HC Deb 23 April 1990 vol 171 cc31-133

Amendment proposed: No. 1, in page 5, line 33, leave out from 'embryos' to end of line 35.—[Sir Geoffrey Howe.]

The Chairman

With this it will be convenient for the Committee to consider the following amendments: No. 3, in schedule 2, page 29, line 32, leave out paragraph 3.

No. 2, in schedule 2, page 29, line 24, leave out 'or 3'.

No. 4, in schedule 2, page 30, leave out lines 25 to 27.

4.8 pm

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Kenneth Clarke)

Right hon. and hon. Members will be aware that this is an extremely important debate and one of great moment to our society outside the House. The issue which we must decide is whether or not to allow the kind of research being done now on human embryos to continue. It is an issue which requires us to deal with fundamental questions and beliefs about right and wrong. It challenges the House to examine the meaning of terms, such as "human life" and "embryo", and to determine the respect which the embryo should be accorded at its various stages.

Because these questions deal with such basic moral issues, many people hold strong but widely differing views and emotions about them. I am sure on the strength of our Second Reading debate that the speeches of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House will fully match the importance and difficulty of the subject. It is incumbent on all of us to examine the issues closely, calmly and rigorously before each of us decides individually through which Division Lobby our conscience leads us.

When, on Second Reading, I stated that the present legislative position in this area was unsatisfactory, the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) who is again present, asked precisely what was unsatisfactory about the present law in relation to embryo research. In short, it is the fact that there is no law on the subject. Researchers may legally undertake any research they wish on human embryos for any purpose they wish. For example, they could attempt to create hybrids between humans and animals or attempt to clone individuals legally. That they are not doing so is thanks to the sense of responsibility of scientists and clinicians and their voluntary adherence to the ethical guidelines laid down by the interim licensing authority, which was set up jointly in 1985 by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Medical Research Council.

The present position therefore is that embryo research in this country is lawful. The intention of the legislation before us today is to apply new legal constraints to embryo research, either by prohibiting it altogether, or by permitting it in certain closely specified circumstances under a statutory system of licensing and control. This is in addition to the Bill's proposals for control of certain infertility treatments and the storage of gametes and embryos, all of which involve sensitive questions concerning either using or keeping embryos outside the body or the status of any resulting child.

In the White Paper "Human Fertilisation and Embryology: A Framework for Legislation", the Government clearly indicated their intention of allowing a free vote on the question of whether or not embryo research should be allowed to continue in this country. When the Bill was introduced in the other place, it contained the significant drafting innovation in that clause11 contained two mutually exclusive provisions about what would, in future, be lawful. One allowed the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to issue licences for research, as well as for treatment services and the storage of gametes and embryos. The other allowed the authority to issue licences for research and storage purposes only. In the event, their Lordships supported the option in favour of embryo research, and the Bill now before us therefore contains provisions allowing the authority to grant licences for research on human embryos up to 14 days, after the date of conception.

As the Bill comes to us from another place, schedule 2 provides that a licence can authorise the creation of embryos or keeping or using them for research, but only for the research project which is specified in the licence. It also specifies that a licence for research can be issued for an activity only if it appears to the authority to be necessary or desirable for certain purposes. I shall return to those in a moment.

So that hon. and right hon. Members in this House may have the same opportunity of debating and voting freely on this important issue as their Lordships had, my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House has tabled a number of amendments which, if passed, would have the effect of reversing the decision made in the other place. If the amendments were passed, the Bill would provide that the authority could issue licences for treatment services and for the storage of gametes and embryos but not for research. Human embryo research in this country would become unlawful.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire South)

If this House should reverse that decision and if the House of Lords should then adhere to its original decision, would the Government take a line?

Mr. Clarke

I am sure that my hon. Friend would predict that my answer is that we shall cross that bridge if and when we come to it, but today it is important that we know the opinion of this House of Parliament. If there is a conflict between the Houses when both have taken their first vote, there are well-established procedures through which we would attempt to ensure that the matter is resolved.

Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford)

Will my right hon. and learned Friend make clear what effect the amendments would have? I thought I heard him say that, if we pass the amendments put down by the Leader of the House, human embryology research would have to cease. Is that right?

4.15 pm
Mr. Clarke

The research on the human embryo of the kind presently carried out with the approval of the licensing authority would cease. I hope to keep my speech brief, but I may touch on the arguments on the difference between so-called destructive research and therapeutic research. Certainly, research of the sort carried out at present, within the guidelines of the interim authority, would be rendered unlawful if the amendments were passed.

As I made clear on Second Reading, the Government take no collective stance on the rights and wrongs of embryo research. The sole purpose of my right hon. and learned Friend in putting down the amendments is to ensure that the House has the best opportunity to debate the matter fully and a clear and free choice on the important issue of human embryo research.

Mr. Tam Dalyel (Linlithgow)


Mr. Clarke

I shall give way, but I shall not do so frequently, because if I did I would make a long opening speech. It would not be appropriate to have a long opening Government speech on this debate.

Mr. Dalyell

I appreciate that the Government do not take a collective stance, but is not the House of Commons entitled to hear the professional opinion of the chief medical officer?

Mr. Clarke

The House is entitled to be reminded of some of the key arguments, including those of professional bodies, and I will do so later. The Government's chief medical officer is an adviser to the Government and does not have a policy of his own on these matters. I shall briefly cover the scientific and medical arguments in a balanced way, because, as I said, the Government have no collective stance on the matter.

The first argument, which is not, in itself, particularly medical or scientific, but is central to the debate, is the status which each individual Member will decide, according to his or her own conscience, should rightly be accorded to the embryo. Central to this is the question of when a human comes into existence.

There is a strongly held belief that the egg, at the moment it is penetrated by the sperm, represents the start of human life and should, from that point, be afforded the same status as a child or an adult. For those who hold to that view, the egg in the process of fertilisation and the resulting embryo represent an unborn child, and its existence as a human should be respected from the start of its development at the very start of conception. Those who hold that view argue that an embryo should not be the subject of research any more than a child or adult should.

Others take the view that the moment of penetration of the egg by the sperm does not have this special significance. Even after cell division has started, some 30 hours later, the cells are undifferentiated, so that it is impossible to say which will eventually form the foetus and which will form the placenta and other structures which are discarded at birth. Those who hold that view believe that status as an individual can begin only at, or after, the stage where cells differentiate in such a way that those which will become the foetus, or sometimes more than one foetus, can be clearly discerned. Those who take that view consider that research should be permitted until that stage, which coincides with the appearance of the so-called "primitive streak" at 14 days after penetration of the egg.

My own opinion is that that, which I have briefly described, is the critical point of the debate. Is the embryo before the emergence of the primitive streak sufficient of a human personality to be protected by the law against the risk of perishing as part of a research programme? There are important further issues about the merits and purpose of research that might be contemplated. However, to those who believe that the embryo is a human when the sperm penetrates the egg, that must be the end of the matter. However worthwhile the research might be claimed to be, it must be wrong to research in the way that people are doing at present.

This debate will canvass issues of philosophy, and medical and scientific opinions, but it is essentially an ethical matter, about which we must all make our own judgment. To a certain extent, I am influenced by the fact that my background is that of a lawyer. We are talking about the structure of law that will, or will not, give protection to particular citizens and personalities.

I cannot accept that the early embryo is a human personality with which I can identify as a person and to whom the criminal law must give protection. That is essentially a layman's judgment, as it will be for most hon. Members on both sides of the argument.

I am influenced by the tiny size of the embryo that we are talking about and by the fact that on rare occasions it could develop into more than one person if it developed at all. I am also advised that a high proportion of embryos perish naturally at this stage in any event. I cannot see that this is a very important stage of human development to which we should give the absolute protection as a citizen, although some clearly feel that it should have that protection.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)

Will the Minister clarify for the benefit of the House whether he believes that, after two weeks' gestation, there is personhood and that from that point on the developing human being is entitled to the full support of the law? As a lawyer, is he saying that for all purposes after two weeks gestation the developing child must be protected?

Mr. Clarke

No, I am certainly not. I shall turn to that subject in a moment. The evolution of a human being and citizen from the potential that arises when sperm and egg are first united is a steady and continuous process, and it is difficult to say at what stage a citizen and human being appears. At various stages, fresh rights are acquired. Inheritance and property rights and so on come much later. However, the 14-day stage—the primitive streak stage—is a logical point beyond which it would be unwise to engage in research. Before that, I do not recognise the unborn child as a citizen that is entitled to absolute protection—

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

My right hon. and learned Friend has referred twice to the perishing of an embryo, but what the Bill is about is the destruction of embryos, not their natural perishing.

Mr. Clarke

I do not mind using the word "destruction", although in practice the embryo is sometimes allowed to perish, just as a high proportion of embryos perish naturally at this stage. I accept that the result is that the embryo does not go on to develop into a human being.

For the reasons I have given, I am prepared to move on to the next step in the argument, which we must all consider in any event. Is the research worth while in medical and scientific terms? Whatever our views, all hon. Members will agree that the human embryo at this stage must be treated with respect as a potential human being, not just as any other piece of human tissue.

So I turn now to the more detailed arguments for and against research. Most of us have already given a great deal of thought to this, but it is a question of such importance that it is worth looking once more at the central arguments to see whether we have missed anything along the way. I shall endeavour to set them out clearly, drawing on the advice available to me, incuding that of the chief medical officer, to whom the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) referred. I hope to do so in a reasonably balanced way, so as to do the arguments roughly equal justice.

It is necessary for the House to examine the purposes for which reaserch may be carried out and to decide whether they are of sufficient weight to justify the destruction of the embryo. If we approve the purposes, we should all ask ourselves not only whether the research is well intentioned but whether there is a reasonable livelihood that it can achieve its aims; otherwise, we might find ourselves supporting a vain use of human embryos.

The arguments in favour of embryo research are therefore often practical ones in the case of each project or subject area. Could the benefits accruing from the particular research work that a team has in mind justify the consequential destruction of the embryos? If human embryo research can in principle sometimes be justified for one purpose, that does not and should not mean that we have crossed some sort of rubicon. Those in favour of research accept that we would need an authority to license each team for its research, if permitted. In each case it would decide whether there was a sufficiently important purpose to justify the use of the human embryo in that case.

Those who maintain that research on human embryos can in some circumstances be justified base their contention on the benefits to humanity that such research could be expected to bring. Here, the arguments in favour of research enjoy such distinguished scientific support as is afforded by, for example, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Royal Society and a wide range of scientific and medical opinion. Such bodies claim that research would provide information to deal with five key areas.

First, research could promote advances in the treatment of infertility. Secondly, it could increase knowledge about the causes of congenital disease. Thirdly, it could increase knowledge about the causes of miscarriages. Fourthly, it could develop more effective techniques of contraception. Finally, it could develop more effective methods for detecting the presence of gene or chromosome abnormalities in embryos before implantation. They are all different, and it is important to consider them briefly one by one.

The first is infertility. All hon. Members will, like me, have received over the years pleas from people whose hopes for the alleviation of infertility are pinned on a vote in favour of continuing embryo research. The hon. Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman) said on Second Reading that the interim licensing authority has estimated—correctly, as far as I can judge—that one couple in eight in this country suffers from infertility. Some of them feel that they have to endure a social stigma in admitting their inability to have a child. They often undergo the indignity and undoubted discomfort of infertility treatments, only to have their hopes dashed time after time, when the woman fails to conceive after treatment or has a miscarriage after treatment.

Those of us who have not been in that position sometimes find it hard fully to appreciate the misery and the real strain and stress that it causes for such couples. For some, the only hope lies in assisted reproduction methods such as in vitro fertilisation. While the success rate of these techniques has improved considerably since the birth of Louise Brown in 1978, it is still disappointingly low.

As I have said, many people suffer the discomfort and disappointment of failed treatment. Many doctors and scientists working in this field believe that further research could improve the success rates—for example, by improving the culture medium or by obtaining a better understanding of the viability of embryos before they are transferred to the uterus.

Those who support embryo research also argue that it will increase our knowledge about the causes of congenital diseases, particularly chromosomal diseases. As a species, we members of homo sapiens suffer the particular misfortune of being especially subject to chromosomal disorders. Some of the abnormalities of this type are thought to develop during the egg's maturation process, and some during the process of fertilisation itself. I am advised that, as yet, there is little information about which occur at which stage.

Scientists and doctors working in this field say that it is necessary to understand something about how and when these abnormalities occur to help them in their work towards further advances in prevention or therapy. This leads them to argue that carefully controlled experiments involving hyman embryos could provide them with the knowledge that might ultimately lead to the prevention of some of these congenital diseases.

Mr. Alistair Burt (Bury, North)

My right hon. and learned Friend describes the process by which the law decides whether to allow a particular form of experiment based on the ends to which it is directed. Can he say how much account is taken of the availability of alternative research that would not involve the destruction of the embryo but would fulfil exactly the same ends?

Mr. Clarke

The interim licensing authority would take heed of that and would be expected to do so. However, there is a division of opinion about the extent to which any success could be achieved without the kind of experiment on human embryos that some people find immoral and offensive. I shall return to that matter. The bodies that I have quoted—the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal Society—and those working in the field are convinced that similar advances could not be made without research into the human embryo. I shall come back to that. As I have said, there is a division of opinion, even scientific opinion.

Sir Bernard Braine (Castle Point)

There have been such advances.

Mr. Clarke

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will argue that case, as he did on Second Reading.

On another aspect of research, it is also tragic that more than one in five pregnancies in the United Kingdom end in miscarriage. There are about 100,000 miscarriages a year in this country. We all know that miscarriage may cause haemorrhage or infection and that the sufferers may require hospital treatment. Quite apart from that is the distress suffered by the women involved, many of whom suffer repeated miscarriages as they try to have a family.

Some miscarriages seem to occur because the foetus is malformed or defective. However, in many other cases the cause is simply not obvious to those engaged in medical science. Scientists claim that research on embryos has already identified that chromosone abnormalities may also play a part, and I am advised that much more work is needed before all these causes can be identified. The researchers believe that the continuation of controlled embryo research will help to make it possible to understand hitherto unexplained miscarriages and to reduce the possibility of their occurrence.

4.30 pm

The proponents of embryo research argue that it could lead to improved methods of contraception—for example, through the development of a birth control vaccine. Here, we all appreciate that we are entering an area of controversy, because destruction of embryos is inevitable in such research. A birth control vaccine would have to undergo rigorous clinical trials before being approved for use. Because contraceptive failure could possibly result in pregnancy in some cases, even after successful trials, it is considered essential that such vaccines are tested on embryos in vitro.

Those who support a contraceptive vaccine—they include myself—argue that it would generally increase choice and lead to safer methods of contraception. Also, in the developing world, the arrival of a birth control vaccine would have even greater benefits because it should be simpler to administer and longer lasting compared with current methods. The World Health Organisation shares and advocates this view. A simpler birth control vaccine which could be administered through family planning programmes could have significant benefits for developing countries in particular, where the rate of population growth is particularly rapid and brings in its train severe economic and social difficulties.

Not all new reproductive technologies are aimed at helping infertile couples to have children. Some are designed to help people to have healthy normal children by allowing a range of congenital diseases and handicaps to be detected prenatally by pre-implantation diagnosis. The possibility of preventing genetic disease is one of the reasons most frequently cited in support of embryo research.

Mrs. Ann Winterton (Congleton)

Does my right hon. and learned Friend recall that I wrote to him last week about claims made in the press by Dr. Robert Winston that, if passed, these amendments would prevent clinical pre-implantation of the embryo in the womb? Can my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that schedule 2, paragraph (1)(d) would allow such pre-implantation screening for genetic handicaps to continue even if today we voted for a ban on destructive embryo research?

Mr. Clarke

It is not for me to argue for Dr. Winston. My understanding is that he would argue that he could not have got where he is now if he had not been permitted to carry out research of the kind that he wishes to continue carrying out. As I understand it, in these cases, embryos are screened for their sex so that the female embryos can be re-implanted to avoid the disease suffered only by the male. That treatment, now that it is being developed, could be continued if the amendments were agreed to.

However, there is a second area of argument, which may well be canvassed in the debate. Do those who favour such treatment accept that, when the embryos have been sexed, only females should be re-implanted, and the males allowed to perish? In my opinion, and that of those in favour of research and treatment, the answer is yes, but some take the view that in no case should any embryo be dealt with clinically for any purpose unless it is re-implanted.

Sir David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)

Will the Secretary of State confirm that, if the amendment were passed, the point made to me in a letter this morning by the mother of a child with Duchenne muscular dystrophy is well founded—that, even if the destruction of embryos were disallowed under the Bill, the option of abortion would continue, which would result in the irony that we would allow parents the chance of an abortion later in pregnancy, which is less desirable than allowing interference with the embryo?

Mr. Clarke

That is strongly argued. I appeal to hon. Members on both sides of the House to seek the opportunity to pursue the arguments later, rather than using my speech as a vehicle for them. I feel that the arguments have been neatly balanced on the issue.

Certain genetic abnormalities, as the right hon. Gentleman says, can be detected between about eight and 16 weeks' gestation and the affected foetuses aborted if the women so wishes and if the doctors concerned are satisfied that the conditions laid down in the Abortion Act 1967 are met. The ability to diagnose genetic disease within a few days of fertilisation would, researchers argue, alter that by enabling only healthy embryos to be transferred to the uterus.

Rapid progress is now being made with the development of these techniques. We have seen recent attention drawn to it by Professor Robert Winston and his colleagues at Hammersmith hospital. The technique that they have developed may now become more widely available as part of IVF treatment. Scientists working in this area argue that further research will open up new possibilities for enabling couples who are known to be carriers of a genetic disease to have an unaffected child of either sex by IVF.

Without the availability of pre-implantation diagnosis, couples are left with three difficult choices, one of which has just been touched upon. If it is not possible to diagnose at the pre-implantation stage, the choice is to accept the substantial risk of having a child with a genetic disease or to have ante-natal screening with the possibility of an abortion if the tests show that the foetus is affected. The third option is to remain childless.

Much embryo research, including that related to in vitro fertilisation, is carried out on animals; that was adverted to a few moments ago. Most researchers believe, however, that it is not possible safely to extrapolate the results of studies in animals to the human context. For example, they have shown that human embryos react differently from other mammalian embryos under various conditions. They argue from this that all except the most trivial changes in procedure therefore require research on human embryos to ensure that the standard of safety which must be secured before embryos which have been subject to special procedures are inserted into a women to achieve a pregnancy. Researchers argue that real progress in this area depends on improved understanding of fundamental aspects of human embryology and that such understanding can come safely and ethically only from research involving human embryos.

That leads researchers on to an ethical argument that will certainly be raised during the debate. I agree strongly with those who say that there must be limits to the total non-interventionist approach.

There are those who argue that there can be non-destructive research. I have heard it argued that such research might be permitted, so long as every embryo used is implanted into the womb to restore its prospects of life. I find that difficult to accept, and I cannot conceive that many medical or scientific people would knowingly implant into the womb an embryo that they believed was probably carrying some genetic disorder. I think that the argument cannot be carried to that extent.

Mrs. Ann Winterton

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?

Mr. Clarke

No, I shall not give way. I await speeches that will improve my understanding of the argument of those who favour what they call therapeutic rather than destructive research. The case will have to be made with considerable care if it is being said that to allow the embryo to perish in all circumstances is somehow always ethically wrong.

I think that the researchers all say that it would be irresponsible for doctors to replace in the womb fertilised human eggs that had been subjected to novel procedures or tests, for these might themselves lead to abnormality. They say that to use the mother as part of the research, and then to put in an embryo which has been subjected to research and might have been made abnormal by the research, would be unacceptable. They therefore argue that the subsequent development of the embryos should be studied in vitro for several days. If the development of an embryo in vitro is studied for several days after the experiment, that takes one to a time when transfer to a women would no longer be a possibility.

Finally, the supporters of research say that, in the course of nature, many embryos that are created fail to implant in the uterus and perish anyway. They draw an analogy between what happens in nature and embryos that have no prospect of being placed in a uterus and so are bound to perish. As those embryos would not become children—for example, spare embryos produced as a result of fertility treatments—they conclude that it is ethically acceptable to carry out carefully controlled research on them.

I shall now, in fairness, remind the House of the arguments against embryo research—although I shall do so briefly, as others, inspired by deep conviction, will put the arguments more eloquently than I can.

Those opposed to research involving human embryos argue that, although such research might serve to prevent genetic disease or to help infertile couples, in doing so it leads to the destruction of the embryo that is used for research purposes. I accept that opponents of research fully share my sympathy for those affected by genetic disorders and other conditions and that they generally support the value of medical research towards finding effective treatments, but they cannot condone the use of embryos for such purposes. They do not believe that the end can justify the means. They do not accept that the destruction of the embryo justifies the knowledge that might be obtained through its destruction.

For many people the human embryo is a living human being; to use the term used in correspondence to all Members of Parliament, it is an "unborn child". They argue that the same ethical considerations should apply as apply to research on adult human beings. They do not accept that, even if a significant proportion of embryos fail naturally, that in any way justifies carrying out research on any embryo which, in their view, has the potential for development. They draw an analogy with infant mortality, which has been high throughout most of human history, saying that no one would use that as an argument to attempt to justify similar experimentation on new-born babies.

Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

The essential test that some hon. Members and I would apply to the Secretary of State's argument is that nothing should be done to an embryo except for its own good.

Mr. Clarke

I understand that that is the argument—that the only treatment or technique that should be applied to an embryo is one that is for the benefit of that embryo. In my opinion, it is difficult to apply that test, especially to those spare embryos that are sometimes produced through infertility treatment and that have no prospect of ever being implanted and therefore no prespect of life. It is my view that the perishing of an embryo that has no prospect of life in the cause of beneficial research is worth while. That is what we shall discuss throughout the day. I was trying, briefly, to do justice to the hon. Gentleman's feelings that all research into embryos is an affront to human life and should not be countenanced in any circumstances, however beneficial they might be.

If accepted, that argument is a complete case in itself, but some opponents go on to areas of great scientific and medical controversy and try to cast doubts, in any event, on the potential value of research that allows the embryo to perish. Opponents of human embryo' research, including some scientists and doctors, maintain that improvements in all the areas of medicine mentioned can be achieved without research on human embryos. They assert that many scientific and medical breakthroughs have been achieved which have enhanced our knowledge of some genetic diseases without recourse to embryo research.

They quote examples like the discovery of the gene that causes cystic fibrosis and argue that there is no reason to believe that progress of that sort will not continue. They also point to the advances that were made in developing kidney transplant surgery in the 1960s, when doctors carried out their research on patients to try to save their lives. They hold the view—which the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) expounded—that that approach, which follows more closely the ethical framework in which other medical research is conducted, should also apply to embryo research. Furthermore, they argue that embryo research will not lead to a cure for genetic diseases but only to the prevention of such diseases. That is because any embryo that was found to carry the defective gene would not be transferred but left to perish. For them, it is more acceptable to concentrate on curing genetic disease by, for example, gene therapy.

I accept the strength of those arguments and realise that those who put them forward acknowledge the misery that infertility brings to some people, but they argue that, instead of investing so much in what so often turns out to be unsuccessful treatment to overcome the effects of infertility, it would be more constructive within society to investigate, treat and prevent the underlying causes.

Frequently, the strongest opposition to embryo research is directed against the use of embryos to develop new contraceptive methods. Those who share that opinion do not accept that it is necessary or acceptable to add to methods which are already available, and they find it particularly abhorrent that embryos should be used to test the efficiency of their own destruction.

4.45 pm

Many of those who argue against embryo research are also concerned about the so-called "slippery slope" arguments. For example, if research were permitted for the first 14 days, they fear that it would not be long before pressure would begin to mount for research on embryos beyond 14 days because it would produce allegedly beneficial results; or if pre-implantation diagnosis can be developed to detect sex-linked genetic diseases, it might be used not for medical reasons but merely to ensure that a couple could choose to have a child of a particular sex, or who knows what other allegedly desirable genetic features. Those are only some of the deeply held arguments advanced, by those, from many walks of life, who have reached the conclusion that research on human embryos must, on ethical or religious grounds, be opposed. Some of the dangers that they perceive would be feared by every hon. Member, even if research were permitted. A strong licensing authority and a framework of law are plainly desirable so that our worst fears could never be realised.

I hope that I have fairly presented the basis of the arguments on both sides of the debate, reminded hon. Members of the issues—with some of which we are all familiar—and clarified them. However, I do not think that I should take the arguments very much further. I think that there is a gulf that cannot be bridged between those who cannot, in all conscience, countenance the idea of research on human embryos, and those who believe that, with proper controls and for good purposes, it can be justified. However, there is one small but essential area of common ground—that there is something special about the human embryo. Sadly, that is where the common ground ends. At least it ends in an argument that gives rise to a system of licensing control, even if the House decides to allow research.

I have never made any secret of my views on this subject, either to my constituents or to the House. The emergence of a human being from the cells that carry a potential life is a continuous process. It begins with sperm and egg, which fuse to become an embryo, which implants in the mother's womb, and so on through a steady and continuous process until a baby is delivered conscious into the world. For me, there is no single moment at which I could easily say that a human life—the life of an individual human being—actually begins. I certainly do not enter into the world of theology, and I confess that I do not have an opinion on when the soul actually enters the emerging human personality.

Perhaps I am somewhat influenced by my background as a lawyer. The law should begin to give full protection of rights to life and limb and so eventually on to family law, property, inheritance and so on at a very much later stage than the emergence of the primitive streak. That stage seems a logical stage at which to give a potential human being protection against being the subject of research. I believe that, as long as embryo research is done openly and within the framework of strict statutory controls such as are laid down in the Bill, the benefits that are held in promise by that research should not be withheld from those who wish to take advantage of them.

In this House we all share a moral duty to respect and protect the sanctity of human life. We also all share a moral duty to alleviate suffering and to fight against disease. In my opinion, a vote in favour of properly regulated research for sound medical reasons is compatible with both those moral duties. I shall therefore vote against the amendments. However, I am genuinely interested in hearing more views on this profound matter during the debate, and I shall respect the final judgment of the House when it makes it tonight.

Ms. Jo Richardson (Barking)

The Secretary of Slate has a difficult task, and I appreciate his attempts to set out fairly the pros and cons of the arguments that we shall debate today.

The House has a serious responsibility in reaching a decision on whether embryo research should be allowed to continue under strictly controlled conditions, overseen by a statutory licensing authority. We are not scientists or doctors and must rely on informed opinions. I am grateful, as I am sure all right hon. and hon. Members are, for the information that has landed in enormous quantities on our desks. It has come from the Royal Society of Medicine, the royal colleges and the interim licensing authority—which has done a fine job of regulating research so far. Information has also come from people involved in the research itself. We are all better informed than we were even two weeks ago, and certainly more informed than we were one or two years ago.

No right hon. or hon. Member could fail to be impressed by the representations made by the large number of genetic interest groups individually and under the umbrella of the Genetic Interest Group, which comprises 36 organisations—all of which have a direct concern in the outcome of tonight's vote. Representations have also been made—at least to me—by women's organisations. I was pleased to find on my desk only this morning a letter from the Townswomen's Guild.

I am grateful for the representations that I have received from people, including doctors and scientists, who know of my strong position in favour of embryo research. From reading all that material, it is clear that a number of myths have been created—the Secretary of State referred to some of them. They need refuting, and later I shall do so.

First, I want to discuss the chronology of human development. The right hon. and learned Gentleman gave his views on that aspect, and I shall do so in the context of the outline provided by the Medical Research Council. There has been much discussion in past weeks, months and years on the terminology used to describe the development of the embryo. Some argue that it is wrong to talk about pre-embryos. Now that we have had an opportunity to study the subject more deeply, it is important to differentiate between the stages of embryo development.

There are three in all. The first, pre-embryo, stage covers the 14 days before the primitive streak emerges, and beyond which time no further research will be allowed. At 14 days, the pre-embryo measures about 1 mm. The primitive streak marks the beginning of individual development, as the Secretary of State said. Dr. Ann MacLaren, in her paper for the April 1990 issue of the journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, states that it is the point at which development is "literally undividable." It marks the formation of the individual embryo that will develop into a foetus and then into a baby. No research will be allowed beyond that 14-day stage.

One is talking of a cluster of cells that may not develop into an embryo. If all goes well, the primitive streak will develop. However, in a large number of cases it does not and no embryo forms. If a pre-embryo is implanted, it coincides with the time that a women would have started her next period. I make the division between pre-embryo and embryo, and between embryo and foetus, because it is important to be clear. The embryo develops from 15 days to eight weeks, when it is 30 mm in size, and into a foetus at nine weeks. It becomes a baby at 40 weeks.

Many people claim that the 14-day limit is arbitrary, but it is not. It marks a well-known chronological event, which is why the Warnock committee chose it. It did not pluck that limit out of the air, saying, "We must pick a number—14 days will do." It represents a particular stage in the chronology of the development of a human being.

Mr. Alton

Does the hon. Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson) acknowledge that the Warnock committee never once used the phrase "pre-embryo", but that it has been invented since? The hon. Lady states that babies are born at 40 weeks, but does she accept that babies have been born at only 23 weeks in this country and have survived? Does she also accept that at a much earlier stage than birth—if she charts birth as occurring at 40 weeks—rights should be given to the unborn child? Does she agree that a point should be reached between fertilisation and birth at which the child has rights?

Ms. Richardson

I thought for a moment that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) was going to make his full speech now. I acknowledge that Warnock did not use the phrase pre-embryo, but I use it because I need to clarify in my own mind the various stages of development. The arguments as to the point at which the foetus is capable of independent life will be dealt with in tomorrow's debate. I do not want to introduce now—and never have done—issues relating to abortion in debating embryo research.

Over the past 20 years, scientists have limited their research to embryos no more than 14 days old. Up to that point, a woman who had conceived naturally might not know of her pregnancy if she had not missed her period. It is only when a woman misses her period that she suspects that she might be pregnant. Research that may assist infertile couples or women who frequently miscarry, or which may identify hereditary genetic defects, is undertaken during the period when the fertilised egg may or may not become an embryo, then a foetus, and finally a baby.

