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This is a humiliating climb down for Gordon Brown. Nevertheless, it's a welcome one.

I think you need to look at the facts. The person who ought to feel humiltiated is Cameron for using such a subject for cheap political gain.
Each time Cameron has asked GB about this bill he said he would allow MP's to follow their concience.
For proof of this look back at past PMQ'S.
Cameron has used this bill for nothing more than opportunistic politics.
Especially wrong from someone like Cameron who has a severely disabled child to play at party politics with such an important issue.

It's only a partial climbdown. Either MPs vote as their conscience allows on this bill or they do not.
Brown is not only wrong to seek to try to impose his will on a matter of conscience he is also tactically inept.

Justin, I do not understand your "Nevertheless". Surely almost anything that is a humiliation for Brown is to be welcomed per se?!

Cameron has played this well. Whilst I am prepared to accept people's word for it that there are probably important underlying issues involved, based on the press reports since this became a matter of political and ecclesistical dispute it is actually quite difficult to me to understand what they are.

Alexis - that is nonsense. What are you talking about? There is a tradition of allowing free votes on issues like this - abortion legislation for example.

Opportunism is jumping on a bandwagon, but DC has been making all the running on this, hardly opportunistic.

I would suggest your comment about his disabled son is extremely cowardly and pathetic.

Personally I am fully in favour of this bill.Anyone who as seen people suffer from the illnesses that the scientists say they will be trying to cure by these experiements can not fail to think they may do more good than harm or are we to put religious and political dogma before the quest to stop people suffering from these terrible illnesses.

Matthew | March 25, 2008 at 17:11

Mathew, Cameron has no hang ups about wheeling the child out onto TV when it suits him or using him for NHS claims like the people who were made redundant.
He claims that people would like to see how politicians live and yet this same man claims privacy when it comes to other subjects such as has he ever taken drugs.
Cameron is not consistent.
He made the boy fair game not me..

The fact that you think his boy is 'fair game' probably says all I needed to say.

Back to topic - does this mean Brown will allow a free vote on the final legislation once all is said and done?

"Justin, I do not understand your "Nevertheless". Surely almost anything that is a humiliation for Brown is to be welcomed per se?!"

Beacuse I am against this bill and want to see it defeated. More Labour MPs will vote against it if they know that won't get into trouble from their whips.

I hope people don't feel the battle has now been won - there are still some hugely disturbing elements of this bill that need to be voted down, not just freely...

David Burrowes MP had a letter in the Telegraph today about designer babies:

Embryo reform debate

Sir - As members of the joint committee that considered the Human Fertilisation and Embryo Bill when it was in draft form, Lord Winston and I have discussed the issue of human embryo screening ("Labour in clash with Church on embryo reforms", report, March 24).

While the label "designer babies" may be emotive, it would have had even more resonance if Lord Winston and others had their way and sex selection was allowed for screening out embryos. As it is, the Bill draws a hazardous ethical line between continuing to allow screening out of embryos that are disabled, but not on the basis of sex.

Is it not far better for society to rise to the challenge of supporting families with the difficult task of caring for disabled children, rather than extinguish life that may be premature or painful?

I prefer the Psalmist's definition of the unborn child, whatever sex or ability, being "fearfully and wonderfully made", rather than Lord Winston's reference to victims of a "sexual Russian roulette".

David Burrowes MP (Con), Member of Joint Committee on Draft Human Tissues and Embryo Bill, London SW1

Matthew - According to the BBC, he is only allowing a free vote on the three most controversial parts of the bill. He expects all Labour MPs to support the bill in the final Commons vote regardless of the outcome of the free votes.

I said: "Justin, I do not understand your "Nevertheless". Surely almost anything that is a humiliation for Brown is to be welcomed per se?!"

Justin H said: "Beacuse I am against this bill and want to see it defeated. More Labour MPs will vote against it if they know that won't get into trouble from their whips."

Justin - I think you mean "moreover", not "nevertheless". "Nevertheless" implies that your pleasure at the substantive issue was diminished by Brown being humiliated. For my part, I take most pleasure in the humiliation...

I am interested that on this issue, Justin, you are in harmony with mother Church. Not an entirely usual situation, if I recall some earlier debates. Nonetheless I am sure one in which the Cardinal and others will take pleasure, whatever your faith (or lack of it)!

This is an important moral issue, wherever you stand on it, and the party-politic playing of "taking pleasure in Brown's humiliation" is really out of place on something like this.

Ditto the delightful Miss Dorries now starting, it seems, a 'name and shame' catalogue of marginal Labour MPs not pandering to her shrill dogmatic monomania, on the grounds that "many MPs, however, choose to use Parliament as a place to pander to their own preference, or ideology, rather than to represent the will of the people."

She has said elsewhere that 8% of the British people want a full ban on abortion. Considering 92% therefore don't, will we see Nadine "representing the will of the people" on these things?


Schadenfreudally, it's good to see "Back-down Brown" taking some more significant credibility-damage.

I still hope the bill eventually passes though!

Alexis - your comment is desperately amusing because it shows that you Brownies have become amusingly desperate...

I don't know why Cameron doesn't start measuring up for carpets and curtains in Number 10 now - come on Gord - save us the wait!

