practices which are contrary to human dignity such as reproductive cloning of human beings shall not be permitted,
we welcome that. It is an expression of our common humanity. Whatever our nation or culture, there is one entrance into life and a common departure. We are all born and we will all die and there are some things we can say together.
Not everything that can be done should be done, and it is important for us as nations within the United Kingdom and as nations within the world community to draw strong lines in the sand to express what we have in common: our humanity, the basis of our human dignity and human rights. The United Kingdom has not yet ratified the Council of Europe convention on human rights and biomedicine, and Scotland is unable to ratify it. I suppose that it is thought to be too complicated for us. It has an additional protocol on the prohibition of cloning human beings that is clear and to the point:
Any intervention seeking to create a human being genetically identical to another human being, whether living or dead, is prohibited.
In 2001, there was a big debate in the House on the Human Reproductive Cloning Bill, which was narrow and tightly drawntoo much so for some hon. Members. It prevented the implanting of a cloned embryo in a woman, but it did not prohibit scientists from making cloned embryos or from taking them abroad, or from implanting in an animal or an artificial womb. However, the Bill at least assured people that no cloned baby would be born in the UK. It fulfilled a manifesto promise to outlaw reproductive cloning.
encapsulates the views of the vast majority of British people who find the possibility of human reproductive cloning abhorrent.[ Official Report, 29 November 2001; Vol. 375, c. 1169.]
I know that the rest of the wording of clause 3 is meant to achieve the same ban, and I am sure that is what the Minister will say, but it is widely acknowledged that provision 3ZA(5) removes that absolute ban in the pursuit of hopes of treatment for mitochondrial disease. That is why we must support amendment No. 41.
A ban announced with great fanfare is being shelved as quietly as possible, without consultation or public debate. The promise that was once made seems to be turning into an empty promise. How can we trust the law that is being proposed? How can we trust this Government? Less than 10 years ago, we were promised a statutory ban on reproductive cloning, but now we find excuses, exceptions and an erosion of trust.
Elsewhere in the Bill is the creation of part-animal, part-human embryoshybrid embryos. They would be created, we were told, purely for necessary medical research, and would never be implanted into a woman or an animal. We were told that there was no chance that any Government would allow such a creature to be born. The idea that a part-animal, part-human could ever be born has been called pure scaremongering and yet, less than 10 years ago, the very same things were said about cloning children. We were told that that would never happen and that there was a clear, tight law to which there could be no exceptionsbut now the exceptions are beginning, and cloning a child is one huge step forward.
The Human Reproductive Cloning Act 2001 was brought in because people in this country and across the world regarded human cloning as an affront to human dignity. They considered it to be unfair to the child and to compromise the relationships of parent and child.
Mr. Cash: I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman has not been in the House for very long, but some of us hope to move on to two other groups of amendments. All hon. Members would like to speak for a considerable time, but will he be kind enough to take into consideration the fact that the other groups of amendments deal with hugely important questions of informed consent and parenthood? The House ought to have an opportunity to be able to divide on those issues.
John Mason: I totally accept the hon. Gentlemans point. The debate has been compressed into the impossibly short time of half a day, but those are the rules that we are playing to and I am the first person in my party to speak in the debate. However, I do accept his point and I will try to cut out some of my speech.
Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman is new in the House, so may I give him some advice? He should take no advice on brevity or cutting his speech from the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash).
A House of Lords Select Committee report on stem cell research was clear on the case against human cloning, stating that the high risk of abnormalities rendered the scientific objections to human reproductive cloning overwhelming. I shall omit some of what I was going to say, but the Committee set out other strong ethical objections, and stated that it
unreservedly endorses the legislative prohibition on reproductive cloning now contained in the Human Reproductive Cloning Act 2001.
The Government have already lost the trust of the people of this country on the economy, crime and other things. The danger is not just that people will lose trust in the Government, but that they will lose trust in scientists and the regulation of science. The right hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) seemed to put great faith in the scientific community, but others have put great faith in the banking community and that was found to be misplaced.
If, instead of a clear and simple ban, the public are given subtle exceptions, they will see that their safeguard has been taken awaythat there is no longer any line that stands between us and full reproductive cloning. They will think, and they will be right, that we are legalising reproductive cloning.
