Clause 62 - Commencement

Human Tissue Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 5th February 2004.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

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

I signalled earlier that I might raise a minor issue at this time. I give the Committee advance notice that I have no comments to make on clause 63—the short title.

We touched earlier on the fact that the BioIndustry Association is concerned that, before the Bill's criminalising provisions come into force, adequate time needs to be given for the codes of practice to be fully understood and taught, not simply published. I wish to probe the Government's intention on what sort of gap they want to allow between publication of the final codes of practice—the Minister told us that the draft codes will be sent out for consultation and so forth—and their commencement, as people will need to be taught about them and made aware of their provisions.

Those important provisions will criminalise activity—it is not necessarily of a controversial kind, but it is still unsatisfactory—that has been going and may still be going on in respect of research activities on cells. Will the gap will be sufficient to ensure that people involved in such activity are not caught, or at least that enough planning materials are made available to industry and academia to ensure that

everyone involved in clinical governance has the time in a crowded NHS agenda to make sure that it is done properly? That is my only question.

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

Obviously, there will be various stages in the implementation of the proposals. Going back to basics, as we have said before, the Bill builds on best practice. We already have a lot of guidance in the public domain, which is within reach for those working on the front line. Once the shadow authority is set up, there will be consultation on the codes of practice and on any necessary training. Following that, in the many instances when licences will be required, the very process of putting together and making an application will itself be an educative process.

I hope that by the time the final codes of practice are published, people will have a clear understanding of what is expected. At the same time, common sense will be exercised to ensure that the NHS and others are ready for implementation. Once again, I emphasise that the Bill is meant to improve confidence in the system, and ensure that those who undertake medical and scientific research are clear about what is expected of them. Failing to take the approach that I have outlined will go against the way in which we consulted on the Bill and the fact that we will continue to involve people in the decision-making process.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 62 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 63 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Question proposed, That the Chairman do report the Bill, as amended, to the House.

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

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mrs. Adams and you, Mr. Hurst, for your understanding and wise chairmanship. I also thank the Clerk and the other officials who presided over the Committee with such efficiency, understanding and co-operation.

I particularly thank the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman), who has brought his own expertise and incisiveness to the Committee. I know that he feels that certain hon. Members have sometimes brought darkness over him, but he has only ever enlightened us.

I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, North (Joan Ryan) for her support as the Government Whip. She has been exemplary and has kept our proceedings well under control, as I always knew she would. My hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Jim Knight) has done a marvellous job as my Parliamentary Private Secretary, which is nothing less than we would expect.

I commend Labour Members on the Committee on their efforts and interventions and on their enthusiasm and commitment.

I thank my officials for their hard work. They have shown a good understanding of the needs of all hon. Members and have tried to give assistance where they could.

I also thank Opposition Members for their constructive opposition; it is a triumph of consensus that there have been no Divisions. The Committee has been overwhelmed by expertise on both sides, which has greatly helped our deliberations. I have been astonished at times by the way in which some Opposition Members have thrown caution and their reputations to the wind by revealing the skeletons in their cupboards.

Photo of Ian Gibson Ian Gibson Labour, Norwich North

You might end up in the Cabinet if you don't watch out.

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

Yes, exactly.

Our scrutiny of the Bill has been very productive. The Government have undertaken to consider several of the points that were raised, and we will continue the dialogue over the coming weeks. As my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) said, the Bill will be a landmark. It will balance the need for medical and scientific research and for transplantation with our need, as legislators, to ensure that the tragic events that caused such distress to so many families never happen again.

Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health) 3:00 pm, 5th February 2004

My hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley) sends his apologies to the Committee. He would have been delighted to have attended this final sitting, but he is absent on duty. However, I know that he wants to be associated with the remarks that I shall make.

It has truly been a pleasure to serve on this Committee. Others will have observed that I am non-confrontational by nature, and this has been a consensual Committee, as one would expect. There has been no disagreement in principle with anything that we have discussed during our eight sittings. Our proceedings have been laced with a degree of levity; the Minister mentioned the skeletons. However, that should not disguise the seriousness of the issues.

