Orders of the Day — Animals (Scientific Procedures) Bill [Lords]:

– in the House of Commons am 7:05 pm ar 17 Chwefror 1986.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Order for Second Reading read.

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Mr. Speaker has not selected either of the amendments on the Order Paper.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

On a point of order Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am a little surprised at what you have just said, because many Second Reading amendments have been selected recently by Mr. Speaker on behalf of the so-called Social Democratic party and Liberal party alliance. The number of SDP and Liberal alliance Members does not equal the numbers of those hon. Members who have put their names to the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen). As so many Second Reading alliance amendments have been accepted recently, why has my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton's amendment not been accepted? More than 30 hon. Members have put their names to it. Is an explanation not necessary?

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. I shall deal with each point in turn. I have announced Mr. Speaker's decision. The hon. Gentleman and the House know that Mr. Speaker never gives the reasons for his decision.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I heard your answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), but Mr. Speaker is the guardian of the rights of Back Benchers. It should not be just amendments that have been put down by the Opposition Front Bench or by other political parties that are accepted—

Photo of Mr Paul Dean Mr Paul Dean , Woodspring

Order. The hon. Gentleman is now getting very close to disputing Mr. Speaker's decision. The hon. Gentleman may wish to speak in the debate, in which case he will have a full opportunity to express his views.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney 7:41, 17 Chwefror 1986

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The House has before it a great prize if we can legislate successfully on this difficult matter, by which I mean a Bill which is not just rammed through in a partisan spirit, but which is sufficiently acceptable to endure.

In 1876 Parliament passed the first legislation of any country in the world to control the use of live animals in experiments that might cause pain. The 1876 Act was a response to some horrifying reports from abroad about the practice of surgical procedures on live animals without inducing anaesthesia.

The 1876 Act has stood the test of time well, despite the enormous scope of developments in the biomedical sciences; developments which its authors could not possibly have foreseen. The principle embodied in that Act has been sustained by a developing system of administrative controls. Therefore, Home Secretaries, with the invaluable help of the inspectorate, have been able to go on applying the spirit of the Act, in the face of many world changes which might otherwise have overwhelmed it. Scientists and researchers have seen it as part of their role to be conscientious in conforming to the controls and to be creative in helping the inspectorate and Home Secretaries to adapt and develop the licensing system for experimental work on animals. We have nothing to be ashamed of in the story of this subject since the 1876 Act, or of the climate of responsible, humane research, in which our nation is fortunate. However, the universal view now is that we have to move on.

There are limits to the usefulness of adaptation, however well intentioned and worth while. There is general recognition that the time has come to review and alter the Act. The range and scale of work performed under the legislation have expanded enormously in the last 110 years. There have been fundamental and highly significant developments in our understanding of animals and their needs and in the public concern for animal welfare. That is why we need a new statute, one which builds upon the solid foundation of our experience, reflects today's needs and concerns and makes suitable allowance for future developments and discoveries.

Every right hon. and hon. Member knows that animal experiments arouse peculiar emotion. Every right hon. and hon. Member also knows that sometimes the subject is dealt with in crude propaganda which does not present the facts but distorts, exaggerates and invents them. But sometimes there is genuine emotion in the letters and the conversations. Therefore, we are all forced to think through our philosophy. We must set some limit upon the adverse effect on the animal, whatever the benefits achieved, but we cannot overlook the great benefits which animal experiments have brought to both humans and animals and the important work which remains to be done.

There are a few people who see no need to strike this balance. At the other end of the argument, there are a few people whose view is so absolute that they are not interested in the views of other people. However, for the overwhelming majority, I hope, of hon. Members and, I am sure, of the public, a balance needs to be struck. We have sought to strike that balance in the Bill.

Many right hon. and hon. Members will remember, or will have read of, the days when diseases such as polio, smallpox, diphtheria and tuberculosis brought death and misery to many thousands of people. It was not all that long ago that infections and sceptic wounds, which would now be treated with antibiotics, went untreated. The great reduction in suffering, and the great improvements in our health and well-being, are owed in large measure to animal experiments.

Scientists have worked hard to reduce the use of animals in their research and to find ways of avoiding and minimising pain. Much work is being done now, with our support, to develop new alternative methods, but the use of live animals unfortunately remains necessary in many areas of biological and medical research if we are to safeguard the health and well-being of the individual and the community.

Fundamental research into the workings of the body and the causes of disease is as essential as ever. Therefore, it is irresponsible to suggest, as some have, that we can bring medical and scientific progress to a halt because, it is alleged, we have enough cures and enough knowledge to cope with the diseases which afflict so many people, or to suggest that certain types of research should not be permitted. That line of argument does not stand up to examination. A moment's thought brings to mind the great number of diseases and conditions for which a solution or improved treatment is still urgently needed. Heart disease, cancer, and AIDS are three obvious examples. The House could think of many more.

It has been suggested that all research into psychology and behaviour involving animals should be prohibited, but our understanding of the workings of the mind and of the many disorders of behaviour is still in its infancy. Skilled research in this area has already brought considerable benefits, and it is clearly vital that it should continue. Another criticism is that research involving tobacco or alcohol should be stopped, on the ground that they are supposedly self-induced ills. I do not think that that argument stands up, either, in serious debate.

The mechanisms by which substances such as alcohol and tobacco act, and the processes of dependence to which they lead, are still not fully understood. Their effects are not limited to the individual user who brings things on himself, as any hapless victim of a drunken driver can attest. Research into disease and illness has to continue. Safety testing is also vital, and here, too, although alternative methods have developed quite rapidly, we still have to make use of animal experiments.

Where beneficial drugs and vaccines have been developed they must be tested to ensure their safety, and we must ensure that each of the enormous number of other products and substances which people may use or come into contact with do not present a hazard to health. It is difficult to imagine us picking and choosing here. For example, it is sometimes said that the safety testing of some substances, such as cosmetics, should not be allowed if it involves the use of animals. We may hear that argument this evening and hereafter. Most tests of cosmetic substances are now carried out without the use of animals, but sometimes such tests are still needed. Cosmetics include soap, toothpaste, shampoo and many other substances which are used every day. These experiments amount to 0·5 per cent. of animal experiments in this country, but we are dealing with substances which have to be safe.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

Is the Secretary of State saying that he cannot differentiate between experiments on animals in connection with, say, finding the cause of cancer, and those for alcohol and nicotine-related diseases? To put it another way, he could simply ban the sale of alcohol and tobacco and therefore eradicate the diseases. He could not ban cancer, so there must be a difference, and he cannot keep them together.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

The hon. Gentleman cannot have been following my argument. I was not making the same argument in both cases. I said that there was still a good deal of ignorance about the effects of tobacco and alcohol and the dependence that they induce, and that since that dependence and those effects can affect for the worse many people who may not be directly using alcohol and tobacco, it must be right that research into these things should continue. Occasionally that involves the use of animals, and that was the case that I was making.

I had moved to the safety issue and the vexed question of cosmetics. I understand that there is an amendment in the names of several hon. Members on this point, and I appreciate the anxiety that exists about two safety tests, the Draize test on eye irritancy, and the LD50 toxicity test. A great deal of work has been done to minimise the use of these tests and replace them with less severe procedures. I understand that in most cases where the Draize test is used it stops short of the end points laid down in international regulations. We shall soon issue guidelines on the use of this test, designed to maximise the use of less severe procedures for eye testing, and the LD50 test has increasingly been replaced by limit tests. We shall continue to encourage these developments, but while there remains some circumstances in which the more severe tests are necessary to ensure the proper degree of safety such testing must continue, though subject to rigorous control.

Photo of Mr Peter Thurnham Mr Peter Thurnham , Bolton North East

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if we are to monitor closely the LD50 tests, and we have been assured that they will be monitored closely, it is necessary to know how many such tests there are each year?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

Yes, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will be able to deal positively with the general desire for more accurate statistics about the total and nature of future tests. We have a clear duty to allow the continuation of scientific research using animals. Against that is the other principle that I have mentioned, the duty to prevent unnecessary suffering, and the unnecessary use of animals in scientific procedures. The meeting of both those obligations underlies the Bill.

Photo of Dr Maurice Miller Dr Maurice Miller , East Kilbride

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, may I say that the LD50 test raises an enormous amount of emotion and heat? Quite clearly, there is in the mind of the public some kind of problem relating LD50 to toxicity tests. Before any drug or medicament is loosed upon the public, it is essential for its toxicity to be tested. That testing involves animals, but not necessarily in the way that LD50 previously worked. The people who are doing the testing know that, and LD50 will eventually be phased out.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

The hon. Gentleman is right. We have to encourage all the bodies concerned, including the international regulatory bodies, to go on looking closely at the need for LD50 tests. We must also ensure through the system of project licensing in the Bill that alternative methods — and all the time we are moving towards alternative methods—are used wherever possible. The spirit of the Bill is exactly the spirit of the point that the hon. Gentleman makes.

Photo of Mr Robin Corbett Mr Robin Corbett Opposition Whip (Commons)

am unwilling to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but he will know that the draft Home Office guidance on the operation of the Bill was lodged in the Vote Office today. Can he tell us the status of this guidance, and is he able to give us an assurance that this guidance will be debatable in Committee on the Bill?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

It is for the Chairman of a Standing Committee to decide on the scope of discussions. I should be surprised if it was not possible, with the co-operation of my hon. Friend, to ensure that the main points which appear in the guidance also find a place in the discussions of the Standing Committee. With a bit of will on all sides, that will not be too difficult. I should like to make progress on the contents of the Bill, because there will be plenty of scope for hon. Members to speak. Its origins go back to a lot of patient work by the Littlewood committee, which reported in 1965, and by the Select Committee in another place, which reported in 1980 on Lord Halsbury's Bill. In 1981 the Advisory Committee on Animal Experiments submitted its proposals for a framework of new legislation. Our proposals owe much to all this work and, of course, were foreshadowed in the two White Papers published by this Government.

