§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ The Marquess of Reading
My Lords, in the shadow of this appalling event, I beg the indulgence of the House to make my maiden speech. My apprehension at addressing your Lordships is outweighed by the importance that I attach to this debate. I shall try to be brief and to the point. Briefly, I want to concentrate on the moral status of the embryo. The manipulation of human embryos, especially for experimental purposes, depends for its moral validity on the nature of the human embryo itself. Clearly, if the embryo is not a human person with the right to life, such manipulations are ethically justified.
The Warnock Committee allows the use of embryos for experimentation at least up until the fourteenth day after fertilisation. Although the report denies the embryo the status of a human person or human being, nowhere does it define what a human person or a human being is. Nearly everyone accepts the biological fact that the embryo is a human being. After the fertilisation process has been successfully completed, we have a genetically distinct individual which may continue its path of development to maturity. In the whole human life cycle there is no moment of comparable significance to that of fertilisation. However, some have argued that not every human being is a human person and that the embryo, by reason of its immaturity, is not a human person with a right to life.
Broadly speaking, beliefs are divided between two models of human personhood. Personhood is either something that we achieve some time after fertilisation or it is something with which we are endowed from fertilisation. Those who say that personhood is achieved—for example, at the fourteenth day, or some time later—define personhood in functional terms. An individual is a person when it has achieved a certain IQ, has the ability to feel pain, to feel concern for others, to communicate, to be able to relate to others, and so on. For example, Joseph Fletcher, the eminent American ethicist, has suggested 15 positive criteria for human personhood. Absence of any one of the 15 criteria would mean that the individual was not a person.
The difficulty with this sort of assessment of when an individual is a person is considerable. Who is to decide what the criteria are and how they are to be applied? The definition of personhood is essentially functional. What happens to those individuals who through accident, illness or old age lose one or more of the 536 functions held to be necessary for personhood? May we kill them, too? If personhood is something which is achieved, it is also something which can be lost. Are we really satisfied that human worth is no more than functional?
If we reject the achievement model of personhood, we are left with the idea that an individual is a person by endowment; that is, every single human being has intrinsic worth and therefore has basic human rights. Since the right to life precedes all other rights, it follows that embryonic human beings should have protection in law.
Some have argued that the existence of liberal abortion laws has already decided the issue against the moral status of the human embryo. We already abort foetuses of much greater maturity than the human embryo, so why not be consistent and allow that the embryo is not a person? The fact is that the United Kingdom does not have abortion on demand in its law, whatever the practice; and in any case the issue of abortion arises only when a woman is pregnant and there is a perceived conflict of rights between the woman and the foetus. That conflict may be resolved by giving greater or lesser weight to the rights and interests of the competing individuals.
However, to make a human embryo in the laboratory is to make a completely isolated human being. The embryonic human being represents no risk to anyone. The only justification being used to experiment with it and kill it is to serve the interests of medical science. We should not allow any born individual who could not give informed consent to be subjected to experimentation; and we would not in any case allow experiments on individuals if they would certainly die as a result of the experiment. The existence of liberal abortion laws in no way affects the calculated manufacture of human persons to be used as objects of experiments.
The whole of British law has been traditionally influenced by the Christian religion. That faith upholds the sanctity of every single human life. The principle of the sanctity of life may be perceived by reason alone. It is the corner-stone of the natural law, without which all morality would be a matter of opinion. The principle is also upheld in the Christian faith. For example, the psalmist says:For you have created my inward parts:You knit me together in my mother's womb.You knew my soul and my bones were not hidden from you:When I was formed in secret and woven in the depths of the earth".Clearly the Old Testament writer ascribes personhood to the developing embryo without the benefit of the contemporary scientific knowledge of the individuality of the foetus. The embryo is referred to in personal terms rather than as a bundle of protoplasm and blood.
This is taken a step further in the New Testament. Not only does John the Baptist leap in the womb of Elizabeth when Elizabeth is visited by the pregnant Mary, but that which is conceived in the womb of Mary is identified as the Lord right from the beginning.
Therefore, in conclusion, human life, created in the image and likeness of God, has intrinsic value irrespective of its maturity or the development of 537 functional skills. Thus embryonic human beings are the same person that they will be when they are older and more developed. Put another way, if we examine an adult person under a microscope we do not see all that is to be known of that person. We are animated individuals from the time of fertilisation. Our essential identity is always becoming known, but it is there right from the beginning.
It seems paradoxical for the report to claim that the embryo deserves some protection on the one hand, and to recommend, on the other, that a human embryo may be sold—and I quote from paragraph 13.13:a complete prohibition on the purchase or sale of such material would be inappropriate. A balance has to be struck and therefore we recommend that the sale or purchase of human gametes or embryos should be permitted only under licence from, and subject to, conditions prescribed by the licensing body and therefore unauthorised sale or purchase should be made a criminal offence".But, nevertheless, it says that they should be permitted to be sold.
Secondly, the report says that a human embryo may be frozen:We recommend a maximum of ten years for storage of embryos after which time the right to use or disposal should pass to the storage authority".Nevertheless, it says that a human embryo may be frozen.
Finally it says that a human embryo may be experimented upon up to 14 days after fertilisation. It says:legislation should provide that research may be carried out on an embryo resulting from in vitro fertilisation, whatever its provenance, up to the end of the fourteenth day after fertilisation, but subject to all other restrictions as may be imposed by the licensing body".So, finally, to create, in the laboratory, isolated human beings for the purpose of experimentation, or to use so-called "spare" embryos for that purpose, represents a blatant disregard for the civil rights of those human beings, as well as endorsing the principle that we can be justified in defining some human persons as non-persons in order to use them for our own interests.
§ 4 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford
My Lords, it falls to me to have the privilege of congratulating the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, on the incisive and important speech which he has just made. I am sure we look forward to hearing him very often in this House. As we have heard, very many welcome this report, which represents the desire of public policy makers to consider the implications of the developments of new technologies for ethics, for law, and for social position. Some of these matters are well established. The development of research which has led to the successful use of in vitro fertilisation has raised many questions, some of which are legal questions and have already been referred to in this debate.
The subject falls into two natural sections. First of all one looks at the therapy which is concerned with this. We are dealing here with the use of these technologies in order to help those who are involuntarily childless to have a family. The Church has to make it clear that its commitment to marriage and the integrity of the family means that it does not 538 see these services being appropriate for anyone other than couples who are involuntarily childless or couples for whom there are specific medical reasons why it would be unwise for them to have children by the normal means, as, for example, in cases of a serious risk of genetic defect in the children so produced.
I should think we hardly need reminding—but nevertheless I remind the House—of the intense stress and pain caused to couples when they discover that for some reason or another they cannot have children of their own. Of course, in times past a resolution of this problem could be found through adoption. But that is less possible today. There is a great reduction in the number of babies available for adoption.
One of the reasons why we need to stress the importance of the provision of professional counselling, about which we have already heard, as part of a publicly provided service, is that couples often need help in working on their reactions if they are by these means to enter into the family experience in an open and truthful way. Such is the nature of some of these technologies that secrecy and deceit can be encouraged and children can be left in ignorance of where they have come from. This problem has already arisen in many cases with adopted children. Secrets in the family are often dangerous and flow from difficulties in accepting the fact of infertility. Nevertheless, I think that we all must naturally feel increasing hesitancy, the further removed are the practices from the natural means of procreation.
AIH—that is artificial insemination with semen supplied by the husband—is now very widely used. It has operated successfully for many years. It would seem that most people see little difficulty in accepting this method. After all, it is an aid to fertilisation and not an interference with the natural order involving a third person.
AID brings much stronger disagreements. Those who believe that any use of donated material is in principle a breach of the bond between union and procreation in marriage will reject AID. Many others do not agree with this approach. They accept it because it does provide for couples that they may have their own children. They believe that couples need the help of professional counselling. They believe that, where necessary, children should have access to information about their origins, but should not have access to the names of the donors. There are already procedures for this in cases of adoption. Certainly donors should not be paid but only reimbursed for expenses. Certainly semen should not be bought or sold and not more than 10 children should be fathered by one donor.
Egg donation in vitro takes the matter a step further, although we recognise that this involves mothers in bearing children with whom they have no genetic link at all. Many people will find it morally distasteful. Much research needs to be done into the needs of the families involved in this way. Embryo donation in circumstances where the woman cannot produce an egg and the man is infertile means that the embryo donated to the mother has no genetic link with either one of the couple. Many people will feel that this has crossed the moral boundary, that it is unacceptable and that they are not able to agree with it. This is a matter of judgment but they feel that there are real 539 moral difficulties in producing children who have no kind of genetic relationship to the couple who are to parent them. I must say that I share this view.
Dame Mary Warnock herself says in her report that surrogacy should be outlawed. It has not yet been widely established in the United Kingdom, but surely this is something upon which the Government could and should act quickly in order to prevent it becoming established. Womb leasing, as it has been called, is surrogacy for a fee. The introduction of a payment and a contract which is unenforceable in law—since all contracts concerning the unborn are unenforceable—is wholly unacceptable and it undermines the dignity of women, of childbearing and of the family.
There is, then, a range of moral responses in these various approaches, which the Church of England, for instance, has to face. There will be wide, though not total, agreement in the rightness of AIH for infertile couples and the wrongness of surrogacy. Between these positions there are the differing judgments on the other ways. However, it appears that Anglican sources and other sources are, with increasing knowledge and reflection, developing their view of these things. It is notable that a number of leading moral theologians of all denominations have found themselves able to accept some of these practices as responsible ways in which childless couples may be helped to have a family of their own—which must remain the main criterion. The report says that public policy needs to agree the minimum requirement for a tolerable society. We believe it to be right, recognising that there will be those who would wish to draw a stricter line. It is for Her Majesty's Government to see that responsible and public provision is made for these matters.
So we turn to research. We have noted, and this has already often been mentioned, that research cannot be permitted on live human embryos after 14 days. This is a majority recommendation. However, there are two dissenting notes. One is against research on live embryos. The other is against the production of embryos for research, the willingness to permit research on embryos produced for IVF and which are spare. Apparently one needs spare embryos for implantation in IVF.
The argument for the 14-day limit is that individuation is not complete until 14 days. I am told that up to that point for example the embryo may split and form twins. The point has been made and must be made often that the moral response depends on the answer given to the big question of when human life is to be given the protection which we afford to all human beings. Some would say from implantation, and that the embryo has the right of protection from that point because it should have the benefit of doubt about its status. This is, I think, what the Roman Catholics believe, and it is supported by many Anglican thinkers. Others, accepting that human life is worthy of respect, are not willing to afford it full protection until, in a meaningful way, it has achieved status as an individual. Individuation, as I have said, marks a useful point in delineating this.
Up to this point, accepting that respect for human life should be evidenced in not allowing research except for purposes to do with the alleviation of the 540 problems of infertility and genetic disorder, research for these purposes surely may be accepted. Here again Anglicans are not altogether agreed. Responsible theological opinion is divided. Some Anglicans will therefore object to all research that threatens the life of the embryo. Others will accept research for agreed purposes. We know, in spite of good intentions, how difficult it is for public bodies to control such activities. We are not confident that the licensing body will be able to do this and certainly feel that its power and authority need first establishing in the public mind.
It is possible easily to imagine powerful interest groups wanting to use human embryos for research on a wide scale and perhaps for trivial purposes. This is a real fear. Drug companies, for example, certainly are not trivial. But they are powerful bodies and might prove difficult to control. Further, there is a moral difference between the use of spare embryos produced to help in solving problems of childlessness through infertility; and, on the other hand, specifically creating embryos for the sole purpose of research.
Christians, among others, view with considerable caution and unease the idea of using human embryos for research purposes. We value and respect all life and especially human life made in the image of God. There are some of us however who believe that, in its earliest stages, before individuation is complete, human life may not have the same protection as we afford individuals. Therefore, some are able to support research using human embryos up to the 14-day limit suggested. Others believe that we may not do that. Our belief forbids any assault of any kind on the life of an embryo. All of us however are opposed to research for other than strictest purposes to deal with problems of infertility and within strict and enforceable boundaries of control. I have considerable sympathy with the dissenting note in the report, signed by Canon Dyson and others, which is opposed to the production of embryos for research purposes altogether. In the light of the considerable unease of the committee on research, evidenced by the two dissenting voices, signed between them by seven of the 16 members of the committee, it makes one wonder whether there is enough of a consensus here to proceed along the lines of the majority recommendation.
Turning briefly to social provision, it is essential—the point has been made a number of times—that a strong, independent body monitoring this area and setting professional and ethical standards of practice, must be set up. I believe that it should report annually and publicly and be seen to be independent in its procedures. We have been warned against hasty legislation; but I would have thought that there is need for action by Her Majesty's Government in the following areas: in outlawing surrogacy and banning forthwith the sale of semen; in making babies born as a result of donation legitimate; in establishing the licensing body to begin to exercise control through the setting and enforcing of standards for agencies both in therapy and research; in providing adequate resources to enable professional counselling as a constituent part of the service, and for research into the needs of families brought into being by the use of these technologies and especially the special needs of children born through AID or IVF technology.
541 A last word: it is apparent that the conclusions of the Government will need to be strictly hedged around in order that proper respect is paid to human life at every level. But supremely, I remind your Lordships again, our concern is for childless families, that they may be enabled to experience a full and rich family life. This must be the will of all of us in this Chamber, as I am certain that it is the will of God.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Lord Denning
My Lords, perhaps I may first join in congratulating my noble friend Lord Reading on his speech. It reminded me, in its clarity and force, of those which I have heard from his distinguished ancestry in this House. I hope that we may often hear him.
The Government did well to ask Dame Mary Warnock and her companions to study this most important question—socially, one of the most important questions of our time—on which there is at the moment no law and no restriction whatever. Medical scientists and medical men can do as they like with what I believe are human beings. There is no regulation at all. Buy or sell, kill, freeze and the like; medical men do as they like without any control. These are dangers to our society.
I should like to deal with the issue in two parts, first as a lawyer. There is no law on these matters at the moment. It is too modern. No lawyers have had to deal with it. Ask the simple question, "To whom does an embryo belong?" Let me remind your Lordships what the embryo is. The medical men take the semen from the male, they take the eggs from the female, and they mingle them together in vitro, as it is called, which, put into English, means they are put into a glass or a test tube. Then, unless they have an immediate use for them, unless there is a woman immediately at hand for the embryo to be put into her womb, they freeze them. They can freeze them for years and then thaw them out and put them into a woman, maybe years hence, when the man who has given the sperm is long since dead. Is that compatible with human dignity?
The law will have to deal with it. Parliament will have to deal with it. But how long will it take? It will take a long debate. It will require very serious consideration by the medical profession; indeed, by all the professions. Meanwhile, the judges may have to deal with it and pronounce upon the law as they find it to be.
So, as a lawyer, I would ask this question: Who owns that human embryo when it is fertilised in the test tube? This is what the committee says:Until now the law has never had to consider the existence of embryos outside the mother's uterus. The existence of such embryos raises potentially difficult problems as to ownership".This is important.The concept of ownership of human embryos seems to us to be undesirable. We recommend that legislation be enacted to ensure there is no right of ownership in a human embryo".If the judges have to decide this now, this would be the alternative before them. Are we to regard that embryo as a thing? Is the male semen and the female egg each a thing in the ownership of one or the other? Then, when they are mixed together, are they things? If they are things, I would answer your Lordships by saying 542 that they are in the joint ownership of the man and the woman; it is joint ownership. If they are in the joint ownership of the man and the woman, no one can destroy them, no one can do anything with them without the consent of the other. No person can experiment with them or freeze them. They are in the joint ownership of both. They may consent; I do not know. But that would be the position if they are regarded as things.
I would agree with the committee that they are not to be regarded as things. I have read the scientific evidence, and from the moment of fertilisation, when the male and female cells come together and are conceived, there is a different, new being—a living being. Is it a thing? God forbid! It is not a thing; it is a combination of male and female life to produce a new life. When we see that, it is the beginning of a child. The law has already pronounced that after about three or four months the infant in the womb at that stage, when it quickens—this goes back as far as Blackstone—is a being which will be protected by the law and can recover its own damages and the like; that is when it is three or four months old.
The law will have to pronounce on what is the position before that time. It has never had to pronounce on it before. I would suggest that the only logical point at which the law could start is that the child, the human being, starts at the moment of conception and fertilisation. From that point onwards there is a gradual development in its environment. So I would hold—and I would hope the judges would hold—that from that moment there is a living, human being which is entitled to protection just as much as the law protects a child. The committee recommends that the law should give protection to the embryo. If there is no legislation, I would suggest that it does so already, by holding that that is a human being from the moment of fertilisation, and the law should protect it just as it already protects a child. If it does protect it in this way, it cannot be sold or bought, it cannot be destroyed, it cannot be experimented upon for research or the like.
