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Public Bill Committees

Debated on Wednesday 12 September 2018

Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill (Thirteenth sitting)

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairs: Ms Nadine Dorries, †Albert Owen

Allan, Lucy (Telford) (Con)

Bone, Mr Peter (Wellingborough) (Con)

† Charalambous, Bambos (Enfield, Southgate) (Lab)

Fletcher, Colleen (Coventry North East) (Lab)

† Foster, Kevin (Torbay) (Con)

† Harper, Mr Mark (Forest of Dean) (Con)

† Khan, Afzal (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab)

† Lee, Karen (Lincoln) (Lab)

† Linden, David (Glasgow East) (SNP)

† Matheson, Christian (City of Chester) (Lab)

Mills, Nigel (Amber Valley) (Con)

† Norris, Alex (Nottingham North) (Lab/Co-op)

Paisley, Ian (North Antrim) (Ind)

† Smith, Chloe (Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office)

Stewart, Bob (Beckenham) (Con)

Wiggin, Bill (North Herefordshire) (Con)

Kenneth Fox, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Public Bill Committee

Wednesday 12 September 2018

[Albert Owen in the Chair]

Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill

Before we begin, I remind Members not to use electronic devices unless they are switched to silent. As the Committee cannot consider the Bill until the House agrees a money resolution, I call Afzal Khan to move that the Committee do now adjourn.

I beg to move, That the Committee do now adjourn.

It is a privilege and an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Owen. We will all now have seen the boundary commissions’ reports that the Minister had sight of last week. As she admitted in our last meeting, the Government’s strategy is to kick the boundary issue into the long grass. What has changed?

We are in a mess because the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, tried his luck at rigging the electoral system in his party’s favour. The Conservative party since lost its majority in Parliament and now does not have support for the plans, even among its own Members. Many Conservative MPs refuse to support the proposals—for both self-interested and principled reasons—and the Government are running scared of holding a vote that would make those divisions public.

We all agree that we desperately need new boundaries. I worry that, if we are not careful, we will walk into another election with constituencies based on data that is more than 20 years old. We cannot afford to wait months for the Government to get their house in order. My Bill needs a money resolution so that we can work together on a realistic, practical and cross-party path forward. I hope that the Minister will consider that and see to it that we receive a money resolution, so that, whatever happens with the boundary review, we will at least have a parallel system that could deal with this issue.

I will keep my remarks focused, given that we are considering only the motion to adjourn, and respond specifically to a couple of remarks from the Bill’s promoter, the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton. He said that the purpose of the original boundary proposals brought forward when my former right hon. Friend David Cameron was Prime Minister was to rig the system in favour of the Conservative party. That needs to be put straight. It is simply not true, as he would know if he read the long debate that we had on the Floor of the House.

The proposals were about levelling the playing field so that seats were more equal in size, so that we did not have the ridiculous situation of having seats with very small electorates—there are many in Wales with electorates of around 40,000, for example—and also seats with close to 100,000 electors, meaning that a voter’s vote in those constituencies can be worth half as much as in another seat. That is simply not right. It is about having relatively tight spans so that every voter’s vote is of broadly equal value across the country. That is the principle, and I think I am right in saying that it had Labour party support both when the legislation was going through and now, so we can put that party-political accusation aside.

The hon. Gentleman’s second point, about timing, is relevant to the motion to adjourn. The Minister’s remarks last week—I do not know whether she will add anything today; I do not think there is anything to add—made it clear that the Government and officials are getting on with drafting the Orders in Council, and she made the point that it is a lengthy process. Ministers cannot be dilatory about it, because in the legislation there is a legal injunction on Ministers to bring forward proposals “as soon as practicable”, so they have to get this work done.

We are talking about detailed specifications for 600 parliamentary constituencies. There are only so many skilled draftsmen in Parliament, and they have other important legislation to draft—such as Brexit legislation and the thousands of statutory instruments that will have to go through the European sifting committee—so there are capacity constraints.

However, the Minister made it clear that that work is already under way, and said that it would take months. Opposition Members pressed her on that last week, and she said that she had chosen her words with great care and it would take that length of time, so she has set out the process. She made it clear which Ministers were responsible, and our right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office has ultimate ministerial responsibility. I just remind colleagues of what I said yesterday: he is answering questions in the House today at 11.30 am, so those who wish to press him on that will have the opportunity to do so, if there are appropriate questions on the Order Paper. This Minister has therefore set out a sensible process.

My final point on proceeding with debating the Bill is that I still hold to what I said last time. If the House decides not to proceed with the boundary proposals as delivered by the four commissions, and if we are going to debate the Bill and the Government decide that they will bring forward a money resolution and proceed, two things are true. First, the Bill would need to be debated; the Government would clearly have to find time for that on the Floor of the House—as was the case with the original boundary proposals and legislation—so that all hon. Members, not just the select few in this Committee, could participate in the debate. Secondly, one would not want to have that debate without its being informed by the debate and the responses from individual Members on the commission proposals, which would by that point have been rejected, because one would want to take into account the reasons why Parliament had not supported the boundary proposals if one were then going to alter the rules. Unless we were going to alter the rules, while listening to that feedback, in a way that we thought would lead to more acceptable proposals, it would be a rather pointless and otiose exercise.

The right hon. Gentleman’s contributions have always been very reasoned, throughout the process in which we have been engaged. The one thing that I am struggling with is this: we have been meeting here every week since May and this time is being wasted. If there were a money resolution, we could discuss the Bill line by line, and then, when the matter got to the House, we could discuss it both ways. What is the loss for us, not having a money resolution? By having a money resolution, we could iron out all the detail that needs to be dealt with. We meet every week in any case.

If I follow the hon. Gentleman’s logic through, that does not really work, because of course if we had a money resolution—I know we do not—we would be debating the Committee stage of the Bill here, but that would just then be repeated all over again, because the Committee stage would be done on the Floor of the House too, so the time would be wasted.

I suggested to the hon. Gentleman last week that, if he is concerned about the 30 minutes or so that we spend together on a Wednesday and the time it takes for the House, a potential way forward might be for him to engage with the usual channels and have a discussion about whether some arrangement can be reached whereby the Government might agree—I do not know, because I do not speak for the Government; I am a Back Bencher—to bring forward the boundary proposals as soon as is practicable, as the Minister set out, and if the House chose not to proceed with those, they might be prepared to make some of the commitments that I have suggested, about this being debated on the Floor of the House. In those circumstances, it may be that it is agreed that we then do not meet every Wednesday for a debate on the motion to adjourn, but with a commitment about what might happen if the House chooses not to proceed with the existing proposals.

