HL Deb 25 June 1998 vol 591 cc45-6WA
Lord Alton of Liverpool

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many human embryos are being created exclusively for research purposes. [HL2219]

Baroness Jay of Paddington

Figures on the number of human embryos created exclusively for research purposes are not collected. Embryos used for research purposes, under the strict controls required by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, may be donated following one of a number of procedures. Some embryos are donated following treatment involvingin-vitro fertilisation: as given in reply to the noble Lord on 14 May 1998 at column WA 132, the latest figures provided by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) show that 36,930 such embryos were donated for research between 1 August 1991 and 31 March 1996.

In addition, a number of embryos are created for diagnostic purposes in treatments involving gamete intra-fallopian transfer (GIFT)—a procedure not governed by the 1990 Act—which, together with embryos created using supernumerary eggs produced in the course of that procedure, may be donated to research. It may also be possible to use for research embryos created using eggs donated for treatment but which are not, in the event, used for that purpose. Each year the HFEA licences about two or three research projects which may involve the creation of embryos. This will only be where such use is an essential requirement for the research project, for example in order to examine the viability of eggs which have been frozen, or the use of immature sperm for treatment purposes.

Research on human embryos is subject to very strict controls under the terms of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 and may only be carried out if effective consent, as defined in the Act, is given by the egg and sperm providers.