HC Deb 28 March 1995 vol 257 cc869-90
Mr. Alan Howarth

I beg to move amendment No. 12, in page 1, line 10, after 'activities', insert `or has a history of having had such an impairment'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 15, in page 1, line 10, after 'activities', insert or (b) a history of having had such an impairment.'. No. 17, in page 1, line 10, after 'activities', insert or

(b) a condition which is likely to cause him to have such an impairment in the future.'. Government amendments Nos. 98 to 100 and 128 to 131.

No. 21, in schedule 1, page 29, line 11, at end insert—'History of having had an impairment4A.—(1) A person shall be treated as having a history of having had an impairment if there is evidence in medical records that he has, in the past, had an impairment which falls within the scope of any other of the provisions of this Schedule. (2) Regulations may prescribe other forms of evidence, apart from medical records, which may be taken to demonstrate that a person has a history of having had an impairment under sub-paragraph (1) above.'. Government amendment No. 132.

No. 13, in page 30, leave out lines 9 to 13 and insert— '(2) Where a medical test reveals a genetic predisposition in a person to a progressive condition, sub-paragraph (1) of this paragraph shall apply to that person as if he were suffering from that condition.'. Government amendment No. 133.

No. 18, in clause 2, page 1, line 16, after 'effect', insert ',or

(c) whether a person is to be treated as having a history of having had an impairment.'. Government amendment No. 127.

Mr. Howarth

The purpose of amendment No. 13 is to remove an item in the Bill which seems to be misconceived and which would have deeply unhappy and damaging consequences for people who are destined to suffer particularly terrible disabilities.

Schedule 1(7), which deals with progressive conditions in the Bill as it is drafted specifies that Where a person—

  1. (a) suffers from a progressive condition … but
  2. (b) does not have an impairment which has a substantial adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, he shall be taken to have such an impairment".
Schedule 1(7)(2) proceeds specifically to provide that where it is likely that the person concerned will suffer from a progressive condition at some time in the future (for example, where a person has a genetic or other predisposition to a progressive condition) he shall not have the protection of the legislation.

I believe that the latter provision is unfortunate in its consequence. I cannot believe that the Government intended the consequences that would follow from it. Therefore, I have tabled amendment No. 13 so that Where a medical test reveals a genetic predisposition in a person to a progressive condition he will after all enjoy the protection of the Bill against discrimination.

My particular interest in genetically transmitted diseases goes back for some years during a period in which I have been the national chair of the Huntington's Disease Association. Huntington's disease is one of the most terrible conditions from which anyone can suffer. The association is one of some 130 organisations which are members of the Genetic Interest Group. I have developed and tabled the amendment in consultation with the group.

I believe that it is wrong to provide that those with a genetic predisposition to a late-onset disease, but who are not yet in the symptomatic phase, should be excluded from the protection that we give to disabled people from discrimination. Unless we so protect them, they will be liable to suffer discrimination in employment, when they seek insurance and in terms of credit ratings. A mass of practical difficulties could well be laid upon them. For heaven's sake, their lives are hard enough. They have to live with the knowledge of the near certainty that they will develop a disease. They surely deserve our particular consideration and support.

Scientific advance in genetics is rapid. The human genome project is one of the largest research projects which is taking place today. The range of conditions that can be predicted and the accuracy with which they can be predicted is increasing by leaps and bounds. In the case of Huntington's disease, prediction is now 99 per cent. accurate and can be made many years before the symptoms manifest themselves. It is now established that certain forms of breast cancer and bowel cancer and certain types of heart disease and diabetes are the consequence of genetic factors. As the House knows, some forms of Alzheimer's disease are also known to be caused by genetic factors.

Unlike new clause 5, my amendment would not secure protection from discrimination for people who were in the pre-symptomatic phase of HIV unless perhaps it could be demonstrated that the condition was genetic in its origin. I am not scientist enough to be able to offer an opinion on that. I regard it as wrong to exclude from protection against discrimination people who are HIV positive but pre-symptomatic. Whereas new clause 5 dealt with that, amendment No. 13 does not. I believe that there were other difficulties with new clause 5.

I put it to my hon. Friend the Minister that the Bill as it is drafted encourages discrimination. It provides a positive incentive to those who may be minded to discriminate to do so early because, whereas it would be illegal for them to discriminate against someone once he evinced the symptoms, it would not be illegal for them to discriminate against someone who had not yet manifested the symptoms.

6.15 pm
Mr. Spencer Batiste (Elmet)

How does my hon. Friend square his comments with the suggestion made to members of the Science and Technology Select Committee that literally everyone is predisposed to some late-onset disease or another and that that is not in fact a disability? How does he draw the distinction between discrimination against the disabled, which is the subject of the Bill, and discrimination in the more general sense, on which of course we are all with him?

Mr. Howarth

I am in favour of protecting everyone from discrimination. The act of discrimination is what we find offensive. The particular point that I make to my hon. Friend beyond what I have already said is that we should make it illegal for people to be discriminated against because they are liable to develop a particular medical condition when they have not yet developed that condition. That seems simply offensive.

Mr. Batiste

The Bill is about discrimination in the context of disability. It is wrong in principle and dangerous in practice, as I shall perhaps be able to demonstrate later, to treat predisposition as a disability.

Mr. Howarth

I should like to deal with that point in a few moments.

Sir Gerard Vaughan (Reading, East)

The point that my hon. Friend may not have understood is that we are apparently all likely to have a genetic abnormality within us. The point is that we do not know what that genetic abnormality means. We may have a genetic abnormality of which we know the significance, but we may not know whether that abnormality will develop. I do not see how we can speculate on the genetic information that we have at present and write it into anti-discrimination legislation.

Mr. Howarth

My amendment specifies that we are dealing with cases in which a medical test reveals genetic predisposition. We are dealing with specific, objectively ascertained circumstances.

Sir Gerard Vaughan

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Howarth

May I develop my argument a little further? My hon. Friends, who I know have thought carefully about the issue on the Science and Technology Select Committee, will perhaps be able to catch your eye later, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Unfortunately, the Bill has built into it a provision in schedule 1(7) which in effect provides a positive incentive to those minded to discriminate to do so early—to get their retaliation in first, so to speak. That is perverse and contrary to the spirit that animates the Bill. It is surely an outcome that my hon. Friend the Minister cannot have intended.