Opponents to research on the pre-embryo or embryo before 14 days argue that everything that needs to be known can be learned from research on animals—but that is not true. There is ample evidence that there are vast differences in the physiological make-up of human and animal pre-embryos. Recently, New Scientist reported that a technique to identify the genetic defect that causes the Lesch-Nyham syndrome in the mouse embryo was completely unsuccessful when applied to a human pre-embryo. Lesch-Nyham affects only boys, who rarely reach adolescence. It is a particularly painful and distressing condition for their parents too, as those suffering from it practice self-mutilation by biting their lips and arms. We must hope that at some time in the future a way will be found of helping sufferers from that disorder.

Let us be clear what pre-embryo research could achieve. Opponents say that we claim that it will produce a cure for genetic disorders. No scientist has ever claimed that. It will not produce a cure. It is not on offer as a method of screening for general genetic disorders. The objective is to identify and offer help to people who are at risk of passing on a genetic disorder. Normally such people are identified only after they have had a child with a genetic disease or if there is a family history of that disease. We allow the amniocentesis test at 16 weeks of pregnancy and the chorionic villus test at 10 weeks and we give women under the present law the option of an abortion if they are found to be carrying an affected foetus.

It is difficult to understand why we should now seek to stop research projects which could detect affected genes before pregnancy is established by taking a single cell from the developing conceptus after fertilisation in vitro before replacing the pre-embryo in the mother. Only pre-embryos which were free from genetic disease would be replaced so that the woman could start her pregnancy knowing that her baby would not be affected, thus avoiding the painful and difficult decision at a later stage—10, 11 or 12 weeks or between 17 and 20 weeks—of whether to have an abortion.

5 pm

Mrs. Ann Winterton

Perhaps the hon. Lady will recall the point that I made to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health. There is provision in the Bill to ensure that pre-implantation techniques such as she has described can be carried on in the best interests of the baby and of the mother. I do not think that any Conservative Member would wish to stop those techniques. I hope that the hon. Lady will not spend too much time chasing a rabbit that will not run.

Ms. Richardson

The hon. Lady should consider her own research. I am aware of what she is trying to tell me, but if we stopped the research that is now being carried out, and which we are seeking to enshrine in law, we should not be able to carry out the techniques that I am describing which seek to help people.

Frankly, I do not understand people who suggest that research at that stage stops a human life beginning. It is all about helping to create a healthy pregnancy and healthy children.

Another claim that is frequently made is that pre-embryos could be screened by observation. I am sure that we would all be pleased if that was the case. As many as one third of developing pre-embryos can be genetically disordered and will fail to implant. Visual inspection is a highly unreliable method of assessing the normality of the pre-embryo.

During my contribution to the Second Reading debate, I dealt with another myth—that cross-fertilisation leads to the creation of human-animal hybrids. The Bill allows the use of the hamster test under strictly controlled conditions. It is a useful test, but hamster eggs are not viable and cannot possibly be used for hybridisation, as they are not genetically compatible and never can be. Please do not let us have that myth hanging about, raising emotional feelings in people outside the House who do not have the advantage of knowing the facts.

Other myths are bandied about to hide the beneficial effects and the importance of research. Another myth is that each IVF baby costs £25,000 to produce. There is no evidence for that. In 1989, Hammersmith hospital spent £392,054 on all IVF treatments including salaries, materials and drugs. During that period, the Hammersmith programme produced 247 on-going or delivered pregnancies. Each successful pregnancy therefore cost £1,587. That comparatively low figure may be reduced if research is allowed to continue and if IVF success rates, which are low at present, improve. I am surprised that people who call themselves pro-life should seek to put a price on a baby's head. For some parents almost any price would be worth while. Of course we know that resources are limited, but to prevent parents from having the chance of a baby by suggesting that it is too expensive to give them help seems to be callous in the extreme.

Another mischievous and slanderous statement is that to support the development of pre-implantation research implies a lack of respect and regard for people with disabilities and for the parents who look after them. Members of the Genetic Interest Group—I hope that hon. Members have read the list because they are a prestigious group including the Dyslexia Institute, the British Tay Sachs Foundation, the Research Trust for Metabolic Diseases in Childhood, Support after Termination for Abnormalities, SENSE, the Tuberous Sclerosis Association and the UK Thalassaemia Society as well as members of Progress, of which I am a member—are deeply involved with meeting the needs of disabled people. They do not simply exist to discuss research. They participate to help disabled people now. Some of their members have disabilities themselves or are parents of disabled children.

Parents do not positively opt to have a disabled child. Their love for such children is possibly greater than that of parents of children with no handicap and they go to extraordinary lengths to make their children happy.

Sometimes people point to the wonderful example that handicapped people are to the rest of us. Indeed they are, but those with severe disabilities—often life-threatening—did not ask to be born with a handicap. Life had dealt them a cruel blow, which they and their carers try to cope with as successfully as possible. Let us not suggest that such people chose to be dealt that nasty blow.

If a youngster suffers an accident after a healthy beginning and is left severely disabled—to make a simple analogy—he or she and the family would not have chosen to have that accident. Many families with severely disabled children sometimes see them die a painful death and would dearly love the chance to have another child free from pain and suffering. Most parents want to avoid the possibility of passing on a hereditary gene which would mean that they had another handicapped child, with all the pain and distress that that causes.

Please let us not continue the nasty and divisive suggestion that people who support research lack respect and care for those with disabilities. There should be choice, and pre-embryo research offers that prospect to particular groups of parents. No one is forcing anyone to participate. The choice, quite rightly, is entirely theirs.

Three women carriers of severe genetic disorders have been in the news recently. They are proud and happy because research has meant that they can have a baby free from handicap. As the House will be aware, that was announced in Nature last week and the research was carried out at Hammersmith hospital. Two of those families already have handicapped sons whom they love very dearly, as we saw in the press. However, they are now delighted to learn that they will be able to have girls who will be free of the genetic disorder that affects boys. That is a breakthrough by Hammersmith hospital. It is a world first and we should be proud of that achievement.

If our crucial vote tonight had taken place last year and research had been banned, those happy mothers and their husbands would have been denied that chance. So much again for the so-called pro-life stance. It is restrictive and, I believe, the antithesis to life.

The market research conducted by National Opinion Polls shows clearly that public opinion is in favour of research continuing.

Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

That was carried out for the hon. Lady's association.

Ms. Richardson

I would like to refer to the results of that poll, but I cannot find them among my papers. However, I have distributed the details to many hon. Members and they show how positively public opinion is in favour of research continuing.

Mr. Duffy

Will my hon. Friend confirm that that NOP survey was commissioned by Progress which she identified a few moments ago? That poll makes an interesting contrast with the Gallup poll carried out only last December which yielded entirely different results. However, as always, the questions were different.

Ms. Richardson

I believe that opinion has been changing even since last December. More information has become available as we have approached Second Reading and this debate. More and more members of the public are looking closely at what has been happening and are deciding for themselves. Far from the NOP survey being of my creation——

Mr. Duffy

I did not say that.

Ms. Richardson

Well, something that seemed to belong to me. I believe that the results of that poll should be of great interest to the House and something of which we should take note.

Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East)

I shall help the hon. Lady with some of the figures for public opinion. Every opinion poll has shown that the public are in favour of research that would help to reduce the incidence of congenital handicap. Even the report commissioned by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, which tried to conceal that figure, revealed that 58 per cent. were in favour of research. The latest opinion poll by NOP shows that 71 per cent. of the public are in favour of embryo research for that purpose.

Ms. Richardson

Although I am not often grateful to a Conservative Member, I am grateful to the hon. Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham) for finding the piece of paper that I had misplaced. It is rather curious that I have now found that piece of paper as well.

Mr. Burt

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms. Richardson

No, I have been speaking for too long already.

Our responsibility tonight is very heavy. Their Lordships have shown the way by voting 3:1 in favour of research continuing under strictly controlled and accountable conditions. They clearly saw, as the public now see, that research can be beneficial to humankind and that it can be creative rather than destructive. Some of that research will not bear fruit for many years, perhaps not until after we in this House have retired or passed on. Therefore, we are legislating for the future and for the future of later generations.

I hope that those generations will not have to say in years to come that on the night of 23 April 1990 the House of Commons turned its back on them by banning research and progress for better lives for people with problems. I hope that the House will vote decisively—as decisively as, or even more so than, the House of Lords did—for research to continue.

5.15 pm
Sir Bernard Braine

May I first thank the Government for arranging our business in such a way that we can discuss the momentous issue of embryo research on the Floor of the House rather than in Standing Committee? In doing that, the Government have rightly recognised the sincerely and deeply held views on both sides of the House, and for that we are all—and particularly the pro-life movement—truly grateful.

On Second Reading I made clear the position of the all-party pro-life group on this issue but I hope that hon. Members will forgive me if I reiterate two basic points. First, I said that the subject of our debate is the embryonic human, a living dynamic being having its origin in the meeting of human sperm with the human egg. At the point of fertilisation an irreversible process of human development begins. It is here that our clock starts. Before that point a new life is a possibility; thereafter, it is an actuality.

Human life begins then at conception. That is not a philosophical point, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health seemed to suggest. A well-known embryology textbook entitled "The Developing Human", which was published as recently as 1988, states: Human development is a continuous process that begins when an ovum from a female is fertilised by a sperm from a male. Cell division, growth and differentiation transform the fertilised ovum, into a multicellular adult human being. That is the technical explanation and the point at which we should start this debate. In short, we are not talking about a cluster of cells. We are talking about human life and it should be treated as such.

Secondly, I established on Second Reading just what we are opposing and what we are not opposing. I said that we are not against all scientific research. We oppose destructive or non-therapeutic research on human embryos of a type that does not help the individual embryo to live and grow. We object to experimentation which kills the patient. We hold that that is the only moral and responsible position to take.

The practice or provision of in vitro fertilisation as treatment for infertility is not at stake. We are considering here whether we should allow destructive or non-therapeutic research to continue. In vitro fertilisation as such will continue and will not be stopped. That is not the issue we should be discussing. It is important also to recognise that, repugnant though it is for some, the method of detecting defective embryos will continue to be allowed.

Schedule 2(1) states that licences may be granted for a course of treatment containing practices designed to secure that embryos are in a suitable condition to be placed in a woman or to determine whether embryos are suitable for that purpose". So hon. Members who are concerned that embryos bearing certain defective genes are unlikely to be detected before insertion into a woman's uterus, need not be worried about voting for a ban on research. That practice would not be stopped even if we voted for a ban. The Bill clearly sets this out. Infertile couples can still be helped through IVF.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

I have a couple of genuine questions for my right hon. Friend. I am not sure of his position. For example, what would be his position if the sex of embroys has been established and there is a genetic disorder that can be suffered by male children and not by female children? Does he accept that the female embryo should be re-implanted and the male embryos allowed to perish, or does he say that all the embryos, including those that may carry a genetic disorder, should be re-implanted?

Sir Bernard Braine

I shall not be drawn on that. [Interruption.] We are dealing here with questions of life and death—[Interruption.] Therefore, I have an open mind on that subject. I think that we need to go into it in detail. The general proposition that I have made is either accepted by the House and by my right hon. and learned Friend, or it is not: that IVF can continue even if there is a ban on research. I shall deal with that in a larger sense later, because there was an absence from my right hon. and learned Friend's speech—I shall refer to him in a moment—which suggested that the matter has still not been thought through.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

There is a difference between allowing an embryo to perish and deliberately killing it.

Sir Bernard Braine

Certainly. Perhaps when the laughter has subsided, some of our hon. Friends will regret having made the interventions that they did. The point I am making is that we are constantly told that, if research were to be banned, then in effect IVF would cease because further research would be outlawed. That is simply not true.

Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Father of the House, for whom I have the utmost respect. How can he possibly will the results so that IVF should continue and not will the research that produced IVF in the first place?

Sir Bernard Braine

If my hon. Friend and the House will permit me to develop my argument, they will see that, although I say that IVF may continue, I do not put my faith about finding a solution to the larger problem of infertility in IVF alone. If I may be allowed to develop my argument, it will be seen that there has been a gap in the provision of information on other methods. Then perhaps we can see the matter in perspective. It would be better if I were allowed to develop my argument.

Mr. Alton

Before the right hon. Gentleman develops his argument, does he accept that it is one of the cruel paradoxes that in this country today one in five pregnancies now end in abortion? Some 184,000 children are aborted each year, and sadly only 10 per cent. of couples will ever be helped by IVF. For the other 90 per cent., if only those children were available for adoption, that would be one way in which many families could provide loving homes for many wanted children.

Sir Bernard Braine

I agree. That is one of the moral conundrums we face. Since the passage of the Abortion Act 1967, 2 to 3 million children, most of whom, if allowed to be born, would have been perfectly fit and healthy, have been destroyed. There are alternatives, such as finding happy homes with loving adopted parents. However, we shall discuss the scandal of late abortions tomorrow.

I now come straight to the point that I wanted to make.

I have had a letter from a husband and wife who state: As an infertile couple we are anxious to correct the seriously misleading impression that human embryo experimentation is necessary to help people like us. This is not only completely false—it is also giving cruelly false hope to infertile people throughout the country. The truth is that even the Warnock Report admitted that test-tube technique (IVF) is suitable for only about 5 per cent. of infertile couples. Furthermore, in countries where embryo experimentation is banned, it is totally wrong to claim that the IVF success rate will not be improved. In fact, in the State of South Australia where embryo research is against the law, the success rate is reported to be higher than in Britain. I did not leave my reading of that moving statement there. I checked with my parliamentary medical scientific advisers. Dr. John McLean, senior lecturer in embryology and anatomy at the university of Manchester, tells me: The fact is that since legislation outlawing embryo research was passed the development of IVF in both Victoria and South Australia continues on a par with anywhere else in the world and the results as measured by livebirths in South Australia are the best in the world by about 1 per cent.-2 per cent. The livebirth rate from IVF, judged from the egg pick-up stage achieved by Professor Cohn Matthews at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woodville, South Australia, at 17 per cent.-18 per cent. per treatment cycle is considerably better than the figures for Britain given in the Fourth Report of the Interim Licensing Authority. That is why hope for the future lies in this direction. I am not saying that there should not be experimentation here which has the effect of helping infertile couples, but for God's sake we must surely look at the world situation as a whole and see what is being done elsewere. I should hope that the chief medical officer is able to ascertain for my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State what is happening in Australia, where there have been considerable advances.

Mr. Thurnham

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Sir Bernard Braine

I shall not give way to my hon. Friend because of the misleading information that he gave the House in his earlier intervention.

Indeed, the 1989 report of the interim licensing authority states: There have been substantial improvements in the efficiency of IVF mainly through better methods for regulating the development of eggs in the ovaries and simple procedures for collecting eggs. I am advised that further research could be carried out on the sperm and the egg, which we certainly would not oppose, rather than killing and disposing of human embryos. One of my advisers, an embryologist, has written to me to make the following point—this is not my view but that of a practising embryologist— In vitro fertilisation as a technique has probably reached its acme as far as the in vitro part of the procedure is concerned. The low success rate of the procedures measured by the birth of a live healthy baby lies primarily with the failure of the embryos produced by fertilisation in vitro to implant successfully in the uterus. Even Professor Robert Winston, an active and respected figure, told us in 1982 in the medical journal Hospital Doctor that tubal surgery was much more successful than IVF. In that year, he would have offered microsurgery rather than IVF as a treatment for infertility.

My right hon. and learned Friend said that no other method of treatment showed the same result. Not so. I have given two examples of where other treatment is available, and it is showing good results. We are also led by numerous newspaper articles and by television to believe that IVF is a tried and tested procedure and that it can guarantee parents who may be at risk that they will have a normal child. That is a cruel deceit. Hon. Members may consider it to be unreasonable of me to say this—I allow that there are sharp differences of opinion across the Committee—but I do so in full knowledge of the facts.

The pro-experimentation lobby is not able to name a single genetic disease, the treatment of which has been helped by human embryo research. Note also that, with them, new discoveries are always around the corner, just about to emerge. The pro-experimentation lobby claims that it may soon be possible to perform pre-implantation diagnosis, examining cells from an embryo to discover whether a specific disorder is present and then destroying the affected embryo. But researchers have been saying for years that that technique is imminent. In 1985 it was just around the corner; in 1987 it could be introduced within months if embryo research were allowed to continue. I remember, when the Warnock report was published, Lady Warnock saying in subsequent discussion that 14 days would do for a beginning. What we are being led to legislate for is the beginning since no great success is likely to be achieved in the first 14 days. After that, perhaps, but then we would be in a different ball game.

A six-year study of normal IVF published in Australia in 1988 found that the incidence of spina bifida was five times higher than normal; that of congenital heart disease was six times higher than normal and perinatal mortality was four times higher than normal. How can pro-experimenters say that couples can guarantee that any pregnancy achieved by that method would be unaffected?

A paper published in The Lancet—a respected journal—last October warned: The public health position requires that efficacy and risks be known before the procedure becomes standard. We should heed the lessons of the Dalkon Shield and thalidomide". We should take that warning seriously.

5.30 pm

If so much can be achieved without using human embryos for the treatment of infertility, why is there such pressure for us to sanction it? Will research using the human embryo up to 14 days—which the Bill provides—reveal the answer? Is embryo research vital to find cures for genetic disease? The plain answer to these two questions is no. It has certainly not been necessary to make vital discoveries for the treatment of cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy, to name but two. My advisers have told me that to pursue research into any of those conditions it is logically obvious to examine cells from adults who have given their consent and who are known to have the disorder, or cells obtained for legitimate reasons from children with the disorder. Such methods would not be fatal and we on the pro-life side—which stretches across all parties—welcome such research. That would be true therapy.

Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth)

I am following my right hon. Friend's argument with interest, but I find it mystifying that the Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal Society should support such research. Can my right hon. Friend explain to the House how it is that his views and theirs are diametrically opposed?

Sir Bernard Braine

If I had more time, I would give my right hon. Friend and the Committee a list of the distinguished advisers whom we have attracted from every branch of medicine. Most of them are professors emeritus. They include Professor Hubert Campbell, emeritus professor of medical statistics at the Welsh National School of Medicine, Dr. McLean, to whom I have already referred, Professor Sir John Dewhurst, emeritus professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Queen Charlotte's hospital, Dr. Jarmulowicz, lecturer in histopathology, at the Royal Free hospital school in London and Professor John Marshall, emeritus professor of clinical neurology at the university of London who signed a minority report.

We should remember that the Warnock committee was not unanimous—it was split—and Professor Marshall, a distinguished neurologist, one of the most famous in the world, took a contrary view, coming out against experimentation. I cannot answer why it is possible for the pro-life movement to attract some of the most distinguished, internationally known and respected figures while the royal colleges and other bodies take a different view, although I could hazard a guess.

Ms. Richardson

I have been listening with great care to the right hon. Gentleman, but with respect to the eminent people whom he was quoting, are they carrying out research now or is it not a fact that most of them have retired?

Sir Bernard Braine

That is a very unworthy remark. Most of them are still active and are highly respected in the world of research. The hon. Lady might care to write to them and find out. I have not quoted the distinguished figures in France, the United States and Australia who also advise us. Just as the Committee is divided, so may be the medical and scientific professions, and that greatly disturbs me. I remember when the German medical profession was sharply divided on certain issues. But for us the buck stops here. It rests not with those learned bodies, but here in this House, and we have to make up our minds.

Mr. Tredinnick

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Sir Bernard Braine

No. I shall not give way again, because other hon. Members wish to express their views.

I have reached some conclusions and I should like to put them to the House. Let me return to my original question. If so much can be achieved without using human embryos in research, why are so many eager to conduct such research? I have a suspicion that I should mention in the House. For the big drug companies, for example, embryo experimentation could unlock the door to unlimited riches and provide the means of finding the perfect contraceptive. Even the Warnock committee concluded that there might be a case for allowing human embryos to be used for drug testing—subject, of course, to scrutiny by a licensing body. However, that committee was not unanimous. Professor John Marshall and two other members of the Warnock committee made it quite clear in their minority report that human embryos should not be subjected to such experiments.

Where will the experimenters get sufficient eggs to fertilise for their research? Tens of thousands will be needed to provide sufficient for research projects. Of necessity, that would require the use of super-ovulatory drugs, to be given to women to produce more eggs than the one that is part of their normal cycle. IVF practitioners have already expressed concern that fertility drug regimes led to the production of immature or abnormal ova and caused disturbance of the inner wall of the womb, which would make it difficult for the embryo to implant.

I am making a serious charge, and I should like to hear someone responsible in Government address the matter. I am advised that the use of such drugs can cause serious problems for women. It is no more than treating women, as well as the human embryos used in the research, as guinea pigs. Will women waiting for IVF treatment or sterilisation be encouraged to donate their eggs and use such drugs with promises of being moved up the waiting list if they agree? Let us be given an answer to that by the scientists and let the Minister tell the House just what the Government have in mind.

Let it not be said that talk of egg and embryo banks is futuristic and hysterical, as was the suggestion behind some of the interventions by my hon. Friends. It emerged at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in 1987 that large numbers of frozen human embryos were stockpiled at IVF centres in Britain, France and Australia, and at least one delegate predicted that embryos would be marketed.

The Bill is so phrased in clause 14(1)(b) that it would allow the trading of gametes or human embryos between licensed persons, even if they were not needed for treatment services. What does that mean? Let Ministers explain that horrendous inclusion in the Bill, if they can. Those of us in the pro-life movement are often accused of certainty about the beginning of life and its value whereas others are not quite so sure. We have heard an example of that from my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State this afternoon. While I do not believe that such certainty is mistaken, what approach should the House take? I believe that the safest, most reasonable and most moral course to take is to say no to destructive experimentation. Why do I say that? Because, surely, if there is any reasonable doubt about the status of the human embryo, we should give it the benefit of the doubt. The human embryo has an overwhelming call upon our conscience and duty.

We have heard a great deal recently about the views of the Archbishop of York, but he does not speak for the majority of Christians. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Shame."] He does not. The Anglican Bishop of Peterborough does not support the Archbishop of York. I should like to quote him and I should like the House to weigh his words carefully. He said: I have always taken the view that when in doubt it is safer to say no. Those who would seek change must discharge the full burden of proof and that they have not done. Those who favour experimentation have not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the human embryo is not a human being. They have tried to cloak the fact that it is a human being by calling it a pre-embryo. We had an example of that this afternoon. Perhaps the hon. Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson) will tell the House in which dictionary she found that term. Words such as pre-embryo and conceptus——

Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Sir Bernard Braine

Although I do not wish to give way in the middle of a sentence, I shall give way.

Mrs. Gorman

On a point of information, the term pre-embryo was coined by the voluntary authority in order to establish the presence of a cell mass before it begins to differentiate. That is why the term was established.

Sir Bernard Braine

That body has no real status. The Secretary of State told us so this afternoon. It invented the term precisely in order to confuse, as the hon. Member should know. There is no such thing as a pre-embryo in medical terms. After this debate it may begin to find its way into medical dictionaries, but it is not there now. These are changes in nomenclature, not in fact.

Finally, we have been regaled with promises of what embryo experimentation might achieve in terms of advances in the treatment of genetic diseases and infertility treatment but nowhere, and at no time, has the experimentation lobby proved beyond reasonable doubt that the subject is not a human being. Indeed, it would not want the embryo if it were not human and did not have the innate capacity to develop as a human being. It would be of no use. It concedes its own case by referring to human embryos to distinguish them from animal embryos. The case for experimentation is no more than a cruel deception with false hopes constantly being paraded to encourage supporters to its side.

One must have some humility in trying to resolve this question. The overwhelming number of scientists in this country and elsewhere are highly motivated in an honourable quest for improvement in the human condition. Several have said to me—it is right to speak frankly and openly—"Surely we should have learnt something from the descent of Nazi medicine into awfulness, when some doctors claimed that it did not matter how they acquired knowledge because the end justified the means." I mention that not in order to excite passions but deliberately. With that awful example before it, it is not surprising that the German Parliament has just banned such research. Perhaps awareness of what was done by perverted science remains stronger there than here.

What then is the only responsible course of action open to this Committee and this House? It is surely to give the human embryo the benefit of the doubt and to vote for a ban on research.

Mr. Duffy

The vital decisions that we reach tonight on human fertilisation and embryology and tomorrow on pregnancy termination must affect how we regard. the status of each individual, his or her human rights, the treatment of the handicapped and the fate of the senile and terminally ill. Therefore, we must proceed with the greatest care.

Embryo research is complex and involves a spectrum of medical, scientific, ethical and moral issues. It also abounds in myths and partial truths, as I said on Second Reading. For example, like the Father of the House, I invited hon. Members present then who were in favour of human embryo research to give the House one example of what has been discovered in research into genetic diseases that could not have been discovered in any other way. I now invite hon. Members present who believe that scientists need human embryos for worthwhile research to explain why the practice has been forbidden in Denmark, Ireland, Norway and Portugal, as well as parts of Australia, as the Father of the House reminded us. It is also soon to be forbidden in West Germany. They should also tell us why the European Council of Ministers has recommended the same course of action.

5.45 pm
Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury)

In answer to the hon. Gentleman's question, that says more about the politicians in those countries than about the scientists. It speaks volumes about the ignorance and timidity of the politicians. It does not stop the scientists from benefiting from the research done in this country and all round the world.

Mr. Duffy

That intervention will be judged by hon. Members present on its merits. The hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key), for whom I have the greatest respect and whose important speech on Second Reading I remember, will regret those remarks on reflection.

The only response that I received at the end of my speech on Second Reading was from my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). I gave him notice that I would raise this matter. He began his speech—with a little relieved support from some of my hon. Friends by—saying: My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) will understand that some of us were pained and distressed by his speech."—[Official Report, 2 April 1990; Vol. 170, c. 976.] I pressed him later to explain what parts of my speech had distressed him, as did some of my hon. Friends, and I have written to him, but so far I have received no response.

Even though the score of pro-research versus anti-research speeches from the Back Benches on Second Reading was 11 each, my distinct impression was that those against research had the better of the argument. That is remarkable. Those of us who have tried to follow the topic closely as it has developed over the winter since it was debated in another place were struck by the deluge of one-sided publicity, not only this weekend in quality Sunday newspapers or on behalf of one programme in one hospital or one individual. Despite that one-sided treatment in the media, it must be clear to anyone who reads the Official Report of 2 April that hon. Members who spoke in favour of research were put on the defensive.

I shall illustrate that by recalling that debate briefly. I shall touch on some of the highlights, and if two have already been touched on by the Father of the House, I hope that hon. Members will forgive me. The Secretary of State claimed then, as he did this afternoon, that an embryo was not a human being. Yet, if the embryo were not human or alive and did not have the built-in capacity to grow and develop to birth, why should the experimenters want it?

It was also claimed then, and again this afternoon by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson), that it is not an embryo until 14 days after conception and that until then it is a pre-embryo. Yet, as the Father of the House reminded us, the term "pre-embryo" cannot be found in any reputable source of reference or medical dictionary. Furthermore, we are entitled to ask those who still attach significance to 14 days, "Fourteen days into what?" If it is not 14 days into life, what is it 14 days into?

On Second Reading, it was claimed that embryo research was needed to improve the success of IVF, and the low take-home baby rate was quoted. Several centres are climbing the learning curve and achieving substantially greater success rates. One such is the Sheffield fertility centre. I shall quote a public reference to a report so that hon. Members can consult it, but they will expect me to have been at pains to consult privately. On 6 February, The Daily Telegraph stated of the centre: Here the emphasis is on IVF the natural way, using the one egg normally produced. Drugs are used only in rare cases, when women do not ovulate. The latest results show that one in four women who finally receive an embryo become pregnant, although not all run to term. There is no risk of multiple births, overstimulated ovaries, or spare embryos. With no drugs, the cost is considerably lower. I understand that the university of Sheffield's infertility clinic at the Jessop hospital for women runs a natural cycle programme with emphasis on developing a follicle without excessive stimulation, so there is only one follicle and only one embryo. That does away with many of the ethical problems about spare embryos.

I have discussed the programme with its head, Professor I. D. Cooke, and without associating him even remotely with any responsibility for my remarks, I wish to put on record my appreciation of his dedication and motivation, and of the quality and direction of his work. Contrary to the impression that we could not fail to have during the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Barking, work in this field is not confined to Hammersmith.

It is important to make a clear distinction between non-invasive research on embryos which are to be implanted, which is ethically acceptable, and destructive research, in which the embryo is destroyed. This takes us to the heart of the debate. That is the issue. As I reminded the Secretary of State earlier this evening, where the major obstacles to IVF have been overcome, is it not logical that the most valuable data would come from non-invasive research? Yet, on Second Reading, several hon. Members claimed, first, that a ban on embryo research would stop all IVF, secondly that IVF success rates could not improve without research, and thirdly, that halting embryo experiments would leave infertile couples untreated.

In all countries which have outlawed embryo research, IVF programmes continue unhindered. The Father of the House told us that the results in Victoria and South Australia are on a par with, if not better than, those anywhere in the world. As the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier)—I note that he is no longer in his place, but he will not mind my mentioning him—pointed out to my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman) on Second Reading, IVF success rates depend more on the experience of the clinicians and the number of treatment cycles than on the benefits of research. There are alternatives to IVF, notably microsurgery, which has a far higher success rate. The Secretary of State stressed the growing value of gene therapy.

On Second Reading we heard the oft-repeated claim that embryo research is needed to treat and eliminate congenital and inherited diseases. That is not even claimed by Progress and its campaign newspaper. True prevention means avoiding conception of a child with a disorder, and one way of achieving that is to test eggs before fertilisation. I am advised that, recently, human eggs have been successfully tested for genetic disease. Indeed, the only research projects in which scientists are seeking genuine cures for genetic diseases are being done without the use of human embryos. I understand that they are making realistic advances.

During the past few years, great advances have been made in the treatment of genetic and chromosomal diseases, without the use of human embryos. Even since the Bill started its passage through Parliament, articles have appeared in medical journals almost weekly, reporting advances in molecular biology without the use of human embryos and realistic claims of true treatment of genetic disease. In many important respects, the Warnock report is now out of date. It would be interesting to see the outcome if the Committee were to sit now.

