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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

I would prefer to leave those decisions to the HFEA, but I have no doubt that even the European Commission has much greater expertise than I can possibly boast—at least, I dearly hope that it does.

I have heard logical responses to most of the concerns expressed to me, both from people in the sciences and from the Under-Secretary in Friday's debate. On the basis of arriving at a balance between the benefits that could accrue—I accept that we do not know how quickly or on how wide a front—and many people's misgivings about the use of embryos and cells derived from them, I am satisfied that we should proceed. I worry about the vocabulary that is sometimes used about the research and about the assumptions that underlie some of the letters sent to me. The latter are so mistaken that we must accept that, for a time, some people will not understand what we have agreed or why we have agreed to it. It is incumbent on everybody to try to make the information clear.

Today's debate was clear and hon. Members on both sides of the argument have acknowledged the points made by those with different opinions. We have a duty to try to allay fears and anxieties outside the House and to make clear what has been agreed. It is with some trepidation that I make my comments. I know that some of my hon. Friends have arrived at other conclusions, but we, like other parties, will have a free vote. However, having weighed up both sides of the argument and considered the warnings that have been sounded, I am persuaded that we must agree to the regulations. We do so in the light of the Under-Secretary's reassurances, which, I have no doubt, will be the backdrop against which the science will progress in future.