Clause 53

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:15 am on 12th June 2008.

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Interpretation of references to father etc.

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

I beg to move amendment No. 61, in clause 53, page 45, line 16, at end insert—

‘( ) the Schedule to the Population (Statistics) Act 1938 (c. 12),’.

Photo of Jimmy Hood Jimmy Hood Labour, Lanark and Hamilton East

With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 104 and 62.

Photo of Mark Simmonds Mark Simmonds Shadow Minister (Health)

On a point of order, Mr. Hood. Perhaps we could have a point of clarification from the Chair. I want to understand why Government amendment No. 104 is detailed under clause 53, when in fact it is an amendment to schedule 6.

Photo of Jimmy Hood Jimmy Hood Labour, Lanark and Hamilton East

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. It is a matter of selection. The amendment was deemed relevant to the debate, and that is why it has been selected.

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

The Bill sets out the provisions regarding legal parenthood for same-sex couples following assisted conception. The provisions allow for the female partner of the woman giving birth, whether in a civil partnership or not, to be entered as a parent at birth registration—that is a debate that we have had over a series of clauses.

Something else happens at birth registration, which is why there is a cross-reference with legislation in other clauses. At birth registration, some statistical information is collected under statute by the registrar. It relates to the mother’s and father’s ages and, if they are married, the date of marriage, whether the mother has been married before and the number of children born to the mother. The information that the registrar is required to collect is set out in the Population (Statistics) Act 1938. As a result of the measures in the Bill, the questions asked when registering the birth require amendment, as the existing wording would be inappropriate for same-sex couples.

The amendment makes the necessary changes to the 1938 Act—we were required to do it this way round—in order to allow for the collection of information relating to the age of the same-sex parents and the date of any civil partnership, where applicable, so as to treat same-sex  parents the same as other parents. This is a requirement beyond the Bill about the collection of statistics and other things under the 1938 Act and the registration of birth. That is why I presume, as you said, Mr. Hood, that all the references that occur in another clause are put together here for the substantive debate. It is exactly the same principle. It is about recording the information.

Photo of Mark Simmonds Mark Simmonds Shadow Minister (Health)

Again, this provision is fairly standard fare when a Bill will go on to become an Act and amend previous Acts. I suspect—the Minister may or may not confirm this—that the reason why amendment No. 61 and subsequent amendments were tabled, affecting both clause 53 and schedule 6, is that the 1938 Act was missed off the original list. I am not sure why it is not on the original list in clause 53(5)(a) to (m). Is the Minister absolutely confident that the Bill will not impact on any other Acts? I cannot see anywhere in this clause regulation-making powers to amend other Acts of Parliament—of 1938, 1927 or 1895—to ensure that the provisions are comprehensive and that primary legislation is not required in the future to change Acts that are already in place.

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Minister of State (Department of Health) (Public Health) 9:30 am, 12th June 2008

I am as confident as I can be in the outstanding skills of those who took part in the consultation and the pre-legislative scrutiny, those who considered the matter in the other place and the parliamentary draftsmen to ensure that that is the case. They made the position clear to the best of their abilities. However, if it is not clear, there is a power in clause 64 to make consequential amendments. Therefore, there is eventually a loop back. We have attempted to ensure that there is a failsafe, but I am as confident as I can be.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 53, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.