It is a shame that the UN could not agree to a legally binding worldwide ban on reproductive cloning, simply because a small group of countries intransigently refused.
We lectured the world on how marvellous our law was and how important it was to have a legally binding ban, and yet the same Government are about to overturn our own ban on cloning, with not so much as a public debate.
This little exception will put a hole in the dam; it will breach the defence. If one exception is made, who in this House believes that it will be the last exception, or that things will remain there? If we make this exception, we repeal the Act and suddenly the line is crossed, and if this line is crossed there are no other lines. If we pass this law there will be clones. If we pass this law we will be even more isolated from the common humanity of the rest of the world. If we want to stop something happening, we must have a law against it, a clear law, a straightforward law that people can understandno exceptions, no thin end of the wedge, no foot in the door. We need to keep the clear law that says we will not go therewe want to help parents but we will not sacrifice children. We will not make children to order; we will not make children to a pre-existing blueprint. We will not have clones.
To conclude, we value democracy, we value independence not because we will always make a better job of itthough we think we willbut because they are our decisions. G.K. Chesterton said that democracy was like tying ones own shoe laces; it is part maturitymaturity of an individual, maturity of a nation.
I commend to this House and especially to Labour Back Benchers that they defy the Whip, for the sake of the country, for the maintenance of trust in science and for the sake of the people. I say, Do not go back to your constituents and explain why you voted to allow reproductive cloning; go back and say why you upheld the ban. Please support amendment No. 41.
Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con):
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Glasgow, East (John Mason), particularly as he quoted Chesterton, who is too rarely quoted in the House. My
hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) spoke about the godly extension of love having a worldwide effect. Chesterton said:
Those thinkers who cannot believe in any gods often assert that the love of humanity would be in itself sufficient for them; and so, perhaps, it would, if they had it.
Surely humanity means that we regard other human life as we regard our own. Such is the ethics of humanity. So it is our shared humanity that distinguishes us from animals; that determines how we should behave to one another; and determines especially that we should not deliberately distort the lives, or expedite the deaths, of fellow humans, whether those fellow human beings are born or unborn. There has been too little debate in this House about that definition of human life in relation to the Bill, too little clarity about the nature of human life, as my hon. Friends the Members for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Burrowes) and for Gainsborough identified.
It seems to me that the expectation of living human beings and the unbornthose incapable of conscious choiceis the same because of their shared humanity, and that is the prevailing view that should underpin our considerations of this Bill and these amendments to it. Each person is bound to respect the humanity of others, as they are bound to respect their own humanity. But humanity, or that view of it, is under great threat.
The work of Peter Singer, a moral philosopher who is now at Princeton, is most important, in contextual terms. For Singer, the ethics of humanity is objectionable because it amounts to what he calls speciesism. We have heard a great deal about the blend of animal materials and human cellular materials. Of course, if one does not believe the orthodox view of how to define humanity, and if one defines it around the idea of personhood, when personhood itself is defined by the ability to exercise autonomy and choice, it becomes entirely permissible to manipulate human cellular material in the way the Bill will allow.
It is not self-consciousness, capacity for reason or autonomy that make us human, but something altogether more fundamental. All that the amendments would do is introduce greater clarity. Of course science matters, and of course scientific research is important, but, frankly, morals matter more. We should not define human cellular material in such speciesist terms. We should certainly not abandon our orthodox assumptions about those things that bind us together, born or unborn.
A religious man is a person who holds God and man in one thought...at all times...Whose greatest passion is compassion...Whose greatest strength is love and defiance of despair.
The Bill marks the malign abandonment of those values. By confusing or avoiding the definition of what is, or what is not, human, and by blurring the fundamental and profound ethical divide between ourselves and animals, it does immense damage to our humanity. It will do little for the reputation of the House among a wider public who will be bemused that we can consider some of the things that the Bill will make permissible and some of the things that will result from its extension.
Mark Simmonds (Boston and Skegness) (Con): The House will be delighted to hear that I will savagely reduce and synthesise my remarks to give the Minister as much time as possible to respond to our important debate. However, first I must say that the debate has demonstrated that the programme order is a disgrace and a misuse of parliamentary procedure, given that many significant amendments that should have been considered have been completely negated.
