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Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): The Minister listened to the earlier debate, and knows of concern in the House about the speed with which the Bill is being passed. Can she give a categorical undertaking that, if the Government lose the appeal to which she has referred and further legislation is called for, that legislation will not be rushed through in the same way?

Ms Blears: If the Government lost the appeal, a series of issues—many of which Members have mentioned today—would need to be considered. Another likely factor is the report of the House of Lords Stem Cell Research Committee that has been examining a range of matters. We may not be able to deal with both those things until January or February next year. We shall need to consider the issues very carefully, especially if there are

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areas of unregulated activity in what is admittedly an extremely important and sensitive moral, ethical and political issue.

Andy King (Rugby and Kenilworth): We all welcome the Government's attempt to plug the gap. I do not think that a single Member present would say "I am in favour of human cloning". Our concern, I feel, relates to ensuring that we get this right.

The Bill may be straightforward, but some of us think that it does not go far enough. I welcome the Minister's confirmation that, if we fail to win the appeal, we are committed to revisiting the issue and ensuring that legislation is in place to stop the harvesting and the use of that dreadful technology to subvert current legislation.

I have no problem with—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. The hon. Gentleman has been in this place long enough to know that he cannot make a statement in an intervention; he must put a brief question. I think that enough has been heard.

Ms Blears: As I said, I am trying to ensure that United Kingdom law reflects—

Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone and The Weald): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Blears: I shall when I have managed to complete a sentence.

We are trying to ensure that UK law adequately reflects what Parliament has tried to achieve. The Bill's purpose, therefore, is to enable us to ban human reproductive cloning, for which I think that there is broad support, and to look at the issues, depending on the outcome of the legal process.

Miss Widdecombe: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way. I tried to intervene earlier because I did not want to lose the answer given to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack). His question was not whether there will be issues to be discussed—there are issues today to be discussed—but was very specific. He asked the Minister to give a cast-iron guarantee that if we have to discuss those issues further because the Government lose the appeal or for another reason, a proper structured consideration will take place with proper standard time between the various stages of any consequent Bill. That is the question.

Ms Blears: I assure the right hon. Lady that there will be full and proper discussion and consideration. These are very important and sensitive matters that are important to the whole community.

Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon): The key issue that I should like the Minister to address is what the Government will do if they lose the appeal. Is she saying that if they lose, they will not appeal to the House of Lords, but legislate? What will happen if the Government win and the other side appeals to the House

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of Lords? If there are further appeals that continue to reverse the judgment, the unclosed loophole may long remain a no man's land.

Ms Blears: I am keen to avoid getting into that position. There is clearly tension in the issue; some people say that it is urgent and that we should debate it next week while others say that we should wait until we see all the implications once the result of the appeal is known. It would be wrong of me to say that I can anticipate the contents of the Court of Appeal decision. We want to see that judgment before deciding whether it is appropriate to appeal to the House of Lords. If the Government win the appeal, the other side may wish to appeal; I certainly cannot comment on its possible decision. However, we shall seek to expedite the legal process and make our decisions as quickly as we possibly can. We recognise the issue's importance and urgency.

Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate): Does not my hon. Friend find it ironic that Opposition Members spent more than two hours castigating the Government for affording insufficient time to examine a very small and tightly focused Bill but are now attempting to bounce the Government into making a commitment based on the hypothetical result of a case that is yet to be heard?

Ms Blears: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I think that we need to try to make some progress on the substantive matters in the Bill.

Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire): As someone who sat through the previous debate without contributing to it because I wanted to get on to the substance of the issue, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way now. I must press her, however, to return to of the implantation of a cloned human embryo in an animal or artificial womb. She seemed to suggest in an earlier reply that the Bill would create seamless provision should the appeal be lost, but it would not do that because another loophole would arise: the implantation of a cloned embryo not in a woman but elsewhere. How do the Government intend to deal with that gap in the legislation?

Ms Blears: I have made it clear that, should the appeal fail, the Government will have to return to a number of issues—not only that raised by the hon. Gentleman—to ensure that all such activity is properly regulated in a legal framework. We are seeking in this legislation to address the most important issue for Parliament and the public: a ban on human reproductive cloning. I acknowledge that the other issues are important, but they will have to be addressed in the light of the legal judgment and the House of Lords Select Committee report. We can then ensure that the legislation that we pass is robust and properly grounded and addresses the issues that are causing concern.

Sir Patrick Cormack: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I apologise to you and to the Minister for making this point of order, but I think that it might help the House. Could you make it plain that we will have an opportunity to vote on the reasoned amendment at the end of this debate?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I did not, it is true, announce that at the beginning of the debate but was

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going to do so when the Minister finished speaking. Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh). That job is now done; thank you.

Ms Blears: I shall try to make some progress.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Blears: No, I shall try to make some progress.

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Blears: No, I am not giving way now.

The Bill's purpose is to ban human reproductive cloning by the placing in a woman of an embryo that has been created in any way other than by fertilisation. I should say a little about the background including the judicial review brought by the ProLife Alliance.

The judicial review challenged the Government's view that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 governed all embryos—those created by cell nuclear replacement as well as those created by fertilisation. As hon. Members will know, the High Court decided in its judgment of 15 November—just two weeks ago—that cell nuclear replacement embryos were not governed by the 1990 Act. I shall deal later with the judgment's effect and some of the concerns that have been expressed about the Bill.

I am not sure that I need to set out a short history of the subject as hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber seem to have a full, in-depth grasp of the issue and the current position.

Mr. Redwood: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Blears: No, I shall press on a wee bit.

Hon. Members will know that we had various inquiries, White Papers, Green Papers and legislation before the passage of the 1990 Act. That legislation has lasted us for more than 10 years and provides one of the world's most comprehensive systems of control on the use of embryos in treatment and research.

The Warnock committee considered cloning, although in the 1980s and early 1990s the science had not developed as it has today. The committee recognised that there would be such developments and discussed the possibility of reproductive and, indeed, therapeutic cloning. Its conclusion on those issues was that

That concern is widely shared today.

In February 1997, the news of the birth of Dolly the sheep showed for the first time that embryos could be created by the process of cell nuclear replacement that would lead to a live birth in a mammal. It involved replacing the nucleus of an egg—which contains almost all the genetic material—with nucleus taken from an adult cell. The implications of the technique for humans were discussed in the March 1997 report of the Science and Technology Committee, which recorded the fact that the

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Government and the HFEA were seeking counsel's advice on whether embryos created by cell nuclear replacement would be governed by the 1990 Act.

The problem with the 1990 Act is that it says, among other things, that embryos governed by the Act are

The process of cell nuclear replacement, which leads in the normal way to a birth, clearly does not involve fertilisation. Our advice from counsel was that, if challenged, the courts would look at the purpose of the Act—that is, to regulate the creation and use of embryos—rather than look literally at the words used.

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