The Council of Europe has produced a convention, which will shortly be open for signature, and we played a leading part in drafting that. The convention sets a common minimum standard for controls on animal experiments, and our controls under the Bill will be tighter still. A few months before the first White Paper was published the British Veterinary Association, the Committee for the Reform of Animal Experimentation, and the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments put forward their own proposals. Their thinking was along similar lines to our own, and since then we have consulted closely with their representatives. There has been invaluable advice and support from science and industry. I must mention the great contribution of Lord Houghton of Sowerby, who has earned the title of the elder statesman of animal welfare because of his tireless campaigning for reform. He has been prolific in his advice and admonition. We in the Government and all who are concerned for animals owe him a great debt.

I should like to say a word in commendation of my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor), who is sitting beside me. For a long time he has worked tirelessly to bring together a coalition, an understanding, between people who may have started with different points of view but who have worked together to make the Bill possible and successful. Hon. Members know that my hon. Friend has done that at some personal cost, but it is a remarkable achievement, which I hope will be continued during the passage of the Bill.

The Bill is a response to growing pressure from all sides for reform. It is the result of the consensus that I have been talking about, and that consensus, that wide-ranging support, was reflected in the debates in another place, where a number of significant improvements were made in response to helpful suggestions for change, without the need for one Division. If the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) is to steer the Opposition during the Committee stage of the Bill, if it gets a Second Reading, I strongly commend to him the example set in another place.

The Bill contains many more detailed provisions than the Act that it replaces, but it is, to a large extent, an enabling measure. It bans hardly anything, but it controls everything.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Castle Point

Banning hardly anything is what is wrong with it.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

My right hon. Friend will be able to develop that point, and I am sure that he will do so with some regard for the balance of which I have been speaking.

The details of the control are left to the Secretary of State, and I am sure that that fact will attract some attention and even criticism. However, that provision is important, because there must be administrative flexibility to deal with widely varying individual circumstances and to reflect the changes in science and in our understanding of animals and their needs, which lie ahead. That is the basic character of the Bill.

The detailed workings of the controls will be made public through the guidance note. The draft has been revised in the light of the many comments that we have received and of the changes made to the Bill in another place. Copies of the revised draft are available in the Vote Office.

The heart of the Bill is the new system of dual licensing. As happens now, a personal licence authorising an individual to carry out particular procedures on animals will be required, but, in addition, a project licence, specifying the detail and limits of the programme of work that is authorised, will also be required. No work may be done without the authority of both kinds of licence.

A project licence will be granted only if the proposed work appears justified. In addition, detailed conditions limiting the severity of procedures will be applied to each project. The Bill also makes new provision for arrangements for the care of laboratory animals and, for the first time, controls the breeding and supply of animals used in scientific or experimental procedures. It extends control to areas not covered by the 1876 Act, such as the use of animals for the production of antisera or the passage of tumours, and the breeding of laboratory animals with inherited defects.

Photo of Dr Maurice Miller Dr Maurice Miller , East Kilbride

Clauses 3 to 5 mention project licences and I have examined those clauses carefully. I should like to know who will advise the Home Secretary on the suitability of a project.

Some people are extremely worried about experiments on animals, but, from my experience, I believe that projects are already pretty well controlled and that few mavericks carry on the experimentation of which people accuse them. I hope that the Home Secretary will allay my fears by telling me that his advisers will not make it more difficult for genuine experiments to take place.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

The short answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is that I shall be advised by the inspectorate, which can call on assessors. The advisory committee, which is dealt with in clause 19, will be in the background. I hope that when the machinery is in place and has gained experience it will be able to work quickly and practically so that the hon. Gentleman's fears, which I understand, will not arise.

I shall not go through all the details of the Bill. I have explained the principles behind it, and I shall merely emphasise one or two key features. Clause 1 states that the protection of the Bill extends to all living vertebrate animals other than man. Unlike the 1876 Act, the Bill provides that immature forms of animals are protected if they reach, or are going to reach, specified stages of development.

Clause 2 defines what is meant by a "regulated procedure". That definition is important. Clause 3 prohibits anyone from carrying out a regulated procedure on a protected animal unless it is properly authorised under both a personal and a project licence. Acting without the proper authority of both types of licence will be an offence punishable by the substantial penalties set out in clause 22. The two types of licence are established by clauses 4 and 5. The personal licence has to ensure that only suitable and competent people are able to carry out work on live animals. It will define the limits of an individual's authority, which will be set after rigorous scrutiny of his qualifications, training and experience.

It is important to note that under the new controls all applicants for project licences will have to declare that they have considered alternatives to the use of live animals and rejected them on good grounds. Without that assurance, they will not be granted the authority that they seek.

The project licence issued under clause 5 will specify what may be done in the programme of work to which it applies, including the animals that may be used and the procedures that may be performed. The place where procedures are carried out has to be specified and so, in both the project and the personal licence, do the people doing the work. There will be detailed conditions.

Clause 10 requires certain conditions to be imposed in all cases, including, in particular, conditions limiting the degree of pain or suffering to which an animal may be exposed. All personal licences will include a condition requiring any animal that is suffering severe pain which cannot be alleviated to be killed painlessly forthwith. Within that universal upper limit, there will be further conditions limiting the severity of procedures.

Clauses 6 and 7 provide for the control of laboratories at which animals are used in experimental work and of establishments which breed or supply the kinds of animal most commonly used in procedures.

Photo of Mr Dudley Smith Mr Dudley Smith , Warwick and Leamington

I have been listening carefully to my right hon. Friend. Am I right in thinking that, in future, cats and dogs will have had to be specially bred for experimental purposes, and that the practice of taking cats and dogs from the streets—very little of that goes on at present, but it is worrying to many people—will be eliminated?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

Yes, indeed. That is implicit in what I have said, and I understand that that will be the case.

Having galloped through the clauses, I should say a word about the Advisory Committee on Animal Experiments, which is also part of the Bill. That is another source of valuable advice on existing controls and it must be right that a committee established to provide advice on this difficult, specialised subject should have a high level of medical, veterinary and scientific experience. The work of the commmittee has proved beyond doubt that such expertise and a high concern of animal welfare are often combined. We have been lucky in persuading distinguished representatives from the different disciplines to serve on the committee and to add to the contribution made by the lay members of the committee, including, as they should, representatives of animal welfare organisations.

The existing committee has ably carried out its task of helping my predecessors and myself to balance the needs of animals against the needs of science and industry. The controls introduced by the Bill require me to continue that balance and, in clauses 19 and 20, establish the Animal Procedures Committee, which will take over the work carried out so well by the advisory committee.

During the debates in another place a number of suggestions were made about the composition and terms of reference of the new committee, and they are now reflected in the Bill.

Photo of Mr Jeremy Hanley Mr Jeremy Hanley , Richmond and Barnes

Will my right hon. Friend accept from me the gratitude of many people for introducing the Bill so conscientiously, and particularly for deciding to introduce it so early in the parliamentary programme?

The goodwill established between the Home Office and many animal welfare bodies through the introduction of the Bill — the Home Office has listened to the representations of those bodies—will continue only as long as the number of experiments on animals reduces from year to year and amendments in Committee are discussed constructively.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I am sure that both those results will be forthcoming, for different reasons. What my hon. Friend says is true. People will accept the need for a number of animal experiments, provided that they are shown to be necessary—the control in the Bill will ensure that—and that an effort is being made to reduce them.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bowden Mr Andrew Bowden , Brighton, Kemptown

Will not this committee have a vital role to play? There is some concern about the membership and the list of names from which my right hon. Friend will select the members. Will he encourage hon. Members to submit names for consideration?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

I am always delighted to receive suggestions from all right hon. and hon. Members as to how I should exercise the powers of appointment that the House has given to me, and that will continue to be so. The Committee will want to spend some time on clause 19, if the House gives the Bill a Second Reading. It is a careful attempt to reach a balance on membership of the advisory committee. It is right that the Home Secretary should have such guidance before he starts making any appointments.

Clauses 22 to 26 make various provisions for the punishment and enforcement of criminal offences under the Bill. The most serious offences are triable either summarily or on indictment and, if on indictment, carry penalties of up to two years imprisonment, or a fine, or both. I hope that that shows that we are determined to ensure that the courts have the ability to deal firmly with breaches of the law in this area.

We are pleased that we have managed to find a legislative slot in this Session, which was at one time in doubt. We are pleased that the Bill received warm support in the other place, and has support generally. That support is much wider than would have been expected two or three years ago. It comes from the moderate parts of the animal welfare movement, from the veterinary profession and from science and industry, and we are grateful for suggestions that have come from all these quarters.

There has been scope for further elaboration and refinement of points of detail and application. That process has been carried out in the other place, and I am sure that it will be continued here. I believe, from the start that we have made, that the overwhelming majority of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House will want to continue in a thoughtful and non-partisan way to sustain the consensus that we have so far managed to achieve.

We all know that we have to think through these things seriously and gravely, and that what is at stake is what we mean by "humanitarian behaviour". The Bill tries to provide a framework within which these decisions can be made, to authorise scientific or experimental work on living animals and to enable those decisions to be based on a careful assessment of the likely cost to animals and the likely benefits to our species and to other animals. I do not pretend that that is not difficult and does not arouse many emotions, but we are heartened by the support that has been shown.

