Clause 3. — (Application of Act to Visiting Forces etc.)

Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th July 1967.

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Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford 12:00 am, 13th July 1967

I beg to move Amendment No. 66, in page 2, line 37, to leave out Clause 3.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

With this Amendment, it is proposed that we discuss also the following Amendments: No. 67: in page 3, line 1, leave out 'a registered medical practitioner or';

Amendment No. 68: in line 3, after 'body', insert 'and';

Amendment No. 69: in line 6, after 'have', insert 'no'; and

Amendment No. 70: in line 6, leave out from 'effect' to end of line 11.

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

We now come to a rather odd Clause. Amendment No. 66 would leave out the whole Clause. Most of the other Amendments which we are taking with it are of a minor nature. This is a curious Clause because to a great many hon. Members it must be totally incomprehensible.

The Clause allows a woman who has what is referred to in the Clause as "a relevant association" with the forces in question to take advantage of the law of this country, which might not otherwise apply to her. It is a very small point, but nearly half the Bill is taken up by this abstruse provision containing references to Part I of the Visiting Forces Act, 1952, and so on.

There is, for example, no definition of what constitutes a "relevant association". It provides that she will be able to take advantage of the law if she has a relevant association, or, in the case of such a headquarters as aforesaid, she was a member of the headquarters or a dependant within the meaning of the Schedule aforesaid of such a member". I do not know what that means, and we have had little enlightenment from anyone on it.

This Amendment appeared suddenly on the Notice Paper in Committee. Apparently no one had thought of it before, and the whole Clause was inserted as an Amendment. It had never been discussed by the House. It came into the Bill in Committee by a side wind, and we are entitled to ask from where that wind was blowing, because I cannot believe that the sponsor of the Bill can have been concerned particularly with the women having relevant associations with visiting forces. I can only assume that the Home Office was responsible for parking this immense Clause in the middle of the Bill.

The right hon. Lady the Minister of State, who is sitting in yet again—

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds South East

May I remind the hon. Gentleman of the rather jocular remark which he made a little time ago?

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

The right hon. Lady is getting better looking every minute.

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

I recall the remark. I am glad that the right hon. Lady accepted it in the spirit in which it was offered and has not taken umbrage. No personal reflection on her appearance was intended, or could be remotely justified.

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

I have rarely seen the right hon. Lady looking so attractive.

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

I think that remark should be addressed to the right hon. Lady.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

Despite the extraordinary patience that the right hon. Lady has shown and the help that she has given, to which everyone pays tribute, is it not astonishing that, in a life and death matter of this kind, we have not had the advantage of advice from a Law Officer of the Crown? He is conspicuous by his absence. Is it not quite disgraceful?

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

It is extraordinary, though I am not astonished. Nothing connected with the Bill astonishes me any longer. My faculty for surprise was exhausted long ago.

6.45 a.m.

In Committee upstairs we did not hear a word on this subject from the right hon. Lady, and the debate was of the shortest possible character. It was disposed of in about two minutes. The sponsor of the Bill, who, unhappily, is not here at the moment, gave a brief résumé of the Clause, but no really adequate explanation has ever been given to anyone about why it is in the Bill, whether it is necessary, and what the effect of it will be.

I should not have thought that there was one hon. Member who knows what a relative association is. Does the right hon. Lady, who is a principal sponsor of the Bill, know what it means? I will gladly give way if she can tell me. [An HON. MEMBER: "Do not be offensive."] This is a very real and important point, and I am not being offensive.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. I think it would assist progress if the hon. Member would make his case.

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

Mr. Deputy Speaker, this is an essential part of my case. We have here a Clause which was put into the Bill in Committee upstairs, without discussion by the House, and the sponsors do not know why it is there, or what it means. I hope that when the right hon. Lady replies to the debate she will give us a full explanation of who drafted the Clause, why it was drafted, and what its effect is likely to be.

That really is the only point that I wish to make at this stage. It is the only point that I can make, because we have heard nothing about the Clause. I hope that after we have heard the right hon. Lady, and other hon. Members who may wish to speak, I shall be enabled to exercise briefly my right to reply.

