HC Deb 11 June 1971 vol 818 cc1395-464

11.5 a.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Mark Carlisle)

I beg to move, That this House takes note of the Report of the Littlewood Committee on Experiments on Animals (Command Paper No. 2641). I know that there has been a considerable disappointment to a number of hon. Members, particularly to the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler), who was a member of the Littlewood Committee, and my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden), who has taken such an active interest in this subject, that, for one reason or another, the House has not had an earlier opportunity to debate this Report.

I hope that the opportunity given by the debate will leave those hon. Members interested reassured that the Government have not pigeon-holed or overlooked this important document. It must be a matter of particular regret to all that Sir Sydney Littlewood, who was Chairman of the Committee, died before a final parliamentary reaction to his Report could be expressed. All too long an interval has passed without the House being able to record its appreciation of the admirable work done by Sir Sydney and his colleagues between April, 1963, and February, 1965. I am glad to have the opportunity today to pay tribute to that work.

The Report is certainly long, but it is comprehensive; it has explored the history of these matters; has identified the social, scientific and other issues involved; it is factual and pragmatic. A mass of evidence was collected from all shades of opinion, and it has been carefully deployed, sifted and weighed. The Report is entirely cohesive. Because of the successful blend of professional and lay elements in the membership of the Committee, certainly because of its clarity, thoroughness and sensitivity, the Report seeks to find common ground and a unity of purpose in the safeguarding of the welfare of animals. The work is a most noble contribution to the whole study of experiments on animals.

I should like first to make clear to the House the Government's basic attitude at this stage, both to the Report and to the debate. The Government have not yet finalised their attitude to the Report in the sense of assuming a commitment to legislate. So far as I am aware, the same applied to the previous Administration.

Shortly after the Report was published, in April, 1965, the Government of the day collected general views from some 40 interested bodies. These showed broad agreement with a number of the Committee's conclusions and recommendations, but they also confirmed the complex nature of the subject and the contentiousness of some of the detailed proposals for change. Since then, there has been recurring Parliamentary interest in the fate of the Report, and in 1968, as those Members present will know, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals campaigned for its implementation. Latterly, in Parliament more attention has been paid to the related questions of whether and how far methods alternative to the use of animals could be exploited.

Thus, on 31st March, the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas) initiated a debate in which he urged the Government to set up a research institute to study and develop such methods. My hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body) now has before the House a Bill to make mandatory the prohibition of animal experiments where alternative methods are available.

The present Government have not, as I have said, yet given detailed consideration to the Committee's Report and the House will therefore understand that I am not in a position to enter into any commitments as regards future action. Conceivably the context has changed since 1965. It may be that some issues considered by the Committee need further review and that some issues outside its terms of reference now deserve consideration. These possibilities cannot be excluded.

However, as I shall explain later there is no short cut to replacing the present system of control by any other. Any worthwhile reforms would be effective only if there was broad agreement between the various interests and if they were capable of standing the test of time in an era of rapid scientific and technological change. Today I can give the House the assurance that my right hon. Friend will study with very great care everything said in the debate.

I hope that it may be helpful to the House if in opening the debate I try to put the Report in its proper perspective by reference to its origin, then to draw attention to certain misconceptions about the Report which seems to have arisen since 1965 and finally to indicate some of the major problem areas. Perhaps I might also add that, should I catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, and have the leave of the House, I should be only too willing to sum up at the end of the debate and to answer any points that may have been raised.

In the course of what I have to say, I should like the House to bear in mind three important considerations. First, the subject matter of the Report is, to use the Committee's own words, "complex and hghly specialised" It affects a wide range of interests and it holds international significance. We are talking here about the application of law to matters of life and death, both for human beings and animals. While making changes in the law is one thing, foreseeing the effects is quite another. Therefore, we had best approach it with caution. Secondly, the Report does not seem to be widely known. That may surprise some hon. Members, knowing the size of their postbag from time to time.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

My hon. and learned Friend has said that it is not widely known. I think it has been forgotten in six years.

Mr. Carlisle

Perhaps it is known, but apparently not widely studied although I immediately exclude such people as my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham. I am sure that my hon. Friend would agree that most of the six years was during the time of the last Government and that any criticism of the present Administration can stretch only over the last 12 months. Although it was published six years ago, no more than 3,000 copies of the Report have been purchased from official sources. The Committee received letters from no more than 85 private individuals. It tried hard to establish a state of public opinion but whereas it received indications of keen public interest and concern over cruelty to animals as such, it observed surprisingly little interest in experiments on animals.

I hope that the debate will not become clouded by claims that this or that massive percentage of public opinion wants this or that particular new restriction implemented. The plain fact seems to be, despite what my hon. Friend says, that the general public knows all too little about the intricacies of laboratory work or about the provisions of the existing law. All hon. Members will agree that that imposes on those of us who know more about these matters and who are involved in the debate, obligations to be both objective and responsible.

The third thing I would ask hon. Members to bear in mind is that this is an emotive subject but emotion by itself will not produce solutions to the basic issues. I hope that we can approach this subject with our heads as well as our hearts and recognise what the Committee has said about this—that anyone who makes use of an animal in research incurs a moral responsibility to justify his action and a duty to limit pain and give proper care. I take it for granted that every speaker is likely to begin with a bias against the use of animals in experiments and regrets, as I do—even if he accepts—its necessity.

I should like to recall how the Committee came to be set up. In 1959 the R.S.P.C.A. began a campaign for changes in the administration of the Cruelty to Animals Act, 1876, asserting that there was widespread unease about the adequacy of control. In 1961 representatives of the Society urged upon the then Home Secretary that painful experiments should not be authorised except for recognisable worthwhile purposes, that more inspectors should be appointed, some of them veterinarians and that representatives of animal welfare societies should be appointed to the Advisory Committee.

In an Adournment Debate in February, 1962—I appreciate that it is nine years ago—my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham asked for what he called a complete reappraisal of current administrative practices. These suggestions were referred to and considered by the Advisory Committee on the Administration of the Act of which Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest was the Chairman. Its views are set out in Appendix III of the Report. In November, 1962, Mr. Henry Brooke, as he then was, the then Home Secretary, announced his decision to set up a Committee of Inquiry and that Committee was appointed in May, 1963.

It is worth reminding the House that its terms of reference were: To consider the present control over experiments on living animals and to consider whether and if so what changes are desirable in the law or its administration. This bare outline gives scant clue as to why in those years the R.S.P.C.A. felt so much misgiving about the work of the Cruelty to Animals Act, 1876. The explanation can be found in paragraphs 203 and 204 of the Report. There, and in other paragraphs in Chapter 12, we have a perceptive account of what was causing the Society and other organisations this very great concern. We are indebted to these bodies, as was the Committee, for making their views so clear and cogent.

What emerges from Part IV of the Report is a picture of what one might almost describe as a crisis of confidence which existed over the control of animal experiments at that time. Basic to that crisis were the rapid and continuing increases in the number of animal experiments, of registered places and licensees in the post-war years, an assumption that an Act framed to deal with surgical experiments 90 years ago was inadequate for proper control of experiments without anaesthesia, a fear that administration and particularly inspection had broken down, and the belief that a large number of animals were being caused unnecessary suffering as a result of duplication of research and unjustifiable experiments.

First and foremost the Report gives the Committee's considered views on the realities that lay behind those fears. Its findings are unanimous and unambiguous. Its conclusions are set out in paragraph 543. They include the following findings: (6) The risk of unnecessary repetition of experiments is small and the scale of duplication not serious. (7) There is no evidence that mandatory tests are retained longer than is necessary. (8) There is no evidence of serious wastage of animals in recent years. (9) There is no foundation for any general suspicion of the concern of licensees for their animals. Then, after review of the considerable increase in the annual number of experiments, the Committee found at finding (11): The increase in the numbers of animals used in research is largely to be explained by the expansion of biological science and the mandatory testing of biological substances". As regards the working of the Act at that time, the Committee found in finding (14): The Act has been generally effective but in recent years its provisions have not matched up to modern scientific and technological requirements, and administration has not kept pace with recent scientific advances". The Committee elaborated on the criticism of administrative practice at paragraph 241, where it said: …insufficient guidance has been given to signatories and laboratory authorities on licensing, supervision, provision of facilities and other matters of policy; licensees have not always been as fully instructed as they might have been in the requirements of the Act or in rendering returns; insufficient use has been made of advisory machinery; the Inspectorate itself has been under-manned; licences and certificates have taken too long to obtain. There has been general concern that there have been too few inspectors to supervise steadily growing numbers of licensees and laboratories". That amounts to saying that administration of the Act was clearly under strain, although not at the point of collapse.

Elsewhere in the Report the Committee noted the effectiveness of the interlocking means of Home Office control provided by registration and the attachment of conditions to the use of licences and certificates. There is no suggestion that the Home Office neglected to use these powers to prohibit or restrict objectionable activities. On the contrary, it is plain from what is said in paragraphs 232 and 461 that some scientific interests were anxious for a formal right of appeal to an independent body, such as the Advisory Committee, against restrictions which were being proposed by Home Office inspectors.

To sum up, such criticism as the Committee made, and such recommendations as it made for the future, were based not on any feeling that some great abuse or abuses needed urgent reform but rather on the view that to facilitate the type of supervision already applied to animal experiments the law should be modernised.

A matter on which concern has been expressed from time to time, certainly in correspondence to Members, relates to the question whether stolen animals were being sold to medical research establishments. The Committee says in paragraph 519 of its Report: According to the Home Office none of the police forces regarded the stealing of cats and dogs as a problem and none of them had any evidence to suggest that stolen animals are being sold to medical research laboratories". In paragraph 531 it makes its own finding as a result of that and a lot of other evidence which it received on this matter and says: …we conclude that stealing of pets for sale to laboratories is small in amount".

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor)

Before my hon. and learned Friend leaves the question of inspection, which seems to me the most important of all, may I put this point to him? Is there any relationship between the number of inspectors and the number of licences issued?

Mr. Carlisle

I shall come to that point and will give the ratio of inspectors to licensees and registered premises.

Some critics who expressed wholesale concern about what was happening before the Committee was appointed may describe the Report as whitewashing. It is certainly not. I think that there will be general agreement that the painstaking examination of administrative practice and outside criticism made at that time was most conscientiously conducted.

I have concentrated so far on the Committee's assessment of the impact of the 1876 Act up to 1965, because we must make up our minds about the effect of the present law before we can sensibly consider whether new measures are required for the future. I make it clear that the Government accept the findings which I have read out. In our view, the Committee was right in its conclusion that the 1876 Act has been generally effective in achieving what it conceives to be the threefold aims of legislation in this field which it sets out at paragraph 238 of the Report and which it defines as:

  1. "(1) to prevent objectionable activities;
  2. (2) to encourage humane practices; and
  3. (3) to provide for the accountability to the public of all concerned."
I turn to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Dr. Glyn). In accordance with recommendation 83 of the Report, the Inspectorate has been reinforced. When the Committee reported there were eight inspectors, including a chief inspector. Shortly before that—indeed, when the Committee was set up—the number had been only six. It was increased by the Home Secretary to eight. Today there are 13, all people of wide experience, including the chief inspector, two superintendent inspectors and five inspectors with veterinary qualifications. I accept that the total is eight fewer than the number the Committee recommended as the minimum required whether or not the law was reformed. The Committee's estimate rested on its basic assumption that the inspectors would continue to be advisers to licensees and laboratory authorities rather than as laboratory policemen.

However, it is fair to make the point against the Committee's working calculation that it ignored the wide variation between the circumstances and the work loads of different registered places which has a direct effect on the frequency of visiting that is appropriate. It also ignored the substantial proportion of licensees who are inactive and treated all licensees as requiring the same inspectoral attention.

In 1963 there were 556 registered places and 5,932 active licensees. This meant that each inspector—and there were then six of them—was responsible notionally for 93 places and 989 active licensees. In 1965 the total figures were 596 and 7,053 respectively. Therefore, the average inspector's load when the Committee reported was 75 places and 882 licensees. In 1969 the position was relatively a great deal better. There were 605 registered places and 9,252 active licensees. But there are now 13 inspectors and the average allocation per inspector has come down to 47 places and 712 active licensees. This is within the range which the Committee thought reasonable, although I accept that at the top end of that range the Committee put the absolute maximum of licensees per inspector as 750.

Mr. Kenneth Lomas (Huddersfield, West)

My information is that there are between 13,000 and 14,000 licensees, not 9,000, in round terms. Can the hon. and learned Gentleman cast any light on that matter?

Mr. Carlisle

I think that I can assist. The figures which I have just given relate to active licensees—those who are carrying out experiments. The figures which the Report referred to were for all licensees, including those who were not making experiments. If I am not right about this point, I shall refer to it again.

Mr. Burden

I am sorry to press my hon. and learned Friend on this point, but what is the difference between an active licensee and an inactive licensee?

Mr. Carlisle

I understand that an active licensee actively carries out experiments?

Mr. Burden

Presumably inactive licensees can apply for licences tomorrow, although they do not have them today.