The Bill cannot satisfy everybody. It will not satisfy those who believe that there should be no experiments on living animals, and it will not satisfy those who are impatient of controls because they think that they go too far in restricting benefits to the human race and other animals that experiments can produce. I hope the House will feel that the Bill is a serious and conscientious effort to tackle the issue in a practical way which makes good use of the unique knowledge and experience of this country, and that we can justify, by our discussions in this place, the wisdom of all those who have thought and worked so hard on the subject.

Photo of Mr Robin Corbett Mr Robin Corbett Opposition Whip (Commons) 8:13, 17 Chwefror 1986

It is right to remind the House that the Labour party was the first major political party to spell out its attitude to animal welfare, in a document entitled "Living without Cruelty", published in 1978. That was followed by specific election pledges in the 1979 manifesto, which in turn encouraged other parties to make similar promises. I say that not in a narrow party political sense, but simply so that the record may be accurate. It has fallen to the Government to introduce this long-awaited legislation. As it has taken 110 years, it is as well that nobody was holding his breath. I congratulate the Government on crossing over to this side of the road, on showing a much better understanding of the demands of animal welfare organisations and on trying to respond to such demands.

The Bill has two principal authors. The first—and I put this author first deliberately—is my noble Friend Lord Houghton, whose persistence and diligence over many years has helped to forge a coalition of unity and common sense to secure the wide range of agreement on which the Bill is based.

The other author is Clive Hollands who has played such an outstanding role in the animal welfare movement in bringing people together. It is to Clive Hollands that we are indebted, in his book "Compassion is the Bugler", for the best definition of animal welfare. He wrote: This then would be my definition of animal welfare: dignity, according to animals the natural dignity which is due to them as living, sentient creatures … My only concern is the suffering we inflict on animals whether it be for food, clothing, knowledge, sport or pleasure. If we could learn to respect and accord to animals the dignity which is their due as living beings, suffering, pain and torment would end.

I support the Home Secretary's commendation of the work of the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, who I know has had an open-minded approach in the discussions with all those involved in the preparation of the Bill. He may or may not feel that this commendation is helpful to his career.

I acknowledge the criticisms of some of my right hon. and hon. Friends and others about the inadequacies of the Bill. It is not as if it has been rushed. New legislation was called for by the Littlewood committee in 1965, and the Halsbury committee in 1980. The Home Secretary's advisory committee joined in in 1983, as did the triple alliance of the British Veterinary Association, the Committee for the Reform of Animal Experimentation and the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments in the same year.

Against that background, I have to tell the Government that the Bill is not adequate to what needs to be done. The machinery that it plans to put in place, while an improvement over the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876, needs to be strengthened. We shall look to Parliament and the Government to improve the Bill as it goes through, if it gets a Second Reading.

I believe that science should be for life, not death, and that to some extent, science and the scientists have failed us. It is in many senses incredible that, after all these years and millions of experiments upon live animals, we know so little. If we can generally get men and women safely into space and back, we can find non-animal alternatives to live animal experiments. We are mastering the mysteries of space. We have devised some gruesome weapons of destruction that are able to land death accurately thousands of miles away from the launching base. We can make deserts bloom. We have built such machines as will travel underwater around our globe without surfacing. However, we are only at the comparatively early stages of finding, without putting millions of animals to death each year, cures and treatments needed for the health of man.

The Government say that the number of experiments has fallen and that is true, depending on where the measurement is taken from. There are now more experiments on animals than there were in 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1957. In 1957 about 2·5 million experiments on animals took place. Last year there were about 3·5 million experiments.

What offends many people is that the Bill does not instantly propose to do away with tests such as the Draize eye test, the LD50 test, testing for beauty cosmetic purposes or warfare experiments. A combination of project licences, individual licences and the work of the animal procedures committee could mean that such procedures are ended and that every individual licence is scrutinised for the purpose of the experiment which it proposes, but we need to know about the timescale. By how much are the Government committed to achieve these and other objectives so that there is a steady and continuing reduction in the number of experiments and the number of animals involved?

Photo of Mr Charles Irving Mr Charles Irving , Cheltenham

I take interest in the subject because I have done limited research, but I cannot discover any action by the Labour party, when it had the opportunity in power between 1964 and 1970 and from 1974 to 1979. What did the Labour Governments do?

Photo of Mr Robin Corbett Mr Robin Corbett Opposition Whip (Commons)

I say with a straight face that I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman seeks to make a party political point. I sought to put on record no more than the truth. On 23 March 1979—a Thursday—the then Labour Prime Minister announced from the Dispatch Box Government plans to set up a Royal Commission on animal welfare. The issue was debated the following Friday, but certain other events occurred rapidly which made it impossible for the then Government and Prime Minister to do anything. It does not help to throw bricks through windows. We all stand guilty of not doing enough for animal welfare. I do not want to prolong the argument, but the Conservative party is late into this business. The Bill does not mention the Government's willingness or determination to secure a continuing fall in the number of experiments and their replacement by non-animal testing techniques.

Many of the major pharmaceutical firms have developed cell and tissue culture techniques as alternatives to the use of animals. That has been reflected in a fall in the number of animals used for experimentation since 1976. However, that has gone neither far nor fast enough because the numbers are still above what they were 32 years ago.

Between 1952 and 1976 there were 109·9 million experiments with live animals. Between 1977 and 1983 there were 32·4 million experiments on animals. In 1984 the figure was 3·5 million. That is a total of 145·8 million experiments. The wonder is that we still know so little.

My heart tells me that there should be a quick end to all experiments on live animals; my head tells me that that is probably some way off. There is a moral and an ethical problem from which the House cannot run away. For example, what do we do about the ten most common forms of cancer or about the curse of multiple sclerosis which strikes with such devastation at an increasingly young age? What do we do about the growing social problem of senile dementia, said to be the single most pressing socio-medical problem of the century as we live longer? It is estimated that about 700,000 elderly people are already afflicted and that unless a treatment is found the numbers will rise with the increased percentage of elderly in our population.

I have a friend who has just marked — he says celebrated — his 30th year of paralysis from the neck down. He contracted polio at 16 years of age. That disease has now been beaten—though too late for him. His life is a remarkable and humbling example of what the human spirit can cope with.

Measles, diphtheria, mumps and whooping cough are now all treatable and curable—mainly at the price of animal experiments. The breakthrough of antibiotics such as penicillin has enabled us to fight infectious diseases. Smallpox has been eradicated worldwide. However, we still lack treatments for the most common forms of cancer, heart disease, rheumatism, arthritis, asthma and AIDS. Not only humans have benefited from this research. Research on animals has advanced veterinary practice, for example among dogs and cats. The figures about the abuse of such so-called pet animals published by the RSPCA today gives none of us any cause for pride in our claim that we are a nation of animal lovers.

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

Perhaps it is timely for the House to consider that the total number of cats and dogs used in experiments in laboratories last year was 20,000 and that the total number of such animals put down by the RSPCA was over 100,000. That is an indictment of our abuse of animals.

Photo of Mr Robin Corbett Mr Robin Corbett Opposition Whip (Commons)

I agree.

Why is the Bill not called the "Laboratory Animals Bill" or "Laboratory Animals Protection Bill"? The 1876 Act had a title which reflected the fact that experiments involved cruelty. I hope that hon. Members on all sides will support changing the Bill's title. The two Bills considered by another place had that different title.

The powers of the Animal Procedures Committee should be increased. As the Home Secretary made clear, that committee's role is critical if the Bill is to be successful. The committee should be able to initiate action without the Home Secretary's approval if it is to have a properly independent role. I understand if the Government are afraid to give the committee a blank cheque—although they seem to be spending money like a drunk on a Saturday night—but that problem can be solved in the Bill.

The Save British Science campaign warned us last month about the dangerous cuts in investment for scientists and research. It said that the economic and social effects on the United Kingdom may not become obvious fox a few more years and added: However, we should warn the Government that when they do they are likely to be grave and effectively irreversible". That was the verdict of the advisory board in June 1985. Last month that was backed by those involved in the campaign, including 49 fellows of the Royal Society and eight Nobel laureates—no mean bunch.

The important point is that such cuts in research mean, inevitably, that there will be fewer scientists helping in the work of finding alternative non-animal tests. That point needs both making and understanding.

We want the committee to have a duty laid upon it to monitor regularly what is happening, especially in tests that involve the most severe category of pain. The judgment or likely degrees of pain involved in any experiment are difficult to access, but that underlines the need for an obligation to be placed on the committee to keep that category under constant review. To that extent—I do not say this in any carping sense—both the committee and the Home Secretary can learn from experience and from the mistakes made in the granting of project licences.

We shall look to the committee, having a specific duty to avoid the unnecessary use of animals in experiments, to try to secure a reduction in animal usage. I accept that that is implied in the Bill, but it should be clearly stated—if for no other reason than that it would be in keeping with the European convention, which states in its preamble: resolve to limit the use of animals for experimental and other scientific purposes with the aim of replacing such use wherever practicable. It is important that the committee sees all project licences that involve pain at its most severe assessed degree. I have no wish to add to bureaucracy, but such a procedure woud be a powerful deterrent to applications where there has not been proper consideration of a project design that brings it into a lower category of severity.