If I may do so, I should like to say that that should be the law, as I would believe it to be if there is no legislation. I should like to see legislation to deal with this point. There is a horrible thought in my mind. Just think of the position if this being is thawed out 10 or 12 years later and the child is then born to a parent or parents who are dead. To my mind it is inconceivable, horrible. So much for this problem of when human life begins. To my mind it begins at the moment of fertilisation. So much for the law.
This committee's report needs careful examination to see what the implications are. Let there be a statutory authority; that is very good. There must be, because there is no law upon it at the moment. There must be a statutory authority to regulate these matters. But how dangerous it is! There is a cardinal principle running through this report. I am not dealing with the case when it is husband and wife themselves whose cells are mingled and they produce a child by mechanical means. No one would quarrel with that. It is done by artificial insemination, by putting the husband's semen into the wife's uterus. I would suggest there is no objection whatever to mechanical means as between husband and wife to see that they have their own child. No one should object to that.
543 The problem comes when a third person is introduced. The cardinal principle running through this report is that there should be anonymity. The report says the committee were agreed that there was a need to maintain the absolute anonymity of the donor. Let me describe to your Lordships the procedure which is contemplated and which will be legalised if these recommendations go through. Let us, my Lords, envisage a situation where a man is invited to give his semen to procreate a child. The clinic finds it difficult to find men who are ready to donate semen in this way. That is not surprising. The clinic often has to pay a fee for it. Perhaps it is medical students or strangers off the street. Pay a fee, if you please!
The man goes to the clinic; perhaps he is paid his fee, or at least his expenses; they agree there. Then he gives his semen by masturbation. They collect it in a tube. They take his name and description. They examine him medically to see whether or not he has any inherited disease. When he has passed all those tests they collect the semen and put it in the test tube. If they do not need it at once, they will freeze it and put it into the semen bank, ready for use whenever any suitable occasion should arise, perhaps five, 10 or 12 years later. The man may go out of that clinic and be killed in a road accident, or die the next day, long before the semen is used. To me, it is horrible to think that his semen could be used to procreate a child after he is dead. It is bringing a man to life again in order that he may procreate a child. That is what happens when the man goes. "Be careful", they say. "Don't let any particulars of him be known; give him a number". There is no photograph of him, or anything like that. The description is kept in safe custody. There is just a number for him with the semen bank.
Then take the woman. She, no doubt, badly wants a child, but cannot have one by her husband. She goes to the clinic and says. "Please, will you help cure my infertility?" She would like to know the nature of the man; she would like to see his photograph; she would like to see whether he is tall or short, ugly or plain, or whatever it may be. But, oh, no! Nothing of that must be told. She must not be allowed to know the identity of the man in the least. Apparently she can be told, according to this report, whether he is black or white, but that is about all. She must not be allowed to discover his identity in the least; that is what the report recommends.
This principle of anonymity is so that neither the man nor the woman can know who the other is or be able to identify them in the least. What they recommend is that when a child is born of this mingling—to the woman and the second man, the stranger; not her husband—in those circumstances that child should, by law, be made to be the legitimate child of the husband and the woman and that this unknown father should disappear into the blue, rid of all his responsibilities to his child.
The law has never before allowed a man to escape from his responsibilities to a child of which he is the father. But this law would enable him to do so. He will allow his semen to be taken on the basis of "Oh no, I don't want the responsibilities of being a father. No thank you. I'll take the money as a fee, but I don't want to take on those responsibilities".
544 Those are the terms upon which he will allow his semen to be taken. The unfortunate woman has to put up with the medical man selecting the most suitable semen or man for her to have a child by. In my view this anonymity is becoming very repulsive, especially when the semen can be thawed out years later and brought back to life and children can be born to people who are dead.
The report seems to be rather sympathetic to widows. A woman's husband may die, but if his semen had been collected it could be used to beget a child after he has died. In my view that is horrible. It is horrible that a man should be able to procreate a child after his death and bring himself to life again for that purpose.
I am stressing these matters to show what the licensing entails. But just think what it will mean if it is allowed to go. We shall have a man whose semen may be used to procreate a child long after he himself is dead. He may procreate dozens and dozens of children by different women. It is recommended that there be a limit of 10. The man may go to many clinics and I suppose that his semen may be collected if they pay a fee. There could be dozens of children walking about the streets with the same fair features as the father but no one will know who is the father. Those are some of the social consequences which will result from the anonymity principle. In my view it is a horrible thought that an unknown man should be the father of a child and no one would be able to trace him or know anything about him whatsoever.
The licensing system as envisaged by the Warnock Committee is potentially most dangerous to our society. I do not mind maintaining, as far as one can, the true relationship of husband and wife in the institution of marriage. But the concept of artificial insemination by the donor or the like is something which I believe the Archbishop was against in 1948, but I do not know what right reverend Prelates will think about it. However, I hope that, as a result of all our discussions this danger which would affect our society will not be loosed upon us.
However, those are just the social considerations. The great value of the committee's report is that it gives us the material for debate. I am sure that in both this House and the other place the matter will be most seriously debated.
In my view medical science is outstripping itself, because it has not sufficient regard for the great ethical, moral and religious structures which underlie our society. It must be regulated by a proper licensing authority and regulated in the proper way. I hope that in due course this House, along with the other place, will be able to pass the appropriate legislation.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Lord Coleraine
My Lords, I should like to join with the noble and learned Lord and the right reverend Prelate in extending a very warm welcome to the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Reading. I noted how he drew authority from the Old Testament and from early incidents in the New Testament in words which I found moving and personally convincing. I hope that we may hear from him again on many occasions.
545 I should like this evening to inquire into, and perhaps throw a little light on, the reasoning lying behind the conclusion in paragraph 17 of Chapter 11 of the report that:the embryo of the human species ought to have a special status",with a view to expressing my own disquiet at the recommendation that experimentation should be allowed in the 14 days after conception of the embryo in vitro.
It seems to me to be very pertinent to inquire why the majority of the committee—the nine who did not sign either Expressions of Dissent B or C—felt that the human embryo should have this special status. I find it very difficult to see from the report why the majority were prepared to allow the human embryo this privilege. That being so, I can see little to persuade me that the majority sincerely intend more than lip service to this special status. My reading of the report leads me to the firm conclusion that the majority see this lip service as the best means of turning aside the undoubted horror with which most people view genetic engineering and all the other possibilities opened up and now opening up for so long as experimentation on the human embryo conceived in vitro is permitted.
As to the exact nature of the special status to be afforded to the human embryo, the report, having in paragraph 17 of Chapter 11 recommended,that the embryo of the human species should be afforded some protection in law",immediately in paragraph 18 of Chapter 11 goes on to offer the following proposition:That protection should exist does not entail that this protection may not be waived in certain specific circumstances".What type of legal protection, 1 ask, is this? What type of special status have they in mind?
The best answer that I can give, after a careful reading of the report, is to invite your Lordships to consider for a moment what the research scientist, desiring to achieve advance in treatment and medical knowledge, will be prohibited by statute from doing to the human embryo conceived in vitro if the majority of the committee have their way. He will not be able to carry out research on the embryo after 14 days after conception (plus any period of up to 10 years in cold storage within those 14 days). That is the only absolute right of the embryo to be embodied in statute and not to depend on the judgment of the research scientist or the licensing authority. The period of 14 days seems to me to be of interest, and I think that a few moments may be well spent in conjecturing why the majority chose this period or, indeed, any period. I say "conjecturing" advisedly because I can find no clear, certain argument in the report.
There would appear from the report to have been a wide measure of agreement among the bodies giving evidence in support of experimentation that at some stage in the development of the embryo experimentation should cease. The views range from, at the short end, a number of unnamed groups submitting that no embryo should be used for research after the beginning of its implantation stage (which I take to mean about five days after conception) to, at the long end, an unidentified utilitarian expression of opinion that research should be permitted until the embryo is 546 capable of feeling pain; that is to say, until 22 or 23 days after conception by one view, or longer by another.
In between these views are the named organisations—the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Medical Research Council and the Royal College of Physicians. They all propose closing dates for experimentation more or less consistent with the recommendation of the Warnock Committee's majority.
What is curious is that, with the possible exception of the unnamed proponent of the utilitarian argument in the report, not one argument is attributed to any of the organisations, neither as to why they think that there should be a time limit, nor as to why the time limit should be the limit proposed. Nor is there any trace of argument that a significantly longer period for experimentation should be allowed following the example of the Abortion Act. It seems to me to be clear beyond reasonable doubt that one consideration, and one consideration only, guided the majority of the committee. The evidence is to be found at the end of paragraph 11.19 of Chapter 11. There it states:However we agreed that this was an area in which some precise decision must be taken, in order to allay public anxiety.My Lords, "to allay public anxiety"—that says it all.
Is it not apparent that the majority favour a much longer period for experimentation, and view 14 days as the most that public opinion can be persuaded to accept at this moment, and at the same time regard it as the necessary foot in the door, opening it in fact if not in law to unlimited research? That is what it would prove to be—an open invitation to pass through an open door. It might be difficult to police a total ban on the creation and keeping alive of human embryos for purposes other than implantation. It would be well nigh impossible to monitor the work of research scientists to ensure that they do not exceed a 14-days' maximum.
In my view the humanist, whether or not religious, should view human life as unique in this world, and unless and until the contrary is proved as unique in the universe. I hope that my noble friend will consider the view that there should be a moratorium on all experimentation with a human embryo in line with dissenting voice B until legislation can be introduced.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Lord Soper
My Lords, I add my felicitations to those already offered to the noble Marquess on his maiden speech. If he will allow me to say so, it was well presented and well documented, and I hope as the House does that we shall hear him speak with equal force and cogency many times in the future.
I find myself faced with problems which can perhaps best be expressed in the setting of a world so fundamentally different from that in which many of the moral principles to which I want to adhere first began to take their place. The nuclear age has vastly increased our power to destroy to an apocryphal degree. The scientific age in which we live has marvellously increased our power to do all sorts of things that our fathers were totally unable even to contemplate. If I may refer to it, I thought that the 547 strength and purchase of the television programme "Sea of Faith", under the direction of Don Cupitt, was to stress the way in which responsibility has so far changed as to rest so much more upon human beings, and that obedience to God, which once was the simple way of acknowledging one's own impotence, has now given place to a world in which so many of the things previously ascribed to God's omnipotent power are now within our competence if we so desire to make use of them. It is in that that the problem of morality, so clearly enunciated in the introduction to this particular document, seems to me to be of particular value. I naturally try to face this from the standpoint of the faith which I hold, but I find myself in considerable difficulty in relating what is supposed to be Christian morality to this new situation. Let me illustrate this aspect. Let us suppose I start by saying, "The Bible says, and I must obey what it says". For instance, I find in the Old Testament a savage doctrine about homosexuality, which is totally unfair, unreal and, in my judgment, un-Christian. I turn to the New Testament and I find in the Gospels practically nothing on this variegated theme, for various obvious reasons. Therefore, I have to find my morality, at least in specific terms, in the processes of the Christian Church.
The Christian Church very largely has laid down its principles with regard to sexual morality in terms of a conception which is now completely out of date and quite wrong. It was traditionally assumed that man was the giver of the seed of life, which was implanted, embedded, in the cradle which woman provided, and therefore no-one need look very much further for the discrepancy between the value attached to the cradle and the value attached to the baby in that cradle. In my judgment this goes a long way to explain the kind of morality which was geared to the superiority of man and the docile acceptance of a cradle authority on the part of woman. We know that that is untrue. Therefore, if we are to process the deliberations of countless arguments that are to be found in this particular document, we have to work out, first, somewhat arbitrarily, what we believe to be the essence of the moral case.
I would submit that there are two basic principles. One is compassion and the other is the framework of the family as the desirable paramenter in which life should be nurtured, and indeed in which life should be protected. There is a third principle—and I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, for making it—that there is no morality which can be acclaimed as 100 per cent. There is an inevitable area of compromise in whatever we do on this planet, and that area of compromise has already been widely accepted by those who, although they subscribe to the sanctity of life, nevertheless believe that it is tolerable—and morally tolerable in cases of war—to take life almost indiscriminately.
It seems to me that there is no way in which one can do good in one area without, to some extent, invading the liberty or indeed the happiness of other groups. I therefore have to make a distinction between the happiness that can be offered to family and the harm that can be done to a potential life. Perhaps I may remind your Lordships that we do not use words like 548 "baby", "child" and "living creature" with great clarity; after all, a flower is alive and so is a beetle. But that is by way of argument which I do not want to deploy in any sense of being argumentative for the sake of scoring a point.
More importantly, as a minister of Christianity (very imperfectly for many years), I have had to weigh many times the good that can be done to a family against the harm that might be done particularly to forms of life which, whatever their potential sanctity at a certain stage, in my judgment are not to be compared with the value of those who are fully adult and looking forward to the blessings that can be offered through many of these modern methods of assisting nature and indeed of making possible that which natural processes do not make possible.
Therefore, with those principles in mind, I venture to apply myself to the various questions that are asked and answered in this document. I find no ethical difficulty in AIH. If we are to assist in medical ways to help people to bear children, then AIH—that is, artificial insemination by the husband—seems to me to be perfectly acceptable and right. I have no difficulty there at all.
On the question of the donor in artificial insemination and particularly the in vitro method, there are innumerable difficulties, and many of them have been ventilated with considerable care this afternoon. I accept them. I regard some of them as prohibitive. I think others are tolerable. In general terms, on the question of AID I would apply the principles of compassion; the provision of happiness to people who otherwise would not enjoy it; and, above all, the retention of the principle of the family—that is to say, the existence of the relationship between mother and father and child which in some cases is not prevented when it is artificially stimulated.
It is when I come to the question of surrogacy that I find myself in the greatest of difficulties. If there is the slightest taint of commercialism about it, I want nothing to do with it; I cannot. But, on the other hand, it seems to me that there is a question here which ultimately is an extension and not a contradiction of what goes before. I agree with the document that the same principles that apply to AID and to in vitro fertilisation apply to the question of surrogacy. What I do not believe and cannot tolerate for one moment is the idea that there should be a bank of anonymous semen which would be available at any time to satisfy the whims or desires of those who do not wish to go through the agonies or the raptures of pregnancy, but for various reasons are anxious to have a child.
I am not particularly impressed by the argument that one must not indulge in any research on one of the spare embryos which necessarily will be produced in this way. It is clear to me that there is no greater moral value in saying that we must just allow the spare embryos to die, or to say that we can indeed make use of them for future culture or for future ways of delivering them ourselves from these particularly difficult and complex problems.
I welcome this document. It will not go away. I welcome the fact that there is a sense in which modern knowledge is irreversible. We have to deal with a situation in which we are increasingly able to do 549 things, and if we can, with compassion and, I believe, within the general parameter of the family, seek to do them, then on balance I believe they can be reconciled with the Christian faith.
One last word. I am attracted by the English translation of in vitro, which of course is "in a glass", and I reflect upon the 13th chapter of Corinthians, in which Paul, talking about compassion, says:now we see through glass, darkly".Indeed we do.
May I say a little about the possible future? When we reach the stage of sex selection we shall be in a very different kind of world as when we reach the stage, which surely is coming—and whatever is suggested or prohibited, it will be done—when we are able to select particular qualities which could be handed down. I am reflecting in this regard on, after all, what is one of the considerations in the contemporary situation which considers that future. Let me put it in the form of an analogy. It is impossible to play snooker if, to use the Gilbertian phrase, one hasa cloth untrueWith a twisted cue,And elliptical billiard balls".The game of snooker is totally prohibited if one has not the right instruments with which to play. But the game of life is not totally prevented, and its happiness and joy are not totally prevented, if we assume that the contemporary aspects of pleasure and contemporary ways of fulfilment are the only ways in which life may be fulfilled. That is not true.
When I think of many a woman who has dedicated her life to the care of her parents and of many a would-be family which has been built not on the natural process of mother and father but on the fatherhood and motherhood of large institutions and those who care for the worldwide family, then I am persuaded that, though it is in a far distant future, the very parameters of motherhood and fatherhood within the family are not necessarily the end to which humanity may come.
This is a wild dream in one sense, but it is not so remote when we consider now the capacities we have to rise above the material world in which we live and, by the instruments which the scientists can give us, to aspire to a more spiritual life in which one day, perhaps, the very concept of what we are considering in this document becomes something which has passed away in a different kind of spirituality. It is a long way off, but it is something which I believe has to be taken into account if we are to face this new world, as I believe we must, in the spirit of Jesus Christ and, above all, in his words, that more things he has to tell us but we are not ready to hear them yet.
