Orders of the Day — Contraceptives (Regulation) Bill.

– in the House of Commons on 16th December 1938.

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Order for Second Reading read.

2.59 p.m.

Photo of Mr Oliver Simmonds Mr Oliver Simmonds , Birmingham Duddeston

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

I have pleasure in moving the Second Reading of this Bill which stands in the names of hon. Friends and myself. It is unnecessary for me to speak very long upon this Measure because it has been discussed in another place, and, briefly, in this House before, and hon. Members are thus aware of the main lines of the Measure, although it has recently been modified. I, therefore, propose to address myself to the Measure in the form of six questions. First, what is the nature of the Bill; secondly, what need is there for the Bill; thirdly, what does the Bill do; fourthly, what does the Bill disclaim to do; fifthly, what objections have been raised to the Bill; and sixthly, what bodies support the Bill?

First. What is the nature of the Bill? The Bill does not in any way touch upon any question of public morality. Although there are, as we know, important exceptions within the community, 'there is to-day widespread acceptance of the moral right of married couples to space their children as they think best, and as far as possible to bring them into the world at seasons when they think they will have the best chance. The extent of the increased practice of birth control during the last 50 years is well instanced by the decline in the birth rate of England and Wales from 1880 until 1930 of no less than 54 per cent. That alone proves that a very large section of the community believes that it has a moral right to birth control. The Bill thus deals with no principle of public morality. What it does deal with is public decency, and merely circumscribes some of the worst offences against public opinion committed by those who trade in contraceptives and aggressively thrust their wares before us. I do hope, therefore, that there will be no red herring drawn across our discussion concerning the rights or the wrongs of contraception or birth control. That is not the issue before the House to-day.

My second question. What need is there for the Bill? I must answer that question in this way. What are some of the aggressive practices to which I have referred? As all hon. Members know there is the nauseating display in shop windows. There is, perhaps, a more novel form of this commercialism—sale from slot machines; and, thirdly, there is the widespread distribution of alluring literature. What can be said of this? Obviously hon. Members would say, as far as the shop windows and the slot machines are concerned, we can pass them by unnoticed. We can also take the point of view that, as far as the literature is concerned, we can quickly condemn it to the wastepaper basket. But does the responsibility of organised society, and particularly the responsibility of this House, end there? May I not ask the House what may be the effect upon children and young persons of this flagrant commercialism? While most young people in their teens have sufficient moral fibre to resist this temptation, these commercial practices are definitely known to have the saddest results in many cases. Of all the questions that have been raised during the last 12 months in this House at Question Time there has been none on which a stronger feeling has existed among hon. Members than on the question of slot machines for the sale of contraceptives. Further, there is no society dealing with the morals of our people that does not feel strongly on this subject.

I do not want to detain the House, but I shall be expected to give a few examples of the problem. First, as to shop windows. The Public Morality Council tell me that two of their officers made observations of five shops on three nights, from 6 to 8 p.m., and saw 182 young men and 112 young women stop and inspect the window, and 35 of them entered the shops in the time stated.

Photo of Mr Ernest Thurtle Mr Ernest Thurtle , Shoreditch

The hon. Member has mentioned the Public Morality Council. To many Members of this House that conveys nothing. Will he tell us what this Council is which censors the morals of the country?

Photo of Mr Oliver Simmonds Mr Oliver Simmonds , Birmingham Duddeston

I could tell the House and the hon. Member a great deal about the Public Morality Council but I do not think it is needful for me to waste the time of the House on that subject. The hon. Member is thoroughly aware of those who support that Council. Let me quote an example given to me by a federation of boys' clubs in an industrial district. They say: About 12 months ago a social worker saw a crowd of youngsters at a shop, and when he inquired he found that they knew something. He found that they had obtained contraceptives or sheaths by manipulating a slot machine, and were playing with them. When he asked them if they knew what they were, the boys replied that they did, and that the girls did and carried them in their bags ready for any boys who wanted them. These were children not yet in their teens. The effect of this on the character of these youngsters can only be regarded with horror and apprehension for their future happiness. Here is another example, which comes from an industrial area, with regard to slot machines: This method of sale is contributing very largely to a tremendous increase in amateur as against professional prostitution among factory girls, who procure these devices in this easy fashion and by carrying them in their handbags definitely encourage men. Further testimony on this sinister subject comes from the cases of youngsters who reply to advertisements, particularly to offers of certain physical culture experts. At a later date they receive batches of contraceptive literature.

