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I know that my noble friend, who presented the case very cogently in Committee, is concerned that there is fashion in science research and that it may be that embryonic stem cell research, as opposed to adult stem cell research, continues to be in fashion. I reiterate that we on these Benches agree with her that when government come to take funding decisions about research, they should continue to ensure that there is adequate funding for all forms of research. That funding may have to take into account the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Patten, that commercial resources may go to particular types of funding rather than to others and that government may have to balance that out, but it is important that we should say in this House not only that these different types of research
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Lord Darzi of Denham: My Lords, the amendments seek to prevent the creation, keeping and use of interspeciesor, as we now intend to call them, human admixedembryos in any research, including into understanding and treating serious diseases and medical conditions. As science has moved forward since then, our understanding of embryo development and embryonic stem cell research has increased significantly. However, new challenges have arisen as our understanding of stem cells has increased. It is now clearer than ever that the challenges facing embryo researchers are more complex than at first perceived, but we are also more confident than ever that at the end of this research there will be new treatments for serious diseases and medical conditions.
The research community and medical charities have in the past 12 months made a considerable effort to cite the need for human admixed embryo research. The shortage of human eggs in particular for use in refining the process of embryonic stem cells has led to calls for the ability to use animal eggs, which are available, as most of us know, in much greater numbers, to create human admixed embryos. This was further reinforced today by a publication from the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Medical Research Council, the Royal Society and the Wellcome Trust, and supported by the Association of Medical Research Charities. In Annexe A, they eloquently highlight the role of different sources of stem cells: embryonic stem cells, foetal stem cells and adult stem cells.
I also remind the House that the granting of peer review funding for stem cell research is equal if you look at embryonic stem cell research versus adult stem cell research. That is extremely important. Peer review funding in this area is highly competitive. There is a strong cohort out there, an international scientific community, which truly believes that there is a tremendous and rich future for research into embryonic stem cells. The joint pre-legislative scrutiny committee looked at this with the Science and Technology Select Committee of the other place, and both have held inquiries into the ethical and scientific considerations regarding human admixed embryo research. Both have recommended that this research be permitted under the regulation of the HFEA.
The noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, also raised a very important issue about the unnatural nature of research in this area. I agree that there is an unnatural process here. However, we need to remind ourselves that many scientific discoveries are unnatural. That does not necessarily mean that they are bad. A true example, as highlighted by the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, is IVF. There is nothing natural about IVF, but it has saved many lives.
Lord Darzi of Denham: My Lords, I am grateful for that intervention. I was trying to get at limiting scientific discovery in relation to the unnaturalness of the process. I agree that there are ethical issues about this. As far as they are regulated, as highlighted in the Bill, I feel that we should be supporting this. Within the context of the regulatory framework that we have put in, I remind the House that there is an absolute time limit of 14 days and an absolute prohibition on the implantation of a human admixed embryo in a woman or any animal. Such research will, as I said, be permissible only with a licence from the HFEA and only in circumstances where the HFEA deems the research necessary for one of the statutory processes. In taking such decisions, the HFEA will be required to take into account all other available avenues of research that may achieve the same end. I invite the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I hope that anyone who doubts the worth or the value of your Lordships House will read the Hansard record of todays debate, because whatever positions we come fromwe are deeply divided on this issuethey will see that the high quality of the debate and the many informed contributions from those on all sides give the very reason why this House should exist. It is impossible in another placeI served there for 18 yearsto have debates of this kind, and regardless of our differences, we have been able to explore and to give justice to something that people would expect us to have an intelligent and informed debate on and to be willing to vote on.
Although I do not offer my noble friend a theological opinionI am not a theologianI have always believed passionately that life begins at conception, and I do not believe that we should destroy life after that unnecessarily. I know that that is an old-fashioned view that does not commend itself to everyone, but, without the value of Thomas Aquinas, to whom my noble friend referred, the 38 Anglican, Catholic, Reformed and Orthodox theologians who submitted evidence to the retrospective Select Committee that we established in your Lordships House in 2002 also argued the point about the sanctity of human life.
