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HFEA's future discussed in House of Lords

22 November 2010

By Ben Jones

Appeared in BioNews 585

The proposed abolition of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) was discussed for a second time in the House of Lords on 9 November 2010. Several peers drew attention to the questionable benefits of dismantling the fertility regulator during the second reading of the UK Government's Public Bodies (Reform) Bill 2010, which contains sweeping reforms to quangos.

Former interim Chair of the HFEA, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, called for the proposed abolitions and mergers of quangos to be subjected to a rigorous examination of their merits. He criticised 'the indiscriminate way in which all public bodies are being considered in the one long, fierce slash of this Bill' and said an independent assessment of the criteria applied by the government in making its decisions was needed.

Lord Harries said reorganisations are 'notoriously expensive' and expressed his concerns that the abolition would not result in any savings during this parliament. He was 'highly doubtful' there would be any long-term savings. The former Bishop of Oxford drew attention to the Government's constitutional responsibility to respect the outcome of Parliament's deliberations and challenged the haste with which the HFEA was being dismantled.

'If Parliament has thought this area so critical that it was worth weeks of its time to set up a regulatory body with very tight regulation in place, it hardly seems responsible to dismember that body with one quick snip and without serious consideration of the implications of so doing', he said.

His concern was echoed by Baroness Thornton who drew attention to the more than 100 hours spent debating the legislation that established the HFEA. Baroness Thornton described the proposed abolition of the HFEA and the Human Tissue Authority as 'very good examples of where the (Public Bodies) Bill fails' and asked 'why the Government need such draconian powers to abolish or alter so many organisations that Parliament has spent time scrutinising at length over the years'.

Baroness Warnock, patron of the Progress Educational Trust, the charity which publishes BioNews, and whose 1984 report first established the need for a fertility regulator, described the HFEA as 'one of her babies'. Emphasising its importance as 'a highly specialist body that offers a form of protection against exploitation to a group of highly vulnerable people who are trying and failing to conceive', Baroness Warnock made 'a special plea' for its preservation.

The Bill will next go to the committee stage, which begins on 23 November 2010.

Lords Hansard | 09 November 2010
Lords Hansard | 09 November 2010
Lords Hansard | 09 November 2010


19 December 2011 - by Sandy Starr 
The Public Bodies Bill - which empowers the UK Government to transfer the functions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the country's regulator of fertility treatment and embryo research - has received Royal Assent and has become the Public Bodies Act. This Act represents the realisation in statute of the Coalition Government's longstanding plans for a 'bonfire of the quangos'...
31 October 2011 - by Sandy Starr 
The Public Bodies Bill - which, if passed, will allow the Government to abolish the UK's fertility regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority - has completed its report stage and third reading in the House of Commons...
01 April 2011 - by Sandy Starr 
The proposed abolition of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) was debated yet again in the UK House of Lords on 28 March. Labour peer Baroness Glenys Thornton proposed and withdrew the same amendment to save the HFEA from abolition that she had previously proposed and withdrawn on 9 March....
07 February 2011 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) was once again the topic of a debate in the House of Lords on 1 February 2011. Following the proposed abolition of the HFEA and the Human Tissue Authority (HTA), Baroness Glenys Thornton asked how the UK government will maintain public confidence and patient safety....
24 January 2011 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
The UK's fertility watchdog, the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority (HFEA), has launched a public consultation on how sperm and egg donation should be regulated....

23 August 2010 - by Professor Eric Blyth, Dr Marilyn Crawshaw, Dr Lucy Frith, Dr Caroline Jones and Dr Jennifer Speirs 
The UK government's review of Arm's Length Bodies (ALB) in the National Health Service has indicated that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has had its day as a free-standing regulatory body...
09 August 2010 - by Baroness Ruth Deech 
Of course we are all against unnecessary regulation: and one of the areas of policy put forward by the new coalition government which has seemed to attract widespread support, even from those who hold no brief for them, is the abolition of superfluous quangos....
12 May 2008 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill returned to the House of Commons for its second reading today. MPs will debate proposed legislation on controversial issues such as the use of animal eggs in human embryonic stem (ES) cell research and other types of 'hybrid' embryos; 'saviour...
26 July 2004 - by BioNews 
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is to merge with the proposed Human Tissue Authority (HTA) to become the Regulatory Authority for Fertility and Tissue (RAFT). The amalgamation of these two bodies is part of the Department of Health's (DoH) review of Arm's Length Bodies (ALB), which the Health...

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