Let me illustrate what might happen in circumstances fairly close to home or at least to the office of my hon. Friend the Minister. The civil service employs many women. Some of the women whom the civil service employs will have a genetic predisposition to breast cancer. It would surely not be right for the civil service as an employer to require them to provide details of their medical condition, even positively to seek out evidence of such a predisposition and then to exclude some women from employment. Common sense and common decency tells us that that would be wrong.

The decision to take a predictive test is a major one, and it is a difficult and painful decision in the lives of individuals and their families. It may lead to much benefit. It may lead—if the test is negative—to relief from care and from the fear of having the condition. But if the test is positive and it is predicted that the person will develop the condition, he must live with the distress of knowing that, and he will then be faced with some desperately difficult decisions in his personal life. For example, he must decide whether to have children or whether to undergo medical treatment which may be traumatic.

The effect of the Bill as worded would be to add to that person's dilemmas, because he could face discrimination in a range of areas. As my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet (Mr. Batiste) said, the Bill is about people who are disabled, and he was perfectly right to say that people in the pre-symptomatic phase are not disabled. But I maintain that it is perverse that it should be legal to discriminate earlier where it would not be legal to discriminate later when the symptoms had manifested themselves. That cannot be sensible or right.

Dr. Godman

I hastily observe that I am not an expert in this field. Would the hon. Gentleman's amendment, which concerns the history of impairment, give protection to someone who has suffered a severe mental illness but has experienced what used to be called a spontaneous remission, and is able to retake his place in everyday life? Would such a person, having experienced that recovery, be protected by the amendment?

Mr. Howarth

Those are not circumstances which I had in mind during the formulation of the amendment, and I doubt if a person in such circumstances would be protected. That would need careful interpretation.

The amendment will rescue from discrimination people who will develop certain diseases late on, and it will also rescue the Government from the embarrassment which they will surely be in if the perverse consequences which I have described occur. I propose that we proceed by determining that anti-discrimination provision applies to people in the pre-symptomatic phase as if they were disabled. I acknowledge, as has been said, that people who are in the pre-symptomatic phase are not disabled, but I propose that—for the purposes of providing practical protection for them—we should treat them as if they were disabled.

The amendment proceeds differently from new clause 5, which defines people in the pre-symptomatic phase as disabled. That would be regrettable, because people who are not yet disabled do not—naturally enough—wish to be regarded or defined as such.

The amendment would be equitable, and it certainly would be of enormous benefit to individuals who are at risk. I shall illustrate how it would be fair, proper and right to introduce the amendment. I am informed by the Genetic Interest Group of a case of a town planner with sickle cell disease who was employed by one London borough and then moved to a new job in another borough. He was a member of the local government pension fund, but the transfer of his pension with his new employment was initially vetoed by the fund when it was approached by his new employers, who were aware of his condition. In the end, it turned out all right, but confusion reigned for some months and he experienced enormous anxiety. If that issue had not been resolved, he would not have been able to go back to his old job, which had gone. The trustees of the pension fund would have been free under the law as it is—and under the law as my hon. Friend the Minister proposes—to refuse to allow that transfer.

The amendment would be fair to employers and providers, and it would certainly entail them incurring no costs beyond those which they will incur as a result of the existing provisions proposed by the Government. The amendment merely requires them not to treat an individual unfairly when he is healthy. I do not see how my hon. Friend the Minister can reasonably object to that.

The amendment ought to satisfy the Government, as I was careful not to extend the definition of disability beyond the commonsense terms which I know my hon. Friend is most anxious to retain. If the Government do not accept the amendment, they and the taxpayer will suffer. They will suffer because of an increase in the cost to the public purse as a result of individuals who have been excluded from employment and denied the opportunity to make private provision for themselves becoming more dependent on benefits and on publicly funded services.

Just as the Government have made it clear that they are anxious to ensure that victimisation is not within the law, the same principle applies here. We are preventing people from being victimised because of a future condition which they will develop, and from being victimised by having the discrimination shifted forward in time.

The change to the Bill would provide a positive inducement to employers, financial services organisations and other groups to develop codes of good practice and to make their procedures transparent, logical and fair.

My hon. Friend the Minister may argue, as was argued in Committee by the Government, that the amendment is unnecessary because employment protection legislation deals with the matter. I have no doubt that that legislation does provide protection for people who have been employed for more than a certain number of years. But if they have not been employed for that number of years, they are not protected. There is also no protection for those seeking work, or for those who are looking to move to a new job and, with the flexible labour markets in which my right hon. and hon. Friends glory, that is becoming a particularly important consideration.

In the same way, existing insurance policies might well remain valid, but new ones will be increasingly difficult for people in this predicament to obtain.

I am advised by my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet that the Select Committee has heard the case put by distinguished geneticists that the right way to protect people in the pre-symptomatic phase and before the late onset of a genetically transmitted condition is through confidentiality. I do not think that that is sufficient protection. Secrets are not kept, and it would be most unreasonable if people who have such a diagnosis were required to live a furtive life in that regard. It would be unfair to them, and often it would be unfair to employers and others who might have a just entitlement to know. In any case, it is the act of discrimination itself that is offensive, and we ought to deal with that.

I am not arguing that justified and reasonable discrimination should be made illegal. For example, insurers who have sound actuarial reasons for discriminating against a person so diagnosed would not be prevented by the amendment from doing so. I do not think that trying to screen out or bury the problem through relying upon confidentiality is the answer, although that argument has been put seriously in the face of other difficulties.

Sir Gerard Vaughan

One of the issues that was put to us by the insurance companies was whether they have the right to demand the genetic screening of a person. If so, do they have the right to load the premiums? If so, do they have the right to let other members of the person's family know of the genetic problem? There are wide complications in this matter. We have heard that a person who discovers that he has a genetic abnormality may not know the implications of that. If he does know, it can cause immense psychological and social difficulties of the type that my hon. Friend described.

Mr. Howarth

In his characteristically sensitive way, my hon. Friend raises an important issue, which I acknowledge.

