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Lords Chamber

Volume 704: debated on Wednesday 29 October 2008

House of Lords

Wednesday, 29 October 2008.

The House met at three o'clock (Prayers having been read earlier at the Judicial Sitting by the Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham): the LORD SPEAKER on the Woolsack.

Personal Statement: Lord Taylor of Blackburn

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to make a personal Statement. On 22 October, during exchanges on an Oral Question tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, on winter energy supplies, I asked a supplementary question about gas storage. On reflection, I should have declared an interest, which appears in the register of non-parliamentary interests, in a company called Canatxx Energy Ventures Limited. I humbly apologise to the House.

Prisons: Titans

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether they will review their plans to build Titan prisons in light of recent projections of future prison populations.

My Lords, large prison complexes are about more than just additional capacity. They will enable us to seize an important opportunity to modernise the prison estate by decommissioning worn-out, ineffective prisons, and use these gains in efficiency to support improvements in the delivery of rehabilitation by delivering the interventions which help turn prisoners away from a life of crime.

My Lords, I welcome any improvement in the prison estate, but will the Government consider pausing in their plans to build Titan prisons until they can review more fully the nature of the prison population, particularly the numbers of mentally ill, many of whom might do better with treatment elsewhere than in the prisons?

My Lords, we await the report by my noble friend Lord Bradley into the mental health issue which is due in December this year. The most recent projections show that 94,200 places will be needed by 2014 and we aim to provide 96,000 places—hardly a great margin. If the end-of-custody licence scheme were to come to an end, we would need an additional 1,300 places. However, I have to emphasise that the projections are based around estimates, and estimates are not an exact science.

My Lords, the Minister has emphasised the importance of turning prisoners away from crime. Does he recall paragraph 1.195 of the Woolf report in which the noble and learned Lord said:

“It is also highly desirable for the stable running of a prison and”—

I emphasise “and”,

“for the prospects for the prisoner leading a law abiding life after release that, whenever practicable, he should be accommodated as near to his home and community as possible”?

What has happened to change the Government’s enthusiastic acceptance of that view?

My Lords, nothing has happened to change our enthusiastic support of that proposition. We are looking to build the larger prisons in areas where there is a large amount of demand.

My Lords, I am afraid that is the uncomfortable truth. At the moment, of course, many prisoners have to be dispersed a long way from where they live, sometimes to smaller, sometimes to larger prisons. We need new prisons in certain parts of the country, and when these larger prisons are in place it will be easier for families and friends to visit those incarcerated.

My Lords, taking into account delays which are inevitable in the processes of building prisons, what is the earliest date on which it is expected that the first of these prisons will receive the first prisoner?

My Lords, it is not possible to answer the noble Lord directly. He knows that consultation on the operation and direction of these larger prisons is taking place. That is due to report soon. When the report is made public, it will be easier to say when the first larger prison will open.

My Lords, in ancient Greek mythology, the Titans were a pretty unsavoury lot. One of them cut off the unmentionable parts of his father with a sickle, married one of his sisters, swallowed five of his children and finally, along with his siblings, was cast into the dreaded Lake Tartarus. Will the Minister comment on that scenario in relation to these horrendous prisons, about which, in spite of his wonderfully sanguine demeanour and voice this afternoon, many of us are deeply sceptical?

My Lords, as the Government have made up their mind fairly comprehensively on Titan prisons, or what the Minister has now rechristened “large prison complexes”, why are they consulting the public and others on their future? Have they decided to ignore the consultation in advance of its results?

My Lords, I think that the noble Lord has misunderstood the consultation. It is not about the principle of whether larger prisons are appropriate, but about how best to organise, direct and manage such prisons.

My Lords, the Minister will have seen the Justice Secretary’s speech from Monday, where he almost crowed that the UK spends most in the OECD on law and order. Does he subscribe to the view that that is a good thing, or does he subscribe to Professor Ian Loader’s view, expressed in yesterday’s Guardian, that:

“In a civilised society, punishment should be a matter for sorrow and regret, not a badge of political pride”?

My Lords, I have read the speech fully and agree with every word of it. What I am proud of is the significant and sustained drop in crime—it has fallen by one-third since 1997—which represents an enormous success in social policy. It is an achievement of which we should all be proud. We should be proud of the cultural and structural reform of the police, of prisons, of probation, of the courts and of youth justice, which has breathed life back into a system that had too many deficiencies in the past.

My Lords, will the Minister confirm that Government do not plan to provide any Titan prisons for women? He will know that the Government accepted 41 of the 43 recommendations that I made in my report two years ago, where I said that women should be held be in small custodial units close to home. Will he confirm that that is still government policy in relation to women prisoners?

My Lords, what is the Government’s budget for tackling the cycle of deprivation in families to prevent offending and reoffending, compared with the £2 billion that they propose to spend on Titans, which are almost universally condemned?

My Lords, I am afraid that I cannot give the noble Baroness the first figure that she wants, but she should know that a huge amount of public money is being spent on what she referred to in the first part of her question. We will continue to spend that money, because we want to keep people out of prison. However, it is unfortunately necessary, unless the noble Baroness disagrees, for persistent, violent and dangerous offenders to be put in prison.

Junk Mail

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What steps they are taking to reduce the amount of unsolicited mail delivered to residential addresses.

My Lords, the Government have a voluntary agreement with the Direct Marketing Association which covers the promotion of the Mailing Preference Service. The Mailing Preference Service allows householders to opt out of receiving addressed direct mail. We have also encouraged the DMA to develop the Your Choice Preference Service which was launched earlier this year. Your Choice allows householders to opt out of receiving unaddressed mail from DMA members. The Royal Mail also operates an opt-out service to stop the door-to-door unaddressed mail that it carries. The preference services that are in place allow people to choose, and cover approximately 90 per cent of addressed and unaddressed mail.

My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for that helpful reply. I had not realised that BERR stands, as someone has pointed out, for Business, Enterprise, Refuse and Rubbish. Can he confirm that direct mail which is not utilised and goes into a sack marked “junk mail” effectively is junk mail and that it creates litter and rubbish? In general, households may receive up to two tonnes of it a year. What is the impact of that on the environment?

My Lords, I did not recognise the noble Lord’s description of BERR but I do recognise his point about waste, an issue which the Government are tackling with the DMA. A producer responsibility agreement was signed in 2003 to increase the levels of the industry’s recycling of household waste caused by what we would call junk mail. Just last week it led to the signing of an industry-wide standard that was developed following a period of discussion with the British Standards Institution and is the first of its type in any commercial sector. It is expected that the standard will be published before the end of this year, and its adoption will support the drive to raise recycling limits within the industry.

My Lords, I declare an interest as a former postman and union official. Does my noble friend the Minister agree that the revenue generated by unaddressed mail contributes greatly to the resources available to Royal Mail to maintain its obligations under the universal service that it is required by law to provide? Would he care to inform the House of the amount of revenue that Royal Mail receives annually from this source? Could I also ask him—

All right, my Lords, I won’t ask him—but it is about Postcomm. I think that he would agree that if it were not for Postcomm’s stranglehold, things such as unaddressed mail would not be so necessary because Royal Mail could have the right pricing policy for the items it delivers.

My Lords, I think that my problem is not unsolicited mail but maybe unsolicited questions. Perhaps I may deal with the first two and pass on the third. The Royal Mail receives about £2 billion from the production of direct advertising mail, which accounts for 15 per cent of the UK postal market. It is an enormous industry. Some £4.8 billion is spent on direct mailing. It brings in some £133 billion in attributable sales and manages to employ, directly and indirectly, 1 million people, which is 3.4 per cent of employment in the UK.

My Lords, I am sure the Minister will accept that anyone who has been in charge of a political campaign is unlikely to want restrictions on unsolicited or unwanted mail, as it would stop political campaigning as we have known it. However, does he agree that there is some illogicality in the fact that I can write him a letter even though he may not want to receive it, but I cannot send him an e-mail unless he has indicated that he wishes to receive it from me?

My Lords, there is an interesting comparison to be made between direct mail marketing, which brings forward some 4,000 complaints per year, and the scams and other forms of direct mailing on the internet, which generate 10 times that number. Indeed, the number of complaints about direct mailing is falling.

My Lords, in support of my noble friend’s supplementary question, will the Minister use his best endeavours and those of the Government to discourage at the very least if not ban the wrapping of articles sent through the post in plastic that is non-recyclable?

Another welcome, unsolicited question, my Lords, but I do not have an answer on plastic wrapping. The Government regard direct mailing as a legitimate form of advertising sales but we want to ensure that those who do not want to receive it do not have to. As for plastic wrapping, my first successful Question Time will occur when I do not have to say, “I will write to the noble Lord”. This is not my first successful Question Time. I will write to the noble Lord.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that he is on a hiding to nothing and cannot win on this issue? Is he aware that I am entirely dressed by junk mail? I want some of it, but not the rest. How can you possibly divide the two?

My Lords, there can be no more elegant advertisement for direct mailing and the values of purchasing from it. I cannot add anything to that question.

My Lords, where I live, we get a big fat monthly newspaper delivered by the Royal Mail and produced by the Conservative Party. I think that nobody else will deliver it. Will the Minister put the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, in touch with his noble friend the noble Lord, Lord Ashcroft, who is reliably rumoured to be funding this rubbish?

My Lords, I have a confession to make. As a political junkie, I welcome any mail from opposition parties. It allows me to be more educated about the policies that they have, or pretend to have.

My Lords, perhaps I may follow up the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington. Might I advise the Minister?

My Lords, I think that it is worth advising him. Last week I received four plastic bags from this House containing junk mail. I weighed them: they came to 19 pounds in weight. Would it not be helpful if we could add a new item to our expenses, covering the costs, time and trouble of getting rid of this junk mail?

My Lords, first, I welcome advice from anyone, being a very new, inexperienced and not very efficient operator at the Dispatch Box. However, I have a problem with junk mail, because I only know that it is junk when I have opened it and decided that I do not want it.

Mental Health: Children and Young People

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What progress has been made in providing age-appropriate accommodation and care for children and young people in mental health hospitals in line with the Mental Health Act 2007.

My Lords, I am pleased to report progress. In 2007-08, £31 million in capital funding was allocated to 17 projects designed to help to eliminate the inappropriate use of adult psychiatric wards for children and young people. This is a start. Additionally, the National Institute for Mental Health in England is undertaking a programme of works to support hospitals on this issue. The latest figures for 2008-09 show that the number of under-18 year-olds in adult psychiatric wards is at its lowest since the collection of figures started in 2005.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that reply, and in particular for the factual information. The noble Baroness knows that a very large number of noble Lords voted to put into the Mental Health Act 2007 the requirement that the environment for children and young adults in mental hospitals should be suitable, having regard to their age. That was to correct a most unsatisfactory situation. We now want to put improvements into practice rapidly and effectively. Is the Minister aware that there are disturbing reports, for example in the Times of 1 October, that hundreds of children and teenagers are still being put into adult psychiatric wards? While I welcome the action to which the Minister referred—it is a good start—will she assure the House that she will monitor the situation and continue to press for action to complete the programme within the timescale laid down in the Mental Health Act 2007?

My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Lord for his fantastic work in this area. I know that somebody called some amendments to the then Bill “the Williamson amendments”. We are committed to addressing the inappropriate use of adult wards for under-18 year-olds. We are carefully monitoring the use of adult wards and we are pleased to report that there have been significant decreases in recent times. However, until we can say that not one child or young adult has been put inappropriately into an adult ward, we will not have succeeded. We are on target for delivering this by April 2010. Investment is being made, and training provided, to ensure that the right facilities are provided that are age-appropriate for under-18 year-olds.

My Lords, further to that point, we were first officially alerted to this scandal in 2003. In 2006, the then Minister, Ivan Lewis, promised that the problem would be solved by November 2008. We are now in 2008 and, following the report Pushed into the Shadows, commissioned by the Children’s Commissioner, we are promised that this will end by November 2010. How can we have any faith at all in what the Government say?

My Lords, a great deal has been done to reduce the number, and I am very happy to provide the noble Baroness and the House with the figures for 2006-07, which show a dramatic increase. For example, in the first quarter of 2006-07, 75 under-16 year-olds were in adult wards, whereas in the first quarter of this year the number was 16, and that figure is going down. The same figures follow through for 16, 17 and 18 year-olds. However, we do not rest at that. The noble Baroness gave the date of November 2010 but that is not the case; it is April 2010. All health authorities have to inform social services by 3 November what appropriate facilities they have for under-18 year-olds. We will continue working to ensure that no under-18 year-olds are in inappropriate facilities by 2010.

My Lords, apart from words, what is proposed to protect these children? There is a long history of sad neglect.

My Lords, I hope that I have already told the House that we are absolutely committed to dealing with this matter and that a great deal of action has been taken. For example, something like 70 to 80 new places have been created for these children over the past few months. A great deal of investment is going into this problem and we are determined to solve it.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving us the number of places. Can she tell us how many children have been inappropriately accommodated, and how many children have been “appropriately accommodated”—so called—and what the definition for that happens to be?

My Lords, I have already mentioned some figures which show that the number of children below the age of 18 in adult wards has come down. Some of those on the cusp of 18 will not be inappropriately allocated—some young people are in the right place, but none of the others is. I do not have the figures but I will endeavour to let the noble Baroness know how many places are available within that total.

My Lords, in providing the necessary resources for these welcome changes, will the Minister bear in mind the statement in chapter 36, paragraph 74 of the Mental Health Act code of practice about,

“access to age-appropriate leisure activities and facilities for”,

children and young people, together with facilities for visits from parents, carers, siblings and guardians?

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate makes a very important point. We want children and young people to be treated as children and young people in the right kind of environment and for them to have access to age-appropriate leisure activities and visiting facilities to enable them to remain in contact with their parents and friends. We expect hospitals to take action to ensure that this objective is achieved for all under-18 year-olds.

My Lords, given that the NHS now has responsibility for healthcare in prisons, can the Minister tell the House the extent to which age-appropriate services are provided for children and young people in secure training centres and young offender institutions? There are worrying rumours of services being deeply inappropriate for these very distressed young people.

My Lords, the noble Baroness makes a very good point. A number of young people with severe mental problems are indeed being admitted to custody and young offender institutions, for example. I know that the staff there spend a great deal of time working with them and attempting to ensure that they are transferred to age-appropriate environments. I do not have the figures, but I will let the noble Baroness have them. However, I know that that is what is happening in those institutions.

Immigration

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether the remarks of the Minister for Borders and Immigration, Phil Woolas, about limiting the population of the United Kingdom to 70 million represent government policy; and, if so, how they will achieve it.

My Lords, the Government are introducing the tough, new Australian-style points-based system so that the UK gets only the people it needs, and no more. We have the flexibility to alter the thresholds and are taking expert independent advice on where our economy needs migration. We also take into account the impacts on public services and communities.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response, but I remind him that when the Minister, Mr Woolas, was asked on the Radio 4 “Today” programme if he stood by his assurance that the Government will not let the population rise to 70 million or more, he answered rather more directly. He said, “Yes”. Given that population levels over decades depend on birth and death rates, and rates of migration in and out over that period, and that the Government have no direct control over any of those—except in some circumstances—will the Minister advise all of his government colleagues that they really ought not to go on the media making populist announcements about such things? It only makes them look foolish.

My Lords, for a clearer understanding of government policy and intentions in this area, I commend to the noble Lord a perusal of the debate on immigration controls held in another place on 21 October. I do so because, whether it is a half-page article that can be edited or, indeed, a two or three-minute question-and-answer session on Radio 4, a well debated three-and-a-quarter hour endeavour on the same subject in another place will be quite clear on the Government’s position and will, indeed, help to answer the noble Lord’s question.

My Lords, will my noble friend concentrate on what is at the heart of immigration policy, and say what is happening with the new UK Border Agency in securing the borders of the United Kingdom? That, surely, is the fundamental question.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that question and, recognising the remonstration to be brief, I will splatter your Lordships with statistics. Since 3 April, 700 dangerous weapons including firearms, stun guns and knives have been prevented reaching the streets; 12,000 individual attempts to cross the Channel illegally have been prevented; 248 foreign criminals coming to the UK have been refused entry or arrested; a search of half a million vehicles has taken place, looking for illegal migrants; and illegal drugs worth £172 million, plus 1,000 forged documents and 465 million cigarettes worth perhaps £87 million have been seized. The list goes on: it is a success.

My Lords, while I welcome the noble Lord as a refreshing addition to the ministerial Benches in this House, will he in return welcome the relatively recent report on immigration by the Economic Affairs Select Committee of this House, instead of giving it the brush-off that it had when originally published? It made precisely the same point that Mr Woolas has refreshingly made.

My Lords, I fear that there may be something less than totally complimentary in the term “refreshing”, but I will take it in the spirit that I intend it to mean. First, I do not think that demeaning is the right term: there was a helpful contribution to the difficult and ongoing debate about how we deal with legal migration and illegal or clandestine migration. Your Lordships have, as ever, made a valuable contribution that will be part of the debate taking place. It is, of course, part of the reasoning taking us into the new five-tier system that replaces a much more complicated one. It is fairer on migrants and on the country.

My Lords, what has been the impact of on-the-spot fines imposed on employers found to have employed illegal immigrants?

My Lords, in my previous life as a trade union leader I was certainly concerned about the exploitation of illegal workers. The Government’s new initiative has resulted in—if I can find it, for Ministers have to learn the task of paper juggling. That is obviously beyond me for the time being, but I will find it. It is a success in terms of the amount of money raised, if I could find that, but I cannot. I think that it is some £850,000 in fines: I will find that and come back on it. If somebody asks another question, I will try and find a way of putting this answer into the next one.

My Lords, as Mr Woolas obtained the figure of 70 million from a population trends projection published in 2006, would that figure not have to be reduced sharply to take into consideration the reduction in the number of people arriving from EU accession countries and the number of asylum seekers coming to the UK? Before the Minister makes any claims about the likely benefits of the points-based system, would he not agree that the catastrophic rise in unemployment that is likely over the next 12 months is more likely to act as a disincentive to people arriving here to work than any changes in the immigration system?

My Lords, taking the latter point first, it must be the case that the attraction of the United Kingdom for prospective migrants will diminish if the economy provides fewer employment opportunities. I doubt that many people from whatever part of Europe, or beyond, are coming to Britain for the weather. I agree entirely that those issues will be a reducing factor. At the moment, our unemployment register has too many members, because we want full employment, among whom some 8 per cent are from the migrant workforce. There has not been a disproportionate effect so far, but it is important that we put in hand timely endeavours to control the immigration factor as we go into difficult times. By sheer coincidence—and on the basis of my previous excuse—I can tell the House that 850 fines, worth some £8 million, have been issued since 29 February 2008 to employers of illegal workers.

Bank of England (Amendment) Bill [HL]

My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to amend the objectives of the Bank of England in relation to monetary policy. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Bill read a first time, and ordered to be printed.

Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit Ltd (PARBUL)

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury be appointed to the board of the Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit Ltd (PARBUL) in the place of Lord Thomson of Monifieth, deceased.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Pensions Bill

moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 78B (moved on Monday, 27 October 2008 at col. 1441), Amendment No. 78TA:

78TA: Before Schedule 9, leave out lines 140 to 144

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 78TB. These probing amendments concern the implications of acts taken as a group. First, there is a disparity between the way acts or failures are grouped for the purposes of issuing contribution notices and for the defence. By virtue of paragraph 8 of new Schedule 9, the regulator has to look at whether the material detriment test is met in relation to a series of acts as a whole. However, in new Section 38B, in the statutory defence for a group of acts, sub-paragraph (9) requires that the person has to conclude that his actions were not detrimental in respect of each act.

My amendments would mean that where a group of acts was involved, it would be necessary for P to meet condition C if he had concluded that the group as a whole was unlikely to result in a material detriment. For completeness, I should also have tabled an amendment to delete sub-paragraph (10) of new Section 38B, because that, too, requires condition C to apply to each and every act of failure, but I failed to do so. I hope, however, that the Minister will respond on the basis of challenging the need to have regard to each act or failure in a group throughout new Section 38B. I beg to move.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for enabling us to talk about these measures and the statutory defence. Before I respond to the amendments in detail, I take this opportunity to deal with some of the issues raised in our debate on Monday, which are also relevant to this group of amendments. I do not seek to resile from the comments about considering this again at Third Reading, if appropriate, but I hope this might obviate or reduce the necessity of further consideration then.

On reasonableness, we had a useful discussion about the concept of the Pensions Regulator’s reasonableness and, in particular, its public law obligations, its duties and the constraints which are intended to ensure that it does not behave unreasonably. Both the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, expressed concerns about the extent to which the regulator must consider the employer or connected parties when deciding whether it is reasonable to use its powers. In effect, they were querying whether the nature of the regulator’s objectives gave it something of a get-out-of-jail-free card when it came to behaving reasonably towards employers and other parties. I promised to write on this issue, but I hope that, in the interest of informing the rest of this afternoon’s discussions, I can discharge that obligation now.

