Early in 1989 the Duke of Norfolk, premier Duke and Earl Marshall of England, introduced a bill in Parliament which would outlaw the use of human embryos as guinea pigs for experimentation and vivisection. The Bill had its Second Reading in the House of Lords in March 1989.

The Glover Report

During the debate Lord Henley, saying that he spoke for the Government, made it clear to the assembled Lords that, if and when the Government introduced a bill on embryo experimentation, it would take careful note of a report drawn up for the European Commission. This report is more usually called The Glover Report, after the name of the committee chairman, Dr. Jonathan Glover. Dr. Glover’s attitude towards life issues is clearly indicated in the titles to his books: What Sort of People Should There be, and Causing Death. Glover’s views are well known; he is pro-euthanasia, pro-abortion, pro-embryo experimentation, and he flirts with the idea of trans-species fertilization. His report goes further downhill than the Warnock Report. For while the latter suggested allowing experimentation on tiny humans up to 14 days after fertilization, the Glover report suggests that “maybe” the “threshold of pain” should be the limit-that is, it there is to be a limit.

Reaction in the Lords

As the debate continued, it became obvious that – with very few exceptions – the Lords wanted no part of the Glover Report. It was clear from their reaction that the strength of feeling was behind Norfolk’s Bill. Seeing this, and in order to prevent a vote which would clearly indicate the weakness of the anti-life side, the pro-embryo-experiment group withdrew their opposition, and the Duke of Norfolk’s Bill passed its Second Reading unopposed.

Sixty-five amendments

That, of course, was only the first battle. The anti-life Peers (mainly Labour) soon launched their second attack as the Bill went into committee stage. They tabled 65 amendments. In view of the limited time before the end of the parliamentary year, these amendments threw a completely impossible load on the pro-life Peers. It was calculated that even working through the nights it would be impossible to deal with all the amendments and get the Bill on the Statute Books before the end of the parliamentary year.

The Duke of Norfolk announced that he would withdraw his Bill, but only on the condition that the Government would honour its General Election pledge and include legislation regarding embryo research in the Queen’s Speech at the beginning of the next session. He warned that, failing that, he would reintroduce his Bill immediately, and thus have a full parliamentary year to get his Bill made into law.

The House of Commons

Meantime the pro-life MPs in the House of Commons were concerned about Lord Henley’s remarks about the Glover Report. In answer to a series of questions by Mr. David Amess (a pro-life MP), the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department of Health, Roger Freeman, attempted to put a distance between the Government and the Glover Report. He said that the Report was not one that had been commissioned by the British Government, and he added – what is well known – that members of the Government were divided in their views on embryo experimentation.

Whether the British Government is playing games, or whether the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing, only time will tell. In the meantime, it is good to know that a man with the stature of the Duke of Norfolk, and his fellow pro-life Peers in the House of Lords, are fighting to protect the smallest and most vulnerable of preborn children, the tiny human embryo.