Groups in court bid for fair play in embryology

The Government’s embryology watchdog is doling out licences for immoral experimentation without any accountability, two pro-life groups have told the High Court.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is responsible for granting licences to scientists who want to use human embryos in their research.

But the groups say the system is undemocratic, pointing out that the HFEA is comprised entirely of members who support embryo experimentation with no voice of opposition to balance their views.

As a result, they say, no licence application has ever been completely rejected, with the regulator even granting a licence for animal-human embryo experiments before Parliament had approved the practice earlier this year.

Barrister Andrea Minichiello Williams of the Christian Legal Centre (CLC) said: “The HFEA was fully aware that Parliament was about to debate the principles and practice of this highly controversial issue, and indeed that the legislation in force at the time could have been narrowed or widened, and yet they decided to go ahead.”

CLC was joined by Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE) yesterday in asking the High Court for permission to launch a judicial review into the HFEA’s decision, which the groups say went beyond its legitimate remit.

The new Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 permits animal-human embryo experimentation under regulation. However, the groups say the HFEA went too far by handing over the licence without waiting for Parliament’s decision.

The groups say examples like this are “enough to make one seriously question whether it is Parliament or the Authority [HFEA] who is the centre of decision-making power”.

They say that because no way has been provided for the public to challenge the actions of the HFEA, the only recourse left is to do so through the courts.

Mrs Williams says the groups want to know, “to whom are these regulators/independent public bodies accountable and, who makes the law of the land, Parliament or such independent public bodies?”.

The High Court is expected to tell the groups in the coming weeks if their judicial review can go ahead.

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