I emphasise that there is a legal requirement on the regulator to act reasonably with regard to those who do not feature in the main objectives set out in legislation. The public law obligation on the regulator means that it must not simply act reasonably toward those it was established to protect, but it must also act reasonably to other parties, including those it regulates. Furthermore, there are specific requirements on the regulator in legislation to behave reasonably; for example, Sections 38(7) and 43(7) of the Pensions Act 2004 both contain express provisions to consider the reasonableness of acting against a particular party. It is also important to remember that the regulator’s decisions can be appealed at the Pensions Regulator Tribunal and in the courts. I hope that comment has proved helpful to the noble Baroness. I wanted to place that on the record.

The noble Baroness will also recall that we had some discussion about the operation of the word “might” in the statutory defence. The degree to which a person should consider the potential impact of an act on the pension scheme is a serious question, and it is one that we have considered carefully and discussed at length with stakeholders. The Government intend that the person should undertake a before-and-after comparison of the effect of the act on their pension scheme. We do not intend that the material detriment test and the defence which relates to it should necessitate a broad assessment of almost any adverse possibilities that could befall an employer and their pension scheme over a future period. The defence has been framed to require the employer to make a proportionate consideration of the effect of their act or failure to act.

It may be helpful to talk through the detail here. Condition A, at new Section 38B(3), requires that the person should consider,

“the extent to which the act or failure might detrimentally affect in a material way the likelihood of accrued scheme benefits being received”.

This is not a simple yes or no assessment. It requires serious consideration and contains two concepts: first, what is being considered is the extent to which the act or failure might have a detrimental effect—the key is that there must be a causal link between the act and the detriment; and, secondly, the extent to which there might be such an effect. This should be a standard risk analysis: how likely an event is must be weighed up with its likely impact. The noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott, was correct when he said that this should not be a straight 50-50 test.  A 20 per cent chance of a devastating impact on the scheme may be as serious as a 60 per cent chance of something with a more moderate impact. Industry should be comfortable and familiar with this, as it already forms the basis of most due diligence in the realm of pensions. 

Further, it does not necessarily require an assessment at the very edges of the possible. The statutory defence was designed, with stakeholders, to deal with concerns about hindsight. Condition A operates with condition C and that latter condition says that the person should make the assessment with regard to the prevailing circumstances at the time. Therefore, that would not include anything that the person could not reasonably have expected.

Thirdly, and briefly, we had an interesting discussion resulting from the noble Baroness’s query on why it was necessary for P to carry out due diligence themselves in circumstances that she described. I want to take the opportunity to expand on the points that I made on Monday. The legislation is clear that P has to undertake the due diligence but this does not mean that they necessarily have to mitigate the detriment themselves. The legislation requires P to take all reasonable steps to mitigate the detriment and it is intended that this obligation can be met by taking all reasonable steps to ensure that adequate mitigation is in place. I hope that that provides further clarity.

Finally on these issues, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, suggested that the power at line 54 of the proposed new schedule is entirely contained in the power at line 89. That is entirely correct. However, there is good reason for these two powers to be separate. The power in line 54 is a prescribing power to add to the list of factors, providing flexibility to add those factors that should apply in the interests of the employer as well as the pension scheme. It is not a broad power to amend or remove the existing factors in primary legislation, and the list of factors is still constrained by relevance in a particular case. Therefore, in the usual way, regulations made under this power would be subject to the negative procedure.

The power in line 89 is a power to amend the existing factors and the scheme obligation provisions. This is a wider power that is intended to provide the flexibility that we have already discussed. As that power would permit primary legislation to be amended, we consider it appropriate to be subject to the affirmative procedure. Hence, it is a separate power. I am grateful for the chance to put those further points on those matters on the record.

I turn to the substance of the amendments. They would amend the provisions dealing with how the defence relates to a series of acts, and in particular a group of acts selected by the defence. The regulator can apply the material detriment test to a series of acts it selects. In order to be even handed, the party to the defence can similarly raise a defence in relation to a group of acts that the party selects. The amendments provide an opportunity to set out how the defence will operate in relation to groups of acts chosen by the parties.

It is our intention that defendants should have the opportunity to demonstrate that their actions in relation to a group of acts, when taken as a whole, were reasonable. When considering conditions A and B it is possible to argue that due consideration was given to the cumulative detrimental impact of a group of acts and that reasonable steps were taken to eliminate or mitigate the potential detrimental effects of that group of acts. However, condition C requires that the defendant considers the relevant circumstances prevailing at the relevant time, so defendants are required to consider each act within the group individually when considering condition C.

The amendment tabled by the noble Baroness opens up significant risk by removing any requirement that conditions A and B be met for the defence. I accept that it is a probing amendment in relation to a group. It also results in different requirements for acts that are dealt with individually and those that are dealt with in groups.

In addition the amendments make the defence unworkable in relation to a group chosen by the party. It requires that condition C should be met by the group as a whole. However, as I have explained, condition C is based on having regard to the relevant circumstances at the relevant time. As the amendment does not address how the relevant time would be determined in relation to a group, it is rendered unworkable. This would make the defence fail to work when it was raised in relation to more than one act or failure. A party would therefore be restricted to raising the defence in relation to each act or failure individually, which is the other opportunity under the defence, even when the regulator could look at a series as a whole.

The amendment effectively removes a desirable flexibility for employers and other parties who may wish to raise the defence in relation to a group of acts for efficiency reasons. I hope that that helps the noble Baroness. I have spent more than a few hours trying to get my head round the complexities of this process, and would be more than happy to meet her to share them with her. I have tried to explain why the test is set out as it is and why following the path she suggests would not work in practice.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for setting out more extensively the four items that we debated during our previous day on Report. What he said in each case was extremely helpful. We will have to think about whether it fully answered our questions. At the moment, my instinct is that it takes us a long way there, but I am still not 100 per cent convinced by what the Minister said. It will be important to read what he said and discuss it with those who are advising us on raising these queries for clarification in your Lordships' House. I say the same thing in relation to the group. What the Minister said sounded entirely plausible at the time that he said it. Whether it will appear as plausible when I sit down in the cold light of day tomorrow morning to read Hansard, I am not entirely sure. On the basis that I would like the opportunity to read what he said and, if necessary, to return to the Minister following discussions with those who have raised this matter with us, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment No. 78TA, as an amendment to Amendment No. 78B, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 78TB to 78W, as amendments to Amendment No. 78B, not moved.]

78X: Before Schedule 9, line 174, at end insert—

“(12A) No such contribution notice shall be issued to an individual.”

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall speak also to the other amendments in this group. They pick up on four small and rather separate points, and I shall not take too long about them. The first amendment emphasises how dangerous it will be if it becomes felt that the regulator will stray beyond the code into other matters. That would raise fears among individuals engaged in what appears to them to be ordinary day-to-day transactions with a peripheral possibility of an influence on the pension fund. They will for their own good reasons want clearance. For instance, directors involved in declaring a dividend might well feel that they have to get clearance for it if the company is in any danger of not being able to pay contributions to the pension fund at some time in the future. I hope that the Minister will give me comfort that he does not see that as a possibility. The amendment points up the provisions that we would need to put in place if that came about; otherwise we would find the regulator swamped with applications.

The second amendment looks at the way in which the statutory duty of a director of a company to,

“act in the way he considers, in good faith, would be most likely to promote the success of the company for the benefit of its members as a whole”,

works with the obligations under the Bill. The amendment states that a contribution notice could not be issued in circumstances where a director had acted as the Companies Act requires him to act. I shall be interested in how the Minister enlarges on what he said before on the way in which the Companies Act and the Bill will work together in the obligations they place on directors.

The third amendment looks at protecting professionals who come in to sort out a company in a difficult situation. If a pension fund is involved, it is necessarily a pretty hairy area and one where decisions have to be taken fast on a relatively rough-and-ready basis. Although there are people operating in that sort of business who are doing so in the hope of making millions of pounds for themselves, most of the people involved are just there for a crust. If they have been successful over the years, they may well have put enough by to have a nice home and something that it might be thought worth the regulator going after. I do not think it is the Government’s intention that people who are doing the best job they can to try to rescue a company should find all their assets, which have nothing to do with the company, gone after, particularly if they have to go back to the old wording “acted in good faith”. Professionals remain worried that trying to rescue a company with a defined benefit pension fund could turn out to be personally dangerous. I hope we will get some comfort from the Minister on that.

The last point concerns new subsections (6) and (7), under which the regulator can issue directions to the trustees or managers of a scheme, requiring that money coming in is used in a particular way. Trustees owe fiduciary duties to their members in any event. They would have every incentive, without further legislation, to ensure that payment is applied in a way that best meets those objectives. I cannot see that new subsections (6) and (7) add anything useful except the possibility of inappropriate inflexibility. I beg to move.

My Lords, I support my noble friend. He has explained his amendments perfectly well, but I underline the points about individuals. A number of people have expressed concern about this. There is concern that the regulator would have the power to go after individuals. The power to issue a contribution notice is not limited to the amount of benefit. While the regulator has to take account of the benefit that is obtained by a person, the contribution notice can be for any amount. Individuals are concerned, first, that they might not even want to get involved in transactions. Secondly, will we end up burdening commercial transactions with a lot of indemnities, possibly even underwritten indemnities, with cost therefore being built into the system, which could then make it grind to a halt? These are important areas that need clarification.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, for the chance to put some issues on the record in relation to the matters that have been raised. I hope I can provide the degree of comfort that is sought. I reiterate briefly what we discussed on Monday: the regulator has said that it cannot imagine going beyond the code. Dividends are not currently included in that draft code.

I turn first to Amendment No. 78X. I recognise the concern that individuals may be subject to personal liability, but there are a number of assurances within the existing legislation which address the use of this power. It is already possible, under Sections 38 and 43 of the Pensions Act 2004, for the regulator to issue a contribution notice and, in some cases, a financial support direction to individuals. In most cases it would not be reasonable for the regulator to take action against an individual, and the recipient of a notice would more usually be a corporate body, such as the company that was party to the act. There may, however, be rare cases where it is appropriate to take action against an individual, be that a company director or otherwise, under the material detriment test.

I remind noble Lords that the regulator’s use of this power is subject to a number of checks and balances. First, the regulator must act proportionately and only where reasonable. This is a fundamental requirement. Secondly, as I have already mentioned, there are specific safeguards relating to the material detriment power, including a statutory code of practice which will set out the circumstances for its use. Individuals, like corporate bodies, would be able to rely on this as a defence. Importantly, the government amendments would create two new reasonableness factors for the regulator to consider before deciding whether to issue a contribution notice; that is, the regulator must consider the reasonableness of the person’s actions in the circumstances and, where relevant, the value of the benefits received directly or indirectly from the employer or scheme. This is set out in Section 38(7)(ea). Those two extra powers relating to reasonableness apply not only to the new provision, but to the two existing legs of the contribution notice arrangements

Finally, as with current practice, any determination to use this new test would be made only by the regulator’s determinations panel, which is independent of those responsible for gathering evidence. The panel will hear both sides of a case. Only if the panel agrees to the regulator’s case can action proceed. Whether or not to issue a contribution notice would of course remain a matter for the regulator. I would go so far as to say that the regulator must get over such a number of hurdles and build such a strong case before it can issue a contribution notice to an individual on the basis of the material detriment test that an individual would know that their intended act was far out of line with reasonable business practice and likely to attract the interest of the regulator.

However, if an individual is concerned that they may be party to an act that could lead to them being subject to a contribution notice, they may of course seek clearance from the regulator. A clearance statement would give them certainty that their actions could not attract a contribution notice.

My Lords, on Amendment No. 78X, I wanted to listen carefully to the qualifications that the Minister gave. Does he accept that, on the basis of what he said, we on these Benches feel that it is entirely appropriate that there should be a reserve power to issue a contribution notice to an individual? That is an important ultimate safeguard for pension funds.

My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Lord’s intervention. He is right: individuals cannot be immune from these regulations, although the circumstances in which they are likely to be the subject of the contribution notice are properly constrained by these provisions.

Amendments Nos. 78Y, 78AL and 78AM relate to the possible conflicts that could be faced by trustees who are also company directors as a result of the interplay of trust law, pensions law and directors’ duties under company law. The interaction of pensions law, trust law and company law is an important issue, and the Government’s intention is that the duties in the legislation should rightly sit alongside each other.

Taking the duties of directors under the Companies Act, I understand that noble Lords may be concerned that directors who otherwise act in accordance with duties under that legislation should not be liable to regulatory action. Directors have certain duties to current employees, but under pensions legislation they also have duties to scheme members’ interests. It is of course a matter for directors to balance these duties along with their other responsibilities. Such situations are not unusual. It is not the Government’s or the regulator’s intention that, in the normal course of their duties, directors should be subject to a contribution notice under the new test, where their actions have no materially detrimental effect on scheme members’ benefits.

Finally, Amendment No. 78Z relates to insolvency practitioners and similar experts. Section 38(3)(c) of the Pensions Act 2004 already provides an exemption from a contribution notice for an insolvency practitioner acting in accordance with his functions. The noble Lord’s amendment would extend this exemption to recognised experts in rehabilitating underperforming organisations, such as company doctors and turnaround specialists. “Insolvency practitioner” is a precise term set out in law, and such individuals are licensed to act by the Secretary of State and have a statutory duty to ensure that they treat all creditors fairly and equitably.

As was touched on in Committee, the amendment, which is extremely wide and capable of varying interpretation, would extend the existing exemption to practitioners who are not licensed or acting in accordance with statutory duties. There is a genuine risk that such a provision would mean that the regulator’s power could be circumvented. This could put members’ benefits and the PPF at risk.

However, the Government recognise the need to protect people such as company doctors who have to make difficult decisions with wide-ranging impacts. The amendments to the reasonableness factors I referred to earlier are relevant here. In addition, a new factor would be introduced by the government amendments that would be particularly relevant to company doctors and others in similar roles; that is, the regulator should, where relevant, consider,

“the likelihood of relevant creditors being paid and the extent to which they are likely to be paid”,

in Section 38(7)(eb) of the Pensions Act. This will offer some protection to company doctors as it makes clear that, while pension schemes should not be treated worse than other creditors of similar status, equally the amendments do not somehow make the pension scheme any type of “super-creditor”. Taken with the factor I described earlier, which requires the regulator to consider the reasonableness of a person's actions in the circumstances, I consider that this provides significant comfort to company doctors.

First, where a company doctor has to make hard decisions in an attempt to save a company, these factors would protect the position of a company doctor who had to cause detriment to a pension scheme, which, in the particular circumstances, was reasonable in the context of the outcome for other creditors. Secondly, the regulator would need to take into account that, in some circumstances, decisions must necessarily be rapid, as the noble Lord has indicated, and perfect data to inform the decision may not be available. Provided that the company doctor has behaved reasonably and has not, for example, wilfully ignored available information or recklessly taken risks that a reasonable company doctor would not have taken, I believe that members of organisations such as R3 and the Institute for Turnaround should take significant comfort from these provisions.

It may be helpful if I give an example of how a contribution notice might operate in practice, especially in relation to individuals. There are concerns about the amount of a contribution notice and how the material detriment test would be judged. If a person has assets of £5 million but profited £50,000 from a detrimental transaction, the amount of a contribution notice has an upper limit under Section 39. This is the amount of the debt either due or estimated from the employer to the scheme under Section 75 of the Pensions Act 1995, or a higher amount if the act itself reduced the debt. This amount is calculated at the time of the act or failure to act. Therefore, the amount of a contribution notice is, broadly, limited to the employer’s obligations to the scheme and the amount required to ensure that members receive their benefits in full.

If a person with assets of £5 million profited £50,000 from a transaction that was materially detrimental, the regulator would be required to look in the first instance at the amount of the Section 75 debt. If this was, for example, £1 million, that would be the upper limit of the contribution notice. But the regulator would then be bound to act reasonably in its assessment of how much of this sum should be payable by the party to the transaction.

The transaction itself and any benefit from it may not be the only factor here, and may not be the most important factor. Some factors may increase the amount that should be payable towards the upper limit; for example, the history of that person’s involvement with the scheme or the employer. However, other factors might decrease the amount. For example, that person’s degree of involvement in the transaction may have been limited, and there may have been other parties to the act. That person may be an individual who acted merely as an agent for a corporate entity that was party to the act, or other purposes of the act may have meant that the person’s actions were reasonable in the circumstances.

Another factor that is likely to be relevant is the position of the scheme following the transaction. Of course, considering what amount would be reasonable is entirely a matter for the regulator, who must examine each case on its own merits and is required to consider anything that is relevant, disregarding anything irrelevant. I hope that it is a comfort to know that simply having deep pockets should not make a person the target of a contribution notice. It is more constrained than that.

I am afraid that I have gone on for a while, but I hope that I have given a degree of assurance on some very important points.

My Lords, I am very grateful for that answer and will study it with interest in Hansard. This exchange has helped increase my understanding of why, among all the professions in the City, it is the lawyers who are still hiring. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment No. 78X, as an amendment to Amendment No. 78B, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 78Y to 78AM, as amendments to Amendment No. 78B, not moved.]

78AN: Before Schedule 9, leave out lines 506 to 512

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall be brief. Amendment No. 78AN would delete parts of paragraph 14 of proposed new Schedule 9. This is a probing amendment, designed to focus on the concerns of private equity investors. The amendment concerns the financial support direction provisions of the 2004 Act. The Bill changes that to allow the question of inadequate resourcing to be determined in the context of the aggregate value of connected or associated persons. The Minister will be aware that the definition of “associated and connected persons” is a broad one in the 2004 Act.

I am sure the Minister is also aware of ongoing concerns in the private equity world and elsewhere that companies within a portfolio of investments could each be exposed to the regulator’s powers, even though individually they do not operate on a connected basis and the ownership arrangements do not even involve common control. Private equity arrangements often involve such things as limited liability partnerships, which potentially bring together even more unrelated persons.

I understand the present practice is not to draw in de facto unrelated parties, despite the de jure effect of ownership structures. I have tabled the amendment to give the Minister the opportunity to say how he expects the private equity and loose arrangements within portfolios to be dealt with under the provisions. I beg to move.

My Lords, as I mentioned briefly on Monday in introducing my amendments, we are seeking to amend the insufficiently resourced test that must be satisfied if the regulator is to issue a financial support direction so that a group of associated or connected persons cannot avoid their pension liabilities by dividing up their resources between them. A financial support direction may be issued where the employer in relation to a pension scheme is a service company or insufficiently resourced. It can direct persons who are associated or connected with the employer to put in place financial support for the pension scheme.

As a result of the way the Act is drafted, the direction may only be used if there is a single person who meets the test of being sufficiently resourced. Once the test is satisfied, the direction could be issued to any of the associated or connected parties, subject to reasonableness. This means that the direction could be avoided simply by dividing resources between the associated and connected parties so that no single party was sufficiently resourced. The Government’s amendment tackles this problem by providing that a direction may be issued if there are two or more connected or associated parties who between them meet the test of being sufficiently resourced.

The amendment of the noble Baroness would remove the regulator’s ability to show that a group of associated or connected persons are between them well enough resourced to meet the test. I understand it is a probing amendment and am sure the noble Baroness will agree that it is wrong that a group of companies could take advantage of a loophole and arrange matters so that they avoid meeting their pension responsibilities. The CBI, for example, supports the change we are making.

Some concerns were expressed in the consultation that an unrelated investor or company could be exposed to greater risk of a financial support direction as a result of the proposed changes. It is unlikely that an otherwise unrelated company in another venture capital portfolio who is strictly connected and associated with an employer but remote from the employer and its scheme could find itself liable under a direction for another group’s pension deficits. The current legislation already requires the regulator to consider all relevant facts, which can include the value of any benefits received from the employer, the company’s relationship with the employer including whether it controlled the employer, and the company’s connection or involvement with the scheme. It would likely be unreasonable for the regulator to issue a financial support direction where there was no persuasive evidence of such benefit, relationship or involvement.

Crucially, none of that is affected by this amendment, which simply relates to the closure of a loophole for triggering the financial support direction, not the range of persons to whom the financial support direction could be issued. It does not change the range of people who could be reached. I hope that puts matters clearly on the record for the noble Baroness and has reassured her again in an area where I know there are some concerns.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. I was aware that the amendment was defective; it was only for the purpose of putting the issue on the table and getting the Minister to describe the intention in relation to technically connected but in practice unconnected companies within, for instance, private equity groups. The Minister explained that reasonably. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment No. 78AN, as an amendment to Amendment No. 78B, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Amendment No. 78B agreed to.

78AP: After Clause 130, insert the following new Clause—

“Additional Class 3 contributions

(1) The Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 (c. 4) is amended as follows.

(2) After section 13 insert—

“13A Right to pay additional Class 3 contributions in certain cases

(1) An eligible person is entitled, if he so wishes, but subject to any prescribed conditions and to the following provisions of this section, to pay Class 3 contributions in respect of a missing year.

(2) A missing year is a tax year not earlier than 1975-76 in respect of which the person would under regulations under section 13 be entitled to pay Class 3 contributions but for a limit on the time within which contributions may be paid in respect of that year.

(3) A person is not entitled to pay contributions in respect of more than 6 tax years under this section.

(4) A person is not entitled to pay any contribution under this section after the end of 6 years beginning with the day on which he attains pensionable age.

(5) A person is an eligible person if the following conditions are satisfied.

(6) The first condition is that the person attained or will attain pensionable age in the period—

(a) beginning with 6th April 2008, and(b) ending with 5th April 2015.(7) The second condition is that there are at least 20 tax years each of which is a year to which subsection (8) or (10) applies.

