British MPs Send Pro-Human Cloning Bill to Cmte Stage, Amendments Next

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 13, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British MPs Send Pro-Human Cloning Bill to Cmte Stage, Amendments Next

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 13
, 2008

London, England ( — Members of the British Parliament voted on Monday to send the pro-human cloning bill to the committee stage. Now the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is open for amendments that could either expand abortions, limit late-term abortions further, or force abortion on residents of Northern Ireland.

The House of Commons approved moving the debate forward on a 340-78 vote, which could be a preview of where MPs stand on the bill itself.

Just nine Labour MPs voted against moving the bill ahead and the majority of 262 votes could prove impossible to overcome.

Other amendments could involve promoting or preventing the creation of cloned hybrids combining human and animal DNA and the creation of so-called "savior siblings" who would be killed or pressured for organs for sick siblings.

Some MPs from the ruling Labour Party have already indicated they will defy their government and vote against the bill or for amendments to limit the most horrifying aspects of it.

Ruth Kelly, the Transport Secretary, has already expressed her reservations and Des Browne, the Defense Secretary, has said he would vote against the creation of hybrids.

The Labour government reportedly whipped the second reading vote and insisted that its MPs allow the bill to move to the amendment stage. While they are backing off on the amendment votes, government officials will whip the bill again on final passage, or fourth reading.

Geraldine Smith, the Labour MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, became the first to defy the government, according to a Belfast Telegraph report.

"I fully respect the Government’s position on this, but I think equally the Government should respect the position of members who, on an issue of conscience, will end up voting against the Government tonight and I do that with sorrow," she said.

"But I have to say I don’t think it will damage the Government in any way – certainly not the way that former cabinet members writing books about the Government has damaged it," she added.

Leading Conservative MPs said the government was wrong to prevent its party members from voting their conscience.

Kenneth Clarke, the former Conservative chancellor and health secretary, said the last time the British Parliament approved this kind of bill, "every member of the House was given a free vote on all issues they perceived to be ethical at any stage – including ministers."

Andrew Lansley, the shadow Health Secretary, agreed, the Telegraph reported, and said, "If members have ethical considerations which, in their view, prevail over any other considerations in a Bill, they should be in a position to exercise their conscience and judgement."

Yesterday, the leading British MP who is pushing for Parliament to adopt a bill that would promote human cloning and the creation of hybrids backed down slightly in advance of the debate and vote on the bill. Lord Winston admitted the human cloning bill isn’t needed to advance science.

Also, the leader of the Anglican Church renewed his opposition. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, says promoting human cloning is irresponsible science.