HC Deb 20 June 1990 vol 174 cc1020-35
Mr. Thurnham

I beg to move amendment No. 34, in page 6, line 43, at end insert 'but the person responsible for maintaining the records may apply to the Authority for records maintained in pursuance of a licence to be lodged with the Authority before the expiry of such period'. I shall comment only briefly on the amendment, and I do not wish to press it to a Division. We raised the issue in Committee. People involved in running clinics have raised with me the problems that might arise if their clinics had to go out of business or they had problems with keeping records for a long period. The Bill places the responsibility for keeping records on the individual clinic, but there could be circumstances in which the clinic found that it was unable to carry out that duty and was fearful of being liable for large financial and other consequences.

This is an administrative item that could be dealt with in regulations. If my hon. Friend the Minister for Health could state that this will be satisfactorily dealt with in regulations, it would allay the fears of those people running clinics. They are worried that they would face responsibilities that they could not easily fulfil if the licensing authority were to adhere strictly to the words of the Bill. It would be better if we could keep the Bill simple and leave those points to be dealt with in regulations.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

I am happy to reassure my hon. Friend. Clause 13(4) states: No information shall be removed from any records maintained in pursuance of the licence before the expiry of such period as may be specified by the authority. The amendment seeks to ensure that the person responsible for maintaining the records may apply to the authority for the records to be lodged with it before the expiry of the period stated in the direction.

I understand that clinics seeking licences may be concerned lest they are required physically to retain records about patients who have received licensed treatments for an unreasonably long time. When a centre wishes to close, that may pose problems. When considering the amendment it will be helpful to draw a distinction between the physical records and information contained in them. The authority will not necessarily wish to receive the physical records, but it will wish to receive the information contained in them. The Bill makes it clear that it is necessary for the authority to be provided with information about treatment. It can also issue directions about the information about storage and research that must be retained.

Under clause 24(2) it is a condition of every licence that information should be recorded and given to the authority about each of the matters listed in clause 13(2)(a) to (e). It will be for the authority to decide how frequently it wishes to receive the information. The fact that information is passed to the authority will not mean that the information ceases to exist at a licensed centre. We envisage that a centre will keep its physical records and pass the information contained in them to the authority. Therefore, the information would continue to exist in two places unless the centre were to close. That is what concerns my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham).

The provisions of the Bill are already sufficient to ensure that the authority can obtain all the information that it needs. If a centre wishes to apply to the authority for information before the time laid down in directions, perhaps because the centre is having difficulty with the storage of its records, it will be free to do so.

There is no need for an amendment on this matter. It will be dealt with through administrative arrangements between the authority and the various centres. If a centre were to close there would be no difficulty about passing the physical records to another centre or to the authority itself. I hope that I have reassured my hon. Friend and those who have raised this matter with me. We do not think that further safeguards are necessary.

Amendment negatived.

Mrs. Ann Winterton

I beg to move amendment No. 20, in page 6, leave out lines 45 to 47 and insert—

  1. '(a) any child who may be born as a result of the treatment will have a father by virtue of section 28 of this Act, and
  2. (b) account has been taken of the welfare of any such child, and of any other child who may be affected by the birth.'.

Mr. Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to consider the following amendments: No. 18, in page 6, line 46, after 'treatment', insert '(including the need of that child for a father).

No. 19, in clause 25, page 14, line 19, after 'services', insert '(including a child's need for a father)'.

Mrs. Winterton

I shall not delay the House for long because there is still much business before us. I have tabled the amendment because the interests of the child in matters of artificial insemination should be paramount. That term has been used most successfully in the Children Act 1989.

I welcome the possible initiatives that have been announced by the Government to ensure that divorced fathers or fathers who have deserted the family are made responsible for supporting their children. It is right that fathers should pay towards the support of the children they have sired.

A child who is born as a result of a technique such as artificial insemination will obviously have the benefit of a mother, but should also have the benefit of a father. In my heart of hearts, I should prefer it if those coming forward for this treatment were married couples or couples in a long-standing stable relationship. However, I understand that the definition is extremely difficult. Single women who present themselves for artificial insemination by donor should not be allowed to be inseminated unless they are prepared to bring forward a man who will stand as the social father.

At the time of the treatment, that social father would enter into an agreement by saying that throughout the life of the child he would be responsible for it in financial and other ways in the same way as a natural father. That would be right for the child and would give it a home and stability when it was growing up. It is extremely important that a child's sense of security and identity are assured when it has been conceived by an artificial medical technique.