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds South East

It is true, as the hon. Gentleman said, that there was only a short debate on this Clause in Committee. In fact, it occupied only three columns of HANSARD, but it is rather strange that this should be so, because the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) was present on that occasion. He did not ask any questions, or make any comments, or ask for the information for which he has now asked.

The sponsor of the Bill explained the purpose of the Clause fairly fully. The reasons for clarifying under the Bill position of visiting forces and international headquarters were given by the sponsor of the Bill. As she explained, it is general policy that visiting forces and members of international headquarters serving in this country should, in general, be in the same position under our law as our own forces, and the Clause is necessary in order to conform with that general policy.

Without the Clause, a doctor from a visiting force would be liable to prosecution in the criminal courts of this country if he carried out an operation which, if performed in parallel circumstances by one of our own doctors, would not be an offence. This would not be just. The Clause deals only with the position of members of visiting forces and international headquarters under the law of Great Britain. It does not affect the position—as I shall explain when we deal with the hon. Member's next Amendment—of such a person under the laws of their own countries.

The hon. Member made great play about what is meant by anybody having a relevant association with a body. It means that a pregnant woman at the time of treatment, who was also a member of a visiting force or a civilian of that force, or a dependant—that is, the wife of such a person or other person wholly or mainly maintained by a member of a visiting force or headquarters, or in his custody, charge or care. All members of visiting forces and headquarters would be covered by this Clause.

I assure the hon. Member that there is nothing special about this. It is something which, in all Bills, has to be done to cover the visiting forces and headquarters—

Photo of Mrs Anne Kerr Mrs Anne Kerr , Rochester and Chatham

Who are the visiting forces? What countries do they come from?

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds South East

I am sure that my hon. Friend knows that the majority of visiting forces in this country are from the United States of America. I can appreciate why she has suddenly decided to take such an interest in our proceedings. [Interruption.]

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

When the voices backwards and forwards and sideways have stopped, I will say what I want to say. I am not satisfied with what the right hon. Lady has said. I do not make any complaint about this provision having been inserted in the Bill in Committee. It is a Private Member's Bill, and I understand that the sponsor at the time of the Second Reading debate did not realise that there were certain ramifications which had to be taken care of, one of which was the question of visiting forces.

What does "relevant association" mean? I do not think that it is a minor point. A soldier in the British Army who is living with, or having a semi-permanent association with, a woman can put down that woman as his dependant, and she then draws all the relevant allowances as though she was his wife. This procedure was established during the war and as far as I know it still operates in the British Army.

I see a great danger here. Admittedly, the provision applies principally to the United States forces. Let us suppose that a United States unit is in a Catholic part of Germany, where the local people are not in favour of abortion, or in Italy, which is a strong Roman Catholic country, where the people are not only not in favour of abortion but are very strongly against it. There is a danger of an American Serviceman who has an illicit association with a woman in the country concerned paying the cost of bringing that lady to this country in order to have an abortion under the auspices of the Bill when she would not be able to do so in her own country.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Essex South East

Or in the United States.

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

Or in the United States. I cannot think that it would do our international relations any good if the Italians or the Germans felt that we were circumventing their law—

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. The observation that the hon. Member is making would be more appropriate on Amendment No. 43.

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

It is the question of a relevant association.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

It is a question of what would be the position in respect of the laws of different countries, and that question arises on Amendment No. 43.

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

It probably arises on Amendment No. 43, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but, with respect, we are debating a relevant association with the visiting forces. This is relevant association—

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. The hon. Gentleman is discussing what might happen under the laws of different countries. This is relevant not to this Amendment, but to No. 43.

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

I am concerned with laws which would enable people to get an abortion here which they could not get in their own country—

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds South East

The hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension. We are not talking of National Health Service hospitals, but of those run and paid for by the visiting forces. Thus, no one would be brought over for an abortion in a National Health Service hospital.

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

I never thought so, but if a soldier returned from abroad with someone, that would be relevant—

Photo of Dr Michael Winstanley Dr Michael Winstanley , Cheadle

Without the Clause, a visitor would still be entitled to a medical termination. We are discussing—

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. We cannot debate what would happen without the Clause, but only the effects with it.

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

That appears to make most of Clause 3 irrelevant.

