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Human Genetics Commission faces uncertain future

27 September 2010

By Dr Vivienne Raper

Appeared in BioNews 577

The UK Government's advisory body on new developments in human genetics faces an uncertain future after it appeared on a leaked list of 177 quangos facing Government review and abolition. Members of the Human Genetics Commission (HGC) received an email on Friday from the Department of Health (DH) apologising for the leak in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, but not contradicting its substance.

BioNews has seen the email from Mr Colin Pavelin, Head of Advanced Therapies and Genetics at the DH. In it, Mr Pavelin says the Department 'deeply regret[s] any concern that this irresponsible leak has caused' and that Professor Jonathan Montgomery, Chair of the HGC 'will shortly receive a letter from the Department about the review's recommendations'.

The email continues: 'Following the publication of the review shortly, more detailed consideration will need to be made, for HGC as with many other bodies, about how the changes will be implemented, what any replacement provision will look like and how it will be delivered'.

According to one HGC member, the email was the first time they'd heard the HGC was under threat since they hadn't seen the media coverage. 'The letter is all we know', they told BioNews. 'The commission doesn't know themselves what is happening because it is being done at a higher level than the commission team'.

Should the HGC close, it would be a 'significant loss', they told BioNews: 'It [the HGC] has a wide-ranging remit on issues of concern to the public, which are not tackled by anyone else. Our remit is specifically about giving advice to Government and we have an opening that other bodies don't have', they said.

But Mr Alastair Kent, Director of Genetic Alliance UK and a HGC member is unsurprised the quango is in the firing line. 'Although it's disappointing because [the HGC] makes a helpful contribution to the debate about genomics in society, I find it difficult to be surprised', he told BioNews. 'If you're in a mind to get rid of [quangos], the HGC is just the sort of thing you'd get rid of because it's not a statutory body, it just gives advice. Other bodies like the HFEA deliver regulatory functions'.

Daily Telegraph | 24 September 2010
Daily Telegraph | 23 September 2010


29 June 2015 - by Dr Alice Maynard 
I served on the Human Genetics Commission as a lay member from 2006 to 2012, and found exploring new developments in this area fascinating...
07 June 2012 - by Dr Rebecca Hill 
The Human Genetics Commission (HGC) has published its final report, which marks the end of its 12 years as an advisory body to the Government...
19 March 2012 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
The UK's Department of Health has announced it is recruiting members for its new advisory body on the implications of developments in bioscience....

24 September 2010 - by Dr Vivienne Raper 
The UK's fertility regulator is on a Government 'hit list' of quangos facing abolition, according to a letter leaked this week. The letter, dated 26 August, supposedly from Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude to other ministers lists the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) among 177 quangos due to be axed...
26 July 2010 - by Dr Vivienne Raper 
The UK's fertility watchdog, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), could be split up as the Government's 'bonfire of the quangos' continues....

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