Clause 6 - Restriction of activities in relation to

Human Tissue Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 pm on 29th January 2004.

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Photo of Evan Harris Evan Harris Liberal Democrat, Oxford West and Abingdon 4:15 pm, 29th January 2004

I beg to move amendment No. 144, in

clause 6, page 6, line 35, leave out 'decent' and insert 'safe and lawful'.

Photo of Mr Alan Hurst Mr Alan Hurst Labour, Braintree

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment No. 147, in

schedule 3, page 44, line 28, leave out 'decent' and insert 'safe and lawful'.

Amendment No. 145, in

clause 28, page 18, line 18, leave out 'decent' and insert 'safe and lawful'.

Amendment No. 146, in

clause 56, page 33, line 41, leave out 'decent' and insert 'safe and lawful'.

Photo of Evan Harris Evan Harris Liberal Democrat, Oxford West and Abingdon

I would be grateful if the Under-Secretary could explain how ''decent disposal'' is defined and why that is a better term, defined or otherwise, than ''safe and lawful disposal'', which is

proposed in the amendment to this clause and the other clauses in which it appears.

Photo of Richard Taylor Richard Taylor Independent, Wyre Forest

To give the Under-Secretary a moment more, may I remind him of the words in the code of practice for families and post mortems? I, too, am worried about the word ''decent''. Does that cover the words in the code of practice:

''Tissue and organs should be handled respectfully at all times . . . The method of disposal must be legal''?

With the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon, I am a little concerned that the word ''decent'' is not quite strong enough or adequate enough to cover the method of disposal.

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health

The amendments would change both the wording and the sense of the clauses, which, as the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon said, refer to the disposal of bodies and body parts. He suggested the alternative wording ''safe and lawful'', but that does not convey the important idea that the disposal of human bodies or material should be accorded respect appropriate to them, which is what we are trying to achieve.

''Decent disposal'' in relation to whole bodies is a familiar term from the Anatomy Act 1984. It is not the Government's wish to provide exemptions from the offences in clauses 6 and 28 covering the disposal of bodies in any way other than a decent one.

I hope that it would be helpful if I paraphrase the relevant part of the regulations under the 1984 Act. The Anatomy Regulations 1988 state that disposal of a body after anatomical examination shall, so far as is practicable, be in accordance with any wishes expressed by the deceased or any surviving spouse or surviving relative, and separated parts of the body shall, so far as is practicable, be disposed of with the body from which they were removed.

We recognise that disposal of parts of bodies, particularly small parts, is different from the disposal of whole bodies. For that reason, clause 56(5) provides that decent disposal, in relation to material that has come from a body, includes disposal as waste. It is not necessarily the size of the material that should determine the manner of its disposal. There may be enormous differences in how even relatively small amounts of tissue should be disposed of, the obvious example being foetal tissue. For that reason, the Government believe that it is appropriate to put in legislation the concept of decent disposal, but also to deal with the vast range and complexity of the situation to which it applies through the guidance.

Clause 23(2)(1) provides that the Human Tissue Authority's code of practice must deal with the disposal of relevant material, and that that will provide adequate insurance that disposal will be safe and lawful. I hope that that is the assurance that the hon. Members for Oxford, West and Abingdon and for Wyre Forest are seeking, and that the hon. Member for Oxford, West will withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Evan Harris Evan Harris Liberal Democrat, Oxford West and Abingdon

It does, indeed, appear to be the assurance that we sought. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.