Both my hon. Friends the Members for Barking and Peckham suggested that, if embryo research were banned, the testing of embryos for genetic defects would stop. That is not true. Even if embryo research is banned, schedule 2(1)(d) will allow the screening of embryos for genetic defects before implantation, whether or not one agrees with the practice. It is also untrue for newspapers to claim that the sex selection technique which was announced late last week will be stopped by a vote against embryo experimentation. Under the same schedule, screening is permitted. It is also untrue to claim that only the use of human embryos allows such a development. There are several ways in which such a technique could be developed far more effectively.

I stress that we are not discussing whether research per se is good or bad. We all plainly favour scientific research, without which there would be no progress for the benefit of mankind. Tonight we are deciding whether to permit destructive research on embryos for the first 14 days or to insist the nothing shall he done to an embryo, except for its own good. We must also decide on the production of spare embryos, the donation of eggs, sperm and/or embryos by persons outside the marital relationship of the proposed child's parents, the storage—for example, the freezing—of embryos as well as adequate monitoring, even within a statutory framework.

My hon. Friend the Member for Peckham has argued that the 14-day limit represents such a significant break point in human development that it will act as an anchor and prevent any drift beyond the agreed limit. How many hon. Members share such optimism? It is not the view of those working in the field. To take just one example, Professor Bob Edwards, the world's pioneer of the IVF technique, is on record as saying recently: rules like that cannot be made about embryology, which is a gradual process of steady change. I suspect that some hon. Members would support research if they could be sure that it would be strictly controlled.

Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)

I raised this point on Second Reading and raise it again because it constantly worries me. If we accept the thesis that research is valuable to the human condition, as I do, and that it cannot be finite and stopped, for example, on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday or on the ninth, 10th, 11th or 14th day, by what standards and at what stage will we decide how that research will develop? I firmly believe that sooner or later we shall have a Bill to amend the 14-day limit. That is the weakness. Otherwise, the argument in favour of research is defeated, because it is to say that research is finite and can stop on a certain day.

6 pm

Mr. Duffy

I entirely share the fears and reservations expressed by my hon. Friend. The activity will be notoriously difficult to monitor.

It is interesting that the German Government should be taking such a strong line on embryonic research. Yet the German Bill has been criticised by the German SPD, the Social Democratic party—for the benefit of some of my hon. Friends they are our socialist colleagues in Germany—on the grounds that it does not go far enough in protecting the embryo or in controlling the enthusiasm of doctors and researchers.

The Germans know how easily a compassionate impulse can be translated into a holocaust. That is well illustrated by Frederick Wertham in his deeply disturbing book, "A Sign for Cain", by the manner in which the acceptance in the Weimar republic of euthanasia as an enlightened and estimable practice provided the original justification in the Third Reich for some of the horrors that were to follow.

On Second Reading, I described how some mothers have found a special joy in caring for their disabled children. None of us can have visited such children and their parents without feeling happy and uplifted. Nevertheless, in terms of the quality of life, there would seem to be little reason for allowing the birth of such children, but the same reasoning applies to the infirm and the senile old. Nowadays, society as a whole is not well disposed towards the protection of the weak and the vulnerable, or the responsibility of the individual.

In terms of the sanctity of life, the situation is quite different. There are things that one must not do to humans, simply because they are human. Conception lies at the root of morality and it is the only possible answer to those who think that the end can always justify the means. When one poses questions about such basic principles to the medical establishment, one generally receives nothing but the slipperiest or replies. One is invited to distinguish the embryo from the pre-embryo, or told that life does not really begin until the third week. On what basis, then, do we decide that a person should not be allowed to be born or that another person should not be allowed to go on living? On what basis does one decide that a disabled child has no right to be born or to live?

Contrary to the closing remarks of the Secretary of State, I believe that the choice lies between the quality of life and the sanctity of life. Which side are we on? We cannot, no matter how hard we try, be on both sides; the Secretary of State tried, but he did not succeed. Are we on the side that inevitably means keeping down our numbers so that we all get ever more affluent, or are we or the side of the sanctity of life with mankind as a family—not equal, but brothers and sisters whose father is God, in whose image we are all made? I am for the latter, and I am confident of its ultimate triumph.

Mr. Thurnham

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) said that it was difficult to monitor embryo research, and I should like to start by congratulating the voluntary licensing authority, now the interim licensing authority, on monitoring such difficult research and on establishing the confidence that the research carried out in this country satisfies the requirements for which the House is looking.

Research work is being done in many centres—38 have been approved and another 12 are subject to approval. There are thus about 50 centres for clinical and research work, and 64 different projects have been authorised since 1985. Such work represents a unique British institution, and other Parliaments around the world are watching us to see how we deal with this matter and how we introduce legislation that satisfies all of us, including those few already mentioned who are strongly opposed to research.

Those people are in the minority. The opinion poll recently conducted by National Opinion Polls, which contacted 981 people, showed that only 57 were strongly opposed to research on any grounds. We must remember that we are dealing with a minority, but we want to find legislation that will satisfy them.

We should congratulate Mary Donaldson and the committee of the licensing authority on their work in establishing firm guidelines.

Mr. Alton

I must intervene before the hon. Gentleman's comment about a supposedly true and accurate opinion poll is embedded in Hansard. Once again, I must repeat what has already been said—there is probably no one in the House opposed to research. People are opposed to destructive experimentation on the human embryo. A question about such experimentation was not asked in that opinion poll.

Mr. Thurnham

That has already been dealt with. A number of embryos are spare as a result of treatment, but I suppose that the hon. Gentleman would rather that they perish than provide any useful purpose.

I am sure that hon. Members will agree that the licensing authority has worked well, and we must congratulate it on carrying out the major recommendations of the Warnock committee report. When it was published in 1984, we looked forward to the establishment of a licensing authority and to the debate in this House to establish the statutory grounds for that authority. The voluntary licensing authority has laid a firm basis upon which a statutory body can be established to carry out the requirements of the House.

A number of arguments have been advanced against research; I should like to deal with them one by one. The principal argument against such research is that one is dealing with an individual human being from the very moment of fertilisation. In the first few days, however, that is not so: one is dealing with a cluster of undifferentiated cells that do not acquire their individuality until later. Those cells are capable of dividing and coming together again.

It is that very point that has exercised the minds of moral theologians. I am satisfied with the arguments that have been advanced by the Archbishop of York and by Catholic theologians such as Jack Mahoney, Kevin Kelly and Norman Ford. They argue that one cannot talk about individuality until about the 14th day. As to the Christian view, I was pleased to learn from a letter from the Venerable Bill Brison, the Archdeacon of Bolton, that he agrees with such embryo research.

Mr. Alton

The hon. Gentleman has, once again, referred to Norman Ford, but I must refer him to his letter which appeared in The Tablet two months ago. Then, he said that, because there were doubts about the beginnings of life, one must always err on the side of that doubt.

Mr. Thurnham

If such doubts exist, why should we send doctors to prison? If there is doubt, those doctors should continue with their good work. They should not have their worked stopped by being sent to prison. Will we improve the health of our nation by sending those doctors to prison?

It has been argued that the limit of 14 days is the slippery slope. I believe that that time limit is a practical one, as that is the stage at which the primitive streak appears and the growing cells start to acquire individuality. It is a natural time limit to choose, as a woman does not know she is pregnant until the embryo has reached its 14th day. We should not forget that those women who use IUD coils and pills lose millions of embryos before the 14th day. Those embryos are not regarded as human beings in the same way as we would regard those that become fully developed persons.

An embryo or pre-embryo can only be kept alive in a test tube for a few days. It is not possible to keep it alive in a test tube beyond the ninth day, and I understand that most of them die within the first six or seven days. The 14-day limit is way beyond any period during which embryos are used for experimentation.

Mr. Mallon


Mr. Thurnham

Some people say that they favour IVF babies, but oppose research. I agree with the Archbishop of York that that is an immoral argument. The IVF treatment would not be available if it was not for the good work carried out by Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards.

Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)

My right hon. Friend has said that hon. Members are opposed to research but in favour of IVF. Let me repeat that many hon. Members who will vote against the research outlined in the Bill are in favour of research provided that an embryo is used for implantation in order to grow into an individual—we are not against research per se.

Mr. Thurnham

That is absolute nonsense. If my hon. Friend spoke to Professor Edwards—unfortunately, Patrick Steptoe is no longer with us—he would tell him that it was necessary for them to carry out more than 300 experiments before the first test-tube baby in the world was born.

Louise Brown would not be with us today as a healthy child if it were not for those 300 experiments. It is absolute bunkum to say that one is in favour of the babies, but not of the research that brought them about. This country leads the world in this work; the excellent work done in Hammersmith hospital and elsewhere is a great tribute to the excellence of British scientists and their common sense in carrying on with this work and not believing that it was wrong and they should not do it. That is supported by public opinion polls. Poll after poll after poll shows that the public support that work. In the latest opinion poll, 85 per cent. of the public were in favour of IVF babies who result from research work.

Another argument is that the process is unnecessary because, if one sits and thinks long enough, one will come up with the answers, and if one does have to do research work, it can be done on animals or gametes. Much work is done on mice. One of the guidelines for the licensing authority is that research should not be allowed unless it cannot be done on animals. Only then can it be done with human embryos. Mice eggs can be used to show that freezing is possible, but so far it has not proved possible to keep human eggs by freezing them. That is one sector in which more research is needed.

It has been shown that some diseases in mice—Lesch-Nyham syndrome, for example—can be cured, but so far it has proved impossible to do such work with humans. That is another example which shows that research must be done with human embryos, not just animal embryos.

The argument about using gametes does not stand up. The Medical Research Council says that that is ethically unacceptable. It shows the need for further work to test fertilisation and develop contraceptives, where it must be possible to test the embryos or to carry out procedures that will give rise to embryos if we are to obtain the answers we need.

Another argument is that we should not trust the doctors, and that they are all divided. Someone said that they were almost equally divided. That is not true: more than 90 per cent. of the doctors in the world, according to Professor Martin Bobrow—a leading geneticist at Guy's hospital—are in favour of research. Only a minority are against it, and I suspect that, if they are Catholics, they have been put in a difficult position by the attitude taken by the Pope and the Vatican. I suspect that that lies behind the objections of most of the scientists whom I have come across. It is unfortunate that the Catholic Church should have put some scientists in that position.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) talked about this being a search-and-destroy mission, and said that there were no cures. The natural process leads to the rejection of embryos if something is wrong. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State said, there is a high failure rate and a high rejection rate—as high as 50 per cent.—among humans. This is a natural process, and I do not understand what is wrong in helping where nature may fail to reject those embryos that will not lead to healthy babies. It is totally wrong for a mother to be forced to go through with a pregnancy or face an abortion at a later stage if she could have such treatment.

6.15 pm
Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

A great many hon. Members feel some anxiety about the proposition that one should interfere, but a massive amount of interference has already been entered into, with the result that large numbers of children and foetuses who would never have been able to survive in the past, survive with appalling conditions. Therefore, we are not talking about a level playing field, but a process which, having already been begun, must be counteracted by further work.

Mr. Thurnham

I quite agree with my hon. Friend. At present, about 2,000 abortions are carried out each year on grounds of foetal abnormality, but still 20,000 children are born every year with some sort of congenital handicap. Half the most severe cases—category 10—end up in institutions because their families are unable to look after them. Those people who are so concerned about the dignity and sanctity of life, and oppose this research, should do more to look after such children, rather than turn their backs on them and leave them in institutions.

The argument that this process is a matter of unfair discrimination against the handicapped is one of the cruellest I have heard. To suggest that we should want handicapped people or that a mother would want to give birth to a handicapped child is completely wrong. All mothers would prefer to have a healthy child; it is wrong to suggest that anyone would want to enter this world with a handicap. I am sure that Beethoven or anyone else suffering from a handicap would have preferred to be healthy. We should do all that we can to help to bring about healthy people and not revel in people's handicaps.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that to those of my constituents—a number of whom have approached me—who would have much have preferred that their children had been born without handicaps, but strongly believed that they had no right to deprive them of life because they were handicapped?

Mr. Thurnham

Those children who have been born with handicaps deserve all the love and care that we can give them. However, we surely do not want more children to be born with handicaps than we can help, and we should help mothers to have choice. Surely this is a matter of choice and we should allow families to choose, so that where there are serious genetic disorders—I have heard some most distressing cases of families with severe genetic disorders—we should allow choice. Research would allow those people to enjoy marriages in which they can look forward to producing chidren free of such dreadful diseases.

Some people have said that screening would not work, but I point to the examples in Cyprus and Sardinia, where the severe illness Thalassaemia major—a form of anaemia—has been almost eliminated by screening the population. In this country, one in 20 people has the cystic fibrosis gene. It is possible that in future we shall be able to offer screening so that people who want to be free from the risk of carrying the cystic fibrosis gene to future generations can be given a test to discover whether it is likely.

The cost to the National Health Service, in financial terms, let alone human misery, has been estimated by the Royal College of Physicians as £86 million a year for many of the leading genetic diseases. Therefore, on financial grounds alone, there is a strong argument for some element of screening. It is a matter of chance for most of us. On average, we carry some six defective genes out of 100,000 different genes in our bodies. It is a matter of chance whether we meet a partner who has the same gene, so that our children are at risk of a serious genetic disorder.

It has also been said that only a few people would benefit, and hard cases might make bad law. That is appalling. The work of the Genetic Interest Group, which has already been mentioned, should be thoroughly supported and we should not turn our backs on a small minority of people—however small—because of the severity of their difficulties. We should do all we can to help them and produce legislation to allow research to continue.

A good feature of this debate is that we have been able to hear those arguments from the minorities affected. Five years ago, when Enoch Powell, the former right hon. Member for South Down, brought in his Bill which would have banned all research and allowed a couple to have a test-tube baby only with written permission from the Secretary of State, we did not hear such arguments. It is not easy for people suffering from a genetic disease to come forward. They are not likely to parade down the street saying that they want the research to be allowed. If they are one of the one in 10 couples suffering from infertility, are they likely to march to Parliament in huge lobbies? They have come, but it is not easy for such people to do so.

Recently, I was pleased to receive a petition from my constituents, Steven and Beverley Crook, which had a number of signatures in favour of research, because the couple found that they needed it. People are coming forward, but we must recognise that it is not easy to do so. That couple told me that they had not even been able to tell their relatives about the need for their treatment until quite a late stage. It is not easy for couples to discuss it among themselves, let alone make it public.

I am appalled to hear some of the arguments advanced against research. My hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton) said that infertility arose only when people were sexually promiscuous, and therefore there was no need for research.

Mrs. Ann Winterton

I object to that slur. What I said in a debate was that two of the main causes of infertility were due to life style. That is a fact; it does not mean that I consider that all infertile couples have behaved in such a way. I have friends who are infertile. The hon. Gentleman has sunk to rock bottom to raise something like that in this debate.

Mr. Thurnham

It was my hon. Friend who raised that point. In 85 per cent. of infertility cases, there is no evidence of any infection. Even if there is, we should not deny those people the treatment they deserve as much as anyone else.

It is not true that IVF leads to increased deaths and handicaps. We heard some figures about that from my right hon. Friend the Member for Castlepoint, but the latest figures show that major congenital handicaps between 1979 and 1988 were 2.2 per cent. overall, exactly the same as for the population in general. I understand that the figures for spina bifida are much lower, so although IVF presents difficulties associated with multiple births, the record for single births is extremely good. We should all be glad that Louise Brown was born healthy; had she been unfortunate enough to be handicapped in some way, many people would have said that all the research work should stop.

Sir Bernard Braine

I have been listening with care to my hon. Friend, who I know speaks with great sincerity. He believes in the efficacy of embryo research for IVF and he claimed that we had the best record in the world. Will be address himself to the fact that, in South Australia, where embryo experimentation has been banned, the IVF success rate is higher than here? What is the explanation for that?

Mr. Thurnham

My right hon. Friend should be careful not to mislead himself. Success rates must be carefully examined——

Mrs. Gorman


Mr. Thurnham

If success rates relate only to women in their most fertile stages, greater success can obviously be obtained than in places where patients who are desperate and who may have passed the age of 40—when a woman's natural fertility is reduced—are being treated. If many of the hospitals in this country attempt to treat women who are reaching the end of their naturally fertile period, it is less likely that they will enjoy such high success rates. However, if my right hon. Friend compares the latest figures over a proper period, he will find that we are indeed successful in this country. The Australian state in which no research is taking place has nothing to teach us, because the doctors have had to rely on obtaining their information from elsewhere.

Mr. James Couchman (Gillingham)

Is it not true, in the context of the much-vaunted success rates in South Australia, that non-destructive research has not been banned, and that the success rates there are in any case no higher than here? Are they not a myth perpetrated by those who want research banned?

Will my hon. Friend consider the fact that the success rates of IVF, which is as yet an imperfect procedure, are still very low, and that, if we ban research, progress will be frozen in aspic and the rates will remain very low?

Mr. Thurnham

Yes, it is important to try to improve success rates. We should remember that other states in Australia have brought in legislation to allow research because they know how important it is. In Victoria and elsewhere, such work is permitted, and no doubt the doctors in South Australia where research has been banned use the benefits of such research. It is immoral to refuse to do research but to take advantage of the benefits of research carried out by other people.

It has been argued that the drug companies are investing millions of pounds in developing contraceptive drugs. There is only one such project in this country—in Scotland—but it is much-needed work which will help people in the Third world, where there is certainly no shortage of people. I would favour developing improved contraceptive methods by this means, subject to the guidelines of the statutory licensing authority.

We have heard much scare talk about hybrids, clones and designer babies, but such talk comes from people who do not understand the limitations of the work, and these ideas are strictly banned by the guidelines which have so far been adhered to voluntarily and which, if the Bill is pased, will have statutory force when the licensing authority is set up. They remain in the science fiction arena.

Hon. Members have criticised the use of the word "pre-embryo". Anyone would think that we were not allowed to invent new words in science. New descriptions are being developed in science all the time, and if the word "pre-embryo" could be used to describe the stage up to 14 days, I would find that helpful. I strongly condemn the use of the words "babies" and "children" by those on the other side of this argument, not to mention stunts such as sending out plastic foetuses, which have caused enormous offence to people in the House. I saw secretaries in the Post Office this morning in considerable distress, surrounded by these things. It was a stunt in the lowest possible taste.

I hope that I have been able to dispel some of the myths advanced by our opponents. It is true that some countries have banned research—that is most unfortunate—but I do not see why we should take lessons in morality from the Germans. I know that many other countries are looking to us to see what sort of legislation they should introduce. We should not forget that the United States, Canada, Italy, Holland, Belgium and France encourage research, and Spain and Sweden have already passed laws that will enable this work to proceed as we should like it to.

I should like to thank you, Sir Paul, for the opportunity to speak in the debate and, I hope, to make a constructive argument in favour of continuing with legislation that will allow research and of rejecting the amendments.

Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)

I have been reading a great deal of material in preparation for the debate and I wish that I had had time to do more research as far back as 100 years ago, when hon. Gentleman in this House were telling Queen Victoria that they positively knew that God was against the use of painkillers when giving birth—advice that she rightly rejected. But other women at that time could have taken that advice and refused painkillers when giving birth. Such refusal now would be supported by only a tiny minority.

I make this point not in a frivolous spirit but to show that hon. Members are not qualified to advise on ethical and moral questions. Our responsibility is to frame the law in such a way as to make it possible for other adults to make their own decisions. I do not understand how hon. Members can say, merely because they are convinced that life begins at a particular stage, that they should impose their decision on others.

It should be up to people to make up their own minds about whether to act on the opportunities that this research opens up. If they are against such research, they need not benefit from it. I have heard it argued that childless couples should accept their misfortune—that it is God's will that they be childless, so they must live with that. That is fine if they are convinced that it is God's will, but if they are convinced that God's will is nothing of the sort, and if they see that researchers can provide them with some hope by using their God-given intelligence, they should be able to choose to act on that.

The same goes for the risk of giving birth to children who will suffer appallingly from severe and painful handicaps. It might be said that couples should cope as best they can, or avoid having children. The choice to avoid having children will still be open to those who believe that research at this stage of human development is wrong; but there are others who believe that God gave humans intelligence that can be used to create human happiness or misery. Many of the researchers themselves, far from feeling that they are doing something wicked, can believe only that they are doing positive good when they witness the happiness that they are bringing to the lives of people who suffer from these terrible problems.

It is up to the House to show some understanding. Earlier, the Father of the House said, "The buck stops here." I disagree: it does not stop in Parliament. It stops with men and women who are desperate for children but will not have them unless we allow this research to continue. The buck stops with the parents who may already have severely handicapped children, or whose children may have died after brief, painful lives. They may want the chance to have a child who is well.

We are not talking about perfecting human beings or about some sort of genetic engineering to create a perfect race. We are merely talking about the simple desire on the part of someone who has brought up and cared for a child day after day through severe illness to be given the small human happiness involved in having more children who will not suffer from the same defects.

I shall be brief because I know that many hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. I feel very deeply about the problems that have been described in numerous letters sent to me by parents. I shall outline some cases. One child a week is born with tuberous sclerosis, which affects one in 8,000 of the population. It is caused by a dominant gene defect and its effect varies widely. It produces incomplete differentiation of embryonic tissue and clumps of embryonic cells do not change totally into brain or kidney or skin or any other part of the body, which is what normally takes place. They continue to grow slowly and produce tumours in any organ of the body. They produce epilepsy and other such problems. Some 50 per cent. of the children will be severely mentally handicapped with an IQ of below 35. We are talking not about children who can almost cope with normal life and who just need a little help, but about children who can do nothing for themselves.

Sometimes there is too much easy sentimentality in the House about everyone being in favour of helping the handicapped. That is not real life. I know many people with handicaps that are nothing like as severe as the one that I have described, who feel that they receive very little help from society and from the House when it has the opportunity to spend public money on all sorts of necessities to help handicapped people to live a fuller life. We must recognise that some handicaps are so severe that no quality of life can be gained and the person who is suffering has a limited and extremely painful life that is often extremely short.

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I could describe numerous illnesses that I had not even heard of before the debate came into public view a few years ago. There are more than 200 different diseases with long Latin names that all produce terrible suffering in children. The Bill is designed to create circumstances in which steps can be taken to try to ensure that a defective gene is not implanted, which will give mothers a chance to produce children with normal health. Such research can be used to help childless people to achieve that very simple and highly desirable human aim. Those of us who easily and without problems have had healthy children should attempt to show a bit of understanding and be ready to help those who have problems.

Mr. Michael Alison (Selby)

I am grateful to you, Sir Paul, for giving me this opportunity to put on record why I shall vote in favour of amendment No. 1 and against the authorisation of research into human embryos. In spite of the apparent technical complexity of the matter, the fundamental issue is clear-cut and straightforward. I am glad that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health highlighted that primary consideration.

The simple issue is at what point in the interaction between the ovum and the sperm human life begins. Once human life has begun, leaving aside for a moment when it begins, and even if it is embryonic, can any form of experimentation on the material substance of that human life at any stage be either ethical or acceptable if it is not intended for the well-being, good and survival of that form of human life, however embryonic and elemental it may be?

I do not think that many, if any, hon. Members favour experiments on a guinea-pig basis, compulsorily sacrificing one human life for the benefit of another or more than one human life. Reference has been made to the horrific conclusions to which that road can lead. The issue turns simply on when human life begins in the sperm-ovum interaction. All questions about the merits, benefits or desirability of experiments must in principle be subordinate to that question and cannot be addressed until we have a conclusion on that fundamental issue.

I am profoundly convinced, on the evidence that I have studied, that human life starts at the moment of fertilisation. I know that that is a personal view. To those who differ from that view and who believe that human life starts a bit later, I point out right away the smallness of the time gap that divides us. At the very most, it is only 14 days into the growth of the embryo. After that no one has any doubt that a form of human life has emerged that is inviolable and sacrosanct. It is worth reminding ourselves how remote from our normal idea of human life is that entity to which we grant without question an inviolable or sacrosanct status. It is almost invisible and almost inperceptible. It is difficult to say in respect of that struggling embryonic form of elemental life, which we call human and individual at 14 days, that it is not possible for it to have had an even earlier real existence from thy one.

If there is any doubt at all about the human status of the fertilised ovum by the sperm from day one, the benefit of that doubt should be given to the potential human individual who came into existence in some shape or form at the moment of fertilisation. It is not a rebuttal of that view to say that the fertilised ovum has to undergo further development and differentiation of the sort referred to by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State when he suggested that human cells continue to develop and divide so that, for example, the placenta differentiates itself from the human individual during the first 14 days. It is not a convincing or even likely thesis to say that that determines the emergence of human life only at the moment of final differentiation before the 14th day. I shall give an illustration, although I know that an analogy is dangerous.

Peeling the skin from an orange does not bring the life of an orange into existence. It brings the life of the orange into evidence or identifiability. The orange was there below the peel. I am convinced that that which is in evidence as a human embryo at day 14 is in existence from the moment of fertilisation. It is not in evidence, not identifiable, but it is there just as the orange is below the peel. I know that that is an arguable proposition and that it has been debated in the House. My overriding point is that if there is any doubt about whether the orange exists below the peel, whether the embryo exists before final differentiation takes place on day 14, the benefit of the doubt must, in principle, be given to the embryonic human individual who has been imperceptible, invisible and not in evidence but essentially, logically and potentially there from the moment of fertilisation. Leaving aside the merit or otherwise of experimentation, because I am convinced that human life begins at fertilisation, I shall be voting against experimentation on that form of human life, however embryonic and imperceptible, that has emerged at the moment of fertilisation.

Therefore, I shall be supporting the amendment and voting against the authorisation of experiments.

Mr. Mallon

This has been one of the most difficult debates for which to prepare for a considerable time. The debate has shown clearly that we all have the same problem. We have all read the same briefing documents, some of which are excellent. We have all read the same statistics, we have all put our own gloss on the statistics and we have all made our value judgments about the opinions of eminent scientists and medical people and those professionals to whom we should all listen. In effect, we are making a value judgment on the value judgments presented to us by other people. We are all trying to assess the arguments for and against something on which many people believe there simply are no arguments.

I am glad to follow the right hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Alison), who crystallised the view of many hon. Members. Those views are held not only by those of a certain religious persuasion. I found jarring the suggestion of the hon. Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham) that Catholics did not pass the cricket test on this issue. He may wish to withdraw that suggestion after he reads Hansard tomorrow, because people of various religious persuasions see this problem from many points of view.

I shall be brief. I shall not draw any conclusions from the statistics, nor shall I make a value judgment on whether those doctors or scientists in favour of experimentation have more expertise or are more reliable than those against it, because that is a false argument that will lead to a false conclusion. It would also be a presumptive conclusion for anyone to draw.

Like the right hon. Member for Selby, I believe that, once fertilisation takes place, we are dealing with a human entity and that destructive experimentation on that entity is the destruction of a human being. My views are rooted in that position. If that were not so, I should be faced with a serious problem because I am convinced that research and experimentation are a natural part of the development of the human condition. They are almost an essential part of the development of our lives.

Researchers could be faced with a traumatic problem if we agreed to this provision. I believe that experimentation provides results and that lessons can be learned from it and that, as experimentation progresses, a bank of information would be developed, but at what stage do experimentation and research stop being productive? At what stage does the scientist cease to gain further information from his research? There cannot be an arbitary decision that, on the 14th day, the information is no longer relevant. Therefore, those involved in research will face serious moral and legal dilemmas.

Let us assume that a man who is involved in such research and has results from his experiments firmly believes, as a scientist, that he access to a 16-day embryo, he could produce a result that would end genetic problems for thousands of people. What will he do? How will he answer to his conscience and to the law that we might write for him today? I should not like to have to face that problem, because I do not know what my answer would be, despite my ingrained view about the point at which life begins.

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That person will have either to stop his research immediately because the law does not allow experiments beyond 14 days, or decide to continue to, and to break the law, in the interests of humanity. If he starts to experiment with a 16-day embryo, will he go on to an 18-day embryo or a 20-day embryo? If we frame the law in this way, such a moral, professional and legal dilemma will be inevitable. Other people will have to face it. We shall not, but we may put them in a trap by what we do today.

Mr. Key

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Mallon

I shall not give way. I was shown no great generosity by Conservative Members when I tried to intervene earlier.

Once fertilisation takes place, we are dealing with a human entitly and to destroy it is to destroy part of human life. Setting an arbitrary limit of 14 days in the development of a human entity may act as a bar on research and the benefits from it, rather than helping research. For that reason, we could be unfair to further generations who might benefit from such research and to those who carry it out. Because of that, as well as my fundamental views about human life, I shall be voting for the amendment and against the provision.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)

However we vote tonight, all of us have one shared experience. We have been bombarded in recent weeks by representations from constituents urging us to vote against the Bill. They have given many reasons for their opposition, but one theme has run through those representations—that research is morally wrong. Despite careful thought and study, I reject this view and I shall be voting for research to continue. although I reject the pleas to vote against, I put it on record that I respect the sincerity and the deeply held views of my constituents, and I hope that they respect mine. I accept that they could be right and in return I hope that they, and those who agree with them, can bring themselves to accept that they could be wrong while others are right.

As others have said, moral absolutes cannot be determined simply by counting the number of letters that we have received for or against. Majority support does not make a right wrong or a wrong right, so the only way that I know to settle this issue for myself is through careful thought and, if one believes in it, through prayer.

As many right hon. and hon. Members wish to participate in the debate, I shall confine myself to one of the many issues about which I feel strongly. I want to say something about the distress that is being caused by those of the Bill's opponents who regularly claim that someone cannot be a proper Christian unless he or she votes against the Bill. That sort of argument is enormously hurtful and flies in the face of the unavoidable necessity of all theological certainties being channelled through fallible human interpretation. There are those of us whose faith compels us to vote in favour rather than against.

In recent months, the Bill's opponents have insisted on imposing on us all their approaches and values. I find that entirely unfair and completely unacceptable. Why, for example, should I accept that research is wrong unless I can prove it right? I find research a perfectly normal and natural thing and I see nothing fundamentally wrong with it.

My approach—I urge it on others for a change—has always been to start from the assumption that research is right and to invite critics to prove it wrong. Those who have contacted me over the past few weeks seem to have deployed three basic groups of argument to try to win the battle. They say that research is unnecessary, that it could lead to unethical activity and that it is theologically evil.

