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It is important again to state that those two organisations do not represent all shades of opinion on the matter. There are people who have been adopted and people who have been born as the result of donor conception who are utterly and completely opposed to any move such as this. They feel strongly that singling out one group of children in a public manner—having it registered on a birth certificate is a public manner—is utterly wrong.

That is not to say that they are opposed to a course of honesty, in the words of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. Some of those same people are anxious that children know of their donors. They are the most keen that those children know they are donor-conceived but they believe passionately that that is a matter for them to handle within their families and that they have a duty to handle it within their families. It should not be imposed on them by means of a public document.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, talked about the article by Libby Purves in the Times which I also read. It was a very good article. But there have been other reactions in the press and that is one of the things that worries me about the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin. I have a number of concerns about it. It states:

What would trigger that review? Is it inconceivable that public opinion could be swayed dramatically, as it was by the case of the twins that was quoted extensively by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, in Committee, and reported extensively in the press? That might sway public opinion in one direction. Having raised this matter in Committee, I can tell the noble Lord that the Daily Mail—without interviewing me, I have to say—saw fit to run a huge one-page article by heterosexual donor parents, who vociferously made the case in the opposite direction. I am rather concerned that we could have a very unspecific measure. I loved the

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reference of the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, to a slightly ginger amendment. I ask again what would trigger the review. There is a danger that this matter could be swayed by changes in public opinion based on one or two cases.

I said to the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, a few weeks ago that we had been through a process whereby all of us had arrived at exactly the same position that she and her committee arrived at back in the 1980s. We have realised that this is an intractably difficult problem to which there is no answer that satisfies both the desire of donor-conceived people to have a right to know and those who say that the matter should be handled within the privacy of the family. But at least we have all been through the arguments this time and we all know why we have arrived at the same position, so perhaps our time has not been misspent.

However, a difficult matter now arises that did not apply in 1990. In 1990 people had long birth certificates and short birth certificates. One of the problems we have now—here I take issue with some of the recent articles of the noble Lord, Lord Alton—is that because of the changes going on in the world, terrorism and people’s need to prove their identity to a greater degree than ever before, long birth certificates are increasingly being demanded by all sorts of authorities so short birth certificates may no longer be appropriate. Therefore, the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, which I accept was drawn up with much thought, may cause problems. We are told that there will be an identity card scheme. Will this information go on ID cards? I do not know but I rather suspect that if it did it would be controversial.

While I sympathise enormously with what the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, is trying to do, I consider that the amendment does not, as he said, take us a stage further. It simply acknowledges that there is a problem and makes the situation even less clear than it is at present. Finally, given the deep concerns on this matter, and given its potential impact, particularly on the lives of children, I am not happy about it being left to regulation. It should appear in primary legislation. So while I have a great deal of sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, I cannot support the amendment for the reasons I have given.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I begin with the very clear statement that the Government fully recognise the importance of donor-conceived children being told about their origins. In the past there was a great deal of secrecy in this area and society generally accepted this culture, as the noble Earl rightly said. Although the same culture of secrecy is no longer the case, this is a sensitive area that involves delving into intimate family relationships.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, eloquently told us of the conflicting views on this issue and the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, expanded further on those differences. I believe that we all agree on the value of donor-conceived children knowing about their origins, but we must weigh this against inappropriate interference from the state and work out the best method for achieving openness. The approach of the Donor Conception Network—an organisation of families of donor-conceived

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children and donor-conceived adults—is to encourage parents of donor-conceived children to tell them from a young age about their background. The Government recognise the merit in this approach and we are committed to encouraging openness by way of education rather than enforcement. We are funding the Donor Conception Network to produce materials on how to tell, and to run workshops on telling.

The Government have proposed to strengthen the provisions in the Bill with respect to counselling and information provision. In addition to requiring that all patients be given the offer of counselling and provided with relevant information, it also places a requirement on the HFEA to produce guidance on doing so to clinics. I recognise that there is some feeling that indicating in some way on birth certificates that children are donor-conceived will ensure they are better placed to find out about their genetic background. I believe that there would be very serious drawbacks to that approach. First, it is surely better for a person to find out that they are donor conceived in the course of a discussion with his or her family rather than through a birth certificate. Secondly, birth certificates are discoverable documents for anyone, so this information would not be kept private. The point raised by the noble Baroness about identity cards is an interesting one on which to reflect. There are further practical problems such as how, when registering a birth, a registrar could be expected to ask every person for information about the child’s conception without causing distress or offence. There is a further possibility that some parents might want to hide this information and not be honest when registering the birth.

