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Lord Kennet: My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt the noble Baroness to ask for clarification of those figures. First, are those figures for all scientific research or for all medical research, or just for genetic research? Secondly, do they take any account of where those people are coming from? If the outflow is all to the United States, and the inflow is all from Tanzania, it is not so interesting.
Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, very high calibre scientists are attracted to this country. This report covered a wider area than simply geneticists. It covered engineers and other scientists. I shall certainly send a copy to the noble Lord if he would like to have a look at it. I believe that there is a common belief in this country that scientists are leaving in droves and that we attract very few. That is not the case. In the past two years the director of the British Postgraduate Medical Foundation reported that we have attracted more world-class scientists from as far afield as Australia and the United States than we have lost. Therefore we are quite convinced that there is a brain gain.
The MRC has set up a gene therapy co-ordinating committee to oversee national activities, to develop policy with other sponsors and industry, to advise the community on issues pertinent to gene therapy, and to assist in the co-ordination of data from clinical trials. That committee includes nominated representatives from major research centres, industry and the medical research charities, from the health departments and the Medicines Control Agency.
The Department of Health keeps in close touch with MRC developments in genetic research through the concordat between the department and the MRC. Under that arrangement there is regular contact about all aspects of work including genetics. I believe that the post of Professor Michael Peckham, the Director of Research and Development, was very skilfully negotiated by my noble friend Lady Hooper through your Lordships' House. It was a suggestion by your Lordships. It has proved to be a very successful post. I think that many of the fears that have been expressed tonight are not founded, because Professor Peckham's whole responsibility is to co-ordinate research within the country. I believe that he does that extremely well.
Professor Peckham commissioned a genetics research advisory group under the chairmanship of Professor Martin Bobrow, Professor of Paediatric Research at Guy's Hospital to provide an informed view of the possible implications of genetic research for the NHS over the next five to 10 years. Its report is due to be published shortly.
The report discusses anticipated advances in areas such as diagnosis and screening, gene therapy, and genetic techniques and laboratory services. The report also considers the impact of those advances on genetic services in the NHS, including the importance of
My noble friend Lord Colwyn has acknowledged the potential contribution of genetic research to human health and the wider implications that it has in social and economic terms. The report reflects that view and the view of the Government's White Paper, Realising our Potential, which emphasises that advances in research and development should benefit quality of life and contribute to wealth creation. Advances in genetic research offer the prospect of considerable gain, not only for the NHS and its patients but also, as has been highlighted tonight, for the British pharmaceutical and healthcare industries, with the attendant benefits of employment, exports and national income. Those prospects are being currently explored by a number of initiatives arising from the White Paper including the technology foresight programme which will be published in the spring.
Currently the main impact of genetic research is on inherited diseases such as cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, haemophilia and Huntington's disease. It is our hope that an increasing programme of work on the genetics of common diseases will enable progress to be made in tackling disorders such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma, coronary artery disease and several forms of cancer. The Department of Health's research and development strategy is currently exploring a range of practical and ethical aspects of genetic research. Last July the NHS research and development programme published its priorities for cancer which gave a high priority to such work.
The noble Lords, Lord Kennet and Lord Craigavon, raised the issue of the patenting of genes and the implications of that for research. The Government's view is that information discovered on the structure of genomes should be freely available to researchers in the field. Lack of access would delay progress in research. However, that should not preclude industry from obtaining patents on novel inventions derived from gene analysis and other genome work. Without such protection there would be no incentive for industry to invest the large sums of money required to bring such inventions to the market to the benefit of patient care.
The noble Lord, Lord Craigavon, also raised the point of commercial genetic screening tests. That is a matter wider than we anticipated this evening. I shall be delighted to write to him on that subject.
In conclusion, the United Kingdom enjoys a worldwide reputation in the field of genetic research. Through the work I have described your Lordships will have had a feel for the way our country is taking forward this work into an exciting area of medical research with potential benefits for the nation's health and wealth. The first clinical trials are already under way and results from the research groups are encouraging, suggesting that further trials are not far off.
Through MRC funding, the essential support of many of the research charities, and the work of the NHS research and development programme, the Government are confident that the system of oversight for UK gene therapy research will encourage and above all assist
Lord Macaulay of Bragar: I have already given notice that I move that Clause 10 do not stand part of the Bill. This is quite an important matter in the administration of justice in Scotland. As we understand it, the proposal means that at an early stage in the proceedings the Crown will have an opportunity to cross-examine an accused person who may well not know, and in 99 cases out of 100 will not know, what the evidence against him may be.
At the moment limits are placed upon the questions which may be asked in the presence of the sheriff as to whether an accused person wishes to present a denial, an explanation, a justification or a comment. Questions may be asked about any extra-judicial confession that the accused may or may not have made to the police. So he is given an early opportunity to deal with that, which is fair enough.
However, the problem under Clause 10 is that in the proceedings the accused's solicitor has only limited rights to intervene in the judicial examination. People keep talking about the right to silence. I have always held the view that, since the judicial examination process was brought into the law of Scotland, to say that there is a right to silence is a misnomer. In any event the Government's proposal in Clause 10 will transform the judicial examination into an inquisitorial procedure which is inappropriate to the adversarial system we have. It would give the Crown an early bite at the accused to try to get him to admit to whatever charge he might face. If that happens, then, apart from allowing the right to obtain an admission from the accused, there will have to be the right for the accused's solicitor to cross-examine.
There is also a major problem that if the object of the exercise is to elicit an admission from the accused, then any questions directed towards him to elicit that admission must necessarily rest on information in the possession of the prosecutor which indicates that the accused is guilty of the offence as charged.
The Earl of Mar and Kellie: I support the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, in opposing Clause 10. I am not a lawyer but as a former prison social worker I am reasonably familiar with some of the people who will be the subject of a judicial examination. My understanding is that at such an examination neither the accused nor his solicitor (nor necessarily the prosecutor) is always in possession of all the charges. That seems an unsuitable moment for the prosecutor to attempt to elicit any admissions. Bearing in mind that the alleged event may have taken place some time before or that there could have been considerable drama in the days prior to the judicial examination, a period for reflection and for advice to be taken is needed before any admissions are sought.
I can see that Clause 10 conforms to the overall thrust of the Bill, being a modification designed to increase the possibility of conviction. I fear that it may lead to the possibility of wrongful conviction which would be a wholly unacceptable outcome.
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