Clause 26(3) places a three-year bar on prosecutions for offences, and we shall want to consider that. There is often a time lag between the conducting of experiments and the reports of them being received, accepted, and actually published by learned journals. I have details of one experiment, with which I shall not weary the House, involving 40 monkeys. It was carried out in 1976 or even earlier, but the details were not published until 1979, In another test, involving monkeys, a report of the experiment was submitted in January 1983 and, accepted in May 1984, but the tests took place about 1980–81. Of course I understand that Home Office inspectors were likely to be involved earlier than that, but no one could claim that they are infallible. We should consider a longer period for possible prosecutions, perhaps five or six years, to take account of that point. Clause 22(3) raises the issue of secrecy and members of the committee. I think that the Bill has that the wrong way round. It puts the onus on members of the committee to prove that they acted responsibly, rather than on the prosecution to prove recklessness. That cannot be right and we shall want to consider that.

We shall also want some assurance that the representation of interests on the committee is properly balanced. We shall want to ensure that the balance does not move too much one way or the other over a period. That has happened with the Farm Animal Welfare Council, although I do not expect the Home Secretary or the Minister to be aware of that. There has been great concern about the way in which the balance of representation on that council has altered over a number of years. We want to ensure that the legitimate animal welfare viewpoint is strong and not diminished over the years.

When the Minister replies, I hope that he can give us an assurance about the inspectorate. We welcome the proposal to appoint six new Home Office inspectors, but that solves only part of the problem. We must be sure that both in the Home Office and in the inspectors' offices there is adequate support staff to ensure that the proposed procedures work with the minimum of delay. We need further assurance, although we have some already, that the inspectorate will, when it feels the need, have advice from independent experts.

There are other detailed points, but we shall deal with them in Committee. However, I want to underline that we lay great stress on the powers and the independence of the committee, which is critical to the proposed new structure for better control of live animal experiments.

What we must all understand, if we do not already, is that research is never predictable. I am told that about nine out of every 10 experiments do not yield the expected results—not that they are wasted, because even if they lead in an unexpected direction, they increase man's knowledge of himself and how we work. We have an appalling legacy of unconquered disease. Some eight of the most common forms of cancer are caused by our lifestyle and environment. That suggests that we would be well rewarded of we put additional cash into the preventive aspect of the National Health Service so that more is done to stop people becoming ill. It is no new thought, but investment is wholly inadequate.

The United Kingdom Co-ordinating Committee on Cancer Research has told us of the great advances during the past 25 years. Children with leukaemia can now, more often than not, look forward to full and normal lives. Several other cancers have become curable. Prevention of cancer, especially lung cancer, is now possible for thousands of individuals. We know too that, caught early enough, the lives of hundreds of women can be saved each year if they are screened for cervical cancer and treated early enough.

There will be quite speedy changes in the number and nature of experiments as alternative techniques are developed —partly under pressure from the Bill and partly because, as the oil runs out, many of the oil-based products we appear to find essential to our daily lives will be relegated to scientific museums. I hope that that will add to pressure to find more natural alternatives.

I want to advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to give the Bill a critical welcome. We want it to be improved in major ways because we want to ensure that we take this rare, long-awaited opportunity to turn it into a vehicle for real reform of live animal experiments—achieving a steady reduction in the number and range of experiments.

Nothing that we do with this Bill should remove the sense of humility that we should feel about experiments on live animals. As Clive Hollands said, we need to accord to animals the dignity which is their due.

Several Hon. Members:


Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

Order. Many right hon and hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye. I think that the House would greatly appreciate brief speeches.

Photo of Mrs Sally Oppenheim Mrs Sally Oppenheim , Gloucester 8:39, 17 Chwefror 1986

I must begin with both a declaration of interest and a confession. I am on the main board of Boots, a company engaged in the research and development of new drugs. I confess that I am one of those who are deeply affected when confronted by animal suffering. I would not go so far as to say more deeply affected than when confronted by human suffering, but it is often a struggle. I care passionately about the welfare of animals and I confess that, in relation to this Bill and to animals, I am biased. I make that confession at the outset in order, I hope, to put the rest of my remarks into perspective.

I wholeheartedly welcome the Bill, which represents a fair and reasonable attempt to balance public concern about the welfare of animals with the need to continue to achieve medical advances which benefit the lives and health of both man and animals. In particular, I welcome the Bill's objective of bringing about a reduction in the numbers of animals used in experiments and the modification of experimental techniques, especially in relation to specific pain and suffering.

Not everyone will find the Bill perfect in every respect, and I am sure that some further amendments will prove necessary, but most hon. Members—indeed, I believe all—will welcome a measure which is long overdue. There have been 13 unsuccessful attempts under successive Governments to reform the 1876 and 1911 legislation, all of which have failed. The measure is long overdue and is likely to be controversial, but it is essentially a humane measure. Therefore, the Bill must command the support of the House and all caring people.

I join the congratulations to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary on the extent of consultation upon which he has embarked and the degree to which he has succeeded with the legislation in satisfying a broad spectrum of people on all sides of the argument. Of course he has not satisfied the lunatic fringe militant movement. They are wicked people, more interested in politics than in animals. I wonder how many of them would withhold insulin from their diabetic children or refuse open heart surgery to their infant born with heart disease. I wonder why they fail to make it clear in their copious literature that a great many non-experimental tests on animals must take place because of the statutory requirement to batch-test many drugs already on the market for public protection, and that that, too, applies to a number of pesticides. They are disruptive and destructive people. They confuse the issue. They cause suffering to countless animals by their irresponsible behaviour and, above all, they do not represent sincere animal lovers in Britain.

However, on the other side of that fringe—a few of them, I admit, are only just on the other side of that fringe—are sincere people. Millions of people not represented by the militants care genuinely about animal welfare, among them hundreds of my constituents who welcome the Bill as an important measure of reform.

In the Bill the scope of control is greater; the justification criteria are sharpened; the licensing system is greatly tightened; and an attempt is made to define limits and to grade severity of pain. New registration requirements are introduced, as are new provisions about the re-use of animals, in particular relating to animals which have been anaesthetised. Inspectors are to have greater powers, and, importantly, the animal procedures committee is to be created. Offences against the Act will be dealt with far more severely than ever before.

Those are all welcome, progressive measures. They are genuine reforms. But I hope it will not be another 50 years or so before the safeguards in the Bill are added to if the Animal Procedures Committee or other evidence shows that to be necessary.

One criterion of a civilised society is the way in which it treats its animals. It is a criterion which is bound to lead to mixed emotions. On the one hand, there is the undoubted suffering which animals endure during some, but not all experiments, which are stomach-churning and deeply distressing even to read about. On the other, there is the agony suffered by arthritis victims, the grief of a family when a father is struck dead by heart disease, the millions of people killed by cancer, and, against that, the hope and joy that a cure would bring the world over.

Experimentation is about hope and results. Terrible diseases have been eliminated, as my right hon. Friend has shown—diseases which claimed lives as recently as 50 years ago. Animals have been among the main beneficiaries. Diseases have been wiped out and a great deal of suffering by animals has been saved. Almost every time one takes one's pets to the vet, they are likely to benefit from experimentation which has already taken place.

Surgical techniques, microsurgery and anaesthesia have all greatly improved as a result of animal experimentation, and thousands of men, women and children have benefited and regained a better quality of life. All the well-known drugs and vaccines, which are too numerous to go into, such as the antibiotics, could not have been discovered without animal experimentation, as well as the less often quoted treatments for Third-world diseases, such as leprosy. The Bill faces the daunting task of establishing the important new principle that benefits from any experiments to mankind have to be weighed against the suffering that will be caused to animals and that, wherever possible—and it is becoming increasingly possible—alternative sources must be sought. We must not allow experiments that are unnecessarily painful or the use of unnecessarily large numbers of animals. I do not for a moment suppose that the Bill will provide a perfect solution to any of those problems.

I am still concerned about the interpretation and determination of permitted pain thresholds, and—something that has not been mentioned before—fear among animals. Animal instincts are strong, and fear is the most easily fed. Wherever the experiment permits, tranquillisers and pain killers should be used to minimise both, although it should be stressed that by no means all experiments, even major ones, involve either pain or distress, as I have witnessed in our own laboratories. There, devoted technicians who are animal lovers keep animals that they are testing as pets in their homes and the animals only visit the laboratory about once a month. Progressively fewer animals every year are being used in experiments there.

Then there is the vexed question of experimentation for non-essentials, such as cosmetics, which include, as has been said, many everday toiletries such as toothpaste and baby-care items. They remain untouched by the Bill. Certainly nobody wants toxic substances to be sold in any of those categories. Everyone wants consumers to be protected. But at what price in animal suffering do we gain a new pink, blue or green stripe in our toothpaste? I hasten to add, before I am deluged by letters from toothpaste manufacturers, that that may be an entirely inappropriate example. It is inappropriate, but it demonstrates the point graphically, and eventually a justification test may be required in that general area.

The LD50 test rightly arouses deep emotions. I agree that its monitoring is important, as is its restriction. But, regrettably, it is essential that that experimentation should continue in order to enable safe maximum doses to be set—for example, where the difference between a lethal and a therapeutic dose for a cancer patient may be very small indeed.

The "me-too" drugs also came under fire in another place, but, there again, new versions of existing medicines are often desirable as they represent improvements and become available to patients who may be resistant or allergic to existing drugs. Allergies cannot be dismissed lightly because, not infrequently, there are life and death implications for some patients and severe effects for others.

No legislation can make animal experimentation agreeable. Man's biblical domain over animals can be morally maintained only by the exercise of humanity towards them. The Bill represents a courageous step to limit animal suffering, ducked by successive Governments in the past both in this country and in the United States. It should be welcomed wholeheartedly by all who care about animal and human welfare.

Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock , Portsmouth South 8:49, 17 Chwefror 1986

I should like to echo the sentiments already expressed by all the hon. Members who have spoken about the benefits that can accrue to animals from experiments. The alliance does not advocate a total prohibition on animal experiments. We want the minimum number to be carried out. We recognise that the health of animals has improved, and we hope will continue to improve, because of these experiments.

The alliance does not support extra-parliamentary and illegal action taken by extremist elements. They damage the cause of animal welfare and take much public support away from the strong lobby for animal rights. But it would be a mistake to say that the Bill is universally welcomed and will do as Clive Hollands, to whom the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) referred, said and improve the welfare of and care given to animals.

If we genuinely believe that our fellow creatures on this planet have an equal right to dignity and to enjoy their life span—for many it is short—we must all work towards an end to all forms of experimentation. That is why the welcome to the Bill is not as warm in some quarters as it might have been if there had been a greater ambition to arrive more quickly at that end result.

We must all surely welcome the fact, that, for the first time in more than 100 years, the Government are at least attempting to update the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876. The current proposal, which is hailed as a giant step forward for laboratory animals and is used for propaganda purposes by the so-called animal activists does little to protect laboratory animals, to reduce animal experimentation or to promote alternative methods of experimentation. The Bill does not go nearly as far as it should and must.

The Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry, which is the drug industry's trade association, has welcomed the proposals. Do hon. Members think that the association believes that the Bill will have an effect on the almost 2 million experiments, or 55 per cent. of all experiments that will be performed in 1987? Of course not. The association predicts that it will perform yet another 2 million experiments in 1987. The executive director of the Research Defence Society—a pro-vivisectionist organisation — has said that he cannot think of a single experiment allowed now that will not be allowed in the future. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people hoped that the Bill would go at least some way towards outlawing these experiments—the Draize test and the LD50 test — about which hon. Members know only too well. The drug companies and the pro-vivisectionist lobby admit that the experiments will not be stopped.

It has been argued that, for the first time, the Secretary of State will be given more power to control animal experimentation, but that is not true. Section 8 of the 1876 Act gives the Home Secretary discretion to refuse and revoke licences to which he may attach any conditions that he believes expedite the objectives of the Act. Furthermore, under section 21 the Secretary of State may disallow or suspend any certificates granted under the Act. The Secretary of State already as considerable powers which are in practice rarely, if even used. The Bill creates more red tape and encourages the fear that licences and projects put to the Department will be given an automatic rubber stamp.

Photo of Mr Peter Fry Mr Peter Fry , Wellingborough

Will the hon. Gentleman reflect on the fact that the new powers given to the Secretary of State mean that it will not be the drug companies that will decide whether an experiment should be continued? For the first time, hon. Members will be given the responsibility to check on experiments. The hon. Gentleman has referred to outside organisations. One may respect their views, but they by no means have the final say.

Mr. Hannock:

That is all well and good, if we can be assured that there will be adequate staff to police the Bill's provisions. The fear which many people share is that there will not be sufficient resources to enable that policing to take place. More than 3 million experiments are performed annually, most of which are paid for out of public money and claimed to be performed for the public benefit. The 1876 Act and this legislation provide no mechanism for public accountability. No one outside Whitehall and the scientific establishments has any real say in the permitted experiments.

Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock , Portsmouth South

It is abrasive for the hon. Member for Erdington, who rebuked an hon. Member for trying to introduce a political trend in his speech, to make from a sedentary position comments which are extremely distasteful.

The Government have told us that the Bill has been loosely worded to allow for flexibility through the years, but the Home Office guidelines, which are meant to explain this bill mean that that flexibility swings like a pendulum. It can swing one way or the other and, in the end, laboratory animals could be in a worse plight. The guidelines might be set out to appease public opinion, but they have no legal standing. They are not explicitly admissible as evidence and can be changed without Parliament's consent.

The Bill is dedicated to the idea of flexibility, which does not seem to me to be an unquestionable virtue. Flexibility means that one can bend. If one is entirely flexible, one can bend both ways. A Bill that is almost empty without any prohibitions in it and that does not say, "You cannot do this to an animal," must be open to all sorts of abuses and unwelcome practices.

In particular, we must trust the human nature of the politicians, including the various Home Secretaries now and in the future who will implement the legislation, and of the people whose livelihoods and professional ambitions are concerned with experimentation. It is difficult to see where the Bill will put the necessary brake or check on this practice. The guidelines have no legal standing. They can be changed without the necessity for direct consultation with the House. They are open to questioning.

Many hon. Members will undoubtedly speak out against the various clauses, suggesting that some are vague or must be amended in Committee. Clause 5 provides for the Secretary of State to issue project licences. Clause 5(3)(d) refers to the advancement of knowledge in biological or behavioural sciences"— a vast and unrestricted category, which allows for any type of experimentation. Clearly, the Government intended this, because it states: In devising new controls it is very important not to put industry at unnecessary risk". One can only believe, therefore, that the issuing of project licences will not be restrictive. One of the factors that must be seriously considered in granting a project licence would be whether the viability of a particular project or company would be put at risk if a licence was not granted.

Photo of Dr Maurice Miller Dr Maurice Miller , East Kilbride

Am I right in saying that the hon. Gentleman would like to see heart disease and cancer conquered, in addition to a continuation in the advances which have been made in conquering other diseases? Is the hon. Gentleman saying that he believes that it is possible without animal experimentation to conquer such diseases and continue to improve what we have already achieved?

Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock , Portsmouth South

I speak with some personal experience on that point. I had the misfortune to be given a son who was born with a congenital heart disease, and for the past nine years we have battled with the problems that that entails for a young lad growing up. Of course I want see improvements to the health of every human being and to every creature on our planet. I said at the beginning that I do not see that the alliance's standpoint is anything but a constructive and realistic approach to animals being used in experimentation. Far be it for any hon. Member to suggest that it was an opportunist stance to take. I have been actively involved in animal welfare campaigns for the past 20 years. Certainly, most of my adult life has been dedicated to that end. Of course I want to see experiments and the health of everyone improved.

I refer hon. Members to the points raised about the duplication of experiments where animals are subjected to breathing in tobacco fumes day in and day out and are then killed so that their lungs can be examined simply to prove a point which is already well known to everyone, that high tar and low tar cigarettes have various degrees of resultant illness on the lungs of creatures that inhale them. There are many problems there. Duplication of experiments and projects has to be looked at properly and must be policed properly and effectively.

Subsection 4 causes some concern. It gives the Secretary of State the right to weigh the likely adverse effects on the animals concerned against the benefit likely to accrue". Who defines "benefit" and "adverse effects"? Is a benefit a new headache drug to be added to the many already on the market? Is it right that we should continue to experiment on animals just to bring yet another product on to the market when there are shelves full of products dealing with the same symptoms? I do not believe that that is right and I do not believe that the people of the country, when they sought advice and help on this matter, expected the Government to produce something which would allow that duplication to continue.

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

The hon. Gentleman is making an extraordinary speech for a party headed by a medical practitioner. At least the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) is not here to hear what is being said in his name. Is it alliance policy that if it formed a Government, any company which wished to develop a new product would have to have express Government permission before it would be permitted to employ people to do that?

Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock , Portsmouth South

The Minister is being slightly absurd. One would hope that an alliance Government would put fairly high on its list of priorities an animal welfare Bill that would encompass the many things which need to be done at present. I am sure that if my right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) were here he would say just that and that we would be concerned to implement legislation taking account of the needs of all creatures on our planet and not putting people at risk.

Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock , Portsmouth South

I should like to develop the argument a little further.

I am sure that many hon. Members have read clause 19 and are concerned about it. It establishes an Animal Procedures Committee and specifies its composition. The composition of that committee needs close examination. It is important that it reflects animal as well as scientific interests and those of other people.

It is important that the Bill offers real appreciation of people's concern for animal welfare. It needs firm and strict policing. I hope that the Bill will be amended in Committee to give it that strengthening before it comes back to the House. The Government must have the willingness and the backbone forcibly to implement their own proposals. I hope that tests such as the Draize test and the LD50 test will be changed in Committee, and outlawed by the time the Bill comes back to the House. I hope that the Bill will be amended so that those diabolical practices are banned.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale , North Thanet

In reply to the hon. Member for East Kilbride, (Dr. Miller) the hon. Gentleman said that he was not being opportunistic. He then went on to refer to the LD50 test. With respect, he owes it to the House and probably to his constituents in Portsmouth, South, to explain how, tonight, he is putting his name to an alliance amendment, which is pusillanimous in the extreme, whereas last week he signed an early-day motion, which covered many of the points about the LD50 that he is now raising, and not long before that he wrote to the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments, which supports the Bill, saying that he considered it an honour to be associated with the organisation, and it had his whole-hearted commitment.

Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock , Portsmouth South

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that. Unfortunately the fund failed to live up to the expectations of its associated members. It did not have what it takes to push the issue further. When the fund wrote to me and explained its concern about the various forms of animal welfare, it appeared that its heart was in the right place, but when the chips were down it failed to come up with the commitment that I thought would be there and worthy of it.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

Could it be that FRAME failed to live up to expectations in pressing the need for tighter control over animal experiments because it is dependent on a Government grant to keep it going? That might be why it toed the Government's line.

Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock , Portsmouth South

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for drawing that point to our attention.