I am sure that the Government would entertain having the conversation. I do not know what they would want to agree. They might not be prepared to agree to that—I do not speak for them. However, it seems to me that that might be a productive set of conversations to have, and then we would not spend the House’s time in this Committee, pleasant though it is, and we would know where we were. There would be a two-stage process. The House would have the opportunity to take a view on the existing proposals, which have been introduced and are now being turned into legislation. If that were not to go through, there would be a fall-back, a plan B—that seems to be the terminology that people like today. That might be a sensible way forward.

The right hon. Gentleman has made an intriguing proposal about taking the Bill back on to the Floor of the House, but could he clarify something? Why would the Government’s attitude on the Floor of the House be any different from the stonewalling we see in this Committee?

Again, I speak just for myself. My point is that the Government would not agree to take the Bill back on to the Floor of the House now. It would be a two-stage process. The Government have made the commitment already; the Minister made that last week. I do not know whether she will speak today—I am not sure she would have much to add, so I, for one, would not be disappointed if she did not, apart from being generally disappointed when we do not hear from the Minister. I do not think she has a lot to add, so I do not think there is any requirement for her to speak today if she does not wish to.

As I said, there would be a two-stage process because I do not think it would be appropriate to debate new rules and new ways of achieving boundaries without being informed by the feedback on the existing ones. When the boundary commissions’ proposals are brought forward as Orders in Council, there will be a debate in Parliament and Members of Parliament who do not support the proposals—and there will be some, on the Opposition Benches at least—will be able to put on the record the reasons why they do not support them and the rules that led to their drawing up.

Not having that information to hand and debating in detail would not work. For all we know, the House might agree to the proposals, in which case there will be no point in changing the law in the first place. We would simply waste a huge amount of time on the Floor of the House of Commons. It seems to me that the most sensible approach is to park the Bill formally. It is parked in an informal way at the moment. There may be some benefit in having that conversation with the Government and getting an agreement.

As I said, I do not know if that agreement could be reached, but it seems not unreasonable to try. That would avoid the minor inconvenience—it is only a minor inconvenience—of our meeting every week but not being able to make substantial progress.

The right hon. Gentleman’s proposal is sensible. Last week, we had an informal discussion and I offered to meet the Minister to see if some sort of resolution could be found as a way forward that was acceptable for both things that are trying to run in parallel here.

As I said, I do not speak for the Government but it seems to me that that might be a sensible way forward. We are now in the short return in September and have almost run into the conference recess. There is obviously a period before we return on 9 October—we would reconvene on 10 October—to talk again. There is a little bit of time before we rise.

It is sometimes difficult to have usual channels conversations outside sitting times but I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he kicks those off. It is his Bill so he needs to initiate those conversations. We will see where we get to. We might be able to make considerable progress. That is just an idea; I do not speak for the Government, but it seems a perfectly constructive way forward and I commend it to the hon. Gentleman.

It is a pleasure to see you back in the Chair, Mr Owen, for our proceedings. What a pleasure it is, as always, to follow the right hon. Member for Forest of Dean. I come to the Committee this morning to offer a couple of observations on what happened on Monday. I was at an event in Scotland with a number of my hon. Friends from the Scottish National party. We were all at a table and all of a sudden around 10 o’clock they all went on to their phones. It was like watching pupils get their report card from school. Everybody was frantically looking through what was happening to their seats, whether their seat would be abolished and what the proposals looked like.

I tend to take the view, as a Scottish nationalist, that at the next general election, I hope that we can have 59 fewer seats, by way of Scotland becoming independent. I accept that is perhaps not an immediate prospect. My view is that it is absolutely unacceptable for Scotland to lose the six or seven seats under the current proposals.

Last week, the hon. Member for City of Chester and I talked about our not-so-favourite newspaper, the Daily Mail. I confess I am not avid reader of the Financial Times but it was sitting in the Members’ Tea Room yesterday. I noticed a small article in it that suggested that the Government are now considering the possibility of delaying the votes on the boundary changes until after Brexit.

That presents several difficulties for the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton because we are in a two-year Session. The problem is, if we wait until Brexit at the end of March, we will probably be heading for prorogation before a new Queen’s Speech within a month of that.

I am sure my view is increasingly shared across the House. The Democratic Unionist party has since changed its mind and is not minded to support the Government’s proposals to reduce the number of seats to 600, which gives the Government a clear mathematical problem, and that is without the intervention of the hon. Members for Wellingborough, for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) and for countless other Conservative constituencies.

We will have the problem, as the Government realise, for reasons of internal Conservative party politics, that they are petrified of putting the proposals to the vote. We all know that that is the case. If the Government were so confident that there was a majority in the House for 600 seats, they would schedule that vote straightaway. It will not have escaped the House’s notice that we have endless general debates—on Monday afternoon, we had one on the EU withdrawal. It is not as if that has not been debated—in the European Research Group, but not least on the Floor of the House of Commons—and I would argue it is not the best use of the House’s time. If the Government are confident that there is a majority in the House for 600 seats, they should put it to the vote and test the will of the House.

It comes back to the fundamental issue of parliamentary democracy—of the House of Commons taking back control. In December 2017, the House of Commons gave a Second Reading to the Bill of the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton, and said that it should be taken into Committee. The Committee of Selection met. All of us, whether we are serving a penance or fresh-faced Members looking to cut our teeth in a Public Bill Committee, were sent to this Committee to consider the Bill line by line and clause by clause, but the Government have thrown it into parliamentary purgatory.

We will still be meeting here in March. I predict that the Government will eventually put the proposals to a vote in the House, because they have to, as the right hon. Member for Forest of Dean said. They will be defeated. The hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton will probably run out of time and the Bill will die. The right hon. Member for Forest of Dean talked about not wasting time, but in reality, some innocent young Conservative MP from the Back Benches—perhaps even the hon. Member for Torbay—will have to bring this very measure back as a private Member’s Bill. It will leave some poor Conservative with egg all over their face. Let us give up the charade.

I want to pick up on the hon. Gentleman’s point about democracy, because more recently than Second Reading, a motion was put to the House on 19 June. The House was given a clear choice about whether to allow this Committee to make progress on the Bill without a money resolution. Notwithstanding predictions about what the House might do in future when it is given the Orders in Council, it made a clear majority decision for us not to proceed, so the Government are actually following the will of the House.