(8) This subsection applies if—

(a) the year is one in respect of which the person has paid or been credited with contributions of a relevant class or been credited (in the case of 1987-88 or any subsequent year) with earnings, and(b) in the case of that year, the earnings factor derived as mentioned in subsection (9) is not less than the qualifying earnings factor for that year.(9) For the purposes of subsection (8)(b) the earnings factor—

(a) in the case of 1987-88 or any subsequent year, is that which is derived from—(i) so much of the person's earnings as did not exceed the upper earnings limit and upon which such of the contributions mentioned in subsection (8)(a) as are primary Class 1 contributions were paid or treated as paid or earnings credited, and(ii) any Class 2 or Class 3 contributions for the year, or(b) in the case of any earlier year, is that which is derived from the contributions mentioned in subsection (8)(a).(10) This subsection applies (in the case of a person who attained or will attain pensionable age before 6th April 2010) if the year is one in which the person was precluded from regular employment by responsibilities at home within the meaning of regulations under paragraph 5(7) of Schedule 3.

(11) The third condition applies only if the person attained or will attain pensionable age before 6th April 2010.

(12) That condition is that—

(a) the person has, in respect of any one tax year before that in which he attains pensionable age, actually paid contributions of a relevant class, and(b) in the case of that year, the earnings factor derived as mentioned in subsection (13) is not less than the qualifying earnings factor for that year.(13) For the purposes of subsection (12)(b) the earnings factor—

(a) in the case of 1987–88 or any subsequent year, is that which is derived from—(i) so much of the person's earnings as did not exceed the upper earnings limit and upon which such of the contributions mentioned in subsection (12)(a) as are primary Class 1 contributions were paid or treated as paid, and(ii) any Class 2 or Class 3 contributions for the year, or(b) in the case of any earlier year, is that which is derived from the contributions mentioned in subsection (12)(a).”(3) In section 1(2)(d) (outline of contribution system) after “section 13” insert “or 13A”.”

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have pleasure in moving this amendment and shall speak to the others in the group.

We have listened to noble Lords’ concerns about the challenges that some women and carers have faced in building up entitlement to the state pension and the discrepancy in pension outcomes between today’s new male and female pensioners. I recognise the genuine strength of feeling on this important issue.

I must start by paying tribute to my noble friend Lady Hollis for her tireless campaigning and for raising awareness of these difficulties during the passage of the previous Pensions Bill and in our deliberations on this Bill. We have always been sympathetic to her arguments, but to date we have struggled to find a well targeted and affordable way to help the people whom we are concerned about to plug gaps in their national insurance record.

I acknowledge the acute disappointment expressed here and in the other place at our failure to find a solution so far. However, I am pleased to say that this amendment proposes a way forward that meets those tests of targeting and affordability. I am particularly pleased that, as I understand it, it has the full support of my noble friend. To ensure that help is targeted at those who need it the most we propose, first, that contributors will be able to buy six additional years of class 3 national insurance contributions—for years from 6 April 1975—over and above those permitted under the current time limits. That targets women currently approaching state pension age who have gaps in their records. Our evidence shows that the majority of those women require up to six years beyond those currently available to get a full basic state pension.

Secondly, we propose that the right to buy additional contributions be limited to those reaching state pension age between 6 April 2008 and 5 April 2015. We have chosen April 2015 because by then 90 per cent of women reaching state pension age will be able to qualify for a full basic state pension if they take advantage of today’s class 3 rules. By then, far fewer women from these cohorts could benefit from buying the extra years allowed for by this amendment.

Thirdly, we propose that an individual must have 20 qualifying years for state pension purposes on his or her national insurance record, taking into account full years of home responsibilities protection, before he or she can buy the additional contributions. That enables us to target help to those who have already made a significant contribution and are genuinely seeking to plug small gaps in their records.

With these three measures in place, we believe, the 110,000 people whom we estimate will benefit from buying additional contributions will be those whose pension outcomes noble Lords are the most concerned about.

As regards affordability, it is intended that the price of voluntary class 3 contributions will be increased. This will reflect the fact that the value of these contributions will increase after 2010, when an individual will need only 30 qualifying years to get a full basic state pension, which, of course, will be uprated by earnings in due course. It will also ensure that this special extension of the rules does not place new demands on the taxpayer. The Government usually announce the national insurance rate at the Pre-Budget Report, and they intend to increase the price of class 3 NICs to ensure that the overall package is cost neutral.

There are many more details to be resolved. I hope that noble Lords will recognise the commitment that I am making today and will bear with us as we flesh out those details over the coming weeks and months. I beg to move.

My Lords, I am so very glad to support this amendment today. I was never quite sure that this day would arrive. This will, in future, help women like Pam, who fostered more than 70 children for Surrey County Council and did not get a stamp for any of those years. It will help women like Carol, with two children of her own, who also cared for her grandmother, who was bedridden for 10 years with arthritis, a frail mother-in-law and a father-in-law suffering from dementia, and also fitted in voluntary work in a hospice. Such lives of quiet heroism.

By being able to buy back an additional six years of national insurance, many women coming up to retirement will, as my noble friend said, now be able to build a full state pension—and others a pension much enhanced. Even if women, or men, took out a loan, the pension increase would more than cover the cost of that loan. In this climate of financial tsunami, a secure state pension matters even more to the lower paid.

Of course, I would like this to go further. Ideally, it would be back-dated for older women who had already reached state pension age. I also noticed that my noble friend said that the price of voluntary NI contributions needs to rise, irrespective of this amendment, because from 2010 its value will go up by 50 per cent for men and, therefore, it is reasonable to adjust the price accordingly. The 20-year rule announced by my noble friend is also very sensible, as it excludes the casual Australian backpacker but will help all those women who, for example, can do better from buying back than on the married women’s dependency stamp, or who would otherwise be better off on pension credit.

No doubt other noble Lords will wish to press my noble friend on further details. I shall just spend a last moment or two to say thank you. First, I thank the press, from the Daily Mail through to the Guardian, and particularly to that inner group of friends and colleagues from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Age Concern, Help the Aged and Carers, which built a broad coalition of support, including the Federation of Women’s Institutes and the Federation of Small Businesses, from NAPF to the trade unions to the Fawcett Society. Furthermore, I thank the DWP, which, as my noble friend said, has always been sympathetic in so far as it was allowed to be—and, above all, my right honourable friend James Purnell, Secretary of State, who in last year’s and this year’s Bill together will help to transform the situation for women’s pensions. He has been a true friend to women.

Finally, and above all, I express my gratitude to your Lordships tonight. Thanks to your support all round the House, 500,000 women will be able to build a decent state pension. They will find it worth saving; many now will not need to turn to income-related, means-tested benefits; and all of them will have a decent recognition of the contribution that they have made to society through caring and family responsibilities. Without your Lordships, it would not have happened. Indeed, I rather doubt that it could have happened in the other place at all. It is a really good and special thing that we together have done—and, if I may, on behalf of 500,000 women, I thank you all very much indeed.

My Lords, I have not been a regular attender during the passage of this Bill and, until last Sunday, I had no idea of the problems that a minority will face when this measure goes through. It would be churlish not to recognise the sterling work of those who pursued this matter for so long and, in particular, my noble friend Lady Hollis. However, I draw the House’s attention to an anomaly. Some of your Lordships may have read about it in the Daily Mail; my noble friend has just mentioned that it has been supportive.

The Daily Mail published a report on Monday about Felicity Hammerton, who falls outside the 6 April deadline and will not be able to get the full benefit. At this very late stage—although I know that I cannot change anything—in his consideration of further details, will the Minister not lose sight of the fact that there is a need to go further? I understand about affordability and that there are difficulties, but I also understand the plight of women such as Felicity Hammerton who, through no fault of their own, fall outside the advantage that has been given to the large number of women to which my noble friend Lady Hollis referred. My plea, as much as I can muster any plea at all, is that that is not lost sight of and that, if it becomes affordable and if things change, it will be revisited with a view to extending the potential beneficiaries in the way I described.

My Lords, I referred in Committee to the fact that your Lordships’ campaigns eventually become law, so I am sure that everyone in the House will join me when I say how delighted I am to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis. Her perseverance in this matter has been quite outstanding even by the standards of your Lordships’ House, where many of us are dedicated to seeing a particular injustice eradicated, and I am sure that no government concession has ever been more deserved. The battle has certainly been hard won. Right up until last week there was little indication that the Government would ever accept that the inequality which persists between the sexes in attaining full eligibility for the state pension warranted a move of this kind.

The battle has also been protracted because of the ever present concern for cost. The Minister has managed to present us today with a package which he claims to be cost-neutral. There is no doubt that if such an apodictically beneficial result as the one sought by the noble Baroness could have been delivered without regard to cost, we would have wrapped up the issue long ago.

That brings me to the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Clarke. When one is making changes to social security benefits—in essence, a state pension is a social security benefit—there are always, alas, cliff edges. The trick among policy-makers is to make sure that the cliff is as low as possible. I am afraid that I cannot remember a single occasion in the years that I have been studying this matter when there has not been a cliff edge of some kind in any changes that have been made. Perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, will be able to correct me on that statement.

The Minister has stated that the price of class 3 NICs will be raised soon anyway to account for the fewer years that will now be needed to qualify for a full state pension. As I understand it, the 110,000 or so people who might benefit from the move initiated by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, will be included among the many more who will benefit from the new requirement to pay NICs for only 30 years rather than 39 or 44. I cannot express absolute, totally unqualified approval because, although these amendments are claimed to be cost-neutral as regards the government purse—which was my objection to the original suggestion of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, last year—they will not be cost-neutral for contributors. No doubt more people will be receiving a full state pension, but they will have paid for such a benefit themselves.

I would not be doing my job if I did not ask several more questions that need to be asked on this matter. In particular, by how much does the Minister envisage the price of class 3 NICs rising? Can he confirm that this price rise will be implemented in the next Budget, or will it be implemented in 2010 when the operation starts? Will the rise be extended across all classes of NICs or just be restricted to one? Above all, can he assure us that the increased revenue the Government will receive will be no more than the extra payments they will make? If this is not to be the case, then what we are seeing here is not a cost-neutral proposal but a revenue-raising one cunningly attached to the delivery of a genuinely praiseworthy aim. Are we therefore—I hope to goodness we are not—looking forward to another stealth tax?

I would also be interested to hear from the Minister how much of a saving the Government expect to make on pension credit payments as a result of these provisions. I am interested to hear how many of those eligible to make these contributions the Government are expecting to participate. Concerns have been aired in the media—after all, it is too much to expect that such a positive news story for the Government would be postponed until Parliament had heard of their intentions—about both too high and too low a take-up. Not only have commentators noted that some who would benefit from making these extra contributions might be unable to find the money to do so, but quite rightly there is a real possibility that some of the 40 per cent of pensioners likely to be eligible for pension credit might waste their money on voluntary contributing, only to realise that that will result in no additional retirement income. We often raised this subject in the early stages of the Bill.

I hope that the Minister will go into some detail about what kind of information campaign the Government intend to wage to ensure that neither of these unwelcome outcomes comes to pass. Who will conduct it? Will it be the pensions agency or some other body? Will the Minister also confirm that all the restrictions that currently apply on who may buy class 3 NICs will be extended to these extra contributions as well? Will those with the married women’s stamp or those who contracted out even for a short period be able to take advantage of the provisions?

I realise that I have spoken for quite a long time but these questions need to be asked in order to make a proper assessment of this welcome outcome.

My Lords, from these Benches, we, too, welcome the Government’s change of heart. We pay our own tribute to the Minister, who has worked hard to make it happen, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, who also has worked tirelessly to reach this outcome.

I fear that it is in the nature of concessions that, the minute one is made, and a good one at that, people always want more. The noble Lords, Lord Skelmersdale and Lord Clarke, have spoken about that. There will, of course, be women who are bitterly disappointed that they are being left out. Some thousands of women—men as well as women, but mostly women—will certainly benefit if they can afford to buy the missing years outright or can take out a loan to do so and have 20 years’ national insurance contributions already under their belt. However, the Government have set the bar quite high. There are many more thousands, mostly but not exclusively women, who are not able to access a higher pension because they have no chance of fitting in 20 years of national insurance contributions.

One other group for whom the door has been firmly shut is those who are already over 60, even if they have not yet picked up their pensions. I again refer noble Lords to the case reported in the Daily Mail on Monday concerning one lady. Are the Government prepared to look again at this situation? After all, it cannot affect that many women.

I should like, finally, to draw attention to some sage advice by the pensions guru Dr Ros Altmann which also echoes what the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, has just said. She warns those with an incomplete national insurance record to take expert advice before they buy back extra years, because they might qualify for means-tested pension credit. She also warns those who do not have good health to take advice before buying extra years.

This brings me back full circle to the importance of the availability of good financial advice, rather than just general information, for those about to retire. As time goes on, such advice becomes more and more important. I hope the Government will keep us informed of the measures they are taking in that matter.

My Lords, I add my congratulations to those already offered to the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, on the courageous and determined battle she has fought on behalf of us all and which she has at last won, or at least won as far as one could expect at this stage. I also congratulate the Government on the real improvements that they have introduced in the Bill following the Turner report’s recommendations, particularly the improvements for carers, the majority of whom are women.

We should always remember that women are among the poorest pensioners. It remains shaming that only 30 per cent of women compared with 95 per cent of men currently retire on the full basic state pension. By 2010, however, that percentage will have increased to 75 per cent, even if it is likely to be as far away as 2025 before men and women reach the state retirement age with an equal entitlement to the full basic state pension. This pathway all too clearly illustrates, once again, the considerably greater sacrifice that women have made and will continue to make. By the time that an equal retirement age is achieved for both sexes, women will have sacrificed some seven years from their original or earlier state retirement age of 60 while men's loss will be about two years, from 65 to 67.

Noble Lords may have noticed that I have not returned at Report with my request that, from the moment that a unisex retirement age is achieved, men and women should be treated equally for annuities and not, as now, on the basis that women have a presumed longer life. Sadly, although I thank everyone who spoke to my amendment, there was not sufficient support for it from either the Government or the Opposition. Nor indeed have the women's organisations got their act sufficiently together on this issue to press it forward, although I look forward to developments there, too. Ironically, this justice for women, on which we are rightly congratulating the Government and especially the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, is another illustration of why that other continuing, blatant annuities discrimination should and could have been remedied in the Bill.

Above all, throughout our debates on the Bill, I, like other noble Lords, have been hugely grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, for her help and formidable pensions expertise. I should like to thank her for the legacy of vital information contained in the speech that she made in Committee on 14 July this year in support of my amendment. The material in that speech alone is enough to reassure me that the argument for sex equality in annuities will eventually be won.

My Lords, the Minister opened his comments by saying “I have pleasure” and “we have listened”. Both those things are wonderful so I thank him very much. Of course, like everyone else, I must thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis. I first came into contact with her when we were in government dealing with pension splitting on divorce some 13 or 14 years ago. I realised then what a formidable person we had and how lucky we were to have her in this House. Ever since then, she has done by quiet determination some things that all of us try to do but do the wrong way, so well done to her. She thanked everybody for the cohorts of support she received—from the Federation of Small Businesses, the Women's Institute, Age Concern and so forth—but none of that was likely to come together in a voluntary manner without her constant, gracious, charming but determined impact. She is wonderful and we are wonderfully lucky to have her. I have been wonderfully blessed in working with her. I thank her very much.

My Lords, I was one who experienced defeat at the hands of the noble Baroness when we were in government. She convinced me a long time ago of the propriety of this amendment, which has now been made. I would like to join in congratulating her on the way that she has conducted this and on the result achieved. No doubt there are Oliver Twists about in connection with these amendments, but I am sure that the Minister will do his best to achieve such justice as is possible. I congratulate him also.

My Lords, I am sorry if I spoil the congratulatory party. My noble friend Lady Thomas has already put on record—and I am happy to do that, too—our thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, for this campaign. However, under the circumstances and given the very great strength of feeling that there was on all sides of the House last year, this is a pretty disappointing outcome. I am afraid—the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, made some of the same points—that the costs and prices are very unclear. Women are being offered a tempting meal, from a menu without prices, in a restaurant that they may not be able to afford. How can it be possible to remedy what we all agreed was a major injustice to women on a cost-neutral basis? Can we be told how much women will have to pay over and above the increases that the noble Lord was talking about, so that this can be achieved on a cost-neutral basis? Who is going to pay? Will the cost of buying back these added years be prohibitive for women? What are the numbers? At the moment, women born before 5 April 1950 can make a voluntary class 3 contribution of £421 to buy an additional state pension worth £121 a year. That is clearly very good value. As noble Lords have already pointed out, in quite a few cases people will lose pensions credits. We must make sure that the advice gets through properly. In particular, what is the extra cost going to be?

I must comment on the way in which last week’s announcements were handled. There was no problem for James Purnell with the favourable publicity: he was there in the centre of the photograph when he was claiming credit. However, when there was any question of what the bill would be, he was airbrushed out. On a matter such as this, where feelings are so strong, I would have thought that the Government would have told us what the bill and the extra costs will be. The strength of feeling in this House and in the country is such that it is disappointing that the Government have been allowed to get away with taking the credit at no cost. We on these Benches would have been happy to support more money being put in. We think that, for women, this is at the moment a bit of a pig in a poke.

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this short debate, and, despite some adverse comments, for the warm acceptance that these provisions have elicited. I am also grateful for the praise that has been universally, and quite rightly, heaped on my noble friend Lady Hollis. I say to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, that I have shared his experience of being defeated by the noble Baroness. One trepidation I have is that, now that this campaign is won, what on earth is my noble friend going to move on to next? Perhaps I will think about that later.

My noble friend talks about these things not in terms of aggregates and numbers, but how they will affect real people’s lives. I know that is what drives her passion. She makes the point also about the importance of a secure basic state pension. I will come to the issues around the price of class 3 contributions. Irrespective of this measure, post-2010, people will be able to buy one-30th of a year with a year’s contributions, rather than a 44th or a 39th, as at the moment. This means that there should be an adjustment in class 3. However, this should not be seen as an increase.

I am grateful for my noble friend’s comments about James Purnell, who was Pensions Minister when we debated this, in relation to the Pensions Act 2007. He is now the Secretary of State.

I say to my noble friend, Lord Clarke, that I understand his point, which I believe the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, dealt with in part. When changes are made in legislation—and the changes we made last year will be a very significant improvement in the pensions outcome for women—there is always an issue about the extent to which you apply resources and effort to unpicking the inequalities of the past. One issue we looked at was whether we could apply the 2010 rules to all existing pensioners. However, noble Lords will remember that the price tag for that was very substantial, and unaffordable. Inevitably, there will be a cut-off point and some people will fall one side of it rather than the other. However, I am mindful of my noble friend’s comments and am certain that we will do all that we can to help people who fall outside these provisions. In particular, we will ensure that they are able to benefit fully from the reliefs and pension credit that would otherwise be available.

I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, said that we were reluctant to recognise the inequality in the pension system. However, the whole thrust of the Act that we passed last year was to dramatically change the landscape for women whose working lives would be wholly or substantially under the new regime. We are very proud of that, although the noble Lord made the point that changes such as this inevitably produce cliff edges. He asked several questions. Certainly, the measures that will make the change cost-neutral will be applied only to class 3 national insurance contributions. They will be applied to all class 3 contributions, which I think is what he asked. He also asked when this would all take effect. The detail is still being worked on but it is ultimately for the Treasury to deal with these matters and I expect it to do so in the normal way at the Pre-Budget Report.

The noble Lords, Lord Skelmersdale and Lord Oakeshott, pressed me to say what the cost will be. Initial modelling suggests that the price increase will be around half the existing rate, but I should also stress that the existing rate is a substantial reduction on the actuarial value. The current cost of a class 3 contribution is £8.10 a week but its current actuarial value is something like £45, so there is still a substantial gap between the two.

My Lords, is the Minister saying that under his proposals the women who now pay £421 to buy an additional year are likely to pay about £650?

My Lords, I am saying that some of the initial modelling shows that it would take a 50 per cent increase for the package to be cost-neutral. If you took away the adjustments for the class 3 contributions, the present net value of the cost would be about £600 million, which is about one-third of the figure that we talked about in relation to the original proposal. However, I stress that there will in any event be a need to adjust the class 3 price simply because the deal changes post-2010, and only the initially modelling has been done. There is more work to do and ultimately it is for the Treasury to deal with it.

The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, made the point that it will not be right for everyone to take up this opportunity. Those who have, or are heading for, pension credit could spend money but get just a net nil out of it. He is absolutely right about that, as he is with regard to the importance of an information campaign to ensure that people have the right information.

My Lords, it would be helpful if the Minister could confirm that the national insurance recording system should have the details of the 110,000 people involved. The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, rightly suggested an information campaign but, with a little software tweaking, would it not be possible for letters to be sent to those people saying that this is an offer they should seriously consider in future?

My Lords, something like 550,000 women could benefit, but our estimate of the take-up could be substantially lower than that. Of course, that depends absolutely on the point that the noble Lord has made—that is, how far women know about this very attractive deal for them to build up their pension.

My Lords, my noble friend is right. I stress again that some of the detail and the practicalities have to be worked through. I talked about an information campaign and certainly that would not preclude letters being sent to individuals for whom the opportunity may be beneficial.

