Bill setting up new Health Research Authority in the next session of parliament

Posted on May 30, 2011 by

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After lots of discussion about the proposed new Health Research Regulatory Authority (this is the planned new single regulator of all health research across the UK) as the Public Bodies Bill went through the Lords, Lord Willis tabled a few questions to clarify what is happening next…

The answers confirm that the research regulator will shortly be set up temporarily as a special health authority with the National Research Ethics Service at its core. In the next Parliamentary session, it will be established as a proper non-departmental public body, using a second Health & Social Care Bill planned for that session to set this up in primary legislation.

The research regulating functions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the Human Tissue Authority will not be moved into the new body until this is all set up in primary legislation. There will be a consultation about the movement of these functions in late summer.

Background

In their review of Department of Health arm’s length bodies published back in the summer, the government proposed to put the research regulation functions of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) together into a single regulator of research.

The government has introduced the  Public Bodies Bill to create a legal framework to enable them to make changes to quangos including the HFEA and HTA, modifying their constitutions, funding arrangements or transferring their functions elsewhere, without opening up the original Act that created them.

The Public Bodies Bill has completed its passage through the Lords and is now headed to the Commons. Throughout the debates, concerns were raised over the planned changes to the HFEA and HTA. In the last debate in the Lords, in response to these concerns, the government clarified their plans – check out a summary in my blog post at the time.

Lord Willis’s questions

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the remarks by Earl Howe on 6 May (Official Report, cols. 699-701), what will be the role of the proposed Special Health Authority if the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority or Human Tissue Authority have no functions transferred from them prior to the establishment of the Heath Research Agency.[HL9123]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they will take to ensure the National Research Ethics Service remains intact prior to any move to the new Health Research Agency.[HL9126]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will publish a draft timetable for the establishment of the new Health Research Agency.[HL9127]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what functions are expected to be devolved to the new Health Research Agency; and what steps they will take to ensure its independence from Government.[HL9128]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): As announced at Budget in the plan for growth, we will establish the Health Research Authority this year, in the first instance as a special health authority with the National Research Ethics Service as its core. In the mean time, the National Research Ethics Service remains part of the National Patient Safety Agency and other bodies continue to perform related functions.

The Government’s aim is that the Health Research Authority will combine and streamline the approvals for health research which are at present scattered across many organisations. We will use next session’s Health and Social Care Bill to establish the Health Research Authority as a non-departmental public body (NDPB) at arm’s length from Ministers. We will set out the proposed functions of this new NDPB Health Research Authority in a public consultation later this year on the transfer of functions from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and Human Tissue Authority.