I am very grateful as always to the right hon. Gentleman, who participated in that debate, as I did. Several hon. Members were very clear when they stood up on the Back Benches. As a Government Back Bencher, the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay did very well when he suggested that, although he did not support the reduction to 600 seats, he would not vote on the motion based on a technicality, because he did not think that it was appropriate for the House to take that route.

We are all big enough and ugly enough to have conversations with hon. Members across the aisle, and it is clear that there is not a majority in the House. That is precisely why the Government will not have that vote on the Floor of the House, because frankly, they have enough ongoing division within themselves, let alone with the other side of the House. If the Government are serious about respecting the will of the House—if the Leader of the House in particular, who is one of those great people who believe in parliamentary sovereignty—and genuinely want to take back control, they should schedule the vote. We will have the vote.

Thank you, Mr Owen. Over the weekend and on Monday, I read coverage relating to this vote. One national newspaper quoted the Minister from our meeting last week, and the Committee was characterised as obscure. I am not sure whether it is a promotion or a demotion, after 13 or so weeks, to have reached the ranks of obscure. When we are still here in March, as the hon. Member for Glasgow East said, I wonder whether we will become veterans. I have not been here very long, but I wanted to become a veteran, so that will be very exciting.

What is at the nub of this and what saddens me about it is that our politics should never seek to emulate American politics. I do not think that the Americanisation of British culture in general is a great thing. However, if anyone watches American politics now, as I know lots of people in this building do with great interest and sometimes horror, they see is that everything—whether it is the colour of the napkins or the electoral system— becomes a partisan arm wrestle. Everything, whether it is appointing judges or whatever it is, becomes an exercise in narrow advantage.

I am willing to take much of what the right hon. Member for Forest of Dean says at face value. The intentions at the outset, many years ago now, were very honourable. However, this has now become—without doubt—an exercise in political advantage: “the Government want this process to happen; it would help them. We do not want it to happen; it would not help us.”

If someone is a student of British politics, as I know lots of people in this room are, they will know that that has never been the way in which we have done our boundaries. Our boundaries and the way in which we have dealt with this system has been characterised by fair play and equity. Of course, I understand that we do not want to have ballooned constituencies in some parts of the country and tiny ones in others, but at the same time we want conversations about how to set a fair system—one that gives people as equal a voice as is physically possible—without tilting the scales one way or the other, because that goes against British values and our democracy. And whether we like it or not, we are in that territory now. Nothing could make that clearer than the fact that the vote on this issue is now being kicked further down the road, because the Government are not sure that they will win it.

I am reflecting on this from memory, so I hope the Committee will forgive me if I have not got it quite right, but I think the hon. Gentleman is putting a gloss on the way that this process perhaps worked in the past. I seem to remember that in 1968 the then Prime Minister, Lord Wilson, brought forward to the House a set of boundary proposals that were not advantageous to the Labour party and he asked the House to vote them down. As it happened, it did not work because he lost the 1970 general election. Nevertheless, the idea that this process has somehow always been conducted in the way that the hon. Gentleman suggests is perhaps not an accurate reading of the historical record.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention; his recollection of 1968 may well be stronger than mine, for obvious reasons. Perhaps I am putting a gloss on things and maybe we are looking back, as we tend to do, through sepia or whatever, but the point is that we have never been more partisan and red state/blue state than we are today, and this process is the perfect example of that.

So for goodness’ sake, let us kill this process off. We have got complete recognition that something needs to change—the boundaries need to change—but we have got this zombie hangover from the last Parliament in front of us; well, it is not in front of us today, but it will be in many months’ time. Of course I do not mean my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton, but the boundary review.

Let us put this boundary review to bed. Let us get down to discussing what I think are pretty good first principles in this Bill and let us get to where we all want to be. It will reflect on all of us better; it will also be better for our mental wellbeing, I suspect. Ideally—this is my major goal—we might have an outcome before the baby of my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith), who has been born during these proceedings, goes to university.

I forgot to say in my remarks that the first week back I will not be here, because I will have a second child by that point. In the course of this Bill Committee, two children will have been born and the money resolution has not been granted. I give advance notice and my apologies.

I am sure that we all want to pass on our congratulations to the hon. Gentleman. Yes, let us at least get this done before those children are at university, if not at school.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Owen.

What we see here is an anti-democratic process. It was 1 December 2017 when this Bill passed its Second Reading, so we are now more than nine months down the line and we have been meeting ever since, because the Government will not grant us a money resolution.

We have been given various reasons why we have not been given a money resolution. We were told that the boundary commissions’ proposals were coming and that it was best to wait for them to arrive, so that both matters could be considered together. Now we are being told that there are some complex resolutions and instruments that need to be prepared for that to happen. Surely the Government should have been ready for that. They knew when the boundary commissions would report. The proposals are the same as they were a year ago. The Government must have known what was coming—what landed on their desk cannot have been a big surprise—so it is no excuse for them to say they need more time to prepare and introduce those instruments.

With the greatest respect, the boundary commissions gave their final proposals to the Government only on Monday. The Government could not have drafted the Orders in Council until they received those proposals. They could not have anticipated that the draft proposals would remain unchanged, and I do not think they remain completely unchanged. Drafting legislation is a complex process. Only certain people in Parliament can do it, and it is detailed, technical work, so it takes time. To be fair, I do not think the Minister is making that up.

If nothing has changed since the previous proposals were presented about a year ago, draft instruments should be ready to go now. Certainly, nothing whatsoever has changed in my constituency, and I am not sure what has changed in other areas. The majority of things have remained the same since last year.

This is an attempt to run down the clock on the Bill. There are only two more sitting Fridays this year. We are told there may be more coming next year, but we do not know when they will be announced or on what dates they will be. Even if the Bill got out of Committee, we would need another sitting Friday for it to get its Third Reading, and a number of other Bills would be ahead of it in any event. This is purely an attempt by the Government to run down the clock on the Bill.

If the Government are so confident about the proposals, why will they not put them to a vote? I know why— because they would lose. I heard the hon. Member for Wellingborough say openly in business questions last Thursday that he would vote against the proposals if they were brought to the Floor of the House. I understand that a number of his colleagues share that view. Certainly, Labour would oppose the proposals were they put to the House—that is my opinion—so the Government would lose.

We need clarity. People say a boundary review has not taken place for a substantial period, so we all agree what the issue is and that it needs to be resolved, but we have a log jam with respect to how that should be done. The way to get out of it is to ensure that the Bill gets a money resolution, progresses out of Committee and has its Report stage soon.

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Owen. I know hon. Members find these proceedings rather frustrating, but I do not. I have learned stuff today. My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate makes an intriguing point about the Government running down the clock given the limited number of sitting Fridays. That had not occurred to me.

