The parliamentary debate on the human fertilisation and embryology bill was suspended last night when Lord Brennan collapsed, shortly after delivering his speech at the second reading of the Bill. Health minister, Lord Darzi of Denham, gave Lord Brennan emergency first aid until an ambulance came to take him to Guy's and St Thomas' hospital. A statement released today said that his condition was stable. The 65-year-old Labour peer collapsed at 7.36pm, just after Baroness Paisley of St George's, had begun speaking/ He had been criticising a bill attacked by both Anglican and Catholic churches for changing fertility law to make it easier for lesbian and gay couples to become parents and be recognised legally. The bill tackles complex issues, including "saviour siblings" and embryo research, and is likely to be still more contentious in the Commons next year, since several MPs want to amend the abortion law. Peers urged yesterday that such issues be considered by a committee rather than tacked onto controversial legislation. Earlier last night, peers warned that the bill could undermine the contribution men make to families by removing the requirement for providers of in-vitro fertilisation to "have a view" to the child's need for a father. The vagueness of the requirement means the clause does not prevent lesbian couples and single women receiving IVF. Opening debate on the bill's second reading in the Lords, Darzi, a consultant surgeon at St Mary's hospital, in Paddington, said it would make regulation of assisted reproduction was "both effective and also reflective of modern society". He added: "Technology has moved on and so have attitudes." Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, urged Gordon Brown to allow Labour peers and MPs a free vote on the bill. The Anglican Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, attacked the changes as evidence of a "me me" consumerist culture which valued individualism over the rights of the child. Lord Mackay of Clashfern, who steered the 1990 act in the upper chamber, said the clause on the father's role had been negotiated with considerable care and accepted unanimously by both Houses. The Lib Dem peer Dame Shirley Williams said that same sex couples could be marvellous parents, but unless men had a greater sense of fatherhood, society would find itself with dysfunctional families. But her colleague Lady Tonge said: "Children can be brought up very well without either parent, in some circumstances. Two of my own grandchildren have been brought up without a mother for the past few years; but brought up by a loving family and social network. Our party has never discriminated against gay people (which is what this debate is really about) and will therefore support the removal of these words." A second change would allow same sex couples to become the legal parents of a child born through IVF. The lesbian partner of the birth mother could be named on the birth certificate, while the partner of a gay man could apply for a parental order (previously open only to married couples) recognising him as the father of a child.
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