Previous Section Index Home Page

I acknowledge, as have all other contributors, that we are considering difficult issues for many hon. Members. The Bill is important, and the conduct of today’s debate reflects positively on Parliament and its ability and that of hon. Members to deal with matters of major scientific
12 May 2008 : Column 1157
and ethical complexity. As the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) said so eloquently, the Bill seeks a pragmatic fusion between science and the social mores of today.

The Bill is primarily an overhaul of legislation that was passed 18 years ago. It builds on a model that Parliament originally laid down and several of its proposals reflect more recent decisions in the House and in another place. Its overall effect is that of evolution, not revolution.

As the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke) said, the foundation that the 1990 Act provided was a considered response to concerns that there should be limits and barriers in law under a scheme of statutory regulation. The Bill is a recasting, in a similar mould, to ensure that the law and regulations can tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow.

I agree with the sentiment of the hon. Member for Salisbury (Robert Key), who said that he knew of no scientist who does not give due attention to the ethics of the issues. That was echoed by the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait).

I thank the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness (Mark Simmonds) for his positive and constructive approach. I look forward to our debates, although I feel that we might not always agree. I echo his point that the Government’s expressed aim is to ensure that the United Kingdom is at the forefront of developments in cutting-edge science and technology, which promises so much for individuals and their families and for society. The hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Dr. Taylor) graphically described that when he spoke about the diseases that blight people’s lives. To achieve those aims, it is imperative that good regulation can keep pace and provide proper oversight.

Advances in technology go hand in hand with those in regulation. They are united through proper accountability and public confidence. The Bill is an attempt to maintain that unity, keeping the established foundations that have proved sound, and updating them when necessary. Failure to address those matters would lead inevitably to a loss for society. Doubts about what is regulated or what is allowed would endanger public confidence. Confusion about legal duties and responsibilities would harm public accountability. The impact would be felt through slower or stopped progress in understanding and treating infertility and serious medical conditions.

The Bill aims to ensure that all such embryos come within the scope of regulation, as the current law, drawn up in the late 1980s, is not explicit about these entities. The Government decided that the matter should not be left open to interpretation. We believe that the Bill as drafted provides the necessary clarity. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon) explained, developments of treatments and scientific advances have always been controversial. The Bill has its share of that. It allows the creation and use of admixed embryos for licensed projects of research, in much the same way as it allows projects of embryo research. That means scrutiny of every proposal through the licence application process, which is overseen by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. For embryo research projects, the law again sets out that the HFEA must be satisfied that the
12 May 2008 : Column 1158
research is necessary or desirable for one of the defined statutory research purposes. The use specifically of embryos must be necessary.

What the hon. Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter) fears—that such research will be a distraction and will skew research in other areas—therefore simply will not happen. The position is not either/or; it is about ensuring that the breadth of research that the House believes is important is allowed to develop for treatments.

Mr. Cash: Will the Minister explain the extent to which the research that will be made available will be available on a universal basis? There are those, including me, who are deeply concerned not only about the principles involved, but about whether the research would be available only to those who were at the upper end and could afford it. Will the research be universal or not?

Dawn Primarolo: I think that the hon. Gentleman is confusing a regulatory framework that permits research with the commissioning or funding, from different authorities, for that research to take place. The Bill is not about what research will be funded in the future from where, but about putting important regulations in place and continuing to afford the protection that the House has always wanted.

To deal with the hon. Gentleman’s second point, having ensured that the regulations apply and that the projects must meet the proper criteria, the Bill sets out strict prohibitions to guard against abuses. It makes it an offence to keep an admixed embryo beyond 14 days and prohibits the placing of an admixed embryo in a woman or an animal. Those are genuine safeguards, as my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Dr. Turner) and the hon. Member for Beckenham pointed out.

The Government have listened carefully to wide-ranging and deep-seated views on each side of the issue. There has already been considerable debate on the issue in another place, and through consultation and the scrutiny process. Scientists do not undertake such work lightly or through mere curiosity. The primary motivation is a pragmatic issue, namely the shortage of human eggs for use in the creation of embryonic stem cell lines. The Bill is a means to ensure that effective regulation applies, while also allowing scientific endeavour that promises advances in the knowledge and understanding of some serious diseases.