I commend this report. I believe we shall make many mistakes if we follow many of the suggestions that it propounds; but I believe it ushers in for us the kind of responsibilities which cannot be avoided, and that only when they are faced will we become truly mature.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Viscount Hanworth
My Lords, this report highlights far wider long-term issues. I say "highlights" because the issues involved are highly emotional, but 550 they pale into relative insignificance compared with the long-term possibilities of affecting human reproduction and its genetic coding. Anyone who has looked into the immense progress which has been made in recommitant genetic engineering in the last 20 years should be impressed by what has been achieved and sceptical of dismissing future possibilities as science fiction.
Already by these means we have been able to synthesise insulin, growth hormone and Interferon; but, much more importantly, it is theoretically possible by these means to make permanent cures for well-known blood diseases, such as sickle cell anaemia and haemophilia, by replacing defective body cells by new cells genetically engineered in a test tube. It is also possible to produce new bacteriological organisms which could be lethally effective beyond anything at present known. Just as with the matters considered in this report, each step forward can be justified by the medical benefits provided or likely to result from further research. But—I repeat, "but"—without doubt such future benefits will also give our society and the world abilities which cannot possibly be controlled in our very imperfect society.
To take a simple example, the control of the sex of children will undoubtedly be possible in the not very distant future. In the Western countries this probably would not matter, but in the developing countries a male child is all-important. Looking further into the future, cloning is likely to be possible. Cloning means that any number of identical individuals can be produced. Rather further ahead is the possibility of genetically engineering the human chromosome and producing individuals with specific characteristics. This has already been done, rather fortuitously, with white mice; and some Peers may already have seen an account of this in the New Scientist.
My Lords, we are on a very slippery slope, as we can see from the Warnock report. Firstly, we agreed to AIH—that is, artificial insemination by the husband—where there were problems with normal fertilisation with intercourse. Then there was AID, artificial insemination by a donor; then in vitro fertilisation by donated female eggs; and then surrogate mothers, with commercial overtones. There is no difficulty in maintaining sperm banks, and soon the same will apply to female eggs. There is, therefore, the temptation of breeding for results. Let us remember the Nazis' rather pathetic attempts to do so in a different way. Some can argue that the needs of couples, and, in particular, women who want children, should be paramount. I discount this. In my view the effect on the children so conceived is much more important, and the needs of society—and think of China!—are at least as important as a couple's desire for children.
In reaching any conclusion as to what should be done ethical and religious views are important, but (dare I say it?) these views are sometimes only emotional views disguised under a more acceptable umbrella. Yes, I suppose that in the end it is what in life we think is worthwhile and important that matters. Having said all this, what are my own personal views? For several years I should have liked to prevent further research in this biological field. Clearly, this is not practical policy. Even if we did this to our commercial 551 disadvantage in Britain, others, elsewhere, would carry on. Science for science's sake, regardless of its consequences, still carries weight. Pragmatically, I believe that we should do all that we can to deal with what I believe is a developing menace to our civilisation as we know it today.
It follows that in general terms I support this report and its recommendations. I do not wish to comment on the details of the report, but I would say that I do not think that it should be watered down or very much changed except where some of its recommendations may prove impractical. But personally, of course, I should like to see it tightened up a great deal more, particularly in some of the ways that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, has indicated.
§ 5.3 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of Norwich
My Lords, it is significant that 27 of your Lordships have felt that on this last day of the Session this is a matter of such major national, social, religious and family importance that you should ask to speak. I believe it is a good thing that Her Majesty's Government have given us the opportunity of having this first, quite unhurried and serious discussion about many of these issues, so that we can begin at least to see where the vital issues within this report are to be found. I myself feel that at the stage of which we are at the moment—when, for instance, we on these Benches have not yet discussed this matter in the General Synod or in the diocesan synods; and, anyway, from these Benches it is right that we should speak from our own convictions but state a Church view if a Church view is given—we should remind ourselves and each other that human beings are a unique creation of God, and that the creator and giver of all life has done us the honour and given us the trust of making us human beings in His world with the responsibility for being vice-regents of His creation, as set out in the early chapters of the Genesis story. Therefore we have a major responsibility for our own world and for the human race.
I should like to say one thing about the family aspect of the Warnock report and a second thing about the experimental and research aspect of the Warnock report. I shall begin with the family. I have tried to see why, as I read slowly through the report, I began to find myself in a situation of dis-ease about the report. I think it was first of all because I did not find any clearly defined moral principles built upon the ancient Judaeo-Christian traditions of moral principles of our nation. The light seemed to flicker back and forth. All of us were delighted to find that in relation to the chilling thought of the implanting of human ova in the uterus of an animal, in this report it was advised that that should not take place. That was a comfort. The fact that the Warnock report firmly grasped the nettle of the surrogate mother situation—apart from a couple of the members dissenting—again was a firm point of encouragement. The light seemed to be clear there. But otherwise there seemed to be a certain movement of moral principle throughout, and that, I think, is where I found dis-ease about it.
I ask your Lordships, if you will, to turn to page 10, Chapter two, paragraph 2.5, as a sharp example of this 552 in relation to the family. It is headed "Eligibility for treatment." It reads:It is sometimes suggested that infertility treatment should be available only to married couples …Then the report begins to be ambivalent on the family moral issue. It goes on to say:While we are vitally aware of the need to protect these interests—that is, the interests of the married couples and any child born as a result, as is mentioned earlier—we are not prepared to recommend that access to treatment should be based exclusively on the legal status of marriage".Then we begin to move off towards the view of treatment in relation not to marriage but to other areas of sexual relationships.
Let us remind ourselves that not only in the churches of this land do we speak about marriage being a relationship of one man and one woman for life, but also in the registry offices of our country we speak of ideal marriage being of one man and one woman to the exclusion of others for life. Yet this report seems not to grasp the uncomfortable moral results of that actual English position. So it moves quite easily from AIH to AID.
I am so glad that a number of your Lordships have referred—and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, did so with his usual careful precision—to the only statement of the Church of England which is still clear. This, of course, is the statement in the Archbishop of Canterbury's report on artificial insemination in 1948. There, the Archbishop himself is accepting AIH, which personally I not only accept but believe to be a most helpful way of helping all those within the nuclear family—the mother who desires her husband's child, the husband who desires that his wife should bear his child, and the unborn child of that potential parenthood unit. Here I believe we have a great deal to thank the medical profession for as regards their research, their patience and their treatment of couples, because everyone in that particular nuclear family is thus helped and the family is held together.
On the other hand, in 1948 the Archbishop was so highly critical of artificial insemination by donor that he recommended it should be made a criminal offence. No doubt the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church and those of the Jewish faith will be discussing this in their representative assemblies in the coming months, and in some ways I believe it is a good thing that we should have the opportunity of discussing this as individuals before there are too many clearly defined positions. But I do believe that the business of the family needs watching very carefully in this particular report. And so the report moves to AID.
I believe, myself, that this raises major moral problems, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, has reminded us, because here a third party enters that nuclear relationship of husband and wife. Here problems arise, whether (one might say) morally, of potential adultery; or legally, of inheritance of the person concerned; or socially (because we know so much more about family relationships today), the problem of that mother knowing that she has received the life of another man who is anonymous, thus making it possible for her to bear a child, and her relationship with her husband, who knows he has not 553 been able to help his wife in that common activity of parenthood, and the child growing up in the years to come not fully having the assurance that he is owned, loved and supported by two natural parents. It is an entirely different situation from the fostering situation.
Those of us who either have had foster children in our homes for a period of years or have had adoption in our families know that this is a very beautiful thing. Your Lordships will know the story of the two children at school. One said, and said proudly, "I was adopted: you see, my parents chose me". That is a beautiful thing, and a right and proper thing. I think that the moral implications of AID should have been looked at very much more deeply in this report; and, if so, then obviously that which goes after it, which is egg donation and embryo donation. I shall not comment on them because they are further down this fast-moving stream.
I will turn for a moment to the research aspect of the report, and I believe this is the moment to remind your Lordships that in the Mori poll which the Order of Christian Unity set up in July—and nearly 2,000 people took part in it, so it represented a good cross-section of people—there is a certain gut reaction in the nation against one or two of the more controversial recommendations of Warnock. Of those who were invited to comment on Warnock, 57 per cent. felt that surrogate motherhood should not be allowed; but 75 per cent. felt that human embryos for research should not be created for research purposes as such, and 85 per cent. felt that experiments on human embryos were not right. This is, I think, a gut reaction in the early moments of Warnock.
I think we in our House have a duty to try to understand what fairly ordinary, run-of-the-mill people think about moral issues, because quite often they get it right. I give one example involving a letter from a woman. I will not name the hospital concerned but I could let the noble Lord the Minister have it afterwards if he so wishes. Speaking of that particular hospital, she says:men and women who come for sterilisation or hysterectomy operations are asked the day before if they would mind an injection and the removal of eggs for experimental purposes. It reads like the Nazi experiments".There is something repugnant, I believe, about seeking to push forward at such speed scientific experimentation in this way at the very time the Warnock report is seeking (though I do not always feel that I agree with all their views) to find how this area of reseach can be dealt with and, to my mind, very rightly saying that we should ask the Government to set up a licensing programme which would actually monitor and take care of these things.
However, in the light of this particular early MORI poll for the Order of Christian Unity, I believe we should press the Government for a moratorium now, because the speed of research is going so fast that I believe we are moving towards a Pandora's box which, when opened, will not be shut and the opening of which will be not just for the moral hurt but for the family hurt of many people in many families in our country.
Therefore, I trust that the area of research will be very critically viewed by Her Majesty's Government. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, spoke in 554 his usual precise, steady and very compelling way when he said this afternoon that a different new living being comes at conception: the beginning of a child. He continued:Human life starts at the moment of conception".Warnock argues that, but if Warnock is wrong and if human life does start at conception, then what do we make of this rather strange phrase in Warnock when it says, as though seeking to be ambivalent—and I have great sympathy with Warnock because they have had to face the greatest possible problems—at page 63, in paragraph 11.17:We recommend that the embryo of the human species should be afforded some protection in law.That little embryo is either going to have total protection in law or "some" protection in law, which means, in effect (and I wish I could find a better phrase), that it has "had it" so far as I can see, because to offer it some protection in law when it is totally indefensible in itself is a polite way of saying that some will be finished and some allowed.
Therefore, I simply ask Her Majesty's Government not to be afraid of facing the moral issue concerning conception, and whether conception is the beginning of a new person, as was argued so persuasively by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading. I know it is not now our custom to keep on thanking and congratulating every maiden speaker, but I break the rules and congratulate him, and apologise to your Lordships for so breaking the rules and rush on quickly before anyone actually objects. It was a great speech, and I hope we shall hear him again. I believe that his point, coming from a temporal Peer supporting the Christian view, is the greatest help to all of us. So many of us take a strongly religious view, Jewish or Christian, on these matters.
In conclusion, I simply say that I hope the Government will consider the question of the 14-day gap as one which they should be brave enough to look at very closely, because one of the professors of gynaecology who was speaking to us in one of the committee rooms of this House last week reminded us that there are ways of doing medical research other than researching on the first 14 days of an embryo. If there are other ways—I speak as a layman in these matters—they should be thoroughly and energetically pursued so that we may find other ways of helping people who face fertility and health problems.
I finish by quoting the Pope. I think that he said something very good here, and I am so broadminded that I like quoting the Pope when I agree with him. His Holiness John Paul II says:The world has largely lost respect for human life from the moment of conception. The world is weak in upholding the indissoluble unity of marriage. It fails to support the stability and holiness of family life. There is a crisis of truth and responsibility in human relationships. And so I support with all my heart those who recognise and defend the law of God which governs human life. We must never forget that every person, from the moment of conception to the last breath, is a unique child of God and has a right to life.I believe that people of the Jewish faith, of the Church of England and Free Church faith, and of the Roman Catholic faith, and many thoughtful sensitive humanists searching for faith but not yet finding it, would echo those words and say to the Government, "Take especial care over the 14-day experimental period".
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Lord Rawlinson of Ewell
My Lords, I am very glad to follow the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich and, as a Roman Catholic layman, may I say that I am very glad to be able to agree with everything he said. That should indicate my broadmindedness, too.
Very rarely in the 29 years in which I have been participating in debates in both Houses of Parliament have I personally approached a subject for debate with a greater sense of foreboding—fear for what men may be about. I find it almost beyond belief—although I am glad that the Government have made us able to do so—that this House has had to be called upon solemnly to debate the extraordinary matters which arise from this report. It is a sombre thought that such have been the developments in scientific knowledge, in techniques and in practices that we now debate a report about practices which will have supreme consequence to the future of the human race, and debate it at a time when we see pictures of or read about self-satisfied looking doctors announcing that they have given to a baby the heart of a baboon.
We are now asked to consider this study by 16 brave and responsible men and women on the use of powers which must affect the whole course of future life. Because, my Lords, this is no end—it is, of course, a beginning. For it is certain that the ability of the scientist, if permitted, to experiment with the essence of life will not stop here. It is too important a matter to be left to scientists.
Many noble Lords—my noble friends and noble Lords opposite—have, as it were, congratulated the makers of this report. I confess that I find it a strange report. I find it oddly defective—defective, as has been pointed out by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, because it has not considered properly the problem of law, one of the greatest and most important matters. One would have thought that a great deal of their attention would have been turned to it. What is the position of these embryos, these future children, in law? What are their rights? What right have these men and women to experiment with the embryos? Why did they not delve deeply into this if they were to do their task properly?
I find it also defective because it does not, as the right reverend Prelate has indicated, and as the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, in his attractive and articulate maiden speech made clear, deal with the basic moral and ethical principle. For surely the question at the heart is, "What is the nature and status of the human being?" That is the heart of the matter. Scientists are now excitedly and daily delving into the very means and manner of fashioning life itself—the making of human beings.
The committee in its report uses quite often the phrases "potential human being" and "potential for human life". What does that mean? In itself the phrase begs the question about the whole mystery of human life when, as again has been said by many noble Lords who have already spoken, all evidence of modern genetics ought to ensure acceptance of the principle that human life begins at fertilisation. But apparently, no, in this report. So now there is a class of life to be labelled "potential human beings", produced out of spares, spare parts, like the kit of some kind of 556 industrial machine, to be used in experiment for research, to be stored, to be exchanged, to be sold—potential human beings; that is putting it in the words of the report. All this hideous process—it is a hideous process—is justified in the name of helping the infertile (unfortunate people, indeed, but only a percentage of the population) to achieve fertility. That is the excuse for the artificial manufacture of what will in years to come inevitably lead to a new race of human beings, the product of laboratories, that "Brave New World" about which we read 60 years ago when Aldous Huxley first conceived it in his novel. But for the time being these potential human beings who have been experimented upon are to be destroyed so that, incidentally, and ironically arising from this report, a new crime will be introduced into the criminal calendar. It is not, "Thou shalt not kill"; but "Thou shalt kill" the potential human being; and if you do not kill it you have committed a crime. That is what in this report these ladies and gentlemen are recommending. It is to such a degradation that we are carried by what I can only describe as these monstrous practices. All again, for the present—this is the present reason—in the name of helping infertile women.
What is the treatment of such women? It is the implantation, as I understand it, of something cultivated elsewhere. That implantation will lead to the woman impregnated ultimately giving birth to a human child, for semen alone, as we know, cannot do that for that woman. What is implanted? What is demanded?—nothing less than something alive, something living, which within that woman can grow until it is born, and after birth live independently of that woman. Is not that a living thing which is implanted? Of course it is; and, as it is alive, who has the right to play with it, to experiment with it, to destroy it? Who gives permission for any human being to deal with another human being in that way? Where is the law which permits this?
The process, as I understand it, is effected by women being induced to produce several ripe eggs. They can then be fertilised artificially, leading to the embryos being frozen, stored, bought, sold and destroyed after their 14 days. They are potential living things, human rats or rabbits, the creation of "spares", but alive. And with the aim of what?—of making the infertile fertile. Of course, infertility causes great grief and great heartache. Those who suffer it must be the object of sympathy and compassion. They have indeed a cross to bear throughout their lives which many do not have to bear. But is it good enough reason or excuse for others to play God? If society permits some of its members to treat human life in accordance with the proposals of this report, we move inexorably down a path which will lead to a monstrous society, ultimately, of fabricated creatures.
I follow, and agree with, those who dissented in Dissent B, but I go further. I reject this report. I am revolted by its proposals, which accept embryos as useful stuff for scientists to experiment on; proposals which clothe conduct, which I believe no man is entitled to do, in the trivial commonplace language of regulation, rule, Parliamentary Order in Council; proposals which I reject, because I believe that they are an affront to the Catholic and the whole Christian concept of life.
§ 5.32 p.m.
