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Column 871of Huntington's disease, prediction is now 99 per cent. accurate and can be made many years before the symptoms manifest themselves. It is now established that certain forms of breast cancer and bowel cancer and certain types of heart disease and diabetes are the consequence of genetic factors. As the House knows, some forms of Alzheimer's disease are also known to be caused by genetic factors. Unlike new clause 5, my amendment would not secure protection from discrimination for people who were in the pre-symptomatic phase of HIV unless perhaps it could be demonstrated that the condition was genetic in its origin. I am not scientist enough to be able to offer an opinion on that. I regard it as wrong to exclude from protection against discrimination people who are HIV positive but
pre-symptomatic. Whereas new clause 5 dealt with that, amendment No. 13 does not. I believe that there were other difficulties with new clause 5.
I put it to my hon. Friend the Minister that the Bill as it is drafted encourages discrimination. It provides a positive incentive to those who may be minded to discriminate to do so early because, whereas it would be illegal for them to discriminate against someone once he evinced the symptoms, it would not be illegal for them to discriminate against someone who had not yet manifested the symptoms.
Mr. Spencer Batiste (Elmet): How does my hon. Friend square his comments with the suggestion made to members of the Science and Technology Select Committee that literally everyone is predisposed to some late-onset disease or another and that that is not in fact a disability? How does he draw the distinction between discrimination against the disabled, which is the subject of the Bill, and discrimination in the more general sense, on which of course we are all with him?
Mr. Howarth: I am in favour of protecting everyone from discrimination. The act of discrimination is what we find offensive. The particular point that I make to my hon. Friend beyond what I have already said is that we should make it illegal for people to be discriminated against because they are liable to develop a particular medical condition when they have not yet developed that condition. That seems simply offensive.
Mr. Batiste: The Bill is about discrimination in the context of disability. It is wrong in principle and dangerous in practice, as I shall perhaps be able to demonstrate later, to treat predisposition as a disability.
Sir Gerard Vaughan (Reading, East): The point that my hon. Friend may not have understood is that we are apparently all likely to have a genetic abnormality within us. The point is that we do not know what that genetic abnormality means. We may have a genetic abnormality of which we know the significance, but we may not know
Column 872whether that abnormality will develop. I do not see how we can speculate on the genetic information that we have at present and write it into anti-discrimination legislation.
Mr. Howarth: May I develop my argument a little further? My hon. Friends, who I know have thought carefully about the issue on the Science and Technology Select Committee, will perhaps be able to catch your eye later, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Unfortunately, the Bill has built into it a provision in schedule 1(7) which in effect provides a positive incentive to those minded to discriminate to do so early--to get their retaliation in first, so to speak. That is perverse and contrary to the spirit that animates the Bill. It is surely an outcome that my hon. Friend the Minister cannot have intended.
Let me illustrate what might happen in circumstances fairly close to home or at least to the office of my hon. Friend the Minister. The civil service employs many women. Some of the women whom the civil service employs will have a genetic predisposition to breast cancer. It would surely not be right for the civil service as an employer to require them to provide details of their medical condition, even positively to seek out evidence of such a predisposition and then to exclude some women from employment. Common sense and common decency tells us that that would be wrong.
The decision to take a predictive test is a major one, and it is a difficult and painful decision in the lives of individuals and their families. It may lead to much benefit. It may lead--if the test is negative --to relief from care and from the fear of having the condition. But if the test is positive and it is predicted that the person will develop the condition, he must live with the distress of knowing that, and he will then be faced with some desperately difficult decisions in his personal life. For example, he must decide whether to have children or whether to undergo medical treatment which may be traumatic.
The effect of the Bill as worded would be to add to that person's dilemmas, because he could face discrimination in a range of areas. As my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet (Mr. Batiste) said, the Bill is about people who are disabled, and he was perfectly right to say that people in the pre- symptomatic phase are not disabled. But I maintain that it is perverse that it should be legal to discriminate earlier where it would not be legal to discriminate later when the symptoms had manifested themselves. That cannot be sensible or right.
Dr. Godman: I hastily observe that I am not an expert in this field. Would the hon. Gentleman's amendment, which concerns the history of impairment, give protection to someone who has suffered a severe mental illness but has experienced what used to be called a spontaneous
Column 873remission, and is able to retake his place in everyday life? Would such a person, having experienced that recovery, be protected by the amendment?
