I beg to move, Amendment 62, in page 2, line 21, after 'be' to insert 'so'.
This is purely drafting, but as on the last occasion we had a Division because it was alleged that I had not explained the precise meaning of a drafting Amendment, I will try to explain why "so" is necessary at this point. Most laymen would think it hardly a point of substance, but it is felt by the draftsmen that "so" in line 21 would pick up the reference in line 15 "be prescribed by the regulations". The inclusion of "so" makes it clear that "as may be so prescribed" also refers to "prescribed by the regulations". I should have thought it obvious, but the Parliamentary draftsmen feel that it is necessary.
Even though a drafting Amendment is a minor Amendment, it is a reasonable courtesy, which the sponsor has now extended to the House, to explain its purpose. It is not the intention of those who oppose the Bill to oppose drafting Amendments which improve the Bill or to divide against such Amendments. I should like to make it plain. There was a Division on the last drafting Amendment only because we were provoked by the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell).
Having waited for the appropriate time, may I say a word on the Amendment? [HON MEMBERS: "No."] I appreciate very much what the promoter said. I should have thought the Amendment unnecessary. Is it needed because "so" also appears in paragraph (c)—in line 23? That, too, will link with paragraph (a). If that is the case, it would be clear that "so" in subsection (1,b) would also link up. I agree that probably in both cases it is unnecessary.
That is all I want to say. I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's explanation of this drafting Amendment.
We now come to Amendment No. 35, with which we are taking the following Amendments: Amendment No. 36, in page 2, line 22, leave out from 'for' to 'of' in line 23 a and insert:
'strictly prohibiting the disclosure, except to such persons as shall be specifically named by the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for purposes of research or medical study'.
Amendment No. 37, in page 2, line 24, leave out 'or information furnished'.
Amendment No. 38, page 2, line 25, at the end insert:
'but such regulations shall not prohibit the disclosure of such notices or information to the Director of Public Prosecutions, a Procurator Fiscal, a chief constable or to a police superintendent'.
I beg to move Amendment No. 35, in page 2, line 22, to leave out paragraph (c) and insert:
(2) No person shall disclose any information obtained under subsection (1) of this section save upon an order made by a court of law:
Provided that nothing in this subsection shall prevent the Minister and the Secretary of
State from compiling and publishing such statistical information and comment thereon as may be prescribed in the regulations made under subsection (1) of this section.
I recognise that there is a sharp division of view on the question of notification. The medical profession is anxious to ensure strictly limited disclosures of information which the notification procedure will provide, while others may feel genuinely that the notification requirements should be such as to provide an effective check on the development of rackets.
The Bill did not originally insist on the Minister making any regulations. This is only one of the many defects that we managed to correct in Committee. It was right to do so because the notification provisions are essential to the Bill's purpose. The sponsors hope that it will lead to an increase in the number of therapeutic abortions and a decrease in the number of illegal abortions. If their hopes are to be fulfilled there will be an increasing pressure on the time and resources of the hospital service. There will be an increasing demand—
Of course, Mr. Speaker, but it will be necessary for those responsible for health policy generally, and the National Health Service in particular, to have full information on a number of matters, such as the number of abortions carried out both in the National Health Service and the private sector, the grounds on which they are authorised, any special factors or complications, and the trends which the information reveals. It is only by such means that we can ensure that adequate resources are available to meet the demand. This is the reason for the notification procedure in the first place. No one would quarrel with that. But this provision is new to the law, which at the moment requires no notification of a termination of a pregnancy as such, except in the case of still birth.
The late Lord Brain, who was a considerable authority in these matters, warned when Lord Silkin's first Bill was before another place:
The implications of any system of compulsory notification of the termination of
pregnancy require careful consideration by the medical profession.
That consideration has been given by the British Medical Association and, by and large, the medical profession holds very strong views about the use to which the notification procedure may be put. According to paragraph 200 of the last B.M.A. Annual Report,
The Central Ethical Committee … emphasises that such notification is acceptable only on a doctor to doctor basis and that no disclosure of the details of such notification should be permitted other than upon an order of a Court of Law.
That is precisely the Amendment which I am proposing. Perhaps I should explain that this concern for professional secrecy does not arise, as a layman might suppose, from any desire to protect doctors. On the contrary, the profession is as anxious as anyone to ensure that a doctor who behaves unlawfully, unethically, or irresponsibly is not protected from the full rigour of the law or from the censure of his professional colleagues. In this instance, the concern arises from the need to protect the interests of the patient, and that is the purpose of my Amendment. Patients must feel entirely free to consult their doctors on any medical matter and they are entitled to have such matters discussed with their doctors treated in complete confidence. I would have thought that this is particularly necessary in this delicate and difficult field where a great effort of will is necessary in the first place, for a woman faced with this dilemma, to consult a doctor.
Indeed, unless there is complete confidence and confidentiality from the start women simply will not consult their doctors. I am told that fear of disclosure, especially in cases where a woman does not wish her family to know she is pregnant—or where a married woman, who is pregnant by another man, does not want her husband to know—is one of the reasons why in many countries which have liberalised their abortion laws there is often an increase in the number of illegal abortions. Here I should like to quote from the report of the Council of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, because this is particularly relevant to the Amendment. It says that
there is evidence to show that, except in those countries where abortion on demand and without inquiry is permissible, the legalization of abortion often resulted in no reduction and sometimes in a considerable increase in the number of illegal abortions. This is because those women who aim to be rid of an unwanted pregnancy are so concerned to preserve secrecy or to avoid delay that they continue to seek help from unorthodox sources. In the meantime, the legalization of abortion alters the climate of opinion among the public and even the Courts of Law. The result is that criminal abortion becomes less abhorrent, and those guilty of the offence receive punishments so light as not to discourage them and others in their activities. The total effect is that women are increasingly ready to have pregnancies terminated and potential criminal abortionists are less reluctant to help. The experience in Japan is illustrative of this situation. There, during the years immediately following legalization of abortion on socio-economic as well as medical grounds it is reckoned that when the number of legal abortions rose to one million per annum the number of illegal abortions was also one million per annum. In Hungary and Czechoslovakia, where abortion is induced freely, the number of abortions other than legal treated in hospital in 1961 was approximately the same as in the years before the introduction of abortion laws.
I am saying, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the notification requirements should be such as not to induce in the mind of a woman who ought to seek advice from a doctor a state of fear that, if she does so, there is a danger of the information leaking to third parties. It is the burden of my argument that if women are to be encouraged to seek proper medical advice on termination of pregnancy without being worried about a possible breach of confidence, then it is essential—and the British Medical Association have made this point very strongly—that notification must be to a central point, namely, to the Chief Medical Officer at the Ministry of Health and the Home Office, and that there should be no disclosure to third parties save by an order made by the court. This is the view of the responsible leaders of the medical profession.
In any event, the police should be the only third parties to have access to the records. I see the force in the argument that the notification procedure, reinforced by subsection (3), would be a check on illegal abortions and that it might help to bring to notice suspicious circumstances, which would result in the authorities looking more closely at the matter, with a view to possible action. I recognise too that the police have a duty to investigate allegations of crime and must be in a position to satisfy themselves by consulting the records whether there is a possibility of the law being broken. But at what level are these inquiries to be made?
Fortunately, an earlier attempt to write into the Bill a provision to the effect that notification should be to medical officers of health was unsuccessful. I am not saying that medical officers of health and their staffs are unreliable, of course not, but in smaller communities—and we are dealing here with a psychological problem more than anything else—a notification and the woman to whom that notification refers are more likely to be of interest. The woman may live next door to the secretary of the medical officer of health. She may be the most discreet person, but the woman may be put off from going to her doctor because she fears that somebody she knows may learn of the facts of her condition. The same argument applies to police officers, especially in rural areas, where people seem to know a great deal more about one another's business than is the case in urban communities.
Assuming that the sponsors will not accept the Amendment, rather than that the Clause should remain as drafted, I would be happier if they would accept the proposal in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. John-Stevas), which would certainly reduce the number of people who would have power to probe into what the woman concerned must regard as an intimate, private and secret matter. My Amendment, on the other hand, would provide the best possible safeguard for the patient. It would ensure that when she consulted her doctor, she could be certain that her secret would be safe in his hands.
Obviously, the essential facts concerning case must be notified to the central authority. It is essential that the Minister should have detailed information about the facts and trends. This information has been lacking hitherto and the whole question of abortion has been be- devilled by this lack of information. I am arguing, therefore, that the woman should feel confident that her secret is safe with her doctor and that only in the rarest cases—and then only on the action of a judge—would a third party be made aware of the circumstances in which her pregnancy was terminated.
So little attention has been paid, either by the Bill's sponsors or the Government, to the safeguards for doctor and patient that I must insist on dividing the House on this issue if I do not receive convincing assurances that the principle of confidentiality in the doctor-patient relationship will be preserved.
