Smith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire)
Homewood, William Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe) Snape, Peter
Hooley, Frank Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Soley, Clive
Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth) Spearing, Nigel
Howells, Geraint Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes) Spriggs, Leslie
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North) Morton, George Squire, Robin
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Moyle, Rt Hon Roland Steel, Rt Hon David
John, Brynmor Needham, Richard Stoddart, David
Johnson, Walter (Derby South) Newens, Stanley Stradling Thomas, J.
jopiing, Rt Hon Michael Newton, Tony Strang, Gavin
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Ogden, Eric Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)
Kerr, Russell O'Neill, Martin Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Kilfedder, James A. Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Thomas, Mike (Newcastle East)
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Thomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)
Knox, David Palmer, Arthur Tilley, John
Lambie, David Park, George Torney, Tom
Lamborn, Harry Pavitt, Laurie Townend, John (Bridlington)
Leadbitter, Ted Penhaligon, David Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Lee, John Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Leighton, Ronaid Prescott, John Watkins, David
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Price, Christopher (Lewisham West) Weetch, Ken
Lewis, Arthur (Newham North West) Race, Reg Welsh, Michael
Litherland, Robert Radice, Giles Wheeler, John
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Rathbone, Tim Whitehead, Phillip
Lyell, Nicholas Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South) Wiggin, Jerry
Lyon, Alexander (York) Rhodes James, Robert Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Lyons, Edward (Bradford West) Richardson, Jo Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Roberts, Gwllym (Cannock) Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)
MacGregor, John Robertson, George Winnick, David
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Rooker, J. W. Wriggiesworth, Ian
MacKay, John (Argyll) Ross, Emest (Dundee West) Young, David (Bolton East)
McKelvey, William Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Maclennan, Robert Rost, Peter TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
McWilliam, John Sandelson, Neville Mr. William Hamilton and
Magee, Bryan Scott, Nicholas Mr. Stan Thorne.
Marland, Paul
Alison, Michael Dixon, Donald Loveridge, John
Alton, David Douglas, Dick Mabon, Rt Hon Dr. J Dickson
Ancram, Michael Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale) McCrlndle, Robert
Aspinwall, Jack Dunnett, Jack McElhone, Frank
Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East) Durant, Tony MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Beith, A. J. Eadie, Alex McMahon, Andrew
Bevan, David Gilroy Eggar, Timothy McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, Central)
Biggs-Davison, John Elliott, Sir William McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)
Blackburn, John English, Michael McNamara, Kevin
Boscawen, Hon Robert Ewing, Harry McQuarrie, Albert
Bowden, Andrew Eyre, Reginald Maguire, Frank (Fermanagh)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Fell, Anthony Marlow, Tony
Bradford, Rev. R. Fenner, Mrs Peggy Marshall, David (Gl'sgow.Shettles'n)
Braine, Sir Bernard Fisher, Sir Nigel Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Fitch, Alan Marten, Neil (Banbury)
Bright, Graham Fitt, Gerard Martin, Michael (Gl'gow, Springb'rn)
Brinton, Tim Fookes, Miss Janet Mates, Michael
Brotherton, Michael Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Mather, Carol
Campbell-Savours, Dale Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Mayhew, Patrick
Canavan, Dennis Garel-Jones, Tristan Meyer, Sir Anthony
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Grieve, Percy Mills, lain (Meriden)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Mills, Peter (West Devon)
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Moate, Roger
Channon, Paul Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Molyneaux, James
Churchill, W. S. Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Montgomery, Fergus
Clark, Sir William (Croydon South) Hawkins, Paul Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)
Clegg, Sir Walter Heddle, John Mudd, David
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Hooson, Tom Neubert, Michael
Cohen, Stanley Hunt, David (Wirral) Normanton, Tom
Cormack, Patrick Hurd, Hon Douglas Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Corrie, John Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Page, John (Harrow, West)
Craigen, J. M. (Glasgow, Maryhill) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Page, Rt Hon Sir R. Graham
Cranborne, Viscount Kitson, Sir Timothy Parry, Robert
Cunliffe, Lawrence Knight, Mrs Jill Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Dalyell, Tam Lang, Ian Patten, John (Oxford)
Dean, Paul (North Somerset) Le Marchant, Spencer Pawsey, James
Dempsey, James Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)
Price, David (Eastleign) Steen, Anthony Wall, Patrick
Raison, Timothy Stewart, Rt Hon Donald (W Isles) Waller, Gary
Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal) Stewart, Ian (Hitchin) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire) White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW) White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Ross, Wm. (Londonderry) Tebbit, Norman Whitney, Raymond
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman Thompson, Donald Wickenden, Keith
Sims, Roger Tinn, James Winterton, Nicholas
Skeet, T. H. H. Trippier, David
Smith, Cyril (Rochdale) Urwin, Rt Hon Tom TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Speed, Keith van Straubenzee, W. R. Mr. Vivian Bendall and
Speller, Tony Waddington, David Mr. Ian Campbell.
Stainton, Keith Wakeham, John

Question accordingly agreed to.

Amendment proposed: No. 6, in page 1, line 13, leave out "substantially".—[Mr. Alexander W. Lyon.]

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The House divided: Ayes 177, Noes 180.

Division No. 204] AYES [10.52 am
Adley, Robert Gardiner, George (Reigate) Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Anderson, Donald Garrett, John (Norwich S) Paimer, Arthur
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Park, George
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ernest Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Pavitt, Laurie
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Glyn, Dr Alan Penhaligon, David
Ashton, Joe Golding, John Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham) Graham, Ted Prescott, John
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Grant, John (Islington C) Price, Christopher (Lewisham West)
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Grist, Ian Race, Reg
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Haynes, Frank Radice, Giles
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Heffer, Eric S. Rees, Rt Hon Meriyn (Leeds South)
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire) Rhodes James, Robert
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall) Richardson, Jo
Bidwell, Sydney Homewood, William Roberts, Ernest (Hackney North)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur (M'brough) Hooley, Frank Roberts, Gwllym (Cannock)
Bradley, Tom Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Robertson, George
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Howells, Geraint Rooker, J. W.
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North) Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Brown, Ronald W. (Hackney S) John, Brynmor Ryman, John
Browne, John (Winchester) Johnson, Walter (Derby South) Scott, Nicholas
Buchan, Norman Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Sever, John
Cadbury, Jocelyn Kerr, Russell Sheerman, Barry
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Kilfedder, James A. Short, Mrs Renée
Carmichael, Neil Kilroy-Silk, Robert Silkln, Rt Hon John (Deptlord)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Knox, David Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Cartwright, John Lambie, David Silverman, Julius
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Lamborn, Harry Smith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Leadbitter, Ted Snape, Peter
Coleman, Donald Leighton, Ronald Soley, Clive
Cook, Robin F. Lewis, Arthur (Newham North West) Spearing, Nigel
Cowans, Harry Litherland, Robert Spriggs, Leslie
Crouch, David Lofthouse, Geoffrey Squire, Robin
Crowther, J. S. Lyon, Alexander (York) Steel, Rt Hon David
Cryer, Bob Lyons, Edward (Bradford West) Stoddart, David
Cunningham, George (Islington S) McDonald, Dr Oonagh Strang, Gavin
Davis, Clinton (Hackney Central) MacGregor, John Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)
Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford) McKay, Allen (Penistone) Thomas, Mike (Newcastle East)
Deakins, Eric McKelvey, William Thomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) McWilliam, John Tilley, John
Dewar, Donald Magee, Bryan Torney, Tom
Dobson, Frank Marland, Paul Townend, John (Bridlington)
Dormand, Jack Marshall, Jim (Leicester South) Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Dubs, Alfred Mason, Rt Hon Roy Waller, Gary
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Maxton, John Watkins, David
Eastham, Ken Maynard, Miss Joan Weetch, Ken
Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire) Mikardo, Ian Wellbeloved, James
Ennals, Rt Hon David Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Welsh, Michael
Evans, John (Newton) Miller, Dr M S. (East Kilbride) Wheeler, John
Faith, Mrs Sheila Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen) Whitehead, Phillip
Field, Frank Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Fiannery, Martin Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth) Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)
Fietcher, L. R. (Ilkeston) Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes) Winnick, David
Fietcher, Ted (Darlington) Morton, George Wriggiesworth, Ian
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Moyle, Rt Hon Roland Wright, Sheila
Forman, Nigel Needham, Richard Young, David (Bolton East)
Forrester, John Newens, Stanley
Foster, Derek Ogden, Eric TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Foulkes, George O'Neill, Martin Mr. William Hamilton and
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Mr. Stan Thorne.
Freud, Clement
Abse, Leo Fookes, Miss Janet Neubert, Michael
Alison, Michael Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Newton, Tony
Alton, David Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Normanton, Tom
Ancram, Michael Garel-Jones, Tristan Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Aspinwall, Jack Greenway, Harry Page, John (Harrow, West)
Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East) Grieve, Percy Page, Rt Hon Sir R. Graham
Beith, A. J. Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Parry, Robert
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon) Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Patten, John (Oxford)
Berry, Hon Anthony Hannam, John Pawsey, James
Bevan, David Gilroy Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Percival, Sir Ian
Biggs-Davison, John Havers,Rt Hon Sir Michael Pollock, Alexander
Biackburn, John Hawkins, Paul Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Henderson, Barry Price, David (Eastleigh)
Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West) Home Robertson, John Raison, Timothy
Bowden, Andrew Hooson, Tom Rathbone, Tim
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Hunt, David (Wirral) Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)
Bradford, Rev. R. Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Rees-Davies, W. R.
Braine, Sir Bernard Jessel, Toby Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Bray, Dr Jeremy Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Bright, Graham Jones, Dan (Burnley) Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)
Brinton, Tim Jopling, Rt Hon Michael St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman
Brooke, Hon Peter Kitson, Sir Timothy Sandelson, Neville
Brotherton, Michael Knight, Mrs Jill Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Butcher, John Lang,Ian Shersby, Michael
Campbell-Savours, Dale Le Marchant, Spencer Silvester, Fred
Canavan, Dennis Lester, Jim (Beeston) Sims, Roger
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Skeet, T. H. H.
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Loveridge, John Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Lyell, Nicholas Speed, Keith
Channon, Paul Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson Speller, Tony
Churchill, W. S. McCrindle, Robert Stainton, Keith
Clark, Sir William (Croydon South) McElhone, Frank Steen, Anthony
Clegg, Sir Walter MacKay, John (Argyll) Stewart, Rt Hon Donald (W Isles)
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Cohen, Stanley Maclennan, Robert Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)
Cope, John McMahon, Andrew Stradling Thomas, J.
Cormack, Patrick McMillan, Tom (Giasgow, Central) Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)
Corrie, John McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury) Tebbit, Norman
Costain, A. P. McNamara, Kevin Thompson, Donald
Craigen, J. M. (Glasgow, Maryhill) McQuarrie, Albert Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Cranborne, Viscount Maguire, Frank (Fermanagh) Tinn, James
Cunliffe, Lawrence Marlow, Tony Trippier, David
Dalyell, Tam Marshall, David (Gl'sgow,Shettles'n) Urwin, Rt Hon Tom
Dean, Paul (North Somerset) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) van Straubenzee, W. R.
Dempsey, James Marten, Neil (Banbury) Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Dixon, Donald Martin, Michael (Gl'gow, Springb'rn) Waddington, David
Douglas, Dick Mather, Carol Wakeham, John
Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale) Mayhew, Patrick Waldegrave, Hon William
Dunnett, Jack Mellor, David Wall, Patrick
Durant, Tony Meyer, Sir Anthony Wells, John (Maidstone)
Eadie, Alex Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch) White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke) Mills, lain (Meriden) While, James (Glasgow, poilok)
Eggar, Timothy Mills, Peter (West Devon) Whitney, Raymond
Elliott, Sir William Moate, Roger Wickenden, Keith
English, Michael Molyneaux, James Wiggin, Jerry
Ewing, Harry Montgomery, Fergus Winterton, Nicholas
Fell, Anthony Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester) TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Fisher, Sir Nigel Mudd, David Mr. Vivian Bendall and
Fitch, Alan Murphy, Christopher Mr. Ian Campbell.
Fitt, Gerard

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Speaker

I have a brief statement to make.

At the request of the House, I have been giving further consideration to the selection of amendments. On reflection, I have decided that my selection of the group of amendments beginning with amendment No. 7—amendments Nos. 90. 91. 92 and 96—must stand, and that accordingly they must be discussed together. However, I am quite willing to add to the group for discussion amendment No. 50, in the name of the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon), as he requested. If at the end of the discussion the House disagrees with amendment No. 90. I shall be willing to permit a separate vote on amendment No. 50.

Mr. Deakins

Further to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, which we fully accept, may I make the following submission. The grouping which, on consideration, you have confirmed is very wide ranging, as was pointed out this morning. It covers more than half the Bill. I submit that if you or your successor in the Chair are asked to consider a closure motion you should take into account the fact that it is a wide-ranging debate, and that therefore the normal permissible two hours or so before such a motion can be accepted should perhaps be extended.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman knows that whenever the closure is accepted consideration is given to every aspect, as it will be today.

Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The last of the amendments in the group that you have confirmed will be taken together is amendment No. 96, which is to delete clauses 3, 4, 5 and 6. As set out in "Erskine May", I believe that I am entitled at this stage to make a submission to you in respect of amendment No. 96.

The issue is whether it is right that an amendment seeking to delete several clauses of a Bill should be taken as one amendment or should be divided. I am not suggesting that an amendment to delete several clauses together on Report is out of order; there are plenty of precedents for such an amendment being accepted as being in order. Nor am I suggesting that it is wrong for such an amendment, in all circumstances, to be selected for discussion and for vote.

However, the authorities suggest that there is another way of a Member's addressing himself to the point. At page 150 of the Manual of Procedure—such a superior work to "Erskine May", in my view—issued on the authority of the Speaker, paragraph 214 takes note of the possibility of an amendment at Report stage proposing the deletion of one clause. The relevant sentence reads: An amendment to leave out a clause is in order at report stage. I am not suggesting that, because of that wording, it is improper for an amendment to be proposed to leave out several clauses together. I simply take note that that book—in some ways the most authoritative book on the procedure of the House—does not actually contemplate the possibility of deleting several clauses together in one amendment but contemplates only the deleting of a clause and seems to expect that if an hon. Member wants to delete three clauses he must table three amendments each to delete a clause.

However, unfortunately, "Erskine May" is different, and we find the question considered on page 380 under the heading "Complicated Questions". It is stated there as follows: The ancient rule that when a complicated question is proposed to the House, the House may order such question to be divided, has been variously interpreted at different periods. Originally the division of such a question appears to have required an order of the House, and in 1770 a motion 'That it is the rule of this House, that a complicated question which prevents any Member from giving his free assent or dissent to any part thereof ought, if required, to be divided,' was negatived on a division. As late as 1883 it was generally held that an individual Member had no right to insist upon the division of a complicated question. But "Erskine May" goes on: In 1888, however, the Speaker ruled that two propositions which were then before the House in one motion could be taken separately if any Member objected to their being taken together. Although this ruling does not appear to have been based on any previous decision, it has since remained unchallenged. A complicated question can, however, only be divided if each part is capable of standing on its own. That last sentence has no relevance here, because a complex amendment proposing to leave out four clauses can obviously be divided so as to leave out each clause individually. That qualification, therefore, does not apply.