There are also questions about whether the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, as proposed in the amendment, is best placed to carry out a review in this area. Changes to the birth registration laws would involve amending a number of different Acts and I do not believe that a review of the law in this area would be within the remit of the HFEA. It is also not clear that this provision is necessarily appropriate to be implemented by secondary legislation.

Very important issues have been raised during this debate and I believe we are all committed to the same objective—to ensure that donor-conceived children are aware of their conception and origins. Since the Committee stage we have had many discussions to try to resolve this problem but, frankly, we have not done so yet. The noble Lord’s amendment is an interesting way forward but we do not believe that it is the right one at this time for the reasons that I have given.

The Government keep matters concerning gamete and embryo donation under review. We reviewed the position on donors, leading to the removal of donor anonymity in 2005 and we have provisions in this Bill that allow for donor-conceived people, their siblings and their donors, to have access to information. As I mentioned earlier in withdrawing Amendment No. 128, we have accepted the spirit of Amendment No. 129, tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, which would extend the HFEA's duty to give guidance about information provided by clinics to state that information provided by clinics should address the importance of disclosing to any child born from treatment services the circumstances of their conception.

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As I said, this is currently an intractable problem but I assure noble Lords that we will continue to keep under review options about informing donor-conceived people about their conception, including continuing dialogue with the Donor Conception Network about the impact of its work. We will gladly involve noble Lords with a specific interest in this in our future discussions. On that basis I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

7.30 pm

Lord Mackay of Clashfern: My Lords, are the Government content with the discrimination that involves the fact of donor conception being registered for some children but not for others who are donor-conceived?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord is referring to the point he debated earlier with my noble friend. Are the Government content? We are trying to modernise the legislation, one might say, so that heterosexual and homosexual couples are treated in the same way and the same information is on the birth certificates of their children. The noble Lord disagrees with that. I accept that there is a disparity here, and he is seeking to ensure that the truth is on all birth certificates. However, there is a difference in the points discussed earlier about the children of homosexual couples and the children of couples conceived by in vitro fertilisation—couples who have had donors.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, does the noble Baroness not agree that the point of a birth certificate is that it should record who the parents are—who the mother and father are? When she says that it ought to be the same for heterosexual and single-sex couples, it will remove the right of the person to know who his father or mother is.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, it is rather a complex issue and we have had that discussion many times, including in Committee. What we feel is important is that children should be informed of their real parenthood, as it were, at an appropriate time. If a child has two parents, both of whom happen to be of the same sex, it is clear that they do not have a mother and a father. Therefore, it is right and proper that their birth certificate should say the donor. It is clear that they do not have a mother and a father in the usual sense, if one may put it like that. I am getting terribly confused here. We firmly believe that while children who have been conceived by in vitro fertilisation have a need to know whenever possible—we hope that those children will be informed at an appropriate age who their parents are for their well-being, their genetic inheritance and all the arguments we have heard this evening—their parents are best placed to inform them. We believe that information is best coming from the parents, not from their birth certificate, because it is a rather private matter.

Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, can I ask the Minister the question raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, which was on the issue of discrimination? I do not think that she answered it.

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Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, that is correct: I did not answer it. I am sure that the legislation would not be discriminatory, otherwise we would not be bringing it forward. If I am incorrect and we are being discriminatory in law, I will of course inform noble Lords, but I am content that that is not the case.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, first, does my noble friend agree that the reason we are stuck—it is also the precise reason I support an amendment that is actually a weasel amendment—is that there are very diverse and probably irreconcilable views whether birth certificates should reflect the biological or social parentage of children? Secondly, there is the issue of which of those things any child at any point in their life may wish that public document to reflect. Thirdly, there is the right of the child to know and the right of the family to have the privacy to teach their children what their origins are according to their own values and mores, knowing that parents can withhold that information. We have three dilemmas, none of which we can deal with now. The only question now is a practical one—whether it is best to revisit the issue when more consensus has developed through amendment or primary legislation.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for her assistance but, as I mentioned earlier, we have been around this debate many times, not just in your Lordships’ House but with the very organisations that the noble Lord referred to earlier, trying to find a solution that would be acceptable to everybody concerned. These are very important issues that matter very much to those children about whom everybody is expressing such great concern. In view of the fact that we have had many discussions but not found a solution yet, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment and trust that we can find an adequate solution in future.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, has the noble Baroness given any consideration to a suggestion that I think the noble Lord will have seen from one of the groups outside the House? Set alongside the birth certificate, which should be an historic record telling the absolute biological truth, perhaps there should be a social document. That document could tell the story of the relationships in much the way the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, mentioned. It is something the Government might want to look at.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, we have looked at many issues relating to birth certificates but I do not believe that we have looked at a “social certificate”. That might be worth looking at. However, we have looked at various types of birth certificates and the information that might go on them. As I have said, we have discussed that with many of the people concerned, so I am confident that the discussions we have had to date have been comprehensive.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, I cannot conceal my disappointment that the Government are not able to accept anything going into the Bill; I had rather

