MPs vote against ban on hybrid embryos

A cross-party attempt to ban the use of hybrid human-animal embryos for scientific research was rejected by the Commons tonight. MPs voted 336 to 176 (a majority of 160) against the move led by Tory former minister Edward Leigh.

The Commons then rejected a cross-party bid to ban the use of so called "true hybrids" using the sex cells of a human and an animal. Voting was 286 to 223, majority 63.

It was the first in a series of critical votes on emotive issues in committee stage debate on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill - the biggest shake-up of law in this area for 20 years.

Mr Leigh (Gainsborough) said the use of "admixed" embryos, using genetic material from both humans and animals, would cross an "entirely new ethical boundary," and turn the UK into a scientific "rogue state".

The embryos created would have to be destroyed after 14 days, but scientists hope stem cells can be harvested and used to create brain, skin, heart and other tissue for treating diseases.

Mr Leigh warned it was a "step too far" adding: "In many ways we are like children playing with landmines without any concept of the dangers of the technology that we are handling."

But Labour's Chris Bryant (Rhondda), a former Anglican curate, compared Mr Leigh's arguments to those used by church leaders against the smallpox vaccine.

"They were wrong and I think you are wrong today," Mr Bryant said.

All the main parties have allowed MPs a free vote on the creation of the "admixed" embryos and on the next issue to be debated tonight - the creation of so-called "saviour siblings" whose genetic material could help sick relatives.

Controversial attempts to reduce the abortion time limit will be debated tomorrow.

For the Tories, Mark Simmonds said he did not agree that admix embryos showed no prospect of providing solutions to the "very real problems that exist" to find cures for debilitating diseases.

But he raised concerns about the creation of "true hybrids", warning that the scientific community had expressed "serious reservations" about hybrids that weren't always at the "human end of the spectrum".

Mr Simmonds accused the Government of "shifting" its position on true hybrids, adding: "This seems to undermine any consistent ethical position surrounding admixed embryos."

Lib Dem spokesman Evan Harris, a doctor, said his conscience told him to back the Bill.

And he took issue with claims it was a radical departure from the ethical principles in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990.

"The same principles in the 1990 Act apply in this Bill. Embryo research will still be heavily regulated in at least five ways."

Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said the shortage of human eggs presented a "significant barrier" to embryonic stem cell research and experts believe hybrid embryos were a "pragmatic" solution to the problem.

She assured MPs: "Any licence application to create a human admix embryo for research will need to prove to the HFEA that the proposed use of the embryo is necessary.

"Not simply that they want to try it as scientists, but that it is necessary and no other route of research will enable the development of the science to understand the development of the treatment."

Tory leader David Cameron confirmed earlier today that he backed proposals for the creation of human-animal hybrid embryos for medical research as well as so-called "saviour siblings" selected by parents in order to provide tissue material for seriously ill children.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister also voiced his support, hailing new ground-breaking techniques as "an inherently moral endeavour" which could save millions of lives.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Baroness Lane-Fox warned that large companies such as have become so powerful that governments and regulators are left behind
techTech giants have left governments and regulators behind
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
'Prison Architect' players decide the fate of inmates
tech
Life and Style
A picture taken on February 11, 2014 at people walking at sunrise on the Trocadero Esplanade, also known as the Parvis des droits de l'homme (Parvis of Human Rights), in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor