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UK MPs threaten to walk-out over hybrid embryos

5 March 2008
Appeared in BioNews 447

This week, three Catholic Cabinet ministers in the UK have threatened to quit their posts following government proposals to allow the creation of hybrid embryos - embryos made using animal eggs that have their nuclei replaced with human genetic material, for use in stem cell research. The MPs have been named as Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly, Defence Secretary Des Browne and Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy.

The Daily Mirror newspaper reported that Ms Kelly has links with Opus Dei and Mr Murphy is a member of the all-party pro-life group. A friend of Mr Browne said: 'Des normally comes down on the side of the team rather than the individual, but this is religion'. The backlash came as parliament began the debate on The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill 2007. The Bill is intended to update the regulation of assisted reproduction and embryo research (primarily by amending the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990), to ensure that it is fit for purpose in the 21st Century. Six other ministers, six Parliamentary Private Secretaries and a number of whips have also been rumoured to resign over the Bill, sparking fears of a major blow to Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government.

Issues such as giving the go-ahead for the creation of hybrid animal-human embryos have raised a number of social and religious concerns. One MP commented that 'a lot of negotiating is going on. But at the moment we're walking into disaster'. Whilst ministers who object to the proposals could abstain from attending the vote, which is due to be held after Easter, they argue that they should be allowed to vote 'with their conscience' for changes to the legislation. But scientists believe that the creation and use of hybrids is essential to the progression of medical science and is necessary to keep Britain at the forefront of scientific research. They want to use the hybrids to 'grow' embryonic stem cell (ES cell) lines for the purpose of research into diseases such as Alzheimer's Disease, Huntington's Disease and motor neurone disease. But opponents of the move claim scientists are 'playing the sorcerer's apprentice', and that pro-life groups are considering a legal challenge.

MP's dismayed by HFEA's hybrid egg decision
The Daily Telegraph |  3 March 2008
Pro-Life MP speaks out about Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill
Rochdale online |  29 February 2008
The Mirror -Three Catholic Cabinet ministers threaten to quit over crossing human embryos with animals
The Mirror |  27 February 2008
1 September 2008 - by Ailsa Stevens 
Representatives of different faiths frequently intervene in debates around fertility and assisted reproduction, with religious perspectives cited in recent months both in support of and in opposition to the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill. Last Easter, the government's proposal to allow research using inter-species human or 'admixed' embryos...
9 April 2008 - by Sheila AM McLean 
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill, currently making its way through the UK's Parliament, marks the first major re-think of the original Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, passed in 1990. In the almost 20 years since the Act was passed, new medical developments and techniques have emerged which raise...
31 March 2008 - by MacKenna Roberts 
The head of Scotland's Catholic Church, Cardinal Keith O'Brien - who in his Easter Sunday sermon attacked the government's proposal to allow research using inter-species or human 'admixed' embryos, calling it 'government supported experiments of Frankenstein proportions' - said he would be 'only too happy' to attend a meeting...
25 March 2008 - by MacKenna Roberts 
Labour MPs are to be allowed a 'free vote' on three controversial aspects of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill currently before the House of Commons. MPs will be allowed to vote according to their conscience on: the use of animal eggs in embryo stem cell research...
17 March 2008 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
Catholic pressure to amend some of the provisions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill 2007, currently passing through parliament in the UK, is increasing. Last week, the Vatican added the destruction of embryos to a new list of mortal sins and, according to the BBC...
26 February 2008 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, has sent a pastoral message urging Catholics to write to MPs in opposition to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, which will be debated in the House of Commons in the coming weeks. In his message, the cardinal wrote that...
8 October 2007 - by Danielle Hamm 
The UK government has paved the way ahead for the Human Tissue and Embryos (HTE) Bill in its response to the Bill Scrutiny Committee, which was released today. The Government has taken on many of the Committee's recommendations, including the rejection of plans to merge the current...
3 September 2007 - by Professor Marcus Pembrey 
A Parliamentary committee has recently challenged several proposals in the UK Government's draft revised legislation for assisted reproduction and embryo research, published earlier this year. These areas of biomedical research and personal reproductive decisions raise important ethical and social issues. As such, the committee report is welcome, because it re-opens...
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