The Clause is so vague that it is almost incomprehensible. Too frequently Parliament passes legislation which is not clear. Of any legislation that should be clear, it is absolutely vital that legislation which refers to this aspect of life should be entirely clear. We may be able to afford ambiguity elsewhere, but not here.
An example of what impelled me to table Amendment No. 36 is to be found in lines 15 and 16 of page 2:
… for requiring the preservation and disposal of certificates. …
I was in some confusion as to what those words meant. I looked up the word "preservation" in the dictionary—
I submit that in this particular it is essential to have clarity, and it is in a search for clarity that these Amendments have been tabled. If there is to be ambiguity it is a matter of very great—
I am striving to do so, and to indicate why we felt that this part of the Bill needed very grave consideration because of what is involved.
The disclosure of information obtained by this Clause is a matter for very grave concern, because the regulations referred to in lines 15 and 24 are most vague. We do not know what regulations are to be. In line 21 we find the words "as may be prescribed." One reason why we find ourselves in such difficulty is that the Minister of Health had already dodged responsibility for a very important part of the Bill and has here expressed himself as being totally unwilling to accept responsibility. Yet notification will rely very heavily on such responsibility as the Minister may or may not undertake. Our Amendments seek to make the regulations clearer.
There is no doubt that if we do not get this part of the Bill right we shall be driving women in this predicament straight into the arms of the back-street abortionists. It may surprise the sponsors of the Bill to know that of all operations this is the one that a woman would most want to remain highly secret. She would possibly be reluctant to have details of any other operations disclosed, but for her it is absolutely vital that this operation should remain a quite secret procedure. There is no suggestion anywhere in the Bill that these provisions will stop back-street abortionists and the worry of it is that this part of the Bill will encourage them. As it stands, the Clause will actively encourage them. The fine they may face is laughably low.
The facts which have to be notified should not be merely prohibited but strictly prohibited from disclosure. Those facts include the name, the address and age of the woman, how many children she has, and whether her husband agreed to the abortion. We discussed this in Committee without reaching a satisfactory conclusion. Why the abortion should be carried out is a piece of information which is vitally important. Another is, how soon did the woman become pregnant again after the abortion?
All these facts are essential if the Clause is to be useful. Having tabulated all these facts, it is absolutely essential from the woman's point of view that she should know that disclosure of them will be strictly prohibited except to certain people specifically named by the Minister of Health. I hope that he will have the courage to take the responsibility, which is his, to name these people so that it is perfectly clear to whom the facts should be disclosed.
Notification is for the purposes of research or medical study. That is very important. A pious hope was expressed in Committee that this Clause would be a safeguard, but there was disagreement between the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) and the sponsor of the Bill. I looked this up to see exactly what was said, because I thought this most important. The hon. Member for Sutton said that notification was for research purposes and not as a safeguard, but the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) said that was not correct, this was needed in the Bill as a safeguard and that was what it was intended to be.
Whether or not it is a safeguard is by no means clear from the Bill as it is now before us. For the sake of the woman it is essential that this should be more carefully clarified. Whether it is meant as a help to medical research or to safeguard the position and not to encourage women to have abortions, let us be clear that it will be successful. Without these Amendments I do not think there is any hope of that. The Parliamentary Secretary said that it would be wrong in principle to deny entirely access to this information for the purposes of the law. We discussed that carefully in Committee. We do not know to whom this information would be made available. We do not know how carefully it would be guarded or whether the woman would feel, as the information was tabulated, that she was protected by a cloak of anonymity.
We should have more detail on these vague, ambiguous phrases. This, I think, arises on another group of Amendments to which we shall come later. This, I believe, is so. I ask for your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Then the Amendments to which we now address ourselves are perfectly clear, and I hope that the sponsors of the Bill and, even more important, the Minister of Health, will address themselves to this subsection as it now stands. It is far from satisfactory and will force women to go to back-street abortionists rather than to registered practitioners because of fear that their abortions will be made known, and because it is not clear to whom they will be made known.
I would refer first to the hon. Lady's comments on Amendment No. 36. Here, again, I find her to be exceedingly illogical in her attitude to the whole matter. If we accepted her Amendment, then the whole point of notification as a safeguard would disappear completely. There would be no point in making it a criminal offence not to notify unless there was a failure to notify for purposes of research—unless there was a failure to supply statistical information. That would be the effect of Amendment No. 36 if it was accepted, whereas, as I have always envisaged it, one of the safeguards we are introducing is that every abortion, whether done in private practice or in a National Health Service hospital, must be notified. We have tightened that up already in Committee by saying that there must be notification to the Chief Medical Officer in London and Edinburgh respectively.
That means that every abortion which is considered to be within the law must be notified, so that the Ministry of Health in England and the Department of Health in Scotland are able to say where the abortions are taking place. As the Clause stands, we have under control every semi-legal and illegal operation, but acceptance of the hon. Lady's Amendment would mean that the matter could be notified only as something of academic interest. The hon. Lady is knocking away one of the safeguards against racketeering in abortions.
To come to Amendment No. 35, I accept the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) about the importance of the confidentiality of this information, and about the importance of assuring patients that the information will be treated as being confidential. I point out to him that we have ensured this by stipulating the two people to whom the information may be sent. The hon. Gentleman wants to go further and asks that the information will never be disclosed without a court order. That is going rather far. We see in subsection (c) of this Clause that the Minister of Health may make regulations specifying and limiting the people to whom this information shall be disclosed.
The hon. Gentleman has mentioned the views of the B.M.A. I have not discussed this with the Minister, but I should be surprised if the Minister made regulations without asking the B.M.A. what its members thought. This is one of the matters for the Minister and the professional bodies concerned.
I have great sympathy with the point which has been made by my hon. Friends the Members for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) and for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight). I am not entirely happy about Amendment No. 35, which would provide that
information obtained under subsection (1) of this section
shall not be disclosed
save upon an order made by a court of law".
At the moment there is no procedure whereby such an issue could be brought before a court of law.
Would it not be possible in proceedings for a subpoena to be served on the person who had the information and for him then to disclose it? It would not be necessary for the subpoena proceedings to be brought for the information. My hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) is thinking of proceedings in which a subpoena might be served on somebody with the information.
If that system were to be adopted—I doubt whether it would be possible for it to be adopted—the court would then have criteria on which it was to be allowed. There is nothing laid down here as to how the court shall determine whether the person shall be required to disclose the information. Something like that would have to be necessary before the court would know when the information is to be disclosed. The Amendment merely refers to an order of the court. We are not given any guidance as to the circumstances in which it would be thought appropriate for the court to order the disclosure of the information. If my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East seeks to interrupt me on this, I shall give way, because I should be interested to hear about the circumstances which he has in mind in which the court would allow information to be disclosed. For this reason, it is a little difficult to see how Amendment No. 35, if it were accepted, could work. I have considerable sympathy with my hon. Friend's reasons for tabling the Amendment, because we are entitled to have—no doubt we shall have in a few moments—further information from the Minister as to the classes of people to whom he expects the information will be disclosed.
I think that Amendment No. 36 would not be acceptable to a majority of the House unless Amendment No. 38 were to be accepted. The main objection to this Amendment would not arise if Amendment No. 38 were to be accepted. I see the sponsor of the Bill nodding in acquiescence. If Amendments Nos. 36 and 38 were to be accepted, the situation would not be in any way unsatisfactory. I thing that the sponsor of the Bill would agree with that. We shall be interested to hear the Minister's view.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman does not take my nodding as indicating my agreement to the course of action he suggested. I think that it would be objectionable to allow any police superintendent to have access to this information.
I think that perhaps police superintendent goes too far, but in Committee the Minister of State accepted that people of about that category should be allowed access to this information. We should be interested to hear further from her about this. She said this in Committee:
The Regulations, when issued, might refer to police superintendents. chief constables or people of that description."—[OFFICIAL RE-
PORT, Standing Committee F; 16th March, 1967, c. 507.]
In Committee apparently the Government's intentions were that the regulations would be likely to refer to a similar category of persons to those mentioned in Amendment No. 38. Now what the House awaits is an explanation from the Minister—we hope that it will be a full one—as to the people whom she expects will be mentioned in the regulations.
If this explanation is given, I have no doubt that many hon. Members on both sides will be well satisfied, though many of us have not any great liking for legislation which gives a wide power to delineate these matters by regulations. The House awaits an assurance and a close guarantee as to the categories of people it is envisaged will be mentioned in the regulations.
My hon. Friend explained that it would be very difficult to have an order made by a court of law. Would it be possible to have something in a form analogous to a writ of summons or originating summons, if it were thought desirable that this information should be disclosed only by a court of law?
