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Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority

Volume 504: debated on Friday 29 January 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the oral answer of 12 January 2010, Official Report, column 552, on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, (1) if he will publish the terms of reference of the internal governance review of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority; (313601)

(2) by (a) what mechanisms and (b) whom the decision was made to conduct an internal governance review rather than an independent inquiry; and whether he was consulted on that decision;

(3) what progress has been made on the internal governance review; and whether individuals outside that Authority (a) have contributed and (b) will contribute to that review;

(4) what changes have been implemented by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to prevent a recurrence of the circumstances under consideration in the internal governance review;

(5) whether the terms of reference of the internal governance review include the Authority's contact with the BBC in the making of a Panorama programme;

(6) for what reasons his Department made the payment of £580,000 to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, as referred to its 2008-09 Annual Report.

(7) how much funding his Department has provided to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority for legal assistance in respect of the circumstances under consideration in the internal governance review.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has advised that the terms of reference of its internal governance review are published on the Authority's website www.hfea.gov.uk/5743.html

The HFEA has also advised that following consideration of advice prepared by the Chief Executive, the Members of the Authority determined it unnecessary for the review to be undertaken by an external person. This was a matter for the HFEA and the Department of Health was not involved. The purpose of the review is to assess the adequacy of the Authority's revised governance arrangements in relation to the threshold between administrative enforcement of its powers and the sphere of criminal law. The HFEA considers this internal review to be the right way to look critically at what happened and to ensure changes made to its processes and procedures provide it with adequate governance arrangements.

The HFEA has advised that the senior officer undertaking the review has devoted many months to reviewing the documentation held by the Authority. This officer will shortly contact those involved, inviting them to contribute.

The HFEA has been undergoing an overall programme of change since 2008. This followed the changes to the Authority's membership and its senior management team that began in 2007. The change programme has included the establishment of a new appeals committee, a new compliance and enforcement policy, indicative sanctions guidance and a clear separation of functions between inspection of clinics and licensing. The internal governance review will inform the Authority as to whether further changes are needed.

The annual allocation of grant-in-aid funding is determined on the basis of the HFEA's annual business plan and its estimate of the funding needed to conduct its business in that year, which may involve some expenditure on legal assistance. The allocation does not identify monies to be spent on individual legal actions.

Supplementary grant-in-aid of £580,000 was paid to the HFEA in the financial year 2008-09, in respect of unforeseen expenditure incurred as a result of legal actions.

The total supplementary grant-in-aid paid to HFEA in respect of unforeseen legal costs since 2005-06 is the sum of £580,000 in the year 2008-09, which was incurred as the result of legal actions involving the case associated with the internal review.