`Why shouldn't they get paid for their time?'

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LINDA NELSON, the mother of healthy seven-year-old twins, Alice and Oliver, would never have had children if it wasn't for Kim Cotton, Britain's first surrogate mother.

Mrs Cotton, who caused a public outcry when she was paid pounds 6,500 to have a baby for an infertile couple in 1985, volunteered to become a surrogate mother again five years later when Mrs Nelson and her husband, Robin, were fast losing hope of ever having a child. She had been unable to have a child since a miscarriage in 1988, but Alice and Oliver were born in 1991, nine months after the embryos had been implanted in the surrogate mother's womb.

The only payment Mrs Cotton received from the Nelsons, who were close friends, were her medical expenses and the cost of clothing and travel.

However, Mrs Nelson, from near Tonbridge in Kent, believes it is perfectly reasonable for surrogate mothers to receive money for loss of earnings as well as basic expenses.

"I don't see a problem in paying them for their time," she said. "Why shouldn't they be recompensed when they could be doing another job? Nannies are paid for looking after children, so why shouldn't someone who is acting 24 hours a day as an incubator receive payment? Someone is putting their life on the line after all."

Mrs Nelson, who works part-time as an airline purser, added: "Very few women can be surrogates and I don't think financial implications come into it for a lot of them, but I don't think I would be prepared to give up my income to carry someone else's child. Why should you go through that with no recompense? If someone is a secretary, for example, then you should match that money at least. It shouldn't get out of hand and perhaps there should be a ceiling on it. I think the amount of payment is up to the people involved."

She is full of praise for surrogacy and believes that it can provide a lifeline for many couples who have been driven to despair. "Surrogacy is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me because it has given me my wonderful children which I couldn't have had any other way," she said.