My amendment deals with a limited range of circumstances. It specifies a situation in which a medical test reveals a genetic predisposition in the person to a progressive condition. I am not trying to provide answers to the range of large, difficult, practical and ethical questions that arise from the advance of genetic science and understanding. We could not do so in this context. It would be a colossal task for the House as a whole and no doubt it is one with which we shall increasingly have to grapple. That should not be used as an argument for waiting to deal with a clearly identified evil that would be an accidental consequence of the legislation as it stands.

6.30 pm

In truth, we will never end that discussion about all the ethical and practical issues that flow from genetics, but if we try to provide some all-embracing, grandiose solution, we shall almost certainly fail and in the meantime we will leave a clearly identified evil to become established. The best is so often liable to be the enemy of the good and it would be so in this case. Equally, we should not embark on a large discussion on privacy and confidentiality.

We are talking about cases for which we already have evidence. We should not confuse this issue with the other issues with which my hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People and other hon. Friends who have been actively involved with the Bill are concerned. This is a distinct issue and we can consider reputation apart from this amendment. We are talking about matters of established fact or ascertainable likelihood and not about reputation in the more general sense.

I apologise for having detained the House so long on this issue, but it is one that matters very much. We have the remedy before us in the amendment and I hope that the House will be willing to accept it.

Mr. Corbett

This is a difficult area with wide scientific implications. As the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) demonstrated, it is something with which the Bill ought properly to be concerned. Through the Bill, we want to avoid discrimination against people with disabilities. I do not know whether this will help hon. Members who questioned the hon. Gentleman, but we are focusing on those people who have been diagnosed, as a result of a medical test, as having a specific and progressive condition. That is the best way that I can put it in layman's language.

We are concerned with three broad areas—genetic predisposition, those diagnosed as having HIV or AIDS and known to be carrying the HIV virus, and a third group of people who are known to have sensory disabilities. As far as is possible, we want to leave none of those groups behind.

Mr. Batiste

By categorising what are defined as specific groups, the hon. Gentleman identified people with a genetic predisposition, but in a relatively short space of time everyone will be diagnosed as having some genetic predisposition or another. The hon. Gentleman is effectively saying that, because everyone will die one day, one should not be discriminated against simply on that ground because one has a better idea of the route by which it will happen.

Mr. Corbett

As I told the hon. Gentleman, I want to focus on those people with a diagnosed progressive condition. I take his point—we are all born to die, but we might as well pack up and go home on the basis of that argument.

We are talking about people who, on the basis of medical tests, are identifiable. As the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon said, much misunderstanding, prejudice and false information is being spread about people who have been diagnosed as having HIV or AIDS and those carrying the HIV virus. Companies such as Texaco, British Airways and Harrods make an HIV test a condition of employment. Happily, other firms in similar industries do not test the people they take on and have non-discrimination policies. They include Esso, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Sainsbury and Kingfisher.

The Terrence Higgins Trust, of which I am pleased to be a patron, gives examples—with which I will not weary the House—of people in work who have been found to be HIV positive as a result of rumour or hearsay and have been dismissed from their jobs. That does happen and it is no good saying that there is a legal remedy if they have worked for a company for more than two years, as very few people will risk the attendant publicity of taking a case of that type to an industrial tribunal on the ground of wrongful dismissal under present legislation or would do so even if their cases were included in the provisions of this Bill.

In an earlier debate, we heard examples of the 17 in every 100 people who suffer from some form of hearing loss. To deny them the cover of the Bill—if that is what the Bill does and there are some doubts about that—is to deny the deaf and hard of hearing their true identity as a distinct group with different needs. All hon. Members who have met people who are deaf or hard of hearing know exactly what that means.

This may be an misunderstanding that the Minister can clear up, but my reading of the Bill gives me the impression that it encourages the employer who suspects that someone has a progressive condition to get in with discrimination early because the person is not covered until he or she exhibits the symptoms of that disability. I find that offensive. If we say that we will not take seriously discrimination against disabled people until the way in which they present themselves shrieks disability at us, we are heading in the wrong direction.

We are talking about people who have been diagnosed after a medical test, who are in the pre-symptomatic state and whom we know will suffer the sad consequences of the conditions over a period of time, which will vary with the individual and the conditions. We want to ensure that, as far as possible, the Bill can offer them some help and protection.

Mr. Batiste

I have enormous respect for my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth), who tabled the amendment, and a great deal of sympathy for what he is trying to do. I believe that his approach is wrong, however, and will explain why.

I should preface my comments by saying that I am a member of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, which is examining the ethical, regulatory and commercial implications of human genetic research. It is probably the most interesting study with which I have been involved, and it is one of the most impressive antidotes to the short-termism of parliamentary life, in that we are discussing something that will be of the most dramatic importance to everyone during the next century.

We have taken a huge amount of evidence on a matter that will be so important and, because of its importance, will embrace uniquely complex moral and practical issues. I have no doubt that the House will be called upon to legislate on some of the issues—probably in the not so distant future.

It is wrong and dangerous to enshrine now, in primary legislation, ad hoc judgments outside the context of a comprehensive and considered framework, especially as the judgment that we are being invited to make today is flawed.

The Bill is about disability and discrimination, and the amendment seeks to treat genetic predisposition as a disability.

Mr. Alan Howarth

It does not treat it as a disability; it treats it as if a person with that condition were disabled, to ensure that the offence of discrimination does not occur. I ask my hon. Friend to focus on the moral aspect of the matter, and to address himself to the rights and wrongs of discrimination in a circumstance where someone may think that somebody else is disabled.

Mr. Batiste

I have no difference with my hon. Friend in seeking to prevent discrimination in the sort of cases that he describes. I simply believe that what he has expressed, coloured as it is by the fact that his experience relates to information that he has received from his connection with the Huntington's Disease Association and genetics interest groups, does not reflect the broader picture. I ask him, in turn, to focus on the fact that to try to bracket genetic predisposition with disability is the worst possible signal to give at this point in the development of the science, for reasons that I shall describe in a moment.

Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston)

The hon. Gentleman has failed to read the entire schedule. Clear reference is made in this amendment, the subsequent Government amendment and an amendment tabled by Opposition Members to terminology that overcomes his difficulty. The text before us refers to people who suffer from progressive conditions, and defines the kind of ballpark we are in.