For those reasons and many others which I am sure will emerge in the debate, I ask the House to support the amendment.

Mr. David Blunkett (Sheffield, Brightside)

I am speaking to amendments Nos. 18 and 19: I want to make that clear so that there is no misunderstanding.

First, I must pick up some of the words used by the hon. Member for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton) and correct a misunderstanding which appears to be prevalent throughout the country. Many single parents have been deserted by the father, who for a variety of reasons has not taken responsibility for his fatherhood. However, that does not include the vast majority of people who are separated or divorced, whatever the circumstances, but are not a single parent family—according to my definition—but a family which is separated. The father and the mother, each hopefully in the best circumstances, endeavour to provide a loving home for the children.

I want to put that on record because the hon. Lady, perhaps inadvertently, referred to them in a way that hon. Members have referred to them this week when talking about modest Government changes in the provision of maintenance. I also put it on record because, when debating amendments 18 and 19 and the associated issues, it is important to separate out what some people have said in the past on social and sexual issues—including hon. Members who tabled amendments 18, 19 and 20.

Mrs. Ann Winterton

I do not want to cast aspersions on the role of single parents bringing up families, and if I have given that impression I wish to correct it. Many single parents, as the hon. Gentleman has hinted, have been left in circumstances that they would never have wished upon themselves. They are doing a splendid job of bringing up their families. The point that I was seeking to make was that, when using technique like artificial insemination, a father should present himself along with the mother, so that a social father is provided for the child.

Mr. Blunkett

I am grateful for the hon. Lady's clarification, which leads me to my next point. I accept that fathers have a direct responsibility for the maintenance, well-being and love of their children, and that that should be achieved whenever possible. That is why I want to be absolutely sure that we avoid language or attitudes which foster discrimination or inflame hurt or prejudice.

Also, we must consider the frontiers that we are extending in the Bill, and recognise the enormous responsibility that we have for children. We must consider them as much as we consider the wishes of adults. There is also the responsibility for the stability of society and the impact that our choices will have on future generations. Those are difficult and profound issues, which cannot be dealt with by prejudiced or political stances which dub those people who have doubts and questions as antagonistic to other rights and issues concerning relationships, sexuality or public policy.

There is nothing wrong with not having children. No stain or ignominy is involved. They are a product of love, not of science. When we are considering the issue, we have to be clear about the situation in which children are brought into the world. It is clear that, when the egg is fertilised by the husband's sperm, either by IVF or directly in the woman—that would apply also to the partner of the woman concerned—and, despite my difficulties in coming to terms with it, it is also true when there is a properly regulated and controlled fertilisation through a donor in a loving relationship, where it is the wish of both partners.

That is not the same as when past abuse by men of women as a convenience is translated by some women into the same use of men as a convenience. Reproduction is not a cold, clinical, scientific operation—nor are children the property or goods of someone for their convenience or satisfaction.

People have an absolute right to be themselves, to reject contact with men or to shun any physical contact with them. That is their choice. But that is not the same as accepting that there is some automatic or inalienable right to child bearing. Child bearing is not a right. It is part of the unfathomable life force. That is why man and woman together must take responsibility for the well-being and love of the child. In so saying, I believe that that right cannot be extended in a way that suggests to people that as individuals they can make that choice without understanding those deep, often dangerous, but difficult choices.

10.15 pm
Mr. Wilshire

I rise with some trepidation to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett). Indeed, I am the person in whose name amendments Nos. 18 and 19 are tabled. The hon. Gentleman was right to make two basic points before coming to the substance of his speech. I shall deal with both of them first so that, I hope, we can agree.

I made it clear in Committee that my heart goes out to people who find themselves bringing up children as single parents through no fault of their own. I intend nothing that will hurt them and I hope that I shall say nothing that will cause offence to people who find themselves in that predicament. Equally, the hon. Gentleman was right to caution against language and attitudes that cause hurt. It was for that reason that I tabled amendments Nos. 18 and 19 and that is why I believe and hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton) will understand why I could not vote for amendment No. 20.

Amendment No. 20 covers ground that we went over in Committee. I tabled an amendment along much the same lines. I wish that the Committee had accepted it, but it did not. I am prepared to accept that that was the decision of the House and I do not seek to reopen that debate. I tabled my two amendments to do something different. I tabled them not to add anything new to the Bill, which is what amendment No. 20 would do and what I attempted to do in Committee, but simply to clarify the legislation so that there is no doubt whatever about the real meaning, as claimed by the Government, of clause 13(5). That part of clause 13 was added to the Bill in another place in response to a great deal of pressure to take account of the rights and welfare of a child who will result from treatment.