The Earl of Halsbury
My Lords, in addressing your Lordships this evening, I shall take my cue from the right reverend Prelate and Father Abbot the Bishop of Norwich and break the rules by congratulating the noble Marquess on a profound and thoughtful maiden speech, with the burden of which I agree. Whether one agrees with the majority report, with one of the minorities, or rejects it in toto, I am sure that we should all express our gratitude to Dame Mary Warnock and her colleagues for all the hard work and study that they have put in to marshalling what facts they have been able to collect and for presenting them to Parliament and the nation in a form which is, frankly, readable and which can be comprehended by the layman.
Since they were unable to come to a unanimous conclusion, I am sure that Dame Mary Warnock and her colleagues will not regard me as ungracious if I dissent from a number of conclusions that the majority come to, remembering that we here are not primarily moralists; we are legislators. So far as the Ten Commandments are concerned, the law has regard to only four of them. This does not invalidate the other six. It merely means that sin and crime are not closely correlated on the statute book.
For myself, I accept the Christian ideal of marriage with the unity of the family as the keystone of the social arch. But others think differently, and the law must cater for us all, whether we are Christians who marry in church, or free-thinkers who marry in a registry office. It has to decide between us, or invent a compromise. For my own part, I accept artificial insemination by the husband as a means of avoiding infertility, and I would accept in vitro fertilisation by the husband if there was a guarantee that surplus embryos faced with destruction would not be produced. But that is not the case at the moment, and so there is ony one means of avoiding infertility in this sense that, for my own part, I can accept. I am profoundly mistrustful of AID and surrogacy, but the law must cater for those who disagree with me and must make its choice.
I now want to turn to that aspect of the report which concerns me most. I am afraid it is the same aspect of it which so many of your Lordships have dealt with, but I want to present it in my own way. I refer to the status of the human embryo. I am not prepared to accept it as a potential human being. Even less am I prepared to accept it as merely a potential human being. The concept of potentiality in this context is far too broad to be of the least use.
According to the experiments of Professor Gurdon, at Oxford, which were referred to non-attributively in Chapter 12, paragraph 14, of the report, every living cell in my body and every living cell in your Lordships' bodies is a potential human being that can result from cloning it. Its differentiation into either a liver cell or a brain cell can be reversed. It can be sent back to the totipotency of an ovum implanted into ovarian cytoplasm, and from it a new individual can be regenerated.
If, because of that, you were to forbid experimentation with what was a potential human being, then you would have to forbid biopsy, cell culture and all sorts of harmless procedures which the 558 medical profession bring to our assistance. I can see no escape whatever from accepting a human embryo as a human being, a human individual, albeit in its totipotent starting position, very fragile and in need of protection in a uterine environment, but nonetheless human. There seems no alternative to that. To my mind, trying to draw a line at 14 days is quite unacceptable. You can only begin at the beginning. "What", I seem to hear someone thinking, "a pin's head of jelly a human individual? What nonsense." What is jelly?
I ask your Lordships to imagine a living cell blown up to the size of a football. Inside that football you would find something the size of a golf ball—the nucleus. Between the football and the golf ball would lie the cytoplasm, which contains the control process by which it differentiates and makes up its mind whether a bit of it is to be a liver cell, a muscle cell, a brain cell or whatever it may be.
What goes on in that nucleus? It contains about five miles of the finest spider's thread you can imagine in a state of constant motion, coiling and uncoiling itself without ever getting into a knot, containing along its length the coded specifications of one unique human being unlike any other; the miraculous device by which the creator propagates his creatures from generation to generation down the endless corridors of time. A pin's head of jelly, my Lords? No, it is a miracle.
It is from this point of view that I regard experiments on human embryos as altogether impermissible and seek a moratorium on experiments, in which I am in good company with the right reverend Prelate and others, so that we have time to think very deeply about this subject. It was for this reason that I added my name to those of other signatories to a petition to the Prime Minister asking for one. I hope we shall get it.
May I return to the generality of the situation in which we find ourselves. Many of our troubles today spring from the headlong pace of technological progress—and medicine, after all, is only a branch of technology, though a biological one—outdistancing our powers of social assimilation. We are always out of our depth. This new power is just one more example. Of course, infertility is a very sad condition, but do we have to be slaves to our greed for satisfaction and our impatience? Can we not wait until we know more about it, until we have thought out the implications of what we may be doing?
I ask your Lordships to remember the classic tragic cycle that has inspired so many playwrights and poets: Koros, conceit, hubris, the behaviour that provokes the Gods into inflicting us with ate, blindness to the consequences of our actions, which undoes us. Do we want to be undone? The gut feeling for what is impermissible is well illustrated in the Old Testament.Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind. Thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed.These examples may not be felicitous from the standpoint of plant and animal husbandry, but what is important is the feeling that they represent. It is the feeling that I have when I contemplate a human sperm penetrating a hamster ovum as a test of fertility. If that is the best we can do, let some other test be found, and let us mark time until it is.
559 If an embryo is a human being, destroying it is murder in a moral sense. Morally, abortion is murder. If it is not legally murder, it is because an Act of Parliament has enfranchised it. We should remember the New Testament criticism of Moses' permissivity over the question of divorce, "because of the hardness of men's hearts". It is because of the hardness of men's hearts and women's hearts that we have enfranchised abortion. Do not let us descend the slippery slope still further, eroding our values, weakened as they are already by the permissive society against which I have spoken so often.
What is its legacy? May I tell your Lordships what it has given us? It has given us two new venereal diseases, both incurable and one of them fatal. Did we foresee that when we allowed the liberal humanists to tempt us down their primrose path? What else are we not foreseeing now? Think of thalidomide. Did we foresee its legacy of deformed children and of tragic babies when our women took it as a safe relief from morning sickness in pregnancy? Once bitten, twice shy. Already, many hundreds of human embryos are on ice or in liquid nitrogen. These hundreds will grow into thousands while we sit and debate about it. These embryos have nowhere to go, no means of linking their production to their chance of implantation and no future save destruction.
Events are out-distancing this report. Only a moratorium can enable us to regain control before vested interests build up—vested interests in services and in prestige—and demand the maintenance of the status quo as it now is. Your Lordships know quite well that that is a mere euphemism for creeping advance. A moratorium is what we need and a moratorium we must have.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ The Marquess of Lothian
My Lords, I am very conscious of and grateful for the effort, time and work which has clearly been put by the members of Dame Mary Warnock's committee into producing a clear and informative report. I intend to be very brief; there are a great many speakers yet to be heard. Like other noble Lords, I shall confine my remarks to a single aspect of the report, the embryo.
I was very relieved to see how many members of the committee could not countenance the manufacture of human creatures purely for the purpose of vivisection to enable research to be carried out, which in itself may not prove in future to be beneficial to other human beings. Therefore I add my support to that of all those who find creation for the purpose of destruction totally repugnant. Among these, may I briefly quote the opinion of one of the world's foremost theologians and scientists, Professor Thomas Torrance.
Professor Torrance is a past winner of the Templeton Prize for his work on the relationship of science and morals. As many noble Lords know, he is a former Moderator of the Church of Scotland. He has recently written an assessment of morals, science and the law concerning test tube babies. I shall quote briefly what he says:The central issues are both scientific and moral. We are obliged to know things strictly in accordance with their natures, and to 560 behave towards things strictly in accordance with their natures, that is, both truly and rightly. This means that we cannot scientifically confuse science with technology and cannot morally confuse ends with means. Yet in both of these fundamental respects the Warnock Report appears to be seriously at fault".Professor Torrance continues:Essential to the whole matter is the nature of the human embryo which, whatever it is, must be respected for what it is in itself and in its own right. There is no scientific doubt about the fact that from the moment of conception the human embryo is genetically complete and must be treated as such, as distinctively human, and not just as a mere biochemical episode or as equivalent to the fertilised egg of an animal or a bit of animal tissue. After all if the human embryo were neither human nor alive it would have no place in research on human beings. If the human embryo is genetically complete and distinctively human from the very beginning, then arguments allowing for scientific experiment or genetic manipulation after a certain period, seven, 14 days or whatever, are scientifically and morally specious. There is also a serious ambiguity about an argument from the premise that the embryo is 'potentially human', for the potentiality concerned is not that of becoming something else but of becoming what it essentially is".I personally agree absolutely with that quotation. I believe it is something with which practically all religious denominations and faiths in the world would assent. That is why I strongly support the statement of dissent in the Warnock Report by four members of the committee particularly in this instance, because there were other dissenters on other matters. I refer to Mr. Baker, Professor Dyson, Mrs. Edwards and Dr. Wendy Greengross who dissented from the recommendation that research should be permitted on embryos brought into existence specifically for that purpose, or coming into existence as a result of other research.
This in itself shows that even in the minds of the Warnock Committee there is considerable doubt about the matter. Personally, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will take the strongest notice of this point. When legislation is being considered for the future, I believe that such procedures should become a criminal offence.
§ 5.47 p.m.
My Lords, I too should like to congratulate Dame Mary Warnock and her committee on their report, which is clear, well printed, sensitive and beautifully written and therefore easy to read and understand. Her letter presenting it makes clear the immense difficulties which faced the committee in inquiring dispassionately and objectively into this highly emotive subject.
While agreeing with some of the committee's recommendations—for example, that a statutory body should be set up and that surrogate motherhood should be virtually banned—I have grave reservations about others. However, it is not the duty of Parliament, as I believe the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, mentioned, to order by legislation the private morals of individuals but to concern itself with protecting the defenceless. The report says:Questions about the distribution of resources within the world as a whole lie far outside our terms of reference".But the allocation of resources in this country is not outwith Parliament's terms of reference. I think we have to consider how far the limited resources of the Department of Health and Social Security should be used to satisfy the very strong desire of childless couples for children, which is still a wish as opposed to a need. We have also to guard against the channelling 561 of all available resources into the provision of AID and in vitro techniques, which may be unacceptable to many childless couples, at the expense of further research into the screening of abnormalities and into other methods of treating infertility and the making of those methods widely available. We must also consider that those resources are the taxpayers' money and be wary of using it for purposes which may appear to be attractive but which may have evil results in the future, or which the general public may find unacceptable.
In Chapter 2 the report discusses eligibility for treatment, and the committee recommend that access to treatment should not be confined only to legally married couples. This seems to me quite wrong. While some unmarried couples may have a very stable relationship, most people enter into matrimony with a hope of permanency which does not so often characterise the relationship of those who merely cohabit—and it must always be easier to part where there is not the necessity to obtain a divorce.
Where the birth of a child is to be procured by artificial means, surely it is only right that the future welfare of that child should be subject to the gravest consideration. I should like to see treatment of whatever kind for infertility confined to legally married, childless couples—and never under any circumstances made available to lesbian or homosexual couples, or to single people. The fact that a single person can adopt a child is neither here nor there, because in those cases the child already exists and adoption is probably the best solution from his point of view. I firmly believe that the best background for any child is to have happily married parents; it would be entirely wrong to assist artificially the birth of children into any other kind of home.
Chapters 4 to 8 of the report are concerned with AID, egg donation, embryo donation and surrogate motherhood. I will not touch on the question of whether or not AID, egg donation or embryo donation constitutes adultery or not—that is the business of the bishops and the Churches. My concern is about the children, on whose behalf I have serious misgivings. Recommendation 27 on page 83 states:In relation to egg donation the principles of good practice we have already considered in relation to other techniques should apply, including … openness with the child about his genetic origins.".How can one be "open" with a small child about what is, apart from anything else, a somewhat technical matter? My mind boggles at the prospect of having to explain to a six year old, say, that he was an AID child. Even if one succeeded, what then? Does one instruct him not to tell his pals? Or will he rush off and spread the news around the school playground and then get taunted by his friends? For taunted he would be—I can almost hear the taunts.
The committee complains of current attitudes, but one will not change attitudes by legislation. Where children have been told later on in their lives—when teenagers or fully grown up—some have found it very upsetting, as adopted children can do. This is one of the most serious arguments against this kind of treatment, and I really do not see how one can get around it.
I have another reason for my concern about AID 562 children, etc. As the chief of a very numerous clan, it is perhaps a concern of which I am more aware than some—although the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, and the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, probably have similar experience. My concern is that such children are going to lack roots—certainly, half their roots. In the case of embryo donation children, they will lack all roots. For ever they will ask in vain, "Who was my father?" or, "Who was my mother?" or, "Who were my parents?"
I receive many letters from Frasers—most of them from abroad—of which the theme is, "Can you help me trace my forebears because I want to know how I fit into the family and where I come from?" For many people, the need to know their roots is very great and really matters; it is a question of identity, and it is important psychologically. I wonder whether it is right to produce by artificial means children who will never have any hope of receiving an answer to those questions.
Then there is the vital question of the legitimacy of the AID child. The committee recommend that the AID child should in law be treated as the legitimate child of its mother and her husband where they have both consented to the treatment. What about situations where inheritance of property, peerages or hereditary honours and positions is concerned? I am well aware that, down the centuries, many Peers have not, as one might say, been their father's sons—but that was accidental. Should male line hereditary honours be inherited by AID children, or female line ones through the implant of an egg from another woman, then it would be deliberate—and I do not think that would do.
The wishes of a sovereign regarding the descent of a peerage—or of the testator, now dead, regarding the ownership of his property—have long been regarded by law, if not by the Inland Revenue, as sacrosanct and not to be overset so long as it was possible to honour them. I believe that this must continue to be so. Apart from anything else, it would make for very bad blood between the child and his parents and the next heirs—in most cases, members of the family.
All in all, for the sake of the children concerned, I believe that AID, egg donation and embryo donation should not be legal, let alone available on the National Health. To be childless when one longs for children is indeed a grave misfortune but it is not one that should be alleviated at the expense of the children for selfish reasons. I am not persuaded that the children would not be disadvantaged in some way.
Otherwise I would say that the committee have, on the whole, dealt very fairly with the technique of in vitro fertilisation. But in Chapter 5, paragraph 14 states that among the 215 children born at the Bourn Hall Clinic, there have been no major congenital malformations. I should like to know what malformations there have been. because I do not consider that that statement is quite good enough—and any risk of deterioration while an embryo is in vitro is not good enough either. The effects of the artificial environment of the test tube on the resulting child in later life cannot be known, since the technique is in its infancy, and so are the children born by it. They are guinea pigs. I wonder whether that is right;. I do not think it is.
563 I come now to the vexed question of whether research on human embryos should be permitted at all or only up to a certain age. I do not know when the soul enters the body and I do not believe that anyone else knows, either—although plenty believe that they do. Until we know beyond all shadow of doubt, I think that the answer must be no to all experimentation on human embryos. The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, and others, have called for a moratorium and I would support that. I believe that legislation to that effect should be introduced as soon as possible. If we leave that door open any longer we shall never get it shut again. We will be under constant pressure to open it wider, and we will not be able to resist the pressure to do so; it will merely be a matter of time.
And then, sooner than we realise—because of the speed of scientific development—we shall have experiments in inter-species breeding and genetic engineering with a view to creating a master race or a subservient race and so forth—not to mention a growing disregard for the sanctity of human life. Tempting as it is to say the ills of this world are such that no path which could lead to the alleviation of some of them should remain untrodden, there must be some roads down which we do not go.
The only thing I feel depressingly sure of is that we are now in a situation where, whatever we do is going to be wrong from some point of view. It is not a black and white situation—like in the nursery, where right was right and wrong was wrong and never the twain did meet. We are dealing here with shades of grey—and as our sight grows dimmer, it becomes more difficult to see which shade is the deeper.
By trying to illuminate this murky subject, Dame Mary Warnock has done us a very great service. The decisions, however, are ours. We must make them, and we must not accept the Committee's views if we do not believe that they are right.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ The Earl of Lauderdale
My Lords, despite the rules of this House, it really is impossible not to join in the congratulations which are due to the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, for his quite extraordinary and historic maiden speech. He spoke with faith; he spoke with courage; and he spoke with splendid precision. Having broken the rules, I shall now carry on.
By any measurement this is a very remarkable report, by a very remarkable assemblage of a remarkable variety of expertise. So two cheers anyway for the Department of Health and Social Services for grasping the nettle later rather than never. But it is prudent to consider the gigantic scale and sweep of the committee's subject. It is a range of frightening possibilities in artificial human reproduction—as scientists, unhampered by medical ethics, claim for this generation a Promethean power to determine the conditions of future human life; all this behind the mask of tackling human infertility.
The range reaches from one extreme to another. There is the virtual manufacture of children before even birth, denied the security of identifiable parents in homes of compassion and care.
564 Another extreme, to which the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, alluded, is the possibility of genetic manipulation to breed, for example—rather like Japanese bonzai trees—a race of tiny persons for high altitude flying and space travel. That is not my fancy. I quote from The Ethics of Genetic Control, published by Joseph Fletcher in New York in 1974, at page 155. A third extreme—because it is well to look at the extremes—is perhaps the generation of sub-human hybrids to do the human's dirty work.
