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Amendments Nos. 9 to 11 amend the wording of subsection (3) of new Section 31ZA to make it consistent with the wording in Section 31(3) of the 1990 Act and with new Section 31ZB(3) in the Bill.

Amendments Nos. 12 to 15 correct some inconsistencies in the wording of subsection (4) of new Section 31ZA and new Section 31ZB(5). Amendment No. 18 corrects a further inconsistency in the wording of Clause 61(3) when compared with Clause 64(7). I beg to move.

4.30 pm

Earl Howe: My Lords, can the noble Baroness explain what “saving” means in Amendment No. 18? I am not sure that I understand.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, that is an excellent question and unless I get speedy assistance from the Box, I shall have to reply to the noble Earl in writing. If I keep going long enough, perhaps I will get an answer. I take this opportunity to say that the Bill team have been excellent and I am very grateful for all the work that they have done. I am extremely sorry. I will have to respond to the noble Earl in writing and I will copy the information to all noble Lords present.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon moved Amendments Nos. 10 to 15:

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 26 [Mitochondrial donation]:

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon moved Amendment No. 16:

“( ) section 13(6BA) (information whose provision to prospective parents is required by licence condition),”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 17 not moved.]

Clause 61 [Orders and regulations: general provisions]:



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Baroness Royall of Blaisdon moved Amendment No. 18:

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Activities that may be licensed under the 1990 Act]:

[Amendments Nos. 19 and 20 not moved.]

Baroness Williams of Crosby moved Amendment No. 21:

(a) any proposed use of embryos or human admixed embryos is necessary for the purposes of the research;(b) there is cogent evidence, which must include published, peer-reviewed scientific data, that—(i) the research proposed on human or human admixed embryos is likely to achieve its specified purposes; and(ii) it is not reasonably practicable to achieve the specified purposes of the research without using human embryos or human admixed embryos.”

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the House will recall that on Report, I mentioned that I would bring back the so-called Hunt test amendment, having changed it in the light of comments made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, concerning one subsection that we agreed was not appropriate. So I have brought it back without the subsection that dealt with animal testing. The amendment before the House is straightforward and clear.

I will be brief and begin by saying that the potential of adult stem cells is now widely recognised in the scientific field. I will mention three quick examples, all very recent. Professor Thomson of Wisconsin, a leading figure in the field, says of retroprogrammed adult stem cells:

Rudolf Jaenisch, head of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in the United States, says:

Sir Martin Evans says:

We have to ask why it is important that wherever possible adult stem cells should be chosen instead of embryonic stem cells. I underline the phrase “wherever possible” and will come back to it in a moment. One reason, mentioned in our debates by the noble Lord, Lord Winston, is the shortage of human eggs, which is now serious. Professor Wilmut says:

In short, embryonic stem cells, as far as possible, should not be used because they are much more important for other purposes. One significant thing about this that I mentioned at Report stage last week concerns the market. No market is permitted in the United Kingdom, but there is a clear market in the United States, and the price of human eggs for fertilisation purposes has gone up very sharply. There

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is a real danger in introducing the market into a field where people are ready to pay for something that they desperately desire and need. Therefore, as far as possible, steps that one can take to reduce the market pressure should certainly be taken.

Scientists increasingly argue that embryonic stem cell research may be needed as an assessment tool—as a reference point, if you like. That has been argued by a number of people, including Professor Wilmut and Professor Thomson, who have said that they believe very strongly that the medium and long-term solution lies in adult and not embryonic stem cells. However, I recognise that that may not be the case yet and that there may be a demand for embryonic stem cells to be used as a reference point or test of the usefulness of adult stem cells.