As the Bill has progressed through both Houses we have heard a great deal, quite properly, about the rights of women. I fully support that. My two amendments would not automatically bar anyone from seeking treatment or being given treatment. It is important that we see the difference between these amendments and amendment No. 20 and what has been suggested elsewhere. On this occasion I seek to clarify clause 13. Before we go any further, let us be clear exactly what clause 13(5) says: A woman shall not be provided with treatment services unless account has been taken of the welfare of any child who may be born as a result of the treatment". I stress the words "account has been taken". We need to go slightly further than that to understand what amendments Nos. 18 and 19 are all about. We need not only to understand what we think is the meaning of the clause but to consider what my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor said that it meant when he was seeking to add it to the Bill in another place: Among the factors that clinicians should take into account will be the material circumstances in which the child is likely to be brought up and also the stability and love which he or she is likely to enjoy. Such stability is clearly linked to the material position of the woman and in particular whether a husband or long-term partner can play a full role in providing the child with a permanent family setting in the fullest sense of that term, including financial provision."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 6 March 1990; Vol. 516, c. 1098.] He was rightly identifying that stability and love are key considerations when considering how best to protect the welfare of the child. He equally rightly pointed out that the family unit is at the heart of that source of stability and love. We must be clear beyond all doubt—and this is the purpose of my amendment—what is meant by "family" in that context.

For me, the word "family" means three things. It means the family as a social unit, a financial unit, and a biological unit. As to the family being a social unit, I repeat the warning that I gave in Commitee that, when we talk about social units and social issues in such a context, we all need to be careful not to foist our theological views on others. When speaking of the family as a social unit, we must not drag our personal theologies into that line of thought.

When speaking of the family in this context, we are seeking to speak up for the traditional values and standards of society that have stood us in good stead for a long time. It is clear to me that the traditional social family unit in this country is, for better or worse, a unit of a mother and a father in a stable, long-term relationship. That value and standard is deeply embedded in our culture. It is not a coincidence that it is deeply embedded. It is a tried and tested way of giving a child the best possible start in his or her life. We tinker with that social unit at our peril.

As to the family being a financial unit, my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor made it clear that it is proper to consider financial background when deciding the welfare of a child. It is clear also that looking after a young child requires the combined efforts of two people. If one refers to the evidence provided by those who are often referred to as the new poor, figuring largely among them are the single mums with their young children who look desperately to the state to provide the financial security that they need to be able to cope. That should serve as a warning if we are tempted to tinker with the family unit as we know it, and not take account of the financial arguments.

Again, the involvement of two adults is a tried and tested way of bringing up a child. I hope that no one disputes that one of the key responsibilities of a family is to provide for the child's material welfare. Again, we tinker at our peril with the concept of a family as a financial unit that needs two people.

As to the family being a biological unit, whatever else we may say, however clever we might become, and however much science might advance, we cannot avoid the facts of life. They are blindingly clear. We as a species are social animals. We require social structures in order to survive. To reproduce, we still need mothers and fathers—

Mrs. Elizabeth Peacock (Batley and Spen)

Particularly mothers.

Mr. Wilshire

My hon. Friend says, "Particularly mothers," but, fortunately, fathers still have a role to play in the process somewhere. It is important that we should make it clear that the father's role does not begin and end at conception. Both biologically and socially, it goes further than that. In the human species, motherhood places a tremendous restriction on the freedom of action and freedom of movement of the mother because the child takes a long time to become independent. However much we may advance, we cannot get away from that. The father has a continuing role to play, and that must be integral to the decision about what is best for the welfare of any child who may result from one of the processes dealt with by the Bill.

The amendment seeks only to clarify what the Bill says. The Bill says that the child's welfare must be considered and it says that a father is an essential part of that consideration. What the Bill does not say, however, is what the outcome of that consideration must be. My amendments seek to make it crystal clear that a father is socially and financially desirable, that he is biologically essential at the beginning and that he remains biologically desirable for a long time after conception. The Bill should recognise that fact, as the Lord Chancellor tells us it is intended to. My amendments seek to spell it out, and I hope that they will have the full support of the whole House.

