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Dr. Evan Harris: I shall comment on the specific amendment and then associate myself with some of the more general remarks made by the hon. Member for Westbury (Dr. Murrison). We are now at the last group of amendments, so it will be our last debate on the Bill.

The amendment deals with an important issue. Previously, the Government were in a bizarre position, as I pointed out on Report on 28 June this year when I said:

it would not

because the Government had specified that such education and training in research techniques required explicit consent. A weird situation would have arisen, whereby parts of the research materials would have required explicit consent while other parts were anonymised. The Minister said:

The Minister understood the problem that there were at least three categories of consent in that regard. There was education and training, which did not need consent; research that did not need consent as long as the samples were anonymised and gained research ethics approval; and training in research techniques that would always require explicit consent.

It would have been good if the Government had reflected further on the problem and tabled their own amendments, such as we now have, earlier in the other place. That would have shown their recognition, after consultation, of the problem. However, I understand
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that on Report in the other place, the Government resisted the proposals and pressed for a Division. Only following the Government's defeat at that stage did they table the necessary correcting amendments to ensure consistency. As the hon. Member for Westbury said, those amendments were important and the Minister has accepted that. We have to say that, on this occasion, unlike the others where the Government clearly listened and volunteered the amendments themselves, we had to wait for the Government to fail to secure a majority in the House of Lords. Thank goodness for the fact that it is a more proportional Chamber, if I may put it that way—[Interruption.] I will put it that way, at least once on every Bill.

Having said that, I wholly concur with what the Minister said about it being necessary to ensure that this is not seen as providing a back-door way to avoid the need for consent in research. The temptations may well be there, because much of the actual stuff of research is done by people who are being trained in some way or another. Indeed, researchers are always in training, up to the highest level. The Minister was right to put the point on the record and I am delighted that the hon. Member for Westbury agreed. We need to be clear and the research community needs to be very clear.

It will reassure the research community and health professionals working in this field that a sensible option has prevailed in the final stages of the Bill's consideration. I shall not repeat the general points made by the hon. Member for Westbury, although I associate myself with them. With amendments such as this and the others in the group, we can ensure that the Bill is satisfactory for patients and the public, but we must also make sure that people still want to practise pathology and pursue clinical research in this country. They should not have to fight against the interests of the public, as their work is valuable and benefits the public.

It is true that we need regulation, but we must ensure that we do not have too much bureaucracy. We need a climate that welcomes people into this area of research. We must make sure that they do not feel that they have to disguise the fact of what they do. There is a crisis in recruitment in some of these disciplines and I hope that the Bill will go some way towards dealing with that problem rather than making it worse.

Dr. Richard Taylor: I also welcome the amendment and I associate myself with the remarks made by other hon. Members. In its final form, the Bill will be
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acceptable to the professions, but I have one final question for the Minister. Will she repeat what I think she said earlier about the anonymisation of material collected for research without consent but with the agreement of the ethical committee? Will she confirm that the linkage of material to a patient's disease and the treatment that has been received will remain, despite that anonymisation, as it will be essential?

Ms Rosie Winterton: I can certainly give the hon. Gentleman that assurance.

As the hon. Member for Westbury (Dr. Murrison) said, this amendment is very important. I am pleased that it enjoys his support and that of the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris). It epitomises the principles on which the Bill is based.

We wanted the Bill to be based on consent, not least because of the very tragic events at the Alder Hey and Bristol hospitals. At the same time, we wanted to ensure that the regulation that all society wanted us to introduce was accompanied by reassurance that the Bill would be based on the principles of consent. We also wanted to convince the research and medical community that we were not trying to stifle some of the excellent work being done.

I believe that the Bill achieves all that now, and that, as a result, people will be very willing to give tissue or organs for research and other purposes. At the same time, it will give the medical and research community confidence that it is operating in an environment that they understand, and one that they know that others understand as well.

Our task has been to get the balance right between those two very important principles. I think that the Bill achieves that and I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has made possible amendments such as the one that we are discussing. In that respect, I want to make particular mention of my officials, but hon. Members of all parties in this House, and in the other place, have all contributed to making this a very good Bill. I am sure that it will satisfy some deeply held principles and the requirement that we provide the right atmosphere for the medical and research community to carry out its work. At the same time, it will provide some important safeguards for families, as desired by those who suffered from earlier events. The Bill will also encourage people to engage in the sort of activities that we have talked about. I am grateful to all involved and I urge the House to agree to the remaining amendments.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 57 to 71 agreed to.
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Emergency Obstetrics (Northern Ireland)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Ainger.]

4.5 pm

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South) (UUP): I am glad to have the attention of the House for this Adjournment debate. Despite its long title, I shall not address the issue of people from overseas who are working in Northern Ireland or in Great Britain. Nor shall I address the issue of those who have arranged beforehand to be in the United Kingdom and are paying for obstetric care. Instead, I shall address a particular problem that has been drawn to my attention.

The problem came to my attention as the result of an outbreak of racist attacks in a part of my constituency. I investigated the cause of the attacks, because I could not understand why they were happening. In that part of the constituency, people from Africa had lived for years in harmony with their fellow citizens and were involved in various community activities. Then I discovered that a particular house in the area had a regular turnover of women from Africa, who arrived, had their babies, returned to the house and then moved on. They did not help in keeping the place clean and tidy. As a result, others in the community—I do not support them in any way—who had tried to obtain housing themselves, felt that this was a misuse of the property and of the system. The attacks started, and innocent people were affected.

I subsequently discovered that the activity has moved from that area, but I have been made aware of at least three other houses in the constituency that are bases for similar activity. I have concluded that an active gang or gangs is using the system and milking money from people who have an ulterior aim.

One of the reasons behind the activity is that under the constitution of the Republic of Ireland, every person born in the island of Ireland, its islands and its seas has an entitlement to be part of the Irish nation. Since then, of course, we have had the Anglo-Irish agreement, which changed everything—or so we were told—and there was no longer a territorial claim to Northern Ireland. However, under the agreement, any person born in Northern Ireland can identify themselves as Irish or British or both. It is against that background that people are trying to circumvent UK legislation. They have organised trips for people to get a foothold in Europe, above all. Having been involved in health care for many years, I am aware that one should not travel by air during the last few weeks of a confinement, so people must be finding another way into the country.

The most recent case I came across was of someone from Sierra Leone, who came into Northern Ireland from Dublin. In my research into the situation, I sought some guidance and information. I wrote to the Minister on 1 October and received a reply on 15 October informing me that I would shortly receive a reply. I tabled a question and was told something that I have heard regularly from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland: as it deals with about 1,690,000 people, it does not keep that many central records, even though we can receive answers to questions about similar things in England. I was told:
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It appears that some sort of scam is going on, someone is making money out of it and our health service is paying the price. As I understand the situation, the women in question have husbands who are well off financially and are in professional positions. I can understand the desire to get a foothold in Europe, but I wonder what impact it is having on our community in Northern Ireland and especially on our health service.

I am aware, as I am sure others are, that there is currently a case in Great Britain where a person from China is seeking the right of habitation and citizenship on the ground that their child was born in Northern Ireland.

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