Members of the House may have read a very interesting article in our distinguished journal Science on 21 December 2007. It is becoming increasingly clear that there is a growing consensus among many scientists that we are now looking at a much more promising road along which to advance—that of retro-programming adult stem cells to the point where they become plenipotentiary than pursuing what may well be an expensive and, indeed, ethically objectionable route of embryonic stem cells. In that context, I again quote the spiky words of Professor Thomson:

by which he means embryonic stem cell research—

I draw the House’s attention to a very significant fact. Today, controls over the use of animal testing are much stricter in this country than controls over the use of embryonic stem cells, as distinct from adult stem cells, as a tool for research. The animal research, which has been largely relied on by the scientific establishment over recent years, is governed by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. Under that Act, the Home Office determines whether research on animals is allowed and the test is very straightforward: it is whether any alternative procedure would be equally or more successful than the use of animals. Over the years under this Act, the Home Office has rejected a number of, although not many, research proposals. Last year, about 3.5 per cent of research proposals involving animal testing were rejected by the Home Office on the grounds that there were alternatives which would be more than adequate for the purpose. In the case of embryonic stem cells, only on one occasion has the HFEA rejected a proposal for research, and subsequently that proposal was slightly amended and then accepted. That is the record of the HFEA: it does not appear to be too ready to reject proposals for research on the grounds that there are alternatives to embryonic stem cell research.

I made it clear that in my view the likelihood is that adult stem cell research will increasingly overtake embryonic stem cell research, partly because it is not as expensive and partly because the genetically similar cells created by the use of stem cells from the same adult who is being treated completely removes the danger of an immune reaction. Invariably, that is not true of embryonic stem cell research. I outline once again that far more therapies have been created as a

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result of the burgeoning field of adult stem cell research than have been created from the not very burgeoning field of embryonic stem cell research. With the latter, arguably there have been about two therapies where there truly has been hope for the future, whereas with adult stem cells there have been many such therapies, including a recent breakthrough in the use of neural cells to treat, among other things, Alzheimer’s disease.

I emphasise that much of the rest of the scientific world is now moving ahead clearly and strongly in the field of adult stem cell research. When it discussed this matter earlier, the House did not have before it the astonishing commitment now being made by the Government and research councils of Japan. Not only have they now decided to set up a major research centre at the University of Kyoto where Professor Yamanaka works but, more staggering still, the Government of Japan and their medical research establishments have committed themselves to spending $10 billion on the advance of adult stem cell research. In other words, they now believe that this is clearly the best way forward. I fear that our attitude of on the whole giving preference over the years to embryonic stem cell research as the way forward could mean that in the United Kingdom we are not sufficiently responsive to and aware of the huge potential of adult stem cell research. We consequently concentrate on a field that we are used to but a field that recent breakthroughs suggest will not move anything like as fast as will the use of adult stem cells.

We are proposing in this amendment as close a match as one can get to the pledge made to the House in 2001 by one of the most respected Ministers in this House, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. Let me remind the House of what he said in the debate on the HFEA:

He also said that the HFEA,

The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, said that in his view the HFEA already largely abides by that consideration and does not choose embryonic stem cell research if adult stem cell research would be at least as efficacious or more so. Putting this in the Bill would a be great reassurance to the many in our society who are concerned and troubled about the use of embryonic stem cell research and the many more who are waiting for fertility treatment because there are no human eggs available. If the United Kingdom wishes to be in the vanguard of this movement, making it clear that where it is feasible—or better—to use adult stem cells, the HFEA is committed to doing so, far from being a blockage to advanced research, would actually encourage it. That would do so because it would show that the United Kingdom was moving with the times, and the times are extremely exciting for adult stem cell research and should be built upon. Having this in the

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Bill would also, incidentally, fully bear out the pledge made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, in 2001 before any of us knew the potential of adult stem cells. I beg to move.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): Amendment proposed, page 58, leave out lines 11 to 13 and insert the words printed on the Marshalled List.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I am not sure whether technically I can do this. I want to ask a question of the noble Baroness before she sits down, but maybe she has already sat down. My question is not about whether one should support one or the other. My own instinct is to support all avenues of research because you cannot predict which will be the most fruitful long term. It is simply about whether I share her understanding of the import of paragraph (b) of proposed new subsection (6) which states:

Can the noble Baroness help me? On my reading, that would mean that you could never do research for the first time.

