Parliament - Science: Blair Backs Move to Allow Human Embryo Research

Article excerpt

TONY BLAIR gave his backing yesterday to controversial research on human embryos which could unlock a cure for chronic diseases including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

Despite opposition to the move by pro-life MPs, the Prime Minister voted in favour of the move after a Commons debate last night. A Downing Street spokesman said Mr Blair believed it was important to discover what science could achieve before setting limits on what it was allowed to do.

"He is a strong believer in science and will be voting for it. He believes we should not put limits on science," the spokes- man said. The Public Health Minister, Yvette Cooper, denied plans for stem cell research would be a "slippery slope" to human cloning.

The research could hold the key to healing within the human body, she said, and could give hope to those suffering from degenerative diseases as well as cancer and heart disease. "Parliament is not being asked to cross the Rubicon today. Human reproductive cloning is illegal and must stay illegal. Under these regulations it will stay illegal."

Ms Cooper said the idea of cloning babies was "completely unacceptable," but he believed the new regulations were a "sensible extension" of the existing law. Research would be limited to embryos up to 14 days old, she added.

Some people were opposed to all forms of embryo research regardless of the controls placed on them, but there were strong reasons to back the regulations. "There are strong moral arguments for supporting these regulations," she said. "Some feel, as a matter of conscience, that they cannot support any extension of research involving embryos.

"But there are many, like me, who do not feel they can, as a matter of conscience, turn their backs on research that could relieve the suffering of so many. …