Photo of Dr Michael Winstanley Dr Michael Winstanley , Cheadle

Clause 3 applies to what might happen in hospitals under the visiting forces and not N.H.S. hospitals.

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

Few abortions would take place in National Health Service hospitals anyway, because of the pressure on them. We are debating whether abortion is legal in a particular part of the world. We are opening a door which could cause us diplomatic embarrassment. It is unnecessary and should not be done.

Photo of Mr Angus Maude Mr Angus Maude , Stratford-on-Avon

I was bewildered by the right hon. Lady saying that, without the Clause, a visiting forces doctor could be guilty of an offence, but that a British doctor would not. The reason cannot be that he was doing the operation in the wrong place, because the Minister would be able to specify other places than National Health Service hospitals, so it must be because he was not a registered medical practitioner within the meaning of the Bill. Otherwise, I cannot see how an offence could possibly arise if the operation were carried out in good faith by a visiting forces doctor, whether the Clause is in the Bill or not.

7.0 a.m.

Photo of Sir Knox Cunningham Sir Knox Cunningham , South Antrim

Perhaps the right hon. Lady can give some help, since the Law Officers are not present, although this is a legal point. Perhaps she can take advice from her advisers. As I understand, under our criminal law anyone who comes here, whether he happens to be in the American or any other forces, and commits a murder, is liable just as a British subject is liable. There are, however, certain acts which are dealt with outside our jurisdiction—for example visiting forces have their own courts and try their own criminal cases.

In this case, there seems no reason for such a course because, if the doctor is acting as an ordinary practitioner, there seems no reason for taking an unlawful abortion that he may commit out of our jurisdiction. There is no valid reason for the Clause. If it is not in the Bill, exactly the same position will apply. I have listened carefully to the right hon. Lady, but I simply do not see her case.

Photo of Mr Myer Galpern Mr Myer Galpern , Glasgow Shettleston

Two points trouble me on this Clause. First, to which central medical officer or body will a visiting forces doctor have to make his notification? Will he be obliged to send it to the central medical officer of health or will he be in a special position in which he need make no such notification? Will he be required to send notification to the native country of the national involved? If visiting forces doctors were exempt, any statistics we were able to obtain over the years would be grossly inadequate.

Secondly, the B.M.A. has expressed the hope for an Amendment ensuring that medical practitioners involved have the necessary qualifications. Would it not be better if no permission to carry out these operations were given to medical officers of military hospitals in this country and if all individuals seeking an abortion had to go to civilian registered medical practitioners? Otherwise, how will any prosecution institute action against a military medical officer who has not conformed to the conditions laid down in the Bill?

Who will supervise and ascertain the facts? Why should he be exempt from conforming strictly—and, in spite of our opposition to the Bill, we recognise that there are strict, narrow confines within which a medical officer may decide that a pregnant woman should be aborted. I fail to see how we shall supervise medical officers in military hospitals to see that they conform to the same conditions as those to which our medical officers will conform. The solution would be not to allow medical officers in a military hospital to carry out abortions and that the matter should be referred to two medical practitioners normally practising in this country.

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

I am anxious that we should make as rapid progress as possible. I put forward the Amendment as a probing Amendment in order to facilitate a statement, I hoped, from a Law Officer. In fact, we have had it from the Minister of State, Home Office, and we are grateful to her, although she has not totally satisfied us. She has spoken with her usual lucidity, but she is not a lawyer, and this is essentially a Clause which needs a legal statement. But the substance of the debate should take place on the following Amendment, and, therefore, to facilitate progress, I propose in due course to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment. It has served its purpose.

Before doing so, I would point out to the right hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), who is not in his place, that according to various newspapers he has accused me of organising a filibuster during our discussions. If the opponents of the Bill were trying to organise a filibuster, this would be an ideal opportunity for them to do so, because this is a long and complicated Clause occupying almost half of the Bill and we could go on discussing it for hours. That will be an answer to the right hon. Gentleman who, in this respect, has abandoned his normal judicial calm and has become so partisan. Having said that, I hope that I may have the leave of the House to withdraw—

Photo of Mr John Temple Mr John Temple , City of Chester

Before he sits down, my hon. Friend should recall that there has been an interesting interrogatory speech by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern). I feel that before my hon. Friend withdraws his Amendment the Minister of State should reply to her hon. Friend, who asked some pertinent questions.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. I understand that the hon. Member who moved the Amendment is asking leave to withdraw it. I appreciate that questions have been asked. Some of the matters which are relevant can more appropriately be raised on subsequent Amendments. It seemed to me that that might meet the convenience of the House. I appreciate that there were questions to the Minister of State which may need reply, but they could be raised on subsequent Amendments.

