HL Deb 18 October 1990 vol 522 cc1043-87

20A Subsection (1), at end insert:

3.45 p.m.

Baroness Cox

My Lords, I rise to move this amendment with considerable trepidation born of an awareness that there are those in your Lordships' House, for whom I hold very deep respect, who are hostile to any attempt to reopen the whole question of the profoundly complex and sensitive matters of abortion and termination of pregnancy. However, many of us feel compelled to do so, however unpopular we may become, because the situation has changed radically while the Bill was in another place. We believe that it would be wrong for the implications of those changes not to be considered by your Lordships' House today.

I rise in some trepidation also because I and my noble friends and colleagues who support these amendments to the Commons amendments are aware that feelings on these matters run high among various groups outside your Lordships' House. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, warned me that I, would be torn limb from limb by women's organisaions". But such intimidation does not seem a good reason for refraining from discussing these matters, which are of ultimate significance, in a democratic way. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, that our concerns are directed to trying to prevent unborn children from being torn limb from limb. That has sometimes happened in some forms of late abortion where an infant who is old enough to feel pain and to respond to stimuli may be dismembered in utero.

Before I commence my brief introduction to this first amendment I wish to thank my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, and those who agree procedures for your Lordships' House, for arranging today's business so that these important discussions can take place at this time. I give thanks also for the advice we have received concerning the implications of our endeavours.

In that connection I must begin by emphasising one fundamental point. I and my colleagues have been accused with some virulence by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, of attempting to wreck the entire Bill. That is not the case. Although some of us have previously expressed reservations about the ethics of embryo research, we strongly agree with and support the need for legislation to control the care of human embryos and to monitor and regulate embryo research. We therefore have no wish whatever to wreck the Bill.

In another place it was decided to insert into the Bill a whole new clause on the subject of abortion. That new clause is far-reaching in its implications. We believe that it is the right, and indeed the duty, of this House to face up to its responsibility to make its views known on the new clause.

We have been advised that if your Lordships were to support any amendments to the Commons amendments that would not wreck the Bill. We are aware, of course, that the Government are very pressed for time to complete the remaining stages of the Bill. However, we have been advised that it should not be impossible to take those stages into account if your Lordships were to amend the Bill. If it were to be impossible that would make a farce of today's proceedings for there would be an implicit assumption that your Lordships' House was being asked to act as a rubber stamp on a matter which it has not discussed and which many people throughout the nation believe is one of the most fundamental, moral and legal issues of our time.

I now turn to the substance of the first amendment to Commons Amendment No. 20. I shall set the scene with a broad brush. Other noble Lords who support the amendment will add other points of substance and detail. The essential purpose of the amendment is to return to the position on which widespread consensus had been reached—that there should be a limit of 24 weeks for induced abortions except in cases where the mother's life is at risk or where the child is so handicapped that it could not live.

We welcome the reduction to 24 weeks. However, we believe that our amendment is necessary because in the Bill as now amended in another place the grounds for late abortion have been widened to such an extent that termination of pregnancy for the purpose of killing the baby, which is abortion, includes such a range of justifications as in some cases to allow for late abortion on questionable social grounds right up to birth.

Those questionable grounds are spelt out in paragraphs (a) to (c) of subsection (1) of Amendment No. 20. We cannot emphasise strongly enough that we do not oppose the principle of termination of pregnancy if the mother's life, health or well-being are at risk. Indeed, our proposed amendment before your Lordships would still allow termination of pregnancy at any stage after 24 weeks, right up to birth, on any of the grounds listed in paragraphs (a) to (c) of the Commons amendment. Therefore, arguments which have frequently been put as a justification for late abortions, such as the fact that the mother is suffering from high blood pressure or toxaemia, do not stand as arguments against our amendment. All they do is confute the distinction between abortion and termination of pregnancy. Because there has been some confusion over that distinction it may help if I were to clarify the definitions.

Abortion refers to the termination of a pregnancy with a deliberate destruction of the fetus. Termination of pregnancy refers to measures taken to bring about the end of a pregnancy, but in ways which usually involve every effort being made to preserve the life of the baby. Therefore, arguments such as those used by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State that late abortion, for example, after 24 weeks, which may be necessary to save the mother from, say, permanent damage as a result of toxaemia or high blood pressure, do not apply as arguments against our amendment. In those circumstances her pregnancy could be terminated in the interests of her health, while simultaneously every effort was made to save the life of the baby. In other words, we respect the fact that there may well be circumstances such as those identified in the Commons amendment where a pregnancy should be terminated but we do not believe that they also justify the deliberate destruction of a child old enough to sustain independent life.

The Commons amendment specifically allows and makes provision for abortion—killing of a baby in its mother's womb—from the age of 24 weeks, when it is usually capable of sustaining life. It is now often possible to sustain life even at 22 weeks. It also provides that abortion can take place right up until the time when it is a mature baby, at full term.

By contrast our position is this. We believe that after 24 weeks, when the baby is capable of sustaining independent life, it deserves protection at law as an infant human being. The separation of the Bill, however, from the Infant Life (Preservation) Act in the Commons amendment removes that protection and makes the child legally vulnerable. In future, unless the Commons amendment is amended, a medical practitioner will no longer be liable to prosecution for destruction of a child when a child mature enough to survive is killed during the process of terminating a pregnancy after the 24th week. Indeed, as we understand it, that child will have no legal protection for its life right up to full term at 40 weeks. The wording of the new clause is such that it could be interpreted by certain practitioners so liberally as to constitute, in effect, the killing of a viable, healthy baby on dubious social grounds. I hasten to say that I do not wish to impugn the integrity or the compassion of the overwhelming majority of professional practitioners.

It is important to note that current termination of pregnancy in its later stages usually involves methods such as those spelt out by my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack. For example, there is the use of prostaglandin, a drug which induces premature birth. In such cases a normal child will usually be born alive. Moreover, the quality of care in special care baby units is so sophisticated that very small and very premature babies can now survive and develop into healthy children in ways that would have seemed miraculous only a decade or so ago.

However, on a more sinister note, in the private sector one favoured method of abortion has been and remains dilatation and evacuation of the uterus in which the baby's head may be crushed and the baby may be literally dismembered and removed piecemeal. There is thus a danger that the law as it would stand under the present Commons amendment could be a licence for such practitioners to kill normal children of mothers who decide or may need to have pregnancy terminated after 24 weeks. Sometimes that has happened in ways which I believe that all your Lordships would agree are horrific.

If, as has been stated by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, regulations will require all such terminations to be carried out in National Health Service hospitals, which would therefore be more open to scrutiny and accountability, that would obviously be warmly welcomed. However, that provides no adequate, permanent legal safeguard. Such provisions would not, as I understand it, have the force of law; they are not on the statutory list of amendments for our consideration and could be changed overnight by a future government of any political complexion.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, circulated a paper to many of your Lordships in which he made a number of points which I know other noble Lords will address. I merely take up one of them. The noble Lord argues that, abortion has existed since the beginning of human life". But so have murder, torture and other forms of cruelty. That is no good reason for legalising such practices.

I conclude by emphasising that we are addressing the most fundamental, ethical and legal problem. The numbers involved, as has been said, may not be very large although they are likely to increase if the Commons amendment stands as Britain will become unique in offering legal abortion up till birth. Hence one may expect to attract people from other countries for this procedure. Even if the numbers are small, the risk of the deliberate destruction of even one living child in its mother's womb, a child capable of sustaining independent life, is one too many.

The more we learn about the ability of an older fetus to feel sensations and to respond to stimuli, the more we must feel deeply disturbed by the prospect of a law which will allow such children to be subject both to being killed, maybe on very vague social grounds, and possibly to being killed in ways which could be described as barbaric. If any Members of your Lordships' House have not had the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the extent to which a baby in utero is a feeling, responsive being, I should like to draw their attention to an excellent article in the Sunday Times which I shall place in the Library and which shows the extent to which a human fetus is a feeling, responding being.

It is children such as those which are the substance of our concern. We know that many people in the country, including many professional colleagues with direct experience of these matters, are deeply worried about the proposed new legislation. We feel honour bound to put these issues before your Lordships' House for your consideration. I beg to move.

Moved, That Amendment No. 20A, as an amendment to Commons Amendment No. 20, be agreed to.—(Baroness Cox.)

4 p.m.

The Archbishop of York

My Lords, I realise how difficult it is at this late stage to question the wisdom of this amendment which has come from another place. I am conscious too, as we all are, that this House has spent a great deal of time on the issue. I have carefully studied both the Select Committee's report and the debates which followed it. I should like to apologise that, for a variety of reasons, I was unable to attend any of those debates.

I am aware of the small number of cases affected by the crucial choice which lies before us in today's debate. I am also aware of the strong desire among many eminent obstetricians and gynaecologists to maintain some kind of loophole for late abortions after 24 weeks, given the fact that the women who present in such circumstances are often in great distress. I accept that there are already stringent regulations about such late abortions—the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor gave us a description of them—and that there is every incentive to keep such abortions to an absolute minimum. We all accept that the integrity of the medical profession is not in question.

Members of your Lordships' House may recall that at an earlier stage in our debates on the Bill I spoke up vigorously in favour of allowing research on embryos under carefully specified conditions. They may wonder why I am now siding with those whom I then opposed. It is because I believe that if we pass Commons Amendment No. 20 without further amendment we shall have crossed a moral dividing line which we ought not to cross.

There are three converging lines of argument which lead me to that conclusion. The first concerns the nature of what we are dealing with. In earlier debates I tried to make the point that the development of human life is a process from almost imperceptible beginnings, when it makes little sense in my view to ascribe full human value to an embryo which has just been conceived, right up to the stage when we begin to acknowledge the independent existence of a new person.

Because it is a process, the debate about the morality of abortion changes its character at different stages in that process and our present practice and laws implicitly acknowledge that. To think in those terms, however, forces on us the question: At what stage should we begin to treat the developing fetus as no longer a completely dependent being whose life is wholly bound up with the life of its mother and inseparable from hers but begin to treat it as an independent person in its own right?

It seems to me that the capability of being born alive marks that transition, despite the inevitable ambiguities which surround it both in theory and in practice. Legally we have to define sharply, in terms say of a 24-week criterion, what medically is blurred. But that is no new problem. We are always having to do it as we try to pass legislation. What we are talking about, therefore, as we go beyond what is now recognised as, broadly speaking, the age of viability is a moral watershed. We need to be aware of that.

I know that some noble Lords in previous debates have said that they do not like to decide such complex, personal and practical matters on the basis of a moral principle. But we all decide such things on the basis of principle, even if the principle that we adopt is a thoroughly pragmatic one or even if the principle is to avoid at any cost distress to potential mothers. The question that faces us is not "Are we going to act on principle or not?" but "What principle are we going to act on?" I submit that the principle of respect and care for viable human life is one of the pillars of Christian civilisation.

The second strand in my argument concerns the need to have that principle enshrined in legislation. I have already paid tribute to the integrity of the medical profession, the vast proportion of which deserve it. But if we thought that the strong desire to avoid late abortions was itself enough to provide the protection that we seek, we should not be legislating to set a limit on the normal operation of the law at 24 weeks. The doctors would reduce the limit by themselves without any need for us to set it down in words in law if we were simply relying on their integrity.

No doubt the fixing of the 24-week limit in law may deter a small minority of cowboys, if they exist at all, but far more important than that, it seems to me that the fixing of that limit in law says something about our valuation of human life. It is a public signal about where the limits of toleration of abortion lie. That is why a confused signal such as that coming from Commons Amendment No. 20 is so damaging. It seems to say that even after the age of viability a human person may be destroyed for reasons which are less than adequate, if any such reasons exist.

Indeed, subsection (1) (c), which so far as I can recall echoes the words of the 1967 Abortion Act, would seem on the face of it to open the door as wide as that section in the Act has done because the risk of proceeding to full term in any pregnancy is in almost any circumstances higher than the risk of terminating it.

Perhaps for a moment I may look ahead from this present amendment in front of us. Paragraph (d) seems to say that seriously handicapped people may be destroyed simply because they are seriously handicapped. I know that it does not feel like that to those who are struggling with terrible personal dilemmas whether as expectant mothers or as doctors. It does not feel like that at the sharp end of medical practice. But that is what the paragraphs seem to say. That is why I welcome the first two proposed amendments, Amendments Nos. 20A and 20B.