One of the problems the Minister faces is that she is running out of time, excuses and patches of long grass into which to kick the Bill. We kicked it into recess, but recess ended. We kicked it again when we were given the excuse that we had to wait for the drafting, which I will return to in a moment. The long grass of the conference recess will put matters off again, but time and room will continue to run out.

I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Forest of Dean, who talked about some of the procedures that might be used. He mentioned that he does not speak for the Government. The Minister does not speak for the Government in Committee, either—she hardly speaks at all. It was nice to hear from her last week. I am hoping, perhaps against hope, that she contributes today. We shall see.

The right hon. Gentleman also suggested that we should wait and see what the House’s response is to the proposals published this week, but my good friend the hon. Member for Glasgow East and my hon. Friends have already pointed out that the House has pretty much made its decision. How do we know? Because the Government are kicking the proposals into the long grass. They know they cannot win a vote—that is the sticking point.

I see from the Order Paper that this is not the only Public Bill Committee meeting today. The Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill will meet just down the corridor this afternoon. I am pleased to see that on the Order Paper, but I cannot help but wonder whether the money resolution has been moved for that—I suspect it has.

I want to return to the Minister’s point, which was reflected in the contribution of the right hon. Member for Forest of Dean, about the delay that we face in the Government’s tabling the necessary orders. The Minister said that they are complicated to draft. The right hon. Member for Forest of Dean talked about the lack of capacity in Government. If that is true—I have no reason not to believe it—it shows, once again, the chaos and catastrophe of Brexit sucking the life out of Government, and taking up huge amounts of public resources, when we should be dealing with more relevant things.

I took the liberty, however, of digging out the last set of orders. There are four of them: for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The last one was from 2007, which reminds us—as other hon. Members have done—of the need for an updated set of constituencies. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton talked about being almost 20 years out of date. I want to put on record the Opposition’s desire to get a set of constituencies that reflects matters.

On the face of it, the previous order is a weighty document of 74 pages in the PDF version. I am not sure whether PDFs were invented in 2007—they certainly were not in 1997. It is a hefty volume, but 70-odd pages simply list the constituencies and the wards that would make them up. As my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate mentioned, that is simply a matter of transposition from the Boundary Commission’s final report.

Let us look at the rest of the order. It is four articles long with an introductory preamble, which I am sure I could just cut and paste from the previous report. Article 1, “Citation and commencement,” reads:

This Order may be cited as the Parliamentary Constituencies (England) Order 2007…This Order shall come into force on the fourteenth day after the day on which it is made.”

That is not complicated drafting.

Article 2, “Parliamentary constituencies in England,” reads:

“England shall be divided into the parliamentary constituencies…which are named in column 1 of the Table in the Schedule to this Order”.

In other words, it simply refers to the schedule, which is simply a reproduction of the report that the Boundary Commission presented to the Government and the Government presented to the House. Article 3—

Order. I tell the hon. Gentleman that we do not need to hear the whole order. However, he is responding to remarks made in the debate. In general, he can make reference to it, but not quote it verbatim.

I am most grateful for your guidance, Mr Owen. As you will know, I always accept the guidance of the Chair. If it gives you any comfort, it would not delay matters long, because the order is extremely short and simple. There are two extra articles, one about electoral registers and one about revoking previous orders.

I will make an offer to the Minister, who I think may have not understood the full complexity—or lack thereof—of the orders. If it will help, between now and next Wednesday, I will draft the order for her, based on this. I am sure the Clerks would also be helpful and then she can give it to the parliamentary draftsmen, and we can get the work done. It might take a week or so longer for me to type up the orders for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but that is only because I am slow at typing.

What a generous offer! There is a serious point. With the greatest respect—I moderate the tone of my language—the Minister’s excuse does not hold water and is not acceptable. The orders are simple—they simply reproduce what the boundary commissions gave us. They are not a reason to delay the vote in the House.

What is the reason? We know what it is: the Government do not have a majority. Some hon. Members in the extremist Brexiteer wing of the Conservative party are agitating about Brexit and looking to make trouble wherever they go, and others simply do not approve of reducing the size of the House while the size of the Executive—the Government—is not reduced, so the House cannot perform its scrutiny.

We have talked about party advantage this and party advantage that, but many hon. Members on both sides of the House are dedicated to the House, its service and its stature in being able to undertake its role of scrutinising the Government. They do not like the Government’s proposals, not because of self-interest, but because they damage the standing of the House. That needs to be put on the record as well as the suggestions of party advantage.

My offer stands. If the Minister picks up the phone and asks me to help her to draft the order, I will do so, but I suspect that the parliamentary draftsmen will do a better and quicker job, if they are given the nod. I wonder if the delay is not because the drafting is complicated, but because the Government are looking for yet another patch of long grass into which to kick it. Those patches are running out.

I am only sorry for the slightly imaginary world in which some Opposition Members seem increasingly to live. The factual position is as I set out last week, and I have nothing further to add this week.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly till Wednesday 10 October at Ten o’clock.

Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Phil Wilson

† Afolami, Bim (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con)

† Antoniazzi, Tonia (Gower) (Lab)

† Doyle-Price, Jackie (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care)

† Elliott, Julie (Sunderland Central) (Lab)

† Flint, Caroline (Don Valley) (Lab)

† Foster, Kevin (Torbay) (Con)

† Gillan, Dame Cheryl (Chesham and Amersham) (Con)

† Heaton-Jones, Peter (North Devon) (Con)

† Hughes, Eddie (Walsall North) (Con)

† Jarvis, Dan (Barnsley Central) (Lab)

† Mahmood, Mr Khalid (Birmingham, Perry Barr) (Lab)

† Metcalfe, Stephen (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)

† Robinson, Mr Geoffrey (Coventry North West) (Lab)

† Shannon, Jim (Strangford) (DUP)

† Smith, Eleanor (Wolverhampton South West) (Lab)

† Throup, Maggie (Erewash) (Con)

Kenneth Fox, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Public Bill Committee

Wednesday 12 September 2018

[Phil Wilson in the Chair]

Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill

Welcome to this Public Bill Committee on the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Bill. I will make some preliminary announcements: please switch electronic devices to silent; tea and coffee are not allowed during sittings; and a selection list for today’s sitting is available in the room, showing the order of the debates. In this case it is a single debate, so if you would like to speak, please do so in this part of the debate as there is no other option. Decisions on the amendments and clauses will take place in the order in which they appear on the amendment paper.

Clause 1

“Appropriate consent” to adult transplantation activities: England

I beg to move amendment 1, in clause 1, page 1, line 16, leave out “relevant” and insert “permitted”.

