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Orders of the Day — Human Fertilisation and Embryology

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:33 pm on 19th December 2000.

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Photo of Ann Winterton Ann Winterton Conservative, Congleton 5:33 pm, 19th December 2000

I will not give way; I am continuing with my speech.

I have been involved in these matters for many years and therefore have little doubt that money is involved: the crude commercial potential that the use of the human embryo will open up to our £50 billion science industry.

Every human embryo is a miracle. As we have said before in these debates, he or she initiates, controls, sustains and directs his or her own development. Although the embryo is no bigger than a pin point, every kind of cell and tissue that is necessary for skin, muscles, bones, nerves and organs is there from the start.

It is because of those properties that each embryo holds such promise for the biotechnological and other sections of our science industry. The industry could make enormous profits if it were able to extract cells for use in medicine, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, but I find horrifying the manner in which we are held to ransom by its misleading claims. They are nothing less than disingenuous and a cruel hoax on those who are most vulnerable—those suffering from degenerative and other diseases, who understandably seek an instant cure for their condition.

If we lose the vote, I have no intention of going away. Month in and month out I will be joined by colleagues, and others in another place, to table and publicise questions on work with adult stem cells and on research on the human embryo and his brother or sister the clone. We have a remarkable number of friends in the scientific and medical community, and I know that they will join us in ensuring that we see every published paper. We will make a point of drawing them to the attention of the House and the public as a whole.

I draw attention to the claims made, primarily by members of the Government, that they have heard from families and the victims of disease—the people who have to carry the burden. I, too, have heard from such people and those who have written to me have made it abundantly clear that they are appalled by the idea of cloning or of using embryonic stem cells in their treatment. I have certainly heard from groups such as the Parkinson's Disease Society, but the people suffering from Parkinson's disease who have written to me complain that the society has never written to its members or groups to consult them and to check on their feelings on the issue.

I well remember disabled people coming to the House in 1990 to lobby in favour of the use of embryos for experiments. Without exception, they had all been assured that embryo research would provide them with cures and, without exception, the same cruel hoax was played on them. They were used in a callous and unscrupulous way as a means to an end.

I repeat what I said earlier and in other debates. To treat people who are suffering as so much fodder in a campaign that denies them the facts is, to my mind, cruel. Neither my colleagues nor I will stop trying to make those who are responsible for the present propaganda ultimately having to answer for their claims.

The course that the Government are pursuing with so much determination, despite the opposition of so many in the House and outside, is an affront to the dignity of human life and flies in the face of the traditional Judaeo-Christian moral ethos of our nation.