The third strand in my argument concerns the distinctions that need to be made if the principle of protecting viable human life is to be maintained. I believe that there is a major distinction between abortion to protect the life of the mother and abortion on the grounds of potentially severe handicap. Abortion to protect the life of the mother can be justified on the grounds that, morally speaking, the potentially viable fetus in such circumstances is playing the role of an aggressor—a totally innocent aggressor of course—but when it is a question of one life or the other or neither, the destruction of an aggressor is not morally wrong.

In the case of handicap, the equation is different. The handicapped fetus is not generally an aggressor. It is a misfortune. It seems to me that deliberate destruction of a viable, albeit handicapped, human being in order to avoid distress in the mother devalues life in a way that we ought not to accept. In a word, it is wrong.

The same dilemma has for a long time faced doctors when severely handicapped infants are born alive. Some 15 years ago in the northern region I had the privilege of chairing a working party on that very topic. It seems to me that basically the same moral principles should apply in both cases: we do nothing to destroy life, knowing that life may be short anyway, but neither are we to go to extraordinary lengths to preserve it. Ordinary love, care, nurture and letting death come when it may is a much more human and humane approach to an agonising problem than the attempt to remove it by abortion or termination, with all the guilt and trauma that those may imply. I believe too that that is more human than unnecessarily heroic efforts to repair damage after birth with little hope of real success.

I hope that I have said enough to indicate why I am unhappy with the Commons amendment as it now stands and why I shall support Amendments Nos. 20A and 20B.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Walton of Detchant

My Lords, perhaps I may first apologise to the House for the fact that I may not be able to remain throughout the debate since in just over an hour and a half from now I am due to deliver the Harveian Oration at the Royal College of Physicians in London.

I have given Commons Amendment No. 20 and the Lords amendments now tabled and before the House the most careful and earnest consideration. I fully appreciate the total sincerity of the views of those who wish to oppose or amend that Commons amendment. Most doctors and nurses, not least those who are required to perform the procedure, dislike abortion. But the great majority nevertheless regard the procedure as being infinitely preferable to the prospect of allowing serious permanent damage to occur to the physical or mental health of the mother or to the likelihood of a child being born with severe physical or mental handicap, with malformation or with a progressive, disabling and ultimately fatal disease.

I am of course wholly in favour of subsection (1) (a) of the proposed clause to be inserted after Clause 33 if the Commons amendment were passed, which is to impose the normal statutory 24 week limit. As the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has said, last year in this country only 24 abortions were performed after the 24th week, 23 of them on the basis of severe fetal malformation and none later than the 27th week.

I have to say that I felt some concern at first sight about paragraph (b), while being strongly in favour of paragraphs (c) and (d). However, after taking advice from colleagues working in obstetrics—I recently received a compelling letter signed by some of the most distinguished obstetricians and gynaecologists in the country whose views I greatly respect—and after consulting the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, I now wish fully to support paragraph (b) in the clause from the Commons amendment. I am advised that there are rare circumstances when even after 24 weeks a pregnant woman may develop, for example, severe hypertension or kidney disease sufficient to cause grave permanent injury to her physical health but without immediately threatening her life. That is injury which can be prevented only by terminating the pregnancy. Similarly in very exceptional circumstances, a severe mental illness, a psychosis, can also endanger a pregnant woman's long-term mental health. That too may be prevented, or at least alleviated, by termination.

I have listened with great care to the arguments adduced so eloquently by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox. I am confident that the doctors, the obstetricians and gynaecologists of this country who may under the most exceptional circumstances wish to carry out terminations after the 24th week if the amendment were passed, would make every conceivable effort with regard to those cases referred to in subsection (b) and (c) to make sure that the baby was capable of living, and living a normal and independent existence.

I am sure that it is an issue which is best left to the good sense of the obstetricians and gynaecologists. On the advice of their royal college I find it difficult— although of course I defer to legal opinion on the matter—to understand just how the wording of the Lords amendment that we are now debating could be implemented in a legal sense. I am sure that others much better qualified than I am will comment upon that later in the debate.

I turn now to paragraph (d). Some of the most distressing developmental abnormalities of a fetus cannot invariably be diagnosed by 24 weeks. Most can, but a few may not be. They may include occasionally anencephaly and microcephaly. That is a fetus with a beating heart and a functioning circulation but either without a face and brain or with a tiny brain. It may also be true of severe degrees of spina bifida. I freely admit that many people born with developmental abnormalities such as spina bifida live very happy and fruitful lives despite their disability. But if the parents of such infants are asked whether they would prefer to have had a physically intact or a severely disabled child, very few would choose the latter despite the loving care and devotion which many of us recognise are lavished upon most such disabled children when born alive.

We surely must remember that the Abortion (Amendment) Bill proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, embodying the very provisions which are the substance of Commons Amendment No. 20 was passed in this House some months ago by a substantial majority. It was based upon the unanimous report from a Select Committee of this House chaired by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman. Surely in all conscience we cannot contemplate allowing a situation to arise in which a doctor, terminating a pregnancy after 24 weeks in the most exceptional circumstances envisaged in the clause, might be at risk of being accused of manslaughter. Therefore, I support Commons Amendment No. 20 in its entirety. It was passed in another place by a large majority after most careful consideration. I urge the House to support it.

I wish to comment upon the enabling amendments tabled by the Government relating to the possibility of bringing GIFT within the terms of the Bill. I trust that they will be approved and that the regulations allowing that to be licensed in the future will also be approved. I support Commons Amendment No. 20.

Lord Robertson of Oakridge

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Walton, spoke as though Amendment No. 20A tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, would ban some late abortions. Can he tell me where that appears in the amendment, because I do not believe that it does?

Lord Walton of Detchant

My Lords, I understand that paragraph (d) of the amendment might make it impossible for a severely malformed infant to be aborted.

Baroness Cox

My Lords, with the leave of the House I should point out that at the moment we are not discussing that point, which is the substance of the second amendment.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, this is a personal matter. I do not speak from this Bench on behalf of my colleagues but only for myself. However, I do not speak only for myself when I thank the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor for the clarity with which he opened the debate. It was a magisterial statement and he did not deviate from the impartiality to which he has held throughout the debates on the Bill. I hope that no one will object if I pay my tribute to the noble and learned Lord.

I wish to emphasise a point that was made by the noble and learned Lord and the noble Lord, Lord Walton, who I am glad to see here. The House is now discussing issues that were considered earlier. I believe that it has dealt well with the principles of the Bill and with the abortion issues that we are now discussing. I wish to remind noble Lords that we go back to 22nd July 1987 when the Infant Life (Preservation) Bill received a Second Reading in this House and was referred to a Select Committee. It was appointed on 9th November 1987, with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, as chairman. As was said by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, he did a good job. It was a thorough report and brought together Members of this House who hold a variety of views. The committee produced a unanimous report.

I also congratulate my noble friend Lord Houghton, who seized the report when the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill was first before us. He took into his Bill —which was passed by this House without opposition and sent to another place —precisely the recommendations of the report. At that time the House not only accepted the recommendations of the Brightman Report but also the Bill that we dispatched to another place.

I do not suggest that it is not proper, right, sensible and moral that at any stage we should doubt the wisdom of what we did but I believe that we should know what we are now doing. Of course it was right that we should have given our advice to another place. It was interesting to note that the other place took our advice after a great deal of concentrated debate and discussion and a series of votes. It has sent back to us a Bill that contains the recommendations that we sent to it. Perhaps with full justification on an individual basis this House is now asked to look again at recommendations which it made to another place and which were accepted.

I remember speaking in the first debate on the Bill. I advised the House that we should keep separate the issues of human embryology and abortion. I argued that they were separate issues, as of course they are. It was because of the wisdom of this House and the opportunity given to it by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, with his Bill that we were able to debate purely human embryology. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York made a distinguished contribution. We then debated quite separately the abortion Bill. It would have been nice had the most reverend Primate been able to join us; whenever he speaks his views are welcome. However, let it be understood that we sought to keep the two issues separate and we sent two separate recommendations to another place.

I believe that those who now wish to change the consensus that was established between this House and another place have miscalculated not only the attitudes and views of your Lordships but those of Members of another place. They have also miscalculated the attitudes, views and moral sensibilities of the general public. I shall deal with the main issues, but I first wish to express my horror at some of the publicity material sent to me about the supposed implications of the Bill. The fact that they do not come from individuals but from organisations suggests to me that it is a calculated contribution.

I wish to quote from a letter sent to me on 7th October from Mrs. Mearns of 28 Wilburn Street, Walton, Liverpool: Dear Lord Ennals, I am absolutely horrified that abortions are still going to be allowed up to 24 weeks and that handicapped unborn children could be given no legal protection. What we are talking about is murder, first degree murder, premeditated, cold, calculated murder. People used to be he hung for murder for taking the lives of innocent human beings". She goes on to say that in a civilised country it is unbelievable that we can even dream of removing further legal protection from unborn children simply because they are handicapped. She says it is unbelievable that being handicapped will become a crime punishable by the death sentence. I could continue, but clearly the letter comes from a woman who is wrought up, and who, I am afraid, has been misled. However, her letter has been circulated by those who favour a reversal of the consensus that was achieved.

I hope that we shall not make a change. I was delighted that another place accepted your Lordships' recommendations. I thought that paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) of Amendment No. 20 contained the provisions that should be made. I was also glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Walton, refer to the obstetricians and gynaecologists. It is well that we should look at their situation. They are the people who have to take action on the basis of decisions taken by Parliament. Before me I have a letter from Professor Bearn and David Pantin signed by over 20 of the most distinguished people whose names we know and respect, including Sir Malcolm Macnaughton, Dame Josephine Barnes. I could go through the list. Those people are of the highest integrity.

I wish to quote the first paragraph from that letter because we must understand the dilemma faced by those who are called upon to carry out abortions. It is very easy for some of us to speak but it is the people who must perform the operations of whom we must think. The letter says: The gestation limit should be 24 weeks for abortions that are necessary because there is a risk to the physical or mental health of a woman. There are occasional circumstances in which abortion is necessary after the 24 weeks. There were only 23 cases"— as the noble Lord, Lord Walton, said— notified in England and Wales in 1989. Most such abortions are performed because the fetus has been shown to have an abnormality that would prevent sustained life after birth and it would result in gross handicap. A small number of such abortions are induced because the woman is gravely ill and her health would be so permanently harmed or she might die if the pregnancy continued. In such cases the fetus is usually so immature or so affected by the illness in the woman that it would not survive. If the fetus is mature enough to have a reasonable chance of survival with intensive care, all possible steps are taken to optimise the survival of both mother and fetus. Delivery then is usually by Caesarian section". There are two personalities at stake in this great argument. One is the life and the future of the fetus, and obviously at a certain stage we are entitled to think that that fetus is the beginnings of human life. But there is the other person, and that is the mother. All the publicity which I have seen ignores the position of the mother who might die —that is the first instance —or whose health would be greatly impaired—that is the second instance—or who might give birth to a gravely handicapped child who might live for a week, a month, or who knows how long. How do we make the choice? Surely the decision must be in favour of the mother, the living human being who, with the help of the husband, has created the child she will soon bear. The mother must take priority in these circumstances.

I believe that the amendments approved by the House of Commons provide a welcome clarification of the law. At present, obstetricians are uncertain of the legality of abortions after the 24th week even where there is grave fetal abnormality because of the possibility that the courts might consider the fetus to be a child capable of being born alive. I believe that the exclusion of the Infant Life (Preservation) Act from the operation of the Abortion Act will enable women and doctors to make appropriate decisions in these very difficult circumstances without fear that the law is being broken.

We should recognise that in Scotland the situation has been exactly as it will be if this Bill becomes the law of the whole land. There is no suggestion that in Scotland people have been going around murdering babies and killing fetuses right up to the last moment. They have behaved with the same sense of responsibility with which doctors and nurses have behaved in this country. The number of terminations after 24 weeks in Scotland was very small. In 1989 it was as low as five, and in 1988 it was only seven.

Looking at what I know and what we all know about the quality of the doctors and nurses who have the responsibilities, and looking at the experience, including that of Scotland that we have had, I believe that it would be folly for us now to decide not just to overturn what the House of Commons is saying to us after its considerations but also to say that we got it wrong when we made our recommendations. It does not matter if that makes us look absurd, as it surely would do. We must be absolutely certain that we have good reason for making ourselves look absurd. I do not believe that we have. I plead with your Lordships to approve the Commons amendments.