Ms. Hilary Armstrong (Durham, North-West)

Having listened carefully to the debate, I feel that the problem is that hon. Members are trying to legislate for their own ideal worlds. But we have to legislate and know that our legislation can be implemented. It is not possible for us to lay down in law the arguments advanced by hon. Members in favour of the premise and to say, "This will happen." Some hon. Members may want it to happen but there is no way in which we could police such a law. It is not our job to put rhetoric—however nice and good we may think it is —at the centre of the law, because we could not deliver the goods and enforce such a law. It is misleading to pretend that we could achieve that in the Bill.

The structure and organisation of many families today is very different from that described by the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire). We have to legislate for families as they are and give those families the support and encouragement that they need to bring up their children as well as possible. We could say, "There ought to be a father around." But what would happen if the father disappeared before the birth—perhaps two months after conception? Where would that leave the Bill? In such circumstances, it would be wrong of us to accept the amendments. We know that we simply could not make the matters dealt with in them a serious legislative issue.

Mr. Thurnham

I am pleased to have this opportunity to intervene briefly on a subject that arose in Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) has changed his original wording to make matters a little easier. But we still have a difficulty with the wording. The welfare of the child is the paramount consideration. I am not sure that we shall succeed if we seek to go further and stipulate the precise need for a father; indeed we might achieve the reverse. We may place the woman in such a position that she says that a certain man is her partner —they might conceivably even say that they are married —just for sake of fulfilling the stipulation in my hon. Friend's amendment.

I know that the amendment does not refer to someone being married, but it places the woman in a position where she may be tempted to have a pseudo-father for her child. If the Bill were seen to be restrictive, there is the possibility of children being fathered by men with AIDS and women indulging in self-insemination rather than going for treatment.

A widow whose husband had left her some sperm may better come to terms with the loss of her husband by having the child that they both wanted and she still wants. The fact that she has lost her husband should not be a technical reason for preventing her from having treatment.

10.30 pm
Mr. Wilshire

I wanted to raise this point before the hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Ms. Armstrong) sat down. My hon. Friend is raising the same point, so I obviously did not make myself sufficiently clear. I am not suggesting a variation of what was discussed in Committee. Nothing that I have said about amendments Nos. 18 or 19 suggests that there is any compulsion or necessity or that a father is essential. That is why I went out of my way to distance myself from amendment No. 20, which provides compulsion. I am advancing an entirely new argument—that the welfare of the child at least requires that we give some thought to the need for a father, not legislate for compulsion.

Mr. Thurnham

I am glad that my hon. Friend is saying that he wants to distance himself from amendment No. 20, which goes further than we could accept. I am advised that it is defective and that in certain circumstances the wording could be self-defeating. We must leave amendment No. 20 to one side and stick with the amendments Nos. 18 and 19.

It was said in Committee that there are good single mothers and couples who are the worst possible parents. Deciding whether treatment should be offered on the basis of someone presenting himself as the father is not the right way to proceed. It would be better to leave it to the people concerned, bearing in mind the welfare of the child, to decide whether treatment should be offered rather than to get into arguments about whether there is a father. A widow should not feel that she should terminate her pregnancy because she will be left as a single mother.

Mr. Blunkett

I do not think that the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) or myself suggested that, in the circumstances that the hon. Gentleman has outlined, there would be any objection or concern. He should distinguish between what he has just said and what he said earlier about a widow seeking artificial insemination following the death of her husband. I shall be corrected if I have misconstrued the hon. Gentleman's words, but he said that if the sperm were still available it could help her to get over her bereavement to have a child. No one, even in those tragic circumstances, should have a child to overcome their despair or emotional problems.

Mr. Thurnham

The hon. Gentleman put his point well earlier. A widow, bearing in mind that her husband may have wished them to have a child, may feel that it helps her to come to terms with her bereavement to go through with the wishes of herself and her late husband. Obviously, those who are giving the treatment will bear in mind whether that is in the interests or the welfare of the child. The Bill says that the welfare of the child is paramount.

Mrs. Peacock

Are not we considering the welfare of the family as well as that of the child? Is not it better for a child to have a father, as part of the family unit?

Mr. Thurnham

We all want the "ideal" family, and are considering the welfare of the child with that in mind. What we are discussing, however, is the wording of the Bill, which suggests that the child's welfare should be a matter for those giving the treatment to consider. The question is whether we should go further and try to specify the presence of a father, and what wording we should use to do so.

I think that we must provide that those giving the treatment can make a judgment, without any stipulation in the Bill that the father must be married or the relationship must be stable. Obviously I am not suggesting that a widow should have a child solely to come to terms with her bereavement, but, if it is deemed right for her to do so, it may well help. The rightness of the action must be the first consideration.