The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, asked about reduced rate contributions. The right to use class 3 contributions to buy back extra years for the periods when reduced rate contributions were paid is not available. It is not permitted under the current rules and there are no proposals to change that. Therefore, if someone paid a reduced rate contribution for an earlier year, they could not now replace it with a class 3 contribution. However, that is not a change; it is the existing law.

My Lords, if I may find out a little more, does that include not only the married women for whom, as the Minister says, it has been phased out, but the contracted-out?

My Lords, I would like to think about that as I am not sure it does, so perhaps I could revert to the noble Lord. I look to the Box, from where some help may be coming down on that, and in the interim I may move on to another point. I think that the noble Lord was asking about people who have contracted out of the state second pension. Class 3 national insurance contributions only help people to build up entitlement to basic state pension and bereavement benefits. They do not help people build up entitlement to state second pension, so on that issue this amendment would have no impact on such entitlements and it makes no difference whether somebody is contracted out of the state second pension.

My Lords, that is a lovely answer but, unfortunately, it is to a question that is not at all what I asked. Perhaps the Minister can send me one of his multifarious letters in due course.

My Lords, I will certainly do that. Perhaps that was a question that the noble Lord should have asked.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, also raised the point about the cut-off and the people who will potentially benefit from that. I think that I have dealt with that point: inevitably, introducing any change will mean that some fall within its provisions and some outside it. On her point about access to good information or its availability, I agree on the access to advice. We have discussed that in another context and the noble Baroness makes a good point.

The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, ingeniously raised again the issues around annuities. She will forgive me if I am not drawn into that debate again now; maybe my noble friend will turn her attention to that as the next campaign. The noble Baroness, Lady O’Cathain, was supportive of this and on behalf of my noble friend I am grateful for her comments. On cost, for the noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott, I think that I have dealt with that. The net present value, subject to class 3 changes, is £600 million. Issues around pension credit are important, for we need to get information out so that people do not take up that opportunity if it will not benefit them.

I hope that I have dealt with each point raised, and am grateful to all noble Lords for the support for this measure. I conclude by thanking my noble friend Lady Hollis again for all of her efforts: perhaps she could go easy on me for the next few months, if she would not mind.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

78AQ: After Clause 130, insert the following new Clause—

“Additional Class 3 contributions (Northern Ireland)

(1) The Social Security Contributions and Benefits (Northern Ireland) Act 1992 (c. 7) is amended as follows.

(2) After section 13 insert—

“13A Right to pay additional Class 3 contributions in certain cases

(1) An eligible person is entitled, if he so wishes, but subject to any prescribed conditions and to the following provisions of this section, to pay Class 3 contributions in respect of a missing year.

(2) A missing year is a tax year not earlier than 1975-76 in respect of which the person would under regulations under section 13 be entitled to pay Class 3 contributions but for a limit on the time within which contributions may be paid in respect of that year.

(3) A person is not entitled to pay contributions in respect of more than 6 tax years under this section.

(4) A person is not entitled to pay any contribution under this section after the end of 6 years beginning with the day on which he attains pensionable age.

(5) A person is an eligible person if the following conditions are satisfied.

(6) The first condition is that the person attained or will attain pensionable age in the period—

(a) beginning with 6th April 2008, and(b) ending with 5th April 2015. (7) The second condition is that there are at least 20 tax years each of which is a year to which subsection (8) or (10) applies.

(8) This subsection applies if—

(a) the year is one in respect of which the person has paid or been credited with contributions of a relevant class or been credited (in the case of 1987-88 or any subsequent year) with earnings, and(b) in the case of that year, the earnings factor derived as mentioned in subsection (9) is not less than the qualifying earnings factor for that year.(9) For the purposes of subsection (8)(b) the earnings factor—

(a) in the case of 1987-88 or any subsequent year, is that which is derived from—(i) so much of the person's earnings as did not exceed the upper earnings limit and upon which such of the contributions mentioned in subsection (8)(a) as are primary Class 1 contributions were paid or treated as paid or earnings credited, and(ii) any Class 2 or Class 3 contributions for the year, or(b) in the case of any earlier year, is that which is derived from the contributions mentioned in subsection (8)(a).(10) This subsection applies (in the case of a person who attained or will attain pensionable age before 6th April 2010) if the year is one in which the person was precluded from regular employment by responsibilities at home within the meaning of regulations under paragraph 5(7) of Schedule 3.

(11) The third condition applies only if the person attained or will attain pensionable age before 6th April 2010.

(12) That condition is that—

(a) the person has, in respect of any one tax year before that in which he attains pensionable age, actually paid contributions of a relevant class, and(b) in the case of that year, the earnings factor derived as mentioned in subsection (13) is not less than the qualifying earnings factor for that year.(13) For the purposes of subsection (12)(b) the earnings factor—

(a) in the case of 1987-88 or any subsequent year, is that which is derived from—(i) so much of the person's earnings as did not exceed the upper earnings limit and upon which such of the contributions mentioned in subsection (12)(a) as are primary Class 1 contributions were paid or treated as paid, and(ii) any Class 2 or Class 3 contributions for the year, or(b) in the case of any earlier year, is that which is derived from the contributions mentioned in subsection (12)(a).”(3) In section 1(2)(d) (outline of contribution system) after “section 13” insert “or 13A”.”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 137 [Orders and regulations]:

79: Clause 137, page 71, line 8, after “to” insert “a statutory instrument containing”

The noble Lord said: Finally, my Lords, I will move government Amendment No. 79 and speak to Amendments Nos. 80 to 84. As has been observed, there are a number of regulation-making powers in the Bill. The Government have adopted the recommendations of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee on the appropriate resolution for those various powers and, as a consequence, the Bill provides for a variety of procedures for resolution. Some regulations are for affirmative resolution, some for affirmative resolution the first time they are used and some for negative resolution. These amendments are a legal device to confirm that the Secretary of State can, under the affirmative procedures, bring to Parliament a set of regulations under both negative and affirmative resolution.

We believe that is particularly important for the regulations under the employer duty. It is impossible to talk about the automatic enrolment process, for example, without also covering opt-outs and refunds. These amendments, therefore, allow us to lay a coherent package of regulations before Parliament, enabling proper scrutiny of the related secondary legislation. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

80: Clause 137, page 71, line 8, leave out “an order or regulations” and insert “to a statutory instrument”

81: Clause 137, page 71, line 10, leave out “No order or regulations” and insert “A statutory instrument”

82: Clause 137, page 71, line 10, after “may” insert “not”

83: Clause 137, page 71, line 11, leave out “order or regulations” and insert “instrument”

84: Clause 137, page 71, line 13, at end insert “a statutory instrument containing (alone or with other provision)”

85: Clause 137, page 71, line 14, leave out “, 123”

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 10 [Repeals]:

86: Schedule 10, page 129, line 28, column 2,at beginning insert—

“In section 38(5)(a)(ii), the words “otherwise than in good faith,”.”

87: Schedule 10, page 129, line 29, at end insert—

“The repeal in section 38(5)(a)(ii) of the Pensions Act 2004 has effect in accordance with paragraph 15(1) of Schedule (Contribution notices and financial support directions under Pensions Act 2004) to this Act.”

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 143 [Commencement]:

88: Clause 143, page 73, line 18, leave out paragraph (f)

89: Clause 143, page 73, line 23, at end insert “(subject to paragraph (ka))”

90: Clause 143, page 73, line 23, at end insert—

“(ka) the provisions mentioned in subsection (2A);”

91: Clause 143, page 73, line 25, at end insert—

“(2A) The provisions mentioned in this subsection are—

(a) in Schedule (Contribution notices and financial support directions under Pensions Act 2004)—(i) paragraph 1 so far as relating to any of the following paragraphs;(ii) paragraph 3 (and paragraph 2 so far as necessary for the purposes of that paragraph);(iii) paragraphs 5 to 7;(iv) paragraph 8 for purposes other than those of the material detriment test;(v) paragraphs 9 to 14;(vi) in paragraph 15, sub-paragraph (1) so far as relating to paragraphs 6 and 7, sub-paragraph (2) for purposes other than those of the material detriment test, and sub-paragraphs (3) and (4);(vii) paragraph 16; (b) section (Amendments of provisions of Pensions Act 2004 relating to contribution notices or financial support directions) so far as relating to any of the paragraphs of that Schedule mentioned in paragraph (a) of this subsection;(c) the repeal in Schedule 10 relating to section 38(5)(a)(ii) of the Pensions Act 2004 (c. 35), the note in that Schedule relating to that repeal and section 142 so far as relating to that repeal and that note.”

92: Clause 143, page 73, line 26, leave out “Section 102 comes” and insert “Sections 102, (Additional Class 3 contributions) and (Additional Class 3 contributions (Northern Ireland)) come”

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill [HL]

My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons amendments be now considered.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The page and line references are to HL Bill 70 as first printed for the Commons.]

Commons Amendment No. 1

1: Page 4, line 6, leave out “the keeping or using of” and insert “keeping or using”

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1. I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 4, 29, 49 to 52 and 54.

Amendments in this group follow discussions in this House and relate to human admixed embryos. The Bill sets out a clear definition of human admixed embryos, and ensures that all such embryos are regulated and may not be created without a licence.

The Government have listened very carefully to arguments from the scientific community about the need to create admixed embryos for research. This matter has been closely scrutinised by parliamentary Select Committees, and voted on in both Houses. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority also ran a public consultation on this issue last year.

One motivation for allowing this research to go ahead is the limited availability of human eggs for advancing techniques in cell nuclear replacement, a process used in therapeutic cloning. Scientists are hoping to use as a substitute rabbit or cow eggs, which are abundantly available. There is clearly a wide spectrum of embryos that could be created using human and animal genetic material. The Bill captures the creation, keeping and use of those embryos that are at the human end of the spectrum—in other words, with predominantly human genetic make-up. Research using embryos at the animal end of the spectrum has been undertaken for some time in this country, and regulated by the Home Office under the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.

Amendments Nos. 50 to 52 make consequential changes to Schedule 2 to the Bill to bring the new category of human admixed embryos into line with other categories under the Bill, so that the creation, keeping and use of any admixed embryos to which the Bill applies could be licensed by the HFEA. Amendment No. 29 is consequential to Amendment No. 50.

Amendment No. 1 is minor and technical, to ensure consistent use of the term “keeping or using”. This phrase is used in existing Section 3(3)(a). The amendment ensures that the term is used consistently throughout the Bill, by amending new Section 4A(3) to ensure consistency in the wording.

Amendment No. 4 relates to definitions in the Bill. The 1990 Act defines an embryo as a live human embryo. It also states that references to embryo include an egg in the process of fertilisation. The Bill defines an egg as a cell of the female germ line at any stage of maturity, but not including an egg in the process of fertilisation. This is because the definition of an embryo expressly includes an egg in the process of fertilisation. To ensure that these definitions work together, it is necessary to clarify that the general definition of an egg does not apply to the definition of an embryo. The definitions in Clause 1 do not cover the section relating to human admixed embryos. Therefore, the term “embryo” needs to be defined independently in the human admixed embryo provisions and the same exclusion of “egg” in the definition of embryo needs to be made. The Bill as it stands does not do so and Amendment No. 4 is a minor technical amendment to rectify this. This amendment ensures consistency between the definitions in the two clauses of the Bill and ensures that they work as they are intended to.

Amendment No. 54 is a technical amendment to ensure consistency. Under paragraph 2(1) of Schedule 3 to the 1990 Act, a person’s consent to the use of a human embryo can specify use for the purposes of any project of research, whereas under new paragraph 2(1A) of Schedule 3, as introduced by the Bill, a person’s consent to the use of a human admixed embryo must be for the purposes of use in a project of research.

Amendment No. 54 clarifies that a person can give a general broad consent to a human admixed embryo, created using their cells, being used in research, if they choose to do so. Using the word “any” makes it clear that consent does not have to be project-specific, although it can be if the donor chooses and removes any doubt about whether a general consent can be given. The amendment ensures consistency with the wording used in relation to human embryos. I beg to move.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1—(Lord Darzi of Denham.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Commons Amendment No. 2

2: Page 4, line 14, at end insert-

“(4A) A licence cannot authorise keeping or using a human admixed embryo in any circumstances in which regulations prohibit its keeping or use.”

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 2. These amendments add powers in relation to the regulation of human admixed embryos to provide consistency with provisions, and in particular with prohibitions, relating to the use of human embryos.

Amendment No. 2 adds a new regulation-making power. The amendment mirrors an existing power that relates to human embryos, which enables restriction of the circumstances in which human admixed embryos can be kept or used. This could be important if, for example, it became necessary to shorten the 14-day limit in some circumstances. Amendment No. 27 is a consequential amendment.

Government Amendments Nos. 2 and 27 ensure that the Bill is consistent by providing a power that enables the restriction of the circumstances in which human admixed embryos can be kept or used, which mirrors the provision for regulating human embryos. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, has tabled an amendment to Amendment No. 2 and I shall respond to it after he has spoken to his amendments.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 2.—(Lord Darzi of Denham.)

2A: Line 3, at end insert “or in any circumstances where the purposes of the proposed research can be achieved by any method not entailing the use of human admixed embryos.”

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 2A tabled in my name straightforwardly seeks to enshrine in the new law the principle that, before any animal human admixed embryo is created, it must be established that alternatives do not exist. This proposition was advanced in your Lordships’ House by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, who has a hospital appointment which coincides with this debate. It was also the subject of amendments in another place at Report stage, tabled by Mr. David Burrowes, Member of Parliament for Enfield Southgate. As the debate in another place was guillotined, the amendments were never reached, so the House of Commons did not have a chance to debate this principle. The only way in which such a debate can occur is if your Lordships agree Amendment No. 2A.

At earlier stages of our debates on this, the issue was often referred to as the “Hunt test”. It gained that description from some words used by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, in our debates on whether we should allow the creation of embryonic stem cells for the purposes of cloning. In that debate in 2001, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said that it would be licit to use embryonic stem cells only if it could be demonstrated that no other alternatives were available.

We should not underestimate the phenomenal public unease about some of the provisions of the Bill. More than 30 major public meetings have been held throughout the United Kingdom, attended by thousands of people; almost 2 million protest cards and letters have been sent to Members of another place; and many significant public figures have spoken out against the mass manufacture, manipulation and destruction of human embryos. This is not, as I know your Lordships will agree, a trivial matter.

The argument has been put persistently throughout our debates that experiments on the human embryo and admixed embryos will bring great benefits in the form of treatments for diseases which at present are incurable. Yet, since 1990 not even one treatment has materialised to help the sick, compared with more than 80 treatments using ethically acceptable adult stem cells. There has been scandalous over-hype and playing on people’s fears and desperation.

Our obsession with experiments on human embryos has led to a failure properly to pursue the alternatives. That in turn is having a disastrous effect on both our ability to develop life-saving treatments and to develop good science. Some scientists have also been coming to the same conclusion. A report in last week’s Sunday Times stated:

“A leading British scientist is leaving the country to work in France after claiming that British science gives too much priority to embryo experiments over ‘more ethical’ alternatives”.

An article in the Times Higher Education supplement of 23 October states that Colin McGuckin, professor of regenerative medicine at Newcastle University, and an expert in adult stem cells, believes that UK funding agencies and his university have prioritised embryonic stem cell research above work with adult stem cells. He said:

“You would barely know adult stem cells exist”.

He added:

“A vast amount of money in the UK from the Government has gone into embryonic stem cell research with not one patient having been treated, to the detriment of (research into) adult stem cells, which has been severely underfunded”.

Those are his words.

It is tragic that Professor McGuckin feels that he has to leave the UK to go to a country which he says,

“offers a much better environment”—

both—

“to cure and treat more people”

and “to do good work”.

Amendment No. 2A simply seeks to insist on what Professor McGuckin calls,

“a much more reasoned balance”,

between the use of human embryos and the alternatives.

As the Bill is currently drafted, government Amendment No. 2 requires that a

“licence cannot authorise keeping or using a human admixed embryo in any circumstances in which regulations prohibit its keeping or use”.

At first glance this may seem eminently reasonable, but in reality, these words merely assert in a painful piece of tautology that it is not legal to allow something that is illegal. Surely, before authorising the creation and use of animal/human hybrid embryos, we should insist on more rigorous criteria and safeguards.

I therefore propose that this should be extended to cover, in the words in the Marshalled List,

“any circumstances where the purposes of the proposed research can be achieved by any method not entailing the use of human admixed embryos”.

Some may protest that the law already contains criteria that achieve this effect. However, if it does, I should be grateful if those who believe it would kindly cite the relevant clauses and demonstrate how they have been used in practice. By contrast, I remain unaware of anything in either the current Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act or this Bill that has parity with the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, in which the relevant imperative is in the legislation, explicitly requiring,

“that the purpose of the programme to be specified in the licence cannot be achieved satisfactorily by any other reasonably practicable method”.

That is a perfectly reasonable, logical thing to do. If it is right to do it in the case of animal experimentation, why is it not reasonable to ask for the same thing for human embryos?

What objective criteria are employed by the regulatory authority in determining whether the use of embryos is necessary and desirable for a particular purpose? As discussed during our earlier debates, it is especially noteworthy that the HFEA has ultimately never refused any licence application. It has therefore been argued that the HFEA may have found it very difficult to say no. Even as we have been debating the Bill over the past 12 months, there have been extraordinary breakthroughs that mercifully and happily will ensure that these dilemmas and decisions will no longer be necessary. I refer to the breakthroughs made by Jenny Thompson and Professor Shinya Yamanaka in Japan using IPS cells—induced pluripotent stem cells—and getting them to run backwards, using our skin rather than creating human embryos to manufacture embryonic stem cells, which is extraordinarily exciting science. It enables good science and good ethics to march hand in hand.

I am glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Winston, in his place. I was struck by a programme that he broadcast over the summer in which he demonstrated that a huge amount of hype has gone into the claims made about various forms of stem cell technology. We have to keep this in the kind of perspective that the noble Lord rightly described in that broadcast.

As the HEFA comes to consider licence applications, I hope that it will also keep these things in proper perspective and look at the alternatives. Regardless of my previously expressed repugnance at the manufacture of human embryos—my consistent position—there is nothing in this amendment that automatically prevents the creation of so-called human admixed embryos for research as long as the purpose of the proposed research cannot be achieved by any method not entailing the use of human embryos. The amendment requires that embryos that combine human and animal material should be used only if there is no other means of achieving the same ends. I find it hard to see how anyone can reasonably object to this amendment if they truly believe that a particular project of research is necessary.

The licensing authority and scientists should be duty bound to explore the alternatives, not only due to the ethical concerns but also because of the finite resources. Interspecies cybrid embryos were argued for on the basis that we supposedly need an alternative to using excessive numbers of human eggs for cloning research. These are finite resources that often bring complications for women’s health, as we discussed at earlier stages of the Bill, through hyperovulation syndrome.

My amendment also brings the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act into line with paragraph 8.3 of the International Society for Stem Cell Research guidelines for human embryonic stem cell research, which states:

“The project proposal should include a discussion of alternative methods, and provide a rationale for employing the requested human materials, the proposed methodology and for performing the experiments in a human rather than animal model system.”

That is all my amendment seeks to do. I hope the House will consider this amendment carefully and will pause to reflect on what message it wishes to send not only to the British public but to the wider world. Are we to be so ideologically wedded to experimentation with all manner of human interspecies embryos that we blind ourselves to the alternatives, especially when they seem to achieve the same purported ends far more efficiently?

I invite the House to vote in favour of a modest provision that prohibits nothing but insists with the full force of law that a case must be made that no alternatives are available before permitting the creation and destruction of the human admixed embryos authorised by this Bill. I beg to move.

My Lords, I remind my noble friend Lord Alton that issues relating to the use of cells derived from human embryos and the use of adult stem cells were fully and extensively debated in this House many weeks ago. In this group of amendments, we are dealing with human admixed embryos. When the Bill was debated in this House, we made it clear that the purpose behind the development of such admixed embryos was to be able to clone cells derived from the tissues of patients suffering from diseases such as diabetes, Parkinsonism, dementia and many other conditions in order to be able to study in a research method their nature and ways in which they might ultimately be treated or cured.

At that time, the purpose was to have admixed embryos in which the nucleus of a human cell derived from a patient with one of those diseases could be implanted in an animal ovum from which the nucleus had been removed. The only reason this was felt to be a crucial research tool in the study of disease processes was that it would be preferable to implant those cells—say, a skin cell from someone with one of those diseases—into a human ovum from which the nucleus had been removed, but there is, reasonably, a shortage of human eggs. However willing and public-spirited a woman may be, for her to donate eggs may require the insertion of a needle through the vagina in order to remove eggs from the ovary. That is not a trivial procedure. The Bill makes it absolutely clear that once a human admixed embryo is created, it can under no circumstances be implanted into a human being or animal. It can only be used to study the process of the disease from which the individual whose cell was originally taken was suffering.

At the time of our debate in your Lordships’ House, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, was concerned about the definition of human admixed embryos. I understand that he has subsequently had extensive discussions with the Academy of Medical Sciences and others involved in this area. This has led to this series of amendments from the Commons making that definition much clearer. Commons Amendment No. 3, which we have not yet come to, adds a category of human admixed embryos where the animal DNA is not predominant, thus returning, including and embracing within this clause the type of admixed embryo which has been legal for many years under the Animal Procedures Act, and enabling it to be used for research purposes.