4.30 p.m.

Lord McColl of Dulwich

My Lords, in supporting the amendment to the Commons amendment—my name is attached to it—I should like to point out that I have supported the clauses in this Bill which permit experiments on embryos. Secondly, having seen the tragedies of back street abortions in the 1950s and 1960s, I recognise that abortion up to 24 weeks is the lesser of two evils.

However, I am greatly alarmed that the Bill as it stands allows abortion up to the moment of birth. I should like to point out that that alarm is shared by many of my colleagues in the medical profession who simply cannot understand how on earth the provision ever found its way into the Bill in the first place. There is absolutely no need for it, and indeed, as our opponents have argued, no reasonable doctor would ever dream of making use of it. That is perfectly true.

However, we are not worried about reasonable doctors. We are worried that unreasonable mavericks will be able to kill a child at any time up to birth at 40 weeks. Is it not a strange law which permits the killing of a child just before its birth while it is a criminal offence to kill it the day after it is born?

Professor John Finnis, Professor of law and legal philosophy at the University of Oxford, in discussing the four grounds for abortion in the amendments passed in another place, said that if abortion results in the delivery of a living viable fetus it will be lawful to destroy it during birth for any reason at all, including relatively minor handicaps such as hare lip or cleft palate. Is that the kind of signal which your Lordships should be giving to the countless thousands of disabled people?

I understand that if this Bill becomes law this will be the only country where abortion up to full term will be legal. Inevitably that will attract countless thousands of women from far and wide, reminiscent of the early days of the Abortion Act when London, as your Lordships will recall, became the abortion capital of Europe. Your Lordships will no doubt remember that we were assured in those days that that legislation did not permit abortion on demand and that such provision was unthinkable in view of the regulations provided. In the event, abortion on demand became widespread, and your Lordships will remember the disgraceful treatment meted out to those obstetricians who refused to carry out abortions on demand but insisted on acting within the law.

I may be mistaken but a little while ago I understood my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack to say that the same stringent rules will be enforced in the case of this provision as in the case of the present abortion law. That does not fill me with confidence. Contrary to what our opponents have put about, it is not the purpose of these amendments to wreck the Bill; nor is this the time and place to attempt to unravel the reasons for the confusion which occurred when Members in another place were faced with a very complex set of amendments. Suffice it to say that many people were completely unaware of the disastrous effects that their amendments would have. I submit that now is the time to correct those mistakes by accepting our amendments.

The Lord Bishop of London

My Lords, I should like briefly to comment upon the argument recently set forth by the noble Lord, Lord Ennals. He suggested that we were debating issues which we had thoroughly debated before; which had been decided and passed to another place. I suggest that we are looking at a different issue. We are looking at an issue which has been brought to our attention and presented to us by the amendments made in another place and which we are considering today.

In the debates—I attended most of them and read Hansard —the phrases "abortion" and "termination of pregnancy" were used fairly indiscriminately. I cannot recall any real attention being given to the difference between the two or what should happen to the fetus when the pregnancy was terminated. That is the issue we are discussing today.

As has been said by supporters of the amendment, the general thrust of the Bill, whether we liked it in the past or not, is not in question. It is a question of one issue which we have every right to consider. It has been brought to our attention by the effects of the amendments in another place. That is why I believe that no apology is needed for raising the issue again at this stage.

The issue is this. If, under strict conditions, with all the careful scrutiny which the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor described, a late abortion is deemed to be right, what is to be the attitude of we, who are legislating, and the attitude of the country to the child then born? Is the assumption to be in favour of the preservation of that life or the destruction of that life?

As I see it, that is the point of these amendments. It is no more and no less than that. I fully support all that was said by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York. His arguments were compelling. But I ask your Lordships to accept that the issue is not one we have discussed before. It has been brought to our attention by the amendments we are debating this day. Further, the question is a simple one. Where is the presumption to lie? Is it to lie in the preservation of life, given all the complications and conditions we have heard about? Or is it to lie in the destruction of life when, to a greater or lesser extent, it is inconvenient to ourselves?

Lord Ennals

My Lords, is the right reverend Prelate suggesting that those in this House who support the amendment from another place, and those in another place who carried those amendments after long hours of debate and consideration, were saying that they were in favour of the destruction of the embryo? Surely he will accept that the argument is that of course we want to keep both the mother and the embryo. But if that terrible choice must be made, then it must be the mother's life and health that is vital.

The Lord Bishop of London

My Lords, I have not raised the question of the mother's health at all. I do not want to be anecdotal in any way. I could speak at some length of godchildren and friends of mine who are gravely handicapped, yet who are doing marvellous work in our society. I do not want to be anecdotal. I am simply asking where the presumption lies; on which side of the issue?

There will be occasions, as the Bill will provide if passed in its present form, when the mother's health will take first place. There will be other cases when it will not, and rightly so. We are not making that judgment today. In taking all the factors into account —the rights and needs of the unborn child and of the mother—we are saying that the presumption must lie in the preservation and not the destruction of life. If we all say that then we should vote for the amendment.

4.45 p.m.

Viscount Tonypandy

My Lords, in listening to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, I was reminded yet again that there is a simple issue before the House. Another place inserted a clause which completely changed what was hitherto before this House when the Bill left us. Another place decided to insert a clause which, I am advised, would have the effect of ending the link with the Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929, the severing of which by the Commons means that abortion is available until birth. If that is true, then it cannot be denied that an abortion, when a living creature is waiting to emerge, is no less than murder. For the life of me I cannot understand how anyone can suggest that the House is considering the same issue as it considered previously.

The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York referred to a moral watershed. I honestly ask the House to think carefully of what we are doing to the standards of life in this country. I ask the House to give further thought to whether we would be justified, merely on grounds that it would be inconvenient to amend the Commons amendment, to say that we will close our eyes to the other major issue. It is not often that such a heavy responsibility falls upon Members of your Lordships' House. It has been my privilege to serve in this House for seven years, and I have learned to love it. I have never been in a debate where we could more literally say that it was a matter of life or death, and we decide.

I was very moved by the noble Lord, Lord Walton, who is a doctor, and also the noble Lord, Lord McColl, who balanced the debate. But I want to say to the House that we should not listen to the beguiling appeal, "Leave it to the doctors". Of course the great majority are honourable. We are not legislating on the conduct of the honourable. We are guarding against the conduct of people who do not share those high standards, and to whom money is a great attraction. We all know that these are days when different standards prevail, but, even so, what is right and wrong will always be clear and on this issue it is clear that we should tell the Commons, "No, we do not agree with taking away the protection of the unborn child right up to the day of birth". It staggers me to think that it could be done.

Two distinguished Members of another place held a press conference after the Division there. They were the right honourable Michael Alison and Sir Michael McNair-Wilson who are greatly respected and honoured Members of another place and, no one could say, men of straw. They are men of considerable judgment. Both said at the press conference that they had been misled during the debate in another place. They voted for the amendment as it is without realising what is now commonly accepted; namely, that abortion can take place right up until the birth is due.

Viscount Craigavon

My Lords, although the confusion in the House of Commons occurred at the Committee stage, the House had another chance at Report stage to vote with due consideration and the same amendment was carried.

Viscount Tonypandy

My Lords, both the right honourable Member and the honourable Member made clear at the press conference that they were misled. I want no one in this House to be misled. I want no one at all to be able to say, "Well, I did not realise that we were giving to some doctors a right to behave as though they were God Almighty with the gift of life or death". That is not the right of any calling or profession. I hope and pray that the House will realise that, although, as the noble Baroness made clear, we want an emphasis on saving the life of the mother, where a perfectly viable baby can be born, we shall not give authority to anyone to put it to death.

The Duke of Norfolk

My Lords, in speaking on the possible effects on the law which could result from the abortion amendments passed in another place, I feel that I can do no better than quote a very old and, I am sure, greatly honoured friend of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton. I refer to Professor Glanville Williams, QC, FBA, one of the finest academic lawyers we have in this country and one of the leading advocates in favour of liberal abortion and euthanasia, to which I do not necessarily agree in any way.

In the second edition of his Textbook of Criminal Law, published in 1983, Professor Williams explains that the Infant Life (Preservation) Act was introduced in 1929 because lawyers realised that our laws on homicide protected the child after birth and the Offences Against the Person Act of 1861 protected the child before birth from abortion, but that there was no legislation in England and Wales which protected the child during the actual process of birth.

In his book, Professor Williams tells us: accordingly the Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929 created the additional offence of child destruction". He stresses that the only situation for which that Act was required at the time was where a baby was killed after being partially extruded, but that later it was given a wider ambit overlapping the crime of abortion.

Put simply, the Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929 defined as the crime of "child destruction" the killing in the womb of a child capable of being born alive. It gave as prima facie proof of life the fact that the mother had been pregnant for 28 weeks or more. However, I must stress that, at the meeting with the Lord Chancellor during this week, the noble and learned Lord took great pains to explain to me, to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and to the noble Lord, Lord Robertson of Oakridge, that the real test of the Act is not 28 weeks, but the phrase capable of being born alive". The figure of 28 weeks is merely an illustration of the time at which babies in 1929 were presumed to be capable of surviving for some length of time. It was, as the Lord Chancellor explained to us, a "rebuttable presumption" in that, if evidence could be produced showing that a baby of younger gestational age than 28 weeks was capable of living, the Act would protect that child.

However, in referring to the working of the Abortion Act and the Infant Life (Preservation) Act, Professor Glanville Williams stated: When a live fetus is removed in the course of an intended abortion, the fetus upon being removed becomes a legal person and is fully protected by law … The abortion may have been performed because the woman was overburdened and would be affected in health by having to bring up another child; yet, having produced a live child, the obstetrician is required to try to keep it alive, because it is live extraction from the woman that endows the fetus with legal personality. In other words, in applying the Abortion Act 1967, it is important to kill the child before it is extracted in order to avoid problems under the Infant Life (Preservation) Act. Those are important words. For the fact is that, if a baby of fewer than 28 weeks is destroyed in the womb during an abortion, actually proving that that particular child is capable of being born alive can be extremely difficult.

It was as a result of that dilemma that in 1986 Bishop Hugh Montefiore, the then Bishop of Birmingham, decided to introduce his Infant Life (Preservation) Bill which sought to lower the rebuttable presumption from 28 weeks to 24 weeks. Noble Lords will recall that reference has been made to that fact. The Bill received its Second Reading in the House, but unfortunately it ran out of parliamentary time and coincided with the retirement on age grounds of Bishop Montefiore as Bishop of Birmingham.

The whole episode is best described in a short letter that he wrote to me quite spontaneously after reading that a group of us intended to try to amend the Commons amendments when they were brought before this House. His letter is dated 17th August 1990 and reads as follows: I am delighted to hear that you are going to try to amend the Bill which would make abortion legal in certain cases until birth. I am writing to remind you that my Infant Life (Preservation) Bill, which passed its Second Reading in the Lords, was supported by the Government and under that Bill abortion would only have been possible until birth when the life of the mother is threatened (as is now the case). The Government therefore has reneged on its earlier decision and it should be made to explain why it has done this. You may remember that I only agreed to send the Bill to a Select Committee under great pressure from Lord Whitelaw and that the Select Committee was 'packed—. It was totally packed. There was no representative of the Pro-Life group in this House except for a Bishop who kindly, in order to help the committee, resigned in the end. There was not one lay representative from our group. Who chose the Committee? I leave that up to your Lordships to decide.

The letter continued: Indeed, the Bishop of St. Albans resigned from it and it was only in this way that a unanimous decision was possible. I wish you good success. You have a cast iron case. It cannot be right to kill a baby in the womb when it could sustain life outside it. Yours sincerely, Hugh Montefiore". I should like to repeat Bishop Montefiore's last words: It cannot be right to kill a baby in the womb when it could sustain life outside it". Here I should like to interject with a personal experience. I have a thriving, rumbustious granddaughter who was born at the 27th week of pregnancy. She is called "Shrimpy" by her sisters. She was born very tiny. When I visited her in the hospital premature baby unit where she was being cared for, I saw a number of tiny babies in incubators who had been born in some cases considerably earlier than she had. This brings home to me most forcefully that what we are dealing with here is human life—babies—and surely we must not deprive them of all protection from the law.