Let me now turn to the Bill itself. A Measure of this kind has been previously introduced into another place by Lord Dawson of Penn and into this House, under the Ten Minutes Rule, by the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Mr. R. J. Russell). We have, therefore, had the benefit of their Bills in drawing up the present one. Clause 1 (1) provides that: No person shall—

  1. (a) display, or cause or knowingly permit to be displayed, in upon or outside any shop, in such manner as to be visible to persons outside the shop, any contraceptive, or any picture or written description of any contraceptive, or any box, bottle, tube or wrapper containing or purporting to contain any contraceptive; or
  2. (b) sell, hawk or offer or cause to be offered for sale, in any street or public place, or by means of any automatic machine so placed that it can be used by persons in a street or public place, any contraceptive:
Paragraph (c), dealing with the question of the delivery of literature to unmarried people under r8 years of age, provides that no person Shall send or deliver or cause to be sent or delivered…except at the request of such person, any contraceptive or any circular or advertisement relating to any contraceptive. Sub-section (2) has been inserted because it was pointed out to my hon. Friends and myself that paragraph (a) might be so interpreted as to prevent a shop dealing bona-fide in contraceptives from exhibiting a notice to that effect. Subsection (3) contains provisions for penaltes. Clause 2 deals with definitions. The Measure is thus limited, but we submit that none the less it is necessary. My fourth question is, What does the Bill not do? First it does not prevent anyone who wants to purchase contraceptives from having every reasonable opportunity of doing so. The only facility which would be lost would be the purchase through slot machines. Secondly, the Bill does not interfere in any way with the distribution of the literature of societies, because it will be noted that in paragraph (c) of sub-section (1) words are inserted: In the course of or for the purpose of any trade or business. Thirdly, it does not raise the question of aphrodisiacs or sexual stimulant, because we were informed that many people who regard the use of contraceptives as moral would take the greatest objection to coupling contraceptives in one measure with these obnoxious drugs. Fourthly, the Bill does not touch abortifacient devices. Hon. Members will know that a committee on abortion is now sitting, and thus there would be no point in endeavouring to introduce that thorny question into this somewhat narrow measure. My fifth question is, What objections have been raised? We have sought to discuss with those who might have objections what points they can raise against the Measure, and I must frankly say that I do not think their objections of any substance in comparison with the need for this Measure to protect our young people. It has been suggested, first, that an innocuous liquid such as olive oil could be used as a contraceptive and they ask whether the vendor of olive oil with a bottle in the window would be liable under the Bill? The answer is that if he put on that bottle, "olive oil for contraceptive purposes," he would, because he would then show that the olive oil was intended to be used for contraceptive purposes, but if it were the normal use of olive oil without any reference to contraception it would not come within the Bill.

Secondly, it has been suggested that the Measure will increase venereal disease. That claim must be based on the fact that those who desire to use contraceptives to prevent the spread of disease are unable to purchase from shops in the normal hours and must purchase from slot machines. That contention is so farfetched that the House will immediately see its worth. It has been suggested that this has so far been free from legislation in this country and that to introduce now a narrow measure concerning the commercial aspects of contraception is to taint the whole birth control movement. On the other hand, I believe hon. Members will see that if these commercial evils can be eradicated, the birth control movement might well be satisfied with that fact. It has been suggested that this is merely the thin end of the wedge, and has been advocated by the Roman Catholic Church to suppress birth control altogether. I think that any hon. Member who submits that to the House cannot really understand to what extent birth control is an accepted social practice throughout the civilised world.

Lastly, I am told that the Bill will not prevent Charing Cross Road having its present appearance. I do not know that many hon. Members have any personal responsibility for Charing Cross Road, but many of us come from industrial areas where this is a serious problem. Last night, I was speaking in my own constituency in Birmingham, and I was taken to see one of these slot machines, where not one, but many varieties of contraceptives could be purchased within view of the main street of the City of Birmingham. I am told that at one time there were as many as several dozens of these machines outside shops in the City of Birmingham. I also have ample evidence from other industrial areas. Therefore, what we are interested in in this Measure is not Charing Cross Road, but the areas in which we have some responsibility for the morals and future of the young people.

My last question is, "Who supports this Bill?" Bodies that have indicated that they either support the Bill, or the principle of the Bill, include the Public Morality Council and 192 local organisations; the Salvation Army; the Bristol Diocesan Association for Moral Welfare; the British Social Hygiene Council (Birmingham Branch); the National Council for the Unmarried Mother and her Child; and the Church Army.