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

On a point of order. It is within the recollection of the House that early in his speech my hon. Friend said that later he would ask leave to withdraw the Amendment. I do not think that he wishes to withdraw it at the moment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) cannot make three speeches on his Amendment. Am I right that he is asking to withdraw his Amendment?

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

That was my intention, but it is obviously a matter on which I must take the sense of the House. I thought that the House would wish to proceed to another Amendment. It is clear that there are a number of hon. Members—

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. Is the hon. Member asking for leave to withdraw his Amendment?

Photo of Mr Charles Pannell Mr Charles Pannell , Leeds West

On a point of order. You may recall, Mr. Deputy Speaker, hat in our last debate the hon. Member or Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) challenged Mr. Speaker that you had entered into a commitment with him that he could reply. In effect, if he is replying to the Amendment he replies now. 'There was no sense in his being called at all unless he was at this stage asking leave to withdraw his Amendment. Are we to have a third speech on this?

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. Let us get this right. I called the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) because I understood from him that he wished to withdraw the Amendment, and he said so. I understand that he has now said that he does not want to withdraw. The hon. Member must make up his mind. He was called because he said that he wanted to withdraw the Amendment. I must ask him again, does he wish to withdraw the Amendment as he said or does he not?

Photo of Mr John Temple Mr John Temple , City of Chester

On a point of order—

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Points of order cannot he raised while I am on my feet.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. The hon. Member must keep his seat. I am speaking. Nobody else can speak while I am speaking. I must ask the hon. Member for Chelmsford to be frank with the House.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. Hon. Members must remain seated while I am addressing the House. The hon. Member fir Chelmsford was called because he told me that he wished to withdraw his Amendment. I must now ask him to be frank with the House and say whether he wishes to withdraw his Amendment or rot.

Photo of Mr John Temple Mr John Temple , City of Chester

On a point of order—

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

No point of order arises until we have dealt with this one.

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

May I explain my position? It was my intention—

Photo of Mr John Temple Mr John Temple , City of Chester

Will my hon. Friend permit me?

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Order. The hon. Member must allow this matter to be dealt with first.

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

It was my intention to withdraw the Amendment, because I wished to facilitate progress. But if hon. Members wish to speak and feel strongly on the matter I feel that I can hardly put myself in the position of closuring them. This puts me in an impossible position. I thought that there was a general consensus on this. As it does not seem to exist, I do not wish to withdraw the Amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

Mr. Sharples.

Photo of Mr John Temple Mr John Temple , City of Chester

Before my hon. Friend sits down—

Mr. Deputy Speaker:

I called Mr. Sharples.

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

I respectfully submit to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that if another hon. Member rises after an hon. Member has sought to withdraw his Amendment the matter must proceed to a Division.

Hon. Members:

No.

Photo of Mr John Temple Mr John Temple , City of Chester

On a point of order. May I explain to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, why I was on my feet a few moments ago? It was because my hon. Friend gave way in his speech and I asked him a question before he sat down. He has not answered it, although he has been on his feet and has had an opportunity to do so. I should be grateful if he could reply to my point.

Photo of Mr Angus Maude Mr Angus Maude , Stratford-on-Avon

On a point of order. Would it not save a great deal of time and trouble if my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) asked leave to withdraw and the House refused it? Then we could get on with the Bill.

7.15 a.m.

Photo of Mr Richard Sharples Mr Richard Sharples , Sutton and Cheam

I hope that the right hon. Lady will seek the leave of the House to reply again. I think that we shall make progress in this way.

