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The second issue that I want to address is that of cloning, which has received the resilient response from the HFEA and others that it will be controlled by the unwillingnessthat is quite properto transplant a cloned embryo into a living female surrogate, or woman capable of carrying that embryo to term. That is fine as far as it goes, but what bothers me is that in the emphasis that we place, and have placed, on the leading role of the United Kingdom in research, we have not so far mentioned that any attempt to try to ban the cloning of human beings by refusing to allow reproductive cloning takes no notice at all of the fact that we live not only in a global scientific community but one which is intensely competitive and driven to a great extent by profound commercial interests. That means quite simply that we need to hearthis is my second question to the Ministerexactly what position the United Kingdom Government take towards the United Nations attempt to get some form of global banning of reproductive cloning, because without that we all know perfectly well that rogue scientists will be perfectly happy to go round the back of their own national prohibitions in order to get the chance to carry out
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Thirdly, and briefly, I strongly support what the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, had to say about retaining the original 1990 reference to the need of a child for a father. I recogniseI have some friends and relatives in this positionthat a pair of men or women, or for that matter a woman on her own, can be marvellous parents. That is not my main concern at the moment. My main concern is that research shows conclusively in fields such as education and educational achievement that a child who has a male model as well as a female model is likely to do considerably better than one who does not have that male model, because, as the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, so rightly said, our society is made up of men and women. They often have rather different approaches, even rather different language: womens language is much more often associational, and mens language is more often directly related to a particular issue.
Be that as it may, I refer in this context to the very interesting research done by Professor Carol Gilligan in the United States and her book In a Different Voice. She goes at length into the ways in which little girls and little boys develop. In no sense is one more able than the other. Simply, one is rather different from the other, and a child will benefit from understanding from its babyhood what a man and a woman constitute and how they should complement each other. I have a deeper purpose, however. I believe that one of the ways forward for the familyit is no good thinking that we can go back to a traditional family structure of a very old fashioned kindis that men and women alike have to bear a much greater part of the responsibility for raising children, for looking after elderly relatives, and for caring for those members of their family who are needy in one way or another. Traditionally, that has fallen largely to women, but it will be less true in future. Unless we give men a full sense of what it is to be a father, a member of a family, and a proud and in
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Finally, on abortion, I strongly support the argument that we should consider not amending this Bill but rather sending it to a bioethics committee along the lines suggested by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, as there is certainly something objectionable about using abortion as a form of contraception, and the price that we all pay in human and social terms is very grave indeed.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, in view of the fact that the two opposition spokespeople are not here for the Statement, may I suggest that perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, would like to make his contribution to the current debate before we move on to the Statement?
Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick: My Lords, I am delighted to take the opportunity to stand in for Northern Rock on this occasion and to provide, I hope, some useful insight in the light of the absence of the opposition spokesmen.
I am at the same time extremely delighted to see the Bill come to the House but also dismayed. I am delighted because, like all of us, I want to see effective, quality research that will alleviate the difficulties that many people suffer from Alzheimers disease, Parkinsons disease, muscular dystrophy and many cancers. All of us wish to see effective research completed, conducted and foreseen for those who struggle, for there to be greater dignity in places of pain.
However, I am dismayed by the Bill because of a number of factors already referred to by the right reverend Prelate and because of some other matters which I will come to. One is the sense of rush, even super-urgency, about the legislation. I was deeply concerned to hear the right reverend Prelate who had taken part in the committee say that there had been a considerable lack of time to give proper scrutiny, even consideration, to ethical matters. He raised a number of points, he said, concerning the meaning of humanity, life, relationships and even power. I should like to add to that list a few other points which the Ministerand we as a Housemight want to reflect on.
These points include the meaning of vulnerability and need in the cases of parents and of children from gestation onwards. What is common consent when it comes to partnering and support for children? What do we mean by a commitment to the undiminished support that we as a society say we wish to give for people who are weak, ill and suffering? Do we simply want to screen the problems out or to continue to support those who struggle with medical issues?
What about an intelligent approach to pro-life? I hate the fact that that term has been so closely associated only with those who are said to be anti-abortion. I cannot believe that any noble Lord is not pro-life. We
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I think it also raises the question for all of us of whether, in the light of the absence of sufficient ethical consideration and of proper public understanding of these issues, the Bill is not simply jumping too far ahead for many of us. If one looks at the period separating the report of both Housespublished on 1 August, not only when both Houses had gone into recess but when, as many would see it, the silly season had begunthe government response, the Governments publication of the legislation, and this debate today on Second Reading, one will see that it has been inordinately rushed.
