My Lords, I express my thanks to the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Ribeiro, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay and Lady Northover, for their support. I also thank Victoria Ledwidge of the End Transplant Abuse campaign and the Public Bill Office for their fantastic work in helping to knock this Bill into shape.
We had a very good debate in the genocide discussion last night on these issues of the appalling, dreadful exploitation of people’s body parts, combined with, essentially, mass killing by an authoritarian state. In 2019, the China tribunal, led by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, stated:
“The Tribunal’s members are certain – unanimously, and sure beyond reasonable doubt – that in China forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience has been practiced for a substantial period of time involving a very substantial number of victims.”
The Bill is a small element in dealing with this obnoxious practice. I beg to move.
My Lords, first, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Hunt on this very welcome Bill. It is a pleasure to see the issue debated so well and regularly in this House. As my noble friend knows, he has the full support of these Benches in his endeavours. UK citizens must not be permitted to support the international organ tourism industry, where those organs are sourced illegally. I hope to see an end to the display of human cadavers in cases where the displayers have not obtained the consent of the deceased to do so. On so many levels, the issues with which this Bill deals are totally unacceptable, and I am glad that this Bill gives your Lordships’ House the opportunity, as we also had last night, to consider how to take action. This is a moral imperative, and my noble friend can count on continued support from these Benches.
As we approach the end of this Third Reading, I thank the Minister and your Lordships’ House for the time spent on and engagement with this issue. I wish the Bill every success.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, for bringing this Bill to the House and for enabling further debate on the best approach to tackling transplant tourism and how to ensure that consent is always provided for the public display of bodies of the deceased.
While all noble Lords will agree with the sentiment behind this Bill and have been horrified by the way in which the Uighurs are treated by the Chinese Government, we feel that that the new provisions it would introduce could create unnecessary burdens while doing little more than the existing legislation to address their concerns about human rights abuses. Looking at the data, the Government have not seen evidence of any large-scale travel of British citizens to other regions seeking a transplant for payment or without consent. Indeed, despite our having a growing and ageing population with increasing healthcare needs, the figures from NHS Blood and Transplant demonstrate a steady and consistent decline in patients receiving follow-up treatment on organs received overseas: from 72 patients in 2006 to just seven in 2019.
In addition, existing provisions in the Modern Slavery Act and the Human Tissue Act already make transplant tourism an offence in many circumstances. Because of this, we believe that the most effective action we can now take is to work towards removing any incentive for UK residents to seek to purchase an organ by continuing our efforts in improving the rates and outcomes of legitimate organ donations, while maintaining the highest standards of care for those in need of an organ.
I turn now to the issue of the public display of bodies, on which there has been some debate, especially in terms of people who have given consent before their death for their bodies to be displayed. We believe that existing rules make it clear that any establishment which seeks to display bodies must provide proof of consent. If it cannot, it will not receive a public display licence from the Human Tissue Authority, and any exhibition of bodies without a licence, when one is required, will be breaking the law. I am informed that the Human Tissue Authority does receive requests from people in Britain who seek permission for their bodies to be displayed after their death.
That said, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions, which allowed for an important and wide-ranging debate on this topic. It also served as an opportunity to highlight the broader human rights concerns which I know all noble Lords share. I particularly acknowledge the persistence of the noble Lords, Lord Hunt and Lord Alton, in bringing these issues forward for debate. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, on being successful in the ballot with this Bill.
My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend Lady Merron for her kind remarks, and to the Minister, who has given up quite a lot of time to allow us to discuss this. As he knows, I do not agree with the Government’s conclusion. He is very busy at the moment with Report stage of the Health and Social Care Bill, and he has much to contemplate over the weekend. I just hope that he may undertake a conversion when it comes to my Amendment 162, and that next week, he will be sympathetic.
Bill passed and sent to the Commons.