4.45 pm

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I assume that it is in order for me to reply. The noble Baroness is reading into the amendment an extremely precise statement of it being related to a particular piece of research. It is not. When peer group and scientific studies show that a particular form of research is generally useful in the field in which it is being put forward, it would not fail on the basis of the proposed new subsection. It would simply require that more than assumptions are made about the prospects for adult stem cell research in that particular area. There is now such a rapid build-up of research material available that I do not believe that the objections of the noble Baroness stand.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth: My Lords, the noble Baroness mentioned the HFEA in general and my name in particular. She made a comparison between the number of applications turned down by the Home Office from researchers wanting to do research on animals, abiding by the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Bill, with the small number of applications turned down by the HFEA. It is important to bear in mind the fact that hundreds if not thousands of applications are made to the Home Office for work using animals. Obviously we have so far had very few applications to the HFEA for work using embryos.

Furthermore, there is an early filtering-out system, not only by the local research ethics committees in hospitals; the scientific community knows that it will get approval only if research cannot be done using any method other than embryos. The comparison made by the noble Baroness is not entirely fair. She rightly stresses the importance of therapies using adult stem cells, which are obviously much more useful for therapies, but the scientific community would say—I am sure the

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noble Lord, Lord Winston, will bear this out—that for fundamental research, work is needed using embryonic stem cells. Again it is slightly unfair to contrast the work being done for therapies using adult stem cells and the work that still needs to be done at a very basic level.

Lord Neill of Bladen: My Lords—

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I believe this was a question for me before I sat down so I shall respond to it if the noble Lord does not mind.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, has been allowed to ask a question, so it would be odd if I were not permitted to respond to it.

Lord Neill of Bladen: My Lords, the noble Lord on the Woolsack has not yet said that the debate is open for discussion.

The Chairman of Committees: I have, my Lords. I said that we were dealing with:

the words printed on the Marshalled List.

Lord Neill of Bladen: My Lords, with that invitation, I shall speak to an amendment that has been brought back with the deletion of a particular paragraph about animals that aroused a great deal of hostility on a previous occasion. We now have an innocent and, I hope, pleasing amendment that your Lordships will think fit to accept.

There are two extra points going for us today. First, in an earlier amendment, the principle that some things are good to have in the Bill was recognised. The big argument underlying this amendment is to get it in the Bill to reassure the public how seriously we take the development of science and the care we in this House are giving to it.

Secondly, the Minister referred to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, as being a benign influence on the Bill and a figure who has been watching its progress carefully. We now have an amendment that has been recommended by him. We have brought it back with the deletion of the animal bit, which I mentioned earlier. Many of the words in Amendment No. 21 come from previous legislation. Proposed new subsection (6) would go into the licensing provisions in Schedule 2. Paragraph (a) says,

Subject to the addition of the words “human admixed embryos”, that precisely tracks the 1990 Act in Schedule 2(3)(vi).

There is cogent evidence, which the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, addressed, to answer the question raised there. The noble Lord, Lord Darzi, spoke on 15 January in favour of the importance of

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having peer review research proposals which could then lead on to monetary grants and support. Paragraph (b) says,

As I said on a previous occasion, this will have echoes of the Patents Act about an employee making an invention. No answer was ever made to that. It seemed a good point—one often thinks one’s own points are good—that you could recognise an invention made by an employee and award it to him rather than the employer if the circumstances were such that the invention might reasonably be expected to result in the carrying out of his—the employee’s—duties. Finally, heading (ii) says,

The only objection I believe has been made at all to these provisions is that the authority more or less does what is set out in paragraph (b)(i) and (ii) already. Yet that does not meet the point that this is designed to give reassurance to the public.

Lord Winston: My Lords, I have always had huge respect for the noble Baroness, Lady Williams. I have admired her speeches for many years, from when she was in the House of Commons. Yet I am a little surprised at the speech she has just made on this issue because there are a number of areas which are frankly misleading. Scientists will read her speech in Hansard open-mouthed with surprise at what she has said.


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