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2.9 pm

Mr. Jeffrey M. Donaldson (Lagan Valley) (DUP): I rise to support the Government and the programme motion. I assure the House that my party was not party to any deal whatsoever on this issue.

The hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) referred to her new clause 30, which is before the House today and which would have the effect of extending the Abortion Act 1967 to Northern Ireland. One reason for our support of the programme motion is that we believe that it is not appropriate for the House to debate that new clause today, as there is strong opposition in Northern Ireland to the proposition on which it is based.

I know that hon. Members will have received a letter from the leaders of the four main parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly. The letter was written by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson), who is my party leader, the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Adams), the leader of Sinn Fein, the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan), the leader of the Social Democratic and Labour party, and Sir Reg Empey,
22 Oct 2008 : Column 332
the leader of the Ulster Unionist party. Between them, those four parties represent more than 90 per cent. of the electorate in Northern Ireland, and have more than 100 seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly. That makes it clear that this sensitive matter should be dealt with by the Assembly and not by this Parliament.

Northern Ireland has had separate legislation on this and many other issues, going back centuries. Indeed, there are different bodies of law that apply in Scotland and Wales, and there is nothing unique about the issue of abortion. In Northern Ireland, we have laws in respect of other matters of legality that are different from the laws that apply in other parts of the UK.

It is clear that we should consider only the human fertilisation and embryology element of the Bill and not try to tack on something that will cause considerable problems for the political process in Northern Ireland. The implementation of the 1967 Act, if it were to be extended to Northern Ireland, would fall largely to the Northern Ireland Assembly. It would therefore be entirely wrong for this House to legislate against the wishes of the parties in the Assembly, as those parties would be required to implement a law with which they did not agree.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con): Unless my memory serves me false—which it may be doing—my recollection is that the right hon. Gentleman did try to amend the Bill at an earlier stage in order to add abortion issues to it. If so, does he agree that his argument simply will not wash?

Mr. Donaldson: I did not table any amendments to this Bill at any stage, so the hon. Gentleman is entirely incorrect in that respect. As far as the principle is concerned, any Member of this House is of course free to vote on any amendment, but new clause 30 has been tabled by hon. Members who represent constituencies where abortion is already available. We are dealing with these matters in the context of the 1967 Act, and no hon. Member with a constituency in Northern Ireland supports new clause 30. Indeed, the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington has not set foot in Northern Ireland to talk to people about this issue.

The hon. Lady has not consulted about her new clause, even though section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998—which was passed by this House and which enacted the Belfast agreement—requires that any major legislation brought forward by Parliament or the Assembly should be subject to proper consultation and equality impact assessments. There is no opportunity for the public to be consulted about new clause 30, so she and the other hon. Members who have proposed the new clause are simply seeking to impose their will in a way that goes against the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland and of their elected representatives.

The leaders of the four main parties in Northern Ireland have written to all hon. Members to say that the matter should be addressed by the Northern Ireland Assembly, and not by this House. That is why I urge the House to support the programme motion, and to leave this matter to the people of Northern Ireland and their elected representatives.

2.14 pm

Jim Dobbin (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab/Co-op): I begin by thanking the Leader of the House for bringing
22 Oct 2008 : Column 333
this Bill back after July. At that time, I was unfortunately indisposed, and never got the opportunity to vote against it. I shall now be able to listen to the debate, take part in it if necessary—and then vote against it on Third Reading. That will give me some satisfaction.

The Bill is about human fertilisation and embryology issues, but that is not the perception in the public arena. The media coverage that the Bill has received means that the public perception is that it is purely about abortion, and that is why I support the programme motion. Abortion is a very serious issue, and I accept that it comes within the scope of the Bill, but it is not the dominant aspect of the Bill and there are many other important matters that need proper debate.

I believe that there should be a proper review of the Abortion Act 1967. That is the way ahead, because it would allow people on both sides of the argument to have a reasonably intense and detailed debate. If we were being honest with ourselves, we would not play this sort of game. We would treat all of these subjects with great seriousness.