Mr. Carlisle

They have licences. I think that what my hon. Friend means is presumably the inactive ones might become active tomorrow. Of course, we would know by the returns of experiments which would be given. However, I want to be factually accurate about this, and I know that my hon. Friend's knowledge of this is very great, and so I will, if I may, deal with that point at the end of the debate. The difference in the numbers I have given is that between the active and the total number.

May I assure the House that my right hon. Friend does fully appreciate the key role of the inspectorate, as it is clear that this House does also, and taking account of the Act at present we are satisfied that the complement of the Inspectorate is adequate, and its field work is properly balanced with its other responsibilities. The work load is being kept under continuing review and further augmentation will be considered as necessary.

I now turn to the future. The Committee forecast that the demand for using animals in research was likely to increase in the foreseeable future because of new insistence on the safety of drugs and new interest in sciences affecting under-developed countries and the improbability of finding adequate alternative means of testing. So far, that forecast has been proved to be accurate.

The annual totals of experiments reported by licensees have in fact increased steadily since 1963. In 1964 the figure was 4.49 million; in 1965 it was 4.75 million; in 1966 there was a slight decrease, 4.61 million; in 1967, back to 4.75 million; in 1968, 5.2 million; in 1969, 5.4 million; and the estimated total for 1970 is 5.65 million, which means an increase of 1 million in seven years.

It may be helpful to the House it I also mention the fact that it is estimated that mice constitute 70 per cent. of the total number of animals, rats 15 per cent., and guinea pigs, 10 per cent. All other species combined together make up the remaining 5 per cent. Since one does from time to time hear various comments of concern about cats and dogs let me say that the total number of cats and dogs is one half of one per cent. of the total involved.

There are several points to be made about the figures which I have given. Prima facie since they are experiments which have to be reported they represent experiments "calculated to cause pain", but the reality is rather different because, as explained in paragraph 88 of the Report, the Home Office has always insisted on interpreting the word "pain" in its widest sense as including disease, discomfort, or disturbance of normal health. Again, as explained in paragraph 296, the Home Office has encouraged research workers to return as 'experiments' procedures e.g. in routine tests of nutritional research, which on the test of inflicting pain are outside the Act, simply in order to be 'on the safe side'. In other words, always to err on the side of caution.

As explained in paragraph 142 the principle of enumeration has been that one experiment cannot involve more than one animal". Therefore, a project involving 20 mice comes in the returns as 20 experiments. Again, as is referred to in paragraph 89 of the Report many tests for the standardisation and purity of vaccines, sera, and other products which the Therapeutic Substances Act and other legislation require to be performed on animals have been counted since 1901 as experiments under the 1876 Act. The relevance of that is that the information is required in the returns because, as the narrow argument goes, they are performed to obtain knowledge of the particular specimen of the drug which will determine whether or not it would be useful in saving life or alleviating suffering.

Therefore, it by no means follows that because they are included they necessarily cause pain, although they appear in the total overall figures. We should bear in mind, therefore, that the total number is not an index of the current scale of empirical research "calculated to cause pain" but rather an indication of laboratory usage of many kinds, many of them not being painful. We have also to bear in mind that the use of animals is inevitably less exact and more wasteful than the use of insentient material. The variation in response between individual animals and between species and the vulnerability of animals to natural illness often mean that large numbers have to be used to obtain a valid result. Therefore, there is a paradox, that using too few can sometimes be more wasteful in the achievement of worthwhile results than using too many.

The fact of the steadily increasing numbers of animals used and the breeding of animals used in laboratories for experimental purposes is clearly, I accept, an important one and I am sure that much of this debate will probably focus on that question, what, if anything can be done to reduce the present scale of animal usage in laboratories? I therefore propose to devote the rest of what I have to say to that issue and the related question of control of painful procedures, and to refer in conclusion to the rôle of the Advisory Committee.

There seems to be a widespread misconception that the implementing of the Littlewood Report would drastically reduce the number of experiments. One voluntary body made much play with this in a publicity campaign, but the fact is that the Committee did not in fact—and I stress it—make any recommendations for positively restricting the numbers of experiments. What is more, to implement the whole package of its recommendations would not have the result of reducing the numbers of experiments on animals. The Committee did not set itself to reduce the numbers of animals to which the Act applies. Indeed, on the contrary, it proposed among other things to extend the Act to animals at present outside its scope for example, to animals used for production of sera, parasitis and other biological products and animals used for breeding a special susceptibility to disease. The Committee's standpoint is set out in paragraph 361 of the Report: In general terms we think the primary aim should be to reduce, pain and avoid wastage in the individual case, rather than to regulate the general demand for experiment. Of course the Committee did give several reasons for taking this view. It explained that any bona fide research could be of potential value, and that it was impossible to predict in advance what practicable applications any new discovery could have. It could find no basis for taking into account of external factors other than public opinion and general standards of animal welfare, and it did not think that a system of "directional" or "value" controls could be superimposed on the field of animal experimentation in isolation from the general field.

I believe that what I have said about the recommendations of this Report on the number of animals used for experimental purposes is important because I believe that a great deal of the concern among those who are interested in animal welfare and who are rather emotionally upset by the thought of using animals for experimental purposes—a concern which is often summarised in the call, "Implement Littlewood"—is in fact based on the misconception that the implementation of this Report would in some way reduce the number of experiments being carried out. That it would not do so is indeed clear from some of the conclusions I referred to earlier. In particular, I think it is clear from the finding that The risk of unnecessary repetition of experiment is small and the scale of complication is not serious. Then, in finding (8), about wastage: There is no evidence of serious wastage of animals in recent years. Having pointed out the effect of the Littlewood recommendations, one has to ask oneself what measures could be taken to reduce the numbers. The Report discusses and rejects several possibilities. One approach advocated by the R.S.P.C.A. would be to prohibit experiments except for purposes of essential and immediately demonstrable utility. This would involve a fundamental limitation on the freedom of British research workers which could frustrate work of potentially very great practical value in the long term, both to animals and to human beings. The Committee rejected this approach, and the Government also reject it.

A different approach proposed by the Society would be to prohibit experiments designed to exclude human beings from suffering some self-imposed risk, for example, smoking tobacco, the use of cosmetics, food additives, unnecessary drugs or military weapons. The Committee rejected such discrimination as unrealistic, pointing out that new knowledge did not recognise any classification of purpose, that a discovery in cosmetic science could also benefit medical science and that it would be hard to enforce a prohibition of research into the cure of conditions caused by the use of untested and possibly unsafe products.

Another proposal by the Society was for the establishment of a central and necessarily elaborate aparatus for recording all completed research and verifying that applications for authority for new experiments did not duplicate the work already done. The Committee, however, did not think that this was practicable because of the complexity of many research programmes. In any event, the Committee was satisfied that duplication was rare, because there was no kudos in repeating research except as a starting point for new research. Such an approach would involve the mandatory submission of all programmes for approval, causing unacceptable delay and obstruction to research. Again, the Government support the Committee's rejection of these various proposals.

I am sure that we should all like to find some more promising solution to the problem of numbers, as no doubt would the scientists. That is clear from paragraph 71 of the Report which says of the evidence of scientific witnesses: It is welcome not only for humanitarian reasons but because the in vitro test offers advantages in economy, speed and precision. Although we would all like to find a more promising solution to this problem, the prospect of doing so through legislation is bleak. There is the strongest argument for continuing to preserve the basic freedom of the research worker. A theoretical case for interfering with that system might perhaps be made, if it were possible, to devise some acceptable machinery for guidance of research by experts of the highest calibre, but even that would raise difficult issues of principle, besides taking the matter well outside the proper realm of Home Office responsibility and changing entirely the context of control and accountability to the community.

These thoughts bring us near to the three strategic questions referred to in paragraph 237 of the Report: (1) Who can say whether, if certain biological tests were forbidden, satisfactory chemical or other methods of testing would not be developed? (2) Who is responsible for establishing whether modern medical techniques, with their emphasis on immunology and drug therapy, both of which are inseparable from animal experimentation, are developing medical practice in the right direction? (3) Who is to take responsibility for moral or ethical judgment in the use of animals for experimental purposes as such? I cannot offer answers to these questions today beyond venturing the opinion that a legislative response to them would probably require either a tremendous act of faith or a comprehensive Measure providing for evaluation and direction of all biological and scientific research. I know of no model for either anywhere in the world and perhaps, for the time being, the solution must lie outside legislation. Indeed, in its progress report No. 3, of April, 1971, the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments says: FRAME has never been in favour of seeking legislation to enforce the use of alternatives, as it believes the best results will be obtained by supplying information to those researchers who seek it and by giving every possible incentive to others in order to encourage their interest

Mr. Richard Body (Holland with Boston)

In view of the mass of evidence which has become available since the publication of the Littlewood Report, will the Minister say whether question (2) in paragraph 237 has to some extent changed now that there is evidence, with the recent progress that has been made, that immunology is severable from animal experimentation, and there are examples of this?

Mr. Carlisle

I do not necessarily accept that, but I bow to my hon. Friend's knowledge of this subject. I said at the beginning of my speech that much may have changed since 1965 when the Report was published and that a further review might be required if legislation were to follow.

I now leave numbers, to focus the attention of the House on the other main part of the Committee's work, namely, the aspect of pain in experiments. Hon. Members will have noted from the Report, and particularly from chapter 11, how closely the Committee looked at modern knowledge about animal suffering and how persistently the Committee held to the aim of ensuring that no animal under experiment suffers severe pain that is likely to endure or avoidable pain of any kind. That aim was originally set by the Royal Commissions of 1875 and 1912, and it is fully echoed by the Committee. Paragraph 363 of the Report states: Hitherto the Act has been administered on the basis of safeguards for the individual animal. Inevitably when large numbers of animals are used the protection of the individual animal (e.g. by the Pain Condition) becomes less simple to operate and there is a natural temptation to look for a mitigation of suffering in terms of reduced numbers of animals rather than in a reduction of the suffering in the individual case. We think it would be undesirable to remove any emphasis upon the need for the experimenter or laboratory authority to consider the needs of each individual animal. I imagine the sentiment expressed in that paragraph will be generally supported in the House.

The Committee made several recommendations related to the definition and control of pain, most of which, I am glad to say, are in substance endorsements of what has been the practice for many years. I want to single out what the Committee described in paragraph 366 of its Report as the main problem presented by the trends of biological research, namely, the difficult question of the control of non-surgical procedures which may lead to severe pain and suffering. At present, the classification of experiments, and in some measure the control, is based largely on whether or not surgery—with anaesthesia of course—is involved and on discrimination in favour of particular types of animals, namely, dogs, cats and horses.

One result is that, as mentioned in the Report, many licensees who hold Certificate A have authority to experiment using procedures other than surgery and anaesthesia. This does not mean that the Home Office inspectors are not aware of the current or planned activities of such licensees. They keep in touch with them and they are vigilant about the need for restrictions in appropriate cases. Nevertheless, the system in broad terms is slanted towards the control of the surgical side.

Here again the committee was helped by the R.S.P.C.A., which made proposals for new statutory classification of restrictions relating to the pain likely to be caused. The British Veterinary Association made similar proposals. From those ideas the committee somewhat cautiously developed, in Chapter 19, a plan for a new pattern of control according to the qualifications of licensees, the pain likely to be caused and the purposes for which animals are used. In essence, the proposal was for a blend of standing authorisations, routine notifications by, and ad hoc approvals for, licensees designed to apply progressively stricter control as the risk of pain increased. Whether or not the scheme is workable is a large question, and I should be interested to hear hon. Member's views on this matter today.

Deciding in advance whether an experiment would be certain to cause pain or lasting discomfort or permanent incapacity would in many cases be a matter of fine judgment. The potential flow of notifications to the Department could be very large. The actual gain in control and the reduction in animals suffering might, on the other hand, be small. There is certainly an important problem involved. The question is whether it is within the present capability of those concerned in research and matters of control to operate a more sophisticated system of identifying the potentially severe experiment or procedure which needs the stricter form of control.

To pose the question in that way is not to yield to despair. It is important to remind the House that the present system, as the Committee has affirmed, has worked well enough to prevent objectionable activities and encourage humane practices.

I wish to say something about the Departmental Committee's views on the advisory machinery. Broadly speaking, the Committee seemed to have contemplated a mixed professional lay committee giving attention to a wide range of matters, some highly technical in content and others relating to the broader issues of policy. As Chapter 3 of the Report discloses, the concept of an advisory organ was advocated by a number of witnesses, but its precise role was a matter of some controversy. At this stage, notwithstanding the Departmental Committee's recommendations that the advisory committee should be reconstituted in advance of any other changes, it seems to the Government inexpedient to take any action on these matters before it can be seen what general direction any generally acceptable reform of the 1876 Act would be likely to take.

I am afraid that my speech has been somewhat long. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It has inevitably dealt only with the general problems raised in the report and has not gone into a great deal of detail. I fully accept that there are many conclusions and recommendations in the Report whose importance is not doubted, but with which I have not had time to deal. I have tried to concentrate on the main problems thrown up by the Report. In conclusion, I repeat that the Government will consider carefully the views expressed in this debate on these essential issues as well as on other matters. I shall be happy to answer any specific points with regard to implementation at the end of the debate.