Mr. Wilshire

I fear that my hon. Friend has still not realised the essential difference between my amendments and what has been discussed before. My quote from the Lord Chancellor mentioned the factors that a clinician should take into account when reaching his judgment. If my hon. Friend reads the Bill and earlier speeches in detail, I think that he will grasp the fact that the intention of the Bill—and that of my amendments—is not to lay down hard-and-fast rules, but to give some guidance to the clinicians, who will make individual judgments about individual cases.

Mr. Thurnham

I think that, in many respects, my hon. Friend and I agree; all that we have to decide is the words that we want to see in the Bill. I should be content for it to provide that the welfare of the child should be the paramount consideration of those deciding whether to give treatment. My hon. Friend wants to go further, and insert words about the father.

Ms. Richardson

We intend to vote against amendments 18, 19 and 20, as we did in Committee.

It seems to me— particularly on the basis of the speeches of the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire)—that the one person who is not being considered is the woman. As clause 13 is now framed—we realise that it was drafted on the advice of the Lord Chancellor—the welfare of the child is of paramount importance. Now, the hon. Member for Spelthorne —going much further, I acknowledge, than his hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton), who is much more implacable—wants to insert the provision that clinicians should be given "guidance", a nod or a wink, in regard to the existence of a father. There is no mention of the wishes, views and emotions of the mother.

I freely acknowledge that, in some circumstances, a woman may simply want to have a child. I say that with special reference to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett), who said that child bearing was not a right. It is not a right, but I believe that most women would agree that, if they wanted a child, they would do everything possible to achieve that objective. I know many women—single, divorced or separated—who would go to inordinate lengths to have a child, because that is their overwhelming wish.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Ms. Armstrong) said, the system proposed by the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) is totally unworkable. If we insert (including the need of that child for a father)", we are ready to say that the clinician should take account of the size of that father's income and house and all sorts of other considerations which sound laughable but are not. We are inviting the clinician to act as a kind of god and to say that he must look at the whole background, instead of discussing with the patient or client her wishes and needs and then taking into account the child's welfare in the long run.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)

I have been present throughout the debate on the Cross Benches, although I have only just come to my place. The hon. Lady's comments, especially her last sentence, make it clear that she sees the position of the "patient", the prospective mother, as of central importance. Surely the point, which has been stated by her hon. Friends and my hon. Friends in various amendments, is that, in asserting that the welfare of the child is paramount, we must take account of a child's need to have two parents where possible. That is not to detract from the actions of many men. A friend of mine struggles strongly to fill the part of both parties because of a tragedy—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

Order. The hon. Member must come to the point of his intervention and not make a speech.

Mr. Brazier

I was just about to finish, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I put it to the hon. Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson) that, if she wants to stand by what she said at the beginning of her speech about the welfare of the child being paramount, she cannot aver that the patient's views must be paramount.

Ms. Richardson

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. In taking account of the welfare of the child, the authority will consider the mother's circumstances.

We all acknowledge that we are feeling our way in new territory. My problem lies with the idea that we are making the clinician the one who will judge. When looking at the position of the client—let us call her that—the clinician must make a decision on her needs and the welfare of the child that she wants to bear.

Obviously, doctors and all of us would like to see a situation in which there was a mother and a father and other members of an extended family. That is the ideal, but, as the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) acknowledged, life is not always like that. Some women who want a child and could provide a good background and home for a child do not want to have a man around because they have had a particularly bad experience with a former partner. That has often happened.

The hon. Member for Canterbury looks puzzled. He must, however, have come across cases in his constituency of women being victims of domestic violence. That does not necessarily mean that those women do not want to have more children. Why should they not be allowed to have them, even if they want to have nothing further to do with men? Therefore, I shall invite my hon. Friends to vote against the amendment.

10.45 pm

In Committee, I raised another substantial point with the Minister: whether the clause, as drafted, is likely to breach the European convention on human rights. That point was put to me by the National Council for Civil Liberties. The Minister should ask the Lord Chancellor to consider the briefing commissioned by the National Council for Civil Liberties. It was written by Mr. Michael Beloff, a lawyer of renown who has won many cases in the European Court. He maintains: a law which either specifically or, in practice, has the effect of restricting the access of certain categories of women to have a child … may well be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights under: Article 8: the unjustified interference with a person's right to a private and family life … Article 12: the denial of the right to found a family. This right is not conditional upon marriage, or being in a heterosexual relationship. Article 14: the differentiation in treatment of certain categories of women to enjoy the rights and freedoms under the Convention without discrimination on the grounds of their status. I accept that the Minister had had no opportunity to study the brief when she gave her reply in Committee, but it was not good enough for her just to say, "We'll have to wait and see what happens." The Government may find that they are in serious trouble. I hope that the Minister will deal with that matter, as well as with the other points that have been made. I invite my hon. Friends to vote against amendments Nos. 18, 19 and 20.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

Once again, we have had a detailed and thoughtful debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton) made a strong speech about the interests of the child. She has strong reservations about some of the techniques for reproduction that have a bearing on lesbian couples and the lack of both a father and a mother in family units.