With such a range of possibilities, was a simple departmental inquiry the right kind of body to tackle such matters, however eminent the personnel concerned—let alone, as seemed to be suggested by my noble friend in his opening speech, to carry on and go further? On any showing this was a disparate group, seemingly unlinked by any common background of traditional philosophy or ethics beyond a general pity for the childless couple.
When some 60 per cent. of Britain's 55 million people are baptised Christians, would it not have been prudent for the Government to consult their representatives with regard to membership of this committee? It may be that most baptised Christians go to church only two or three times in their lives: the first to be baptised, when they cannot prevent it and the next when they are buried, when they cannot prevent that, either.
Nevertheless, there is a gut feeling of Christianity among baptised Christians which surfaces, for example, at the Cenotaph ceremony every year and on other national occasions when, rather sheepishly they bring their Christianity into the open. Even if one allows that most of the 60 per cent.—more than 30 million—never go inside a church except at the beginning and end of their lives, more than two million did make their Communions in the Church of England last Christmas. Were their representatives consulted? Neither the Episcopate nor the General Synod's Board of Social Responsibility was asked to put names forward for this committee.
There are more than four million Roman Catholics in the United Kingdom. How many of those make their Communion regularly, I would not know. But there are more than four million of them. Was the hierarchy consulted? Cardinal Hume has made it quite plain that it was not. The Church of Scotland, in a country of five million people, has two million adherents. Was the Moderator or the General Assembly's Church and Nation Committee consulted? Not so. The Jewish community is, of course, much smaller. It numbers rather more than 400,000. But they have been an integral part of our nation's woof and weft since the sixteenth century. We owe them a very great deal of thanks, honour and respect for what they have given our society and our nation. Well, neither the Chief Rabbi nor the Board of Deputies, nor the Beth Din Court were consulted.
Of course, it has been stressed in certain quarters that there was a Roman Catholic on the committee—Professor Marshall—but he denies that he was there as a Roman Catholic. He accepted the position on the ground of his specialist experience. It is also true that there was a Jew on the committee—Dr. Greengross—but the Chief Rabbi denies that that was in any sense a representative position. Indeed, there 565 was an Anglican priest—Professor Dyson—but he speaks, and spoke, for no one but himself. He was not representative of the Church of England's Board of Social Responsibility. I have to say—because truth demands it—that there has been a slightly unpleasant whiff of deception which escaped from Whitehall when the committee membership was announced. Two leading newspapers—The Times and the Telegraph, which are in deadly competition—included in their account of the nomination of the committee this paragraph. It was the same in both papers:A team of 16 experts comprising lawyers, doctors, representatives of the Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim religions, lay people, and child care experts".That can only have come from someone in Whitehall and I was rather surprised to notice that in opening the debate my noble friend referred to religious "interests" being on the committee. There were religious people, but they did not represent specifically any of the church organisations or interests from which they were drawn.
This was a hand-picked committee and it did some pretty careful hand-picking in its choice of no more than 20 witnesses out of the 300 who put in statements. It chose not more than 20 to be given an oral hearing. Granted that from the list of witnesses it is evident that many of the submissions will have covered the same ground. All the same, 15 per cent. is not a high percentage for oral study of the witnesses in depth.
The Committee took the time and trouble to visit Ulster. There its members saw witnesses from the Methodist and Presbyterian churches. They never went to Scotland. They got no nearer to evidence of the Church of Scotland's view than to confuse the Church of Scotland with the Church of England's Council for Social Responsibility. In the list of witnesses we are told that they took evidence from the Church of Scotland's Council for Social Responsibility, which does not exist. They never called one of Scotland's most notable experts in this field—Professor Ian Donald—the Regius Professor Emeritus of Midwifery at the University of Glasgow, let alone Professor Tom Torrance, who on any ground would claim attention, as my noble friend Lord Reading said, if only for winning the Templeton prize.
What now? The committee has served a purpose, of course, and with diligence. It served a purpose in setting out what I call a sort of ACAS approach: "Let us get the highest common factor, never mind the morals". Both the Church of England Board of Social Responsibility, I understand, and the Roman Catholic hierarchy have reports which are due out before Christmas and which your Lordships will wish to read in due course. Anyone interested has been invited to send in their views on the Warnock report to the Department of Health and Social Security.
I believe we now need two things. In the long term we need something more than the proposed licensing authority to monitor what goes on. Here again, I was rather alarmed to hear my noble friend the Minister refer, as I understood him, to the committee's "continued existence and activity", considering how unrepresentative it is, but I hope I misunderstood him. However, I am sure we need a continuing body to monitor the positon, but that must be either a Royal 566 Commission or a parliamentary Select Committee which will publish the evidence. We have no idea from the document now before us what the evidence was. The public needs to have the evidence and to study the arguments much more closely than, as I call it, the ACAS way it has been summarised in the report.
In the short term I agree with the majority opinion in the House this afternoon that it is urgent to get the licensing authority into being, or at any rate something like it. But it must be properly representative and authoritative. To treat the Warnock Committee as a licensing authority would simply be adding one fantasy to another. The licensing authority must be authoritative and the Churches must be seen to be properly represented on it. Without that it will not command respect. Unless this body is seen to be worthily representative, I can promise my friends on the Front Bench—they will probably be my enemies after this—that Parliament will give it a very, very rough passage indeed in both Houses.
The public will want some specific questions answered exactly. For example, how can we get sufficient numbers of sufficiently qualified scientific inspectors to differentiate between a 14-day and a 15-day embryo—and we need lots of them? How are we to find enough inspectors able to spot a more than two-celled stage of hybrid breeding? The public will want proper answers to those two questions. There are widespread, and I believe well-informed, fears lest trans-species fertilisation lead beyond embryonic growth to a mixed breed, converting the uniqueness of man into a bastardised freak. The public, I believe, will revolt against debasement of human generation to stud farming methods. I believe that the public is already showing signs of an instinctive resistance to the Brave New World's intrusion into this most private and sacred area of human experience.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Lord Robertson of Oakridge
My Lords, I am grateful to the Government for giving your Lordships' House the chance to debate the Warnock Report. There is a great deal in the report to be praised, and I should like particularly to thank the authors for the clarity with which they set out the problems and proposals. I should also like to pay tribute to those medical scientists who have developed medical techniques to relieve would-be parents of the wretched condition of infertility. The question which faces society now is how those techniques can be channelled into beneficial areas and avoid creating harmful results which could far outweigh the benefits.
In assessing the Warnock Report against this test, I believe it to be deficient on two counts. First, it does not put sufficient weight on the importance of a stable family background. Secondly, I believe that it fails fully to appreciate the unique status and value of human life—and may I say how much I admired the speech on that subject by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading?
To deal first with the family aspect, the report looks forward to the spread of AID, which by its very nature introduces a third party into the marriage who provides his sperm to enable the wife to have a child; or, if it is used on unmarried women (as Warnock is prepared to permit), it produces fatherless children. It 567 is thus one more way of increasing the already tragic number of one-parent families. Ought not our aim to be that every child should be born to a father and mother who are pledged to each other in lifelong, exclusive and permanent loyalty? The artificial insemination process should be used only between husband and wife. To do otherwise seems grossly unfair on the offspring.
Still on my first point, the report welcomes the technique of IVF and envisages its use well beyond its help to the childless, infertile couple. I submit that IVF should be used only in rare and exceptional cases, if at all. Ideally a child should be the result of a personal loving encounter between husband and wife. As such he or she may be regarded as a gift—a gift from God—and valued accordingly.
This leads me to my second point—the value of human life. The IVF child is radically different. He or she was commanded into existence by direct human action in the laboratory. His status is therefore that of a product—that is, something that we make and have at our disposal. Products are subject to quality control and if they fall short we can discard them. In this respect, the part of the report dealing with sex selection to me makes chilling reading. Once we allow that human beings are disposable, we are on very dangerous ground. We put at risk not only the unborn child but also the handicapped, the chronically ill and the elderly.
It follows that we must look very closely at the fact that IVF techniques allow the production of so-called spare embryos which will never be implanted in their mother's womb. Personally, I find the thought of a genetically complete human being being considered as spare to be totally abhorrent. The report actually contemplates the conclusion that, since the embryos are spare, we may do what we like with them. We may buy and sell them, freeze them (with consequences that at this stage we cannot foresee), experiment on them, test drugs on them and finally discard them—provided of course that all that is done in the first 14 days.
To treat a human embryo in this way is dehumanising and therefore totally against Christian principles. As a member of the Christian Church, I worship Jesus Christ, who was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He was a full human being from conception onwards, and both scripture and Christian tradition teach us to regard him as such. If that is the case with the representative man, such must also be the case with each one of us. For this reason I do not see that the Christian conscience can allow any treatment of an embryo that would not be acceptable if applied to the rest of the human race. It is comforting to know that according to the MORI poll carried out by the Order of Christian Unity these thoughts are shared by a majority of public opinion.
The situation is moving ahead very swiftly. It is vital that legislation is enacted without undue delay. I hope that in that legislation the interests of the embryo child are paramount. It is on this point that I would disagree most sharply with the views expressed by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chelmsford who seemed to give the treatment of infertility precedence 568 over the interests of the embryo child. The legislation should also recognise the importance of the family background. Furthermore, as recommended in Expression of Dissent B, experimentation on the embryo should not be permitted and the embryo should be afforded special protection in law. I support those who are proposing a two-year moratorium on embryo research to prevent matters getting out of hand while legislation is being enacted.
I end by reminding your Lordshps of the words of the psalmist on the value of humanity in God's sight. The psalmist said:
"When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
What is man, that thou art mindful of him?
and the Son of Man, that thou visitest him?
For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour".
§ Lord Ashbourne
My Lords, I should like to begin by saying how grateful I am to the noble Lord the Minister for putting down this Motion and thereby giving your Lordships an opportunity to debate this Warnock Report. I had intended to raise the subject in the debate on the Queen's Speech but I think it much better that we should have a separate debate on such an important subject which could have a material bearing on the lives of our children for generations to come.
Perhaps I might also apologise to the noble Lord the Minister for missing his opening speech, but I came directly from the casualty department of the Moorgate Hospital. An inconsiderate piece of grit lodged itself behind one of my eyelids, to my great discomfort. Had it not been for the great skill and speed of the doctors and nurses at that hospital I would probably have missed the whole debate. I hope the Minister will excuse the apparent discourtesy.
It seems to me that the key factor that society has to decide is what status should be afforded the embryo. In my view, the report deals with this somewhat inadequately. Paragraph 11.17 says:The status of the embryo is a matter of fundamental principle which should be enshrined in legislation".That is a weighty statement with which I entirely agree. But unfortunately the report then seems to change gear and continues, with no conviction:We recommend that the embryo of the human species should be afforded some protection in law".I was interested to hear from the right reverend prelate the Bishop of Norwich, who is sitting in front of me, that that particular sentence stuck in his gullet, in the same way as it stuck in mine.
As your Lordships are aware, life is full of indicators. These indicators often show the thinking behind the written word. Taking the report as a whole there are a few sentences depicted in heavy print and one can only presume that the members of the committee regard these sentences as pivotal to the arguments being put forward.
On page 63 of the report we can see that what I would regard as the central issue, which is that,the status of the embryo is a matter of fundamental principle which should be enshrined in legislationis in normal print, and that the following sentence, which I would regard as of secondary importance, 569 namely, that the embryo should be afforded some protection, is in heavy print. It is of course for your Lordships to judge in these matters, but could it be that this misuse of emphasis reflects the shallow thinking of a committee sailing through uncharted waters but determined to muddle through in spite of the hazards which abound on every side?
I am going to mention only three of these hazards, namely, the sale of embryos, the freezing of embryos, and the experimentation with embryos for up to 14 days, although there are other matters in the report with which I profoundly disagree.
Paragraph 13.13 advocates the sale and purchase of human embryos, provided that they comply with the rules of the licensing body, which is likely to be an independent authority to monitor what goes on in the local area; a two-tier system of central and local administration. If so, is it not a significant abandonment of parliamentary responsibility to allow a specialist body to dictate in matters of basic human rights involving the creation or destruction of human life? In truth, are we not getting perilously close to the reintroduction of the slave market if we are to permit the purchase and sale of embryos, whatever the statutory licensing authority might or might not think?
Secondly, I am concerned about the possible long-term effects of freezing and storing an embryo. Paragraph 10.10 recommends a maximum, of 10 years for storage of embryos. If this proposal was to be supported by legislation, it would be the first time ever that a medical procedure has been made legal where there was no presumed benefit to the patient, in this case the embryo, to whom it was being done, and who continues to exist. Furthermore, we have no knowledge of what effect freezing may have on the child. Even the Warnock Committee admits to:the current ignorance of the possible effects of long storage".In past times there have been a number of procedures which ultimately were found to have tragic effects. For example, children X-rayed in the womb developed leukaemia. Also some years ago women threatened with miscarriage were given oestrin; only when the children of these pregnancies reached early puberty did doctors discover that the oestrin given to the mothers had in some of these children caused cancer.
As the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, stated in his admirable maiden speech, the report recommends:Legislation should provide that research may be carried out on any embryo resulting from in vitro fertilisation, whatever its provenance, up to the end of the 14th day after fertilisation, but subject to all other restrictions as may be imposed by the licensing body".To justify the use of a human embryo as a guinea pig, the committee suggests that it would enable the furtherance of research into inherited diseases and genetic disorders, such as Down's Syndrome.
My Lords, this is an emotive manoeuvre aimed at gaining public support as it would be virtually impossible for any scientist to achieve verifiable results within the 14-day limit, so far as either genetic diseases or the effects of drugs are concerned. The committee's 14-day limit is both artificial and arbitrary. As Mr. Patrick Steptoe commented in the Daily Telegraph on 11th October 1984: 570How can someone be a legitimate researcher for 14 days and then, one minute later, a criminal?Furthermore, Professor Lejeune, one of the world's leading geneticists, who discovered that Down's Syndrome was due to an error in the chromosomes, has demonstrated that work is being successfully carried out at a number of centres in different countries into genetic disorders and without the use of embryos. Furthermore, he is of the opinion that such experiments will not be required in the future.
I have spoken for long enough and I must try to come to a balanced conclusion speedily if I am not to weary your Lordships. I would not wish the House to think that I was against the whole of the report. Indeed, I wholeheartedly support recommendations Numbers 56, 57 and 58 proposing that surrogate motherhood should be made a criminal offence. However, the report takes little heed of the solidarity of the family, the centrality of marriage, and the sanctity of human life from conception.
New laboratory techniques are being developed almost weekly, so that early legislation is needed if clear principles are to be established for the guidance of scientists and doctors. Indeed, I understand that a two-year moratorium has been suggested to give time for the Government to decide the way forward, and I would certainly not be against this. It would be much better than stumbling into the minefield which we are otherwise in danger of doing. In view of this, I would like to end by asking the noble Lord the Minister what action the Government propose in the face of these remarkable and potentially dangerous developments.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Lord McNair
My Lords, had we a Bill before us this afternoon and were this at Second Reading, I do not think I would have dared to talk about these highly technical matters. But we are only asked to take note of the Warnock Report. I hope that that opens the door wide enough to admit some observations of perhaps only peripheral relevance to the report.
However, it would be wretchedly churlish if I did not first pay my tribute to the exceptional and oh-so-welcome readability of this report. Ever since long ago I have completely failed to study and comprehend philosophy. I have held philosophers in very high regard, and I have found it always a pleasure to listen to them or read their writings, almost regardless of the subject matter. With some exceptions, of course, their very strict mental discipline seems to endow them with a lucidity, an honesty of language, which is very refreshing. Surely, all through this report one can discern the hand of a very notable philosopher. It examines conflicting views with respect. It owns up to doubts and it says, and says clearly, what it means. Politicians, social scientists and others, please note!
On reading the report, I was at first assailed by demographic doubts about whether infertility really is a problem in an over-populated world, to which my noble friend Lord Winstanley referred in his speech a long time ago now. However, these and other doubts are summarised in paragraph 2.3 and I find them convincingly refuted in 2.4. I do accept that infertility in women and in men is an affliction for which help should properly be given. But, nevertheless, I cannot recognise the right to have a baby as absolute.
571 This was brought home to me, and surely to many others, by a case about nine years ago which confronted several people with a peculiarly agonising dilemma. It concerned a girl in her early teens who was unlucky enough to be suffering from an incurable condition known as Soto's syndrome. This is a rare and obscure condition straight out of nature's dirty tricks department in which the victim has a severe degree of mental retardation, no hope of a mental age above eight or nine, combined with an unusual amount of sexual precocity. The inevitable outcome of this witches' brew of symptoms is not difficult to imagine.