Without further legislation, I doubt whether it could be done, even by regulation. The principal difficulty is that a court of law is not given any guidance how and in what circumstances it should allow information to be divulged. It is possible that the rules of the Supreme Court might, without further legislation, be allowed to provide for such an issue to come before a court, but the court would be totally at a loss how it should be done. If a principle were to be decided on and a fuller Amendment made in another place, it might be done, but it is difficult to see how the court would be left in anything but a state of total confusion.
In the event of the Bill reaching the Statute Book, regulations to be made will fall to be made by me. It is appropriate that I should put the Government's view in that event.
The Government agree that information about abortions furnished in accordance with regulations under Clause 2 should be treated with strict confidentiality, but if the law is to be enforced, including the requirements of notification, it is essential that with due precautions there should be access to the records. Having said that, we think it undesirable to specify in the Statute who is to be allowed access to the records.
The hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine), who moved Amendment No. 38, the main Amendment, expressed fears and doubts and anxieties which had been expressed by certain of the medical profession at early stages.
I can assure the House that the course the Government are recommending after further consideration has been found acceptable to the chairman of the B.M.A. committee which was set up specially to consider this Bill. He appreciates that it would be necessary for the police to have access to this information.
This is about the first time that I do not think that medical interest is paramount. A lot of other things come into consideration but doctors are, for the first time, not paramount.
I was not aware that I was suggesting anything of the kind. I was replying to a point made by the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine). The spokesman for the medical profession has taken a later view.
Speaking at the summing up on this subject, at the B.M.A. some days ago, the chairman said that a satisfactory assurance that details of notifications required under the Act could be kept confidential was needed. Am I to understand that what the right hon. Gentleman tells the House has emerged since the statement was made?
It emerged in a letter tilted 3rd July in response to a letter from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State conveying the same assurances that I have just given to the House about what the Government's intentions would be.
If I may deal with the details, I well understand the anxieties of the proposers of both Amendments that too ready access to abortion records would defeat the principle of confidentiality, but we feel that this difficulty is better met by restricting disclosure to police officers above a certain rank. I do not want to argue at this stage what that rank should be. The regulations would specify that it would be police officers above a certain rank or other officers acting on their authority. We feel that these details can best be worked out in drafting the regulations.
I repeat the assurance given in Committee by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary that in drafting the regulations there will be the fullest consultation with the medical profession. Certainly, it is not envisaged that there would be anything like a routine police inspection of the records or that the police would be free without specific grounds to scrutinise them for evidence of offences.
It is not confined entirely to police officers, because there are the questions of statistics and research workers. I am firmly of the view that it is better to leave this in the form of a regulation-making power and to consult the interested bodies on the detailed drafting of the regulations, which the House will have an opportunity of debating in the normal way.
In Amendment No. 36, the hon. Lady the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) would go further still and deny access totally to the police. Therefore, what I had said in response to the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Essex, South-East applies a fortiori to what the hon. Lady's Amendment seeks to do.
The Minister is not accurate in what he has just said. If he reads my Amendment carefully, he will see that it says
to such persons as shall be specifically named by the Minister of Health".
My Amendment does not seek to say precisely which persons shall be named but is intended merely to make the position clear. As I made clear earlier, I would not by any means oppose what
the Minister seeks to do. My Amendment does not, however, specifically say that police officers are excluded. I leave it to the Minister by the wording I have used. I merely asked him to have the courage to take the decision and tell us what it is to be.
I apologise to the hon. Lady if I misrepresented what she sought to do. I assure her that I will have the courage. The only difference between us is when the courage should be displayed. I believe that it will be better displayed when we draft the regulations.
I do not know whether the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) intends to move Amendment 38.
All that I wanted to say, in anticipation of what the hon. Member for Chelmsford will say if he intervenes in the debate, is that an Amendment doing the opposite is equally inappropriate, because it is not clear whether his intention is that the regulations should permit disclosure only to the persons named. If that is the case, it does not go far enough.
In the light of those assurances, I hope that the mover of the Amendment will see fit to withdraw it, and certainly not press it to a Division.
I have listened with care to what the Minister has said, but I am not happy about this. For security and control, any Government or organisation wants disclosure, and it wants lists and regulations. However, most of the thinking in this House about disclosure is based upon what goes on in the big cities, whereas the country is made up of some cities and a great many rural areas. In small communities in the rural areas, secrecy and confidentiality of information is very "dodgy".
Unless the Minister gives us a clearer expression of the sort of person who is to have this information, he will ensure that a great many women who otherwise would have a perfectly legal abortion will still have an illegal one, out of fear—
The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. It is not up to the Minister to decide who will have the information. If the hon. Gentleman looks at subsection (2), he will see that the Bill lays down who will have the information. There is no question of just anyone in rural areas or big cities having the information.
But the Minister has to make Regulations. That is why the Amendments appear on the Notice Paper. I hate to cross swords with the sponsor of the Bill, because he has far more knowledge of it than I have, but it seems to me that all these Amendments are out of order if he is right in what he says.
We are discussing who should have the information and on what basis he should have it. If the Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has it, he is a long way removed from the person concerned, and that is all right. In the rural areas, on the other hand, the senior police officer is very much nearer to the rank and file.
What is even more worrying is that despite the division of opinion on how far the Bill should go, the general view is that we want a modernisation of the law on abortion which puts an end to back street abortion. However, nothing will make a woman go to a back-street abortionist more quickly than the fear that someone will find out that she has had an abortion. As a consequence, the Minister has an enormous responsibility in deciding who will get the information under his regulations.
It is all very well in a place like London, but in the sparsely populated areas one often finds that the chief police officer in a 60-mile radius is a constable who is known to everyone in the village in which he lives. If I lived in such an area, that constable would know my wife. If she became pregnant and wanted an abortion because she did not want me to know, it would not be a good thing for the constable to have the information, when I drink with him in the local pub every Saturday night. In such circumstances, I am sure that my wife would go to a back-street abortionist.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman realises that I am not being facetious about this. I think that in the rural areas there is a real danger which does not apply in Manchester, or Liverpool, or London, where all this information will be lodged in a vast bureaucratic machine. The chief constable and the chief medical officer will get the statistics, but in the rural areas the situation is totally different. The chief medical officer of health in a sparsely populated area is known personally to nearly all the people there, and certainly the police officers are known personally to all the people in a rural area. These officials are of very junior rank. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will intervene and give us an assurance that he will take note of this, because if he does not, I think that what nearly everybody wants to achieve will be frustrated.
I do not think that the incidence of pregnancies as a percentage of the total population is greater in the cities than in the rural areas. It may be unfortunate, but in the rural areas even today quite a number of ladies find themselves pregnant and want an abortion. Therefore, do not think that people in the rural areas will be asked to deal with a small percentage of the pregnancies which ought to be terminated.
A woman in a rural area who, under a previous Amendment, would like to say that she had been raped, would not report the matter to the police, because if she did it would be all over the village within 24 hours. There is a real problem here. What is known as secrecy? What is known as confidential information? I hope that the Minister will take this very much into account.
Will my hon. Friend consider, together with the points which he has made, the fact that notification as such is important for purposes of research and a greater understanding of the problem? How does he envisage getting over the problem of having notification clear and straight, while overcoming the difficulties to which he has referred?
My hon. Friend has raised a very interesting point. I am not certain whether, if I pursued it, I should be in order. I have an awful feeling that if I came to my hon. Friend's constituency the mine shafts there would not be as empty as they are at present. Certainly some hon. Members opposite would be only too willing to get me down one.
But behind the facetiousness of what my hon. Friend says there is a very important point, namely, that in these rural areas and country districts there is a totally different problem from that which arises in large urban constituencies. If the House were sensible it would appreciate that this is a very different problem. I would prefer there to be no notification. Then there would be complete secrecy, and many women would be able to solve their difficulties.
I agree that in a modern society that would not be a very satisfactory suggestion. I accept that the Minister will want some statistics in order to be able to tell us what the incidence of abortion is, and so on. I realise that the problem we are faced with is to try to arrive at a balance between the two considerations. I ask the Minister to realise that when he makes the orders he is concerned not only with cities like London, Manchester and Liverpool, but with the sparsely populated parts of the country, where the problem of disclosure is much more serious.
I have not uttered a single word in the proceedings on the Bill since they started. I am genuinely seeking information. As far as I can gather, notification will be sent to only one point in Scotland and one point in England. I cannot see what all the discussion is about. There is no question of any breach of confidentiality. The hon. Member has been rather insulting to civil servants—and I happen to be an ex-civil servant—in saying that as soon as civil servants and police sergeants are told the information is round the village within 24 hours.
The Clause and the Amendments are of the highest importance. One of the major safeguards of the whole Bill is involved. The Clause would not be nearly so important if other Amendments had been accepted, notably that of the B.M.A. for the supervision of operations by a consultant or other doctor of equivalent status. Given that that suggestion has been excluded, the Clause and the Amendments are of paramount importance.
