Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 7th March 2013.
Amendment proposed: 31, in schedule 7, page 52, line 26, at end insert—
42 The Education Act 1996 is amended as follows.
43 Section 403 (sex education: manner of provision), after subsection (1D) insert—
“(1E) For the purposes of subsection (1A), no school shall be under any duty as a result of guidance issued, to promote or endorse any understanding of the nature of marriage that is contrary to the character and designation of the school.”.’.—(Mr Burrowes.)
We are at an exciting point, because we are at the end of the Bill. I want to deal with paragraphs 36 and 37 of the schedule. Respectively they will add same female-sex marriage to sections 42 and 46 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, which contain provisions about parenthood.
I want to raise the issue of children knowing their biological father, which, as has been said in previous debates, took up a lot of Parliament’s attention. Sections 42 and 46(1), unlike sections 43 and 46(2), appear to make provision for—in effect sanctioning—informal unregulated donor insemination to be carried out at home or aboard, or assisted reproduction in unregulated or poorly regulated overseas clinics.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has expressed concerns about the increased medical risks to children born as a result of such arrangements, without the safeguards of medical checks that are properly in place in UK-licensed clinics. It is also concerned about the increased difficulties in children being able to know who their biological father is in the future.
I do not know whether the Minister has the answers on this at his fingertips, but will he be able to provide some assurance on the greater medical risks for children who are born through informal donor insemination or assisted reproduction in unregulated or poorly regulated overseas clinics compared with those conceived in a UK-licensed clinic? Also, will he explain—this will no doubt involve some reference to another Department—what safeguards are in place for such children to know who their biological father is in the future? If I cannot have a ready response today, I would welcome a letter before the Bill is debated on Report.
I take my hon. Friend’s point. Given the complications of the issue, it might be best if he wrote to me with his specific concern; I guess that it is driven by a conversation with or representation from someone. The matter is a cross-departmental one, but I will respond to him.
What I can say is that the Bill will have absolutely no effect on in vitro fertilisation or the regulation of overseas clinics.
Mr Burrowes rose—
I detect that that is not quite the issue my hon. Friend is after. I would be happy for him to clarify.
Hopefully, the question that I have raised is sufficient for the Minister to respond by way of correspondence.
I appreciate that the Bill does not seek to change the specific practical arrangements. Nevertheless, the provisions raise a question about the need for an assurance that there are safeguards in place for children to know who their biological father is in the future. That is the specific point on which the Minister may be able to gain some understanding for me from the Department of Health.
That is a perfectly sensible and reasonable point. I will get the Department of Health to lay out the particular assurances that exist in such a situation and write to him before the Bill is debated on Report.