For the second week running the Prime Minister has come under pressure in Parliament to say whether Labour MPs will be allowed to vote according to their conscience on the highly controversial embryos Bill.
The Bill proposes measures which may allow more embryos to be destroyed as part of medical research. It also includes plans to permit the creation of animal-human combinations and so-called ‘saviour siblings’.
Many Labour MPs, including three senior Cabinet ministers, have said they have ethical concerns about the Bill and do not intend to support the Government when it comes to a vote. But so far the Labour leadership has refused to say whether it will allow a free vote.
During Prime Minister’s Questions the leader of the opposition, David Cameron, said: “Last week I asked him whether we could have free votes on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill in this House, whereas in the House of Lords he whipped his peers on conscience issues.
“Can he tell us today: will we have free votes on that Bill on his side of the House when it comes here?”
The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, responded: “I made the position clear last week about this Bill. This is an important Bill that improves the facilities for research and is vital for dealing with life-threatening diseases. It is a Bill that has gone through the House of Lords.
“I said very clearly that everybody in this House should have the right to exercise their consciences. We will come back to the House with our proposals to take it through in later times.”
To which Mr Cameron said: “Why can he not just tell us whether we can have free votes or not? What is so difficult about making a decision about this issue?”