A petition to the Prime Minister has been started urging him to give Labour MPs a free vote on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.
It states: "We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to allow free votes on the embryology and fathers components of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill when considered by the House of Commons."
Michael Hill, my colleague on SPUC's National Executive Committee, sent me a link to it this afternoon. He writes: "It may seem to be a waste of time as the Government does not seem to take any notice of these petitions but if there is not a good response, the Government may use that as an indication that the public in general support the HF & E bill."
It was good to see in this weekend's Catholic Herald that Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, Jim Dobbin MP, said during the recent rally against the bill at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster: "If there is no free vote accorded by the Government I will be voting against this bill." Newspapers cannot say word for word what everyone said at such meetings. But I trust that Mr Dobbin would vote against the bill even if a free vote is granted.
It has also been promising to read that Catholic Cabinet ministers Ruth Kelly, Des Browne and Paul Goggins are known to be "deeply unhappy about the contents of the bill". If any of them defied a three-line whip they would at least be expected to resign from the Cabinet. It is reported that they have been told that they can be “absent” to avoid having to vote. What a massive stand for life it would be if these politicians were to actually turn up and defy their own government whip, thus putting their ministerial jobs in jeopardy. Three Labour whips - Tommy McAvoy, Tony Cunningham and Frank Roy, all of whom are Catholics - are also thought to have serious misgivings about elements of the bill. Let us pray earnestly for them that they will have the courage to reject the government's push to end the lives of millions more embryos, remove the need for a father, and create "human admixed embryos" as they are now labelled in the bill.
It is truly scandalous that the Government can whip this bill. As "more details" from the petition creator, Phil Craig, say:
"There is a tradition when dealing with matters of conscience that MPs are not whipped. This is particularly true when it comes to human embryos. When the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill was considered by Parliament the (then)government allowed free votes on all matters up until the final vote.
"The joint committee on the draft Human Tissues and Embryos bill recommended that this approach be adopted for questions over embryology and the role of fathers, but the Brown government has said that free votes will only be allowed on abortion.
"This decision suggests that there is no room for conscience and conscientious objection in our politics. If the government is genuinely concerned about voter apathy and alienation it should demonstrate that British politics caters for conscience and conscientious objection through free votes."
You can find the petition at http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/embryovote/. It only takes two minutes - if that - to complete. Please tell your friends and family, circulate the link via email and post it on blogs. The deadline for signatures is 13 May. So far 1,832 have put their name to it.