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8 pm

I make that point without any feeling of crushing certainty. No one has bothered to refer to it, but at one stage in my parliamentary career 20 years ago I argued this case from another point of view. I realise that this is a matter of judgment and that we must consider the balance of the argument. The Government have come to the view that the decision taken in 1967 was right. The fact that, even now, there are differences in social approach and medical practice in different parts of the county is not a justification for having different criteria and different tests within the legislative framework.

The 1996 statistics showed that in England 28 per cent. of terminations were in the private sector and purchased, whereas in Scotland the figure was 1 per cent. I strongly defend and welcome that difference between Scotland and

31 Mar 1998 : Column 1108

England. The views and work of Professor Baird in Aberdeen in the 1950s and 1960s have also been mentioned.

We should not easily countenance the prospect of different medical and social tests and a different statutory framework. On balance, I have concluded that it would be better to have one statutory framework. The Bill is based on a division of responsibility. Hon. Members have proposed amendments and have argued that there should be a change of mind on an individual matter. People are entitled to do that again on the abortion issue. We consider each case on its merits, and I take the view that on this matter it is better to have a national framework and a common approach.

It is perfectly proper for hon. Members to say, "What about Northern Ireland?" I do not want to plunge into the sad history of events in Northern Ireland, but it is clear that we have made a distinction between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom for a multiplicity of pressing political and other reasons. There is no case for saying that, because Northern Ireland is different, we should countenance the possibility of differences between the law on abortion in England and Scotland.

I rely on the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Ms Osborne). There is considerable traffic out of the Irish Republic and out of Northern Ireland into the rest of the United Kingdom. In 1995, 1,548 came from Northern Ireland and 4,531 from the Irish Republic. That shows a steady pattern, and not a sudden variation at this later stage. We must consider the possibility of a significant variation in the law on abortion when making a judgment about where the jurisdiction should lie, because there would be a danger of significant cross-border traffic, which would not be sensible or satisfying.

Dr. Fox: That is the root of the problem. Why does the Secretary of State find it unacceptable to have a variation in the criteria for abortion within Great Britain, but acceptable to devolve the power to determine the position on euthanasia in Scotland? What is the difference in principle between the two issues?

Mr. Dewar: It is not a matter of principle, and it is not a matter that I was asked to address. Let me explain what I mean by that. It was suggested to me that I had no confidence in the competence of Members of the Scottish Parliament to make these decisions. I have every confidence in their competence: the question is whether they should have the competence. That is an important distinction. In the practical world of medicine and in the social world in which we live, there would be a strong likelihood of cross-border traffic, and we should not contemplate that.

Mr. Salmond: Why should there be a difference between Northern Ireland, where people expect that difference to be acted on, and Scotland, where a substantial difference from the current position would not be expected, as the Secretary of State has conceded? I have heard the Secretary of State argue many cases, and I think that I know which are his and which are not. Did the initiative to take abortion out of the competence of the Scottish Parliament come from him and his Scottish Office Ministers?

Mr. Dewar: I do not suppose that I will be able to convince the hon. Gentleman. There was considerable

31 Mar 1998 : Column 1109

debate with colleagues in the Scottish Office, and we came to the decision that I am now defending. I ask him to accept that.

The law in Northern Ireland is very different, because it is a special case. Abortions are illegal except when necessary to save the life of the mother, or when continuation of the pregnancy would involve risk of serious injury to her physical or mental health. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe) said bluntly that she believes that that is not the right approach. That is a matter of dispute and debate, and there will be many different opinions in the House. The special social and political situation in Northern Ireland is not a reason for contemplating further differences in the United Kingdom in this sensitive area. That is the basis of my case.

There will be Scottish representation at Westminster, and Scottish Members will have a free vote on any private Member's Bill. They will have their say, and their argument will no doubt be put fairly. There will be a provision for consultation between the Scottish Executive and the British Government. It will always be a free vote, but consultation will have a place and will be of some value.

Mr. Wallace: The Secretary of State has placed much emphasis on the undesirability of cross-border traffic. We are all agreed that, if abortion were to be a devolved matter, we do not know whether it would lead to a relaxation or a tightening of the law, so we do not know which way the cross-border traffic would flow. Does he accept that that important factor, along with others, would be taken into consideration by Scottish parliamentarians? They should at least be given the opportunity to do that.

Mr. Dewar: Yes, I agree that that factor should be taken into account, and I am sure that it would be. I have listened to the speeches of Conservative Members for eight long days. We have often been told that we must assume that certain possibilities might occur. If we are asked to change the jurisdiction, we must make such assumptions and reach a conclusion accordingly. I have reached a balanced conclusion, and I shall hold to it.