The references given in the footnotes to that paragraph in "Erskine May" are most relevant to us with regard to what happened on 12 April 1972 on the Sound Broadcasting Bill, when there was an amendment, also in the name of the originator of the Bill, in that case the Government, to leave out two subsections of a clause. I quote Mr. Speaker's words on that occasion: The next amendment is No. 11. I have received a request that that amendment should be divided. I therefore ask the Minister formally to move…"—[Official Report, 12 April 1972; Vol. 834, c. 1313.] Then he indicated that the Minister should move the first bit of it and that the rest of the amendment would be taken as a separate amendment. It was so done.

The question at issue here, Mr. Speaker, is when that discretion by the Chair should be exercised, and what right an individual Member has to ask the Chair—or almost require, according to the procedures of the House—that the Chair should exercise that discretion. I am s not suggesting that it would always be wrong to turn down such a request. I can envisage circumstances—for example, on a long Bill where there is a whole part of it relating to one discrete subject—when it might be right to permit an amendment to be moved to knock out the whole of that part of the Bill.

11.15 am

At the other extreme, one could have a Bill of five or 10 clauses, with each clause as different from the others as may be, so that a motion to knock out, say, four clauses—as is proposed here—would be a proposal to knock out four separate subjects all quite different from one another and not hanging together by any criterion at all. I submit that the latter is in the criterion which the Chair ought to take into account. Do these four clauses have more in common with each other than clauses in any Bill in general have with each other?

In 1972, in the case to which I referred, the two subsections which Mr. Speaker then accepted ought to be divided both related to sound broadcasting, and the whole Bill did not relate only to sound broadcasting. But Mr. Speaker plainly decided that, although both subsections related to that one subject, nevertheless what they did separately with regard to sound broadcasting was sufficiently different that the question to delete those two subsections ought to be taken as two questions, each to delete one subsection.

Relating that precedent to the case before us, we have here not a proposal to delete three or four subsections of one clause, which would imply that they all hung together in some way, but a proposal to delete four separate clauses of the Bill. Although, as I have said, in some Bills four clauses could be very much a series, that is not the case here. Clause 3, the first proposed to be left out, relates to conscientious objection to participation in an abortion. Clause 4 relates to the Withdrawal of approval of premises. Clause 5 relates to "Offences by bodies corporate." Clause 6 relates to the Time limit for commencement of summary proceedings. Thus, all of those clauses have nothing in common with one another except what any bit of the Bill has in common with any other part of it.

I submit, therefore, Mr. Speaker, that by the practices of the House, confirmed as recently as 1972 on the Sound Broadcasting Bill, and a fortiori on that decision, the amendment to delete the four clauses is subject to the practice that a Member may require it, or ask you to require it, to be divided. If that is done, it will not prevent separate bits of that amendment from being debated together, but the precedent of 1972 suggests that the question, when put, would in fact be four questions, not one. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to rule that it is permissible to ask for the amendment forcibly to be divided, with the result that there would have to be four decisions of the House in respect of each part of it.

Mr. Speaker

The House listened, as I did, with great care to the hon. Gentleman's submission of his point of order and to the researches which he has undertaken in connection with it. He is quite right in the precedents which he has quoted. However, if the amendment is discussed as one and the House then decides, on principle, that it does not approve the amendment, it will be possible to divide it afterwards. But I have included it in the group. I gave a lot of thought to it, not only the first time but the second time when I left the Chamber to consider the matter. That is my selection. I have grouped the amendments together. I have now added No. 50.

If the House decides that it does not approve amendment No. 96, it will be quite possible for a number of amendments to be called.

Mr. Cunningham

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise for continuing, and I shall be brief. Could you guide us on how that would work? You say that we shall debate amendment No. 96—the totality of it—as part of the group. If that is carried, it is carried. But if it is defeated, how do we then, since there will at that point be no amendment before the House, come to take a decision in respect of some part of it?

Mr. Speaker

I should in the circumstances be prepared to accept a manuscript amendment on the respective clauses, which would meet the point that the hon. Gentleman makes.

Mr. Cunningham

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I just say that that is not the course which was followed in 1972. Mr. Speaker did not then say that the House had to decide on the amendment as it stood and then, if it defeated it, one could divide it up and see whether the House wanted any part of it. In effect, he said "I have had a request to divide the amendment", and he implied by his wording that he was almost not free, by the practice of the House, not to give in to that request.

Mr. Speaker

I well recall that incident because I was sitting on the Opposition Front Bench at the time. I have tried to meet the wishes of the House as best I can within the grouping of the amendments.

Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)

You may be pleased to hear, Mr. Speaker, that I wish to raise a point of order that is less complicated and perhaps less valid than that of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham). You heard my hon. Friend the Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins) suggest that since the group of amendments referred to different matters, and since they are complicated, you should be particularly careful about when you should or should not accept a closure motion. There is a contrary point of view, Mr. Speaker. I think that the majority of the House might want to take decisions by vote as well as by voices today.

Mr. Speaker

The House might as well know that I do not allow anyone to try to influence my personal judgment on the question of the closure. It is for those of us who have the responsibility of sitting in this Chair to use our judgment to the best advantage, and that is what I hope to do. The House should remember that our only interest is to see that fair play is done to both sides of the House.

Mr. Maclennan


Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that it is unfair to take up time, which is a very important factor, as everyone knows, on points of order when we ought to be getting on with the Bill.

Mr. Maclennan

Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Fins- bury (Mr. Cunningham), Mr. Speaker, I wish in no way to cast any doubt upon your ruling. However, the rulings of the Chair guide the House not only on this occasion but on subsequent occasions. My hon. Friend has sought to be guided by the precedents that he quoted.

If the House is to know how best to proceed in difficult areas of this kind, it is important not only that it should know what the decision of a particular Speaker is, but the reasons that led him to that decision. Therefore, not solely bearing in mind the considerations of today's debate, but for the avoidance of doubt in the future, if you have chosen not to follow the precedent or the interpretation of the precedent established by your predecessor, would you be willing to consider indicating the reasons that led you to distinguish the present case from that of 1972?

Mr. Speaker

I am prepared to make a statement in the very near future on the important question raised by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) to clarify the whole position.

Mr. Foot

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I fully acknowledge the difficulties caused by points of order being raised at a time such as this, but the House is in considerable difficulties in the light of the representations of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham).

I know that it is much to ask at this stage, Mr. Speaker, but can you not give fresh consideration to the possibility that after the debate has proceeded for a while, and after all the matters that can be raised have been—those matters are influenced by the serious statement made by the British Medical Association this morning—separate votes may be allowed according to the practice adopted in the House in the past? Some of us hope that during the earlier part of the debate you will consider the matter in order that we may have further debate on these issues at a later stage. I know that you have given your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but I hope that even during the course of the debate which may now follow you will take account of the speeches that are made and consider whether you can make a further statement to the House on the issue

Mr. Speaker

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. 1 always want to be as helpful as I can to the House. Of course I will look very seriously at the matter again when, as I hope, I leave the Chair very shortly, and I will say something during the course of the debate.

Mr. John Corrie (Bute and North Ayrshire)

I beg to move amendment No. 7, in page 2, leave out lines 8 to 16.

Mr. Speaker

I remind the House that with this we may take the following amendments: No. 90, in clause 2, page 2, line 19, leave out from beginning to end of line 22 on page 3 and insert—

'(1) A person shall not be guilty of an offence under the law relating to abortion when a pregnancy is terminated by a registered medical practitioner if two registered medical practitioners are of the opinion, formed in good faith—

  1. (a) that the termination is necessary to preserve the life or to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman; or
  2. (b) that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.

(2) The opinion of two registered medical practitioners shall not be required for the purposes of subsection (1) of this section in any case where the registered medical practitioner terminating the pregnancy is of the opinion, formed in good faith that the termination is immediately necessary for any purpose mentioned in paragraph (a) of that subsection.

(3) Section 1(3) of this Act shall apply for the purposes of this section, except in a case within subsection (2) of this section.'.

No. 91, page 3, line 27, leave out 'sections 1 to 1B' and insert 'sections 1 and 1A'.

No. 92, page 3, line 36, leave out lines 36 to 40.

No. 96, in clause 3, page 4, line 1, leave out from beginning to end of line 7 on page 6.

No. 50, in clause 2, page 2, line 17, leave out from beginning to end of page 3.

Mr. Corrie

The right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) was perfectly fair in making the point that the House should know why the sponsors of the Bill reached the conclusions that they have, and why we have put our names to the amendments in question. I am sure that no one in the House knows better than he that the one thing that a private Member does not have is time, but that a Government, by their whipping, can put a Bill through the House.

The only course open to a Back-Bench Member if he is to succeed with a Bill of this kind is to seek a compromise or meet the objections of its opponents. That is why I have tried during the past week to achieve a compromise. It was made perfectly clear to me that, if the word "substantially" remained in the Bill, no compromise would be possible. Therefore, we could not know until now whether a compromise was possible. The word "substantially" has remained in the Bill, and it is therefore apparent that we will not reach a compromise with my opponents.

It is my job to try to get the Bill through the House in a form that proves acceptable to the House. One thing has been absolutely clear from my discussions with hon. Members on both sides of the argument this week. They want a conclusion reached on the Bill one way or the other. Above all, they want that conclusion to be a Third Reading vote so that a decision can be seen to have been made in the House.

There have now been 12 years of discussion on this matter, and it is time that we came to a conclusion. The country expects a conclusion to be reached on it. The reputation of Parliament is being watched closely by millions of people, including some of those who have constanly opposed the Bill. The eyes of the nation are upon us today to see what we do. The general public will accept a conclusion one way or the other, but what they will not accept is that no conclusion should be reached.

Let me deal individually with the amendments in the grouping and explain why I have put my name to them. Amendment No. 7 removes a part of clause 1 giving the Secretary of State powers to lower the upper time limit. When I saw the proposal, I discussed the matter with my hon. Friend the Minister for Health. We considered that if 24 weeks was the upper time limit it was quite possible that in the near future that limit might have to be lowered. If this part of clause 1 is deleted, it will mean that we shall have to come back to the House for legislation to lower the limit. However, many hon. Members have said that on a matter as important as this, it is the House, not the Secretary of State, which should decide.

Therefore, I have, sadly, yielded to the thought that this part of clause 1 should be deleted. It will mean that at a future date we may have to come back to the House for legislation. I therefore accept amendment No. 7.

11.30 am

I come next to amendments Nos. 90, 91 and 92. They seek to amend clause 2 without changing the intention of the clause. A number of right hon. Gentlemen attempted the last time we were on Report to secure a compromise, and that was perfectly fair. The suggested compromise was that we had a one-clause Bill specifying 24 weeks, and nothing else.

Unfortunately, I did not see the document containing that suggestion until the morning that I came into the Chamber and the House started to discuss it. But I could not accept it as it stood. We must have clause 2 in the Bill if we set an upper time limit in clause 1. The very people whom we most want to protect and who need most protection are those who just after that upper time limit suddenly find that they need abortions—a woman who has a handicapped child and did not realise that she was pregnant, or a young girl who is terrified to come forward and who needs an abortion. Therefore, if we have an upper time limit, there must be a clause providing exceptions to it.

I arranged for amendment No. 90 to be looked at carefully by lawyers. I also asked for the views of the DHSS. I was told that the amendment covered everything that the present clause 2 covered but that it did it very much more simply than my original clause.

I accept that the clearer legislation is, the better. As the House knows, I had drafting help with clause 2. However, it appears that many hon. Members found it difficult to understand because it was so complicated. I am assured that amendment No. 90 does exactly what this House wants and what the profession wants in leaving exceptions outside the 24-week limit. Therefore, I suggest that this House should accept that amendment.

The main objection to the original clause 2 was that I had tried to write into it a provision which would protect the unborn child as well as the mother if there had to be an abortion after the twenty-fourth week, and that the method to be used should be looked at before it was used to decide whether it was possible to save both mother and child. However, again I bend to the pressures of the House. If that is not what right hon. and hon. Members want and amendment No. 90 covers the point, the supporters of the Bill and those who oppose it can come together on it. I suggest, therefore, that the House should accept amendments Nos. 90, 91 and 92.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

Since the hon. Gentleman is asking the House to accept the amendment, and since it refers in subsection (1)(b) to "a substantial risk" that if the child were born it would suffer from certain physical or mental abnormalities, the hon. Gentleman must have in his mind what he believes is meant by the word "substantial". May we take it that he means a very large and real risk, and not simply some minimal risk?

Mr. Corrie

The word "substantial" is in the 1967 Act. This amendment was drawn up by hon. Members who opposed what I wanted to do. When drafting the amendment, therefore, they must have been clear in their minds about what "substantial" and "substantially" meant. That is why I suggest there is common ground on that amendment.

I move on to amendment No. 96, which seeks to delete clauses 3 to 6.

The general public have no conception or understanding of how this House works. They can see a Bill sail through its Second Reading. They can see it fly through its Committee stage, since it is possible to have a majority on the Committee all the way through. The crunch comes on Report and, as I said earlier, the one advantage that a private Member does not have is time.

I have taken a consensus of all that has been said in this House. I have looked back at all that was said in Committee by hon. Members who oppose the Bill, especially on the clauses that I seek to withdraw. It is obvious that if we continued, as was intended originally, discussing these matters throughout the days allotted to this Report stage, in no way could the Bill get to the point where this House had the chance to reach a conclusion on it. Therefore, I suggest that we accept amendment No. 96 and delete the clauses so that this House can make up its mind once and for all exactly where it stands on this issue.

Mr. William Hamilton

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am reluctant to raise this matter on a point of order but it is a very serious one from the point of view of the House.

I have a very strong attitude towards amendment No. 7, which deals with the statutory instrument procedure. I have an equally strong case to make, but a separate case, on amendments Nos. 90, 91 and 92. What is more, the possibilities are enormous on amendment No. 96. Even clause 4, dealing with the charities, could involve us in a whole day's discussion.

I and others of my hon. Friends are in a dilemma. If I am called in the debate, I have the choice of making a very long speech dealing with amendment No. 7, then with amendments Nos. 90, 91 and 92, and then with each clause and the amendments to those clauses—clauses 3, 4, 5 and 6—in which case I should continue speaking until half-past two, or I make a speech on amendment No. 7 on the understanding that I may be called in each of the other debates in order to make any contribution on each of the other amendments.

I want to get an assurance from you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if that is possible. Is it possible for an hon. Member to make a speech on one of these amendments without prejudicing his chances of being called to speak on a subsequent amendment in the same group? If I cannot get that assurance and I succeed in catching your eye, I shall be obliged to make a long speech on the lot.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

The hon. Gentleman is going back on the matter which Mr. Speaker dealt with before he left the Chair. Mr. Speaker said that he was grouping these amendments. I cannot advise the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) how to make his speech, but I can advise him that it would not be possible for him to make another speech on a subsequent amendment in the group. He can speak only once on each group of amendments, and the amendments to which he wishes to speak are grouped. The hon. Gentleman will have to make up his mind how to make his speech, if he is called.