I feel personally involved because I began my medical career at the Bristol royal infirmary where, of course, all this began. It is important to reflect on the sombre nature of our deliberations as well as on the lighter moments that accompanied them. As I said on Second Reading, this Bill is a good measure. I hope that we have made it better, that it will go from strength to strength and that, when it is finally enacted, it will be a piece of work in which the public will have confidence and with which the industry, medical researchers and health professionals will be comfortable.

I thank you, Mr. Hurst, and Mrs. Adams for chairing our meetings so well. I thank the Clerk and his Department for their expertise, and the civil servants who have done such a good job, particularly bearing in mind the lack of pre-legislative scrutiny, which we shall continue to highlight. They have navigated this complicated area expertly. I should like also to thank the servants of the House and the police for keeping us in order. I am happy to observe that yesterday's events

in the Chamber have not been mirrored in our proceedings. We and our public, who have been impressively numerous, have been kept well in order. I wish the Bill Godspeed.

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

I echo the words of the Minister and of the hon. Member for Westbury in thanking you, Mr. Hurst, and Mrs. Adams for having presided over the proceedings so efficiently and fairly. I pass on my thanks to the staff of the Public Bill Office who have been very helpful to Opposition Members by giving us advice on amendments, although I take responsibility for all flaws. I should also like to thank the Minister's Bill team. It would be invidious and possibly injurious to name those whom I found particularly obliging, but it has been the sort of Bill for which it has been necessary to get information directly, and they have been extremely helpful in Committee, in conferences and outside the House.

I thank the Minister and the Under-Secretary for the way in which they have conducted proceedings. I hold no malice against the Under-Secretary, although I hope that his former bosses will overlook his stated opinion that he wanted them banged up, by which I assume he meant locked up—one never knows these days. I hope that they will not look too harshly on him when I send those remarks to them.

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

I would point out that two of them took me to River Cafe for lunch yesterday. When I worked for them, they never showed any signs of wanting to do that.

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

I presume that that was before they had seen the Under-Secretary's remarks, otherwise he might have been invited as a food taster. I also thank other Opposition Members for the spirit in which they have conducted themselves. I would particularly like to thank the hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Dr. Taylor) for his sage advice—as my consultant, as I would put it—and to congratulate the Liberal Democrat Members on a 100 per cent. turnout.

The Bill is a good Bill. There are remarks that we can save for Third Reading, but although there have, of course, been differences of opinion, it is pleasing that we have had no Divisions. I hope that there will be no significant disagreements during the Bill's remaining stages. The Bill is important, although I hope that it would have been introduced even if the tragedies had not occurred. As with many things in clinical practice, legislation is clearly required, even if we do not recognise that at the time. Parliamentary timetables being what they are, it is a sad fact of life that it takes some incidents and the reports that come from them to bring us to such a point. Nevertheless, it is good that the Bill has progressed so well and—I look at the Government Whip—in such good time in Committee.

Photo of Richard Taylor Richard Taylor Independent, Wyre Forest

It has all been said, except from my perspective of—still—an amateur MP. I thank you, Mr. Hurst, and Mrs. Adams for your kindness and guidance, and also the Ministers, for their unfailing affability. There have been no attempts to put Opposition Members down—in certain larger arenas I have felt that some Ministers

were definitely trying to put me in my place. I have enjoyed this Committee much more than the other Standing Committee on which I served because it has been non-confrontational and largely consensual. I am also so pleased that the Minister is to reconsider at least one of the issues that I raised.

Photo of Mr Alan Hurst Mr Alan Hurst Labour, Braintree

On behalf of my co-Chairman, I should like to thank hon. Members for their kind remarks and for their conduct during the Bill's passage

in Committee. The only improvement from the point of view of the person in the Chair would have been if all hon. Members had received an honorary doctorate for the duration of proceedings, which would have made things more straightforward.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill, as amended, to be reported.

Committee rose at seven minutes past Three o'clock.