I conclude by asking any hon. Member who feels that he can accept the moral responsibility of refusing this Bill a Second Reading, the following question. Would he feel that he had made a mistake if his young daughter received this contraceptive literature? Would he feel he had made a mistake if his son, every time he came out from the factory gates, saw these slot machines on the opposite side of the road? Would he feel, if the moral fibre of his children were tainted through this traffic, that he had made a mistake in not allowing the Measure at any rate to go to the Committee upstairs, where it may be improved? My hon. Friends and I give an undertaking that if the House will give the Bill a Second Reading, we will take a most generous attitude towards any Amendments that may be moved in the Committee; and for the rest, I appeal to the House, which I believe always takes a large view, even in these difficult questions, to do so to-day.

3.19 p.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Salt Mr Edward Salt , Birmingham, Yardley

I beg to second the Motion. It is a great pleasure to me to speak in support of the Second Reading of this Bill which has been moved by my Friend the hon. Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds). I feel that this is a Bill which the whole House ought to support. It is a Bill which does not raise any party matter; and the bigger question which underlies it, the question of birth control, need not exclude any hon. Member from supporting the Bill. As my hon. Friend mentioned, when Lord Dawson of Penn introduced a similar Bill in another place, he made a strong appeal for birth control, but he felt that it was in no way illogical to support his Measure. I happened to be Chairman of the Birmingham Health Committee when the question of birth control was brought before it, and for several months it was my duty to interview various deputations which strongly desired to push this Measure forward. It is an interesting fact and one, I think, which helps us to realise that this is really a non-contentious question, that some of those deputations which were at that time, and I believe still are, very keen on the subject of birth control, are desirous that I should support this Bill.

I do not wish to speak at any length, because the time available is short, and I am anxious that this Bill should be passed, but I feel that I must give one instance to illustrate the effect which these advertisements are having on the younger generation. A lady gave a Christmas party of the usual sort at which a large number of young girls were present. Afterwards it was found that one or two handbags had been left behind. On one of the handbags being opened in order to see to whom it belonged, a contraceptive was found in it. The lady thought it her duty to speak to the mother of the girl who owned the handbag, a girl of 17. The mother afterwards charged her daughter with having this contraceptive in her bag and the daughter's reply was that every girl was doing the same thing adding, "You do not want me to come home with a baby." Before these advertisements were as fully displayed as they are to-day, such a thing would not take place and I am sure none of us desire that such a state of things should continue to-day. I think it will be agreed that to-day we have a finer generation of young men and women of our race than we have ever had. We surely must want to keep them from temptation of this kind, and I believe that if we pass this very limited Bill, which is only for the protection of those under 18, it will not only assist in that way but will be an indication to the whole country that public morality is something in which the House of Commons has a serious interest.

3.23 p.m.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir William Wayland Lieut-Colonel Sir William Wayland , Canterbury

I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: this House, anxious to prevent the improper commercial exploitation of contraceptive, abortifacient and aphrodisiac devices, is of opinion that the subject should be dealt with as a whole by a Bill introduced after the publication of the Report of the Departmental Committee on Abortion. Those who support this Amendment do not yield to anybody in their interest in the morality of the youth of this country. We consider that the view which we take on this subject is as much conducive to the good of the youth of the country, as the views which have been expressed by the Mover and Seconder of the Motion. Personally, I think, after hearing the hon. Member for Duddeston (Mr. Simmonds), that this Bill will do more harm to the cause which he advocates than advertisements of the kind of which he complains. Thousands, probably millions, will hear to-night in the broadcast that this Bill has been introduced, and it will arouse the interest of those very persons whom the hon. Member wishes, according to his own point of view, to protect. I regard the Bill as a pettifogging Bill which will certainly do considerably more harm than good.

Things are very different to-day from what they were in the time of Queen Victoria. We have moved a considerable distance since then, and the boy and the girl to-day know a great deal more than their father and their mother knew, or anyhow more than their mother knew, 50, 40, or 30 years ago. They do not require teaching. They learn that at a very early age, and the question is, Does it do them any harm? The use of contraceptives has grown enormously since the War, and the poor especially have made use of this means of reducing a possibly large family and the need for keeping such a family. I suppose that for the last 100 years contraceptives may have been used, though probably not so much by the poor as during these latter years. The poor woman finding herself in bad health, expecting a child and having perhaps already two or three children, is frightened of having another, and she naturally thinks, if her husband will not agree or coincide with her views on this matter, that she has the option of buying a contraceptive and trying to persuade him to use it. Again, is it not better that young people with sexual desires should use contraceptives rather than increase the number of illegitimate children in this country? I certainly think it is.