Mr. David Steel

I am in much the same position as the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) in that, when we last debated this matter, I had an amendment on the Amendment Paper seeking to remove clause 4, and I was looking forward to moving it. I understand that the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie) is now telling the House that he is proposing to delete that clause, along with various other bits of the Bill. In view of that, I shall not deliver the speech that I proposed to make, had we reached my amendment.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman so early in his speech, but will he address his mind to the matter that I sought to put to the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie)?

The sole reason put forward by the hon. Member for seeking to withdraw the different bits and pieces of the Bill is that it is necessary to compromise in the interests of time. This means that we shall not reach a conclusion to the debate on abortion and that he and his hon. Friends will be back next year trying to put back these bits and pieces into the abortion legislation. It is not good enough simply to withdraw bits and pieces of a Bill in the interests of time without explaining the effect on the law and how he regards that in relation to his original intentions.

Will the right hon. Gentleman address himself to that point?

Mr. Steel

I am in the position that I was when I spoke in the debate last night and an hon. Member who could not intervene successfully in the Prime Minister's speech intervened in mine to ask the question that he wished to ask the Prime Minister. I do not think that I should attempt to answer, on behalf of the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire, the very legitimate point raised by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), and I do not propose to do so.

I want in all seriousness to ask the House to consider where we have got to now and to give my own view as the sponsor of the original abortion legislation.

I hope that the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire will forgive me if I say that he has a bit of a nerve to suggest that it is time the House came to a decision. In my view, the House came to a decision on these matters in 1967. Having carefully read all the Committee proceedings, with the single exception of our debates on the 24-week limit, which was a new element, I believe that all the other arguments were debated in 1967, including the arguments about "serious", "substantial" and so on. We debated all those adjectives then. All that we are now doing is going over the same ground. I do not blame the sponsor of this Bill. This is the third or fourth Bill that we have had in an attempt to change the basis of the decision which the House took in 1967.

Abortion is like various other subjects—capital punishment is perhaps the best analogy. These topics of non-party, free vote debate are not issues on which many people are likely to change their mind from one year to the next. Some may, but on the broad ethical question the House takes a position and that is it. We had a debate on capital punishment a few months ago in order to give the House the opportunity to decide whether, in the light of events, the new Parliament wished to change its mind on the basic, fundamental question. We debated that matter and decided upon it. My criticism of the successive abortion reform Bills that we have had since 1967 is that they have been launched under the guise of improving the administration of the 1967 Act, when in reality they have been designed to undermine the very basis of that Act.

I do not object for a minute to the House being given the opportunity to reflect every few years on whether it wishes to change the basis of the 1967 Act. That is a very different matter. That is a proper matter for debate every so often, because we can then take a clear decision. But I object to the position in which we have got ourselves now in regard to this Bill, because in all our discussions we have pretended that we are trying to improve the administration of the Act, whereas we end upon the third day of Report with great lumps of the Bill being removed in order to get something through.

Presumably this will not be the last time on which this subject will arise. It may come up again next Session as well. As well as all the pressure groups, the mailbags of hon. Members are filled with letters on this topic. Therefore, I should like to clarify the ethical basis on which the House took the decision in 1967. I propose to argue that that should be the basis on which we still take our decision.

There are roughly three broad approaches to the ethical basis on which our legislation should rest. First, there is the view that abortion should be prohibited as being analogous to murder, and that if it is to be permitted at all it should be permitted only in extremely narrow circumstances. That is a perfectly tenable and fundamentally held view. That is the official view of the Roman Catholic Church. It is a view that is subscribed to by many bodies outside the Roman Catholic Church, but it is also a view which many devout Roman Catholics do not share. Nonetheless, it is a fundamentalist position that is held by many hon. Members, and it was deeply argued during our debates in 1967.

There is another view which I detect is growing in strength. It does not happen to be my view, but it is one which goes under the slogan of "A woman's right". That is the very opposite of the previous argument, namely, that abortion is a matter solely for the woman herself to decide upon, that there should be the minimum of legislation governing the matter and that abortion should be available at the request of the woman concerned. That is a view held by a growing number of hon. Members, if I detect it aright. It is certainly a view promoted by various feminist organisations and movements, not just in this country but abroad, because these abortion debates have been taking place in other Parliaments over the years.

There is a third view—this is the one on which the 1967 Act rests—that judgment on abortion can be taken only in each individual case. It is extremely important to understand that, because some hon. Members argue that 50,000 or 100,000 abortions a year is too many. There is not a "right" number of abortions. Each case must be treated on its merits. Whatever our views on abortion, we can surely all agree that it is desirable to create the kind of society in which there is not the need for so many abortions. We can all agree that there should be better housing, better social services, better contraception and a more responsible attitude to sexual relations. But if the need for abortion exists, we cannot say that there is a right and magic figure, and that, if the figures are so high, we must amend the law to restrict the availability of abortions. That is the road back to the pre-1967 situation of back-street abortion.

Some hon. Members argue—particularly the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) a fortnight ago in a speech which on occasions I thought offensive—that the medical profession and hon. Members of this House who have supported the basis of the 1967 Act somehow have a lower level of moral judgment. I strongly dispute that.

Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)


Mr. Steel

Just a minute. Phrases such as "the slaying of babies" come direct from that discredited and charlatan work "Babies for Burning". I hope that in any further contributions that he may make the hon. Member for Pontypool will not repeat phrases of that kind.

Mr. Abse


11.45 am
Mr. Steel

I shall give way in a moment. I should like to set out what I believe is the main ethical basis on which the 1967 Act rests. I take it from the report published in 1965 by the Church of England Assembly Board for Social Responsibility. It is interesting that that pamphlet was re-published in 1973, so great has been the demand for it. I do not say that it is the best work that I have read on the legal or medical aspects of abortion, but it is the best work that I have read on the ethical aspects, even though there are supporting documents from the Methodist Church and the Church of Scotland on the same basis.

I should like to read two or three sentences from it so that the House will understand the basis of our legislation since 1967. This is what the Church of England Board said: Is there a way forward? If we were to accept the absolutist principle and declare the foetus to be in all circumstances inviolable, this pamphlet would end at this point. There would be really nothing more to be said: there could be no further discussion, in terms of Christian ethics … Such a determination would be, in fact, a novel departure from the Christian moral tradition. If we are to remain faithful to the tradition, we have to assert, as normative, the general inviolability of the foetus; to defend, as a first principle, its right to live and develop; and then to lay the burden of proof to the contrary firmly on those who, in particular cases, would wish to extinguish that right on the ground that it was in conflict with another or others with a higher claim to recognition. This discussion will proceed, therefore, on the supposition that there may be cases in which, granted this general right of the foetus to live and develop, this right may be offset by other conflicting right; and that the proper function of the criminal law is, in a restricted area, to regulate the adjustment of those rights when they cannot be, or are unlikely to be, adjusted by other means. That is precisely what the responsibility of this House is. It is not to tell doctors how many abortions they should carry out or what their clinical judgments should be. It is simply to lay down the boundary of the criminal law.

Mr. Abse


Mr. Steel

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman, which is more than the hon. Gentleman did to others a fortnight ago.

Mr. Abse

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is highly desirable that the will of this House, as expressed in his Act, should not be flaunted? Does not he agree that both in the Lane committee report and in the guidance given by the BMA the danger has clearly been pointed out that, unhappily, a minority of doctors have used the sophistical argument? In the light of all the experience since 1967, why is he so in love with his own Act and why does he display such a deliberate act of narcissism that he cannot accept the fact that there are changes which are required and that his Act is not impeccable?

Mr. Steel

I bow to the hon. Gentleman's superiority on the subject of narcissism. I do not propose to reply to his intervention, save to say that I shall shortly discuss the administration of the Act. Of course, that is important and the House must keep a continual watch on its administration.

I want to sum up this section of my speech by arguing that the basis of law in 1967—to put it in a nutshell, and to take it out of legalistic terms—was simply that as a House we decided that abortion should cease to be a criminal offence where any two doctors consider that it was in the interests of their patient that it should be carried out. That puts it in a nutshell. People who do not accept that that is right and who believe that it is an unethical position on which to base the law are right to continue to campaign against it and to try to get the Act repealed. But they should say so openly, and not pretend that they are trying to improve the administration of the law.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

With respect, I have always accepted the right hon. Gentleman's assertions about the balance of ethics between the interest of the mother and the interest of the foetus. However, in our last vote we substantially altered that. In future, there will be a greater concern about the interest of the foetus and less concern about the interest of the mother. We have so fundamentally altered the right hon. Gentleman's Act that this Bill cannot be passed.

Mr. Steel

The hon. Gentleman intervened at the right moment. When we started our discussion of the Bill—I take hon. Members back to the period before Second Reading—the concentration of publicity was on the question of the time limit. We were led to believe that the Bill would be about the time limit. If the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire had approached the argument in the same conciliatory tone then as he is doing today, he would have launched a Bill dealing with the question of the time limit instead of becoming embroiled in these other arguments.

The fact that the word "substantial" appears in section 1 (b) of the original Act is not an argument for putting it into the health grounds in clause 1 (1) (a) of the Bill. Section 1 (b) of the original Act states that doctors have to be persuaded that: there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped. The reason that the word is included is that it is a risk that has to be substantiated. There is always a risk that the foetus will be born handicapped. The hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) is right. Without repeating the remarks of the right hon. and learned Member for Dulwich (Mr. Silkin), the previous Attorney-General, I suggest that it is a very different matter to include that word in clause 1 (1) (a) of the Bill. The sponsor of the Bill is a little late in offering some form of compromise, because we have had weeks and weeks of discussion. His Bill has gone completely off the rails.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman returned to that point, because it is relevant to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon). Is not the effect of what we are now saying that there may be instances in which the preservation of the foetus is more important than the preservation of the life of the mother, and that, only if the risk to the life of the mother is "substantially greater"—not merely that it is greater—is there a right within the criminal law to an abortion?

Mr. Steel

I suspect that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is correct. Like the hon. Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn), I regret that we did not have the benefit of the Attorney-General's advice before the debate on that matter was truncated. Many hon. Members did not understand the implications of the word "substantial".

I turn to the administration of the Act. It is right that the House, in addition to looking at the ethical question—

Dr. Glyn

The reason that I raised that point was that the two matters are almost similar. I thought that the Attorney-General should make the statement on the Floor of the House, so that it was put on the record.

Mr. Steel

I remind the House that a committee of inquiry under Mrs. Justice Lane examined the working of the Act. It is to the shame of the House that we have never debated its report. When we started our discussions on the Bill, I went to the Vote Office to get a copy of the report, but I found that it was not available. It is out of print. Throughout our debate copies of that report have not been available.

The Lane committee in 1972–73 found maladministration of the Act. It found that racketeering was going on in the private sector. In fairness to previous Ministers it should be said that the Department acted upon the recommendations of the Lane committee. A number of clinics were closed and various other steps were taken. Ministers have used their full powers since the 1967 Act to pay attention to the advice of the Lane committee and improve the administration of the Act.

The Lane committee recommended that the time limit for a normal abortion should be reduced to 24 weeks. The House resolved that issue a fortnight ago by a substantial vote. The combination of administrative action by the Minister on the working of the Act, plus that one change in the legislation, would have left the House's original decision of 1967 properly advanced.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Renfrewshire, West)

Would the right hon. Gentleman not also agree that there was another firm recommendation—that the criteria should not be altered?

Mr. Steel

That was the point that I was about to make. I should like to quote from the Lane committee report. It received evidence from people who suggested that the words "serious" or "substantial" should be included in the clause. The Lane committee said: We do not consider that any such alterations in the wording would result in a better implementation of the intention of Parliament as we understand it to have been. Therefore, the argument that has been produced that some doctors—at the end of the day it comes back to one doctor, Professor Huntingford—have used a statistical argument in reaching a conclusion on abortion is without substantial evidence. The argument is based on one passing remark of one doctor. We cannot alter the fundamental basis of the Bill because of one remark.

Sir Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East)

Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that the Lane committee said, when considering the workings of the 1967 Act, that abortion on request was wrong? It has never been the law of the land, and it was not the intention of Parliament when it passed the 1967 Bill. Therefore, will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House—he has not told us yet—that it was never his intention that the Act should permit abortion on demand? Will he acknowledge that the main motivation behind every Bill that has emerged since, and the main motivation of the recommendation of the Select Committee, was to prevent abortion on demand? Will the right hon. Gentleman state his position clearly?

Mr. Steel

I thought that I had been fairly lucid on that subject. I have set out the different ethical arguments. I said specifically that I did not agree with abortion on demand. It was not the basis on which the 1967 Act was drafted. However, I fundamentally disagree with the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) when he suggests that these Bills have been put forward to try to stop abortion on demand.

Pressure groups outside the House have at least been more honest than some of the supporters of the Bill. I quote the honorary administrator of Life. She said in The Guardian a few weeks ago that: her organisation supported anything that reduced the amount of abortions performed. Specifically on the time question, she said that she: welcomed the reduction in the time limit, although she would not be happy until it went down to zero. The aim of the Bill is to try to reduce the availability of abortion, and to remove the rights that were established within the criminal law on abortion in 1967. The House should take a much firmer stand, and, when a similar Bill next comes forward, we should stop it on Second Reading.

12 noon

Mr. Orme

I should like to follow the point that the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) has just made. It is very interesting to note that, since 1967, no Bill has ever been introduced in this House to implement abortion on demand. The argument has always been in the other direction—to restrict the 1967 Act.

I want to put to the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie) a matter to which he did not address himself this morning. I refer to the statement issued last night by the British Medical Association. The Minister indicated to my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moyle) that he would reply to it. I hope that he will be a little more forthcoming and a little fuller than he was in his previous intervention.

The BMA spokesman said: The suggestion made at the last minute by Mr. Corrie which will result in the deletion of large sections of his Bill has made matters far worse. The Bill as it now stands would mean that a doctor could go to prison for ending the pregnancy of any woman known to be carrying an abnormal baby. The absolute ban at 24 weeks with no exemptions in any circumstances would also mean that a doctor could not terminate pregnancy even to save the life of a mother. The BMA is appalled at the drastic implications of this suggestion which goes far beyond the original intentions of the Corrie Bill to which we have already objected strongly.

Mr. Currie

I remind the right hon. Gentleman that amendment No. 90, in my name and the names of other hon. Members, deals with all the things that he has just mentioned. His statement is therefore totally out of date.

Mr. Orme

That is not confirmed by what the hon. Gentleman said earlier. He did not even refer to the BMA statement. My reading of the position is that the rapid deletion of clauses that he is suggesting would make a dog's dinner of the Bill. It would make the position much worse.

Dr. Oonagh McDonald (Thurrock)

My right hon. Friend may not be aware that the original intention of the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie) was to delete clause 2 from the Bill. That would have had precisely the effect to which the BMA quite rightly drew attention. Perhaps it was in response to that kind of pressure that the hon. Member realised the disastrous course of action on which he was set. Although he did not attempt to pursue the matter on this occasion, I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman—or those hon. Members who support him in the measure—will pursue not just his Bill but future Bills in order ultimately to repeal the 1967 Act, and to produce precisely the position that the BMA has described.

