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Dr. Fox rose

Ms Blears: I must move on, because I am anxious to deal with as many complex issues that Members raised as I can. I have a responsibility to do so.

The hon. Member for Woodspring also suggested that the powers in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 regulating the use of human eggs are sufficient to deal with this situation. I can tell him that they are not. That Act regulates the storage of eggs, not matters carried out in relation to fresh eggs. Therefore, it is not sufficient to achieve what we want to achieve.

The hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) raised a lot of "what if" questions about the various court cases, asking what would happen if the Government won, what would happen if the applicant won and how long we would take to make a decision on bringing the matter back to the House for further consideration.

Dr. Evan Harris: The House of Lords appeal.

Ms Blears: The hon. Gentleman also asked about whether there would be a House of Lords appeal and whether there would be an appeal to the European Court. I repeat what I said to open the debate: it would be wrong to anticipate what the Court of Appeal may have to say. We must consider the judgment in detail, see where the gaps are and see which issues we need to bring back to the House.

Alongside the appeal process is the report of the House of Lords Select Committee. The Committee has been meeting for nigh on 12 months, so it is important that we treat its considerations with great seriousness and respect. I come to the comments—

Dr. Harris: Dedifferentiated cells.

Ms Blears: The hon. Gentleman reminds me. I understand that, in the circumstances that he outlined, the embryo would not be created by fertilisation, but there are difficulties in defining the techniques precisely in legislation. That reinforces my initial point. What we have

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tried to do is provide that embryos created by fertilisation are covered by the 1990 Act, while those created in any other way will be covered by the 2001 Act—if it becomes an Act. There is no room for embryos to, as it were, fall through the middle.

The right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) raised detailed and complex issues. She did not think that the 14-day limit on experimentation would apply to embryos created by cell nuclear replacement. The provision that she mentioned, which refers to the 14-day period or the point at which the primitive streak first appears, is called a deeming provision in law. It seeks to clarify further the primary measure—I think it appears in section 3(3) of the Act—which provides that no experimentation shall be carried out after the primitive streak appears.

Clearly, in the case of embryos created by cell nuclear replacement as well as those created by fertilisation, there will be a point at which the primitive streak appears. If the Government won their case in the Court of Appeal and embryos created by cell nuclear replacement were covered by the regulatory framework in the 1990 Act, they would also be covered by the provision relating to experimentation. Because in their case too there is a point at which the primitive streak appears, the deeming provision that appears in, I believe, section 3(4) of the Act seeks to clarify the definition of that primitive streak even further.

The right hon. Lady raised another complex issue, that of consent. She suggested that because the consent provisions in the 1990 Act applied to the owners of the egg and the sperm, and in this instance the owners of the gametes, embryos created by cell nuclear replacement—or the constituent parts of such embryos, being the enucleated egg and the adult cell—would not be subject to the same issues of consent. In fact the egg would be subject to consent: it is clearly a gamete, and would therefore be covered by the 1990 Act. As for the adult cell that would be implanted in the enucleated egg, the common-law provisions would demand consent for any medical treatment requiring the extraction and implantation of that cell. There would therefore be legal coverage, although I accept that it would not be in the same legislation.

I understand that if the Government won their case and the regulatory framework applied to CNR embryos, the authority would have to issue a licence in which it would be able to make provision with regard to consent. That ought to deal with all the right hon. Lady's points.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mrs. Campbell) made an excellent speech. It was short, pointed and succinct—a little like the Bill, in fact—and featured her usual common sense and practicality. I was grateful for her support.

My hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton (Jim Dobbin) made a very considered contribution. He wanted reassurance that, if the Government lost the appeal, we would produce legislation to ensure that CNR embryos were given the same protection as embryos created by fertilisation. I think that I have made it clear that we want to move in that direction, but we must wait and see what the judgment says in terms.

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In another excellent speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Dr. Turner)—who brought considerable experience to the debate—also asked for reassurance about further legislation. I am happy to give him that reassurance.

We heard a typically knowledgeable and, in my view, extremely interesting speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson), who managed yet again to discuss complex science in terms that all of us could understand. He also gave excellent illustrations of what could happen. He said that human reproductive cloning was a very dangerous science, and explained why it was so important for us to pass a Bill ensuring that that dangerous science—given all its possible effects—was not practised here.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Miss Begg) has a fine record on speaking in all the House's debates on research regulations and therapeutic cloning. Today, she brought great practical and common sense to the debate by asking us to concentrate on the Bill's core provisions, which are narrow, tightly drawn, very focused and seek to achieve a particular state of affairs. I am grateful for her support.

I am sorry that I was not in the Chamber to hear most of the speech of the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh), but I have been able to pick up from references to it by other Opposition Members precisely where it was going—which seems to be in an almost backwards direction.

After the debates earlier this year in both this place and another place, it is clear that the vast majority of Members want therapeutic cloning to be allowed so that we can research and tackle the whole range of tremendously damaging degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Huntington's, Parkinson's and diabetes which affect thousands of people. However, Members also want that research to be done within a proper, rigorous and regulated framework, so that the public can be assured that the research is being done in a proper manner. As hon. Members have said, the science has to be conducted in a manner that we decide is socially, morally and ethically appropriate. A legal framework is vital in ensuring that it is appropriate.

I assure the hon. Member for Gainsborough that the ICSI process will not be outlawed by the legislation but can continue. I hope that that offers him some comfort.

I acknowledge the tremendous experience of the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) in these matters. I have had the pleasure of reading his contributions in various debates, and I think that he is probably one of the most knowledgeable hon. Members on these issues because he has been involved in them almost from the beginning. He spoke today about getting the balance right and ensuring that we take this urgent action. Like other hon. Members, he suggested the possibility of pre-legislative scrutiny. I am delighted that hon. Members on both sides of the House agree that pre-legislative scrutiny is working well. The Government decided to introduce it because we thought that it would work well. I shall certainly consider his request.

The hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Mr. Taylor) made a very thoughtful and practical speech. He said that the Bill's objectives are clear, and I am grateful to him for that support. He also said that the settled will of Parliament was to ensure that the research continues, but under a proper framework.

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The hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) said that he will support the reasoned amendment and not the Bill. I am very surprised that hon. Members should not want to support the Bill, which will outlaw human reproductive cloning as I think that the vast majority of the public want us to do that. The reasoned amendment wants to take us backwards and reopen the whole debate on therapeutic cloning, but the House has already made clear its views on that matter.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Glenda Jackson) offered another sensible, no-nonsense approach to the issue which was very welcome. She made it abundantly clear that the Government are not going to allow human reproductive cloning. That is the will of Parliament and has the public's support.

It is clear that the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) also wants to reopen the whole debate on the use of cell nuclear replacement embryos for research on the development of stem cells to tackle degenerative diseases. The Bill does not seek to address that issue. It is a narrow, tightly drawn and tightly focused Bill that seeks to make human reproductive cloning illegal in the United Kingdom. The Bill should command the support of the vast majority of hon. Members. It will send out a very clear message that that procedure is not to be allowed.

I think that it was the hon. Member for Woodspring who said that, if they are to have confidence in science and the way in which biomedicine is developing, the public will have to see that we are a sensible Government who are ensuring that science is developing in a structured and managed manner. People who have a clear grasp of these complex issues know that we are not a Government who are going to walk away and that we care deeply about these issues. We recognise the social, moral, ethical and political implications of the research. We are absolutely determined—

It being Seven o'clock, Madam Deputy Speaker, put the Question already proposed from the Chair, pursuant to Order [this day].

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 49, Noes 288.

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