Monday, 27 November, 2000, 11:53 GMT
The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland has repeated his opposition to the use of cloning for medical research.
Cardinal Thomas Winning was speaking ahead of a Commons debate on regulations which would extend the Human Embryology and Fertilisation Act 1990.
MPs and peers will be given a free vote on the new regulations which Cardinal Winning said would "pave the way" for designer babies.
If approved, they would allow human embryos to be used for stem cell research, which could lead to new treatments for Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, Alzheimer's and insulin dependent diabetes.
But Cardinal Winning said that even though the "end is good", the "means are immoral" as they resulted in the death of "tiny cloned human beings".
He warned: "This scenario will become reality in a matter of months unless we waken up. The churchman also expressed "alarm" that the issue would only be debated for 90 minutes in Parliament. It could take place as early as Tuesday.
The UK would become a "pariah" state if it allowed human embryos to be cloned, he predicted.
"Opponents of cloning will have just 30 minutes to halt this descent into madness - 30 minutes to stop the UK becoming the pariah state of Europe," he said.
However, the cardinal rejected claims that this was another example of the church being backward-looking and out of step with popular opinion.
He said: "I wish science was more advanced too, so it hurts me when people paint the church as being somehow anti-progress.
"In fact, I look upon any medical or scientific progress as if God were opening up the secrets of creation for our benefit. The truth is, research is not a problem for us. How it is done is the problem."
Westminster Health Minister Yvette Cooper has promised a free vote for MPs and peers on any new legislation.
But she has ruled out the production of human embryo clones being allowed for reproductive purposes and promised tight control of any new procedures.
"It is absolutely untrue that these regulations will give the go-ahead
for reproductive cloning. Reproductive cloning is illegal. It will stay
illegal," she said.