We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Orders of the Day — Human Fertilisation and Embryology

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:22 pm on 19th December 2000.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox Shadow Secretary of State for Health 4:22 pm, 19th December 2000

As he did last week, the hon. Gentleman will get his own chance to contribute to the debate. As I said, I hope that the debate will be held in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman might find that funny, but it is normally the basis on which we do business in the House of Commons.

The benefits of the medical revolution are immense—transplantation, limb grafts and the elimination of infectious diseases. That revolution has changed not only the way in which we live, but the way in which we think about living. With genetic research, we are dealing literally with the building blocks of life, and our perception of what it is to be a human being is literally being put under the microscope.

However, the medical revolution carries with it moral, ethical and philosophical consequences that we need to confront, but I am sure that I am not the only Member who often feels that our ability to deal with the moral issues sometimes lags behind our technical abilities and what science is capable of achieving. We all accept that just because we can do something does not mean that we should do something. Similarly, just because science is capable of doing something does not mean that it should be allowed to do it. We need to establish a clear framework within which to operate and we should be confident enough, as a society, to grasp the agenda back from the scientific community alone.

We must follow certain principles, and the Minister outlined some of them. We must avoid being alarmist; nothing scares people like ignorance and the fear of the unknown. Transparency, accountability and honesty are all essential. Our debate can be mature and considered only if it is also informed. Therefore, information must be freely available and explained in a way that makes its complicated concepts acceptable to the greatest number of people. It must be free from the crass distortions that, for a variety of motives, are all too common.