11.55 p.m.

Mr. Elystan Morgan (Cardigan)

The Under-Secretary of State spoke for about 50 minutes, but I am sure nobody would begrude him a minute of that time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] He has dealt with this matter with great lucidity, in considerable detail and with that balance of mind which we have come to associate with his contributions.

This subject calls for a great deal of expert knowledge. Nevertheless, it is obviously an issue which cannot be confined to experts. It involves the interest, and also the conscience, of the whole community. From the dawn of history there has been a conflict in man's attitude towards animals. On the one hand, he sees them as living things, in many cases at a level of intelligence little lower than his own, the objects of love and trust. On the other hand, he appreciates that they are necessary to man to provide food and to facilitate the carrying out of various tasks. For the last two millennia experiments have been carried out on animals to assist in the saving of life and in the alleviation of human suffering. The Greek physician, Galen, in the second century A.D., dissected Barbary apes to acquire a better knowledge of human anatomy.

From the earliest time such actions have touched the conscience of sensitive people. There are some who will be aware of the lines in Shakespeare's Cymbeline, Act 1, Scene VI, where the Physician asks the wicked and scientifically-minded Queen: …wherefore you have Commanded of me these most poisonous compounds, Which are the movers of a languishing death". The Queen replies: I will try the forces Of these thy compounds on such creatures as We count not worth the hanging, (but none human) To try the vigour of them, and apply Allayments to their act; and by them gather Their several virtues and effects. Then the Physician delivers this salutary warning: Your Highness shall from this practice but make hard your heart…". Clearly, anybody who has thought carefully about this matter appreciates that whatever benefits may flow to human kind from these experiments, which are very considerable, there are millions of people today who are living a fairly happy life on account of experiments carried out on animals. But, at the same time, any person of sensitive conscience and imagination appreciates that there is always the possibility that this could have a brutalising effect on man himself, quite apart from the issue of the cruelty that in many situations is suffered by animals. I appreciate the standpoint of anti-vivisectionists, though it is not one I could accept.

The Littlewood Report, in paragraph 227, had this to say about the general attitude of society to this problem, accepting the necessity that such experiments should take place in certain situations: Our own view of the balance of the evidence is that the public generally has accepted in principle the necessity for and value of animal experimentation, but that this tacit acceptance cannot be taken to represent informed assent to all that is done under the Act. The conflict, whether emotional or moral or intellectual, will always be there. There is the natural sensitivity which every civilised and decent person feels towards animals, but that merges into the knowledge that these experiments are necessary to human life and welfare.

I see two extremes in this matter. I am not saying that the issue today turns upon them, but they are there. On the one hand, there are those who plead necessity for experiments where it may be that necessity does not really exist, where there are alternatives, but alternatives which entail time and trouble and expense—in other words, where the label of necessity is wrongly imposed upon what is really a situation of convenience. That is one extreme. The other extreme is where persons would wish to translate a complex which they possess into bureaucratic control, where people would wish to have an elaborate system of checks to purge what may be perhaps a deep-lying situation of emotional guilt.

The 1876 Act in its time was an enlightened piece of legislation. Even now, very few other countries have any legislation to approach it. I understand that Sweden and Denmark have comparable legislation and it seems that the Soviet Union, Germany and Finland have legislation, at any rate in part, dealing with this problem. But in many countries animal experimentation is part of the common law and it has never been thought necessary that there should be detailed restrictions.

The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the changes since the 1876 Act—changes in the type of experiments, their scope and certainly in their number. I understand that when the Act was passed the number of experiments was about 1,000 per annum.

Mr. Burden

There were 300 in the first year.

Mr. Morgan

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. By 1906, the number had increased to only 3,800. By 1960, the number was 3½ million and we have heard today that the estimate for 1970 was 5.65 million. The Report gives reasons why the Committee considers that such an increase has taken place and makes it clear that the increase will continue. It says that the increase in the numbers of animals used for research is largely to be explained by the extension of biological science and the mandatory testing of biological substances, and adds: Our general conclusions are that, in spite of strong incentives to the avoidance, where possible, of animal experimentation…the discovery of substitutes for animal tests is not likely materially to affect the demands for animal experimentation…. As the hon. and learned Gentleman has shown clearly, in paragraph 14 of the recommendations and findings, the Committee found that the 1876 Act is still generally effective but that in recent years it had become more and more clear that its provisions did not match up to modern scientific and technological requirements and that it had by and large failed to keep pace with the most recent scientific advances. That was not to say that there were not severe instances of cruelty being suffered by animals of this kind, but it was to say—this is a fair comment on the findings—that in many cases the practice adopted was somewhat in advance of the minimum stanards laid down by the Act. That is a very refreshing finding, as indeed is the fact—the point is made on several occasions in the Report—that, where strong recommendations were made for the tightening of control, those recommendations almost invariably came from people who were themselves working under the conditions of the Act.

In paragraph 239, the Committee says: By this standard we think the 1876 Act has been generally effective; no licensees appeared to regard it as a piece of useless bureaucracy, many left us in no doubt of their high respect for it. The Act has been effective partly because it has commanded the ready support of those subject to it, partly because the Home Office has adopted a wide interpretation, insisted on humane standards, and administered the law conscientiously. Experience has aptly confirmed the value of a system of individual licensing. Paragraph 234 sums up to a large extent the basic issues with which we are concerned today. It says: As is the case in most other institutions it is the attitude of colleagues and climate of opinion within the laboratory that are the chief checks upon irresponsibility. Police-type inspection from outside cannot possibly secure the same continuous discipline in communities of this kind. A further factor is the growing competition for scientific resources which is a standing discouragement to wastage whether of expert manpower, premises, money or experimental material. Even without the Act these factors would all continue to operate in favour of humane treatment of animals. It is not altogether surprising, therefore, that the criticisms we have received of the Act have been accompanied by very few allegations of the infliction of extreme cruelty or of unsatisfactory care. From our own visits to laboratories and discussions with licensees and animal attendants we have been greatly impressed with the prevailing standards of humanity and with the condition of the animals we have seen. We have seen no foundation whatever for any general suspicion, let alone sharp criticism, of the concern of licensees for their animals. I heartily endorse what the hon. and learned Gentleman said about the Little-wood Report in no way being a possible vehicle for either bringing experimentation on live animals to an end or drastically reducing the number of experiments carried out year by year. In the two very happy years I had as a junior Minister at the Home Office, I did not have the opportunity to deal with this matter. It did not belong to my side of the House, as it were, and therefore in a sense I come to this controversy with a fresh mind, although, I hope, not tabula rasa.

I appreciate that this is not a matter of politics or indeed of fundamental social attitudes, perhaps. One cannot find any guidance in them to enable one to come to a conclusive answer on the Report. The attitude of individuals will turn upon a variety of individual conditions and I am sure that this is something which will run through rather than along party lines.

I have considered this matter extremely carefully, and I do not pretend to speak for anyone other than myself, although my views could well accord with those of the majority of hon. Members. On balance, I believe that there is a case for accepting the recommendations of this Committee and for carrying out most of the legislative proposals contained in its Report. There are some 83 recommendations of which 48 would entail legislation.

I have been greatly impressed by the assiduous work done by the Committee and by the care with which it approached its task. This is one of the best-written Reports that I have ever read. Certainly, it is one of the best argued. I feel that the Committee tried to approach the subject in an ethical way and to balance, test and weigh all the moral, ethical, social and ecological considerations in regard to each question before coming to any conclusion. The people who served on the Committee, the late Sir Sydney Little-wood and others, were not starry-eyed romantics. They were people of mature and well-balanced judgment. They sat for two years in judgment upon this situation and, therefore, one can start from the point that Parliament has the onus of showing good cause why it should not accept the Report and act upon it, if it were to come to such a decision. That is a far cry from saying that Parliament should regard itself as being in a position where it must automatically endorse the findings of a Royal Commission or a Departmental working party. But where a Report has been compiled in the way in which this one has been put together, clearly a very heavy duty lies upon Parliament.

The increase in the number of experiments is also a factor which one has to take into account. Looking at the recommendations as a layman, I am impressed by the sound common sense of most of them. Many of them mean a relaxation of the present system. But, as the Under-Secretary very properly pointed out, in many cases it is a matter of putting into legislative form what has long been hallowed by usage over the years.

The Act of 1876 was brought into being at a time when society was dealing with a new development. At that time, these experiments were carried out in the main by physiologists, and most of them entailed an element of acute surgey. Now 95 years after the passing of that Act, we are dealing with a rather different situation. We are dealing with another new situation, where new frontiers are being breached, where ethical, moral and technological problems which our grandparents and great-grandparents could never have imagined are looming ahead of us. I believe, therefore, that it is right that Parliament should deal with the matter.

The point is made in the Report that any new legislation should be of a comprehensive type and should not be piecemeal. That is a very prudent attitude to take. Obviously, there will have to be further consultation. It may be that in the last live years there have been developments which, to some extent, might affect the validity or certainly colour to some degree the findings of the Committee in one or two respects. One cannot go in very great detail into all these recommendations in a debate of this sort. But I believe that there are one or two matters at which the Government will have to look carefully.

I mention two matters referred to in the New Scientist of 11th February of this year. The first is the proposal that, except under certain very limited conditions, only one experiment should be carried out on a single animal. I am not sure exactly how that is interpreted in practice, but the point which is made in the New Scientist is that, as the Report stands, the breeding of an animal with a susceptibility to a spontaneous disease, let us say a tumour, would in itself amount to an experiment. Therefore, it would be impossible for a medical scientist to test a new drug against such a malignant disease. I believe that that is a matter of very fine definition which I am sure would bear careful examination by the Government.

Another Littlewood recommendation would mean that public health work based on the use of animals to diagnose and break down outbreaks of serious and infectious disease might be hampered by the need to make application 14 days beforehand. There must be situations where there could be greater flexibility on that account.

One matter on which I am sure that the House would like to hear the Minis- ter again at the end of the debate concerns developments in experiments on cultured tissues as an alternative to in vitro experiments on animals. In a certain area of research such experiments are an adequate alternative, and it is a widening area. In others, they would be impossible. If the Minister has any details, I am sure that the House will welcome his contribution.

My attitude to this subject is that here is an Act which has served the community well. It is an Act in which the British community can take great pride, for it led the world in laying down standards controlling experiments on live animals. However, 95 years after the event there is a case for change. It is one which has been argued cogently by a responsible and hard-working body almost six years ago. It is not a situation where it is necessary to change the rationale of the legislation of 1876; far from it. But it is one where there must be refinements. There may be a need for flexibility in certain areas and for a tightening-up of supervision in others. It is now time for Parliament to have the opportunity of considering such legislation.

12.18 p.m.

Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)

I must first join the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan) in saying that this debate raises an issue which has cut right across party lines as, fortunately, so many issues of compassion do in this House.

It is right and proper to mention that several hon. Members on the benches opposite and on this side of the House regret their inability to take part in this debate. The hon. Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) is unable to be here because of the somewhat short notice of the debate and the fact that she has strong constituency commitments.

I want also to emphasise the point made by the hon. Member for Cardigan that the time has now come for legislation to be introduced, and, despite what my hon. and learned Friend said, I hope that the Government will give it very serious consideration. I am sure that if they do they will agree that legislation is not only desirable but necessary in some areas, as I hope to show.

The Cruelty to Animals Act, 1876, legalised vivisection under certain controls. It regulated and restricted any experiment calculated to cause pain to any vertibrate animal. That is the basis of the legislation today and it must still be the law, because there has been no change in it in 95 years. The Act imposed restrictions on people carrying out experiments to ensure that, as recommended by the Royal Commissions of 1875 and 1912, no animal under experiment suffers severe pain that is likely to endure or unnecessary pain of any kind. This is still the case.

The objects of the Act were clearly defined. Apart from the rather violent anti-vivisectionists, I think that every moderate, reasonable person would agree that the Regulations made under the Act are good in the circumstances. But, as the hon. Member for Cardigan pointed out, there has been no legislation whatsoever since 1876.

It is interesting and informative to see what has happened over the years. In the first year after the passing of the Act there were 300 experiments on animals. In 1930 there were 450,822. In 1950 the figure had reached 1,799,215. In 1963, the year of Littlewood, there were 4,196,566 experiments carried out on animals. In 1968 the figure had risen to 4,755,680. In 1969, the last year for which figures are available, the figure had reached what I believe to be, despite the way that it is glossed over, the enormous and horrifying total of 5,418,929. The Minister told us that that number will increase.

I have used the word "horrifying", because I believe that anybody—I am not talking about the sentimentalists—who has any feelings about the welfare of animals must be horrified to know that in 1969 5½ million animals were subjected to the indignities, the stresses, the pain, the mutilation, and the ultimate death involved in vivisection. In the six years from 1963 to 1969 the yearly increase in experiments amounted to 203,727, a total of 1,222,363 animals. The Minister made it perfectly clear that that escalation will continue unless measures are introduced to try to bring it to an end.

