HC Deb 29 June 1959 vol 608 cc29-33
53 Mr. Lipton

asked the Minister of Supply (1) how many dogs, cats, pigs and sheep are at present undergoing experiments at the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment;

(2) from what source the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment obtains dogs and cats for experimental research;

(3) how many animals, and what kinds, have been destroyed in the past six months during experiments at the Microbiological Research Establishment; and how many are undergoing experiments at this moment.

62 and 63. Mr. E. Johnson

asked the Minister of Supply (1) what proportion of the experiments on animals at the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment are carried out without anæsthetics;

(2) when the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment was started; how many people are employed there; what has been its cost to the latest convenient date; against what types of chemical warfare it is intended to provide defence; if he will make a statement about the type of work being carried out; and for how long it is envisaged that these experiments will continue.

64 and 65. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Minister of Supply (1) how many cats were used at the microbiological station at Porton during the last year;

(2) how many monkeys have been bought for the microbiological research station at Porton during 1956, 1957, 1958, and 1959.

50. Mr. Body

asked the Minister of Supply what is the total number of dogs and cats that have been experimented upon by the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment since its inception.

Mr. Aubrey Jones

I would refer hon. Members to the answers given on 26th January and 22nd June to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and to the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Body) on 22nd June.

I regret that information on the numbers of animals used in the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment since its inception in 1916 is not available. There are now under experiment there one cat and two pigs. Cats and dogs used there have hitherto been purchased, though it is my intention to reduce purchases to a minimum, and in so far as possible, breed all the animals needed. Most of the experiments involve only simple inoculation or superficial venesection, when no anaesthetic is needed.

As for the further figures asked for in relation to the Microbiological Research Establishment, I will, with permission, circulate these in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Lipton

As the Minister has bunched all these Questions together, may I first ask him to indicate whether arrangements may be made for hon. Members who are interested to visit the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment and see what is going on there? Secondly, will he say why hon. Members were not allowed to see the animals and the experiments going on at the Microbiological Research Establishment? Thirdly, will he indicate—the figures do not reveal this—whether there are any monkeys at the Establishment, because one escaped and had to be shot? In view of the suspicious circumstances surrounding this gruesome business, is it not time that there was an independent inquiry into the whole affair?

Mr. Jones

I am not sure that I shall be able to remember all those questions—

Mr. Lipton

I cannot remember all the answers, either.

Mr. Jones

As to the first question, I will consider the suggestion about allowing hon. Members to go to the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment. Regarding the second question, about why hon. Members who recently visited the Microbiological Research Establishment did not see the animal wing, the short answer is that none of the visitors was immunised and immunisation is a necessary condition for visiting the wing. As to the more general questions posed by my hon. Friend, none of us really wants to undertake these experiments, but the plain fact—which I think the hon. Gentleman must accept—is that no effective progress can be made against biological and chemical weapons without experiments on animals. But we must endeavour to minimise cruelty to the utmost possible extent.

Mr. E. Johnson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that anxiety about these experiments is by no means confined to those who oppose vivisection? Regarding Question No. 63, which my right hon. Friend said he was answering with the others, is he aware that so far as I can see he has not answered any part of that Question and that it was not answered in other Answers to which he referred? If my right hon. Friend is unable to give the information now, will he add it to what is to appear in the OFFICIAL REPORT?

Mr. Jones

With respect to my hon. Friend, I would refer him to the Answer I gave on 22nd January to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). That is an Answer which may possibly have escaped him

Mr. Hughes

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the only thing about this establishment of which we are certain is that George Washington would never have got a job on the staff? Why did not the right hon. Gentleman state in his Answer to me last week that there were monkeys being experimented on? Is he aware that when we visited this microbiological place we were told that monkeys were being experimented on but the source of supply was dried up at the time of Suez? Is he aware that a scientist indicated that the drying-up of the supply of monkeys could be a tragedy for the whole place? Is it not time that the right hon. Gentleman gave facilities to hon. Members to visit this animal department? Is he aware that when we asked to see the department we were bluffed and brushed off and told we could not go there; that the arrangements were so sanitary and that hon. Members might catch plague?

Mr. Jones

No monkeys were mentioned in the Answer given to the hon. Gentleman last week or the week before for the very simple reason that the hon. Gentleman asked me for figures of experiments over a certain period and the period mentioned by him in the Question was one in which no monkeys were experimented on.

Hon. Members


Mr. Mason

Would the right hon. Gentleman tell the House that he, the Government and most members of the Opposition feel that it is imperative for the future of mankind that experiments should be conducted on cats, dogs and monkeys and the like rather than on men, women and children.

Mr. Jones

I thank the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) for that question. If that was not already evident in the Answers given, may I make it evident now?

Mr. P. Noel-Baker

Could the right hon. Gentleman furnish the House with a White Paper about the activities of both the chemical and biological research stations in order that hon. Members might know something about the kind of warfare which is being prepared for and paid for by the taxpayers' money?

Mr. Jones

If the right hon. Gentleman will examine the answers I have given to Questions on this matter over recent months, I think he will come to the conclusion that, consistently within the limits of security, I have given all possible information on both establishments.

Mr. Speaker

The Prime Minister.

Mr. E. Johnson

On a point of order. If I heard my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply aright, he referred me to a Question asked by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) on 22nd June, but—

Mr. Jones

22nd January.

Mr. Johnson

I beg my right hon. Friend's pardon.

Mr. Speaker

The Prime Minister.

Following are the figures:

The following numbers and types of animals are now undergoing experiment:

7,914 mice;
550 guinea pigs;
248 rabbits;
9 chicks;
1 rat.

110 monkeys were bought in 1956, 60 in 1957, 17 in 1958 and 39 in 1959.