HL Deb 25 July 1989 vol 510 cc1307-9

3.2 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Trafford)

My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the Order of Commitment be discharged.

Moved, That the Order of Commitment be discharged.—(Lord Trafford.)

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, we cannot let this moment go without congratulating the noble Lord on his accession to the Front Bench. I hope that he has the same freedom of expression that he has had from the Back Benches. But we wish him well in his new role.

Lord Trafford

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for those kind remarks. I hope that his kindness continues for many months, and even longer.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, perhaps I may associate these Benches with the comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff. I warmly welcome the noble Lord, Lord Trafford. I cannot guarantee that the kindness will last for ever. It depends upon his performance. We have our hopes.

Lord Trafford

My Lords, by leave of the House, I thank the noble Lord. I hope that in his case also the honeymoon period will be prolonged.

On Question, Motion agreeed to; Order of Commitment discharged accordingly.

Then, Standing Order No. 44 having been suspended (pursuant to Resolution of 18th July), Bill read a third time.

Lord Trafford

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Trafford.)

Lord Kennet

My Lords, I shall not detain the House for more than a few seconds. First, I add the good wishes of the Social Democratic Party to what has been said to the noble Lord, Lord Trafford.

The question has arisen in debate outside the House of the role of influence, alongside money, as being a possible impropriety in organ transplants between living people. A case has arisen in which a senior person in a religious organisation has received an organ from a member of his flock. While of course there is no earthly reason to suppose that in that case anything wrong has taken place, I commend it to the Government as something that they should keep an eye open to.

The Bill provides that there should be regulations which will be administered by the authority. Purchasing organs is automatically wrong but everything else is left to the authority under regulations. Will the Government see to it that when they come to present regulations to Parliament under the affirmative procedure they will contain something about influence and what it is. It could be that in any religious organisation the less educated members of the flock might feel that they were getting a good deal of mileage from God by giving a kidney to the leader. Such things are imaginable.

Secondly, and related to that point, can the noble Lord say anything about how the authority is to be constituted? Will it be composed not just of the sort of people who now govern the health service as such but also of skilled medical and health care persons and people who are skilled in picking their way through the ethical jungles of improper influence?

The Lord Bishop of Sheffield

My Lords, I am familiar with the circumstances of which the noble Lord speaks. I regret the suggestion he makes that there must have been something improper in an archbishop receiving an organ transplant of the sort about which we are speaking. I am assured that it is entirely untrue. It was a gracious offer generously received. Any suggestion that undue influence took place is not true.

Lord Kennet

Perhaps I may intervene for a moment.

Noble Lords


Lord Kennet

With the leave of the House.

Noble Lords


Lord Kennet

My Lords, may I have the leave of the House?

Noble Lords


Lord Denham

Order. My Lords, the noble Lord must use the phrase, "before the right reverend Prelate sits down". This is not a debate. The noble Lord has already spoken. Unless he has a very short interjection, he must not come in again.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, before the right reverend Prelate sits down, perhaps I may point out that I did not mention an archbishop. I did not mention a Church. I did not mention a religion. I said that in the case that I had in mind there was no reason to believe that anything improper had happened.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, on a different point in connection with the Bill, the noble Lord, Lord Trafford, whom I also congratulate on his new position on the Front Bench, will recall that when he was sitting on the Back Benches last week we had an exchange about the legal status of the donor card. During the debate, I was given two contrary answers as to whether the donor card has any legal enforceability or whether it is possible for relatives to interfere with the wishes expressed by the individual on the donor card.

I hope that when we come back and when the Government consider the Bill they will find out from the Law Officers what the legal situation is and report it to the House. If necessary, I shall put down a Question. It is an important point. As the noble Lord knows, it is a point that I raised on Second Reading last week.

Lord Trafford

My Lords, I am of course aware of the case mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. I should prefer not to comment upon it. It happened before the Bill. I hope that I can satisfy him on two points about which he asked. The first was about the authority that will be set up. It will be the Unrelated Live Transplants Regulatory Authority, which will comprise of about a dozen people. There will be a medical chairman and a majority of health care and medical pesonnel on it. At the same time there will be lay members who will be able to provide the influence and opinion of lay people in an area which has considerable moral as well as medical overtones. I hope that that will satisfy the noble Lord on the point.

On the question of regulations and influence, I am sure that the noble Lord will appreciate that influence in the sense in which he used it is not the easiest term to define. I shall, however, undertake that when the regulations are drawn up and before they are put before Parliament, trying to make them satisfactory from the point of view not only of the passing of money but also of the use of undue influence in this rather delicate area is something on which we can try to come closer to the suggestion raised by the noble Lord. I hope that satisfies the noble Lord.

On the final question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, I apologise for nearly forgetting that he made the comment. It concerned the ownership of the person's body when he dies. This depends on where people die and on the Human Tissue Act. If they die in hospital, the health authority temporarily has control of the body. At the same time, under the Human Tissue Act, it is also true that if a living person signs in the presence of two witnesses that he wishes to dispose in this case of his kidneys, for example, through the use of a donor card, that is legal. I accept from the noble Lord that this is a somewhat grey area on which I am sure the medical profession would like further clarification. So I think that the noble Lord has raised a quite significant point and we shall certainly look at it.

On Question, Bill passed.