Gordon Brown is facing a revolt by cabinet ministers who are demanding a free vote over the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, claiming that the ethical issues it raises are matters of conscience.
Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly and Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy are leading the calls for MPs to be allowed a free vote on whether to permit the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos and to allow children to be born by IVF without a father’s involvement. Both are fierce critics and want to avoid having to choose between deeply held personal beliefs and backing the government.
Kelly recently met Geoff Hoon, Labour’s chief whip, to ask for voting restrictions to be removed from much, if not all, of the bill. At the moment MPs will only be allowed a free vote on any amendments that are tabled on abortion. Defence Secretary Des Browne is also understood to have concerns. All three ministers are prominent Catholics. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, leader of Britain’s four million Catholics, has condemned the bill as ‘profoundly wrong’ because it ‘radically undermines the place of the father in a child’s life’.
Paul Goggins, a Northern Ireland Office minister, is another to have raised the matter with Hoon. Labour sources say three whips – Tommy McAvoy, Frank Roy and Tony Cunningham – also have serious ethical problems with at least some of the bill. All four are Catholics.
Full story at The Observer.