I should like to refer to our amendment on the Order Paper. I am disappointed, as are my colleagues, that you did not select it, Mr. Speaker. Nevertheless, we live with that decision. Our amendment tells the House that we have a commitment and are not happy with the way in which the Bill is constructed. We have a more enlightened and ambitious approach to animal welfare. We wanted the House not to give the Bill a Second Reading in the hope that the Government would reconsider their position.

The Bill is unacceptable in its present form. We sought to move an amendment, but unfortunately we were not successful. However, we hope to amend and improve the Bill in Committee. When it comes back to the House, I hope that it will encompass more of the points which, I am sure, most hon. Members and people outside want to see in it. It is no good crying crocodile tears in this place over animal experimentation and suggesting that one has sympathy for animals if, at the end of the day, one does not put one's vote where it matters.

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

The hon. Gentleman is not winning himself many friends tonight. For three years several hon. Members on both sides of the House, people from the British Veterinary Association and a range of animal welfare groups have worked together to bring forward a measure that can command the support of a wide range of people. The hon. Gentleman is making the lowest common denominator of empty rhetoric with no constructive policy proposals and in a sense damning the project without giving any evidence of a single hour of constructive thought. Does he think that he has done himself much credit by that?

Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock , Portsmouth South

The Under-Secretary is entitled to that opinion, but I have tried to say that there has to be another opinion, that the Bill does not go far enough. I fully accept that hon. Members, people outside the House, and the other place have worked valiantly trying to put the issue before Parliament. We have heard tonight that we all stand guilty for the part that we did or did not play in trying to change the legislation of the past hundred years. Then when we come to present the House and the country with a chance to change what has happened for more than 100 years, we should go as far as possible without compromising the principles that we have explained time and time again, and so assure the constituents who write to us on these issues.

The importance of animal welfare is linked to animal dignity and whether or not experiments should be allowed to continue at their present level. I have said time and again that it is not fair that the number of experiments should continue at their present level and there must be changes. I had hoped that the House would have the courage to go further than the Government want to go under the Bill.

Photo of Mr Dudley Smith Mr Dudley Smith , Warwick and Leamington 9:11, 17 Chwefror 1986

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) spoke from the Opposition Front Bench with great sincerity, and I agree with many of his points. With due respect, he showed great responsibility, as did the official Opposition, in allowing the Bill to go though without challenge, while—

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I have your instruction or advice, Mr. Speaker, on whether hon. Members who speak in this debate should declare an interest?

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

The hon. Member has only just risen and has been speaking for only about 30 seconds.

Photo of Mr Dudley Smith Mr Dudley Smith , Warwick and Leamington

I have neglected so far to declare my interest, but I intend to do that in á moment.

Before I was interrupted, I was saying that the hon. Member for Erdington was correct to reserve his fire for the Committee stage. He was generally right to give the Bill a fair wind.

How the hon. Gentleman's speech contrasted with the speech that we have just heard from the so-called alliance, from the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Hancock). If ever there was a man for all seasons we heard him speak tonight. We heard the hon. Gentleman out grubbing for votes with the kind of comments which we have come to expect from the so-called alliance. They will do anything and move in any direction if they can discredit both the Government and the official Opposition. I shall say no more about the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South, as his speech speaks for itself. The hon. Gentleman ought to be ashamed of himself.

Several hon. Members have said that they believe that a country's attitude towards society is revealed in the way that it treats its animals. Indeed, the concern that hon. Members show in the right context is the hallmark of an advanced society. That is why I welcome this long-overdue Bill as it puts us in advance of most other nations. It reforms and improves the present situation in relation to authorised experiments with animals.

I wish to declare an interest and I hope that that will satify the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen). For much of my professional life I have been connected with the pharmaceutical, toiletries and cosmetics industries and I continue to be so involved. In the past, when I was not a Member of the House, I worked full-time in those industries, so I speak tonight as one with allegedly some expert knowledge on this subject. I will endeavour to put that knowledge forward for the general good when we reach Standing Committee, if I am fortunate enough to be selected as a Committee member.

The most important point to bring out, which was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, is that the Bill introduces the requirement for all experiments to be assessed before they are carried out. It gives power to the Secretary of State, backed by the expert committee which we have been discussing, to refuse to allow animals to be used in any experiment which is not really necessary. That is the key requirement of the Bill, and it spells out a considerable advance on the former position.

Of course, unless one opposes virtually all animal experimentation, one must accept that this legislation is a significant step forward. Those who oppose the Bill outright or oppose it very strongly are entitled to their views and to express them in a free society. However, I cannot understand their opposition. I do not believe that they have thought through the consequences for their fellow men if they succeed in banning all or the vast majority of animal experiments.

We must approach the subject realistically and unemotionally. Much nonsense is talked about animal experimentation — we have already heard some of it tonight. Much of it is irrational and emotionally generated. No normal person enjoys using animals for medical, scientific or essential testing purposes. Companies certainly do not—to put it at its lowest, they find it expensive — but until effective alternatives are discovered, it is the only way in which they can proceed. One hopes that the gradual reduction that is already taking place will continue and perhaps gather pace under this legislation.

I find animal experimentation distasteful and I dislike seeing it, as I have on many occasions. But I fully recognise its necessity. The clinicians and laboratory assistants whom I have seen using animals have been caring, dedicated people who are fond of animals. They are not the cold-blooded, evil, Frankenstein-type experimenters that are portrayed by the extremists.

Many of us in the Chamber tonight would not have been here but for experiments that were conducted in the past to produce life-saving medicines. Strong opponents of animal experimentation, such as the hon. Members for Leyton and for Portsmouth, South should ask themselves this question: would I allow myself, if dangerously ill, to be treated with medicines that have evolved from animal experiments or were tested for toxicity on animals? Perhaps even more important, would I allow my children to receive such medicines to save their lives? There is no room for hypocrisy in such matters, but we hear a great deal of hypocrisy from some people. It is sometimes conveniently forgotten by the opponents of the legislation that general animal welfare in Britain has improved remarkably as a result of the procedures that are dealt with in the Bill. New vaccines and treatments for animal illness have been discovered and, as a result of experiments on animals, we have fitter, happier and healthier farm animals, bloodstock and domestic pets.

I welcome the fact that sensible and co-operative views on the legislation have been taken by the more moderate and responsible animal protection movements, especially the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments, or FRAME. Like them, I have queries about several details which could be debated in Committee, and I and my hon. Friends will need assurances in some instances. However, I am delighted that the Government have introduced such a comprehensive measure.

As one of Parliament's delegates to the Council of Europe, I played a part in formulating and encouraging the Council's convention on the subject. Several hon. Members on that delegation, notably the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller), played their part too in formulating the Council of Europe's proposals. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said, the convention, which is about to be signed, sets the pattern for Europe. But the Bill goes much further. It is stricter and more comprehensive than the Council of Europe convention. If the Bill becomes law, our new practices will put us in the forefront as an example to our European neighbours. That is as it should be.

I am especially pleased that the Bill extends to the breeding and supply of animals and their care outside the period of experiment. During the years, procedures in that respect have improved considerably, but we all have a honor of domestic pets being stolen by Bill Sikes characters, who sell them illegally to laboratories. That rarely happens now, but that is why I asked my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary whether, in the future, all such animals must be specially bred for the purpose.

The proposed Animal Procedures Committee will be given wide advisory powers. We shall have to be satisfied that that committee is properly staffed and composed of energetic, sensible people who have animal welfare at heart.

I want to see the inspectorate increased and I shall certainly push for that. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department will say something about the inspectorate and the possibility of an increase on the current proposals.

The case for proper, well-supervised pharmaceutical experimentation is overwhelming. To stop it or to restrict it too severely would be a dangerous blow against medical progress and the fight against disease. There are many who accept the need for medical tests but who strongly oppose experimentation for toiletries and cosmetics. This was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mrs. Oppenheim). Animal experiments in respect of cosmetics and toiletries are, as the Home Secretary stressed in his speech, tiny when compared with medical experiments. Of the cosmetic tests which are carried out, 75 per cent. use human volunteers. The use of data banks and in vitro alternatives also contribute to a reduction in the use of animals. They are used only when there is no alternative.

There is a wide discrepancy between the use of the word cosmetic, which is in common parlance, and the description of the word for regulatory purposes. The common factor defined in cosmetic products is that they are applied to the external parts of the body and inside the mouth and they thus include products such as soap, toothpaste, shaving cream and shampoo. As has been mentioned, we have laws which insist that these products are properly tested. Manufacturers have a legal and moral obligation to ensure their products' safety. Manufacturers that did not ensure such safety would soon be sued out of business. All manufacturers have to meet the laws passed in this House, and, like it or not, laws brought about by EEC regulations which are for the protection of the individual.

This legislation calls for every licence application for cosmetic testing to be automatically scrutinised by the Animal Procedures Committee. I strongly support that new move. It will be effective in cutting out those types of test which are non-essential. There must be some which are non-essential and it is our duty to see that they are eliminated.

Present-day medicine would come to an end without the use of animals in medical research. One day I hope we shall find effective alternative procedures. Meanwhile research leading to advances against such dread diseases as cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, leukaemia and arthritis must continue. I think that any right-thinking person would agree. We are introducing supervisory legislation, and such legislation must strike a balance between the need for human and veterinary medical progress and the genuine care and welfare of laboratory animals. I believe that this Bill makes an honest attempt to do this and that ultimately it will succeed.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton 9:23, 17 Chwefror 1986

I shall oppose this inadequate Bill tonight. As the House will be aware, I put down early-day motion 411, and a Second Reading amendment to the Bill in the same terms as the early-day motion, which was signed by more than 30 Members on this side of the House. The amendment has not been selected but the provisions of the early-day motion would be vastly preferable to the Bill.