I do not think that the hon. Member for Elmet (Mr. Batiste) is really suggesting that Huntington's disease is not a condition which is almost certain to lead to discrimination. The amendment of the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) refers not to obscure matters like the colour of one's eyes but to serious progressive conditions.

Mr. Batiste

With great respect to the hon. Gentleman, who is also a member of the Science and Technology Select Committee, he is missing the point. While the amendment has been proposed in the context of Huntington's disease and other serious defects, the reality is that genetic testing of predisposition will, in a relatively short time, cover the whole spectrum from Huntington's disease to predisposition to a variety of cancers, respiratory disease and a range of other diseases. The tests in each case will be differently balanced.

For example, if someone with a genetic predisposition to Huntington's disease lives long enough, he or she will almost certainly contract Huntington's disease. But the predisposition itself and the discovery of the gene for that predisposition make it more likely that a cure will be found for that disease within the person's lifetime.

Sir Gerard Vaughan

I do not wish to argue about details, but Huntington's chorea can occur quite early in life. The age of onset can be progressively younger and run through some parts of a family. So we cannot say that a person will not develop that condition for a great number of years, as he may develop it quite soon. Moreover, we know that the person is properly diagnosed.

Mr. Batiste

Indeed he may. I have drawn a picture of one end of the spectrum. The other end is that people will be diagnosed for all kinds of serious diseases with a percentage possibility that they may or may not contract them at some time in their lifetime, but we have no way of predicting when they are likely to do so.

To say that the amendment is confined to a small group of people is wrong, because, within a short time, it will apply to an ever-growing number of people and, ultimately, to everybody. If hon. Members would listen to me for a moment more, they would understand that I am not trying to advocate discrimination, but saying that we should deal with this matter through different routes that would not have the serious side effects which clinical geneticists already advise us this will have if we try to treat the predisposition as a disability.

6.45 pm

It is wrong to believe that there is one healthy genetic norm. That is a deterministic judgment which has nothing to do with this science. In reality, every person is unique and predisposed to some serious disease or another. Predisposition to one disease may provide protection against another serious disease.

The whole process of genetic prediction of predisposition is a step towards understanding the nature of a disease and a cure for it, and hence the defeat of the original prediction. It is wrong to label any human genome as containing and constituting a disability when there is no current physical or mental symptom.

That is not to countenance discrimination, but to say that the solutions to genetic discrimination are far more complex than envisaged in the amendment, and are outside the Bill's scope. The worst case of genetic discrimination that has occurred so far is that of sickle-cell anaemia carriers in the US, where massive discrimination took place because of a well-intentioned attempt to define sickle-cell anaemia as a disability, which caused havoc to large numbers of people who were never likely to contract the disease in the first place.

We had an opportunity in the Select Committee as recently as last week to take evidence from one of the most eminent clinical geneticists in this country, Professor Modell. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Dr. Jones) asked him: If you discovered, as it were, that you had been screened and you had got this predisposition, should it be illegal to discriminate against you on the grounds that you had this predisposition … ? The response from Professor Modell was clear and unambiguous. He said: It seems to me the suggestion that people should have this protection on the grounds of a predisposition could be quite debilitating and damaging to the individual. In my own area, forgive me for … returning to thalassaemia, but we have adult patients and one of the most active arguments between them at international meetings is over exactly this issue, because there are some countries in which, by virtue of their diagnosis, they are entitled to a certain amount of pension, free cars, going to university, and they feel that this actually undermines their self-esteem as adult individuals. And I can see this, it actually causes a great deal of social harm, to give people protection on the basis of a diagnosis. They would not mind the protection if they were handicapped"— but not on the basis of diagnosis.

I went on to suggest: I think what you are suggesting is that the protection should actually come through proper codes of secrecy and privacy, in relation to genetic screening information, rather than by defining fairly artificially the predisposition as being a disability". Professor Modell replied:

Absolutely, yes. The House will have to make many difficult decisions as genetic science increases in its knowledge and its impact on a range of issues. Those include life assurance; mass screening; informed consent; privacy of information; financing of health care; and employment. The solutions to those problems are not always the most obvious.

The best bioethics framework document that I have seen so far is a draft convention by the Council of Europe. It deals with predictive testing and its implications, and refers to predictive testing for serious late-onset diseases, which is at the heart of this amendment, but does so in a wider and more appropriate context than the Bill. The right course for us is to ratify that convention and establish a national bioethics commission to operate within it and make considered recommendations for legislation in this country. It is not to make piecemeal judgments and enshrine them in primary legislation, however well meaning.

Ms Lynne

I shall be brief, as many hon. Members wish to speak in this debate.

Definition is one of the most important aspects of the Bill. It means that people will either be assisted by the legislation or excluded from it, depending on the definition of "disability". I tabled an amendment in Committee about definition for that very reason. I felt that it was one of the most important parts of the Bill, and I am pleased to discuss it today.

Many illnesses and disabilities are not covered by the current definition of disability in clause 1, but they should be. Transient illnesses, such as mental illness or epilepsy, are not properly covered by the definition, nor are intermittent illnesses such as myalgic encephalomyelitis—ME. People will not be covered by the definition before the onset of the symptoms of a degenerative illness such as multiple sclerosis. The same applies to people with dormant conditions such as HIV.

People will be discriminated against because of their past or future illnesses, because the definition in clause 1 may exclude depression or someone with a history of mental illness. We raised that in Committee, but we received no satisfactory answers from Ministers. We must be given a satisfactory reply today, because that definition is not wide enough.

Genetic disorders have already been mentioned by several hon. Members, who have spoken about the advances that have been made. That we get the Bill right is therefore a serious matter. A genetic test can now be conducted to see if someone is predisposed to Alzheimer's disease. Some 634,000 people in this country have dementia, and of those, 70 per cent. will get Alzheimer's disease. If that test is positive, the person tested could be discriminated against by employers, who might refuse to take him on because he may get Alzheimer's disease in another few years.

