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2012 Olympic Games (Budget)

3. Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): What is her most recent estimate of the budget for the 2012 Olympic Games. [Official Report, 2 June 2008, Vol. 476, c. 8MC.] [204432]

The Minister for the Olympics: In March 2007, I announced a funding package of £9.325 billion for the Olympic games. That has not changed, and I confirmed to the House earlier this year that the budget for the Olympic Delivery Authority remained the same, with £2 billion of contingency funds untouched. In January this year, we published the scope of what would be delivered from the funding package.

Mr. Carmichael: The Public Accounts Committee reported recently that there were foreseeable costs that had been omitted from the original Olympic budget. That is, of course, the same budget that Ken Livingstone agreed had been a con trick. What confidence can we have in the current figures that the Minister has just given the House? Will there be an element of independent scrutiny, so that we can all be assured that the budget has been properly handled?

Tessa Jowell: First, there is independent scrutiny, quite apart from regular scrutiny by this House. I invited the National Audit Office to provide continuing advice on value for money, and in due course a proper reply to the Public Accounts Committee will be provided. The increase in security, for instance, in the wake of the 7/7
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attacks in London could not in fairness be regarded as a foreseeable cost. VAT and contingency are the other two costs, but the fact is that the budget is now on a secure footing, as is testified by the NAO.

Mrs. Iris Robinson (Strangford) (DUP): Can the Minister say what proportion of the budget is earmarked for Northern Ireland? [Official Report, 2 June 2008, Vol. 476, c. 8MC.]

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Tessa Jowell: The budget is not apportioned regionally, but the opportunities for hosting training camps and volunteers, and particularly the opportunity to take up the some 750,000 contracts that will be let during the development of the Olympic park and the preparations for the Olympics, mean that, as is the case with Wales and Scotland, Northern Ireland businesses should benefit. The CompeteFor network is designed to ensure that they do so.

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Orders of the Day

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill

[Relevant documents: First Report from the Joint Committee on the Human Tissue and Embryos (Draft) Bill, Session 2006-07, HC 630, and the Government response, Cm 7209.

Twelfth Report from the Science and Technology Committee, on Scientific Developments relating to the Abortion Act 1967, Session 2006-07, HC 1045-I and the Government response, Cm 7278; and the Fifth Report from the Committee, on Government Proposals for the Regulation of Hybrid and Chimera Embryos, Session 2006-07, HC 272-I, and the Government response, Cm 7139.

Fifteenth Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights, on Legislative Scrutiny, Session 2007-08, HC 440, and the letters from the Minister of State (Public Health) of 1st May 2008 and the National Gamete Donation Trust of 22nd 2008.]

Order for Second Reading read.

3.36 pm

The Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

When Louise Brown, the world’s first test-tube baby, was born in England 30 years ago, her birth heralded a major breakthrough in fertility research, pioneered by British scientists. The advent of in vitro fertilisation—the creation of embryos in a laboratory—also raised important ethical questions that demanded sensitive and lengthy consideration. In 1982, Baroness Warnock was asked by the Government to chair an inquiry to consider some of these questions. In 1984, the report of her Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology was published. After extensive consultation and debate, this led to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990.

That landmark legislation laid down legal limits on the use of embryos, and ensured that all IVF treatment and research involving embryos was properly licensed by a body independent of both Government and scientists. Thus the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority was created, the first such authority anywhere in the world. It has attracted international respect and admiration, not just for the important work it does but for the way in which that work is carried out.

I believe that the 1990 Act and the process that led to it showed Parliament at its best. Baroness Warnock stated at the time:

Parliament’s objective has always been to support scientific advances that benefit patients and their families, through a clear legal, moral and ethical framework that provides proper controls and safeguards and reflects the concerns that many people have about research involving stem cells and embryology.

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Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher and Walton) (Con): As the Minister who in 1997 authorised the funding of the research that led to the cloning of Dolly the sheep and, almost the same day that that was announced, set up the human genetics advisory board, may I say to the Secretary of State that what he is proposing in this Bill on stem cell research is absolutely right? The fact that Professor Wilmut, who was involved in the Roslin Institute at the time of Dolly the sheep, is now saying we can move on to adult stem cell research does not mean that he or someone else does not need to continue to conduct embryo research so that we can look for a better quality of life for people suffering from terrible wasting diseases.

Alan Johnson: The hon. Gentleman is right, and I commend him on his part in this; indeed, his Secretary of State at the time, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), and many others in all parts of the House played an important part in the development of this policy.

Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab): Is not one of the very important changes from any other consideration that we have given this issue the fact that the Government will, on this occasion, take key clauses in a Committee of the whole House, so that those of us who generally support many of the measures in the Bill can voice any disquiet that we have specifically about those clauses rather than in respect of the general direction of Government policy?

