[JURIST] Australian Prime Minister John Howard [official website] agreed Wednesday to hold a conscience vote on a stem cell research bill allowing therapeutic cloning if a private bill is offered to parliament. A conscience vote [SAVES backgrounder] is a free parliamentary vote in which members are not bound by party policy. In 2002, following the results of an initial conscience vote on the issue, Australia banned therapeutic cloning of stem cells, though the bill permits stem cell research to be performed on leftover embryos from IVF programs. In 2005, a committee [official website] headed by former judge John Lockhart concluded [reports] that therapeutic cloning should be permitted by Australian law, a recommendation that was rejected in June by Howard's conservative cabinet. Earlier this month Howard said he was disinclined [Australian report] to allow a conscience vote on the issue, but left open the possibility of changing his mind after consultations with other members of his governing Liberal party. Reuters has more. The Australian has local coverage.
In the US, President Bush last month vetoed a bill [JURIST report] to increase federal funding for embryonic stem cell research [JURIST news archive] after the Senate passed [JURIST report] the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act [PDF text; HR 810 summary].