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 5:27 pm on 19th December 2000.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mike Gapes Mike Gapes Labour/Co-operative, Ilford South 5:27 pm, 19th December 2000

It is a real pleasure to follow that speech from the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key). He has spoken so much sense that many of us will keep our remarks much shorter than they would otherwise have been.

As someone who has not had an opportunity to speak on the issue because I was away with a Select Committee on Friday when the debate was held, I want to offer the perspective of someone who has seen members of his family suffer from Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and cancer, but who has been lobbied vigorously in the past few weeks by a variety of organisations.

I am not surprised that I am being targeted by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children yet again. It has done so several times at different elections and it will no doubt do so again. However, I take offence when I receive a letter that suggests why we are debating the issue today, stating that it is a matter of grievous concern that the Government should have selected dates for the debate and the vote on an issue of such profound ethical importance when many MPs may have left for the Christmas recess. That was from Phyllis Bowman of the Right to Life campaign. For her information, I and many other hon. Members will be working hard to represent our constituents throughout the year. She may have long Christmas recesses, but some of us have casework and letters to respond to, including those that she has incited for many weeks.

I have received correspondence, as no doubt have many hon. Members, from constituents who ask me please to vote against human cloning. I am delighted to be able to say that I shall do so on many occasions. If the vote today—on the basis of what the Minister said earlier—is also a vote against human cloning, I will vote against cloning today. However, I will also support stem cell research. The two are very different. Unfortunately, some people who are campaigning against the proposal are deliberately confusing and muddying the waters, which leads people to believe that we are going to create a human Dolly the sheep through our vote today. Many people have already explained why that is completely untrue—so I shall not repeat what has been said. However, it would be helpful if some pressure groups and organisations considered the facts of an issue, rather than trying to whip up the fears and prejudices that are so easy to foster because people are afraid of science.

The hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) tried to clarify three positions on the issue, although many of us think that there are many positions and that the world is more complicated than he portrayed it. He said that he would vote against the proposals. In that case, what does he think that we should do with the 273,000 embryos created through in vitro fertilisation, which are destroyed and not used for any purpose? Is he saying that we should not use IVF?

Constituents tell me that they are desperate to have a child, after years of effort; they want the local health authority to agree to further national health service expenditure on IVF. A consequence of IVF is a large number of "surplus" embryos. At present, they are not used in any way to benefit anybody, yet—so we understand—there is a potential for medical research that might lead to benefits for people suffering from Alzheimer's disease, cancer or diabetes.