I believe that the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, is unnecessary. Why do I say that? Work involving admixed human embryos is extremely difficult and time-consuming. It occupies a great deal of effort on the part of the scientist. If alternatives to that type of research are available, I have no doubt that scientists will take them and use them wherever possible. This amendment is quite unnecessary. I congratulate the Government on the Commons amendments, which have been so carefully and expertly framed. They will improve the Bill and happen to meet most of the concerns, ambiguities and uncertainties which remained in the Bill when it left your Lordships’ House. For that reason, I cannot support the amendment.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for the customary moderation with which he moved his amendment, which is important in this debate. Sadly there has not always been moderation outside the House. Today we heard, unfortunately, of “Nazi experimentation”. It is good that we are not indulging in that kind of language, which very unwisely polarises this debate and does not usually lead to much light.

I would like to correct what is, I think, a misapprehension of the noble Lord, Lord Alton. I declare an interest as a member of the UK Stem Cell Foundation, which is the main funding body purely for research into stem cells in this country, and which works in a close relationship with the Medical Research Council. Therefore, it is the leading body funding medical research in this field. The noble Lord’s comments about the professor of regenerative medicine are surprising to me. He claims that, in this country, we are not doing anything other than prioritising embryonic stem cells. I have to tell the noble Lord that the UK Stem Cell Foundation has not so far funded a single grant towards embryonic stem cells, nor have we ever had a grant application from this particular professor. I do not think it is unreasonable for me to say that in this Chamber. It is difficult to assess his work, so I do not know why he is leaving this country, but it is certainly not because he has had a grant application turned down because of the prioritisation suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Alton. It is important to put that on the record at the start.

The noble Lord kindly referred to my television programme on the hype surrounding embryonic stem cells, with the extraordinarily sad death of the child of 10 who was hawked around the world. I simplified the story; not only did that child go to Argentina and the Dominican Republic, but also to China and Siberia for treatment. Some people are unfortunately misguided enough to do that because of their desperation. That is another reason why we must be extremely moderate in presenting the work that we do.

It is important, in that context, to make clear that I showed on that television programme that none of the adult stem cell treatments worked either. As far as I am aware, the only adult stem cell treatment that really works and has been shown to work is where we replace bone marrow cells, usually in children with leukaemia. It is a relatively uncommon disease. A few exceptional other diseases can be treated with bone marrow, but we must make it clear that adult stem cell treatments have been equally unsuccessful. The area is still under development. That is the crucial issue for the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Alton.

The problem is that we can never be certain in any kind of research. The beauty of the Large Hadron Collider is that we do not know whether we will find the Higgs particle, or what other particles we might discover; nor have we any serious idea of what future applications there might be for physics or engineering. To some extent, that is always true in biological experiments. We cannot say absolutely that embryonic stem cells will definitely provide cures for the range of diseases that the noble Lord has listed; it is simply not true. Nor could we say so for adult stem cells.

We must be quite cautious and make judgments about how this research is directed. Therefore, we accept that a regulatory authority has to make the best assessment of that research. We cannot absolutely say that it will definitely work but the current expert opinion, which may change, strongly suggests that it is the case.

Incidentally but remarkably, the professor of regenerative medicine to whom the noble Lord referred has not been working with adult stem cells. According to his publication record, which I checked only this week, virtually all of this work has been on foetal stem cells, mostly in umbilical cord blood. Again, that is a different area of science which is still extremely vague, and has largely been rather unsuccessful in helping treatment of patients so far. Equally, however, it holds hope, as we hope that it will do in the future.

My Lords, I am pleased to follow the noble Lord, Lord Winston. I am particularly interested by his suggestion that things are interesting in science and must therefore always be pursued, looking specifically at the CERN experiment. I wish it well; I hope that it is back on the road—or, rather, underground and rotating—during next year. However, whether it is successful or not, as far as I know it does not raise any great ethical issues. Physics has in the past raised ethical issues, such as nuclear and other related matters, but CERN does not. I do not doubt that, for many scientists, work on embryonic stem cells is extremely interesting, but it comes up quite hard against some difficult ethical questions. I know that the noble Lord recognises that, and I agree with him that we must be moderate in how we discuss these issues.

That is why I strongly support the noble Lord, Lord Alton, in his amendment for two reasons that I shall state briefly, as befits us at this stage of the consideration of the Bill. First, it is reasonable and proper to ask science to demonstrate that there are no alternatives before using admixed cells in this way. To the best of my knowledge, no one has been able to stand up and say that there are no alternatives. That phrase often fell from our lips in another place on economic matters, but I do believe that no alternatives have been demonstrated in this area.

The second reason is that I am told—perhaps the Minister, with his characteristic courtesy, will confirm this point or correct me—that there is nowhere in the world any existing cure, properly approved by the relevant regulatory authorities in that territory, which uses embryonic stem cells, whether admixed or not. There is nothing that is actually working so far.

My Lords, I cannot possibly support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Alton. That is not because I do not respect the noble Lord—I always have done. He used the word “repugnance” about this sort of research, but he should remember that a lot of us feel repugnance—I certainly do—at not doing research that may help people with terrible chronic illnesses that they have no way of curing. It is repugnant to me that we are denying people the chance of a better life.

The noble Lord referred to the mass manufacture and use of human embryos. I do not really think such a sentence is terribly helpful. By no stretch of the imagination could this research be termed “mass manufacture”, and it is not helpful to the general public to use such words.

The noble Lord and I are founder members of the all-party group on cord blood. It is very clearly stated that we want to encourage the collection of cord blood but definitely not for exclusive research on stem cells from cord blood. We believe that all forms of research should be pursued. We cannot possibly know where research will go or whether it will be any good until we have pursued it. That is the major point—we must follow all lines in the interest of ultimately curing human diseases.

My Lords, I was hoping that we would not have to rehearse all the lengthy discussions we had in Committee and on Report, but it looks as if we might have to. I support all that has been said by my noble friend Lord Walton of Detchant and others who have spoken, although, with all due respect, I do not agree with the amendment.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, said several things about alternatives. Alternatives for what? Alternatives for research? Alternatives for therapy? In the United States, Professor Yamanaka and James Thomson have done research on induced pluripotent cells, taking an adult somatic cell nucleus and reprogramming it so that it behaves like an embryonic stem cell. The advances in matters of direct reprogramming of human somatic cells, without the use of oocytes or early embryos, is an exciting and welcome development. However, this work is at a very early preliminary stage. The current technology involves engineering the cells in a way that raises a number of safety issues that will need further refinement before these cells can be used in the clinic. It is only by studying the human embryonic stem cells and their behaviour that we know that the induced pluripotent cells behave in exactly the same way. Even Professor Yamanaka, who now does some of his work in California, is continuing to work in embryonic stem cells.

The really important point of any application of these so-called induced pluripotent cells must depend on the understanding of basic human biology, and that demands comparative work with both embryonic stem cells and IPS cells. One can only conclude that we should work with IPS cells only if we are interested in direct application, but if that is pursued without an understanding of the basic biology, it is like, to use the analogy I gave last time, comparing gold with material that looks like gold, but we cannot be sure until we have understood that the properties are exactly the same. Yes, IPS cells may be the future but we cannot work with them until we better understand how human embryonic stem cells behave.

In the debate last time I said it is important at this stage to allow research to continue on all types of stem cells—adult, umbilical cord, cord blood, amniotic and embryonic stem cells, and admixed embryos. Why do we need research with admixed embryos? My noble friend Lord Winston and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, briefly mentioned the availability of human oocytes. Obtaining human oocytes is not without risk and they are also in short supply. To get good stem cell lines you need fresh oocytes, which makes it even more difficult. Just now we are trying to understand the path of physiology and the biology of embryonic stem cells derived from human tissues that carry the genes of a particular disease, so that we are better able to understand how that disease develops from an early stage, are able to modify that and to develop and test drugs in vitro, and so on. Without embryonic stem cells derived through admixed embryos, we will not be able to do this research. It is necessary for research purposes. There are no alternatives but to do research on all types of stem cells.

On therapy, my noble friend Lord Winston mentioned that we have tremendous therapy in bone marrow stem cells for treating leukaemia. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Alton, that there are other therapies using adult stem cells but they are few and far between. They are mostly autologous therapies—cells taken from one person used for the treatment of that person. Adult stem cells will never be the answer for mass treatment of people with degenerative diseases. Where are we with embryonic stem cells? In research terms we are at a very early stage. In understanding the biology through using embryonic stem cells, the pace has been accelerating quite a bit. We only managed to understand and do induced pluripotent cells because we understood how embryonic cells behave. If we had not, that work would never have come to fruition.

On treatment, there is no treatment today using embryonic stem cells but there are treatments using them at an early stage of trial on animals. There have been some early human trials and it is likely—I hope it will happen—that by the end of next year or early 2010 in the United Kingdom there will be first-phase trials using human embryonic stem cells for age-related macular regeneration. Some 3 million people in this country suffer from, and 30 per cent of people aged over 65 develop, some degree of age-related macular degeneration. I hope that research will come to fruition. None of the stem cell research is likely to have an overnight success. It may not ever happen but we will not know unless we study every type of stem cell.

On funding, I declare an interest. I have declared several interests before, being not only a member of several professional organisations but also a chairman of the United Kingdom National Stem Cell Network. I am also a member of the Medical Research Council. In 2007, 424 grants were awarded—at a rough estimate some £56 billion, excluding charity funding. The majority of grant applications were from the MRC, the Wellcome Foundation and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. The MRC’s awards were 50:50 adult stem cell research to embryonic stem cell research. Some 90 per cent of the Wellcome grants were for adult stem cell research. The trend is towards adult stem cell research and towards more research on induced pluripotent stem cells. Grants are awarded to people who submit the best science; that is how it should be. They should not be awarded for poor science that is not judged good by peers. If there is any evidence that grants are awarded for poor embryological science, let us hear about it. In my view, it does not happen.

I hope that I have made the case for why it is necessary to carry out research on all types of stem cells, including admixed embryos. Without it, we will not progress.

My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of the UK Stem Cell Foundation. Like the noble Lord, Lord Winston, I pay respect to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for his admirable restraint and honourable declaration of his own interests: abhorrence of stem cell research.

I am sorry, my Lords—embryonic stem cell research. I agree with the noble Lord that, on occasion, the medical benefits and their immediacy are oversold in excesses of enthusiasm. That is nowhere plainer than in some excessively enthusiastic claims made for non-embryonic stem cell research, which, the noble Lord must agree in all fairness, he tends, understandably, to accept more uncritically than he does other things.

I will not go over the ground covered by the noble Lords, Lord Walton and Lord Winston, and the previous speaker, but I re-emphasise that we have legislation; we have a committee on human fertilisation and embryology; we have procedures that look very carefully at these matters; and we have research grants and a process for choosing the best that works well. Ultimately, to put it bluntly, the purpose of this amendment is to impede a certain class of research within that, and that is why I oppose it.

My Lords, the case against the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has been well discussed. I want to focus on the implications of its wording. It concerns human admixed embryos alone. The purpose of admixed embryos has been driven largely by the difficulty of obtaining human eggs. The implication of the amendment is that there should be no other available method of achieving the same result. It seems possible that human eggs could be used for embryonic research of this type and that, since the use of admixed embryos is the result of our inability to get human eggs, this amendment would drive research towards using human eggs. I cannot think that that is what the noble Lord, Lord Alton, is trying to achieve, therefore this amendment should not be agreed to.

My Lords, I humbly address the House as a new Member and a non-scientist. I suppose one might ask, then, what I have to add to this debate. It seems to me that, whereas science has a role in saying whether we can, Parliament has a role in determining whether we should. That seems a pretty simple role, and on that basis I rise to support the noble Lord, Lord Alton, in his amendment. Characteristically, he is asking the House and those in the parliamentary process to think again, to pause for thought. That is wise. As I have gone through this Bill, as well as the excellent briefing papers that are available in the Library, I have tried to absorb the material—but the complexity of the issues at stake is bewildering. For that reason, considering matters again more carefully is very important.

As well as giving due consideration, another protection in this process is the use of language. It is critical that we say what we mean. When we use terms that are euphemistic, such as “admixed embryos” when we are talking about human-animal mixes, clearly that can lead people to draw different conclusions to those they would come to if we were more explicit about what they meant.

Having made those two points, I support the noble Lord’s amendment.

My Lords, as one of many non-scientists who have taken part in the extensive debates on this issue, I assure the noble Lord, Lord Bates, that we do not need extra time to think again because we have not thought; I have to say that we spent a lot of time at a detailed Committee stage and on Report in this House discussing this very issue.

Like other noble Lords, I commend the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on the very temperate way in which he introduced his amendment on an issue on which he feels very strongly. It helps the quality of debate if he is able to move amendments as he has today. However, he has not answered the query that some of us addressed to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, who is unfortunately not here today, when she raised a very similar issue at an earlier stage.

I take it in the noble Lord’s amendment—and he will correct me if I have misunderstood it—that when he says,

“or in any circumstances where the purposes of the proposed research”,

by “purposes” he means outcomes. In that case, my question remains how you know until you have done it. You will know the outcomes of this procedure only when you can compare it with a result by some other means. Unless you follow all avenues, only then do you know which is the more fruitful; what you cannot do is a series of linear experiments, because at that point you cannot know what hurdle you seek to address.

This amendment presents a post hoc ergo propter hoc argument. You already have to know the outcome you would have achieved without doing it so that you therefore know you can get to the same outcome by some other way that you can take. Forgive me, but that is no way in which to conduct research, and certainly not scientific research.

My Lords, I begin by reminding noble Lords that this amendment is about the use of human-animal embryos, and the proposal is that they should not be used if reasonable alternatives are available. The debate has rather turned into a conception of the amendment as an attack on all embryonic research, which plainly it is not. It does not seek to make the world rotate in the reverse direction.

The noble Lords, Lord Walton and Lord Patel, have both described the amendment as unnecessary—the noble Lord, Lord Patel, because scientists are so fixated on purity that they would not do anything other than what the amendment suggests. I have to say that that is not my experience. The noble Lord, Lord May, thinks that acceptance of the amendment would somehow inhibit research, which was a point not agreed on by his colleagues. I want to broaden the debate and talk about what the amendment seeks to do and what effects it might have.

We have been told—and, therefore, most journalists and members of the public believe—that most future cures lie with embryonic stem cell research, that there is a shortage of human eggs necessary for such research and that, therefore, we should use animal eggs to create admixed human embryos. There are still big doubts about whether these cells will yield any treatment at all and it is my contention, which I hope to demonstrate, that the proposals are unproven, unnecessary and unethical.

First, they are unproven. Embryonic stem cells are difficult to obtain, develop and maintain. They are unstable, and mutate in culture. The fact that they produce cancerous tumours when transplanted into animals has led to an understandable reticence in using them in any human therapeutic trials. It is clear that clone cells, used to address the problem of immune rejection, are not normal cells. That is why it took 277 attempts to produce Dolly the sheep and why no one has yet grown a human clone to a stage mature enough to harvest stem cells from it.

Secondly, embryonic stem cells obtained from animals are unnecessary. The ethical alternative of adult stem cells is already used to treat more than 70 diseases and, similarly, umbilical cord stem cells are being used in treatments and are easily and cheaply harvested. The website of the National Institutes of Health this month shows 2,170 clinical trials involving adult stem cells, 125 of which involved cord blood stem cells, but not one clinical trial in humans involving embryonic stem cells. That says volumes and it is not an exceptional month. Adult stem cells require limited, if any, manipulation and are readily available from a number of sources, comparatively at least. They are already providing cures in humans and there are no ethical concerns in their use, making them acceptable to virtually all patients and healthcare providers.

A number of people have referred to the fact—and I return to it now—that the use of embryonic stem cells is believed to be unethical by large sections of the British community, including scientists, who regard human embryos as vulnerable human lives worthy of respect and protection. Many believe that the production of animal-human hybrids crosses a moral Rubicon and, of course, a species barrier, and that the “end” of providing treatments, if it were technically possible, does not justify the “means” of destroying human life even at its earliest stage.

The morning after the other place had voted to allow the creation of animal-human embryos, Mark Henderson, the science correspondent in the Times, who led a vigorous campaign for cloned animal-human embryos, struck a note of sober caution. He wrote that,

“admixed embryos … are not going to lead to immediate medical breakthroughs … any insight they might offer into diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are probably years away”.

But,

“they could be used to investigate how diabetes and motor neurone disease progress and to develop and test new drugs”.

Those are valuable things. But if Mark Henderson, the enthusiast, is now so cautious, we may conclude that some of the claims made in this House and in another place have been somewhat overstated. In this connection, I go back to a debate held in this Chamber around 15 years ago, when the promises were extravagant and imminent.

Finally, in these uncertain economic times, but also in any good stewardship, we should be investing most heavily in those research avenues which are most likely to produce cures in the foreseeable future with fair certainty. It is not simply a matter of keeping all avenues open but of putting our money into research that is likely to yield results affecting people and not necessarily extending the boundaries of human knowledge as an end in itself. I strongly urge noble Lords to lend their support to Amendment No. 2A.

My Lords, we have spent a significant amount of time in this House debating the use of admixed embryos. The House has voted and has made its position clear, the issue has also been debated and voted on in the other place, and Members of that House agreed to the position in the Bill as it left this House. Therefore let us be clear that the current position in the Bill on this issue reflects the agreed position between the two Houses.

The amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, seeks to restrict the use of human admixed embryos for purposes of research. The effect would be that embryonic stem cell research using human admixed embryos could be carried out only as a last resort. Before any research project involving the creation or use of human admixed embryos could be licensed by the HFEA, it would have to be satisfied that the use of human admixed embryos is necessary. This means that if there were any other way of carrying out the research without using a human admixed embryo, or human embryo, the project could not be licensed.

The amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, would ensure that a human admixed embryo was created or used if the research could not be achieved by any other means. At best, the amendment is unnecessary, because of provisions already in the Bill that ensure that research projects can be licensed only if the creation of the human admixed embryo is necessary. However, at worst, the amendment could force researchers down the route of using human embryos in preference to human admixed embryos. That would also mean that scarce human eggs would be used over animal eggs for some projects, and would be a significant obstacle to research.

A major issue in embryonic stem cell research is the shortage of human eggs to be used in the creation of embryos. Scientists and the Government have listened carefully to arguments from the scientific community about the need to create admixed embryos for research. As I said earlier, the matter has been closely scrutinised by parliamentary Select Committees, and voted on in the other place and in your Lordships’ House. An amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, concerning human admixed embryos was debated on the Floor of this House on Report and defeated by 268 votes to 96.

At present, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority must assess whether the use of embryos or human-admixed embryos is necessary to achieve the purposes of research projects. The research must also be necessary or desirable for one of the statutory processes set out in Schedule 2. Amendment No. 2A would mean not only that the use of human-admixed embryos for the purposes of the research should be necessary, but that the research was unable to be achieved by any other method. This would be contrary to the purpose of using human admixed embryos, which is as a means of researching serious diseases while overcoming the problem of the scarcity of human eggs.

The noble Lord, Lord Patten, asked whether we are aware of such research leading to a cure anywhere in the world. We are in early days. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, pointed out, if we do not do the research, we will not be able to find that out. The noble Lord, Lord Patel, eloquently referenced a number of promising early research results. The Government want to see research moving for all sources of stem cells. The country leads research in this field.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, referred to a scientist who was leaving this country. For every scientist leaving, many have been attracted here to do research in this field, one of whom is Stephen Minger, who has come to the UK because of the legislative framework in place in the UK.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, asked whether the HFEA has ever refused a licence. It has never done so, because the HFEA executive works with the licence applicant to ensure that the application is satisfactory before it can reach the licensing committee. At the same time, the HFEA requires the applications to be peer-reviewed to ensure that they are necessary and desirable, and meet the criteria.

We have debated this matter in both Houses. I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment but I invite the House to resist it if he presses it.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Darzi of Denham, for the way in which he has responded to the debate. Indeed, I am grateful to everyone who has participated in it, especially to my noble friend Lord Tombs, who I am pleased to see back in his customary place. I am grateful also to the noble Lords, Lord Patten and Lord Bates, for their support for my amendment.

The House will be relieved to know that I will not detain noble Lords for long. I will briefly deal with some of the arguments raised. I have not, in this amendment, invited the House to return to the debate mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Darzi, which we had nearly a year ago. This amendment would not prohibit embryonic stem cell research. It would not prohibit the creation of animal-human hybrids. It invites the House to require the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to seek from every licence applicant, and from the licensing authority, an undertaking that, before using admixed embryos, alternatives had been explored.

I come to the point properly raised in our previous debates by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis. I agree that this is not about trying to predict outcomes, but about methodology. It is not unreasonable in these changed circumstances—and they have changed even as we have considered this Bill, because we now have induced pluripotent stem cells, which are embryonic in nature, created from our own skin and do not require the creation of human embryos—to say that this is a satisfactory alternative with which all of us can live. We should therefore require the authority simply to consider that question; not the creation and use, as the noble Lord, Lord Turnberg, said, of more eggs; not the creation of human embryos, as the noble Lord, Lord Darzi, said; but the use of adult stem cells, and, through them, the creation of induced pluripotent stem cells as a legitimate alternative to the manufacture of human embryos. I use “manufacture” not in a pejorative or rhetorical way, but I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, that 2 million human embryos have been destroyed or experimented on, either through IVF or experimentation—these figures were given earlier in the debate—since we authorised the creation of human embryos in 1990. If any Member of the House could say that this has led to cures, it might lend legitimacy to the argument. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Patten, and others have pointed out, it has not. It is not unreasonable, in 2008, to say that if this is still just about hope, it is not something on which we should place too much reliance.

