Formal Minutes |
Wednesday 23 March 2005
Dr Ian Gibson, in the Chair
||Mr Robert Key|
|Dr Evan Harris||Mr Tony McWalter
|Kate Hoey||Bob Spink
|Dr Brian Iddon||Dr Desmond Turner
The Committee deliberated.
Draft Special Report (Inquiry into Human Reproductive Technologies
and the Law), proposed by the Chairman, brought up and read.
Ordered, That the draft Report be read a second time.
Draft Report read as follows:
Special Reports provide a vehicle for select committees to report
to the House on issues relating to the powers, functions or proceedings
of the Committee. In this Special Report the Science and Technology
Committee wishes to record the disquiet by half the Members who
took part in the inquiry about the consideration and agreement
of its Report on Human Reproductive Technologies and the Law,
published as the Committee's Fifth Report of the 2004-05 Session
on 24 March 2005, HC 7.
On 24 October 2003, the Science and Technology Committee announced
its decision to hold an inquiry into human reproductive technologies
and the law. Following a public online consultation, held between
22 January and 15 March 2004, it announced its terms of reference
of the inquiry on 30 March 2004. The inquiry consisted of 12 oral
evidence sessions, starting on 14 June 2004 and ending on 19 January
2005. It included two domestic visits and a visit to Sweden, Italy
and the Vatican.
The Committee began to prepare a Report after the final evidence
session on 19 January. On 26 January 2005, the Committee considered
a discussion paper setting out four possible options for a new
regulatory and legislative structure.
A working draft report, based on the views expressed at
that meeting, was circulated to the Committee on 11 February for
consideration on 23 February. Six members of the Committee attended
that meeting, at which it was agreed that chapters relating to
the status of the embryo and the role of the state would be redrafted.
A revised working draft report was circulated the following day
on 24 February. This draft was considered at a meeting of the
Committee on 28 February, which nine Members of the Committee
attended. Consideration was given to an informal amendment by
Mr Paul Farrelly MP to a key conclusion, setting out the ethical
position being adopted by the Committee, which represented a shift
from an extreme libertarian position to one that was more precautionary
and saw more of a continuing role for the state and regulation.
The original and amended text is published with this Report as
On 28 February, the Committee spent an hour discussing the revised
working draft and continued these discussions for twenty minutes
on 2 March. It decided that, in addition to the planned meeting
on 7 March, an extra meeting on 14 March would be necessary to
consider the Report formally, in order to publish the Report before
the Easter recess. On 7 March, the Committee further considered,
amended and agreed, on an informal basis, all the conclusions
and recommendations of the revised working draft of the Human
Reproductive Technologies and the Law Report.
This meeting lasted six hours and, owing to the length of the
meeting and other commitments, not all Members initially present
could be there until the end. A Chairman's draft Report was then
circulated on the evening of 9 March, with a request that amendments
be submitted no later than 12 noon on Monday 14 March. A total
of 130 amendments were received before the start of the meeting,
from the Chairman, Dr Evan Harris MP and Mr Paul Farrelly MP.
On 14 March the Committee met at 3.00pm.
Following 2.5 hours of informal consideration the Committee agreed
to take a 30 minute break. On reconvening, the Committee agreed
a proposal from Dr Brian Iddon MP that it should introduce a "guillotine"
and conclude its informal consideration of the Report at 7.30pm,
with formal consideration to conclude by 8.30pm. As a result of
this decision, Tony McWalter MP felt that his points could not
be adequately discussed and felt that therefore he had no choice
but to leave the meeting. Fourteen amendments were considered
formally, from 7.30pm. At 7.30 pm, when the formal discussion
began, Paul Farrelly MP moved that the "guillotine"
be removed. This was defeated by four votes to one. The Committee
completed informal and formal consideration of the Report at 8.15pm.
One Member of the Committee, Mr Paul Farrelly MP, voted against
the Report as a whole. The Report was reported to the House that
evening. The Minutes of Proceedings relating to the consideration
of the Report are published with the Report.
The Committee met on 16 March to agree, informally, the text of
the summary to the Report and the press release to accompany the
publication of the report. This meeting was attended by 10 members
of the Committee. Five Members expressed strong reservations about
the process by which the Report had been considered and agreed.
Their concerns were:
a) The amendment adopted on 28 February was of sufficient
significance to warrant a thorough redrafting of the Report. This
did not happen and instead the Committee, with much depleted numbers,
proceeded to debate each conclusion as originally drafted. This
reflected a desire to publish a Report quickly ahead of the anticipated
Dissolution of Parliament, and invalidated the Report;
b) The "guillotine" agreed to unreasonably restricted
the time for formal consideration of amendments to one hour, which
served to further invalidate the Report. Some dissenting amendments
were only moved formally, some were not pursued and others not
voted on in order to remain within the time set by the 'guillotine'.