Mr. Orme

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. The purpose of my intervention is to record my regret that this House cannot come to an acceptable and suitable compromise. As the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles has said, the 1967 Act has been examined on a number of occasions—not least by the Lane committee. Various recommendations have been accepted by previous Secretaries of State—by my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals), and certainly by Barbara Castle when she was the Secretary of State. The recommendations had the effect of tightening up the provisions of the 1967 Act.

The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire will recognise that the vote that we have just had in the House, as a result of which, by only three votes, the word "substantially" remains in the Bill, represented a quite significant change in the mood of the House since Second Reading. Only 98 Members voted against the Bill on Second Reading, but a large majority—including myself—voted for the period of 24 weeks, on the basis that it would help us to reach some sort of agreement.

Almost every year we have an abortion Bill. We have had the James White Bill and the Benyon Bill. Now we have the Corrie Bill. What shall we have next year? What is needed is a compromise that would be acceptable to the House. The present argument is polarising the issue, as has been said. On the one hand, there are those who do not want abortion in any circumstances; on the other hand, there are those who want abortion on demand. The argument is not taking place in Britain alone; it is taking plays in various parts of the world. Women are beginning to assert their right. The more the argument develops, the more difficult it will be to argue against it.

No Act is perfect, but I should have thought that the tightening up of the 1967 Act following the recommendations of the Lane committee was a worthwhile step.

Mr. W. Benyon

I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the need for a compromise. I have always emphasised this. Will he agree that the essence of a compromise is that it must be a two-way matter? The sponsors of the Bill feel that they have been pushed all the way along to give up. We have made very strong noises about having a reasonable compromise, but it is asking an enormous amount to go as far as the right hon. Gentleman suggests.

Mr. Orme

I appreciate what the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) has said. I am speaking at the Dispatch Box in a personal capacity, as the House is aware. I have followed the passage of the Bill in Committee and I have followed the debates in this Chamber. At the eleventh hour, the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire has started to scrap clauses. He saw the strength of feeling in the House a fortnight ago on the question of the 24 weeks, but no response was made to that expression of feeling. I have seen no indication of compromise.

When we debated the question of the 24 weeks, the House was crowded with hon. Members, as it is today. On that occasion, some hon. Members saw the period of 24 weeks as a restriction of the 1967 Act, but nevertheless they were prepared to go along with it. That was in the opposite direction to wanting abortion on demand, which no one has advocated. No one has yet introduced a Bill advocating that. Year after year Bills are introduced that seek to repeal the 1967 Act. I am not in any way criticising or casting aspersions on people's morality or the strong feelings that they have. People have a right to their strong feelings on this issue, but they have not got the right to impose them on others.

The right hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire had an opportunity to accept the amendment relating to 24 weeks. He also had the opportunity to accept the deletion of the words "serious" and "substantially". That would in itself have involved a quite dramatic change in the 1967 Act.

Dr. M. S. Miller (East Kilbride)

Will my right hon. Friend direct his attention to the booklet published by Life? He referred to no attempt having been made to produce abortion on demand. Will he, therefore, listen to what Life has to say in its own booklet? It says: Many people think that the 1967 Abortion Act gives a woman a right to an abortion and imposes a duty on a doctor or a hospital to provide one. The Act does neither of these things. It confers no rights and imposes no duties on anyone. What it does it to protect a person from prosecution if certain conditions are fulfilled when he does an abortion.

Mr. Orme

It saddens me to read arguments, sometimes from both sides, about the extremities of this matter. I believe that there is an overwhelming desire in this country to have a properly operated and controlled abortion measure on the statute book. I see the Abortion Act 1967 as that Act, and I do not see reasons for amending it in the light of the restrictions it contains.

The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire had a glorious opportunity to gain the 24-week period if he had dropped the remainder of the Bill. But the hon. Gentleman wanted a little more. That is what happens all the time.

Mr. Corrie

Surely the point is that the House was given the choice whether it wanted the word "substantially" in the Bill, and the House voted for it.

Mr. Orme

I accept that the House voted for it, but it was on a narrow vote. Nevertheless, it was carried by the House and we have to accept that. But that was a knife-edge vote; it could have gone either way. The hon. Gentleman could have gone some way to meet the feeling in the House and removed some of the doubts, thereby preventing this problem recurring year after year.

If the Bill went in to the statute book in its present form, there would be further argument because people would not accept it. There will be no compromise in any way. In those circumstances, I believe that we should leave the Abortion Act 1967 as it is and not proceed to give the Bill a Third Reading.

Dr. McDonald

My right hon. Friend is quite correct to make the point that the feeling in the country is that the upper time limit should have been reduced to 24 weeks and that to go any further, even by introducing the word "substantially", is out of keeping. Every opinion poll taken by an independent organisation shows that the majority in this country not only supports the Abortion Act 1967 but is prepared to go further and accept more liberal legislation.

What has happened in the House is that the opponents of the 1967 Act want to introduce words such as "substantially" because they declare that abortion on demand is available, thus misleading hon. Members. Some of their supporters, such as the Life organisation to which my right hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller) referred, in their private publications clearly recognise that the 1967 Act does not give abortion on demand. But it is clear that the majority opinion in this country supports the 1967 Act, and the only change that there is any question of people wishing to make is the reduction to 24 weeks. That has been done and there should be no further change in that Act, because the country does not want it.

Mr. Orme

I thank my right hon. Friend for expressing that point so succinctly. The way in which the hon. Member for Bute and Ayrshire has lumped together these clauses is denying the House, as was said during our points of order, the proper opportunity of dealing with the Bill.

12.15 pm
Mr. David Steel

There is an additional and important point to that made by the hon. Member for Thurrock (Dr. McDonald). A fortnight ago the vote that the House took on the 24-week limit was far and away the largest vote that we have had on this whole subject all the way through. It was far larger than the Second Reading vote. After all, only a few of us take part in the debates in the Chamber, but the House as a whole has clearly expressed its wish to have that amendment made to the 1967 Act. Surely there is an obligation on us to give effect to that wish and not to mess up the legislation with various other extraneous bits and pieces that question the wish of the House.

Mr. Orme

I accept what the right hon. Gentleman says. The effect of not proceeding with the Bill will be that the hon. Member for Bute and Ayrshire will lose the 24-week period and we shall revert to the 1967 Act. Yet those who support that Act could have made a compromise in this respect. That is the basis on which we should proceed. However, the hon. Gentleman is clearly not prepared to proceed along these lines, and in consequence I hope that the Bill does not reach the statute book.

Miss Jo Richardson (Barking)

Would my right hon. Friend repeat what he just said? What does he mean by "the basis on which we should proceed"?

Mr. Orme

We should proceed with the debate and I hope that the Bill, on the basis on which we are discussing it, does not reach the statute book.

Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton)

I did not intend to intervene at this stage. I am not a lawyer or a doctor or well qualified in ethics, but with those caveats it seems to me that we have been left with the need to discuss a group of amendments with the possibility of a legal outcome in the shape of legislation which, as the right hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) said, is a dog's breakfast or a dog's dinner, depending on what time of day the dog eats. However, that is the likely outcome and it is most unsatisfactory that we should have proceeded in this way.

I deeply regret that my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie) was not able to come forward earlier with his expressed desire to compromise. I do not know why that was, but it is a great pity that he was not able to do it. I agree with the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) that it is no good looking round for some complicated compromise. We have a compromise in the shape of the manifest will of the House to agree on 24 weeks in the light of the Lane committee recommendations.

The present group of amendments is a logical nonsense, apart from what the result would be in law. We are required to discuss a whole range of issues which are not necessarily related one to the other. It is extremely difficult for an otherwise reasonably intelligent man such as myself to focus upon the different components to see in advance how they would affect one another if they were to become law. I hope that even at this late stage it will be possible for someone with more procedural knowledge than myself to find a way out of this dilemma, because I believe that the House would like to come to a clear decision on the basis of 24 weeks and leave it at that. I am most disturbed at the tendency—

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

That course might have appealed even to me; but once the House has taken a decision, not by a consensus but by a narrow majority, to allow the word "substantially" to remain in, I do not feel that I could allow the Bill to go through. It is no longer only a question of 24 weeks. It involves the whole criteria.

Mr. Forman

I accept the point made by the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon). I was with him in the same Lobby on that point.

There may be a way out of this dilemma to enable us to avoid the dreary possibility that this issue will recur next year, the year after and the year after that. I would happily pay a high price to find a sensible compromise on the 24-week period.

It is a great pity that by the narrow majority of three votes the House decided to leave the word "substantially" in the Bill, because there is no doubt that, whatever compromise we may reach on other matters, the heart of the Bill is and always has been the desire to tighten the criteria on legal abortions in order to reduce the number of legal abortions. Quite clearly, that, too, is a logical nonsense, because if one reduces the number of legal abortions all that one is likely to do is to increase the number of illegal abortions. That cannot be what the sponsors want.

With those few remarks, I make a plea to hon. Members on both sides of the House: for God's sake, get us out of this mess. Let us compromise sensibly on 24 weeks, and let us not go along with these changes to the criteria.

Mr. David Ennals (Norwich, North)

I have much sympathy with the feelings of the hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Forman) but no confidence that his desire can be achieved, because, frankly, this was precisely the appeal that I and others made in the debate a fortnight ago. I shared the view very strongly. If I had my way, there would be no change in the 1967 Act. I never wanted to see a change. I speak as a former Secretary of State and, together with the former Minister of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moyle), I had responsibility for adminstering the Act and seeking to do it rigidly and effectively.

The Bill received a Second Reading. There was a will to make some change. In the debate a fortnight ago, I said that I hoped that there could be a compromise. I quoted a letter that had been circulated by five right hon. Members, from both sides of the House, who took different views on the Bill. They said that if 24 weeks were accepted, in a sense, by one side, we could let the rest go.

All right: I went into the Lobby on 24 weeks, and I abstained on 27. My natural will would have been to vote for 27. But I voted, as did many others, for 24 weeks as part of what I hoped would be a settlement. That was it: that was enough.

I am very disappointed by what has happened today. I accept that the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie) has thought long and hard about whether he could find a compromise, but he must have known that if the vote on "substantially" went as it did, that would inevitably change the position.

I have said that I wanted to see a solution and a settlement. If we had got a settlement on 24 weeks and some other hon. Member, acting under the pressures of the pressure groups, had come with another attempt to introduce a Bill which would have sought to make further amendments to the 1967 Act, I do not believe that it would have got a Second Reading. If it had not got a Second Reading, we would not have been troubled, bearing in mind all the time that we have taken. That is one reason why I wanted to see a settlement based on 24 weeks. To me that was a compromise.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

In connection with my right hon. Friend's points on "substantially", does not he think it most unfortunate that only a few minutes before the closure we heard, for the first time, through the lips of the Minister, the unexplained view of the Attorney-General as to the meaning of "substantially", and there was no opportunity to debate it or to consider it?

Mr. Ennals

It is strange how friendly interventions concern exactly the next point that is to be mentioned. I was going to say precisely the same. I was very surprised by the advice given by the Minister on that issue. He gave no reasons whatsoever. His right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General gave no reasons either why the term "substantially" did not create as many problems in interpretation by doctors as the term "serious". Then the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon)—who is not in his place but who has played a prominent part in all this—without any chance for the Attorney-General to seek to intervene or for the sponsor of the 1967 Act to make a speech, as he was seeking to do, moved the closure.

The House carried the closure. One can doubt the wisdom of the House, but one cannot do other than accept its conclusions. Once that decision was taken, by a very small majority, "substantially" was to stay in. As far as I am concerned, there can be no Bill. I am afraid that we shall have go through this matter all over again, although I hate to say that. But even if that were to happen, I have to tell the hon. Gentleman—frankly, he gave the least explanation of the amendments that he was introducing that I have ever heard, giving us no reason—that I know that amendment No. 90 was an attempt, because the British Medical Association was right when it said that there needed to be a clause 2 for exceptions. Some of my hon. Friends who take the came view as I take have added their names to the amendment. I am a little surprised that they did so.

Mr. William Hamilton

What my right hon. Friend is saying now is completely wrong. The hon. Member added his name to ours.

Mr. Ennals

I am grateful to my hon. Friend.I do not want to be wrong. However, I want to point out that if an attempt was being made then to substitute the same words as are contained in the 1967 Act, they added a phrase which I find just as difficult. It is in subsection (1) (a)— to preserve life or to prevent grave permanent injury". "Grave" and "permanent" become once again issues that must be determined by the doctor. I have no objection to disagreeing with my hon. Friend. I am perfectly free to do that. I think that he went too far, because he was creating once again a very difficult problem for doctors.

Therefore, I say with very great regret that I had hoped a fortnight ago that it would have been possible to make an agreement and we could have had a Bill on the statute book merely accepting 24 weeks. But I fear that the sponsor or his supporters have not been prepared for there to be a real compromise, as we proposed a fortnight ago. I say it with great sadness. I believe that the sponsor has lost the Bill, and I fear the prospect that next year, once again, someone will come along, perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse), and will make another attempt. It is sad.

Dr. Glyn

I do not wish to hold up the proceedings of the House, but I voted for the closure last week simply and solely because I believed that we ought to get on with the Bill. Today, however, the Bill has been substantially changed.

Last week I voted for 24 weeks because I believed that the consensus on both sides of the House, including the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel), was that we wanted to get on with the Bill. I listened with great care to the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo). What he said was basic to the fundamental issue. What we were trying to do, and what the whole House wants to do, is to stop back-street abortions. That must be our object.

Now we are placed in a very difficult position. I was impertinent enough to raise a point of order on the question of the word "substantially", because I believe that the two words which were objectionable were "serious" and "substantially" as they placed the doctor in an extremely serious position. Therefore, during the Division I raised the question of having put on the record of the House the Attorney-General's views before—it is no good now—we voted.

I was not present in Committee, but I understand that certain assurances were given. But that is not the same thing as hearing them on the Floor of the House so that the House and the public might understand what the implications would be to the medical profession.

The right hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme)—who has just left his place for the first time today—has put the matter in a nutshell. We have got ourselves into an extraordinarily difficult position. I would have accepted 24 weeks and many other provisions. However, I for one do not know of any procedural method by which we can now extract ourselves from this very difficult position. The vote was very narrow. By three votes the House decided this matter.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

One vote is sufficient.

Dr. Glyn

As my hon. Friend says, one vote is sufficient.

12.30 pm

I am worried about the difficulties that we may be placing on the medical profession in doing its job and discharging its responsibilities to the patient and to the people. It will be extremely difficult as a jury may take a completely different view. Each and every case has to be judged on its merits. However, the onus has been pushed rather too much on the medical profession by the addition of these words.

I do not wish to detain the House. Like the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles, I wanted to see the time limit altered to 24 weeks. I wanted to ensure that any loopholes in the Act were blocked. The promoter of the Bill and his backers were not sufficiently forthcoming at an early enough stage. Had they been reasonable and said "We want to do X, Y and Z, and we are prepared to remove the clauses that are offensive to the majority of the House", I believe that the Bill would have passed through the House in one or two sittings. As it is, it has dragged on.

