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Health organisations face axe in “bonfire of quangos”

24 September 2010

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About 30 health organisations have been included in a list of 177 taxpayer-funded bodies drawn up by government ministers which will be scrapped in a “bonfire of the quangos”, it has been reported.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which regulates fertility clinics, and the Health Protection Agency, which offers advice on environmental hazards and infectious diseases, have been included on the Cabinet Office’s list, according to the Daily Telegraph.

The health bodies included on the list will be abolished or have their responsibilities moved to the Department of Health. Some 129 bodies will be merged, four will be privatised and a further 94, including the BBC World Service, may still be abolished. The list seen by the newspaper says that 350 bodies have been reprieved.

If confirmed, the cull of public bodies will save billions of pounds from government spending, cost thousands of jobs and spark enormous political controversy, with critics accusing the government of removing vital protections for the public.

The list confirms previous announcements that the Audit Commission, UK Film Council and eight regional development agencies are to be abolished.

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said: “We are not going to comment on the specific details of a leaked document.

“The government has made it clear that it is committed to radically increasing accountability and improving efficiency. As part of this, work is already under way to make substantial reforms to its public bodies.

“This work is ongoing and an announcement will be made in due course.”

She added: “We deeply regret any extra uncertainty for employees that this irresponsible leak has caused.”

The number of quangos – unelected taxpayer-funded bodies which carry out public functions at arm’s length from government departments – soared under Labour, with some estimates putting it at more than 1,000, with 100,000 employees and a total budget running into tens of billions.

The Telegraph quoted an unnamed Whitehall source as saying: “These reforms represent the most significant rolling back of bureaucracy and the state for decades.

“Our starting point has been that every quango must not only justify its existence but its reliance on public money.”

The public bodies to be abolished, according to the Daily Telegraph, include: Advisory Board on the Registration of Homeopathic Products; Advisory Committee on Antimicrobial Resistance and Healthcare Associated Infections; Advisory Group on Hepatitis; Advisory Committee on the safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs; Audit Commission; Committee on Medical Aspects of Air Pollutants; Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment; Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence; Expert Advisory Group on HIV/Aids; Gene Therapy Advisory Committee; General Social Care Council; Genetics and Insurance Committee; Health Protection Agency; Hearing Aid Council; Herbal Medicines Advisory Committee; Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority; Human Genetics Commission; Human Tissue Authority; Independent Advisory Group of Sexual Health and HIV; Independent Advisory Group on Teenage Pregnancy; Independent Review Panel on the Advertising of Medicines; Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisations; National Joint Registry Steering Committee; and Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee.

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