I will be happy to give these papers that have been passed to me to the noble Lord, Lord Winston. I can give him a copy of a briefing produced by Professor David Prentice, in which he lists, as the noble Lord, Lord Tombs, has done, more than 70 different conditions that have been successfully treated using adult stem cells. It is true that some treatments have been by bone marrow, but there have been other examples, too. I chaired a briefing in the Moses Room of your Lordships’ House in which Professor Carlos Lima came from Portugal to talk about the use of olfactory cells in spinal cord treatments. A television programme, Miracle Cell, was produced using that material. These are some examples.

The noble Lord, Lord May, agreed with me—there is common ground here—that none of us should overhype the potential of these cells, whether they are from embryos or adult stem cells, because there are many people suffering from debilitating conditions for whom this must seem like a tantalising solution, when it is still probably a long way off. I will be happy to share that information.

The noble Lord, Lord Winston, and others made a point about the comparative amounts of money allocated by the Medical Research Council to these two areas of research. I have the figures here and am happy to share them. In 2005-06, £17.4 million was made available by the Medical Research Council, of which 43.6 per cent was spent on adult stem cells and 56.4 per cent—significantly more—on embryonic stem cells. I say to my noble friend Lord Patel that, instead of the trend being in that direction, the reverse is true. In 2006, the figure was 46 per cent spent on adult stem cells and 54 per cent on embryonic stem cells. There is every indication that the work that Professor Colin McGuckin has undertaken at Newcastle has, as he said, been discriminated against. I think that we should take that seriously, but those are not the arguments that your Lordships are being asked to vote on this evening.

The amendment is very clear. It states:

“in any circumstances where the purposes of the proposed research can be achieved by any method not entailing the use of human admixed embryos”.

Therefore, it would be down to the person applying for the licence and for those sitting on the licensing authority to satisfy themselves of those facts before they proceeded to issue such a licence. I think that this is a moderate amendment and I hope that noble Lords will be prepared to support it. I wish to seek the opinion of the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Commons Amendment No. 3

3: Page 4, leave out line 30 and insert-

“(e) any embryo not falling within paragraphs (a) to (d) which contains both nuclear or mitochondrial DNA of a human and nuclear or mitochondrial DNA of an animal (“animal DNA”) but in which the animal DNA is not predominant.”

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 3. I shall also speak to their Amendments Nos. 5 and 30. These amendments follow discussions in this House and relate to human admixed embryos.

The Bill sets out a clear definition of human admixed embryos and ensures that all such embryos are regulated and may not be created without a licence. Government Amendment No. 3 amends the definition of human admixed embryos. The Bill uses the term “human admixed embryo” as an umbrella term for all four embryo types containing human and animal genetic material. These range from those that are, in simple terms, 99 per cent genetically human through to those that are 50 per cent genetically human. The Bill also contains the power to amend these categories of human admixed embryos should new scientific advances be made.

However, by not providing a catch-all definition of “human admixed embryo”, the Bill raised concerns as it passed through this House. In particular, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, tabled an amendment seeking to add to the Bill a fifth, more general definition of “human admixed embryo”. This definition, developed in collaboration with the Academy of Medical Sciences, provided a clear statement that a human admixed embryo is any embryo containing human and animal genetic material where the animal material does not predominate. The Government undertook to consider this amendment further in the other place.

Amendment No. 3 captures the essence of the noble and learned Lord’s amendment. It adds a general category of admixed embryos, where,

“the animal DNA is not predominant”,

thereby giving a clearer idea of the range of entities caught by the Bill. This new category will replace the existing regulation-making power to create new categories of human admixed embryos. However, as there is an additional regulation-making power introduced by Amendment No. 2 to amend the existing categories in the light of scientific advances, this will not impede future flexibility. Amendment No. 5 would make consequential amendments to ensure that the power to amend the categories of human admixed embryos applies to the new catch-all provision. Amendment No. 30 is a consequential amendment to the removal of the regulation-making power.

The noble Earl, Lord Howe, has tabled an amendment to Amendment 3, to which I shall respond after he has moved it.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 3.—(Lord Darzi of Denham.)

moved, as an amendment to the Motion, Amendment No. 3A:

3A: Line 5, at end insert “including any embryo which has been created in such a way that the animal DNA would not ultimately predominate.

(f) such other embryo not falling within paragraphs (a) to (e) which contains both human and animal nuclear or mitochondrial DNA as may be specified in regulations.”

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I begin by doing something that the Minister may not necessarily expect of me—expressing my appreciation for government Amendment No. 3. At earlier stages of the Bill, my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay, with his characteristic succinctness, expressed considerable misgivings about the wording in Clause 4(5)(e) which was designed as a catch-all provision, but which seemed to him and to many of us unsatisfactorily vague and inappropriate in terms of the language that it employed. Government Amendment No. 3 is a distinct improvement on the original wording and I thank the Minister for having considered the matter so constructively.

My concern is that the government amendment before us, although it is undoubtedly a step forward, may not be quite good enough. Noble Lords may remember that in Committee I pointed out a lack of legal clarity in relation to the interface between this Bill and the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. There appeared to be an unsatisfactory grey area in terms of whether human/animal admixed embryos were covered by one piece of legislation or the other. The noble Lord, Lord Darzi, has just put the issue very well, as he did at Third Reading, when he said that the Bill should ensure that the HFEA regulates human-animal embryos at the human end of the spectrum. We should, therefore, try to ensure in the legal definition of a human admixed embryo that any new form of embryo that may be developed containing human and animal DNA, and where the human DNA predominates, is subject to HFEA regulation.

The wording in Amendment No. 3 attempts to encapsulate that idea. However, as my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding pointed out in Committee, science is not always as simple as we might sometimes like it to be. The difficulty here relates to the way in which hybrid embryos can develop. My noble friend quoted part of Professor Robin Lovell-Badge’s evidence to the Joint Committee. The professor said:

“You may start off with an embryo which is 20 per cent human and end up with something which is 60 per cent human or vice versa”.

We need, therefore, to deal satisfactorily with those cases where the human DNA might only comprise a minority proportion of the total DNA at the beginning of the life of the embryo but would end up predominating.

I am not clear that the wording of government Amendment No. 3 would cover an embryo of this type. Such an embryo would evade regulation under the Bill, because it would not have predominantly human DNA within the first 14 days and could, therefore, in theory and perfectly legally under the 1986 Act be implanted into an animal, and perhaps be taken to mid-gestation without even requiring a licence for the research project. The additional words that I propose at the end of new paragraph (e) would bring under the ambit of this Bill all embryos deliberately created whereby it could be reasonably predicted that the animal DNA would not ultimately predominate. However, if such an embryo were implanted and, under the 1986 Act, allowed to develop in an animal, and be found subsequently to be predominantly human, all future such embryos would come under the ambit of the HFEA, because the ultimate outcome would be known.

My second concern is slightly different. We could imagine a situation, as science moves on, whereby an animal embryo is created with a predominantly or entirely human brain. The DNA of the entire embryo could still be predominantly animal. However, Parliament might wish in the future not to permit the creation of a human-animal embryo of this kind. Rather than leave this and other unforeseeable scenarios to the mercies of the Home Office, it would be preferable to leave the opportunity open to Parliament to take a decision in specific cases that are particularly ethically sensitive.

The role of the Home Office would not be interrupted. However, in exceptional cases, should there be objections among the general public or in Parliament to a particularly sensitive type of chimeric creature, such as a non-human primate or large animal with, for example, a largely human brain, the second part of my amendment would provide a regulation-making power to deal with that situation. I am sorry that in the process of improving this part of the Bill the Government decided to jettison the regulation-making power.

I very much hope that my concerns on these issues are misplaced and that the Minister will be able to reassure me on them. I beg to move.

My Lords, I should, first, thank the Minister and his colleagues for the further consideration that has been given to this matter since the Bill left this House for a somewhat prolonged sojourn in another place. Here it is back with us with an amendment in almost the same terms as the amendment that I originally proposed.

When the draft Bill was before the committee examining it, it contained a catch-all clause after listing the four examples that remain in the Bill. Unfortunately, none of the experts that gave evidence to our committee could understand the clause. If they could not understand it, we thought that on the whole it was not adequate for the purpose of defining the entity that we had in mind.

When the Bill ultimately came to your Lordships’ House, that portion had been deleted altogether, and in its place had been put a regulation-making power of somewhat ambiguous import. In other words, the Government had given up the idea that they could define in a catch-all way what they meant by this type of embryo. I felt, as did other noble Lords, that that was not satisfactory and we should do what we could to agree to a satisfactory catch-all definition that would not interfere with the four examples in the Bill, but demonstrate in essence their characteristics, as an explanation of the concept of an admixed human embryo.

I should perhaps have mentioned that originally a different phrase was used. The phrase “admixed human embryo” was adopted during the passage of the Bill through this House. It is not a self-evident expression. An ordinary person will have some difficulty understanding the phrase. I believe—this may be the general view in the House—that it would be useful to produce what, in effect, is an explanation of the phrase at the same time as a catchall.

There are a number of ways of approaching the matter. One is to say that everything that is not caught by the Home Office would be caught here, but unfortunately the approach of the Home Office in the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 is quite different: it concerned pain to animals. If human material is involved, there does not seem to be any particular criterion about the importance that that extra fact confers on the embryo. Therefore, here we have successfully defined the human end of the spectrum of mixture.

It would be highly desirable for the rest of the spectrum to be looked at from the point of view of appropriate regulation. I do not think that the 1986 Act, which, after all, is a little elderly, is adequate to deal with the kind of considerations involved when less than 50 per cent human material is introduced into animals. Many people to whom I have spoken or who have spoken to me about the Bill did not know that such an end of the spectrum existed and has existed in practical terms for some time. The Government would do well to consider whether a different form of control or regulation is required at the other end of the spectrum.

Perhaps because I had some part in framing this definition, I think it is entirely satisfactory. The use of the word “predominant”, a word we hit on in the discussions to which the noble Lord, Lord Darzi, has referred with the eminent scientists who were willing to talk to us about it, is a general word which covers the whole period of an embryo's existence. Therefore, you look at whether the animal DNA is to predominate. If it does, it leaves this definition and, if not, it stays within it.

My view is that the amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Howe is not necessary. However, we discussed it before and it is important to raise it now so that the precise scope of the word “predominate” might be discussed at this stage which might help in any future matter which may arise in court or in some other way. I thank the Minister very much for what he has said. I certainly support government Amendment No. 3 and I say that Amendment No. 3A tabled by my noble friend is not necessary, although I believe this discussion is necessary.

My Lords, I, too, congratulate the Government on Amendment No. 3, which is a very worthy attempt to deal with the issues which were so cogently argued by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, when this matter was last before the House. I am sufficiently attracted by certain features of the amendment now proposed by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, but at the same time I agree very much with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, that it does not seem to be necessary.

Amendment No. 3 as it stands is the outcome of detailed discussions between the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Government and deals with a fifth category of admixed embryo. It relies on an alternative regulation-making power in new Section 4A to amend the five categories to catch any other entities. The only problem is that it still is not totally and completely inclusive in one respect: the Amendment No. 3 approach is not entirely clear in that it does not specify precisely how an embryo is to be treated where the proportion of animal DNA varies such that it may predominate at some point but not at another. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Darzi, will deal with that in his reply.

One example of that—I have received a two-page briefing from Professor Robin Lovell-Badge—is the issue of tetraploid complementation and diploid complementation, but I do not understand those sufficiently to be able to impose the details on your Lordships' House. Therefore, I leave that matter in the worthy hands of the noble Lord, Lord Darzi. I hope that he can deal with the issue as to why, in some respects, this amendment, which is very satisfactory in many ways, is not totally complete and must be kept under review by the Government in the future.

My Lords, I thank the Government for tabling this amendment. I supported the amendment tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, in Committee and I support this government amendment. I have some sympathy with the amendment tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Howe. We discussed this in Committee and there is an issue to be tackled, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, said, at the other end of the spectrum.

To confuse the matter further, all the evidence from animal studies suggests that for tetraploid complementation, mentioned by my noble friend Lord Walton of Detchant, to happen the two species have to be very close. For example, tetraploid complementation will work in sheep and goat embryonic cells, but not in those of mice or rats. For it to work in humans, therefore, it will have to be a closely related species such as a chimpanzee. The transfer of an embryo into an animal will require a Home Office licence and that will not be permitted. If such an entity were created at some point, not too far along in the development of the embryo, it would grow faster than the embryonic tissues, so it is important to know at what point we are talking about. If, for example, it was in a human, I believe—I might be wrong—that could occur at what we call gastrulation. I think the Minister understands what I mean. In humans it would be about 14 days when organs are beginning to be defined. However, for the purposes of this Bill and the research, embryos will not be allowed to be experimented on beyond 14 days and for the purposes of obtaining stem cells, we are talking about four to six days.

The amendment tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, has some issues to be discussed but they may not be directly applicable to this Bill. The fact that the Government in the Commons retained a regulation-making power in new Section 4A(10) which allows existing categories to be amended, may mean that, in future, if necessary, we could discuss this again.

My Lords, the amendment tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, would extend the new admixed category where the animal DNA does not predominate to include embryos where the animal DNA would not ultimately predominate. I shall try to explain that. I can appreciate why the noble Earl may think this is necessary, but I can assure him that the provisions in the Bill already address this situation.

If it were considered that an embryo was to be created in which the human DNA would ultimately predominate, an application for an admixed research licence would have to be made to the HFEA at the outset. This is because a licence is required to bring about the creation of a human admixed embryo. If a researcher was intending to create an embryo that would at some stage be predominantly human, for however short that time might be, they would need a licence to do so.

The noble Lord, Lord Walton, also referred to tetraploid complementation where the cells of an early animal embryo are altered so that they contain twice the usual complement of DNA. These cells could give rise only to extra-embryonic tissue—for example, a placenta—and any human cells placed within it could give rise to the embryo proper. It would be an admixed embryo for the purposes of the new catch-all category that the Bill is adding to the definition of human admixed embryo at Clause 4.

The amendment tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, adds a regulation-making power to the categories of human admixed embryos to enable the definition to be extended. That was the position the Bill was in when it was last considered by your Lordships' House. We listened to persuasive arguments at that time that such a provision was too open, and we therefore replaced it with a category proposed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, of any other embryo containing animal and human DNA where the animal DNA does not predominate. In the case of an embryo in which the brain might be predominantly animal, it is worth reminding ourselves what we mean by “predominant”. We refer not only to the percentage of the DNA but also to its location and functionality. If that entity had a human brain, that could clearly have a predominant function so, by definition, it would be at the human end of the spectrum of human admixed embryos and would require an HFEA licence.

The amendments are therefore not necessary and could lead to a lack of clarity in the Bill as they overlap with the current provisions. I invite the noble Earl to withdraw his amendment.

My Lords, that was a very helpful reply, and I am grateful to noble Lords who spoke in this short debate. As the Minister will appreciate, my worry was that it did not seem to me to be totally clear from the wording of the Commons amendment that embryos that would alter their composition to contain predominantly human DNA post-14 days would all be captured. The Minister reassured us that the word “predominate” will cover all scenarios, but my problem is that the word “predominate” relates to an embryo, rather than a foetus, which is the term that would relate to the embryo at a later stage of its development where the proportion of animal and human DNA changes during development. A mid or late gestation foetus would definitely not be classified as an embryo. My amendment, which is inserted at the end of the government amendment, retains all the careful wording that my noble and learned friend helped to develop and clarifies that no matter how late in the potential development of the organism, which could be as late as the point of birth, if the human DNA ultimately predominated, it would be included as a human admixed embryo and thus would not be allowed to develop to that stage. After listening to the Minister’s reply, I am not totally secure that he has covered that point because of the use of the word “embryo” rather than “foetus”.

I listened with care to his helpful answer on the second part of my amendment. He clarified that the amendment covers not only the percentage of DNA, but also the functionality of the tissue. I had not appreciated that, and I do not think I could have been expected to from a bald reading of the wording of the amendment. It is valuable that that will go down in Hansard to be read. Unless the Minister wants to come back to me on the point I made about “embryo” as opposed to “foetus”, which is a significant point, I will bow to his reassurance.

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, it is important to notice that new Section 4A(3) states that:

“A licence cannot authorise the keeping or using of a human admixed embryo after the earliest of the following … the end of the period of 14 days beginning with the day on which”

it is created.

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, I wonder whether this is an opportunity to enable the Minister to clarify something because what is said from his Dispatch Box—

My Lords, I do not think this is an appropriate point at which to reopen the debate. The only remark that might be called for is one from my noble friend, if he chooses to speak. We are at the end.

My Lords, I think I am in order in using this opportunity to suggest to my noble friend that he might elicit from the Minister a clarification of a little sentence he put in that could be quite important. He said that predominance would not depend upon percentage only but also on location or function. Could my noble friend ask the Minister whether that means that if the cells concerned relate to the brain, which is the example he gave, although they are less than 50 per cent, they still predominate?

My Lords, the answer is yes. If that functionality predominates being human, that embryo will be classified as being at the human end of the spectrum of human admixed embryos.

My Lords, I feel even more reassured and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Commons Amendments Nos. 4 and 5

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 4 and 5, to which I have spoken with Amendments Nos. 1 and 3.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Commons Amendments Nos. 6 and 7

6: Page 8, leave out line 31 and insert-

“(1) Section 12 of the 1990 Act (general conditions of licences under that Act) is amended as follows.

(2) In”

7: Page 8, line 37, at end insert-

“(3) In subsection (2)-

(a) omit the “and” at the end of paragraph (a), and(b) at the end of paragraph (b) insert “, and(c) every licence under paragraph 3 of that Schedule, so far as authorising activities in connection with the derivation from embryos of stem cells that are intended for human application.”.”

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 6 and 7. I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 10 to 12, 105, 107 and 114 to 116.

During passage of the Bill through this House, debate took place on the use of embryonic stem cells, derived under a research licence, in therapeutic applications. The Government subsequently wrote to all Peers involved in those discussions setting out how, in the Government’s view, embryonic stem cells derived under an HFEA research licence could be used in therapeutic applications.

These amendments were made in the light of that debate to ensure that research centres deriving embryonic stem cells, where those stem cells are intended for therapeutic use, are required to abide by the quality and safety standards set out in the European Union tissue and cells directive in relation to the stem cells and the embryos from which they are derived.

The directive lays down standards of quality and safety for human tissues and cells intended for human application, including gametes and embryos. The relevant requirements already apply to embryos used in reproductive treatment as a result of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Quality and Safety) Regulations 2007. Stem cells derived from embryos are also regulated under the Human Tissue (Quality and Safety for Human Application) Regulations 2007. It is important that these standards are also applied to the embryos that are used to derive stem cells to be used in human application to ensure the necessary levels of quality and safety of any tissue to be used in treatment.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Commons Amendments Nos. 8 and 9

8: Page 9, line 30, leave out “being treated” and insert “mentioned in subsection (6A)”

9: Page 9, line 33, leave out “to be treated” and insert “mentioned in subsection (6A)”

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 8 and 9. I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 13, 32, 33, 35, 37, 40, 56 and 95 to 103. These are minor and technical drafting amendments to provide correction, clarity and consistency. Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 are purely technical and ensure consistency with the wording of the new Section 13(6) of the 1990 Act, as inserted by Clause 14 of the Bill. The amendments replace the words “the woman being treated” in the new Section 13(6B)(a) and the words,

“the woman to be treated”

in the new Section 13(6B)(b) with the words,

“the woman mentioned in subsection (6A)”.

This is to make clear that the reference in new Section 13(6B)(a) and (b) refers back to the woman mentioned in new Section 13(6A).

Amendment No. 13 is simply a minor drafting amendment, removing the superfluous words “any of” in reference to the three paragraphs of new Section 31ZD(3) in connection with the disclosure of information to donors. Amendment No. 32 makes a minor drafting correction to Clause 40. It is purely technical and changes the words in the clause to “the man” instead of “a man”, as currently drafted. I turn now to Amendments Nos. 33 and 35. In Clause 43 the woman being treated is referred to as “W”. Amendment No. 33 corrects a reference to “she” and replaces it with “W” for consistency. Amendment No. 35 makes a similar correction to Clause 46; the amendment replaces a reference to “the woman” with “W”.

Amendment No. 37 relates to Clause 50, which makes clear what a civil partnership is for the purpose of Clauses 35 to 47. This provision is equivalent to the provision in Clause 49 relating to marriage. The clause makes clear that a civil partnership is one which has been subsisting, unless a separation order is in force, and it includes the parties to a void civil partnership if either or both parties reasonably believed it was valid. Currently Clause 50 applies the definition to “the” reference to civil partnerships, but it needs to apply to “any” reference to civil partnerships at any time in Clauses 35 to 47. Amendment No. 37 is therefore a grammatical correction to Clause 50, which ensures that the meaning of civil partnership applies to any reference to civil partnership in Clauses 35 to 47 of the Bill.