I must ask your Lordships to consider what are the upper limits for abortion in Europe and, indeed, throughout the world. If one examines the legislation country by country, one finds that the vast majority allow abortion up to 12 to 14 weeks. No country allows abortion—killing as opposed to inducing a birth—of the viable child on the grounds of handicap or on social grounds. Virtually every country allows up to birth termination of pregnancy—that is, induced by birth;—not abortion—on those grounds where the mother's life or health are in genuine danger; but in every country the doctor is required by law to do everything possible to save the life of the child. That is the position in Britain today as the law now stands. However, if the Commons amendments become law, that will no longer be the case.

In this country we will then allow doctors to carry out after 24 weeks pregnancy social abortions under the guise of saving the mother from "grave permanent damage" up until the time of birth. We will also allow abortion for "serious" handicap to term. Indeed, if noble Lords recall the statement which I quoted from Professor Glanville's book, they will realise that it will be possible to destroy the child up to the severing of the link between the mother and the child, when the umbilical cord is cut.

As other noble Lords have already stated, we are confident that the majority of doctors in this country would not adopt any such course of action. However, one has only to read the report of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists on Premature Birth and Abortion to learn that, in recommending a change of the rebuttable presumption from 28 weeks to 24 weeks, it pointed out that more than 60 per cent. of late abortions—abortions after 18 weeks—were carried out by 11 doctors who were operating for money. That is an indictment not of gynaecologists as a whole but of the manner in which our law is being manipulated, twisted and exploited by a tiny minority killing for profit.

I accept the Government's promise that they will allow abortion after 24 weeks to take place only under NHS rules. But we could have another government, next year or the year after, who could reverse such a decision. We as legislators have a duty to consider the effects of legislation on society. Just as passing the Abortion Act in 1967 has reduced respect for the unborn child with the result that we see 11 doctors carrying out 60 per cent. of late abortions for money, so gynaecologists have told me of their fear that allowing abortion up to birth will lower ethical standards of medicine in late pregnancy, so that while we now revere the child before birth, it will become an object which can be destroyed if it is not perfect or if there are social grounds which it is easier to overcome by eliminating the baby.

There is a free vote in this House. The Whips are not applied on this clause. I unhesitatingly support this amendment and the other two amendments. I draw noble Lords' attention to the fact that we are a revising Chamber. That is our main function. It is our duty to send this back to the other place for them to consider it and for them to give it another look.

Lord Robertson of Oakridge

My Lords, everything I was going to say in my speech has already been said. Noble Lords will therefore be glad that I can put my speech away and not weary them by going over the same points. I should like to say one thing. If the Commons amendment goes through unamended there will be more —perhaps not very many more—late abortions. As a result one will see in hospital, in the same ward as a woman being nursed very carefully and kept extremely quiet in the hope of prolonging her pregnancy long enough for the child to be born capable of living, a woman coming in for a late abortion of a healthy fetus. In the same wing of the hospital there will be children born prematurely in intensive care and healthy fetuses—or what were healthy fetuses—on their way to the incinerator. That is absolute madness. I believe that the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, would ameliorate the position. I therefore hope that it will be supported.

Baroness Lockwood

My Lords, I want to support the Commons amendments and to speak against the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and others. I do so for two reasons. First, this House has considered the matter on a number of occasions and has come to very clear decisions on it. Secondly, I happen to believe that the Commons amendments provide the right circumstances for dealing with what can be very distressing situations, situations which do not occur very frequently. We have already heard from the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and others that in the last year for which we have figures 23 late abortions took place. There is no evidence to conclude that by passing these amendments we shall increase that number.

The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York stated quite rightly that we reach a watershed in the development of the human fetus. This Bill recognises that watershed. It is at 24 weeks. Once we go beyond the 24 weeks we are dealing with a different situation and different circumstances. Again, I underline that we are dealing with circumstances that occur in only a few cases. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London asked: where do we put the presumption? I say that in principle we must put it on the continuation of life. Again, it is not always possible for us to apply that principle.

The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York outlined one circumstance where it would not be possible to apply it in favour of the child or the fetus; that is where the life of the mother is at stake. There are other circumstances. The most reverend Primate spoke about the viability of life. However, to the mother the viability of life is not necessarily just a question of the child being born and living for a few hours or days. To the mother, the viability of life is the future health and welfare of the child. That is something which we have to take into account.

The noble Lord, Lord Walton, outlined some of the very difficult circumstances that can arise where the child is likely to suffer from abnormalities. He was asked how those circumstances would be affected by the noble Baroness's amendment. The amendment would apply in those circumstances. If the mental and physical health of the woman was being so affected by the fact that she might be carrying, or was carrying, a child that was going to be born with very real abnormalities, that could affect her mental and physical well-being. There are other circumstances which can arise. There may be late diagnosis of problems or the health service may not have been as efficient as it might have been in drawing the attention of the mother to the circumstances.

I should like noble Lords to consider this: no woman would carry a fetus to 24 weeks and then have it aborted just because it was inconvenient. No woman would carry a fetus to 24 weeks and then have it aborted unless there were circumstances which were very compelling. We have to take into account the views of the women who are to be put into this very difficult situation. We have talked about the moral judgment that the doctors have to make. We must remember that the women will also be making a very real moral judgment and that not only their interests but the interests of their families will be at stake when they make that judgment.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Brightman

My Lords, the Commons amendment reflects precisely the recommendations of the Select Committee. It may be of some assistance to your Lordships in making up your minds in this debate if I explain briefly how the committee reached its unanimous conclusion. There were two issues before it. The first was whether the maximum gestational age for an abortion should be reduced below 28 weeks. If so, the question was whether any allowance ought to be made for emergency situations.

The committee's approach is set out in paragraph 53 of its report, which I can summarise as follows. It is the woman's health and her needs which must be in the forefront of any discussion of abortion. She has to undergo the physical trauma of childbirth. She is primarily responsible for the child in its early days and often for much longer. She may not have the support of the child's father. So the mother's needs must be placed on one side of the scales. On the other is the duty of society to protect the unborn child. But neither the natural desire of the mother to protect her own health nor the duty of society to protect the unborn child is unqualified.

The question is where the balance rightly lies between mother and unborn child if the mother wishes to terminate her pregnancy. The committee examined this problem in depth over a period of 11 months. It received representations from more than 60 persons and organisations. It considered over 300 pages of written and oral evidence. The committee concluded that the existing maximum gestational age for abortion of 28 weeks was too high. A child removed from the womb after 26 or 27 weeks has a good chance of survival and of being capable of living in a meaningful sense.

Late presentations for abortion are unavoidable. They are invariably associated with youth, low intelligence and social deprivation. Consultants repeatedly told us that patients seeking an abortion when they were 20 weeks pregnant or more were the most distressed they saw. The overwhelming burden of medical opinion was that late abortions should be allowed in order that discretion can be exercised in necessitous cases. After considering all the evidence the committee unanimously concluded that an abortion on statutory grounds should be available in most cases down to but not after the 24th week of pregnancy.

The committee then had to consider what exceptions there ought to be to that timetable. There was one obvious exception; namely, to avoid the risk of the mother's death. In such a case the pregnancy may be terminated at any time. That had always been the law. The committee considered it logical to extend that exception to cover a termination which is necessary to save the woman from permanent ill health. The example has, I believe, already been given of a case of high blood pressure leading possibly to a stroke which may or may not prove fatal.

There is no clear dividing line between an illness which may lead to death and one which may lead to permanent harm. So the committee recommended that there should be no maximum limit for abortion in the case of threatened death and if the termination is essential to the mother's health; that is, to prevent grave permanent injury to her health or to prevent her becoming a permanent invalid.

The only other exception to the 24-week rule recommended by the committee and adopted by the Commons amendment arises where there is a substantial risk that the child if born would suffer from such abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped—not a hare lip or a cleft palate which can be mended by an operation.

The justification for permitting a termination without a time limit in this case is that serious abnormalities cannot necessarily be discovered by week 24; indeed, they may not be discovered until a later date. If an unborn child were diagnosed as grossly abnormal and unable to lead a meaningful life, there was in the opinion of the committee no logic or humanity in requiring the mother, against her will, to carry the unborn child for full term merely because the diagnosis was made too late to enable the termination to be carried out within a fixed timetable. If it is found late in the day that the pregnant woman is carrying a child which has no brain (an anencephalic) and is therefore only going to live for a matter of minutes or hours, or has some other devastating handicap, it is lacking in humanity to require the mother, against her will, to suffer the agony of carrying the child to full term.

I should add that if one brings down the time limit for abortions on the ground of serious handicap one is liable to increase the number of abortions. But if you have no time limit in the case of suspected abnormalities doctors can carry out their tests to fruition, which may be after 24 weeks. They may discover, to the delight of the mother, that the child is normal. If you cut down the time limit for abortions, you encourage a mother who is bearing a merely suspected deformed child to have an abortion at an early stage which, had the gates been open for a longer time, would never have been necessary.

In the committee's recommendations and in the Commons amendment there are only three exceptions to the 24-week rule: to save the mother's life; to saver from becoming a permanent invalid; and to saver from carrying a grossly abnormal child to full term. Therefore, to say, as has unfortunately been said in propaganda literature, that these exceptions open the door to abortion until birth is a gross travesty of the truth.

Lord Robertson of Oakridge

My Lords, I should like to put a question to the noble and learned Lord. If the intention was to save the life of the mother, why did the committee not recommend that in its recommendations, rather than adopting the woolly and ambiguous formula in Commons Amendment No. 20 under subsection (1) (c)?

Lord Brightman

My Lords, speaking from memory, I believe that subsection (1) (c) exactly repeats the existing law.

I shall now touch briefly upon the disengagement of the ILPA—the Infant Life (Preservation) Act—from the Abortion Act. It is sometimes said that that would open the door to abortions until birth because there would be no sanction to prevent it happening. I cannot emphasise too strongly that the elimination of the Infant Life (Preservation) Act from the Abortion Act does not mean that abortions can be carried out to birth with impunity. Plainly, any doctor who terminates a pregnancy outside the statutory limit, or otherwise in contravention of the 1967 Act, will remain fully liable to prosecution under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 or the Infant Life (Preservation) Act, or both.

Finally, I turn to the wording of Amendment No. 20A. The amendment requires the doctor to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the child is born alive if the pregnancy is terminated under paragraphs (a), (b) or (c). In my respectful submission the amendment is wholly inappropriate. A paragraph (a) termination is one which is undertaken to avoid risk of injury to the health of the mother or her existing children. However, under the Commons amendment such a termination can only take place down to the 24th week of the pregnancy; that is, 23 weeks plus, which is before a live and viable birth can reasonably be expected. Therefore, why direct the doctor to ensure a live birth when performing a paragraph (a) termination if a live birth is impossible or highly improbable? Surely the duty of the doctor is to carry out a paragraph (a) abortion in the manner, and according to the procedures, which is safest for the mother.

Amendment No. 20A also applies to a paragraph (b) or (c) abortion. Paragraph (b) is a termination which is necessary to prevent the mother from becoming a permanent invalid; a paragraph (c) termination is carried out in order to prevent her death. Of course, in such cases the doctor will strive to preserve the life of the child if he can do so consistently with preserving the life of the mother. The pregnancy is one which is wanted and not one which is not wanted. It would be unthinkable for a doctor who was carrying out a termination in order to preserve the mother's life to gratuitously terminate the life of the child. A doctor does not need an Act of Parliament to teach him that elementary duty.

I have a little more to say on the disengagement of the Infant Life (Preservation) Act from the Abortion Act. I believe that it would be more appropriate if I were to continue with what I have to say when we come to deal with Amendment No. 20C.

5.30 p.m.

Lord McColl of Dulwich

My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, does he acknowledge that our amendment would not prevent one termination? With this amendment we are not concerned with a handicap.

Lord Brightman

My Lords, I agree. My argument was that Amendment No. 20A is unnecessary because under paragraph (a) it deals only with a termination at a time when a viable child is not to be expected and under paragraphs (b) and (c) when the life of the child will be preserved by the doctor anyway.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

My Lords, I should say at the outset that the House is being shamefully treated. There are three parties to blame. The first is the Government, who have denied proper facilities for this controversial and important subject to be debated and for changes in the law to be brought about except by the dubious course, with frustrations galore, of the Private Member's Bill procedure. No abortion law or amendment to abortion law has been passed except by Private Member's legislation. What a precarious process that is! I blame the Bishops Bench for not turning up when the matter was under discussion at an earlier stage. I blame the pro-life lobby for deserting the debate on my Bill when it was receiving its Second and Third Readings.