Alan Johnson: I thank my right hon. Friend for that intervention, which I believe is helpful: there was an element of surprise in my voice then! It is important to hold the debate on some of the most sensitive issues on the Floor of the House rather than in the Committee corridor, so that all Members can participate. That is consistent with the approach taken when the 1990 Act was introduced, when a great deal of effort was made to ensure that the argument was not a partisan one and that people who had deeply held views and beliefs, both ethical and religious, had the chance to contribute.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe) (Con): The Secretary of State says that he likes the way in which the 1990 Act was handled; large parts of that Bill were taken on the Floor of the House at the Committee stage. The difference on that occasion was that every Member of the House was given a free vote on all issues that they perceived to be ethical, at any stage. Ministers were included in that arrangement. They made it clear in their speeches both when they were speaking on behalf of the Government and when they were giving their own ethical judgments, and Ministers were divided on some Divisions because their ethical judgments varied. Are the Government going to allow that kind of full expression of parliamentary opinion on this occasion?

Alan Johnson: I commend the right hon. and learned Gentleman on how that Bill was handled. It would not then have been simply the role of the Secretary of State to decide how the process worked, and it is not simply my role to decide how it works on this occasion. I believe that there is a difference between that pioneering Bill, which established this legislation for the first time, and the situation 18 years on. We believe
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that some elements of this Bill require exactly the same completely free vote for Ministers and others, but that the Bill itself—a flagship Government Bill, in respect of which we are building on a precedent that has gone on for 18 years—should be whipped on Second and Third Reading. That is based on the fact that Members who have a concern about some of the more difficult issues will get the chance to vote on them, because, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) points out, we are taking some of the Committee stage on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (LD): The Secretary of State said that Baroness Warnock had made it clear that there was a perception of fear, and that the regulator would be tough and would give the public confidence in the new organisation. Can he point to any instance when a scientist or clinician has abused their research or therapeutic licence between 1990 and the present day?

Alan Johnson: I am not aware of any such problem, and I have talked to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority recently and I do not think that it is, either. May I commend the hon. Gentleman on his work in chairing the Joint Committee of both Houses, which did a splendid job? Indeed, it directed the Government in perhaps different avenues, which protected us from some of the earlier plans that we might have had for the Bill, in particular the merger of the HFEA and the Human Tissue Authority.

Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes) (Con): The Secretary of State says that Third Reading must be whipped. If the contentious issues to which he has referred are still in the Bill then, and are still, therefore, matters of conscience, how can he ask Members on his own side to vote against their consciences on Third Reading? I ask that because I have been considering whether to vote for or against Second Reading, and even whether to abstain. If there is to be a whipped vote on Third Reading, I feel—I hope that my colleagues feel the same—that we will have to vote against on Second Reading tonight.

Alan Johnson: The right hon. Gentleman and his party have every right to decide how they will vote, just as we have every right to decide how we will vote. I believe that it is absolutely right that once every Member of the House has been given the opportunity to decide on the specific issues that we have outlined—the three issues that contain most of the controversy in the Bill—the Bill as a whole, which contains many sensible reforms of varying degrees of controversy, should be whipped. It is right for the Government to do that. This is a flagship Government Bill. The Government want to see it enacted. We think that it is a good Bill that does good things, and that we have dealt with the issue extremely sensitively in respect of our Members.

Geraldine Smith (Morecambe and Lunesdale) (Lab): I fully respect the Government’s position, but equally they should respect the position of Members who, on an issue of conscience, will end up voting against the Government tonight. I will do that with sorrow, but I do not think that it will damage the Government in any
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way, and certainly not in the way that former Cabinet Members writing books about the Government is damaging.

Alan Johnson: My hon. Friend gives me a good opportunity to move on and talk about the Bill.

Mr. David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): The Secretary of State talks about providing the opportunity to consider these important ethical issues, but is it sufficient opportunity when we are given barely three hours to consider the issue of human admixed embryos and barely three hours to consider saviour siblings and the need for a father, as well as all the other schedule 2 matters? Surely that brings Parliament into disrepute, when people outside want us to consider these vital issues clearly and carefully.

Alan Johnson: We will discuss the programme motion after I have finished moving Second Reading.

The purpose of the Bill is to ensure that the 1990 Act is revised to keep pace with new avenues of scientific research and to reflect wider change in our society. As with the 1990 Act, the Bill has been the subject of careful consideration and lengthy consultation involving the public, scientists, faith groups and, of course, Members from both sides of the House and from the other place.

In 2004, following reports by the Science and Technology Committee and the expert group convened by the Government to consider how existing legislation could accommodate and regulate new developments in stem cell research, we announced a review of the 1990 Act. A public consultation then took place in 2005, which led to a White Paper in December 2006. The Bill was then published in draft form for scrutiny by a Joint Committee drawn from both Houses. I am grateful to all the right hon. and hon. Members of this House and noble Lords and Ladies from the other place who have given this Bill the benefit of their expertise, including, of course, Baroness Warnock herself, who continues to keep a close eye on the legislation that she so skilfully instigated.