Hon. Members may recall that the power to make regulations under the Clause were originally permissive, but that it was thought so important that the Committee made it mandatory. I am concerned not with the Minister's powers to regulate the grounds for an abortion but with subsections (b) and (c). Under (b), a doctor may be required to give notice of an abortion and other informaton. That is dealt with by my hon. Friend's Amendment. Mine relates particularly to subsection (c), dealing with the prohibition of disclosure except as prescribed.
There is general agreement on the desirability of statistical information, and it would be helpful if we had the information which the Clause would make available. The main difference is on the question of to whom the disclosure should be made. I sympathise with the Amendment to leave out (c) altogether, and to provide that no information but statistical information should be provided without the order of a court of law. The argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) was attractive, based on the paramount need for confidentiality in the interests of doctor and patient. This is the view expressed in the memorandum of the B.M.A. and the Royal College of Surgeons, whose views my hon. Friend has represented so honourably and indefatigably.
The other Amendment is narrower and would prohibit disclosure except for research and medical study. The simple objection was put by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) whose useful counsel we have unfortunately not had tonight—that this information may be needed for criminal prosecution or police investigation. I appreciate that the medical profession may not care for that. The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen)—who is a member of the profession as opposed to an honorary member, if I may so describe my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East—said in Committee that he would have considerable objections to such disclosure. But we must have wider considerations than the profession's views, important though they are.
There is conflict of interest here. On the one hand, there is the desirability of confidentiality for the medical profession and the patients; on the other hand, there is the desirability of effective enforcement of the criminal law. The conflict between these interests must somehow be resolved. One can only get a compromise on the issue. One cannot get full confidentiality or unlimited disclosure.
The purpose of my Amendment No. 38 is to ensure that the discretion of the Minister is not exercised in such a way as to limit necessary disclosure. It would prevent his prohibition on the disclosure of information about abortions to certain named persons. The Minister asked me whether the purpose was to restrict him to limiting disclosure to them. That question has only to be raised to give its own answer. It could not possibly bear such an interpretation. It is narrowly worded. It says:
but such regulations shall not prohibit the disclosure of such notices or information to the Director of Public Prosecutions, a Procurator Fiscal, a chief constable or to a police superintendent".
In Committee I moved an Amendment to provide for the non-prohibition of disclosure of information to the Director of Public Prosecutions, a procurator-fiscal, or to a police officer. The Parliamentary Secretary made clear the multi-purpose functions that the information might serve. He accepted the principle. He said:
It is clear that the colliection by the Ministry of this information will provide material for useful research. However, that is not the only purpose of the notification requirement. Notification should act as a safeguard by deterring those who might otherwise be tempted to perform an illegal abortion. Although this would not be its purpose, notification would provide material if there were reason to suspect that illegal practices Here taking place.
While questions about the enforcement of the criminal law are primarily the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, it would be indefensible for the Ministry of Health to make regulations which, if the eventuality arose, denied the responsible officers of the law access to information which could not be obtained in any other way and which was essential for the purposes of criminal proceedings. Although we do not think that this will arise often, we thought this should be on the record. I am sure that the Committee agrees that it would be wrong in principle to deny entirely access to this information for the proper purposes of the law."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee F, 16th May, 1967; c. 505.]
That was an important and major statement of policy from the Ministry.
I have great sympathy with that point and with the cogent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover). This is where the discretion of the Minister would come into it. He would have to weigh in the balance the advantages and disadvantages of disclosure. It might be a very painful decision to take, but I have no doubt that there might be cases in which, whatever the effect on an individual, it might be necessary in the public interest for such disclosure to be made.
I certainly agree, Mr. Irving. I have been consistently in favour of a Royal Commission and I have always regarded the Midlands as one of the most progressive parts of the country in the best sense of the term. Where the Midlands leads today, the rest of the world will follow tomorrow. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about Lancashire?"] And Lancashire is well in the van, too. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ireland. Scotland."] And Scotland, and Ireland, too—and, judging by comments around me, I must end by paying a brief tribute to the progressive policy of Cheshire and Croydon.
But, if I may turn from this brief excursion into the geography of the British Isles, I ask the Parliamentary Secretary that if he accepts the principle—as he rightly did—what possible objection can there be to writing the principle into the Bill? What we should be doing would be to write into the Bill in principle a practice which the Parliamentary Secretary, with all his authority, has said is the policy of his Ministry.
The Parliamentary Secretary made a further point to the Committee—that the Bill provides that it is an offence not to comply with the notification required. As he said, it would, however, be absurd to have a situation that the fact that no notification had been made was unable to be proved in criminal proceedings—I hope that that is the right number of negatives. One out? I am in a generous mood at this hour of the morning and I am prepared to give another negative.
I also had the support of the right hon. Lady the Minister of State—support which I always value and which I valued particularly on this point—when she said:
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health will have to produce Regulations, and I suggest that to insert the words 'police officer' would be going too far because it might enable any police officer to demand the information. The Regulations, when issued, might refer to police superintendents, chief constables or people of that description. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member for
Chelmsford will appreciate that while we agree with him in principle we would not like to be tied to the wording of his Amendment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee F, 16th March, 1967; c. 507.]
It is important that on this issue the Ministry of Health and the Home Office were in happy harmony. That has not always been the case during the discussions, as the Ministers responsible will recall, and where they are both concurring on the principle, there is some indication that the principle may be right. The right hon. Lady had some reservation about including the words "police officer" in the Bill. She thought that the provision would be too wide if any police officer could demand this confidential information.
I regret to see that the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) has hovered into the Chamber. But I shall continue my speech undeterred.
The Minister of State said that it would be too wide to allow an ordinary police officer to have that power. I found it rather odd that the Minister of State at the Home Office should make such a statement, when she has greater knowledge than perhaps anyone in the House, except the Home Secretary, of the high standards of integrity of the police. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington pointed out, the police are a disciplined force. They are used to obeying orders and conducting confidential investigations. Therefore, the fears which the right hon Lady expressed in general, and which have been particularised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk, can be adequately met by my Amendment, in conjunction with the high standards of integrity known to prevail in the police force.
The Director of Public Prosecutions is one of the people referred to in my Amendment, and I have met the objection that the right hon. Lady raised to the possible low rank of a police officer by making the Amendment apply to a police superintendent only. I think that that would accord with what she said in amplication of her reservations about giving opportunities for collecting information to a police officer:
Let me qualify a little what I said about police officers … When I said the information should not be given to police officers,
I did not have in mind allowing police officers carte blanche to look at the notifications. That would be wrong. I am not saying that a superintendent or a higher police officer might not at some time give permission for a police officer in certain circumstances under the direction of a higher officer to see this information on a specific case. It was not our intention that it should only be on a court order that the police had access."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee F, 16th March, 1967; c. 510–11.]
There again the right hon. Lady has conceded the substance of my case. She has conceded the whole of it in principle, just as the Parliamentary Secretary has. I think that both must therefore be opposed to the two Amendments that have also been discussed in the names of my hon. Friends the Members for Essex, South-East and Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight).
In this revised version of my Amendment, I have done my best to meet the objections that the right hon. Lady raised at that point. In view of the lack of general safeguards in the Bill, it is essential that we should have adequate safeguards under this Clause. The right hon. Lady has said that the intentions of her Department would not be to favour disclosure of information in the way that the Amendment provides against, and we have also had the Parliamentary Secretary's assurance on the Department's policy in this respect.
If I may just say this to him, without, I hope, causing offence. We have had assurances from him on other matters on this Bill, and they have not been carried out when we have got to later stages of the Bill. We had support from him on supervision of abortion, and approval from him, which has not been adhered to when the matter has returned to the Floor of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Oh, yes. Does the Minister wish to intervene?
I think that in the context of this debate that is not a particularly offensive statement. I suppose it might be called a polite statement, on the whole. I think the Minister is mistaken in his assessment of the veracity of my words. But I was not really referring to him, but to his colleague, who, as I understood it, supported the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) in Committee, providing that abortion should be carried out under supervision of a consultant or other doctor of equivalent status.
The point I was making in answer to the plea made at various times on different Amendments that it is not necessary to write this sort of prohibition into the Bill. My argument is that, on past experience, such prohibition is in fact necessary to be written into the Bill. It is not enough merely to rely on spoken assurances. For matters of such importance, in my view, it is necessary to make explicit provision in the Bill.
My final point is that this is not a positive Amendment. It is a negative Amendment. It merely restricts the power of the Minister to prohibit disclosure to certain people. It does not say he must make a disclosure to these people; it does not put a duty on him to make a disclosure to a police superintendent or others. It merely stops him from putting an actual prohibition in regulations made under the Bill. A further point is that, since these regula-
As we are agreed in principle, I hope that what really is not an important gap between us, a gap of practice rather than of principle, can be bridged, and since the Ministers concerned have had second thoughts on other matters I hope they will also have second and better thoughts on this one as well.