In this case, the poor girl's distracted mother asked the doctors—because she recognised that she could not control or protect her daughter—to perform an operation for sterilisation. In this request she was supported by some psychologists and/or psychiatrists. The operation was due to take place when some social workers, from a different point of view, objected. It may have been these people who took the case into the public arena. Letters appeared in the newspapers, some supporting the mother, others defending the inalienable right of every human female to have babies, and so on. The controversy was eventually settled before a judge in chambers—the judge, incidentally, a female.
The learned judge heard counsel for the social workers, counsel for the psychologists and counsel for the mother and found, in her wisdom, that the operation for sterilisation should not take place. I make no criticism. I was not there. But it struck me that there was one very important voice that the judge never heard. No advocate spoke—how could he?—for the luckless baby who would inevitably be born to this pitiable girl who could never, in any but the most strictly obstetrical sense of the word, be a mother. That voice was silent.
From this case and from its wider implications, I formulated in my mind what I suggest ought to be regarded as a fundamental human right—the right not to be born to a life of predictable hell. If you think of life as a game of snakes and ladders, I suggest that where one can foresee clearly that it is going to be all snakes and never a ladder in sight, then an unborn human soul has the right to say, "No thanks. I pass. I'll sit this one out and wait for a slightly brighter horoscope". This human right, which a Roman lawyer could very succinctly describe as a jus non nascendi, a right not to be born, seems to be as fundamental as that other human right, usually assumed to be the most fundamental of all, the right not to be unlawfully killed. Ironically, the two of them share one grim characteristic. It is this. If you have been denied either of these human rights, there is no redress. Nothing can be done; it is too late. The tragic evidence of this can be seen all too often in the files of our social services, in our subnormality hospitals, in our prisons and even on our streets.
I am not suggesting, of course, that this human right could ever make its way into any convention or be covered by law. We have, I think, legislated for the right of an infant to sue post natally for damage sustained in utero, and I suspect that that is about as far back as the law can go. The only protection for this 572 human right not to be born when the odds are hopeless will have to be that we engrave it in our memories.
I conclude this summary of my possibly rather lateral thinking about Warnock by restating a general principle which is perhaps more strictly relevant to the substance of the report and which is, I think, now fairly widely accepted in theory, though not always carried out in practice. I would describe this as the principle of the priority of the youngest. This means that in any human imbroglio involving people of more than one generation, the point of view of the youngest participant is almost bound to be the most important. There are at least three reasons for this: first, the youngest is least able to speak for itself; second, it is almost certainly the most innocent and the least blameworthy; and third, being the youngest, it will have the longest span of time in which to put up with the consequences of any decision.
This is relevant to the problem of human infertility. I am far from unsympathetic to the plight of men or women who find that they cannot have the children they long for. I am fully in favour of them receiving what help the doctors and scientists can give them. But, just as no one in his senses would postulate the inalienable right of every child to have a puppy for Christmas, so I think that we have to stop short of recognising any absolute right to human procreation. We have to remember that every baby, every human embryo, is an adult in the making, a potential person, and must never be regarded as the pet or plaything or possession of its parents.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Viscount Sidmouth
My Lords, in the foreword to their report, the Warnock Committee make a bow to the role of morality but conclude thatmatters of ultimate value are not susceptible of proof".Nevertheless, at their own chosen level, they recognise the feelings expressed in the evidence and conclude thatBarriers, it is generally agreed, must be set up",I believe that it is convenient to consider this complex matter at that level because there is in public opinion, undoubtedly a deep-seated repugnance to IVF and all that it implies. This is fully borne out by the MORI poll commissioned by the Order of Christian Unity and carried out in July 1984, to which several noble Lords have already referred. This sound instinctive reaction should not be overruled by sentiment when it comes to considering where the legislative barriers should be placed.
If, as the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, suggested in his admirable maiden speech, we consider the law on abortion, may I say that I believe it was the situation arising when a pregnancy threatens the life of a mother that influenced Parliament to decide in her favour, through abortion. As I understand it, serious threats to life or health of this order are relatively rare, and clearly many abortions are being authorised where, at best, the only threat is the statistically small one inherent in going full-term to normal delivery.
In considering infertility, the committee rather questionably decided to ignore the question of whether the world really needs new and expensive methods of increased fertility and concentrates instead on the 573 position of the relatively small number of couples who want children but cannot have them in hitherto accepted ways. No doubt there is sympathy for such people and a desire to help them by AIH, for example, or even AID, although, as several noble Lords have made clear, there would be many (of whom I most emphatically am one) who would not regard the latter as morally justified.
But having identified this claim for what the committee call alleviating infertility, the report goes on to apply it, by extrapolation, to all the developments the committee were asked to consider—all the way, in fact, to trans-species fertilisation. I believe that in doing so they load more on to their argument than it can bear, because this process, in all its modes, is concerned with human embryos which may be used for experiments, for freezing, for being allowed to die or simply for being killed off. There is no question here of a mother's life being weighed against such things, and gratifying the wishes of a few infertile people is certainly not a justification for them. The report itself sets out cogently enough the arguments against using embryos for experiments—paragraphs 11.26 and 11.27—but then goes against its own logic and accepts by a majority that this is all right for up to 14 days. I submit that the case for IVF and its developments has not been made and that this is the point at which barriers should be placed.
To defend the lines they wish to see drawn, the committee propose to set up a licensing authority. With all the strategic passes already conceded, this body would have no chance at all of seriously influencing events. I have the good fortune to know a number of research scientists, and have no doubt that they are men of integrity. But the more dedicated they are to research the more firmly they believe that the only personal boundaries they recognise in their work are those currently limiting human knowledge itself. No doubt they would accept and conform to limitations imposed by society as a whole, preferably world-wide, but these must be clearly stated and firmly supported by law.
Many people are reminded by the research we are considering today of that which led to the building of the atomic bomb. This is not altogether fanciful, and, indeed, the repercussions for the human race may be just as far-reaching. It is worth recalling that the decision to proceed with that research was taken in the light of survival in a world war, and few people would wish to be faced with making the right choice in such circumstances. Certain it is that if the decision was being taken today it would be different. Moreover, if concerted action had been possible at a much earlier stage the chances of achieving, for example, the zero option proposed by the United States Government would be far better.
Once the genie is out of the bottle it is very difficult to put it back again. It is like the story of the Dutch boy who put his hand in the dyke. He is a national hero because he was present at the start of a potential disaster and had the courage and insight to take the right action at the right time. I believe that the Government should initiate legislation as soon as possible, even if it is of an interim nature, and should take all action open to them to obtain concerted action in Europe, and world-wide, to curb these dangerous and disruptive activities.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Lord Tranmire
My Lords, at this stage of the debate there is a great danger of undue repetition. I just want to say to your Lordships that I am worried and troubled over this report. It is written with exceptional clarity. It deals in some detail with the medical and the legal issues, but it seems to neglect entirely the effect of the committee's recommendations on the child who is brought into the world by the techniques they recommend, and also the effect on the family in which that child is brought up.
I know that noble Lords have already touched on this, but for me it is a very worrying thing for a young child, at the start of his life, to be uncertain as to his parents and to be in a family whose only link may well be the link of some donors' bureau in an infertility clinic. I think that is a horrible idea that comes from this report. After all, the Christian, the Jewish and the Mohammedan religions all set and regard the family as the pillar of civilisation. Destroy that, and you destroy the civilisation, as the Chinese found a few years ago when they tried to experiment with the family.
For these reasons, I believe that it would be a grave mistake to legalise extra-marital fertilisation of embryos involving a spouse and a third party. To quote the words the report uses in another context:Once a foot is set on the 'slippery slope'… no end can be set to the dangers".That applies equally to their recommendation on AID and on IVF, provided the spouse is not involved. Therefore, I would myself confine medical treatment to surgery where that is practicable, to AIH and to IVF, provided the spermatozoa of the husband were used.
I do not want to go into other detail. I agree with the great body of opinion expressed in this House about the unwisdom of the Warnock report's recommendations regarding research and experiment, and the more satisfactory alternative of the dissenting judgment B. I say just this. I hope I never live to see the day when the Seventh Commandment is amended with the addition of the words,
unless sponsored by a panel doctor and licensed by an infertility quango".
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow and agree with my old house captain, but I shall be brief. The noble Lord was president of the debating society in our school many years ago and he insisted that no speaker should hold forth for more than a few minutes. Therefore, if anybody is likely to bring me to a close, it is him.
As the noble Lord has said, this subject has been thoroughly combed over this afternoon and that is one reason—apart from any others—for being brief. I should like to single out two speeches. I know that I am making a mistake here because there have been many very brilliant orators taking part in our debate. However, the maiden speech by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, was an extraordinary tour de force. Of course I remember his father and his grandfather. Things are rather moving on when I remember speakers mainly by reference to their grandfathers. I 575 did not know his great-grandfather although I might have known him because I was alive at the time, but I was not here. Anyway it was a great pleasure to hear someone from that distinguished family speaking so well.
Although the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich is not present, I ventured in an article I wrote some years ago about the House of Lords to say that he was the most attractive speaker that had ever been thrown up by the Bishop's Bench, and I think that he fully justified that compliment in his compelling speech this afternoon.
There is a habit nowadays of referring to reports by the name of the chairman. We talk of Beveridge, Wolfenden, or Robbins not meaning the person, but meaning their reports. I should be very sorry to have to refer to my much admired friend Dame Mary Warnock in such a way. I am afraid that I have some sharp criticisms to make of this report but they have mostly been voiced already. However, as one would expect from one of the most brilliant women of our time, perhaps the most brilliant woman I know outside my own family and of course outside this House—I must be careful here—and as one would expect of a Committee over which she presided, the report is highly educational and everyone must agree that it is extraordinarily lucid with the arguments not always quite fairly presented but still very clearly set out on both sides and on all points. Therefore, there is a great deal to be said for the report from that point of view.
I agreed very much with one large part of the emphasis of the report, that is, the insistence that these new extraordinary discoveries must be very carefully regulated. Everyone, including my acting Leader, my noble friend, Lord Ennals—who was very careful to explain that he was speaking only for himself—would agree with the principle of regulation. That seems to be a point on which we can all come together.
To put it quite bluntly, I am against the use of embryos for research. One might say, "You would be, wouldn't you?"—to use a phrase made fashionable by Miss Rice-Davies many years ago. Yes, that is true. But other people would be against other things which fall in the same area. I know very well a lady whose first child was an imbecile. The child lived until the age of 10 without ever being able to recognise her mother, and then she died. Is there anyone who does not have a bias against any attempts to experiment on that child? It might be said that the child would not notice anything that was going on and that experimentation could be useful for some future purpose and that other people might be assisted in the future. But we all draw the line somewhere—certainly Dame Mary Warnock and my noble friend Lord Ennals would draw the line—at experimenting on a living person, a person who has actually emerged into childhood.
The question is: do we draw the line at experimenting on these so-called embryos? On that point I really hardly need to add to what was said so very carefully and fully and with such humane and at the same time theological wisdom by the noble Marquess, Lord Reading. I need not go over that ground again.
576 I personally consider that Dame Mary Warnock and her committee have put one aspect of our conviction very clearly. The Committee say in Chapter 11, paragraph 11, that the main argument is that:the use of human embryos for research is morally wrong because of the very fact that they are human, and much of the evidence submitted to us strongly supports this".That is my point of view and it was my point of view before I read the Warnock Report.
I am no scientist, but let me dwell for one moment on one point as regards which I feel that the committee has gone seriously wrong; at any rate, it has mis-stated the situation. I am referring to Chapter 11, paragraph 14 where it says:Those who are firmly opposed to research on human embryos recognise that a ban on their use may reduce the volume not only of pure research but also research in potentially beneficial areas".Then it goes on to describe the areas. That really is simply not so. I am amazed that it has neglected a good deal of evidence that was submitted to it and which said exactly the opposite. I shall not stop to quote, but I shall just refer to the evidence submitted by the French scientist Professor Jerome Lejeune who is without doubt one of the world's greatest geneticists. He laid the utmost stress on the fact that this type of research conducted within our 14 days will be of very little value compared to research which can be conducted without violating, as I would say, the moral laws. So even on scientific grounds—and in that connection I would not dream of offering my opinion as being of much value—we must recognise that there is a great deal of highly expert opinion which is simply, on the face of it, ignored by the report.
I am afraid that I do not share the belief of my dear friend Lord Soper that in some extraordinary way science will provide new spiritual possibilities for the family. That, I am afraid, seems to me to be altogether too optimistic. But going beyond and outside science, I say that this is an appalling prospect. It is not just a question of what the Warnock Report says; it is not just that we are shocked by what is going on now: we are profoundly apprehensive about where it could lead in the future.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Baroness Masham of Ilton
My Lords, I do not want to be the only Member of your Lordships' House not to congratulate the noble Marquess on his splendid and strong maiden speech. I had not intended to speak in this debate. I had not intended to come to London this week, as I had work to do in the North. It was the importance of this debate and report, and telephone calls from concerned people, which encouraged me to say a few words. This debate with such important Christian and moral issues has, I feel, been sprung on us so suddenly and with so little time to prepare. What I say today is my first reaction to the report.
I once watched a science fiction film about a man who was made in a laboratory. He escaped and did all kinds of terrible things. It makes me think: is this the start of something which could lead to a Hitler theory of only the perfect human beings being brought into our society? There is now a very large non-Christian population. Life to many no longer seems sacred. I blame a great deal of the present problems on the abortion of babies and on society for having let that 577 happen. I feel that it is a pity that not more females are speaking in this debate today.
There are many childless couples who have a profound longing to have a baby or to bring up children. Many of them in the past derived great joy from having adopted children. Now there is a shortage of babies for adoption. I believe that human life begins at fertilisation and that thereafter what is done should be done in the best interest of the living, growing human embryo.
The Roman Catholic teaching is quite clear and I should like to quote from what the Catholic Archbishops of Britain said in January 1980.It is Catholic teaching, supported by modern scientific knowledge, that from the time of conception there comes into existence a new life and a process of continuous growth begins. We accept as a sacred responsibility from God the need to respect and protect—from the time of conception—what has begun its human life.Each such new life is the life not of a potential human being but of a human being with potential.The advances in medical science are great. The temptations for experimentation on the human embryo could go far. Very often scientists work in narrow specialist fields. They might try to reach their goal without any regard to the embryo. How could 14 days be controlled, and what is the difference between day 1 and day 14, except that the embryo is more advanced?
When I was a patient at Stoke Mandeville hospital there was a Roman Catholic doctor who would ask young male patients who had broken their backs or their necks and who might like to father babies in the future if they would like some of their semen frozen while it was still active and fertile. This would later be injected into their wives. In cases like this, in vitro fertilisation could be of great help, as it could be to other married couples who needed help.
I am worried about Recommendation 16 of the report which says:The licensing body be asked to consider the need for follow-up studies of children born as a result of the new techniques, including consideration of the need for a centrally maintained register of such births.This would be putting the children in a special guinea-pig category. Children, whoever they are, are individuals and unless they need special protection because of child abuse, I do not think that the children would want to be specially categorised. They would want to be treated the same as other children.
I believe that the further we get away from nature, the more problems we shall have. So far as I can gather both the report and the Church disagree with surrogate mothering; but so far as I can see in some special cases this might be in the best interests of the embryo. From a physiological point of view surrogate motherhood is very successful: a woman's womb does not usually reject an embryo from elsewhere. Many millions of children have been successfully brought up by wet nurses or nannies. This could be said to be an extension of that practice. That is just a woman's feeling as I know how protective women can be, though I appreciate that this could raise many problems.
I expect that this debate will stimulate all sorts of discussion outside your Lordship's House, but I hope that the result will be good.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Lord Milverton
My Lords, what are we doing with life in our present day? This is the vitally important question in respect of human beings, as it is to a lesser degree in respect of other aspects of creation. How we treat ourselves will determine how we treat life. Disturbing and frightening aspects are placed before us in the Warnock Committee report. This report, together with other factors of modern life, must cause many men, women, boys and girls to think deeply about values in regard to human life. We must consider life not only when the child has been born, but we must value human life from the moment of conception, thinking of the potential of each unique unborn child. We are dealing with that which has the substance of all feeling and sensitivity—life. The material matter within our grasp and our control must never be regarded as existing for experimental and research purposes, for satisfying curiosity or human whims of any kind.
It is said and known that all forms of life can feel. Then could it not be that a human embryo may feel right from the beginning of its existence or, as the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, suggested, that even that apparently little nothing of the egg or sperm may also feel and have sensitivity? It is some of the material of life for the creation of unique human beings who, by the grace of God, have been so privileged.
