An influential parliamentary committee has called on the British government to tear up proposed legislation on fertility research and regulation and start again. The call came from the Joint Committee on the Draft Human Tissue and Embryos Bill, as it rejected core proposals in the government’s White Paper.

Committee chairman and Labour MP, Phil Willis, announced the most

severe blow by completely rejecting the Department of Health’s central

proposal that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the Human Tissue Authority be merged to form the Regulatory Authority for Tissue and Embryology.

Mr Willis said: “There are some very, very, serious issues for the government to take on board. The government will find it very difficult

to bring in the current [Draft] bill with amendments given the fact that it was not able to provide any real evidence to support its view that the two bodies to be merged to form one entity.”

The Brittish Medical Association's head of science and ethics, Dr Vivienne Nathanson, welcomed the Committee's verdict: "The BMA does not believe that a single body can have the necessary expertise to make important decisions relating to IVF, embryology, pathology, anatomy, storage of tissue, transplantation and public display of human material. We are delighted that the Committee shares our views and we hope that the government will abandon these flawed proposals.”

All types of hybrid should be permitted a license

As predicted, the Committee was also critical of the government’s approach to the regulation of inter-species embryos created for research purposes. Its report argued that ministers had created a false distinction between “true hybrids” and other forms of inter-species embryo - with the former banned but the latter permitted. “We could not find any reasons at all to justify the view that true hybrids were any different from other types of hybrid,” said Mr Willis. “Therefore all types of hybrid should be allowed to get research

licences.”

Neurologist Professor Chris Shaw of King’s College London added: “The Committee’s criticism of the White Paper banning interspecies embryo

research will be welcomed by scientists and patients alike.” The report also called for the use of donor conception to be automatically mentioned on a child’s birth certificate and says that families should be able to pre-select embryos that could potentially help ill siblings, even when the sick child's illness is not life-threatening.

Other recommendations in the report include:

- The formation of a joint Parliamentary bioethics committee

- And government action to ensure NICE guidelines on the provision of IVF treatment are implemented across the country by all primary care trusts.

A detailed response to the report is expected from the government

within two months.

For more information, go to:

http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/humantissue.cfm