Over 100 doctors, scientists, philosophers and theologians have called for MPs to be allowed a free vote on the Government’s controversial Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.
In a letter sent to The Times the leading academics say the Bill “covers sensitive ethical questions” and MPs should be free to vote according to their conscience.
The Bill contains highly controversial proposals to liberalise the law on embryo research. Some scientists want the law relaxed to allow them to conduct studies which, they say, could lead to various medical cures. Others scientists doubt whether such research will be successful.
The letter to The Times unites leading experts in a range of fields who feel strongly that the Bill’s contents should be subject to a free vote, rather than being forced into law by the Government.
They write: “We the undersigned do not hold a single common view on the substantive proposals in the present Bill.
“We do, however, hold a common view that the Government and the other political parties should not erode the precedent of a ‘conscience vote’ on controversial bioethical legislation.”
Following recent reports that three members of the Cabinet were planning to rebel against the Government because of ethical objections to the Bill, Chief Whip Geoff Hoon has told The Daily Telegraph that Labour MPs will be allowed to abstain from voting.
“Nobody will be required to vote against their conscience,” Mr Hoon told the paper.