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Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, in relation to the original Question tabled by my noble friend Lord Alton, does it not depend, as the late C.E.M. Joad used to say in the "Brains Trust", on what one means by the word "cloning"? I am sure that every Member of this House would abhor any mechanism by which it was possible to create identical human beings by reproductive cloning. I trust that the legislation which is coming forward will outlaw that particular process. At the same time, perhaps I may urge the Minister and all those involved to ensure that the whole issue of therapeutic cloning for the production of stem cells by nuclear transplantation is not outlawed by the legislation, pending the outcome of the appeal and the report of the Select Committee chaired by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Yes, my Lords; I could not describe the position better. We shall of course have to await the outcome of the appeal and shall pay very careful attention to the report of your Lordships' Select Committee.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, we had a good and full debate on this matter in January. However, the Minister promised during that debate to bring forward legislation on human reproductive cloning in response to the recommendations of the Donaldson report. Is it not unfortunate that the Government did not use the opportunity to bring forward such legislation in June, and has that not laid them open to having to bring forward this emergency legislation now?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I do not agree. I believe that, in any event, there was a very good case for awaiting the outcome of the House's Select Committee on this matter. It was in the election manifesto of the Labour Party that we would bring forward legislation. We are doing so. However, the promises made in a manifesto last for the lifetime of a Parliament. At present there is very great demand on the legislative timetable.
Lord Elton: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that all the most significant breakthroughs in stem cell technology in recent months have resulted from work on adult and not embryonic cells? Is not the answer to the problem to restrict ourselves to the use of adult cells so as to avoid altogether this difficult ethical question?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I do not accept that. The noble Lord may be right in relation to the potential of adult stem cells. The Chief Medical Officer's expert working group acknowledges that.
Lord Smith of Clifton asked Her Majesty's Government:
The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, the Question is based on a misapprehension. Ms Alexander is not leading a review of public bodies. She is leading a review of policy on executive agencies. The terms of reference of that review were announced to Parliament on 7th March 2001, and are lengthy. I am sure your Lordships will excuse me from reading them out as they are already to be found in Hansard for March of this year. In respect of the last part of the Question, the review is expected to report to Ministers around the turn of the year.
Lord Smith of Clifton: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. Perhaps I may be forgiven for not being fully aware of the distinction between non-executive bodies, quangos, task forces and the whole range of denizens that dwell in the demi-monde. Does the Minister agree that there is a case for looking at the vast plethora of unconstitutional mutations? I was concerned that the lady who is to chair the review has had experience of English Heritage. I hope that that is not a portent that some of these denizens will become part of the English constitutional heritage.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, there is nothing mutative and there is nothing unconstitutional about the use of task forces, ad hoc advisory groups or reviews. They are sensible tools when properly used for the efficient conduct of public business.
Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, can the noble and learned Lord confirm that in the lengthy terms of reference for this inquiry the word "accountability" occurs? Can he confirm that all the executive agencies
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the last sentence of the terms of reference is:
The thrust of the review is, I hope, to produce the consequence that the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, wants; namely, openness and accountability.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, what is the difference between an executive agency and a task force?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, it will not amaze noble Lords that an executive agency is an agency that carries out executive functions. Similarly, it will not surprise your Lordships that a task force is a force set up to carry out a particular task; for example, the extremely effective, universally applauded Human Rights Task Force set up by the then Home Secretary in the Home Office to put into effect the Human Rights Act over a period of about 18 months.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, can the noble and learned Lord tell the House in what way the noble Lord, Lord Haskins, is responsible and accountable to this House for the work that he carries out in the name of the British taxpayer?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, it seems to me that there is no disentitlement to any noble Lord to put down a question or to seek a short debate. My recent experience this afternoon demonstrates that it is possible to ask even unpopular questions in your Lordships' House.
Lord Saatchi: My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord agree that the 30,000 people who work in quangos are owed a duty of care by the Government who employ them so that they can be rescued from the mockery and mistrust that the word "quango" now evokes? What plans do the Government have to deal with that?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi, with his vast experience in the advertising industry, will know that it is reality and not apparent perception that matters.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to prohibit the placing in a woman of
Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.(Lord Hunt of Kings Heath.)
On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.
Lord Carter: My Lords, following the First Reading of the Human Reproductive Cloning Bill, it may be convenient for the House if I say a few words about the procedure that the usual channels propose for dealing with this urgent piece of legislation. As always, I am extremely grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Cope of Berkeley and Lord Roper, for their co-operation in agreeing the proposed timetable.
The Bill will be printed overnight and will be available in the Printed Paper Office at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning. The Public Bill Office has agreed, exceptionally, to take amendments before Second Reading. Therefore, your Lordships will be able to table amendments from 10 a.m. tomorrow onwards, although I understand that the Bill has been drawn narrowly and amendments will have to be relevant to the Bill as drafted.
We will take Second Reading of the Bill as first business on Monday. The speakers' list has been put up in the Government Whips' Office and any noble Lord who would like to speak in the Second Reading debate may put his or her name down immediately. The deadline for adding names to the speakers' list is 12 noon on Monday.
When we have finished the Second Reading debate, business on the Bill will be adjourned, and the House will deal with the next business on the Order Paper, which will be the completion of the Committee stage of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill. As soon as that is finished, we shall return to the Human Reproductive Cloning Bill and all the remaining stages will then be taken.
In order to allow the House to take the Second Reading and the remaining stages all in one day it will be necessary to suspend Standing Order 46 which prohibits the taking of more than one stage of a Bill in a single day. My noble and learned friend the Leader of the House will table a Motion to that effect, which will be taken at the start of business tomorrow.
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