The Association of British Insurers (ABI) wants the government to keep its hands off the issue of genetic testing for insurance policies.

This follows a suggestion last week that if insurers were unwilling to agree to a moratorium on the use of positive genetics results “for at least the next two years”, the government should “enforce its will by legislation”.

The comments came from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee in its report into whether certain tests – for Huntington's Disease, Alzheimer's and hereditary breast and ovarian cancer – should be used when deciding insurance rates.

But the ABI believes that suddenly omitting these tests would leave the industry and its customers “in a mess”.

A spokesman said: “If the government now imposes legislation, it is doing a u-turn. All the work we have done on genetics in the last two and a half years would be wasted.”

The ABI had agreed to reimburse customers with interest from November 1998, when the Genetic and Insurance Committee was set up, if the committee rules that they were sold premiums at a higher rate due to genetic test results.

Mary Francis, the director general of the ABI, said: “Insurers have to act

ethically. We cannot ignore information that tells us that someone applying for insurance is at significantly higher risk than the majority of policyholders.”