Mr. Burrowes: On the subject of safeguards, will the Minister give some of the reassurance that Lord Darzi gave in the other place, at a similar stage, that the Government are committed to banning human reproductive cloning? Will she confirm in particular whether permission for reproductive cloning could be given for any purpose laid out in proposed new section 3ZA(5)?

Dawn Primarolo: I am happy to give exactly the same undertakings as Lord Darzi gave in another place. [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State says, “Thank goodness for that.”

The hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Burrowes) is right that cloning is outlawed. I would like to reassure
12 May 2008 : Column 1159
hon. Members that I am speaking on behalf of the Government at this stage, not as an individual, as that way of speaking seems to have drifted in and out of the debate. The Bill is a means of ensuring that effective regulation applies and that we can undertake research. As the hon. Member for Buckingham said, the Bill will not force anyone to undertake research using embryos, whether admixed or otherwise. The controls that the measures put in place will ensure that other avenues of research will be considered as part of the research licensing process. Before a licence is given, the licensing authorities will have to consider other areas or forms of research in which the same issues could be pursued.

Several issues have been raised in the debate, and I shall do my best to answer some of them in the time available. The hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) talked about true hybrids, which were allowed in the 1990 Act for testing the fertility of sperm by mixing it with a hamster egg, and for related research. Any licence application will have to pass the usual tests of satisfying the HFEA that it is necessary or desirable for a statutory research purpose and that the specific use of embryos is necessary. That will give a great deal of protection.

The Bill will bring all forms of true hybrids under the regulation of the HFEA, and it will be for the HFEA to decide whether such hybrids should be licensed. We are talking about wider types which will be licensed only under the specific research licence. If we do not bring those processes within the Bill’s protection, we will not be able to express views or control; the law will be silent about the developments.

I turn to the point on what is called the need for a father.

Mr. Lansley: Will the Minister give way?

Dawn Primarolo: I should like to make some progress. The hon. Gentleman will want to return to that issue, and there will be a great deal of discussion on it.

To retain the reference to the need for a father would be inconsistent with other legislation that has been passed by Parliament to recognise civil partnerships and to remove discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation. In addition, Parliament would be seen as sending out the message that clinics must consider the need for a father. The code of practice, on which they rely at the moment, could not be relied on to amend that practice in future, because of the clearly stated views of Parliament. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry) explained eloquently and in great detail why that change is necessary. There are further issues to do with the welfare of the child.

If women are discouraged from approaching legitimate services, they might be encouraged to make their own arrangements. A loophole in the 1990 legislation was that it did not prevent the rise in the amount of sperm supplied by internet-based firms. We have already acted to bring those activities under regulation. Properly licensed services can give the
12 May 2008 : Column 1160
necessary assurances of quality and safety, along with important access to future requirements with regard to identifying parents.

With regard to artificial gametes, I can confirm that the Government do not intend to amend the Bill. Our position is set out in the Bill, and there will be no further amendments.

On the question of birth certificates, and of telling children that they are donor-conceived, we have made it clear in another place that we would carry out a review within four years of the Bill coming into force. It is therefore a bit difficult for me to explain what has already been done, as I shall have to wait until the Bill has been passed.

With regard to the translation of stem cell research into therapy, the Government have made it clear that an amendment is not necessary. The Bill will enable research to progress speedily, but with proper scrutiny. The development of treatments will be able to take place under the controls in the Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, South (Ms Taylor) spoke passionately about access to IVF in the national health service. As she knows, that is not necessarily within the remit of the Bill, but the Government are taking steps to deliver exactly what the House expects to see, which is not only that the NICE guidelines relating to three cycles are delivered, but that proper social criteria are universally used.

The right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe spoke of his experience of proposing and preparing for the 1990 legislation. He told the House how it was necessary to deal respectfully with all human tissue, and that is precisely what we are trying to do. The 1990 Act did not attempt to provide a detailed definition of an embryo and, after 17 years and one legal challenge, we have to face that issue now.

I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (Geraldine Smith) is passionately committed to the issues that she identified in the debate. It will come as no surprise to her to learn that I do not necessarily agree with the points that she made, but I want to assure her that no attempt is being made to airbrush fathers from the process. We need to recognise that family structures have changed, however, and it is not for clinicians to make decisions about those family structures or to make those judgments. It is for the House to ensure that every child is a wanted child, a loved child and a supported child.

