Nearly one in two licensed fertility clinics has "anomalies" in its records, a regulator's audit has revealed.
Checks by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority show "anomalies" in records kept by 51 of 109 licensed clinics.
Detail emerged yesterday in a ruling by the most senior family court judge in England and Wales.
Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division of the High Court, described the outcome of the audit as "alarming" and spoke of "administrative incompetence".
The judge said the creation, storage and implantation of embryos was controlled by the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act.
Provisions dealt with who, legally, were a child's parents.
Sir James said audit results had triggered family court litigation - and he had been asked to analyse a number of cases which raised the question of whether "valid consents" had been given.
He said a number of couples had asked him to make a "declaration of parentage".