2.15 pm

Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Beckenham) (Con): I do not often feel sorry for the Government, but in a sense they are the victims of their own actions. We are debating these matters because they have recognised the pent-up demand in the House to examine the abortion issue, and the logical result of that is that any hon. Member can table an amendment on the subject.

We all recognise that the Bill is fundamentally about human fertilisation and embryology, and that is a very big and important subject. I must gently disagree with the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Jim Dobbin) and what he said about the amount of publicity given to the human fertilisation and embryology element of the Bill, but there is huge demand for clarification and modernisation of the law on abortion. That is what all the amendments are about, and I very much agree with those who have pointed out that there is plenty of time in our parliamentary timetable for the necessary debates to take place. That is why I shall go into the No Lobby against the Government, even though in general I approve of what they are trying to do with the Bill.

2.17 pm

Ms Dari Taylor (Stockton, South) (Lab): I am very disappointed to have to state that I will have great difficulty in supporting the programme motion this afternoon. I chair the House’s all-party fertility group, and am well aware that the community of people outside the House who have serious problems conceiving are looking to the Bill for support.

However, the Bill makes no mention of access to NHS facilities—something that was discussed in full in the other place. There, the subject was given a very fair run, but we in this House are not allowed to discuss it. The Bill focuses on the regulation of IVF treatment and research, and makes no mention of the many other treatments that infertile people can access.

The founding principle of the NHS was that people could receive treatment at the point of need, but most people with infertility problems have to go to private clinics, where IVF is the only treatment on offer. They
22 Oct 2008 : Column 334
often have to pay for that treatment by remortgaging their homes. I am seriously disappointed that we will have no chance to discuss these issues. I tabled an amendment in the hope that it might be selected for debate, but it has not.

I shall have great difficulty in supporting the programme motion this afternoon.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker Order. I am prepared to call one more hon. Member to speak, on the basis that he or she respects the fact that I want to call the Minister to respond to the debate at 2.20 pm.

I call Mr. Robert Key.

2.18 pm

Robert Key (Salisbury) (Con): Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is with great regret that I shall not be supporting the timetable motion. I have supported the Government through thick and thin, I think, in their attempt to get on the statute book a moderate and tolerant piece of legislation that is absolutely necessary. I have accepted that it is perfectly in order to debate the question of abortion, so I regret very much that we shall probably not have time this afternoon to discuss even those important issues—such as parenthood, surrogacy or saviour siblings—that relate to the original Bill.

That is a very great regret, because I think that the Government are well intentioned with this Bill. I therefore ask that they—and Parliament—consider changing the habits of a lifetime: they should accept that the very important issue of abortion should not be shuffled off to a private Member’s Bill but instead tackled in Government time with a Government Bill. We are mature enough in this country now to take those issues as public business; they are public business. I therefore hope that they will be so treated in the future.

Meanwhile, I shall vote against the programme motion, because it ignores the wishes not only of almost everyone in the Chamber today, but of our constituents, who are bemused, indeed amazed, that although we have plenty of time, the Government are rushing the Bill through—even though they are largely right.

2.20 pm

Dawn Primarolo: With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

These are very important matters, and it is important to focus on the Bill. It is about IVF treatment. Actually, it is about access to the treatment, the improvement of that treatment and broadening the range of people who are entitled to it. It is about research on debilitating and killing diseases and about giving hope. The Bill has had 81 hours of debate thus far. Unusually, it has had two days on the Floor of the House—unique for this type of Bill—including time for the debate on abortion, without restriction on the subjects on which amendments could be tabled.

I shall answer two specific questions that have been put to me. First, there are no plans to introduce a Bill on abortion. Secondly, in answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) who asked about a special Committee of both Houses, that is not a matter for Ministers; it is a matter for the House authorities, and he can pursue that if he wishes.

22 Oct 2008 : Column 335

Mr. Frank Field: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I understand that she is saying that that is not a matter for her, but if we had a vote on that, would she support new clause 34, which I and my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mrs. Dorries) have tabled?

