HC Deb 15 June 1959 vol 607 cc29-31
51. Mr. Body

asked the Minister of Supply how many more domestic animals will be required for experiments at the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment; and how much longer these experiments are to be carried out.

52. Mr. E. Johnson

asked the Minister of Supply what is the purpose of the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment; and why it was necessary to destroy 3,000 animals in six months at that establishment, in particular the 32 cats, 42 dogs, 20 pigs and 31 sheep.

The Minister of Supply (Mr. Aubrey Jones)

The purpose of the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment is to devise means of defence against the possible use of chemical weapons in war. It is necessary to this work to assess the effect on man of particular chemical compounds. Rodents are used for the initial experiments and other animals are needed only if further investigation is required into the mechanism of action of any compound, when it becomes necessary to use an animal whose physiology is not unlike that of man. Dogs, cats and pigs have such characteristics and are commonly used by medical institutions. Sheep are used to assess the danger to grazing animals from herbage contaminated by toxic chemicals. All experiments are carried out by skilled staff licensed by the Home Office, whose inspectors have access to the laboratories without notice. The therapeutic procedures discovered at the Establishment have been used with success in saving the lives of both men and animals accidently poisoned by insecticides

Mr. Lipton

Is the Minister aware that hon. Members who recently visited the Establishment were refused access to that part of the Establishment where these experiments were being conducted, although we now learn from the Minister that representatives from the Home Office can go there without notice? Why is there so much secrecy about this aspect of the work? Further, will he say from what source the dogs and cats are obtained?

Mr. Jones

I think I am right in saying that when hon. Members paid their recent visit to the Establishment they did not, in fact, visit the Chemical Defence Establishment. They visited the Microbiological Research Establishment.

Mr. Body

Will my right hon. Friend give some idea of how much longer these experiments are to go on?

Mr. Jones

I should have thought it emerged from my Answer that it would be reasonable to conduct the experiments for as long as it was necessary to provide defence against the possible use of chemical weapons in war.

Mr. Johnson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a good deal of public concern at this apparent wholesale slaughter of animals for this purpose? The numbers seem enormous. Further, is he aware that his statement that experiments are to continue will not allay public feeling if there is to be no end to this business? Have those concerned not discovered what they want?

Mr. Jones

I think my hon. Friend ought to know that the number of animals used in these experiments is, in fact, less than 1 per cent. of the total used in the country at large.

Mr. Snow

Does the Minister realise that what was said by the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. E. Johnson) was agreed to by some hon. Members on this side? Does not the nauseating information given in the Question make nonsense of the emotional hysteria created when the Russians sent up one dog in a Sputnik?