Mr. Howarth: Those are not circumstances which I had in mind during the formulation of the amendment, and I doubt if a person in such circumstances would be protected. That would need careful interpretation.
The amendment will rescue from discrimination people who will develop certain diseases late on, and it will also rescue the Government from the embarrassment which they will surely be in if the perverse consequences which I have described occur. I propose that we proceed by determining that anti-discrimination provision applies to people in the pre-symptomatic phase as if they were disabled. I acknowledge, as has been said, that people who are in the pre-symptomatic phase are not disabled, but I propose that--for the purposes of providing practical protection for them--we should treat them as if they were disabled.
The amendment proceeds differently from new clause 5, which defines people in the pre-symptomatic phase as disabled. That would be regrettable, because people who are not yet disabled do not--naturally enough--wish to be regarded or defined as such.
The amendment would be equitable, and it certainly would be of enormous benefit to individuals who are at risk. I shall illustrate how it would be fair, proper and right to introduce the amendment. I am informed by the Genetic Interest Group of a case of a town planner with sickle cell disease who was employed by one London borough and then moved to a new job in another borough. He was a member of the local government pension fund, but the transfer of his pension with his new employment was initially vetoed by the fund when it was approached by his new employers, who were aware of his condition. In the end, it turned out all right, but confusion reigned for some months and he experienced enormous anxiety. If that issue had not been resolved, he would not have been able to go back to his old job, which had gone. The trustees of the pension fund would have been free under the law as it is--and under the law as my hon. Friend the Minister proposes--to refuse to allow that transfer.
The amendment would be fair to employers and providers, and it would certainly entail them incurring no costs beyond those which they will incur as a result of the existing provisions proposed by the Government. The amendment merely requires them not to treat an individual unfairly when he is healthy. I do not see how my hon. Friend the Minister can reasonably object to that.
The amendment ought to satisfy the Government, as I was careful not to extend the definition of disability beyond the commonsense terms which I know my hon. Friend is most anxious to retain. If the Government do not accept the amendment, they and the taxpayer will suffer. They will suffer because of an increase in the cost to the public purse as a result of individuals who have been excluded from employment and denied the opportunity to make private provision for themselves becoming more dependent on benefits and on publicly funded services.
Just as the Government have made it clear that they are anxious to ensure that victimisation is not within the law, the same principle applies here. We are preventing people
Column 874from being victimised because of a future condition which they will develop, and from being victimised by having the discrimination shifted forward in time.
The change to the Bill would provide a positive inducement to employers, financial services organisations and other groups to develop codes of good practice and to make their procedures transparent, logical and fair.
My hon. Friend the Minister may argue, as was argued in Committee by the Government, that the amendment is unnecessary because employment protection legislation deals with the matter. I have no doubt that that legislation does provide protection for people who have been employed for more than a certain number of years. But if they have not been employed for that number of years, they are not protected. There is also no protection for those seeking work, or for those who are looking to move to a new job and, with the flexible labour markets in which my right hon. and hon. Friends glory, that is becoming a particularly important consideration.
In the same way, existing insurance policies might well remain valid, but new ones will be increasingly difficult for people in this predicament to obtain.
I am advised by my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet that the Select Committee has heard the case put by distinguished geneticists that the right way to protect people in the pre-symptomatic phase and before the late onset of a genetically transmitted condition is through confidentiality. I do not think that that is sufficient protection. Secrets are not kept, and it would be most unreasonable if people who have such a diagnosis were required to live a furtive life in that regard. It would be unfair to them, and often it would be unfair to employers and others who might have a just entitlement to know. In any case, it is the act of discrimination itself that is offensive, and we ought to deal with that.
I am not arguing that justified and reasonable discrimination should be made illegal. For example, insurers who have sound actuarial reasons for discriminating against a person so diagnosed would not be prevented by the amendment from doing so. I do not think that trying to screen out or bury the problem through relying upon confidentiality is the answer, although that argument has been put seriously in the face of other difficulties.
Sir Gerard Vaughan: One of the issues that was put to us by the insurance companies was whether they have the right to demand the genetic screening of a person. If so, do they have the right to load the premiums? If so, do they have the right to let other members of the person's family know of the genetic problem? There are wide complications in this matter. We have heard that a person who discovers that he has a genetic abnormality may not know the implications of that. If he does know, it can cause immense psychological and social difficulties of the type that my hon. Friend described.