Amendment No. 40 makes a minor amendment to Clause 55, which provides for the Secretary of State to be able to make regulations relating to enactments about adoption. Clause 55(3) lists what the enactments about adoption are. Amendment No. 40 makes a technical change to Clause 55(3) to ensure that it reads consistently with Clause 55(1) by changing “enactments relating to adoption” to “enactments about adoption”.

Amendment No. 56 is a drafting amendment to ensure consistency in situations where consent is required. This amendment is consequential to the embryo training provisions in the Bill, which allow embryologists to train using donated embryos. Provisions in the Bill ensure that before an embryo is received by any person, effective consent to the use of that embryo must be in place. Under the Bill, this consent could be to treatment, research or both. This amendment adds that consent could have been given for the use of an embryo in training. The person receiving the embryo must ensure that consent to one or more of these purposes is in place.

Amendment No. 95 corrects the amendments in Schedule 6 to the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 so that reference to “that person” is replaced with “the woman concerned” to reflect the definition inserted into Section 10(1B)(b)(i) of “a woman concerned” as a parent of a child by virtue of Clause 43 of the Bill. Amendments Nos. 98 and 99 are also technical and correct the amendment to the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Scotland) Act 1965 so that the references to “other parent of the child” and references to the “person” are replaced by “the woman concerned” to reflect the definition inserted into Section 18B(1) of “a woman concerned” as the parent of a child by virtue of Clause 43 of the Bill.

Amendments Nos. 96, 97, 101 and 102 make technical corrections to ensure that the Bill refers to the formation of a civil partnership and not the time of the civil partnership. This is because Section 1 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 defines a civil partnership as the relationship, not the ceremony. Therefore, references to entry into marriage cannot be translated to civil partnerships. Amendment No. 100 is a drafting correction to change the reference in Section 18B(3)(b) of the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Scotland) Act 1965 from “a child” to “the child” as the reference is to the child referred to earlier in subsection (3).

Amendment No. 103 is a technical correction; it corrects the amendment to the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 under paragraph 75 of Schedule 6 to the Bill to make an equivalent provision to the amendment to the Family Law Reform Act 1987 under paragraph 24(3) of Schedule 6 to the Bill, which makes provision for England and Wales. The amendment brings Northern Ireland provision in line with the provision for England and Wales, and ensures that both provisions read “domiciled immediately”. I beg to move.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Commons Amendments Nos. 10 to 13

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 10 to 13, to which I have spoken with Amendments Nos. 6 and 8.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Commons Amendments Nos. 14 to 23

14: Page 26, leave out lines 22 to 41 and insert-

“(g) the disclosure is made so that no individual can be identified from the information,(h) the disclosure is of information other than identifying donor information and is made with the consent required by section 33AB,”

15: Page 26, line 41, at end insert-

“(ja) the disclosure-(i) is made by a person who is satisfied that it is necessary to make the disclosure to avert an imminent danger to the health of an individual (“P”),(ii) is of information falling within section 31(2)(a) which could be disclosed by virtue of paragraph (h) with P's consent or could be disclosed to P by virtue of subsection (10), and(iii) is made in circumstances where it is not reasonably practicable to obtain P's consent,”

16: Page 27, leave out lines 38 to 50

17: Page 28, leave out lines 1 and 2

18: Page 28, line 7, leave out from “of” to “or” in line 12 and insert “identifying donor information,”

19: Page 28, leave out lines 18 to 30

20: Page 28, line 36, leave out “treated together with another” and insert “who is treated together with, or gives a notice under section 37 or 44 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 in respect of, another”

21: Page 28, leave out lines 39 and 40

22: Page 28, line 45, at end insert-

“( ) In this section “identifying donor information” means information enabling a person to be identified as a person whose gametes were used in accordance with consent given under paragraph 5 of Schedule 3 for the purposes of treatment services or non-medical fertility services in consequence of which an identifiable individual was, or may have been, born.”

23: Page 28, line 45, at end insert-

“33AB Consent required to authorise certain disclosures(1) This section has effect for the purposes of section 33A(2)(h).

(2) Subject to subsection (5), the consent required by this section is the consent of each individual who can be identified from the information.

(3) Consent in respect of a person who has not attained the age of 18 years (“C”) may be given-

(a) by C, in a case where C is competent to deal with the issue of consent, or(b) by a person having parental responsibility for C, in any other case.(4) Consent to disclosure given at the request of another shall be disregarded unless, before it is given, the person requesting it takes reasonable steps to explain to the individual from whom it is requested the implications of compliance with the request.

(5) In the case of information which shows that any identifiable individual (“A”) was, or may have been, born in consequence of treatment services, the consent required by this section does not include A's consent if the disclosure is necessarily incidental to the disclosure of information falling within section 31(2)(a).

(6) The reference in subsection (3) to parental responsibility is-

(a) in relation to England and Wales, to be read in accordance with the Children Act 1989;(b) in relation to Northern Ireland, to be read in accordance with the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995;(c) in relation to Scotland, to be read as a reference to parental responsibilities and parental rights within the meaning of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995.”

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 14 to 23.We recognise that it is very important that the 1990 Act and the Bill strike the right balance between, on the one hand, safeguarding the confidential information of patients, their partners, donors and children held by the HFEA and clinics and, on the other hand, allowing information to be disclosed by the HFEA and clinics in circumstances that warrant it. However, at present the 1990 Act is not as conducive to this as it could be. For instance, it prohibits the HFEA from disclosing identity information about patients, even where the patient consents to such disclosure. We regard this as too restrictive. In particular, it is not helpful for follow-up research into the effects of infertility treatment on patients and their children. At present, such research could not draw on information from the HFEA that identified the patient, even if the patient was very keen to see the research take place and had consented to the disclosure of their information.

To help this, Clause 25 introduces a provision that allows the HFEA to disclose information from its register of treatment with the consent of the people identified. Following the debate in this House and amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Patel, we gave further consideration to the detail of the new provision. In particular, we have looked at the relationship between disclosure and consent in certain situations. As a result, we have identified where the Bill could benefit from greater clarification. The amendments that we have tabled address this. The group of amendments provides that disclosure of identifying information about a person aged under 18 must have their consent or, if they are not competent to consent, the consent of someone who has parental responsibility for them. This is important, as researchers may well want information about the child in order to undertake follow-up research into their health. This could be a sensitive issue for the child and it is only right that their consent to the disclosure of information is obtained.

The amendments also ensure that the consent provisions do not allow for the provisions in the 1990 Act and the Bill for the disclosure of identifying information about donors to be inadvertently circumvented. Those specific provisions in Section 31(3) to (7) of the 1990 Act, and carried forward by new Sections 31ZA and 31ZB in Clause 24 of the Bill set out the circumstances in which the HFEA can disclose identifying donor information. They provide, for instance, that identifying information about donors can only be provided to a relevant person aged 18 or over. The amendments ensure that this remains the correct route by which identifying donor information, with all its associated sensitivities, is disclosed by the HFEA to people who may be born as a result of such treatment. The amendments make these circumstances exceptions to the new provisions for the HFEA to release information with the consent of those identified. In doing so, they remove, for example, the risk of parents putting pressure on the HFEA to approach a donor for consent to his identifying information being released to them and their child. I beg to move.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Commons Amendments Nos. 24 to 26

24: Page 32, line 26, at end insert-

“( ) In subsection (7), for “section 10(2)(a)” substitute “section 19B(3)(a) or 20B(3)(e)“.”

25: Page 32, line 31, leave out “(7) or”

26: Page 33, line 21, leave out “, (6) and (7)” and insert “and (6)”

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 24 to 26. I shall speak also to Commons Amendments Nos. 117 and 118.

Amendments Nos. 24, 25, and 26 relate to Clause 29, which amends Section 41 of the 1990 Act that sets out offences under the Act. These amendments are minor and technical and carry forward existing provisions in the 1990 Act.

A licence or appeals committee of the HFEA has the power to require, or summons, oral or written evidence. If the summons is not complied with, it is an offence under the 1990 Act. This is set out in Section 41(7) of the Act, which states that if there is not a reasonable excuse as to why the summons for evidence has not been complied with, a person is guilty of an offence. The Bill has the same power for an appeals or licence committee to require evidence but does not, as currently drafted, make it an offence not to comply with the request. These amendments would ensure that the power under new Sections 19B and 20B could be enforced.

Amendments Nos. 117 and 118 amend Schedule 8, which sets out the sections of the 1990 Act that will be repealed. These amendments ensure that the relevant sections of the Act are not repealed.

Amendment No. 28 relates to the process, set out by the 1990 Act, for appealing against licence decisions. Clause 21 replaces these provisions in the 1990 Act with new Sections 20, 20A, 20B and 21. These provisions set out the process for reconsideration and appeals.

Clause 21 introduces two regulation-making powers, at new Sections 20A(3) and 20B(2), to make provision for the proceedings and membership of an appeals committee, and procedure in relation to reconsideration of licence decisions. It was deemed appropriate to make these provisions through regulations rather than in the Bill so that the detail could be consulted upon. Both regulations are subject to negative resolution under the Bill. Amendment No. 28 makes these regulations subject to the affirmative procedure, and follows discussions on this issue during Public Bill Committee in another place. In light of these discussions, and taking into account the likely interest and importance of these regulations, I believe that the affirmative procedure is more appropriate. The Department of Health will consult on the detail of these regulations in due course.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 24 to 26.—(Baroness Thornton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Commons Amendments Nos. 27 to 30

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 27 to 30, to which I have spoken with earlier amendments.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Commons Amendment No. 31

31: Page 37, line 23, at end insert-

“( ) A notice under subsection (1)(a), (b) or (c) by a person (“S”) who is unable to sign because of illness, injury or physical disability is to be taken to comply with the requirement of subsection (2) as to signature if it is signed at the direction of S, in the presence of S and in the presence of at least one witness who attests the signature.”

I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 31. I shall speak also to Commons Amendments Nos. 34, 53, 62 to 71 and 73 to 88.

The Bill introduces new paragraph 1(2) of Schedule 3 to the 1990 Act, which enables a person who lacks physical capacity to direct another to sign a notice of consent on their behalf. This ensures that where someone is physically incapacitated, they are not prevented from giving consent to the creation, keeping and use of embryos and human admixed embryos and to the storage and use of gametes to create embryos.

Commons Amendments Nos. 31 and 34 ensure that an equivalent provision is made where consent is required to being treated as the father or second female parent of a child born by assisted conception. These amendments enable the person giving consent to direct another person to sign the notice of consent on their behalf. Equally, if the mother of the child is unable to sign the notice she can direct someone to sign on her behalf. These amendments ensure consistency in the Bill.

Amendments Nos. 53, 62 to 71 and 73 to 88 are purely technical in nature and have been raised at this point after further scrutiny of the Bill. Amendment No. 53 replaces the phrase “the incapacitated person” with the phrase a “person unable to sign”, to distinguish a person who is incapacitated due to illness, injury or physical disability from people who lack capacity to consent, which is relevant in the context of other amendments later in this schedule.

During previous consideration of the Bill in this House, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, raised concerns about the words “child donor” in new paragraph 9 of Schedule 3, where these words are referring to a patient who is a child. In order to prevent any confusion with the terminology, minor technical amendments have been made throughout, replacing the words “child donor” with the letter “C”. For consistency, further amendments are needed to replace the word “patient” with the letter “P” in new paragraph 10. These are covered by Amendments Nos. 62 to 71 and 73 to 88.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 31.—(Baroness Thornton.)

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, for the provision that she has just made. As she rightly said, we will come to the substantive question on consent later in our proceedings. However, for the clarification that has been provided in this group of amendments, I am indebted to her.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Commons Amendments Nos. 32 to 35

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 32 to 35, to which I have spoken with earlier amendments.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Commons Amendment No. 36

36: Page 43, line 13, at end insert-

“(5A) In relation to England and Wales and Northern Ireland, a child who-

(a) has a parent by virtue of section 42, or(b) has a parent by virtue of section 43 who is at any time during the period beginning with the time mentioned in section 43(b) and ending with the time of the child's birth a party to a civil partnership with the child's mother,is the legitimate child of the child's parents.”

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 36.

Amendment No. 36 relates to consequential amendments made to other Acts by the Bill. These amendments specifically relate to the Legitimacy Act 1976 and the Family Law Reform Act 1987, in respect of the legitimacy of children born by assisted conception to civil partners, to bring these rules in line with those for married couples.

Since the introduction of the Bill, it has been identified that while a child born to a same-sex couple who later entered into a civil partnership would be treated as legitimate in law for all purposes, a child born to civil partners would not be treated as legitimate in law for all purposes, but only for the purposes set out in statute. For example, many family trusts create classes of beneficiary limited to “lawful issue”; that is, legitimate children. In such cases, the anomaly would operate unless corrected through these amendments. Amendment No. 36 corrects this unintended consequence by making a clear statement that a child born to civil partners will be treated as legitimate in law for all purposes.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham has tabled an amendment to Amendment No. 36. I shall respond to it after he has spoken to his amendment.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 36.—(Baroness Thornton.)

moved, as an amendment to the Motion, Amendment No. 36A:

at end insert, “but do propose Amendments Nos. 36B and 36C as consequential amendments to the Bill:

36B: Page 52, line 27, at beginning insert “Subject to subsections (3) and (4)”

36C: Page 52, line 28, at end insert-

“(3) No order bringing sections 42 and 43 into force shall be made until after the publication of the results of an 18-month consultation with children and young people on the effects of these sections.

(4) An order under subsection (3) shall not be made unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, both Houses of Parliament.”

The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, Clauses 42 and 43 were not debated on the Floor of the other place because of the shortage of time. In the final minutes of the remaining stages last Wednesday, it was said by the Member who tabled amendments to Clauses 42 and 43:

“I am deeply saddened that we have not had a proper debate, and that there has not been a chance for every Member to go through one or other Division Lobby, on the issue”.—[Official Report, Commons, 22/10/08; col. 410.]

On Monday, the following letter appeared in the Daily Telegraph, setting down a challenge to this House:

“Sir—It is a sad reflection on the state of democracy in Britain that last Wednesday, without proper debate, the Government pushed through its highly controversial Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (Letters, October 25) … There was no opportunity to debate the extraordinary proposals for deliberate creation of children with the intention they be denied a father for the duration of their childhood … we hope the Lords will do all it can to make good these failings”.

It is signed by two Members of the other place.

Given the lack of opportunity for scrutiny of Clauses 42 and 43, and attendant concerns that questions will be asked about our parliamentary process, I have been more than happy to table the amendment in my name that seeks to provide opportunity for greater scrutiny of these two clauses. I will first outline some of the problems of these provisions before focusing on the consultation proposed in my amendment.

Currently, at the point of conception, every child has a chance of having a father as a parent during their childhood. I stress the word “chance” because there is no right to have a father that the law can guarantee. In this regard, there are at least two scenarios which we need to keep in view. First, disaster might strike; tragically, some fathers are killed before the birth of their children. Secondly, we must have regard for women who become pregnant either naturally or by IVF, with no immediate prospect of a present father who can input into the child’s life. At the point of conception, however, both have the chance of having a father because in the first instance, we do not know that the father will die, and in the second, the fact that a woman is not married or living with a partner when she becomes pregnant does not mean that it is intended that she will remain that way for the duration of the child’s childhood. She may marry at a later stage, and then the child would enjoy access to a social father for a period.

While the law cannot guarantee a present father, it would surely be quite wrong, in my view, for the state to put in place a legal framework to allow for the deliberate creation of children with the intention that they should be denied the chance of ever having a father throughout their childhood, yet this is precisely the effect of the clauses before us.

In making this point, I am keenly aware that some will say that with gay adoption legal, the point of principle has been conceded, and Clauses 42 and 43 simply outwork its implications in the context of IVF. This, however, is completely untrue. When a child is conceived who is later adopted by a lesbian couple, they have the chance of being parented by a father and may well have been parented by a father for a period. These children were not deliberately created with official sanction of the intention that they should be denied a father for the duration of childhood. While an argument can be made that despite the evidence suggesting the importance of fathers, it is better for children to be looked after by a loving same-sex family than for them to be in an institution, it is not appropriate—given the balance of research which clearly demonstrates the importance of fathers to the well-being of children as well as the importance of children’s rights— deliberately to create children with the intention that they should be denied a father for the duration of their childhood.

When I was at school, we were told how bad things were for children in the 19th century. We were told how the upper classes suffered under a regime in which they were to be seen and not heard and how the lower classes were sent up chimneys and down mines. Since then, our teachers told us, things have improved, and in many ways they clearly have. But this legislation causes me big concerns. It shows a preoccupation with the rights of adults and would-be parents and loses sight of the importance of the rights of the child. In highlighting this point, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, who has prepared a legal opinion on the parenthood implications of the Bill. The opinion concludes that the changes proposed in the legislation,

“introduce an imbalance of human rights protections as between same-sex parents and the child. It is often said that in matters such as adoption, the best interests of the child are paramount. I do not see how the best interests of the child are served by the introduction of these changes”.

Given the problems with Clauses 42 and 43, not least in relation to human rights, it seems only appropriate that we should pause before implementing these extremely controversial proposals. As well as revisiting the human rights arguments in light of the balance of current research about what is in the child’s best interests, I also think it is vital to listen to the views of children and young people specifically. It is interesting that the consultation process that went before the Bill—the 2005 review of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act—managed to construe some key questions without even mentioning the child directly. Consider the following:

“The Government seeks views on whether the status and legal parenthood provisions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act should apply to same-sex couples who do not form a civil partnership. If so, how would automatic recognition of parenthood be achieved, given the lack of legal ties between the couple?”.

It is almost as if the child were not there.

The provision of an appropriate focused consultation exercise with children and young people would be entirely appropriate given the Government’s commitment to consult children and young people in the Children’s Plan. Indeed, it seems to me that if the Government are to consult children and young people on anything, they must surely talk to them about controversial proposals such as these which seek deliberately to create children with the intention that they be denied a father for the duration of their childhood and are vulnerable to the accusation that they have been developed out of regard for the interests of adults rather than children.

I very much look forward to hearing the views of other Members of your Lordships' House on this important issue. I beg to move.

My Lords, the House will be relieved to hear that I do not look upon this as an opportunity to rehash all the arguments about why, when treatment is being considered, regard should be had to the child’s need for a father. But in view of the fact that there was no debate in the other place of Clauses 42 and 43, I think some brief comments are appropriate.

We often discuss in this place the rights of children, and I find it absolutely astonishing that we are being asked to sanction the deliberate creation of children with the intent that they be denied a father for the duration of their childhood, completely ignoring those children’s rights. That seems so obviously wrong that there is no need for further words of embellishment. But how can it be seriously argued that the right of two women to have a child is so strong that it completely overwhelms and drives out of court other people’s rights, in particular the rights of the child they insist on bringing into the world?

One of the purposes of the Bill is to ensure that same-sex couples may produce a child by donor, the arrival of the child being the very object of the exercise. I believe that its human rights are as important as, if not more important, than the rights of the same-sex couple. I shall certainly support the right reverend Prelate’s amendment, but must say that I find wholly objectionable the idea that by a legal fiction, a child should find itself with two women as its parents instead of a father and a mother. I do not believe that such a child’s human rights are being properly protected.

My Lords, I very much welcome and support the right reverend Prelate’s amendment. It is deeply concerning that Clauses 42 and 43, which raise such profound human rights and welfare questions for children, were never debated on the Floor of the other place. If we vote for this amendment today, that will at least result in the issue being sent back to the other place and then, I hope, in the provision of a proper debate by the elected Chamber on this far-reaching issue. I believe that that is our responsibility, regardless of what we think of the issues.

As previous speakers have pointed out, there is all the difference in the world, from the perspective of the rights of the child, between allowing a child to be adopted by a same-sex couple in preference to their remaining in an institution and the state providing for their deliberate creation with the intention they be denied a father for the duration of their childhood. It is not clear to me how we can sanction this without allowing the rights of the would-be parents to trump the rights and best interests of the child. As the right reverend Prelate noted, to this degree Clauses 42 and 43 invoke the failings of previous ages albeit in new contexts.

We need to pause. The Government need to study carefully the legal opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Brennan. We need to at least consider and carefully analyse how children themselves will feel about the future, deliberate creation of children with the intention that they be denied a father. There is an undeniable moral argument that, however powerful a Government may consider themselves to be, they should not embark on such a blatantly unnatural procedure as this Bill proposes. Since moral arguments seem to have less consequence today—not least within the higher echelons of new Labour—let me look briefly at a purely social contradiction.

It is a social requirement—I agree with it—that errant fathers should be pursued and legally obliged to provide for the upbringing of their children. How can that obligation possibly be sustained when the Government are today willing to decree that children can be denied a father? What is the essential difference to a child between its father avoiding the responsibility of fatherhood and the Government nullifying its right to have a father? Both are effectively the same. This Bill will create an absolute paradox as it currently stands. Nor do I hear any cogent case to support this contradiction coming from society in general.

Returning to my original point, it is absolutely clear that we must vote for this amendment and provide the opportunity for a debate on the Floor of the other place on the deliberate creation of children with the intention that they be denied a father. We owe this much to children here in the United Kingdom.

