HC Deb 20 June 1990 vol 174 cc975-7
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

I beg to move amendment No. 39, in page 3, line 10, at end insert — '(2A) No person shall place sperm and eggs in a woman in any circumstances specified in regulations except in pursuance of a licence. (2B) Regulations made by virtue of subsection (2A) above may provide that, in relation to licences only to place sperm and eggs in a woman in such circumstances, sections 12 to 22 of this Act shall have effect with such modifications as may be specified in the regulations.'.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

With this, it will be convenient to take the following: Amendment No. 23, in page 3, line 10, at end insert — '(2A) No person shall provide gamete intra fallopian transfer treatment services unless and until —

  1. (a) notification of such provision has been given to the Authority, and
  2. (b) a written undertaking has been given to provide annually to the Authority such information concerning the provision of the treatment services as the Authority may specify in directions.'.

Amendment No. 24, in schedule 2, page 29, line 22, at end insert — '(6) In the case of gamete intra fallopian transfer, if it appears to the Authority that there is cause for concern about the provision of treatment services in any centre, the Authority may require that an application be made for that centre to be licensed, and may further require that no new patients be treated at that centre until a licence has been granted.'.

Government amendments Nos. 41 and 51.

Mrs. Bottomley

In Committee, considerable attention was given to gamete intra-fallopian transfer. Government amendments Nos. 39, 41 and 51 seek to provide redress for those who have been concerned about the technique. The statutory control of any medical technique is an unprecedented measure and, following the debates in the other place—[interruption.]

Dame Jill Knight

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am so sorry, but I am directly behind my hon. Friend and I cannot hear a word that she is saying.

Madam Deputy Speaker

The hon. Lady is quite right. I am directly in front of the Minister, but I can hardly hear her either. Please may we have order while the Minister speaks to the amendment.

Mrs. Bottomley

Government amendments Nos. 39, 41 and 51 cover a matter that caused considerable concern in Committee.

The Bill is primarily concerned to control fertility treatments that consist of the creation of an embryo outside the body and those which involve donated gametes or embryos. However, the technique of gamete intra-fallopian transfer and a number of other treatments that involve the use of super-ovulatory drugs caused concern in Committee, and reservations have been expressed by many in the field. We took advice from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and others, which felt strongly that it was not right for the full controls of the Bill to cover GIFT.

The amendments seek to ensure that powers are available so that we can bring forward regulations—

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. I should be grateful if the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) would take his seat. Mrs. Bottomley.

Mrs. Bottomley

The amendments would ensure that it was possible for us to bring forward regulations, subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, to ensure that the placing of sperm and eggs in a woman fell within the licensing system should the Government consider that necessary in future.

Miss Widdecombe

I am anxious to ask my hon. Friend for one clear assurance before she concludes her remarks. Can we please be assured that, if GIFT is to be brought within the control of the Bill, those who do not wish to practise other methods and who only wish to practise GIFT will not, under any circumstances, be discriminated against for that reason?

Mrs. Bottomley

That is certainly the case. As my hon. Friend will know, one of the purposes of the counselling techniques is to ensure that people are properly advised in other techniques that will not come within the purview of the authority.

In addition to introducing a regulation-making power to bring GIFT within the control of the authority if necessary, we have tabled Government amendment No. 51, which would ensure that, should any activity take place in breach of those regulations, it would then be an offence.

Government amendment No. 41 would ensure that the authority could give guidance in its code of practice on the use of any technique involving the placing of sperm and eggs in women, whether or not the technique is covered by the Bill by virtue of regulations.

In Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) suggested that we might exert pressure on the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to ensure that it provided further guidance and encouragement to its members—which had already expressed views on this subject—to ensure that they adhered strictly to the guidelines that are already available from the licensing authorities. I wrote to the president, Sir George Pinker, and took up the Committee's concerns. He replied to me by making it clear that the royal college continues to think it right that GIFT should not be subject to the full regulation procedure under the Bill. It is more than happy to write to its members to reinforce the advice given by the authority on counselling, the use of super-ovulatory drugs, the number of embryos or eggs to be transferred and other matters relating to the practice of GIFT. The advantage of our amendments is that it could also cover other techniques such as post-peritoneal oocyte and sperm tranfer. I hope that hon. Members will feel that that satisfies the understandable concern and that we are taking the necessary steps, and that they will support the Government amendments.

Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)

The Minister will recall Labour Members raising their concerns about these matters because of their anxiety about the risks to the mother and to any resulting children. We are glad to accept the Minister's assurance—

It being Seven 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.

Amendment agreed to.

Madam Deputy Speaker

I am now required to put the Question on any amendment moved by a member of the Government to the end of schedule 2. Will the Secretary of State make clear the amendments that he is moving?

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

I propose to move amendments Nos. 14, 8, 48 and 10. I wish to make it clear that, to facilitate a vote, there will be a free vote for Conservative Members on the non-Government amendments.

Madam Deputy Speaker

then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions on amendments, moved by a member of the Government, of which notice had been given, to that part of the Bill to be concluded at Seven o'clock.

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