Dawn Primarolo: My right hon. Friend will know that that is not for me to say as a Minister. I may have a view personally, but I am speaking from the Dispatch Box as a Minister. There is a free vote, and each Member will be able to decide. Those are the free votes that we will conduct this afternoon.

Question put:—
The House divided: Ayes 322, Noes 157.
Division No. 283]
[2.21 pm


Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Amess, Mr. David
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Balls, rh Ed
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Beith, rh Sir Alan
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Brennan, Kevin
Brokenshire, James
Brown, rh Mr. Gordon
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, rh Andy
Burns, Mr. Simon
Butler, Ms Dawn
Butterfill, Sir John
Byrne, rh Mr. Liam
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Cash, Mr. William
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clappison, Mr. James
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, rh Yvette
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curry, rh Mr. David
Darling, rh Mr. Alistair
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, Philip
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Donaldson, rh Mr. Jeffrey M.
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Durkan, Mark
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Evennett, Mr. David
Farron, Tim
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, rh Caroline
Flynn, Paul

Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goggins, Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hands, Mr. Greg
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Havard, Mr. Dai
Hayes, Mr. John
Healey, John
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hermon, Lady
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hoey, Kate
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Howard, rh Mr. Michael
Howarth, David
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Lidington, Mr. David
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacNeil, Mr. Angus
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Martlew, Mr. Eric
Mason, John
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCarthy, Kerry
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McCrea, Dr. William
McDonnell, Dr. Alasdair
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGrady, Mr. Eddie
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Meale, Mr. Alan
Mercer, Patrick
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, rh Edward
Miller, Andrew
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moran, Margaret
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, Mr. George
Mulholland, Greg
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, rh Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Olner, Mr. Bill
Owen, Albert
Paisley, rh Rev. Ian
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, rh James
Rammell, Bill

Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Robertson, John
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Robinson, rh Mr. Peter
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Rosindell, Andrew
Rowen, Paul
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Ryan, rh Joan
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, rh Jacqui
Smith, John
Snelgrove, Anne
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Twigg, Derek
Ussher, Kitty
Walker, Mr. Charles
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watkinson, Angela
Watson, Mr. Tom
Weir, Mr. Mike
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wilson, Phil
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Woodward, rh Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Ayes:

Helen Goodman and
Mr. Dave Watts

Abbott, Ms Diane
Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Alexander, Danny
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Baker, Norman
Barker, Gregory
Barrett, John
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Bercow, John
Binley, Mr. Brian
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brake, Tom
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Browning, Angela
Burt, Lorely
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Cameron, rh Mr. David
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Challen, Colin
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Clwyd, rh Ann
Corbyn, Jeremy
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, Mr. Dai
Davis, rh David
Duddridge, James
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Featherstone, Lynne
Foster, Mr. Don
Garnier, Mr. Edward
George, Andrew
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibb, Mr. Nick

Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goldsworthy, Julia
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Greening, Justine
Hammond, Stephen
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harvey, Nick
Heath, Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hendry, Charles
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Holmes, Paul
Hopkins, Kelvin
Horam, Mr. John
Horwood, Martin
Hosie, Stewart
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Howell, John
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hunter, Mark
Jones, Mr. David
Jones, Lynne
Kawczynski, Daniel
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Kennedy, rh Mr. Charles
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Kramer, Susan
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Laws, Mr. David
Leech, Mr. John
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Maclean, rh David
Mactaggart, Fiona
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Maples, Mr. John
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McDonnell, John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moore, Mr. Michael
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Neill, Robert
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Mr. George
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Price, Adam
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie
Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Shapps, Grant
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Alan
Smith, Sir Robert
Spink, Bob
Spring, Mr. Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Taylor, Matthew
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Teather, Sarah
Thurso, John
Timpson, Mr. Edward
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Viggers, Sir Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walter, Mr. Robert
Webb, Steve
Wiggin, Bill
Williams, Mark
Williams, Stephen
Willott, Jenny
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Wishart, Pete
Wood, Mike
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Noes:

Dr. Evan Harris and
Mr. Lee Scott
Question accordingly agreed to.
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