My amendment deals with a limited range of circumstances. It specifies a situation in which a medical test reveals a genetic predisposition in the person to a progressive condition. I am not trying to provide answers to the range of large, difficult, practical and ethical questions that arise from the advance of genetic science
Column 875and understanding. We could not do so in this context. It would be a colossal task for the House as a whole and no doubt it is one with which we shall increasingly have to grapple. That should not be used as an argument for waiting to deal with a clearly identified evil that would be an accidental consequence of the legislation as it stands.
In truth, we will never end that discussion about all the ethical and practical issues that flow from genetics, but if we try to provide some all -embracing, grandiose solution, we shall almost certainly fail and in the meantime we will leave a clearly identified evil to become established. The best is so often liable to be the enemy of the good and it would be so in this case. Equally, we should not embark on a large discussion on privacy and confidentiality. We are talking about cases for which we already have evidence. We should not confuse this issue with the other issues with which my hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People and other hon. Friends who have been actively involved with the Bill are concerned. This is a distinct issue and we can consider reputation apart from this amendment. We are talking about matters of established fact or ascertainable likelihood and not about reputation in the more general sense.
I apologise for having detained the House so long on this issue, but it is one that matters very much. We have the remedy before us in the amendment and I hope that the House will be willing to accept it.
Mr. Corbett: This is a difficult area with wide scientific implications. As the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) demonstrated, it is something with which the Bill ought properly to be concerned. Through the Bill, we want to avoid discrimination against people with disabilities. I do not know whether this will help hon. Members who questioned the hon. Gentleman, but we are focusing on those people who have been diagnosed, as a result of a medical test, as having a specific and progressive condition. That is the best way that I can put it in layman's language.
We are concerned with three broad areas--genetic predisposition, those diagnosed as having HIV or AIDS and known to be carrying the HIV virus, and a third group of people who are known to have sensory disabilities. As far as is possible, we want to leave none of those groups behind.
Mr. Batiste: By categorising what are defined as specific groups, the hon. Gentleman identified people with a genetic predisposition, but in a relatively short space of time everyone will be diagnosed as having some genetic predisposition or another. The hon. Gentleman is effectively saying that, because everyone will die one day, one should not be discriminated against simply on that ground because one has a better idea of the route by which it will happen.
Mr. Corbett: As I told the hon. Gentleman, I want to focus on those people with a diagnosed progressive condition. I take his point--we are all born to die, but we might as well pack up and go home on the basis of that argument.
We are talking about people who, on the basis of medical tests, are identifiable. As the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon said, much misunderstanding,
Column 876prejudice and false information is being spread about people who have been diagnosed as having HIV or AIDS and those carrying the HIV virus. Companies such as Texaco, British Airways and Harrods make an HIV test a condition of employment. Happily, other firms in similar industries do not test the people they take on and have non- discrimination policies. They include Esso, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Sainsbury and Kingfisher.
The Terrence Higgins Trust, of which I am pleased to be a patron, gives examples--with which I will not weary the House--of people in work who have been found to be HIV positive as a result of rumour or hearsay and have been dismissed from their jobs. That does happen and it is no good saying that there is a legal remedy if they have worked for a company for more than two years, as very few people will risk the attendant publicity of taking a case of that type to an industrial tribunal on the ground of wrongful dismissal under present legislation or would do so even if their cases were included in the provisions of this Bill.
In an earlier debate, we heard examples of the 17 in every 100 people who suffer from some form of hearing loss. To deny them the cover of the Bill-- if that is what the Bill does and there are some doubts about that--is to deny the deaf and hard of hearing their true identity as a distinct group with different needs. All hon. Members who have met people who are deaf or hard of hearing know exactly what that means.
This may be an misunderstanding that the Minister can clear up, but my reading of the Bill gives me the impression that it encourages the employer who suspects that someone has a progressive condition to get in with discrimination early because the person is not covered until he or she exhibits the symptoms of that disability. I find that offensive. If we say that we will not take seriously discrimination against disabled people until the way in which they present themselves shrieks disability at us, we are heading in the wrong direction.
We are talking about people who have been diagnosed after a medical test, who are in the pre-symptomatic state and whom we know will suffer the sad consequences of the conditions over a period of time, which will vary with the individual and the conditions. We want to ensure that, as far as possible, the Bill can offer them some help and protection.
