Mrs. Irene Adams
Human Tissue Bill
Ms Rosie Winterton (Minister of State, Department of Health; Doncaster Central, Labour)
I beg to move,
(1) during proceedings on the Human Tissue Bill, the Standing Committee, in addition to its first sitting on Tuesday 27th January 2004 at 9.10 a.m., shall meet on that day at 2.30 p.m. and on Thursday 29th January, Tuesday 3rd February and Thursday 5th February at 9.10 a.m. and 2.30 p.m.;
(2) the Committee shall consider the Bill in the following order: Clause 1, Schedule 1, Clauses 2 to 10, Schedule 2, Clauses 11 to 13, Schedule 3, Clauses 14 to 35, Schedule 4, Clauses 36 to 46, Schedule 5, Clauses 47 to 50, Schedule 6, Clauses 51 to 57, New Clauses, New Schedules, Clause 58, Schedule 7, Clause 59, Schedule 8, Clauses 60 to 63 and remaining proceedings on the Bill;
(3) proceedings in the Committee on the Bill shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 5 p.m. on Thursday 5th February 2004.
May I welcome you to the Chair, Mrs. Adams? This is the first Bill that I will have taken through Committee, and it will be wonderful to do so under your guidance.
The Bill is an important measure that seeks to balance the legitimate rights and expectations of families with equally important but broader public health considerations. It will make consent the clear basis for the keeping and use of tissue organs, and will restore confidence so that important health research can proceed with the support of patients, families and the public. It will ensure that events such as those highlighted in the Alder Hey, Bristol and Isaacs inquiry reports will not happen again. It also provides an opportunity to establish a consistent and comprehensive framework, in which principles of consent will apply to all medical uses of human bodies, organs and tissue.
I am sure that members of the Committee will find much common ground, as was the case on Second Reading. It will be good for us to proceed in that spirit. It will be cosy on the Labour Benches in this Room. We recognise the contributions of professional and family groups in delivering the broad consensus that lies behind the proposals in the Bill. I am looking forward to the discussions, and to the assistance of Committee members in delivering what my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) described on Second Reading as
''a landmark Bill, of which we shall all be proud.''—[Official Report, 15 January 2004; Vol. 416, c. 1012.]
Mr Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire, Conservative)
I join the Minister in welcoming you to the Chair, Mrs. Adams. Your reputation for fairness precedes you, and I expect that, as long as we behave ourselves and
maintain order, you will be a benevolent dictator. We on the Conservative Benches will endeavour to keep to that stricture.
I entirely agree with the Minister that proceedings will be cosy; this is not one of the cavernous Committee Rooms with which we are usually provided. If the Minister finds that it becomes too cosy on the Labour Benches, she may make use of space on the Opposition Benches. Indeed, we might reach that stage for other reasons.
The Minister rightly said that this is an important Bill that secured support in principle from all parties, but there are reservations about many of the details. The 46 or so groups of amendments that have been tabled reflect the difficulties that have ensued. I am sure that we will complete our consideration on time, as we are instructed to by the House, but I hope that we use the time productively to amend the Bill to meet many of the concerns raised by various outside interests. I will not bore the Minister or the Committee by repeating this point, but it needs to be made once: the range of amendments and the number of representations made to hon. Members indicate the uncertainty and lack of clarity felt about the Bill, particularly in the medical research community. That concern should have been removed by pre-legislative scrutiny. I called for that in a debate on 29 April 2003, and the then Minister undertook to facilitate it by publishing a draft Bill by the summer recess. Such a Bill was not published, however.
The Bill before us was published in December, and the Committee is debating its provisions in January. We shall also consider the many comments of the medical research community, the pharmaceutical industry, clinicians and pathologists, who are concerned about the practical implications of the legislation. Those groups are by no means comfortable with certain aspects. Indeed, although the intentions and purposes are supported, as far as I can see, their implementation is not attracting the same support across the medical and research community, so we have a job to do.
I am sure that the Programming Sub-Committee was not wrong in setting out a simple programme whereby we go from the start of the Bill and get to the end. Fortunately, this is not one of those Bills for which we must start in the middle, but we should not let the moment pass without being aware that there might have been a better way to consider the detail.
Dr Evan Harris (Oxford West and Abingdon, Liberal Democrat)
I associate myself with the remarks welcoming you to the Chair, Mrs. Adams, and with those made by the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) about the sadness that there was not pre-legislative scrutiny and that we shall have to conduct additional scrutiny in Committee on what are complex matters. There is a lack of clarity about many provisions, and we shall need a lot of your help and guidance to ensure that we get through the Bill and obtain the required clarification as quickly as possible. In that spirit, I shall finish my remarks now.
Question put and agreed to.
The Chairman: I remind the Committee that there is a money resolution and a Ways and Means resolution in connection with the Bill. Copies of the two resolutions are available in the Room. I also remind hon. Members that adequate notice should be given of amendments. As a general rule, my co-Chairman and I do not intend to call starred amendments, including any that may be reached during the afternoon sitting.