The argument falls in favour of the position that we established in 1967, and which we have maintained ever since. Throughout the United Kingdom, common criteria and common conditions must be met before a termination can take place. I am genuinely sorry that the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox), who feels strongly about this matter, took it upon himself to say during his speech--so there was no ambiguity--that the attitude of the Government was conditioned by cowardice. That was an unfortunate thing to say. The fact that the hon. Gentleman disagrees with me, and I with him, does not mean that I would ever accuse him of cowardice. I regard him as a somewhat impetuous figure, but certainly not as a coward.

If that had not been the case, it might have occurred to the hon. Gentleman that the easy option was to go in the other direction. I do not suppose that he will stand up and tell me that, and I am not inviting him to do so; but, if we had gone in the other direction, we would have been under attack from the Liberal Democrats, the nationalists and the Tories. We took a principled stand, however. We argued it out. We considered that, in all the circumstances, my argument was right, and I invite the Committee to stand by me now.

Dr. Fox: The Secretary of State's performance was one of the least effective defences that he has given in our

31 Mar 1998 : Column 1110

debates on the Bill. We have asked for detailed reasons for the reservation; we have asked whether it involves a different ethical issue from those involving, for instance, euthanasia, but we have been given no answer. We have asked how Scotland differs from Northern Ireland in this respect, but again we have been given no answer.

It being three hours and thirty minutes after the commencement of proceedings in Committee, The Chairman, pursuant to the Order [13 January] and the Resolution [30 March], put the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that hour.

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The Committee divided: Ayes 160, Noes 278.

Division No. 235
[8.10 pm


AYES


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Allan, Richard
Amess, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baker, Norman
Baldry, Tony
Ballard, Mrs Jackie
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Beresford, Sir Paul
Body, Sir Richard
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Brady, Graham
Brand, Dr Peter
Brazier, Julian
Breed, Colin
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Burnett, John
Burns, Simon
Butterfill, John
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)
Canavan, Dennis
Cash, William
Chidgey, David
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
(Rushcliffe)
Collins, Tim
Colvin, Michael
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cotter, Brian
Cunningham, Ms Roseanna
(Perth)
Curry, Rt Hon David
Dafis, Cynog
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Day, Stephen
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, Iain
Evans, Nigel
Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Faber, David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Fearn, Ronnie
Flight, Howard
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Foster, Don (Bath)
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Goodlad, Rt Hon Sir Alastair
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gorrie, Donald
Gray, James
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Harris, Dr Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Horam, John
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson Smith,
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Keetch, Paul
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kirkwood, Archy
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Livsey, Richard
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
McAvoy, Thomas
McFall, John
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
MacKay, Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
McNamara, Kevin
May, Mrs Theresa
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Moore, Michael
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Moss, Malcolm
Norman, Archie
Oaten, Mark
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Rendel, David
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Ruffley, David
St Aubyn, Nick
Salmond, Alex
Sanders, Adrian
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Desmond
Swinney, John
Syms, Robert
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Trend, Michael
Tyler, Paul
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Wallace, James
Walter, Robert
Wardle, Charles
Wells, Bowen
Welsh, Andrew
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Willis, Phil
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:


Mr. Oliver Heald and
Mr. Nigel Waterson.


NOES


Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Boateng, Paul
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Byers, Stephen
Caborn, Richard
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Cann, Jamie
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chisholm, Malcolm
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Ms Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cummings, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Dewar, Rt Hon Donald
Dismore, Andrew
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Drew, David
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Etherington, Bill
Fatchett, Derek
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Forsythe, Clifford
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foulkes, George
Fyfe, Maria
Galbraith, Sam
Galloway, George
Gardiner, Barry
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Grogan, John
Gunnell, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Harris, Dr Evan
Healey, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hill, Keith
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Home Robertson, John
Hood, Jimmy
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Ms Tessa
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Kelly, Ms Ruth
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kingham, Ms Tess
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Linton, Martin
Love, Andrew
McAllion, John
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
McLeish, Henry
McNamara, Kevin
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Martlew, Eric
Meale, Alan
Michael, Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)
Mudie, George
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Perham, Ms Linda
Pike, Peter L
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Ms Joyce
Radice, Giles
Rapson, Syd
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rogers, Allan
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Ms Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mohammad
Sawford, Phil
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
(Dewsbury)
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wise, Audrey
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wray, James
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:


Mr. Jim Dowd and
Jane Kennedy.

Question accordingly negatived.

31 Mar 1998 : Column 1113

Amendments made: No. 555, in page 75, line 17, after '1968', insert


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