People will be subject to actual discrimination because of a test they took to find out whether they are predisposed to a particular disease. Such people could be debarred from insurance and employment, so they need to be included in the definition in clause 1. People suffering from asymptomatic HIV are another example, because those who have been diagnosed with the HIV virus are already discriminated against, even though no one has provided us with the time scale for the onset of the symptoms of that disease.

Sense—the National Deaf-Blind and Rubella Association—has done extremely good work in advising hon. Members about the problems of the definition in clause 1 and other problems connected with the Bill. It is extremely worried that people with Usher syndrome will be excluded from the definition.

Someone with that syndrome may have a slight hearing loss or may be born with a hearing impairment. He may get employment, but if an employer knows that that person could also lose his sight in his late 20s, he could be debarred from even getting that employment. I cannot think of anything more devastating than dual sensory loss. Those suffering from Usher syndrome must be included in the definition.

Future conditions are not included in the definition, yet it should be inclusive, not exclusive. That is what discrimination is all about. We need a clear, comprehensive and, above all, workable definition.

The current definition in clause 1 is far too narrow, and it will create confusion and uncertainty. It will lead to lengthy disputes, especially when we consider how the Bill deals with clinically well-recognised illnesses. Someone who has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act 1983 might not be covered by the definition. It seems absolutely incredible that a person could be judged not to have a mental impairment, but could be locked up against his will, and still not come within the remit of this Bill.

That definition must be amended to include not just present disabilities, but a history of illness and a reputation for having an illness or disability. Without that change, the definition is too tight. I sincerely hope that hon. Members will vote for amendment No. 12.

Sir John Hannam

My hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) has spoken about amendment No. 13 on genetic predisposition. Organisations such as the Alzheimer's Disease Society, of which I am a vice-president, have expressed concern that the Bill as it stands fails to afford protection from unfair discrimination to those people who can be identified by predictive genetic testing as being at risk of becoming disabled due to genetic causes. They fear that information gathered from genetic testing could be used to restrict an individual's access to the life opportunities mentioned by other hon. Members.

I share some of the apprehension that certain hon. Friends have expressed about the correct time to legislate, given that so much research is being conducted into genetics. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will be able to answer that point.

Amendment No. 12 relates to the history of an impairment. I hope that we can make some progress on that, because I know from constituency experiences of individuals, particularly people working in the civil service, who have suffered discrimination as a result of previously having suffered depression, a nervous breakdown or other illnesses. It was a long time before some of those people became aware that that medical evidence had affected their careers.

The amendment would extend the definition of a disabled person given in clause 1. I support it because the existing definition is unnecessarily restrictive, as it excludes many people who suffer from the most severe and unjustified discrimination.

The current definition concentrates entirely on an individual's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. The Government argue that that definition represents common sense. At first glance, it may seem fair that people who are not really disabled should not be covered by the Bill, but on closer examination, problems become clear. As I have explained, people who have been treated for depression often find that employers are prejudiced against them. As the Bill stands, they will be entitled to protection only if they can show that their depression is likely to recur in the future. That is not common sense, nor is it equitable.

I have cited one group of people who should be included within the definition, but many others will be ignored despite the fact that they are already discriminated against on the basis of disability. They may exclude people with epilepsy, diabetes or ME. People with visual, hearing or other impairments may also be excluded because their disabilities are not severe enough.

To claim the right to fair and equal treatment, a person will first have to convince an employer or a court how incapable he is. That contradicts the real message of the Bill, which should be to promote an understanding of the abilities of disabled people. It is also at odds with the dignity and respect that disabled people have the right to expect from a law aimed at ending discrimination against them.

Concern has been expressed about extending the definition too widely, so that it could cover the whole population. A similar problem has not arisen with other equality laws that have been drafted precisely to include everyone. The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 makes discrimination against men or women on the basis of gender illegal; similarly, the Race Relations Act 1976 protects anyone, black or white, from racial prejudice. It makes sense for protection against discrimination on the basis of disability to be equally broadly drawn.

The right to fair treatment should not be rationed. I therefore hope that the Minister will heed those arguments when considering amendment No. 12.

Dr. Jeremy Bray (Motherwell, South)

Like the hon. Member for Elmet (Mr. Batiste), I am a member of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, but I believe that the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) is an appropriate interim measure to anticipate the much wider legislation which will be needed in the near future. I agree with the hon. Member for Elmet about that. The Select Committee is in the process of exploring such legislation.

As the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon said, the present draft of the schedule has a positive bias against those with a genetic predisposition. That is plainly wrong. If it were neutral, that would be a different matter. If the Bill creates a positive incentive for an employer or anyone else to discriminate against a person who has a genetic predisposition—it will be possible to discriminate against him only before it becomes a progressive condition—that is wrong.

Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge)

Does my hon. Friend agree that, if employers or insurance companies are allowed to discriminate against people with genetic predispositions, the effect may be to give people a disincentive not to have genetic tests and that, in many cases, such as that of a familial tendency to breast cancer or raised cholesterol, that may be deleterious to that person's health? Therefore, it is extremely important to pass the amendment in terms of discrimination.

7 pm

Dr. Bray

My hon. Friend raises several important issues that need to be regarded in a wider context.

There is a range of considerations. First, the circumstances differ widely for different genetic predispositions. Sometimes there is a high probability that an illness or malcondition will occur; at other times, there is a low probability. In some cases, it is long postponed; in other cases, it occurs at a very early age. In some cases, there is rapid progress in research and there is the prospect that some treatment may be found during the lifetime of the person affected. In other cases, it is a hugely difficult issue whereby, according to the present state of knowledge, there is not much optimism of a therapy being found in the foreseeable future.

Against that background, we are dealing with public attitudes and parliamentary attitudes that are inappropriate to consideration of those issues. A public who expect one to insure against risks of a million to one—against the extreme improbability of people incurring cancer as a result of a tiny radiation leak, requiring huge investment at a nuclear power station or something like that to avoid that risk—are plainly not a public who are able to cope with 1 per cent., 10 per cent. or 30 per cent. probabilities of their having a child with a certain predisposition, which they will need to come to terms with in their personal lives.

In Parliament, it has been money for old jam to take up some cause about which the public can be panicked and to build that up into a great campaign, producing wild biases in the allocation of resources, in the direction of research and so on, which do not lead to a sensible set of personal attitudes. The most important aspect of legislation is the type of demonstration it gives people as to how they should react in certain circumstances.