The figures indicate that the Home Secretary had good reason for concern when he set up the Littlewood Committee. I believe that the Government must take action to control what in many instances must be a ghastly traffic in animal misery. By intention, the Littlewood Committee was broadly based. It comprised 13 members, under the chairmanship of an eminent legal man. It had representatives of the medical profession and of the pharmaceutical industry—particularly Sir Hugh Linstead, who was the greatly respected Member for Putney and Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Society. It had an eminent vet. It had a wide scope of people who could be expected to investigate this matter conscientiously, realistically and objectively. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) is unable to be here today, because she was one of the members of the Committee.

No one can say that that Committee was loaded with anti-vivisectionists or with people who were greatly in favour of vivisection. It was patently a Committee which could be charged to carry out the obligations illustrated in its terms of reference: To consider the present control over experiments on living animals, and to consider whether, and if so what, changes are desirable in the law or its administration. I believe that the Committee carried out its duties objectively, and the Report shows that it also showed reasonable compassion in its decisions.

I cannot understand why the Report, issued six years ago, has had to wait until today to be debated. Considerable pressure was exercised on the last Government not only by the then Opposition but by their own Members. The House should be grateful to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House for having arranged this debate in the House today within one year of the Conservative Government being returned, despite considerable legislative pressure.

I do not believe that any Government set up a Committee to examine any particular problem unless they are convinced that there is an urgent need for that problem to be investigated. It involves expenditure of considerable sums of public money. It is quite intolerable that Members of Parliament should have to wait for six years to debate any subject after the Report has been made to Parliament, irrespective of whether there has been a change in Government between the time that the Committee was set up and that the Report was rendered. I hope that in future Governments will take seriously to mind the fact that this is unacceptable to hon. Members on both sides and to the people in the country.

I refer again to the Report in particular and to the Cruelty to Animals Act. In 1913 an Advisory Committee was set up to advise the Ministry on the administration of the Act and of vivisection. It consisted of a legal Chairman, three persons nominated by the Royal Society, three persons nominated by the Royal College of Physicians, three persons nominated by the Royal College of Surgeons, and one by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. There were no laymen on it. They were all representatives of people actively interested in vivisection.

The Littlewood Committee expressed the view that the Royal Commissions of 1875 and 1912 appeared to have had in mind two purposes for the consultative machinery. First, to prevent eminent scientists from feeling aggrieved because their own proposed experiments were disallowed by the Home Office on its own unsupported authority. Second, to reassure the public that proposals for undesirable or cruel experiments would be subject to critical scrutiny.

When Littlewood reported the Advisory Committee comprised 11 persons. In 1967—and I should like to know why—the number fell to eight. In 1969 it was increased by the appointment of Sir John McMichael, an eminent doctor. Can it be that the reluctance of the eminent societies to maintain the establishment as agreed is due to the fact that they are unable to get the scientists to go on to it? Is it that they consider that no useful purpose is served by maintaining the establishment? Do they refuse to fill the vacancies? Or is the fall in numbers an illustration, perhaps, of the Government's refusal to accept the obligations that are placed upon them? I should like to know.

It is interesting, when one looks at the Advisory Committee, to examine the ages of the people who comprise it. Two only of the medical men—of whom there are nine—and one veterinary surgeon were born after 1900. Four, including the Chairman, were born in the 1890s. I am not criticising those gentlemen for their age. We all know that age frequently has a great deal of wisdom associated with it. But I suggest that it is essential, or at least highly desirable, that the Advisory Committee should have on it younger, more virile men, men who are more up to date in modern surgery, medicine and scientific methods, than one would assume a committee comprised of those aged gentlemen might have.

How often since 1963 has the Advisory Committee advised the Ministry? How many times did it offer advice in 1969? How many times in 1970? What advice was given? What reports has it issued generally on vivisection, and when? What evidence is there that it subjects, as presumably it must, proposals for intolerable or cruel experiments to critical scrutiny? And whose critical scrutiny? On how many occasions during the last five years has the committee advised refusal of licences for experiments that were either intolerable or cruel? Whatever the qualifications and zeal of these men, my hon. Friend surely must agree that the size and urgency of the problem demand that they be strengthened according to the proposals of Littlewood.

Littlewood proposed that the Advisory Committee should be reconstituted to consist of a legally qualified Chairman and 12 members, each appointed in a personal capacity, including biological scientists, veterinarians, scientific teachers and lay persons—and I emphasise deliberately "lay persons"; that their appointment should be for four years, with compulsory intervals between the terms of their appointment, and staggered retirements; and that the Committee should have powers to appoint other persons to serve on sub-committees. There is no need for legislation to bring that into effect. The Minister can do it at the stroke of a pen.

Littlewood also made proposals about the inspectorate. It said that it should be increased to 21. As my hon. Friend said, in 1963 there were eight inspectors, in 1969 there were 13, and there are still 13. Both the Minister and the hon. Member for Cardigan emphasised the responsibility of the Littlewood Committee, and the responsbile way in which it exercised its duties. The committee is satisfied that the minimum requirement, whether or not the law is reformed as it has proposed, is 21 inspectors, and that the inspectorate should comprise equally men with medical and veterinary qualifications. Surely that requirement of Littlewood cannot be contested? Surely my hon. Friend will not attempt to contest it at the end of this debate?

But is the establishment suggested by Littlewood sufficient to ensure that the requirements of today, tomorrow and the year after are met? Section 10 of the 1867 Act requires that all registered persons be from time to time visited by inspectors for the purpose of securing compliance with the Act. It is still mandatory upon the Government to ensure that that provision is carried out. Are there enough inspectors to do that properly?

The view of the Home Office is that the inspectors' task—and this is very important—is to ensure that licensees understand their responsibilities under the Act, rather than that the inspectors should act as policemen. The Home Office has also said that inspectors should exercise general vigilance over the design and method of experiments. Obviously, their duties are advisory rather than dictatorial, but they are enormously important. If they are to be carried out properly there can be no question of there being insufficient inspectors to do that job properly.

Littlewood says that there was "universal agreement" about the inspectorate—which means from all the people from whom they took representations, medical, lay, surgical and biological: In the field of research, we find general agreement that the chief duties of the inspector should be to examine thoroughly the suitability and capability of new applicants for licences and subsequent authorisations for new work, to get to know personally each licensee and to be aware of the experimental work being performed in his area, to advise on the restrictions to be applied to licensees and their work and to ensure, e.g. by inspecting the laboratory records that these restrictions were not in practice ignored, and to inspect and advise on conditions under which laboratory animals were kept. Most organisations urged that the inspector should devote the greater part of his time to visits, to discussions with licensees and examination of their proposals and records, and be freed as far as possible from routine administrative duties. We recommend that this should be the pattern of the inspector's duty.…We recommend that there should be no limitation on the inspectors' authority to question the purpose and design of any project.…The inspector's duty in other fields of usage should be to satisfy himself of the competence of the licensee and the organisation of local responsibility, to get to know licensees and to inspect the premises and husbandry provided for animals. There is no argument about that very definite statement of the inspector's duties and I hope that the Minister will accept that that is right and proper.

Anyone who believes that 13 inspectors can adequately carry out those duties—get to know and keep in touch with 8,789 licensees—is either very optimistic or very foolish, or else he expects these men to work around the clock, 24 hours a day, every week, every month, every year. No one should expect that dedication from anyone.

The Report also says that they should have to keep up to date with the design and method of experiments and should check experiments and the welfare of laboratory animals. There are probably far more than 8,789 licensees, because that was the figure in 1963. With the vast escalation in the number of experiments, one must expect a great increase in the numbers of licensees. Can those 13 men do more in the circumstances than carry out infrequent visits, cast a cursory eye over the applications for licences and affix a rubber stamp? They have no time for the scrutiny which is imposed on them as their duty by the 1876 Act.

I have no doubt, from what information I have, that the inspectors do a very difficult task, overworked as they are, in a dedicated manner. It would be utterly wrong for this House to voice any criticism of them in view of the vast amount of work which is placed upon them. We must have far greater control and supervision over experiments to ensure that repetitive experiments, of which the end product is already known, are eliminated and that licences are issued only when they will provide new and essential knowledge which will help to prolong human life and ease human suffering, and then only if we are satisfied that there is no established source from which information can be obtained.

We must constantly promote the need for and seek alternatives to vivisection. In view of the growth in the number of animal experiments, some new advisory body should be set up—this was implied by the hon. Member for Cardigan—to examine new proposals and guide experimenters on the complicated matters of technique, and suggest and advise on alternatives to vivisection.

I admit that vivisection is still necessary in this day and age, but I am also convinced that there is much which is unnecessary—that it is indefensible and should be stopped. That, and the assurance that the terms of the 1867 Act are carried out humanely and efficiently, is what the 255 pages of the Littlewood are all about.

I do not regard myself as an irrational sentimentalist about animals, but I do believe that man causes animals to be born, in a great many cases—certainly those which are born to be handed over for vivisection. They are brought into the world for that purpose and for no other—to suffer stress, pain, deliberately induced disease and finally death at the hands of the vivisector.

I believe that the test of a civilised society is its compassion. We in this country assume that we are a compassionate society. I believe that we must look after the old, the disabled, the mentally ill, the children and, above all, those who are completely helpless. None are more helpless than the animals that man brings into the world to use for his purposes. I believe that he has an absolute duty to ensure that they are used as humanely as possible.

I hope that the Minister will accept that perhaps not all the people he would have wished have bought Littlewood. Whether or not they have done so matters little, because the people of this country would demand that proper action be taken to ensure that vivisection be reduced as much as possible and that the animals that are used in it are treated as humanely as possible.

12.50 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Lomas (Huddersfield, West)

I should like to say how much I enjoyed and wholeheartedly agreed with the speech of the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden). I pay tribute to the Under-Secretary for what I thought was a clear and thoughtful speech. I can well understand, on the other hand, his reluctance to say whether the Government intend to legislate, because I find myself in a similar position.

The Littlewood Committee was conceived in 1963 and sat for two years. It was a distinguished group of people who reported in 1965. There is no doubt that, although much of the Report is relevant and many of the recommendations should certainly be implemented, certain sections have been overtaken by events, and we may need to go through the whole thing again. I regret that it was the Labour Party when in power which dragged its heels on whether to allow the Report to be discussed. I agree with the hon. Member for Gilling-ham that reports of this kind, dealing with matters more than 90 years old, the Cruelty to Animals Act, should be discussed at the earliest opportunity, and this could have been done in the years 1966–70 without a great deal of effort. But there it is, and we have to face it.

I draw attention to the memorandum of my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) in which she said: I have signed this Report, accepting—with my colleagues—that any attempt to answer the three major questions of which mention is made in paragraph 237 lies outside our terms of reference. I am convinced, however, that unless or until answers are found to these questions there will remain room for doubt about the need and justification for the use of animals for the laboratory purposes. I agree with those sentiments. It seems a pity that the terms of reference were drawn so tightly. This, again, emphasises that there is a case for almost reconstitutioning or reconvening the Littlewood Committee or at least a similar committee to look at the questions in paragraph 237 of the Report. The first question was: Who can say whether, if certain biological tests were forbidden, satisfactory chemical or other methods of testing would not be developed? No one can say for certain, but we know as a matter of historical fact that, not just with animals, but whenever raw materials disappear, we find alternatives—one door closes, another opens. This would and must apply because of the increasing number of experiments on animals which will escalate to an astronomical figure in the not-too-distant future. We must find alternative methods for a number of reasons.

The second question was: Who is responsible for establishing whether modern medical techniques, with their emphasis on immunology and drug therapy, both of which are inseparable from animal experimentation, are developing medical practice in the right direction? The third question was: Who is to take responsibility for moral or ethical judgment in the use of animals for experimental purposes as such? In the Sunday Telegraph of 30th June, 1968, there was an article headed, "Sub-humans for sacrifice", by Michael Pearson. In the article he says: We are giving them diseases of the heart, the lungs and the mind, hooking them on heroin, bombarding them with X-rays. The variety of experiment is wide. There was a story of a monkey in some experiment drinking as much alcohol as it liked, presumably in order to see what the reaction would be. It goes further than that.

In the magazine, World Medicine, on 30th December, 1970, in an article written by Dr. Louis Goldman under the heading, "Animal Guinea Pigs—the permissive society", he mentioned a number of experiments which took place in 1970 in the United Kingdom—not in 1870 or 1900 but only last year. Rats were placed in an atmosphere of pure oxygen until convulsions occurred; they were deprived of food and water for up to 48 hours; mice were starved and submitted to hypoxia to see whether the stimuli contributed to malformed offspring and they were given electric shocks and induced chronic alcoholism. This was done on a whole series of animals.

Mr. Burden

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that we are inclined, because rats and mice are repulsive to most people, to accept that experiments do not matter so much for them, even if they are painful experiments? But rats are highly intelligent and suffer pain and distress as do all other animals.

Mr. Lomas

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman.

Later in the article, Dr. Goldman posed this question: To this observer at least, some of the experiments summarised at the beginning of this article seem to need justifying. How many contribute anything of importance to scientific knowledge? Even if some knowledge has been gained, are we justified in submitting animals to such techniques as electric shock, starvation, hypoxia, chronic alcoholism, X- irradiation, drug-induced writhing and similar stress-producing stimuli". He mentions an experiment in the Soviet Union where scientists joined the head of one animal to another to make a two-headed dog. I can see no justification for that and nothing that would enhance the cause of medicine, or anything else.

The Under-Secretary mentioned the number of Home Office inspectors. It is interesting to note that, but we will not argue the figures at this stage. Arguing on my own figures, this is one inspector for every 1,000 licensees, or about one inspector for every 400,000 experiments, and that takes a bit of looking at.

It is interesting to note that in Britain and the United States there has not been a single official prosecution of a scientist for cruelty to animals. Whether that is because the inspectorate is not big enough, or because of the closed shop atmosphere that develops among certain professions, I do not know, but I agree with George Bernard Shaw that knowledge must not be obtained by criminal means. That applies in this case.

I say that I oppose experiments on living animals because I believe that to maim and cause suffering to creatures weaker than ourselves is both cowardly and wrong. Having said that, I think that we should open the door so that the public know what is going on. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton), who spoke in my Adjournment debate of 31st March, drew attention to the great number of experiments which the general public had no idea had taken place and which had very little to do with scientific knowledge or the benefitting of mankind.

That is why in paragraph 235 I was glad to notice the words attributed to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It stresses its belief that …animal experimentation constitutes a moral and social problem of the first magnitude and one that does not exclusively concern the expert. This is the important thing. The Little-wood Committee agreed with that. It said: The results of animal experimentation touch the life of the whole community at innumerable points, and it is right that what is done for the benefit of the community should be understood and accepted as necessary by that community. That is an absolutely right approach. We should make known what is going on so that the general public, not just those who are passionately interested in this subject or members of various societies, are fully aware of what is being done in their name.

I am not a total anti-vivisectionist, I believe that it is necessary that certain experiments should take place. It is essential that we should do this but we are getting very near the permissible limit, if we have not already passed it. We have to look at this again. I have had letters from numerous organisations about today's debate, and their reaction is interesting. The Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments in a letter dated 8th June and signed by the trustee, Mrs. Hegarty, said: …in view of the progress that has been made in the field of alternatives to laboratory animals during the past few years it is difficult to see how any recommendations made by a Committee so many years ago can apply today. That is almost fair criticism, because if we had had this debate six years ago, perhaps something more positive could have been done, but I think that it goes a shade too far. Nevertheless, it underlines my feeling that the Littlewood Report, good though it is, is already a bit out of date and needs looking at again.

That is why I urge the Minister to consider the possibility of setting up a body to try to report inside two years—with a debate on the Report inside the following two years at the most—with the aim of discovering whether there are alternative methods which can be used. I accept the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan) that we must have experiments, we have to push back the frontiers of science and the boundaries of knowledge if we are to survive, let alone advance. That must mean in this day and age, given present circumstances, some animals or humans somewhere have to be used in experiments. It does not mean, and should not mean, that suffering as a result of experiments should be tolerated or permitted. It is not necessary to be a total anti-vivisectionist with a desire to abolish all animal experiments to feel that the permissible limits are being approached or even passed. Certain figures have been given about experiments.

Let me remind the House that in 1945 there were 1.3 million experiments; in 1950, 1.8 million; 1955, 2.5 million; 1960, 3.7 million; 1965, 4.7 million; 1969, 5.5 million and in 1970, 5.7 million. What is important is not only the rate at present but the potential rate in 1980, 1990 or 2000. If the rate of increase of the last 25 years is maintained over the next quarter of a century, by 2000 there will be 25 million experiments taking place. Where do we stop? Do we keep going or do we say at some stage that efforts have to be made, on an ever-increasing scale, to find alternative methods? In my opinion, 5½ million experiments is bad enough, but when it is projected forward 25 years, which is not very far away, we can see what the position will be. This would be the permissive society gone stark raving mad. We have to do something about it.

That is why I was sorry that the Littlewood Committee's terms of reference excluded this vital area of investigation. I have mentioned the reaction of F.R.A.M.E. which I considered in one sense to be slightly negative but it was nothing compared with an article in the New Scientist by Dr. Bernard Dixon, the deputy editor, who said: The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has just started a campaign to persuade the Government to implement the recommendations of the Littlewood Committee"— This, incidentally, was 5th December, 1968— If successful, this could seriously impede necessary research work and antagonise research workers without bringing any tangible benefits. I am not prepared to accept that kind of statement. I do not see how it would impede or detract from work that is being done. I disagree, too, with the remark by the same author in the same issue of the New Scientist that some minor changes in the 1876 Act would be welcome but that the Littlewood Report should be left on the shelf. It has been on the shelf long enough and it is time that we took it down and dusted it off, and decided what to do with it. Statements like that do not help in any way.

I turn now to industry. The I.C.I. Pharmaceutical Division at Alderley Edge is not far from the homes of the Minister and myself. I had the pleasure a short time ago of going round that division, and I was very impressed by the conversations I had with Dr. Hoggarth, the deputy chairman of the division, and with the numerous scientists involved in experiments on animals. I was impressed because I was made aware that, if there was any alternative, then they tried their best to use it. I was impressed by the way in which animals due for experiments and vivisection were looked after.

I came away with the feeling that I.C.I. was a very humane and responsible organisation. Now, it is doing many more experiments at Alderley Edge, about half a million a year, and it will obviously escalate with the search for knowledge. If it could have the help of a Government research institute to find alternative methods, I am sure that it would welcome this as much as I should. This must be seriously considered.

I have had correspondence with the Research Defence Society. It made an interesting suggestion which I hope the Minister will bear in mind if we ever get round to legislation, and that is that the Cruelty to Animals Act could be renamed the Experiments on Animals Act. This might be the means of putting into that Act many of the things about which we have talked today. As long ago as 18th February, 1966, my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Harold Walker) raised a related matter on the Adjournment. This was a debate about the theft of pets. My hon. Friend was very concerned about this. I know that Little-wood said that this does not go on very much, but there is a certain amount of it. It was sufficient in his part of the world for my hon. Friend to raise it in the House. He said: …a nation can be judged, in terms of its greatness, by how it treats those in need. This can be equally validly applied to the way in which we treat animals. He mentioned the Littlewood Committee's Report and pointed out that organisations were prepared to pay £3 and £5 respectively for cats and dogs and went on: …in the light of the fact that, certainly in my constituency and surrounding areas no one is licensed or known to breed either cats or dogs for this purpose, it is not unreasonable to suspect that some of the animals being dispatched have been picked up from the streets."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th February, 1966; Vol. 724, c. 1792–3.] He asked for early implementation of that part of the Littlewood Committee's Report dealing with the supply of animals for experiments. This is a valid point which could be dealt with quickly.

On 20th March, 1968, the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder) introduced under the Ten-Minute Rule procedure the Export of Animals for Research Bill. This bears out what I am saying. He said: I do not wish to engage in emotionalism, but I feel that I should illustrate the point which I am endeavouring to make regarding practices abroad. I have in my possession a series of authenticated photographs of experiments conducted in a Japanese laboratory. Quite apart from the nauseating nature of the experiments depicted, the fact which is doubly distressing is that it is abundantly clear that none of the dogs shown in the pictures have been anaesthetised. This view is supported by a veterinary surgeon who carefully examined the pictures at my request. Surely it is wholly undesirable that animals bred and reared in this country should be sold for use in foreign laboratories where the protection offered by British legislation does not apply."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1968; Vol. 761, c. 427.] The hon. Gentleman went on to quote the Littlewood Report to the effect that the rôle of animal legislation is to prohibit objectionable activities. I agree with the hon. Member for Belfast, South that the export of animals for experimental purposes is an objectionable activity, and we should do something about it.

Hon. Members have repeatedly brought forward Bills to implement the Littlewood Report. The hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body) has such a Bill, and I am serving on a Committee with him which meets next Wednesday. In view of everything which the Under-Secretary of State has said today, we should have the Bill almost on the nod without wasting the time of hon. Members. All that the hon. Gentleman is asking for in his Bill is a slight amendment of the Cruelty to Animals Act, 1876, to the effect that no experiment on a living animal shall be performed if the purpose of the experiment can be achieved by alternative means not involving an experiment on a live animal. That is a sensible proposal. We want to find alternative methods and to use animals only when we are compelled to do so. I hope that the Bill will receive the Minister's sympathetic understanding.

I refer again to the New Scientist of 11th February. I tend to agree with what it says. It asks for a new Act and says that it could also have built into it recommendations and incentives to replace animals by experimental techniques not requiring animals—along the lines of the recommendations of F.R.A.M.E.". That is also the recommendation of the National Anti-Vivisection Society. It goes on to say: As a first step towards such a new Act, the Government should act on one of the Littlewood Committee's more sensible proposals…to set up a permanent advisory committee of experts to advise the Secretary of State on animal experimentation. I should be grateful if the Minister would comment on that. Such a body would be useful and extremely valuable.

Mr. Carlisle

There is already an Advisory Committee in existence. The difference is that the Littlewood proposal was that it should have a lay element on it.

Mr. Lomas

I accept that.

The National Anti-Vivisection Society believes in total abolition eventually. It is composed not of cranks or misfits but of genuine people who are deeply concerned about animals and the things that are happening to them. I am sure that they are prepared to accept that this must be a step-by-step process and that the matter cannot be dealt with by waving a magic wand. I hope that the Society's views will be accepted.

The Society believes that the implementation of these recommendations which concern only the administration of the Cruelty to Animals Act and not its general principle would in no way reduce the severity of experiments performed in British laboratories. That is right. It cannot do that, and that is why we must find alternative methods.

The Society goes on to say: In short, none of the 83 Recommendations of the Littlewood Report would effectively prevent the infliction of severe pain on animals during the course of experimentation. On the contrary"— and this is a fair argument— their implementation would lull the public conscience into a belief that this was being done. We must clearly show that that is not so. I have no intention of going into arguments on the recommendations, because that can be done if and when legislation is introduced.

Both F.R.A.M.E. and the N.A.V.S. have suggested the creation of a research institute to study and develop methods not including the use of animals. If such an institute were created, I see no reason why it should not be vested in the Medical Research Council and should not play a useful and vital part in advising people who require to know about these matters. The N.A.V.S. has written to over 14,000 licensed experimenters asking for their views on the setting up of such an institute. I am told that the replies it has received—and it has had a considerable number—are very encouraging.

I have no intention of reciting again the arguments for a research institute which I advanced in the debate on 31st March, but, briefly, it would collate information from all over the world concerning techniques which negate the need to use animals and to study, develop and extend their use generally in medical research. I am sure that that can be done. My hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan referred to in vitro experiments. Much greater use could be made of cell, tissue and cultural methods rather than use animals.

I wish to challenge what the right hon. Lady the Secretary of State for Education and Science—and it is becoming difficult to know which Department we should deal with when we get replies from the right hon. Lady—said in her reply to me, on 31st March, 1971, at column 1645, that progress is likely to be made more quickly through existing scientific channels than by pursuing the search for alternatives outside the main stream of research. I challenge that. Unless we go out of our way to find alternative methods, we shall inevitably miss many vital things. If we continue as we are without exploring new channels of knowledge, there is no knowing where this practice will stop.

I believe that some of the recommendations in the Littlewood Report could be implemented quickly. On the other hand, there is a case for looking at the whole matter again. We need a committee to inquire into alternative methods not involving the use of animals. If such a committee were set up, and if it reported fairly quickly, an institute could be created which would be of benefit to science, people in need of knowledge, to the animals affected at present by experiments, and to the future of mankind.

1.18 p.m.

Sir Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)

We have listened to four excellent and comprehensive speeches on this very important topic. My hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary of State had no need to apologise for speaking for 50 minutes, because, apart from the intrinsic merits of his speech, it must be about 10 years since a Government pronouncement of any length has been made on this subject, certainly since before the Littlewood Committee's Report. I shall content myself with making a few points and supporting what has been said by hon. Members.

The Under-Secretary of State was kind enough to say that the Government would take note of the points made in the debate, so I should like to say straight away that I support the plea made for an increase in the number of inspectors to the figure of 21 recommended by the Littlewood Committee—one chief inspector, four superintending inspectors and 16 inspectors, who could be deployed in eight areas. Is there any difficulty in obtaining inspectors of the right calibre? Is that what has been holding up the implementation of the Littlewood Committee's recommendation which, after all, needs no legislation, or has the Treasury been awkward about the cost, which cannot be all that great?

A recommendation which needs no legislation is that of adding laymen to the Advisory Committee, and I should like to support the plea for that. I imagine that it would cost nothing, unless the members of the Advisory Committee are paid some small fee for their services, but, anyway, it could not be anything like as much as the payments to the inspectors. Those are two recommendations which I hope will be implemented, and which ought to be implemented.

There is a difficulty which one has in this matter in this House, and that is the division of responsibilities for different facets of the subject among Ministers. The Home Office is responsible for the administration of the Act and for legislation. If one wants to inquire about research one has to put one's Question to the Secretary of State for Education and Science. If one wants to inquire about the evaluation of research and experiment one has to put a Question to the Secretary of State for Social Services, who is responsible for the health aspects. On some matters one has to question the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

In the lifetime of the last Parliament I had occasion to put a Question to the Prime Minister, to ask him to whom Questions on certain subjects should be addressed. I received an answer to that, and eventually I received an answer to a Question to one of the Departments, to which I was referred as to the Department which I should probe. I wonder, could there not be a little more coordination between these four Departments in dealing with this matter? I suppose that perhaps research has to come under the Secretary of State for Education and Science and not the Home Office, but if there could be some more coordination and consultation between the Departments, so that we could get information a little more quickly sometimes, and with a little more certainty than we have under the present division of responsibilities, that would be helpful.

My hon. and learned Friend mentioned that there were a number of inactive licensees with licences to carry out these experiments. I wonder, if they are inactive, should not their licences be suspended so that they are not suspected, by all those who take a keen interest in this problem and who are worried about it, of possibly carrying on experiments, when actually they are not? It would be more convincing if only those licensees who are active were to have licences in force. The licences of the others could easily be renewed if they should want to come back into practice again. I hope that that will be considered by my hon. and learned Friend.

Despite what is said in the Littlewood Report I think there is a great deal of fear that there must be some duplication of experiments going on, because of the way they have been increasing fast over the years, and I wonder whether my hon. and learned Friend would give a little further information on that when he replies to the debate. From the point of view of teaching, is there not a certain amount of duplication? I wonder whether that could be investigated.

There is a feeling, with, I think, possibly some justification, that there may be a certain degree of insensitiveness among those who perform experiments. I do not say this in any critical way at all, but is it not rather inevitable that people continually carrying out experiments on animals are likely to become more insensitive than those of us who are not? I remember that when I was at Cambridge a friend of mine who was thinking of a medical career came back from a post mortem he had been attending as a student and referred, in a somewhat callous way, to a doctor having "cut up" a beautiful small child. I began to wonder for a moment whether he would be put off taking up a medical career, but he was not. Presumably, in other fields as well as that of animal welfare, one cannot help becoming a little indifferent to experiments of this kind when one is continually performing them. I rather hope that my hon. and learned Friend will say a little about that.

He told us that only 5 per cent. of experiments are on animals other than mice, rats and guinea pigs. That, of course, is reassuring—even though nobody wants to cause cruelty to any kind of animal, even a mouse or a rat. However, I am rather intrigued that there were 568 experiments in 1969 on what the return calls "equidae"—asses, horses and mules. When I tried in the past to find out how many of these three species were experimented on the answer I received was that the returns do not go into that detail. At least, that is as far as I remember. Perhaps we could have a breakdown, if not now, then in future returns. One is naturally anxious to know the number of experiments on horses. I received an answer from the Secretary of State for Education and Science that the only experiment on horses now taking place—in recent months, I think it was, at that time—was to help research into ringworm in Army horses. I wonder whether we could have a little more information about that.

There is also the question of alternative methods. Apart from implementing the Littlewood Report, or those sections of it which do not require legislation, I am sure that the best way of proceeding is to pursue alternative methods, to allay the anxiety there is and to reduce the number of experiments. The hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas) mentioned human diploid cells and culture tissues. I am floundering a bit here in rather deep water, but I am wondering whether the Home Secretary could make representations to the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who has responsibility for the Medical Research Council, to pursue with all possible vigour research into alternative methods.

Getting deeper and deeper into the water, I would mention that there is the method of gas chrometography and mass spectrometry which, I know, is suggested by F.R.A.M.E. I should not like to try to guess what it means or how it is carried out, but I gather it is investigation of drug action in man, and is a method alternative to carrying out experiments of this kind. I hope that it will be pursued as much as possible. I hope that we shall have as many alternative methods as possible, as an answer to the concern there is about this matter.

1.28 p.m.

Mr. John Stradling Thomas (Monmouth)

I should like to add my congratulations to those which have already been paid to my hon. and learned Friend the Under-Secretary on the most interesting way in which he held both my attention and that of the House during his speech.

I should also like to pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan) upon the quotation which he made from Shakespeare. It went very much to the heart of this debate. Apart from the technicalities both of the Report and of the research, the subject under discussion really has to do with the quality of life. That is the whole purpose of the Report, and I took very much to heart the quotation, "Make hard your heart", and noted it down. That attitude of mind would create a brutalising effect—we just would not bother and would shrug our shoulders. This does not alter the fact that there is a serious problem here. The vast majority of people apply enormous pressure on the medical profession and on scientists to find new nostra, new cures for diseases. They want all the modern medicaments, they want sera and they want advances in immunology. There is thus constant pressure on the medical profession and on the pharmaceutical industry—and not only commercial pressure—to find new ways of alleviating the effects of disease.

In addition, there must be an increasing demand for animal experimentation because of the enormous burden of responsibility on the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry for the testing of drugs. The more one reads on this subject the more one realises that, much as we know, vast areas are yet to be found out. This is almost comparable with the space research which has been engaged in by the Americans and Russians. I cite as an example recent knowledge on infective drug resistance. New drugs are brought out as wonder drugs. Perhaps the Press and we laymen play a part in creating the myth of the wonder drug. There is then great disappointment when side effects come to light or the drug becomes ineffective. The matter does not end at discovering a drug or a cure, there must be constant testing to find out whether it is still effective and safe.

Mr. Elystan Morgan

It was put forward, and I believe accepted by the court, in one of the thalidomide trials, that, whereas there had been adequate testing of this powerful drug on tissues, there had been no testing on live animals, and that, had there been testing on living animals, it is likely that the tragedies would not have occurred.

Mr. Thomas

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point—which I was about to come to—and making it so much better than I would have done. I was not going to cite thalidomide but to refer to a phrase which my hon. and learned Friend used, that is, the inter-species variation between different animals, and to stress the enormous value in terms of safety of experiments on many animals.

I accept what has been said about any decent civilised person or community being disgusted at unnecessary pain and suffering, but I stress that it is public demand that is really applying pressure here. That is why it is so important that Parliament should ventilate these subjects, so that there shall be increased knowledge, and go further in seeing what it can do to help.

The hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas) cited three questions from paragraph 237 of the Report, and the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) made an excellent comment in which she succeeded in putting a great deal into a short paragraph. I cannot claim that I am qualified or able to answer these questions, but I think that there are answers that can be given. The first question asks: Who can say whether, if certain biological tests were forbidden, satisfactory chemical or other methods of testing would not be developed? I think they would, but how long would it take, and would public demand tolerate it? An individual given the choice between an experiment on an animal and the evaluation of sera which would relieve suffering in children—and I am deliberately loading the question emotively the other way—would unhesitatingly say that we must have experiments on animals.

The second question is: Who is responsible for establishing whether modern medical techniques, with their emphasis on immunology and drug therapy…are developing medical practice in the right direction? This question would have been better phrased had it said, "What is responsible?" I think we can agree that no individual is responsible. Research is very much a hit and miss affair and there is an element of flair in it. My hon. and learned Friend spoke of the difficulties of putting restrictions on the frontiers of science. Flair comes into it, and even luck. If we ask, "What is responsible?"—circumstances and the ensuing benefits have led to this general trend in medical advance. The ensuing benefits have been so enormous that they have contributed towards the pressures which I have referred to which demand more and more.

The third question is the most vital one of all: Who is to take responsibility for moral or ethical judgment in the use of animals for experimental purposes as such? The answer to that must be both the individual and society. No legislation will work unless the individuals in the laboratories are, as far as humanly practicable, people of the highest moral and ethical standards. Otherwise, inspectors, however many of them there were, could not possibly control this traffic. Society in turn, and Parliament, must reflect this attitude, and support these individuals, and what was brought out by the hon. Member for Cardigan in referring to paragraphs 239 and 234 supports me in this contention.

A certain amount has been said about experts and laymen. I understand the desire to have lay people on the Advisory Committee, but the difficulty is that this is such a highly technical subject that it would be a remarkable layman who could hold his own with the experts. The presence of laymen should not lull us into imagining that they will make a substantial contribution when advice is sought on new and difficult ethical questions. This will tend to be a closed shop because the subject is so highly specialised, and only the high standards of the individuals can help us here.

I strongly support the suggestion by F.R.A.M.E. for the setting up of an institute. The hon. Member for Huddersfield, West spoke in terms of a research institute which would collate information from all over the world. One would envisage a library and access to a tremendous number of learned journals. I should like to see such an institute at the highest possible level of prestige within the scientific world in which it operated. It would be absolutely fatal from the word "Go" if there were any suggestion that this was a cranky institute just to get rid of experiments on animals. I see it in another rôle as well as the vital one of collating and collecting information. It should be an institute of such high-powered standards that it would be able to influence both Government Departments and research councils in the allocation of money for the purposes of experiment. I suggest that it should not itself be a laboratory, but that it should sponsor research side by side with the experiments that are going on, and thus have the full confidence of the people in the field. I fully support an institute of that type.

1.40 p.m.

Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)

I shall be brief in my remarks. I wish to protest against the long delay which has taken place in the consideration of the Littlewood Report and any decisions which may or may not be taken by the Government on that report. The Littlewood Committee was appointed at a time when the subject was considered sufficiently important and urgent to justify an inquiry. Its terms of reference provided that it should consider any changes which were desirable in the law or its administration. That was in 1963. In 1965, the Committee reported and said that changes were desirable. Nothing—or practically nothing—has been done in the past six years. The House of Commons has not even debated the report.

It is the product of two years' close and thorough study of a difficult and complicated subject, and it is a balanced report. That has already been said in this debate. Its recommendations are generally acceptable, but for six years nothing has been done.

This delay in itself has contributed to the delay in finding alternative methods to the use of animals for the purpose of experimentation in medical progress. The principle at stake is simple. It is expressed in the question: is man justified in deliberately inflicting pain and suffering on God's other creatures to promote his own interests? Most people will say "No" to that question. I accept, as did the Littlewood Report—and, indeed, as most hon. Members in this debate have accepted—that there may be cases when such experiments are necessary. The report deals with those cases.

One of the most baffling and frustrating problems in modern political life is the sheer inertia that flows from delay, and the postponement of decisions. This leads to the cynicism and frustration which are important facts of life today. Sometimes the delay in taking a decision on a subject is so great as to create an injustice even more serious than the subject itself.

It is appalling that although the Littlewood Committee put forward its recommendations some six years ago, nothing has been done about them since. This reflects a complacency of attitude which is also shown in the annual publication "Experiments on living animals". I wish to quote from the last one which was published on published on 23rd July, 1970 dealing with the year 1969. The publication is in two parts and the wording of the first part, describing the objects of the Act, its scope and general effect, appears each year to be the same word for word. It reads: A licence may be subject to any conditions the Secretary of State may consider expedient. We never hear anything about any such conditions imposed on the grant of licence. The publication goes on to refer to certain statutory restrictions on the infliction of pain, and says: Where these restrictions would necessarily frustrate the object of the experiment, the Act provides that they may be relaxed on behalf of the Secretary of State.' Again, we are not told when and on how many occasions those restrictions have been relaxed by the Secretary of State.

Perhaps more important are the general restrictions imposed by the Secretary of State which are referred in paragraph 6. That paragraph says: The Secretary of State requires all experiments to be performed at registered places approved by him. He also requires all licensees to keep a written record of their experiments and send them to him within 14 days of the close of each year. We do not know how these places are inspected, and by whom they are approved. In other words, insufficient flesh is put on the bones of the report every year, for us to be able to judge how well or how effectively the existing legislation is being enforced.

I suggest that the whole subject is very much in need of an injection of fresh ideas to get some sort of progress going again. I implore the Government to start by giving urgent consideration to implementing the recommendations of the Report.

1.45 p.m.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor)

I should like to devote the main burden of my remarks to the whole question of control and inspection, but before I do so I should like to make a few general remarks. It is obvious from the speeches we have already heard that both sides of the House welcome the Littlewood Report. The Under-Secretary of State said that in the course of the preparation of the Littlewood Report only 85 letters had been received from individuals. This apparent lack of interest is probably due to the fact that since the Report has never been debated in this House there has not been sufficient publicity about it and people are not aware of its detail and comprehensiveness.

I should like to examine the degree of control exercised by the Inspectorate and also the rôle of the Advisory Committee. It has been suggested in the debate that since the Report was produced six years ago it may to some extent have become outdated. I should like to ask my hon. and learned Friend whether since that date the Home Office has received sufficient information to be able to give any further details about numbers and character of the various establishments and other important facts so that Parliament may translate the Littlewood Report into an Act of Parliament. I would not agree with the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas) that there should be another inquiry. I believe that it would be better to act on the information we already have. If the Home Office has sufficient information in its hands, then possibly we could go straight ahead with legislation.

