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Lord Rees queries wisdom of abolishing HFEA

6 December 2010
Appeared in BioNews 587

Lord Rees, outgoing President of the Royal Society, has raised concerns over the abolition of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) saying it may affect the Government's ability to make well informed policy decisions. Talking to the Times on Wednesday 1 December, he questioned the extent to which the 'bonfire of the quangos' had been considered and highlighted the ongoing relevance of extra-governmental organisations in helping to inform government policy

The HFEA's functions would not cease to be required after its dissolution, he said. He also spoke in support of Baroness Ruth Deech's efforts to save the fertility regulator. Acknowledging that 'in some cases one sheds no tears for the abolition of quangos', the peer argued that nonetheless 'it seems to be an example of a policy that has been decided upon without tremendous forethought or consideration'.

Lord Rees was also concerned that - in the attack on quangos - specialist scientific organisations would be disproportionately hit. Mentioning the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation and the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, Lord Rees raised his concerns that the independence of scientific advice could be compromised by bringing decision making inside government departments.

The news comes in the same week that the government was criticised for its proposal to repeal a statutory obligation to appoint scientists to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

Quango abolitions ‘will damage science advice’
The Times |  6 December 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'...
16 May 2011 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
The UK's House of Lords has voted for the first time on an amendment that, if passed, would have impeded the Government's power to abolish its fertility regulator. The amendment to the Public Bodies Bill, which said the cost-effectiveness of the Conservative-Lib Dem Government's abolition plans must be assessed first, was narrowly defeated...
21 February 2011 - by Chris Chatterton 
The British Fertility Society (BFS), an organisation representing professionals with an interest in reproductive medicine, has announced that it will be sending a questionnaire to all its members concerning the imminent demise of the HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority)....
10 January 2011 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
The chair of the UK's fertility regulator has said a principle governing how human embryos are used in research may be undermined by proposed changes to UK research governance. Professor Lisa Jardine warned the ''safeguarding of the 'special status of the embryo'' could be lost...
18 October 2010 - by Matthew Smart 
Former members of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) have spoken against proposals to axe the UK’s fertility watchdog...
4 October 2010 - by John Parsons and Michael Savvas 
The Government is considering dismembering the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and dividing its responsibilities between the Care Quality Commission, a proposed new research regulator and possibly an expanded Health and Social Care Information Centre [1]. We believe that, although the HFEA is not perfect, such changes would be a retrograde step and should be resisted...
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...
13 September 2010 - by Professor David Jones 
In the early 1980s many people both inside and outside Parliament were seeking to prohibit experimentation on human embryos. In response, the government convened a committee of enquiry, aiming by that means to circumvent the possibility of a ban. The Warnock Report duly concluded that 'the embryo of the human species should be afforded some protection in law'. The committee was in favour of research involving the destruction of human embryos but...
6 September 2010 - by Josephine Quintavalle 
The inaugural meeting of CORE in 1994 was entitled, 'Human Reproduction - Who Decides?' and the key speech was by an ex-HFEA (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority) committee member, Professor Robert Snowden. Focus was specifically on assisted reproduction and the controversial issue of whether or not human embryos should...
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