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Sir Patrick Cormack: I would rather not on this occasion, if my hon. Friend will forgive me, because I do not want to detain the House. I believe that it is important to debate the merits of the Bill.
Even at this late stage, I appeal to the Minister to get herself a parliamentary reputation. She would be honoured in all parts of the House if she sent her Parliamentary Private Secretary to ring the Leader of the House. He has announced a programme of business for the next two weeks that would easily allow more debate on the Bill. The hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) mentioned the Wednesday of the week before Christmas. The programme could allow another dayor even another half-dayto provide a gap between Second Reading and further consideration.
I welcome the fact that the Government want the Committee stage to take place on the Floor of the House. The subject is so important that that is right and proper. However, there is no reason to rush through it this afternoon. Parliament is being treated with a cavalier disdain that would never have occurred to Charles I. That is monstrous, an exercise in arrogant parliamentary tyranny that even the Government have not previously undertaken. We hear nonsense, and lip service is paid to the House, scrutiny and accountability. [Interruption.] Labour Members may laugh but we are here to scrutinise and be accountable. We are told to rush through a measure on an issue of monumental moral significance in a few hours. That is an act of unspeakable arrogance and I hope that hon. Members will show their opinion of it in the Lobby.
Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim): I oppose the way in which the Bill has been introduced. I support its aim to outlaw cloning, but many matters flow from it that some of us would like to discuss on the Floor of the House. I say to those who have spoken about the United States of America that such a measure is not law there. It has not been to the Senate and will not be considered there until late spring. Such legislation has therefore not been rushed through in the United States.
I ask the Minister to help me as a Member of the European Parliament. I welcome the fact that, under the subsidiarity principle, national Governments decide whether research into cloning should be allowed. I am glad that the power is in the hands of the national Government. However, I do not understand why the European Union is getting involved in the matter. This week, we had a report from the Brussels Parliament, from which I have just travelled. What is the difference between the Government's policy and that outlined by Europe? It is important to understand the Government's plans and the difference between them and the European Union plans.
Many matters that need to be examined cannot be considered today. The spill-over from the measure raises many issues that worry people, whatever their religious, moral, theological or political views. All hon. Members who receive letters from constituents know that the subject is topical. Our constituents are talking about it, largely because they have heard an announcement that someone might enter the country and use the territory of the United Kingdom for something that the vast majority of citizens believe should not be done.
I deeply regret that the Government have not given us more time. We have no chance of dealing with amendments properly. We can do that only if we have time to consider them. The Bill will not have a Report stage and no amendments will be accepted. It will have to go through as it is. Like the law of the Medes and Persians, it cannot be altered. That is not good government, and it does not tend to produce good legislation.
Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone and The Weald): The Bill is a disgrace. It has been produced under the guise of one panic to cover up another. The Government are seriously asking the House to believe that they are in a terrible panic because an Italian is on his way and might do something nasty when he gets here. Indeed, we are being asked to believe that he might do it so quickly that even if we took a couple more days to debate the measure, he could do it in that time. That is not rational, and the Government do not mean it.
The Government are not genuinely afraid that, as we race against the clock to debate the Bill in the next five hours, a scientist will carry out a specific procedure unless we have decided by 7 pm that he cannot. That is ludicrous. Why are they saying that? They do not expect us to believe it; the Minister is too intelligent for that. They have produced a Bill and demanded that we take it through all its stages in five hours because they are terrified that we might try to amend it. They are especially afraid that some of us who have well known moral objections might try to amend it for purposes other than cloning. That is the source of the panic.
The problem with that approach is that the Government have produced a Bill that will not even provide the protection that they believe it will give. That is why we need more time to discuss it. I shall list some issues, which I would not dream of debating because you would quickly call me to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that need discussion.
The Bill does not prevent the creation of human clones for export, only for implantation. The Italian could come here, create the clone and take it away. There is nothing to stop implantation in animals, and early in vitro fertilisation experiments were conducted in that way. Nothing prevents the use of artificial wombs, which are being used in animals in Japan, or the storing of cloned embryos.
We need time to debate policing the measure. The Bill provides for an offence not of creating a cloned embryo, but of implanting one. Once the embryo has been implanted, how on earth will we know whether it has been cloned? How will we know whether a pregnancy is natural, or caused through IVF or cloning? I am fascinated. I long for the Minister to tell us. We would love to know how the Bill will be policed.
When The Independent carried out a survey of all leading IVF consultants, the majority said that they believed that live-birth cloning was inevitable once the creation of cloned embryos was allowed. I find that frightening; the Minister is laughing, so I presume that she does not. The Bill does not prevent the creation of cloned embryos. It will not address, and we will not have time to discussI saw you getting restless, Mr. Deputy Speakerthe issues of proper control.
Last year, a clinic that only a week earlier had passed an inspection by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority implanted 80-odd women with the wrong embryos. How will we police the accidental implantation of cloned embryos? We have no clue how the Government will stop that happening, and they do not have the time to tell us.
Miss Widdecombe: I was going to take care of that later. The point is well made. There is no definition of when an embryo, as opposed to a pre-embryo, begins and a foetus, as opposed to embryo, starts. We made it clear in 1990 that unless we sorted that out, we would have problems. As a result of not having proper definitions, the ProLife AllianceI am proud that it was that organisationobtained a victory in the High Court.
Professor Winston says that fertilisation is impossible to define and that parthenogenesis, which is the cloning procedure undertaken by Mike West of Advanced Cell Technology, could be classified as fertilisation. Professor Robert Edwards fears that the Bill, because of the way in which it is drafted, could prevent some things that are already legally allowed. Government lawyers agree that the current 14-day limit and the consent provisions will not apply to cloned embryos.
That is a partial list. I could have cited at least another 30 things that it does not do. If we had only five minutes on each of those, we would run out of time. We would even run out of time if we had only five minutes on all the things that I managed to list. It is a disgrace that the Bill is being rushed through. Nothing is going to happen in the next few days to prevent us from debating the subject for longer and more properly, and the Minister cannot point to anything that will happen in the next few days.
The hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) rightly said that there is a whole spare day in the system. My hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack) explained that the House packed up early yesterday when there were several hours that we could have used. There have been, and there are, many opportunities to put the measure through quickly.
The situation is ludicrous. It is arrogant of the Government to bring something as profound and serious as this Bill to the House and say, "You clear it up: all stages", without giving us time to reflect on its final shape, to table amendments on Report and to reflect on those before Third Reading. It is arrogant to push it through in this way. I am not surprised, but I am disappointed and saddened. I do not think that it is an exaggeration to say that the Government's action is tyrannical. A few days would not have made any difference. Even at this late stage, will the Government reconsider their position?