There is a feeling in the country—and this is clear to those hon. Members who have received letters on the subject—that the Government have not taken any action on this matter. Would not further delay in this respect be interpreted as lack of interest on the part of the authorities in implementing any sincere advance in animal welfare?

One matter touched upon by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West was that we in Britain, and possibly two of the Scandinavian countries, are probably far more advanced in our legislation, more humane in our attitude towards animals in general, and to experiments in particular, than most other countries. It was a good point to make. I do not wish to specify any particular country, but before granting export licences for the selling of animals for experiments in other countries, we should ensure that those countries have adopted and implemented a humane process for animal experimentation.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Sir R. Russell) said that he hoped he would not be treading on my corns. Perhaps the more appropriate word would have been "callouses", because there is no doubt that, when one is doing post-mortems day after day, week after week, looking at dead people and opening them up, it becomes perhaps a routine job. I remember an anaesthetist who never carried out his duties in an operating theatre unless he was also reading the Financial Times. This is an interesting sideline, because an enormous strain and responsibility is placed upon people who from day to day are responsible for experiments and, just as important, the welfare of the animals both before and after the experiments. People perhaps do grow careless in such conditions, and this is something which the inspectors have a duty to counter.

This is a very difficult subject. I am sure that no one in this House, and very few people in the country, wants to see unnecessary suffering and harm to animals, but in a period when we are constantly looking for new methods of curing disease it is inevitable that some experiments will have to be carried out on living animals. The 1876 Act laid down general principles which should be recognised when experiments are carried out. In paragraph 14, the Littlewood Report points out that the Royal Commission concluded in 1875 that it would be neither reasonable nor practicable absolutely to prevent experiments on animals; We accept that view. human suffering had been mitigated by their results; One does not quarrel with that. the infliction on animals of unnecessary pain should be prevented or mitigated by the use of anaesthetics; Here again it is important to use anaesthetics, and records should be kept of the number of experiments carried out under anaesthetics and those which are not— the infliction of severe and protracted agony should be altogether avoided. I leave this point to be developed by my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body), who is perhaps more qualified than I to speak about it. An important addition to the 1876 Act should be that no experiments should be carried out on an animal where there are alternative methods of discovering the same results. That would represent the framework of a very important advance.

The hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan) raised a very important point when discussing whether we should carry out more than one experiment on an animal. Having been obliged to inflict disease on an animal, the object of the exercise may well be to find a method of curing it. Thus, there are two quite different experiments—or what could be interpreted as such—on an animal. We have to have, therefore, a degree of flexibility in the Inspectorate, which brings us back to the question of who should be responsible for carrying out inspections. My hon. and learned Friend very kindly gave way to me at the beginning of his remarks on the question of the Inspectorate. It is difficult without a large number of spot checks, to ensure that the experiments are being humanely carried out. One may have as many returns as one likes from the various institutes carrying out these experiments, but what is most important is that there should be sufficient inspectors to be able to make spot checks without notice and to ensure that those carrying out experiments are doing so with the minimum amount of suffering and harm to the animals.

A great deal has been said about the Advisory Committee. As a professional man, I think that it is not a bad idea to have a layman on the Committee to show a bit of non-technical common sense. I would be all in favour of having a layman on the Committee. It would be of benefit to the debate if my hon. and learned Friend could say something as to how the Committee and the Inspectorate work, how they carry out their day-to-day duties, and to what extent the conditions under which these animals are kept and the suffering they may have to endure are supervised and made known to the public.

There is unfortunately, a degree of secrecy about the experiments. As far as I know, not many of these establishments are open to the public. The public therefore regard this as something that goes on behind closed doors with very inadequate inspection. If more were known about the activities and how they were carried on, I think that the public would be better appreciative of the facts.

With this rising number of experiments, I beg my hon. and learned Friend to ensure that the Advisory Committee is strengthened and that the Inspectorate is sufficiently well staffed and competent not only to deal with the numbers we have now but the numbers that we will have in the future, and also to ensure that no experiments are carried out on animals where they are not necessary. It will be incredibly difficult to decide whether duplication is necessary or takes place. The final duty must rest with the conscience of those carrying out these experiments, ably assisted and watched carefully by the team of inspectors, who are qualified and dedicated to ensuring that the public can rest assured that no undue suffering, hardship or pain occurs to animals who are subjected to this necessary but unfortunate practice.

2.0 p.m.

Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)

I must first apologise for being absent during the earlier part of the debate. I was engaged on parliamentary duties outside this House. However, I heard the beginning of the speech of the Under-Secretary, and I shall refer to it in a moment.

The fact that we are having this debate today is an indication that Britain is becoming a little more civilised. The Littlewood Report has been before us for a very long time, and this is the first formal debate that we have had on the subject. It is regrettable that a Report made six years ago is being debated for the first time today. All those of us who have been responsible for Government business over the last six years must bear responsibility for that. I see that the Littlewood Committee was appointed on 24th May, 1963, by Mr. Henry Brooke. Where is Mr. Henry Brooke now? He has been wafted to another place, where he has been for years; yet here we are discussing for the first time the Report of the Commitee which he appointed.

I believe that there should be a statutory requirement that this House should debate within a specified period the Report of any Royal Commission or interdepartmental committee appointed to deal with a matter of public interest. I must declare my own interest in the matter, since I am a member of the Constitutional Commission. When we report, I wonder whether this House will ever debate our recommendations. There was a Royal Commission on Population in 1948. I do not think that its Report has been debated yet.

It is not good enough to ask busy people, many of them with high qualifications, to study problems of considerable public concern and then to take little or no notice of the product of their time and effort on behalf of the House and the public.

I heard the Minister say that the Government were approaching their consideration of the recommendations of the Littlewood Committee but that they had not yet completed their consideration of the Report. He referred to much inquiry that was set on foot by an earlier Administration when the Littlewood Report was first issued. I am sure that there has been time enough to gather opinions from many quarters about the Committee's recommendations.

There are two points of view on this subject. One holds strongly that all experiments on animals are morally wrong and that all vivisection is morally wrong. The other point of view is that it is not morally wrong but that it is a trouble to the conscience and a matter which disturbs our finer humanitarian feelings about the life and welfare of species but that it is unavoidable to experiment on animals if research is to be conducted in the interests of human health and welfare. It can be argued that no species, however highly developed, however equipped with mental and physical resources, should use another species to prolong its own life, to develop treatments or to obtain information which will assist it.

The moral debate is one which could go on for a long time and probably be inconclusive. However, I notice that the Royal Commission of 1912 presumed to deal with the moral aspect. I would never think of going to a Royal Commission for my morals. However, it concluded in 1912 that: …experiments upon animals adequately safeguarded by law, faithfully administered, were morally justifiable and should not be prohibited by legislation. I doubt whether anyone can say that these experiments are morally justified. They may be justified on grounds which we regard as good and sincere as a contribution to human welfare which we may place above all else. But we have to bear in mind that animals have no rights divinely established. They have no priests to declare that they have the right to live. They have no moral code governing their life and existence, except that devised by man. That gives us the supreme responsibility, which we must accept, for decisions that we take judged from our moral standpoint, and we must search our hearts deeply before reaching decisions about the fate of species which cannot speak for themselves.

The moral issue divides many people and several bodies concerned with this problem. Some take the absolute and extreme view and will not compromise on it. Others believe that one has to come to terms with the fact that mankind has allowed itself to depend upon animal experimentation for research into diseases, cures and the rest, and that we should concentrate on the reality of the matter and the practical aspects of it, trying to establish in our minds a balance which will not keep us awake at night between adequate safeguards for the interests of animal life and experiments which we believe are fully justified in the interests of human beings. That is the sort of compromise which the Littlewood Committee tried to reach and which the speeches to which I have listened have suggested is the basis for our consideration of the problem.

If that is so, it seems to me that there are two criteria which have to be satisfied. An hon. Member on the benches opposite said that the responsibility must rest with the person doing the experiment and with society which permits him to do it. It is the aspect of the responsibility of society which is the all-important one. I do not think that it is enough for people to reconcile in their own minds the need for this kind of experimentation, believing that it is in the interests of the human race, and then not want to know any more while pressing hard all the time for cures to be found by more research.

When people die of cancer of the lung, if they are sufficiently notable and have a wide enough circle of admirers and friends, there are always moves to set up yet another fund for more research into cancer of the lung. But what more do people want to know about cancer of the lung than they the should stop smoking? The pressure is to solve the great problem of cancer in 1971. The cry is for research and more research. However, I think that the public should be made aware of what that entails. Today, we have the mass media. Almost every subject is laid bare. Many members of the public want to know what goes on in this place. They would like to see it on television because they do not know enough about it, which shows how far the need for public enlightenment and awareness has gone already.

There are some unpleasant sights to be seen on television and viewers are often warned that they will see horrifying scenes. The other day, I saw a television programme on depression. We got the first glimpse that I have seen on a television screen of experiments on animals. I wondered why a cat was innoculated with a drepressant drug to show that it could be changed from being normal to a cat in acute distress. Was this research or was it an illustration for a film? The hon. Member for Wembley, South (Sir R. Russell) spoke about duplication. When things are justifiable they are justifiable only in extremis, it seems to me; not justifiable incidental to a lot of instructional or film work or something of that kind. This is also an important aspect of the matter.

What do we mean by justified? I suggest that there should be more public awareness. Although things may be acutely distressing, if they are done in the name of society and society gets the benefit, we should know about them. Can we stand the sight of what is done in order that we may live or be cured of some disabling malady or disease? If not, then are we justified in asking others to inflict this suffering on animals and to brutalise their own attitude to suffering for our benefit? We should face more courageously the need for explanation and, if possible, visual disclosure of what a great deal of this experimentation on animals involves.

I turn to control. The Littlewood Report in wishing to strengthen the inspectorate was certainly making a recommendation of great importance. If society feels unable to judge the merits of the matter or if it feels that to see it happening would be far too distressing and it would rather not see it, then it should depute people on its behalf to over-look what is being done in the public interest, thereby reflecting the public point of view. We cannot have two attitudes towards animals without being accused of humbug and hypocrisy. We cannot, so to speak, fawn over our pet dogs and cats, giving them the best we can provide and being dreadfully upset if we lose them or if anybody is cruel to them, and yet, when it comes to this vast array of animal experimentation, not want to know about it. Therefore, in addition to being told a great deal more about this subject—I think that research institutions should be more freely open to public inspection—we should certainly have more effective control.

Now that we have lifted the veil and broken the silence on the Littlewood Report, I hope that the Government will regard this as a matter of some importance for their consideration. I am sure that the attendance today does not represent the extent of interest in the House of Commons on this subject. This is the slackest day of a slack week. The Whitsun Recess was curtailed by a week in order that the Government could get non-contentious business through. This is perhaps the worst possible day on which this matter could be discussed to enable the whole House to show a greater interest. I make no complaint. I am merely explaining how we are placed today. I am sure that had the debate taken place on another occasion a great deal more interest would have been shown by attendance in the House. I hope that the Minister will not feel that the attendance this afternoon is any indication of lack of interest. Indeed, I am quite sure that many hon. Members want to see this matter pursued vigorously and with courage, because we are greatly worried.

One aspect which is frequently overlooked is that the knowledge that this practice is going on is a source of great trouble to many people. It is difficult to escape thinking about it if one has any feelings at all. It is astonishing how indifferent some people are to animal cruelty and welfare. I know that the great working class of Britain over the years have had to think about the primary conditions of survival for themselves as human being—houses, food, shelter, treatment, and so on. Such problems have made the Labour Party not as good as it ought to be concerning animal welfare. I sincerely hope that the Minister will accept that there is as much interest on this side of the House as well as on his own side.

I am privileged to have had the opportunity of speaking in the debate. I again apologise to the House for not having been present during the early part of the debate.

2.16 p.m.

Mr. Richard Body (Holland with Boston)

I am delighted that the right hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) has lifted our sights from some of the detailed recommendations of the Littlewood Report to some of the fundamental principles. He knows that I share his sentiments on that subject.

I shall be brief, for one reason. Every argument and almost every fact that I had hoped to put before the House has already been put forward by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas). I am glad that he was called first, because he did infinitely better than I should have done.

My hon. and learned Friend knows, because he learned it many years ago as an advocate, that a good case does not get any better when it is repeated. Therefore, I hope that he will understand the reason for my brevity and accept that I echo all the arguments, particularly the conclusion, put forward by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West.

I was delighted that the hon. Gentleman paid tribute to the National Anti-Vivisection Society. All in this Chamber are acquainted with the rather large—some would say, over-large—number of societies concerned with vivisection. No society has been more responsible in its attitude than the N.A.V.S. It has undertaken a great deal of study on the subject. It is supported by a staff skilled in research, and in its offices in Harley Street it has assembled a mammoth library on this subject. It undoubtedly takes a responsible attitude. It believes in the step by step approach and is not hoping, as some societies are, that this House will overnight bring vivisection to an end.

