Records of the Voluntary Licensing Authority for Human in Vitro Fertilisation and Embryology

Scope and Content

Papers of the Joint Medical Research Council and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Voluntary Licensing Authority (VLA) for Human In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) and Embryology, 1985-1986, comprising meeting papers and correspondence, completed applications from individual centres and research projects seeking licences (with supporting documentation), and copies of reports of visits made by the Licensing Authority to IVF centres.

Administrative / Biographical History

The birth of the world’s first baby conceived using in vitro fertilisation (IVF), in July 1978, and advances in fertilisation and embryology led to the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry in 1982. Chaired by Baroness Warnock, it was established “against [a] background of public excitement and concern” about human fertilisation and embryology". The Committee reported in 1984 (the Warnock Report). It recommended the establishment of a new statutory licensing authority to regulate both research and infertility services.

In March 1985 the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) founded the Voluntary Licensing Authority for Human in vitro Fertilisation and Embryology (VLA) as an interim measure to regulate work on human in vitro fertilisation until the introduction of government legislation. The authority was given two functions: to grant licences to those wishing to offer infertility treatment; and to grant licences to researchers wishing to work with human gametes (sperm and eggs) and embryos. Applications for licences, accompanied by specific research proposals, were made to the authority by centres involved in such work. A visit was normally then made to the centre by members of the authority, which then made a decision on whether to grant a licence. The Authority was based at the Medical Research Council premises in Park Crescent, London.

In 1987, following a period of consultation, the Government published a White Paper, Human Fertilisation and Embryology: A Framework for Legislation. The legislation which subsequently came into being was the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 (the HFE Act).

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright of the RCOG. Reproductions are available at the discretion of the College Archivist.

Related Material

Related material held at the RCOG can be found at the following references:

RCOG/A4/21/202 President's papers relating to the Warnock Report, 1984-1985

RCOG/A4/21/194 President's papers relating to the VLA, 1987-1993

RCOG/A4/25/117 President's papers relating to the VLA, 1987-1993

RCOG/B10/10 Records of the College's Artificial Insemination/Fertility Sub-committee, 1977-1992

RCOG/B15/3/1 The Ethics Committee's papers relating to the Report

The papers of the Medical Research Council are held at the National Archives.