Select Committee on Science and Technology Fourth Report



      • We welcome the intended breadth of the forthcoming Green Paper on Genetics and hope it embraces the views we express in this Report (paragraph 3).
      • The HFEA is asking for its income to be more than doubled. We accept that its activities have increased in recent years but, for such a large increase, it needs to make a more detailed financial case than its consultation document provides. If it can prove the need for such a large increase, it should be met by increased contributions from Government as well as from licensees. We are concerned that the Government's insistence that any increase in funding should be met from licence fees alone undermines the principle that the HFEA should have no incentive to award licences (paragraph 6).
      • Britain is well placed to be a world leader in human genetics and embryology research and it is crucial that our scientists, in complying with regulatory requirements, are not hampered by bureaucracy (paragraph 7).
      • The HFEA's new emphasis on communication with the public is welcome. Continued public confidence demands that the HFEA takes the lead in encouraging awareness and debate about research and treatment involving human embryos (paragraph 8).
      • The Prime Minister said recently that he wishes to avoid a "retreat into a culture of unreason". A good place to start would be to ensure that the Human Genetics Commission has access to sufficient funds to enable it to conduct an extensive and genuine dialogue with the public (paragraph 11).
      • We recommend that the Government conduct a thorough review of advice and regulation across the fields of medical genetics, embryology and reproductive medicine, with a view to producing a more streamlined structure (paragraph 13).
      • The Government should operate from the principle that no more advisory and regulatory bodies should be created than are absolutely necessary and it is better to reinforce the success of existing bodies by extending their remit than to spawn ever more small specialised bodies (paragraph 19).
      • We believe that the Government should remain active on the international stage, as well as domestically, in ensuring that scientific advances are facilitated yet appropriately balanced by regulatory and legislative control (paragraph 20).
      • The House of Lords Stem Cell Research Committee has identified several areas which might require new legislation. The Government should work on the premise that these developments will happen sooner rather than later and introduce legislation accordingly (paragraph 23).
      • Should the ProLife Alliance's appeal to the House of Lords be successful, we urge the Government to introduce new legislation to bring the creation of embryos by whatever means within the remit of the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (paragraph 24).
      • The HFEA's decision to allow tissue typing in conjunction with preimplantation genetic diagnosis went beyond the scope of its own public consultation. It is vital that the public are taken along with decisions of such ethical importance (paragraph 25).
      • The Government's apparent reluctance to enact new legislation in this sensitive area has led to a position where the 1990 Act is open to legal challenge. We recommend urgent action to remedy this and reconnect the Act with modern science (paragraph 28).


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