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Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: 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.

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Human Fertilisation Embryology Authority has not received any applications for research licences under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Research Purposes) Regulations.

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: 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

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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.

Lord Alton of Liverpool 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]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: 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.

Foetuses Retained for Research

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many foetuses are held for research purposes by hospitals and clinics through the United Kingdom; what form of consent was obtained from their parents; whether any foetal tissue has been used for work involving stem cells or germ live gene therapy; what ovarian tissue from aborted or miscarried foetuses has been the subject of research licences; and whether they will list the details. [HL601]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Information on the number of foetuses held for research is not available. However, the recent Census of Organs and Tissues Retained by Pathology Services in England shows an estimated 2,900 "stillborn babies and foetuses" retained at the end of 1999 from post-mortems carried out between 1970 and 1999; and a further 2,700 retained from before 1970. The census did not distinguish between stillbirths and aborted foetuses or specify why the foetuses were retained.

The use of foetuses in research falls under the Polkinghorne Code of Practice on the Use of Fetuses and Fetal Material in Research and Treatment, which states that the written consent of the mother should be obtained. There is no licencing system for foetal research. Consequently, data to answer the questions about ovarian tissue and the origins of foetal stem cells used in research are not available.

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What foetal tissue is supplied to the Medical Research Council foetal tissue banks at Hammersmith Hospital by the Marie Stopes Ealing

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    abortion clinic; what commercial arrangements exist between these institutions; to what use this foetal tissue been put; what consent has been obtained from parents; what other links exist in the United Kingdom between the National Health Service facilities and abortion clinics; and whether they will list them. [HL602]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The clinic supplies foetuses from terminations of pregnancy to the tissue bank. There are no commercial arrangements between the two institutions and the foetal material is provided free of charge.

The tissue bank is an intermediary body set up in accordance with the Polkinghorne recommendations and does not itself carry out research. The tissue is put to a variety of uses from applied research on diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, lung disease. Down's syndrome, leprosy and AIDS/HIV to underpinning research on basic cell and tissue culture techniques and work on normal human development.

Written consent is obtained from women in accordance with Polkinghorne Code of Practice on the Use of Fetuses and Fetal Material in Research and Treatment. The only other independent sector clinic with permission to supply tissue to the National Health Service is the Calthorpe Clinic, which supplies material to the Birmingham Children's Hospital.

Organic Food

Lord Vinson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Food Standards Agency has any scientific means of determining the difference between foodstuffs grown organically and those grown conventionally.[HL498]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: There is no universally applicable method of distinguishing organic food from that conventionally produced. The Food Standards Agency is funding research to explore ways in which this might be achieved for vegetables.

Embryonic Cloning: Professor Donaldson's Briefings

Baroness Cox asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why they did not invite Professor Neil Scolding, or another expert with comparable scientific authority, to contribute to the Department of Health briefing (17 January) on the issue of embryonic cloning to give an alternative view to that proposed by Professor Liam Donaldson.[HL635]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Briefings were arranged for the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Donaldson, to present the findings of his expert group, which had considered these issues for a year and took evidence from a wide range of organisations and individuals. The briefings allowed Members of both Houses to ask questions about the issues in his report.

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Many other briefings took place, arranged by a number of external organisations, which Members were welcome to attend.

Diamorphine Prescription to Terminally Ill Patients

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many people in National Health Service hospitals who died in each of the last five years as "Do not Resuscitate" patients were being prescribed diamorphine when they died; for how long in each case the drug had been prescribed; and, if they do not currently have the figures, whether they will ask each National Health Service trust to provide them with as much information as they have available.[HL375]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Information on the prescribing of diamorphine in National Health Service hospitals to individual patients is not collected locally or nationally. Most records of prescribing and administration of medicines in hospitals are held on paper. The information requested is only available from individual patients' case notes. Collecting and analysing this information would require examination of the notes of all patients who died in NHS hospitals in the last five years.

Clinical governance arrangements, introduced in March 1999, provide a clear and comprehensive framework of measures to assure and improve the quality of clinical care delivered to all NHS patients.

In June 1998 the Department of Health endorsed and distributed throughout the National Health Service two documents of good practice in palliative care, produced by the National Council for Hospices and Specialist Palliative Care Services. One of these documents was Guidelines for Managing Cancer Pain in Adults, which was designed for use by health professionals in primary care and institutional settings and includes guidance on dosages of diamorphine for terminally ill patients. The Other, Changing Gear--Guidelines for Managing the Last Days of Life in Adults, as the title suggests, refers to the care needed when death is imminent. Copies are available in the Library.


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