27 January 2008

Labour's Ethical Rebels

In the latest tussle over the government's controversial Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, that would allow the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos and allow children to be born by IVF without a father's involvement, the Observer reports that senior Labour Catholics are demanding a free vote when the bill returns to the Commons after Easter, claiming that the ethical issues it raises are matters of conscience. Among the those wanting to be led by their consciences rather than blindly following the party line are Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly, Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy, and Defence Secretary Des Browne. Others apparently include a Northern Ireland Office minister and three Labour whips.

Even though our party machines do not like their members to think freely, on this issue perhaps more than any other under current debate, it would surely be right for our elected representatives to be allowed to stand up and be counted for their own personal beliefs.