HL Deb 24 June 1999 vol 602 c106WA
Baroness Gould of Potternewton

asked Her Majesty's Government:

When the response to the joint Human Genetics Advisory Commission and Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority report, Cloning Issues in Reproduction, Science and Medicine, will be published. [HL3270]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville)

The Government's response to the joint Human Genetics Advisory Commission (HGAC) and Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) report,Cloning Issues in Reproduction, Science and Medicine, has today been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Following public consultation, the joint HGAC/HFEA report's recommendations included the proposal that consideration be given to regulations under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 to allow research for therapeutic purposes which involved cloning techniques.

The Government reaffirm their policy that human reproductive cloning is ethically unacceptable and cannot take place in this country. Also, more evidence is needed of the potential benefits to human health before the use of cloning for therapeutic purposes is allowed in research. We recognise that, regulations to allow therapeutic research should be very carefully considered. We believe, however, that more evidence is required of the need for such research, its potential benefits and risks and that account should be taken of alternative approaches that might achieve the same ends.

That is why we have asked the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Liam Donaldson, to set up and chair an independent expert advisory group to seek the views of a range of experts, both here and abroad, so we have a clearer idea of the potential benefits of such research for human health. We expect that it will begin work during the summer and report its findings to Ministers early next year.

We welcome the HGAC/HFEA report's recognition that the safeguards currently in place are wholly adequate to prevent human reproductive cloning in the United Kingdom, and that the Government's policy of forbidding this practice received support during the public consultation.

The Government accept the report's recommendations that the adequacy of the safeguards and related issues should be kept under review in order to address public concerns about the rapidity (if development in these areas at the cutting edge of science and medicine.