That Bill was introduced on 22nd November 1989. It had its Second Reading on 12th December 1989. On that occasion, over 100 Members of your Lordships' House turned up. A delaying Motion was moved by the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk. It was lost by 61 votes to 48. Of the 48 Members of your Lordships' House who voted to delay the Bill and wreck its progress, 57 per cent. were claimed by the Catholic Directory as adherents to the Catholic Church. I say that without bias and without recrimination. I am just as impartial as the BBC! It is noteworthy to see where the inspiration on this issue constantly comes from.

On Second Reading, the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, said: We need amendments to the Abortion Act 1967. But this Bill goes in the wrong direction and so is not worth treating as a basis that could itself be amended. The Bill is a calamity". —[Official Report, 14/12/89; col. 1466.] That was the message, and so the noble Duke promptly deserted the proceedings on the Bill. We had a Committee stage. Amendments were moved. The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, and I joined in moving an amendment. We were defeated. When the Committee stage finished, the Bill remained intact. There was no Report stage. We went to Third Reading on 7th March this year, in this Session. The Bill passed without a Division.

Naturally, the other place was looking around for some way of solving the interminable controversy without giving time for Private Member's Bills. How could it be done? The other place laid open the path for this matter to be spatchcocked into the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Here it comes as a flaming carbuncle on the body politic of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Here we are up against the time-limit of the Session.

When the other place was looking around for some central consensus, something to put up to allow it speedily to deal with the matter and to get out of it some common denominator of Commons opinion, where did it look? Where could it look? There was no other evidence available. No one else had done the job to the extent that it had been done by the Select Committee of your Lordships' House. When it heard that the Select Committee's recommendations had passed through the House without a Division the other place thought, "Ah, here is something stable, something valuable to be put to the Commons to be shot at". So the other place copied my Bill into the core Motion for the Commons.

I know all that because the Leader of the House, Sir Geoffrey Howe, did me the honour of consulting me on the matter; not that I had any claim on his time, but I happened to be one of his constituents. When an MP visits a constituent who does not have a vote, it is an honour indeed. So I agreed that that was the best way of going about the matter. The decks were cleared for one big day of shots at the target. The Motion was moved by the Leader of the House, and amendments were moved by the Secretary of State for Health, not in a partisan way—neither for nor against—but to facilitate the procedural process. There were more than 10 Divisions in Committee that day, 24th April. That was only a few days after the Bill passed through this House.

I remind your Lordships again: Amendment No. 20 has already gone through all its stages in your Lordships' House the normal way. Those who stayed away have only themselves to blame. If they were confused, it is only because they did not turn up. Is the House of Lords now going to say, "Well, a Bill of which not much notice is taken cannot matter very much"?

The noble Duke did not bother with the Bill because he did not believe that it would get anywhere; but look where it is now. Yet he brushed it aside: "It is not amendable. Why bother with it? It is a calamity. I'm off"; and he went. The other place seized on that, and so what was an unamendable Bill is an almost unamendable Commons amendment; and here it is. Now what are we going to do? There were 10 Divisions on the gestational age limits. The other place voted pendulum-wise. It voted first on 18 weeks. The great aim of the pro-life lobby was to get the gestational limit on abortion down to 18 weeks. It said, "We only want time down there to get this through. Everyone is in the way". When the other place had a chance to look at that proposal, it brushed 18 weeks clean out of the picture. It then went to 20 weeks. It brushed that off; then 22 weeks, but it was not quite so certain about that; then 26 weeks, and it was quite certain about that.

There were those Divisions, which left, unassailed by common assent, 24 weeks. That is why that time-limit is not being assailed in the amendments now. The pro-life lobby dares not touch it. If the amendment went back to the other place it would be thrown back without further debate. We were then left with the other parts of the Bill.

We should now have primary legislation, a Second Reading and a Committee stage. We should have on a more satisfactory basis all that we should have had earlier this year. But noble Lords, by their inattention or scornful dismissal of the attempt to put more sense into the abortion argument, stayed away. The Commons was left bereft. It did not know how to get sense out of it down there, even when it had the time to do so.

On the gestational limits for the prevention of serious permanent injury to the mother, two options were given: a limit of 28 weeks or no limit—emphatically, no limit. The next point was to save the life of the mother. There was no argument; that went through. The other point was on fetal abnormality, the clause that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, has just read out. The option was: 28 weeks limit or no limit—emphatically, no limit. That was in the Commons. We have to face that. The no limit proviso in the three cases that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, has explained so fully were insisted upon in the House of Commons when it had the option of doing something different on a free vote every time. There were 10 Divisions that day to get it right.

Now we come to the Infant Life (Preservation) Act. The same clause as was in my Bill is in Amendment No. 20. It was in the Bill that was passed on 7th March this year. It was added to the core Bill in the House of Commons that no prosecution under the Infant Life (Preservation) Act should apply to any acts done within the scope of the Abortion Act. The vote was overwhelming. Three hundred members of the House of Commons voted to get the ILPA out by a majority of 159. These amendments propose getting it back again. Supporters of the amendment want the weasel formula "capable of being born alive" back in the Bill after it was banished under the Infant Life (Preservation) Act. What do they think they will get from it?

When the pro-life people finally realised what had happened on 21st June—disaster in Parliament, tendentious stuff in what Parliament had done—what did the national president of the LIFE organisation have to say? Presumably he is a superior officer to the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, if he is still chairman of the All-Party Pro-Life Group. The national chairman stated: We must honestly admit that we have suffered a numbing political defeat. We are bitterly disappointed. We had all worked so hard. We don't know what else we could have done". However, here comes the clue to the situation. Referring to the advice they received on the policy of this organisation, the statement continues: Others insisted that we should not do any statute-tinkering. We should instead get the existing law enforced. In particular, some lawyers argued that the Infant Life (Preservation) Act…which made it a crime knowingly to kill in the womb a child capable of being born alive, was a powerful weapon lying unused". "Go to it", the lawyers said. "Every abortion after 12 weeks contravened the law, so get that Act enforced". That is what they said.

What did that organisation do to try to achieve that? It said, "We tried it". It set its nurses' spy network to work. There is an organisation called Nurses for Life which was to watch the doctors, see what they were doing and report any suspicious actions. It acted on a spy network of other sources of information and set in motion cases against half a dozen individual doctors who were named in their hospitals and the evidence was given to us. The cases were all thrown out. No doctor has yet been convicted under the Infant Life (Preservation) Act—none. When it comes to the point, whatever the doctor does in good faith and in his belief that he is discharging his duty to his patient, applying his clinical judgment to the situation, no jury will convict him.

Then said Mr. Scarisbrick, "This is a broken reed". So the 1929 Act was a broken reed. It always has been. We have proved that there is nothing to enforce and much effort and time have been wasted. Money was not mentioned. This organisation spent £46,500 on a campaign that lasted six months. It is now appealing for money. The SPUC organisation, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, must have spent well over £500,000 on all the items it has sent round: plastic fetuses, videos from America called The Silent Scream, blown-up photographs which the Sunday Times newspaper says are very expensive indeed. These come mostly from one source and we know what that source is. I shall not mention his name because he is not here to reply, but I am sure that there is no secret about it. It was munificence for extravagant propaganda.

What is the evil of these amendments? The evil of the amendments put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox—who, incidentally, was not present at any of the discussions on live health —is that they expose the doctors to a renewal of the harassment and the detective network because of the additional obligation in the statute on "capable of being born alive". The more we define the duty of the doctors, the more we expose them to harassment and fear of the criminal law. That is the wicked part of these amendments. The doctors should be trusted.

Goodness me, are 27 cases really all that occupy our attention in paragraphs (c) and (d)? Each case has its own special circumstances. Can we not trust the doctors to decide in such grievous examples? They are all in National Health Service hospitals. There is no private sector carrying on illicit business on the side. All such cases are in National Health Service hospitals. Can we not even trust them? What a pass we are coming to!

I ask your Lordships: where do we go now? I can see no satisfaction to be gained anywhere from simply voting for or against sending the Bill back to the House of Commons. What will the House of Commons do about it? The Government will need a guillotine to get it through. The resentment there at the way in which the House of Lords has let them down would be very strong indeed. We are being manoeuvred into a false position. We ought to come to the conclusion, if needs must, that the only clear duty of this House is to endorse what the House of Commons—which we relied upon to produce the answer —has given to us for consideration. Nothing else will bring any satisfaction or peace anywhere.

I believe that the whole Bill could be put in jeopardy if there is a misjudgment of the mood of the House of Commons on what I think is a dreadful and unnecessary parliamentary situation. Let us settle it tonight, finish this phase in the long saga of a decade or two on abortion. Let those of us who work in this field for God's sake get a night's sleep and see what happens. The medical profession will be responsible. The social organisations also will be responsible. Will these people who live on professionalism to intimidate emotionally and in every other way lay off? If they do not, there is no hope at all. They must lay off and let the doctors get on with the job. They must let the abortion legislation settle down in a reasonable atmosphere. I beg noble Lords not to go down this path; I beg them to accept what the House of Commons has done. There is nothing better on offer: nothing better will come from the House of Commons. If we want a snub, we are asking for one. It is better for noble Lords to say, "We have done our best. The Commons has done its best. The Commons' view should prevail". That is the parliamentary situation. I hope that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will have something better to offer. The Government have been lamentable. They have landed us in this shambles all the way along the line. As I sit down, I hope that this is the last speech I ever make on this subject in your Lordships' House.

Lord Elton

My Lords, after the weasels, carbuncles and unnamed zealots mentioned in the fascinating speech of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, I hope your Lordships will permit me, in less than three minutes, to raise one point. The speech which weighed with me more than any other as a criticism of the amendments to the Commons amendment, which I support, was that of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman. He told us that Amendment No. 20A was superfluous as applied to subsection (1) (a) of the Commons amendment. He also said that the Lords amendment was unnecessary in relation to paragraphs (b) and (c) of the subsection. I shall leave the question of superfluity on one side and consider necessity. The judgment of the noble and learned Lord appeared to rest on the assumption first, that the pregnancy in each case referred to under paragraphs (b) and (c) was wanted by the mother and, secondly, that a doctor would presumably, therefore, strive to preserve the life of the fetus.

I am not sufficiently learned in the law to know whether it would be binding on a doctor to assume that the pregnancy was wanted in any case, but I appreciate that the danger of injury to the mother's mental health is one of the conditions of paragraph (b) under which an abortion may be brought about. I believe that on every occasion that the noble and learned Lord referred to that matter he mentioned abortion and not termination by the preservation of life of the fetus. Presumably that process is possible, and that is what the Lords amendment seeks to achieve.

If it is the case that some of these pregnancies may be unwanted and if not all doctors, sadly, are always bound by the Hippocratic oath, and if our statutes are meant to prevent improper acts by those who might be expected to act properly, I believe that some protection in law is required. As a postscript I should add that, on reflection, the noble and learned Lord said he believed that the wording of paragraph (c) of the Commons amendment reproduced the existing law. I can only say that that is not necessarily a recommendation for leaving it unamended.

As a layman in every sense of the word it is clear to me that some protection is needed which is not provided by the Bill as it would be drafted were the Commons amendment to be accepted in the form in which it has been brought to us. It may well be that the amendments are imperfect, but if your Lordships are not content with them and resist the amendments on the grounds that they are imperfect, we shall be landed with the Bill as it is now drafted. The only way to get any alternative amendment is to send the Bill back to the Commons for it to consider how to meet the objections raised in this House in another form. For that reason I shall support the amendments to the Commons amendment.

The Earl of Erroll

My Lords, I have a handicapped child so I believe it may be useful if I refer to this matter. The first thing I want to make clear is that we are not talking about healthy children. The entire question of termination after 24 weeks concerns unhealthy, abnormal children. My wife and I had, as our first child, a perfectly normal son. Our second child, a daughter, is a Mongol with Down's syndrome. We care for her and look after her and she is brought up in the family. She is doing extremely well. When my wife became pregnant for a third time, we faced a big problem as regards what we were going to do. My wife was now considered to be in a high risk group. I must add that we had no idea that we were going to have a Down's syndrome child. That came out of the blue. All the debates so far have concerned the rights of the mother and the unborn child. We seem to forget that we are still supposed to have family units in this country. The Church is still supposed to believe in that. Therefore there are husbands and other children involved in this matter.

