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House of Lords Hansard
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Human Fertilisation And Embryology Authority
12 February 2001
Volume 622
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asked Her Majesty's Government:On what grounds licences for human embryo research were granted by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to:

  • (a) Kings College Hospital, London (1992);
  • (b) the University of Oxford (1992); and
  • (c) the Centre for Genome Research, Edinburgh (1996); and in what ways were studies into cell lives derived from human embryo relevant to the development of fertility treatments. [HL599]
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    Licences for human embryo research were granted by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to:

  • (a) Kings College Hospital, London in 1992 under paragraph 3(2)(a) of Schedule 2 to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 to "promote advances in the treatment of infertility" and paragraph 3(2)(e) of that schedule to "develop methods for detecting the presence of gene or chromosome abnormalities in embryos before implantation". We are not aware of cell lines being developed in the course of this research;
  • (b) the University of Oxford in 1992 under paragraph 3(2)(a) of Schedule 2 to "promote advances in the treatment of infertility". This research was originally licensed by the HFEA's predecessor, the Interim Licensing Authority, and involved the development of cell lines. However, the research licensed by the HFEA in 1994 did not involve the generation of any cell lines;
  • (c) the Centre for Genome Research, Edinburgh in 1996 under paragraph 3(2)(a) of Schedule 2 to "promote advances in the treatment of infertility" and paragraph 3(2)(b) to "increase knowledge about the causes of congenital disease". The authority licensed the project, so far as it related to paragraph 3(2)(a) of Schedule 2 to the 1990 Act to "promote advances in the treatment of infertility", as it aimed, among other things, to provide new information in identifying the quality of embryos before implantation. This was in respect of establishing culture conditions suitable for selecting the "best" embryos, which could aid the aim of many infertility units to improve live birth rates obtained with assisted reproduction techniques.
  • When permitting this research the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority took into account the strict provisions in the 1990 Act governing the use of embryos in research.

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:

  • (a) when they next intend to review the membership of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority;
  • (b) whether they intend to reform the peer review procedures for licence applications to the HFEA to exclude peer reviewers who have submitted or intend to submit their own application;
  • (c) what qualifications or experience are required in order to be appointed as a peer reviewer, and who makes these appointments; and
  • (d) what is their policy concerning the appointment of members to the HFEA who may have a conflict of interest. [HL597]
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    Under the provisions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, members are appointed to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) for a maximum term of three years. At the end of three years a further term may be offered subject to guidance issued by the Commissioner for Public Appointments. Appointments are staggered to ensure continuity of membership, with terms ending on 6 November each year.The HFEA has a panel of peer reviewers who are recognised national and international experts in the field of reproductive biology and infertility. Names and details of peer reviewers are included in the HFEA's Annual Report, copies of which are available in the Library. The panel includes persons who hold or who have held HFEA research licences, although peer reviewers and members are required to declare any conflict of interest in relation to an application that is being considered. Each research application is considered by two or three peer reviewers prior to a decision being made by a HFEA Licence Committee consisting of five members of the authority.Additional peer reviewers are recruited when there is a need for specialist expertise not currently available on the panel—for example in cryobiology or cytogenetics. The Licensing and Fees Committee of the HFEA ratifies the appointment of peer reviewers.All appointments of members of the HFEA are conducted in accordance with guidance issued by the Commissioner for Public Appointments. Members are chosen for the skills and experience they bring to the authority's work. The information pack provided to applicants for membership emphasises the importance of public service values in the running of the authority, and states that all members on appointment are required to subscribe to the authority's code of best practice. This code contains a requirement to declare at an early stage any potential conflict of interest that might arise in the course of authority business. Any relevant business interests, positions of authority or other connections with commercial, public or voluntary bodies must be declared.

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether any members of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority have accepted sponsorship or benefits of any kind from Serono, Organon or any other company involved in fertility drugs or related products; and, if so, whether they will list them. [HL598]

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    Details of the interests of members of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority are held in the authority's Register of Members' Interests, which is available for inspection. This information is reproduced in the authority's annual report, copies of which are available in the Library and published on the authority's website at www.hfea.gov.uk.

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:What applications have been received by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority into human embryo stem cells under the regulations approved on 22 January; whether these are currently subject to peer review; and whether they will list them. [HL600]

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    The Human Fertilisation Embryology Authority has not received any applications for research licences under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Research Purposes) Regulations.

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether, in the light of the decision of the High Court to permit a Judicial Review of the Government's response to the Donaldson Committee report into the use of human embryos for research into stem cell techniques, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority will not issue licences permitting the use of human embryos until after the court has deliberated in June. [HL558]

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    On Friday 26th January the High Court ordered that the question of whether permission should be granted for the Pro-Life Alliance to bring a judicial review should be adjourned and considered at a full hearing to be held on or after 15 June. At the full hearing, the court will decide whether the application should proceed. If this is permitted, the court will then go on to consider the substantive issues.The application concerns the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Research Purposes) Regulations 2001, and the definition of "embryo" in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990.It is for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to decide whether or not to issue licences under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 and the recent Research Purposes Regulations. The authority has decided not to issue any licences for research involving cell nuclear replacement until the outcome of the judicial review is known, although it will consider any applications it receives. 'The authority has not, however, received any applications for such research.

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    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they are giving consideration to the scientific research into the use of embryonic stem cells published in

    The Scientist on 22 January, which highlighted the development of tumours in animal models; and what weight they will attach to the safety issues which arise. [HL559]

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    Peer-reviewed scientific papers may be taken into account by the human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority when they consider research applications made under the HFEA Act 1990 and Embryo Research Regulations 2001.Such applications are subject to the strict conditions placed on embryo research by the 1990 Act.