EDINBURGH, December 11, 2002 ( – Britain’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has been forced to admit that it granted a secret licence to derive stem cells from human embryos to Edinburgh University scientist Austin Smith as early as 1997—even though Parliament did not approve experiments involving human embryos until January 2001. The revelation, in Glasgow’s Sunday Herald, has outraged Parliamentarians, since Tony Blair’s Labour Government has always claimed that the first such licences were issued in March 2002.  Lord Alton, the leading pro-life peer, said: “This licence was granted four years in advance of parliament deciding on the issue. For the HFEA to have granted a licence … and for Austin Smith to have applied … was contemptuous and I think it was illegal. … It is like writing a blank cheque. I think this 1997 licence was written in a cynical way to permit anything that Smith wanted to do.”  For local coverage see:


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