Amendments 1 to 3 replace references in new subsection (6A) of section 3 of the Human Tissue Act 2004 to “relevant material” with references to “permitted material” which is defined in the provision inserted by Amendment 4.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 2, in clause 1, page 1, line 19, leave out “relevant” and insert “permitted”.

See the explanatory statement for Amendment 1.

Amendment 3, in clause 1, page 1, line 20, leave out “relevant” and insert “permitted”.

See the explanatory statement for Amendment 1.

Amendment 4, in clause 1, page 2, line 10, at end insert—

“‘permitted material’ means relevant material other than relevant material of a type specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State.”

This amendment defines “permitted material”, which will be used in new subsection (6A) of section 3 of the Human Tissue Act 2004 as a result of Amendments 1 to 3. The definition has the effect that the new provision about deemed consent will not apply in relation to relevant material of a type specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State. “Relevant material” is defined in section 53 of the Human Tissue Act 2004.

Amendment 5, in clause 1, page 2, line 11, after “of” insert

“the definition of ‘excepted adult’ in”.

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 4.

Clause 1 stand part.

Amendment 6, in clause 2, page 2, line 36, at end insert—

“( ) In section 52 (orders and regulations), in subsection (3) (statutory instruments to which negative procedure does not apply), after ‘1(11),’ insert ‘3(9),’.

( ) In section 52, in subsection (4) (statutory instruments to which affirmative procedure applies), after ‘no regulations under section’ insert ‘3(9),’.

( ) In section 52, in the list in subsection (10) (requirement to consult), after ‘section 1(11)’ insert—

‘section 3(9);’”.

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 4 and produces the result that the regulation-making power conferred by the provision inserted by that amendment will be subject to the affirmative procedure in Parliament and to a requirement to consult such persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate before the power is exercised.

Clause 2 stand part.

Clause 3 stand part.

Amendment 7, title, line 1, leave out from beginning to end of line and insert

“Make amendments of the Human Tissue Act 2004 concerning consent to activities done for the purpose of”.

This amendment replaces much of the existing long title so as to introduce reference to the making of amendments of the Human Tissue Act 2004.

I am pleased to be serving under your chairmanship, Mr Wilson, as I am sure the whole Committee is. I think the sensible grouping of the amendments within the clauses will allow a natural flow, and yet if anybody among the very committed members of the Committee wishes to speak they will have an opportunity too. The idea is that it should not be a long Committee. We had a very good debate on Second Reading and we had the money resolution last night. The support for the Bill at those debates made it clear that the whole House now wants to see the Bill made law and for that reason we want to make progress as fast as we can.

Amendment 1 replaces the word “relevant” with the word “permitted” in clause 1, line 16, as the Human Tissue Act 2004 creates a new term, not already defined, to ensure that deemed consent will apply only in respect of “permitted” material. It is unlikely that many members of the public appreciate the vast scope of organ and tissue transplantation. I hope that this amendment will build on the public’s trust in the system and avoid unnecessary distress to the friends and family of the deceased if the new arrangements were also to cover novel transplants. In the debate on the money resolution yesterday, we went to lengths to stress the need to keep public confidence, as people need to be clear about what is in the Bill; I have heard some rumours circulating already that were not helpful. I think amendment 1 provides a clear distinction and we will be able to define “novel transplant” elsewhere in the Bill.

Amendments 2 and 3 make consequential changes to clause 1, again replacing the word “relevant” with “permitted”. The three amendments create an important distinction between “permitted material” and “relevant material”, which enables novel forms of transplantation, such as of faces and limbs, to be exempt from deemed consent. That underlines the point about maintaining public confidence in what we are doing.

It is imperative that the amendments are made to the Bill to ensure that consent is considered to be in place only for organs and tissues that are in line with the public’s perception of donation. I am sure we all understand the need for that. The term “relevant material” is defined in section 53 of the Human Tissue Act 2004 and is applicable to other activities in the Act.

Amendment 4 provides the definition of “permitted material” that falls within the Bill. The amendment creates a power to make a statutory instrument to set out in detail which organs will be excluded from the new approach. There can be no doubt where we stand—what is included and excluded—and that is all necessary for the public’s reassurance. I am sure we all agree that this should be established by a statutory instrument subject to the affirmative procedure, which by its very nature extends to the proposed list, or any additions or changes to it, rigorous debate and a vote if necessary.

Amendment 5 is consequential on amendment 4 and provides clarification that the provision set out in section 10 of the Human Tissue Act 2004 refers only to excepted adults. It is quite clearly defined in the legislation. Amendment 6 provides that the SI set out in amendment 4, on novel transplants and innovations to be excluded from the new approach to organ donation, will be subject to the affirmative procedure.

I think that covers quite a chunk of the Bill. I invite the Minister to comment on the last part of it. It would be a very happy responsibility.

It is a pleasure to serve on this Committee. I start by paying unequivocal tribute to the hon. Member for Coventry North West for his stewardship of the Bill. There are many others who have played a significant role in getting us to this stage, and it is testimony to the fact that the Bill has received literally all-party support that the names of signatories from all seven parties represented in the Chamber appear on this private Member’s Bill. The fact that the Front-Bench teams of both Her Majesty’s Opposition and the Government support it is extremely significant. It shows the widespread support, and how important the measure is. It is truly a cross-party endeavour.

I share the hope that has been expressed that Committee stage will not take long, because there is such unanimous agreement. I will briefly share a story that I had the privilege of telling when we debated the Bill in the Chamber back in February, because it is very significant. I recognise that doing so will perhaps bring back some difficult memories for those involved, but I hope it will be inspiring. It is the story of Keira Ball.

Keira and her family were involved in an accident on 30 July last year. There was a road traffic collision on the A361, the North Devon link road in my constituency, only about five miles from my home. Sadly, despite the best efforts of the emergency services and paramedics, young Keira passed away two days after the accident. Her mother and brother were very seriously injured, leaving her father to take on his own the agonising decision that he wanted his daughter’s death to give life to other people, and therefore that young Keira’s organs should be donated. In that inspirational moment, Keira’s parents, Joe and Loanna Ball, have given hope to so many more people. They have also given life to the Bill and seen it get as far as it has. I hope it will proceed without much further ado.

