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Embryology

Volume 716: debated on Tuesday 19 January 2010

Questions

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answers by Baroness Thornton on 16 December 2009 (WA 236) and 5 January (WA 23–4), why the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) chief executive stated in his letter on 9 November 2009 that at least 681 human eggs were used under research licence R0122 to investigate laser biopsied blastocysts if the HFEA does not hold any inspection reports for research licence R0122 describing polar body biopsy of eggs and if no use of eggs was recorded in the initial application for that licence and any subsequent renewal applications or in the cited progress report. [HL1209]

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answers by Baroness Thornton on 5 January (WA 24–5), why the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) inspection report for licence R0152 that quoted “a lack of suitable oocytes for use in the study” is not included amongst those available on the authority's website; and why the HFEA has not placed a full copy of the report in the Library of the House. [HL1210]

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answers by Baroness Thornton on 9 November 2009 (WA 111) and 5 January (WA 24–5), how the proposed use of eggs fulfils the criteria of the research licence if a researcher repeatedly requests the use of numbers of eggs that are more than they claim to have used each successive year, with particular reference to information cited in the 2005 inspection report and licence renewal. [HL1211]

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answers by Baroness Thornton on 5 January (WA 24–5), when the Newcastle Fertility Centre began providing information on the number of failed-to-fertilise eggs donated for use under licence R0152 and the number actually used in the project; whether the estimated number of failed-to-fertilise eggs takes account of 10 failed-to-fertilise eggs reportedly having been used between August 2004 and July 2005 if the research team initially relied chiefly on such eggs, as reported in the Times on 31 May 2005 and in the Obstetrician & Gynaecologist (2007) Volume 9, Issue 3, p. 177–80; and whether oocytes that a researcher might subsequently deem to be unsuitable would be erased from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's records of total oocyte usage. [HL1212]

To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answers by Baroness Thornton on 5 January (WA 24–5), what was the mean number of eggs collected per cycle at the Newcastle Fertility Centre in each year since 2004; whether the estimate of 900 failed-to-fertilise eggs potentially available for research takes account of those figures combined with the number of treatment cycles performed annually at the Newcastle Fertility Centre and the percentage of all eggs that failed-to-fertilise according to the initial application for licence R0152; and whether estimated numbers of failed-to-fertilise eggs based on these figures takes account of a total of 1224 failed-to-fertilise eggs obtained between 2 June 2005 and 11 May 2006 or a total of 1,170 failed-to-fertilise eggs obtained in 2007 according to Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority research licence inspection reports. [HL1213]

A research licence under paragraph 3(1) of Schedule 2 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 (as amended) authorises the creation of embryos in vitro and keeping or using embryos for the purposes of a project of research, whose purpose must be consistent with paragraph 3A of that schedule. Parliament has decided in view of the special importance attached to embryos that no research may be conducted on them without a licence, but that is not the case for research involving only eggs or sperm.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has advised that it receives information about the use of eggs incidentally to the research licensing process, but the information it holds on the use of eggs is necessarily limited, compared to the information it holds on the use of embryos. Directions 0002 issued by the HFEA (dated 1 July 2009) require licence holders to maintain records on total numbers of embryos created, used or disposed of in undertaking the licensed research. Such data held by the HFEA are made available in inspection reports and research licence committee minutes published on the HFEA website. Where inspection reports and research licence committee minutes are not available on the HFEA website these can be requested from the HFEA.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government with regard to a letter from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's legal adviser on 7 December 2009 describing the volume of correspondence about the use of eggs under research licence R0152, how many academics, clinicians or interested members of the general public requested such information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000; what indication such applicants provided regarding their interest in the relevant data; what response was provided to each of those applicants; and what proportion of the HFEA's time was spent dealing with those requests. [HL1214]

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has advised that a high-level keyword database search of over 400 freedom of information requests made between 18 September 2006 and 13 January 2010 identified eight relevant requests, excluding requests from the noble Lord. The HFEA also advises that it is not possible to quantify what proportion of its time was spent dealing with these requests, and responses to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act are undertaken without consideration of the applicant or their purpose in making the request. The HFEA's responses to these requests concerned the regulatory oversight of the research licence.