I only want to raise for a short time a query which I hope will be answered by the Minister as we have no Law Officer here. The promoter of the Bill referred to Clause 2(2) and said that the information furnished in pursuance of regulations under Clause 2(1) would be provided solely to the Ministry of Health, and the Department of Health in Scotland, respectively, and that that, in his view, simply meant they were the only people who would have access to this information. Under Clause 2(1,c) there is a scheme whereby regulations are made
… for prohibiting the disclosure, except to such persons or for such purposes as may be so prescribed, of notices given or information furnished pursuant to the Regulations.
Does that mean that that information will be given to certain of the Minister's officers? In view of the possibility of disclosure by certain people, the Minister is able to make regulations. If that is so, and if that provision is a safeguard, then that makes the Amendment really relevant.
|Division No. 464.]||AYES||[4.50 a.m.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Bradley, Tom||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)|
|Archer, Peter||Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Dell, Edmund|
|Ashley, Jack||Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Dewar, Donald|
|Astor, John||Brown, Bob (N'c'tte-upon-Tyne, w.)||Dobson, Ray|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Dunnett, Jack|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Cant, R. B.||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)|
|Barnett, Joel||Carlisle, Mark||Eadie, Alex|
|Bessell, Peter||Carmichael, Neil||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)|
|Binns, John||Coe, Denis||Ellis, John|
|Bishop, E. S.||Crawshaw, Richard||Ennals, David|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn, Sir Edward||Davidson, James(Aberdeenshire, W.)||Ensor, David|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Shore, Peter (Stepney)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton, N.E.)|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Luard, Evan||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Forrester, John||Lubbock, Eric||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Fowler, Gerry||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||MacColl, James||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Freeson, Reginald||MacDermot, Niall||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Snow, Julian|
|Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Mayhew, Christopher||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, w.)||Mikardo, Ian||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Hamling, William||Millan, Bruce||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Haseldine, Norman||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Swingler, Stephen|
|Henig, Stanley||Miscampbell, Norman||Taverne, Dick|
|Herbison, Rt. Hn, Margaret||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)||Murray, Albert||Varley, Eric G.|
|Hooley, Frank||Ogden, Eric||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Hornby, Richard||Orme, Stanley||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Palmer, Arthur||walden, Brian (Alf Saints)|
|Howie, W,||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Huckfield, L.||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Reynolds, G. W.||Winnick, David|
|Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St.P'cras, S.)||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)|
|Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Ryan, John||Mr. Christopher Price and|
|Judd, Frank||Scott, Nicholas||Mr. John Hunt.|
|Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Sheldon, Robert|
|Alldritt, Walter||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Braine, Bernard||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Small, William|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Dance, James||McBride, Neil||Tinn, James|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Macdonald, A. H.||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Dempsey, James||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|English, Michael||Maddan, Martin||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Farr, John||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Fortescue, Tim||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Marten, Neil||Wylie, N. R.|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Maude, Angus||Younger, Hn. George|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Murton, Oscar|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Page, Graham (Crosby)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Percival, Ian||Mr. Harold Gurden and|
|Mr. James A. Dunn.|
|Division No. 465.]||AYES||[5.00 a.m.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)|
|Archer, Peter||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)|
|Ashley, Jack||Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Hamling, William|
|Astor, John||Dell, Edmund||Haseldine, Norman|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Dewar, Donald||Henig, Stanley|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Dobson, Ray||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Dunnett, Jack||Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)|
|Barnett, Joel||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Hooley, Frank|
|Bessell, Peter||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Hornby, Richard|
|Binns, John||Eadlie, Alex||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Bishop, E. S.||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Howie, W.|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Ellis, John.||Huckfield, L.|
|Bradley, Tom||Ennals, David||Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Ensor, David||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)|
|Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St.P'cras, S.)|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Forrester, John||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)|
|Cant, R. B.||Fowler, Gerry||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Judd, Frank|
|Carmichael, Neil||Freeson, Reginald||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)|
|Coe, Denis||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)|
|Luard, Evan||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Lubbock, Eric||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Reynolds, G. W.||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|MacColl, James||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Swingler, Stephen|
|MacDermot, Niall||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)||Taverns, Dick|
|Marquand, David||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'al)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Mayhew, Christopher||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Mikardo, Ian||Ryan, John||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Millan, Bruce||Scott, Nicholas||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Miller, Dr. M. S.||Sharpies, Richard||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Sheldon, Robert||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Shore, Peter (Stepney)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Murray, Albert||Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton, N.E,)||Winnick, David|
|Ogden, Eric||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Orme, Stanley||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Palmer, Arthur||Sinclair, Sir George||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Skeffington, Arthur||Mr. Christopher Price and|
|Pardoe, John||Snow, Julian||Mr. John Hunt.|
|Alldritt, Walter||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Percival, Ian|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Braine, Bernard||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Small, William|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||MacArthur, Ian||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Dance, James||McBride, Neil||Tinn, James|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Macdonald, A. H.||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Dempsey, James||McGuire, Michael||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|English, Michael||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Farr, John||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Fortescue, Tim||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Wylie, N. R.|
|Fraser. Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Marten, Neil||Younger, Hn. George|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Maude, Angus|
|Glover, Sr Douglas||Murton, Oscar||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Mr. Harold Gurden and|
|Mr. James A. Dunn.|
I beg to move Amendment No. 39, in page 2, line 26, to leave 3ut subsection (2).
I understand that at the same time we shall discuss Amendment No. 41, to leave out lines 28 and 29 and to insert:
'to the local medical officer of health of counties and county boroughs and of the equivalent local authorities in Scotland, and to the persons specified in section 1(1)(b) of the Act'.
Amendment No. 39 is concerned with that part of the Clause which specifies that information shall be given only to the
Chief Medical Officers of the Ministry of Health and the Department of Health in Scotland respectively".
Amendment No. 41 is less wide in scope, leaving in the Bill the first part of this subsection, but inserting other words so that the information shall be disclosed to local medical officers of health in counties and county boroughs and equivalent authorities in Scotland.
The debate on these Amendments raises basically the same issues of principle which were raised in the previous debate, but they are applied in a different way. Once again I stress the great importance of having adequate safeguards in this part of the Bill. The safeguards here provided are important, because other safeguards have been rejected, particularly that proposed by the British Medical Association that the operation should be carried out under the supervision of a consultant or other doctor of equivalent status.
In the last debate I argued about the necessity, or at least the opportunity, for disclosure to police officers. The Amendment is not concerned with direct disclosure to the police as such, but the police might well be indirectly involved. They would be indirectly involved whether the Amendment is accepted or not, because the Parliamentary Secretary envisages circumstances in which either of the authorities receiving the information, whether it be the Chief Medical Officer of Health, as is provided in the Clause as it stands, or the local medical officer of health of counties and county boroughs, as I propose in Amendment No. 41, would pass on the information to the police where they had reason to believe that either the latter of the law was being flouted or that, although the letter of the law was being observed, the spirit of the law was being flouted.
I realise that the same conflict arises here between the general social needs of the country, on the one hand, and the need to protect the private status and the privacy of individuals, on the other. It is a question of the confidentiality required by members of the medical profession and the right of individual members to have their privacy respected. It is under the Amendment that the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) arises. He was anxious about the situation for a woman in a small country village or rural area, who, if she knew information about her were to be given to a local—
If the Amendment is defective, it does not seem to me that any harm is done, because Amendment No. 41 is not called for decision, but only for discussion with Amendment No. 39, so that reference may be made to it. It does not seem to me that any reference will affect the position.
As I understand the position, we are debating Amendment No. 39, in page 2, line 26 to omit subsection (2). Amendment No. 63 proposes to leave out certain words in line 27, and Amendment No. 41 proposes to leave out certain words in lines 28 and 29. Whether Amendment No. 41 is defective or not seems irrelevant to the Question the House has to decide, which is whether to leave out subsection (2).
Further to that point of order. Since the suggestion enshrined in the first part of Amendment No. 41 is very important and is not covered by Amendment No. 39, and we should discuss the important point about the local medical officer of health, would it be your ruling that, since it is clearly a mistake in printing, that part of the Amendment should be discussed.
Further to that point of order. We shall then be in an extraordinary position, because the whole Clause is about notifying people, and if we strike out notifying anybody we shall be notifying the waste paper basket. My hon. Friend has put down a good suggestion but it has not been possible for him to redraft it in the light of the proceedings and I should have thought that it would have been in order to leave out the last few words of the Amendment.
Further to the point of order. Whether or not the reference to "section 1(1)(b)" is a printing error, may I point out, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the drafting of Amendment No. 41 is defective in another respect, which may also be a printing error? The deletion of lines 28 and 29 would leave "to the" twice running, which could not possibly be right.
It certainly seems to me that Amendment No. 41 has certain defects. That may well be why it has not been selected. The fact is that it has not been selected. In this debate we are concerned exclusively with Amendment No. 39, to leave out the whole of subsection (2).
