Stepping up their campaign for traditional parenting, Tories in the UK have demanded that lesbian couples be blocked from having IVF treatment unless they agree that a father figure would be involved in the upbringing of their child.
Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, on Monday called for changes to the human fertilisation and embryology bill which calls for "supportive parenting." This amends the current legislation, passed in 1990, which talks of the "need for a father".
AdvertisementLansley told MPs: "The reference to the need for a father should be recast as 'the need for supportive parenting and a father or a male role model'. This is not to discriminate against same-sex couples or single parents, but to ensure that the responsibility to a child is discharged."
His remarks came on the eve of a speech by Chris Grayling, the shadow work and pensions secretary, on whether Britain has forgotten how to parent. David Cameron, Leader of the Conservative Party says he believes that family breakdown is one of the main causes of poverty in Britain.
Signalling a renewed campaign for traditional values, the Tories said they would table a series of amendment to the human fertilisation and embryology bill on the contentious areas of human embryos.
Lansley accused the government of losing the plot because the bill departs from the spirit of the Warnock committee whose work formed the basis of the 1990 act being amended. This said human embryos should have "special status", with no research taking place where it could be done on animals or in other ways.
Lansley told MPs during the second reading debate on the bill: "The government appear to have lost the plot [because it] said the purpose of the legislation would be 'to ensure that Britain remains at the forefront of medical research'. Legislation is not just about reflecting scientific progress. Because scientists can do something, it does not mean they should."
Gordon Brown has given Labour MPs a limited free vote over IVF treatment for lesbian couples and two other areas, which were also questioned by Lansley:
Sanctioning hybrid embryos which are more than 99% human for research into stem cells. These are created by implanting DNA from an adult human nucleus into a cow or rabbit egg. Lansley accepted the need for "different models" for the creation of stem cells and agreed there was a lack of human eggs for research. But he said: "I find it perverse that the government, in bringing forward the bill, [will] not only permit the insertion of human nuclear material into an enucleated animal egg, but to extend it to 'any other embryo created by using human gametes and animal gametes, or one human pronucleus and one animal pronucleus'.
"I understand that any such embryo could not be implanted in a woman, nor could it be kept beyond 14 days. But the view taken consistently in the forming of the  act has been that embryos which are true hybrids, that is, not capable of being characterised as human, should not be created. We will therefore seek to amend the bill to remove true hybrids from the authorisation ...".
Sanctioning "saviour siblings". This describes the circumstances in which children genetically matched to a sibling with a genetic disease can be created by IVF. Lansley said: "We believe 'saviour sibling' provision should be tightly restricted to what are effectively life-threatening conditions."
Alan Johnson, the health secretary, told MPs: "Parliament's objective has always been to support scientific advances that benefit patients and their families through a clear legal, moral and ethical framework that provides proper controls and safeguards and reflects the concerns that many people have ...". Geraldine Smith, Labour MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, criticised the bill. "I consider this to be one of the most ill-conceived measures to be put before this house ... ," she said. "The law as it stands provides an important safeguard to the unborn child, as well as recognising and promoting the generally accepted notion of the ideal family unit - the one designed by nature, that of mother, father and child."