Hon. Members on both sides have raised most important issues. As I see it, Clause 3 is only necessary because of the status of the medical practitioner who is a member of one of the visiting forces. I do not myself see the relevance of the position of the woman at all. Whether she is a member of the visiting forces or not it would seem to me she would be treated in exactly the same way as any other woman patient; and equally, the civilian British woman employed by one of the visiting forces either could have the operation in a National Health Service hospital or could have the operation in a hospital provided by the visiting forces. It does not seem to me that the position of the woman herself is relevant at all.

I hope that the right hon. Lady will reply to what I thought was the very important point raised by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern). It would seem to me that, apart from the status of the doctor who is a member of the visiting forces, the Clause is entirely irrelevant, and I would have thought it quite possible for the Home Secretary to reconsider the whole of this question, and to have it re-examined when the Bill is considered in another place, because I do not really see that it is necessary at all. The right hon. Lady said that this was common form, that a Clause of this kind was included in other BillsActs of Parliament. I wonder whether she would tell us in what Acts of Parliament there are Sections of the kind of this Clause. I must say that I am very doubtful whether any such Section has ever been included in an Act. I hope that the right hon. Lady may reply to this.

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds South East

With the leave of the House, perhaps I may answer one or two of the questions which have been put to me. I would have done so sooner had it not been for the procedural difficulties in which we were.

First of all, my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern) asked about notification. Hon. Members will observe that in Clause 3(1) there are the words and as if section 2 were omitted. They mean that there would be no notification for the operations performed in the Service hospitals.

On the general question as to why we need this in, the visiting forces doctor is outside the Bill, because he is not a registered medical practitioner in this country. Therefore, we have to make special provision for the operation to be performed in Service hospitals. Otherwise the operation there would be illegal, when performed in this country, and we would, as I said when I spoke previously, have the position that a doctor of a visiting forces hospital would be performing an operation which it would be illegal for him to perform, but which it would be legal for a registered medical practitioner in this country to perform. We think it totally unfair to leave the visiting forces hospitals in that way.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson:

May I ask a question about visiting doctors? I cannot quite understand the second part of Clause 3(1), because it does not seem to refer to two doctors of a visiting force. Do there have to be two doctors of a visiting force, or is one sufficient, although under our domestic law, in Clause 1, there have to be two doctors?

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds South East

No. The Bill brings the visiting forces into exactly the same position in law as our own doctors will be in.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson:

There must be two?

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds South East

There would have to be two to give an opinion. This brings them into the same position with regard to this Bill as our own doctors will be in.

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds South East

Just a moment. A lot of questions which hon. Members who are raising them could have put in Committee, have been thrown at me.

Mr. Geoffrey Wilson:

I was not a member of the Committee.

Photo of Mr James Dunn Mr James Dunn , Liverpool Kirkdale

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we did not have a chance to discuss this matter in detail in Committee because the discussion was closured?

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds South East

My hon. Friend was one of the few who spoke on this topic in Committee. I do not think that the Closure was adopted on a similar Amendment in Committee. My recollection is that the whole thing was discussed and agreed within a matter of minutes.

The Clause is necessary and we were asked to insert it by the Ministry of Defence so that doctors in Service hospitals in this country are not liable to be prosecuted when performing operations in their hospitals when those operations are legal in civil hospitals.

To answer the question asked by the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharpies), we must scrutinise every Bill to see whether a provision of this kind is necessary. Perhaps I am going back on something I said earlier, but only in a Bill in which something exactly similar applies is it necessary to include this type of provision; but we must examine every Bill to ensure that visiting doctors are in exactly the same position, regarding the law, as doctors generally.

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

Would the right hon. Lady comment on the phrase "relevant association?"

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds South East

I explained that in my original remarks.

Amendment negatived.

Photo of Mr Bill Baker Mr Bill Baker , Banffshire

I beg to move Amendment No. 43, in page 3, line 36, at the end to insert: (3) Nothing in this Act shall authorise the termination of a pregnancy by such a person as is mentioned in subsection 1(c) of this section in circumstances in which such a termination would be the offence against the relevant law of the country of the body of which such a person is a member or with which the pregnant woman has a relevant association. As has been explained, the Clause is covered by the Visiting Forces Act, 1952, and the International Headquarters and Defence Organisation Act, 1964, followed by various Statutory Instruments. The Visiting Forces Act lays down, carefully and exactly, the various things that may happen when visiting forces come to this country.