It was Lord Rawlinson of Ewell, who contributed to the debate here in 1990, who said at the time that it must be 14 days after something. That is the fundamental questionthe metaphysical and theological point to which the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, referredthat divides us. Many of us are of the view that this is human life and that therefore we should not do these things to it. However, that is not the amendment before the House today. The amendment before the House today deals specifically with a prohibition on the creation of animal-human hybridsor human admixed embryos, as we are now going to call them. The noble Lord, Lord Rea, said in his intervention that this legislation requires it to be destroyed. He had put his finger on it. It must be something and it is going to be destroyed at 14 days. What is it that we are destroying, 14 days after something? We must at least ask ourselves that question.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, whom I enormously respect, said, quite rightly, that many
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That is where we are now. The issue is whether we take that argument further. The noble Lord, Lord Patten, talked about the importance of understanding science. I agree with him. We must comprehend the science, but we do not always have to follow it. I despair when I hear Ministers saying, in order to defend their points, that we have to follow the science. We do not always have to follow the science. We need to inform ourselves, even if we are mere lay men without the expertise that some of those who come to our debates bring.
If theological opinion is divided, as it will be, and if lay opinion and metaphysical opinion are divided, so is scientific opinion. Here I want to say something to those who have implied that it is not, as the noble Lord, Lord Winston, did earlier when he said that 95 per cent of the scientific community was united. I think he was talking more generally about embryonic stem cells, but I want to get back to the amendment for a moment and remind the House of what was said by those scientists who came to the Joint Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, among others, were members of that committee. Dr Lovell-Badge said:
That is not exactly overwhelming evidence. I remind the House of what the new Nobel Laureate, Sir Martin Evans, who originally discovered mouse embryonic stem cells a couple of decades ago, recently said:
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I hope that it will be accepted that, while I move Amendment No. 9, it stands in the place of Amendment No. 41 and that any vote on Amendment No. 9 would constitute a vote on Amendment No. 41.
I recognise that the hour is growing late and I do not wish to detain the House for long, but let me distinguish clearly between this amendment and the previous amendment, as there is some overlap in the debate. The purpose of Amendment No. 8, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, with regard to what I still call mixed species because I find it hard to remember the phrase admixed species, was to refuse any
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The reason for that is clear. When the 2001 regulations were debated in this House, a view was taken that adult stem cell research would probably not be a very exciting or creative line of research and that therefore embryonic stem cell research was bound to be the central theme behind the processes of stem cell research in general. My view, which is shared by many, is that you have to make out the strong case for embryonic cell research because of the ethical objections to it. That means that licences should be tightened up and should be awarded for embryonic cell research only where no other form of cell research can be shown to be effective. This would require two changes in HFEA licensing: first, evidence to show the efficacy of such research and that it was needed; secondly and crucially, evidence to show that it was the one way forward. We believe that embryonic cell research should be left to where it is the absolutely required factor where other forms of research would be likely to be unsuccessful.
In his response to my speech on the earlier amendment, the Minister was kind enough to say that there had been or was now an almost equivalent expenditure under the HFEA between adult stem cell research and other forms of cell research, particularly embryonic cell research. He is absolutely correct in what he says. Yet it is also true that in the six years since 2001, when the House passed the regulations, there has been a steep increase in expenditure on adult stem cell research, which was not true at the beginning of that process when little money was found for it because the scientific community had little faith in it.
We have put forward this proposal not to completely rule out embryonic cell research but to indicate that it should always be, as it were, the residuary factor: the requirement must be very clear. One reason for this was exemplified by the remarks about the shortage of human eggs, which was one of the reasons why we argued for aI am sorry that I keep using the old phraseologymixed-species form of embryo. Such research is necessary because, as the noble Lord, Lord Winston, said, there is a great shortage of human eggs. Yet you would not require so many human eggs if you relied much more on adult stem cell research than on embryonic stem cell research, because most such research that could be done in either way would be primarily done by adult stem cell research.
That is the reason for Amendment No. 9, which would tighten up the licensing system of the HFEA, indicating that, although the licensing system does not rule out embryonic stem cell research, such research is the lesser preference. The first preference should be adult stem cell research. This would balance a situation in which, until recent years, adult stem cell research has tended to be somewhat disregarded.
I should perhaps say human admixed embryos and apologise for having used the old terminology. I am referring throughout to human admixed embryos, the term that the House has passed and which it is a requirement for me to respect.
There is now extremely exciting evidence of the remarkable achievements in adult stem cell research. It is growing in all directions. It is probably growing in other countries even more than here. It is a way forward that leaves out some of the great drawbacks of embryonic cell research, not just the ethical issues but also issues of supply and immunity. I will not detain the House long, because we had this debate earlier, but in moving this amendment I also stress the need to build in this element of preference.
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