Clause 2 - Consequential and retrospective provision

Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Deceased Fathers) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:45 pm ar 25 Ebrill 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Mr Tony Clarke Mr Tony Clarke Llafur, Northampton South 12:45, 25 Ebrill 2001

I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 3, line 43, after `shall', insert

`(in addition to any case where the sperm or embryo is used on or after the coming into force of this Act)'.

Photo of Mr Jonathan Sayeed Mr Jonathan Sayeed Ceidwadwyr, Mid Bedfordshire

With this, it will be convenient to consider the following amendments: No. 3, in page 3, line 45, at end insert

`and before the coming into force of this Act.'.

No. 4, in page 4, line 23, at end add—

`( ) Where the child concerned was born before the coming into force of this Act, section 28 of the Act of 1990 shall have effect as if—

(a) subsection (5DD) were omitted; and

(b) in subsection (5DE), for the words ``42 days or (as the case may be) 21 days'' there were substituted ``three months''.'.

Photo of Mr Tony Clarke Mr Tony Clarke Llafur, Northampton South

The amendments are tidying up amendments. Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 make clear in clause 2, which deals with retrospective provisions, that the Bill applies to prospective as well as retrospective births, and to retrospective births between 1 August 1991, when the original Act came into force, and the date on which the Bill will come into force.

Amendment No. 4 amends the retrospective provisions in clause 2 that refer to the woman's election, in such cases, being made within three months of the new Act coming into force. The hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon made a point about that a little while ago. The amendment gives the Registrar-General discretion to extend the three-month time limit when there are compelling reasons, in the same way that he has discretion to extend the 42-day or 21-day time limits for new registrations. It could be used in circumstances when retrospective applications could not be made because the person was taken ill for a period that extended beyond the three months. That would be at the discretion of the Registrar-General.

Photo of Evan Harris Evan Harris Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Oxford West and Abingdon

I have two questions. First, from when will the period of three months be used? If someone was born in 1993 and the Act comes into force in 2003, for example, 10 years will have elapsed since the birth of the child. If the three months are timed from the Act coming into force, for retrospective cases since 1991, and if that differs from prospective cases, in which the time limit is 42 or 21 days plus discretion from the time of the birth, where is that made clear?

My second question is about the date of 1 August 1991. With your permission, Mr. Sayeed, I will deal with it here rather than in a stand part debate because we need to make progress. That date has been chosen as the one on which the 1990 Act came into force, so meaningful provisions date from then. Interestingly, however, the Act regulates the storage, and not just the use, of sperm and embryos. Should the beginning of the process of storage, rather than simply the process of use, be the cut-off point in order to ensure—as I am sure is the intention—that the produce of the measures are fully regulated under the 1990 Act, warts and all?

Photo of Mr Tony Clarke Mr Tony Clarke Llafur, Northampton South

The three-month rule for retrospective cases is mentioned in clauses 2 and 3. Amendment No. 4 provides for discretion to be exercised in such retrospective cases. The hon. Gentleman rightly presumes that retrospective cases will be those from 1991 until such time as the new Act comes into force. In those cases, there will be three months for mothers to apply, but with discretion. I hope that that covers his points.

Photo of Evan Harris Evan Harris Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Oxford West and Abingdon

I would be grateful if the hon. Gentleman could clarify my second point, which referred to storage rather than simply use.

Photo of Mr Tony Clarke Mr Tony Clarke Llafur, Northampton South

We are dealing with the registration of birth, not the registration of storage. Storage can be for any period up to 39 years, so it would be very difficult to introduce legislation to cover it. The Bill is concerned with storage only when it leads to conception. Storage is not relevant to the purpose of the Bill, which is registration.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 3, in page 3, line 45, at end insert

``and before the coming into force of this Act.''.—[Mr. Clarke.]

No. 4, in page 4, line 23, at end add—

``( ) Where the child concerned was born before the coming into force of this Act, section 28 of the Act of 1990 shall have effect as if—

(a) subsection (5DD) were omitted; and

(b) in subsection (5DE), for the words ``42 days or (as the case may be) 21 days'' there were substituted ``three months''.''.—[Mr. Clarke.]

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Mr Tony Clarke Mr Tony Clarke Llafur, Northampton South

The clause refers to the schedule that effects the necessary amendments to births, deaths and adoption legislation in the United Kingdom. It makes the application of the Bill retrospective, which means that births in any circumstances set out in clause 1 since August 1991, when the relevant provisions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 came into force, may be registered or re-registered. The clause also specifies that a woman who wishes, under clause 1, to register or re-register a child must first elect to do so in writing within three months of the Act coming into force. I recommend to the Committee that clause 2, as amended, should stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Evan Harris Evan Harris Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Oxford West and Abingdon

I must briefly return to my earlier point because I think that I was misunderstood. Presumably, the reference in clause 2 to

``on or after 1st August 1991'' relates to the coming into force of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. That regulates the storage of gametes and embryos and their subsequent use in fertility treatment. Would it not be appropriate in clause 2(2) to state that the Act will apply to any case where the sperm of a man—or an embryo that was brought about with the sperm of a man—was stored or used on or after 1 August 1991? That would ensure that the provisions, despite their shortcomings, apply from the moment of storage, which the Act governs. Will the hon. Gentleman indicate that he understands my point?

Photo of Mr Tony Clarke Mr Tony Clarke Llafur, Northampton South

I well understand the point. There may be retrospective cases where the sperm used for conception may have been stored prior to the 1990 Act. However, in respect of the Bill, we can only deal with the issues related to the registration of the birth of a child, and should not complicate matters by addressing the date of storage.

Photo of Evan Harris Evan Harris Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Oxford West and Abingdon

The Bill could, however, refer to when a child is born after 1 August 1991, instead of choosing the use of the sperm at conception as a start point. I accept that that is a start point of some kind, but there is a legal argument that the start point should either be from the time of storage, or birth, and not simply from the time of use.

Photo of Mr Tony Clarke Mr Tony Clarke Llafur, Northampton South

The House may wish to return to that point later.

Question put and agreed to.

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

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule agreed to.

Bill, as amended, to be reported.

Committee rose at two minutes to One o'clock.