Lords discusses mitochondrial donation

25 February 2015

Members of the Lords discussed draft regulations on human fertilisation and embryology on Tuesday 24 February 2015.

Members of the Lords discussed the details of the regulations. A motion attempting to block their approval, expressing concern about the safety of the procedures and their compliance with European and domestic law, went to a vote with 48 for and 280 against, so the draft regulations were agreed.

Draft Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Mitochondrial Donation) Regulations 2015

This statutory instrument makes provision to enable two mitochondrial donation techniques to be used under licence as part of IVF treatment with the aim of preventing the transmission of serious mitochondrial disease from a mother to her child. The measures outlined include:

  • provision for specified eggs and embryos, which contain donated mitochondria, to be permitted for use in assisted conception treatment under section 3(2) of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, and the processes that these eggs and embryos must undergo
  • enabling children born following mitochondrial donation to access limited, non-identifying, information about their mitochondrial donor. Provision is also made for a mitochondrial donor to access limited, non-identifying, information about children born from their donation, and states that the donor would have no rights over a child born using those techniques.

The techniques are in an advanced stage of testing and the use of the procedure in humans is expected to begin within two years. Use of the procedure would be closely monitored by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and only permitted under specific licence.

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee’s 23rd Report of this session provides more detail on the policy and some of the arguments presented for and against the proposal.

A motion attempting to block approval of this has been proposed, expressing concern around the safety of the procedures and their compliance with European and domestic law.

How do these draft instruments become law?

These regulations are presented as a Statutory Instrument (SI). An Act will often contain a broad framework and statutory instruments are used to provide the necessary detail that would be too complex to include in the Act itself. They are also easier to change than an Act – for example to upgrade the rate of payment each year or amend the necessary forms in the light of experience.

This instrument is subject to the affirmative procedure, that means they it must be debated in both Houses before it can be made law. A vote can be taken on them if the House wishes but is not essential. The Commons have already approved the regulations.

Further information

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