I suggest that here lie some of the disturbing factors which we have to face at this time. For instance, in paragraphs 8.1 and 8.2 of Background Paper No. 150 surrogate motherhood may be right for some special cases, but on the whole surely it is quite inappropriate. The practice of superovulation has a strangeness, an unnaturalness, around the act. The different ways involved in donation by donors are also a door to the misuse of that which is used in the creation of life. The idea of freezing eggs and/or embryos is horrible, as is the idea that if spare embryos are not needed they can be destroyed, just chucked away, or used for research.
Children born by AID should be made legitimate and not remain illegitimate. The use of sperm banks is also an unwholesome step. The idea of many lives arising from a licensing body and its functions leaves one cold—dead cold. For instance, paragraph 22 of the section headed "Principles of provision" in this background paper is unnatural and cold. It reads:For the present, there should be a limit of ten children who can be fathered by one donor".I think it is repulsive to ask a man to give his sperm for the creation of a child when that man will have nothing to do with that child when it comes into existence.
Paragraph 29 is dangerous. It says:The use of frozen semen in artificial insemination should continue".As I understand it, this whole business of the freezing of potential life is horrible and nasty. Paragraph 31 is dangerous and unacceptable. It reads:There should be a maximum of ten years for the storage of embryos after which time the right to use or disposal should pass to the storage authority.A storage authority for what will be a human life! What are we coming to?
579 If this is allowed to operate, some man or woman might say (as some have already thought of, and as some have already tried to do): "Let us breed the perfect human race".
Paragraph 43 deals with legal limits on research. Is this right? I do not think so. It reads:Legislation should provide that research may be carried out on an embryo resulting from in vitro fertilisation, whatever its provenance, up to the end of the fourteenth day after fertilisation, but subject to all other restrictions as may be imposed by the licensing body.Life coming into existence by a licensing body? True life is to come into existence by love, and we must do all possible to help that to happen. Can the law be a safeguard in something that is so uncertain and complex? The most stringent safeguards by law are necessary if these ways are to grow, but far better to check these ways to guide them to far better, practical, wholesome ways. The ugliness of monetary payment comes into play with a value being put on an embryo or surrogate motherhood or the other ways and forms. What are we coming to, with money being one of the main factors for life coming into existence?
I hope Her Majesty's Government will take note of the Order of Christian Unity findings. I hope they will take note before formulating their view and look deeply, thoroughly and positively critically into the Warnock Committee report and at what has been said tonight, particularly by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, when he used the expression "a thing" which was mentioned in the Warnock report and also when he brought out the point of these anonymous people.
What are we coming to? Have we lost all sense, as some people have already said, of that which makes a family? Families are not made just by a man and woman living together. A family is made by a man and woman who live together in love, giving themselves to each other in love, helping each other in smooth and rough waters and at all times. I hope that the Government will also take note of what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, who always has something very clear, true and succulent for us. Also, last but not least—I am afraid I did not realise that it was breaking a rule—I hope Her Majesty's Government will take good and proper note of the excellent speech of Lord Reading.
I agree with those who say that there ought to be a moratorium. We cannot allow what has already begun to continue without proper safeguards. I hope Her Majesty's Government will take note of those very prominent and able people who have said that there should be a moratorium. Her Majesty's Government must take note.
§ 7.14 p.m.
My Lords, I intend to detain your Lordships for a very few minutes only, but I must start by apologising to the Minister for the fact that I shall be obliged to miss his concluding speech, much to my great regret, through an unavoidable engagement. Like most of your Lordships who have spoken this evening I object very strongly to the Warnock Committee report, and its recommendations, on ethical and religious grounds. I do not 580 intend to speak on those grounds as they have been ably covered by so many of your Lordships. I should like to highlight an objection which has been voiced by many noble Lords; that is, the 14-day period. How is one to determine the 14-day period, and who is to distinguish between 14 and 40 days? Surely that is a grave defect in a report which should give guidance on a matter such as this.
My noble kinsman Lord Lauderdale spoke very effectively about the lack of consultation with the various religious bodies in this country. He mentioned the various Christian denominations, including the Methodists, and he mentioned the Jews. Perhaps I might remind your Lordships that there are a million and a quarter Moslems in this country, many of whom are British subjects, and to them, as to us, such experimentation is utterly abhorrent.
There are graver implications. Your Lordships have been speaking with great effect about experimenting with embryos. Can we not expect, perhaps, that this will lead to juggling with genes? Is it not possible to envisage that in time to come people may be able to order their own children? Someone may say, "All right; I'll have two boys with blue eyes", or, "I will have two girls with golden hair". What a terrible thought! But, even worse, I saw in a paper the other day an advertisement for a gender blender. Can your Lordships imagine it? So, apart from all the horrible results of this experimentation, we may even have hermaphrodites with us.
§ It is appropriate to quote from The Doctor's Dilemma by George Bernard Shaw, in which he says:
"No man is allowed to put his mother in the stove because he desires to know how long an adult woman will survive the temperature of 500 degrees Fahrenheit; no matter how important or interesting that particular addition to the store of human knowledge may be".
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Lord Meston
My Lords, this has been a truly fascinating debate. I hope the lawyers have all avoided the temptation to say that these problems are medical, and that the scientists have avoided the temptation to say that these problems are all legal. But there is, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, pointed out, a legal vacuum. Your Lordships' debate has shown that there is no moral vacuum. In particular, the noble Marquess, the maiden speaker, demonstrated, with his clarity of thought and expression, what many of your Lordships clearly felt. My own recent experience of the same ordeal reinforces my congratulations to him.
We have to face the fact that science relating to infertility has raced ahead of the law. The law must catch up with the so-called reproduction revolution. Like the proverbial tortoise, it must win the race in the end.
The Warnock report has been described by one journalist as a triumph of common sense over theology. Many of your Lordships have castigated it as, in effect, amoral. I ask your Lordships to consider whether we can hold back the tide. It would be all too easy to say that we must stop the race here, but the fact is that the race will continue elsewhere, in particular in America and Australia, where these techniques are being developed daily. It will indeed be carried on in this country, but in secret.
581 To say that infertility is a problem is not to say that there is an absolute right to parenthood. I would echo the observation of my noble friend Lord McNair on that. Most of us would prefer to see parenthood as a privilege and a responsibility. But we must recognise the powerful wish for children not only in the naturally infertile, but also in the deliberate but prematurely infertile. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford has mentioned, this is aggravated by the shortage of children available for adoption. As a practitioner in family law, I can only vaguely convey to your Lordships the desperation which can enter into a contested adoption case or a contested custody or access dispute, particularly, if I may say so, when one of the parties has been sterilised.
But some of your Lordships have also mentioned another powerul urge and that of course must also be recognised. That is the powerful urge of the child as it enters adulthood to know its parental origins.
My Lords, the striking observation to my mind in the early stages of the report is that people want some limit. One asks oneself why. It is, presumably, first, to prevent genetic engineering. But it is also to prevent exploitation of the basic urge for children and exploitation of and by donors. And, indeed, one has to say that it is also to protect parents from themselves, from badly thought out private arrangements which can only create distress and sometimes disaster. But it is also, as many of your Lordships have said, ultimately to protect the end product, the child, whose interests must be paramount. The report recognises that controls cannot just be legislative and negative. There must also be medical and ethical controls and also the positive provision of services to assist the infertile.
I ask your Lordships to consider this. Excessive control, which some of your Lordships seem to favour, may well have the result of encouraging the provision of back-street services, as experience shows in another, not unrelated, area. Control requires definition and, of course??? there has to be a great deal of legal and moral line drawing. Because we are concerned with the living or the potentially living, definition has to be in terms of time, a beginning and an end. Many of your Lordships have agonised, as people do, over fixing a point at which life in the abstract begins. I hope that it is not a failure of my own intellect or my own inadequate Christian faith if I suggest that it is more helpful to consider when viability begins, rather than when life in abstract begins.
My Lords, so much for the beginning. One looks then at the end. One has to face the fact that controlling the production and use of sperm, egg and embryo for artificial and assisted reproduction must include the power to destroy the entities created and preserved for those purposes. That does not mean that one does not care about life or human beings in the abstract. On the contrary, I suggest that it shows that we do care about the life and the quality of life of the unique individual who can be produced and, indeed, of the quality of the life of the parents or caretakers of that unique child.
Warnock grasps the nettle and sets time limits. First of all, there is AIH, which creates no problem except when there is to be conception after the husband's death. Of course, the child is not conceived or born in 582 wedlock and is therefore illegitimate. The report proposes the automatic and immediate exclusion of the child for succession and inheritance purposes. I beg to question the need for that automatic and immediate exclusion. One must remember that this will have been a planned and wanted child of both parents. A great deal more thought, I would suggest, must go into post mortem AIH. Clearly, one wishes to discourage it simply for inheritance purposes. I venture to suggest that it should be tied in with a review of the law of illegitimacy which, as we all know, is under way.
As to AID, I venture to suggest that the Warnock report has got it right. It suggests anonymity, time limits on the keeping of sperm, the limiting of the number of donations by any one person and, of course, restricting payments to donors—all very necessary, though, if I may venture a note of levity, disappointing to those of us who may be looking for other gainful employment in the unhappy event of the abolition of your Lordships' House. The provision for automatic illegitimacy echoes a Bill which was introduced in another place in 1977 but, again, I would suggest that it ought to be looked at in the wider context of the law relating to legitimacy.
Many of your Lordships have been concerned, indeed, most of your Lordships have been concerned, with how long one should allow an embryo to remain—and I limit my observation to embryos produced for reproductive purposes—in suspended existence. I suspect that "suspended animation" is not the correct phrase. A doctor's dilemma has been quoted. A doctor who has had much to do with a unit in a university in Australia which apparently contains some 250 embryos frozen in a tank of liquid nitrogen has asked these questions if the parents die, or they separate, or they do not want their embryos, are they the doctor's responsibility? Can ownership of an embryo be transferred? Can an embryo inherit? Can consenting parents put out an embryo for adoption? Can they request that it be thawed out and left to die? Perhaps embryos have a right to the chance of life.
I suspect that many of your Lordships would be saying that that doctor's dilemma is of her own making. But, given that it exists, I would submit that the doctors are entitled to look to the law to provide the answers—and by the law I mean the legislators. Otherwise, it will not be too fanciful to see an argument ancillary to a divorce case as to the custody of an embryo; and it will not be fanciful to foresee grotesque inheritance problems. Assuming that your Lordships' House survives, your Lordships' descendants may be caused considerable consternation to be confronted with a newly-defrosted elder son from some previous generation.
My Lords, the Warnock report suggests a 10-year maximum for the preservation of embryos. I would only question the necessity or desirability of keeping them alive (to use that phrase neutrally) for so long. It was really only the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, who touched on the question of surrogacy. I think that your Lordships have all agreed that commercial arrangements must be outlawed but that private arrangements also should be discouraged. But I think that your Lordships should be aware that so-called domestic surrogacy can work well where a fertile sister provides a child for an infertile sister.
583 But, of course, it can go terribly wrong. There is one, and I think only one, case in the English law reports concerning this problem. A man married a lady who was unable to have further children. He became obsessed with the idea that he should have his own natural child, and embarked upon a plan to achieve that object. What in fact he did was to go to Bow Street Magistrates' Court, find someone who had apparently been in court for prostitution and offer her money to bear a child. She refused, but she did find a 19-year-old woman who was prepared to undertake the contract. Money changed hands and the pregnancy was commenced by artificial insemination with the man's sperm. During the pregnancy the almost inevitable happened: the woman changed her mind and decided to keep the child.
After the child's birth, the father—for indeed he was the father—started wardship proceedings to obtain the custody of the baby. He failed at first instance but the judge allowed him access to that child. The case went to the Court of Appeal, whose members expressed themselves forcefully against the whole arrangement, saying that no bond between the father and the child except the mere biological bond existed, there never having been any association between the father and mother except the sordid commercial bond. It had been a wholly artificial situation from the beginning. It should never have happened and no responsible adult should have allowed it to happen. But it had happened, and the court had to pick up the pieces. The best way is to let the mother lead as normal a life as possible with the child without interference from an obsessive father, who was still passionately anxious to get care and control of the child. The result was that he was refused access to the child indefinitely.
In the final analysis you cannot stop such arrangements: you can discourage them but you cannot stop them. If it is going to happen we have either to leave it to the courts to pick up the pieces or, as the minority in the report suggested, have some very limited regulation of such arrangements in special cases.
As many of your Lordships have said, you cannot divorce this question from the values of society and the values of a family life. One question I ask myself—I do not pretend to know the answer—is this. Society requires no qualification of natural parents for natural parenthood, but it requires quite stringent qualifications for adoption even when one of the adopters is a natural parent of the child. The anxiety is the interests of the child and to avoid distortion of family relationships. We must ask ourselves, if the surrogacy arrangements are to go ahead, what qualities we require of those who seek artificial assistance and who should make the value judgments involved.
Questions have been raised in this debate as to how representative the committee was and indeed how representative the evidence was. I happen to believe that your Lordships' House is one of the most representative forums in the country, but I do ask the Government to consider how representative are the views that have been heard today. The Warnock Report poses many questions and provides many answers. The tortoise of the law will have to tread carefully but its way has been well lit by this report.
584 The law should be a tortoise and not an ostrich, burying its head.
In closing I would simply say this. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, quoted Miss Rice-Davies and so I feel able to quote Miss Marilyn Monroe. Asked what did she think of sex? she said, "I think sex is here to stay". I think we have to face it: these techniques are here to stay.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Lord Prys-Davies
My Lords, I do not propose to speak on behalf of these Benches except to congratulate the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, on his distinguished and forceful contribution. I have been asked by my noble friend Lord Ennals to apologise to the House for his absence, but he is obliged to keep another appointment.
On reading the pages of the Warnock Report, most of us find ourselves face to face with the immense advances made by scientists in very recent years, and that in a small but formative area of life. I would echo the sentiments of many Members when I say it seems to me that science is sometimes running well ahead of our capacity to perceive and think through the basic issues which it poses. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, has illustrated how science is also outstripping the law. Hence, I find myself among those who are anguished if not confused as to how we should be responding to the issues and the problems which are generated by some aspects of medical advancement.
In recent years organ transplantation has emphasised the difficulties of defining terms such as "life" and "death" in adults and children. But in relation to the human embryo we are again faced with a question: when does life begin? I agree that this is a question which, from my own point of view, cannot easily be answered in a simple fashion. The question can be refined and further refined; and eventually I found myself asking a question asked by one of the dissenters: at what stage of development should the status of a person be accorded to an embryo of the human species?
I do not propose to go over the ground, but, faced with that uncertainty and possibly by my own inadequate Christianity, I tend in the first place to look to my doctor for guidance, believing and hoping that his clinical judgment is tolerably sound. I agree that the issues are wider than those of medical ethics. But given my doctor's assurance, I would go along with a development in medicine if I know that it offers prospects of hope even if only to a few, and provided also that such development is acceptable to most sections of contemporary society. Those are my guidelines. They may be inadequate guidelines, but I find them helpful.
IVF is a considerable achievement and I do not think one can overestimate its importance. Sudden infertility is a cross for some people. But I do not accept that it is a cross which must be carried to the end of life if the doctor can offer help. I believe therefore that IVF is here to stay as a new clinical treatment to enable families to have a fuller life.
But your Lordships have spent many hours on a second question. Is it also to stay as a research tool to solve problems which are associated with infertility? I 585 believe there are deep differences of opinion in the country surrounding the use of the human embryo for research. It is an area of great controversy and I venture to suggest that that controversy has not really been reflected in the discussion over the past few hours. It is certainly reflected in the Warnock Report which could not reach a unanimous view about the use of the human embryo for research. We know—I shall not go over the ground—that the minority of the committee was opposed to the embryo being the subject of research. It has to be protected from conception either because it is a human person or because it has a high potential for being a human person. I also believe that there is a strong fear—that has emerged in the discussion this afternoon—that research may open up future possibilities and dangerous developments. One noble Lord referred to the present stage of research as being on a slippery slope. I respect that view but there is a majority opinion within the committee which, having regard to the contribution that can be made by scientific research, then allows research on a live human embryo.
We have not heard as much as we ought about the conditions which the Warnock Committee recommends for the research work. It is subject to two basic conditions; that it must be undertaken by practitioners or researchers licensed by the new statutory licensing authority; and that it must be undertaken on premises also licensed by the licensing authority and which are open to inspection by the authority's inspectorate. Consideration could be given to introducing additional safeguards to tighten up the control—for example, whether the information can be obtained in any other way. But the committee is clear in its view that 14 days after fertilisation research will end. It has given its reasons for drawing the line at the end of the 14th day and I am in no position to offer a judgment on the accuracy of the line. But to conduct research on the embryo after the 14th day would be a criminal offence. I believe that this reflects the concern of the committee to protect the embryo and its anxiety about where research could lead.
