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Mr. Lansley: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that, to complete the picture of the intentions in the 1990 Act, we must consider section 3(3)(d)? In terms of the available technology at the time, it was intended to prohibit the authorisation through licensing of cell nuclear replacement. The potential to develop an embryo in utero from a single cell was not contemplated then. That possibility is now being contemplated.

Dr. Harris: The Government's representations to Mr. Justice Crane on section 3(3)(d) were successful. The applicant would not have won on that basis alone. However, section 3(3)(d) referred to what is described as Warnock cloning: the replacement of a nucleus of an embryo, not an egg, by another cell or nucleus. In 1990, the Dolly method was not in the minds of legislators or experts. Perhaps a few scientists had thought of it then. That is another reason why judges would find it difficult to interpret "embryo" purposively. However, we are getting into the nitty gritty, and it is inappropriate to go much further.

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I ask the Minister to address the appeal in her concluding remarks tonight. In an intervention, I tried to establish the position if the Government win the appeal but the Appeal Court judges give the applicant leave and even encouragement to appeal to the House of Lords. The Government claim that they have received similar encouragement from the judgment because they have been told that they have a strong case to take to the Court of Appeal.

If the Government win the appeal, but the applicant has leave to appeal to the House of Lords, will they wait for the House of Lords to rule, or will they get on with introducing measures to implement the recommendations of the Donaldson report and, if there are any, of the Select Committee? Will they wait until the result of the appeal before clarifying the position because they may not, understandably, want to revert to the subject for a third time?

If, however, the Government lose the appeal, but go to the House of Lords, will they decide to wait another six months or more before legislating to close the remainder of the loophole? There is probably a further stage under the Human Rights Act 1998 for the applicant, if not for the Government. We must be clear about that because many of us who have reservations about the Government's actions anticipate a more rapid conclusion to the matter.

Another problem has been mentioned already. The Bill does not close the entire loophole that the judgment created. All the protections of the embryo that were lost for a cloned embryo have not been restored. They are: protection against exports and subsequent use that would be not be countenanced in this country; implantation in animals; and experimentation beyond 14 days. We must remember and analyse the reasons for the protections in the 1990 Act. The House deemed it appropriate to give embryos special consideration and a status worthy of protection. It is that class of embryos—cloned ones—that lost its protection as a result of the judgment. It is surprising, therefore, that the Government did not attempt, or consult on whether they could make an attempt, to introduce legislation not only to do what this Bill does within its limited ambit, which it does quite well, but to introduce further protections.

As the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) said—the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Miss Begg) also touched on this in her speech, which was, once again, clear and helpful—it should have been conceivable to reverse the effect of the judgment by amending the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. In conversations with people who say that they know, I have been told that that is an extensive job, although it is hard to understand why when one reads the Act because the judgment is limited to one or two clauses. It would help hon. Members if the Minister placed in the Library a note describing the other sections and schedules of the Act that would have to be amended were that approach taken. Her argument is not convincing without seeing the extent of the change that would be necessary.

The main problem is that because the Government have produced a limited measure, it looks as though they have introduced it to protect themselves from embarrassment by Italian mavericks rather than to protect embryos, which

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deserve protection because of their special status. Those of us who defended the Government's position on therapeutic cloning by recognising that the 14-day limit and the ban on the implantation into animals were important safeguards feel undermined by their decision to close only some of the loopholes.

We also need to consider further legislation, which was dealt with to an extent by the hon. Member for Woodspring. Some of the recommendations of the Donaldson committee report may require primary legislation, specifically to beef up the consent provisions, which in part relate to the consent of the donor of the nucleus that provides the DNA in cloning technologies. We also have to consider what regulation and bodies, if any, are necessary to regulate stem cell lines derived from embryo research.

The Donaldson committee also recommended banning the mixing of adult cells and live egg cells from animals, which is already being researched outside this country. Perhaps the Minister will consider doing something about that. In addition, the Government tried to get a private Member's Bill on to the statute book to deal with the Blood case at the very end of the last Session. They were unsuccessful, partly because there was not enough time to discuss it. The Government will have to tackle those problems.

The Government's defence of their approach is that they wanted to introduce such a measure at an early stage, but it is clear that they are now responding outwith their preferred timetable. It would help hon. Members who have sympathy with the Government's position but concerns about procedure if they could be clearer about their plans for future legislation.

I endorse what the hon. Member for Woodspring said: we need better scrutiny. He thought that an approach, such as that taken towards the Adoption and Children Bill, might help. I assume that he meant referring the legislation to a Special Standing Committee rather than letting it run out of time before a general election. It might be appropriate, even before the appeal is heard, to produce a draft Bill so that we can see what direction the Government are taking. Further legislation will be required and they should provide information on what changes we can expect, whether they win or lose the appeal.

4.59 pm

Dr. Ian Gibson (Norwich, North): A rather arrogant Cambridge molecular biologist, following the discovery of the DNA genetic code in 1960, said:


There is an element of that in the debate on cloning a human being. Attempting to achieve the birth of a person who, at least in theory, has the same genetic make-up as another person, dead or alive, is a reflection of an arrogant position.

