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Mental Capacity Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 1st February 2005.

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Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe Shadow Minister, Family, Shadow Minister, Health 6:45 pm, 1st February 2005

I have no problem with the thrust of the safeguards in subsection (5); I think they are admirable. We shall come on to debate their detail in a while.

I agree with the noble Lord that research is by its nature exploratory and that you cannot guarantee anything in advance. However, the convention states—and I cannot find fault with it in this respect—that this type of research should have the aim of contributing through significant improvement in the scientific understanding of the individual's condition to results capable of conferring benefit and so on.

So the aim should be there. It seems to me that that aim should be capable of being demonstrated to a research ethics committee. If a research ethics committee is satisfied that, in good faith, a research team has that aim and that the research is capable of producing that kind of result, I have much less problem. I do not think that that is an unobtainable thing to ask of a research team. It is not asking the research team to commit itself to absolute certainty in advance; it is stating that the research involved should not be a tinkering at the edges of something that is of no material gain to medical knowledge but that it should be something significant. The word "significant" is an important addition to the wording.