HL Deb 10 November 1976 vol 377 cc329-31

My Lords, beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they propose to implement the recommendation of the Working Party to give wider powers of prescribing the contraceptive pill despite the fact that this is opposed by most medical organisations.


My Lords, the Joint Working Group on Oral Contraceptives has now reported to four bodies, three of which set it up. These four bodies will now be considering the report and will be conveying their conclusions independently to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services and my right honourable and learned friend the Secretary of State for Wales. It would be inappropriate for the Government to take any action on these recommendations meanwhile. The Government will consult professional organisations in due course in the normal way.


My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that Answer, will he bear in mind that, if these proposals are accepted, thousands of people without any knowledge of the side effects of these potent drugs will be permitted to give innocent and ignorant young girls advice, and does he think that that is desirable?


My Lords, the Government are aware that this report does raise a number of matters which will have to be considered very very carefully. That is not in dispute and I would say to my noble friend that I hope that she, as a member of a professional organisation, will make her views known to that organisation.


My Lords, before he sits down may I ask the Minister whether he is aware that the views expressed by community health councils, women's organisations and other organisations and by individuals, both medical and lay, showed substantial support for allowing suitably trained State Registered Nurses, midwives and health visitors to prescribe oral contraceptives and whether he is also aware that the consumer view is that the wider powers recommended by the Working Party should help to overcome some of the difficulties that women experience in going to a doctor or a family planning clinic for contraceptive help?


My Lords, I am aware of what the noble Baroness has said and it rather reinforced what I said a moment or two ago—there are many sides to this particular matter that will have to be considered.

Baroness ELLES

My Lords, would the Minister also take into account the vast expense that will be involved in training these medical workers, social workers and chemists in order to be suitable people to sell the pill over the counter or to give them to young girls; and would he consider that this should be a priority at this time of our economic situation?


My Lords, that is a matter that will have to be assessed in terms of money, but it is obviously a matter that will have to be considered very carefully.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that medical opinion on this issue is divided and that the recommendations of the Working Group are strongly supported both by the Royal College of Physicians and by the National Association of Family Planning Doctors?


My Lords, it is because of that that I was able to say that the Government will be consulting the professional organisations before expressing any view on the report.


My Lords, will my noble friend bear in mind that the financial view expressed by the noble Baroness opposite is rather irrelevant, because the money that is spent on training nurses and midwives to give the pill will be more than saved by the amount of maternity benefit that will not have to be paid out?

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