If we believe that research is a good thing, the "unnecessary" argument cuts no ice. If you start from the assumption that it is right but you do not believe that it is necessary, do not do it. If you believe that it is necessary—there are plenty of experts who think just that—you should carry on.

I accept that the concern about unethical research has considerable substance. That is why I support strict controls and clear time limits. That is why I should like to serve on the Standing Committee that will consider the rest of the Bill, because that is where the arguments about controls and limits need to be thrashed out in detail.

That brings me to the third argument—the key argument—against the theological approach. If I as a layman understand the case correctly, it is said that we, because of our humanity, are different from all other life. It is said that our humanity begins at conception, as though at that moment a soul comes fluttering down to enter us. That I simply do not believe. The Bill's opponents, however, are right to ask those of us who speak like that to answer their question, "When does our humanity begin?" They are right to challenge us and to insist that we answer their question.

I believe that we all start as human material and develop into a human person. I know when it has happened and I know when it has not. For example, all of us in the Chamber are human people, but the human eggs, sperm and pre-embryos that I have seen are not. Somewhere between the pre-embryo and the adult our human consciousness emerges and we become different. In my opinion, it is that difficult bit between the two absolutes that the Bill is all about and where we need to be looking.

I answer the Bill's moral critics thus: we start as human material, we develop a mind and at the end only the spirit is left. That is my understanding of what St. Paul taught—we are body, mind and spirit. Surely we were given minds to take care of our bodies. Surely the spirit exists to improve our minds. Our humanity, therefore, is a developing progression. It is not a tap that is turned on and off. Thus I see no moral or theological objection to strictly controlled research. Indeed, I see good moral and theological reasons in favour of it. Research offers help to many, and hope to even more. Handled with care and compassion, research could be yet another gift from God.

Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

I wish to take part in the debate to rehearse the conflicting interests in my constituency. King's College hospital runs an in vitro fertilisation clinic and it has a relatively high sucess rate. I have been privileged to witness almost all aspects of the operation—the harvesting of eggs, the eggs which have been fertilised and so on. I have received a certain amount of lobbying and I have taken an interest in the work of the hospital. I have seen that work, but on the other hand there is extensive lobbying—not exclusively by Roman Catholics—against the Bill's provisions.

Were it not for the moral argument, which has been rehearsed, I think that everyone would agree that the Bill is necessary. No one suggests that there should be uncontrolled research. Once we have disposed of the moral argument, therefore, the necessity for the Bill is there.

How do the opponents advance their arguments to us? At the heart of the central argument is the issue of when life begins and when the soul, as it were, has entered the body. That is a metaphysical matter. A lord of appeal in ordinary said in a case involving a spot-the-ball contest that metaphysics is the art of proving what one believed in the first place by instinct. I am sure that all of us find it difficult to argue a person into or out of what he or she believes on first principles.

It is difficult to say that once the egg has been fertilised there is no form of life there which is capable of becoming a human being. In a way, the 14-day rule is squeamish. It provides an alibi for saying that things can be done before 14 days that may not be done thereafter. I find it difficult to quarrel with the argument advanced by Roman Catholics and other opponents to the Bill that there is life once fertilisation takes place.

Let me say, however, that I support the Bill and experimentation. But when it comes to argument about life, I find it a sophisticated argument to try to distinguish between pre-14 days and post-14 days. I understand the argument about the cells beginning to divide in the placenta to produce what will eventually become a foetus. If we argue about whether life is there or not, it is almost incontrovertible that there is a form of life once fertilisation takes place. That is something about which we must make our own decision, but I think that the issue was well argued by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon).

I do not find attractive some of the arguments advanced by the opponents. They say that they will not tolerate destruction, but in reality they do. If there are a number of fertilised eggs, the eggs that are not to be used for implantation will not be capable of having a viable life and will be destroyed. There is no getting away from that. The argument about destruction does not seem to have much merit in that respect.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) said that he would not tolerate the destruction of the embryo. Surely even he is willing to contemplate the destruction of an embryo which has 69 chromosomes, for example, as against 46. When I have examined fertilised eggs under the microscope at King's College hospital, it has not been unusual to find an embryo with 69 chromosomes. Such an embryo could be implanted and it might be capable of growing for six or seven months, only to be aborted by nature itself. I do not think that my hon. Friend is saying that there are no circumstances in which the embryo should be destroyed. At the end of the day, it comes back to the question of morality—when or whether life has begun——

Mr. Duffy

It is also whether our approach to and treatment of an embryo is in the interests of that embryo—whether it is in the ultimate good of the embryo.

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Mr. Fraser

Clearly, if there is to be experimentation, it cannot be to the benefit of that embryo. It is for the benefit of other embryos and other people. We cannot dodge that.

I can find no argument that sustains itself, other than the argument about life. The opponents of research are prepared to compromise on other matters and will tolerate destruction under certain circumstances.

I represent a multiracial constituency. Many people of Caribbean or African origin have sickle cell anaemia children. It is a genetic disease and it requires two people carrying the appropriate genes to produce a sickle cell anaemia child. Many such people would prefer to have the opportunity to choose whether to have a child that might die in crisis, often early in life. They might have a happier life if they could choose to avoid that happening. I think that there is great attraction in experiments that might prevent such problems. I mention that disease because it is the most prevalent in my constituency. I shall not cite the range of genetic diseases referred to by other hon. Members.

I have considered, and I appreciate, the uses to which experimentation can be put. I find one argument extraordinarily convincing. At Christmas I visited King's College hospital and talked to the parents of children born by in vitro fertilisation. I accept that the success rate is not high—about 13 per cent.—and we all wish that it were higher. Any form of legitimate research that could bring that about would have my support and, I believe, the support of most people.

Mr. Roger Stott (Wigan)

I was present at the birth of my son, Daniel, last Tuesday morning. Anyone who has been present at his child's birth will know the immense joy that it brings to mothers and fathers. I shall vote for the Bill tonight because I do not want to deny anyone the opportunity to experience the immense joy and pleasure that I experienced last Tuesday.

Mr. Fraser

I agree with my hon. Friend.

I met hundreds of parents at King's College hospital. Of course, the majority would not have had implantation because the failure rate is about 85 per cent. However, there was a sense of intense love, devotion and achievement among the parents. Those are the same sort of people who would have to give their consent to any experiment on an embryo. Some would not give that consent, and they would have every right to withhold it. They are the people who make the choice and who lay down the rules about what will happen to the spare embryos—whether they should simply be destroyed, waste away or perish, whatever word is used, or whether there should be experiments within the ambit of the Bill and under the control of a committee. I am prepared to back their judgment, knowing that nature, of its own accord, experiments and destroys. I am prepared to support the Bill because the decisions come not from scientific madmen who want to experiment for the sake of experimentation, but from people whose decisions are born out of love and compassion.

There is, of course, the first principles argument. I shall end with a quotation from another leading jurist, Chief Justice Warren Burger, who said that the sign of intelligence is the ability to doubt first principles. I am prepared to back both the intelligence and the compassion of those whom I met at King's College hospital.

Sir David Price (Eastleigh)

The hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser), and even more my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire), took me back to the old metaphysical question of animation or ensoulment that has taxed philosophers from the time of Aristotle. To put it more simply, when did I begin—or for that matter, Sir Paul, when did you begin? What we can agree is that I did not spring fully armed from the head of Zeus, like Pallas Athena, and nor did my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State.

The question, "When did I begin?" is not simply an interesting philosophical speculation. Certainly it was recognised by Lady Warnock and her colleagues. I wish to bring the Committee's attention to what was said in the Warnock report. I do not apologise for quoting from paragraph 11.11, which goes to the heart of the matter. It states: It is obvious that the central objection to the use of human embryos as research subjects is a fundamental objection, based on moral principles. Put simply, the main argument is that the use of human embryos for research is morally wrong because of the very fact that they are human, and much of the evidence submitted to us strongly supports this. The human embryo is seen as having the same status as a child or an adult, by virtue of its potential for human life. The right to life is held to be the fundamental human right, and the taking of human life on this view is always abhorrent. To take the life of the innocent is an especial moral outrage. The first consequence of this line of argument is that, since an embryo used as a research subject would have no prospect of fulfilling its potential for life, such research should not be permitted. In paragraph 11.12, the arguments are developed. The report states: Since it is unethical to carry out any research, harmful or otherwise, on humans without first obtaining their informed consent, it must be equally unacceptable to carry out research on a human embryo, which by its very nature, cannot give consent. That is the fundamental point and it takes us back to the basic question, "When did I begin?"

It is relevant to note that the Greek philosophers based their metaphysical speculations upon the known biology of the time. That was also true of scholastic thought in the middle ages. Indeed, Thomas Aquinas's biology was straight Aristotelian. There was little progress in biology during the intervening 1,600 years. I mention that to emphasise the point that good metaphysics and good science not only need not be in conflict, but should be in harmony. We must therefore consider what the biologists tell us about the origins of life. I shall again quote the Warnock report, and what appear to be the key words: At fertilisation the egg and sperm unite to become a single cell. The nucleus of this cell contains the chromosomes derived from both parents. This single cell is totipotential, as from it develop all the different types of tissue and organs that make up the human body, as well as tissues that become the placenta and foetal membranes during intra-uterine development. That is my answer to the hon. Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson) and her pre-embryos. There is a strong prima facie case in favour of the argument that human life begins at the point of fertilisation, and in that I agree my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison). The Warnock committee as a whole also viewed that argument with considerable sympathy, which is why it recommended that the embryo of the human species should be accorded some protection in law—which, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State fairly pointed out, it does not have at present. Nevertheless, for no very obvious biological on philosophical reason, Warnock rejected the now traditional view that human life begins at conception and settled instead for 14 or 15 days after fertilisation and the emergence of the so-called primitive streak.

The Warnock committee was obviously attracted by the research argument, declaring that the measure of respect given to the human embryo "cannot be absolute" and must be weighed against the benefits arising from research. It added that that argument rests in part on the doctrine known to philosophers as double effect—an act that would be wrong if chosen for its own sake may be justified if it occurs as the by-product of some other well-intentioned act. Against that doctrine of double effect, I remind the Committee of two other doctrines well known not only to philosophers but to the ordinary man—including that famous gentleman on the top of a Clapham omnibus. They are: the ends do not justify the means; and the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

My right hon. and learned Friend dwelt mainly on the research arguments, but if the basic argument of origin is correct, the research arguments fall away and need not be examined. I could detain the Committee a considerable time in doing so, but in the interests of other right hon. and hon. Members, I shall not. However, there is an argument to the effect that, at the earliest stage of development, the embryo is only a minute group of living cells, smaller than a full stop in Hansard—so what is all the fuss about?

That argument implies that the early embryo is not a human being, and reminds me of the Victorian maid's classic defence of her pregnancy. Right hon. and hon. Members may recall the famous Punch cartoon, in which a pregnant maid defends herself before her stern mistress with the immortal words, Well, Ma'am—it's only a little one, isn't it? That argument does not convince me for one moment, for the simple reason given in the Warnock report—that at the moment of fertilisation, the egg and sperm unite to become a single cell, and that that single cell is "totipotential."

In layman's terms, at the moment of fertilisation the single cell has the complete genetic DIY kit to develop into a healthy human being. Therefore, I find it extremely difficult to accept the Warnock report's majority recommendation that the primitive streak about 15 days after fertilisation marks the beginning of individual identity in the embryo's development. I am driven to the inescapable conclusion that human personality begins at conception and that we must proceed on that basis. In common with the author of the Warnock committee's minority report, I urge right hon. and hon. Members to give that view the benefit of any lingering doubts that they may entertain.

However, I put it to the Committee—and particularly to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State, as a lawyer—that for the purposes of the law, conception could be defined as occurring at the moment of implantation rather than at fertilisation. My reason for offering the Committee that definition at this stage is not metaphysical or historical—although I could deploy arguments on both grounds—but entirely practical.

To my knowledge, there is no simple, non-intrusive method of knowing whether fertilisation has occurred. One must wait until the process of implantation takes place at about the sixth or seventh day before the normal pregnancy test is effective. That process can be simply described. When the fertilised egg becomes implanted in the uterus, the tissue round the chorion produces a certain hormone, which passes into the mother's bloodstream and is excreted in her urine, where it can be detected. That is the basis of normal pregnancy testing. It is simple and non-obtrusive.

I understand that no such test is available at the stage of ova fertilisation. For that reason, I submit that we should consider conception as having taken place at the point of implantation rather than at fertilisation. I have tabled amendments to clause 1 to achieve that purpose. It would not be in order for me to develop the arguments in favour of them this evening, but I believe that it is proper to refer to them.

The amendments would have the effect of stopping all embryo research after conception. Therefore, it is appropriate to know how conception is to be defined in law. If the amendments fall, obviously the distinction between fertilisation and implantation would be irrelevant. If they succeed, the point that I seek to establish becomes highly relevant. I offer it for the Committee's consideration when determining whether to accept or reject the amendments relating to embryo research.

7.15 pm
Mr. Daffydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in the debate. My mind goes back five years, to the time when Enoch Powell introduced his Unborn Children (Protection) Bill, which was accompanied by a period of considerable trauma for my family. Right hon. and hon. Members will know that we lost two boys in late 1984 and early 1985. The hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Stott) spoke of the joy of being present for the birth of his own child last week. I had the honour of being present at the birth of our second boy, but I was also present at his death and that of our eldest boy. Therefore, the debate has considerable meaning for my wife and myself. I believe that our feelings are shared by countless thousands of people who have faced the problems of genetic abnormalities and of dealing with the likelihood of bringing into the world a child who in some cases may not only be handicapped but appallingly handicapped, self-mutilating, or in immense pain, and doomed to an early death.

Mothers who have endured that experience once may find that they cannot face doing so a second time. Unless such mothers can be assured of being assisted to give birth to a non-handicapped child, they may rather not have another child at all. Some may proceed on a hit-or-miss basis, hoping against hope that the handicap concerned will not manifest itself in their second or third child.

Science offers a chance of helping such families. We have heard in the past few days of breakthroughs at Hammersmith hospital and of the work of Professor Winston and others. There is the amazing possibility that it could be feasible at an early stage in pregnancy to detect whether embryos are abnormal, and we must ensure that families wanting to take advantage of those new techniques are able to do so, and are allowed to make the choice of avoiding the risk of perpetuating a handicap into the next generation.

No one is forcing those families to take that course. Anyone who objects to such techniques on conscientious or other grounds is entitled to avoid them. The question is whether Parliament has a right to tell people who could benefit from embryo research, "No, you cannot benefit from it. You must live with the problems that exist within your family."

What is true of genetic handicaps is true also of those who are infertile. I cannot imagine any greater frustration than that which affects one couple in eight in this country—the problem of infertility, and of trying again and again to start a family but being unable to do so. The past 10 or 15 years have seen magnificent breakthroughs, which have enabled 4,000 children to be born as a consequence of IVF research. If no further embryo research is allowed, the knowledge that we already have would perpetuate, and many families would still benefit from it. However, the level of success in IVF is still regrettably low at only 13 per cent.

Countless thousands of people are still not enjoying the benefits of research, and if the kind of restriction being debated tonight had been on the statute book 20 years ago, it would not have been possible for the 4,000 children of whom I spoke to enter the world. Therefore, if we stop research now we are stopping hope for many infertile couples.

I accept that there are many methods of research other than destructive embryo research, which is the main issue that we are discussing. I also accept that those other avenues must be explored. Every stone must be turned to seek a solution. When people such as Professor Edwards at Bourne hall, who has done such sterling work to develop those techniques, tell us that they cannot continue to improve the techniques without the ability to undertake such research, I accept it.

When Professor Winston from Hammersmith hospital tells us that without the right to do embryo research he would not have been able to achieve the successes that he announced last week, I believe what he says. Those medical scientists talk with total integrity and honesty. In humility, we should ask ourselves whether we should be challenging them in this way.

Mr. Ken Hargreaves (Hyndburn)

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that Professor Edwards does not want to stop at 14 days?

Mr. Wigley

The Bill draws the line at 14 days, on the basis of the research undertaken by the Warnock commission, and its report.

We have heard some very good speeches tonight, for example, from the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) and from the right hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Alison), although I think they will be taking opposing views to me into the Lobby tonight. However, I respect their view absolutely, because the basic question is when we perceive that human life begins. The merits of research are a secondary question. If we believe, as some hon. Members do, that the pre-embryo should have full human status, it leads to all sorts of consequences. Many hon. Members do not believe that that is the case.

When the Father of the House spoke a few moments ago about a doctor killing his patient, some of us felt considerable offence that such an accusation—that some hon. Members are in support of murder—should have been made. We consider that the sperm and the egg coming together are only two of three prerequisites for on-going human life. The sperm is human material and so is the egg, and when they come together they have human potential. I acknowledge that potential for human life, but it can be fulfilled only when implantation takes place at between seven and 14 days. It is complete at the 14th day and that is where the line is drawn in the Bill and in the recommendations of Warnock. It is at that stage that the primitive streak appears.

Before the 14th day, the embryo may split to form twins. Therefore, individuality—which means the same as indivisibility—cannot be established before 14 days because of the possibility of splitting. Also the nervous system has not developed by the 14th day. Only from 14 days onwards can we say with some assurance that we may have a single human being developing into a born child. For that reason the line is being drawn at 14 days.

As we have recently heard, there can be tremendous benefits from the research, in overcoming genetic handicaps and infertility. If we decide to abandon that research, we are closing the door on the hopes of countless thousands of infertile couples and families who face the burden of genetic abnormality.

Every hon. Member, when considering how he or she will vote, must think not only of their own consciences but of the impact of the Bill on constituents who have enormous burdens to carry and who have to live with enormous frustration. I hope to goodness that we follow the course taken in another place a few weeks ago, and that we allow research to continue.

Mrs. Currie

It is now 20 years since this type of research started, 12 years since the first IVF baby and eight years since the Department of Health first asked the Warnock committee to sit. In that time there has probably been the most thorough discussion of any issue that I can recall and it has been extremely valuable.

As a result of such discussion, many issues have been clarified by the passage of time. We now know that it is possible to produce healthy babies by IVF. Around the world there are now thousands of such babies. We cannot unwish them and say that they should not exist. We now have no doubt that if research continues techniques will develop to improve the success rate of IVF. We also know that it is possible to police effectively such research and the establishments where it takes place. That policing has been effective on a voluntary basis. How much better it will be if policing and supervision are carried out on a statutory basis. We now know that it is possible to identify the genes carrying genetic diseases and more of those genes are identified every year. That opens up the spectre of genetic manipulation at some time in the future.

We know, as their Lordships in the debate on 7 December did not, that embryonic biopsy is possible and that the sex of an embryo can be determined three days after conception, so that those families with sex-linked congenital diseases can look forward to bearing a healthy child and some such families in this country are already looking forward to that.

In the chapter in the Warnock report about possible future developments, those developments were still way in the future. However, they are no longer speculation or science fiction and we must legislate.

I have always held the view that we should encourage medical research which can benefit mankind, particularly that which can improve our health and the health of our children.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill, (Mrs. Fyfe), who has now left the Chamber, mentioned that many medical advances were originally regarded as unethical—for example, painkillers in childbirth. Debates in the House about whether it was ethical to permit women to avoid Adam's curse and to have their children without pain were symptomatic of that. Many of us feel very thankful that Queen Victoria said, "Rubbish," and clung to the chloroform.

Similarly, that was the case with many debates about contraception. Although many people still have strong feelings on that subject, millions of men and women in this country have taken advantage of scientific advances in contraception and will continue to do so.

Organ transplants are another example. Hon. Members should look at the debates about corneal transplants that took place in the House in the 1950s, and whether they were ethical and part of the will of God. We can see how attitudes have changed. Research on embryos is not dissimilar and the day will come when for most of us it will not be a controversial subject, and its achievements will be taken for granted.

Hon. Members on both sides, from all sorts of political and religious backgrounds, have said that they are opposed not to research but to destructive research. That is like saying that the tree is welcome but the seed is not. How does one justify the thousands of failed experiments that eventually lead to success? How can we prevent and make illegal the thousands more failures to come, which will improve the chances of success? If we accept the successful technique and reject the failure in which the embryo perishes, how can we tell in advance which technique it will be? Science has always been a hit and miss affair. It cannot guarantee success in advance.

The argument that people are not opposed to research, only to destructive research, stems from the belief that the embryo is an unborn child. I do not share that belief. The intellectually consistent position for those who hold such a belief is to vote against research.

I shall try not to cross swords on the ethical and religious issues. People have to make up their own minds as to whether the conceptus—the blob of cells some of which will become membrane, some placenta to be discarded, some brain, hand or eye—is merely a blob of cells or a human child ab initio, with rights and privileges to be protected. For me it is a blob of cells.

As the Royal Society says, it is not a question of size. What is at issue is the degree of cellular organisation of the conceptus. It follows that research on it up to 14 days, as laid down in the legislation and suggested by Warnock, is not an ethical but a practical matter.

I would much rather that research be done in this country under the National Health Service, where it can be controlled and where its benefits are available to people from every kind of financial background, than for it to begin elsewhere, as it no doubt will, and to be carried out by less scrupulous people. Indeed, the one research project that was declined by the interim licensing authority is now being carried out abroad in a country where there is no control, and there are many such countries.

We should also remember the point made by Baroness Warnock in the debate in the other place on 7 December. She explained that the pre-14 day embryo—whatever one calls it—actually has no rights at present. Those who vote in favour of research tonight want to create some rights and protection. We are not in a position in which the embryo has full protection which some wicked people want to erode. The embryo has no protection at all in this country. The Bill seeks to create some protection for the embryo and that is particularly true of the research clause.

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If we accept, as I do, that we are dealing with a blob of cells, that is not the end of the ethical issues. Rather, I believe that that is where the ethical issues start. At that point we must consider the purpose of the research and what might be possible as a result of it. We can help women who are infertile and want to bear a healthy child. That is marvellous, and research in that context has an ethical purpose. Women might be relieved of the misery of miscarriage as a result of research. I have been through a miscarriage and I tell the House that that is a terrible experience. I cannot begin to imagine the misery experienced by women who have to endure miscarriages over and over again. Trying to assist those families is also an ethical purpose.

Families carrying the gene of handicap may have the chance of healthy children as a result of research. How can we deny them that chance? Would it not be a good thing if the haemophilia gene was to vanish and if muscular dystrophy became a thing of the past? Those are ethical issues as well. We do not devalue handicapped people when we say that we want to see an end to handicap. We are not concerned with some kind of search-and-destroy mission.

Of course, most handicapped people would rather have been born than not. That is really the issue for tomorrow's debate. However, my guess is that most of them would rather have been born without their handicap, and that is the central issue for today's debate. Most parents carrying defective genes would rather not pass on defects to the next generation.

I am not just speaking here of the most obvious diseases or the tragic diseases that have been described so graphically and in such moving terms tonight. I know that I speak for thousands of asthmatics when I say that if and when it is possible to avoid passing on our asthma to our children—we must remember that asthma is a killer disease for many children—we will all give thanks to God and to those who carry out research which may some day make that possible.

Mr. Burt

With regard to the genetic disorders that my hon. Friend has just mentioned and that she hopes will not recur in future, will she admit that embryo research, as such, will have nothing to do with the cure of those diseases? Research may prevent people from being born with those diseases, but it will do nothing to cure those diseases and that has been accepted by those who support embryo research.

Mrs. Currie

I have two responses for my hon. Friend. First, until we carry out the research, we do not know. Secondly, there is a distinction between prevention and cure. Research certainly offers increasingly, day by day, the possibility of prevention. The same ethical issues are raised and I am very worried about genetic manipulation. However, there is no doubt that the research that we take for granted today—that is, that we can produce healthy children in a test tube—was regarded as science fiction 20 years ago. The research to which my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North (Mr. Burt) refers, which seems science fiction today, will appear run of the mill to our grandchildren.

Mr. Couchman

Does my hon. Friend agree that the causes of some diseases are so mysterious at the moment that we cannot hope to know whether they are genetic? If research is banned as a result of our voting tonight, that may close down the avenue of research into those diseases, the effect of which can be just as terrible as some of those that have already been mentioned.

Mrs. Currie

My hon. Friend has a great point. I am hesitant about fishing expeditions. I believe that research must be clearly thought out and have a clear purpose. It must be clearly demonstrated to the statutory licensing authority that the techniques to be used have some chance of success. That is what will happen if we vote for research tonight.

However, I am as worried as other hon. Members about the ends to which research might be put. All research that leads to good ends could in the wrong hands be turned to evil. That is why I want research in this country. That is why I want to vote for strict controls and for the statutory licensing authority. That is why I regard the research as different. The law must be involved because the research is too important to be left to the doctors. I hope that the controls set out in the Bill will be accepted.

If we accept that good can result from research, we should accept the methods that produce the good results. If we will the ends, we must will the means. However few might be the occasions when the end justifies the means, there are no occasions when we can hope and pray for the ends and not vote for the means. We cannot undo the knowledge that we already have. We have heard biblical metaphors all evening. I will offer one more. We cannot act as if the children about whom we are concerned do not exist. We have eaten of the tree of knowledge and been given free will to decide how to use it. We cannot push Adam and Eve back into the Garden of Eden and tell them, "Don't touch."

I am certain that the research is based on the highest ethical principles. I cannot vote to make those researchers criminals. I cannot vote to put an end to that work. For me, that would be wrong. I can vote to ensure that the research is tightly supervised and put to the highest purposes—that is, the improved health of the people of this country and of the world. That is how I shall vote tonight.

Mrs. Rosie Barnes (Greenwich)

It has finally been established in the Chamber, and I hope among the public, that we are talking about experimentation on a minute cluster of identical cells that are totally undifferentiated—one is exactly the same as another. As they reproduce, they do so in identical forms. Some of them will form the embryo, some the membrane and some the placenta.

Some hon. Members may have seen a placenta. It is certainly human tissue and it is certainly very useful. However, there would be considerable debate as to whether it had a human soul. It is not until after the 14-day period that any differentiation of the cells occurs. There is no brain, nervous system or recognisable organ before then. We are talking about human tissue—not, in my opinion, a human being.

I want to reiterate a point that has been mentioned during this debate. One of the commonly used methods of contraception in this country—the coil—causes the demise of embryos at 14 days, and beyond, each month during the woman's menstrual cycle. The coil prevents an embryo from being implanted in the wall of the uterus and developing into a foetus. That is already legal and common practice in this country. We should keep that firmly in perspective when we vote tonight. The potential for a human being lies within the cell to which I have referred. It is as though the computer programme exists, but it has not yet been triggered.

The significance of 14 days has been discussed at some length and some people are suspicious as to whether 14 days is just one of many slippery slopes. I agree that at that stage the embryo is no less alive or potentially human than it would be at 13 days or 15 days. By definition, it has been agreed that the process of fertilisation and the evolving of a human being is a gradual and continual process.

I shall quote the Archbishop of York, who spoke in the other place, because he reminds us of what many people with strong Christian beliefs feel about the issue. Referring to the development of an embryo, he said: The same is true in the development of individual lives. They begin with chemistry and they reach their fulfilment in mystery. There is no doubt about the depth, wonder, moral worth and religious significance of personhood, but the transitions on the way to it are not clean, clear and decisive, despite the tremendous significance attached by some people to the moment of fertilisation. Biologically speaking we are looking at a continuous process. … The philosophical mistake in the belief that full and instantaneous human rights are somehow created in the moment of conception lies in the surreptitious assumption that in those very early stages of embryonic life there is some real personal entity to which our moral language can apply."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 7 December 1989; Vol. 513, c. 1020–1021.] That must be reiterated in light of the debate, because much of it has focused on that crucial moment when life as we recognise it begins. It is when, perhaps, the soul enters the human body, to put it in the most easily understandable way.

If we accept that it is a continual, gradual process, we must accept that there is some arbitrary element in the decision on when research should be allowed and what the cut-off point should be. In the Glover report, the endorsement of the 14 days is made absolutely clear. It is a sensible cut-off point before any organs develop and before the primitive streak begins to develop. It is interesting that that has just been accepted in Spain and approved by King Juan Carlos. Spain is a Catholic country and it has not been unable to resolve the religious dilemma in tackling this difficult problem.

I should like to refute several points made by the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), the Father of the House. Those who are involved in the work would accept that IVF treatment is not a panacea for all evils. They do not claim that it is the be-all and end-all in solving infertility and genetic disease and making many other contributions to the medical world. They accept that it is a slowly developing and growing discipline that will make some valuable contributions. In 1990, it is unfair to draw attention to the words of Professor Winston in 1982 without reminding the House of the dramatic developments in the intervening eight years. Things that were unheard of and would not have been accepted as available in the foreseeable future in 1982 were dismissed. We have seen dramatic changes since then. Only last week we heard for the first time that some women were pregnant, having been able to have their embryos sexed to make sure that they were not carrying a child with an inherent genetic disease that affects only one sex.

Again we have heard the questions, "Is that a cure? Is that prevention?" Of course it is prevention. To date, there has been no method by which an embryo can be unloaded of a genetic disease and continue to fruition. Do we say that research to date is not valid and does not have a place in our society? Some women have seen their brothers, nephews and uncles die of dreadful diseases that affect only the males in their families. They may have a child already afflicted by the same disease, or they may have had a late abortion, having discovered at 19 or 20 weeks that they were carrying a boy chid. Should we condemn those women to childlessness?

Are we not doing them a great disservice by saying, "You are not allowed to make the choice to have a girl child and not to risk carrying this dreadful disease further"?

There have been many references to research in Australia, but, when looking at the merits of research and what is happening elsewhere in the world, we must constantly remind ourselves that it would not be happening at all were it not for the research that has taken place here. Without research we would not have reached the present stage. Research has a variety of functions. The three main functions are treatment of infertility, an attempt to tackle genetic diseases, and progress in the development of contraception. Of course no one is happy with the current rate of success. A 10 per cent. to 15 per cent. success rate in the treatment of infertile couples is not nearly high enough. In our constant quest for a cure for cancer, have we said that, because we have made progress slowly and because in certain years we seemed to reach a plateau, we should give up? I am afraid research is not like that.

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We may go forward slowly and painstakingly and seem to get nowhere fast for many years and then there may be a breakthrough. No one can guarantee when a breakthrough will occur, but without continuing research we are committed to the status quo. For many of those who suffer the problems that have been described the status quo is just not good enough.

