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SPUC welcomes Tory health spokesman's opposition to cloning

17 November 2000

SPUC welcomes Tory health spokesman's opposition to cloning Westminster, 17 November 2000--The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) has welcomed opposition from a Conservative front bench health spokesman to government proposals to allow human cloning. During today's adjournment debate, Mr Philip Hammond, Conservative MP for Runnymede and Weybridge, voiced concerns that science was pushing ahead of the moral consensus. People at large had woken up to the potential dangers of cloning, he told the House of Commons. Concerns about BSE and genetically modified foods had caused people to re-evaluate the role of science in society. John Smeaton, national director of SPUC, said: "Although this is not a party-issue, and although a free vote has been promised on the government's intended measures, it is encouraging to see opposition front-bench support for the case against human cloning." Mr Hammond warned that MPs might be being asked to sanction cloning on the grounds that the end justified the means. However, the end was by no means certain and he warned that the genie could be let out of the bottle. Mr Hammond also pointed out that human embryos were not the only source of stem cells. Umbilical cords and adult tissue were a rich source too. He quoted the British Medical Journal as saying in January last year that the use of embryonic cells would soon be eclipsed by the use of adult cells. All of the letters he had received from constituents on this subject had opposed cloning. Mr Smeaton commented: "It is encouraging that we appear to have a more ethically-aware Conservative front bench team than when the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act was debated under Margaret Thatcher, when human experimentation was legalised with her backing and that of Kenneth Clarke. "We believe that interest in this subject will increase throughout the nation, and that concerned individuals should urge their MPs to take part in the growing national debate on human cloning." Mr Smeaton also welcomed Mrs Ann Winterton's speech in the debate, during which she pointed out that public opinion polls showed a majority against human cloning. She quoted Lord Winston, the pro-cloning fertility expert, as saying that so-called therapeutic cloning would inevitably lead to cloning as a means of reproduction. Ms Yvette Cooper, the public health minister, used the debate to restate her support for so-called therapeutic cloning and to repeat that the government would bring forward measures to allow it. When asked by Mr Hammond whether she would bow to public opinion if it turned out to be opposed to so-called therapeutic cloning, Ms Cooper spoke of how MPs were elected by their constituents to make decisions on their behalf. Dr Liam Fox MP, the shadow health secretary, had previously rejected the chief medical officer's report which advocated cloning, calling the proposal "morally and ethically unacceptable".

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