Four people are alive today because of the decision taken by Keira Ball’s father after that accident. Keira donated her kidneys, heart, liver and pancreas. One of her kidneys was given to a man in his 30s, who had been on the waiting list for two and a half years. The other kidney was given to a woman in her 50s, who had been on the waiting list for nine and a half years, and a young boy received Keira’s pancreas and liver. Keira’s heart was given to a 10-year-old boy, who in many ways, has become the figurehead of the excellent campaign. I speak of course of Max Johnson, who is alive today because of the brave decision made by Keira’s father in the aftermath of that awful accident. This is, in many ways, Max’s law and Keira’s law.

Those two young people are an absolute inspiration and show why this excellent Bill, which I hope will become legislation before long, will genuinely help to save lives. For that reason, I am delighted to be serving on the Committee and to be a part of this excellent Bill’s truly cross-party support. I hope that we can move forward so that it reaches the statute book, because if there is one important job that we should be doing in this place, it is saving lives, and that is what the Bill does.

I welcome the amendments described by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry North West, to whom I am grateful for taking this important Bill forward.

As the only Welsh MP serving on the Committee, I can speak from experience about the positive difference that a similar law is making in Wales—I am glad to see a Welsh Labour Government leading the way. More and more families than ever before are talking about organ donation, and the importance of talking to families about organ donation was highlighted when, sadly, we lost my father nearly seven years ago. My family’s highest priority was the conversation about organ donation.

Since 2015, when the Welsh Government’s presumed consent law was introduced, there has been a big increase in the percentage of families who feel that they can say yes at an extremely difficult time, honouring the wishes of loved ones who wanted to donate their organs after death. The figure was 58%; it has now increased to 70%. To put that in context, the number of families in England giving permission for the organ donations of their loved ones has not increased during the same period. Hundreds of families in England are still vetoing transplants even when their loved ones have opted into the organ donor register.

The Bill will hopefully spark a cultural change in England as a similar law has done in Wales, but the legislation needs to go hand-in-hand with a public awareness campaign that asks people to have the conversation; that is what happened in Wales. I welcome the cross-party support for the Bill.

I thank you Mr Wilson, as well as my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry North West, who introduced this private Member’s Bill, and I take pleasure in the cross-party support for the Bill.

There is no doubt that the Bill will make more organs available for transplant, which, as many people here know, is a very personal issue to me, as my daughter is on the kidney transplant list. Only if more organs are made available can lives be both changed and saved. We must always remember those who donate their family members’ organs, because that is such an act of selflessness. Having spoken to many donor families, seeing that lives are saved or improved by doing that hopefully gives them some comfort in what must be the most horrific of circumstances.

I draw the Committee’s attention to a couple of important points. For the Bill to work, there must be an appropriate public information exercise, there must be education, and there must be a triggering of conversation in families, workplaces and schools, about the issue of transplantation. It is a very real issue that can affect anybody, in any walk of life, at any time. Only by talking about the issue openly do people gain a real understanding of what others want and realise that there is nothing to be frightened of in transplantation. Adequate time and resources must be given to the health service and other bodies for the Bill to be implemented properly and successfully—it is important for all concerned that that happens.

I will not go on any longer because there is cross-party agreement. It is very positive when a measure passes through the House and there is genuine cross-party agreement for improving the quality of lives and, literally, making the difference between life and death of people in this country.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Wilson. In my brief remarks, I will first pay tribute to the hon. Member for Coventry North West, to the Minister, and to the Government and all parties for working together in this way, as has been described by many Members on both sides of the Committee.

The Bill is important, not just for all the reasons that have been set out, but because black and ethnic minority people have a particularly poor chance of getting an organ, and donation rates for black and ethnic minority people—taken as a whole across different groups—are much lower than for the majority population. The Bill will make a big difference in addressing that aspect of the problem, as well as the rest of the country and the rest of society. I commend all Members for the fact that the legislation will hopefully pass, because it is important that what we do here is fully inclusive, and health is—or should be—almost the most inclusive thing there is.

I finish by again paying tribute to the hon. Member for Coventry North West. I have not been in this House for very long, but I know it is not easy to pass a piece of legislation and work with the Government in this way, and I commend him and the Government for working together in such a fashion.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Wilson, and to be part of this historic occasion. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry North West, the Minister, and the cross-party collaboration that has ensured we can today wish the Bill a successful journey towards becoming law.

It is important to say that the Bill is not about taking away choice. Even though it is significant and historic, following the good work done in Wales, the Bill will mean that people will still have a choice. Opting out will be simple and easy, and the views of family and friends will not be dismissed, but importantly—I say this as someone who has been an organ donor for most of her adult life, as well as a blood donor—we have to answer the question, “If one of us, or one of our loved ones, were in need of an organ transplant, would we want to have it available to us?” I think we would unanimously say yes. If that is the case, we have to ask how to make sure that chance is available.

I have been struck by the campaigns outside of the House, including the Daily Mirror’s “Change the Law for Life” campaign and the support of Kidney Care UK, the British Heart Foundation and the British Medical Association. All have done their bit to make this issue so important and put it in the public sphere, but for many of us, the personal stories have had the most impact. I will cite two: the first is that of Amie Knott, from Thorne in my constituency, whose brother Andrew sadly died waiting for a transplant. She has been in touch with me and other hon. Friends across South Yorkshire to get support for the legislation, but she has not stopped there. She is continually out and about in Thorne, Doncaster and beyond, trying to encourage people to sign up to the organ donor register. I pay tribute to her.

When I took part in a television programme earlier this year, one of the guests was a mum whose very young daughter had died, and who had made the very important decision to allow her daughter’s organs to be provided for transplant. It was not an easy decision, but she said, “I had to ask myself the question: if it was the other way round and I was a mother with a child in need of a transplant, would I want that to happen? At this very emotional time, trying to cope with all my feelings and my hurt and anger at losing my daughter, how could I do something positive, or allow something positive to come out of this sad situation?” That probably echoes many of the conversations we have with family, friends and constituents.

I sincerely hope that we can ensure that the Bill is on the statute book as soon as possible. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland Central said, the talking must not stop. People can go on the register today or tomorrow, but the talking must take place within families as well. Too often, when people signed up to be on the register, that conversation did not take place, and on too many occasions families dealing with the tragedy of losing a loved one override their loved one’s wishes. Let us ensure that the conversation does not stop with proceedings today, and certainly does not stop when the Bill becomes law. I commend everyone on the Committee and beyond for the positive contribution they have made.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Wilson. As the Democratic Unionist party’s spokesperson on health, I add my support to the hon. Member for Coventry North West, who has endeavoured courageously to push the Bill through. Every one of us is greatly impressed by him. I put my hands on his shoulders last night and said, “You’re making history tomorrow, boy.” We are all pleased that he is able to do that.

