I have had a number of letters from constituents recently about the highly emotive subject of ‘three parent babies’, asking me to vote against the legislation which allows for the development and use of mitochondrial donation.
As you may know, after an impassioned debate where all the issues were thoroughly examined, Parliament has now approved new scientific techniques to help prevent mothers passing on serious mitochondrial diseases to their children.
I think it is particularly important to note that the very extensive reviews have found no evidence that these techniques are unsafe, and the scientific community has also made clear its support for the introduction of these specific regulations.
It is estimated that one in 6,500 children are born every year in the UK with a serious mitochondrial DNA disorder. The intention in making these regulations is to ensure that mothers who carry faulty mitochondria can have healthy children free from devastating and often deadly conditions caused by serious mitochondrial disease.
I understand that there have been objections to these regulations on moral or religious reasons.
However, I think it is important to remember that mitochondrial DNA represents 0.054 per cent of the total DNA, and is not part of the nuclear chromosomal DNA which determines our personal characteristics and traits such as hair, eye colour and personality. The view of Parliament was that it would be wrong to block the scientific opportunity, now available, that would alleviate suffering for children who would otherwise be affected by this horrible disease.
As I write, I am shortly to appear in the House of Commons to take my penultimate round of Cabinet Office Questions. This always gives me plenty of adrenaline – you may have seen David Cameron’s comment about fear last week - and the tension is not eased by the chamber and galleries gradually becoming packed as people arrive for Prime Minister’s Questions which follows on immediately.
I will probably get to answer up to eight of the tabled questions. To give you an idea of the range of topics on which I am called to account, they cover charitable status, government transparency, public sector mutuals, government digital service, government procurement through small businesses and the voluntary sector, candidates for public appointments, ‘check-off’ payroll deductions for trade union subscriptions, co-ordination of planning and implementation across Whitehall, the UK Statistics Authority and the Health Service Ombudsman.
For anyone interested in the parliamentary processes, the TV clip is usually posted on my website within a few days.