The Minister needs to clarify whether the insertion of the word cytoplasm, as proposed in amendment No. 49, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Southport (Dr. Pugh), would introduce an additional safeguard against the manipulation of nuclear DNA. The right hon. Lady also needs to reaffirm the commitment that she made in Committee that future regulations would not be introduced to extend mitochondrial manipulation to the nucleus and that that could be achieved only by primary legislation. I assure the House that when Conservative Members are in government, we will not allow human reproductive cloning by regulation.
The Minister needs to explain in detail how the Human Reproductive Cloning Act 2001, which bans reproductive cloning, is replicated in the Bill. Why does clause 3(6) use the word superseded? If it is correct that there are loopholes in the Bill, as we have been told, the Bill does not supersede the 2001 Act.
It is thought that amendment No. 41, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew), should prohibit future Governments from permitting reproductive cloning. We have heard the Governments reassurances that they would never pass regulations to permit thata Conservative Government would not do sobut if a form of wording could be included in the Bill to ensure that that could never happen, the Government should work to find it. It is not acceptable to leave that to regulation.
Clearly, one of the challenges in the Bill concerns the balance between primary legislation and regulation. One of the reasons why the Bill is before us today is that medical technology has advanced. The Bill is partly about updating the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. The onus is on the Minister and the Government to show that amendment No. 41 is harmful. It has been cleverly drafted so as not to interfere with mitochondrial donation techniques. It would prevent the legalisation of only those techniques that there is a strong public and international consensus against.
My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Burrowes) made a passionate, interesting, detailed speech that demonstrated key, fundamental understanding of the issues. He highlighted a potentialI use the word advisedlyloophole relating to the technological advances in question. Of course, there cannot be an exhaustive list. There was a great debate in the other place about that. However, the Minister needs to understand, and to clarify today, the interaction between the Bill, the 1990 Act that the Bill amends, and the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. She needs to say which piece of legislation will be responsible for
which licence, and whether one is more permissive than another. If it is, she must say whether the Government will consider tightening the relevant licensing procedures.
Again, amendment No. 50 and new clause 24 were tabled by the hon. Member for Southport. The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson) was absolutely right to say that the Bill prohibits admixed embryos being placed in an animal. If there were a total ban, however, it would clearly affect mitochondrial technological advancements, and I am in favour of those advancements. Members need to understand that mixing human and animal gametes has taken place for some considerable time. The right hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) and the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) made the point clearly that there have been significant advances in infertility research because of what has been called the hamster test. Hon. Members need to be very careful about trying to ban and prohibit any mixture of animal and human gametes.
Mark Simmonds: I will not, if the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, because I want to give the Minister time to respond. Common themes have emerged today. First, it is clearly the view of many Members, on all sides of the debate, that there are potential loopholes that may need to be closed. Secondly, it is vital to get the balance between primary legislation and regulation correct. I suspect that the Minister will have to address that clearly. The key element that we must not lose sight of as we discuss this part of the Bill is the fact that the special status of the embryo must be put above everything else. That must not be lost in our debate.
Dawn Primarolo: I start by saying clearlyI will return to this point, as the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness (Mark Simmonds) asked me tothat the Bill sets out a clear prohibition on human reproductive cloning and the genetic modification of gametes or embryos that are to be used for treatment purposes. It does that through the provisions set out in clause 3. At the end of my comments on the amendments, I will return to the subject to lay that out clearly.
Amendments Nos. 41, 49 and 73 seek to restrict the provisions in the Bill that aim to prevent the transmission of mitochondrial diseases. Research is currently being carried out, under a Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority licence, on ways to avoid those devastating diseases. To remind ourselves, we are talking about dementia, respiratory problems, gastro-intestinal disorders, stroke and brain atrophy. In recognition of the severity of those conditions and the potential for such research to provide effective treatment, the Bill provides, through a regulation-making power, for eggs or embryos that have had applied to them a specific process enabling them to avoid serious mitochondrial diseases to be considered permitted. They can therefore be used in treatment. The particular process and the circumstances in which that would be appropriate would be detailed in regulation. I take the caution given by the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) about acknowledging the sensitivities and difficulties in that area.