The hon. Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mrs. Anne Kerr) asked who these visiting forces were. I have with me a list of the countries concerned. They are Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Ghana, Malayan Federation, Cyprus, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Jamaica, Tanzania, Trinidad, and Tobago, Uganda, Kenya Malawi, Zambia, Malta, The Gambia, Guyana, Botswana, Lesotho, Singapore and Barbados. The Visiting Forces and International Headquarters (Application of Law) Order, 1965, in addition, makes provision for the United States, France, Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Turkey, Greece, Denmark, Portugal, Italy and the Federal German Republic.

The relevant point to consider in connection with this Amendment is that it affects a great number of countries. We not only have to bear in mind—

Photo of Mr John Temple Mr John Temple , City of Chester

Can my hon. Friend tell us the position of the United Nations force?

Photo of Mr Bill Baker Mr Bill Baker , Banffshire

The position there is covered quite specifically in the International Headquarters and Defence Organisations Act, 1964, where headquarters is specifically designated as having an allied quantum.

We also have to bear in mind that besides the visiting forces there are under the Act various other people whom we must consider. They are termed the "civilian components." The civilian components may be either male or female. In either case, a civilian component may have a wife or a husband. From there on, things get extremely complicated.

Photo of Mr William Robinson Mr William Robinson , Walthamstow East

I am very interested in the list of visiting forces. Could the hon. Gentleman tell me whether all these visiting forces have hospitals in this country controlled by them?

Photo of Mr Bill Baker Mr Bill Baker , Banffshire

With great respect, I think that that point is immaterial.

Photo of Mr William Robinson Mr William Robinson , Walthamstow East

With great respect, that is the condition under which the Clause operates.

Photo of Mr Bill Baker Mr Bill Baker , Banffshire

We are talking about the operation of the Clause, and not where it is operative.

As I was saying, this provision may apply to females of the civilian component or to the wives of the male members of the civilian component. It may also apply to the wives or dependants in the terms of the Visiting Forces Act

Photo of Mrs Anne Kerr Mrs Anne Kerr , Rochester and Chatham

Can the hon. Gentleman tell us when a human being becomes a component?

Photo of Mr Bill Baker Mr Bill Baker , Banffshire

I must decline to answer that question. I cannot answer it.

We may, therefore, have to consider three categories of female—the wives of the civilian component of a visiting force, the females of the civilian component, and the actual Service women serving with the visiting force.

It is also relevant to point out that this Amendment could, in terms of the Visiting Forces Act, apply to the female dependants, relatives or members of the staff of the military attachés in the embassies of the various countries I have mentioned. It is also relevant to point out, in view of what the sponsor of the Bill said in Committee, that there are a great many forces other than those of the United States concerned in this state of affairs. It is equally relevant to point out that if the Bill is enacted it will be as effective in wartime as in peacetime. Therefore, the problem we have to solve or take care of is by no means negligible.

7.30 a.m.

In effect, Clause 3 is generally to allow abortion if a woman has relevant association. "Relevant association" has been mentioned several times. It is clearly defined in Section 12(2) of the Visiting Forces Act, 1952. There will be only two relaxations in the law if this Bill is enacted. In the first case the treatment can be carried out either by a registered medical practitioner of the United Kingdom or by a registered medical practitioner of the country of the visiting force. I hope that when the right hon. Lady replies she will be able to confirm this.

The other relaxation is that hospital treatment can be carried out in a hospital under the National Health Service or in one controlled by the authorities of the visiting force. It could conceivably happen that treatment would be legal here although it was carried out in a sending country's force hospital although it would be quite illegal in the country of the sending force. The same could apply to the doctor carrying out the treatment. He could quite legally do the job in this country whether in a National Health Service hospital or—possibly in an emergency—in a hospital provided by the sending country of the visiting force.

As a result of the treatment being given, conflicts could easily arise. For example, the person in question might be exempted from criminal prosecution under the laws of the United Kingdom, but liable to criminal prosecution under the laws of the sending country. The Amendment seeks to avoid any such conflict of interest. It provides that treatment must comply both with the law of the United Kingdom and the law of the sending country in relation both to the doctor and the patient. The word "relevant" in the Amendment is for persons covered by the Clause, persons from the sending countries. This is particularly applicable to countries such as the United States of America, Malaysia, Australia and no doubt other countries which have federal constitutions where there may be different state laws affecting the problem of abortion.