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gained the impression that the amendment might have been smiled on. It has been warmly supported by a number of noble Lords, many of whom have much longer experience in this field than I do. It is disappointing that we cannot see some way forward in the Bill.

The Minister raised the difficulty of whether the HFEA is the right body to do this. I understand that it is not the body that is responsible for the registration of births, deaths and marriages. There is a tremendous amount in the Bill about the registrar’s duties and what goes on the birth certificate, which will clearly be within the purview of the HFEA. In fact, the HFEA is the body that understands about donor conception. I do not think it is in the least bit unreasonable that we should ask the HFEA to keep the issue under review “from time to time”, as I said in the amendment. The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, asked what would trigger it. The answer is that when there has been time for the debate to move on, the HFEA might say, “It is time for us to have another look at this. We are getting a good deal of pressure from one body or another to say that something must be done”. The argument about the state not conniving in deception has always seemed strong. We are leaving that in the air.

I would like to feel that at some later stage in another place, the Government might be able to find something that could go in the Bill that keeps the door open, as many noble Lords who have spoken in the debate have said, and I am grateful to them all for speaking. The noble Baroness said, “Yes, the Government are going to keep this under review”. I am sorry, but I have been around long enough to realise that without some sort of statutory obligation that does not mean a great deal. I would have liked to have seen something here. I am not sure that this is the right issue on which to divide the House; and anyway it is dinner time and I think we are going to have a break. The House has been very kind and has indicated its views. I am a little upset by the Government’s rather negative attitude but, in the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 8.25 pm.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 7.40 to 8.25 pm.]

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon moved Amendment No. 147:

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall speak also to the other government amendments grouped with Amendment No. 147. They amend Schedule 6 to make minor consequential amendments to other pieces of legislation as a result of provisions in the Bill. The need for these amendments has become apparent only since the introduction of the Bill.

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Amendments Nos. 147 and 148 amend paragraph 15 of Schedule 6 to the Bill, which makes consequential amendments to the Legitimacy Act 1976, so as to change the phrase “date of the civil partnership” to “date of the formation of the civil partnership”. This reflects the language used by the Civil Partnership Act 2004.

Amendment No. 154 amends Article 13 of the Family Law Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 1977 to ensure that it is clear that a person will not be excluded as the legal parent of a child following DNA tests if they are a parent by virtue of Clauses 33 to 47 of the Bill.

Amendment No. 155 amends Article 15 of the Adoption (Northern Ireland) Order 1987 to enable a child to be adopted by one parent where they have no other parent by virtue of provisions under the Bill. This mirrors the reference in the order to Section 28 of the 1990 Act.

Amendment No. 156 amends Article 27 of the Child Support (Northern Ireland) Order 1991, which deals with disputes about parentage in the context of child maintenance assessments. This makes the equivalent amendment to the changes made to the Child Support Act 1991.

Amendments Nos. 159 and 160 amend Article 7 of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 which deals with the acquisition of parental responsibility. The Bill inserts new paragraphs (2A) and (2B) to take account of people registered as parents as a result of amendments made by the Bill to birth registration legislation. This amendment corrects a technical error to ensure that the references to the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Scotland) Act 1965 are accurate.

Amendment No. 161 amends Article 8(4)(g) of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995, which lists proceedings under Section 30 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 as “family proceedings” for the purposes of the 1995 order, to take account of the repeal of Section 30 of the 1990 Act and its replacement with Clause 54 of the Bill. This change was omitted in error from the Bill at introduction.

Similarly Amendment No. 162 amends Article 2(3) of the Family Homes and Domestic Violence (Northern Ireland) Order 1998, which lists the provisions which count as “family proceedings” for the purpose of the 1998 order for the same reasons. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon moved Amendments Nos. 148 to 150:

“(b) by virtue of the provisions specified in subsection (5), there is no other parent, or”.

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(a) section 28 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 (disregarding subsections (5A) to (5I) of that section), or(b) sections 34 to 47 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 (disregarding sections 39, 40 and 46 of that Act).””
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