As I said in a recent Adjournment debate, it is an unsafe and unethical science. The technology that led to Dolly the sheep was unsuccessful in 277 previous cases. Imagine the trauma if that were to happen with humans. It is not only irreconcilable with the ethics of society as a whole, but with the ethics of good science and good medicine, to subject women and their children to those odds. The technology is immature and imprecise. In animals, it has led to lethargy, obesity, arthritic

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conditions, failed sexual prowess, miscarriages, abortions, still births and genetically defective offspring. It is a dangerous science.

Mr. Ian Taylor: I endorse what the hon. Gentleman says about the science being a dangerous and unsafe way of cloning for humans. The Advanced Cell Technology company's research of the last few days in the United States involved significantly high numbers of failures in early attempts at cloning. That has not been taken into account, with the press saying that we are about to be able to clone human beings.

Dr. Gibson: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention.

I have no doubt that in the fullness of time somebody will want to carry out the process. As science moves on, ambitious people will want to do that. There is the hope of making a person who has the same genetics as somebody else. That is a person who might look, feel or even behave in exactly the same way as the person contributing the DNA.

Dr. Howard Stoate (Dartford): Notwithstanding my hon. Friend's points about the science being immature and wholly untested, does he agree that even if the science were to improve and if we were able to implement it, it would still be the wrong thing to do?

Dr. Gibson: I agree. I shall come on to ethics and morality, despite the scientific prowess of those who might be involved.

I thought that I could hear the call from a football ground not far from the constituency of my hon. Friend the Minister: "There's only one David Beckham." If the technique that we are discussing were to arrive on the scene, there would be two David Beckhams. That might satisfy the current manager. I envisage many people imagining and talking about that.

My view is that there will never be an exact replica. The environmental effects on gene activity and interaction are unknown entities. There are even differences between identical twins that are spottable. However, we are asked whether it can be done, and many reasons will be put forward to persuade others that the science can be achieved, not least by charlatans like the Italian professor, Antinori.

Many people say that in 1990 the technology used to produce Dolly the sheep was not contemplated, but it had been tried and tested in animals in the 1960s. The science had been carried out with frogs at Indiana university and by John Gurdon at Oxford university. It had also been carried out with insects. In laboratories throughout the world people asked—of course they did, it is in the nature of science to do so—"Would it work in human beings?" That is what science is all about.

Current Nobel prize winners in Britain, Paul Nurse and Tim Hunt, asked, "If we worked in a lower organism like yeast, would that have any implications for our knowledge of cancer?" No wonder they received a Nobel prize. That seeking after an understanding of genes and how they work led to discovery. As I have said, to ask such questions is the nature of science. The question whether it would be possible to use the science for humans was

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certainly asked in the 1960s. There are real lessons for legislators in our efforts to keep up with scientific progress.

About a year ago, we debated here and elsewhere the science, the practicalities and the morality of stem cell research, using cell nuclear replacement, which is also called therapeutic cloning. The Opposition sought to confuse the issue by embroiling us in a nonsensical debate about adult stem cells or embryonic stem cells, but the Government achieved a vast majority in both Houses in favour of therapeutic cloning.

The argument was that we needed to undertake both adult and embryonic stem cell research to bring about a deeper understanding of how to take forward the creation of tissues that might be helpful for various diseases. Therapeutic cloning, in my opinion, will never seek to create an individual human being. It seeks to create cells and tissues that might one day be used for the treatment of severe, chronic and degenerative diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Everyone who accepts that there is a difference between people and embryos at the first stages of development—embryos are pin size, consisting of 16 cells—must accept that there is a moral difference between so-called therapeutic and reproductive cloning.

I know that there are some who say that a very early embryo and a live birth should have the same moral status. This week, I had an altercation with a religious source on BBC Radio Scotland. It was in the middle of a game with a parliamentary football team at the Charlton stadium. I managed to extricate myself from the match to have a vicious argument. He argued that it has been shown scientifically that early embryos and people are morally the same. We know that a minority take that position in the House and other places but that has not been reflected in the laws of this country. My opponent's view contradicts our laws on contraception and abortion and the 1990 Act itself. The court action of the minority, which we have heard about today, is part of a plan to stop the cloning of human embryonic cells for whatever purpose, including promising research, and undermine embryo research in general; it is part of a continued attack on abortion rights. Ironically and sadly, the minority's court action has achieved the opposite of their aim. The cloned embryo is less protected now than it was before the decision of Mr. Justice Crane.

The Government rightly reject the proclaimed aim of the so-called pro-life lobby to ban promising and tightly regulated research on embryos. They are appealing against the decision this month and I hope, if the appeal is successful—we should all back it, no matter where we stand on the issue—embryos created through cell nuclear replacement will be protected and regulated by the 1990 Act and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, just like embryos created through fertilisation involving sperm and egg. If the appeal fails, I am assured by Lord Hunt in another place and the Minister that the Government will not hesitate to follow up this narrow and precise Bill with a more comprehensive legislative response to the challenges created by the rapid advances

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in the science of embryo research. The 1990 Act will then be extended to embryos created by means other than fertilisation of an egg with a sperm cell.


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