I also produced the Cruelty to Animals (Amendment) Bill, which I presented under the ten-minute Bill procedure. It is a detailed Bill, which embodies the proposals in my early-day motion as well as tightening up the law on experimentation. It is vastly superior to the Bill that the Government have produced.

The early-day motion condemned unnecessary experiments, but that idea has been lost in this debate. Many unnecessary animal experiments go ahead and they should be stopped. There should be a ban on animals for purposes connected with cosmetics, tobacco and alcohol. There should be a ban on the Draize eye irritancy test, where irritants are administered, without pain relief, until the animals eyes burst. There should be a ban on LD50 poisoning tests, where the animals are painfully poisoned until 50 per cent. die; a ban on behavioural and psychological tests, where the animals are driven mad; and a ban on warfare experiments, where the animals are deliberately shot, irradiated or subjected to germ and chemical warfare experiments. Officially, according to Labour and Conservative Governments, we are not supposed to be into germ or chemical warfare, but it is all right to have warfare experiments on animals.

Photo of Mr Conal Gregory Mr Conal Gregory , City of York

The hon. Gentleman has given a long and impressive catalogue of bans. Will he include the ritual slaughter of animals for religious reasons?

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

I can happily talk about that. I should prefer to see the pre-stunning of animals. I do not think that legislation is the right way to achieve that. It is best done through consultation with religious leaders. It is an important point. The religious arguments are about which method is the most cruel. The imams and rabbis think that pre-stunning is more cruel than their methods.

My Bill would ban those experiments immediately and reinstate the independent committee on animal experiments, which would exclude vested interests.

Those points clearly show the inadequacy of the Government's Bill, which does not end any of those tests. The claim is made that the Bill regulates experiments. That was the basis of the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876, which is now deemed to be out of date. That Act, like the Bill, acquiesced in a whole range of animal experiments. The Bill refers to the protection of animals, but the regulations seem designed to protect the experimenter rather than the animal. There is no commitment to phase out, to ensure the reduction of or to promote alternatives to the tests in the Bill.

A spokesperson for the Research Defence Society—a pro-vivisection group funded by the drug and cosmetic multinationals—said of the Bill: I cannot think of a single experiment allowed now that will not be allowed in the future". The time is right for some prohibition, not for more of the same rubber-stamping regulations. We should prohibit the unnecessary experiments and practices listed in my amendment, in my early-day motion and in the Cruelty to Animals (Amendment) Bill.

My Bill dealt also with cruel blood sports, as did the one presented last week by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. Mcnamara). There is no mention of cruel blood sports in the Government's Bill. They have no intention of introducing such legislation, for fear of upsetting their squirearchy. That is despite the fact that the polls, even among Conservative voters, are overwhelmingly in favour of abolishing blood sports. The Northern Ireland Assembly has twice voted unanimously to abolish hare coursing. The Government have overruled that decision and have not included it in the Bill.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. I hope that the hon. Member will not canvass too strongly his private Member's Bill. This is a rather different measure.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

I agree, Mr. Speaker, but my Bill can be compared directly with the Government's Bill, and mine is vastly superior. A Bill which purports to deal with animal welfare should also deal with cruel sports. There have been two unanimous votes in the Northern Ireland Assembly on hare coursing, which have been overruled by the Government. Those who support fox and stag hunting are a bunch of sadists who enjoy the fun of the kill while devastating our countryside. As for animal fighting, especially dog fighting, it is outrageous—

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. This is rather wide of the Bill, which is about animal experiments.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

We are dealing with the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876. If you do not think that dog fighting, hare coursing, and fox and stag hunting are cruel, Mr. Speaker, you are in a different world from me. In regard to animal fighting, it is outrageous that the law has not been tightened up. My Bill would tighten the law and increase penalties for organisers and those who attend. It would also ban the import, sale or advertisement of fighting dogs. How much longer will the Government ignore the British public's wish for such action against barbaric animal fighting? That is all I wanted to say about cruel sports, but it needed saying.

The Bill is restricted to experiments. The Government do not call them experiments—they are a bit squeamish about that. Perhaps that is why my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) wanted to retitle the bill, although he decided that he did not want to call them experiments either. The Government have spoken only on scientific procedures, to ensure that public sensitivities are not offended, but they have pushed the Bill through as quickly and as quietly as they can. They started in another place to avoid proper public understanding of the issues and a subsequent reponse.

Photo of Dr Maurice Miller Dr Maurice Miller , East Kilbride

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that using the words "scientific procedures" widens the Bill's scope? The word "experiment" is much more difficult to define. My hon. Friend has it the wrong way around.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

I am interested in what my hon. Friend has said, and I shall take it into account. We should face the fact, however, that the public understand this as animal experimentation, and we should address our comments to what the public understand.

There are other examples of the double talk behind the Bill. I have here the letter which the Minister of State sent to all hon. Members in December 1985. We should consider it. He wrote: the Government has published a Bill to provide greater protection for animals used in scientific procedures. It does no such thing. As has been said, the Bill will stop no experiments that are currently done.

The letter continues: We must all look forward to the day when animal experiments are not necessary. How pious.

If that is the Minister's intention, why is he doing so little to promote non-animal alternatives for experiments? The Government are providing £200,000 over three years. I described that amount as tokenist. I was wrong—it is derisory. The Minister's letter speaks of "the highest possible standards". Those are fine words, but the Home Office advisory committee is packed with people such as Dr. Coid, who was responsible for designing the primate cages which featured so infamously in the recent prosecution of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Dr. Coid is still on the advisory committee, so where are the Minister's highest possible standards?

Photo of Mr William Hughes Mr William Hughes , City of Durham

Will my hon. Friend accept that in that case the court found both the doctor and the veterinary surgeon not guilty? To use that example under the privilege of Parliament is to abuse this place.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

I do not agree with my hon. Friend. That doctor was found guilty at the first court hearing. The case continues. There is documented proof about the state of those cages. That person should not be on any Home Office advisory committee.

Photo of Mr William Hughes Mr William Hughes , City of Durham

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If, as my hon. Friend suggests, the matter is still going forward, I trust that you will rule that it is sub judice.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

When we are dealing with legislation, as we are now, it is in order to mention matters of this kind.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

We are talking about the composition of the Home Office advisory committee. It is packed with licensed experimenters, proven vivisectionists and individuals with vested interests. The Home Secretary said in his letter that he was placing great store on the animals inspectorate and the animal procedures committee. I shall deal with them individually.

The Government employ 15 inspectors in the animals inspectorate to check on 21,000 vivisectionists, who cut up over 3 million animals each year. The Bill contains no provision to increase the number of inspectors and to ensure that they are independent of the industry. I understand that all of them are current or ex-licence holders. Worse than that, the local authorities and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals do not back them up by carrying out checks and reporting upon malpractices in laboratories and breeding establishments. A provision for such checks is contained in my Bill, but no similar provision is contained in the Government's Bill.

As for the Animal Procedures Committee, the Minister said in his letter that it would comprise scientific and lay members with an established concern for animal welfare. It is a one-sided committee. It is filled with pro-vivisectionists. If the committee is to play a central role in looking after the welfare of animals it should be independent of any vested interest. It should specifically exclude those who have a vested interest in animal experiments—for example, those who have links with drug companies and licensed experimenters. My Bill ensures that. The Government's Bill does the opposite.

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

Perhaps I ought not to be drawn into a debate with the hon. Gentleman, whose mind is so closed on this issue, but I wonder whether I may mention to him four members of the advisory committee: Dr. Balls of FRAME, Mr. Hollands, the secretary of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Vivisection, the scientific adviser to the RSPCA, Dr. Hampson, and the legal adviser to the RSPCA, Mr. Field-Fisher. Will the hon. Gentleman tell us which vested interest they represent?

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

I shall not be drawn by the Minister on that point. That committee is overwhelmingly loaded with vested interests and licence holders. The Minister referred to Dr. Balls of FRAME. He has written papers which make it clear that he has taken part in a number of vivisections and animal experiments, yet the Minister tells the House that he belongs to the anti-vivisection lobby. If that is the best that he can do, he will have to do much better. The Animal Procedures Committee should be independent. It should also play another role. Its primary responsibility should be to secure each year a continuing and sizeable decrease in the use of animals in laboratories. As has been said, nothing in the Bill is about getting any reduction, any regulation or continuing reduction, in animal usage.

The breeding establishments obviously need to be regulated. They have grown up uncontrolled in the last few years, and I have submitted parliamentary questions to the Minister urging the strong regulation of breeding establishments. My Bill would ensure such proper regulation and the provisions in it make the Government's provisions look feeble. For example, only purpose-bred animals could be used, and that would stop the use of stolen pets. I have a local paper here which carries the headline, "Catnapped."

Domestic pets are being stolen for use in laboratories, and my Bill would ensure harsh penalties for anybody engaging in that practice. It would also ensure that the origin of animals in the possession of laboratories and breeding establishments and those animals that are sold by them would have to be fully recorded. The Minister talks about provisions in the Bill going along this route, but under the Bill it will not be possible to implement them because, as has been said, the inspectorate is low on staff and the RSPCA and the local authorities are not to be given responsibility for regular spot checks of breeding establishments.

Local authorities have a check role in other countries. In Sweden, for example, municipal authorities have that right. Why can the Government not give such a regulatory role to our local authorities and the RSPCA? They would add greatly to the strength of the underpowered inspectorate. The Bill merely refers to the inspectors in that role, but the inspectorate has limited numbers and a limited role in respect of the breeding establishments. The Bill does not even cover the full range of animals which may be bred for experimentation, and needs substantial tightening up in terms of regulating breeding establishments.