A number of other issues have been raised. My hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale also raised the question of saviour siblings. I know that she feels very strongly about these issues, and I have a feeling that if she had been in the House in 1990, she would not have supported the proposals at that time.

Geraldine Smith: I want to ask the Minister about birth certificates. Will we reach a position in which two mothers appear on a birth certificate, but no father? How will a birth certificate be worded if two lesbians have a child, and one of them appears on the certificate as the second parent? What will the certificate actually say?

Dawn Primarolo: It will say that one is the mother and the other is the parent, which conveys the legal standard.

12 May 2008 : Column 1161

The Bill and the review that led to its drafting have evolved through a long period of reflection— [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order. Hon. Members must let the right hon. Lady speak— [ Interruption. ] Order.

Dawn Primarolo: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This is about introducing regulation that takes us into the 21st century. Not to do so would be a lost opportunity. I look forward to our discussions on these critical issues in Committee, and I shall finish by echoing the comments of the hon. Member for Salisbury (Robert Key): the Bill is a great force for good. I commend it to the House.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 340, Noes 78.
Division No. 176]
[9.59 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Allen, Mr. Graham
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Baird, Vera
Baldry, Tony
Balls, rh Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barrett, John
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Beckett, rh Margaret
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Blunkett, rh Mr. David
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brake, Tom
Breed, Mr. Colin
Brennan, Kevin
Brooke, Annette
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Browne, rh Des
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, rh Andy
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Lorely
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cairns, David
Cameron, rh Mr. David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, rh Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Crausby, Mr. David
Cruddas, Jon
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davey, Mr. Edward
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice and Howden)
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, rh Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Don
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)

Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
Garnier, Mr. Edward
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harris, Mr. Tom
Harvey, Nick
Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, John
Heath, Mr. David
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hoey, Kate
Holmes, Paul
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Horwood, Martin
Howard, rh Mr. Michael
Howarth, David
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Hughes, Simon
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Key, Robert
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Knight, Jim
Kramer, Susan
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lammy, Mr. David
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Leech, Mr. John
Lepper, David
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Martlew, Mr. Eric
Maude, rh Mr. Francis
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Meale, Mr. Alan
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, rh David
Miliband, rh Edward
Miller, Andrew
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moore, Mr. Michael
Morden, Jessica
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Olner, Mr. Bill

Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Mr. George
Ottaway, Richard
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Price, Adam
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Purnell, rh James
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, Mr. Alan
Reid, rh John
Rennie, Willie
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, Angus
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rogerson, Dan
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Ryan, rh Joan
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simmonds, Mark
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, rh Jacqui
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Swinson, Jo
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Taylor, Matthew
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Thurso, John
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Tredinnick, David
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Ussher, Kitty
Viggers, Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Williams, Stephen
Willis, Mr. Phil
Wills, Mr. Michael
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wishart, Pete
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wyatt, Derek
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Ayes:

Tony Cunningham and
Siobhain McDonagh

Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Benton, Mr. Joe
Binley, Mr. Brian
Bone, Mr. Peter
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burt, Alistair
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Conway, Derek
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
Davies, Philip
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Donaldson, rh Mr. Jeffrey M.
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Drew, Mr. David
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Durkan, Mark
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Farrelly, Paul
Field, Mr. Mark
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Gray, Mr. James
Green, Damian
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hands, Mr. Greg

Harper, Mr. Mark
Hayes, Mr. John
Hemming, John
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hosie, Stewart
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacNeil, Mr. Angus
McCrea, Dr. William
McGrady, Mr. Eddie
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mudie, Mr. George
Paisley, rh Rev. Ian
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Pritchard, Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Robinson, Mrs. Iris
Robinson, rh Mr. Peter
Rowen, Paul
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Simpson, David
Smith, Geraldine
Spring, Mr. Richard
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, David
Teather, Sarah
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Walker, Mr. Charles
Weir, Mr. Mike
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Sammy
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Tellers for the Noes:

Daniel Kawczynski and
Mr. David Amess
Question accordingly agreed to.
Next Section Index Home Page