Many amendments were withdrawn before any discussion of them;
c) On a controversial subject on which consensus would be
difficult to achieve, it was wrong to adopt an extreme libertarian
approach right at the outset, simply on the basis that there was
no chance of achieving unanimity;
d) The Report as agreed did not reflect the precautionary
approach and the legitimate role for the state and regulation
adopted early in its consideration;
e) Insufficient regard was given in the Report to public opinion
and the evidence submitted to the inquiry; and
f) Insufficient weight, too, was given to ethical arguments
against an extreme libertarian approach; and the Report also lacked
balance in adopting libertarian interpretations of principles
or propositions, which are subject to debate (for example, of
Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights).
At its meeting on 16 March the Committee considered a proposal
to issue a press release which reflected the fact that there was
a balance of views on the Committee. After discussion, it was
agreed that there should be no press release or press conference;
instead, a Special Report would be published simultaneously with
the Committee's substantive Report on Human Reproductive Technologies
and the Law.
Original text of draft report setting out the Committee's ethical
We have listened with interest to a wide range of views. However,
it was necessary to adopt a position on them, based in principle.
While we recognise the significance of each ethical position articulated,
we are persuaded that the State's role in regulating assisted
reproduction should primarily be guided by the human rights or
libertarian approach. The justification for the extent of the
regulatory intervention which currently exists was appropriate
to a time when the outcome of reproductive decisions in assisted
reproduction was unknown and the state arguably had a legitimate
interest in policing this area of medical practice. However,
the evidence now suggests that the scale of the intrusion into
the private choices of individuals seeking to have a family can
no longer be justified. We do, however, accept that the research
use of the embryo of the human species remain a legitimate interest
of the state. The difference between these two approaches is justified
by the fact that the first is a private matter between individuals
seeking to attain an accepted social goal, whereas the latter
satisfies a social or public aim. We conclude that the most appropriate
principle that should be used to provide a framework for our conclusions
and recommendations is that as far as possible the state should
withdraw from people's reproductive decision-making. Parents rather
than the State must be assumed to be the right decision-makers
for their families. While this reproductive freedom must be balanced
against the impacts against other individuals and society, any
such claims must be clearly demonstrable.
We accept that a society that is both multi-faith and largely
secular, there is never going to be consensus on the level of
protection accorded to the embryo or the role of the state in
reproductive decision-making. There are no demonstrably "right"
answers to the complex ethical, moral and political equations
involved. We respect the views of all sides on these issues. We
recognise the difficulty of achieving consensus between protagonists
in opposing camps in this debate, for example the pro-life groups
and those advocating an entirely libertarian approach to either
assisted reproduction or research use of the embryo. We believe,
however, that to be effective this Committee's conclusions should
seek consensus, as far as it is possible to achieve. Given the
rate of scientific change and the ethical dilemmas involved, we
conclude, therefore, that we should adopt an approach consistent
with the gradualist approach, of which the Warnock Committee is
one important example. This does not mean that we will shy from
criticism of regulation to date, where we believe it warranted.
But it does mean that we accept that assisted reproduction and
research involving the embryo of the human species both remain
legitimate interests of the state. Reproductive and research freedoms
must be balanced against the interests of society but alleged
harms to society, too, should be based on evidence.
Amendment proposed, in line 2, leave out from the word "Committee."
to the end of the Report and add the words "The following
Members disagree with the Report, Human Reproductive Technologies
and the Law, HC 7 of Session 2004-05: Paul Farrelly, Kate Hoey,
Mr Tony McWalter, Geraldine Smith and Bob Spink. ".(Dr
Question put, That the amendment be made.
The Committee divided.
|Ayes, 4||Noes, 2
|Dr Evan Harris||Mr Tony McWalter
|Dr Brian Iddon||Bob Spink
|Mr Robert Key||
|Dr Desmond Turner||
Amendment agreed to.
Paragraph as amended, read and agreed to.
Motion made, and Question put, That the Special Report, as amended,
be the Eighth Special Report of the Committee to the House.
Resolved, That the Report be the Eighth Special Report
of the Committee to the House.
Ordered, That the Chairman do make the Report to the House.
[Adjourned till Wednesday 4 April at 3 o'clock .
2 Members participating: Dr Ian Gibson in the Chair;
Dr Evan Harris; Dr Brian Iddon; Mr Robert Key; Dr Desmond Turner.
Dr Andrew Murrison, while formally part of the Science and Technology
Committee, took no part in the inquiry or the consideration of
the report because of his frontbench duties. Back
Dr Ian Gibson, in the Chair; Paul Farrelly; Dr Evan Harris; Dr
Brian Iddon; Mr Robert Key; Bob Spink and Dr Desmond Turner Back
Dr Ian Gibson, in the Chair; Paul Farrelly; Dr Evan Harris; Dr
Brian Iddon; Mr Robert Key; Mr Tony McWalter; Bob Spink and Dr
Desmond Turner Back
Fifth Report of Session 2004-05, Human Reproductive Technologies
and the Law, HC 7 Back
Paul Farrelly; Kate Hoey; Mr Tony McWalter; Geraldine Smith; Bob
In a later paragraph, the draft report concluded: "While
the gradualist approach to the status of the embryo presents problems
for legislation, we believe that it represents the most ethically
sound and pragmatic solution and one which permits in vitro fertilisation
and embryo research within certain constraints set out in legislation." Back