HL Deb 30 November 1987 vol 490 cc922-3WA
Earl De La Warr

asked Her Majesty's Government when they propose to publish the White Paper on matters raised in the Warnock Report on human fertilisation and embryology.

Lord Skelmersdale

The White Paper, 'Human Fertilisation and Embrylology: A Framework for Legislation' (Cmnd. 259) was published on 26th November. This sets out the Government's proposals for legislation on the range of issues covered in the 1984 Warnock Report. We are committed to introducing legislation in this Parliament. The aim of the Government's proposals is to make it sufficiently flexible to meet the concerns people have about the new reproductive technologies, while recognising the benefits they can bring.

The White Paper describes the alternative draft clauses on embryo research—one banning it, the other allowing it under strict controls—on which Parliament will have a free vote when the Bill is introduced. Even if the principle of embryo research is accepted by Parliament, certain areas of research, including genetic manipulation of the embryos and creation of hybrids would be prohibited under the proposed legislation.

We have accepted the principal recommendation in the Warnock Report that a statutory licensing authority (SLA), independent of government, should be set up to regulate certain infertility treatments including in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and artificial insemination by donor (AID); and, if Parliament permits it, research involving human embryos. The SLA would have a lay chairman and a membership with wide-ranging interests, including substantial lay representation. Those wishing to carry out IVF, AID and other regulated treatments will need, by law, a licence from the SLA.

As the Warnock Report recommended, the Government have already banned commercial surrogacy agencies and now propose to make clear in law that surrogacy contracts are unenforceable in the courts. We do not at present propose to extend the criminal law any further in this field of surrogacy, but intend that the SLA should be asked to examine the practice of surrogacy so that Parliament can review the situation from time to time on the basis of informed advice.

The White Paper makes proposals on a wide range of other issues including the storage of human gametes and embryos; counselling of couples undergoing treatment; the legal status of children born as a result of gamete or embryo donation and the provision of information to children born of these techniques.