of the motion on abortion which was carried at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference, (Catholic Herald, September 26).
I must make it clear that it has no effect or implication whatsoever on the votes or attitudes of Liberal Democrat Members of Parliament, since the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party treats this issue as a matter of conscience on which there is no Party line.
Those of us who choose to vote on the basis of support for the rights of the unborn child will continue to do so.
The motion itself was limited in its scope; it re-asserted the rights of conscience of MPs and Party members as well as the right not to take part in abortions, of those working in the Health Service (and by implication extended those rights to nonmedical staff).
It proposed no change in the legal restraints on abortion. However, it would have required doctors objecting to abortion to refer patients seeking an abortion to doctors taking a different view, and the pressure for equal access could, in my view, threaten the careers of pro-life medical staff in some area.
Many of us opposed it. partly for those reasons and partly because we saw no place for abortion policies, however limited, in the Party policies of any Party. On the latter point, we had the support of people who take a very different view of the issue, like Sir David Steel.
David Alton's personal decision not to stand as a Liberal Democrat at the next election is a source of enormous sadness to many of us; he has been without equal in his work for the pro-life campaign and in his remarkable success in building up the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool and in many other parts of the country; he has been, and remains, a great campaigner for many causes I hold dear.
But there are still very many people in the Liberal Democrats who support the pro-life campaign, and many have already assured me of their determination to do so as active Liberal Democrats.
They will find that their right to make a pro-life line is tar less likely to be challenged than has been the case in some other Parties and movements.
Rt Hon Alan Beith MP House of Commons