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On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 143 [Commencement]:

Lord Tunnicliffe moved Amendments Nos. 88 to 92:

88: Clause 143, page 73, line 18, leave out paragraph (f)

89: Clause 143, page 73, line 23, at end insert “(subject to paragraph (ka))”

90: Clause 143, page 73, line 23, at end insert—

“(ka) the provisions mentioned in subsection (2A);”

91: Clause 143, page 73, line 25, at end insert—

“(2A) The provisions mentioned in this subsection are—

(a) in Schedule (Contribution notices and financial support directions under Pensions Act 2004)—

(i) paragraph 1 so far as relating to any of the following paragraphs;

(ii) paragraph 3 (and paragraph 2 so far as necessary for the purposes of that paragraph);

(iii) paragraphs 5 to 7;

(iv) paragraph 8 for purposes other than those of the material detriment test;

(v) paragraphs 9 to 14;

(vi) in paragraph 15, sub-paragraph (1) so far as relating to paragraphs 6 and 7, sub-paragraph (2) for purposes other than those of the material detriment test, and sub-paragraphs (3) and (4);

(vii) paragraph 16;

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(b) section (Amendments of provisions of Pensions Act 2004 relating to contribution notices or financial support directions) so far as relating to any of the paragraphs of that Schedule mentioned in paragraph (a) of this subsection;

(c) the repeal in Schedule 10 relating to section 38(5)(a)(ii) of the Pensions Act 2004 (c. 35), the note in that Schedule relating to that repeal and section 142 so far as relating to that repeal and that note.”

92: Clause 143, page 73, line 26, leave out “Section 102 comes” and insert “Sections 102, (Additional Class 3 contributions) and (Additional Class 3 contributions (Northern Ireland)) come”

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill [HL]

4.50 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons amendments be now considered.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The page and line references are to HL Bill 70 as first printed for the Commons.]

Commons Amendment No. 1

1: Page 4, line 6, leave out “the keeping or using of” and insert “keeping or using”

Lord Darzi of Denham: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1. I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 4, 29, 49 to 52 and 54.

Amendments in this group follow discussions in this House and relate to human admixed embryos. The Bill sets out a clear definition of human admixed embryos, and ensures that all such embryos are regulated and may not be created without a licence.

The Government have listened very carefully to arguments from the scientific community about the need to create admixed embryos for research. This matter has been closely scrutinised by parliamentary Select Committees, and voted on in both Houses. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority also ran a public consultation on this issue last year.

One motivation for allowing this research to go ahead is the limited availability of human eggs for advancing techniques in cell nuclear replacement, a process used in therapeutic cloning. Scientists are hoping to use as a substitute rabbit or cow eggs, which are abundantly available. There is clearly a wide spectrum of embryos that could be created using human and animal genetic material. The Bill captures the creation, keeping and use of those embryos that are at the human end of the spectrum—in other words, with predominantly human genetic make-up. Research using embryos at the animal end of the spectrum has been undertaken for some time in this country, and regulated by the Home Office under the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.

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Amendments Nos. 50 to 52 make consequential changes to Schedule 2 to the Bill to bring the new category of human admixed embryos into line with other categories under the Bill, so that the creation, keeping and use of any admixed embryos to which the Bill applies could be licensed by the HFEA. Amendment No. 29 is consequential to Amendment No. 50.

Amendment No. 1 is minor and technical, to ensure consistent use of the term “keeping or using”. This phrase is used in existing Section 3(3)(a). The amendment ensures that the term is used consistently throughout the Bill, by amending new Section 4A(3) to ensure consistency in the wording.

Amendment No. 4 relates to definitions in the Bill. The 1990 Act defines an embryo as a live human embryo. It also states that references to embryo include an egg in the process of fertilisation. The Bill defines an egg as a cell of the female germ line at any stage of maturity, but not including an egg in the process of fertilisation. This is because the definition of an embryo expressly includes an egg in the process of fertilisation. To ensure that these definitions work together, it is necessary to clarify that the general definition of an egg does not apply to the definition of an embryo. The definitions in Clause 1 do not cover the section relating to human admixed embryos. Therefore, the term “embryo” needs to be defined independently in the human admixed embryo provisions and the same exclusion of “egg” in the definition of embryo needs to be made. The Bill as it stands does not do so and Amendment No. 4 is a minor technical amendment to rectify this. This amendment ensures consistency between the definitions in the two clauses of the Bill and ensures that they work as they are intended to.

Amendment No. 54 is a technical amendment to ensure consistency. Under paragraph 2(1) of Schedule 3 to the 1990 Act, a person’s consent to the use of a human embryo can specify use for the purposes of any project of research, whereas under new paragraph 2(1A) of Schedule 3, as introduced by the Bill, a person’s consent to the use of a human admixed embryo must be for the purposes of use in a project of research.

Amendment No. 54 clarifies that a person can give a general broad consent to a human admixed embryo, created using their cells, being used in research, if they choose to do so. Using the word “any” makes it clear that consent does not have to be project-specific, although it can be if the donor chooses and removes any doubt about whether a general consent can be given. The amendment ensures consistency with the wording used in relation to human embryos. I beg to move.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1—(Lord Darzi of Denham.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Commons Amendment No. 2

2: Page 4, line 14, at end insert-

“(4A) A licence cannot authorise keeping or using a human admixed embryo in any circumstances in which regulations prohibit its keeping or use.”