Patrick Hall (Bedford) (Lab): My right hon. Friend has just outlined the thorough scrutiny, consultation and thought that went into the draft Bill, which benefited the Bill before us today. Does he not agree that it is regrettable that we will discuss an amendment on limiting the legal time limit for abortion, which has not been subject to the same scrutiny as the rest of the provisions in the Bill?

Alan Johnson: The Government have no plans to change the abortion laws and regulations. It is up to right hon. and hon. Members to decide whether they want to table amendments. My hon. Friend has pointed out that this Bill is probably one of the most closely scrutinised pieces of legislation. That scrutiny has been carried out in a way that has allowed Members from all parties to contribute. That is a commendable way to deal with legislation in this House.

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): On the substantive point about medical research, does the Secretary of State recognise that many organisations, including the Motor Neurone Disease Association, of which I am
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president, have watched with great interest and hope as the Bill has been formed? Many people face a sentence of death because of incurable diseases such as motor neurone disease, and are depending on the opportunities provided by parts of the Bill to find cures for such dreadful and debilitative wasting diseases. I thank the Secretary of State for the attention that he has paid to the feedback from organisations such as the MNDA.

Alan Johnson: The hon. Gentleman makes the most important point about why the research is necessary, and I thank him for the constructive way in which he has dealt with the Bill.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): I hope that the Secretary of State accepts that whatever Members’ views about the Bill may be, we all want people with debilitating and incurable diseases to be treated and to live a full and long life. However, does he also accept that the scientific breakthroughs, to which he has alluded in his speech, have to date come only from existing adult stem cell research, not embryo research or stem cells extracted from embryos?

Mr. Ian Taylor: That is not true.

Mark Pritchard: It is entirely true. Why will the Government not accept that that is the fact? Notwithstanding that comment by my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton, the fact is that Professor Wilmut has moved his research and funding to stem cell research, not embryo research.

Hon. Members: Give way!

Mr. Speaker: Order. Interventions should be brief. They are not an opportunity to make a speech. There are hon. Members who have put their names on the list and are seeking to catch my eye.

Alan Johnson: I do not agree with the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard). In terms of what has happened recently, the induced pluripotent stem cell breakthrough that seeks to transform adult stem cells back to the embryonic stage could not have been reached without legislation that allowed embryonic research in the first place. I accept the hon. Gentleman’s point that although Members on both sides of the House have different views about the Bill they all want to see cures for conditions such as motor neurone disease, but we need to use the full panoply of opportunities for that.

The clear and consistent message from the wide consultation that I mentioned earlier, and from the debates we have already had, is that the current Act cannot keep pace with scientific developments that have occurred since its enactment. Over the last 18 years, methods that are not explicitly governed by the 1990 Act, such as cell nuclear replacement, where the nucleus of an egg is removed and replaced with the nucleus of another cell, and parthenogenesis, where an egg is stimulated either electrically or chemically to develop into an embryo, have been developed. Similarly, there is no explicit provision for the regulation of the use of admixed embryos, which combine human and animal genetic
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material for scientific research. That development is recognised by scientists across the world as an essential building block for establishing cures for many life-threatening diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Scientists want to create admixed embryos principally because of a shortage of human eggs for stem cell research. The process of creating the admixed embryo most commonly used to grow stem cells involves taking an animal egg and replacing the nucleus with the cell nucleus from a human skin cell. The resultant embryo is 99.9 per cent. human. We know of no scientist anywhere in the world who wishes to implant such embryos in a woman or an animal, but even if the desire existed, the legal authority would not. Such actions will remain a criminal offence under international law.

The Bill will ensure that all human embryos created for research—regardless of how they are created—are subject to the same regulatory framework. It will retain the restrictions imposed by the 1990 Act—that the maximum permitted period of development for all research embryos is 14 days. In practice, no research embryos have been developed as far as that maximum. This is not the first development that has combined human and animal material. If scientists in the UK had not been able to fuse human and animal cells in the ’60s and ’70s, developments such as the human genome project would not be possible and drugs such as Herceptin would not have been created. The Government believe that it is important to bring this new and exciting scientific development within the strict legal and ethical framework that the Bill provides.

Geraldine Smith: My right hon. Friend will be aware that full hybrids—that is, embryos that are 50 per cent. animal and 50 per cent. human—are permitted under the Bill. In the Joint Committee on the Draft Human Tissue and Embryos Bill, scientists were unable to think of any good experiments in which such hybrids would be needed. In fact, Dr. Lovell-Badge said:

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