After weeks of mounting pressure, Gordon Brown says he will allow Labour MPs to vote according to their conscience on three controversial aspects of the embryos Bill.
The three areas are animal-human embryos, ‘saviour siblings’ and the importance of fatherhood for children created by IVF.
But if the Commons backs the Government’s plans, Mr Brown expects all Labour MPs to vote in favour when there is the final vote on the whole Bill.
Some commentators say that there are enough opposition MPs in favour of the Bill to cancel out the effect of any Labour rebels. But nevertheless the Prime Minister’s concession shows just how controversial the Bill is within his own party.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is currently in the House of Commons. It allows for human DNA to be mixed with animal DNA to create an animal-human embryo. Stem cells would then be harvested from the resulting embryo, which must be destroyed by 14 days of development.
Supporters of the controversial proposals claim the Bill will help medical research. More than 200 patients charities have written an open letter to MPs saying they back the plans.
However, after a decade of embryonic stem cell research no medical treatments have been developed. By contrast, over 70 treatments have come from research using adult stem cells.
Other controversial proposals in the Bill include allowing so-called ‘saviour siblings’ and undermining the importance of fathers for children created through IVF. Amendments are also expected to change the law on abortion.