This is a humiliating climb down for Gordon Brown

Is it? All it does is pay lip-service to the issue. Brown still expects his ministers to vote for the bill come what may (even if the offending clauses are still in it).

Already it is being reported that some of his hypocritical cowardly lackies are pretending this gives them a way out (Murphy for one).

Seems to me this is the same old Gordon Brown forcing his will on people through stealth, obfuscation and deceit because he lacks the courage to stand by his convictions openly.

While this move is welcome, the cynic in me feels that the Labour Whips have used the Easter weekend to tally up numbers on their side; make some prudent assumptions about the way other parties' members will split on the issue; and so inform the Great Leader this morning that he can make a "gesture" and allow a free vote because he will still win.

Everything is narrow calculation for GB.

The entire HFE Bill is anti-life. Allowing a free vote on three of its most obscene aspects does not constitute a victory for humanity (albeit is a step in the right direction).

This Bill is not about medical cures: they are not being delivered by embryology but they are coming from adult and umbilical stem cell research.

Londoner, part of the reason this is so contentious is because it goes to the heart of the question "what is a human being". If we (and especially our leaders) cannot see that every human being has an inalienable dignity and autonomy then civilisation is lost. The weak become slaves and commodities for the powerful. Moreover embryos are not 'the thin end of the wedge'--they are fully human.

Each one of us was once a fertilised egg. We were not a different person at that time, a different being. Had we been wiped out for experimentation, then we would lose our life. I challenge anybody to assert such an event would make no difference to them (or to others).

PS Did anyone see Dawn Primarolo MP on Ch4 News tonight trying to defend the HFE Bill not being given a full free vote by saying that it had passed through the House of Lords alright?

But she completely failed to say it was 3-line-whipped through the Lords! Was she taking the Mickey?

A lot of people don't realise that abortion is still illegal in NI. If we are in any doubt that there is an ethical and religious case against the Embryology Bill, we should consider why this seems to be the only subject that this deeply divided society has deemed important enough to agree on (all the NI parties are unanimous in their opposition to the Embryology Bill).

"PS Did anyone see Dawn Primarolo MP on Ch4 News tonight trying to defend the HFE Bill not being given a full free vote by saying that it had passed through the House of Lords alright?

But she completely failed to say it was 3-line-whipped through the Lords! Was she taking the Mickey?"

Oh yes I saw her woeful performance tonight on C4. She tried to argue that this was not a climb down for the government, and having now read the detail of what is proposed, it isn't.
This bill should be a complete free vote at its third reading both in the HoC and the HoL, it should not be dictated by party politics in anyway. This should be the type of legislation that is debated and decided upon by Parliament with no political dividing lines to interfere with what surely needs to be an open and honest debate.
This is when Parliament can be at its best, especially in light of the sensitive nature of some aspects to the bill.
Gordon Brown and his whips have handled the passage of this bill badly, it should not be about his authority or the government winning or losing, what is at stake is too important. Feelings will run high because it will bring about a show down between science and religion, what on earth did Brown think he was doing by bringing politics into it as well!

Firstly to avoid confusion with the post further up the thread, I should point out, I am not James M.

I doubt Camerons call for a free vote made Brown do it. The real threat was from his own Cabinet members who for obvious reasons understandably felt uneasy about being shoved through the Aye lobby. There was a certain inevitability of this it must be said.

The silly thing is that the Bill will pass fairly easily through the Commons and a three line whip is unnecessary because the numbers are on his side anyway.

I accept that many people find this a deeply important issue and the reason why I don't know whether I agree is probably mostly because I have not studied the details. Creating and discarding embryos is an important issue but in what way does this bill extend this, I thought it was allowed already? I understand that this Bill would allow human DNA to be put into animal eggs - to me that is less of a potential human being (i.e. probably not one at all) than human dna in a human egg. I can see that someone totally against mucking around with DNA would oppose the bill, just as they are presumably against the earlier legislation. I do object to the "no need for a father" clause - that I can understand. But weighing up potential scientific benefits (which one doesn't understand) against different types of embyonic manipulation (not understanding the distinctions between what is allowed now and would be allowed under the legislation) is not something that I for one am able to do.

Platitudes about "Frankenstein" on the one hand or curing horrible diseases on the other (I am not saying we have had these here) do not really advance rational discussion.

I would also say that for a Parliament/country that allows wholesale abortions up to 22/24 weeks, with something like 50% of pregnancies ending in abortion (which I abhor), worrying about a 2 week embryo might be a bit of a luxury (I know the theology might say different but when they have actually grown most of their vital organs, they have a face, arms, legs they are rather more human to me than a newly fertilised egg). Like many parents, I have seen ultrasounds of my children at 10 and 12 weeks and they were the same beings that they are today - it would be strange if a Parliament that would have allowed them to be slaughtered on a whim to ban the use of a 2 week old embryo where the objective is scientific advance rather than parental convenience.

But, despite these serious points (which are designed to show how someone who is not deeply engaged in this debate sees it), I still take pleasure in Brown's humiliation - sorry, put that down to my sinful human condition.

Brown's failure to grant a free vote on all aspects of the Bill makes this nothing more than a token gesture. Brown is a control freak and would never let anything jeopardise getting his Bills through.

There are some very strange and worrying concepts in this proposed legislation.
A free vote over certain clauses is not enough, Brown should allow a free vote on the third reading too!

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