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Orders of the Day — Human Fertilisation and Embryology

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:48 pm on 19th December 2000.

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Photo of Nick Harvey Nick Harvey Shadow Spokesperson (Health) 4:48 pm, 19th December 2000

This is the third and, for the foreseeable future, final opportunity for the House to consider these matters. Hon. Members have now had several hours of parliamentary time in which to do so.

I have become familiar with the arguments only over the past few months and have—like hon. Members in all parts of the House—received many representations from people on both sides of the argument. They include those who want this research to be given the go-ahead, namely, patient groups who see the potential to alleviate suffering, and those with great misgivings—often, although not exclusively, coming from a religious standpoint—who point out the ethical difficulties and complications involved. I take seriously both sets of representations. I consider that the burden of proof is on those who want to go ahead and change the regulations, so I took seriously the objections of my constituents and others. In each case, I attempted to see whether or not there was a satisfactory answer—or at least an answer that would satisfy me—to the points that were made.

Members will all see the great potential of this area of research. Members on both sides of the House will have some experience, within their families or social circle, of people who are suffering from long-term degenerative diseases. They will have seen them suffering and witnessed the gradual removal of their powers. They will also have seen the slow death which, frankly, those conditions involve. I do not think that anyone would want to thwart any area of research that could help victims of Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis and other conditions which cause untold misery both to those who suffer from them and their families and friends, who have to provide care and support.

The hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) was right to say that we must be wary of giving any impression that immediate remedies or solutions for those conditions are just around the corner. Were we to do so, we would raise an awful lot of hope that would not be fulfilled.