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The noble Lord, Lord Alton, asked many questions on the amendment. I shall not answer them this afternoon but the noble Lord, Lord Patel, may
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Lord Patel: Much of the discussion had nothing to do with my amendment. It involved the wider discussion that we have already had on issues relating to interspecies embryos and cell nuclear transfer technology. I have no doubt that we shall return to them because my noble friend Lord Alton of Liverpool and others clearly wish to do so as many times as possible, and they have every right to do so. I go on to
Lord Patel: I am coming to that. As I said, my amendment is about children who suffer from very serious diseases, which kill the majority of them by the age of two. They relate to the development of the brain and kidneys. Some of them are congenital diseases caused by genetic defects in the mitochondrion. The reason for suggesting that cells should be used from these children, using cell nuclear transfer technology and therefore creating an embryo, is to obtain stem cells and cultures of cells that carry the defective gene in order to study how these diseases develop and to find ways and means of treating them.
This also applies to creating interspecies embryos using skin cells from children, with parental consent, to create stem cells using animal eggs from which the nucleus is removed. The stem cells that result are nearly a 100 per cent match to the child from whom the skin cells were taken. This allows us to understand the development of lethal diseases so we can find the kind of therapies that my friendin the professional sensethe noble Lord, Lord Winston, has talked about that use gene therapies and develop architecture to modify these genes so that children can survive longer and in due course we can treat these genetic defects.
Interspecies embryos and the human embryonic material obtainedhuman stem cellsboth use the same technology. These cells are obtained to study further the behaviour of these diseases. My amendment is about obtaining consent. Most of these children die at an early age and are not able to consent so consent is needed from the parents to obtain these cells so we can learn how to treat these diseases. That is the simple reason for this amendment; there is no other reason. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: Your Lordships will know that the pre-legislative scrutiny committee that examined the Bill wanted to ensure that there were ethical principles in the law, preferably fixed by Parliament. There appeared to be very few ethical principles that the committee and its witnesses could agree on, but the one that I shall argue for is so basic that it is a litmus test of the ability of this nation to agree on ethical principles. It is the one that was crafted by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, in the 1990 Act, which has held firm and worked well for the last 17 years. It is the section that says that the welfare of the child includes the childs need for a father. Clause 14(2)(b) of the Bill calls for the wisdom and natural practice of the centuries to be disregarded.
Why should I care about this? It is because I learnt from my chairmanship of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority that the public need reassurance that science is not leaping ahead to the detriment of future generations. That theme has implicitly underlain all our discussion over the past few days. The other thing that I learnt during my chairmanship was that there are pressures on vulnerable women, and sometimes reluctant men, to spend a lot of money in pursuit of a baby, sometimes egged on, as it were, by very wealthy doctors, who urged them to keep going. One was aware of husbands who demanded a baby or threatened divorce if one was not forthcoming. I hold to the principle that every woman is a worthwhile woman in her own right, whether or not she has, wants or cannot have a baby. She is not just a mother. Likewise every man has to be free to be not just a career man, not just a genetic contributor or a pair, but a responsible father.
There is no right to a baby. I think that your Lordships would agree on that. The provision that we are debating is a demarcation between, on the one hand, the goal that we all seek of a healthy baby brought up in a family to which some thought has been given and, on the other hand, experimentation. One of the main arguments against cloning is that the child would be the product of only one parent with no input at all from another. That has caused revulsion around the world.
In other words, what I learnt from my chairmanship was that the science is great but that there is a risk in all that we do of dehumanisation, commercialisation and loss of identity. It has, rightly, been the policy of this Government and other Governments that there should be paternity leave in order that a father can bond with his child. It is the policy of this Government that single women should be more than encouraged to name the father on the birth certificate. It is the policy of the judges and the Government that there should be contact between father and child after divorce. It is the policy of this Government and previous Governments to make sure that fathers pay maintenance for their children. It has been the policy of this Government to end the anonymity of sperm donors in order that they can be known if necessary at some time in the future.
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As a former chair, I welcome all the excellent proposals in Part 1 that simultaneously liberalise and regulate the advance of science in lifesaving and reproductive techniques. I have no quarrel with any of it, but the results of science should adapt to the needs of society and not vice versa. The pre-legislative scrutiny committee decided inter alia that donor-conceived children ought to be given every opportunity to discover the truth about their origins, short of forcing social parents to tell them that they were donor conceived, which is too great an invasion of privacy and unenforceable. The pre-legislative scrutiny committee concluded that children need two parents. The need for a mother is implicit in the direction to consider the welfare of the child, because it is the would-be mother who presents herself for treatment. Your Lordships could usefully imagine the reaction of the public were the Bill to say that the need for a mother was to be deleted from the law.
