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Pro and Anti embryo research MPs unite in support of free votes

Seventy MPs from all sides of the political divide on embryo issues have so far signed an Early Day Motion in favour of free votes on key parts of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill and for consideration by a committee of the whole House. Half of David Cameron's pre-budget PMQ questions were on this subject.

David Burrowes' EDM 1127 looks to the precedent set in 1990, when contentious issues of conscience within the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act were subject to thorough scrutiny by a Committee of the whole House, with all MPs allowed a free vote up to the final stage.

This procedure would be especially relevant to the issues of animal-human hybrids and the screening of embryos for inherited diseases or tissue compatibility. Burrowes, an opponent of embryo research, commented:

“Irrespective of differing opinions on the provisions of the Bill itself, there is a common understanding that its contents are of huge ethical and moral significance and will have significant implications on a UK approach to medical research. My motivation in tabling this EDM is to draw on previous precedent to allow all MPs to engage as fully and freely as possible in the Commons. The issue is as much one of the integrity of our Parliamentary system as it is of conscience.”

Even Dr Evan Harris MP, a prominent supporter of embryo research, is one of the signatories:

"Many of those on the progressive and liberal side of the House oppose the dragooning of MPs into the voting lobbies on the issue of embryo research, and we feel confident that Parliament will support carefully regulated medical research using embryos, after full and free debate just as it did in 1990 on the original Act and in 2001 when it overwhelmingly approved therapeutic cloning.”

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