I am also pleased that the Minister responded right away in a positive fashion and ensured that the Bill would become a law, through Government support. Today, as happens often in this House—we could probably see it happen a wee bit more, if we are honest—we can all work together collectively to change lives and make things better. It is important for me. The hon. Gentleman asked me if I would be on the Committee, and I was more than happy to do so, to add my support in a small way to the legislation coming forward.

Why is this important? Every one of us has told a story, and we do that because those stories shape who we are as individuals. I met a wee nephew, Peter, who was born with only one small kidney the size of the wee thumbnail on my hand, so from an early stage he was in need of a kidney transplant. The problem for him was that getting the right donor was difficult. At one time his mother was to be the donor, but then she fell pregnant and that was not possible. As it turned out, another kidney became available in the meantime, and from being the small boy who was not physically able to do much and whose face was—if I can use these words—“custard yella” because of his kidney malfunction, his life was changed. This wee boy loved racing motorbikes and wanted to do a newspaper round but could not do that, and the donation totally changed his life for the better. I was therefore keen to be on the Committee because right away I can see the benefits that will flow from this legislation.

The other story I want to tell is one that a gentleman from my constituency came to tell me. His son was injured in an accident in which unfortunately a lady was killed. Ultimately his son’s life-support apparatus and machinery was turned off. I tell the story because he donated all his son’s organs, which then gave life and improved lives as the organs benefited a number of people.

Before I became a Member of Parliament, I was on Newtownards council, which thought it would be good to create a memorial garden in the council’s area. We therefore have a memorial garden in the main town of Newtownards, where families who have lost someone, or whose family members’ organs have been donated—whatever the case may be—can go and have a wee bit of contemplation or quiet time for remembering. The reason I want to tell these stories is because they are all part of why we need the Bill to go through, and of how important it is for the Minister and the Government to support the Bill promoted by the hon. Member for Coventry North West.

The right hon. Member for Don Valley, who spoke before me, made a compelling point; everybody made a compelling argument. The right hon. Lady made a reference that I was going to make. I am glad that was done and I will do it again. In this House we always repeat things, but that is by the way. It is important that those who feel they cannot go with this can opt out. That is what the legislation does. It does not compel anybody to do anything, but it gives an opportunity. That is the important issue that the right hon. Lady drew attention to, which I wish to endorse.

I have opted to carry an organ donor card since I started driving, and that was not yesterday, Mr Wilson. In Northern Ireland, legislation requires someone to tick a box on their driving licence application to declare themselves a donor. I have been doing that all those years. I still have the wee donor card and the wallet, which is long-time faded, as it has been there for 40-plus years. It is important that we move this forward.

In conclusion, we have a consensus and a collective opinion. We see legislation that can change lives for the better. That is the great pleasure of coming here as a Member of Parliament. It gives pleasure to be an elected representative at any time, be it on a council, Assembly or in the House. To come forward and be part of a legislative change that brings good gives a good feeling. Today is a good day for Parliament. I thank everyone for their contribution, especially the hon. Member for Coventry North West, and the Minister for supporting the measure so enthusiastically. That means something to us all.

Mr Wilson, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. I rise to support the amendments in the names of the hon. Member for Coventry North West and the Minister.

I rise only briefly to say that I am a convert. Originally, when I was Secretary of State for Wales, I was not convinced that an opt-out system would be beneficial. I have changed my mind; when the facts change, one should, as a politician, change one’s mind. One of the things that has changed my mind is personal contact with a family where an organ will be needed to save a young man’s life. There is nothing more powerful than having that presented to one as a politician. That means that all of us must have an open mind about so many things.

The way the trend has been going, particularly in Europe, is interesting. I think now more than 24 countries in Europe have some form of opt-out system. Although we have not yet really seen the benefits in Wales of the legislation that came in in December 2015, I frankly think that we need to improve the mathematical odds. We will do so only by creating a culture in which organ donation is spoken about, not in hushed tones or with accompanying difficulty, so that it becomes part of the common parlance.

The testimonies given by other Members in Committee show that the fact that a loved one may go, but parts of that loved one can contribute to saving or enhancing the lives of others, has to be a good thing. I support the amendments and hope the Bill gets a very fair wind so that it becomes law.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Wilson, and with colleagues across the Committee. Without exception, everyone in the room has been a passionate advocate for organ donation. I am grateful for all the efforts made to promote this important procedure and movement.

With your indulgence, Mr Wilson, I would like to reflect on some of the comments made by members of the Committee before I address the amendments in detail. The Government fully support the Bill and are grateful to the hon. Member for Coventry North West for promoting it. The amendments are a tidying-up exercise and I put my name to them.

First, we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for North Devon. As we tackle this issue, we keep in our minds the incredible bravery of the donors and their families. We are so grateful for the lives that have been extended and improved by their courageous decisions. My hon. Friend is absolutely right: this is Max’s law and this is Keira’s law. Max and Keira have done so much to capture people’s imaginations and get a national conversation going about this important issue.

We heard from the hon. Member for Gower about the experience in Wales. I often say that I am always prepared to learn from other nations. It is absolutely true that we have reflected on the experience in Wales. We will move forward in England having learned some of the lessons about how donation is taking place in Wales. She made the important point that this Bill will not achieve what we need to achieve—we are just changing the legal framework. We need to change the culture. We need to get people talking about this. It is a popular movement to ensure that everyone understands that organ donation saves lives and that we all have a responsibility, if we are prepared to take an organ, to make ours available. I am very grateful for that contribution.

The daughter of the hon. Member for Sunderland Central is always in our prayers. We are full of hope for her. I thank the hon. Lady for sharing her personal experience. My hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden rightly highlighted the black and minority ethnic population. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton South West has also done a lot in that space. This is a really important issue for me. We know that people from black and south Asian communities are more likely to suffer from diseases that will result in their needing a transplant and that donation rates are much lower. We talk about cultural change and popular movement, but we must spread the word in those communities and get more donors. Once the Bill has completed its passage, it will be important to communicate those messages to black and minority ethnic community audiences.

I am grateful for the contribution by the right hon. Member for Don Valley. As she said, this is not about taking anyone’s choice. We have heard a lot of ways in which the Bill has been clearly misrepresented, as if the state is taking control of organs. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no question of the state taking control of organs. Organ donation is a gift. All we are doing is altering the basis on which people make clear their wishes. Rather than opting in, joining the register and carrying a kidney donor card, it will be assumed that people have opted in unless they physically opt out. We are doing that because we know that 80% of adults say they are willing to donate, but not all of them sign up to the register—it is literally procedural.

