Wednesday, 1 December 2021
Mitochondrial Donation Law Reform (Maeve's Law) Bill 2021; Consideration in Detail
by leave—I move amendments (7) to (16) together:
(7) Schedule 1, item 19, page 34 (line 4), omit the definition of pronuclear transfer.
(8) Schedule 1, item 19, page 34 (line 5), omit the definition of second polar body transfer.
(9) Schedule 1, item 20, page 34 (line 15), omit paragraph 7A(b).
(10) Schedule 1, item 20, page 34 (line 17), omit "transfer;", substitute "transfer.".
(11) Schedule 1, item 20, page 34 (line 18), omit paragraph 7A(e).
(12) Schedule 1, item 20, page 35 (cell at table item 1, column headed "the permitted techniques are …", paragraph (b)), omit the paragraph.
(13) Schedule 1, item 20, page 35 (cell at table item 1, column headed "the permitted techniques are …", paragraph (e)), omit the paragraph.
(14) Schedule 1, item 20, page 35 (cell at table item 2, column headed "the permitted techniques are …" ), omit the cell, substitute:
maternal spindle transfer
(15) Schedule 1, item 20, page 35 (line 14) to page 36 (line 4), omit section 7D.
(16) Schedule 1, item 20, page 36 (line 29) to page 37 (line 8), omit section 7G.
These amendments go to what I believe is a fundamental area of difference in terms of the ethical consideration of this matter, and I'll put it in this context: there are essentially five techniques which are provided for in this bill, but they can be split into two categories. There's a category of mitochondrial techniques which involve the transfer of material between eggs—namely, the maternal spindle transfer and the geminal vesicle transfer. They don't involve any destruction of an embryo in order to undertake those techniques. There are three other techniques that involve transfer of material between zygotes or embryos—namely, pronuclear transfer, first polar body transfer and second polar body transfer. These three techniques involve, necessarily as part of the undertaking of the procedure, the destruction of a zygote or an embryo.
I note in passing that under the bill only two techniques—namely, maternal spindle transfer and pronuclear transfer—are permitted for the clinical trial licence phase. But one of these techniques—namely, pronuclear transfer—involves the destruction of the zygote or the embryo. Accordingly, these amendments, when taken together, would remove from the bill those techniques or procedures which result in the destruction of the embryo. It would allow mitochondrial research to be undertaken involving the gametes, the egg and the sperm, but it wouldn't involve the destruction of an embryo. For me, that is a line at the end of the day consistent with the view that I took almost 20 years ago when we were discussing stem cell research and cell therapy at that time—that there is a line between techniques which do not involve the destruction of an embryo and the techniques which do involve the destruction of the embryo.
Given the experimental nature of what has been proposed, the absence of any data from the UK, as I referred to earlier, and the lack of any evidence that these techniques will achieve what is proposed, I believe it is entirely reasonable to ban the deliberate destruction of a zygote or an embryo at this stage. Moreover, we're told that this research is probably going to take 10 years or more even at the very basic stage, so, if there is some further evidence that arises from the research over the coming years, then it's entirely appropriate for this parliament to address it again sometime in the future. But I, and I suspect some others in this place, believe that at this stage it's inappropriate to allow techniques to go forward which would involve the destruction, necessarily as part of that technique, of the embryo, and that's why I've moved these particular amendments. Again, I could speak at much greater length, but I suspect that members understand what the position is that I'm putting in relation to these amendments. I commend the amendments to the House.