January 2002

A summary of the one hundred and fifteenth meeting of the
Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority on 24 January 2002

The Chairman welcomed Professor Chris Barratt, who was a newly appointed Member of the Authority.

Matters arising from the November meeting

The minutes of the November meeting were approved.

Cloning Bill

Members noted that the Department of Health had won their appeal against the ruling that an embryo created by cell nuclear replacement was not an embryo as defined by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act. Members acknowledged the Department of Health's efficiency in closing the temporary loophole by the drafting of a Bill to ban reproductive cloning in humans.

Pre-implantation diagnosis with tissue typing

Members noted that the Pro-Life Alliance had written to the Authority regarding this matter.

Chairman's business

Members were informed that the HFEA had been asked by the Royal Society to participate in the 50th anniversary celebrations of the discovery of DNA and they welcomed the opportunity to be involved.

The Chair informed Members that she had an appointment to see the Health Minister, Yvette Cooper, to offer her letter of retirement. She also informed members that a new Chairman for the Authority had been selected.

Chief Executive's Business

Public Health Surveillance
The Chief Executive reported on a meeting with the MRC to discuss the funding of projects relating to public health surveillance. Members noted the recommendation that a joint MRC/HFEA steering group should be convened to consider appropriate ways forward. Members noted that Counsel's opinion had supported the new Research Regulations and meetings with the Department of Health to discuss these further were on-going.

HFEA strategic plan 2002-2007 and Business Plan 2002-2003

Members were reminded that the Authority was required to produce annual Business and Corporate plans for the Secretary of State outlining the Authority's work programme for the forthcoming financial year. Members' opinions on the strategic approach had been sought and had shaped the proposals in a discussion paper. Members noted the importance of the plans and agreed that, to develop these further, the Executive would require direction as to Members' visions for the future of the HFEA. The Members annual retreat would provide a good opportunity to discuss this.

It was acknowledged that strategy could not be developed adequately without knowledge of the future financial situation and it was agreed that the Executive would bring the business plan and the strategic plan back to the Authority for further discussion.

Financial challenges and Fees strategy

Members were reminded that the Member's Code required that they should not participate in the discussion or determination of matters in which they had a direct pecuniary interest.

It was suggested that fee levels set in the past had not been adequate to reflect the work carried out by the Authority, and its need to be 'fit for purpose'. In addition, due to the cap on HFEA revenue that had been enforced in the past, any extra money generated through increased fees had to be returned to the Department of Health, despite the fact that the increased level of activity represented by the fees reflected the increased work of the Authority.

An immediate increase in the level of fees was recommended. This was justified by the increase in the regulatory workload required by the growth in micromanipulation techniques and also by the inadequate level of fees set previously.

It was noted that recent discussions with the Department of Health had been suggested that one long-term strategy might be for the HFEA to become self-funding and rely on money obtained by fees alone. Several Members felt this was inappropriate as the HFEA provides a statutory service to Government and this should be acknowledged by core funding.

Members agreed to discuss the issues of funding and possible changes to the fee structure at a further meeting.

Reports from Committees and Working Groups

Reports were presented by the Licensing and Fees Committee and the Organisation and Finance Committee.

Date of next meeting

The date of the next Authority meeting is Thursday 28th February 2002

Page last updated: 24 October 2011