All 1 Baroness Deech contributions to the Health and Care Act 2022

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Fri 4th Feb 2022

Health and Care Bill Debate

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Department: Leader of the House

Health and Care Bill

Baroness Deech Excerpts
Committee stage
Friday 4th February 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Health and Care Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-VIII(a) Amendment for Committee - (3 Feb 2022)
Lord Kamall Portrait Lord Kamall (Con)
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My Lords, in moving this amendment I will also speak to the Amendments 313A, 314A and 315A standing in my name. Before I start, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, for her many years of advocacy on reproductive health and look forward to hearing the points she will raise today. I am grateful for the productive meeting that we had a few weeks previously and welcome the noble Baroness’s support of the government amendments tabled in my name.

As many noble Lords will be aware, fertility preservation is achieved through the freezing and storage of gametes or embryos; it is an increasingly common procedure in the UK. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act sets limits on the length of time that frozen gametes and embryos can be stored for. The current statutory storage limit is 10 years, with the possibility of an extension up to a maximum of 55 years for those who are certified as prematurely infertile. Extended storage limits were introduced to help those people who became prematurely infertile preserve their fertility, with the hope of starting a family in the future. This would include children who may have undergone treatment for childhood cancers.

However, this approach appears to discriminate between those who have a medical need to freeze their gametes and embryos, and those who do not. This message was clear in response to our 2020 public consultation, and we accept that the current approach creates unfairness. Therefore, we are introducing a new scheme for all who currently freeze or wish to freeze their gametes or embryos. The new scheme will consist of 10-year renewable storage periods up to a maximum of 55 years for everyone, regardless of medical need. It is for these reasons that I ask noble Lords from across the House to support the government Amendments 243A, 313A, 314A and 315A in my name.

Baroness Deech Portrait Baroness Deech (CB)
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My Lords, Amendment 280 stands in my name and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Barker. I declare an interest as former chair of the HFEA.

Let me start by offering the Government what must be a rare and welcome tribute in these troubled days for bringing forward an amendment that reflects compassion and efficiency. They listened to the consultation and have picked up the result of at least two years of campaigning, in a way that I can only admire. As the Committee can see, my own miserable little drafting of Amendment 280 was really only an entry to allow the Government to do their own complicated drafting, which of course I will accede to—and there will be no need for my amendment.

I am profoundly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kamall, and, before him, the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blackwood, all of whom helped this along. It has the support of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the British Fertility Society, Progress Educational Trust and the specialist lawyers Natalie Gamble and Emily Jackson. Everyone is behind this amendment, and I am profoundly relieved that it has come forward just in the nick of time, because there was a possibility that later this summer women whose eggs were frozen for 10 years, and who took advantage of the two years’ extra time given them, might have run out of time.

This amendment will bring the UK’s law in line with advances in science and changes in modern society, and it will give individuals greater reproductive choices. It will also give patients more time to make important decisions about planning their family. On behalf of hundreds, maybe thousands, of women, let me express my gratitude to the Government for something that will be helpful in many years to come. I give my wholehearted support to the amendments in this group.