Dear Sir

Your Editorial (9th December),on stem cell research preceeded the Commons debate of 19th on the Statutary Instrument to ammend the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act to allow cloned embryos to be used for research purposes.

In the debate the Government claimed that cloning was already legal but had not yet been licenced. If the Lords follow the Commons then licences for the use and production of clones can be granted if the purpose is therapeutic.

We are suprised by this claim as cloning tecnology took a wholey unexpected course after that 1990 Act. That had banned nuclear transfer into embryos, rather than nuclear transfer into oocytes and division being induced electricaly. In fact there was no debate on cloning in 1990 and if the claim is right it is because tecnology has overtaken the Act.

Should clones be produced in Britain then Parliament will share with the HFEA the responsibility of their inevitable use for reproduction when the technique goes overseas.

Asexual artificial reproduction will be used to produce human copies for the benefit of or on the demand of others with funds and compliant doctors.
It is hard to escape the conclusion that we are standing on the brink of a new form of human slavery.

Such is just one of the implications of the hurried vote urged by science, money and power and taken just before Christmas when people were distracted and with little or no public debate.

It remains for the Lords as usual,to give this matter more balanced consideration. There is still time for the HFEA under Government direction, to follow our European neighbours and sensibly refrain from granting licences to clone.To legislate against reproductive cloning later will be to shut the stable gate after the event.

Yours sincerely,
A P Cole,
Chairman Medical Ethics Alliance