Women such as myself who have had children fairly easily find it difficult to comprehend the misery of childlessness. However, if one talks to someone who has been trying to have a child for 10 years or more and who watches her sisters and even her nieces and friends producing children and who feels inadequate and unfulfilled and less than a woman, one begins to understand the pain and misery. We must continue to recognise and tackle the problem.

Hon. Members recognise that breakthroughs in genetic disease are in their early stages. There may be far more. I would be the first to admit that many parents who do not know that they are carriers of a genetic disease will not have received treatment. However, others know that they are carrying a disease, but they are often only a small percentage of the population for whom that benefit may be appropriate. Are we to deny people possible help with their dreadful dilemma?

What choice do they have at present? They have the choice not to have children, but childlessness is miserable. They can choose a late abortion. Again, that is a miserable experience. Of course, they can give birth to an affected child. Nobody is saying that they must have treatment. There is no compulsion to participate in the scheme and avail oneself of the new techniques. For those whose religious beliefs strongly dictate that they must have the child who is to be born to them no matter what, their right will be absolutely protected. For many people, a pre-implantation diagnosis must be far better.

We should not turn our backs on research and say to childless couples, "We cannot help you further." We need research not only for IVF, but to understand the causes of miscarriage, which means that many women will not have to go as far as IVF. A better understanding of miscarriage will be the tool to help in their dilemma.

Are we to say to those who risk genetic disease, late abortion, and miscarriage time after time, "Sorry, there is something that could be done to help you but, for reasons of ethics and of conscience, we have said that it cannot go further"? They will say, "We have our conscience and our ethics, and we also have our misery to bear, and we would like progress." We are debating not whether research is to be allowed to take place, but whether it should be properly controlled to benefit humankind and to bring joy rather than to add to human misery.

I shall make one personal point, as I am one of the few people in the Chamber who has had an amniocentesis test when I had a child at the age of 39. In an earlier pregnancy, I had rubella at an early stage and waited from week 13 to week 20 for the medical profession to agree that that was what I had had at 13 weeks. I knew that I was not prone to hysterical rashes. I also knew that I had been in contact with a child who had rubella, so I knew that that was what I had. However, for perfectly laudable reasons, it took a further seven weeks for the results of the blood test to be made available to my consultant, who then agreed that I had had rubella at 13 weeks' pregnancy. I had spent seven weeks knowing that the child was growing, becoming more obviously pregnant and feeling it move. I was then given 24 hours to decide whether I wanted a termination. I shall never forget those 24 hours in my life.

I went ahead with the pregnancy and my son, who is now nearly 17, although he is partially hearing, has been a great joy to us. I see some merit in the argument that that made it all right, but I must stress to those who have never had the experience that that seven-week period was a miserable time and that the decision whether to go ahead with the pregnancy, knowing that I might have had a severely disabled child or whether to abort a child who was quite well and would have a reasonable hope of happiness and fulfilment, was a dreadful one, and I would not wish it on anyone. It would be a great step forward for humanity for anyone to be able to make that decision in advance of having a child growing in their womb, and we should not turn our back on that option.

Although I do not have strong religious convictions, I have not turned my back on the religious argument which I know is strongly felt by many people. At one of the briefing meetings that I attended I heard about an interesting book by a Roman Catholic doctor who had reached the conclusion that embryo research was in the best interests of her patients. Her name is Dr. Joyce Poole and her book is called "The Cross of Unknowing". She has worked for many years with people wishing to have abortions and people with infertility problems, knowing that embryo research was one route out of their dilemma. She worked as a Catholic doctor, knowing that her Church was preaching something quite different from what she was beginning to feel was the right way forward.

Dr. Poole draws attention to some interesting moral and religious dilemmas. She says that when a woman has a late miscarriage when a foetus is born dead, that foetus has no special rights. It is not baptised; it is discarded along with normal hospital waste. We are trying to give rights to an embryo of up to 14 days which do not exist later in that process. She also says that we accept the test of brain death. When the cells in the brain stop functioning in a person who is severely ill or has been severely injured, that is accepted as death and the life-support machine can be switched off. We are giving a totally different set of rights to something that does not have a brain or any brain cells at that stage in its existence. I am not under-estimating its potential or denigrating an embryo of up to 14 days; I am simply putting the matter in perspective.

Dr. Poole says that, without the embryo research that has taken place to date, there would not have been so many live births, but she recognises that it is necessary to use ovulatory drugs, as without them there would be a far poorer chance of success and there would have to be repeated operations for obtaining eggs, with problems of time, risk and cost. As a result of using such drugs, spare embryos are created. If one accepts that principle, and the fact that there will be spare embryos, there is a variety of options. One can force the women whose embryos they are to have them re-implanted with the result of multiple pregnancies or innumerable births, or one can freeze the embryos. One can allow them to perish naturally or one can use them for two or three days—up to 14 days—for invaluable research which will help women such as those who donate their spare eggs for such work.

It is interesting to note that most of the embryos used for experimentation are given freely. I have met women who have given their eggs. Even women who have failed to establish a pregnancy have said, "It has not worked for me, but I have some spare embryos and I hope that they will help somebody else." Dr. Joyce Poole comments: There is an authority too residing in those of us who have a lifetime of listening in close and frank contact to the problems of ordinary people. That is what made her reconsider.

I do not believe that there is any relationship between what we are discussing tonight and people who have already been born handicapped. There is no attempt to undervalue or to denigrate them. Once a person has been born with a handicap or problem, that person is entitled to the maximum that our society can do for them. That is not to say that their parents—as they would never have the decision—would not rather that they had not been born but, had they known how they would be born, another child not carrying that disease may have been born instead.

It has been argued that we would be on a slippery slope. I have said that I do not think that 14 days is absolutely cast in stone, but the House should commit itself to a 14-day limit as there must be a benchmark, strong regulations and proper controls. There is general agreement that 14 days is an acceptable period for achieving medical results and pre-empting the development of an embryo into a human being.

Research will continue here or abroad. We should allow it to continue here legally, safely and properly regulated. The research offers hope for current and future generations and it offers choice that people will not continue to have if we turn our backs on them. To deny that research would be short-sighted and irresponsible in the extreme.

Sir Trevor Skeet (Bedfordshire, North)

In an extremely interesting speech, the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mrs. Barnes) accepted the 14-day limit, but that is not a bulwark which will hold. I have looked carefully at British society in the past 20 to 30 years. I have noticed changes in policy on divorce and abortion and the elimination of 1 million children. I have also examined the recent case of the three Turks who unfortunately had their kidneys removed without their consent, and I am concerned about society's respect for the dignity of human life. I believe that, at conception, the DNA is in place. That is the code of life, and from that moment on it is due respect.

It would be incongruous for the legislature to give total protection to the human embryo after 14 days but permit abortion within 28 weeks of conception. It is ironic that society has been so sensitive about hanging murderers but so complacent about destroying unborn babies. Those developing the so-called contraceptive vaccine to limit population growth, calculate to use the embryo to test the efficacy of its destructive process. All these are telling points.

It is all very well the Secretary of State alleging that he will keep to 14 days. We know that 14 days will be breached at the first opportunity, as soon as it can be established that there is more material gain to be secured thereafter. Fourteen days is not immutable. At the time of the Warnock report, scientists talked about 14 to 28 days. Lejeune observed that one cannot yield solutions to the problem of genetic disease because prior to 14 days no organs or tissues exist.

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Professor Williamson said that organogenisis occurs between 14 and 28 days. That is the time at which experiments will be prohibited by the Bill. In November 1989, the Royal Society was talking about up to 28 days. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists talked about 17 days in 1983. Professor Bob Edwards—now a great personality in history—talked about 30 days.

I am disturbed that the tendency to back-tread could be extremely dangerous. During the debate, many hon. Members have talked about research. They have given it two connotations. No one objects to general research for the relief of pain and suffering, whatever it may be. We simply argue that, where research would involve the destruction of a human embryo, the embryo must be safeguarded. Conservative Members—or at least a few of us-believe that the onus of proof is on those who want to establish the change and allow research on embryos.

The Progress report says on page 6: No one would dispute the claim that 95 per cent. or more of research required can and should be done without the use of human embryos". In 1989, the professor of genetics at the Mayo clinic in the United States, Professor Hymie Gordon, said: Everything we need to learn can be learnt by studying genetic diseases in non-human primates and animals … no one has ever been able to tell me as a scientist what particular step in scientific knowledge is going to be achieved by an experiment on a human embryo that could not have been done in an animal embryo. Hon. Members will appreciate that the use of animals is growing more expensive every year. The expense of the upkeep of monkeys is becoming prohibitive. In contrast, the human embryo is readily accessible and relatively inexpensive. Might that not be one of the reasons why people are going ahead with such experiments?

We have been told that many major breakthroughs and genetic advances have been achieved without research on human embryos. We had two examples from the Secretary of State today—the discovery of the gene that causes cystic fibrosis and that which causes Duchenne muscular dystrophy. We have also been told today about the splendid work of Professor Robert Winston on a successful implant following sex identification. But no one said that the same results could have been achieved without experimenting on the human embryo, by sampling the polar body of the ovum before conception. The Secretary of State did not mention that. Sex can be determined either within three days, at a later stage when there can be an abortion or prior to fertilisation of the egg. If sex can be determined before fertilisation, is it not better for society to tread that path? It should learn to treat and cure, not to destroy life.

Ms. Harriet Harman (Peckham)

How would it be possible to know whether the fertilised embryo was safe and free from abnormality if there had not been research? Would it not be irresponsible to remove the polar body and then reimplant it without having done thorough research to make sure that an abnormal embryo was not being reimplanted in the woman on an experimental basis?

Sir Trevor Skeet

The hon. Lady will appreciate that, prior to conception, an egg came from the woman and semen came from the man. Because shortly there will be a germ of life, that can be analysed and assessed in precisely the same way as could be done three days later. If it can be done earlier, there is no interference or destruction of the embryo. That point was overlooked, and I suggest that it should be considered by this Committee.

Hon. Members on this side of the Chamber and on Opposition Benches all support the general research which is now available. Let us consider what that general research will give without experimentation on human embryos. Vitamin supplementation may suffice to protect the embryo from spina bifida. The extraction of cells from people suffering from cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy, Huntington's disease and retino blastoma will lead to greater understanding of all those diseases and the genetic factors responsible for them. Bone marrow transplants may be used to treat genetic blood diseases. Drugs can be used to modify the metabolism in Down's syndrome. Gene therapy can be used for cystic fibrosis to expand the span of life from 20 to 40 years and also to treat muscular dystrophy and cancer immune deficiency. I have also mentioned the introduction of a normal gene to replace a defective one during foetal life, and careful analysis of the female egg before fertilisation.

All those advances were achieved without the necessity of destroying the human embryo. It is right that we are asking the House to make a decision tonight. The Government have given sufficient time for the matter to be reviewed.

We must take the fact into account that there is a clear attitude to such research in Europe. The West German Max Plank institute does not support research using human embryos, and the current legislation in that country does not allow it. In France, there is no consensus on the Bill. In Norway, experimentation is prohibited, and in Denmark, there is a moratorium. The Council of Europe has stated that research on human embryos should be banned. Spain is the only country that permits it.

We must also remember—it has already been mentioned tonight—that on the Warnock committee there were seven dissenting votes in a committee of 16.

I do not wish to take too much time, but I have several further observations to make. Research using embryos has never been concerned with the treatment of genetic diseases of chromosomal abnormalities. It will not help the present generation of sufferers from cystic fibrosis or muscular dystrophy. The authorisation of the destruction of embryos will not eliminate genetic disease. Embryo research is not used as a general method of screening for genetic diseases, because in many cases it is impossible to discover the mother at risk. It is only discoverable when there has been a history of disease in the family, or perhaps when a previous child has a problem.

It will take more than 1,000 years to halve the gene frequency in the population for cystic fibrosis and 760 years for sickle cell anaemia. The problem must be viewed in perspective. Embryo research relevant to a tiny percentage of couples who are known to be at risk is important, and therefore must be considered. The figure works out at about 1.8 per cent. of full-term births, of which only 15 per cent. are due to single defective gene cells which can be identified in the embryo.

There are many ways to the top of the hill, and research on all fronts must be advanced for the relief of infertile people. We all agree with that, but must we pay no regard to human dignity? Must we bring the country to moral bunkruptcy? That could occur if we ignore the important issues of life.

I recognise the importance of IVF and the fact that much has been done, but it can cause chromosomal abnormalities. The removal of one defect can cause another, which can lead to later abortions. For example, the incidence of spina bifida is five times greater than normal in such cases, and the incidence of congenital heart disease is six times greater. I am fully in favour of IVF, because it is a way ahead. General research can help. Concentrated effort could come. I should like to know from the Minister how many abortions have resulted following IVF. I tried to find the figures, but was told that they were not available because they are not collected. I had a word with several distinguished doctors, who tell me that the numbers are considerable.

IVF schedules are physically and emotionally disturbing. A super-ovulation should not be encouraged, because it causes the lining of the womb to be unreceptive and produces eggs of low quality. In many cases of singletons, a caesarian delivery is as high as 41 per cent.

I have never been one to suggest that we must reconsider the matter. I am worried about the moral issues involved. Scientists must bow to the moral wishes of the nation. Otherwise, they will speed ahead towards moral bankruptcy, which we wish to avoid. It is easy to concede 14 days in a Bill and to believe that thereafter the embryo will be protected by the majesty of the law, but what happens when the period is extended to 28 days or longer? What happens tomorrow night, when we find that we have lost more than 1 million children who could have been born and adopted? I would be out of order if I went further on that point, but we should be careful before we make a move. Would not a moratorium be appropriate on this occasion?

8.15 pm
Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North)

I will not detain the House long. I must start with an admission and an apology. I have listened to most of the debate, being absent for only a brief time, and it seems that I am the only Member who has come to listen to the debate not knowing where he stands. Like all hon. Members, for months I have been receiving many representations from different schools of thought and shades of opinion. I have been unable to crystallise my thoughts to a definitive position. I am the first Member to speak who has had to admit that degree of doubt.

I have both read and listened carefully. My confusion has arisen not because of people's claims about their own beliefs but because of their claims about the beliefs of those who oppose their beliefs—the claims that pro-lifers have been making about pro-researchers and vice versa.

The confusion caused by the pro-lifers is the most obfuscating. Tonight hon. Members have made claims which, when checked against the Bill, are deliberately misleading. That undermines any validity of their other claims. This evening, it has been said that the research announced only four days ago would be permitted if the amendment were accepted. Schedule 2(3) makes it clear in black and white how voting for the amendment would effectively prohibit the issue of licences to carry out research for the treatment of infertility for increasing knowledge on the causes of congenital disease, for increasing knowledge about the causes of miscarriages, for developing more effective techniques of contraception or for developing methods for protecting gene or chromosomal abnormalities in embryos before implementation. That last one would effectively debar the type of work done by Dr. Winston. Yet tonight, we have heard it claimed that the amendment would not adversely affect the work.

That is not the only misleading claim that we have heard tonight. I am not saying that those misleading statements were made deliberately. The matter is complex and sophisticated. It can easily be misunderstood by those who are not staying wide awake, keeping their minds clear and thinking carefully. I am sorry for anybody who has not listened to the debate and who must vote at 11 pm, because the decision is not as easy as it may seem.

I want to attract the Minister's attention to one particular issue on which I need clarification. Among all the confusing statements, one particularly important claim has been made by the pro-lifers. I apologise to the House for using such shorthand terms, but I cannot think of a phrase that would be more readily understood. It has been argued that the fault lies not in using excess numbers of conceptuses—pre-embryos—that have been used for the purpose of infertility treatment, but could possibly lie in ensuring that an excess number of pre-embryos were created in order to create the very excess on which to undertake research.

If the Minister was able to give an assurance, to me alone if not to everyone, that the monitoring body and regulations would ensure that the quantity of conceptuses created for infertility treatment was strictly regulated and that therefore excessive numbers would not be created, that would remove a major area of concern before my decision about which Lobby to enter.

We have talked for about four hours, and I shall continue to listen intently to the debate until 11 o'clock. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Atterliffe (Mr. Duffy) said that, on Second Reading, those against research got the better of the argument, but I believe that that depends on the position one adopts when considering the problem. I have been in constant doubt about this matter; I have assiduously tried to reach a conclusion in my heart and mind, and I see the debate in a different light from my hon. Friend.

I am still undecided, but, on the balance of the debate that I have heard tonight, I shall be voting to leave the Bill unamended—unless, of course, I hear a declaration from those advocating the other side of the argument that is somewhat less emotional and a good deal more clinical than they have been today.

Sir Michael McNair-Wilson (Newbury)

I hope that it will not sound discourteous of me if I say that those who seek to explain that embryos are less than human beings seem to be trying to find ways in which to assuage their conscience so as to enable them to support the research that has been conducted in past years.

One may ask, of course, if one allows tens of thousands of foetuses to be aborted every year, many of which are normal, why should we concern ourselves with the fate of embryos up to 14 days? Surely the answer is that we are talking about the sanctity of life. Whether we choose to play with words about embryos, pre-embryos, foetuses or whatever, every one of us started our lives as an embryo. We should not therefore imagine that what we are talking about is something different from ourselves.

Life used to be considered sacred—all life, at any age—but now I believe that we are willing to consider life as sacred only after birth. If that is so, on what morality do we base that judgment? Clause 11, in common with the rest of the Bill, is an attempt to write the ethics of medicine by legislation now that the medical profession has given up its own code of ethics embodied in the Hippocratic oath that all doctors used to swear. It is important to remind the House of the words a doctor swore: The regimen I adopt shall be for the benefit of my patients according to my ability and judgment and not for their hurt or for any wrong. I will give no deadly drug to any though it may be asked of me nor will I counsel such and especially I will not aid a woman to procure an abortion. That oath and the ethics it enshrined lasted the medical profession from the fourth century BC to the second half of this century—more than 2,000 years—and it spanned the pre-Christian and the present Christian age. Now, without it, I believe that the medical profession lives in a world of ad hoc ethics; hence the charge that doctors and scientists play God and intend to play God unless the House chooses to put some limits on the actions that they may be about to take. The Bill and clause 11 do nothing to answer that charge.

We, as mere laymen, are being asked by the ancient and honourable profession of medicine to provide it with a new code of ethics based on such laws as we think are in people's best interests. All leaders of the medical profession should be concerning themselves with this serious situation. At present that situation suggests to me that members of the medical profession have lost their way and are not sure what professional standards they and we should expect of them. In turn that means that, without that certainty in the minds of members of the medical profession, we all have cause for concern whenever they come to us asking to be allowed to carry out some research that they have not done hitherto.

Where are the limits beyond which the medical profession is not prepared to go? What will it not do in the name of science and research? Recently I asked a professor whether he would find it possible to sanction the idea of a head transplant—he did not find the idea entirely objectionable.

Perhaps the fault is ours, as we expect modern medicine to be able to cure every known disease, or, if not to cure, at least to do something about it. It is as if we believed that each one of us has the right to be born perfect, that everyone should be able to have a child, that no one should be asked to bring a baby into the world that might have a handicap and that if a woman becomes pregnant it is her choice whether the baby is born, regardless of whether that baby is normal or not. Medicine is therefore required to satisfy all of our needs, though sadly not those of the baby, and seems incapable of questioning the ethics of what it may be doing, whether it should be doing it at all or whether the end justifies the means.

In a world that is suffering from over-population and that is still afflicted with so many curable illnesses, can the medical profession justify the huge expenditure of vast resources on the more esoteric aspects of medicine, when that money could buy immediate and more easily achievable relief for so many?

Medicine, however cannot resist dangling the carrot of hope before us, without being quite honest about what is involved and the chances of success. So it is with embryo research. I do not believe that congenital conditions such as cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, infertility or any of the 4,000 single-gene defects are part of the divine will, or that we should not seek to discover what causes them. Therefore, I do not oppose research to discover their causes.

The question that troubles me about the Bill and clause 11 in particular is whether embryo research is an emollient and sympathetic phrase for what is more often than not embryo destruction—at a later stage of life, it would be wilful killing. We are talking about 14 days in which scientists can pursue their theories on living human matter; then the embryo's life is ended. As has already been suggested, how soon will it be before we are told that, if only we could have another 14 days, they could achieve so much more?

Like everyone in this debate, to answer my doubts I have done my best to read the briefing material sent to me by both sides, including many personal letters from constituents and handicapped people. I had the opportunity to visit the Hallam clinic. Perhaps I started with a bias in favour of embryo research because, superficially, what it seems able to offer could rid mankind of so much human suffering. Had I spoken on Second Reading I would have come down on the side of embryo research, but because of that debate and the opportunity that it gave me to read and talk about the subject, I have continued to seek just one essential fact on which to decide how to vote tonight. That fact is: after four years of embryo research, what has been achieved—not what may be achieved—in the search for the causes of congenital illness?

8.30 pm

I want to be able to say without contradiction that something has been achieved as a result of embryo research, which has cost the lives of so many embryos. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister will tell the House at the end of the debate how many embryos have perished in the name of research. I estimate that many thousands have done so. I stand to be corrected on that. What has been achieved? What discovery has been made? What handicaps and their causes are now understood? Which congenital illnesses and conditions, which would not have been soluble, are now partially or entirely soluble?

I cannot find such a statement. I can find promises of what may happen. I am told that embryo research is on the edge of a breakthrough. It seems that in reality the only part of human embryology and fertilisation that has actually borne fruit is in vitro fertilisation, which, unlike embryo research—if I may divide the subjects—is about creating life, not destroying it, and which I support. Apart from that, the answer seems to be virtually nothing.

I shall quote from the Medical Research Council's document that was sent to us. That is a body, if ever there was one, that should be able to answer my question. It said: If we could understand what causes chromosomal abnormalities in the egg and early pre-embryo it might be possible to suggest modifications of human behaviour and nutrition around the time of conception which would prevent many causes of, for example, Downs Syndrome. Such an understanding is already coming from MRC research on eggs and pre-embryos. If research on human fertilisation is prohibited it will be more difficult to discover what goes wrong. Note that it says "more difficult", not that it will be impossible. It does not say that it must have embryo research, but that it would be more difficult if it did not. It is not my job to make its job easier, but to ask it to live up to certain ethical standards.

Professor Martin Bobrow, the Prince Philip professor of paediatric research at Guy's hospital, has already been quoted. A document that he sent to me states: There is no claim that work on pre-implantation embryos would lead to treatment of genetic disease. There is nothing definite in either the MRC's or the professor's statement. Someone may say, "Surely, there was that announcement last Thursday from the Hammersmith hospital about a breakthrough enabling the sex of an embryo to be established in the test tube, which could not have happened without research. Doesn't that mean that, if a handicap is carried in either the female or the male line, we can now select the embryo of the right sex as the one to be put back in the mother and so ensure a healthy baby? Isn't that proof that embryo research is bearing fruit?" It would be churlish of me to wonder why that knowledge came to light just before today's debate. One might describe it as a lucky coincidence. However, is that the whole story?

I shall give the House an example from my own family. I had four cousins, two boys and two girls. One of the four, the youngest boy, contracted muscular dystrophy and died when he was 16 years old. I understand that muscular dystrophy is carried by women, but affects males. Bearing in mind the research carried out at Hammersmith hospital, which has been so trumpeted in the national press, and assuming my uncle and aunt had known of the test, would my one male cousin, who has survived, is now in his 60s and has his own family, have survived or would his embryo have been removed because it was male and there might have been the chance that he had muscular dystrophy? That is what is involved in the breakthrough, which is a terribly hit-and-miss method, a rough and ready selection by sex, whether or not the other embryos carry the defective gene.

Have we not been told how research generates round the world? In those countries where, sadly, males are so much more valued and respected than females, might not that same research be used as a dreadful selection process whereby the sex was, or was not, in effect, a sentence of death?

I return to the Medical Research Council's booklet and the other pro-research literature. Where are the hard, proven results of four years' research—it may be longer than four years—to dispel my doubts and make me argue that the work going on in the centres specialising in embryology, which annually use so many hundreds of embryos, potential humans, will allow me to go into the Lobby tonight and vote for the work to continue?

It is no wonder that the sinister shadow of Dr. Mengele falls across this debate. We may say that that could not happen, but I can remember so well when we first heard of his experiments and thought that nobody in the world would ever consider replicating such dreadful experimentation. Yet here we are in the House of Commons solemnly putting forward the possibility of allowing research to take place on that embryo from which every human springs.

When embryo research is like surgery, or any other form of medical technique where saving and enhancing life is the sole object—I am not talking about embryos and post embryos—I shall suppport it. But now after four years, in which the medical profession has had free rein, so little has been achieved and so many tiny lives ended, the means do not seem to justify the end. Medicine and science should look elsewhere for the conditions that they are seeking to cure.

Mrs. Audrey Wise (Preston)

I rise with considerable humility to speak in this debate. We have heard many excellent speeches and many hon. Members have drawn on personal experiences and anxieties. I was impressed by the speech of the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mrs. Barnes), who made an excellent case. She had experiences on which to draw. We heard the moving speech of the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley), who witnessed the deaths of two handicapped children and who has previously told the House that, were it not for the fact that screening and abortion rights existed, he and his wife would not have felt able to go ahead and risk two further pregnancies which, happily, resulted in the births of two healthy boys.

I have no such experiences on which to draw. I have been incredibly lucky and have two healthy children. I look for the disasters and anxieties in my life but, happily, they are missing. Therefore, I feel lucky and have a great sense of humility. I feel so lucky that it is almost scarey. But it gives me the opportunity and the duty to say, "I have been lucky, but that gives me a responsibility to think about those who are not so lucky." It is in that spirit that I have tried to follow the debate.

I have found the debate difficult at times because many hon. Members have dealt in absolutes, which I could not do. We have heard that one cell is life—a human being. I cannot follow that line. I do not believe that the fertilised egg is a human being. On Second Reading, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) told us that it is not a potential human being; it is an actual human being with potential. I cannot follow that line either. I cannot regard a cluster of undifferentiated cells, some of which will become placenta and others membranes, as a human being. As soon as we depart from absolute certainties we are into areas of degree and of judgment. There is no escaping that.

I believe that sense is on my side in this argument. By no means will every fertilised egg result in a baby. A fertilised egg may try to develop in the tubes and may never reach the womb, so it will be impossible for it to become a human being. Its relationship to the mother is one of a malignant growth that will kill her if allowed to develop. So how can I agree with hon. Members who want me to regard such an entity as a human being?

Such absolutes should not determine the course of the debate. There is no escaping using our own judgment—and I have found it difficult to make judgments. I resent the fact that those who see everything in absolute terms have encouraged the polarisation of debate. It has become difficult to stand back and examine the real problems, but I want to examine them.

Of couse, it is possible that this research may be misused and that the permission given by the House tonight—I trust—will be misused. Many things are misused. The pen is misused for the most appalling purposes. The camera is and the computer likewise. Much of our scientific research and development is misused before it gets off the ground, because its purpose is to develop ways of killing. We in the House regularly vote research and development money for the production of armaments that can kill millions, not clusters of undifferentiated cells, but men, women and children of all ages, from unborn babies to people on their deathbeds. I have not heard hon. Members saying that we should not vote that money; they do not adduce the sanctity of life argument on such occasions. Some of us make timid attempts to introduce it into those debates, but we do not get very far.

Because things can be developed and used for good or evil we must make choices and he vigilant, to ensure that scientific processes are not misused. The hon. Member for Newbury (Sir M. McNair-Wilson) said that he had begun with a bias in favour of this research but come to the opposite conclusion. I started with a bias in the opposite direction, because I am aware that one has only to say the words "science" or "progress" to make some people bow down in admiration of their supposed omnipotence. I do not agree with that; I have great scepticism about scientific endeavour. We must always be extremely careful that science is used ethically and in the pursuit of human happiness and well-being.

I began my consideration of this matter with doubts. I do not agree with genetic manipulation, for instance. I have not arrived at my conclusion in an arbitrary way, but I have reached one. I shall vote against these amendments.

8.45 pm

When, as I hope we will, we vote to allow this research to continue, by that we shall not be saying that this is the only sort of research that should be done—certainly not. We are not saying that only this research can give hope to childless people. Society has a duty, incidentally, to take some of the pressure off childless couples. It is not only because of natural drives that people feel inadequate if they remain childless. Society puts a great deal of pressure on such people. telling them that they are inadequate, and it is important to remove such pressure.

Many other lines of research need to be followed, but that does not mean that we should not go ahead with this research. Nor should too many resources be devoted to this line of approach—that would be another sort of misuse. I do not know where those who will vote with me tonight stand on this subject; I do not know how keen they are to elevate this line of research above others. But I am not. I want it permitted and carried out but kept in perspective.

Many other needs have great claims on our resources. As a society, we are rather poor at deciding priorities. Nothing that I have heard in this House has led me to alter that view. We are not very good at deciding to devote enough resources to relieving the problems of handicapped people, the mentally ill or the elderly. We are not very good on the welfare of mothers and babies. Too many people live in bad housing and in miserable conditions, and that is avoidable. Nevertheless, my views on how we should use our resources do not mean that I think that we cannot devote any money to research of this kind. We shall need to preserve a reasonable balance, and that must always be a matter of judgment.

That is why it is proper to use legislation. I should not want to allow scientists and doctors, much as I respect them and their work, to be the only and untrammelled judges in this matter. I want society to take a stand and use its judgment, and in our democracy we do that through this House—not very well, but it is the avenue that we must use. Once the Bill is passed we shall have no excuse for saying that the matter is in other people's hands. It will continue to need our judgement of how to use legislation and of how much money to devote to it. That is entirely different from pretending that this is an issue of sheer absolutes.

It is neither sensible nor sane to afford to an undifferentiated cluster of cells the respect for life that we should afford the pregnant woman or the new-born baby. If that sounds a little insulting, I must add that, until I heard the hon. Member for Newbury, I had intended to use very temperate language; and I have more or less managed it. I did not relish being told that those of us who want such research are looking for ways to assuage our consciences and that that is why we have chosen to make the division at 14 days. I can tell the hon. Member for Newbury that my conscience needs no assuaging. It is in perfectly good working order and is given regular practice.

