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9.10 pm

Dr. Ladyman: This is an important Bill, and I assure my hon. Friend the Minister that I shall address my comments to its content. It will provide greater powers to control drunkenness in public places, protect a quality of life that has been threatened for many of our constituents, and address issues of crime and disorder on the streets that our constituents have raised with us.

My main interest in the Bill has been the provision of powers to protect scientists, and I make no apology for returning to that theme. Earlier, I thanked the Minister for keeping an open mind on the subject, for being prepared to listen to advice that he was being given by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and for introducing new clauses that have now been incorporated into the Bill. As a consequence of his openness and willingness to

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accept advice, the Bill is immeasurably better. For the first time, scientists can look forward to being protected by the law and to being able to continue their work. I congratulate not only the Minister but Opposition Members who made a constructive contribution to our debates on the subject.

Mr. Blunt: Does the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that, because of the timetable, we would never have had a debate on the subject if the Opposition had not agreed to consider the relevant new clauses after we had considered only one third of the clauses?

Dr. Ladyman: I have no doubt that there were discussions via the usual channels that allowed us to raise issues that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee believed were important. However, as the hon. Gentleman wants to get into party political banter, and if Conservative Members have opened their minds to the needs of scientists, perhaps they will say whether they will address the issue of scientists with the same openness as the Minister has demonstrated in the Bill. Perhaps they will also re-examine the policy which they have just proposed, of extending the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to animal experiments. Such an extension would close down the United Kingdom's pharmaceutical companies and put terrorism back on to the doorsteps of scientists.

Mr. Hawkins: I think that the hon. Gentleman may have been very badly misled by an article that appeared on the front page of The Times today. He should be aware that my hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo), who is the shadow Cabinet member responsible for agriculture, has written a letter for publication in The Times, we hope tomorrow, in which he comprehensively demolishes that article. He makes it clear that both the author of the article and the professor who is quoted in it had been told the true position before the article's publication in today's edition of The Times. Both gentlemen, however, decided to ignore that information. I would not want the hon. Gentleman--with whose views on these issues I agree--to be misled by a wholly inaccurate and perhaps even malicious article in today's press.

Dr. Ladyman: I was not misled by that article, which I read only briefly before entering the Chamber. I was informed on the subject by a much longer article written by the hon. Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo) that appeared, several weeks ago, in The Daily Telegraph. I responded to that article with press releases of my own. The response that I received from The Daily Telegraph was that the article was so unimportant that they would not follow it up with my reply, and other media were not interested in the article at all. The article was, however, very detailed. The hon. Gentleman made it very clear that he intended the Conservative party's policy to be to force all animal experiments into the public domain so that they, and the scientists who do them, can be subjected to a critique before proceeding. I can see that you are becoming a little uneasy, Mr. Deputy Speaker, about my taking a route that I should not pursue on Third Reading. I shall therefore return to the protection of scientists.

In my first job, I worked with an eminent scientist who was reaching the end of his professional career. In the latter part of that career, he had conducted a series of

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experiments in which he had exposed mice to radiation to see what effects it had. One effect was that it killed their bone marrow. After repeating the experiments to see that that effect was consistent, he took some bone marrow out of the animals before they were irradiated. After the remaining bone marrow had been killed, he returned the removed marrow to the mouse, and discovered that it flourished and grew.

The scientist next went a step further. He took bone marrow from certain mice, and then put it into different, irradiated mice. That bone marrow also flourished. The first point of that story is that he would not be allowed licences to do that work under today's legislation. His targets were too nebulous to allow for licences under the current regime. Secondly, if he were alive today, that scientist would be the target of terrorists, who would not accept that he should do such work.

Thirdly, the principles that that scientist discovered were later transposed into human beings. They now provide the primary treatment for some forms of childhood leukaemia. The hundreds of parents who must have cried themselves to sleep over the years after discovering that their new-born child or toddler had leukaemia have been given relief because of that man's work on mice. Their children are well and whole and happy and growing.

If we do not protect scientists and allow them the freedom to do such work, there will be no new cures for the diseases that we suffer from today. There will be no advances on Parkinson's disease or Alzheimer's. We must protect our scientists, not just for our health but for the economic well-being of our nation. If we do not do that, they will go elsewhere to do their work, to a standard lower than that on which we insist.

We have done good work in Committee and on Report in improving the Bill by including provisions that protect scientists. I hope that the Minister will continue to consider ideas as people feed them to him at the later stages of the Bill. I hope that it may be further improved as it passes through the other place, perhaps even on the basis of ideas on conspiracy advanced by the Opposition and professional organisations. Perhaps we can improve it further, but we have, at least, produced a Bill that offers scientists real protection for the first time. The House and the Government should be congratulated on that.

9.18 pm

Mr. Simon Hughes: On Third Reading, we are going round a course that those of us who deal with Home Office matters have followed frequently in recent months. In the previous Session, there were 12 Home Office Bills, and in this Session there have been six so far. In both Sessions, the Home Office has produced far more legislation than any other Department. In addition, it is a matter of record that there have been Criminal Justice Bills almost every year under every Government in recent years. As I reflect on all that, it seems that there is something about our process that we are not getting right.

Governments are given authority by the electorate to produce proposals for Parliament. They are entitled to do that, and are given the advantage of our procedures to enable them to do so. The initiative lies with them. Yet we often end up with legislation that has not been tested against the views and experience of people both in and out of Parliament in such a way as to produce good law.

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One of my persistent themes--the Minister and other colleagues on the Committee will have heard it often--is that we need to improve our procedures so that when we get something on the statute book, we know that it ought to be there, and that wherever possible, it is done deliberatively. Only very exceptionally should we rush into something as a result of the requirement for an immediate response to an immediate set of events. It is a bit like the Budget. Wednesday's Budget looks very different the following Tuesday. Legislation conceived to deal with a problem in 2000 might not be thought to be such a good idea by 2002.

I enjoyed serving on the Committee. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Jackie Ballard) and I both contributed to and benefited from its proceedings. We had an intelligent exchange on all the issues that we had the opportunity to debate. I pay tribute to colleagues in the other two parties in that respect. We none the less ought to have a process that allows, first, consultation on proposals; secondly, as a matter of normal practice, a draft Bill; and thirdly, the sending of that draft Bill to a Special Standing Committee, Select Committee or other forum, in which things can be checked and evidence taken.

If we did that, by the time we dealt with controversial matters--I shall come to the substance of my speech in a second--we would know properly not only what people thought, but how we could benefit from experience not just in this country but abroad. In this country we are very bad at looking at comparable examples of measures that have been tried and tested in other countries. We are insular in that respect, and it is often to our detriment that we do not draw on the considered experience of people in other legislatures and democracies around the world.

Mr. Charles Clarke: I am attracted to the idea of Special Standing Committees and so on; I always have been. However, I ask in all seriousness--I do not know what his answer is--how the hon. Gentleman would deal with repetitiveness in some of the debates. I have sat opposite him on many Standing Committees, and we have no doubt found each other repetitive on various occasions. How do we achieve the scrutiny that he wants without simply providing a succession of forums in which we re-run identical and increasingly sterile discussions?

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