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The guidance has been referred to. All that the clinician has to do currently is take the guidance into account. This guidance, which has been in existence for some time under the present Administration, seems to me to express that in a very cogent and practical way. Like the noble Lord, Lord Warner, I prefer the amendment that leaves things as they are. In the mean time, I will certainly consider supporting Amendment No. 108A.
Baroness Barker: My Lords, at this late stage I rise simply to make a few points which have not yet been made in the debate. The only issue that matters is what is in the best interests of children. In determining that, many of us rely not only on our own experience but on the available research. In-so-far as people have quoted it extensively, the fatherhood bibliography produced by Christian Action Research and Education has been a very successful piece of propaganda. It is a very selective document which moulds together peer-reviewed research, grey research and opinion. As a piece of propaganda it has been effective; it has set up precisely the debate that the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York talked about. It has led us to believe that we are talking about conflicting rights, when we are not.
I do not believe that any heterosexual couples will be denied IVF treatment as a result of the Governments proposals. I do not believe that there will be fewer children born with fathers as a result of IVF. We are talking about recognising the truth of modern-day life, as my noble friend Lord Carlile said so eloquently. If as the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, said in her opening remarks, her amendment, in its intended simplicity, is taken to mean that treatment will not be given unless there is a father and mother, then, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis of Heigham, said, people will be reduced to trying to find a way either of circumventing the law or of presenting themselves in an untrue fashion. What the Governments amendment attempts to do is recognise a factor that has so far not been mentioned to any great extentthat all children benefit from stability and security in their upbringing. The Governments amendments attempt to enable people who intend to become parents to become good parents, and to do so from the start by presenting themselves honestly for treatment.
I have to ask those who have presented these amendments two questions which I have asked at every stage of the Bill but to which I have not yet had an answer. They are questions that have to be answered before we consider these amendments any further. We are told that the passage of these amendments is likely to mean that people will seek to go abroad to clinics that exist on the edges of the law, or that they will simply make private arrangements. Each course of action contains within it a degree of risk not only to the mother but to the health of the child. If the
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My final point has not been made by anybody else in this debate. The noble Baroness, Lady Deech, quite rightly set us off on our discussions this afternoon by talking about the importance of principle. Part of principle is precedent in law. I ask noble Lords whether they have appreciated the fact that, in trying to establish a principlewhich is what the noble Baroness is trying to do, and for good reasonsit is just possible that we may set a precedent of denying a person health treatment? This would not be on the basis of their need, or the way they present themselves as a patient, or even the way they behave, but because they are a member of a minority group within our population. That is a dangerous principle and a dangerous precedentone that I would not wish this House to set in law.
Lord Patten: My Lords, I reflected as I listened to the speech by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York, how right he was to say that we seem to live in a world where one set of human rights suddenly comes forward to trump another set of perceived human rights. That will cause us great difficulty, going forward. Equally, in the moving and challenging speech of the noble Lord, Lord Alli, who was, as always, stalwart against discrimination, I reflected that, sometimes, as one becomes more vigorous against discrimination in one direction, one can just see incipient discrimination coming from another quarter. That is the only point I wish to make; I shall not be repeating any of the remarks that I made in Committeenot one jot, nor one iota.
It seems to me that the Government, either by design or well-meaning accident, are now busy deconstructing the meaning of fatherhood. That is where incipient anti-father prejudice could well be creeping in. This flies in the face of the attempts by the Government, which I support and to which I pay tribute, to encourage fathers to pay maintenance, to take paternity leave, and to continue contact with their children after divorce, if that should happen.
This approach also flies in the face of the principle of non-discrimination. Here is where I would like the noble Lord, Lord Alli, to think as deeply about what I am saying as I try to think about what he says. By appearingand appearances matter to the outside worldto be a bit anti-father, and appearing to fail to give proper respect to both sexes, the principle ultimately fails to hold equality of esteem for parenting between the sexes.
I do not know how much time the right honourable gentleman the Prime Minister, who inherited this Bill, has to give to its wider and longer social implications. He seems to me as a complete outsider to be an exemplary father, yet his own Governments legislation in this context is likely, whether by design or because
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I simply cannot believeas I predict will be seenthat the country at large supports the removal of the need for a father. That removal sends a clear signal to men that the Government ultimately do not value the unique role of fathers in a childs life, let alone the message that the Government wish to promote legislation that might turn out to be seen by later generations as discriminatory against men.
