14 March 2008
108 UK academic professors (including scientists, lawyers, philosophers and theologians) have written to the Times newspaper calling for the Prime minister Gordon Brown to allow Members of Parliament (MPs) a free vote in the House of Commons on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Proposed amendments to this legislation will be voted on, and the writers have said that ‘conscience voting’ (ie. not dictated by the political party, but left to the individual consciences of the MPs) should be maintained for bioethical issues such as this, despite the fact that they themselves did not share a common position on the proposals.Presently, MPs have been given permission to abstain from voting, but not to vote according to their own preferences; MPs have also been calling for a free vote (see BBC news).
Earlier the same week, forty cross-party MPs wrote to the Telegraph newspaper to express dismay at the decision of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to grant licences to conduct research with hybrids before the debate on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (see previous news).