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Does the logic of what my hon. Friend has just said not lead him to the conclusion that the embryo, when grown to term, would constitute a cloned human being if it did not derive its genetic blueprint from two sources?
I was interested to read all the information that I have received on this topic, especially the views of the major religions. House of Commons Library research paper No. 93 was published on 12 December 2000. I must compliment the Library: the summary of the debate is excellent. The paper also summarises some of the religious leaders' views. Most of the great religions represented in the report do not totally object to the kind of research covered in the regulations. The objections seem to arise from the difference between the use of embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West has made that plain. However, that is an ethical and moral issue, which hon. Members will have to decide for themselves. I shall support the regulations; others will not.
As well as letters of objection, I have received quite a few letters willing me to vote for the regulations next week, which I shall have no hesitation in doing. I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members will have received the same letter that I have received from a 44-year-old woman in Aberdeenshire who has children aged six and eight.
I do not believe that the advances will come soon enough for the young woman in Aberdeenshire, and I regret that. I do not think that there will be solutions tomorrow for people with Parkinson's disease and other terrifying degenerative diseases, which I also regret. However, there is hope for their children and grandchildren. Can we miss an opportunity to help them? Can we condemn future generations to suffer as their parents and grandparents suffered? I cannot vote for that. There are risks attached to the research work and its applications, but the potential benefits far exceed the risks. That is why I shall support the Government next week.
Mr. Jim Dobbin (Heywood and Middleton): It has been fascinating to listen to the contributions and different views of hon. Members, not least that of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon), who painted a lucid picture of the flashlight creation of life. It reminded me that I was working in the Royal Oldham hospital when the first test tube baby, Louise Brown, was born. That gave us an idea of the future.
I have a scientific background, although it is not the same as my hon. Friend's. I want medical research so that the scientific and medical worlds make progress and cure all the serious diseases that have been mentioned. Let me declare an interest: I am diabetic, and I have a son-in-law and two grandsons who have a fairly serious congenital neurological muscle disorder. One of my grandsons, who is only four, was on a life support machine last year for four days. The new-born baby has the same genetic pattern. I have a real interest in such research. The hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) declared that he has not crossed the Rubicon, but neither have I. I always make it clear to everyone in the House and my constituency where I stand on the issue of life. I never hide that.
In the debates in 1990, I could find no reference to the cloning technique that will be permitted under the statutory instrument on which we will vote on Tuesday. There were only two references to cloning itself, both of which related to the fact that the law would not allow cloning. One of those statements was made by the then Secretary of State for Health, who on Second Reading assured the House that
There are obvious similarities between the two campaigns. In 2000, as in 1990, hon. Members received material from groups, including charities, promising that if only scientists were allowed to use the human embryo in experiments, cures would be developed for all manner of genetic diseases and disorders. In 1990, of course, Parliament gave in and agreed to that research.
Now we discover that although there have certainly been advances in treatment for a number of tragic genetic disorders, they have all come from research methods about which there is no ethical dispute. In 1990 politicians argued that there was more than one moral outcome. The same is true now. Curing disease is a moral cause. Increasingly, however, MPs are becoming concerned about whether the end justifies the means, particularly as so many are becoming more worried about precisely what that end is.
In the past week or so, I have been struck by the arguments of hon. Members who do not agree with me at all on life issues. Many of them are asking why, if the matter is so straightforward, there is such haste to change the law and why hon. Members are not allowed to consider the whole issue. I should have preferred the matter to be dealt with through primary legislation, rather than a statutory instrument. We cannot table amendments to such an instrument; we can only vote to accept it or reject it.
In the past few weeks, there has been considerable discussion in the newspapers about the manner in which the Government are supporting the bioscience industry, which has been described as "our £50 billion industry".
A few days after the European bioscience conference, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry announced a 45 per cent. increase in real-terms spending between 1997 and 2004, which as a Labour Back Bencher I certainly applaud. He said something else with which I agree. In referring to the economic benefits of science, he said:
However, my right hon. Friend, too, has referred to the great benefits of embryo research. Will the statutory instrument allow the manufacture of human clones for the great bioscience industry in which we are investing such huge sums? I have heard the Minister comment previously on that, but I should like her to refer to it again today. If any hon. Members are opposed to such development, they should vote against the statutory instrument on Tuesday and instead demand that changes in the law should be made in primary legislation.
During the past year or so, an increasing number of papers have been published on the successful use of adult stem cells. We have heard the debate over the difference between the use of adult stem cells and embryo stem cells, so I shall not go into it; suffice it to say that we should be steering our research more towards use of the former.
To understand why scientists are so anxious to be allowed to use human clones in particular, one must first understand a little about the development of the embryo, about which we have had some debate. No bigger than a full stop, its cell will provide all and every kind of tissue that makes muscle, bone and all organs, so it is a unique piece of life. Embryo cells will proliferate with almost unlimited potential, maintaining a pool of growing and dividing cells, with the added ability that some of the daughter cells can differentiate into specific cell types.
To return to the commercial issue, one hardly needs to be Einstein to recognise the tremendous commercial attraction for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies hoping to be able to obtain and possibly use human clones for their work and products. However much I disagree with colleagues on the issue, I respect them if they say what they want. However, I cannot go along with the thought of Parliament being led into what could be a quagmire without being informed of to what and where we are being led. The Helsinki agreement on medical
Why is the legislation being hastily pushed through as a statutory instrument? Why are the Government pressurising us to go ahead with that vehicle? Until they are able to answer those and a few more questions, I intend to vote against the regulations on Tuesday.