The course that the Bill has taken has been unfortunate for those who are waiting for their Bills to be considered on the Floor of the House. Their Bills have been delayed because of the intransigence of my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie) and the backers of his Bill. If the Bill should fall, there will be only one person to whom that failure will be attributable—the promoter.

Mr. Mikardo

When the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie) moved the amendment, he began by saying that the one thing that a private Member who is seeking to get a Bill on to the statute book is most short of is time. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has a great deal to complain about. In all the years that I have been in the House I cannot recall any other Private Member's Bill that had three whole Fridays for Report and Third Reading. Some Private Members' Bills have had the reinforcement of time allotted by the Government then in office. That is the res- ponsibility of the Government of the day. As the hon. Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn) has said, the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire is stealing time from other hon. Members whose Bills are behind his. There will be fewer Private Members' Bills passing through the House this Session than in any previous Session—

Mr. Marlow

Then sit down.

Mr. Mikardo

—for a very long time. One always deplores sedentary observations. Highly offensive ones are to be deplored even more. Of course, as a Member of Parliament the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) still has his mother's milk on his lips. He will learn better in time.

Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East)

I doubt that.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) is being very optimistic.

Mr. Mikardo

I was giving the hon. Gentleman the benefit of the doubt.

When the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire was moving the amendment, he complained twice about the shortage of time. Other hon. Members have introduced Private Members' Bills. The hon. Gentleman was lucky enough to draw the first place. However, there are Private Members' Bills Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, et cetera. All the promoters have gone to the trouble of selecting a subject, taking advice and getting the Bill drafted, sometimes at their own expense and sometimes with the help of a Government Department. They have taken the trouble to get sponsors and to make preparations for the reception of their Bills. They are waiting with bated breath for a chance to take their Bills through the House. Some of them have been in Committee and others have not. The plain fact is—

Mr. Marlow

What has this to do with it.

Mr. William Hamilton

Shut up, you silly man.

Mr. Mikardo

This has to do with the remarks of the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire. If he was in order in making those remarks, I am in order in replying to them. If I were not, Mr. Deputy Speaker would put me right. I do not need the hon. Member for Northampton, North to do it. He is not yet in the Chair. On his present form, he is never likely to be.

My observations are taking rather longer than I anticipated. The House may have forgotten what I was saying because of ill-mannered interjections. I shall have to repeat my observations. I was saying that other hon. Members drew places in the ballot and introduced their Bills. They have spent a great deal of time and energy in so doing. Some of them have spent money. They have all gone to a great deal of trouble to get their Bills ready. They are being held back. The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire should not complain about time.

The broad, simple, child's guide definition of justice is that no one should have two slices of bread before everybody has had one. The hon. Gentleman has had three slices of bread and thereby ensured that many other hon. Members will not get one slice.

There is a great desire to reach a decision, if possible, that will prevent this issue becoming a hardy annual and taking up a great deal of time and nervous energy of the House in Session after Session. The hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Forman) said that he would be prepared to pay a high price for a situation to be created that would enable us to get rid of the issue for some Sessions. I join him 100 per cent. I, too, would be prepared to pay a high price. However, I beg the House not to delude itself. I beg my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals), who has made such valuable contributions to debates on Report, not to delude himself. If the Bill is lost, the pressure groups that seek to destroy the Abortion Act 1967 will be lobbying hard those who draw an early place in the ballot next Session.

If the Bill had passed through the House with the 24 weeks' limit and nothing else, the pressure groups would still have been lobbying. If the Bill passed through the House with a time limit of 24 weeks and with other substantial provisions, the pressure groups would still be active. If the Bill had passed through the House as it came on to the Floor of the House from Committee—as a very wide-ranging Bill—the lobbying organisations would still have been agitating in the next Session. As was said by the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel), who introduced the 1967 Act, their object is not to secure a better operation of abortion arrangements.

Mr. Russell Kerr (Feltham and Heston)

Not in one million years.

Mr. Mikardo

That is not their final objective. They wish to ensure the repeal of the 1967 Act. Some of the lobbying organisations have been honest enough to say so. They have said "The Corrie Bill"—I am quoting them and that is why I am using the hon. Gentleman's name—"is only a first step." That was their attitude to the whole Bill as introduced by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Forman

We could put the hon. Gentleman's thesis to the test if my hon. Friend the Minister for Health were prepared to return to the House in the near future to introduce a Government-sponsored one- or two-clause Bill containing merely a lowering of the time limit, upon which the House has already expressed a view, and not altering in any material sense other aspects that we have been discussing.

Mr. Mikardo

The hon. Gentleman may well be right about that in theory. However, I beg him to understand—I say this as one who has been through the trauma over the years since before 1967—that this is a field in which no Government will legislate. I spare the Minister the embarrassment of commenting on his hon. Friend's remarks by saying that I am sure he agrees with me. He will not get up and say that publicly because he is not called upon to do so in such a debate. Nevertheless, if the hon. Gentleman has a quiet word outside with his hon. Friend the Minister, he will find that the Minister will confirm that no Government are ever likely to legislate on this matter.

The lobby organisations are saying that the Corrie Bill is only the first step. The second step will be the repeal of the 1967 Act and the third step will be to get rid of abortion altogether.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Grantham)

Legal abortion.

Mr. Mikardo

Yes. That is the only conceivable interpretation that can be put upon the statement. They are seeking a reduction in the 24-week time limit to zero.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

Does the hon. Gentleman agree with the proposition that if a Private Member's Bill were introduced which was designed to reduce the upper time limit to, say, 24 weeks it would pass, whereas any other attempt to change the 1967 Act, in particular to make the statutory criteria more stringent would necessarily and inevitably fail?

Mr. Mikardo

That is absolutely right—not just 100 per cent. but 110 per cent. right. Some hon. Members have referred to that in the course of the debate. I agree with that point completely but I was making a different point, namely, that if a Bill were introduced on such lines, and it was passed, as the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) said that it would be, that would still not deter those who seek further to limit legal abortion. It would happen year after year. Those who are seeking further limitations upon legal abortion and further incentives to deter the commercial sector of abortion—both ends of that sector, Harley Street and the back street—would not be deterred even if we passed that sort of Bill. They would not be deterred from coming back in the next Session of Parliament and finding an hon. Member simple enough—as simple as the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire—to fall for their wiles.

Mr. Robert Hughes

May I advise my hon. Friend of the correctness of his thesis? One organisation that came to lobby me over the Bill brought with it a medical specimen of a 13-week old foetus. The representatives told me "You are killing this human being." I notice that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram) is nodding his head in agreement. The supporters of the Bill are accepting 24 weeks now but they will want that cut down to zero. They are implacably and totally opposed to abortion and they are using the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie) to that end.

Mr. Mikardo

Like other hon. Members, I am never feverishly averse to having my conclusions supported and reinforced.

The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire is making a great virtue of the 24-week time limit. The House should bear in mind that we carried that over his dead body. He was not in favour of 24 weeks initially—he made a speech passionately opposing it and supported an even lower limit. However, because of the influence and pressures that have been brought to bear on him, he has given way. That reinforces the view that I expressed in answer to the hon. Member for Grantham that even if we had a Bill with a 24-week time limit, it would not be the end of the matter and the supporters would be coming back trying to cut the time down.

Mr. Corrie

May I point out to the hon. Gentleman that I accepted the 24-week limit because the House decided on that? If the hon. Gentleman accepted what the House has voted on in relation to the word "substantially", we would establish common ground and the compromise that we need to get the Bill through.

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Mr. Mikardo

I do not know why the hon. Gentleman makes a song and dance about his acceptance of 24 weeks. He has accepted it because he has no alternative. We all accept it—the House decided on it. However, I repeat that he was not in favour of it, and he should not claim it as as a virtue and as his contribution to the improvements that we have made.

This morning, the hon. Gentleman argued in favour of the deletion of subsection (7) of clause 1, which gives the Secretary of State power to reduce the 24-week limit by statutory instrument. I shall not go into the detail of that argument because we discussed it on an earlier Friday. I recall sitting for a long period in Committee and hearing the hon. Gentleman say "We must have this, we simply cannot do without it. The situation would be intorerable if we did not have subsection (7)." When I listened to the hon. Gentleman this morning, a little voice inside me said "Don't be hard on him, Mik. There is more joy in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth …" However, I shall not readily forget what he said about the subsection in Committee. It makes his present position rather untenable.

Finally, I should like to refer to clause 2. Clause 2 as it stands is an absolute shambles. I do not know whether any of my right hon. and learned Friends or hon. and learned Friends—the lawyers—can make head or tail of it, but we must bear in mind that when a doctor sees a patient he will not have the advantage of a right hon. and learned Friend standing next to him. A doctor who is skilled in medicine but a layman in the law is required to make—even with the amendments—a judgment as to a likely legal interpretation of his course of action. He is required to do that without any training in the law. If we are to have clause 2, we must try to make it reasonably comprehensible to the intelligent layman. We must make it as clear as we can, as little subject to ambiguity and as comprehensible as our ingenuity can devise.

I believe that the three amendments that we have tabled improve the clause in that direction. However, I confess at once that I am not skilled enough in parliamentary draftsmanship to feel with confidence that, even as amended, the clause will be as good as it should be. I should like to hear the view of a lawyer—either one of my hon. and learned Friends or one of the hon. and learned Members on the Government Benches—about the clause. I understand that the Minister has given some assistance in this regard and, prima facie, that is reassuring because, no doubt, those who have advised him are skilled in these matters. Nevertheless, if the Bill goes to another place, I hope that some of the eminent lawyers there will have a look at it.

Mr. Orme

Perhaps my hon. Friend is asking the Attorney-General to advise the House. We should have had the advice of the Attorney-General on the previous clause. We particularly needed his advice on the word "substantially". That word is crucial. I think that my hon. Friend and I should press for the attendance of the Attorney-General so that he can answer those legal points.

Mr. Mikardo

I agree with my right hon. Friend and with the intervention made earlier by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Silkin). An obiter dictum was chucked at us across the Floor. That is quite monstrous. We were not given any supporting evidence or argument. "The god on Olympus hath spoken. Ye puny mortals, harken and obey."

Mr. Maclennan

I wholly agree with my hon. Friend. I was one of those who followed the advice of the Attorney-General, which was conveyed through the Minister. That advice was given without any explanation. I did not feel it appropriate to vote against the advice of the Minister. However, it is impossible to continue that support. No doubt other hon. Members will agree with me. The amendment concerning the word "substantially" was carried by a small majority. We did not receive a full explanation of the legal reasons behind the advice that the House should reject "serious" but include "substantially".

Mr. Mikardo

I am grateful for that observation. One hour and thirty-nine minutes remain before these proceedings are due to terminate. Although we have disposed of one amendment that includes the word "substantially", one more amendment remains. That amendment was grouped with the others, but we have not voted on it. Therefore, the dispute about the word "substantially" is not over. If I have understood the procedure correctly, it is still possible for the Attorney-General to tell us what he meant.

Mrs. Renée Short

Where is he?

Mr. Mikardo

He should come to the House and he should treat us as intelligent human beings. He should not treat us as if we were schoolboys. The Minister has been very helpful to both sides of the argument, both in Committee and in the House. Perhaps he would convey our desire that the Attorney-General should give a short explanation of the considerations behind his advice.

Mr. Douglas Hogg

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that many lawyers in the House think that the word "substantially" makes a significant difference to the statutory criteria?

Mr. Mikardo

That is absolutely right. There can be no dispute about that.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We have disposed of the word "substantially". We cannot return to it now.

Mr. Mikardo

As I have said, there is a further amendment that has been selected by Mr. Speaker. It has been discussed with other amendments but the House has not yet voted on it. I am not arguing about whether we should include "substantially". I am asking only, as other hon. Members have done, that the Attorney-General should come to the House to explain why he gave that advice.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

I agree with my hon. Friend's suggestion. I believe that he is referring to amendment No 90. The problem is that the word "substantial" in that amendment appears in relation to the risk of abnormality to a foetus. That word is excluded in the first part of amendment No. 90, whch refers to the life or health of the mother. It was in the latter context that it arose on amendment No 6.

Unfortunately, we have no opportunity of testing it. We shall only be able to learn in retrospect why the Attorney-General expressed the view on which amendment No 6 was defeated.

Mr. Mikardo

Learning in retrospect is better than being ignorant for ever. However, it is not as good as learning in advance. It is clear that the House desires to know the considerations behind the Attorney-General's decision.

Dr. Vaughan

The hon. Gentleman is being less than fair to my earlier comments. He may recall that I said that I knew that some hon. Members were anxious that the wording of the criteria should not, even theoretically, be capable of a statistical interpretation. If the House feels that a change is needed, the insertion of the word "substantially" would achieve that purpose.

Mr. Mikardo

I do not wish to distort any hon. Member's observations, especially those of the Minister. I listened carefully to his remarks. However, the Minister's remarks were an encouragement to hon. Members to vote against the amendment that sought to delete the word "substantially". I am sure that hon. Members interpreted them in that way. If that had not been said, there would not have been a majority against the amendment. The Minister must take responsibility for having influenced the House in that direction.

Mr. Edward Lyons (Bradford, West)

I agree that the Attorney-General should advise us. However, is it not true that the word "substantially"—even if legally defined for the purposes of a jury—is inadequate? A doctor does not want to reach the stage of appearing before a jury. He does not want to find a policeman at his door. Therefore, it all depends on how the doctor interprets the word "substantially". It is not a matter of whether he will be acquitted. He does not want to go to court at all. He does not even want to be interviewed by a police officer. That consideration will influence his decision, and that is the context within which the word should be considered.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. It might be for the greater clarity of the House if I point out that we have disposed of amendment No 6 dealing with the word "substantially". We have not disposed of the word "substantial" in amendment No 90. So may we leave the word "substantially" out of this debate?

Mr. Mikardo

With respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we have not disposed of the word "substantially" in amendment No 14 either. However, I do not wish to weary the House. As you will have noticed, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have long since departed from any discussion of that amendment. I was drawn back to it again and again by interventions from hon. Members. I was discussing clause 2.

I said that I hoped that the new form of words would be carefully considered by those competent. I am not sure that they are in the best form available.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Lyons) is absolutely right. The doctor who has to make a clinical judgment on the basis of good faith, knowledge and experience will be in danger of being taken to court, where the validity of that judgment will be decided by people who have no clinical training. That is the problem. The position should be made as clear, comprehensible and unambiguous as possible.

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The Minister has done his best to assist the promoter of the Bill. If the Minister says that he is satisfied that the new wording fulfils the criteria, he will make me a happy man. If he cannot, and if the Bill goes to the other place—and I am not passionately anxious that it should—the wording should be looked at again.

Mr. Orme

My hon. Friend was dealing with the current set of amendments, which he said required legal interpretation, and I urged him to ask the Attorney-General to come to the House to tell us not necessarily about the words "substantially" or "substantial" but the interpretation of the amendments.