I will resume the thread of what I am pleased to call my argument. We had a similar incident or an earlier occasion, rather at this hour of the morning, when the Home Secretary se. off a host of points of order. Fortunately, he has not done so this morning. I am glad to see him in his place.
I noted with distress the reference that the Home Secretary made to me in other proceedings, when he said that he was glad that I was not in my place. That was a little ungracious coming from the right hon. Gentleman. If I may pour some coals of fire on his head, I am always pleased to see him, just as a I am pleased to see his right hon. Friend the Minister of State. They make a unique combination of brains and beauty—[HON. MEMBERS: "Which is which?"]—the Home Secretary providing the beauty, the Minister of State the brains. [An HON. MEMBER: "And the Parliamentary Secretary the brawn."] I prefer not to advert to the contribution of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, but it is certainly unique.
I always welcome a literary allusion, even at this hour of the morning.
I am sorry that certain defects have been revealed in Amendment No. 41. I seem to have fallen into the same trap a; the sponsor of the Bill. I can only say that one cannot escape infection from the air one breathes. I wish to return to my argument, fully accepting your Ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that there will be a Division, I understand, on Amendment No. 39 but that discussion of the substance of Amendment No. 41 will be allowed and that the defects, such as they are, and whoever is to blame, whether it be myself or anyone else, will not prove an obstacle because that Amendment will not be moved.
The clash of principle which we had in the previous debate occurs once again. There is the claim of confidentiality for the doctor and patient on the one hand, and the public interest in maintaining control of abortions allowed under the Bill on the other. Once again, it is not possible to do full justice to either of those interests. One has to compromise and reply on the discretion of the officers of health concerned. Just as one has to rely on the discretion of the Chief Officer of Health in the Bill as it now stands, one would have to reply on the discretion of the local medical officers of health were the wording in Amendment No. 41 to be substituted for that in the Clause.
We are all agreed on the value of the information which would be available. We are working in the dark on this Clause and on the Bill as a whole, but we are agreed that in future, should the Bill receive the Royal Assent, that situation would not repeat itself. At least we should be in a position to have adequate information on which future judgment could be based.
That is not disputed. The dispute concerns the person or persons to whom the information should be disclosed. There is no doubt that, if control is wanted under this part of the Bill, it would be much more effective if it came from the local medical officer of health, rather than from the Chief Medical Officer at the Ministry. One cannot pretend that the Chief Medical Officers at the Ministry and at the Department of Health in Scotland are not in a position to check up on local abuses which might take place. But a mass of material will be passing before them, and they are not likely to be in a position to be able to analyse it efficiently except in cases of the most glaring abuse. Will they be able to see abuses? Common sense must answer that this is not so.
This is extremely important. While it may reduce the number of illegal abortions, one of the dangers of the Bill is that, owing to its loose drafting in many places, it may enable unscrupulous practitioners to take advantage of the situation and bring themselves within the letter of law while acting entirely outside its spirit. I take it that the spirit of the sponsor of the Bill is to keep a fairly tight control over abortions, but that will not be achieved unless the wording of the Clause is improved radically.
I am extremely sorry that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) is not able to be present this morning to give us the benefit of his views. We had that advantage in Committee. I should like to quote from what my right hon. and learned Friend said on that occasion with all the authority of his legal practice and his legal experience, and his status as a former Attorney-General. It has been a great disappointment to many of us that we have not had the Attorney-General available to advise us on the legal aspects of the Bill, hut it has been a great help to hon. Members on both sides that until today we have had the services of the former Attorney-General to advise on these matters. It is no good the right hon. Member for Leeds. West (Mr. C. Pannell) sighing and gnashing his teeth and glaring at me. It has been a great help to have that advice, and we have missed it in our debates today.
My right hon. and learned Friend said:
My own view has always been that real control would come only if notification were given to the local medical officer of health in a county or county borough because he would know the individuals."—
This was the point made against the Amendment previously by my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover)—
He would not get the enormous volume of material coming to the Ministry of Health. He could quickly identify and spot people who rather surprisingly were doing far too many terminations of pregnancy. He would begin to ask questions. He would have a great deal of local knowledge. I appreciate that the disadvantages of notifying locally someone who is in touch with local conditions is that the interests of the patients become known. Women who are perfectly properly having a pregnancy
terminated—married women and particularly unmarried women—would not want the local county hall to have that information even though it was supposed to be confined to the principal medical officer.
This point was made earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk.
My right hon. and learned Friend then asked a question which is very relevant to our discussion:
Does the Ministry of Health really envisage that there can be control if the whole of the information about any termination operation comes pouring into the chief medical officer? I agree that the Ministry will be able to analyse this information, but will it do so? Will it not be more interested in seeing how many different reasons there are, rather than studying the basis by which it can spot the doctor who is overstepping the mark? This is something on which all people interested in the Bill should have some information. It is of interest to see how far the promoter is right in saying that this amounts to control."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee F; 16th March, 1967, cc. 509–10.]
The point was made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health that the information would be carefully analysed, that the analytical facilities of the Ministry—whatever that meant—were adequate to deal with the point.
I do not think that it is quite correct to say that the hon. Member was reading the whole of it. In my view it would be most improper, on Report, to read the whole, or anything like the whole, of what happened in Committee. I was beginning to think that the hon. Member was exceeding the limit to which anybody ought to go on Report in referring to what took place in Committee. It has never been the practice on Report to go over everything said in Committee. I must, therefore, ask the hon. Member to confine his remarks to the Amendment, and to bear in mind that we are on Report.
I bow to your .Ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I must have caught your thought, because I had concluded the quotation when once again, too late, I was interrupted by an hon. Gentleman opposite, the effect of which was merely to prolong the discussion. I would not dream of quoting the whole of the Committee stage. I quoted that passage at some length because the point was put so cogently by my right hon. and learned Friend. Because of his absence on Parliamentary duties abroad, he is unable to be here, but I felt that, corning with his authority, the words would have much greater influence than if they had been mine.
I have made my point. It is a question of providing effective control. We have to look around in the Bill wherever we can to find means of safeguarding not only the moral values but the health of the nation. We owe that duty to the country. If it has not been provided in other parts of the Bill it is the duty of those seeking to improve the Bill to see whether provisions can be inserted at a later stage to bring about that end.
I hope, therefore, that we shall hear from the sponsor of the Bill that he is prepared to consider the Amendment sympathetically. I hope, also, that we shall hear from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health as to the views of the Ministry on this question. His Ministry is involved more than any other. I am sure we shall hear from h m. It will be of great interest to all hon. Members. We must remember that even if the Amendments are defeated the Report stage has proved very useful in that it has enabled Ministers to put on record statements—
I will confine myself to saying that the Amendment will be useful even if it is defeated, in that it will enable the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health to put on record an important statement of policy of his Ministry which will be of help to the medical profession and to many other people who are interested in the Bill.
Amendment No. 39, in the name of the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) has the great merit of being correctly drafted. Coming from the hon. Member for Chelmsford—who, in every newspaper in the country, whenever he disagrees with something accuses the sponsors of drafting the Bill badly—Amendment No. 41, which is not only technically incorrect but appears to make notification possible to an abnormal foetus, is stretching his self-styled appointment as President of the Friends of the Foetus Society a little far. I hope that after that shameful performance we shall hear no more criticism of drafting from the hon. Member.
His point is a repetition of one fully considered in Committee. In his last speech he paid tribute to the eloquence of the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) in discussing the need for confidentiality. The hon. Member's tribute to his hon. Friend's eloquence would have been taken more by the House as conveying sincerity had he been present when his hon. Friend made his speech. If he had been present he would have heard his hon. Friend stress a view which I can confirm that we have discussed with the medical profession—a view strongly held—that this notification should be solely to the Chief Medical Officers of Health in England and Scotland. Because we attached importance to their views, as we are told we should, we tabled the Amendment to ensure that no such information was given in the locality. It is not wanted by the local medical officers of health, let alone the general practitioners and specialists. The hon. Gentleman's suggestion is therefore unacceptable to the profession.
Another reason for our opposition is that, if it was thought that the Bill would lead to information being bandied about in a locality, we would still encourage illegal abortions. I hope that the Paraliamentary Secretary will confirm these views and that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the Amendment.
I favour the second Amendment, because this matter is part of a tendency, noticeable in other health legislation, to remove important duties from local medical officers of health to the centre. There can be no exact parallel, but a close one is that, recently, before the hon. Gentleman became Parliamentary Secretary, we altered the regulations about notification in the same way in respect of another condition with social consequences—leprosy—and that was against the profession's wishes—
I understand, Mr. Deputy Speaker: I was merely drawing a parallel. This centralising tendency is part of a pattern over diseases with social consequences. Leprosy is the best example of such a disease, the arrangements for the notification of which the Ministry has in its own hands. The same tendency is in the Bill, and we must seriously consider whether it is a wise one.
