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Monday, 19 November, 2001, 15:40 GMT
Move to block human cloning
Researcher working with embryonic stem cells, AP
UK law intended to ban cloning of human embryos
The UK Government is to appeal against a court ruling that would appear to allowing human cloning. It will also introduce legislation on the matter this week.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn said a bill making human cloning a specific criminal offence would be introduced in the House of Lords.

It follows a High Court ruling upholding a claim that human embryos generated by cell nuclear replacement (CNR) fell outside the protection of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990.

Any doctor attempting to create a pregnancy using a cloned embryo would not be acting ethically

Dr Evan Harris
Liberal Democrats
The government announcement came amid reports that a controversial Italian fertility expert was planning to visit the UK this week.

According to The Sunday Herald newspaper, Severino Antinori will meet with colleagues in London and Edinburgh this week.

Dr Antinori says he wants to use human cloning to help childless couples, a move that has been condemned by many scientists and doctors as unethical and potentially dangerous.

He plans to campaign against fresh moves to outlaw human cloning.

Appeal planned

The government's bill follows a new twist in the human cloning debate at the High Court last week.

Mr Justice Crane ruled that an organism created by CNR - the process used to produce Dolly the sheep - is not an embryo and therefore not covered by the act.

The ruling meant that the cloning of humans by this method was no longer illegal. Anti-abortion campaigners the Pro-Life Alliance had brought their case to the High Court to point out the loophole.

In a statement, Mr Milburn said the government would appeal against the High Court decision and also introduce the new legislation.

But some opposition MPs are voicing concern that the government is over-reacting and should wait until the appeal is heard and enact a new law at the normal pace.

Total opposition

UK law was intended to ban reproductive cloning - the creation of human babies by cloning - but permit strictly licensed experiments on cloned cells to develop treatments for degenerative diseases.

Since the court ruling, controversial Italian fertility doctor Severino Antinori has already said he is making plans to come to Britain to start producing human clones.

He said that even if emergency legislation was brought in to reinstate the ban, he hoped there would still be enough time for him to create some embryos and have them implanted in women's wombs.

The government has consistently stated its total opposition to human reproductive cloning.

And Dr Evan Harris, Liberal Democrat health spokesman, has described Dr Antinori's claims of imminent human cloning as "not credible".

"It is almost impossible that Dr Antinori would find collaborators, eggs, embryos and women willing to be implanted in the time available before the legal situation is clarified," he has said.

"On safety grounds alone, any doctor attempting to create a pregnancy using a cloned embryo would not be acting ethically and would be liable for GMC censure and possibly even charges of assault."

See also:

15 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Court backs cloning challenge
15 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Campaigners hail cloning verdict
06 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Cloning doctor to make UK bid
25 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
Clone pregnancy 'this year'
06 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Warning over dangers of cloning
23 Jan 01 | UK Politics
UK enters the clone age
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