Lord Darzi of Denham: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 2. These amendments add powers in relation to the regulation of human admixed embryos

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to provide consistency with provisions, and in particular with prohibitions, relating to the use of human embryos.

Amendment No. 2 adds a new regulation-making power. The amendment mirrors an existing power that relates to human embryos, which enables restriction of the circumstances in which human admixed embryos can be kept or used. This could be important if, for example, it became necessary to shorten the 14-day limit in some circumstances. Amendment No. 27 is a consequential amendment.

Government Amendments Nos. 2 and 27 ensure that the Bill is consistent by providing a power that enables the restriction of the circumstances in which human admixed embryos can be kept or used, which mirrors the provision for regulating human embryos. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, has tabled an amendment to Amendment No. 2 and I shall respond to it after he has spoken to his amendments.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 2.—(Lord Darzi of Denham.)

Lord Alton of Liverpool moved, as an amendment to the Motion, Amendment No. 2A:

2A: Line 3, at end insert “or in any circumstances where the purposes of the proposed research can be achieved by any method not entailing the use of human admixed embryos.”

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 2A tabled in my name straightforwardly seeks to enshrine in the new law the principle that, before any animal human admixed embryo is created, it must be established that alternatives do not exist. This proposition was advanced in your Lordships’ House by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, who has a hospital appointment which coincides with this debate. It was also the subject of amendments in another place at Report stage, tabled by Mr. David Burrowes, Member of Parliament for Enfield Southgate. As the debate in another place was guillotined, the amendments were never reached, so the House of Commons did not have a chance to debate this principle. The only way in which such a debate can occur is if your Lordships agree Amendment No. 2A.

At earlier stages of our debates on this, the issue was often referred to as the “Hunt test”. It gained that description from some words used by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, in our debates on whether we should allow the creation of embryonic stem cells for the purposes of cloning. In that debate in 2001, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said that it would be licit to use embryonic stem cells only if it could be demonstrated that no other alternatives were available.

We should not underestimate the phenomenal public unease about some of the provisions of the Bill. More than 30 major public meetings have been held throughout the United Kingdom, attended by thousands of people; almost 2 million protest cards and letters have been sent to Members of another place; and many significant public figures have spoken out against the mass manufacture, manipulation and destruction of human embryos. This is not, as I know your Lordships will agree, a trivial matter.

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The argument has been put persistently throughout our debates that experiments on the human embryo and admixed embryos will bring great benefits in the form of treatments for diseases which at present are incurable. Yet, since 1990 not even one treatment has materialised to help the sick, compared with more than 80 treatments using ethically acceptable adult stem cells. There has been scandalous over-hype and playing on people’s fears and desperation.

Our obsession with experiments on human embryos has led to a failure properly to pursue the alternatives. That in turn is having a disastrous effect on both our ability to develop life-saving treatments and to develop good science. Some scientists have also been coming to the same conclusion. A report in last week’s Sunday Timesstated:

“A leading British scientist is leaving the country to work in France after claiming that British science gives too much priority to embryo experiments over ‘more ethical’ alternatives”.

An article in the Times Higher Education supplement of 23 October states that Colin McGuckin, professor of regenerative medicine at Newcastle University, and an expert in adult stem cells, believes that UK funding agencies and his university have prioritised embryonic stem cell research above work with adult stem cells. He said:

“You would barely know adult stem cells exist”.

He added:

“A vast amount of money in the UK from the Government has gone into embryonic stem cell research with not one patient having been treated, to the detriment of (research into) adult stem cells, which has been severely underfunded”.

Those are his words.

It is tragic that Professor McGuckin feels that he has to leave the UK to go to a country which he says,


and “to do good work”.

Amendment No. 2A simply seeks to insist on what Professor McGuckin calls,

between the use of human embryos and the alternatives.

As the Bill is currently drafted, government Amendment No. 2 requires that a

At first glance this may seem eminently reasonable, but in reality, these words merely assert in a painful piece of tautology that it is not legal to allow something that is illegal. Surely, before authorising the creation and use of animal/human hybrid embryos, we should insist on more rigorous criteria and safeguards.

I therefore propose that this should be extended to cover, in the words in the Marshalled List,

Some may protest that the law already contains criteria that achieve this effect. However, if it does, I should be grateful if those who believe it would kindly cite the relevant clauses and demonstrate how they

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have been used in practice. By contrast, I remain unaware of anything in either the current Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act or this Bill that has parity with the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, in which the relevant imperative is in the legislation, explicitly requiring,

That is a perfectly reasonable, logical thing to do. If it is right to do it in the case of animal experimentation, why is it not reasonable to ask for the same thing for human embryos?