Other views have been advanced in the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) spoke at length in Committee about the subject. Tonight he has developed further many of the points that he made at that time.

It is a complex and difficult matter and each hon. Member has to decide according to his or her own conscience. It is right and proper that the House should take a view in such special circumstances. After all, it is unprecedented for statutory controls to be made over the provision of treatment. We are debating special circumstances in which a life is being created. The Bill concerns the information, the licensing and the inspection of the premises. It seems right and proper that we should consider carefully the addition to the Bill that was incorporated in another place that the welfare of the child should be taken into consideration.

Some argue that it is wrong to permit the creation of a fatherless child. Clause 28 takes special steps to clarify the role of the father and that the husband of a woman who bears the child is the father unless he can show that he did not consent to the treatment and that if a man and a woman are treated together, the man is the father.

My hon. Friend the Member for Congleton rightly stressed the importance of fathers. [Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the Minister, but a number of meetings are taking place throughout the Chamber. I can barely hear the Minister and she is entitled to be heard.

Mrs. Bottomley

I have to tell my hon. Friend that her amendment is defective where it refers to clause 28. By prescribing that any child born as a result of the treatment is required to have a father by virtue of that clause, married couples or partners presenting for treatment where the sperm has not been donated by a third party would be prevented from obtaining treatment.

The amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne does not involve a prohibition so does not mean that unmarried couples or those not in a stable partnership shall be refused treatment. It spells out and elaborates all the factors that should be considered when the child's welfare is taken into account. That is rather a different matter. There is concern that a prohibition would encourage women who were determined to have a child not to go through the authorised treatment centres but to use unauthorised treatment centres, with all the inherent dangers in that approach.

Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)

I have often said that we have the delusion that somehow we can control human behaviour, but a young woman who wants a baby does not have to go to a treatment centre. Throughout history young women have become pregnant without the intervention of the state. Is it not the case that if a woman is determined to become pregnant she can do so whether or not we agree to this particular structure?

Mrs. Bottomley

That view was also expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) in Committee when she said, It is not for the state to decide who should or should not have children."—[Official Report, Standing Committee B, 15 May 1990; c.151.] I refer my hon. Friend to the remarks of Lord Hailsham who said: I am sorry to say that there will always be an intelligent minority who prefers what I might call the good old-fashioned version of procreation. We cannot regulate such matters in the general population, but there is an argument that in such special circumstances, where great care and attention is given to create an embryo and implant that embryo to secure a life, often in extremely adverse circumstances, it must be right and proper for consideration to be given to the welfare of that child.

My hon. Friend's amendment, which refers to the need for a father, adds to our definition. He referred to the comments by the Lord Chancellor about the nature of the concept of welfare. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight) tabled an amendment in Committee on whether the concept of welfare should be paramount. It is a complex concept, particularly in circumstances which involve the option of whether the child in question is born. That adds difficulties. My right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor referred to the remarks of Judge Hardie Boyce of New Zealand who defined welfare most effectively. He said: Welfare is an all encompassing word. It includes material welfare, both in the sense of adequacy of resources to provide a pleasant home and comfortable standard of living and in the sense of adequacy of care to ensure that good health and due personal pride are maintained. However, while material considerations have their place, they are secondary matters. More important are the stability and security, the loving and understanding care and guidance, the warm compassionate relationship, that are essential for the full development of the child's own character, personality and talents. The hon. Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson) advanced a different argument which has merit, although it is not one that I personally support. She asked specifically about the status of the European convention on human rights. I have considered carefully the concerns expressed by the National Council for Civil Liberties and my advice is that the essential object of article 8 is to protect the individual against arbitrary interference by public authorities with their private and family life.

Our legal advice is that it is unlikely that the European Court of Human Rights would consider that article 8 would impose a positive duty on the Government to ensure that single women had the same rights of access to treatment as married women. I am also advised that article 14 would not be breached if article 8 was not and that article 12 has no application in the case of single women who want to have children by means of AID or IVF.