Another argument in favour of the Amendment is on the question of abortion. People are aware that abortion is practised to-day very largely, in spite of the law, and you find that a young girl finding herself pregnant, if she cannot get anyone else to abort her, will try to do it herself. Some medical men have told me that that usually means that the girl in future life suffers continually from bad health, but it is done very largely, and the use of contraceptives will probably avoid that. What the promoters of the Bill want to do is to prevent contraceptives being shown in the shop windows as they have been shown, probably, for many years past, but do they think for one moment that the showing of these contraceptives will have any effect upon anyone who does not wish to use them? I do not think so.

With regard to the sale of contraceptives by automatic machines, why should not automatic machines be placed, if not in the street, inside the chemist's shop, in view of the passers-by? I cannot see, for the life of me, why that should not be done when a person could go in. But when he or she does go in, suppose she sees a board with the words "Contraceptives sold here." What crime is it if that board is placed in the view of the people who desire to buy contraceptives? If a woman desired to buy one and, looking in a shop window, saw one, she would probably have no objection to going in and purchasing it, but not seeing anything in the window and yet desiring to obtain one, she may be too timid to go into the shop to purchase one.

Photo of Mr Oliver Simmonds Mr Oliver Simmonds , Birmingham Duddeston

I do not think the hon. Member has read the Bill, which says, in Subsection (2) of Clause 1: Nothing contained in paragraph (a) of the preceding Sub-section shall he construed so as to prohibit the exhibition in such place and in such manner that is, in the shop windows, of such a notice. The hon. Member seems to think that the notice must be within the shop.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir William Wayland Lieut-Colonel Sir William Wayland , Canterbury

I have read the Bill carefully, and the notice must not be placed in the window.

Photo of Mr Oliver Simmonds Mr Oliver Simmonds , Birmingham Duddeston

It may be placed in the window.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir William Wayland Lieut-Colonel Sir William Wayland , Canterbury

Only under certain conditions. I think the House will find that I am correct. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] One of the main reasons for the use of contraceptives is the danger of disease, and I think that the reduction in venereal diseases to-day is largely due to the use of contraceptives. Therefore, instead of trying to prevent them from being sold, we should try to do all we can to teach young people to use them properly. With regard to birth control, there are several clinics in existence and, fortunately, they are growing. Doctors will probably advise girls or young married women who go to them to purchase contraceptives, and nothing should be placed in their way to enable them to achieve that object. With regard to the effect on population of the use of contraceptives, it is far better to have a population of 40,000,000 healthy individuals than a population of 51,000,000, half of whom are unhealthy. I hope that the population of this country will be reduced, and that the reduction will mean we shall have a population of healthy bodies. As the Amendment states, a Departmental Committee of the Home Office is inquiring into the question of abortion and the diminution of population, and I see no reason why this Bill should receive a Second Reading or be discussed again until the report of the Committee is received.

3.32 p.m.

Mr. Acland:

I beg to second the Amendment. One of the happy phenomena about Bills that come before us on Friday afternoon is that they frequently cut across party divisions, and one finds oneself agreeing with hon. Members with whom one has never agreed before, and disagreeing with Members of one's own party whom one always thought to be the most reasonable of men. I, therefore, speak entirely on my own behalf and not as representing my party. I am glad that the Mover of the Bill called attention to the complete revolution of thinking on this subject that has taken place in the last twenty years. Twenty years ago this subject was considered to be analagous to the white slave traffic, opium peddling and the rest of it, but now it is being brought into the light of day, and with the exception of our friends of the Roman Catholic Church, who on this matter take a special view of their own which we respect, although we do not agree with it—

Photo of Sir John Haslam Sir John Haslam , Bolton

There are others be-sides the Roman Catholic Church. I stand here as a Church of England man, and I am in favour of the Bill.

