The Secretary of State for Health, Alan Milburn MP, is expected this week announce this week the government's commitment to the introduction of an explicit ban on human reproductive cloning. In a talk at the Newcastle Centre for Life on Thursday, Milburn will promise that the pledge will be included in Labour's general election manifesto.
Whilst an effective ban is already in place, due to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's promise not to license reproductive cloning, an explicit prohibition has been favoured by the government for some time. Whilst the timing of the legislation remains unclear, its inclusion in Labour's election promises will provide a political imperative to make parliamentary time for it.
During the same speech, Milburn is also expected to promise strict controls on the use of genetic test results by insurance companies. Although the government is awaiting recommendations from the Human Genetics Commission on the issue, it is thought that an outright ban on the use of test results will not favoured. However, a moratorium on their use may be advised by the commission.
The announcements are likely to demonstrate the government's commitment to the advancement of genetic and stem cell research, whilst making clear its opposition to certain applications such as reproductive cloning. An unnamed source close to Milburn explained: 'There are huge potential health gains to be had from genetic advances, but until we address these public concerns we can't create the necessary space.'