Sir Michael McNair-Wilson

The hon. Lady will know that I could not have been referring to her, because she had not spoken when I made that comment.

Mrs. Wise

In that case, the hon. Gentleman has presumably been insulting all hon. Members who spoke before me and who said that they would vote for the legislation. That is an even more specific insult than the one that I thought the hon. Gentleman had in mind.

I feel justified in saying that those of us who will vote for the research are not doing it unthinkingly. We are not doing it without conscience and thinking that that ends the matter for ever. Continued vigilance will be needed over the purposes for which the research will be used and the resources devoted to it. That is what life is like. We always have to make choices about priorities and it is reasonable for us to provide a legal framework within which such decisions and judgments can be exercised.

Sir Ian Lloyd (Havant)

I shall not follow the hon. Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise) by trading insults, because I am not very good at that. I could not help reflecting while she was speaking that during the debate we have seen scepticism and dogma chasing each other in a rather unusual geographical pattern. It is usually all scepticism on one side and all dogma on the other or vice versa. Of course, that is what makes a debate like this so interesting.

Some time ago, I reached the conclusion that most of the very different problems that we address in the House are, in one form or another, boundary problems. Move the boundary or change the definition, and all hell breaks loose. When the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) spoke about where life starts, he was, of course, speaking about this fundamental boundary problem.

We are most familiar with the geographical boundary, whether it is between nation states or empires or administrative jurisdictions, and with those between the public and private sectors, between categories of rights arid categories of obligation, between the interests of producer and consumer, between the old and the young, the sick and the healthy. In the welfare state, the vast regulatory apparatus of who claims for what and when and for how much provides hon. Members with an endless source of fertile and politically productive controversy.

We are less familiar with the boundary between the rational and the irrational. Although I wish to imply no obvious overlap of category between the scientific and the religious interpretations of a problem, research on the human embryo provides a classic and important illustration of the difficulty of definition and of prescribing legal boundaries in this area.

I have read what I suppose is a small fraction of the vast amount of literature on the subject, and I understood a small part of what I read. I will gladly give way to any hon. Member who claims to have read and understood it all. In my endeavour to be thorough, I even attempted to read the colloquium held last year by the Royal Society, to which I shall return. Humility obliges me to confess that I probably fully understand only the odd paragraph here and there.

From that I draw two immediate conclusions. The first is that those paragraphs were of great significance. The second is that the matter is of great scientific as well as moral complexity. To that I would add a third, which is that the House remains singularly ill-equipped to pass judgment on these issues. But it is a responsibility which we cannot escape. Alfred North Whithead put the position very well in his Lovell lectures at Harvard university over 60 years ago when he said: The new tinge to modern minds is a vehement and passionate interest in the relation of general principle to irreducible and stubborn fact. In this case, however, it can be argued that the principles are stubborn and the facts of great complexity. Most of the facts are very new. They are the product of one of the greatest scientific revolutions that the human race has ever known.

It is in this context that I should like to refer to a comment made during the Royal Society colloquium by a fellow of the Royal Society, Mr. J. H. Edwards of Oxford university: In the application of genetics to man we are dealing with problems of such depth and gravity, and with methods for their resolution of such complexity that even those experts in neighbouring fields of study find communication difficult … false knowledge is a graver problem than clear ignorance. The complexity in this matter derives from three sources. The first is that the scientific revolution pioneered by Crick and Watson in the 1950s has now led to an understanding of the origins and structure of life which was inconceivable not only to theologians but to scientists as recently as the beginning of this century.

Few of us can claim to be familiar with molecular biology, although some of us may appreciate its immense importance and potential. None of us can comment with the authority of a scientist working on frontiers of knowledge that are moving forward almost as we watch. Dogmatic judgments and conclusions which some of us may be tempted to reach will enjoy a half life of perhaps a few months.

Secondly, the profound concerns arising from deeply held religious conviction, which express themselves quite legitimately and have done so in the debate in what is at best caution and at worst a total opposition to the advance of knowledge in this area fuels emotions and colours every debate.

Thirdly, there is the concern that arises from the belief that human genetic engineering enables man to emulate God, not merely in His most benevolent role as Creator but in those malevolent roles which mere man exhibits when presented with great power, whether political or scientific. The potential for abuse is ever-present here, as with all science, and the master-race concepts which inspired the appalling abuses of genetic engineering to which the Father of the House referred earlier have haunted Europe for half a century.

The more awe-inspiring the scientific achievement, the more terrifying the potential for abuse. The discovery of DNA, the very blueprint of life, is certainly awe-inspiring, and when the full map of the human genome is known, probably within a decade, we shall have passed through a phase of civilisation as significant as, if not more significant than, that which distinguished the age of Galileo from that of Copernicus, or that of Einstein from that of Newton. Its political significance is almost beyond our comprehension. We have crossed a boundary of unprecedented importance.

This analysis leads me to my first and most important conclusion: there is no going back. I would add to that: there should be no going back. Any attempt to do so would represent a triumph of obscurantist dogma over human achievement and aspiration.

Our general conclusion must surely be that the advancement of science, on which our whole civilisation is based and now depends, cannot be stopped because we have suddenly discerned a universe of unimagined potential complexity, danger and challenge. The question tonight is whether ther can or should be an exception to this generalisation. Are the processes of human reproduction, particularly in the early stages of conception, to be declared by law a no-go area for science? Assuming that the case for that was made, three immediate questions arise. First, could such a ban be enforced? Secondly, on what grounds could it be argued that other no-go areas should not be created? Thirdly, can we predict the full consequences of a closed door on the frontiers of human knowledge?

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Does my hon. Friend accept that a go area for science would imply a no-go area for morality? Some of us attach great importance to that, because we believe that science is not the be-all and end-all of life.

9 pm

Sir Ian Lloyd

I accept that science is not the be-all and end-all of life, but nor is morality. The complexities of life arise from the conflicts between these two important sets of criteria.

The answer to my first question is an unequivocal no. There is no way to enforce it. Even in Britain, we could not police every laboratory dealing with molecular biology. Even if we could, that would merely inflame curiosity.

To the second question, the answer is equally unequivocal. As science takes us nearer to the fundamentals of creation, whether through the outward reach of the Hubble telescope which is to be launched into space next week, or the inward reach of the scanning tunnel microscope, revealing for the first time the secrets of the living cell, we shall be presented with greater potential for good and evil, greater powers of intervention and greater challenges to orthodox dogmas of all kinds—religious, scientific and political. Close one door and fear of the future will have triumphed over all that the rational mind has achieved, from Aristotle to the discoverer of the polymerase chain reaction, a man by the name of Kray Mullis, about whom the House may not have heard but of whom future generations will certainly know.

As Alfred North Whitehead once said, there is a Nemesis which awaits upon those who deliberately avoid avenues of knowledge". That applies both to the general case and to the specific example.

I shall now attempt to deal briefly with the special case before us tonight—embryo research. Like most hon. Members, I have read with care the arguments based on the sacredness of human life. No one would dispute the concern, conviction or skill with which these have been presented in the papers sent to hon. Members and in the House this evening.

However, as I read my science, nature has endowed life with two unique characteristics. The first is continuity. The human genome is, among other things, a map of that continuity. The formation of the conceptus is merely the point at which that continuity is ensured by the injection of genetic diversity. It happens, possibly, a few hundred million times a day. If the world is adding to its population daily a city the size of London, human survival is not threatened by a failure of that mechanism. The very success rate can properly be regarded as a threat to the planet, and this despite the fact that millions of embryos do not survive.

The second characteristic is prodigality. Nature is prodigal in this area on the grandest scale, especially but not exclusively with our species. I do not believe for one moment that research into the human embryo will ever interfere significantly with that prodigality unless man discovers that the survival of our species requires a restraint in population growth that we can achieve in no other way. The elevation of the human conceptus into some sort of cult object is a somewhat artificial construction. The human race will not destroy itself by under-breeding. Nor will it take serious risks with its genetic endowment merely because it has improved its understanding of, and capacity to influence, that endowment.

The very opposite may be true. Tragically, that endowment is often gravely impaired. We have heard some moving examples of that today. We know little of the reasons for the impairment. We know a great deal about the tragic consequences for afflicted individuals and families. Until recently, we have all been subject to the lottery of our genetic endowment. Now, over an ever-broadening horizon of knowledge and technique, related substantially, if not wholly, to embryo research, prevention has become a dramatic possibility.

Here again, I enter a word of caution that is not mine but that of J. H. Edwards: The nature of genetic lesions and the scale and variability of genetic material are such that we cannot assume that our remote descendants will have the competence to launder the genome to remove blemishes. If they have, they may not wish to live within the ethical and behavioural framework within which this is possible. Selection against multiple minor lesions would be so inefficient that it would involve either a minority of conceptusses surviving induced abortion or the majority of conceptions being in vitro". Mr. Edwards is right, and who are we to suggest otherwise?

We are walking hopefully in the scientific foothills of a gigantic mountain range. Hitherto, man has had no option but to come to terms with a serious burden of genetic impairment, but now he can look ahead, perhaps a long way, to its eventual elimination. If the House will permit me, I seek reinforcement for my conclusion from Alfred North Whitehead. He reminded us that successful organisms modify their environment so as to assist one another. We have recently discovered that among man's most significant environments is his genetic code. For us to foreswear the assistance which science can provide in modifying that code to the advantage of the human race would be an indefensible abdication of responsibility. It would cross the portcullis of this place with a most sinister and destructive bar.

It was once said of Spinoza that he was drunk with God. There is, I accept, an equal danger that modern man can become drunk with science. If I am compelled to choose, as we are by this measure tonight, I have no doubt which form of inebriation I prefer—even if, as I suspect, they are not mutually exclusive.

Several Hon. Members


The Chairman

Order. Twelve hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye and there remain 85 minutes of debating time. The arithmetic is obvious. To reduce the disappointment of not being called to participate in the debate, I appeal for brief speeches.

Mr. Hind

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in the debate, Mr. Walker, and I shall be brief.

We are debating an issue that attracts strong feelings. Like many other hon. Members, I have received many letters on the subject. I also received a petition signed by 800 constituents urging me to vote for amendment No. 1. At 7 o'clock this evening, one of my constituents felt that she had to send me a telephone message that she is against embryo research. That is the sort of feeling that the issue attracts.

I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Sir I. Lloyd) that those of us who will be voting for amendment No. 1 are in favour of research. We feel, however, that there needs to be some recognition of the limitations on research and a recognition of when life begins. Those issues lie at the root of the problems. My hon. Friend talked about the foothills of the gigantic mountain range of scientific research. I say to him and to all Members of this place that there must be signposts on those foothills, and that is exactly what amendment No. 1 will provide.

Science cannot be the be-all and end-all; there must be control. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) said, we must decide fundamentally when life begins. For me, the essential part of life is when the ovum and sperm join at the moment of conception, whether that is inside the womb or outside in the case of IVF. It seems that it is an insult to common sense to suggest that there can be a 14-day gap from that moment during which some hon. Members wish to allow research to take place. It is being said that there is some sort of limbo in which life does not exist. Life must begin at the moment of conception, and from that point it must be respected and, therefore, protected. We must give guidelines to the law. As a lawyer, I can tell the Committee that there is no specific definition of when life begins. Voting for amendment No. 1 will lay down a definition of where we the law-makers, supported by scientific evidence, believe that life begins.

Once that has been laid down, it can be followed by a series of protections for the unborn child. I do not accept that the fertilised embryo is, for the first 14 days, merely a cluster of undifferentiated cells. It is the source of life from which life grows and it must be respected as part of life. It is not good enough for hon. Members to say that in the gap from day one to day 14 nothing happens, that it does not exist, and that in some way it is a pre-embryo that has no life, no personality, no existence. That is nothing more than an excuse for those who support research to justify what they have done and what they intend to do in the future under the Bill.

As opponents of the Bill have said, is the 14-day limit just the beginning? Will it be 16 days in two years' time and then 18 days? As the frontiers of science march forward and we discover other areas of research, will it end here? We must stand firm and give a lead. We must give a definition and provide a framework for the future, both for the law and for science. It is our duty to establish that, and no one else will take on that duty. Although we are laymen, it is a duty that we must accept.

We must consider what embryo research has achieved over the past four years. In contrast with non-embryo research, it has achieved little. There have been major developments in cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, sickle cell anaemia and Down's syndrome. That is where the major achievements have taken place. If we were to take away embryo research, we should be only partially closing the door on research in those areas. We would be doing so for sound moral reasons because we would be protecting life, providing definition to it and giving a framework of morality to what we are doing. Those of us who respect life will recognise that it is important to do that. The pro-research group Progress has admitted that research using human embryos is not and never has been concerned with the treatment of genetic or chromosomal abnormalities. I am proud to say that I have two healthy children, but we struggled to have them. I am not prepared to say that I will bury the ethos of life so that others may find it easier. I struggled, but I accept that it was worth while. I know the pain that parents suffer to have children, but it is worth while. In vitro fertilisation is not outlawed by the Bill. Many methods of studying infertility are still open to research and many of them have achieved results.

I am a Christian and, like many hon. Members, I put the Christian view. I stress that there are alternative methods of research——

Mr. Couchman


Mr. Hind

My hon. Friend knows that, in normal circumstances, I would give way to him. He may have the opportunity to speak later.

There are many alternative avenues of research into the problems of handicap and infertility. By opening the door tonight, we shall only encourage further research in areas where major successes have already been achieved. I urge the Committee to vote in favour of amendment No. 1 and against the Bill as drafted.

9.15 pm
Mr. David Blunkett (Sheffield, Brightside)

I speak with greater diffidence than usual, because I have no absolutes to offer. We seek the balance of reason, and I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise) that we must be cautious in our appraisal of scientific claims and of the suggestion that science and progress automatically go hand in hand.

At the root of tonight's debate is the religious belief held by those who oppose clause 11 as drafted—that life begins before implantation in the wall of the uterus and therefore that the cluster has life in its own right. Those who hold that belief will feel instinctively and absolutely that they should oppose embryo research.

Despite the fact that it is impossible to convince such people to vote in favour of embryo research, it is wrong of right hon. and hon. Members who share their view to raise the spectre of Dr. Mengele. To suggest that trying to monitor, regulate and otherwise properly control embryo research is in some way unacceptable is to turn logic on its head. It is important to regulate, control, monitor and to place parameters on the extent to which science can tread in areas about which right hon. and hon. Members cannot be certain, and so get a grip on the anxieties and concerns that are shared by all right hon. and hon. Members, and which are the reason for their presence tonight.

I agree that embryo research is only a small part of the scientific investigation that is necessary to tackle the problems of infertility and genetic disabilities—in particular, the degenerative diseases that cause so much suffering not only to those who contract them but their families and friends. They must often endure the consequences of those handicaps in the most destructive circumstances, in which society washes its hands of its responsibilities and leaves to their own devices those who are least able to cope. I know of families who struggled to receive support from their communities and who rely on perhaps a handful of individuals, or on only one or two persons, to see them through their moments of crisis.

I have received more correspondence on this issue, as have other right hon. and hon. Members, than anything other than the subject on which I have a primary responsibility as an Opposition spokesman. I tried to consider carefully the often conflicting balance of scientific evidence, and I have reached the conclusion that not believing—as I do not—that life begins before the implantation of the embryo in the wall of uterus, makes regulated, monitored and properly controlled research justifiable. It is justified in terms of infertility and of helping people so that the child that they bear does not have a degenerative disease. If someone had the opportunity to have a daughter who was free of a degenerative disease, I would expect them to take it.

An issue that has perhaps not received as much attention as those two issues tonight is the very opposite of infertility—finding a safe and acceptable method of contraception, which will work in the less developed world. In Britain and in the developed world, where health education is greatest, we can help and encourage people to use methods of contraception that are safe for the user and that work, but that is not true of the vast majority of countries.

Now that there has been a change in the international climate, I do not believe—I say this with some temerity—that the threat of nuclear annihilation, diseases such as AIDS or global warming are the greatest dangers that the world faces. It is over-population that threatens us. The very life that we have debated tonight is threatened by it—the ability to feed ourselves and to cope with the developments that we are discussing. If we can use research in the 14-day period that we are discussing to develop a safe and sensible method of contraception that works, we shall have done more for the future of humanity than anything that has been achieved so far.

Men respect the fact that they have expected women to bear the burden of contraception, and that was wrong. Therefore, as men, we have a special responsibility to find a solution for the future. That is why I shall vote against the amendment.

Mr. Key

The debate has progressed this afternoon and this evening. It has become better and better. Those hon. Members who sat through the Second Reading debate, and through some five hours of debate today, must agree that a great level of knowledge has developed on both sides of the argument during the past few weeks.

I agree with a great deal of what the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) said, and I congratulate him on his perspicacious remarks about world population.

We are here tonight because the scientific community has told the House that they cannot take such decisions, and that is only right. I have no doubt that they will come back to us again in future years on such issues.

The hon. member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) missed the point. It is precisely because scientists do not want to make a decision that they have come to us. We are not ill equipped to take such decisions and it is precisely because we are the House of Commons that we are in the best position to make them. We should not shirk that responsibility. Most of us are not medical or scientific experts. I certainly am not, but I seek to represent people's views and to make a judgment, and that is what it is all about.

One of the least attractive aspects of the debate in the past few weeks has been that lobbying from both sides has become a little strident. I shall seek to remain calm and cool for a few moments.

No one is being forced to take part in human fertilisation and embryology research and it is important to recognise that fact. No parents and no medical men or women are being forced to take part. I reject the concept that those who have a particular moral or scientific viewpoint should prohibit others who may wish to take advantage of particular procedures and who may have a different moral outlook on life. However, it is also important that we should get a few facts right. Much attention has been paid to what has been happening in Australia. My information is perfectly straightforward. When various states decided to outlaw IVF research, the Australians set up clinics in Singapore. The research continued in Singapore for the benefit of Australians, so arguments in that respect are completely sterile.

I am sorry that we spent so much time making capital out of the term "pre-embryo". It has been said that that term is a figment of the imagination of a wicked scientist. Far from it. It has also been argued that the term "pre-embryo" does not appear in medical dictionaries. However, a few years ago the term "AIDS" was not included in medical dictionaries. The term is an example of progress.

I want to refer to some of the important ethical arguments that have been deployed, not least today in The Times. It was interesting to note the article on one page by the Archbishop of York and, on the other, a letter from the Archbishop of Westminster and others, which I read with great interest. The Archbishop of Westminster wrote: From the beginning of the fertilisation process, … the embryo is new human life. This fact alone should govern its status, dignity and rights under the law … We cannot justifiably do wrong even for a right reason or a noble cause. I found that a very interesting and novel Christian argument, let alone moral or ethical argument. I was brought up on books about the just war argued by clerics. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Michie), who intervened in the debate a few hours ago, was right to taunt one of my hon. Friends by asking whether he was a pacifist because he was opposed to embryo research. That is a very important point which we must address.

The Archbishop of York stated in his article in The Times: Genetic union is decisive in that it produces a unique genetic formula, but it does not at that stage produce a unique and identifiable organism. The archbishop then cited the question of twins. He continued: If the morally significant dividing line occurs when there is a physical entity in which unique moral value can be perceived, this transition would seem to mark that change, though this is not to imply that the developing conceptus before differentiation lacks all moral status … Moral arguments such as these rest on the interpretation of scientific evidence, and it should not be surprising if sincere and godly people disagree. And so say all of us.

Sir Bernard Braine

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Key

I will give way only if my right hon. Friend will reply to my letter of 12 April in which I asked him to explain his attack on me and other members of the Medical Research Council.

Sir Bernard Braine

At that time I was recovering from a criminal assault and I could not reply. If my hon. Friend is adducing scientific evidence in support of his case, what advances have been made in the treatment of genetic disease—any genetic disease—by experimenting with embryos?

Mr. Key

I should not have given way to my right hon. Friend, but I always give way to the Father of the House. We discussed that issue while my right hon. Friend was out of the Chamber. As has been stated frequently, it is a complete red herring to argue that anyone in favour of this research claims that it can cure genetic disease. That is a figment of my right hon. Friend's imagination.

We all want to reduce human suffering in so far as that is possible. We all agree that it is not permissible under any circumstances to perform destructive experiments on human beings, but we disagree about the definitions of human being. We all agree that experiments on living cellular components of human beings such as blood cells, sperm, skin cells and egg cells are permissible under reasonable conditions. Therefore, I believe that those who are opposed to research must consider the matter. These are signs of cellular life when there is an active metabolism, when the cell needs nutrition and when it can divide. If we accept that such cells have full human status, all human medicine and biology must cease, because every blood cell and every other cell must enjoy precisely the same right.

9.30 pm
Mr. Alton

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Key

No, I shall not give way again.

This is an important ethical and moral argument, not a scientific argument. Science is not the right framework for addressing issues of value, soul or humanity. For that central reason, the scientific parts of the argument deployed by the Bill's opponents are not only acrimonious but rather pointless. Human status is acquired more gradually as development proceeds, and very early post-conceptual stages are entitled to some but not absolute respect and protection. That was also the view of the Warnock report. The difference is an intuitive value judgment and it cannot be sensibly resolved by debate on the genetic or metabolic attributes of the cells involved. That is precisely why the issue must be settled in Parliament rather than in the laboratory.

I do not wish to detain the House. We should address many detailed points in the future, but I shall put one important argument. Experimentation on pre-embryos does not pose a new moral problem. The essential principles have been accepted by society for many years. Most European societies, including our own, have accepted the use of the intra-uterine contraceptive device—the coil—various forms of oral contraception and the use of menstrual regulation to precipitate a delayed menstrual period. Each involves the loss of pre-implantation embryos. We do not regard that as unethical or illegal and we do not mourn the loss.

Those who oppose research none the less accept that, when there are more pre-embryos than can be placed safely into the womb, those remaining shall be allowed to perish. If pre-embryos perish in the process of research, how do they differ from those that perish by neglect? In the first case, they yield information that may help to improve the successful survival of future pre-embryos as a result of improvements in clinical practice. Is it not proper, therefore, to conclude that, for as long as the techniques of IVF are being used therapeutically, to oppose research is unethical?

There is, of course, arbitrariness in imposing any legal barrier across any continuum, which is what I believe life is. Ultimately the decision about where to place the barrier will be determined by a balance between benefits and losses. Whether or not to allow research during the first 14 days depends primarily on whether we believe strongly enough that it really is a worthwhile objective to provide couples with the opportunity to have a healthy baby. If we decide that that is a worthwhile objective, it should be pursued with the least possible trauma to patients and the least possible loss and wastage of pre-embryos. That is what regulated pre-embryo research is trying to achieve. Enlightenment cannot be undone.

Mr. Alan Amos (Hexham)

This issue is not medical but moral. We all know what medical science and nuclear physicists can do. The question is whether we should allow them to do it. We know that natural selection already takes place in the process of fertilisation. Why should man interfere with that process and try to play God? If we agree to the 14-day period, this will be the most permissive legislation ever enacted, and it will put the United Kingdom increasingly out of line with European countries.

The so-called licensing controls would not safeguard the human embryo, any more than safeguards built into the Abortion Act 1967 have prevented abortion on demand, mostly for social rather than medical reasons. Of course the 14-day time limit would soon be challenged and we would be hearing calls for 21 days, 28 days and so on. Dr. Anne McLaren, who was a member of the Warnock committee, has already been talking about 16 and 17 days. Once we go down that road, we shall not be able to stop. Therefore, it is best that we do not start in the first place.

We were told last week, with extraordinarily convenient and suspicious timing, that sex can be identified three days after fertilisation, and male embryos were already being destroyed. Given that knowledge, it simply will not be possible to prevent selection on social rather than medical grounds, as has happened under the abortion legislation.

I am not and never have been against IVF, but I oppose the deliberate artificial creation of human life simply to destroy it. No other branch of medicine would allow the destruction of life to test new techniques. If passed, clause 11 will allow the in vitro embryo to be frozen, discarded, donated, sold and used for destructive research.

Mr. Dalyell

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Amos

No, I am afraid that I really must get on.

Mr. Dalyell

But the hon. Gentleman has misquoted the doctor.

Mr. Amos

I cannot give way. I really must get on.

On that basis the embryonic human being is therefore nothing more than an object; it is another example of the throwaway society that says, if it is not useful or convenient, get rid of it. But it is more than that. We are not talking about treatment and cure, but about culling and search-and-destroy operations—in other words, selective breeding. If we allow that, we shall be demonstrating yet again the extent to which we live in a moral vacuum.

The basis of my argument is that human life begins at conception. That is a moral and medical position. The basic medical textbook, "The Developing Human—Clinically Orientated Embryology" by K. L. Moore states: The development of a human being begins with fertilisation, a process by which a sperm from a male, unites with an ovum from a female. The Geneva convention code of medical ethics reasserted the traditional principles of medical ethics in 1949 when it stated: I will maintain the utmost respect for human life from the time of conception; even under threat. I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity. It is significant that respect for human life applies from the moment of conception. The declaration of Helsinki, the main statement on medical ethics concerning research on human beings, adopted by the World Medical Association said: The doctor can combine medical research with professional care, the objectives being the acquisition of new medical knowledge, only to the extent that medical research is justified by its potential diagnostic or therapeutic value for the patient"— in this case, the embryo. In research on man, the interests of science and society should never take precedence over considerations relating to the well being of a subject. Human life begins at conception, not some flexible time limit determined by scientists or politicians, regardless of how uncomfortable that fact may be.

The use of the word "pre-embryo" dates back to the Warnock report and is designed to dehumanise the human embryo. Nature magazine—one of the most respected scientific journals in Britain—suggested on 14 May 1987 that the medical profession should ban the use of the word 'pre-embryo' used by the voluntary authority as a synonym for a fertilised human ovum not yet implanted in a uterus. Put simply, this usage is a cop-out, a way of pretending that the public conflict about IVF and other innovations in human embryology can be made to go away by means of an appropriate nomenclature. The fact is that a fertilised human egg is as much deserving of being called an embryo as is a fertilised frog's egg. Therefore, life begins at conception. An embryo is a living, growing, developing human being. If it is not life or human, what is it?

It must be stressed that, at the moment, it is not possible to identify or learn about the development of diseases by using human embryos before the target tissues has developed.

There is no evidence that outlawing the use of human embryos will prevent improvements in the IVF technique. Dr. John McLean has clearly shown that, in South Australia and Victoria, where there are bans, IVF development continues on a par with anywhere else in the world. The results, as measured by live births, are among the best in the world. All the work that has yielded results on genetic diseases so far has been carried out on live patients. Every cell of the body contains all the genetic information necessary. Cells can be taken from adult patients with a genetic disease to reveal how the genes produce abnormalities. No such information has been obtained from the use of human embryos.

As Progress has said: Research using human pre-embryos is not and never has been concerned with the treatment of genetic disorders or chromosomal abnormalities, rather, it is concerned with prevention. Therefore, all the work on embryos is aimed at embryo biopsy, a technique that scientists hope to develop so that they can identify and destroy any afflicted embryos. Even here, deliberate attempts have been made to mislead the public into believing that embryo research will be a cure-all for every type of disease.

When society begins to use terms such as "pre-embryo", "product of conception" or "cluster of cells", it has begun to forget the essence of human life—that it is human, that it begins at conception, and, therefore, that it is to be respected. Let there be no doubt that the embryo research advocated in this country is aimed not at finding a cure for diseases but at weeding out and destroying affected individuals.

Chillingly, Progress has said: Only those pre-embryos that are diagnosed as being free from the genetic defect would be transferred to the woman's uterus. The answer to finding a true cure for many of the genetic diseases suffered today is to follow the example of tried and tested procedures from some of the most respected scientists in the world. Professor Jerome Lejeune, and others discovered the cause of Down's syndrome. He has stated: The new developments in molecular biology applied to cells taken from adult patients with cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy and Huntington's disease have generated much greater understanding of the genetic factors responsible for these diseases. None of these achievements has involved the use of human embryos. Experiments must be allowed only if they benefit individual human embryos themselves and are not simply search-and-destroy missions where human life is sacrificed for human convenience.

Much has been made of IVF in recent years and of its ability to produce children where the natural method has failed. When we talk about childless couples and infertility, we cannot fail to feel sympathy for them. However, it is another matter to say that the solution to infertility is artificially to create too much life and dispose of the unwanted. IVF, which is the deliberate creation of human life in the test tube, presents doctors and scientists with a dilemma. Not wanting to call it human, they dehumanise it and justify any destruction by referring to a "pre-embryo" or "cluster of cells". But any embryo that implants and starts to grow is immediately called a human being. Women do not say, "I am expecting a cluster of cells," or, "I am carrying a pre-embryo." They call it what it is—a baby. It is a unique human being from the moment of conception, not from 14 days or the appearance of the primitive streak.

It has been quoted ad nauseam that Robert Winston claimed recently on a television programme that the success rate for IVF was about 8 per cent. Yet a brochure produced by the clinics that sell IVF treatments to infertile couples, including Robert Winston's facilities, says that the success rate varies from 15 per cent. to 35 per cent. It seems that, when they want public sympathy, scientists say that the success rate is low, but when they want the public's money the success rate grows.

Mrs. Fyfe

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Amos

I am sorry, but I must conclude.

The Bill will not ban IVF. We must try to achieve a total ban on the artificial creation, and destruction of spare embryos and experimentation on them. Multiple implantation means multiple destruction. Where multiple pregnancies occur, it is common either to abort the surplus or, now, to choose selective reduction, which involves choosing which unborn children, as they will become, are to be killed because too many were implanted in the first place. Naturally, people will say that it is killing not a child, but a pre-embryo, a cluster of cells or the product of conception.

The creation of individual embryos for implantation through IVF can be justified provided that the embryo is transferred to the mother. The work of Dr. John McLean of Manchester university has shown that infertility treatments do not necessarily involve the creation of surplus embryos. His success rate is much higher than that achieved by current IVF procedures.

IVF is inefficient, expensive, time-consuming and dangerous for women. It can lead to cysts, coagulation, strokes, heart problems, ovarian cancer and many other problems. Babies born from IVF have three times the rate of low birth weight, five times the spina bifida rate and four times the perinatal death rate.