Sir Giles Shaw (Pudsey)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is exactly the problem that so much may be expected of genetic screening and so many unwise decisions might be taken in the light of genetic screening that makes it essential to avoid a mass hysteria resulting from people supposing that we shall all be able to have genetic screening, and that we shall all be found to have Alzheimer's disease? Hence the disservice that would be done, in my humble estimation, if the amendment were made, because it would arouse expectations that should not be aroused, and would make such persons even more vulnerable than they may feel now.

Dr. Bray

The hon. Gentleman, who is Chairman of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, well understands the complexities. My judgment would be that, on the whole, given the present set of public and parliamentary attitudes, given the splendid progress that the Committee is making under his enlightened chairmanship, and given the likelihood that the Government will accept the recommendations that we make in that report, it is a sensible measure, in response to the alert identification of the bias in the Bill by the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth), to tackle the practical position that it creates by the amendment that he has tabled.

I repeat that it can be only a temporary disposition, and the House must return to those matters.

Mr. Wigley

I approach the issue from the viewpoint of disability, although I should have very much liked to have been on the Select Committee on Science and Technology, which is inquiring into those matters.

I suppose that I should declare an interest immediately, because I lost two boys because of a genetic condition, and therefore I am a carrier. That may put me in a different position from other Members of the House. On the other hand, it may not, because all of us have on average half a dozen genetic abnormalities, and it is very often a matter of luck whether those abnormalities lead to one's offspring having genetic problems.

That being so, the problem is not an individual one but a general one, because, as hon. Members have said, we shall confront massive problems over those issues in the next few years, and very shortly. I have discussed some of the implications with Professor Peter Harper and others.

There are two distinct aspects. One is the aspect that impinges immediately on discrimination in the context of the Bill, such as in the place of work. It is unacceptable that we should say that it is legitimate for there to be discrimination against a person because that person has a potential of having a disability at some time—that is, to discriminate against a perfectly healthy person at the moment because something may or may not happen in future.

To make it worse, because many of the rarer conditions are not well understood, a potential employer may read in all types of difficulties in a few years' time that may not be there, because the rate of progress of many conditions varies enormously.

One thinks of people with some of those conditions who have made enormous successes in their lives. One thinks of Sir Charles Evans, who was principal of the University College of North Wales, Bangor, who very nearly reached the summit of Everest in 1953, yet who, for his latter years, was in a wheelchair with MS. If he had been discriminated against because of the condition that he potentially had, it would have been outrageous, and no one was to know the speed at which that condition developed.

Therefore, in the context of employment, it is untenable to hold the opinion that has been held by some Conservative Members in resisting the amendment. I think that that goes along with a whole load of other aspects of the Bill regarding services and other facilities needed by disabled people, but especially employment.

Hon. Members have mentioned another matter—insurance. There, I suspect, we have it, because I am very much aware of a strong lobby in the insurance world that is of the viewpoint that it has the right to use all and any information available in calculating insurance premiums and liabilities, and that to restrict that lobby from having that information is to cut across the whole profession.

The argument that I would make about that—I would base it on a different premise from the argument that I made regarding employment—is that insurance should be regarded as a spreading out of risk, and if we are approaching a position where the genetic mapping of every individual is potentially known, all those calculations can be made and the whole industry will be turned upside-down. I would prefer that we resist that at the moment, that we take it that there must be an average loading of premium, and that the more difficult, expensive cases must be carried by the rest of us who are lucky enough not to have those problems.

Mr. Batiste

I do not necessarily disagree with what the hon. Gentleman says about insurance, but my understanding of the amendment is that it will not have that effect. If the insurance companies can show that there is an actuarial base for the premiums that they wish to charge, it will simply enable them to identify higher-risk groups and load the premiums even more on to those groups.

The way in which one should approach the matter is to consider whether the documentation should be supplied in the first place, in view of the overwhelming need to get as many people screened as possible in the categories required.

Mr. Wigley

Yes, but the clause and the Bill have nothing to do with the provision of the documentation. We are talking about discrimination—discrimination against people on the basis of their potential disability. I believe that that is an unacceptable way of going about things.

There may need to be some amendment in another place to fine-tune the implications in insurance, although I do not believe that that is necessary. I believe that the approach that must be taken is a broad-based approach by the society in general—by which I mean the society of people who are insuring, accepting the overall swings and roundabouts of risk. However, if there is another approach whereby some safeguards for insurance work need to be built in in another place, so be it.

However, it would be wrong to allow discrimination to be acceptable in the context of employment and all the other contexts that we have examined in the Bill because of those problems. The Government should accept the amendment. If there needs to be some fine tuning after that, so be it. I accept that there will be much more legislation on other aspects of the subject that have far-reaching implications.

Mr. Miller

I shall not repeat the issues with which the Select Committee on Science and Technology is dealing—my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell, South (Dr. Bray) covered the subject extremely well.

The key issue is whether we should take a neutral view on issues relating to genetic predisposition, a negative view—as clause 1 does—or follow the lead of the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) and take a positive view. To my mind, there is only one choice.

The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon referred to people minded to discriminate, which is what we must focus on. As the hon. Member for Elmet (Mr. Batiste) said, it is clear that each of us has a genetic predisposition to something: the problem is that we do not know what it is. The only certainty in life is death. We all have a genetic predisposition to some condition or another, and our knowledge will grow, but that is not what the clause is about.

The clause is clearly about the circumstances in which people discover that they have a genetic predisposition that may result in a shortening of their life or a serious late-onset disease that causes them to be discriminated against. Clearly, such people should not be the subject of discrimination, and I think that the Government would agree with that.

The question is one of definition. A number of clauses refer to issues such as progressive conditions and histories of impairment. They could all be used to incorporate the spirit of what the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon is saying, but they do not get to the nub of the matter in the way that he does.

The hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) made an extremely important point about insurance-related issues. If all Conservative Members joined BUPA and one of them wanted to jump the queue, the only way he could do so would be by creating a super BUPA. The Government might regard that as a sensible market, but if we extend the logic of the point made by the hon. Member for Caernarfon by 10, 15 or 20 years and if the insurance industry operates in the way postulated by the hon. Member for Elmet, there will be no insurance industry. People will have to be grouped and risks will have to be spread, otherwise there will be no insurance industry.