There are some who consider that the committee has been too relaxed in drawing the line at 14 days but there are practitioners and others who consider that a 14 day rule would be too restrictive in the light of future experience. I think the point must be made and must be recorded that some practitioners point to the fact which did not escape the attention of Warnock that research may be undertaken in this country, subject to certain conditions being observed, involving the pre-viable foetus at less than 140 days' gestation and which is prevented from attaining life wholly independently of the mother following termination of pregnancy. Warnock was not impressed with that precedent and recommends or suggests that any research which makes use of live embryos or foeti should be brought within the legislative framework proposed by it. The committee had to weigh the benefit of research involving the human embryo against the very real objections which have been generated. I happen to believe that it has maintained the right balance, provided that the conditions set out in the report are implemented and observed.
I now turn to the second issue which has concerned 586 your Lordships, that of surrogate pregnancy. Subject to a powerful dissenting opinion, the committee recommends the creation of two criminal offences for surrogate pregnancy. Here I share the view or the reservations of the two dissenters. I believe that there is some support for the dissenters from my noble friend Lord Soper, and the noble Baroness, Lady Masham. If we accept the role of the I VF donor, I find it difficult to see why there should be a fundamental objection to surrogacy, which is an extension of what has been accepted, provided it is carried on under stringent care and control. But I appreciate that there are widespread anxieties about surrogate pregnancy agencies and I believe that the public disquiet may have been influenced in part by the suggestion that improper financial transactions are involved. The risk of exploitation is not to be underestimated and that is why one agrees that the criminal law should be used to ensure that a financial consideration does no more than meet the necessary expenditure incurred by the surrogate mother.To a very small number of parents in very special or exceptional circumstances surrogacy could be the last resort, and for that reason the door should not be completely closed on it.
The committee noted what it described as a "haphazard organisation of services for the infertile". It found the services to be unsatisfactory and recommended that each health authority should review its facilities for the investigation and treatment of infertility and indeed that consideration be given to the inclusion of plans for improving the service as part of the next round of health authority strategic plans. However we were not told what level of spending is needed to provide adequate services for the infertile.
Here I come to another troubling question which has not been voiced during the past few hours. To give money to one area of medicine is often to withhold it from another. Therefore, where do we place IVF in our scale of priorities? What some of us cannot accept is that the NHS, already under pressure, already for example, failing to provide adequate treatment for cervical cancer, already failing to reach those most in need of it, should be further weakened in order to find the necessary expenditure. IVF illustrates very clearly the need that arises from time to time to provide additional money for the NHS to meet the demands made on it by scientific advance.
Finally, I return to the common ground. I think it is true to say that most of us wholeheartedly agree with the committee's main recommendation that there should be a central permanent statutory body, consisting of substantial lay representation and with a lay chairman, to regulate the service and the research that is to be undertaken. I am particularly pleased that there will be a substantial lay representation on the proposed authority. That is some safeguard. The licensing authority can also draw on the experience of the ethical committee which is monitoring and regulating research of foetus material.
I particularly wish to endorse the recommendation that the licensing authority should consider the need for follow-up studies of children born as a result of the new techniques. It may well be—and we have no grounds for believing otherwise—that the incidence of birth defects is not greater than normal. We have no known evidence for believing that the children will 587 suffer in any way from the nature of their conception. However, it would be very wise to consider the need for follow-up studies, as the committee recommends. So we are, with this report, on a new frontier. We can see that the scientists are breaking new ground and outstripping the law. The report identifies many of the problems and offers some solutions, and for that reason I believe it is a sound basis for discussion which it is to be hoped will lead to adequate and early legislation.
§ Viscount Hanworth
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, has he seriously considered and gone into the question of the children of surrogate parentage? Does he realise, even with adopted children, the emotional importance of trying to find out who were their parents, and so on? It does not matter to me, but it seems to matter emotionally to a lot of people. Has he really taken this into account in making his speech?
§ Lord Prys-Davies
No, my Lords. I would not claim that I have thoroughly understood or grasped the implications of each development that is identified in this report. I would not claim that I have that understanding. But I believe that we have a real problem and that surrogate pregnancy, donor embryos and donor semen can contribute towards a happy family life, which is the end we all seek.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Lord Glenarthur
My Lords, when I spoke earlier, I said how much I looked forward to hearing the comments to be made this afternoon and I, for one, have not been disappointed. I have learned a great deal and I am grateful, as we all will be, to all those who have taken part in this stimulating debate for their constructive and very profound views, which of course the Government will study most carefully. It is not easy to wind-up a debate which has expressed those very profound views and, if I am unable to mention all those who have taken part, it in no way reflects upon the content of their speech; merely on the constraints of time.
But before I respond to some of the main points that have been made, I should like to join others of your Lordships who have congratulated my noble friend Lord Reading on a really excellent maiden speech. He spoke with very great clarity and feeling about one of the most fundamental issues before us—the nature of the human embryo—and he referred to the sanctity of life. He posed the question: when does it begin? In many ways, the questions he posed are unanswerable, certainly to everybody's satisfaction. But my noble friend rightly holds very strong feelings and I, too, look forward with keen anticipation to hearing future interventions from him.
In considering where to start to wind-up this debate, I thought that the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Soper, earlier on about the family were of particular importance. The noble Lord, who apologised to me because he could not be here now, with others, such as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich and the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, placed in the forefront of our minds the many contexts in which 588 these matters must be considered. I should like to endorse wholeheartedly what they have said about the family. Among the interests to be considered in relation to the new techniques, those of the wider family must be as central as those of the individual couples and children concerned. I can assure your Lordships that this will be a fundamental dimension in the Government's thinking about the report.
My noble friend Lord Lauderdale, in a powerful speech, made a number of points about the composition of the inquiry. He made a number of other points, too, which I shall study most carefully. But so far as the composition is concerned, as I have already indicated, the membership reflected a wide range of lay, professional and religious interests, although my noble friend argued over my use of the word "interests".
The range was, in fact, very broad. Apart from two gynaecologists, it included lawyers, a general practitioner, two members with experience in social work and counselling, and a theologian. While the members were not appointed solely on the basis of their religious views, they were taken into account and a range of religious backgrounds was reflected. The inquiry received evidence from all the main religious denominations in this country and it is this dimension to the work of the committee which is fundamental. I could give my noble friend even greater details about where the meetings took place, the number of submissions that were received and so on, but I shall certainly let him have them in writing.
The proposed statutory body to license and control the provision of services for infertility and to regulate research on human embryos is, I think, the report's central recommendation. Because of this, we have asked particularly for views to be expressed on it in the course of the consultation. We shall need to consider all views very carefully before arriving at a conclusion. The Government do not dispute the need for effective control of these methods, but it is important to bear in mind that controls already exist in the guidelines issued to research workers and clinicians.
The Medical Research Council issued guidelines for research workers in 1982, and the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists issued guidelines for clinicians in 1983. Existing activity is therefore already conducted within a very firm framework of guidance. In considering the question of control, we should remember that these first steps have already been taken.
As evidenced by many who have spoken in this debate, and by many other people and some of the Churches, research on human embryos is abhorrent and not permissible in any circumstances. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich said, a majority of the Warnock Committee felt that some use was acceptable but only in most carefully controlled circumstances. Three members of the committee did not accept that research should be allowed in any circumstances, and added an expression of dissent to the main report on this point. I respect the deeply-held views of those of your Lordships who are of this opinion, and I have listened to and noted the points which have been made very carefully indeed; but I 589 should like for a moment to put the other side of the picture and say a little about the case for research.
There are potential benefits of research on human embryos. They fall into two main categories: first, to increase control of human fertility, both to improve it in the infertile and to develop better methods of contraception—a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley—and, secondly, to detect and prevent human abnormalities. The technique of IVF in the form used and accepted today required years of research on human embryos. The success rate in terms of infants born following IVF is still low, and will remain so in the absence of further research. More research, therefore, is necessary to find the optimum conditions for fertilisation and growth of the human embryo.
I understand also that some congenital abnormalities, such as Downs syndrome and spina bifida are thought to originate either during sperm and egg development, at fertilisation or during the early development of the embryo. From a better understanding of the circumstances in which these disorders appear it may be possible to learn how to prevent them. Research on embryos may also lead to a better understanding of the development of chromosomal abnormalities. The techniques of genetic engineering, however alarming they might be to some, may in the future allow us to correct at an early stage of embryonic development the gene abnormalities responsible for some genetically determined diseases. Work of this kind, even with embryos of other species, has not yet progressed very far, but those of us who, like myself and, I am sure, others of your Lordships, have seen some of the tragic examples of sometimes distressingly severe mental and physical handicap, might see, way into the future, some advantages. One of the very desirable outcomes of research in the realms both of embryo nutrition and of genetic engineering is that it might lead to the need for fewer therapeutic abortions to be performed because of foetal deformity detected ante-natally.
Much has been said about the time limit on research. This is equally fundamental, and it is a difficult matter. Many sections of the public are understandably disturbed by reports of what scientists and doctors might do if there were to be no controls on the use of human embryos for research or, for that matter, for the treatment of infertility. As the report makes clear, the problem was an exceedingly difficult one for the committee to resolve, and members gave it a great deal of thought over an extended period. In the event, the committee recommended a legal limit of 14 days after which no research should be carried out on any embryo resulting from in vitro fertilisation.
Whatever one's views may be, and notwithstanding the views on the sanctity of life which have been expressed, it is important that even if life in some form has begun at fertilisation, which I do not dispute for a moment, I should set aside one popularly held view: that research is now being conducted on embryos of human physical form. True, genetic programming exists for the embryo to develop into human form, but, like the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, I am in no position to judge when human life starts. However, as I understand it, the 14-day point upon which our attention is focused is well before the beginning of the 590 central nervous system, although the latter, which some believe to be the key to the matter, begins to appear at about 20 days. I do not want to become involved in a very difficult argument, but the point I wish to make is that the obvious external features do not appear until much later; that is, at about 56 days.
There have been calls from some of your Lordships, which the Government note, for a moratorium on research. We appreciate the strength of feeling which lies behind those calls. We are also aware of the findings of the MORI opinion poll, to which reference has been made. I suggest, however, that a moratorium would be premature while we are still within the consultation period and while so many interests have yet to comment on the report. One also has to ask: what would happen at the end of a moratorium? I have explained some of the existing potential benefits of this research work and the controls within which researchers are working. At the moment, while noting what has been said, it is best, I believe, to leave it at that.
The Earl of Halsbury
My Lords, human embryos are piling up by the hundred while we are talking about it. Would the Minister care to comment on that point?
§ Lord Glenarthur
My Lords, I cannot comment upon the turn of phrase which the noble Earl uses. What is important is that the consultation process should be complete before we decide upon any of the suggestions which have been put forward today by the noble Earl and others.
My noble friend Lord Lauderdale raised another question on research: trans-species fertilisation. This matter was raised by other Members of your Lordships' House. I understand that this procedure is used in this country only as a diagnostic test at some centres which specialise in the investigation and treatment of male infertility. I understand that the only animals used in this test are hampsters, and that the embryos are not allowed to grow beyond the two-cell stage—one of the recommendations made in the report.
It is no surprise to me that surrogacy has aroused comment today. The noble Lord, Lord Ennals, the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, and the noble Lord, Lord Meston, raised this matter. Many of your Lordships have articulated the strong doubts which most people have about the practice. The weight of evidence presented to the committee was against the practice, although the committee certainly heard some arguments in favour of allowing it as a last resort. As the report acknowledges, surrogacy may offer the only chance for certain couples to have a child which is genetically related to one or both of them. It may be the only way in which the husband of an infertile woman can have a child. The committee were at pains to record the difficulties which the question posed, but in the end all but two members were persuaded that surrogate motherhood treatment, whether provided by agencies or individual practitioners, should not be allowed. The Government are considering the very difficult problems raised by this technique and will listen closely to all the points which will be and which have been made.
591 The noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, the noble Lord, Lord Meston, and others raised the question of the legal status of a child born as a result of AID and IVF. The committee's recommendation that an AID child should be treated as the legitimate child of its mother and her husband where they have both consented to treatment follows the recommendation of the English Law Commission in its report Family Law Illegitimacy, which was published in December 1982. The committee further recommended, which again follows the Law Commission's view, that it should be presumed that the husband has consented to AID unless the contrary is proved. If the recommendations of the committee and of the Law Commission are put into effect, the only ground on which the husband could challenge the operation of the provision would be that he had not consented to his wife receiving AID treatment.
The committee's other recommendations covering the position of children born as a result of egg donation and embryo donation follow the recommendations about the AID child. It is essential that the interests of the child born as a result of these procedures should be borne in mind just as much, perhaps, as those of the parents. We believe it is very much in the child's interests that the stigma of illegitimacy should be removed. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, gave us much to think about, not only in respect of the present state of the law in relation to the matters under consideration, but also the social implications of the new techniques. We must bear those wise words of warning in mind in arriving at our decisions on the report.
We have also been reminded today by the noble and learned Lord, and by others, of the legal position relating to the ownership of embryos. The report states more than once that this is a very complex and difficult matter. Unlike the noble and learned Lord, I am no expert on the subject, but I understand that an embryo is not, in the present state of the law, a person. I gather, however, that there has not been a case in which a court has had to consider whether there can be property in an embryo. This confirms the importance of highlighting this matter as one for close consideration.
The noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, and others, raised the point of telling children resulting from AID and IVF techniques about their conception. Artificial insemination is not new and although I understand the noble Lady's point of view, we are not aware of any-specific difficulties in relation to such children. I understand that in relation to adoption it is considered desirable that the adoptive parents tell their children as early as possible that they were adopted. I have to tell the noble Lady, though she may not agree with me, that there is some evidence that when younger children are informed they do not regard themselves as abnormal; in fact, I gather that they may feel special rather than strange. I have no direct experience of this, but I understand it to be the case.
The noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, and the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, raised the question of National Health Service provision and how far it was going towards providing this technique. The committee considered the argument that the desire to have 592 children is only a wish and not a need and that wishes should not be satisfied at the expense of other, more urgent demands on resources. Despite this, the report concluded that infertility is a condition meriting treatment. Many of the recommendations which followed were based on that premise.
When the committee looked at relative priorities, they recommended some reorganisation of existing services which need not, in their words, necessarily involve much greater expenditure in the longer term. I do not propose to follow the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, down the avenue he opened up to me when he spoke purely about cash and resources in the way that he did. But while we expect the authorities to meet the pressures placed upon them and improve services using these resources, it is important that they are left to determine priorities. The provision of infertility services within the National Health Service reflects locally-assessed priorities and local determination of need.
The report also said that more information should be obtained about the scale of provision. That is quite right. We need to be clear about the level of need involved; a level which is complicated by rapid developments in this field (highlighted by many of your Lordships this afternoon) which can quickly promote expectations which could not have been possible only a few years ago. We shall be discussing with health authorities the considerations which flow from the report's recommendations on service provision and organisation.
There have been several calls from your Lordships for early legislation to implement the recommendations in the report. Some who have spoken consider such legislation to be a matter of urgency. As I indicated at the outset, it is not my purpose today to announce the Government's intentions in relation to the report. We are still in the consultation period, and there is much to consider. I should only like to reiterate that the Government are already considering the recommendations of the Warnock report, including those requiring legislation, very closely. We shall take full account of all the points that have been made.
Before concluding, whatever individuals may feel about the work they undertake, I should like to pay tribute to the achievements of the clinicians and researchers in this field. It would be regrettable if the deeply-held moral and religious convictions and the integrity—as was mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Sidmouth—of the scientists engaged in such exacting research was not acknowledged, I have seen some of their fascinating work at first hand and should like to record the high esteem in which I hold it. I should like to say, too, how reassured I was by the ready explanations given to me. I am sure there are others who would echo that sentiment.
The inquiry has considered a range of complicated and difficult issues and the Government are aware that a great deal of public concern remains, particularly about research on human embryos. The Government's duty is to allay that concern as far as possible. I hope I have emphasised adequately the importance which the Government attach to considering the committee's recommendations, and 593 the views of the organisations and bodies who have an interest in the issues, with the greatest possible care.
The starting point for the committee's work was not only the new techniques to alleviate infertility, but also the problems and heartaches which many childless couples face—the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, referred to the cross they have to bear—in their desire to complete their family unit. For those who long for children the realisation that they are unable to found a family can be shattering. The report offers a basis for moving some way towards fulfilment of their hopes, with safeguards for the child, with caution, and within tolerances which society can accept.
§ On Question. Motion agreed to.