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Dr. Fox: The hon. Lady spoke at the outset of her speech about people who might delude themselves in this debate. She should not delude herself into thinking that the Bill is a high-minded measure that the Government have designed to fulfil their manifesto commitments. It was introduced as a result of the court judgment, which left them extremely exposed. We are not considering the Bill in the way in which it should be considered. It is being rushed through all its stages in the House of Commons in one day. That is a measure of how rushed the Government require it to be. We need far more measured legislation that covers a much wider area than we are discussing now.

Glenda Jackson: I do not recall using the phrase "high-handed" or even "high-minded". I support the Government's introduction at such speed of this very small, tightly controlled and focused Bill for the reasons that I have given. It is important that the House shows that it supports in the main the areas of scientific advance that can bring genuine support not tomorrow or next year, but a long way down the line, and that can actively play a part in relieving the unnecessary burdens of so many millions of people around the world. The argument should not be left to those who maliciously argue that any such exploration or scientific discovery is anti-life or will automatically produce cloned human beings, so I say that the House should stand firm and support the Bill.

6.37 pm

Mr. David Amess (Southend, West): I disagree with everything that the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Glenda Jackson) has said. Some years ago, she sought to divide the House on a ten-minute Bill that I had tabled to stop sex selection. She was proud that she defeated a Bill that tried to stop sex selection in this country. I was not convinced by her arguments and I found her completely confusing.

Glenda Jackson: May I say that I am equally proud that the hon. Gentleman disagreed with everything that I said in this debate?

Mr. Amess: We are proud and different.

I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) and his reasoned amendment. Although I shall support the excellent Bill

29 Nov 2001 : Column 1205

that the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Dr. Turner) is due to introduce to the House tomorrow, I did not agree with anything that he said. I know that the hon. Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) is not in his place, but I hope that he will look at the record, as he will see that the House of Lords Stem Cell Research Committee has not addressed any issues of law. Indeed, the Clerk specifically told me that it would not be doing so, so I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman was wrong on that point.

Before hon. Members groan, let me say that I very much agree with Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, who recently said:

I know that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Miss Begg) did not want us to get on to these matters, but I point out that the House will never settle what life is. There are huge differences of opinion between us on the definitions, and we shall just have to disagree on that matter.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough. in his reasoned amendment, has shown up the Bill for what it is. It is hopeless. As my hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) suggested, the idea that the Government are coming forward like a knight in shining armour to deliver the Bill is ridiculous. We are participating in these dreadful proceedings because of the Government's incompetence. That is the way—

Miss Begg: I had not been aware of the hon. Gentleman's Bill on sex selection. He must accept that, under the original Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has stopped sex selection—it did so in the case of a couple in Monifieth. The Act that the hon. Gentleman is so heavily criticising, passed by a Conservative Government when he was in the House, has done what he wanted. Is it not also the case that if the Government win their appeal, which I hope that they do, all the other issues that is raising will be covered by the Bill?

Mr. Amess: That is not the case. Furthermore, the tacky little operation that peddles the idea that people can choose the sex of their child is still offering its services in north London. I see that the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate has now gone. Anyway, I am not entirely sure about that.

The reason why I am so cynical about the Bill is that there are undoubtedly vested interests in this area. It is no great coincidence that in November 2000, the Prime Minister gave a speech to the European bioscience conference in London. That was at the same time, by the way, that he would not agree to have a meeting with the leaders of all our faiths, yet he managed to attend this conference. He told delegates that the biotechnology market in Europe alone would be worth $100 billion and

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could be employing 3 million people by 2005. He was clearly anxious to ensure British involvement in the market, and he said:

Mr. Ian Taylor: I am hesitant to say this to one of my hon. Friends, but the Prime Minister was, as he does in many areas, following the lead that I and my colleagues in the Department of Trade and Industry took before May 1997, when we launched a crusade for biotechnology because we understood its importance for the improvement of mankind.

Mr. Amess: This is getting out of hand. First we had the Prime Minister saving the world, and now my hon. Friend saving it. My hon. Friend was a splendid Minister, but we disagree on this point.

In September 1999, Lord Sainsbury appeared at a fringe meeting at the Labour party conference and declared his unequivocal support for embryonic stem cell research. The BioIndustry Association sponsored the meeting, and Lord Sainsbury shared a platform with Dr. Simon Best, the director of Geron BioMed. Michael West, who founded Geron BioMed, was the gentleman associated with the recent example of human cloning. Is this a coincidence, I ask myself?

Mr. Stephen Pound (Ealing, North): May I counsel the hon. Gentleman, in as gentle a manner as I am capable of, that many of us in the Chamber are strongly minded to support the reasoned amendment? However, every word that he launches into the Chamber makes us less inclined to do so.

Mr. Amess: I say to my co-chair of the all-party Scout Association group that, on my word of honour, I suspected that that might happen. I shall be brief and tone it down a little.

I am not suggesting that any Labour Member has any part in a vested interest, but I have some difficulty with the matter not being dealt with even-handedly. For instance, Dr. Chris Evans is one of the Labour party's largest donors. He is involved in the £100 million genome campus in Cambridgeshire. In 1996, his company backed a company called ReNeuron, which was set up by three scientists at King's college. He invested £5 million in the only UK company developing an innovative cell transplantation technology with the potential to treat brain disorders. A long list of people, including Sir Ronald Cohen, Dr. George Poste, Professor Christine Gosden and Anne McLaren have a vested interest in the matter and also have the Government's ear.

I urge hon. Members in all parts of the House to support the reasoned amendment standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): I call Hazel Blears.

Mr. Lansley: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for you to invite an hon. Member to speak a second time when other Members have been unable to contribute substantively once?

Madam Deputy Speaker: That is done with the leave of the House.

29 Nov 2001 : Column 1207

6.46 pm

Ms Blears: With the leave of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker.

This is a complex issue. We have heard a number of well researched and expert contributions, and ranged over complicated matters of law and difficult matters of science. I wonder whether I need two brains rather than one to catch up, but I shall do my best to deal with as many issues as possible.

First, the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) asked when the Government first knew that the legal position meant that it was necessary to introduce the legislation before the House. I can confirm that the point at which the Government knew was 15 November, when Mr. Justice Crane handed down the judgment in the High Court. That necessitated this urgent legislation. Until then, the view was that human reproductive cloning remained illegal because the embryology authority would refuse to license it. Therefore, in the absence of a licence, it would be a criminal offence if carried out.

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