Under my Bill, the export of animals for experimentation would be banned, but not under the Government's Bill. The heart of the Government's measure is the dual system of personal and project licensing, and many hon. Members have set great store by that. My hon. Friend the Member for Erdington set great store by this new system, but it is little more than a rubber stamp. How can anything with such a small inspectorate to implement it be any more than a rubber stamp? How can the Animal Procedures Committee, which is of non-independent composition and is loaded with pro-vivisection vested interests, be more than a rubber stamp?

Clauses 3, 4 and 5 go into great detail about how the Secretary of State has to weigh the value of experiments before he grants a project licence, and he does that on the basis of his committee's advice. Given the composition of that committee, it is clear which way that advice will be biased. The present system for signing the appropriate form for experiments to be carried out will just be transferred to the approval of a personal and project licence.

I want to read to the House a couple of examples showing how the system operates at the moment There is no substantial change to this under the Government proposal. The first point about personal licences is that Lord Platt, an ex-president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: As a professor of medicine, I had to sign many applications for licences and certificates and as head of a Royal College had to countersign hundreds of them. As a member of the Medical Research Council I had to acquiesce in them and for several years I was a member of the Home Office committee set up by the Act of 1876. I think a lot of the signing and countersigning, although it may have preventive value in discouraging research workers from embarking on particularly undesirable experiments, is done as a routine. I base this on the fact, which I noticed many times, that if I took the unusual, unexpected and unwelcome action of refusing to sign, the applicants went to another professor or to the head of another Royal College who promptly signed for them. Can the Minister say that that will not happen in future?

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

I hope that the Minister's intervention has been recorded. We shall hold him to account for that. There may be another stage with the advisory committee, but the person who signs in the first place for the project licence to be approved will do so as a matter of routine, as did Lord Platt.

Professor Sir Cyril Clarke said at a British Association for the Advancement of Science symposium in 1982: Does Dr. Rankin think the signing of animal licences by heads of certain organisations does anything more than to add an air of respectability to the licence? The Government are merely trying to add an air of respectability. A few years ago I had an administrative job and nearly every morning there used to land on my desk ten or more animal licences. While I did my best I did not really feel I knew what many of the applicants were asking for. One of the most difficult things was to know where to sign. Fortunately I met fairly soon the then President of the Royal Society and he said 'What you want to do is to have a stamp. If you have a stamp you can look through the certificates and you can give the stamp to your secretary and save a great deal of time.' I did this and it was very helpful as regards time, but I still did not think I was doing my job. I do not believe that anybody. not even the President of the Royal Society, can know the ins and outs of all the applications for a licence. Such processes will continue in a revised form—perhaps I should say on a revised form — under the Government's procedures. The letter heading of a drug company or an existing licence holder will probably be enough for a project licence to be granted and for the person receiving the licence to be able to carry out experiments on a vast number of animals.

My hon. Friend the Member for Erdington mentioned the Littlewood committee. The Government even abandoned that committee's proposal for an external referee. That would at least have introduced an outside referee—if only nominal—to judge projects. There will be no realistic, independent review of whether a project is worth while or of whether using animals is the best way to achieve the aims of a project. Denmark passed an Act in 1977 which provided that alternatives must be used wherever possible. Under our Government's preferred method of regulation, no similar provision appears in the Bill.

My last major point relates to health issues and the drug companies. Many animal experiments are for "me too" products—similar products to existing ones, with only slight alterations for a different brand name. Those are repetitive products, of no medical benefit, and they involve repetitive animal tests. Those are unnecessary tests. As an article in the Sunday People observed: The name of the game is profits and to hell with animal suffering. Those tests should be stopped.

Drugs companies are more interested in cures, particularly wonder cures, than in preventing illness or tackling the causes of disease. The wonder cures are much more profitable, but, although they provide more profits for the drugs companies, they mean more illness and unnecessary deaths for humans and animals. While this goes on all resources are put into animal tests, precious few resources are being applied to preventive medicine, and the Government have cut the resources available to the Health Service for preventive medicine. There is little given to help deal with the environmental and social causes of, for example, Britain's biggest killers, cancer and heart disease. These diseases could be greatly reduced by epidemiological studies of their causes and by strong Government action, for example in banning known carcinogens from our environment and action against smoking to improve the quality of our life.

It is cheaper to carry out tests on animals than to have long, carefully controlled tests on human beings. Even for cures, self-culture tests are often superior to animal tests. That is not my idea, but a statement from the Institution of Cancer Research. Opren was produced for arthritis sufferers after extensive tests on animals, but the drug was disastrous and brought about many human deaths. One cannot extropolate from animals to humans in many cases.

The Minister spoke about face cosmetics. Which animals have faces similar to the human face? Most of them have fur. The nearest equivalent is probably a baboon's bum. I know that many Conservative Members may look similar, but the Minister cannot argue that there can be a proper extrapolation from such tests. Tissue culture is more reliable, more consistent and more humane. As as rule of thumb, drugs should not be given to humans until they have been tested on humans in properly controlled conditions. That is expensive, but it is much better for the nation's health and for stopping the vast loss of life.

The Bill is inadequate. It institutionalises the killing of 67,000 animals every week without any proof of worthwhile purpose. The number will go up once the Bill is on the statute book. There is no promotion of non-animal alternatives, and no immediate ban on the unnecessary and morally unacceptable experiments. There is no proper regulation—it is left firmly in the hands of the experimenters. There is no attempt to shift the burden of proof to those who carry out experiments, rather than giving them licences without problems. There is no shift from vivisection-based drugs treatment to preventive medicine and tackling causes. For those reasons, I shall oppose the Bill.

Several Hon. Members:


Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Before I call the next hon. Member to speak, I remind the House that 17 right hon. and hon. Members still wish to take part in the debate. If the House passes the motion at 10 o'clock, we can go on a little longer, but if all hon. Members make speeches of 30 minutes, we shall be rather late.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Castle Point 9:54, 17 Chwefror 1986

I suppose that I should welcome the Bill, which was introduced by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary with his customary good humour and moderation. After all, we have waited 110 years for an amendment to the substantive Act. During that period, there have been numerous instances of leading figures in our society expressing doubt and misgiving about the practice of using animals in experiments. They have included the great Lord Shaftesbury, Archbishop Manning, Cardinal Newman, Mr. George Bernard Shaw, Mahatma Gandhi and many others. Perhaps the one closest to my memory is a former colleague in the House, Lord Houghton of Sowerby. Many leading figures in our society, respected writers and so on, have held that it is morally wrong to use animals as a laboratory tool. Today, however, we must face the fact that much more is known about these controversial practices. Many of my constituents certainly view them with revulsion, all the more so since there is now growing scientific evidence that some experimentation is inconclusive and less effective than clinical case studies.

Over 20 years ago Sir George Pickering, regius professor of medicine at Oxford university, told us that he had often heard it said that the scientific basis of medicine is applied physiology and therapeutics applied pharmacology. The idea, as I understand it, is that fundamental truths are revealed in laboratory experiments on lower animals and are then applied to the problems of the sick patient. Having been myself trained as a physiologist, I feel in a way competent to assess such a claim. It is plain nonsense.

I do not expect everyone to agree with all that I am about to say, but a wide range of alternative techniques are now available, including cell and organ cultures, bacteria, yeast and enzyme systems, computer prediction and clinical observation.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mrs. Oppenheim) made an impressive speech when she made the case for animal experimentation being justified on the ground that it was necessary for the conquest of disease in man. For a moment I shall concede that. But in my opinion to use animals for testing cosmetics is wrong. It is wicked to use a sentient, captive and unconsenting individual and to cause it suffering and pain when the only potential benefit is to beautify someone else. For me that is unacceptable. The test of the Bill then is to what extent it will eliminate or at least reduce suffering, pain and distress to laboratory animals.

As the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) said, the Bill is not to be judged as a political issue. It is a moral issue. Only about half the research involving the suffering of laboratory animals is conducted for medical reasons. Only about one-fifth is conducted to satisfy the requirements of our safety laws. In many cases where animals are used for non-medical purposes, alternative techniques are available, and yet in 1984, the last year for which I have figures, 17,512 animals were used to test cosmetics and toiletries.

One would think that after 110 years in gestation the Bill would provide the opportunity at last to strike a blow for more civilised behaviour and for sanity by eliminating all animal testing for non-medical purposes. That is what I have dreamed of for the last 30 years. I had hoped that someone would have the courage to introduce such a Bill.

A constituent drew my attention to the United Kingdom newspaper for the Wellcome Foundation published as recently as 18 November which said: Wellcome has been active in the consultation stages of the Government proposals. If these are enacted, the company does not believe that it would lead to any hindrance in its research involving animals. That is what the commercial world thinks about the Bill—that it will be no hindrance to its work.

Photo of Mr David Mellor Mr David Mellor , Putney

I do not think that my hon. Friend has chosen the best example. The Wellcome Foundation is a non-profit-making organisation and is the world's largest producer of vaccines, especially vaccines to cure animal diseases. It would be grossly irresponsible if anything that we proposed interfered with its work. However, every piece of work that it does will, under the Bill, be subject to a project licence. I do not think that my hon. Friend's constituents are asking him to stop the work of the Wellcome Foundation.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Castle Point

Obviously, each application must be judged on its merits. I am not seeking to stop that kind of work.

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.