Clause 27 - Possession of anatomical specimens away from licensed premises

Human Tissue Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 pm on 3rd February 2004.

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Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health) 4:15 pm, 3rd February 2004

I beg to move amendment No. 104, in

clause 27, page 17, line 8, at end insert


(iii) is transferring to or using the specimen for the purposes given in Part 1 of Schedule 1 in licensed premises.'.

The amendment deals with a concern that has been raised with several members of the Committee by the Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland, which is worried about the position that a designated person might find themselves in, particularly in relation to subordinates to whom work might be delegated on the designated person's behalf. The amendment would ensure that the subordinate complied with the law in a more direct way, rather than the responsibility being shouldered entirely by the designated person. It goes back to a theme that we discussed earlier, whereby it seems that a remote individual may be expected to shoulder a great deal of responsibility under the Bill. The amendment would put the onus firmly on a subordinate who is working under the direction, whether directly or indirectly, of a designated person.

Incidentally, the amendment would also make it easier to transfer specimens from licensed premises to, for example, a lecture theatre, where they would be used for a scheduled purpose, such as education. At present, there is a lack of clarity in the Bill about whether that is possible. A lecture theatre might not be

a licensed place, yet we can think of many reasons for transferring material from a licensed place to a medical school; for example, to instruct medical students.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton The Minister of State, Department of Health

Subsection (2)(b) provides that a person is not committing an offence of possessing an anatomical specimen away from premises with an anatomy licence if he has the written authorisation of the designated individual and is using the specimen for the purpose so authorised.

The amendment appears to add the further requirement that the specimen should be en route to other licensed premises or used for part 1 scheduled purposes in licensed premises. The problem with the amendment is that it would narrow down the circumstances in which anatomical specimens—for example, bodies or parts being used for anatomical examination—could be held away from licensed premises. It appears to be seeking to ensure that the authorisation that can be given by a designated individual for removing anatomical specimens from licensed premises is limited to transfer to other licensed premises and for their use for scheduled purposes. While that seems to be a further protective measure, I do not think that it is necessary because it could inhibit important uses of anatomical specimens.

The clause 27(1) offence of unauthorised possession of an anatomical specimen reflects the provisions of the Anatomy Act 1984. It is intended to ensure that no unauthorised or inappropriate use is made of bodies or parts that have been donated for anatomical examination. However, the licensing arrangements under the Bill are different from those in the 1984 Act. Licences under the Bill are premises based, whereas licences for possession of anatomical specimens under the 1984 Act are not. There are situations, as the hon. Member for Westbury highlighted, in which it is desirable for anatomical specimens to be away from licensed premises—for example, for teaching purposes in a lecture theatre that is not on licensed premises. It is therefore necessary for the Bill to enable that to happen without the lecturer in possession of the specimen being at risk of prosecution or requiring the premises to be licensed.

Responsibility for giving authorisation lies with the designated individual. That person would give specific authorisation to another person to remove the specimen for a stated purpose. He will be constrained in what he can authorise by the consent that has been given, but also by other regulatory requirements, including the code of practice and any licence conditions. That would be sufficient to allay any concerns that the designated individual may authorise possession of anatomical specimens for unsuitable purposes.

Within that framework, the designated individual should be able to consider what is appropriate. We have already said that we do not want the licensing requirements to be so burdensome that every location at which some tissue might be kept would need to be

licensed. Equally, a lecture theatre in that context would be unlikely to be part of premises in respect of which a licence would be in force.

Subsection (4) allows transportation to other licensed premises, or to other places where a specimen is to be used for education, training or research. We do, therefore, envisage some legitimate uses in non-licensed premises, just as we recognise that every single researcher cannot be required to be licensed in order to keep a few tissue samples.

However, in subsection (2) we seek to ensure that proper oversight is maintained of the taking of specimens to such locations, and that is exercised under the authority of the designated individual. In that way we achieve the degree of flexibility and control that will ensure that appropriate activities are not unduly constrained, but that there is regulatory oversight. In short, the effect that I think these amendments are trying to achieve already exists in clause 27, so I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health)

I am grateful to the Minister for describing in depth the position as she sees it. She is right because safeguards exist. The purpose of my amendment was to probe that. Nevertheless, it remains the concern of many who will be affected that the Bill will give them undue responsibility—hence my amendment. In view of the assurances that the Minister has given, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 27 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 28 ordered to stand part of the Bill.