Mr. Batiste: I have enormous respect for my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth), who tabled the amendment, and a great deal of sympathy for what he is trying to do. I believe that his approach is wrong, however, and will explain why.
I should preface my comments by saying that I am a member of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, which is examining the ethical, regulatory and commercial implications of human genetic research. It is probably the most interesting study with which I have been involved, and it is one of the most impressive antidotes to the short-termism of parliamentary life, in that we are discussing something that will be of the most dramatic importance to everyone during the next century.
We have taken a huge amount of evidence on a matter that will be so important and, because of its importance, will embrace uniquely complex moral and practical issues. I have no doubt that the House will be called upon to legislate on some of the issues--probably in the not so distant future.
Column 877It is wrong and dangerous to enshrine now, in primary legislation, ad hoc judgments outside the context of a comprehensive and considered framework, especially as the judgment that we are being invited to make today is flawed.
The Bill is about disability and discrimination, and the amendment seeks to treat genetic predisposition as a disability.
Mr. Alan Howarth: It does not treat it as a disability; it treats it as if a person with that condition were disabled, to ensure that the offence of discrimination does not occur. I ask my hon. Friend to focus on the moral aspect of the matter, and to address himself to the rights and wrongs of discrimination in a circumstance where someone may think that somebody else is disabled.
Mr. Batiste: I have no difference with my hon. Friend in seeking to prevent discrimination in the sort of cases that he describes. I simply believe that what he has expressed, coloured as it is by the fact that his experience relates to information that he has received from his connection with the Huntington's Disease Association and genetics interest groups, does not reflect the broader picture. I ask him, in turn, to focus on the fact that to try to bracket genetic predisposition with disability is the worst possible signal to give at this point in the development of the science, for reasons that I shall describe in a moment.
Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston): The hon. Gentleman has failed to read the entire schedule. Clear reference is made in this amendment, the subsequent Government amendment and an amendment tabled by Opposition Members to terminology that overcomes his difficulty. The text before us refers to people who suffer from progressive conditions, and defines the kind of ballpark we are in. I do not think that the hon. Member for Elmet (Mr. Batiste) is really suggesting that Huntington's disease is not a condition which is almost certain to lead to discrimination. The amendment of the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) refers not to obscure matters like the colour of one's eyes but to serious progressive conditions.
Mr. Batiste: With great respect to the hon. Gentleman, who is also a member of the Science and Technology Select Committee, he is missing the point. While the amendment has been proposed in the context of Huntington's disease and other serious defects, the reality is that genetic testing of predisposition will, in a relatively short time, cover the whole spectrum from Huntington's disease to predisposition to a variety of cancers, respiratory disease and a range of other diseases. The tests in each case will be differently balanced.
For example, if someone with a genetic predisposition to Huntington's disease lives long enough, he or she will almost certainly contract Huntington's disease. But the predisposition itself and the discovery of the gene for that predisposition make it more likely that a cure will be found for that disease within the person's lifetime.
Sir Gerard Vaughan: I do not wish to argue about details, but Huntington's chorea can occur quite early in life. The age of onset can be progressively younger and run through some parts of a family. So we cannot say that
Column 878a person will not develop that condition for a great number of years, as he may develop it quite soon. Moreover, we know that the person is properly diagnosed.
Mr. Batiste: Indeed he may. I have drawn a picture of one end of the spectrum. The other end is that people will be diagnosed for all kinds of serious diseases with a percentage possibility that they may or may not contract them at some time in their lifetime, but we have no way of predicting when they are likely to do so.
To say that the amendment is confined to a small group of people is wrong, because, within a short time, it will apply to an ever-growing number of people and, ultimately, to everybody. If hon. Members would listen to me for a moment more, they would understand that I am not trying to advocate discrimination, but saying that we should deal with this matter through different routes that would not have the serious side effects which clinical geneticists already advise us this will have if we try to treat the predisposition as a disability.
It is wrong to believe that there is one healthy genetic norm. That is a deterministic judgment which has nothing to do with this science. In reality, every person is unique and predisposed to some serious disease or another. Predisposition to one disease may provide protection against another serious disease.
The whole process of genetic prediction of predisposition is a step towards understanding the nature of a disease and a cure for it, and hence the defeat of the original prediction. It is wrong to label any human genome as containing and constituting a disability when there is no current physical or mental symptom.