Mr. Mikardo

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. He has corrected and improved what I was saying. I said that I should be happy if the Minister assured us that the wording is clear, unambiguous, comprehensible and in the best form. If he did so, the voice would be the voice of the Minister but the words would be the words of the Attorney-General. My right hon. Friend is right that it would be preferable to have the assurance from the original source.

Mr. Russell Kerr

The organ grinder and not the monkey.

Mr. Mikardo

I hope that the Minister will make an effort to get the Attorney-General to take part in the debate on these three amendments to clause 2.

I make my final point more in sorrow than in anger. My hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) has been a great help to those of us opposing the Bill and, if I may say so, has fought side by side with us very well indeed. However, I now have to criticise him. He is absolutely wrong in seeking to delete clause 2. I do not know his motives, and I am sure that he will tell us before long what he has in mind. He may have a reason that is so good that I shall be forced to change my opinion. I shall understand it if he says that he does not like clause 2 because he believes that it could cause the difficulties that we have been talking of. However, any reasonable clause 2 is better than no clause 2 at all.

A number of prognoses may go badly wrong, but that will not be discovered within the limit of 24 weeks. I under- stand that for medical reasons certain tests have to be taken fairly late in pregnancy. We should be putting women's lives at risk if we did not have a provision for exceptions beyond 24 weeks in emergencies, cases of abnormality and where life is seriously in danger.

I judge that the British Medical Association issued the statement that my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) read because the first proposals made by the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire would have eliminated clause 2, as well as clause 1(7) and clauses 3, 4, 5 and 6. The BMA took fright because it felt that doctors might be put into prison for saving a woman's life. It is as simple and straightforward as that. That is the sort of consequence that could result.

Much as I love my hon. Friend the Member for York, on this we part company.

Mr. Edward Lyons

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Committee Hansard shows that the Minister said that doctors would normally work two weeks below the limit? That was advice that he received from medical authorities. The limit would, therefore, be 22 weeks and not 24. If clause 2 goes, the limit will be 22 weeks. I believe that the Minister gave that advice because doctors would be frightened by the law and would work well within the limit, as they do not want a policeman knocking on their doors.

Mr. Mikardo

That is absolutely right. I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend. It was common ground in Committee between supporters and opponents of the Bill that doctors normally allow a safety margin. I understand that it is difficult to be precise about the gestational age of a foetus. If the age is X-plus or minus, a doctor will sensibly opt for the minus.

From now on, it will not be a case of only marginally deciding in favour of the minus. A doctor will be compelled to do so, because, I judge, he will otherwise have no defence if brought to court.

I repeat only one sentence of what I said. We must bear in mind that there are many highly litigious people and organisations involved, all of whom have a lot of money and do not mind running up costs, even if they lose the action. They would go for doctors without hesitation. The Bill in its present form makes doctors vulnerable, which is why the hon. Member for Windsor and Maidenhead, who is one of the doctors among us, has expressed concern. Without clause 2, doctors would be even more vulnerable.

In parting company with my hon. Friend the Member for York, I am bound to tell him that if he presses amendment No. 50 to a Division, he will find me, for the first time, in a different Lobby from him

Mr. Douglas Hogg

I wish to support most of the remarks of the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo).

I supported the Bill on Second Reading. I have great sympathy for those who oppose the whole concept of abortion. I believe that their motives are wholly honourable, and I understand why they wish to promote such Bills.

Having said that, I simply cannot support the Bill as it stands. Following from what the hon. Gentleman said, I favoured reducing the upper time limit to 22 weeks, but the House carried by a substantial majority the threshold of 24 weeks, and I am perfectly happy to compromise on that. I hope that the House will in the future make that the basis for an overall agreement.

I also feel that the attempt to withdraw the statutory criteria is a grave error. I did not hear the Minister when he spoke earlier at some length to that point, but I heard his helpful intervention five or 10 minutes ago. As far as it went, I believe that he is entirely right. He says that, if we wish to exclude the statistical defence, the introduction of the word "substantially" could have that effect. My hon. Friend is right. It is a matter of judgment.

The matter has much wider implications. I have no doubt that the introduction of "substantially" into the statutory criteria would make it significantly more difficult for doctors to satisfy the statutory defence to bring themselves within the exempting provisions afforded by the Act. The inevitable, natural and necessary consequence will be that doctors are less willing than at present to perform such operations. I do not wish to bring that about, and, therefore, I cannot support the Bill in its present form, because we have made a major change to the statutory criteria.

In common with probably 80 per cent. or 90 per cent. of hon. Members, I should like to see the 1967 Act changed in two respects. First, I should like to see an extended conscience clause. I hope that it is possible to agree to that at a future date. Secondly, I should like to see the upper time limit lowered. In my amendment, I originally said that it should be 22 weeks.

Dr. M. S. Miller

Would not the hon. Gentleman add a third provision—that facilities for abortion should be spread equally over the country? People talk of abuses. There is an abuse in that in many parts of the country it is almost impossible for National Health Service abortions to be performed.

Mr. Hogg

That is a very useful and interesting point. It is such considerations that make me unwilling to redraw the statutory criteria. I am very conscious that there are many parts of the country where doctors, for honourable reasons—I mean no criticism of them—are unwilling to perform the operation of abortion. What worries me is that if we raise the statutory threshold we shall make it more difficult for many people in many areas to obtain abortions.

I think that it was the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) who spoke on Second Reading about the class differences that would arise. The House was told then that it was all very well for the rich and sophisticated, because they would obtain an abortion whatever the law said.

Mrs. Renée Short

They always did before the Act.

Mr. Hogg

I am not dissenting. I agree that the rich and the sophisticated will always obtain an abortion, if that is what they wish. But a major change in the statutory criteria will make it more difficult for the poorer and less sophisticated women to have an abortion. I do not want to be a party to that.

I now reply directly to the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller). I hope that a compromise package can be produced. I agree that it should take into account the points that the hon. Gentleman raised, because they are valid.

I have no doubt that in future years hon. Members will introduce Private Members' Bills to reform the 1967 Act. I hope that they will provide an upper time limit of, say, 24 weeks. I agree with that, although I had an amendment to make it 22 weeks. If they can meet the hon. Gentleman's point about facilities, and if they can help us on the conscience clause, I shall be very pleased.

But any attempt significantly to change the statutory criteria will be rigorously opposed by hon. Members, including me. Any attempt to redraw the statutory criteria will inevitably mean that any abortion amendment Bill will fail. If that is so, and if it is linked to the upper threshold, we shall never have a reduction in the upper threshold.

Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)

I have been listening to the hon. Gentleman very carefully, and I have listened to many other speeches today without intervening, but I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman one question about the conscience clause. Does he agree that any future legislation should make it mandatory that doctors who use the conscience clause to refuse treatment to a woman who appeals for an abortion must pass her on to doctors who would be willing to give her advice and treatment?

1.15 pm
Mr. Hogg

I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman. But if we are to seek a compromise—and I hope that there will be a compromise between hon. Members on both sides of the argument—it is important not to lay down too many preconditions, because that makes compromise that much more difficult. I am certainly very sympathetic to what the hon. Gentleman has said, and I understand the force of his arguments.

Any attempt to reform the Act that inevitably involves redrawing the statutory criteria will fail. Therefore, I hope that no hon. Member introducing an abortion amendment Bill will try to touch the statutory criteria, because he will bring a mischief upon us all.

Mr. Speaker

I have considered the submission made by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) about the possible division of amendment No. 96. First, I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the researches that he undertook.

In this House, we are guided by precedent and we lean heavily on "Erskine May". In my judgment, that is for the protection both of the Chair and of the House itself. It is essential that there be consistency in the rulings of successive Speakers.

Amendment No. 96 would have the effect of leaving out clauses 3 to 6, but there are already on the Amendment Paper four other amendments—Nos. 88, 20, 31 and 36—each of which would have the effect of leaving out one of the four clauses.

Having carefully considered the matter, and having had regard to the decisions of my predecessors, to which the hon. Gentleman drew the attention of the House, I am satisfied that the hon. Gentleman's point of order was valid. Accordingly, at the end of the debate, instead of calling an hon. Member to move formally amendment No. 96, I propose to include amendments Nos. 88, 20, 31 and 36 in the present discussion, in which amendment No. 96 is also grouped, but to allow separate Divisions. This will in no way enlarge the scope of the debate, but it will mean four extra Divisions if they are called for.

I must make it clear that in making this ruling I am not suggesting that the Chair has a duty to divide an amendment simply because an hon. Member suggests that it might possibly be done. It must clearly be the case, as it is in this instance, that the parts are obviously divisible, each standing on its own.

Dr. McDonald

I wish to thank you very much for your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) for the research that he did.

Amendment No. 96 was first tabled in my name and the names of a number of my hon. Friends. When the Notice Paper was printed, I was somewhat surprised to find several additional names. They include the hon. Members for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon), for Bute and North Ayrshire (Mr. Corrie) and for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine). The effect of amendment No. 96 would be to remove clauses 3 to 6. In the Standing Committee, I listened with interest to the impassioned speeches by the sponsors and supporters of the Bill.

It has sometimes been argued that the House has been offered a compromise in order to settle the question of abortion once and for all. I wish to put on record one or two matters in connection with suggested compromises, since it is important that that should now be done.

First, there was no question at any time of a formal meeting between those of my hon. Friends and myself who oppose the Bill and the promoter and hon. Members who support him. There was never a formal meeting and there was no formal offer of a compromise.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe)

Do I take my hon. Friend to be saying that, in spite of the considerable publicity given to talk about a compromise, neither those of my hon. Friends who sat on the Standing Committee nor others of us who have legitimate worries about this dog's breakfast of a Bill were ever consulted? Do I understand that those who were members of the Standing Committee were never offered that compromise in the terms that we were led by the press to believe had been offered?

Dr. McDonald

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention, for that is indeed the point which I was stressing.

I think that it will be helpful if I recite the events which occurred during this week. I understand that the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire issued a press statement on Monday in which he stated what he would like the contents of the Bill to be. I have no wish to misrepresent the hon. Gentleman, but I understand that it was said or implied—perhaps in the press statement itself, but I do not know since I did not read a copy of the statement—that that compromise had been offered to us in some way.

Once the members of the press lobby received copies of that press statement, they naturally turned to members of the Standing Committee whom they knew to oppose the Bill. I refer here to my hon. Friends the Members for Barking (Miss Richardson), for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo), for Preston, South (Mr. Thorne), for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) and myself. They asked us for our response to what they told us was the content of the compromise.

That was news to us, of course, since we had never been given a document or had a formal meeting of any kind. We made comments as individuals, and later, when we had had a chance to confer with one another, we made our comments on it. I hear a murmured remark by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking to the effect that some of them may have been unprintable and therefore unmentionable in the Chamber, and I shall not embarrass you, Mr. Speaker, by actually voicing them now.

What it came to, in essence, was that whereas almost all of us were prepared to accept a reduction of the upper time limit to 24 weeks, that was the only thing that we were prepared to accept, and there was no way in which we were prepared to accept any further alterations of any kind to the 1967 Act. That was our view because, unlike those hon. Members who support and sponsor the Bill, we do not believe that the 1967 Act gives abortion on demand. Moreover, we are firmly of the opinion that the 1967 Act, although it may not command the support of a majority of right hon. and hon. Members—it may not; that is yet to be put to the test—certainly commands the support of the majority of people in this country. That has been demonstrated time and again.

Further "compromises"—I put the word in inverted commas—appeared during the week. We suddenly discovered that an amendment to his own Bill was to be tabled by the promoter, seeking to delete not just clauses 3 to 6 but clauses 2 to 6. It is that endeavour which has aroused the dismay and anger of the British Medical Association, since it saw the serious consequences of the deletion of clause 2 even in the muddled form in which it left Committee. I say "muddled form" because, of course, hon. Members supporting the Bill in Committee were never prepared even properly to tidy up the clauses of their own Bill.

The British Medical Association understood at once that after 24 weeks, without clause 2 in the Bill if it ever became law, an abortion could not be carried out to save a woman's life even in the event of serious emergency.

Faced with that situation, we conferred among ourselves and decided that the least that we could do was to table an alternative amendment for the deletion of clauses 3 to 6, leaving clause 2 to remain, which would give us the opportunity to debate our amendments to clause 2 with a view to ensuring proper protection both for the medical profession and for women who might be in some gravely serious situation at a late stage in their pregnancy. That is why we put that alternative amendment down, but at no time was it the result of any consultation, compromise or agreement of any kind reached between the opposing sides on the Standing Committee.

Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)

I am following the hon. Lady's argument. She has explained that, although she had to buy a newspaper in order to find out what it was that the promoter of the Bill was suggesting, it was totally unacceptable to her and her hon. Friends to countenance anything but a change in the period from 28 weeks to 24. Has she considered sending a formal document to the promoter so that he might perhaps withdraw everything and agree to that? It seems to me that the longer we go on, the less likely are we to get anywhere at all.

Dr. McDonald

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, but the problem now is that the debate on the Bill has proceeded and the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire has already allowed the arguments to be pursued on the amendment to the criteria laid down in the 1967 Act, Moreover, unfortunately, the word "substantially" has been inserted in those criteria, which already makes the Bill unacceptable to us.

I feel, therefore, that matters have now gone beyond the stage when there might have been a formal approach from us saying "No more than a reduction of the upper time limit from 28 to 24 weeks". We are left with a Bill which does immense damage to doctors and to women and their families simply by the insertion of the word "substantially" in the criteria relating to an abortion.

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Dr. Glyn

Does the hon. Lady agree that now that that word has been inserted the only constitutional way in which the Bill can be changed in that respect is in another place? Other than that, the Bill will remain as it is.

Dr. McDonald

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, but, should we in this House at any time reach a Third Reading debate, I hope that we would take the obvious step and vote the Bill down. That is the step that needs to be taken.

I am puzzled by some of the names that have been added to the amendment standing in the names of myself and a large number of my hon. Friends. Let me give one example to show the degree of my puzzlement. One of the signatories is the hon. Member for Essex, South-East. He tells us by signing the amendment that he is happy to see clause 3 deleted. The clause is about conscientious objection. Let me refer to what the hon. Gentleman said in Standing Committee. He made two speeches in Committee: one of them I heard on a number of occasions, the other I heard twice. The first is a very general and wide-ranging speech, and it is delivered in a style which indicates the depth of the hon. Gentleman's feelings and his degree of emotion and excitability on the subject. That is not the speech I wish to deal with.

I wish to refer to the hon. Gentleman's speech which relates to a specific matter in which he tells us of his concern to protect certain members of the medical profession. He told us in Standing Committee: In the years that followed the implementation of the 1967 Act, there grew up, as some of us had foreseen, a series of grave abuses, most of which, I readily concede, have since been overcome. I wish that he could convince some of his supporters of that.

But the abuses grew up, became a national scandal and Parliament had to do something about them, the Government appointed the Lane committee … As a result of the abuses, attention was switched from something that was happening and which was causing concern and distress to a number—albeit a small number—of doctors and nurses. Only gradually did it emerge that there were these difficulties. As one who has been concerned with this matter for a good number of years, I have received a very large number of letters over that time from doctors and nurses expressing concern on this subject. I imagine that when my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon)"— who is also glad to see clause 3 deleted, because his name is attached to amendment No. 96— and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. White) made it known that they were introducing their Bills, they too received evidence that such distress was being caused to individual members of the healing professions.

