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Friday, 27 April, 2001, 22:00 GMT 23:00 UK
MP criticised for block on baby law
Diane Blood
Mrs Blood was surprised the bill's progress was stopped
The Conservatives have been accused of a "disgraceful abuse of power" for blocking a woman's right to have her dead husband legally recognised as the father of their son.

Diane Blood, who won a long court battle to conceive using the sperm of her deceased husband, expressed surprise and dismay that a parliamentary bill intended to change the law on registration was scuppered by Tory backbencher Desmond Swayne.

It is my son's life and how would he feel if it was his?

Diane Blood on Desmond Swayne MP

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Deceased Fathers) Bill was unexpectedly blocked in the final seconds of time left for the debate in the Commons.

Asked if she had anything to say to Mr Swayne, Mrs Blood, who had watched the debate from the public gallery, said afterwards: "It is my son's life and how would he feel if it was his?

"We thought the bill would be going through to the next stage."

'No wider implications'

She insisted the legislation was narrow in scope and did not have the wider implications the Tories had suggested.

Mrs Blood's husband Stephen died of meningitis in 1995 and she then began a court battle to win the right to conceive by his frozen sperm.

But once she had won and gone on to conceive a child, Stephen was not officially recognised as the father, and she has since campaigned for a change in the law.

Desmond Swayne
Mr Swayne blocked the bill in the Commons
Labour MP Tony Clarke, who sponsored the bill, said he was "astonished" by Mr Swayne's last minute intervention.

The Conservatives had previously supported the bill, he said, and had not indicated they would object this time.

"I am just astonished that the opposition front bench have decided to raise an objection, not at the 11th hour, but at the 12th hour to proposals that I thought had cross-party support."

The bill is due back in the Commons on 11 May, but is unlikely to become law if the general election is called for June, as widely expected.

Mr Clarke pledged to take the campaign to the government, but said: "We must concentrate our anger on the disgraceful abuse of power by the Conservative front bench."

Mrs Blood, from Worksop, Nottinghamshire, won a three-year legal battle to use her deceased husband's sperm in 1998, and gave birth to their son Liam in the same year.

Labour's fault

Responding to Mr Clarke's attack, shadow health secretary Liam Fox said it was Labour's fault that there was not enough parliamentary time to pass the bill.

"The government are curtailing parliament one year before it is necessary, so any responsibility for lack of parliamentary time rests entirely with Tony Blair," Dr Fox said.

"If the Government wanted the Bill to become law, it would have become law, so Mr Clarke's protestations and posturing count for nothing."

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