What objective criteria are employed by the regulatory authority in determining whether the use of embryos is necessary and desirable for a particular purpose? As discussed during our earlier debates, it is especially noteworthy that the HFEA has ultimately never refused any licence application. It has therefore been argued that the HFEA may have found it very difficult to say no. Even as we have been debating the Bill over the past 12 months, there have been extraordinary breakthroughs that mercifully and happily will ensure that these dilemmas and decisions will no longer be necessary. I refer to the breakthroughs made by Jenny Thompson and Professor Shinya Yamanaka in Japan using IPS cells—induced pluripotent stem cells—and getting them to run backwards, using our skin rather than creating human embryos to manufacture embryonic stem cells, which is extraordinarily exciting science. It enables good science and good ethics to march hand in hand.

I am glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Winston, in his place. I was struck by a programme that he broadcast over the summer in which he demonstrated that a huge amount of hype has gone into the claims made about various forms of stem cell technology. We have to keep this in the kind of perspective that the noble Lord rightly described in that broadcast.

As the HEFA comes to consider licence applications, I hope that it will also keep these things in proper perspective and look at the alternatives. Regardless of my previously expressed repugnance at the manufacture of human embryos—my consistent position—there is nothing in this amendment that automatically prevents the creation of so-called human admixed embryos for research as long as the purpose of the proposed research cannot be achieved by any method not entailing the use of human embryos. The amendment requires that embryos that combine human and animal material should be used only if there is no other means of achieving the same ends. I find it hard to see how anyone can reasonably object to this amendment if they truly believe that a particular project of research is necessary.

The licensing authority and scientists should be duty bound to explore the alternatives, not only due to the ethical concerns but also because of the finite resources. Interspecies cybrid embryos were argued for on the basis that we supposedly need an alternative to using excessive numbers of human eggs for cloning research. These are finite resources that often bring complications for women’s health, as we discussed at earlier stages of the Bill, through hyperovulation syndrome.

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My amendment also brings the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act into line with paragraph 8.3 of the International Society for Stem Cell Research guidelines for human embryonic stem cell research, which states:

“The project proposal should include a discussion of alternative methods, and provide a rationale for employing the requested human materials, the proposed methodology and for performing the experiments in a human rather than animal model system.”

That is all my amendment seeks to do. I hope the House will consider this amendment carefully and will pause to reflect on what message it wishes to send not only to the British public but to the wider world. Are we to be so ideologically wedded to experimentation with all manner of human interspecies embryos that we blind ourselves to the alternatives, especially when they seem to achieve the same purported ends far more efficiently?

I invite the House to vote in favour of a modest provision that prohibits nothing but insists with the full force of law that a case must be made that no alternatives are available before permitting the creation and destruction of the human admixed embryos authorised by this Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, I remind my noble friend Lord Alton that issues relating to the use of cells derived from human embryos and the use of adult stem cells were fully and extensively debated in this House many weeks ago. In this group of amendments, we are dealing with human admixed embryos. When the Bill was debated in this House, we made it clear that the purpose behind the development of such admixed embryos was to be able to clone cells derived from the tissues of patients suffering from diseases such as diabetes, Parkinsonism, dementia and many other conditions in order to be able to study in a research method their nature and ways in which they might ultimately be treated or cured.

At that time, the purpose was to have admixed embryos in which the nucleus of a human cell derived from a patient with one of those diseases could be implanted in an animal ovum from which the nucleus had been removed. The only reason this was felt to be a crucial research tool in the study of disease processes was that it would be preferable to implant those cells—say, a skin cell from someone with one of those diseases—into a human ovum from which the nucleus had been removed, but there is, reasonably, a shortage of human eggs. However willing and public-spirited a woman may be, for her to donate eggs may require the insertion of a needle through the vagina in order to remove eggs from the ovary. That is not a trivial procedure. The Bill makes it absolutely clear that once a human admixed embryo is created, it can under no circumstances be implanted into a human being or animal. It can only be used to study the process of the disease from which the individual whose cell was originally taken was suffering.

At the time of our debate in your Lordships’ House, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, was concerned about the definition of human admixed embryos. I understand that he has subsequently had extensive discussions with the Academy of Medical Sciences and others involved in this area. This has led to this series of amendments from the Commons making

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that definition much clearer. Commons Amendment No. 3, which we have not yet come to, adds a category of human admixed embryos where the animal DNA is not predominant, thus returning, including and embracing within this clause the type of admixed embryo which has been legal for many years under the Animal Procedures Act, and enabling it to be used for research purposes.

I believe that the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, is unnecessary. Why do I say that? Work involving admixed human embryos is extremely difficult and time-consuming. It occupies a great deal of effort on the part of the scientist. If alternatives to that type of research are available, I have no doubt that scientists will take them and use them wherever possible. This amendment is quite unnecessary. I congratulate the Government on the Commons amendments, which have been so carefully and expertly framed. They will improve the Bill and happen to meet most of the concerns, ambiguities and uncertainties which remained in the Bill when it left your Lordships’ House. For that reason, I cannot support the amendment.

Lord Winston: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for the customary moderation with which he moved his amendment, which is important in this debate. Sadly there has not always been moderation outside the House. Today we heard, unfortunately, of “Nazi experimentation”. It is good that we are not indulging in that kind of language, which very unwisely polarises this debate and does not usually lead to much light.

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