The key reason why we need to ensure that nobody is discriminated against is simply that if there is potential for discrimination much of the research being undertaken within family groups will be restricted. If one member of a family group in which a particular condition is prevalent makes himself available for a test that shows that he has a predisposition that may or may not express itself in years to come, that could, in itself, result in discrimination. If we do not encourage people to participate in family group studies, our knowledge of disease and tragic conditions will be restricted. A positive way to encourage development would be to incorporate the philosophy of the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon within the framework of the Bill.

7.15 pm
Mr. Hague

We have had an interesting and wide-ranging debate in the middle of our proceedings this evening.

I am concerned that some hon. Members view the Bill as the solution for all discrimination. It is not a general anti-discrimination Bill; it is not even a general health discrimination Bill. Our intention in proposing the Bill is simply to tackle discrimination against disabled people.

As the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) said, the Bill aims to avoid discrimination against people with disabilities. In meeting that aim, we must carry with us employers, business and the general public. Vagueness and uncertainty will not do. Employers, businesses and individuals need to know who has rights, who can complain to the courts and tribunals and to whom those employers or businesses have duties.

The Government have had a clear policy—that the people we intend to cover are those with a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Those are people who are disabled in commonsense terms. There is no question about whether people with sensory impairments are included. The hon. Member for Erdington raised that subject in his speech and we have been over it in Committee. The phrasing of the Bill, and our proceedings in Committee and in the House, show, without doubt, that people with sensory impairments are included in the word "physical" when we use the definition "physical or mental impairment".

We have also ensured that people with progressive conditions are covered from the first point at which they have an effect on day-to-day activities, however slight. We have also ensured that people are covered who have impairments where the effects fluctuate or recur. We have ensured that people with severe disfigurements are covered. All those are people who are commonly accepted as having a disability.

Mr. Alfred Morris

The Minister spoke of those he must try to carry with him on the issue. He did not talk about the organisations of or for disabled people. They are concerned to see changes in the definition that he proposes. I asked him at an earlier stage in the Bill's proceedings if he would meet the Genetic Interest Group. I suggested that it would be rewarding for him as well as highly satisfactory for the group. Is he prepared to meet that group?

Mr. Hague

I met the Genetic Interest Group last week. My hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Howarth) brought its director to see me and we had a valuable discussion. I shall come to the points that hon. Members have made about genetic predisposition in a moment.

Although we are extending protection to a wide range of people, a line has to be drawn about whom the Bill is for. That is not an easy task, as today's debate has clearly shown. The American experience shows that tremendous problems can be caused by involving groups with marginal connections to disability. Such problems include large backlogs of complaints, great employer uncertainty and groups rightly intended to be excluded from the legislation managing to complain by claiming that they have a reputation of having a disability.

We recognise, however, that there is serious concern, which has been voiced this evening by my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam), about discrimination against people who have had a disability, but who have recovered. MIND—the National Association for Mental Health—has put the case for people who have recovered from mental illness. Other groups and individuals have made their strong views clear, including my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter. After careful consideration, the Government have accepted that the Bill should confer protection against discrimination on people who have had a disability that meets the Bill's definition.

We cannot, however, accept the amendments because we must consider the implications of the change, not just for the definition but for the Bill as a whole. We will table appropriate amendments in another place and I hope that, on that basis, my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon will feel able to withdraw the relevant amendment concerning history of disability.

Amendments Nos. 13 and 17 would bring people with latent conditions and genetic predispositions within the scope of the Bill. I have given the matter a great deal of thought and I had a very useful meeting with the director of the Genetic Interest Group last week. I accept that some serious ethical issues arise from the advances in genetic screening techniques and that there is potential for discrimination—which I strongly oppose—against people with certain genetic predispositions. However, to include people with latent conditions or genetic predispositions in the Bill would open up the legislation to vast numbers of people who are not, and may never be, disabled.

I am advised that the human cell has an estimated 100,000 genes. As we are able to identify, isolate and test for more of those genes—the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet (Mr. Batiste)—it has been estimated that we will all be found to carry a complement of potentially lethal mutations, which is a sobering thought even for this place. In about 10 years' time, the Bill, which is designed to provide protection for disabled people, could cover the entire population of the country.

I understand that the effects of those potentially harmful genes do not always manifest themselves and that many individuals who carry a particular trait will never show any effects of it. I am also advised that the predictive power of genetic testing is, with few exceptions, likely to remain uncertain. No screening test will be 100 per cent. reliable. For example, the well-publicised cystic fibrosis test cannot detect all the mutations; at best, it can be only 80 per cent. reliable and both false positive and false negative results can be expected.

In other words, except in a few well-publicised cases, genetic tests are not as yet a useful indicator of future actual disability. Their inclusion would open up the Bill to large numbers of people who are clearly not, and may never become, disabled.

Dr. Bray

If what the Minister says is correct—and his remarks have great force—would it not be reasonable for the Government to say that, in certain named conditions where the likelihood is more than about 10 per cent., it would be wrong to discriminate? That suggestion is clearly not made in the amendment, but the Minister could say that he will examine the possibility of such a proposal before the Bill goes to another place.

Mr. Hague

With that suggestion, the hon. Member for Motherwell, South (Dr. Bray) takes us into a whole new area of creating an arbitrary distinction about which there would be further room for debate. I understand the points that he and other hon. Members, such as the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) and my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon, have expressed in that area. However, we cannot wander into a situation whereby, for some reason or another, potentially the entire population could claim protection under the Bill.

I do not believe that the Bill is the right place to address those concerns—which go much wider than issues relating to discrimination, as I think my hon. Friends the Members for Reading, East (Sir G. Vaughan) and for Pudsey (Sir G. Shaw) said in interventions. The House will now be aware of the inquiry by the Select Committee on Science and Technology into human genetics. I understand that the Committee is currently addressing a number of the concerns raised by hon. Members and that it will report later this year. The Government will want to look very carefully at the Select Committee's findings and recommendations before deciding whether specific action is called for. That will provide a valuable opportunity to consider the issue in the round, including the points that have been raised in the debate.

