GM babies: Conscience vote for MPs expected

MPs are expected to be given a free vote on a controversial three-parent baby technique, a health minister has said.

Jane Ellison said the procedure “involved important issues” and she would be “very surprised” if the matter wasn’t decided by a conscience vote.

Speaking during a Westminster Hall debate on the technique, Miss Ellison also confirmed that the matter would be looked at by the whole House of Commons.


The procedure uses IVF to create a baby with DNA from three parents – the aim is to eradicate mitochondrial disease, which is inherited through the mother.

During the debate, MPs raised serious concerns about the technique’s safety.

Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said the technique would result in “genetically modified children” and “ends up being a multi-generational experiment with the lives of people”.


He warned that the technique could contravene the European Union Charter of Fundamental Human Rights which prohibits “eugenic practices”.

He said it is a “fundamentally dangerous road to start down” because in the future scientists will eventually work out “how to ensure that babies have blue eyes and blonde hair, or whatever people want”.

He pointed to polling commissioned by CARE, a Christian public affairs charity, which shows more women oppose the technique than support it.


Of those questioned, 36 per cent of women said the procedure should not be introduced, whereas 31 per cent said it should.

Labour MP Robert Flello warned that there is a “Pandora’s box of problems” as it is unknown how future generations will be affected.

And MP Jim Dobbin warned that the technique may be unsafe.


He said: “The head of the United States Food and Drug Administration advisory committee on this matter, Evan Snyder, has said that there are not enough clinical data to suggest that mitochondrial transfer is safe.”

Mr Rees-Mogg highlighted an article in a leading science journal ‘Nature’ in which scientists had discovered that 52% of human embryos created through the procedure had “chromosomal abnormalities”.

He said there is a “grave question mark about eugenics” which “frightens almost every sensible person”.


He explained that since the procedure’s aim is to remove a disorder, it is based on the premise that the one in 200 children born every year in the UK who have some kind of mitochondrial disorder are “born imperfect and that in future only perfect people should be born”.

Last month the Department of Health released a consultation on draft regulations on the technique which closes on 21 May.