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Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Lady is starting to make a Second Reading speech. We are discussing the allocation of time. When we have finished doing that, we shall move on to Second Reading, when it will be appropriate to make Second Reading speeches.
Lynne Jones: What I am saying, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is relevant in the sense of what is omitted from the Bill and the time that is available to us to consider important issues. I will not read the exact wording of the Committee's recommendation, but we were clear that the law was ambiguous and sufficiently lax not to catch applications of the Roslin technique. We said:
Again, in February 1998, the Committee expressed its concerns to the Government. Again, those concerns were ignored. The Government are now rushing to ban reproductive cloning while allowing the creation of embryos from methods other than fertilisation, including cell nuclear replacement, which is completely unregulated. We know that reproductive cloning is impossible without those earlier stages, which are ignored in the Bill. It would have been much better if the Government had not rushed the legislationthere is time as reproductive cloning is not imminent. Women are not rushing to donate their eggs for that kind of research. There is no emergency, but the matter is urgent.
The Government should have acted on earlier advice. They are now saying that they will wait for the report from the Lords Stem Cell Research Committee and the outcome of their appeal. That is reasonable because that time scale is reasonably short. If the appeal goes against the Government, they will have to amend the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 to change the definition of an embryo to cover all methods used to create one. If they did so, there would be support on both sides of the House. There would be a lot of debate on the proposals, and no doubt people who are opposed to the use of embryos for research would want to express their views and amend the Act. It is proper for them to have the opportunity to do that, even though I disagree with them.
I am concerned that we are rushing the Bill through today, and that it does not address the crucial issues. As the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald said, the prohibitions in the 1990 Act that apply to embryos created through fertilisation do not apply to embryos created through cell nuclear replacement. She listed all the things that are unregulated as a result of the High Court judgment. The Government should address those issues. Everyone supports the Bill, and it would go through relatively quickly with support on both sides of the House. However, it would have been preferable to
Michael Fabricant: Although I support the Bill, the hon. Lady is wrong to say that Members all do. I know that a number of them object to it. Is that why Labour Members are on a three-line Whip?
Lynne Jones: I do not honestly know why we are on a three-line Whip, as we all had a free vote on the proposals to amend the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act. Perhaps there was a mistake by the Whips Office, which may not have realised what type of issues the Bill addresses. I am sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends would not seek to lean too heavily on Members when we are discussing an issue of such importance.
I do not think that anybody in the House is opposed to legislation to ban reproductive cloning. That is the simple purpose of the Bill, which I support, but I am concerned that introducing it without addressing therapeutic cloning puts the cart before the horse.
Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon): My hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) has already given reasons why the guillotine motion is unpleasant and I endorse many comments by Members on both sides of the House on the matter.
Many of us who are relatively new to the House thought that the days of the crunch guillotine were over and that in the new modernised House, with the Modernisation Committee and programming motions, whatever their merits and demerits, we would not have to deal with such things. Having a guillotine motion imposed on the House without any consultation, even through the usual channelsI am not suggesting that that is necessarily the most inclusive way of doing things on free vote issuesmakes the situation even worse
Michael Fabricant: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way early in his speech. Like me, does he make a contrast between legislation rushed through the House because of a national emergency and the introduction of a Bill that has been known about since August 2000?
Dr. Harris: I was coming to that. Whatever one's view of the substantive issue in the Bill, one day is not enough to scrutinise it, as others have said. I am not going to reiterate the point about needing a pause between Second Reading and Committee stage, then Report and Third Reading and, indeed, between consideration in the Commons and Lords. One can take advice during that time and consult constituents and experts.
The Government are getting into the habit of calling something emergency legislation, then rushing it through as a way of getting themselves out of difficulties unrelated to the emergency. Indeed, they are also getting legislation through using emergency measures that are not really urgent.
Mr. Paul Goodman (Wycombe): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, as my right hon. Friend the
Dr. Harris: The right hon. Member for Maidstone
Miss Widdecombe: And the Weald.
Dr. Harris: I will call her the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) if she will call us the Liberal Democrats, not the Liberals. She gave several reasons why the Bill is not required to stop an Italian self-publicist; all that it seems to do is give credence to his wish for publicity.
I am keen to concentrate on two other areas, including the Government's general reluctance to allow full debate and amendment to primary legislation on the subject. I cannot understand why they are devoted to seeking to avoid that, unless they feel that there is a problem with allowing free votes and not having the control over matters coming before the House to which they are used. That is regrettable because many of the issues are regarded as free vote issues. Not whipping is pointless if we never get an opportunity to debate such matters and have primary legislation on them. The Government do not like to be in a position where they are not in control; this is not the only area in which we have seen that tendency.
The Government give the impression of wanting to rush the legislation through as quickly as possible because they do not like debate on such issues per se. Some members of the Government find it difficult to discuss anything to do with reproduction, or let the House debate and come to quick decisions on matters to do with sexual health, reproduction or anything concerning the abortion issue. I suspect that that was also the case with previous Governments. We have a duty in the House not to be embarrassed. We should be prepared to risk wrath or adverse coverage even in the tabloid press to make sure that such things are adequately discussed.
Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot): I have never known the hon. Gentleman to suffer from a surfeit of embarrassment.
Dr. Harris: Perhaps I have just brought my clinical training to the House. One cannot refuse to discuss those things, because science and future developments are important to many people.
The Government's decision to push the Bill through on a guillotine is based on public reaction. I was surprised that the hon. Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson), for whom I have a great deal of respect in matters of science, should appear in an intervention on my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall to suggest that the Government must respond to something because there is panicky media coverage of it. That is most unlike him. Both in conversation with me and on the public record, he has always argued for a rational, scientific and considered approach, even in the face of adverse reactionexcept, perhaps, in the case telephone communication masts. I remember him contributing to scaremongering on that subject.
I urge the Government not to listen to the hon. Gentleman and to take a deep breath when a Daily Mail headline appears. The newspapers are entitled to do their jobthey do it welland cover issues in the news. I do not criticise them for that, but we have a different job, which is to legislate deliberatively.