Ms. Armstrong

Is the Minister saying that it is her interpretation that, if the amendment were accepted, only married couples would be able to opt for that treatment?

Mrs. Bottomley

I am pleased to be able to clarify precisely what the amendment means. According to amendment No. 20, a woman shall not be provided with treatment unless account has been taken of the welfare of any such child who may be born and the need of that child for a father. There is no requirement or prohibition. The licensing authority would have to consider that properly.

Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury)

Does the Minister agree that if the amendment were passed it would create a presumption in favour of the presence of a father, a presumption which in the great majority of cases might well be sensible, but which might not be sensible in some cases?

Mrs. Bottomley

Clause 25 identifies the role of the code of practice within which it will be important for the authority to spell out in more detail the way in which the concept of the welfare of the child and, if the amendment is accepted, the child's need for a father should be implemented. It will set out how the authority should consider, with respect to treatment centres, their undertaking that task. As I said, there would not be a prohibition. There would be a recognition that children need stability, continuity and the concepts that I identified earlier in my comments about welfare and the Lord Chancellor's comments in that respect.

Mr. Thurnham

My hon. Friend spoke earlier about the need for a warm and loving relationship. I remind her of an example in my constituency when a single woman was rightly allowed to have a child. Mrs. Annie Gibson was a widow and battled against many committees to be allowed to adopt a severely handicapped child. I cannot think of anyone who could be a better parent for that child, who had previously been without a family. Is not that an example of a single woman having a child and bringing it up most successfully?

Mrs. Bottomley

I am impressed to hear about my hon. Friend's constituent and her clear commitment to that child. However, when a child is in need of a home, the circumstances are rather different from the circumstances that are envisaged in the Bill when one is bringing about the creation of a life.

Although I share hon. Members' reservations about laying down precise arrangements under which children should be brought up, I feel that my hon. Friend's amendment has a sufficient level of generality, while protecting the welfare of the children, to commend it to the House for its support.

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

Mrs. Ann Winterton

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw amendment No. 20 because I wish to seek to divide the House on amendment No. 18.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER then proceeded to put forthwith the Question on amendments and new clauses, moved by a Member of the Government, of which notice had been given, to that part of the Bill to be concluded at Eleven o'clock.

Amendment proposed: No. 18, in page 6, line 46, after `treatment', insert '(including the need of that child for a father).—[Mr. Wilshire.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 226, Noes 174.