I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon that the Government do not intend to ignore those issues. The Government's door will be open for further discussions not only about the specific issue that he has raised tonight, but about the wider issues that have been raised as a result of what we know about those matters to date. I think that is the sensible way for the Government and the House to proceed.

To accept all the amendments that have been proposed would change the Bill from a disability Bill into a general health Bill, which would dilute its effect in protecting people who are commonly understood to be disabled. I hope that the whole House will welcome the statement that I have made about including people with a history of a disability in the Bill.

I turn briefly to the Government amendments that are grouped with the amendment which was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon. As hon. Members know, the Bill is designed to eliminate discrimination against people with a disability that has a substantial long-term adverse effect on normal day-to-day activity. We have always intended that the Bill should cover people who are terminally ill and who may not have 12 months to live. However, it became clear in Committee that that might not be the effect. Therefore, in order to avoid any doubt or confusion, I have tabled amendments Nos. 98 and 99, which clearly cover people who have fewer than 12 months to live.

Many of the other amendments are drafting changes, but I particularly draw attention to amendment No. 129, which introduces the term "concentrate" into the list of normal day-to-day activities. It is a very important amendment which ensures that people with certain conditions, such as schizophrenic disorders, will be covered by the Bill.

In addition, we are aware that there is potential for confusion because the Mental Health Act 1983 also uses the term "mental impairment". The Mental Health Act definition is too narrow: it does not cover learning disabilities unless they constitute an impairment associated with abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible conduct; it does not cover mental impairments arising from injuries later in life; and it has no long-term element. As the purposes of the two Acts are quite different, we believe that it will be helpful to make the difference in the definitions apparent. That is why we have tabled amendment No. 127.

The final Government amendment to which I shall refer is amendment No. 132, which makes it clear what is meant by "progressive condition". As I said in Committee, the Bill is about people who have the symptoms and signs of a disability—and it will now be about those who have had them in the past. However, as symptoms are rather subjective, we have decided to adopt the same approach that we used to define a disability and refer to effects on normal day-to-day activities.

This is a very difficult area. We have to draw the line somewhere in the definition and I think that we have drawn it in a sensible place, although the Government are prepared to move the line for people with a history of an actual impairment which meets the terms in which impairment is defined in the Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon has expressed legitimate fears. I hope that he will be encouraged by my assurance that the Government's door is open to discuss these matters in the round. We certainly look forward to the report of the Select Committee later this year, which will draw attention to many more of those issues.

Mr. Alan Howarth

With the leave of the House, I shall make some quick observations.

I am grateful to hon. Members who, in some considerable number, have taken part in the debate, which has proved extremely helpful and valuable. I am particularly grateful to the hon. Members who supported me on amendment No. 13—notably, the hon. Member for Motherwell, South (Dr. Bray), whom I like to think of as my old sparring partner rather than my opponent across the Dispatch Box, and the hon. Members for Cambridge (Mrs. Campbell), for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller) and for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley), who made very constructive and helpful speeches.

I reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Sir. G. Shaw) that there is no question of raising unreal hopes and fears of the kind and on the scale that he anticipated. I am grateful to my hon. Friends the Members for Reading, East (Sir G. Vaughan) and for Elmet (Mr. Batiste), who have given careful thought to the issues. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet that predisposition to a disorder is not of itself a disability, but we are dealing with the attitudes of those who think that it is. He is worried that the clause might apply to a large number of people; I do not mind that in the least. Legislation dealing with discrimination on the grounds of race or gender quite rightly protects the whole population and, equally, all people should be protected from discrimination on the basis that they are perceived to be disabled.

The evil against which we seek to act is discrimination by ignorant and prejudiced people. My hon. Friend the Member for Elmet cited Professor Modell and was worried that the amendment might entail positive discrimination, but it would not. It would not entail the conferring of particular privileges on a particular section of the population—that is not what I am arguing for.

7.30 pm

My hon. Friend the Member for Elmet was worried that we might be making a piecemeal judgment, acting somewhat impetuously to deal with one small part of a much larger complex of problems. I acknowledge that, but we have a clearly defined evil that is made more likely—unintentionally, of course—by the Bill, and my amendment proposes a remedy for that.

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend the Minister for enabling me to meet him and Mr. Alastair Kent, the director of the Genetic Interest Group. I welcome the commitment that he was able to make about including in the protection of the Bill those who have a history of disability. That is a most constructive and important advance, and I am sure that the whole House appreciates it. I am sorry, however, that he was not able to offer a more positive response to my amendment on the particular issue that it addresses, because he has recognised—for which I am grateful—that there are serious ethical issues and that we risk exposing people who suffer from latent conditions and genetic predispositions to unacceptable discrimination.

My hon. Friend the Minister said how strongly he would oppose such discrimination. He is worried, however, that my amendment would open up the situation too widely. I have indicated why that is not an anxiety for me, but I recognise that, if it is a problem for the Government, it is worth looking again at drafting an amendment that might remove that unfortunate effect from the Bill. I will, along the lines suggested by the hon. Member for Motherwell, South and with the Genetic Interest Group, look to see whether it would be possible to narrow the compass and the effect of the amendment to an extent. My hon. Friend the Minister suggested that that might not be a suitable approach, but it would be analogous to the approach that the Government have adopted in the Social Security (Incapacity for Work) Act, where specified medical conditions exempt people from having to undergo the medical test. We are therefore not in entirely uncharted territory, for all the differences between the two situations.

I still maintain that there is a problem and that it is important to address it within the proposed legislation. I welcome the constructive willingness of my hon. Friend the Minister to look seriously at these issues, but I do not think that it will be satisfactory to leave it to subsequent legislation. I hope therefore that it will be possible for all concerned to look again at the drafting of an amendment that might meet my hon. Friend's genuine concerns, and that a new amendment will be tabled in another place. I hope that the Government will be able to favour it.

With the leave of the House, I beg to ask leave to withdraw amendment No. 13.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

We are dealing with amendment No. 12, so there is no need to seek to withdraw amendment No. 13, because it has not, technically, been moved.

Mr. Howarth

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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