My Lords, it is always a pleasure to listen to and to follow the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass. On this issue I can say to him, “No surrender”. I agree with everything he has brought to your Lordships’ attention. I will not repeat the views I have expressed earlier in Committee and on Report, although it is a sad reflection on the state of participatory democracy that, as the right reverend Prelate said in his splendid introductory remarks, another place did not find the time to discuss something of rather fundamental importance. History will look back sadly and judge this.

That said, I have two points to make. First, I recall not points that I made earlier but the whole drift of debate here in Committee and on Report from those who supported this approach. They have been highly utilitarian about supporting the needs, desires and wants of parents who choose not to include a father; they should have those desires satisfied now. No consideration at all has been given to possible adverse effects on children years or decades down the line. Those arguments were rather brushed aside as not being worthy of consideration in the times we live in now. I think that is sad. I am sure that if this particular provision passes into law, sociologists and others will quite quickly be starting generational studies to see what happens to children brought up in this way and how they turn out in 10, 12 or 15 years. I cannot predict the results of that but there are serious issues of concern in proceeding in this way.

Secondly, I genuinely support the Government’s approach over the past 10 years to wider consultation. It has been good. It is sometimes hard to understand or interpret the results, but that is not the Government’s fault. The Government have been exceptionally good at consulting. There is a lesson there for future Governments. Yet I find it extraordinary that this Government, who are so keen on consultation, should choose not to consult children about this key issue. These are their rights. The children we would consult may not be born under these circumstances but when I have consulted those who are called children—albeit statistically a small group—they cannot believe that this sort of thing is happening without their opinion being sought.

It is extraordinary that the Government do not pause and think again on this issue. As the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass, said, we should send this back to another place so that they can look properly at it. They can at least demonstrate that they have given some consideration to something which in future years will be seen to be extraordinarily dismissive of the rights of children in a way that flies in the face of so much else that this Government have done concerning the rights of children.

My Lords, I apologise to the right reverend Prelate for not being present when he started moving his amendment.

I do not want to repeat what I said earlier in Committee, but I remind the House that Section 1 of the Children Act says that the welfare of children is paramount. I am well aware that we are discussing something rather less than the rights of children. We are talking about the advice given to would-be parents going through the process.

I have experienced in my previous life extremely good care being exhibited by single-sex parents, both male and female. I also care about the situation in which two men may exclude women from their lives as I do about two women who may exclude men. We need to bear in mind the fact that if we take out the word “father”, the message that goes out to the public is that fatherhood—and to some extent perhaps motherhood—matters less than I would have thought this Government thought it did.

My Lords, it has become apparent over the past 10 months or so, as I have closely followed deliberations at every stage of this Bill both here and in another place, that it is the fate of us in this House to be considered heroes when we disagree with the House of Commons and largely ignored when we do not. I say that to make the point that the amendment of the right reverend Prelate is unnecessary for a number of reasons. His amendment to delay the implementation of these two clauses is effectively a wrecking amendment. It takes away the recognition of a woman who is a civil partner of a woman who had received treatment until there has been an 18-month consultation with young people. I will return to the nature of the consultation. To begin, I point out two things.

First, on 19 and 20 May, the whole of the House of Commons, on the Floor of the House of Commons—before the Bill was debated in Committee—discussed the issue we have come to know as the need for a father. They did so and, happily, reached the same conclusion as Members of this House: this legislation should reflect the fact that we now have civil partnerships in this country and that there are families of same-sex couples with children.

The amendment is unnecessary for another reason: this provision was debated extensively in your Lordships’ House. Many noble Lords took part in debates at Second Reading, in Committee, on Report and at Third Reading, where some made Second Reading speeches also. The matter was given a great deal of time. I say that to make the following point. Members of this House decided earlier this year that we should have legislation that acknowledges the existence of those families. It did not do so lightly or without consideration of the best interests of children. Members of this House bothered to read research findings that were presented to them. Some of it, such as the dossier provided by Christian Action Research and Education, turned out not to be research at all but merely anecdotal opinion. The sociological studies that the noble Lord, Lord Patten, mentioned have been going on for some considerable time. Professor Susan Golombok and other colleagues at Cambridge, who are the foremost academics on research into families and fatherhood, presented information that was made freely available to all noble Lords. Some of us, who are diligent enough to believe that it is our duty to look after the best interests of children, read that research and arrived at a conclusion.

Some Members of this House do not accept the conclusions that the majority reached and would rather that civil partnerships did not exist. I think that some Members of this House would rather that gay people did not exist, but they do. The whole point of this legislation was to ensure that children born into those families receive the same legal recognition and protection as other children. What will be achieved by doing what the right reverend Prelate asks? It will defer indefinitely protection for a very small group of children who live in families, meaning that they do not have the legal protection of both their parents. They will not be able to inherit property and financial support as other children do.

The right reverend Prelate talks about consultation. Which children and young people would he consult? What would he ask them, and what would he do with the results of the consultation? If we have learnt anything over the past 10 months, during which we have looked into all the matters in the Bill, it is that it is very easy for two groups of people to present the same issue completely differently and to elicit from the public diametrically opposite results. I do not believe that that is how we should treat matters of such importance. It is the role of Members of Parliament to consider all the best evidence before them and to come to what they believe is a legislative framework that will look after the rights of children.

We are where we are today in our society. The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, was right to remind us of Section 1 of the Children Act. The rights of children are paramount, and some of us who disagree with other noble Lords who have already spoken have kept that to the forefront of our mind throughout debates on this legislation. We have come to the conclusion that it would be right to reflect civil partnership in all its implications and to ensure that children who at the moment do not have the opportunity to grow up in stable and secure families can do so. I hope that noble Lords will recall our earlier discussions and resist the right reverend Prelate’s amendment.

My Lords, I cannot forbear intervening in this debate, though I will be very brief. I was moved by what the right reverend Prelate said and cannot help thinking that nothing said since has successfully rebutted what he alleged at the very beginning of this debate. I simply cannot understand why it can be right in any circumstances to put the child’s interests last; to my mind, they must be put first, as established in previous legislation. In this case, the legislation does not do that; it puts them in a secondary position. We all know how dangerous it is to break with an acknowledged fact—in this case, for instance, that children are very important and should be considered as such because they often have no voice of their own. Once we have agreed that, how can we go back on it? That is what we are doing.

I wish to make one further small point—it seems a big point to me. Surely we are denying children the right to a father not only during their childhood but throughout their life. I have found on many occasions, and many noble Lords will know this from their own family, how a young person over 18 can have as much need and love for his father as a much younger child. I cannot accept this.

My Lords, I support the amendment moved by the right reverend Prelate. I will not repeat the arguments I rehearsed at Second Reading and will be as brief as I can. A couple of years ago, I attended a course in child development. After one of the lectures I asked the lecturer his view on the very question that we are debating this evening. He said that he had no view but added that he was treating a young man who had been brought up in a same-sex partnership, by lesbian parents. He was treating the young man because those parents did not like men. They found men objectionable and considered them violent so this young man was recovering from an experience where his gender, his identity, was seen as objectionable in his own family.

I hope that that is a one-off situation, but it is an interesting coincidence that the one time I asked the therapist that question, he pointed out that he was treating a young man who grew up in a same-sex partnership and had those issues. I would appreciate reassurance from the Minister. There must be a concern that at least some of those same-sex parents will have antipathy to the other sex. Does it not really reinforce the argument for ensuring as far as possible that there is at least a father figure for a son to turn to if he grows up in such a situation. That causes me concern.

I recognise that this is a very complex matter. The noble Lord, Lord Winston, raised the issue of how you implement legislation in this area. Emphasis should be put on the need to struggle with parents to get them to consider what the needs of the child will be if, for instance, a son is born to two mothers. What additional support will that family need in terms of having a male figure to take an interest in the son?

The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, asked how one would consult children on these matters. I understand that these things are difficult to do well, but the Children’s Commissioner for England, Professor Sir Al Aynsley-Green, is well equipped to do that sort of consultation, and Dr Roger Morgan of Ofsted is well used to doing that for young people in care.

I recognise and am grateful for the work of the Cambridge researchers in this area, Professor Susan Golombok foremost. This is clearly important work. However, to the best of my recollection, it was rather a small sample of families and the age range of children examined was only up to the age of 18. I think that it was observed that, within the two groups—the control group with non-same-sex couples and the other group with same-sex couples—incidences of young people having same-sex relations as they were growing up occurred within the group that had same-sex parents, but did not occur in the couples that were a man and a woman together. I remember the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, saying some time ago that we can always find a report to support whatever view we wish to put forward. I am sure that intentions here on all parts are of the best. This is a very emotive issue, but we need to be careful not to take just the evidence that suits us best to achieve our objectives.

The Government have achieved so much for young people, in particular for young people in care. It is a very hard struggle to make a change in this area, as they are starting from such a low base, but the achievements of the Acts on children needing care, and schemes such as Quality Protects and Care Matters, are so important for these young people. I hesitate to criticise the Government in this sort of area because of those achievements. I listened this morning to the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, giving evidence on the future of children in care and the Government’s strategy on that. The key thing is that there will now be children in care councils, and children who are in the care of a public authority will meet regularly with the leaders and other members of local authorities to tell them what their experiences of care have been and what they would like to see change. Her key principle is that the voice of children will be heard in future in this scenario.

The suggestion from the right reverend Prelate that we should take the opportunity to consult children on this matter, which will concern them very much, is a helpful one. This is a vexed and difficult issue, but I hope that the Minister can offer me some reassurance, particularly about the scenario of two women bringing up a son when they do not particularly like men. If the Minister cannot provide me with reassurance on that point, I regret that I shall have to support the right reverend Prelate if he decides to divide on this amendment.

My Lords, I associate myself with the remarks of the right reverend Prelate, and particularly the distinction that he makes between the situation on adoption and the situation being created here. It is highly important that the views of children on this matter are taken.

My Lords, I support the right reverend Prelate in his amendment. The amendment does not seek to wreck the provisions, as some noble Lords suggest; it is calling for further reflection and consideration and seems entirely appropriate. The matters that we are debating today I regard as by far the most serious that we have considered. We have spent a lot of time talking about planning and pensions, which are huge matters—but what is at stake here are pure definitions of life, origin and family.

To follow on from what the noble and learned Lord said, a key issue here will be one of coherence. It is worth reflecting for a second on what Clause 45 as currently worded actually states, which the amendment seeks to change. The clause is entitled, “Further provision relating to sections 42 and 43”, and says:

“Where a woman is treated by virtue of section 42 or 43 as a parent of the child, no man is to be treated as the father of the child”.

I may not be a scientist, but as a father I am pretty aware that that cannot be true. There is a father to the child; the question is whether that father should be acknowledged or not. The father will be acknowledged over the age of 18, when the child will be entitled to seek out that person—so at that point he will be there. The question is whether the factual existence of the father is acknowledged.

When this legislation was first introduced, it was as a necessary amendment to the 1990 Act in this area, which stated very clearly that various factors had been taken into account, including the need of that child for a father. I am not sure what has changed since 1990 that would make it necessary to delete that sentiment and that fact from the legislation. On the contrary, much of the legislation that has come forward in the Children Act, as well as the Child Support Agency, puts huge pressure on fathers to take on board their financial and moral obligations to children. So we need to be very careful in all legislation that is passed through this House to ensure that we send out the right message. The message that is encapsulated in the amendment as proposed by the right reverend Prelate is that fathers are important—they are a fact and they are essential.

My Lords, Amendments Nos. 36A, 36B and 36C have been tabled by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham and look to delay significantly the enactment of the clauses of the Bill which enable a child born as a result of assisted reproduction to a same-sex couple to have two legal parents.

The Bill seeks to ensure that civil partners and other same-sex couples are recognised as the legal parents of children conceived through the use of donated sperm, eggs, or embryos, in line with married couples and unmarried heterosexual couples. In addition to this, the Bill amends the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 to enable the second female parent to be named on the birth certificate. This is consistent with the wider government policy on promoting equality, as evidenced by the Civil Partnership Act 2004 and the national legislation prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The provisions relating to the recognition of the female second parent are set out in Clauses 42 and 43, which bring the provisions for female civil partners in line with those for married couples, and the provisions for other same-sex couples with those for heterosexual couples who are not married. These provisions enable a child born to a same-sex couple to have two legal parents, which, I am sure your Lordships will agree, must be in the best interests of the child.

Amendments Nos. 36A, 36B and 36C would significantly delay the enactment of these very important provisions. The idea that we have had no time to debate this issue seems to me nonsense; the principle of same-sex parents was debated at length in the context of the need for a father, from the 1990 Act. This specific issue was debated on the Floor of the House in another place for almost three hours; it was also debated at length in this House and many noble Lords took part in those debates during that period. I remind the right reverend Prelate that this is something that has been subject to considerable valuable debate; the House has voted and made its position quite clear. The issue has been debated and voted on in another place and Members of that House agreed to the position in the Bill as it left this House. Therefore, let us be quite clear that the current position in the Bill on this issue reflects an agreed position between the two Houses. As your Lordships are aware, the purpose of today’s debate is to consider those changes made to the Bill in another place, not those issues on which the House has already decided.

I shall recap what these changes do. Clause 42 brings the provisions for female civil partners into line with those for married couples. The Archbishop’s amendments—sorry, I mean the amendments proposed by the right reverend Prelate. I am giving him a promotion that I am sure he deserves. His amendments would delay, perhaps significantly, the commencement of the Bill’s provisions, but would enable both members of the same-sex couple to be recognised as the legal parents of a child born to them following assisted reproduction. To delay this would be unfair to the couple and also deprive the children of having two parents. I shall turn in a moment to some of the studies referred to, but the Bill protects the interests of the child by ensuring that it has two parents named on its birth certificate. A provision that would not give the child a father is simply removing the child’s second parent. This would not be in the child’s best interest and the Government are content that these provisions are compatible with the convention.

Noble Lords may not approve of same-sex couples being parents but the fact is that they are parents, and they are good parents. The suggestion which has run as an undercurrent through this debate, that same-sex parents are of less value than mixed-sex parents, is quite offensive and incorrect. We have had these discussions many times and we know that opinion on these issues runs high in your Lordships’ House, but it is sad to suggest in this day and age that having two women as loving parents is somehow to deny a human right to a child.

Clause 43 makes parenthood provisions for female couples who are not in a civil partnership where one of the women gives birth to a child following assisted conception treatment at a UK-licensed clinic. If valid female parenthood conditions are in place with the partner at the time of the conception of the child, the other woman will be treated as the parent of that child. The provisions in Clause 43 mirror those for unmarried heterosexual couples where the woman has a child as a result of assisted conception with donor sperm in a UK-licensed clinic.

The effect of the amendments proposed by the right reverend Prelate would delay the enactment of these important clauses, which have been debated extensively in this House and at length in another place. I encourage the right reverend Prelate to withdraw the amendment, but if he decides to move it, I invite the House to resist it.

My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister a simple question. She used the word “offensive” when she was referring to some people who thought it was better for a child to have two parents, a male and a female. What is the Government’s definition of a family?

My Lords, we have discussed this at great length. Evidence presented to the Joint Committee of both Houses, for example, demonstrated that the emotional well-being and other aspects of development of children growing up in lesbian families are comparable to those in heterosexual families. Many noble Lords, including the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, have suggested that what is important is that children are brought up in loving, supportive families. It is unrealistic to suggest that that is an undesirable situation when that is what happens. We need to make sure that such children are not disadvantaged by the legal process through not having legitimate parents entered on their birth certificates. That is what the amendment is about.

My Lords, I want to emulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton, by keeping moderation as the tone of the debate. He set a good example at the beginning of this Session. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate for the issues they have raised. Now is not the time for an academic seminar. I resist strongly the suggestion that this is intended to be a wrecking amendment. I am conscious that many social lives will be wrecked if we prolong this debate too long, but we are engaging in legitimate due parliamentary process at this time and that is why I am pursuing the matter.

There is a major moral issue here, a major debate. I have heard enough discomfort around the Chamber and I would like to test the opinion of the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Commons Amendment No. 37

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 37, to which I have spoken with Amendment No. 8.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Commons Amendments Nos. 38 and 39

38: Page 44, line 10, at end insert-

“( ) The reference in section 48(5A)(b) to a civil partnership includes a reference to a void civil partnership if either or both of the parties reasonably believed at the time when they registered as civil partners of each other that the civil partnership was valid; and for this purpose it is to be presumed, unless the contrary is shown, that one of them reasonably believed at that time that the civil partnership was valid.”

39: Page 45, line 16, at end insert-

“( ) the Schedule to the Population (Statistics) Act 1938 (c. 12),”

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 38 and 39. The Bill sets out provisions for legal parenthood for same-sex couples. Following assisted conception, provisions in the Bill allow for the female partner of the woman giving birth, whether in a civil partnership or not, to be entered as a parent at birth registration.

Amendment No. 38 relates to Amendment No. 36 as discussed in the previous group. Amendment No. 38, together with Amendment No. 36, ensures that children born to civil partners following assisted conception treatment will be treated as legitimate in the same way as if their parents were married.

Amendments Nos. 39, 47 and 94 relate to the registration of the birth of a child born by assisted reproduction to a same-sex couple. At birth registration, some statistical information is currently collected under statute by the registrar. This relates to the age of the mother and father and, if they are married, the date of marriage, whether the mother has been married previously and the number of children born to the mother. The information that the registrar is required to collect is set out in the Population (Statistics) Act 1938. Following the Bill, the questions that would be asked when registering the birth require amendment. The existing wording would be inappropriate for same-sex couples. Amendments Nos. 39, 47 and 94 make the necessary changes to the Population (Statistics) Act 1938 to allow for the collection of information relating to the age of the same-sex parents and the date of any civil partnership, where applicable, so that same-sex parents are treated equally to other parents.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Commons Amendment No. 40

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 40, to which I have spoken with Amendment No. 8.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Commons Amendments Nos. 41 to 45

41: Page 49, line 11, after first “any” insert “reasonable”

42: Page 49, line 14, after “any” insert “reasonable”

43: Page 49, line 19, after first “any” insert “reasonable”

44: Page 49, line 21, after “any” insert “reasonable”

45: Page 49, line 23, at end insert-

“(2C) Any reference in subsection (2A) or (2B) to a reasonable payment in respect of the doing of an act by a non-profit making body is a reference to a payment not exceeding the body's costs reasonably attributable to the doing of the act.“

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 41 to 45. Surrogacy is a very sensitive issue on which people hold differing views. We recognise that there are situations where a couple wish to have a child of their own but are not able to and may wish to seek to use a surrogate, such as where a woman in a well established relationship has eggs but no functioning womb. It is important that there are organisations to which they can turn for support and advice if they choose to consider surrogacy.

Amendments Nos. 41 to 45 relate to surrogacy organisations and the aspects of their services for which they may charge. Clause 59 amends the Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985 to clarify the position in law of non-profit making surrogacy organisations. It makes it clear that they may charge for certain aspects of their services on a non-profit-making basis, and enables them to advertise the services for which they may charge.

These bodies have a useful role to play in initiating negotiations with a view to making surrogacy arrangements and compiling information about surrogacy with a view to its use in making or negotiating a surrogacy arrangement. We recognise, however, that it is difficult for a surrogacy organisation to provide such services for the small number of people who seek advice and help with surrogacy in the UK if they are not able to make a charge to recoup the cost of providing them.

The amendments to Clause 59 state that such organisations may charge for certain activities, but only if they do not make a profit—in essence, if it is not undertaken on a commercial basis. They may charge for initiating negotiations with a view to the making of a surrogacy arrangement such as enabling interested parties to meet each other to discuss a possible surrogacy arrangement, and compiling information about surrogacy with a view to its use in the making or negotiation of a surrogacy arrangement—establishing and keeping lists of people willing to be surrogates, or intended parents, for example.

These provisions would enable not-for-profit organisations to charge for putting couples in touch with each other, but not for any more direct intervention in discussions. The amendments in the Bill to the Surrogacy Arrangements Act 1985 are not seeking to turn surrogacy into a commercial industry. The 1985 Act took firm steps to ban any commercialisation of surrogacy and that principle has not changed.

Amendments Nos. 41 to 45 deal specifically with the issue of cross-subsidisation by surrogacy organisations. There was debate in the other place about the potential for cross subsidisation—surrogacy organisations charging more for the activities for which they are able to charge so that they can undertake those activities for which they are not able to charge. It is our intention that surrogacy agencies should not be permitted to charge more for the activities for which the Bill allows reimbursement in order to subsidise the cost of providing other activities for which charging is prohibited. Amendments Nos. 41 to 45 are necessary to ensure that this position is clarified in the Bill.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Commons Amendment No. 46

46: Page 51, line 13, at end insert-

“( ) An order under this section which modifies an enactment in consequence of any provision of Part 2 may modify subsection (5) of section 53 (interpretation of references to father etc.).”

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 46. This is a technical amendment so that Clause 53(5), which lists enactments where express provision has been made for female second parents, can be modified by an order made under Clause 64, which provides for consequential and transitional provisions. Not to do so would mean that the general rule in Clause 53 (2), enabling references to fathers to be read as references to female second parents, would continue to apply to enactments even where express provision was made in those enactments for female second parents.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Commons Amendment No. 47

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 47, to which I have spoken with Amendment No 39.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Commons Amendment No. 48

48: Page 52, line 31, leave out subsection (2)

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 48. This is the privilege amendment.