I had the opportunity yesterday to discuss the issues raised by the Bill with some very good friends who are involved in charities working with seriously ill elderly people and who work also at the most senior levels of the National Health Service in the care of patients with cancer. I found among themI am sure they will not mind my saying solevels ignorance that even they felt embarrassed by, as did I. Given the seriousness of the issues raised, how could we believe that a Bill of this magnitude and significance, which does not have wide public understanding, should be rushed through this House or another place?
I hear many reacting by saying that detailed consideration has indeed been given, and I am sure that sure in many ways it has. However, I have read both the proposed legislation and the Explanatory Noteswhich, although elegant and thoughtful, are in some ways very confusing. I shall refer simply to page 30 of the notes, on Clauses 36 and 37, which gives the definition of fatherhood conditions. If I read that definition to the House I am sure that bemused bewilderment would appear on the faces of many noble Lords. I urge noble Lords to read it. If those who are advising us cannot explain in plain English what the conditions of fatherhood mean, how can the public possibly understand the seriousness of this legislation? My first thought is to ask this House and the Minister not whether we should ditch the Bill but whether we should have a period to allow proper public understanding of the depth of these issues, the significance of the provisions that we are being asked to consider and whether we should take more cautious care. I agree that there should be a joint bioethics committee, but what a tragedy that it comes after the legislation has been developed, not in advance. Ethical considerations should be at the heart of how we think about all these vital life issues.
This week it is 16 years since the Government of this country ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is interesting that when that
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In the light of that, I am drawn to the statement made in the Department of Health press release issued on 8 November. It is closely allied to what was said in the gracious Speech. It is that this legislation will place Britain at the forefront of scientific research. We would all welcome that, within limits. It also states that it would do that,
It is clear to me that societys attitudes have moved towards a desperation, not just an understanding, for fathers to be consistently committed to the children whom they are responsible for creating in whatever form they are created. A recent survey indicated that 82 per cent of people think that children are adversely affected across between one and eight categories of well-being by the absence of a father and that 81 per cent of people aged between 18 and 24 and 80 per cent of women share that view. Societys attitudes are increasingly in favour of acknowledging the power of fathers, of naming fathers and of fathers duties and responsibilities. If that is the case, some measures in the Bill seem to be inconsistent with societys expectations and the changes that have taken place.
I asked about ethical thinking, the necessity for greater clarity on ethical questions, timing and whether we have not been too rushed on these matters, the necessity for redefinitions and an appreciation that pro-life is not anti anything but is in favour of all of us. I want to make one small point. It is not to raise the critical and complex issue of abortionenough has been said about thatbut in this House on 19 July I asked the Minister responsible at the time whether we should not give greater consideration to the importance of greater support for adoption in the light of the amendments to this legislation that also cover adoption law. At the time, I was given a dismissive, possibly even curt, response:
My point is very simple: given that the Bill will create new categories needing further requirements on adoption because of the way in which children may be brought to life, and given that there are amendments to adoption, is it not time that we are also very serious about talking up the options of positive adoption, not as a consequence of children brought into life that we must find some radical solution for but simply because it is another choice for another life already existing, a child who is already there for whom the state already pays? Therefore should it not be a more creative and positive approach to some of the options that should be provided?
Baroness Noakes: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in another place. It is plain that the mess that is Northern Rock is the result of bungling of the very highest order. Northern Rock's board must certainly take the blame for a business model that did not withstand the liquidity squeeze. It is right and proper that several membersexecutive and non-executivehave now quit office. The problems faced by Northern Rock were magnified by the inadequacy of the tripartite arrangements which oversaw the government response to the situation. I remind the House that this resulted in the first run on a bank in the United Kingdom for 140 years and did considerable damage, not only to Northern Rock but to our financial services sector overall.
The tripartite arrangements were invented by the Prime Minister when he was Chancellor and they failed their first big test. The Government still have not said anything about changes to the tripartite arrangements and I ask the Minister what the Government intend to do about them. I hope that they will not be needed again, but we cannot be sure about that. We need to be sure that they will work better next time.
The Governor of the Bank of England was very clear when he gave evidence to the Treasury Select Committee in another place that various legislative changes were needed. We know that there will be a depositor protection Bill some time this Session but there has been silence from the Government about the other legislative changes. When do the Government intend to address those issues? They seem at least as important as sorting out depositor protection, especially given the fact that the Government have already created the precedent of underwriting the whole of Northern Rock's liabilities.
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