§ 2. Mrs. Renée Short
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has now completed his study of the representations made to him by the Abortion Law Reform Association; and if he will make a statement.
§ 40. Mr. William Hamilton
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what reply he has sent to the National Union of Townswomen's Guilds' letter to him concerning the problem of the law on abortion; and what progress has now been made in the preparation of legislation to amend the law on the subject.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Miss Alice Bacon)
The reply indicated that my right hon. and learned Friend had, as requested, taken note of the resolution passed by the National Council of this body. On the general question, I have at present nothing to add to the Answer which I gave on 25th March to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) when I said that we were 1790 keeping the matter under review but that we could hold out no prospect of early Government legislation.
§ Mrs. Short
Is my hon. Friend fully seized of the weight of public opinion behind proposals for the reform of this law? Is she aware that a recent poll carried out among doctors in London showed a majority of doctors in favour of reform on the lines suggested by this Association? Is she further aware that a National Opinion Poll, as recently as last March, showed that over 72 per cent. of the population was in favour of reform on the lines proposed by the Association? Will she, therefore, bear in mind that she will have the weight of public opinion behind her if, early in the next Session, she and her right hon. and learned Friend will agree to find time for this humanitarian reform?
§ Miss Bacon
My right hon. and learned Friend and I are fully aware of all that my hon. Friend has said. As she knows, we met a deputation from the Abortion Law Reform Association. The Government are of the opinion that as there are divergent views on both sides of the House, this might be a good subject for a Private Member's Bill in the new Session, when the opinion of this House could be tested.
§ Mr. Hamilton
Can my hon. Friend give any good reason why the Government should continue to prevaricate on this issue? Does she not appreciate that we on this side gave support to the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Bill brought forward by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Sydney Silverman), as a Private Member's Bill? Why cannot the same treatment be given to the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Renée Short), since it commands the support of a much greater majority in the country than did that of my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne?
§ Miss Bacon
It is obvious that nothing could be done in this Session, but if any of my hon. Friends, or any Member of this House, were to be lucky in the Ballot, then the Government would have to see what their attitude would be about doing the same as they did in the case 1791 of the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne.