Bishop backs free vote on embryo bill

PUBLISHED: 13:42 25 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:05 06 May 2010

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BACKING for a free vote on the controversial embryos bill has come from the Bishop of St Albans. On Easter Monday, the Rt Rev Christopher Herbert responded to recent press reports on views expressed by Catholic clergy about the Human Tissues and Embryos B

BACKING for a free vote on the controversial embryos bill has come from the Bishop of St Albans.

On Easter Monday, the Rt Rev Christopher Herbert responded to recent press reports on views expressed by Catholic clergy about the Human Tissues and Embryos Bill.

Bishop Herbert called for both Houses of Parliament to have a free vote on the bill on the issues of inter-species embryos and a child's right to a father.

The bill would allow the creation of human/animal hybrid embryos to be used for medical research into diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Motor Neurone Disease.

Scientists want to be able to use animal embryos because of a shortage of human embryos for testing.

The Government wants to make it compulsory for all Labour MPs to vote in favour of the bill but several Catholic MPs are threatening to rebel and vote according to their consciences because of their religious beliefs.

St Albans Diocese spokesperson Arun Kataria said the Bishop felt that tightly-regulated experiments on inter-species embryos should be allowed because the safeguards in the bill were robust enough but he felt that voting on the issue should be a matter of conscience.

The Bishop was a member of the Parliamentary committee which scrutinised the bill in August last year before it was introduced to Parliament and at the time, he called for free votes on the two issues.

The committee said in its report that the proposal in the bill to remove the need for a father should be put to a free vote and Bishop Herbert has backed this as his personal view is that children need a father. He has also called for a national committee for bioethics because he thinks there is a lack of ethical scrutiny of legislation such as the Human Tissue and Embryos Bill. He was concerned that not enough time had been given to ethical issues when the House of Lords debated the bill in January.

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