Mr. Acland:

I was not dealing with the question whether one supported the Bill. I was saying that, with the exception of the Roman Catholic Church, which takes a special view on this matter, which we appreciate, the Mover of the Bill and I are in complete agreement that the subject of birth control is a proper subject for knowledge and discussion. As has been said, we have got away from the idea of large numbers as the criterion of the well-being of the population. We feel that three well-cared-for children are of more value than ten brought up in almost starvation conditions. Therefore, as the Mover said, there is a widespread acceptance of the right of married couples to space their children as they think best and to bring them into the world at the time when they think best, and for that purpose there is needed at this time the freest, while at the same time the most unobtrusive, possible spread of the wisest possible advice on this subject.

I ask hon. Members to be a little bit careful of the possibility of spreading the idea that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor, because for years the rich have been able to pay for information on this subject from their own doctors. Whether they got information which was as valuable as the information which they would have received at some of the best clinics is an entirely different matter. Still, there are various parts of the country to-day in which the best and wisest advice is not yet available to poor people. However, we are all agreed that we wish to eliminate what I shall call the gutter trade. I took up this Bill at first feeling that it would be one which I should want to support and on simply reading what is in the Bill, I felt there was nothing very obvious there to make one change one's mind. It was only on ascertaining some of the facts actually relating to the whole of this problem that I came to feel that this is a Bill which ought not to be passed at this time.

There are certain organisations in existence to promote the spread of the best possible knowledge on this subject. I mention one because it was the first, the Constructive Birth Control Clinic, which has branches throughout the country. It was founded and run by a woman who, above all others, deserves the credit for having brought this subject into the light out of the darkness where it lay 20 years ago. It is an easy matter when a subject has become a generally discussable subject among people for others to join in and try to take things a little further, but there was one woman, Dr. Stopes, who faced the odium and the obliquy of all the polite hypocrites 20 years ago, and it is right that a word of tribute should be paid to her.

Photo of Mr Reginald Sorensen Mr Reginald Sorensen , Leyton West

Has not the hon. Member overlooked the work of Mrs. Besant?

Mr. Acland:

I agree that there were others before, and I do not want to claim all the credit for one person, but the real move forward from darkness to light came with Dr. Stopes' work. There is another society, the National Birth Control Association, which is largely in the care of Lady Denman, a close relative of a respected Member of this House. These organisations are engaged in spreading the best knowledge on this subject, and it really might be thought that they would have a certain amount of knowledge of the activities of their deadly enemies, the gutter trade, and I think the House must have been surprised to find that they were not named by the hon. Member among the list of those societies which he gave as supporting the Bill. There is perhaps a rather good reason why they were not supporting the Bill. Eighteen months ago, one or two, certainly one, of these societies approached the Public Morality Council, the people who have made themselves responsible for promoting this Bill.

Mr. Acland:

Then they are supporting the Bill. The people who are running these Bills approached the Public Morality Council months ago and said, "Can we not have a round-table conference among ourselves and pool our knowledge as to the whole of the activities of this gutter trade and see whether we cannot get a Bill introduced which will be agreed to by all sides of the House?" That offer was not taken up. I ask myself why not? I do not know the reason, but one result is clear. The result of omitting to take advantage of this knowledge and experience which would have been available to the promoters of the Bill if they desired it, is that they have introduced a Bill which really will not scratch the surface of the real problem.

Photo of Sir Francis Fremantle Sir Francis Fremantle , St Albans

The promoter of this Bill has personally discussed it with Dr. Marie Stopes and I have been in correspondence with her for two years on the subject.

Mr. Acland:

I have no doubt at all that the hon. Member had such a meeting within the last ten days or fortnight, but that was after the Bill was drafted. Surely a better way of dealing with these matters, instead of one side coming forward and saying to the other, "There is our Bill, what do you think of it?" is not to draw up the Bill until there has been a joint examination of the problem. I submit myself that as a result of the failure to take advantage of the knowledge that was available, this is a Bill which does not really scratch the surface of the main problem. Terrible abuses are going on in the exploitation of fear and ignorance, and there is no subject in which fear and ignorance can be more terribly exploited than in this problem of sexual difficulties. Now we are faced with a Bill which will not have any substantial effect whatever upon the people who make their living by exploiting the sexual fears and ignorance of poor people who have not available the best and most proper instruction. I support the Amendment because it seems to me not right that this House should spend its time passing a Bill which will go out to the country as a Measure directed against this beastly gutter trade, when in fact all that the Bill will do will amount to little or nothing at all.

