September 28, 2010 • 9:47 am
The leaking last week of a list of the quangos potentially facing extinction due to Government plans to reduce spending sparked a fierce debate over the role of such organisations.
However, those connected to some of these endangered bodies have spoken up to highlight the merits of their work.
The Claim

Baroness Deech, former head of the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA) said in an interview with Radio 4’s Today Programme that given her former employers were not a burden on the taxpayer, axing the quango did not necessarily make cost sense.

She said: “It only costs £5 million and it is not taxpayers’ money, most of the money comes from the patients.”

She added: “This is not a burden on the taxpayer. It’s £5 million that comes off the patients and I’m sure the patients won’t pay any less if the functions are picked up by other bodies.”
However it seems HFEA makes a bigger impression on the public purse than this statement suggests.


Looking at the most recent HFEA annual report, the figures for the cost and revenue show that the HFEA has required some not insignificant amounts from the Government.

In 2009-10 HFEA expenditure is recorded as £7,080,925, while its income – mostly derived from fees received for research licences – was £5,666,684.

This leaves a gap between income and expenditure of roughly £1.5 million, a gap met by funding from Government coffers.

Page 75 of the annual report shows the amount of money HFEA received each year from the Government in the form of Department for Health grants.

The amount received for the financial year ending 31 March 2010 was £2,052,301. The year before it was £4,462,000, and the year before that £2,486,000 came from such grants.

So in the financial year 2009-10 nearly 29 per cent of the HFEA expenditure came from Government grants.


Given the income received in the form of licence fees it is fair to point out that much of HFEA expenditure does not come from taxpayers money.

However it is not completely accurate to suggest that the body is not a ‘burden on the taxpayer’, given the multimillion Department of Health grants the Authority has received in recent years.

However, whether the abolition of the HFEA would guarantee a reduction in such costs is impossible to say at this stage.

Patrick Casey

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