When we were faced with a third pregnancy, we had to consider what would happen if that child turned out to be handicapped. The difficulty is that the problem hits one rather late on. Some time may elapse before one's wife announces she is pregnant. Then one has to make an appointment to see the doctor and the whole palaver carries on. Then one has to decide whether to have an amniocentesis test at 16 weeks. It is not possible to have it before then. Further the test can only be carried out when the hospital can arrange for it to be carried out. So one has to book into the hospital. Having the test increases the risk of a miscarriage. If one is going to have the child anyway, regardless of whether or not it is handicapped, there is no point in having amniocentesis because one increases the chance of miscarrying a perfectly healthy, normal child.

The first decision to take is whether to terminate the pregnancy if it is discovered that the fetus is handicapped. That is a very difficult decision to take. If one decides to have the child anyway, there is no point in having the amniocentesis test. That reinforces the point I am making about the time limits involved here. It causes a great deal of pressure for both the people involved.

In our case both my wife and I worked and had other pressures apart from the pregnancy. We had the pressure of the other child and my mother-in-law. It is difficult to be able to sit down quietly together in the evening and discuss such personal matters. First of all the man has to find out what his wife's attitude is to abortion. She may be so anti-abortion that she would not even consider that step whereas the man may be pro-abortion. The problem with having these built-in time limits is that it places psychological pressure on a marriage. It is a very dangerous time for the couple: marriages can be broken up if one word is said out of place. A row can begin that may never finish.

In our case we decided that the risk to our elder son's mental health if, to put it impolitely, he had two nutty siblings, was high. I am afraid that one has to admit that that is what the situation boils down to. Schools and school children can be very nasty in these situations. If there is only one abnormal child among a family of three or four children, no one will worry. When fingers are pointed at school, the child can weather it. The abnormal child is just one among many. However, if a normal child has two nutty brothers or sisters and he is the only normal offspring, one can imagine what the reaction of other children will be. They would pass remarks such as, "You are the one with the funny sister" or "You are the one with the funny brother". We were concerned about how such a situation might affect my son Harry as he grew up; so we decided to have the amniocentesis test. I believe that the test was carried out at 16½ weeks or 17 weeks. Fortunately, it was successful on the first occasion. Another problem can be posed if the test is unsuccessful. In that case the process has to be carried out a second time, but the staff will not know if it has been successful for a further two weeks. Again, therefore, we are pushing up against the time limit.

In theory one carries out the test at 16 weeks. But one does not receive the results until the 20th week. The staff have to contact the parents, inform them of the results and counsel them if there is a problem. People are up against the time limit the whole time. If we had been told that our child was abnormal, we might have reconsidered our decision, particularly as our handicapped daughter is so tremendous. When these time limits are set, intense pressures are placed upon families. We are not talking about healthy children here. Some 23 abortions were carried out last year after the time limit of 24 weeks. None of those abortions involved healthy children. We are not talking about children who will be brought up in loving wonderful families and who will live a healthy, bouncy life. Perhaps in every 10 years one such child may turn out to be an exceptional character; that is, if he survives, because he may not even necessarily be viable at 24 weeks. But how many lives and how many families might be wrecked by the others as a result of the trauma and mental pressure? In setting a time limit one puts pressure on normal families. That is very dangerous. It nearly happened to us. I disagree with anything that would produce that sort of pressure. For abnormal situations there should be no time limit: the family is more important.

6 p.m.

Viscount Caldecote

My Lords, I, too, am very grateful to my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor for his clear exposition of the arrangements for regulation and control of medical abortion by the DHSS and the other aspects of Amendment No. 20. I support everything said by my noble friends Lady Cox and Lord McColl, and I listened with great admiration to the moving speech of the noble Earl, Lord Erroll.

I should like to make it clear that I fully supported the Bill in the form in which it left your Lordships' House. I voted for embryo research under strict regulation. However, since then the Bill has been drastically amended in another place to include major reform of the abortion law. I am most concerned by some of the provisions in the new clause inserted by Amendment No. 20. However, I have no intention, nor I believe have any of your Lordships—with the exception of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton—of raising any of the issues concerning the limit of 24 weeks or pregnancies terminated due to the risk of danger to the life of the mother.

I realise that at this late stage the Government are concerned that disagreement between the two Houses could cause problems and might conceivably jeopardise the passing of the Bill into law during this Session. In my view that last would be a tragedy, for the Bill contains important provisions for the regulation of embryo research. However, I submit that the passing of good law, sound in logic, application and ethics, must take precedence over any consideration of the convenience of legislators.

I strongly believe that the new clause inserted in another place is not sound, either in logic or in ethics. In addition, as my noble friend Lady Cox said, there has been considerable confusion about the difference between abortion —killing a fetus—and termination of pregnancy and producing a live child. I believe that that is one good reason why we should be debating the matter again in this House, despite the points that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, put to us about his Bill. I believe that that difference has not been sufficiently appreciated and it is right that we should take it fully into account. That is what Amendments Nos. 20A and 20B do.

I fully realise that the conflicts of loyalties which arise in such cases are desperately difficult. I have some small personal experience of them. They are particularly intense and difficult when loved ones are involved. There are many instances through the ages of mothers bravely sacrificing all, even life itself, to protect and nurture their children. There have also been cases when the diagnosis of a seriously deformed fetus has been proved wrong and a child has been born with no more than minor abnormality, or even fully healthy.

Now for the logic. If for some reason it is decided to have an abortion at a very late stage when the fetus is capable of being born alive, say a week before the birth, under the proposed Amendment No. 20 that would be lawful in certain not easily defined cases. However, if a child is born with more serious abnormalities than were diagnosed, it would be a crime—of infanticide I believe—to kill that child a week after birth, however deformed it was. That cannot be sound logic. It must be bad law.

Lastly, I come to the ethical dimension, perhaps the most important of all. Here the analogy with the debate that we have had on many occasions in both Houses on the death penalty for murder is a good one. For good reasons Parliament has concluded that it is better for many murderers to escape the penalty of death rather than that one person should be hanged and subsequently proved to be innocent. So I believe that we should proclaim, as firmly and clearly as we can, the importance of saving the life of the unborn child. We should minimise in every possible way the risk of killing the unborn child unnecessarily.

Those are all very difficult and painful issues. As I said, I listened with great admiration to the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, which was so relevant to this difficult issue. Amendment No. 20 would allow abortion under certain, not easily defined, conditions; namely, the termination of pregnancy by killing the fetus up to the day of birth for reasons other than risk to the life of the mother. All of us in this great, civilised country, whether of any religious faith or none, respect the sanctity of human life. It must therefore be wrong and against every ethical principle of a truly civilised country to permit the killing of a child, a fetus capable of being born alive, a few days before birth, simply because it happens to be within the womb rather than outside it, in any circumstances other than when the mother's life is at risk.

Amendments Nos. 20A and 20B now proposed to Amendment No. 20 would go a long way towards preventing that from happening. I do not believe that they are in any way contrary to the protestations of the noble Lord, Lord Ennals. He wants to see children born alive if possible. Therefore, why not agree to Amendments Nos. 20A and 20B? That is all we seek to achieve—that on every possible occasion the life of the child should be saved if that is possible and that we should lay a duty on the medical practitioner to do all that he can to achieve that.

My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor mentioned that that was the current practice. I am sure that it is. However, times change, governments change and doctors change. Should we not enshrine that principle in law? That is what those Amendments Nos. 20A and 20B would serve to achieve. They would enshrine in law the principle that if possible the life of the unborn child should be saved. I submit that they are entirely reasonable and very wise amendments.

Perhaps I may say one thing more. I confidently pray that every noble Lord here tonight will vote as each believes is right and wise and will not be affected by any considerations of convenience of parliamentary business management.

Lord Brightman

My Lords, before the noble Viscount sits down perhaps he will allow me to correct one mistake. He said that the amendments from the Commons drastically altered the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton. In fact they exactly reproduce that Bill and the Committee's recommendations.

Viscount Caldecote

My Lords, if the noble Lord will read Hansard he will see that I said that the Commons amendments drastically altered the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill which was passed by this House. So far as I can remember, I said that the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, that we had already discussed the issue when we debated his Bill and passed its Second Reading, was not a strong point because of the argument raised by my noble friend Lady Cox. She said that sufficient consideration had not been given to the difference between abortion, which is the killing of a fetus capable of being born alive, and the termination of pregnancy with every intention of preserving the life of the unborn child. I believe that when the noble Lord, Lord Brightman, reads Hansard he will find that that is what I said.

Lord Brightman

My Lords, I apologise to the noble Viscount.

Baroness Warnock

My Lords, I think that the House is being led along a path which, to me at any rate, is new—it may not be at all new to the medical profession—namely, the path which follows a distinction between abortion and termination of pregnancy. I certainly assumed that the two meant the same. But it is very dangerous to make the assumption that in the case of terminations under paragraphs (a) (b) and (c), there is not generally a very strong desire on the part of both the mother and the doctors to save the child if possible. We should take that for granted, even though people may be able to cite evidence where the opposite is true.

Considering the very small number of cases of late abortions for those reasons, I believe that it is extremely unlikely that in many of them there is a desire that the child should die and not survive. Therefore it is misleading to be told that if we pass Commons Amendment No. 20 as it stands we shall be on the side of killing the child. That is rubbish. We shall still be on the side of saving the child where possible.

It is different when we come to terminations on the grounds set out in paragraph (d). Here one is talking about a child who is very severely damaged and cannot live a meaningful life. In the committee on which I had the honour to serve under the chairmanship of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, we used the phrase "a meaningful life". I do not believe that today we have said anything that makes clear, first, what is meant by "capable of being born alive" and, secondly, what is meant by "capable of living". We have not settled the question of whether that means living for a minute, a month or a year, by artificial inflation of the lungs or without such drastic measures. None of those points has been considered, nor do I think that they should be considered. I believe that there is a minute number of children—we have heard figures of 23 or 24—who are aborted on those grounds. In every case it is a tragedy. In every case it is difficult to bear.

However, I should like to go back to something that was said earlier. I remind your Lordships that, if the law is not amended in this way, it is in fact the mother who has to carry the child from week 28 until week 40. That is the length of a whole school term. Twelve weeks is a long time. I do not believe that enough attention has been paid to that appalling demand which Hugh Montefiore, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham, quite explicity said he thought ought to be imposed on the woman.

The plea that I make is that noble Lords should consider this set of amendments as a whole and pass them all without entering into arguments about how many children will be wanted and how many are not wanted, and bear that in mind.

The Duke of Norfolk

My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down perhaps I may say a few words. I hesitate to do so because she is much wiser than I am on this subject, but I understand termination of pregnancy after 24 weeks to be either abortion when the child is killed or induced birth when the child is kept alive and the live child is born or there is a Caesarean operation. It is for that reason that we have tabled our amendment. We want it to be an induced birth and not a destruction of the child in the womb.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Rea

My Lords, it may be appropriate if I say a few words as a practising doctor. The movers of the amendments may feel that that qualification diminishes the worth of my contribution. However, I hope that noble Lords who have not made up their minds will accept that individual doctors and the great majority of the profession as a whole, as well as most obstetricians and gynaecologists, feel that the Commons amendments are entirely appropriate. They modernise the 1967 Abortion Act and bring the law into line with current practice in most cases. They will remove the anomaly of the Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929 under which gynaecologists operating in good faith risk prosecution for carrying out a humane procedure.

I should like simply to address subsection (1) (d) in Commons Amendment No. 20 which concerns severe handicap. The noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, covered much the same point that I wanted to make. When a child with a severe handicap has been diagnosed late (and, as has been pointed out, sadly, that happens very occasionally), the new clause inserted into the Bill allows the mother or both parents to opt for a termination of pregnancy—I use that word advisedly; I myself consider that it means the same as an abortion—if they so wish, with no gestational restrictions. But it does not require them to have a termination. They are perfectly at liberty to continue with the pregnancy if their conscience dictates that the mother should give birth and they should look after a very severely handicapped child until it dies, possibly after a few hours or maybe a few years depending on how serious is the handicap.