I am sorry that there is no Scottish Minister present, because the problem I now wish to pose is in relation to the application of Section 3 of the Visiting Forces Act, and the Schedule to the Act, to Scotland. Section 3 refers to offences against the person and the Schedule says: In the application of the said section 3 to Scotland, the expression 'offence against the person' means any of the following offences, that is to say—(a) murder, culpable homicide, rape, robbery, assault, incest, sodomy, lewd, indecent and libidinous practices, procuring abortion … In the case of a component of a visiting force marrying a Scottish girl, it is conceivable that abortion might be necessary. She would be operated on by the doctor of the visiting force either in a hospital provided under that authority or in a National Health Service hospital. If, by mischance, the girl then dies, it is conceivable under the schedule to the Visiting Forces Act that the husband, although a foreigner, cannot be subject to prosecution because he procured an abortion. That is specifically left out of the Schedule to the Act, but he could bring an action for recklessness and unprofessional conduct on behalf of the doctor who carried out the abortion. That seems to me to be an extremely dangerous state of affairs, but I think that my Amendment will cover that and I hope that the right hon. Lady, when she replies, will answer that question.

Lastly, may I ask what she thinks would be the position of British hospitals working abroad—that is, the reverse of the case I have just postulated?

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds South East

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Banff (Mr. Baker) was quite right in saying that members of a visiting force or headquarters would be covered by the Amendment, and I was myself quite right when I answered my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Miss Anne Kerr) in saying that it applies, in practice, only to United States forces, because only the United States have sufficient forces in this country to establish their own Service hospitals. Obviously, if other countries established such hospitals here, they would he covered by Clause 3 of the Bill. In other words, it covers all countries, but only the United States have hospitals here, and the Clause refers to them.

The Clause allows registered medical practitioners or a doctor of a visiting force or headquarters to perform an abortion that would be lawful under Clause 1(1) in a hospital controlled by the force or headquarters, and on a woman who has a "relevant association " with that force or headquarters. The Amendment is apparently intended to prevent a doctor of such a body from performing an abortion if the circumstances were such as would make it an offence under the law of his own country, or the law of the country if it was different, of the woman on whom he operated.

There are technical difficulties in the Amendment, but I will not go into them because it is better to save the time of he House by dealing with the principle; therefore, I leave the technicalities on one side. The principle of the Amendment is open to objection because if a doctor of a visiting force or headquarters performs in the United Kingdom an abortion that is unlawful in his own country, there is nothing in the Bill to prevent him from being liable' to face criminal proceedings under the law of his own country—and I repeat, under the law of his own country.

Section 2 of the Visiting Forces Act, 1952, provides that the Service courts and Service authorities of a country to which that section applies may, within the United Kingdom, or on board any of Her Majesty's ships or aircraft, exercise over persons subject to their jurisdiction all such powers as are exercisable by them according to the law of that country.

Therefore, if a doctor who was a member of a visiting force in this country performed an abortion that was lawful under the Bill but unlawful by the law applicable to the forces of his own country, there is nothing in the Bill, or in any other provisions, to prevent his being dealt with by his own authorities.

It is one thing for a foreign doctor to remain liable under the law of his own country for conduct in this country. It is quite another to make his liability under our law depend on the law of his own country. By the Amendment a visiting forces doctor might be liable to prosecution in our courts and to face a penalty of life imprisonment for conduct which would not be an offence if performed by a doctor registered in Britain and which might not be an offence if performed here by a doctor attached to a visiting force or headquarters from some other country.

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds South East

I would like to continue. I did not interrupt the hon. Gentleman, although he said some things which might have provoked interruption.

This could create some quite unacceptable difficulties. Further, if the question of proceedings arose, the police in our country, and later the courts, would have to determine whether the alleged conduct would have constituted an offence under the law of some other country. This might be a well-nigh impossible task for our police. Therefore, apart from the defective drafting, I think that the House might consider that the Amendment is unacceptable.