Division No. 241] [11 pm
Aitken, Jonathan Dixon, Don
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Douglas, Dick
Allason, Rupert Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Alton, David Dover, Den
Amess, David Duffy, A. E. P.
Amos, Alan Dunn, Bob
Arbuthnot, James Durant, Tony
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Eggar, Tim
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Ashby, David Fallon, Michael
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Favell, Tony
Atkins, Robert Fearn, Ronald
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Fishburn, John Dudley
Batiste, Spencer Fookes, Dame Janet
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Beggs, Roy Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)
Beith, A. J. Fox, Sir Marcus
Bell, Stuart Freeman, Roger
Bellingham, Henry French, Douglas
Bendall, Vivian Gale, Roger
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Gardiner, George
Benyon, W. Garel-Jones, Tristan
Blackburn, Dr John G. Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Blunkett, David Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Boscawen, Hon Robert Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Boswell, Tim Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Gregory, Conal
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Bowis, John Grocott, Bruce
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Ground, Patrick
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Grylls, Michael
Brazier, Julian Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Bright, Graham Hague, William
Buck, Sir Antony Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Buckley, George J. Hannam, John
Burns, Simon Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Burt, Alistair Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Butcher, John Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Butterfill, John Hayward, Robert
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Canavan, Dennis Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hill, James
Cartwright, John Hinchliffe, David
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Hind, Kenneth
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Chapman, Sydney Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Chope, Christopher Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Churchill, Mr Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Howells, Geraint
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Conway, Derek Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Hunter, Andrew
Cormack, Patrick Irvine, Michael
Cummings, John Jack, Michael
Cunliffe, Lawrence Janman, Tim
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Jessel, Toby
Davis, David (Boothferry) Johnston, Sir Russell
Day, Stephen Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Devlin, Tim Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Kennedy, Charles Reid, Dr John
Key, Robert Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Kilfedder, James Riddick, Graham
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Kirkhope, Timothy Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Knapman, Roger Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Rossi, Sir Hugh
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Latham, Michael Shaw, David (Dover)
Lawrence, Ivan Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Shelton, Sir William
Lightbown, David Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lilley, Peter Skeet, Sir Trevor
Livsey, Richard Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Luce, Rt Hon Richard Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Steen, Anthony
McCrea, Rev William Stevens, Lewis
McFall, John Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West) Stokes, Sir John
Maclean, David Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Maclennan, Robert Sumberg, David
McLoughlin, Patrick Summerson, Hugo
McNamara, Kevin Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Maginnis, Ken Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Malins, Humfrey Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Mates, Michael Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Miscampbell, Norman Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Thorne, Neil
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Thornton, Malcolm
Monro, Sir Hector Townend, John (Bridlington)
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Tracey, Richard
Morrison, Sir Charles Trimble, David
Moss, Malcolm Trippier, David
Moynihan, Hon Colin Trotter, Neville
Mudd, David Twinn, Dr Ian
Murphy, Paul Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Neubert, Michael Waddington, Rt Hon David
Nicholls, Patrick Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Norris, Steve Wallace, James
O'Brien, William Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Paisley, Rev Ian Watts, John
Parry, Robert Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Patnick, Irvine Whitney, Ray
Patten, Rt Hon John Widdecombe, Ann
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Wood, Timothy
Pawsey, James Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Yeo, Tim
Porter, David (Waveney)
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Tellers for the Ayes:
Rathbone, Tim Mrs. Ann Winterton and Mr. David Wilshire.
Redmond, Martin
Abbott, Ms Diane Carrington, Matthew
Adley, Robert Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Allen, Graham Clay, Bob
Armstrong, Hilary Clelland, David
Ashton, Joe Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Cohen, Harry
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Coleman, Donald
Barron, Kevin Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Beckett, Margaret Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Boswell, Tim Corbyn, Jeremy
Boyes, Roland Couchman, James
Bradley, Keith Cousins, Jim
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Cox, Tom
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Cryer, Bob
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Curry, David
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Dalyell, Tam
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Darling, Alistair
Budgen, Nicholas Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Caborn, Richard Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Callaghan, Jim Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Dewar, Donald
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Dobson, Frank
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Carr, Michael Dykes, Hugh
Eastham, Ken Martlew, Eric
Evans, John (St Helens N) Maxton, John
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) Meacher, Michael
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Meale, Alan
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Miller, Sir Hal
Fisher, Mark Moonie, Dr Lewis
Flannery, Martin Morley, Elliot
Flynn, Paul Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Mowlam, Marjorie
Forman, Nigel Mullin, Chris
Forth, Eric Nellist, Dave
Foster, Derek Nelson, Anthony
Foulkes, George Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Franks, Cecil Page, Richard
Fraser, John Patchett, Terry
Fyfe, Maria Pike, Peter L.
Garrett, John (Norwich South) Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
George, Bruce Prescott, John
Gill, Christopher Primarolo, Dawn
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Quin, Ms Joyce
Godman, Dr Norman A. Radice, Giles
Golding, Mrs Llin Richardson, Jo
Goodlad, Alastair Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Graham, Thomas Robertson, George
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Rogers, Allan
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Rowe, Andrew
Hardy, Peter Ruddock, Joan
Harman, Ms Harriet Ryder, Richard
Harris, David Sackville, Hon Tom
Haselhurst, Alan Sedgemore, Brian
Haynes, Frank Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Heal, Mrs Sylvia Sheerman, Barry
Hood, Jimmy Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Hordern, Sir Peter Short, Clare
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Skinner, Dennis
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Hoyle, Doug Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Snape, Peter
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Soley, Clive
Illsley, Eric Squire, Robin
Ingram, Adam Steinberg, Gerry
Jackson, Robert Strang, Gavin
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn) Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W) Thurnham, Peter
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil Turner, Dennis
Kirkwood, Archy Walley, Joan
Knox, David Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Lambie, David Wareing, Robert N.
Leadbitter, Ted Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Lewis, Terry Wheeler, Sir John
Litherland, Robert Wiggin, Jerry
Livingstone, Ken Wigley, Dafydd
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Wilkinson, John
Loyden, Eddie Williams, Rt Hon Alan
McAllion, John Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
McKelvey, William Winnick, David
McLeish, Henry Worthington, Tony
Madden, Max Young, Sir George (Acton)
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Marek, Dr John Tellers for the Noes:
Marland, Paul Mr. Frank Doran and Mrs. Teresa Gorman.
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)

Questions accordingly agreed to.

11.15 pm
Madam Deputy Speaker

We now have to consider all the Government amendments to the end of clause 44.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I wish to offer the House a Division on amendment No. 19, which raises the same issue as amendment No. 18, on which we have just voted.

Forward to