I reject the casting of doubt on the confidentiality of local medical officers of health. Like everyone else, I have high regard for the confidentiality of the medical profession as a whole. There must be occasional exceptions but, as a profession, it locks away the secrets of its patients with remarkable assiduity. I have great regard also for the procedures of local medical officers.
There could come a time—I am sure it will in the example I have quoted—when it might be the wish of a medical officer of health to be able to draw conclusions from the figures or to make known the figures for his area in his report. But they will be known only to the centre. We are dealing here with great social consequences. Certain social lessons may have to be drawn as we proceed.
The Parliamentary Secretary should be able to answer fully as to why, in these circumstances, he is assured that the matter should be kept at the centre and only at the centre. The point raised by my hon. Friend is of much more consequence than was realised.
The effect of the Amendment would be that there would be no stipulation as to whom notification and information required under Clause 2(1,b) should be sent. Clause 2(2) provides that
… information furnished in pursuance of regulations under subsection (1) of this section shall be notified solely to the Chief Medical Officers of the Ministry of Health and the Department of Health in Scotland respectively.
Earlier, we discussed the use that should be made of information so supplied through the notifications. The House decided that, whereas it was not considered necessary to incorporate this into the Bill, nevertheless it would be part of the dis-
cretion of the Minister so to draft his regulations that access, for instance by the police down to a certain level, would be possible.
As I understand the argument of the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), it is that the choice lies between leaving the question of the disposal of information to the Regulations and having a statutory requirement that the information be held locally. The hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) purported to give the opinion of the medical profession about confidentiality and the non-supply of any information outside the office of the Minister of Health.
But my right hon. Friend was able somewhat to counter that assertion by saying that he had received a modification of the view of the profession to the extent that it accepted that, in certain circumstances, disclosure of information to, for instance, the police, would be necessary for enforcement of the law. I mention this because, whereas we abide by our view, for reasons well explained by the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) that this is a matter for regulation, we do not think that it would be desirable to have an Amendment such as this, which would leave the matter in the air.
I come now to the somewhat mutilated Amendment No. 41. The hon. Member argued that not to have the information locally would inhibit the proper operation of the Bill. We feel that if notification were made to the local medical officer of health it would still be necessary to secure collection of the information centrally. The likelihood of a breach of confidentiality would be far greater than it would be if the information were first collected centrally. We have been told that we must not cast aspersions on the discretion and good behaviour of medical officers of health. That has never been the intention. We feel that where there is locally a cause for disquiet, there is a central source to confirm or dispel doubt.
The medical profession have given the concession, mentioned by my hon. Friend, from their original view and they have moved a long way to meet the sponsor of the Bill and the Government. The Amendment would not be acceptable to them and we, too, feel that it is unacceptable.
We are in considerable difficulty, as I foresaw when we began to debate this part of the Bill, because it was and still is very difficult to follow. Amendment No. 39 seeks to delete subsection (2) which refers to information in pursuance of regulations under subsection (1). One of the difficulties in assessing what is the right thing to do is to discover how the regulations will be enforced and precisely how subsection (1) is intended to work. In Committee the right hon. Lady the Minister of State said that we were discussing giving the Minister of Health the power to make regulations, and added,
We should not attempt to write those Regulations this morning but should leave that for discussion when the regulations are before Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee F, 16th March, 1967; c. 511.]
The argument whether the Amendment should be made must rest on the validity of the argument for retaining or deleting the paragraph. We would regard it differently accordingly to how the regulations will be implemented. The right hon. Lady clearly envisaged that at this stage in the debate we should know what the regulations were—
With respect, I believe that they are regulations for notification, about which we are now speaking. I am trying to confine myself to the two Amendments which we can now discuss. If I am not in order, I naturally accept your Ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. But I assure you that it is with sincerity that I put forward the arguments that we must have a clear knowledge of what we are discussing before we can come to a decision on whether or not—
On a point of order. I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend, but may we have your guidance on this, Mr. Deputy Speaker? Subsection (2) says:
The information furnished in pursuance of regulations under subsection (1) of this section shall be notified solely to the Chief Medical Officers …
Therefore, in discussing the notification one must surely be in order in discussing the regulations, because the notification procedure does not arise until the regulations have been made?
Further to that point of order. Are we not in some difficulty? The House does not expect the Minister to detail what will be the regulations, for they will clearly be a matter of discussion and negotiation with the medical profession and other parties concerned. Nevertheless, is it not a normal courtesy to Parliament without which there is very little meaning in our discussions, for the Government to give at any rate some indication of the sort of things that will be in their regulations, the sort of area which the regulations will cover? As far as I am aware, we have not been given any detail, and to this extent I would hope that my hon. Friend would be permitted to seek clarification on the point, for otherwise the House is—
The hon. Gentleman cannot go into elaborate points of order. In my opinion the House is in no difficulty at all. The Amendment introduces the perfectly simple question of whether notification should be solely to the Chief Medical Officer of Health or extended to local medical officers. It is quite unnecessary to speculate on what would be contained in the regulations.
I was going on to speak of what I intended to touch on. Subsection (2), which Amendment No. 39 seeks to delete, reads:
The information furnished in pursuance of regulations. …
If I knew clearly what those Regulations were I should find it much easier to decide how to vote on the Amendment. It is very difficult to come to a sensible decision when one does not know what one is talking about specifically on the issue. One is almost again on the prongs of Morton's fork, to which one of my hon. Friends referred earlier. One is desperately anxious to preserve the woman's secrecy about the operation, but one also recognises the great need for a sensible correlation of facts on abortion, for many cogent reasons.
In the Amendments it is sought to weigh up how the information can be of best value to all, and at the same time to preserve the secrecy of the whole series of informational points.
I should like very briefly to touch on Amendment No. 41 because I also, like my right hon. Friend, feel very strongly that the information which should be, rightly, dispersed to the local medical officers of health, is at that point at its most valuable. My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) referred to remarks made in Committee, and not enough notice has been taken of the relevance of those to these two Amendments. It was asked, clearly, there, is the information—and I think this is a very valid point, and I am sure it is one which the Parliamentary Secretary has thought a great deal about—going to be fed to two vast organisations and possibly correlated there, or is it possibly to be put through a computer there? I do not know. Nobody knows. Or else, is it to be fed to the area where knowledge of the locality is greatest?
I, while most anxious, as I have said all along, to preserve the secrecy of this information, feel very strongly about this. I was for 10 years a member of a local health authority, working with the medical officer of health. There is a real and important claim that at that place the local medical officer of health would have special ability to deal with these facts, and it is very important to suggest that these facts should be passed to him. Even taking into account the difficulty that the information might get out—and it is right to recognise that possibility—I think the medical officer of health has a very important job to do in this connection—
The hon. Lady wants to maintain secrecy. I completely agree with her. I also subscribe to the point of view expressed in relation to the medical officer of health normally carrying out his duties in an exemplary manner. But once information of this sort is sent to the local authorities, unless it is put under lock and key it can escape, and then the medical officers of health would be held responsible. I am sure the hon. Lady does not want that to happen, any more than I do. Under the regulations as they are in draft form now it would be possible for that to happen. If we go any further, the possibilities of that happening are extended further.
I thought I made it very clear that this was my dilemma on this issue. It is a very grave dilemma, and one which makes it very difficult to deduce which is the right way to vote on the Amendment. I am convinced of the need to obtain every bit of benefit which can be obtained from these facts. It is, to my mind, a question of how best we can obtain the information we need from the facts, and, at the same time, preserve secrecy. This is the point. I would assure the hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. Dunn) that he is not altogether just when he suggests that information passed to local health officers is of necessity no longer secret, because there are many, many pieces of information with which medical officers of health and their staffs have to deal every day and which are kept secret.
Is my hon. Friend seized of the point, that it is not necessarily the case that the more people there are who get this information the more there will be breaches of confidentiality, but that women who need help and ought to be going to the doctor may be discouraged from doing so because they feel that people in their own locality will be privy to this information? It is on this point that the medical profession is most adamant, that confidentiality shall be preserved to the utmost degree.
Yes, I would accept this, and it underlines the difficulties I see bristling over these two Amendments. We must decide how best to use this information because, if properly read and sensibly collated, it could be of great benefit to women.
How are we to keep this information confidential? One way would be for the local medical officers not to have the names and addresses of the women concerned. They could have all the other relevant information and, even without the personal details, adequate statistics could be kept. As long as the medical officers know how many children the woman has, how many months elapse before she seeks another abortion, and so on, proper statistics can be maintained and an analysis made. Local medical officers have close experience of their localities. I am anxious to harness that experience to the other information that the statistics about abortions would give.
I am in a dilemma because Amendment No. 39 on its own does not make sense. It will have to be allied with some other provision if it is to mean anything.
