Schedule 8 — Repeals and revocations

Deferred Divisions – in the House of Commons at 6:48 pm on 22nd October 2008.

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Amendments made: No. 78, page 114, line 13, column 2, leave out ', (6) and (7)' and insert 'and (6)'.

No. 79, page 114, line 14, column 2, leave out '(7) or'.— [Dawn Primarolo.]

Order for Third Reading read.

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Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Minister of State (Department of Health) (Public Health) 6:49 pm, 22nd October 2008

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

It has been a long journey to Third Reading, but a shared one, involving two years of scrutiny and discussion.

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Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Minister of State (Department of Health) (Public Health)

The process was demanding because we were invited to consider issues that strike at the heart of what it means to be human. We have also looked—

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Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Minister of State (Department of Health) (Public Health)

We have looked at how to make regulation more inclusive and more reflective of 21st century society and family structures, including by covering the rights of same-sex couples.

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Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. The right hon. Lady has indicated on several occasions that she is not giving way, so Mr. Cash should calm himself, sit down and listen to the Minister.

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Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Minister of State (Department of Health) (Public Health)

None of the decisions were taken lightly. Indeed, precisely because of the Bill's controversial nature, because it involved such profound social and ethical issues, and because it was always going to provoke very different views, we depended more than ever on the guidance and scrutiny of those in this House and outside it.

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Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman should try once more because he is beginning to defy the Chair, and that is not a good idea.

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Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Minister of State (Department of Health) (Public Health)

The Government have listened carefully to views about what should be allowed, what should be prescribed and what controls should exist. I believe that we have arrived at the right balance of controlling but not constraining scientific research, with protection from a "Brave New World" scenario in which science overrides ethics, and avoidance of the extremes of scientific process being blocked by red tape, stifled by regulation, or frustrated by a regime that fails to keep pace with social change. We have taken great pains to future-proof the Bill as much as possible and to address intricate dilemmas now so that clear legislation and regulation may be in place for the future when medical research is not proven.

The kaleidoscope of science is coming to a rest. Careful consideration has been given to the Bill in this House and another place, and the new consensus has been captured. If science leads the field and challenges our basic beliefs and ethics—

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Minister said that careful consideration had been given to all the ingredients of the Bill. She mentioned the other place, but surely it is obvious that such consideration has not been given in this place.

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Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Minister of State (Department of Health) (Public Health)

When science throws our views and ethics into flux, legislation brings regulation and stability. The House has struck a new consensus of allowing science to stretch its wings and develop, but constraining it within what the House considers to be ethically acceptable. The US physician, Richard Cabot, said that science and ethics need to shake hands. The Bill brokers that handshake. It represents a good deal for science and society, and I commend it to the House.

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Photo of Mark Simmonds Mark Simmonds Shadow Minister (Health) 6:54 pm, 22nd October 2008

The Bill is of great significance. It has tried to strike a balance—to allow scientific advancement while being based on an ethical platform. It is a shame in some ways that it has had this unfortunate end. Clearly, there are many dissatisfied Members in the House, and that is primarily due to the programme motion, which has not allowed important amendments and issues to be debated. Conservative Members had a free vote on the Bill, and in my view there should have been far more free votes for Government Members, too. We are talking about significant ethical and moral issues, and Members should be allowed to vote with their conscience.

However, the Minister and the Government have listened to some of the suggestions made, for example on licences for therapy, on consent issues relating to pre-existing cell lines, on regulations on the appeal procedures and on changes to surrogacy laws. There have been constructive debates on the Floor of the House and in Committee. I thank my hon. Friends the Members for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter), for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning), for Rugby and Kenilworth (Jeremy Wright) and for Salisbury (Robert Key) for making constructive contributions as the Bill passed through the House.

It is important to understand that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990—an extremely robust piece of legislation—retains much of its significance and value because it was thoroughly debated in this House and in the other place. It was originally the Minister's hope, and it is my hope, that this Bill will be similarly enduring. However, after today's performance, I have to question whether it will be. I hope that the shape of the ethical and regulatory framework for reproductive science and medicine will hold for many years to come. The Bill is built on a moral and ethical regulatory framework that will allow Britain to remain at the forefront of scientific and medical innovation while, importantly, still protecting the special status of the embryo.

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Photo of Norman Lamb Norman Lamb Shadow Secretary of State for Health 6:56 pm, 22nd October 2008

It is unfortunate that the Bill has ended its time in the House in this way. The way in which the Government manipulated the programme motion is outrageous; it denied people on both sides of the debate the opportunity to raise issues of real and profound concern. At the beginning of Report, the Minister argued that it was important not to deal with abortion because we needed time for all the other issues in the Bill. Of course, we have not had time to deal with all the other issues because debate has been so greatly constrained by the Government.

Despite all that, this is a very important Bill. We Liberal Democrats have had free votes throughout its stages, and will have a free vote on Third Reading, but speaking personally, I welcome the Bill as it stands. I support the way in which it has moved through the House, and its shape now as it moves to the other place. This country has led the way in shaping the ethical framework within which science operates. The Conservative party started the process in 1990, when it was in government. The Bill brings the legislation up to date on the advances of scientific endeavour, and that is the right way to proceed.

As I say, the Liberal Democrats will have a free vote; however, my party's policy is to be pro-science and pro-research, but in favour of an ethical framework for science, subject to proper limits and safeguards. I shall certainly support the Bill on Third Reading.

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Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) 6:58 pm, 22nd October 2008

I want to know what, in years to come, Members of the House are supposed to say to children who look at us and say, "Why have you denied me the opportunity to have a relationship with my natural father or mother?" That should be the birthright of every child in this country. It is a deeply sad moment when the House denies that possibility to children who may wish to have that opportunity in years to come. I am deeply saddened that we have not had a proper debate, and that there has not been a chance for every Member to go through one or other Division Lobby, on the issue.

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Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Chair, Health Committee 6:59 pm, 22nd October 2008

I should briefly like to support the Bill on Third Reading. It is another breakthrough piece of legislation, following on from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. All of us should think that one day, future generations will thank us legislators for having made good legislation, backed with regulations that will ensure that many diseases from which people suffer will, in years to come, be a thing of the past.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone

Professor Jones of St. Mary's university college sums it up by saying that there is no doubt that if one overarching principle of contemporary medical ethics still trumps all others, it is personal autonomy. We have been denied the opportunity to debate the question of consent in the context of licensing, and it is deeply regrettable—

It being Seven o'clock, Mr. Speaker, put the Question pursuant to Order [this day].

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Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 355, Noes 129.

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Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed , with amendments .

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