The Bill remains full of inconsistencies. It promotes truth about origins, but it will provide for birth certificates to name two parents of the same sex. It ensures non-discrimination between family units and persons at the expense, it could be argued, of the welfare of the child. After all, British law does not treat all families the same. It still rightly discriminates against underage marriage, which is not possible, and polygamous and incestuous unions, which are not legalised, so why should a child not have its family welfare considered before the mother undergoes IVF?
Current government and judicial policy is unanimous that fathers have a vital role to play, and research, which I am coming to, shows that children need fathers as role models. We should not be afraid of being labelled discriminatory or politically incorrect in standing up for the welfare of the child and for its right to have two parents of different sexes, even though that requirement has not been and will continue not to be a barrier to treatment. Indeed, the number of single women and lesbian women being treated by IVF has gradually risen, and I have no quarrel with that.
It has been alleged that this factorthat a child needs a fatheris discriminatory. It is not discriminatory, because it applies to all patients regardless of sex and marital status. If it is discriminatory, it is justified by the welfare of the child, and it is proportionate; it is not an absolute bar. In that, I am supported by the rest of Europe, which I shall come to.
The HFEA figures show that treatment is regularly provided to single and lesbian women; indeed, the number is rising. Clinics look for stability and a male role model and they consider the risk of harm. I have a list of about 80 research papers listing the unique contribution made by fathers to the upbringing of girls and boys in terms of social and academic success and psychological and physical health. The fathers input to the upbringing of girls is as vital as it is to the upbringing of boys. A household of two parents of different sexes is a microcosm of society. It gives children the chance to see the complementariness of
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In a poll of approximately 1,000 people taken in early November, 84 per cent of 18 to 24 year-olds believed that the father is important and 82 per cent of all those questioned thought that his absence is adverse. In keeping the law as it is, we will be in line with the rest of Europe; our law is already more liberal than the laws in the rest of Europe. Single people cannot be treated by IVF in France, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Portugal and Germany. That limitation is not therefore confined to the more deeply religious societies. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child says that the child has,
in the plural. If we say that there is no need for a father in any circumstances, we will be in a group of countries that includes Romania, Bulgaria, Venezuela, Mexico, Belgium and Finland. I would argue that it is the hallmark of a civilised society that for the welfare of the child some restraints are put on who may reproduce when the matter is in the hands of clinics and the law.
The studies that exist on same-sex parenting are largely directed towards the existence of two parents of the same sex when the children are very young, but in Norway and Sweden, where same-sex partnerships have been legal for very much longer, it is apparent that the risks of breakdown are considerably higher. Female partnerships have a divorce risk that is double that for males. The median length of male relationships in the UK isonly 25 months. Thirty per cent of Swedish female unions and 20 per cent of male unions end within five years.
In other words, it is right to consider the childs need for a father. I have the studies indicating that; I do not have time to list them now, but they certainly exist. We need to signal to men that we are all partners in the health of the next generation and that none of us is worthless or to be written out of reproduction or valued only for the money that we can contributethat is, if we are men. If we maintain the existing law on the childs need for a father, that will do more to reassure the public about the advances in science than anything else we can do. I suggest that, in its way, it is the bedrock for confidence in going forward in the in vitro fertilisation and stem cell field.
I therefore suggest that we restore the current law. It is not a prohibition; as I said, many single women and lesbian couples are treated. But it will cause patients and clinicians to reflect on the situation that has presented itself and ask whether all will be wellor as well as can be predictedin this situation. This also applies to Clause 23(2). I beg to move.
Baroness O'Cathain: I support the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, and will speak to the remaining amendments in this group, which would delete Part 2 and the attendant consequential clauses. Part 2 has the effect of redefining what it means to be a mother or a father. It is intended to create a separate category of parent for those who do not fit the description of either mother or father, thereby creating in law a family that
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The current law may not be perfect, but it is better than the Bill before us today. I propose deleting Part 2 in the interests of keeping the law as it is. Trying to unpack this complicated and convoluted mess would lead to more problems than it would solve. I contend that the Government should take Part 2 back to the drawing board. If there is anything there worth preserving in the interests of upholding or enhancing the status quo, I hope that the Government will reintroduce provisions in a new Part 2 in the near future.
The relationship between children and their parents is, once again, at the heart of the redefinition of a family taken forward by Part 2. Clause 45 states that where two women wish to access IVF treatment as a partnership,
I invite your Lordships to step back for a moment and consider the full ramifications of that statement. It effectively means that, from before the child is born until he or she ceases to be a child at the age of 18, the state, through this Bill, effectively makes it impossible for that child to have a father at any time during their childhood. Indeed, even when the child turns 18, they will not actually have a father but will only be able to find out who their father is. Whatever you think of the childrens rights movement, surely every child has the right, at least, to have had the chance of having a father. Do we really want to enact a piece of legislation that will make this impossible? What would this say about our attitude to children?
