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Human Embryo Experiments

Volume 461: debated on Tuesday 12 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) for what reasons she proposes to exclude pure hybrids from the licensing regime proposed in Clause 17 and Schedule 2 of the draft Human Tissue and Embryos Bill; (142320)

(2) on what basis she proposes that the mixing of human and animal gametes will be allowed for the purpose of testing fertility and normality of human sperm under Schedule 2, paragraph 6 of the draft Human Tissue and Embryos Bill.

Under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, the mixing of human sperm and animal eggs is only permitted, for assessment of the fertility of normality of sperm, or research aiming to improve the assessment of the fertility or normality of sperm. Such testing and research involves analysis of the cellular processes which take place between the point of sperm penetration, and first cell division of the embryo. The Act thus states that any embryo created using this technique must be destroyed no later than at the two cell stage.

The Government believe there is, at present, a lack of merit in relaxing the current limitation the development of true hybrids.

The Government indicated in the introduction to the draft Bill that they intend to accept the principle that legislation should provide for certain inter-species embryos—cybrids, human-animal transgenic embryos and human-animal chimeras—to be authorised by research licence.

The Bill will have the flexibility for affirmative regulations to allow the creation both of new types of inter-species embryos and of true hybrids to be authorised by research licence if necessary in the light of evidence of the need for it.