Obviously some will make that choice, as the noble Lord who spoke recently pointed out. But I believe that the majority of parents in that position will opt for a termination and will not want the child to survive. After a period they will try again with the strong expectation of conceiving another normal child in its place. The Lords' amendments remove that choice from the unfortunate couple and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, said, force the mother to continue with the pregnancy because—in the words of the amendment—if a doctor: takes all reasonable steps to secure that the child is born alive he or she must allow that pregnancy to continue to full term.

In my opinion the movers of these amendments are forcing the majority of women in that position, and the majority of gynaecologists, to follow the movers' minority belief. They are thus removing the choice of women to replace their handicapped fetus with a healthy normal pregnancy and causing them to bear an unwanted and deformed child possibly for as long as 12 weeks.

The Lord Bishop of Gloucester

My Lords, reference has been made several times to the Select Committee of this House and I have to own that I was a member of it. I was glad to sign the report. As was rightly said, its conclusions were unanimous. Because I intend to vote in favour of the two amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, I shall offer a brief word as to why I shall do so.

With his usual impeccable fairness the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, explained to us the conclusions of the committee. I disagree with him on only one comparatively tiny point; namely, that the phrases and words of the amendments which have come to us from the Commons do not line up with sufficient accuracy with the words of our recommendation. In its conclusions the committee said that termination of the pregnancy must be essential to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman. Let me compare that with the grounds put before us in the Commons amendment: to present grave permanent injury or that there would be: risk to the life of the pregnant woman, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated". I must say that there is a significant gap which causes me some anxiety. Perhaps I may add at once that I accept fully the other recommendations of the committee as expressed in the Bill brought forward by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton. I take my place with others on the stall of penitence in not having been present when that Bill was debated in this House. If the amendment is pressed to bring back the Infant Life (Preservation) Act, I shall certainly vote against it.

There are cases where the termination of a pregnancy after the 24th week might well have to be by abortion. The evidence put before us convinced me of that. However, I do not believe that that would cover absolutely, totally and without peradventure every case. The hypothesis—perhaps it is more than a hypothesis—has been put before us already today that a pregnant woman may be suffering from hypertension to such a degree that her pregnancy could be terminated. I do not understand medicine but it seems unnecessary to hypothesise that that fetus could not be born by induction (as any other premature baby might be) and could not lead a perfectly normal and healthy life. Surely it should be induced.

We entirely accept the reassurances given by several Members of this House that the medical profession would normally do so and would ensure that the child was born alive. However, I believe that no harm and perhaps some good would be done if such provision were nudged into the legislation by the modest amendments, Amendments Nos. 20A and 20B. They provide only that all reasonable steps should be taken to ensure that the child is born alive.

In my belief, more important is the signal that Parliament would or would not send to the community over this matter. Should we not make it as clear as we can that if a child can be born alive it should be? There may be reasons that that is impossible or undesirable. Those reasons may in some cases be, sustained. But surely the burden of proof must be decisively on those who would abort a child who could at that point in time be born alive. It is not necessary to suppose that the amendments would compel mothers to carry their children in all cases to term. They probably would not. I believe that the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, is perfectly right. But why should we even by assumption appear almost to obviate, if not prohibit, the induced birth of a healthy child, or even a child with some handicap? If we leave the wording as it is, the presumption will go abroad that termination in each case means abortion.

With the greatest respect to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, he used the words "termination" and "abortion" as though they were synonymous. I believe that these amendments need not be synonymous. It would be right and accurate if we were to ensure by these amendments that those words were not so construed.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, I had not intended to speak. However, I must take up one point raised by the right reverend Prelate. I do not believe that doctors should make laws. The laws must be made by Parliament. Certainly we must take their views into account because their profession is a competent and a caring one.

The point that the right reverend Prelate made about abortion and termination and induced birth is amply covered. I was most impressed by a letter that I received. It has been referred to several times. It was signed by 21 distinguished obstetricians from Aberdeen to north Devon, all of them at the top of their profession. They support the Commons amendment. The letter refers quite clearly to the point that the right reverend Prelate made. It states: If the foetus is mature enough to have a reasonable chance of survival with intensive care, all possible steps are taken to optimise the survival of both mother and foetus; delivery is then usually by caesarean section". That appears to cover the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and others.

At the end of the day, the doctors have to interpret the law in a desperately caring and difficult situation. Without any doubt we should listen to their views. For that reason I shall vote for the Commons amendment.

The Earl of Perth

My Lords, I had intended to speak only on Amendment No. 20B. After listening to the speeches of noble Lords, it seems to me that the two amendments have been covered in one debate.

Baroness Cox

My Lords, no. With the leave of the House, we agreed earlier that they would be dealt with separately. Rather than waste the noble Lord's time while speaking now, when he may wish to make the same points on the second amendment, perhaps I may say that there is a separate debate on that amendment.

The Earl of Perth

My Lords, I recognise what the noble Baroness says. However, while we shall have a separate vote on Amendment No. 20B, almost every speaker has combined arguments on the two amendments.

The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor worried us about what would happen if we decided to accept the amendments. Others have taken the same line. The noble Lord, Lord Ennals, for example, said that we must not change the position now because that is against the provision that the Commons agreed. However, if as a House we feel that such provision is wrong we have a duty to put our views and the provision that we should like to the other place. If it turned us down I doubt whether there would be a constitutional crisis, although no one can say for certain.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, made a most powerful speech. He was arguing in favour of Amendment No. 20. None of us is arguing against it. The debate was very interesting but it was not relevant to the amendments. He said that we must trust the doctors. I understand that, but I believe that at times the doctors may need guidance.

We had the entertaining speech of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton. I am not sure whether entertaining speeches are appropriate on this subject, but never mind. He spoke entirely about Amendment No. 20, what he did in the past, and so on. He said, "If you pass the amendments they will be evil". Those were his words. I tried to understand why they would be evil. It was because it would put pressure on the doctors. That is exactly what I consider should be done. There should be pressure on them to think very seriously before they act. I am not in the least afraid of doing that.

Many noble Lords will recognise the enormous problem that the doctors have in making a decision with regard to the unborn child. However, I do not believe that one should put the responsibility on the doctors without guidance from this House. I believe that the two amendments help to give such guidance.

Those of us who believe in God should not expect doctors to make His judgments. Perhaps I may tell noble Lords a very short story.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone


The Earl of Perth

My Lords, the story is this—despite the chuckling of the noble and learned Lord in the corner. Two doctors were debating whether they should end a pregnancy. The father had syphilis; and the mother had tuberculosis. The first child was born blind; the second child died; and the third child was deaf and dumb. The question that was put by one doctor to the other was, "What will you do in this case?". The doctor said, "I suppose that there is no option but to terminate the pregnancy". If that had been done, there would be no Beethoven. I tell that story because it is of immense importance that we should not try to make a judgment that is God's. That is what worries me. There are many similar cases but we should never forget that often seriously handicapped children have compensating gifts which make life worth while from their point of view and that of the world.

Noble Lords may believe that my final point is a little far fetched, but I do not believe so. If we allow doctors to decide whether to take life because a child may be handicapped, does that not come close to saying that euthanasia is also reasonable? It could be said, "Here are people who are handicapped; admittedly they are old, and we should terminate their lives as well".

I hope that in speaking to both amendments I have not overstepped the mark. I may speak again, as the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, has said. I beg your Lordships to recognise the fact that the amendments are not against Amendment No. 20—far from it. All noble Lords who have spoken have accepted Amendment No. 20. However, we have sought to make the doctors think about whether the child is to be born alive.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Stallard

My Lords, I had intended to speak for much longer than I shall speak. I had prepared a long speech but, after having read the reports, listened to the arguments and sat in the Chamber throughout this debate, I have changed my mind. I and many other people are puzzled by one issue. I have deferred and held back because of the number of experts that we have heard this afternoon. We have heard experts from the religious, medical and political fields. What came across is the difference between them. I have no medical expertise apart from almost a lifetime spent on health committees and in advising and counselling for advice services in the voluntary sector. Apart from that, I was an engineer.

However, I have a gut reaction which is common to millions of people outside the House. I have listened to and read about debates, and I have watched television programmes on the subject. Together with many people who have no knowledge of the subject and have read no reports, I say, "They are going too far. This thing is going over the top". The debate today has shown clearly that there is a difference in the position that exists and the position that is being proposed. I have heard the difference enunciated by a number of speakers. My difficulty is in interpreting the feeling, "They are going too far. What can we do to stop them?".

I am not intimidated by my noble friend Lord Houghton. I have long admired and respected him and have supported him in his excellent campaigns on animal welfare and vivisection. However, I depart from him on this issue. I am not intimidated when I hear him saying, "This will do damage here; that will happen there; and the Commons will be upset". Our job is to do what we think is right; to amend the Bill where we believe that there are weaknesses, to strengthen it where we believe it needs strengthening and then to send it back. No doubt we shall be flexible and speedy in order to allow the timetable of this Session to be maintained. No one wishes to wreck the Bill or the timetable; but we do not wish to be seen to be allowing legislation which we believe is wrong to pass. I am one of those who believe that this legislation is wrong and that there is a major difference.

I have read the report and I am confused by it. It pays scant attention, if any, to the views of the Royal College of Obstetricians, the Royal College of Midwives, the Health Visitors' Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners and other professional bodies which call for an upper limit of 24 weeks. No mention of that is made in the report of the Select Committee, and it is touched on only vaguely elsewhere. I recall previous debates when we were told by those justifying the use of human embryo for research, for instance, that we had to vote on the grounds that all the main medical bodies in this country were urging the pursuance of such practices. Now they have turned the issue upside down because all the main medical bodies in this country have said that the upper limit should be 24 weeks and are now telling us to vote against—

Noble Lords

No, it is the other way round.

Lord Stallard

My Lords, those of us who do not have a great deal of medical knowledge must be careful. If noble Lords read the conclusions in Part V they will see that my comments are correct. The contention that there is a difference and that the existing Bill will lead to abortion on demand up to birth did not come from any pro-life organisation. It came from an article in a paper with which I do not agree—that is, the Guardian. On the day after the debate in the other place, it stated that the clause might be interpreted so liberally that it becomes abortion on demand without limit of time. Who is to say that the Guardian is speaking for the pro-life movement or is a member of SPUC? That is where the argument first originated. I could go on for a long time—

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Stallard

My Lords, I am grateful for your support and I shall try to return the compliment some day.

I understand that under the Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929 which is still in force a baby may be destroyed in the womb only with the aim of "preserving the life of the mother". That is important and we all accept it. There has been no argument about the length of the pregnancy when such a condition has existed. However, the Bill as it stands without the amendments permits abortion for: risk to the life of the pregnant woman, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated". That is a diminution of the legislation which now exists and it is weakened. I am not in favour of weakening the position of the mother in such circumstances. I am in favour of maintaining the position and amending as we have suggested.

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, read from a newspaper or journal from the pro-life movement in order 10 justify his claim. That justifies me reading from a letter which my noble friend Lord Houghton distributed. That states that we should get down to the fundamentals of the issue. It says that abortion has existed since the beginning of human life. No country and no religion has ever been able to prevent or stop it. It goes on that the Irish Republic is the only fundamentalist country left in the European Community and it exports its abortion cases to us. I would refute that totally.

As regards the Irish position—and it is worth mentioning because that is an injustice to a friendly country—the Irish constitution is quite clear. It underlines the principle that the state acknowledges the right to life for the unborn child having due regard to the equal rights of the mother, and all practical and reasonable steps are taken to uphold that principle. That was put to the country in the form of a referendum. This matter has never been put to our country in the form of a referendum, so why should we criticise what another sovereign state has done?

The result of the referendum was an overwhelming majority in favour of the constitution. As regards the other part of Ireland, the only matter which unites the people in the six counties of Northern Ireland is their abhorrence of abortion. They regularly vote together against any attempts to worsen the present situation. For those reasons, and many more, I intend to support the amendments.

6.45 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, we have had a long debate and it has covered a good deal of ground —some of it not entirely covered by the amendment which we are presently discussing.

Therefore, I should like to remind your Lordships of the question raised by this amendment. There is no question in this amendment of altering the grounds for medical termination of pregnancy stated in the Commons amendment and no proposal in any way to alter those in their definitions. Therefore a good deal of comment made about that is not particularly relevant to the amendment. I should like to show that the amendment is engrafting a proviso to the lawfulness of abortions or terminations of pregnancy, to be accurate, on the grounds specified in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of the Commons amendment.