The technology exists for infertility treatment that avoids the artificial creation of human life. For humanity's sake, let us use it. Can we as a society ever justify the creation of human life for purposes which have no bearing on that particular life or the use of that human life so that inevitably it has a limited future? For many research scientists, that is immaterial. To create life for whatever purpose, even if it is just to prove that it can be done, is enough. For others, the idea that life is created outside the human body is justification that it is not human.

To allow human embryo research is to infringe the moral rule that we should not use others for our own needs. What use is the Hippocratic oath, the Helsinki declaration or any other definition of moral values, if the people whom we trust—doctors, scientists and politicians—constantly and persistently abuse their special positions and live the lie that the unborn child is not alive and is not human?

Several Hon. Members


The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Paul Dean)

Order. The wind-up speeches are expected to begin at 10.30 pm. Many hon. Members have sat through almost the entire debate, so I appeal once more for short speeches.

9.45 pm
Mr. David Martin (Portsmouth, South)

I speak briefly, with no specialist medical or theological knowledge. I have given deep thought to the arguments for and against, particularly those advanced by many of my constituents. I have been helped considerably by the debates here and in another place, particularly by the contributions of Lord Walton.

The overriding reason why I shall vote in favour of embryo research being permitted to continue up to 14 days under strict licensing regulations is that I am as sure as I can be on the evidence that such research is likely to contribute to better information at the earliest possible stage in the development of human life, where there is a serious risk of giving birth to a baby suffering from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be severely handicapped, so as to make the best contribution towards preventing such births. I emphasise prevention, not cure.

I was particularly impressed with the wise, moving speeches of the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) on Second Reading and again today. Some insist on distorting this powerful reason for voting in favour of the research under the conditions set out in the Bill by accusing those who believe in it of a lack of care and concern for the severely handicapped who are already born. Such accusations are wholly unfair.

There is no conflict whatever in wishing, as I and many others do, to alleviate the suffering and protect the lives of individuals who are handicapped and whose handicap affects them and often their families, and wishing to allow research to continue, which assists in preventing the birth of further individuals to such a life. It is not a lack of concern for the sanctity of human life that makes most parents think or say anxiously immediately their baby is born, "Is the baby all right?" It is human nature and it is a normal understandable reaction. Given the choice, most people would simply not bring into the world a baby afflicted with a severe handicap which few know about, apart from institutions or families who cope lovingly and as best they can for years afterwards.

I strongly believe that it is unreasonable for those who are against late abortions—who is not against late abortions in an ideal world?—to want to ban research that would prevent many of them. Such people are against what is called destructive experimentation on the embryo yet would rather act in such a way as to permit the continuance of the destruction of a foetus later rather than to permit selective degeneration or the perishing of affected embryos, as nature does, healthy or not, at the earliest cell stage of life.

That degeneration occurs in circumstances far less distressing to the mother, father and family concerned. Far from being destructive in intent in the wider sense, embryo research is designed to improve the chances of bringing to full term another embryo that would not otherwise have been born. That assists creation, not destruction.

Mr. Alton


Mr. Martin

No, I shall not give way.

The embryo research that is likely to proceed if we vote for its continuance will carry on according to the highest traditions and purpose of medical science as has been practised for many years. It is a force for a better life, not a worse one, and it will not lead to destruction. The slurs that I have heard on the medical profession and medical science are not justified by the evidence of many years.

Each major advance in medical knowledge and technique, from corpse dissection to the transplant of organs, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) has already referred, was originally attacked as unacceptable and only later became an established and revered practice. I have no doubt that that will be the fate of embryo research and I hope that it will be able to continue as a result of our votes tonight.

Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead)

In a sense, I shall follow the speech of the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Martin), as I believe that it does the House no credit, nor does it further the argument if we try to impute motives, to either side. Earlier speeches have put forward a moral stance even if I disagreed with them. I hope that my contribution will be received in a manner similar to that which I am more that happy to concede to those who have a view different from my own.

It would be impossible for any hon. Member who has, over the years, heard contributions from the hon. Members for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) and for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham) to impute anything other than the highest motives to them even if, on the balance of argument, one comes to disagree with them.

Although some who have contributed to the debate find it easy to take a clear moral stance, I am not one of them. My moral stance is made up after seeking the balance of argument. Although my position is not as extreme as the one I shall quote, it is similar to those fighter pilots, American and British who, in the second world war, were asked to bomb German towns. They did so because they thought it was correct as part of the war effort, although they believed it was morally wrong. As a consequence, many of those pilots ceased to go to church or to receive the sacraments because they were so confused by the position into which they were put. When I have to reach a moral stance, I often find that I am in the twilight zone, the grey area, with those pilots rather than in the broad sunshine in which some people find themselves when they are able to pronounce that one position is moral and another immoral.

No one who heard the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson) could doubt that she put forward a moral stance based on trying to extend human happiness. Most advocates of such a utilitarian view would hedge that objective with the important qualification that, while happiness is important, it cannot be promoted by itself, or one could devise all sorts of policies that would make people happy even if it meant the death of other individuals.

I emphasise that both sides are putting forward a moral argument, which should be respected on both sides of the House. It is because it is a moral issue that the deployment of arguments by the hon. Member for Bolton, North-East about what Gallup polls say is highly irrelevant to our arguments. If he were right, we would not need to be here and our constituents could decide all moral issues on the basis of Gallup polls.

Their decision on hanging would be different from mine. Doubtless, many minority positions, which I try to protect and, to some extent, promote in this House, would also be under severe attack if our only argument were to consider Gallup polls. It is important to know what the nation is thinking, but when deciding moral issues it is not a deciding factor.

The 14-day argument has taken on a significance in this debate which it does not have in the Warnock report. When one reads what Michael Banner has said about Warnock, one is struck by the arbitrary way in which Warnock had to pick a date, not for the embryo's protection, but for our protection. If a line were not drawn, at what point would the experiments cease? It was decided that the limit should be 14 day limit, not just because streaking then occurs but because, in the Warnock report, there is clear evidence that the cluster of cells before 14 days, although some are protein cells on which others feed, contains important characteristics borne by each of us, even down to the colour of our eyes.

We must be clear that the 14 day limit arbitrarily chosen by Warnock was not chosen, as some people mistakenly believe, to protect the embryo, but to protect what follows from the embryo, to call a halt and show where experiments should stop. Although the argument now is that few scientists ask for experiments beyond 14 days, that was not the argument originally put forward in our early days of discussion on this measure. It is one of the tributes to the House that what we have said has, to some extent, influenced the scientific community, and it is right that it should have done so.

When we consider the 14-day rule, we are, in one form, raising the fear of many people that, if experiments are approved, even on a limited canvas, we shall be on a slippery slope from which it will be difficult to escape. While the House is indebted to Lady Warnock for her report—even if, on balance, some of us disagree with it—it is surprising that she started us on that slippery slope by the contributions that she was reported to have made during the weekend.

If one says that hereditary titles are so important that we should be able to give those families the right to select whether they have a male or female child, how can we argue against the case that Muslims put forward because they value male children more than female children? They will want the same privileges as hereditary peers may be granted if Lady Warnock has her way.

There is a worry about the slippery slope and we must confront it in our debates. I take issue with the Father of the House——

Mrs. Fyfe

My hon. Friend mentioned a slippery slope. Surely he will agree that the Bill presents no opportunity for people to choose, purely on the grounds of preference, which sex they would like their child to have for hereditary purposes. Is it not therefore rather misleading to talk about a slippery slope when my hon. Friend knows full well that any such proposal would have to return to the House and be voted on, with the likelihood of its being overwhelmingly voted down?

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Mr. Field

I was going on to say that the Father of the House was not apparently prepared to accept a challenge in the way that some of us are prepared to accept it. Although we have not debated hereditary purposes it has been argued that if it is known that a male or female child is the carrier of a certain hereditary disease we should not force the mother to have implanted in her an embryo that would carry such an hereditary defect. Even though others might not agree, I say unequivocally that we should not put her in such a position.

I bow to the Father of the House in the matter of what is supposed to be in the schedules to the Bill but I shall be looking for a form of experimentation done on a limited scale to stated individuals. If the schedules do not provide for that, we shall return to the issue on Report, even though I shall be voting, given the crude choice that we face, against experimentation up to 14 days.

The gains that we have made from experimentation are a gift of God, just as life itself is, although I know that our ability to discover is not always matched by our ability to behave humanely. Some of the awful events of this century testify to that.

I end with some of the comments of Miriam Rothschild: Looking back at the first half of my life as a zoologist I am particularly impressed by one fact: none of the teachers, lecturers, or professors with whom I came into contact—and that includes my kindly father—none of the directors of laboratories where I worked, and none of my co-workers, ever discussed with me, or each other in my presence, the ethics of zoology. Nor did they ask me what I was trying to do, what were my zoological aims and aspirations, and in what framework I saw the life-cycles I was elucidating. No one ever suggested that one should respect the lives of animals in the laboratory or that they, and not the experiments, however fascinating and instructive, were worthy of greater consideration. We must strike a balance tonight—not about animals, because the debate has rightly moved on from them. I refer to a balance between the beginning of life and the gains that can clearly come from experiments on some embryos.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)

On Second Reading I declared an interest in that I said that my wife and I had undergone an IVF procedure as a result of which my wife is expecting twins.

I have always been and I remain opposed to destructive embryo experimentation. I should like to read from a letter that I received this morning: I am writing to you to hope that you and your wife enjoy a very happy Parenthood. Now you are all right Jack—Sod us lot! So you go off and put in your little vote and let the rest of us carry on suffering. The point that the lady makes is fair if somewhat blunt, and Members of the House and several members of the medical profession have put the same point to me more politely.

It will not surprise the House to learn that I want to devote my few minutes to a single point: how can it be consistent on the one hand to be in favour of the IVF procedure and on the other to be against destructive experiments on embryos? That position, which is also the pro-life position, must hinge on the question: is it necessary to have destructive research for a successful IVF programme?

The subject of South Australia has come up time and again. I should like to quote from a letter from Professor Winston. We are fortunate to have him in the Strangers' Gallery listening to the debate. I think that it was a letter to a medical journal, and it says: Since research was banned there, Melbourne's clinical results have languished. In that letter, he also refers to "Melbourne in South Australia."

The letter prompted a reply from a senator in South Australia—from the Hon. Dr. Ritson, a senator and a doctor of medicine. He comments in some detail and says: Melbourne is not in South Australia. The city of Adelaide is the capital of South Australia … More important than the geographical blunder, is the significance of the successful pioneering of IVF work in Adelaide, which achieved world recognition. The pioneering work has taken place since the ban was imposed.

The letter goes on: the upper house of Parliament in South Australia appointed a Select Committee to examine the wide range of concerns raised by IVF and related matters. I was a member of that committee. I am also a medical practitioner. The Committee sat for three years … Contrary to Professor Winston's assertion that in South Australia we no longer have flourishing IVF programmes I believe the technical data in the report I have sent you indicate the level of current success and compares favourably with world standards. It may be true that there are a few scientists here who are disappointed at the legislative obstruction of particular research projects … but there is no scientific lobby here for change … not only have clinics flourished since the legislation was enacted"— that legislation is almost identical to what we call for in amendment No.1— but also the public controversy has died down". I have quoted the example of South Australia, but could equally look at Norway, which abolished destructive research on embryos in 1987. I believe that it now has the highest number of IVF treatments per head of population of any country. Germany is about to go down the same route. The Government there are about to enact legislation almost identical to what is proposed in amendment No. 1, which the Government are allowing us to debate, and the German Government are under pressure from the Opposition to go even further.

I should like to leave the Committee with a final thought. I received a letter from a couple with an infertility problem. It says: We are an infertile couple opposed to embryo experimentation. We know many other infertile couples, and as far as we know not one of them approves of embryo experimentation, yet as far as the media are concerned we don't exist. We have written countless letters to newspapers and rung up television phone-ins, but no one will let us put our point of view, because it undermines the most common defence of such experimentation—that we must have it to help infertile couples. No one should underestimate the immense pain of infertility"— I can certainly second that— but it's a principle in all civilised societies that we don't destroy other human beings, at whatever stage of development, as a means to an end, no matter how good that end might be in itself. The letter goes on to say that one of the couple suffers from spinal muscular atrophy. The last sentence of the letter is significant: Our society is developing a deep sickness when we treat children like selecting goods from a supermarket". We have a serious epidemic of child abuse in my constituency. Without wishing to go out of order, I should like to say that the beginning of the abortion culture in this country 23 years ago was the point at which the statistics for child abuse started to turn up. For that reason I shall vote against embryo experimentation.

Mr. Burt

I am grateful for this opportunity to contribute to the debate. I sometimes wish that our constituents who are so certain on the matter could have an opportunity to listen to our debates or leaf through the full copy of Hansard to learn about the balance of views. If they did that, they would realise that being a Member of Parliament is sometimes not an easy job, especially when we have to decide on issues such as this.

Respect for human life, its sanctity, the right to life and the quality of life are at the heart of the greatest debates in this place. Party political matters come and go. The political cataclysm of yesterday is in the historical footnote of tomorrow. The issues that concern the essence and existence of human beings are the real stuff of parliamentary debates.

Science has brought us a matter that our forebears could not have dreamt that we would be talking about, and an issue that finds us bandying terms about which, unless we are insufferably arrogant, we should admit that we knew little until we were elected to this place. Science is right to come here, as my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) said, because it is right that it should look to a moral lead from this place, however unworthy it may be. It is right to do so because, if we accept that we do not wish to live, as we do not, in a means-to-and-end scientific climate, then somebody must set the rules.

We bow to the men and women in their white coats because of their knowledge of their subject, which they will know up to Nobel-prize winning ability. However, on the morals or ethics of that work, their opinion is worth no more than mine, that of any other hon. Member, or that of the humblest of our electors who had troubled to turn his mind to the rights and wrongs of an issue. That is why it is so necessary that we look at the matter.

One point has not captured the public imagination as it should—the alternatives to such research. There has been a tendency, particularly in the media, to portray the two sides in the battle as stark. On the one side are the scientists who, by and large, agree that embryo research is for the good and should be supported, because if it does not continue, all research into genetic disorder and infertility will come to an end. The other sides is often portrayed as a moralist, usually religious, who says, "I am against this for religious reasons," and that is about the end of the argument. The newspapers present that as a balanced debate.

We know that the truth is far from this stark position. A substantial body of opinion, consisting of scientists, medical and lay people, is against embryo research. This is not because these people do not care for the infertile or for the families that suffer from genetic disorders, but because they hold the embryo to be something special and because they know that there are alternatives in the research on these problems.

For the lay person yet to make up his mind on the topic, this distinction is crucial. People know that there is something special about the embryo. They may not have quite decided whether it is a blob of cells or a human being, and probably think it falls somewhere in between. They are not sure, but they know that the embryo is not like everything else.

What guidance do such people have in forming an opinion about what research may be done with an embryo? If they knew more clearly that embryo research on genetic disease discarded embryos affected by genetic disorder, rather than curing them, and if they knew of the other work that has already been done on genetic disorder, I suspect that they would have a different view on whether it was right or wrong.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham) mentioned the Gallup poll commissioned by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children in which, he said, a majority of 58 per cent. agreed that there should be research to help genetic disorder. However, he did not speak about the second question in the poll, which was: If the principal aim of the research into genetic diseases was not to find a cure or treatment but was to try and identify an afflicted embryo so that it could be discarded do you think human embryos should or should not be used for these types of experiments? The majority was reversed in the answer to that question: it was against such experimentation.

This distinction is crucial. We must establish that the embryo is special. We have heard tonight about alternative methods of genetic experimentation, for example, into cystic fibrosis and Down's syndrome, using bone marrow donated by adults. If people knew more clearly that this work was going on, they might ask why we should go down the road of embryo research.

That was the great fear that my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Sir M. McNair-Wilson) put before the House when he asked where the evidence was that embryo research had succeeded in producing any good work in the areas that we are discussing. He said that he had searched and that he could not find. If we have evidence of good work being done and other evidence of a Pandora's box, why should we continue down the road of research?

There are serious questions to be answered that could open a Pandora's box. What do we do with the frozen embryos that now exist whose mother, or father, or perhaps both, are no longer with us? Who owns those embryos? Who will explain their origin at the appropriate time? What do we say when the scientists tell us, "With a bit more time we shall know what we are doing. Will you give us more than 14 days?"? What do we say to people such as Jacques Testart, one of the pioneers of French IVF treatment, who gave up his work because he was afraid of where it would lead?

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Those who share my view recognise that we are, in effect, closing down an avenue of research. Of course we are but, with hand on heart, we do not know where it might lead. We do know, however, where other work leads. We know what can happen and we are afraid of where embryo research might go.

The human mind has no limitations. There are many problems to which ultimately it will find the right answers, but it may take time to do so. One avenue may be shut, but another will open, and opportunities will be found. It will be far better to pursue the first avenue than to take the one of embryo research, for if we take it, we know where we go.

Mr. John Hannam (Exeter)

This is a fascinating debate, in which the House has moved across a wide spectrum of moral, ethical, scientific and conscience issues. At each end of the debate, there are protagonists who feel so strongly that no amount of argument will sway their views. Like the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field), I do not believe that one side represents the moral issues and the other side the humanitarian or utilatarian ones.

I am a practising Christian and, therefore, I believe in the sanctity of life. I do not accept that carefully controlled research using embryos for up to 14 days breaches my Christian belief, nor, I suggest, does the switching off of the life support machine of a brain-dead person.

Like my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State, I do not know exactly when life begins. Different aspects of being human occur at different times. En the treatment of infertility, which affects one couple in eight, the fertilisation of the egg by the sperm does not take place during the physical union of the man and woman. Pregnancy begins at the stage of implantation rather than fertilisation.

In any event, the question of when life begins may be irrelevant to the couple concerned. They are choosing one of three options: starting a pregnancy with an implanted embryo which is not affected by the disease genes which they carry; the risk of the birth of an affected child and having prenatal diagnosis; and the option of terminating the pregnancy by abortion, which is something that we all wish to avoid.

Pre-implantation diagnosis is not an experiment in itself. It is a diagnostic technique that is applied to embryos destined to be replaced in the uterus. The development of the procedures for this, however, requires limited research on embryos. Pre-implantation diagnosis is not a cure, not is it a treatment. It is the prevention of pregnancy with a diseased embryo, and an alternative to abortion of a diseased foetus following prenatal diagnosis.

Legislation is necessary to regulate research on embryos, to protect the integrity of reproductive medicine and, in these days of legal actions, to protect scientists and clinicians. Legislation is required also to allay the fears of the public. When we do not understand technology that is meant to serve us, we begin to fear it and its possible side-effects. Some people who are prepared to agree to embryo research because of the obvious benefits in specific areas such as infertility and genetic disease become uneasy because of the fear that reproductive technology could take more sinister directions, such as genetic interference with the embryo.

There would be no purpose in attempting genetically to cure embryos that are diagnosed as diseased because the diagnostic test itself would simultaneously identify the normal embryos without a defect. Characteristics influenced by many genes, such as intelligence, appearance or ability, cannot be identified or genetically engineered in the human embryo. In addition, the licensing authority and the ethical committees would ban genetic interference as well as selection of embryos on trivial grounds.

Having worked for many years in the area of disability and having had the moving experience of meeting and helping people with severe disabilities, I have been inspired in two ways—first, in undying admiration for their courage and determination and, secondly, in my determination to do all that I can to prevent as much handicap and illness as possible.

Believing as I do that one way to prevent some of the fearful disablements is through embryo research and implantation, does not mean that in some way I am casting disrespect on disabled people or their carers, or doubting their love. We have heard movingly from Members of both Houses who have borne genetically handicapped babies, and in a recent lobby of Parliament several hundred parents and children came to Westminster Hall. No doubt can be cast on their motives or ours if tonight we agree to research.

Britain is respected throughout the world for the sensible regulatory approach that it has adopted in these sensitive areas. We are also respected for the innovative and productive research that has resulted. The research is all licensed and open to scrutiny, and at present it is unrivalled in any other country. That system of well-tried surveillance and licensing has prevented any danger of the slippery slope syndrome in this country. The trappings of control may be irksome, but they are remarkably effective and have produced the best research system in the world.

Slippery-slope arguments are good arguments for regulation and surveillance, but they are bad arguments for total prohibition. The best way to avoid the slippery slope is to erect the fence before the dangerous part, and that is what the Warnock recommendation does.

The history of medicine is full of examples of reverence for the human body without loss of respect for persons. I have long campaigned for greater access to transplant surgery and, indeed, introduced my Corneal Tissue Act in 1986. As my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) said, for many years during our lifetime, transplant surgery was felt to be shocking, although now it has become a symbol of man using God's gift of the brain to preserve human life. I do not believe that medical scientists working in that area are in some way tampering with nature and that it is wrong to work towards helping childless couples or parents carrying genetic disorders that are certain to produce terribly handicapped children.

Yesterday's interview in The Sunday Telegraph with my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham) and his wife pointed clearly to the two standards of my speech: first, the love and protection given to their handicapped son, Stevie; and, secondly, the conviction that everything possible should be done to prevent the pain and suffering caused by such abnormalities. Lord Carter, who has had two severely handicapped children—one of whom died at the age of 19—and the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley), with a similar experience of such a tragedy, are both fighting for this research. It is their voices to which we should listen as we reach our conclusions on this matter.

I wish to draw together the threads of my thoughts. First, I do not believe that in a Christian society we must accept the birth of handicapped children when many handicaps could be avoided. There will still be many disabled people to love and to care for, but they will not have chosen to be born handicapped. Secondly, I believe that the 14-day limit is about right, because it relates to a well-known embryological event—the formation of the primitive streak, which corresponds to the end of the period during which the conceptus can form two or more embryos rather than just one. It is a landmark that is genuinely and immediately related to the emergence of the single individual from the conceptus. Thirdly, I do not think that this research can be successful using animals or by other means and I am not hopeful of other techniques for fertilisation.

I hope that the House will share my belief that, as mainly healthy people blessed with healthy children, we should think long and hard before depriving others less fortunate than ourselves of the chance not only to have children but to have healthy, non-diseased children. Let us give full support to controlled research and vote against the amendment.

Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

Having sat through every minute of the debate, and unsuccessfully through Second Reading, I am sure that I have heard all the arguments. The fire and thunder of the early part of today's debate has given way to several thoughtful, persuasive and eloquent contributions from right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House. Not least among them was the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam), and on the same side of the argument, the speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) and the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley). We heard a significant speech for the other side of the argument from my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North (Mr. Burt). It has been a memorable debate.

I shall vote for the amendment for several reasons—not least because I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key), who did not see much difference between an embryo and a blood corpuscle. I also found a new reason for voting as I shall after listening to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Sir I. Lloyd), with its frightening vision of science that should never be restrained and of a door that, once opened, ought never to be closed. If one looks down a slippery slope, to repeat a phrase that has been used often in the debate, sometimes a step backwards and further thought makes good common sense.

I shall also vote for the amendment because of the remarks of the hon. Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise) concerning absolutism. I do not take an absolutist's position, but I hold some doubts. We must consider the balance of doubt between the interests of the potential for life and the interests of future lives. On balance, I vote for the possibility of a live human being an entity that needs protecting.

There is no question but that all right hon. and hon. Members support research. We rejoice in the examples that we have heard of the results of successful research—but do we want it carried out on an entity that might become a human being? The word "perish" comes to mind so often when considering what is to be done with discarded embryos. If something can perish, it follows that it has life—and something that has the potential for life should be protected.

What is the purpose of embryo research? Is it necessary and right? I want to discount once and for all the arguments relating to the pre-embryo, which have been slightly off beam. It is a question not of the actual term that is used and whether it is in the dictionary, but of the need felt by some people to define a term to meet the case. It is a linguistic device to justify the definition of pre-embryo, meaning an embryo upon which research can be undertaken and which can be destroyed.

The Bill implicitly acknowledges that there is something wrong with research. If that were not the case, it would not need to exist. It would not need to specify that research must be undertaken under certain conditions. That persuades me that behind the Bill is a feeling that there is something wrong about embryo research. The question is whether that something wrong is overridden by the benefits accruing from such research.

Professor John Marshall, professor of clinical neurology at the university of London, who was a member of the Warnock committee, says: because the entity has the potential to become a person, one affirms that it should not be interfered with, that nothing should be done that prevents it realising that potential". We are told that the purpose of embryo experiments is twofold; partly research and partly understanding or preventing handicaps. In the latter case, one is talking about the elimination of abnormal or diseased embryos.

Right hon. and hon. Members have spoken of the dangers inherent in selecting the species in that way. I remind the House of the view held by the American geneticist Motulsky that aborting an abnormal foetus would not provide the answer to genetic disease. If one killed off every embryo, foetus and child born with cystic fibrosis, because of genetic mutation it would still take 1,250 years to halve the gene frequency and in the case of sickle cell anaemia it would take 750 years. In some cases it would take thousands of years to halve the frequency of a disease.

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Understandably, people regret the 10 to 15 years that it may take to find true therapy for such diseases. It is tragic, but that time delay is as nothing compared to 1,250 years for a technique that is destructive.

My hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Martin) referred to Lord Walton, but in the other place he accepted Professor Lejeune's view that the treatment of genetic diseases cannot be achieved by embryo research.

The other body that has been flooding us with information, the Royal Society of Medicine, posed this question: has human embryological research prevented any genetic diseases? It came up with the answer no. Its objective is the early identification of conceptuses carrying genetic disorders. Therefore, it is not research that will lead to prevention of such diseases, which we all should like to see. However, there are alternatives through gene therapy, and molecular biology, which do not involve embryo research.

Consider the recent achievements throughout the world—for example, the achievements in Oxford on muscular dystrophy, in Cambridge Massachusetts, on auto immune disease, the National Institute of Medical Research's achievements on sickle cell anaemia and the achievements at Trinity college, Dublin on retinitis pigmentosa. All those achievements were made and all that research has benefited mankind without the need for embryo research. I have come to the conclusion that embryo research is not right, it is not necessary, and in some cases it can be dangerous.

Finally, as a text to close my contribution, I take the Helsinki declaration, which was drawn up by the World Medical Association and signed by the British Medical Association. It states: the interests of science and society must never prevail over the interests of the individual. I believe that most hon. Members would agree with that. Where we are divided is over when the individual comes into being. The balance of doubt, the question mark, and the hope are on the side of that small embryo—a small piece of humanity that has life ahead of it. I shall vote in favour of the amendment and in favour of the embryo and its future.

Mrs. Gorman

On a point of order, Sir Paul. I have sat through the whole of the debate, as have many other hon. Members. I asked to be called several days ago and I have not been called, which accords with the Army principle that, if one knows something about a subject, one will not be asked to do it. Speaking as possibly the only practising biologist in the House and also as a genetic scientist, I have never heard so many confused arguments attributed to scientists as in this debate.

The First Deputy Chairman

I am sorry that the hon. Lady and a number of other hon. Members were disappointed. Alas, time has run out and there is nothing that the Chair can do about it.

Ms. Harman

Much of tonight's debate has focused on the moral questions raised by embryo research. The Secretary of State gave the House a helpful formulation when he said in his opening speech that we have to balance two moral obligations—the obligation to respect life and the obligation to alleviate suffering. A regulated legal framework to allow embryo research to continue meets both those moral obligations. The moral and scientific case for research is overwhelming.

Many hon. Members have asked when life begins. The beginning of life is a process with many milestones of development. Fertilisation is followed by the multiplication of cells. Fourteen days after fertilisation, most cells go to form the placenta and some form the embryo. I do not believe that the embryo before 14 days, when those cells are separating and before the appearance of what is called the primitive streak, is sufficient of an individual to deny us the chance of research. The value that we should place on that stage of embryonic development should not preclude research.

That research has already produced great benefits for those who suffer infertility or have had a child suffering from a genetic disorder. Research promises further benefits to improve the treatment of infertility, to understand the causes of miscarriages and to develop a contraceptive vaccine.

Infertility is a major problem. It is a devastating blow for a woman who wants a child to discover that she cannot have a baby. No matter how happy one's marriage or how fulfilling one's job, the inability to have a baby casts a blight over the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. It is estimated that at least one in eight couples have fertility problems. We all know people who are trying unsuccessfully for a baby. Sadly, that is still not talked about openly and there is still a sense of embarrassment and stigma about the subject.

Embryo research can help childless couples in three ways: through IVF—the so-called test-tube baby treatment; through understanding the causes of infertility among the 40,000 couples where the reasons remain a mystery, and through the understanding of, and chance to treat, the misery of repeated miscarriage.

Embryo research will also help in the search for a contraceptive vaccine. It makes me smile when I hear contraception talked about in this House as though it is entirely a Third-world issue. The argument is that we need a contraceptive vaccine because of the population problems in the Third world. I remind hon. Members that there are women in this country as well. The battle for a safe, effective, convenient form of contraception is still far from won. A safe contraceptive vaccine would benefit women in the Third world, but it would also benefit women in this country, as the 200,000 unplanned and regretted pregnancies in this country every year testify.

Most of all, the case for continued embryo research is made by families with a child who has died an agonising death from a genetic defect. Some of the stories of those children are almost too painful to recount. Let us consider the case of David Gower who is now six years old. His mother told his story on "Newsnight" last Friday, as some hon. Members may be aware. Until about 18 months ago David appeared to be a perfectly normal boy, but he has muscular dystrophy. Soon he will not be able to sit up, crawl or feed himself. Eventually he will not be able to draw breath and it is thought that he will die before he is 12. His mother, Sue Gower, said: People who are not in this position know nothing of the traumas, nothing of the screaming child that we have because he is frustrated because he cannot do things and the pain he suffers. To hear your child lie there with tears rolling down his face, saying 'Mummy make it better', is agonising because there is nothing I can do. I have to sit and watch him die and that is why I would not want to put another child through this agony. Parents like Sue Gower face an agonising choice. They can have another child and risk the same dreadful suffering, they can remain childless or they can become pregnant and face the difficult decision of an abortion if the foetus is discovered to carry the same defect. As the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mrs. Barnes), who has faced that problem, said, it is a terrible thing to have to decide whether to abort a much-wanted pregnancy.