Is my hon. Friend aware that in the helpful intervention of the Parliamentary Secretary, he pointed out that, with certain safeguards, this information could be made available to medical officers of health? Might not that destroy the confidentiality aspect to which my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) referred?
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) made an important point when she said that the names and addresses of the women on whom this operation is performed need not be disclosed when this information is passed on. I trust that the House will remember, however, that this provision is about the activities of doctors, and not patients. And since we are concerned with policing the activities of doctors rather than patients, I do not know why there is such fear about giving this information to the local medical officers.
If this policing function is to be carried out, the medical officers are the people to have this information. The Parliamentary Secretary said that the information would have to go to Whitehall to be nationally analysed. There is no need for names and addresses to be mentioned. Already medical officers report the number of cases of, say, measles. They merely say, "We had 10 cases." They do not say, "Little Bill Jones of Acacia Avenue was one of the 10 cases". Exactly the same thing would happen in this case. Therefore, why the hon. Gentleman thinks that it causes any difficulty at all, I do not know. The more I have listened to the debate the more it has seemed to me that very little thought has been given to the purpose of notification, never mind the method.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) will press the Amendment to a Division because, if we leave it in, then, in another place, pressed with other business, the matter may go through, but if we leave it out for the reasons given by the Parliamentary Secretary the Clause will be a nonsense and another place will have to attend to it. It certainly needs far greater attention than it has so far received.
I shall be interested to hear what other hon. Members have to say, and I shall be interested to see whether the sponsors of the Bill or the Parliamentary Secretary refute one word of what I say, the principal point being that the intention is to police the doctors, not the patients, so there is no fear of lack of security at local level. Medical officers of health are in the habit of supplying information in statistical form to the Minister of Health. As this topic is the kernel of the Clause, it is most important that we should hear more about it.
We have dealt with these Amendments at some length, and we have many important items still to discuss. Various points have been made by those who have some difficulty in understanding what the Bill as drafted will eventually do, and we have also examined in critical detail the effect of the Amendments. All hon. Members ought now to be satisfied that the intention of the Ministry is to bring in regulations at an early date that will cover the majority of the points that have been made, and those regulations will themselves be debatable.
The hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) quite rightly said that the members of the medical profession were rather strong in their representations in regard to confidentiality. If that is to be respected, and if the members of the medical profession and their requests are to be respected, it would be wrong for us now to depart from this point. As I say, we have major issues yet to be debated, and the hour is getting rather late. I therefore hope that we can resolve the matter quickly by the mover of the Amendment seeking leave to withdraw it.
I do not want to detain the House for long on this Amendment, but I must take a contrary view from that of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. Dunn). In this matter the views of the medical profession are not so important as the national interest.
enough. This is the only means the Government have of policing the medical profession and there are in that profession, as in others, people who need to be policed. Otherwise the Measure would fall into disrepute. One thing which the vast majority of us wish to prevent is an increase in abortion on demand. However badly it is framed, that is the main tenor of the argument for the Amendment.
Neither the sponsor nor the medical profession knows how many cases would be dealt with in a year, should this Bill become law. If we take the Swedish figures and multiply them in ratio to the population, we get very big figures. I do not think that these matters can be successfully policed from a central department ignorant of local problems. To believe that to be possible is to live in cloud-cuckoo-land. I am surprised that the hard-headed Scotsman, the sponsor. should take this line.
Many of my hon. Friends, quite rightly, have fears and doubts about the very grave problem of confidentiality. We are dealing with a Bill on which many have doubts even if they do not oppose it. Unless the Amendment is accepted, there will be no means of policing those in the medical profession who are not prepared to abide by their Hippocratic Oath.
|Division No. 466.]||AYES||[6.18 a.m.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Haseldine, Norman|
|Archer, Peter||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret|
|Ashley, Jack||Dell, Edmund||Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)|
|Astor, John||Dewar, Donald||Hornby, Richard|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Dobson, Ray||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Dunnett, Jack||Howie, W.|
|Barnett, Joel||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Huckfield, L.|
|Bessell, Peter||Eadie, Alex||Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, s.)|
|Binns, John||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Ellis, John||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Ennals, David||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras,S.)|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Ensor, David||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)|
|Bradley, Tom||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Judd, Frank|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Forrester, John||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Fowler, Gerry||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Freeson, Reginald||Loughlin, Charles|
|Cant, R. B.||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Luard, Evan|
|Carlisle, Mark||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Lubbock, Eric|
|Carmichael, Neil||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)|
|Coe, Denis||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||MacColl, James|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Hamling, William||MacDermot, Niall|
|Marquand, David||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Roberts Gwilym (Bedfordshire, 8.)||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Mayhew, Christopher||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)||Swingler, Stephen|
|Mikardo, Ian||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Millan, Bruce||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Miller, Dr. M. S.||Ryan, John||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Scott, Nicholas||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Murray, Albert||Sharples, Richard||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Norwood, Christopher||Sheldon, Robert||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Ogden, Eric||Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton, N.E.)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Orme, Stanley||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)||Winnick, David|
|Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Pardoe, John||Sinclair, Sir George||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Parker, John (Dagenham)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Snow, Julian||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Reynolds, G. W.||Spriggs, Leslie||Mr. Christopher Price and|
|Mr. John Hunt.|
|Alldritt, Walter||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Braine, Bernard||Hutchison, Michael Clark||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Small, William|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Dempsey, James||McBride, Neil||Ward, Dame Irene|
|English, Michael||Macdonald, A. H.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Farr, John||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Fortescue, Tim||Maddan, Martin||Wylie, N. R.|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Younger, Hn. George|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Marten, Neil||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Mr. Harold Gordon and|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Percival, Ian||Mr. James A. Dunn.|
|Division No. 467.]||AYES||[6.27 a.m.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Maude, Angus|
|Archer, Peter||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Ashley, Jack||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Mayhew, Christopher|
|Astor, John||Forrester, John||Mikardo, Ian|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Fowler, Gerry||Millan, Bruce|
|Barnett, Joel||Freeson, Reginald||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Bessell, Peter||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)|
|Binns, John||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Murray, Albert|
|Bishop, E. S.||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Norwood, Christopher|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Ogden, Eric|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Hamling, William||Orme, Stanley|
|Bradley, Tom||Haseldine, Norman.||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)|
|Braine, Bernard||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)||Pardoe, John|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Hornby, Richard||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Howie, w.||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Huckfield, L.||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Cant, R. B.||Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)||Richard, Ivor|
|Carlisle, Mark||Jackson, Colin (B'h'Se & Spenb'gh)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Carmichael, Neil||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)|
|Coe, Denis||Jeger, Mrs. Lena(H'b'n & St. p'cras, S.)||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth St. p'c'as)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)|
|Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Ryan, John|
|Dell, Edmund||Judd, Frank||Scott, Nicholas|
|Dewar, Donald||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Sharples, Richard|
|Dobson, Ray||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Sheldon, Robert|
|Dunnett, Jack||Loughlin, Charles||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N.E.)|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Luard, Evan||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Lubbock, Eric||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Eadle, Alex||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||MacColl, James||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Ellis, John||MacDermot, Niall||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Ennals, David||Macdonald, A. H.||Snow, Julian|
|Ensor, David||Marquand, David||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Steel, David (Roxburgh)||vickers, Dame Joan||Winnick, David|
|Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Swingler, Stephen||walden, Brian (Ail Saints)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Taverne, Dick||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Varley, Eric G.||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)||Mr. John Hunt and|
|Mr. Christopher Price.|
|Alldritt, Walter||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Percival, Ian|
|Baker, w. H. K.||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Small, William|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Dempsey, James||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|English, Michael||McBride, Neil||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Farr, John||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Fortescue, Tim||Maddan, Martin||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'ttord & Stone)||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Younger, Hn. George|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Marten, Neil||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Mr. Harold Gurden and|
|Mr. James A. Dunn.|
I beg to move Amendment No. 63, in page 2, line 27, to leave out 'under' and to insert:
'made by virtue of paragraph (b) of'.
This is a clarifying Amendment, which gives greater precision to Clause 2(2). That subsection deals with what is to happen to information furnished in pursuance of regulations made under the Clause. Since the relevant regulation-making power is contained in paragraph (b) of subsection (1), it is appropriate that subsection (2) should refer specifically to that paragraph rather than to subsection (1) in general.
I beg to move Amendment No. 64, in page 2, line 28, to leave out 'Department of Health in Scotland' and to insert: Department of Health for Scotland, which is now the Scottish Home and Health Department.
Mr. Edward M. Taylor:
On a point of order. May I have your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker? In view of the strange failure to have brought the name up to date, would it be in order, as Amendment No. 72 has not been selected, to use Amendment No. 64 as a means of discussing whether the Bill should apply to Scotland, where it is not wanted and is not needed? To have left the Bill as it was would have made nonsense of it concerning application to Scotland. Would you allow us, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on this Amendment, to debate whether the Bill should apply to Scotland?