A bill to extend until May 2016 the 1999 law that prohibits human cloning for reproductive purposes was passed by the Knesset plenum on Tuesday. The bill was approved for its second and third readings earlier in the day by the Science and Technology Committee. Committee chairman Meir Sheetrit criticized the government for not presenting the bill on time, as occurred when the bill was first supposed to be renewed five years ago. "They are asleep on the job," he said, adding that if, during the gap between expiration and renewal, somebody had tried to clone human beings, that person would not have been punished. The committee decided not to make the ban permanent, but to renew it for a set period. Scientists had persuaded them that if the law became permanent, there would be researchers who would not want to start any cloning research - including that not for reproductive purposes - out of concern that at some time, they would be forbidden to conclude it. Future scientific developments could not be predicted, Sheetrit said. The government asked for a five-year extension, but the committee decided to lengthen it to seven years. Sheetrit said cloning for the purpose of making "new people" was not ethical or moral, even if it became safe in the future. However, the fact that the law against reproductive cloning was being extended but that cloning was not barred altogether, he said, showed that the Knesset would reconsider the matter and not prohibit future genetic cloning.