Let me take the vulgar shops first. There was a short discussion on another Bill last year and we heard about these shops and the frightful displays in them. We heard of a very large number of shops which deal in contraceptives only and in such a way as to become an offence to a very large section of the population. The hon. Member for Eddisbury (Mr. R. J. Russell) told us that in one district alone he found 36 of these stores, apart from the chemists. I wanted to find out where that district was because I wanted to see whether the shops were as he described them; whether there were, in fact, somewhere or other, 36 shops dealing only with contraceptives.

I, therefore, wrote to the hon. Member and he, with very great kindness, replied that from memory he thought that the district concerned was round about the Charing Cross Road. I wanted to make sure of that, because Charing Cross Road is well known to hon. Members and most of us go up and down it on one occasion or another.—[Interruption.]— Yes, because I have friends who live on that side of London, and I occasionally go to dinner with them. One way to get to them is by way of Charing Cross Road. I wanted to make sure that it was not some other district which the hon. Member had in mind, such as some place in Liverpool, Manchester or a town which I had never seen. I am, therefore, very glad to know that the district to which he referred is Charing Cross Road. I went up it only yesterday, with the design of making quite sure that my information on this subject was accurate. I wish to goodness that some of the hideous shops which flourish in the Charing Cross Road could be wiped out, because they are so beastly and are an offence to anybody; but I found that contraceptives occupied well under 10 per cent. of the space in those shops. Let hon. Members look at the letters on the outside: "Damaroids," "Female Pills," which arc aphrodisiacs and abortifacients. Then there are nasty books in the windows: "The History of Corporal Punishment," "Flagellation through the Ages." Then there are syringes, which can, I believe, be used for contraceptive purposes, but which can certainly be used for other purposes.

I admit that there were other things among them, certain packets containing contraceptives, but to pass this Bill would not alter by one flick of the eyelash those parts of Charing Cross Road, which will be exactly the same next year as they are now, even though this Bill goes through. Everybody except those whose innocence is untarnishable by any form of temptation, seeing those shops, will know that contraceptives are to be obtained inside, and if they want those contraceptives they will do what they have to do now, which is to go in and buy them. As far as the number of the shops is concerned, I submit that the Bill simply does not touch the problem at all.

Photo of Mr Richard Russell Mr Richard Russell , Eddisbury

I was waiting to hear whether the hon. Member disputed the figure which I gave, but I take it that he does not dispute it. In the letter to him I added a word which he has not given to the House. I said that I would make sure on the matter and would let him know.

Mr. Acland:

Oh, no, I was not for one moment disputing the number. I did not count them myself. I counted some and was getting fairly near to 36. I do not for one moment dispute that there are 36 of those beastly shops in that district. What I dispute is the statement of the hon. Member that there are shops which deal only in contraceptives. I wanted to make sure that when he was talking about shops which deal only in contraceptives he was referring to the shops which, of my own knowledge, deal as to 99 per cent. of their wares with matters quite different from contraceptives. I wanted to make sure that he had not information of a district in which there might be, for all I knew, shops with nothing in them but contraceptives.

I was rather surprised that the Mover of the Second Reading admitted that aphrodisiacs and abortifacients are left out of the Bill. He seemed to be rather proud of that. He admitted that aphrodisiacs and abortifacients were in a very different category from contraceptives, and that they were far more dangerous and evil, while against contraceptives, in proper circumstances, there might be nothing to be said. But he then said, because there is one thing which is good and two which are bad, let us not include them all in one Bill. There may be something to be said for that view, but surely the first step should be to bring in a Bill to deal with the two things which are bad. If there are three people who have committed offences, in one case a driving offence, in another a burglary, and in the third a murder, it would be extraordinary to say that while they could not be included all together in the same sentence, the driving offence should be dealt with first. One would think that the worst offence should be dealt with first.

I come now to the evil of the slot machine. Here again I was anxious to know the actual extent of the evil. My suspicions would not have been aroused if I had not heard of all these shops dealing with contraceptives to the extent of 100 per cent., and found on investigation that they were dealing to the extent of 90 per cent. with other things which have been left out of the Bill. Therefore, I asked the Home Secretary a Question, although I do not think that his knowledge is necessarily infallible. The reply given to me by the Under-Secretary was to the effect that the Home Secretary's attention had only been drawn to the existence of such machines in three large centres, and he had no information that in any part of the country there was an appreciable number of them. The argument has been put to me privately that, if there is a small number, this is the moment to stop them.

