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Ms Winterton: With regard to the issue raised by the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key), I hope that I will be able to give him some reassurance. If he is not fully reassured by my sudden attempt to become an expert in this area, I can assure him that, if he wished to write to Ministers at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, they would be more than happy to go into detail on this matter. However, clause 16(4) provides that no licence is necessary in relation to the bodies of people who died more than 100 years before the Bill comes into force. Licences are necessary only in relation to certain activities, all of which are limited to scheduled purposes. Archaeologists may remove material from bodies for the purpose of determining the cause of death, in which case a licence would be required, but only if the body were less than 100 years old. Clause 16(4) was introduced precisely to meet the concerns of archaeologists in this regard. I hope that that is helpful, and I would like to thank the hon. Gentleman for giving my officials notice that he would raise this matter.

The hon. Member for Westbury (Dr. Murrison) sought clarification of whether we know of any further applications that have been made with regard to ancestral remains. The answer is no. I do not know of any other applications. I am sure that he will appreciate that the idea behind de-accessioning and the request for return of remains is that an ancestral link should be established, hence the Aboriginal connection and the attempt to meet the request from the Australian Government.

With regard to the issue of reasonably believing, and how that would be interpreted, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will issue guidance following its current consultation on human remains in museums. With those clarifications, I hope that the House will accept the amendments.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 37 to 48 agreed to.

Clause 57


Orders and regulations

Lords amendment: No. 49

3.30 pm

Ms Rosie Winterton: I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

This one should be easy—[Laughter.] The amendment requires that the Secretary of State should exercise his powers to make orders and regulations on a number of issues under the Bill only after having consulted

That is in addition to the existing requirement to consult the devolved bodies, where appropriate. The amendment responds to requests made by various people wanting to be reassured that consultation with relevant stakeholders would take place. While we had indicated that such consultation would invariably take place in any event, but we nevertheless agreed to set that down in the Bill.
 
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The provision applies to the more important secondary powers in the Bill—the orders and regulations listed at clause 57(4), which will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. The amendment makes it a statutory requirement that, in each of those cases, the Secretary of State should consult. I urge the House to agree to the amendment.

Dr. Murrison: The—[Interruption.] The Minister invites me to say yes. She suggested that the amendment might be straightforward, but nothing is ever straightforward.

Of course, we welcome the amendment. It was a long time coming, however, because one thing that has not characterised the Bill, and its passage through both Houses, is consultation. We might have to return to the subject of pre-legislative scrutiny, but I thought that I would take this opportunity to moan about the lack of it and the fact that the Bill might have been improved earlier had we consulted more widely.

Clearly, the amendment, as far as it goes, is welcome. My noble Friend Earl Howe was instrumental in including this measure in the Bill, and he is to be congratulated on that, as on much of the Bill to which he has contributed. The amendment, however, is a little thin, as all it does is put a duty on the Secretary of State to consult those whom he feels it appropriate to consult. It would be helpful if the Minister, without committing herself too much, could give us an indication of who those consultees might be.

Dr. Evan Harris: I had not realised that this amendment would be an issue, and perhaps I have overlooked something, but I would be grateful if the Minister would provide clarification.

Although the Minister's briefing refers to a list of provisions under clause 57(7)—to which we added section 33(7) in an earlier group of amendments—that list does not correspond entirely with the list given in the amendment, even though her briefing note implies that it should. Obviously, some clauses have been removed, so I do not expect her to defend consulting on clauses that do not exist. For example, section 4(10)(b), section 8(4)(d), section 16(3) and a couple of others are listed as provisions under which the Secretary of State

before acting, but some in that list are not included in the list in Lords amendment No. 49. If that is the case, can she clarify the reason why?

Ms Rosie Winterton: Those who would be consulted would include professional bodies, family-patient organisations, religious groups and individuals who had been involved in our consultation on the Bill, and in the earlier review and consultation exercises. Anyone else who expressed a view or an interest in issues covered by the consultation could also be included. I do not want to prescribe an exclusive list, and I assure the hon. Member for Westbury (Dr. Murrison) that we want consultation to be as open as possible.

The hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) said that the list did not correspond with that in clause 57(7). The orders or regulations to which
 
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we refer are subject to affirmative resolution under clause 57(4).

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 50 to 54 agreed to.

Clause 65


Commencement

Lords amendment: No. 55

Ms Winterton: I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

The amendment would allow a three-month gap between publication of the codes of practice relating to consent and implementation of the penalties relating to consent in clauses 5 and 8. That would enable practitioners to prepare to meet the necessary standards in order to eliminate any risk—which would in any event be very small in the case of anyone already working to proper standards—that they might inadvertently commit offences during the transition period.

An amendment of this sort was proposed in the other place, reflecting a certain anxiety about the possibility that some practitioners might need to adapt to some aspects of the new legislative framework, especially as they will look to guidance to help them to understand their specific responsibilities. Having agreed to examine the issue further, my noble Friend Lord Warner returned with this amendment.

We recognise the importance of allowing people an opportunity to become familiar with the implications of the legislation, including the codes of practice that will help to support the required standards. That is particularly so when criminal sanctions may be at issue.

Consultation during the drafting of codes of practice will keep stakeholders in the picture, and it seems most unlikely that the codes will diverge significantly from what is currently considered to be good practice. For example, the taking and recording of consent for use in research of tissue following a post-mortem examination is already the norm, and health professionals have no reason to be nervous of a legislative framework that will support that approach.

Nevertheless, we recognise that there are anxieties. The three-month delay introduced by the amendment will allow everyone to be confident that they are complying with any new standards before the penalties take effect.

Dr. Murrison: We heard on Second Reading and in Committee of the anxieties of many who work in the research community about their liabilities and potential penalties under the Bill. In particular, I recall corresponding with Cancer Research UK, which was of the opinion that such measures might put off people who wanted to enter research. I hope that they will not be put off—I am sure that they will not be, particularly as the Bill has been revised as it has passed through both Houses and now appears to be sensible. However, we must be mindful of the fact that many of those who have been observing what has been going on have been filled with a certain amount of trepidation, are a little uncertain and are concerned about how they stand personally in terms of their legal liabilities.
 
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I welcome the measure, which will mean that people will be able to get to grips with the codes of practice well in advance of them beginning to bite, which is right and proper. However, the measure should not be used to delay the rolling-out of the codes of practice. It is important that we crack on with that.


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