I have even had letters from auxiliary medical staff on the subject, and from people working in hospital laboratories, who are deeply concerned with what is happening. One should not be surprised, because those who enter the healing professions enter them primarily for the purpose of preserving life. Therefore, when faced with the question of abortion, there is bound to be some heart-searching. This is not an argument against abortion itself. One recognises that this is an agonising dilemma which faces every society and faces us now. There is no question of making abortion unlawful. I wish that his hon. Friends took that view, too.

What we have to do is to make lawful abortion safe and make sure that it is properly conducted."—[Official Report, Standing Committee C, 4 December 1979; c. 414–5.] Later in the same debate the hon. Gentleman went on to suggest that certain members of the medical profession were actually denied promotion because they refused to carry out abortions.

The hon. Gentleman therefore pursues two serious issues of concern. One is his desire to protect doctors and nurses. It is a very wide-ranging desire because he wishes to protect people working in hospital laboratories, people who are in any way connected with the carrying out of abortions. The hon. Gentleman is properly concerned to ensure that no one in the medical profession is denied a promotion because he or she holds views on a matter which I agree is a matter of private conscience.

The hon. Gentleman had a great deal to say on this subject, but it was not said from the standpoint of objective concern. It was said with the hon. Gentleman's usual deep feeling and passion—that same deep feeling and passion which he exhibits to the House on subjects of this nature and which we have witnessed on a number of occasions.

Now the hon. Gentleman has put his name to an amendment which seeks to delete clause 3. I see no amendment in his name proposing that the House should knock out only clauses 4 to 6 because he really cares about the subject matter of clause 3.

I have been present throughout the sittings of two Standing Committees in which the hon. Gentleman has taken part and I know that his desire to protect nurses especially is one of his main themes. Therefore, I am deeply puzzled by the easy way in which the hon. Gentleman is prepared to jettison that concern. It makes me wonder.

Sir Bernard Braine

The hon. Lady has paid me the compliment of reading words that I uttered in Standing Committee, not one of which I withdraw.

The hon. Lady is also puzzled because I have lent my name to this amendment. She need not be puzzled. The reason is quite simple. Every word that I said in Committee was based upon literally years of study of this subject and on membership of a Select Committee which took a great deal of evidence from leading members of the healing professions.

What concerns me is that the hon. Lady especially—because not all Opposition Members agree with her—wants to kill this Bill. But the House has already resolved that the upper time limit for termination should be reduced to 24 weeks. That means literally that a large number of babies who otherwise would have their lives snuffed out under the existing law are now protected by a decision of this House, in conformity with what the Lane committee recommended. The Lane committee recommended on the advice of the BMA and the Royal college of the day that the upper time limit should be reduced to 24 weeks. That was years ago. The House has now, belatedly, agreed that it should be reduced to 24 weeks.

If the hon. Lady has her way and if this Bill is driven into the ground, which is what she wants, we are back not to square one but to the position where, in the case of late abortions, babies will have their lives snuffed out.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon


Dr. McDonald


Mr. Speaker

Order. It is quite disorderly for a second hon. Member to seek to intervene before the first hon. Member's intervention has been answered.

Dr. McDonald

There are two matters in that speech, or intervention, by the hon. Member for Essex, South-East which I must take up. The hon. Gentleman and I are already agreed about one thing, which is about the reduction of the upper time limit from 28 weeks to 24 weeks. I am glad to note the passion with which he supports that view.

Mr. Mikardo

He voted against it.

Sir Bernard Braine


Dr. McDonald

I mean passion in the sense of moral passion. I entirely understand and appreciate the point which the hon. Gentleman is making. But that has nothing to do with the point that I raised with him at an earlier stage. It may be that my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) can cast some light on the comments made by the hon. Gentleman. I see that he has been at pains to interrupt. I have given part of my answer to the hon. Member for Essex, South-East.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Surely the answer to the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) is that there has never been a right, either before the 1967 Act or since, to snuff out the lives of babies. The Infant Life (Preservation) Act never allowed a viable foetus to be killed. It is a total misrepresentation of that Act to suggest that it did. If a viable foetus emerges from the womb, it is the duty of a consultant gynaecologist to see that it lives. If he snuffed out the life of that foetus, even if it were aborted within the meaning of the Act, he would still be guilty of murder.

Sir Bernard Braine


Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot have two interruptions one after the other without the hon. Member who has the Floor at least saying a few words.

Dr. McDonald

I thank you once again, Mr. Speaker, for helping me out. I seem to be overwhelmed by interventions, and I shall try to deal with them.

First, I thank ray hon. Friend the Member for York, who has put the point that I failed to put with such admirable clarity. I shall now give way to the hon. Member for Essex, South-East.

Sir Bernard Braine

What the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) said a moment ago is a clear statement of the law, and no one would dispute it. The point that I was making, which the hon. Lady was quite unable to grasp, was that the Lane committee came to the conclusion that the upper time limit should be reduced to 24 weeks because it looked at the problem as a whole. It is well known that above 24 weeks a high proportion of foetuses that are aborted would have a chance of survival. The Lane committee came to that conclusion in either 1974 or 1975. Yet here is the House, about six years later, deciding that the upper time limit should be 24 weeks. All T am saying is that if the hon. Lady has her way, and the Bill is destroyed, we are not back at square one but are in a position where, although the House has admitted that there is need to protect the unborn child after 24 weeks, it is not willing to compromise to ensure that that becomes law.

Mr. Freud

The hon. Gentleman should make his Banaban speech.

Dr. McDonald

I must blame and castigate the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud), who is distracting my attention with some frivolous remarks. I wish to return to the serious subject under discussion.

Dr. M. S. Miller


Mr. Mikardo

Address the Chair.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) is quite right. It is the normal courtesy to address the Chair.

1.45 pm
Dr. Miller

Will my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Dr. McDonald) refute the claim of the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) that a high proportion of foetuses live for 24 weeks? Will she make it clear that a very low proportion of such foetuses live? There have been only two cases—in a highly specialised clinic—of foetuses that have lived between 24 and 26 weeks.

Dr. McDonald

I should like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller) for putting the facts clearly and plainly to the House. I think that there is now no need for me to refute the point. The hon. Member for Essex, South East, who is still not listening—

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Arthur Lewis (Newham, North-West)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have only been in the Chamber for a short while, but my hon. Friend has been consistently interrupted in her speech. Hon. Members have made it difficult for her to continue. She is trying to reply to a very long interjection by the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine), but he refuses to listen and he deliberately speaks to someone on the Front Bench. It is a waste of time for the House. He should listen to her reply.

Mr. Speaker

Order. First, may I tell the hon. Gentleman that the person on the Front Bench is the Minister. There is rather a lot of noise around the hon. Lady, but perhaps she will now continue her speech.

Dr. McDonald

Once again, Mr. Speaker, I thank you very much indeed for the protection that you have given me—from my hon. Friends, never mind Conservative Members.

I was trying to tell the hon. Member for Essex, South-East that in his lengthy intervention, or speech—I do not think that we have decided what to call it—he missed the point entirely. When I read the speeches that he made in Committee and expressed my puzzlement that he had attached his name to an amendment that stands in my name, I was not talking about the upper time limit. My puzzlement was over his wish to exclude the conscience clause, in view of the fact that the hon. Gentleman has expressed such repeated concern for nurses, doctors and others who work in hospitals.

The hon. Gentleman feels—I think quite wrongly—that doctors and nurses are involved in carrying out abortions when they do not wish to do so. He has told us time and time again that under the 1967 Act they are obliged to take part in abortions, even though it is totally against their conscience.

The hon. Gentleman has told us that he has received a large number of letters from doctors, nurses and others in the profession. I wonder how he will reply to them. Will he tell them that the speeches that he made in Committee should not be taken too seriously? I do not wish to impute that the hon. Gentleman is being insincere in any way. That would be wrong and unparliamentary. But how do his views square up with his putting his name to the amendment?

What will he write to those doctors and nurses who have written to him? Will he say that he will do anything to get part of a Bill through Parliament in one Session, even if it means jettisoning his concern for their conscience? Will he say that he will be concerned about their consciences when yet another Bill is brought before Parliament in an attempt to restrict availability of abortion even more than at present? Will he write to those doctors and nurses, or will he take the easy way out and not write anything to them? Will he simply send them copies of the speeches that he made in Committee, hoping that they will not lay their hands on a copy of the Official Report of today's proceedings in this House, or of the Order Paper, from which they would note that he put his name to an amendment seeking to delete clause 3, the very one that most concerns them?

Mrs. Dunwoody

Has not my hon. Friend understood that the difficulty with the sudden conversion of the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine), which has resulted in his wishing to remove clauses from the Bill, is that it is all part of an extremely silly ploy? The supporters of the Bill did not want to compromise and had no intention of doing so. Now that they have got the Bill into the most awful mess, they are seeking a way out. The Bill is an absolute disaster as it stands at present, and its supporters should have the decency to admit it.

Dr. McDonald

My hon. Friend is quite right. She has gone right to the heart of the matter. But it would be interesting to hear what are the views of the hon. Member for Essex, South-East. He ought to tell us what are his intentions in suddenly abandoning the views that he says he has held so very sincerely.

I notice that another signatory to the amendment is the hon. Member for Buckingham. His behaviour is very interesting.

Mr. William Hamilton

Does my hon. Friend recollect that the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Sir B. Braine) waxed eloquent about the charities which are included in clause 4? Does she realise that he is also seeking to get rid of that clause?

Dr. McDonald

My mind and the mind of my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central are obviously running along precisely the same lines. I was about to link with the hon. Member for Essex, South-East his hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham. Clause 4 would also disappear if the amendment were to be accepted. As my hon. Friend has just pointed out, that is the clause dealing with charities.

I have done the hon. Member for Essex, South-East an injustice and I apologise to him for that. I know that he is very concerned about conscience, but he is also very concerned about the charities. That is because he thinks that doctors and nurses who work in the charities on a part-time basis make a great deal of money out of it. He thinks that they perform abortions for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service or the Pregnancy Advisory Service on a part-time basis, and that some of them are already working as NHS doctors, while others are working as full-time nurses.

Although I managed to keep awake during the entire proceedings of the two Standing Committees dealing with the subject of abortion, the interesting thing is that I do not think I ever heard those who supported either of the Bills—[Interruption.] I notice that the hon. Member for Buckingham, who introduced the first Bill, keeps shifting around from one seat to another, so that I cannot quite decide where he is at any time. Neither he nor the hon. Member for Essex, South-East ever said a word about the commercial sector.

We mentioned Harley Street, where the fees are high and there is always money to be made. But I have never heard the hon. Member for Buckingham or the hon. Member for Essex, South-East mention Harley Street. Occasionally when they refer to the private clinics they pick a private clinic with the lowest possible "catch" advertisements, rather like the supermarkets put in a loss leader. They might occasionally refer to one of those clinics, but they normally gun for the charities and never for the commercial sector.

Clause 4 of the Bill as printed was designed to destroy the charities. One has to bear in mind that the charities are responsible for carrying out approximately 30,000 abortions a year, especially in areas where doctors in the National Health Service—which makes a nonsense of the whole claim that the Bill is about abortion on demand—provide abortions at a low cost and sometimes even free to people who live in areas where NHS abortions are refused.

The hon. Members for Buckingham and Essex, South-East seem to be concerned, and their concern has two prongs. The first prong, as I have already said, is that doctors and nurses make a lot of money out of abortions. Their second prong of concern is about the fact that charities provide counselling services. They claim that counselling services cannot possibly be objective because the counsellors direct women who want abortions to clinics that are run by the charities.

In Standing Committee the hon. Member for Essex, South-East referred to charities. The hon. Member for Buckingham talked at length about charities, both in relation to his own Bill and in relation to this Bill. Of course, the hon. Member for Buckingham has two things that he must explain. I remember that when I sat on the Committee considering his Bill he suddenly dispensed with the clauses to restrict charities. He disembowelled his Bill to get it through that Committee quickly. But, whatever he has done in the past, we find his name and the name of the hon. Member for Essex, South-East attached to this Bill. Both of them are happy to delete the clause relating to charities.

Again I am puzzled. I feel that they owe the House an explanation. Do they care about the charities? Do they think that the charities push and pressurise women through the counselling services and force them to have an abortion? Do they think that the doctors and nurses working in the charities make a huge pile of money? Let me hasten to reassure the House that that is not so. I have looked carefully at the salary scales for employees in the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and in the Pregnancy Advisory Service and I have discovered that a doctor who wants to make money would be far better off doing certain kinds of extra work, or carrying out vasectomies and fitting IUDs within the NHS rather than going down to the BPAS or PAS clinic and carrying out work there. They would make more money in the NHS—apart from going to the real commercial sector.

What we need is for the hon. Members for Buckingham and Essex, South-East to tell us what they are up to. Do they mean what they say, or do they not? We are owed an explanation.

2 pm

Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith, North)

I am following my hon. Friend's argument with care. I apologise for having been absent this morning. I was attending a meeting.

My hon. Friend is on a very important point. I asked myself why hon. Members were putting this point about charities. If they were really concerned about that, as opposed to just undermining the 1967 Act, surely the answer would be to incorporate the charities in some way, either in social services departments or in the National Health Service. There is a similarity with adoption. Local authorities place children for adoption and they have children in their care. We get around the dangers in that by having local authority care and control and checks made upon the system. Surely, if people were genuine about their concern in this respect, they would promote a takeover by the NHS or the social services.

Dr. McDonald

I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. His solution to the problem—I do not want to describe it as a problem; let us call it the role of the charities—is not one that has occurred to me. My view has been that the NHS should be fully extended, particularly through the provision of day care units, which are less costly to run, and that these should be available in all parts of the country.

What really disturbs me is the regional disparities in NHS provision. I feel that every woman should have the right to go to her usual doctor, and, provided that he is not excluded on the ground of conscience, to her local gynaecologist, and to her local hospital. The operation should be carried out under the NHS either in a day care unit or, if the pregnancy is at a somewhat later stage, under normal hospitalisation. I should prefer to see that sort of solution.

Mr. Soley

My hon. Friend has been very generous in giving way. I am sorry to have to intervene again but it is on an important matter. The point that I am making relates to a stage that is slightly further from what she is discussing. If those who are proposing and supporting the Bill are serious in their concern about the charities, this is the sort of solution that they should have proposed. That was my point. I am not suggesting that there is a problem here. I am suggesting that the solutions being proposed by the proponents of the Bill are utterly wrong, and this throws doubt on their intentions.

Dr. McDonald

I thank my hon. Friend. I am afraid that I had not grasped his important point. Certainly it is a point to which one would hope that the hon. Members for Essex, South-East and Buckingham would reply.

I have taken time to show to the House—because the House does not have the time to read all the proceedings of the Standing Committee—what has been going on. These two hon. Members spoke strongly in Committee in support of various parts of the Bill which they are now jettisoning with complete abandon, without any explanation. In the interests of proving their sincerity, either of them or both of them should explain why they are signatories to this amendment to remove clauses 3 and 4 from the Bill.