I should have immense sympathy with that argument if there was any evidence that the evil was a growing one. If it could be said that there was one of these machines two months ago, that there were six a month ago, and that there are twelve to-day, I would say, let them be stopped now. But these things have been the subject-matter of prospective legislation for at least twelve months, and I believe for longer, and yet the information of the Government, upon which on the whole I prefer to rely, is that in no part of the country is there any appreciable number. I do not see, therefore, that we should lose very much by waiting until we have the report of the Committee on Abortion and dealing with the subject as a whole. I cannot believe that the answer which I received from the Home Office is consistent with the story of the promoters of the Bill about the youth of this country being corrupted day by day and hour by hour by this monstrous regiment of machines in every street and outside every factory gate.

Photo of Mr Oliver Simmonds Mr Oliver Simmonds , Birmingham Duddeston

Would the hon. Member please not exaggerate? No one suggested that there were large numbers. What we did say was that there are increasing numbers, and, as regards Birmingham, on which I can speak with authority, that is true.

Mr. Acland:

The numbers cannot be increasing so very enormously, in view of the fact that this matter had been the subject of consideration for many months, and still there is no information in the hands of the Government that there is any appreciable number.

There is one thing that may be said in favour of the slot machine. There are few chemists' shops where contraceptives are not sold without some sort of sly wink or observation or remark, and it is just a little offensive and difficult, especially in those cases of which we have knowledge, where a woman is forced by her husband to go and buy his contraceptives for him; and I should have preferred, before wiping out the slot machine altogether, which I am prepared to do as part of an all-embracing scheme, to consider whether it was not possible to design a machine, to be placed, perhaps, inside the precincts of a chemist's shop, with the slot so high that these little boys would not be able to get at it. I think that might have been considered before sweeping away altogether things which, if they are used for the proper purpose, may be the least embarrassing and the least harmful method of purchasing these objects.

Now we come to the subject of advertisements in Clause 6, which does raise some difficulties for the legitimate clinics. If a clinic is receiving money—[Interruption]. If I sat down now without putting forward all the other arguments I have in mind there are at least six other Members who want to speak in opposition to this Bill. If a clinic is receiving money for its services, is it not going to be held in court to be in trade; and is it not difficult to differentiate between the sort of bona-fide clinics doing genuine service and the sort of free institutions for advice which the worst of these gutter manufacturers attach to themselves for the purpose of pushing their wares? It will be very difficult to decide that one clinic is a private trading concern, and the other a kind of charity. And is it not going to be very difficult for the bona-fide clinic to appeal for funds? If they go to a door and the door is opened by a boy or girl of 16 or 17, is that not likely to constitute an infringement of the Act? This matter should have been dealt with as a whole, keeping in mind the genuine grievances of the bona-fide clinics. The bona-fide clinics to-day work under difficulties which, I am sure, are not known to the majority of hon. Members.

Photo of Sir Francis Fremantle Sir Francis Fremantle , St Albans

rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.

Mr. Acland:

Here is an advertisement which appeared in the "Times."

Viscountess Astor:

rose in her place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put,"but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.

Mr. Acland:

I would like to quote it, in order that the House may consider whether it is an improper advertisement: Birth control. Reference Library, Museum and general information office. Pioneer Clinic (free) founded by Dr. Marie Stopes. Open daily 10–6 (except Saturdays). Funds urgently needed.—C.B.C. Society, 108, Whitfield Street, W.I. Tele.: Eus. 4628. Does any hon. Member think that that is an improper advertisement to appear in any paper?

Photo of Mr Oliver Simmonds Mr Oliver Simmonds , Birmingham Duddeston

rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.

Mr. Aciand:

It appeared for 15 years in the "Times."

Photo of Mr George Muff Mr George Muff , Kingston upon Hull East

rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.

Mr. Acland:

Nine months ago this was cut out of the "Times," because of the Irish Free State censorship.

Viscountess Astor:

rose in her place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.

Mr. Acland:

This is a letter received from a newspaper which must be favourable.

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , St Pancras North

rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.

Mr. Acland:

They say: We regret to have to return the balance of your remittance. As explained, it is the possible threat of action with regard to our Irish circulation which necessitates our taking this step.

Photo of Sir John Haslam Sir John Haslam , Bolton

rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.

It being Four of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed upon Friday, 10th February, 1939.

The remaining Orders were read and postponed.

Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 2.

Adjourned at one Minute after Four o'Clock until Monday next, 19th December.