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Mitochondria Replacement

Volume 565: debated on Monday 1 July 2013

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Anna Soubry): We plan to publish for consultation in the autumn draft regulations to allow mitochondria replacement. These will be subject to full scrutiny from the public and Parliament.

In anticipation of significant advances in this field, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act was amended in 2008 to include an amendment to introduce a regulation-making power that, if introduced, would enable mitochondria replacement to take place in treatment.

The Government have now given very careful consideration to the advice they received from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and the information gathered during a comprehensive public dialogue and consultation process into the acceptability of new techniques for mitochondria replacement. We are grateful to all those who contributed to this process from a range of representative bodies, leading organisations and individuals.

One in 6,500 babies is born with mitochondrial disease which can lead to problems such as heart and liver disease and respiratory disorders. It can even lead to death in infants. Around 12,000 people in the United Kingdom live with these conditions, which are passed on from mother to baby.

Across the range of public consultation engagements there was general support for allowing the new mitochondria replacement techniques, subject to strict regulation. However, we also recognise that there were also many respondents who had significant reservations on ethical grounds.

We largely accept the advice contained in the HFEA’s report of 28 March. We therefore propose moving towards laying regulations under the affirmative procedure to allow mitochondria replacement techniques to prevent the transmission of serious mitochondrial disease, subject to strict safeguards. These techniques are currently prohibited under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 (as amended).

We therefore intend to publish draft regulations for consultation in autumn 2013, with the intention that, subject to the views received, these would be laid before Parliament next year.

This proposed change in the legislation would give an opportunity for women who carry mitochondrial disease the choice to have genetically related children without risk of serious and life-shortening conditions. It would also keep the UK in the forefront in scientific development in this area.

We will ensure that the consultation document setting out the draft regulations actively seeks the views of all those who contributed to the HFEA public dialogue and consultation.