I thank the Minister for making that point. Under the current system, when people have a donation card, it is still the responsibility of the next of kin to make the decision to donate. In most instances, that decision is not made. Therefore, the value of that card is not upheld.

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. One of the difficulties in making legislation such as this, where things are put very clearly on the statute book, is that we must have regard to what really happens at the bedside. It is one thing for something to be written in law, but how do relatives losing a loved one in the most atrocious circumstances deal with this? It comes back to a cultural change. The most important thing any of us can do if we want to increase organ donation is ensure that we all have those conversations with our families, so that they understand our wishes. Let us put ourselves in the position of being at the bedside of a loved one who is losing their life. We can put all the support in place—specialist nurses to talk them through the process and so on—but unless families really understand their loved one’s wishes and have had that conversation, naturally the next of kin will be reticent to give consent. One of the great virtues of the Bill and the surrounding campaigns is that we have encouraged people to have those conversations. It has been a real driver of cultural change in that sense.

The hon. Member for Strangford also shared his experience, for which I am grateful, and reiterated that no one would be compelled. Finally, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham was, as always, wise in her observation that, when the facts change, people should change their minds. It is not a weakness if politicians do so from time to time. I am grateful to all Committee members for their support.

The amendments constitute a tidying-up exercise that essentially make it clear that we are talking about organ transplantation. Their effect would be to remove novel transplants—such as hand and uterine transplants—from the scope of the Bill. The medical advances that allow such transplants are amazing, but in order that the law keeps pace with those developments, we need to make those exemptions and state that we really are only talking about organs. Amendment 7 amends the long title of the Bill to better describe what the Bill will do.

Most points around the Bill have already been made, but I will touch on some of the procedural issues that will flow from it. We expect a rise in the number of organ transplants as a consequence of this legislation, because more organs will be available. We could estimate that, and it could be anything from one to 700, but even one extra life is enough for me. However, I am confident that it will be much more than that. We will also have to put in place the register and the mechanics around it and publicise the changes. Following the Bill’s passage to becoming an Act—touch wood—we are looking at an implementation period of a year before everything is completely nailed down, enshrined and operational.

There has been lots of talk about the role of families. Ultimately, families will clearly wish to have a role in the welfare of a person who lacks the capacity to make a decision after deciding to be a donor. We need a system that takes families with us on this. We are sensitive to people’s faiths and beliefs, and that will all be considered as part of the wraparound care that we will put in place. We will obviously undertake further discussions with the Welsh Government to see how far we can learn from their experiences. By the time the Bill’s passage is complete, we will essentially have the same legal structure across Wales, England and Scotland.

I have talked about novel transplants, and clearly we will have the power to alter the regulations if other kinds of transplantation become possible over time. This legal framework should therefore be future-proof and able to react to changes in medical practice.

The hon. Gentleman ably spoke to the amendments. I do not have much more to say, other than that this is an extremely valuable piece of legislation. As a Health Minister, I have been given a wonderful tool to help us to save lives. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with all Committee members and to achieve this change one way or another. I look forward to seeing the Bill on the statute book. Everybody here, who has fought so much for these measures, can be extremely proud.

So many generous words have been extended in my direction that I feel that some redressing of the balance is necessary. I was lucky, and I hope I chose my Bill well. Judging by the support we have had through all its stages, it seems as though there is a groundswell of approval, opinion and acclamation for it, but one thing must not be overlooked, and that is that the Bill would have been very difficult if not impossible but for the support of the Government, including the Prime Minister in person. Throughout this, she has stuck to what she said in Liverpool.

I must also say that there have been tight moments, awkward moments, but the presence of the Minister with responsibility for the Bill, who is with us today, has throughout been one of charm—a smoother who, with her grace, has been able to get us through those moments too. She said it had been a pleasure to work with the Health Committee and it has indeed, and it has been a great pleasure to work with the Minister.

We keep saying these things, but perhaps we should cut down on further compliments to each other until we get the Bill through the Lords. On that basis, we are all in this together and still working hard, because we are not there yet, and who knows what the Lords will throw at us—

I think that a little restraint would be a good thing. Thank you very much indeed, Mr Wilson, as always, and the Clerks. I have received excellent briefings—models of clarity—and I advise hon. Members to take a set now, in case they are challenged by any questions in their constituency work or anything like that. The briefings deal clearly with a lot of the most difficult issues. Again, Mr Wilson, it is a pleasure to serve under you. Thank you.

Amendment 1 agreed to.

Amendments made: 2, in clause 1, page 1, line 19, leave out “relevant” and insert “permitted”.

See the explanatory statement for Amendment 1.

Amendment 3, in clause 1, page 1, line 20, leave out “relevant” and insert “permitted”.

See the explanatory statement for Amendment 1.

Amendment 4, in clause 1, page 2, line 10, at end insert—

“‘permitted material’ means relevant material other than relevant material of a type specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State.”

This amendment defines “permitted material”, which will be used in new subsection (6A) of section 3 of the Human Tissue Act 2004 as a result of Amendments 1 to 3. The definition has the effect that the new provision about deemed consent will not apply in relation to relevant material of a type specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State. “Relevant material” is defined in section 53 of the Human Tissue Act 2004.

Amendment 5, in clause 1, page 2, line 11, after “of” insert “the definition of ‘excepted adult’ in”.— (Mr Geoffrey Robinson.)

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 4.

Clause 1, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2

Consequential amendments

Amendment made: 6, in clause 2, page 2, line 36, at end insert—

“( ) In section 52 (orders and regulations), in subsection (3) (statutory instruments to which negative procedure does not apply), after ‘1(11),’ insert ‘3(9),’.

( ) In section 52, in subsection (4) (statutory instruments to which affirmative procedure applies), after ‘no regulations under section’ insert ‘3(9),’.

( ) In section 52, in the list in subsection (10) (requirement to consult), after ‘section 1(11)’ insert ‘section 3(9);’”.— (Mr Geoffrey Robinson.)

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 4 and produces the result that the regulation-making power conferred by the provision inserted by that amendment will be subject to the affirmative procedure in Parliament and to a requirement to consult such persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate before the power is exercised.

Clause 2, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.


Amendment made: 7, in title, line 1, leave out from beginning to end of line and insert—

“Make amendments of the Human Tissue Act 2004 concerning consent to activities done for the purpose of”. —(Mr Geoffrey Robinson.)

This amendment replaces much of the existing long title so as to introduce reference to the making of amendments of the Human Tissue Act 2004.

Bill, as amended, to be reported.

Committee rose.