(2) what her Department’s definition is of basic research in the context of its proposals to amend the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990; what types of research are covered by the definition; and what representations she has received on the definition;
(3) what factors were taken into consideration when deciding to bring forward proposals to amend the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 to remove the restriction (a) on altering the genetic structure of a cell while it forms part of an embryo and (b) on replacing the nucleus of a cell of an embryo for research purposes only; and what representations she has received on the proposals.
A wide range of factors were taken into consideration in bringing forward proposals for revision of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, preceded by public consultation in 2005. With regard to embryo research, these factors included, “inter alia”, recommendations from the House of Lords Stem Cell Committee (session 2001-02, HL Paper 83(i)), and the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (session 2004-05, HC 7-1), relevant legislation enacted since 1990, and the scope of delegated powers already within the 1990 Act itself.
The proposals include revisions both to the purposes for which research projects using embryos may be licensed, and the scope of activities that may be authorised by a licence. These include the proposal to make clear that basic embryo research is permissible subject to controls. Basic research, in this context, refers to research that underpins or enables applied research into, for example, serious diseases.
The Government’s proposals and supporting rationale are set out in the command paper “Review of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act: Proposals for revised legislation (including establishment of the Regulatory Authority for Tissue and Embryos)”, published on 14 December (Command Paper 6989). Copies of which are available in the Library.