MPs vote for research on human embryos
After an impassioned debate and despite fierce opposition from pro-life campaigners, they voted by 366 to 174, a majority of 192, to permit stem cell research on embryos up to 14 days old. It was a free vote, enabling MPs to vote according to their consciences rather than along party lines.
Yvette Cooper, the public health minister, said that stem cell research did not represent a "slippery slope" to human cloning, which would remain illegal. She said the research could hold "the key to healing within the human body", giving hope to cancer and heart disease victims as well as those suffering from degenerative diseases. "There are immense potential benefits from allowing this research to go ahead, particularly for those suffering from dreadful chronic disease."
Ann Winterton, Conservative MP for Congleton and a leading opponent of the research, said it was a "cruel hoax" to claim that voting against the regulations was tantamount to depriving the sick of a cure. Every human possessed miraculous properties and "it is because of these properties that each embryo holds such promise for the biotechnological and other sections of our science industry".
A plea in support of the change was made by Anne Begg, Labour MP for Aberdeen South, who is confined to a wheelchair by a rare degenerative disease. She said that stem cell research had "enormous potential" for people suffering from a wide range of conditions and scientific and medical opinion was almost unanimous in its support. "Almost everyone who suffers from a degenerative disease is desperate for this research to go ahead, including many for whom the results of the research will come too late."
Fiona Mactaggart, Labour MP for Slough, who disclosed that she was both infertile and a multiple sclerosis sufferer, also appealed for MPs to back the change. Her voice quaking with emotion, she said it would be "unforgivable" to vote against the research.
Tony Blair voted in favour of the research and William Hague voted against.
By George Jones, Political Editor
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