To put this question in context, it is important to recognise that one of the main developments since the HFE Act has been the publication of a significant amount of research on fatherhood, the balance of which demonstrates that fathers bring something distinctive and important to the parenting process. The noble Baroness, Lady Deech, has referred to 80 pieces of research; what I have looked up gives me over 100. I commend to your Lordships the recently published CARE Fatherhood Bibliography, which is available on the website www.care.org.uk/fathers. It highlights more than 100 pieces of research.
For those who do not get involved, or do not wish to get involved, in searching the web, I shall quote just three relevant statements. The first is from an article entitled The Importance of Father Love: History and Contemporary Evidence,by Rohner and Veneziano, in the publication Review of General Psychology, 5 April 2001, pages 382 to 405. I quote:
This article explores the cultural construction of fatherhood in America, as well as the consequences of this construction as a motivator for understudying fathers, especially father love for nearly a century in developmental and family research. It then reviews evidence from 6 categories of empirical studies showing the powerful influence of fathers love on childrens and young adults social, emotional, and cognitive development and functioning. Much of this evidence suggests that the influence of father love on offsprings development is as great as and occasionally greater than the influence of mother love. Some studies conclude that father love is the sole significant predictor of specific outcomes after controlling for the influence of mother love. Overall, father
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The second quotation is from Life without Father: Compelling New Evidence that Fatherhood and Marriage Are Indispensable for the Good of Children and Society, by Mr Popenoe, published in New York by the Free Press in 1996. It says:
Recent research has given us much deeper ... insights into the fathers role in childrearing. It shows that in almost all of their interactions with children, fathers do things a little differently from mothers. What fathers do ... is not only highly complementary to what mothers do but is by all indications important in its own right for optimum childrearing.
Fathers are far more than just second adults in the home. Involved fathersespecially biological fathersbring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring ... They provide protection and economic support and male role models ... According to the evidence, fathers make important contributions to their childrens intellectual competence, prosocial and companionate behaviour and psychological well-being.
Finally, I quote from a work entitled Fathers Involvement in their Childrens Schools, issued by the US Department of Educations National Center for Education Statistics. It was written in 1987, by Mr Nord, Mr Brimhall and Mr West. It says:
In two-parent families, the involvement of fathers exerts a distinct and independent influence on whether children have ever repeated a grade, get mostly As, enjoy school, and participate in extracurricular activities, even after controlling for mothers involvement in school and other potentially confounding factors.
Given that the balance of recent research demonstrates the importance of fathers and the fact that they bring something distinctive to the parenting process, I submit that changes in the law suggesting anything to the contrary would be foolish. The proposed change would make it impossible for children to have fathers from before their birth until they cease to be children, when all that they can do is find out the identity of that father. That would be grossly irresponsible of Parliament and exhibit a total disregard for the rights and well-being of the child.
Some may respond by saying that the redefinitions of Part 2 simply extend principles established in the same-sex adoption situation. That debate has come and gone. The context of adoption and IVF are entirely different. Let us consider adoption from the perspective of the child. When a child who at some point goes on to be adopted is conceived, they have a chance of having a fatherindeed, they may well enjoy access to their father for a period. At some point, however, they have to be taken into care and foster or adoptive families must be sought. Thus, adopted children are not purposefully conceived on the basis that they should never have a father.
What the Bill seeks to achieve is entirely different. In a context where recent research overwhelmingly demonstrates the importance of fathers and the fact that they bring something distinct to the parenting process, the decision of the state to facilitate the deliberate creation of children who would be prevented from having a father is morally wrong. That is a clear example of the Government prioritising the interests
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Not only do I believe that Part 2 is fraught with difficulties, because it affirms policy that is negligent of the balance of recent research, but I think that it is profoundly confused about public attitudes. A stated rationale for the Billone of manywas to take account of changing public views since 1990. Public views may or may not be changing, but one thing is certain: they do not agree with the redefinitions of the family in Part 2 of the Bill and, indeed, in relevant aspects of Part 1, such as Clause 14. In the Governments 2005 consultation preceding the Bill, Review of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990: A Public Consultation, question 17 asks:
Only 103 of the 505 responses published on the Department of Health website backed removing the obligation to have regard to the childs need for a father. Given that there is clearly no public appetite for doing away with the 1990 provision that the childs welfare includes the need for a father, by implication there is no appetite for making it impossible for some children to have fathers from before birth for the duration of their childhood. To be blunt, it is difficult to see how one could have regard to the childs need for a father and yet, at the same time, prevent some children from ever having fathers.
More recently, a ComRes telephone poll demonstrated that 77 per cent of people think that the obligation on IVF clinics to have regard to the childs need for a father is either important or very important. Most interestingly, this figure rose to 84 per cent for the youngest category polled, namely the 18 to 24 year-olds. The same poll asked people directly whether they felt that Part 2s provisionthat no man is to be treated as the father of the childwas fair on the child. Only 10 per cent of people thought that it was fair on the child. This figure fell to just 7 per cent in the responses from those with children in the household.
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