Mr. W. Benyon

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker—

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House proceeded to a Division

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

(seated and covered): If anything is more calculated to bring this place into contempt and ridicule, Mr. Speaker, it must be this method of raising a point of order with you. It is a somewhat embarrassing situation. How is it possible to proceed to a vote on the amendment when I have not been allowed to move amendment No. 50, which stands in my name, and the Minister has not been allowed to reply to any of the amendments that have so far been introduced? Surely it is inappropriate in those circumstances to call for a vote on the amendment.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) will be aware that I do not decide whether the Question will be put. I merely accept the closure. The House will decide whether the Question will be put, and it will do that in the Lobbies. The answer is not in my hands but in the hands of the House.


Mr. Speaker

Will the Serjeant at Arms see whether there is delay in the Lobby? We are already much over time, and there is nothing to be gained by it.

The House having divided: Ayes 186, Noes 158.

Division No. 205] AYES [2.02 pm
Abse, Leo Garel-Jones, Tristan Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)
Alison, Michael Ginsburg, David Mudd, David
Alton, David Glyn, Dr Alan Murphy, Christopher
Ancram, Michael Gow, lan Neubert, Michael
Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East) Greenway, Harry Newton, Tony
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Grieve, Percy Normanton, Tom
Beith, A. J. Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon) Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Ogden, Eric
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Page, John (Harrow, West)
Berry, Hon Anthony Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Page, Rt Hon Sir R. Graham
Sevan, David Gilroy Henderson, Barry Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Biggs-Davlson, John Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire) Patten, John (Oxford)
Blackburn, John Home Robertson, John Pawsey, James
Boscawen, Hon Robert Hooson, Tom Pendry, Tom
Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West) Hordern, Peter Penhallgon, David
Bowden, Andrew Hughes, Mark (Durham) Percival, Sir Ian
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Hunt, David (Wirral) Pollock, Alexander
Bradford, Rev. R. Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Price, David (Eastleigh)
Braine, Sir Bernard Jessel, Toby Rathbone, Tim
Bray, Dr Jeremy Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)
Bright, Graham Jones, Dan (Burnley) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Brinton, Tim Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Brotherton, Michael Kitson, Sir Timothy Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Butcher, John Knight, Mrs Jill Rodger:, Rt Hon William
Campbell-Savours, Dale Lambie, David St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman
Canavan, Dennis Lang, Ian Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Lawrence, Ivan Shersby, Michael
Channon, Paul Le Marchant, Spencer Silvester, Fred
Churchill, W. S. Lester, Jim (Beeston) Sims, Roger
Clegg, Sir Walter Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Skeet, T. H. H.
Cohen, Stanley Loveridge, John Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Cormack, Patrick Lyell, Nicholas Smith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire)
Corrie, John Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Costain, A. P. McCartney, Hugh Stanley, John
Craigen, J. M. (Glasgow, Maryhill) McCrindle, Robert Stewart, Rt Hon Donald (W Isles)
Cranborne, Viscount McElhone, Frank Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)
Cunliffe, Lawrence MacGregor, John Stradling Thomas, J.
Dalyell, Tarn MacKay, John (Argyll) Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)
Dean, Paul (North Somerset) MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Tebblt, Norman
Dempsey, James Maclennan, Robert Thompson, Donald
Dewar, Donald McMahon, Andrew Thorne, Nell (llford South)
Dixon, Donald McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, Central) Tinn, James
Douglas, Dick McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury) Trippler, David
Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale) McNamara, Kevin Urwln, Rt Hon Tom
Dunn, Robert (Dartlord) McQuarrie, Albert van Straubenzee, W. R.
Dunnett, Jack Maguire, Frank (Fermanagh) Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Durant, Tony Marlow, Tony Waddington, David
Eadie, Alex Marshall, David (Gl'sgow,Shettles'n) Wakeham,John
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Wall, Patrick
Eggar, Timothy Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Ward, John
English, Michael Marten, Nell (Banbury) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Ewing, Harry Martin, Michael (Gl'gow Sprlngb'rn) White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
Eyre, Reginald Mawhinney, Dr Brian White, James (Glasgow, Pollock)
Fell, Anthony Mayhew, Patrick Wickenden, Keith
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Mellor, David Wiggin, Jerry
Finsberg, Geoffrey Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Witley, Rt Hon Frederick
Fisher, Sir Nigel Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch) Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)
Fitch, Alan Mills, lain (Merlden) Winterton, Nicholas
Fitt, Gerard Mills, Peter (West Devon) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Moate, Roger
Fookes, Miss Janet Montgomery, Fergus TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe) Mr. Vivian Bendall and
Fry, Peter Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Mr. Ian Campbell.
Galbralth, Hon T. G. D.
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ernest Ashton, Joe Bagier, Gordon A. T.
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Garrett, John (Norwich S) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Park, George
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Parry, Robert
Best, Keith Golding, John Pavitt, Laurie
Bidwell, Sydney Graham, Ted Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Grist, Ian Prescott, John
Bradley, Tom Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Price, Christopher (Lewisham West)
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Haynes, Frank Race, Reg
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Heller, Eric S. Radice, Giles
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham) Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South)
Brown, Ronald W. (Hackney S) Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall) Richardson, Jo
Browne, John (Winchester) Homewood, William Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Buchan, Norman Hooley, Frank Roberts, Ernest (Hackney North)
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Howells, Geraint Roberts. Gwilym (Cannock)
Carmichael, Neil Huckfield, Les Rooker, J W.
Carter-Jones, Lewis Hudson Davles, Gwllym Ednyfed Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
Cartwright, John Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Janner, Hon Greville Sandelson, Neville
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Scott, Nicholas
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Johnson, James (Hull West) Sever, John
Cook, Robin F. Kerr, Russell Sheerman, Barry
Cowans, Harry Kilfedder, James A. Short, Mrs Renee
Crouch, David Kilroy-Silk, Robert Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Crowther, J. S. Kinnock, Nell Silkin, Rt Hon S.C. (Dulwich)
Cunningham, George (Islington S) Knox, David Silverman, Julius
Davis. Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford) Lamborn, Harry Soley, Clive
Deakins, Eric Leadbitter, Ted Spearing, Nigel
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Leighton, Ronald Spriggs, Leslie
Dobson, Frank Lewis, Arthur (Newham North West) Squire, Robin
Dormand, Jack Litherland, Robert Stallard, A. W.
Dubs, Alfred Lofthouse, Geoffrey Steel, Rt Hon David
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Lyon, Alexander (York) Stoddart, David
Eastham, Ken Lyons, Edward (Bradford West) Strang, Gavin
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) McDonald, Dr Oonagh Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)
Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire) McKay, Allen (Penistone) Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Ennals, Rt Hon David McKelvey, William Thomas, Mike (Newcastle East)
Evans, loan (Aberdare) McWilliam, John Thomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)
Evans, John (Newton) Magee, Bryan Tilley, John
Faith, Mrs Sheila Marland, Paul Torney, Tom
Field, Frank Marshall, Jim (Leicester South) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Flannery, Martin Maxton, John Walker, Rt Hon Harold (Doncaster)
Fletcher, L. R. (Ilkeston) Maynard, Miss Joan Weetch, Ken
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mikardo, Ian Welsh, Michael
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Miller, Dr M. S. (East Kilbride) Whitehead, Phillip
Forman, Nigel Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen) Winnick, David
Forrester, John Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Foster, Derek Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes) Wright, Sheila
Foulkes, George Morton, George Young, David (Bolton East)
Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood) Moyle, Rt Hon Roland
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Needham, Richard TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Freud, Clement Newens, Stanley Mr. Stan Thorne and
Gardiner, George (Reigate) O'Neill, Martin Mr. William Hamilton.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Mr. Speaker

The Question is, That the amendment be made—

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. There cannot be a point of order now. The House has instructed me to put the Question.

Question put accordingly, That the amendment be made:—

The House proceeded to a Division

Mr. Patrick Cormack

(Staffordshire, South-West) [seated and covered]: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. There is a long tradition in the House that Members' votes and their voices should go together. I am sure that you will agree. It is clear that this is a contrived Division. I have even heard hon. Members on the other side of the argument say that they are dividing to spin out time. May we have your observations and guidance, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker

No one can spin out time at this stage, because it is too late to call another Division once we reach 2.30 pm. If that unworthy thought were in anyone's mind, it was there to no use.

It is very hard for me to tell, when the House shouts, who shouts "Aye" and who shouts "No". Therefore, I was unable to tell whether hon. Members' votes followed their voices.

The House having divided: Ayes 174, Noes 149.

Division No. 206] AYES [2.20 pm
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ernest Freud, Clement Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Gardiner, George (Reigate) Park, George
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott ham) Garrett, John (Norwich S) Pavltt, Laurie
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Pendry, Tom
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Penhallgon, David
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Golding, John Piescott, John
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Graham, Ted Price, Christopher (Lewlsham West)
Best, Keith Grist, Ian Race, Reg
Bidwell, Sydney Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Radlce, Giles
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Haynes, Frank Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South)
Bowden, Andrew Heffer, Eric S. Richardson, Jo
Bradley, Tom Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire) fiobe'ts, Albert (Normanton)
Brinton, Tim Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall) Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Homewood, William Roberts, Ernest (Hackney North)
Brotherton, Michael Hooley, Frank Rodgers, Rt Hon William
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Howells, Geraint Hooker, J. W.
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Huckfield, Les Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)
Brown, Ronald W. (Hackney S) Hudson Davies, Gwllym Ednyfed Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Browne, John (Winchester) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North) Sandelson, Neville
Buchan, Norman Hunt, David (Wirral) Scott, Nicholas
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Janner, Hon Greville Sever, John
Carmichael, Neil Johnson, James (Hull West) Sheerman, Barry
Cartwright, John Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Short, Mrs Renee
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Kerr, Russell Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcllffe) Kilfedder, James A. Silverman, Julius
Cook, Robin F. Kilroy-Silk, Robert Smith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire)
Cowans, Harry Klnnock, Neil Soley, Clive
Crouch, David Knox, David Spriggs, Leslie
Crowther, J. S. Lambie, David Squire, Robin
Cryer, Bob Lamborn, Harry Stallard, A. W.
Cunningham, George (Islington S) Leadbitter, Ted Steel, Rt Hon David
Dalyell, Tarn Leighton, Ronald Stoddart, David
Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechlord) Lewis, Arthur (Newham North West) Strang, Gavin
Deakins, Eric Litherland, Robert Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Lofthouse, Geoffrey Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)
Dewar, Donald Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Dobson, Frank McDonald, Dr Oonagh Thomas, Mike (Newcastle East)
Dormand, Jack McKay, Allen (Penistone) Thorne, Nell (llford South)
Dubs, Alfred MacKay, John (Argyll) Tilley, John
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth McKelvey, William Torney, Tom
Eadie, Alex Maclennan, Robert Townend, John (Bridlington)
Eastham, Ken McWilliam, John Trippier, David
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) Magee, Bryan Walker, Rt Hon Harold (Doncaster)
Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire) Marland, Paul Weetch, Ken
English, Michael Maxton, John Welsh, Michael
Ennals, Rt Hon David Maynard, Miss Joan Whitehead, Phillip
Evans, loan (Aberdare) Miller, Dr M. S. (East Kilbride) Wilkinson, John
Faith, Mrs Sheila Mitchell, P. C. (Soton, Itchen) Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Fell, Anthony Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe) Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)
Field, Frank Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Winnick, David
Flannery, Martin Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Fletcher, L. R. (Ilkeston) Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes) Wright, Sheila
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Morton, George Young, David (Bolton East)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Moyle, Rt Hon Roland Young, Sir George (Acton)
Forman, Nigel Needham, Richard
Forrester, John Neubert, Michael TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Foster, Derek Newens, Stanley Mr. Alexander W. Lyon and
Foulkes, George Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Mr. Ian Mikardo.
Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood) O'Neill, Martin
Abse, Leo Bray, Dr Jeremy Cranborne, Viscount
Alison, Michael Bright, Graham Cunliffe, Lawrence
Alton, David Brinton, Tim Dean, Paul (North Somerset)
Ancram, Michael Brotherton, Michael Dempsey, James
Atkinson, David (B'mouth. East) Butcher, John Dfxon, Donald
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Cadbury, Jocelyn Douglas, Dick
Belth, A. J. Campbell, Ian Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
Bendall, Vivian Campbell-Savours, Dale Dunn, Robert (Dartford)
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon) Canavan, Dennis Dunnett, Jack
Berry, Hon Anthony Carlisle, John (Luton West) Durant, Tony
Bevan, David Gllroy Channon, Paul Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke)
Biggs-Davison, John Churchill, W. S. Eggar, Timothy
Blackburn, John Clegg, Sir Walter Eyre, Reginald
Boscawen, Hon Robert Cohen, Stanley Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West) Cormack, Patrick Finsberg, Geoffrey
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Corrle, John Fisher, Sir Nigel
Bradford, Rev. R. Craigen, J. M. (Glasgow, Maryhlll) Fltt, Gerard
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury) Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)
Fookes, Miss Janet McNamara, Kevin Rees-Davies, W. R.
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) McQuarrie, Albert Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Fry, Peter Maguire, Frank (Fermanagh) St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman
Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Marlow, Tony Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Garel-Jones, Tristan Marshall, David (Gl'sgow,Shettles'n) Shersby, Michael
Ginsburg, David Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Silvester, Fred
Glyn, Dr Alan Marten, Neil (Banbury) Sims, Roger
Greenway, Harry Martin, Michael (Gl'gow Springb'rn) Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Grieve, Percy Mather, Carol Stanley, John
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Mawhinney, Dr Brian Stevens, Martin
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Mayhew, Patrick Stewart, Rt Hon Donald (W Isles)
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Mellor, David Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)
Henderson, Barry Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Stradling Thomas, J.
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham) Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch) Tebbit, Norman
Hooson, Tom Mills, lain (Meriden) Thomas, Dr Roger (Carmartken)
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Mills, Peter (West Devon) Thompson, Donald
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Moate, Roger Tinn, James
Jessel, Toby Montgomery, Fergus Urwin, Rt Hon Tom
Johnson Smith, Gecffrey Morrison, Hon Peter (City ot Chester) van Straubenzee, W. R.
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Mudd, David Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Murphy, Christopher Waddington, David
Kitson, Sir Timothy Newton, Tony Wakeham, John
Knight, Mrs Jill Normanton, Tom Wall, Patrick
Lang, Ian Ogden, Eric Ward, John
Lawrence, Ivan Page, Rt Hon Sir R. Graham Wells, John (Maidstone)
Le Marchant, Spencer Parry, Robert White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Patten, Christopher (Bain) White, James (Glasgow, Pollock)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Patten, John (Oxford) Wickenden, Keith
Loveridge, John Pawsey, James Winterton, Nicholas
Lyell, Nicholas Percival, Sir Ian
McElhone, Frank Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
McMahon, Andrew Price, David (Eastleigh) Mr, Stan Thorne and
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, Central) Rathbone, Tim Mr. William Hamilton.

Question accordingly agreed to.

It being after half-past Two o'clock, further consideration of the Bill stood adjourned.

Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), to be further considered upon Friday 14 March.

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