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UK Stem Cell Bank

Volume 456: debated on Tuesday 6 February 2007

I am grateful to the Minister. Does she agree with the Medical Research Council, the scientific community and patient groups that there have been enormously beneficial developments—for instance in tackling neurodegenerative diseases—as a result of research combining animal and human materials? Given that she allows research involving human embryos, why is she delaying important research involving chimeras and hybrids? Is that not inconsistent, and is that not putting important medical research in the UK at great risk?

We are not seeking to disadvantage research in the UK in this area at all. However, to date, Parliament’s stance has been to prohibit the creation of hybrids or chimeras, backed by various committees and expert groups—

Yes, many scientists took part, and I am happy to write to the hon. Gentleman to that effect.

We think that we should go further than the law currently allows, which is why we propose to make exceptions to the prohibition by way of regulation. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the Science and Technology Committee is holding an inquiry, and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority is also discussing and debating this issue. I felt it very important to have pre-legislative scrutiny of changes to human fertilisation and embryology legislation, to make sure that we have as wide a discussion as possible. We are not trying to deter research in the area, but we have to be absolutely convinced that such research can be carried out and regulated in the right way, to make sure that we can take public confidence with us.