Lord Selsdon: My Lords, I do not intend to regale your Lordships with my study of the parenting of a range of mammals; I simply wish to make a logical suggestion. If we accepted the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, who is one of my colleagues on the committee, and added to it and/or supportive parenting, we would solve the problem.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, I rise in the briefest of contributions to support the Government. In many debates we have made a plea for honesty about genetics and what we do. The amendment simply tidies up and makes this legislation compatible with the most honest of todays practices. If we do not allow that, two things may well happen. The Government are changing the burden of proof on doctors, probably from the criminal standard to the civil. I fear that there will be gold-plating by clinics. They will say, Its on the face of the Bill that we cannot treat you if you do not have your one man in tow. We will go back to the days of men being dragged into clinicsperhaps for moneyand pretending that they are in a supportive and loving relationship.
I would also caution your Lordships that it is not honest to transpose the research from broken families and the outcomes for their children on to the outcomes for children who are conceived through an infertility clinic after incredibly careful consideration by people who are desperate to give the very best upbringing possible to those children and who have invested a huge amount even before they conceive. That is completely different from unplanned pregnancies and broken relationships where the father has been abusive or whatever. I therefore make a plea to your Lordships that, if we are to be honest, this is the only amendment that we can pass. Other bits can go in guidance and can be helpful, but the Bill has to reflect what is actually happening today, not turn the clock back and force people to be dishonest.
Lord Darzi of Denham: My Lords, let me say at the outset that the amendment and our proposals are not motivated by any attack on fathers or the concept of fatherhood, as I clearly outlined in Committee. The Government recognise very clearly the extremely important role that fathers can and do play in their childrens lives, and the consequences that can follow
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Nor do I support the concept of back-street impregnation which we heard about earlier or perverse incentives in relation to this unclear law. The Government have put huge effort into finding the right words and being as transparent as possible. We strongly believe that it is the quality of parenting and not the gender of parents that counts. The amendment is for supportive parenting. Amendment No. 108A, which would put the words
I conclude on Amendment No. 110 on what might go into the code of practice. We would not accept such wording in the guidance for the same reasons that we will not accept it in the legislation. Therefore, it is the Governments conclusion that they will not support the amendments to the government amendments.
Baroness Deech: My Lords, I shall respond briefly. I am motivated by the fact, of which I am pretty sure, that the public wish us to put some ethical underpinning to the enormous leap forward in science. As for statements by noble and learned Lords about human rights, I point out that we will be in a minority in Europe if we change the law in the way that the Government wish. I point out also that private life and particularly family life have been interpreted as something that is already in existence. There is no human right to have a baby. The only body that is in danger of discrimination is the National Health Service.
The Government must regret ever having started along the line of amending Section 13, which works so well, because they have opened up a hornets nest. It was allowing more and more single and lesbian women to access treatment with no problem at all. Whichever way the House goes tonight, the decision is likely to upset members of the public and to devalue fathering. Unlicensed sperm donation on the side has been going on and I am sure that it will continue. But we should remember that whichever amendment we go for, it will be only one of the factors that the clinician has to consider.
Every civilised country draws lines about the circumstances in which it is right to reproduce. I have not heard any noble Lord argue today that, for example, it is a breach of human rights to refuse IVF to a 14 year-old or to refuse it to two twinsechoing a case in the newspapers recently. We know that there is an element of discretion and that there are certain underlying values and structures which are largely worthy of consideration. The same applies to the presence of a
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The trouble with the amendments is that they are predictive, but we cannot predict good or supportive parenting. There are hundreds of thousands of divorces in this country which all started with two would-be parents promising to live together forever and making commitments to bring up their children. We know that one cannot predict and that breakdown happens. This is not something that clinicians, or anybody else, can lay down rules about and perceive. That being the case, and because I passionately believe that the advances in science need to be acceptable to the public, I would like to test the opinion of the House on this amendment.
The Deputy Speaker: My Lords, before putting the Question on Amendment No. 108, I remind noble Lords that if it is agreed to I cannot call Amendments Nos. 109 to 110A inclusive because of pre-emption.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I should inform noble Lords that dinner-time business has been postponed. We shall now move directly to the Statement. I suggest that Report stage begin again not before 9.25 pm.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Statement is as follows:
With your permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on Northern Rock. The House will understand that it was necessary to issue a statement to the markets with our proposals before the start of trading this morning in the usual way. Copies of that statement and the accompanying Treasury press release are available in the Vote Office.
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