That is not to countenance discrimination, but to say that the solutions to genetic discrimination are far more complex than envisaged in the amendment, and are outside the Bill's scope. The worst case of genetic discrimination that has occurred so far is that of sickle-cell anaemia carriers in the US, where massive discrimination took place because of a well-intentioned attempt to define sickle-cell anaemia as a disability, which caused havoc to large numbers of people who were never likely to contract the disease in the first place.
We had an opportunity in the Select Committee as recently as last week to take evidence from one of the most eminent clinical geneticists in this country, Professor Modell. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Dr. Jones) asked him:
"If you discovered, as it were, that you had been screened and you had got this predisposition, should it be illegal to discriminate against you on the grounds that you had this predisposition . . . ?" The response from Professor Modell was clear and unambiguous. He said:
"It seems to me the suggestion that people should have this protection on the grounds of a predisposition could be quite debilitating and damaging to the individual. In my own area, forgive me for . . . returning to thalassaemia, but we have adult patients and one of the most active arguments between them at international meetings is over exactly this issue, because there are some countries in which, by virtue of their diagnosis, they are entitled to a certain amount of pension, free cars, going to university, and they feel that this actually undermines their self -esteem as adult individuals. And I can see this, it actually causes a great deal of social harm, to give people protection on the basis of a diagnosis. They would not mind the protection if they were handicapped"-- but not on the basis of diagnosis.
Column 879I went on to suggest:
"I think what you are suggesting is that the protection should actually come through proper codes of secrecy and privacy, in relation to genetic screening information, rather than by defining fairly artificially the predisposition as being a disability". Professor Modell replied:
The House will have to make many difficult decisions as genetic science increases in its knowledge and its impact on a range of issues. Those include life assurance; mass screening; informed consent; privacy of information; financing of health care; and employment. The solutions to those problems are not always the most obvious.
The best bioethics framework document that I have seen so far is a draft convention by the Council of Europe. It deals with predictive testing and its implications, and refers to predictive testing for serious late-onset diseases, which is at the heart of this amendment, but does so in a wider and more appropriate context than the Bill. The right course for us is to ratify that convention and establish a national bioethics commission to operate within it and make considered recommendations for legislation in this country. It is not to make piecemeal judgments and enshrine them in primary legislation, however well meaning.
Definition is one of the most important aspects of the Bill. It means that people will either be assisted by the legislation or excluded from it, depending on the definition of "disability". I tabled an amendment in Committee about definition for that very reason. I felt that it was one of the most important parts of the Bill, and I am pleased to discuss it today.
Many illnesses and disabilities are not covered by the current definition of disability in clause 1, but they should be. Transient illnesses, such as mental illness or epilepsy, are not properly covered by the definition, nor are intermittent illnesses such as myalgic encephalomyelitis--ME. People will not be covered by the definition before the onset of the symptoms of a degenerative illness such as multiple sclerosis. The same applies to people with dormant conditions such as HIV.
People will be discriminated against because of their past or future illnesses, because the definition in clause 1 may exclude depression or someone with a history of mental illness. We raised that in Committee, but we received no satisfactory answers from Ministers. We must be given a satisfactory reply today, because that definition is not wide enough.
Genetic disorders have already been mentioned by several hon. Members, who have spoken about the advances that have been made. That we get the Bill right is therefore a serious matter. A genetic test can now be conducted to see if someone is predisposed to Alzheimer's disease. Some 634,000 people in this country have dementia, and of those, 70 per cent. will get Alzheimer's disease. If that test is positive, the person tested could be discriminated against by employers, who might refuse to take him on because he may get Alzheimer's disease in another few years.
Column 880People will be subject to actual discrimination because of a test they took to find out whether they are predisposed to a particular disease. Such people could be debarred from insurance and employment, so they need to be included in the definition in clause 1. People suffering from asymptomatic HIV are another example, because those who have been diagnosed with the HIV virus are already discriminated against, even though no one has provided us with the time scale for the onset of the symptoms of that disease.
Sense--the National Deaf-Blind and Rubella Association--has done extremely good work in advising hon. Members about the problems of the definition in clause 1 and other problems connected with the Bill. It is extremely worried that people with Usher syndrome will be excluded from the definition.
Someone with that syndrome may have a slight hearing loss or may be born with a hearing impairment. He may get employment, but if an employer knows that that person could also lose his sight in his late 20s, he could be debarred from even getting that employment. I cannot think of anything more devastating than dual sensory loss. Those suffering from Usher syndrome must be included in the definition. Future conditions are not included in the definition, yet it should be inclusive, not exclusive. That is what discrimination is all about. We need a clear, comprehensive and, above all, workable definition.
