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The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, the noble Lord is well entitled to ask the Question which he has asked, and the Government's position has been clearly stated by me.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: My Lords, as my noble and learned friend is considering the issue of a referendum, will he use whatever influence he may feel he has with the Government to try to persuade them to hold a referendum on the siting of the national football stadium so that football fans and other citizens can be given the opportunity to back the superb bid by Birmingham and Solihull, made on the back of their international airport, their railway station and their motorway network, to place the home of the national sport at the heart of the nation?

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I have ruled out a referendum on the subject matter of the Question, but I have noted the support for the noble Lord's observations on the different subject which he addressed.

Lord St John of Fawsley: My Lords, would it not be singularly inappropriate, and, indeed, curmudgeonly, to hold a referendum at the same time as we celebrate

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the Queen's Golden Jubilee? Would it not be more appropriate for the Government to organise a national vote of thanks to Her Majesty for the way in which over 50 years she has discharged her duties with skill, dedication and diplomacy?

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord speaks for almost everyone in the House. His question gives me the opportunity to say that the timing of the Question is not of the best on the eve of Her Majesty's Golden Jubilee, marking 50 years of dedicated service by the Queen to the nation and the Commonwealth.

Lord Paul: My Lords, the monarchy is such a tremendous asset to this country. Why do we want to confuse the public by a referendum?

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, my belief is that the public have no interest in a referendum on this subject.

Lord Smith of Clifton: My Lords, will the noble and learned Lord use his professional knowledge to instruct the House whether the presidential style assumed by Mr Tony Blair is lese-majesty?

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, we have a strong Prime Minister; we do not have a president.

Lord Hughes of Woodside: My Lords, does not the Question of my noble friend Lord Dormand illustrate the vigorous independence of Back-Benchers in your Lordships' House which the Leader of the Opposition claims to espouse?

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, Members of this House are independent as well as some being affiliated to parties.

Lord Clarke of Hampstead: My Lords, does my noble and learned friend agree that, in conducting its duties and commitments to the voluntary and charitable sector, the Royal Family provides an invaluable service to the nation and to the people who sometimes get left out of the statutory services net?

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I can agree with that question wholeheartedly. The Prince of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Princess Royal are well known as supporters of voluntary causes. I mention, for example, the Save the Children Fund, of which the Princess Royal has been president since 1970, the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme, the World Wildlife Fund, Macmillan Cancer Relief and the Outward Bound Trust. Last, and certainly not least, I mention the Prince's Trust, through which the Prince of Wales has made a difference to the lives of tens of thousands of young people, including many of the most disadvantaged.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor aware that I agree entirely with what he said about the monarchy

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but that I deplore, and believe it to have been entirely reprehensible, that my noble friend should have been shouted down in the manner that he was in asking a perfectly pertinent and legitimate question?

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I have already said that the noble Lord was well entitled to ask the Question that he did.

Human Cloning

2.51 p.m.

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to lay primary legislation before Parliament to prohibit human cloning, and, if so, when.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health announced on Friday last our intention to introduce legislation this week to ban human reproductive cloning.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. However, does he recall the justification that he gave to the House on 22nd January last for the use of unamendable orders rather than primary legislation? On that occasion he said that no new fundamental issues arose and that the use of cell nuclear replacement was lawful.

In the light of those assurances and of the High Court ruling of last week, will he confirm that the Bill which is to be rushed through all its stages in your Lordships' House next week will not outlaw cell nuclear replacement? Will he say whether he is able to issue a compatibility statement under Articles 2 and 14 of the European convention in the light of that failure to deal with cell nuclear replacement? Will he also say how public confidence in our parliamentary processes will be enhanced when the public see a Bill that has been designed to prohibit the use of amendments, if that is at all possible, and when that Bill is to be rushed through all its stages in this House on one day next week and in another place on one day next week? Will that not further confuse public opinion on an issue which should command much graver interest and which should be dealt with in a much more sober and reflective manner?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: No, my Lords. I do not share the view of the noble Lord, although I recognise his deeply felt views on this question. I believe that, in the light of the judgment of last week, the Government had no option but to bring forward urgent legislation to outlaw human reproductive cloning. The noble Lord is right that that does not cover the question of therapeutic cloning. I believe that that issue is of a different order. We consider that it is right to await the outcome of the appeal and the end of the legal process.

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Of course, if at the end of that process therapeutic cloning were not to be regulated, we would seek to bring forward proposals to ensure that it was so regulated.

Baroness Cox: My Lords, will the Minister say why the Government have been so unresponsive to very widespread public concern on this matter, as reflected, for example, in today's editorial in the Daily Telegraph? Will he say why legislation of such momentous ethical and human significance has been rushed through and why statutory regulation that is deemed unamendable is about to be rushed through? Why is the Parliament of the United Kingdom not being given the same opportunity as the United States Congress to look at all the available relevant research and evidence before passing momentous legislation?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I do not agree with the noble Baroness. The fact is that the regulations passed at the beginning of this year received a thorough airing in your Lordships' House as well as three full debates in the other place. In addition to that, as a result of the debate on those regulations in January, your Lordships agreed to the establishment of a Select Committee chaired by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford. Surely it is right to await the outcome of that Select Committee's deliberations but, in the meantime, move as quickly as we can to outlaw human reproductive cloning, which I believe no Member of this House can possibly support.

Lord Patel: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the potential benefits for future healthcare of research following therapeutic cloning are enormous? Does he also agree that in a well regulated environment, research of this nature can be controlled?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I do agree. That is why we have supported developments in therapeutic cloning. I agree with the noble Lord that it is important that appropriate regulation exists. That is why we are appealing against the judgment delivered last week. As I said earlier in my response to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, if, at the end of the day, the Government lose the case, when parliamentary time allows we shall seek to bring back to Parliament proposals for the regulation of therapeutic cloning.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, quite apart from the issue on which there is a difference of opinion, I agree with the noble Lord that we had a very full discussion earlier in the year. However, was it not somewhat careless of the Government to have drafted the regulations in such a way that they suddenly had to be amended in this manner?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the issue of whether the 1990 Act covered cell nuclear replacement was discussed fully in our debate on the regulations. We relied on the advice that we received from counsel

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and, of course, that has turned out not to be correct in terms of the judgment that we received last week. However, in his conclusions, the judge said that the argument put forward by the department was a powerful one, and we are appealing on that basis.

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