Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill [Lords]

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Mark Simmonds: I am grateful to the Minister for responding to the points that I made. I accept that the examples that I gave in relation to this clause and the previous clause are unlikely and complex. Nevertheless, it is the Committee’s job to scrutinise and to make sure that the law is robust enough to cater for all potential circumstances. I noticed from the flurry of papers that was being exchanged while I was asking my questions that this was perhaps something that had not been considered before, so I do not regret asking these particular questions. The answers have demonstrated that differences exist between how the law is structured for same-sex couples and for different-sex couples, and that while the new husband in the heterosexual couple will be the father of the child, the original civil partner will be the other partner on the birth certificate. It was quite right to extract that information from the Minister. I say to her that I was not trying to demonstrate any prejudice, or whatever word she might like to use, as regards the differences between heterosexual and same-sex couples. Indeed, if my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Devon chooses to vote against the clause, I shall not vote with him.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 42 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 43 and 44 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 45

Further provision relating to sections 42 and 43
Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab): I rise to speak to amendment No. 154, in clause 45, page 41, line 4, leave out subsection (1).
It is a great pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Mr. Hood. I expressed most of my views under your predecessor, Mr. Gale, and therefore I shall be very brief.
Tonight, in common with other Members, I have had the opportunity to be at other important House of Commons events: meetings of the Administration Committee, the all-party group on learning disability and so on. I note that there are no cameras from the Daily Mail and the BBC showing a fairly well attended Committee. A photograph was published of the Chamber on the day on which I last spoke in Committee. It was taken during the debate on knives, and the media said that only 16 Members “bothered to turn up” to that debate. I hope that some day the media will recognise the marvellous work that you chair, Mr. Hood, and the fact that hon. Members make a contribution in such Committees.
Clause 45(1) states:
“Where a woman is treated by virtue of section 42 or 43 as a parent of the child, no man is to be treated as the father of the child.”
I find that quite chilling. When I served on the Committee that considered the Bill that became the Children Act 1989, it was accepted that the rights of the child were paramount. In all honesty, I have not seen that as a theme in our debates throughout our consideration of the Bill. As for prejudice, that is an unfortunate word that does not apply to the views that were expressed in the Committee today.
I think that there is an obligation to the child. We were entitled to ask today what was in the best interest of the child. We discussed entirely and exclusively what many regarded as the rights or otherwise of adults, but not those of the child. The reason why I tabled the amendment was that I felt—and still do feel—that far more focus ought to be given to the rights of the child and their future after they are born. I do not agree with the majority of hon. Members on this matter, although I accept that a view was taken by the House. I also acknowledge that the Prime Minister accepted that there would be a free vote. In that spirit, I have expressed my view. It would have been less than courageous not to have said to the hon. Member for South-West Devon that he has support in parts of the House and elsewhere in the country. I have no desire to move the amendment.
The Chairman: Order. Does the right hon. Gentleman not wish to move his amendment?
Mr. Clarke: We have had a reasonable debate and it is probably wise not to do so.
The Chairman: The amendment is not moved.
Clause 45 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Further consideration adjourned.—[Steve McCabe.]
Adjourned accordingly at twenty-three minutes past Seven o’clock till Thursday 12 June at Nine o’clock.
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