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

In the interests of facilitating progress on the Bill—I hope that this observation will be observed by the right hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), who is not here at the moment—I do not wish to prolong further discussion on the Amendment, which was so brilliantly moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Baker). It has served a double purpose, first of eliciting a number of statements from the Minister of State, some of which will be helpful and some of which are not so helpful. It has shown clearly that on a Clause of this complexity it is not asking too much to say that the Attorney-General should have been present or, if not the Attorney-General, at least the Solicitor-General, to give us some guidance on the meaning of this complicated Clause. Although the right hon. Lady is very gallant, she just does not have the legal qualifications which are undoubtedly needed to explain this sort of Amendment.

I believe, however, that the Amendment would be an improvement. I think that the case for it was made out by my hon. Friend and has not been adequately met in the argument of the right hon. Lady. I must therefore press the Amendment to a Division and I would ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the Amendment in the Lobby.

Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill:—

The House divided: Ayes 40, Noes 117.

Division No 468AYES[7.43 a.m.
Alldritt, WalterHamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Page, Graham (Crosby)
Baker, W. H. K.Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)Pink, R. Bonner
Biggs-Davison, JohnHarvey, Sir Arthur VereRossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Black, Sir CyrilHawkins, PaulSt. John-stevas, Norman
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir LionelSmall, William
Cooper-Key, Sir NeillHutchison, Michael ClarkTaylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)
Cullen, Mrs. AliceKerr> Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)Tinn, James
Cunningham, Sir KnoxKnight, Mrs. JillWard, Dame Irene
Dempsey, JamesLever, L. M. (Ardwick)Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
English, MichaelMcBride, NeilWilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Fortescue, TimMacmillan, Maurice (Farnham)
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugrh(St'fford & Stone)Maddan, MartinTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Galpern, Sir MyerMahon, Peter (Preston, S.)Mr. James A. Dunn and
Grant-Ferris, R.Mahon, Simon (Bootle)Mr. Harold Gurden.
Hamilton, James (Bothwell)Marten, Neil
NOES
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Freeson, ReginaldOwen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)
Archer, PeterGardner, TonyPannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Ashley, JackGordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.Pardoe, John
Astor, JohnGray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)Parker, John (Dagenham)
Bacon, Rt. Hn. AliceHale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Barnett, JoelHamling, WilliamRamsden, Rt. Hn. James
Bessell, PeterHaseldine, NormanReynolds, G. W.
Binns, JohnHerbison, Rt. Hn. MargaretRichard, Ivor
Bishop, E. S.Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. ArthurHoughton, Rt. Hn. DouglasRoberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)
Bradley, TomHowie, W.Robinson, Rt.Hn.Kenneth(St. P'c'as)
Bray, Dr. JeremyHuckfield, L.Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)Ryan, John
Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)Scott, Nicholas
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)Sheldon, Robert
Cant, R. B.Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St. P'cras,S.)Shore, Peter (Stepney)
Carlisle, MarkJenkin, Patrick (Woodford)Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton, N.E.)
Carmichael, NeilJenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Channon, H. P. G.Judd, FrankSilkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Coe, DenisKerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Crawshaw, RichardKerr, Russell (Feltham)Sinclair, Sir George
Davidson, James(Aberdeenshire, W.)Kitson, TimothySpriggs, Leslie
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Dell, EdmundLoughlin, CharlesStrauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Dewar, DonaldLuard, EvanTemple, John M.
Dobson, RayLubbock, EricThomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Dunnett, JackLyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)Varley, Eric G.
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)MacColl, JamesVickers, Dame Joan
Eadie, AlexMacDermot, NiallWainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston)Marquand, DavidWatkins, David (Consett)
Ellis, JohnMaude, AngusWilliams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Ennals, DavidMaxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Ensor, DavidMikardo, IanWinnick, David
Farr, JohnMillan, BruceWinstanley, Dr. M. P.
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)Miller, Dr. M. S.Worsley, Marcus
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)Wyatt, Woodrow
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)Murray, Albert
Forrester, JohnNorwood, ChristopherTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Fowler, GerryOgden, EricMr. John Hunt and
Fraser, John (Norwood)Orme, StanleyMr. Christopher Price.