The current definition in clause 1 is far too narrow, and it will create confusion and uncertainty. It will lead to lengthy disputes, especially when we consider how the Bill deals with clinically well-recognised illnesses. Someone who has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act 1983 might not be covered by the definition. It seems absolutely incredible that a person could be judged not to have a mental impairment, but could be locked up against his will, and still not come within the remit of this Bill.
That definition must be amended to include not just present disabilities, but a history of illness and a reputation for having an illness or disability. Without that change, the definition is too tight. I sincerely hope that hon. Members will vote for amendment No. 12.
Sir John Hannam: My hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) has spoken about amendment No. 13 on genetic predisposition. Organ- isations such as the Alzheimer's Disease Society, of which I am a vice-president, have expressed concern that the Bill as it stands fails to afford protection from unfair discrimination to those people who can be identified by predictive genetic testing as being at risk of becoming disabled due to genetic causes. They fear that information gathered from genetic testing could be used to restrict an individual's access to the life opportunities mentioned by other hon. Members.
I share some of the apprehension that certain hon. Friends have expressed about the correct time to legislate, given that so much research is being conducted into genetics. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will be able to answer that point.
Amendment No. 12 relates to the history of an impairment. I hope that we can make some progress on that, because I know from constituency experiences of individuals, particularly people working in the civil service, who have suffered discrimination as a result of previously having suffered depression, a nervous
Column 881breakdown or other illnesses. It was a long time before some of those people became aware that that medical evidence had affected their careers.
The amendment would extend the definition of a disabled person given in clause 1. I support it because the existing definition is unnecessarily restrictive, as it excludes many people who suffer from the most severe and unjustified discrimination.
The current definition concentrates entirely on an individual's ability
"to carry out normal day-to-day activities."
The Government argue that that definition represents common sense. At first glance, it may seem fair that people who are not really disabled should not be covered by the Bill, but on closer examination, problems become clear. As I have explained, people who have been treated for depression often find that employers are prejudiced against them. As the Bill stands, they will be entitled to protection only if they can show that their depression is likely to recur in the future. That is not common sense, nor is it equitable.
I have cited one group of people who should be included within the definition, but many others will be ignored despite the fact that they are already discriminated against on the basis of disability. They may exclude people with epilepsy, diabetes or ME. People with visual, hearing or other impairments may also be excluded because their disabilities are not severe enough.
To claim the right to fair and equal treatment, a person will first have to convince an employer or a court how incapable he is. That contradicts the real message of the Bill, which should be to promote an understanding of the abilities of disabled people. It is also at odds with the dignity and respect that disabled people have the right to expect from a law aimed at ending discrimination against them. Concern has been expressed about extending the definition too widely, so that it could cover the whole population. A similar problem has not arisen with other equality laws that have been drafted precisely to include everyone. The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 makes discrimination against men or women on the basis of gender illegal; similarly, the Race Relations Act 1976 protects anyone, black or white, from racial prejudice. It makes sense for protection against discrimination on the basis of disability to be equally broadly drawn.
The right to fair treatment should not be rationed. I therefore hope that the Minister will heed those arguments when considering amendment No. 12.
Dr. Jeremy Bray (Motherwell, South): Like the hon. Member for Elmet (Mr. Batiste), I am a member of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, but I believe that the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) is an appropriate interim measure to anticipate the much wider legislation which will be needed in the near future. I agree with the hon. Member for Elmet about that. The Select Committee is in the process of exploring such legislation.
As the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon said, the present draft of the schedule has a positive bias against those with a genetic predisposition. That is plainly wrong. If it were neutral, that would be a different matter. If the Bill creates a positive incentive for an employer or anyone else to discriminate against a person who has a genetic
Column 882predisposition--it will be possible to discriminate against him only before it becomes a progressive condition-- that is wrong.
Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge): Does my hon. Friend agree that, if employers or insurance companies are allowed to discriminate against people with genetic predispositions, the effect may be to give people a disincentive not to have genetic tests and that, in many cases, such as that of a familial tendency to breast cancer or raised cholesterol, that may be deleterious to that person's health? Therefore, it is extremely important to pass the amendment in terms of discrimination.