Catholic MPs resist prime minister in British embryo bill controversy

Catholic MPs resist prime minister in British embryo bill controversy

Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Prime Minister Gordon Brown


Catholic Labour Party MPs have refused an offer from the British ruling government to allow them to abstain from voting on a bill that would allow the creation of human-animal chimera embryos and would permit in-vitro fertilization treatments to single or homosexual women, The Telegraph reports.

A defeat of the bill would be considered a major setback for Prime Minster Gordon Brown.

Geoff Hoon, the Labour Chief Whip, offered to allow objecting party members to stay away from the vote on the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill rather than to follow their consciences and vote against the government’s legislation.

Several MPs told the Sunday Telegraph that the deal was not acceptable and that they will vote against the bill. 

Greg Pope, the Labour MP for Hyndburn, said, "I have had hundreds of letters from constituents about human-animal hybrids. The idea that I turn round to them and say the Chief Whip has given me the day off from voting will cut no ice at all."

Dozens of backbenchers and as many as twelve ministers are thought to oppose the bill.  If they join with bill opponents, the bill could be defeated.

The Telegraph has reported that prominent Catholics in the Brown government are prepared to resist orders to vote for the legislation.  They include Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly and Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy.

Prime Minister Brown is expected to tell them that though they can abstain from voting on religious grounds, voting against the bill could mean their removal from the government.

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