Embryo research through the development of pre-implantation diagnosis offers mothers like Sue the chance to have a healthy child. Beneath the speeches of those who have argued against continuing embryo research is an underestimate of the value of medical research—somehow the suspicion of medical science. We have heard much talk about Nazi Germany and Dr. Mengele.

We have been warned not to be starry-eyed about science. Let me warn the House not to be starry-eyed about nature. Nature gave us death by smallpox and medical research gave us vaccination. Nature gave us disability inflicted by polio and medical research gave us immunisation that a child can take on a cube of sugar. Nature gave us kidney failure and medical research has given people the chance of a new life through transplant. I well remember when the transplant programme was beginning 20 years ago. People said, "Hang on a minute. Is this really natural? Is it ethical to take an organ from someone's body to give someone else a chance of life?" Now, with the enormous success of the transplant programme, we recognise that it has been one of the greatest advances of medical science in the past quarter of a century.

Mr. Cormack

I am sure that the hon. Lady does not mean to be unfair, but she should not suggest that those who have misgivings about embryo research are against research per se—we are not. However, we believe that to destroy life in the interests of life is in itself wrong. That is why we are disturbed about it.

Ms. Harman

I hope that, if the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) seriously believes in medical science and the benefits that it can offer, he will vote with me to allow, under strict regulation, embryo research to continue.

Nature can be hideously and monstrously cruel. It is nature, through the genetic disorder of epidermolysis bullosa, that takes what appears to be a perfectly healthy baby and strips its skin off and leaves it to die in agony. It is nature, through muscular dystrophy, that takes an otherwise healthy young boy and, as other teenagers taste their freedom, confines him to a wheelchair. As his friends grow towards adulthood, he disintegrates and dies. Medical research on pre-embryos offers families with a genetic disorder the chance of a healthy child.

Competing scientific claims have surfaced in the debate. Hon. Members such as the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), who would ban further research, argue, "We could still have IVF even without further research." But we can do IVF only because of past research. It is illogical to ban the research but allow the treatment that that research has created. It has been argued that we can somehow improve the success rate without further IVF research. The argument is that the amount of experience that a clinic has, rather than research, determines the success rate. Of course the more we carry out a technique the better we get at it, and therefore the higher the success rate. But that gives us only marginal improvements. The real breakthroughs to substantial improvements in the success rate will come only with research.

It has been argued that we can carry on with pre-implantation diagnosis without further pre-embryo research, but those involved in pre-implementation diagnosis do not believe that that is true. We must hear what they say. It has been argued that we can use animals to carry out research, but some aspects of development are different in human and animal embryology. As the hon. Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham) rightly pointed out, the statutory licensing authority will not allow research on embryos if it could be done on animals instead. It has been argued that scientific opinion is divided on whether pre-embryo research should continue and that there is equal weight of scientific opinion on each side. That is not a fair representation of the case.

The Medical Research Council has taken the unusual step of a strong policy statement backing early embryo research. The Royal Society cavassed its 2,000 fellows, and doubts were expressed by only three. If there is a division of opinion, it is between those who are currently involved in medical research and know its benefits and possibilities and those who are not involved in medical research and do not know its benefits and possibilities.

Some have argued that pre-implantation diagnosis undervalues the life of those with genetic disorders. It is an affront to argue that, not least to parents in organisations such as Mencap, and to imply that because they support embryo research they do not care about people with handicaps. Mencap is an organisation consisting largely of parents of mentally handicapped children. They support the continuation of embryo research because they know and care. It is not the case that parents in such organisations do not know the difference between screening and cure—the so-called cruel misrepresentation that somehow a cure will be offered. Any parents who have watched a child die of a genetic disorder have the best reason in the world to be absolutely expert about the possibilities that medical science will be able to offer them in future.

10.45 pm

No one is saying that anyone would be forced to undergo pre-implantation diagnosis. We are saying only that those who want it should have the choice and that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) made clear, embryo research should be allowed to continue within a carefully laid down legal framework. There should be no animal experimentation or cloning, no research outside narrowly defined purposes, no research beyond 14 days and no ability within the law to choose the sex of a child for a peerage or any other reason. We are not talking about a free-for-all.

People who have benefited from embryo research, such as the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier), should not vote to deny others the joy that he finds in his child. Those of us who have not suffered infertility or faced the misery of miscarriage and who are blessed with healthy children are fortunate. But thousands of other people are not so fortunate and we should heed the suffering of infertile couples and listen with humility to parents who have watched a child die. To allow them hope, I hope that the House will join me in voting for embryo research.

The Minister for Health (Mrs. Virginia Bottomley)

The House has today had a significant debate on a matter of importance to many people in the country. The debate marks the culmination of the long period of public discussion of the central issue posed by the Warnock committee in its report published in 1984: should research involving human embryos be permitted under strict statutory controls, or should such research be prohibited?

Whichever side individual Members take on the issue, all should agree that Parliament has done justice to the deeply held and very sincere views of our constituents. Twenty-six right hon. and hon. Members have spoken in the debate, and I regret that my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) and others have been here throughout and have not had the opportunity to speak.

It is to the credit of the House that the subject has been treated with the care, attention and solemnity which the issue deserves. Such occasions see the House of Commons working at its best. As the representatives of the people, we are meeting to decide matters of great consequence.

There are issues of ethical, legal and social as well as scientific interest and importance in the embryo research question. It concerns the beginnings of life itself. We should have failed if we had not approached them with the utmost seriousness. There have been arguments for and against research. They were put at some length and with eloquence by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State in his introductory speech.

The amendments which we have been debating tonight were tabled by the Government in the interests of securing orderly debate and emphasising the even-handedness with which we are committed to dealing with the arguments for and against the central proposition.

The Government have fulfilled their central undertaking in the White Paper, that Parliament would be given the opportunity to vote on alternative clauses dealing with the matter. To meet that commitment fully, we introduced a drafting innovation when the Bill was introduced in another place. Clause 11 was constructed with two mutually inclusive provisions: one providing that the new authority to be set up under the Bill should be able to issue licences for treatment, storage and research, and the other that research should be prohibited. The House now has the opportunity to prohibit or to permit, under strict control, research on human embryos.

The arguments against research have been put eloquently by many hon. Members whose views are worthy of the deepest respect. They are essentially that, whatever the benefits of research, it is repugnant to contemplate allowing the use and destruction of the human embryo in the cause of research. That is because, in their view, the embryo demands the protection of the law because of its status as a human being. For them, that is an unshakeable principle and a matter of the strongest conviction. Some have also argued that the same ends can be achieved by other means—for example, through using animals—and that, were research to be permitted, even under the strict controls contemplated in the Bill, there is no guarantee that in the future those who wish to undertake such research would not seek to extend the framework to which Parliament might have agreed.

Perhaps the most fundamental argument about research is on the status of the human embryo. We have heard many speeches today addressing that complex problem in great detail. Those who oppose research believe that life starts at the moment of conception, when the sperm fuses with the egg. From that point, they argue, it becomes an individual human being deserving of the rights and protection of a human being at any stage in its development, including childhood and even adulthood.

The case of those who support embryo research was put strongly by the hon. Members for Peckham (Ms. Harman) and for Barking (Ms. Richardson). They believe that an embryo should be properly protected and respected but that, up to 14 days, it is a set of undifferentiated cells, only a few of which will go on to form the embryo, and that it accrues fuller rights as it develops until it is born as a baby, when there is no divergence of views about its status.

It might be helpful if I summarised briefly the principal purposes for which, if Parliament agrees, the new authority will be permitted to license research. They are set out clearly in schedule 2, and they are highly specific. Projects would be licensed only for those particular purposes, and the licences would be time-limited. Those purposes would be to promote advances in the treatment of infertility, to increase knowledge about the causes of congenital disease, to develop more effective techniques of contraception, to increase knowledge about the causes of miscarriage and to develop methods of detecting the presence of gene or chromosome abnormalities in embryos before implantation.

Many hon. Members have spoken on the basis of personal experience. Others have spoken on the basis of detailed scientific knowledge on various aspects of the matter. We have had some excellent speeches. I hesitate to pick out particular examples but I should like to mention the passion of my right hon. Friend the Father of the House, who spoke strongly; the sincerity of my hon. Friends the Members for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham), and for Derbyshire South (Mrs. Currie) and of the hon. Members for Greenwich (Mrs. Barnes) and for Carmarthen (Mr. Williams), all of whom spoke with experience, and whose voices we have heard previously on this matter.

Similarly, I must mention the clarity of my hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Alison) and the candour of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe). My hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Sir I. Lloyd) has frequently made powerful speeches on scientific subjects. My hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) has a special position working with the Medical Research Council. I must also mention the thoughtful speech of the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field).

My hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Sir M. McNair-Wilson) asked what good had come out of embryo research in the past four years. I have already referred to some of the specific purposes for which research would be licensed by the new authority. The arguments for such research have been put lucidly and at length by many hon. Members. They include the importance of tackling infertility, studying miscarriage, dealing with the estimated 4,000 hereditary diseases and enabling parents to produce children free from handicap. The new developments at the Hammersmith hospital have been referred to. I visited the Rosie maternity hospital in Cambridge to talk with the patients and practitioners about the value of the work that was being undertaken.

Several hon. Member raised detailed points. I fear that I shall not have the time to deal with all of them on this occasion, but I shall write to those whose points I do not manage to address now.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet) talked about the incidence of abnormal births following IVF. I am advised that IVF does not result in a greater incidence of abnormal births. However, the incidence of multiple pregnancy is higher following certain infertility treatments. My hon. Friend the Member for Newbury asked how many embryos had been destroyed during research. That is not information that I can give him. Indeed, our information about what happens to fertilised embryos in nature is not altogether thorough. He will know that a great number are lost naturally. Others referred to the danger to women who donate eggs from super-ovulatory drugs, and it is a matter of careful supervision.

The hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) was concerned about ensuring that embryos were not created unnecessarily by doctors. Under the Bill, the statutory licensing authority will be able to make licences subject to specific conditions. That is set out in schedule 2, which deals with the treatment licences. The authority will be able to ensure that embryos are not created unnecessarily. It will apply to embryos created for the treatment of patients and, if Parliament so decides, to cases where the woman wishes to donate eggs for the creation of embryos which can be used for research.

Several right hon. and hon. Members spoke about the importance of the controls and the necessity for ensuring that these strict controls are properly in place. The Government have every confidence in the ability of the new authority to impose strict controls and the Bill provides extensive powers for the approval, revocation, variation and suspension of licences. A primary task of the new authority will be to make sure that there is an effective system in place and that it enjoys public confidence.

There are further grounds for reassuring hon. Members. There is the element of self-policing which operates in any area of scientific endeavour. Today we have had a great deal of discussion about the recent publication of works being undertaken by scientists. Once published, any results are open to scrutiny by scientists and others who work in the field. The scientific community has played and will continue to play an important part in ensuring that results are published.

We also have the five years' experience of the voluntary system. This is the result of the work done by the voluntary licensing authority under the vigilant eye of its chairman, Dame Mary Donaldson. We are aware of no embryo research being carried out in this country without its prior approval. With the additional powers vested in the authority under the Bill, we can undoubtedly be confident that such work will be properly supervised and regulated.

Lest there be any doubt, I should repeat that the role of my right hon. and learned Friend and me in speaking for the Government tonight has been to assist the House in reaching a conclusion on this great matter and to help provide factual information and a resume of the arguments. It has been our intention to approach this, so far as possible, in a dispassionate and objective fashion.

My view as the Member for Surrey, South-West will be registered in the Division Lobby later. I shall vote against the amendment. I have never made any secret of my support for the principle of embryo research, subject to strict statutory controls. That is where I stand as a Member of the House. I have done my best to ensure that this view, which I have reached after careful consideration, has not influenced me in speaking on these matters as a member of the Government, whose even-handedness and neutrality should not be in question.

As the hour for decision on this vital matter approaches, I should like to thank all those who have spoken in tonight's debate for the quality of their contributions, for the thoughtful and considered way in which they have put across their arguments and for the patent sincerity with which they have expressed their views. Many have referred to the strength of views among our constituents on these complex and important problems. It is rare that this House has to address an issue of such great moral significance. Tonight's debate has done that issue full justice. It has been the culmination of several years' intensive public debate and discussion. History will view that time as justified in enabling all those concerned with such matters to develop fully their arguments.

When the House delivers its vote tonight, I believe that it will have taken its decision in a proper fashion—the importance of the issues that we have addressed demands that. Tonight, hon. Members will vote according to their consciences on the basis of their judgment with care and consideration having studied the debate and considered all the arguments. Whatever the outcome, we shall have brought to a conclusion a significant debate that transcends the normal exchanges of party politics.

In conclusion, I can do no better than remind the House of the words of my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor: this is a matter of moral judgment in the light of the factual situation … I do not believe it is right to take a moral judgment without seeking to appreciate the facts, but once the facts are appreciated, the matter is one, I believe, entirely for moral judgment."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 8 February 1990; Vol. 515, c. 987.]

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (SirPaul Dean)

I am now required to put the Question, and to avoid any confusion I remind the Committee that the first question to be decided is amendment No. 1.

It being Eleven o'clock, The SECOND DEPUTY CHAIRMAN proceeded, pursuant to the Order [2 April] and the Resolution this day, to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

The House divided: Ayes 193, Noes 364.

Division No. 166] [11 pm
Aitken, Jonathan Atkinson, David
Alexander, Richard Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Batiste, Spencer
Alton, David Battle, John
Amess, David Beaumont-Dark, Anthony
Amos, Alan Beggs, Roy
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Beith, A. J.
Ashby, David Bell, Stuart
Aspinwall, Jack Bendall, Vivian
Atkins, Robert Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Bermingham, Gerald Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Bevan, David Gilroy Kilfedder, James
Biften, Rt Hon John King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Body, Sir Richard Kirkhope, Timothy
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Bowis, John Latham, Michael
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Lawrence, Ivan
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Brazier, Julian Lightbown, David
Bright, Graham Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Buckley, George J. Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Budgen, Nicholas Lord, Michael
Burns, Simon Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Burt, Alistair McAvoy, Thomas
Butcher, John McCrea, Rev William
Canavan, Dennis Macdonald, Calum A.
Cash, William McFall, John
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Macfarlane, Sir Neil
Chope, Christopher McGrady, Eddie
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n) McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) McNamara, Kevin
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Mallon, Seamus
Conway, Derek Mans, Keith
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Marlow, Tony
Cormack, Patrick Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Cryer, Bob Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Day, Stephen Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Devlin, Tim Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Dickens, Geoffrey Mills, Iain
Dicks, Terry Moate, Roger
Dixon, Don Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Douglas, Dick Monro, Sir Hector
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Dover, Den Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Dunn, Bob Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)
Dunnachie, Jimmy Moynihan, Hon Colin
Evennett, David Mudd, David
Fallon, Michael Murphy, Paul
Faulds, Andrew Neubert, Michael
Favell, Tony Nicholls, Patrick
Fearn, Ronald Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Fookes, Dame Janet O'Brien, William
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) Paisley, Rev Ian
Fox, Sir Marcus Parry, Robert
Freeman, Roger Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)
French, Douglas Patten, Rt Hon John
Fry, Peter Pawsey, James
Galloway, George Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Garel-Jones, Tristan Powell, William (Corby)
Gow, Ian Price, Sir David
Graham, Thomas Redwood, John
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Reid, Dr John
Gregory, Conal Robertson, George
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Ground, Patrick Roe, Mrs Marion
Grylls, Michael Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Rossi, Sir Hugh
Hague, William Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Shelton, Sir William
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Sillars, Jim
Harris, David Skeet, Sir Trevor
Hawkins, Christopher Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Hayes, Jerry Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Hay hoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Speller, Tony
Hayward, Robert Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Stanbrook, Ivor
Hill, James Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Hind, Kenneth Sumberg, David
Holt, Richard Summerson, Hugo
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Taylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford)
Hume, John Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Hunter, Andrew Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Irving, Sir Charles Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Janman, Tim Thorne, Neil
Jessel, Toby Thornton, Malcolm
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Tracey, Richard
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Trippier, David
Twinn, Dr Ian Watts, John
Vaughan, Sir Gerard Widdecombe, Ann
Vaz, Keith Winterton, Mrs Ann
Waddington, Rt Hon David Winterton, Nicholas
Walden, George
Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N) Tellers for the Ayes:
Walker, Bill (T'side North) Mr. W. Benyon and Mr. A. E. P. Duffy.
Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Abbott, Ms Diane Cran, James
Allen, Graham Crowther, Stan
Arbuthnot, James Cunningham, Dr John
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Currie, Mrs Edwina
Armstrong, Hilary Dalyell, Tarn
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Darling, Alistair
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Baldry, Tony Davis, David (Boothferry)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Dewar, Donald
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Dobson, Frank
Barron, Kevin Doran, Frank
Beckett, Margaret Dorrell, Stephen
Bellingham, Henry Durant, Tony
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Dykes, Hugh
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Eadie, Alexander
Blair, Tony Eastham, Ken
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Eggar, Tim
Blunkett, David Emery, Sir Peter
Boateng, Paul Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Evans, John (St Helens N)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Farr, Sir John
Boswell, Tim Fatchett, Derek
Bottomley, Peter Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Flannery, Martin
Boyes, Roland Flynn, Paul
Bradley, Keith Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Forman, Nigel
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Foster, Derek
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Foulkes, George
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Fraser, John
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Fyfe, Maria
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Gale, Roger
Buchan, Norman Gardiner, George
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Buck, Sir Antony Gill, Christopher
Butler, Chris Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Butterfill, John Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Caborn, Richard Godman, Dr Norman A.
Callaghan, Jim Golding, Mrs Llin
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Goodhart, Sir Philip
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Goodlad, Alastair
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Carrington, Matthew Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Cartwright, John Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
Chapman, Sydney Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Grist, Ian
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Grocott, Bruce
Clay, Bob Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Clelland, David Hampson, Dr Keith
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hanley, Jeremy
Cohen, Harry Hannam, John
Coleman, Donald Hardy, Peter
Colvin, Michael Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Harman, Ms Harriet
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Haselhurst, Alan
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Haynes, Frank
Cope, Rt Hon John Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Corbett, Robin Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Corbyn, Jeremy Heathcoat-Amory, David
Cousins, Jim Henderson, Doug
Cox, Tom Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Hinchliffe, David Meale, Alan
Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall) Mellor, David
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Meyer, Sir Anthony
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Michael, Alun
Home Robertson, John Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Hood, Jimmy Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Hordern, Sir Peter Miller, Sir Hal
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Miscampbell, Norman
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Mitchell, Sir David
Howells, Geraint Moonie, Dr Lewis
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Moore, Rt Hon John
Hoyle, Doug Morgan, Rhodri
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Morley, Elliot
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Morrison, Sir Charles
Ingram, Adam Moss, Malcolm
Irvine, Michael Mowlam, Marjorie
Jack, Michael Mullin, Chris
Jackson, Robert Neale, Gerrard
Janner, Greville Needham, Richard
Johnston, Sir Russell Nellist, Dave
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Nelson, Anthony
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn) Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W) Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Norris, Steve
Kennedy, Charles Oppenheim, Phillip
Key, Robert Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Page, Richard
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil Paice, James
Kirkwood, Archy Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Knapman, Roger Patchett, Terry
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Patnick, Irvine
Knox, David Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Lambie, David Pike, Peter L.
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Lang, Ian Porter, David (Waveney)
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Leadbitter, Ted Prescott, John
Lee, John (Pendle) Primarolo, Dawn
Leighton, Ron Quin, Ms Joyce
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Radice, Giles
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Rattan, Keith
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Lewis, Terry Rathbone, Tim
Litherland, Robert Redmond, Martin
Livingstone, Ken Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Livsey, Richard Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Rhodes James, Robert
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Richardson, Jo
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Riddick, Graham
McAllion, John Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
McCartney, Ian Ridsdale, Sir Julian
McCrindle, Robert Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Robinson, Geoffrey
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West) Rogers, Allan
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Rooker, Jeff
McKelvey, William Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Maclean, David Rost, Peter
McLeish, Henry Rowe, Andrew
Maclennan, Robert Rowlands, Ted
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Ruddock, Joan
McWilliam, John Ryder, Richard
Madden, Max Sackville, Hon Tom
Madel, David Sayeed, Jonathan
Mahon, Mrs Alice Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Major, Rt Hon John Sedgemore, Brian
Malins, Humfrey Shaw, David (Dover)
Maples, John Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Marek, Dr John Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Marland, Paul Sheerman, Barry
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Martlew, Eric Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Mates, Michael Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Maude, Hon Francis Short, Clare
Maxton, John Sims, Roger
Skinner, Dennis Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury) Waller, Gary
Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E) Walley, Joan
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Ward, John
Soames, Hon Nicholas Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Soley, Clive Wareing, Robert N.
Spearing, Nigel Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Wells, Bowen
Squire, Robin Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Steel, Rt Hon Sir David Wheeler, Sir John
Steen, Anthony Whitney, Ray
Steinberg, Gerry Wiggin, Jerry
Stern, Michael Wigley, Dafydd
Stevens, Lewis Wilkinson, John
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood) Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N) Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Stott, Roger Wilshire, David
Stradling Thomas, Sir John Wilson, Brian
Strang, Gavin Winnick, David
Straw, Jack Wise, Mrs Audrey
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Wolfson, Mark
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Wood, Timothy
Taylor, Matthew (Truro) Worthington, Tony
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Wray, Jimmy
Temple-Morris, Peter Yeo, Tim
Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret Young, David (Bolton SE)
Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis Young, Sir George (Acton)
Thurnham, Peter Younger, Rt Hon George
Townend, John (Bridlington)
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath) Tellers for the Noes
Tredinnick, David Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody and Mr. James Couchman.
Trotter, Neville
Turner, Dennis
Viggers, Peter

Amendment accordingly negatived.

The SECOND DEPUTY CHAIRMAN then proceeded to put the Questions necessary to dispose of the business to be concluded at Eleven o'clock.

Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 362, Noes 189.

Division No. 167] [11.15 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)
Allen, Graham Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)
Arbuthnot, James Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Armstrong, Hilary Buchan, Norman
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Buck, Sir Antony
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Butler, Chris
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Butterfill, John
Baldry, Tony Caborn, Richard
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Callaghan, Jim
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)
Barron, Kevin Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)
Beckett, Margaret Carlisle, John, (Luton N)
Bellingham, Henry Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Carrington, Matthew
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Cartwright, John
Blair, Tony Chapman, Sydney
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Blunkett, David Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Boateng, Paul Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Clay, Bob
Boscawen, Hon Robert Clelland, David
Boswell, Tim Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Bottomley, Peter Cohen, Harry
Bottom Iey, Mrs Virginia Coleman, Donald
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Colvin, Michael
Boyes, Roland Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Bradley, Keith Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Cope, Rt Hon John
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Cousins, Jim Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Cox, Tom Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Cran, James Howells, Geraint
Crowther, Stan Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Cryer, Bob Hoyle, Doug
Cunningham, Dr John Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Currie, Mrs Edwina Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Dalyell, Tarn Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Darling, Alistair Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Ingram, Adam
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Irvine, Michael
Davis, David (Boothferry) Jack, Michael
Dewar, Donald Jackson, Robert
Dobson, Frank Janner, Greville
Doran, Frank Johnston, Sir Russell
Dorrell, Stephen Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Durant, Tony Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)
Dykes, Hugh Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Eadie, Alexander Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Eastham, Ken Kennedy, Charles
Eggar, Tim Key, Robert
Emery, Sir Peter King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Evans, John (St Helens N) Kirkwood, Archy
Farr, Sir John Knapman, Roger
Fatchett, Derek Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Knox, David
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Lambie, David
Flannery, Martin Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Flynn, Paul Lang, Ian
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Forman, Nigel Leadbitter, Ted
Foster, Derek Lee, John (Pendle)
Foulkes, George Leighton, Ron
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Fraser, John Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Fyfe, Maria Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Gale, Roger Lewis, Terry
Gardiner, George Litherland, Robert
Garrett, John (Norwich South) Livingstone, Ken
Gill, Christopher Livsey, Richard
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Glyn, Dr Sir Alan Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Godman, Dr Norman A. Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Golding, Mrs Llin McAllion, John
Goodhart, Sir Philip McCartney, Ian
Goodlad, Alastair McCrindle, Robert
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Gorman, Mrs Teresa McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Greenway, John (Ryedale) McKelvey, William
Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E') Maclean, David
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) McLeish, Henry
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Maclennan, Robert
Grist, Ian McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Grocott, Bruce McWilliam, John
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Madden, Max
Hampson, Dr Keith Madel, David
Hanley, Jeremy Mahon, Mrs Alice
Hannam, John Major, Rt Hon John
Hardy, Peter Malins, Humfrey
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Maples, John
Harman, Ms Harriet Marek, Dr John
Haselhurst, Alan Marland, Paul
Haynes, Frank Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Heal, Mrs Sylvia Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Martlew, Eric
Heathcoat-Amory, David Mates, Michael
Henderson, Doug Maude, Hon Francis
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Maxton, John
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Hinchliffe, David Meale, Alan
Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall) Mellor, David
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Meyer, Sir Anthony
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Michael, Alun
Home Robertson, John Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Hood, Jimmy Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Hordern, Sir Peter Miller, Sir Hal
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Miscampbell, Norman
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby) Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Mitchell, Sir David Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Soames, Hon Nicholas
Moore, Rt Hon John Soley, Clive
Morgan, Rhodri Spearing, Nigel
Morley, Elliot Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Squire, Robin
Morris, M (N'hampton S) Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Morrison, Sir Charles Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Moss, Malcolm Steen, Anthony
Mowlam, Marjorie Steinberg, Gerry
Mullin, Chris Stern, Michael
Neale, Gerrard Stevens, Lewis
Needham, Richard Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Nellist, Dave Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)
Nelson, Anthony Stott, Roger
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Strang, Gavin
Norris, Steve Straw, Jack
Oppenheim, Phillip Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Page, Richard Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Paice, James Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Temple-Morris, Peter
Patchett, Terry Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Patnick, Irvine Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Thurnham, Peter
Pike, Peter L. Townend, John (Bridlington)
Porter, David (Waveney) Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Tredinnick, David
Prescott, John Trotter, Neville
Primarolo, Dawn Turner, Dennis
Quin, Ms Joyce Viggers, Peter
Radice, Giles Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Raffan, Keith Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Rathbone, Tim Waller, Gary
Redmond, Martin Walley, Joan
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn Ward, John
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Rhodes James, Robert Wareing, Robert N.
Richardson, Jo Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Riddick, Graham Wells, Bowen
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Wheeler, Sir John
Robinson, Geoffrey Whitney, Ray
Rogers, Allan Wiggin, Jerry
Rooker, Jeff Wigley, Dafydd
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Wilkinson, John
Rowe, Andrew Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Rowlands, Ted Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Ruddock, Joan Wilshire, David
Ryder, Richard Wilson, Brian
Sackville, Hon Tom Winnick, David
Sayeed, Jonathan Wise, Mrs Audrey
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas Wolfson, Mark
Sedgemore, Brian Wood, Timothy
Shaw, David (Dover) Worthington, Tony
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Wray, Jimmy
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Yeo, Tim
Sheerman, Barry Young, David (Bolton SE)
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Young, Sir George (Acton)
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW) Younger, Rt Hon George
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Tellers for the Ayes:
Short, Clare Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody and Mr. James Couchman.
Sims, Roger
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Aitken, Jonathan Ashby, David
Alexander, Richard Aspinwall, Jack
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Atkins, Robert
Alton, David Atkinson, David
Amess, David Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)
Amos, Alan Batiste, Spencer
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Battle, John
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Janman, Tim
Beggs, Roy Jessel, Toby
Beith, A. J. Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Bell, Stuart Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Bendall, Vivian Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Kilfedder, James
Bermingham, Gerald King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Bevan, David Gilroy Kirkhope, Timothy
Biffen, Rt Hon John Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Body, Sir Richard Latham, Michael
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Lawrence, Ivan
Bowis, John Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Lightbown, David
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Lilley, Peter
Brazier, Julian Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Bright, Graham Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Buckley, George J. Lord, Michael
Budgen, Nicholas Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Burns, Simon McAvoy, Thomas
Burt, Alistair McCrea, Rev William
Butcher, John Macdonald, Calum A.
Canavan, Dennis McFall, John
Cash, William Macfarlane, Sir Neil
Channon, Rt Hon Paul McGrady, Eddie
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n) McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) McNamara, Kevin
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Mallon, Seamus
Conway, Derek Mans, Keith
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Marlow, Tony
Cormack, Patrick Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Day, Stephen Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Devlin, Tim Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Dickens, Geoffrey Mills, Iain
Dicks, Terry Moate, Roger
Dixon, Don Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Douglas, Dick Monro, Sir Hector
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Dover, Den Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Dunn, Bob Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)
Dunnachie, Jimmy Moynihan, Hon Colin
Evennett, David Mudd, David
Fallon, Michael Murphy, Paul
Faulds, Andrew Neubert, Michael
Favell, Tony Nicholls, Patrick
Fearn, Ronald Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Fookes, Dame Janet O'Brien, William
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) Paisley, Rev Ian
Fox, Sir Marcus Parry, Robert
Freeman, Roger Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)
French, Douglas Patten, Rt Hon John
Fry, Peter Pawsey, James
Galloway, George Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Garel-Jones, Tristan Price, Sir David
Gow, Ian Redwood, John
Graham, Thomas Reid, Dr John
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Robertson, George
Gregory, Conal Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Roe, Mrs Marion
Ground, Patrick Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Rossi, Sir Hugh
Hague, William Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Shelton, Sir William
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Sillars, Jim
Harris, David Skeet, Sir Trevor
Hawkins, Christopher Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Hayes, Jerry Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Speller, Tony
Hayward, Robert Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv'NE) Stanbrook, Ivor
Hill, James Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Hind, Kenneth Sumberg, David
Holt, Richard Summerson, Hugo
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Hume, John Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Hunter, Andrew Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Irving, Sir Charles Thorne, Neil
Thornton, Malcolm Warren, Kenneth
Tracey, Richard Watts, John
Trippier, David Widdecombe, Ann
Vaughan, Sir Gerard Winterton, Mrs Ann
Vaz, Keith Winterton, Nicholas
Waddington, Rt Hon David
Walden, George Tellers for the Noes:
Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N) Mr. A. E. P. Duffy and Mr. W. Benyon.
Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 11 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

The SECOND DEPUTY CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report progress and ask leave to sit again.

Committee report progress.—[Mr. Lightbown.]

Committee again tomorrow.