It is worth reminding ourselves that what has happened as regards the Commons amendment is that the law relating to medical termination of pregnancy has been modified by including for the first time in that legislation a time limit; namely, 24 weeks. Essentially, that was the question considered by the Select Committee—that is, whether a time limit should be put into the abortion legislation; and, if so, what it should be. The House of Commons has introduced into the abortion legislation a time limit of 24 weeks.

That applies except for the exceptions specified. My noble and learned friend Lord Brightman has explained how the committee which he chaired reached the conclusion that it was right to make a reduction in the time limit from what had previously been thought to exist—and I shall come on to explain how that was so—and to make exceptions from that provision for the time limit. Those exceptions are mirrored in paragraphs (b), (c) and (d).

It is true that the word used in paragraph (b) is "necessary" and that may be capable of being distinguished from "essential". However, that is a fairly narrow distinction. The three paragraphs (b) (c) and (d) are intended to mirror the exceptions from the reduction in the time limit which the committee proposed. I shall not go into the justification for those.

I merely say that the committee reached the view that those exceptions were appropriate on the basis of the evidence which it took and its considerations.

In respect of paragraph (a)—the 24 week case—it is proposed by this amendment to introduce a proviso. I believe that I am right in saying that the medical evidence is that under 24 weeks the chance of a fetus being born alive is not very great. In the current medical view, at 24 weeks there may be a possibility of life independent of the mother if the child is delivered. The 24 week period is fixed on that basis.

As I said earlier, until this provision is implemented —if it is—the law regarding time limits has stood upon the Infant Life (Preservation) Act 1929. That Act was based on the idea of the capability of life. It contained in its provisions a presumption about the capability of life. I shall read that because it is quite important and my noble friend the Duke of Norfolk referred to it. It states: For the purposes of this Act, evidence that a woman had at any material time been pregnant for a period of twenty-eight weeks or more shall be prima facie proof that she was at that time pregnant of a child capable of being born alive". That gave a legal presumption—a rebuttable presumption because it is prima facie proof—that if she had carried a child for 28 weeks, it was capable of being born alive. It …as from that Act that the general view was taken that there was a 28 week limit on abortions.

However, it is important to notice that the 1929 Act made it an offence for any person who: with intent to destroy the life of a child capable of being born alive, by any wilful act causes a child to die before it has an existence independent of its mother". That was the basis on which the offence was created. It was not a question of failure to take steps but required the doing of a wilful act with intent to cause the child to die.

That Act contains this proviso: no person shall be found guilty of an offence under this section unless it is proved that the act which caused the death of the child was not done in good faith for the purpose only of preserving the life of the mother". The result was that the committee recommended that the 28 weeks which appears there should, in modern times, be taken into the abortion legislation and changed into the shorter period of 24 weeks. That is the primary effect of this part of the Commons amendment—that is, to reduce that.

Against that background, the proposal is made to amend in order to insert the words of Amendment No. 20A. As I say, that amendment is intended to apply to paragraphs (a), (b) or (c). As my noble and learned friend Lord Brightman pointed out, that creates a difficulty in respect of paragraph (a) where the 24 week time limit is applied.

I wish simply to summarise the question. The question is whether this House should put an additional responsibility on the doctor carrying out an operation under this statutory provision, to determine that the child is capable of being born alive. The amendment does not make that capability dependent on the doctor's opinion. It is an absolute criterion that is taken. Your Lordships will also remember that that doctor is taking a decision in respect of a child in utero, and must reach a conclusion upon that matter before any operation is undertaken.

My next point is that the amendment requires that if that set of facts is established, and that set of facts is an objective set of facts not dependent upon the doctor's opinion, then the doctor is bound to take all reasonable steps to secure that the child is born alive. In paragraphs (b) and (c) with which the amendment is concerned, the medical situation of the mother is sharply in focus. The life of the mother is specifically referred to in paragraph (c). That is the emphasis of that paragraph—that it involves risk to the life of the pregnant woman; that it is a life-threatening pregnancy with which one is dealing.

The question is whether the amendment is obliging the doctor to take all reasonable steps to secure that the child is born alive, whatever effect that may have on the life or health of the mother. That is a question which must arise on the amendment. The argument in favour of the amendment is that the concept of capability of being born alive is an essential one. In some ways it is a watershed of the legality or moral propriety of the operation. However, I remind your Lordships that in 1929 when Parliament dealt with this it did so on the basis of weeks of pregnancy and left that otherwise open to evidence.

The argument to the contrary is put on the basis that the criteria supplied are the criteria under which the medical practitioner should operate without further qualification. I must point out that breach of the condition under which authorisation is given exposes the medical practitioner in question to criminal prosecution. In other words, if it were shown in any specific case that a doctor had not taken what the court regarded as all reasonable steps, and it was proved to the court's satisfaction that the child was capable of being born alive, that doctor would be liable to prosecution for a criminal offence. He might fall foul of the other offences which regulate that area.

I said earlier that the Government are entirely neutral on this matter. I have sought to put before your Lordships the facts to be considered. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, criticised the Government for putting your Lordships in this position. The Government sought to arrange time for a structured and full debate on the matter in the House of Commons, and your Lordships have the opportunity of discussing it once more, having discussed it already under the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Houghton.

I do not seek to worry—I believe that was the word used by the noble Earl, Lord Perth—about what might happen, whatever your Lordships do. All I said, and it is an indisputable fact, was that consent of both Houses is required for the Bill to become law. I state that as a fact your Lordships will wish to bear in mind when considering a course of action. It is for your Lordships to decide in the light of your own conscience how to deal with the amendment.

Baroness Cox

My Lords, perhaps I may briefly thank every noble Lord who contributed to this important and often moving debate. I wish to make three points. I cannot emphasise too strongly that Amendment No. 20A would not, in any situation whatever, constitute grounds for termination of a pregnancy covered by the House of Commons amendment. In other words, the House of Commons amendment allows for a termination of pregnancy according to a number of grounds. Our amendment would in no way prevent that termination of pregnancy.

We are not opposed to the termination of a pregnancy if the mother's health and well-being are at risk. Amendment No. 20A says that in such a situation, where it appears that the mother's well-being requires the termination of a pregnancy, the outcome should not be intentionally an abortion. The Abortion Act would apply. The outcome should be termination of a pregnancy with every effort reasonably made to secure and protect the life of the child. The mother's well-being comes first. But the amendment puts the onus on the medical practitioners to do heir utmost to protect the life of the child.

There is nothing inconsistent with the spirit of the two amendments. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London said, it puts the presumption on life rather than, as in the case of abortion, on death. We are not speaking of handicaps. Some valid and sensible points were made regarding babies with handicaps discovered in utero. That is the substance of another amendment and another debate. I ask noble Lords not to take those points on board when considering Amendment No. 20A, which relates to the well-being of the mother and which we regard as being paramount. But, after 24 weeks, if the child is capable of life, we ask that it be protected.

My final point is that it has been made very clear that at present professional practitioners would protect the child anyway. We do not wish to impugn the integrity of professional practitioners. But if the law is amended by the Commons amendment as it now stands, the child will become vulnerable at law. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State said that at present the child is protected by the good practice of clinical practitioners. But the child will not be protected by law from abortion on those grounds, many of which are open to vague interpretation.

We are not legislating against good practice. One does not need to legislate against that. We are attempting to close a potential loophole against possible malpractice. As we see it, the Commons amendments, which would allow for abortion up to birth, on social grounds might well open loopholes for a malpractice which I am sure your Lordships would not wish to see allowed in any way in this country.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London put the argument very well when he said that we are attempting to put into law the principle of the presumption of life rather than the principle of the presumption of death. It is not a question of putting the mother at any kind of risk. We accept termination of pregnancy. All we ask is that termination of pregnancy beyond 24 weeks—we welcome that reduction to 24 weeks—should not be on the presumption of abortion but on the presumption that every effort will be made to protect the life of the unborn child. We are afraid that that principle will be jeopardised by the House of Commons amendments as they now stand. Our amendment is an attempt to spell out that principle in a legal framework. I ask noble Lords to support it.

7 p.m.

On Question, Whether Amendment No. 20A, as an amendment to Amendment No. 20, shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 89; Not-Contents, 133.

Division No. 1
Ailesbury, M. Lytton, E.
Alexander of Tunis, E. McColl of Dulwich, L. [Teller.]
Ashbourne, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Masham of Ilton, B.
Bessborough, E. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Boardman, L. Mersey, V.
Braye, B. Milverton, L.
Brentford, V. Monckton of Brenchley, V.
Byron, L. Monk Bretton, L.
Caldecote, V. Mottistone, L.
Canterbury, Abp. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Carnock, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Chester, Bp. Nelson, E.
Clanwilliam, E. Norfolk, D.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. Parmoor, L.
Cockfield, L. Pearson of Rannock, L.
Coleraine, L. Perth, E.
Cork and Orrery, E. Petre, L.
Cox, B. [Teller.] Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Craigmyle, L. Portsmouth, Bp.
De L'Isle, V. Portsmouth, E.
Denman, L. Reading, M.
Eden of Winton, L. Ripon, Bp.
Ellenborough, L. Robertson of Oakridge, L.
Elles, B. Ryder of Warsaw, B.
Elton, L. St. Albans, Bp.
Fitt, L. St. John of Fawsley, L.
Gainsborough, E. Salisbury, M.
Gladwyn, L. Savile, L.
Gloucester, Bp. Sidmouth, V.
Hampton, L. Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Harvington, L. Southwark, Bp.
Havers, L. Stafford, L.
Holderness, L. Stallard, L.
Howe, E. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Hylton, L. Strange, B.
Iddesleigh, E. Swinfen, L.
Kilbracken, L. Terrington, L.
Kinnoull, E. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Lauderdale, E. Tonypandy, V.
Liverpool, Bp. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Liverpool, E. Wilberforce, L.
London, Bp. Winchester, Bp.
Longford, E. York, Abp.
Lothian, M.
Aberdare, L. Beaverbrook, L.
Addington, L. Belstead, L.
Allen of Abbeydale, L. Birk, B.
Ampthill, L. Blackstone, B.
Ardwick, L. Bledisloe, V.
Arran, E. Blyth, L.
Astor, V. Boston of Faversham, L.
Attlee, E. Boyd-Carpenter L.
Aylestone, L. Brightman, L.
Balfour, L. Brougham and Vaux, L.
Barnett, L. Butterworth, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L. Lloyd of Hampstead, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Lockwood, B.
Cavendish of Furness, L. Long, V.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Clinton-Davis, L. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Colwyn, L. McNair, L.
Craigavon, V. Merrivale, L.
Crickhowell, L. Meston, L.
Croham, L. Monson, L.
Crook, L. Mountevans, L.
Dainton, L. Mulley, L.
David, B. Munster, E.
Davidson, V. [Teller] Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Denham, L. [Teller] Nathan, L.
Derwent, L. Nicol, B.
Diamond, L. Northfield, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Oram, L.
Elibank, L. Orkney, E.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Oxfuird, V.
Ennals, L. Pender, L.
Erroll, E. Peston, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Piatt of Writtle, B.
Feversham, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Rea, L.
Flowers, L. Reay, L.
Glenarthur, L. Renton, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Renwick, L.
Haden-Guest, L. Richard, L.
Hailsham of Romney, E.
Saint Marylebone, L. Roskill, L.
Halsbury, E. Russell, E.
Hankey, L. St. John of Bletso, L.
Hanworth, V. Seebohm, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Selborne, E.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Selkirk, E.
Henley, L. Selsdon, L.
Hives, L. Serota, B.
Hooson, L. Shaughnessy, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Sherfield, L.
Howie of Troon, L. Stedman, B.
Hunter of Newington, L. Strathcarron, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.
Jeger, B. Templeman, L.
Jellicoe, E. Thomson of Monifeth, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L. Thurlow, L.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L. Trumpington, B.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Kearton, L. Vernon, L.
Kenilworth, L. Warnock, B.
Kilmarnock, L. White, B.
Kissin, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Knollys, V. Willis, L.
Lawrence, L. Wilson of Langside, L.
Listowel, E. Wise, L.

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment No. 20A disagreed to accordingly.

7.8 p.m.