Department of Health and Social Care
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Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill published

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill published

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH News Release issued by The Government News Network on 9 November 2007

Health Minister Dawn Primarolo today published the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill to reform the regulation of human embryology and ensure that Britain remains a world leader in medical research. The Bill will not however alter the model of regulation or the basic foundations of the existing law.

The Bill updates current regulation of assisted reproduction and embryo research in the light of developments in technology and society's attitudes. It will ensure regulation is fit for purpose, and help maintain the UK's position as a world leader in reproductive technologies and research.

The main elements of the Bill are:
* ensuring that the creation and use of all human embryos outside the body - whatever the process used in their creation - are subject to regulation;
* a ban on selecting the sex of offspring for non-medical reasons;
* retention of a duty to take account of "the welfare of the child" when providing fertility treatment, but removal of the reference to "the need for a father";
* provisions to recognise same-sex couples as legal parents of children conceived through the use of donated sperm, eggs or embryos;
* altering restrictions on the use of HFEA-collected data to make it easier to do follow-up research;
* provisions increasing the scope of legitimate embryo research activities, including regulation of "inter-species embryos" (embryos combining human and animal genetic material).

Dawn Primarolo said:

"The UK is a world leader and a good place to do research. This Bill will allow legitimate medical and scientific use of human reproductive technologies for research to flourish in this country, while giving the public confidence that they are being used and developed sensibly with appropriate controls in place.

"I believe this Bill will provide clarity and assurance to patients, researchers, the medical profession, and the public for years to come."

The Bill needs to move through both the House of Lords and then the Commons. It will then receive Royal Assent. It is expected to be in force from early 2009.

Notes To Editors:

1. On 17 May, the government published draft legislation for pre-legislative scrutiny to revise and update the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. This was set out in the Human Tissue and Embryos (draft) Bill.

2. The Joint Committee scrutiny report was published on 1 August. The way ahead for the Bill was set out in the Government's response to the Scrutiny Committee report published on 8 October.

3. The current legislation, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, is based largely on consideration and debate that took place in the 1980s.

4. The bill sets out what will be permitted within the law, it is not a commitment to what will be provided by the NHS.

5. Main elements of the Bill

Bill Proposals - main elements
-Current Position

Ensuring that the creation and use of all human embryos outside the body - whatever the process used in their creation - are subject to regulation.
-Current law refers to fertilisation - sperm and egg.

A ban on selecting the sex of offspring for non-medical reasons.
-Currently subject to HFEA guidance i.e. only allowed for medical reasons

Retention of a duty to take account of "the welfare of the child" when providing fertility treatment, but removal of the reference to "the need for a father".
-Currently take account of the welfare of the child, including the need for a father.

Provisions to recognise same-sex couples as legal parents of children conceived through the use of donated sperm, eggs or embryos.
-Currently, only the partner who has given birth to the child is regarded as a legal parent.

Altering restrictions on the use of HFEA-collected data to make it easier to do follow-up research.
-Currently, the HFEA has legal restrictions on what data can be released from the register.

Provisions increasing the scope of legitimate embryo research activities, including regulation of "inter-species embryos".
-The current law (the 1990 Act) bans "mixing of human and animal gametes". It refers to human embryos only.

6. The Government's response to the Report from the Joint Committee on the Human Tissues and Embryos (draft) Bill is available at http://www.dh.gov.uk

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