As hon. Members have said, the debate is somewhat unreal because so many years have elapsed since the Report was published. That lack of realism is corroborated by two sets of facts. One is the increase in numbers of animals used since the Report was published; the other is the advance in alternatives since the Committee heard evidence.

There must be concern about the numbers. When the 1876 Act was passed—nearly a century ago now—just one animal was used per working day of the laboratory, as a rough average. Now, again as a rough average, it is one animal per second. The graph has been going ever upwards, with only the occasional pause, and I think we are entitled to ask, and many members of the public are asking, whether the graph is ever going to get to a plateau. When will we stop it? Will it get to 10 million, or even beyond that? Is there any chance of seeing the numbers decline?

When one is considering the huge numbers involved, it is not enough just to take into account the pain caused to the animal at the time of the experiment. I became interested in vivisection when I visited one of these laboratories and saw the way in which the animals were kept. I saw a number of cats kept in cages little bigger than the Dispatch Box, and they were allowed out for only a couple of minutes in the course of every day. A great deal of suffering must be caused when animals are detained and incarcerated in those conditions throughout their lives, because, in the ordinary way, cats, monkeys, rabbits, and many other animals, have a great deal of liberty.

Mr. Burden

Would not my hon. Friend agree that many of the conditions in which animals are kept for vivisection purposes would not be tolerated in zoos? There would be immediate prosecutions if such conditions were found in zoos, yet we tolerate them in laboratories.

Mr. Body

That is so. Many people are rightly concerned about the way in which chickens are kept in battery cages, and we are urged to legislate about that, but the conditions in which thousands of these animals are kept are just as bad, and perhaps even worse, particularly for dogs and cats, which are accustomed to, and usually have, a great deal of liberty.

I accept that in perhaps 90 per cent. of cases the animals are kept in hygienic conditions. I accept what the hon. Mem- ber for Huddersfield, West said, that the larger concerns keep the animals in conditions as good as they can provide, but the fact is that most of the animals are accustomed, in their natural habitat, to a great deal of liberty, and that is denied them when they are kept for experiments.

The second change since the publication of the Report is in the advance in the use of alternatives. I do not think that anyone here is a total and immediate abolitionist. As the right hon. Member for Sowerby said, there may be strong moral arguments against the whole practice of vivisection, and not many people would doubt that proposition, but it goes without saying that in this House we are concerned with practicalities, and a huge industry has developed in the use of animals for research. Many of the experiments which must be carried out within the pharmaceutical industry would come to a full stop unless the industry had time to make ready with alternative ways of testing its drugs.

A few months ago I took part in a television debate. On one side there were 12 of us who, broadly speaking, were opposed to vivisection, and on the other side there were 12 people who, I think, had licences to practise vivisection. Certainly they had at some stage been vivisectors, and were in favour of it. I was very impressed by the way in which we found common ground, not only in the studio while the cameras were on us, but outside, on the value of, and the need to pursue, alternatives. I thought that the change of attitude—and it was a change—was promising, because a few years ago most of those 12 people would have taken a different view. They would have said that vivisection was necessary, and they would have added very few "buts" and "ifs".

I believe that there is a new mood, and a new awareness of the need for the examination of alternatives, but what is so depressing is the lack of leadership, the lack of initiative, and the lack of stimulation. This is where one must turn—and I do so reluctantly on this occasion—to the Government Front Bench. The Government are the patron of the greater part of vivisection. A large part of the vivisection carried out in this country is paid for, directly or indirectly, by the Government. Much of it is done by Government agencies, and I think that we must, therefore, look to the Government to give a lead.

I do not want to go through those arguments which have been put so much better than I could put them by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West, but there seems to be an overwhelming case for an independent research establishment to be set up. I appreciate the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. John Stradling Thomas), that we do not want it to be a cranky body—no one wants that—but we do want it to be set up in such a way that it will have stature. I therefore share the hon. Gentleman's view that it ought to be under the auspices of the Medical Research Council.

I do not believe that we shall ever make the progress that we can make in this country, and which other countries are making, unless we set up such an independent institute. It ought to be able to carry out the fundamental research that is needed. It ought, also, to stimulate ideas among those who, at the moment, are practising vivisection.

I do not want to be critical of the vivisectors, but there is one difficulty in getting them to change over to new methods. If, for 20 years, someone has been accustomed to the mental discipline of doing research with animals, getting used to the ideas, becoming familiar with the methods, it is very difficult for him to switch over mentally and adopt quite different practices. I appreciate that some have done it, but it is difficult to make that change. It requires stimulation and leadership, which at the moment are lacking. That leadership can come only from the Government, and that is why I support those who say that the time has come to set up an independent establishment of the kind to which I have referred.

I have no doubt that the money would be forthcoming. I believe that, in terms of cost, it would be almost a bagatelle compared with some of the other research ventures that have been embarked upon by the Government. I believe that the public want that. It is significant that of the 14,000 people with licences approached by the anti-vivisection society for their views, the overwhelming majority responded, and some of their views were views which I hope my hon. and learned Friend will understand. Over and over again, opinions were expressed along the lines: "We have been misled by some of the existing methods. We believe that there is a need for this and we are looking for leadership" Therefore, the time has more than come for this lead to be taken by the Government. The sooner it is taken the better.

2.30 p.m.

Mr. Carlisle

We have had a wide-ranging debate. The main points have been the need to find alternatives to animal experimentation, concern about the size of the inspectorate, matters relating to the Advisory Committee and a suggestion, with which I hope to be able to deal, that carrying out these experiments brutalises those who do them.

I tried to deal with the first three matters in my opening speech, to which I will not be able to add very much. I have heard all the speeches except that of my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook), when I went out to get some immediate information to answer some other points, and throughout the debate concern has been expressed at experiments taking place if they are not necessary.

This concern was expressed most strongly by the right hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton). I could not go the whole way with his views. I cannot believe that it is not right to continue research into such matters as lung cancer, but I repeat what I said at the beginning, that I approach this situation probably like the vast majority of people in this country. We all regret the need but accept that at the moment it may be necessary to have experiments of this kind.

There was considerable feeling on both sides that it had been a long time before the debate took place. I am sure that no criticism was intended of the present Leader of the House. Although, of course, I appreciate the point that a Friday is not the best day for a full attendance, when the right hon. Member for Sowerby says that it is the worst possible day, I would only say that, in the view of most people, the worst possible day is better than no day at all. The Committee reported in 1965, so if, as the right hon. Gentleman says—this will be my only political dig—the fact that we are now debating this matter shows that Britain is becoming a little more civilised, I am glad that this has happened since the change of Government.

I think that the House was impressed by the attitude taken by the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan) and the way in which he immediately brought out this tremendous dilemma between the need for medical research and our duty as human beings to see that we relieve the suffering of those other species which depend upon us to do so.

He asked for the Government's attitude on the proposal that no more than one experiment should be made on any one animal. Generally speaking, in this country we do not allow more than one experiment per animal. In some countries, I understand, it is normal to practise many times on the same animal. That does not happen here, I am happy to say. Although one cannot make a specific rule to this effect, because certain experiments are not painful and it would be wholly wasteful if an animal had to be destroyed every time, generally we do not allow more than one experiment per animal.

The hon. Member for Cardigan conceded that if we decided to take further action on this Report, it would probably now be necessary, in view of the lapse of time, to have further consultation with some of the bodies concerned. He was the first to ask whether I could say anything about the development of experiments on cultured tissues.

Here, I come up against the point of my hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South (Sir R. Russell) that responsibility is spread over various Departments. Any question with regard to this development is wholly within the knowledge of the Department of Education and Science. It does not come under the remit of the Home Office, and was dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in the debate on 31st March, in answer to the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas). The questions raised by hon. Members about the desire to limit the amount of vivisection and the need to find alternatives to it are wholly matters for the Department of Education and Science.

I cannot go much further than to take one paragraph from my right hon. Friend's speech, on 31st March: Although advances continue to be made in research for effective alternatives to animal experimentation, it is the view of the Medical Research Council that the use of animals remains essential for the adavancement of medical anad biological research. The progress of medical science—and consequently of medical practice—on the scale and the rate that has occurred in recent years would have been impossible but for such experiments."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st March, 1971; Vol. 814. c. 1642.] But I can assure the House that one is always conscious of the need to find alternative methods of testing, where those alternatives apply. I reminded the House that that view is held not only by hon. Members but, I am sure, by many research scientists involved in this work.

I was interested in what my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body) said about the meeting of minds between the anti-vivisectionists and the vivisectors. I have no doubt that the reasons set out in the Littlewood Report are valid—that on grounds of efficiency and economy, as well as on humanitarian grounds, scientists are anxious to find alternative means of testing. So I should like to challenge the comment of my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston and other hon. Members about the brutalisation of the scientists. I think it is clear from the Littlewood Report that the Committee found no evidence of any lack of concern for the suffering of the animals by those involved in carrying out the experiments.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South referred to his colleague who went for the first time to see a post mortem. If I went to see any form of medical operation, I do not think that I could stand it. I doubt whether I could bear to watch many of the experiments that are done on animals.

There is surely a difference, however, between squeamishness, which may largely be based on lack of knowledge and lack of understanding of what is occurring, and a lack of sensitivity or a desire to avoid pain by the person who is doing the operation. Although those who carry out many experiments may, as a result of experience, show a lack of squeamishness when doing their work. I do not believe that there is evidence to show that they in any way lack sensitivity or concern for the pain which they may inflict. Indeed, the whole tenor of the Littlewood Report was that they were sensitive and were concerned to avoid causing unnecessary pain.

In turning to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden), I apologise if I appear to jump from speech to speech. My hon. Friend described the 5½ million figure for 1969 as horrifying. I accept that it is substantial, but my hon. Friend went on to say that it was a horrifying figure of animals which received pain, mutilation and death. We should not exaggerate this.

It was not quite fair for my hon. Friend to suggest that I glossed over this matter in my opening speech. I tried to point out that that figure had to be taken with certain reservations about whether it was the equivalent of those which suffered experiments calculated to cause pain. I pointed out, for example, that the figure included the whole of the mandatory experiments of a therapeutic nature, many of which do not inflict pain of any kind. It is not fair, therefore, to talk about the 5½ million and then to use the phrase "mutilated and dead".

Mr. Burden

I would not, of course, wish to exaggerate and I tried not to do so. I completely withdraw the suggestion that 5½ million might have suffered pain and mutilation. I would, however, maintain that a very large proportion of those animals must suffer in that way. If we are playing with figures, let us accept that vast numbers must suffer pain.

Mr. Carlisle

I would not doubt that. I merely felt it desirable to point out that the total figure of animals used in laboratories was not equivalent to those which necessarily suffered pain.

Mr. Elystan Morgan

Am I right in thinking that over 80 per cent. of the experiments in 1969 were under certificate A and, assuming that certificate A was properly appropriated to those cases, that they included cases in which no pain was inflicted and in many instances nothing more was involved than pricking an animal's ear to obtain a specimen of blood?

Mr. Carlisle

Certainly, a substantial proportion would be certificate A experiments, but in the absence of knowledge I could not necessarily accept the figure given by the hon. Member.

My hon. Friend raised fully the question of the Advisory Committee. It is true that the establishment of the committee consists of a Chairman and 10 members. Vacancies arise from time to time. They are filled as soon as practicable after consultation with the relevant learned bodies, but sometimes a vacancy remains unfilled when the annual return is prepared for presentation to Parliament. That is why the committee is from time to time shown to be fewer than 10 in number.

My hon. Friend said that the members of the committee were extremely elderly. I do not dispute his view of their age, but he would, I am sure, agree that they are also extremely eminent and they are learned members who are appointed after consultation with the various learned bodies concerned. We do not necessarily want to have youth for youth's sake. I believe that effort is made to get on to the Advisory Committee men who have great eminence in these matters. However, I take the point made by my hon. Friend and I am sure that his comment about the advance which occurs in medical knowledge over a period of time will be borne in mind.

As a strict matter of accuracy, Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest, who was for many years the very well-respected Chairman of the Committee, retired in December, 1970. He has been replaced by Lord Cross of Chelsea, who was born this century.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham and my hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South asked about the reference of cases to the Committee. I am told that the Advisory Committee has been consulted every year since 1963, except 1969. Some cases are awaiting submission to the Advisory Committee, and there will be another meeting shortly. An answer was given to my hon. Friend the Member for Wembley, South in November, 1969, by the then Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees). in which it was said that 12 cases had been referred to the Advisory Committee between 1964 and 1968 and that nine of these had been allowed.

Hon. Members have raised the question of the lay element on the Advisory Committee. It is clear from the Report that this is an attractive idea until one considers what is to be the Advisory Committee's function in the future. Its present function is of a much more technical, expert nature and I am not sure that it is necessarily the type of body to which laymen should be appointed. We have to decide the future rôle of the Advisory Committee before we decide its membership.

Dr. Glyn

The point that we tried to bring out was that it would not necessarily have the same rôle in the future and that we should, therefore, consider the inclusion of laymen in its constitution for its revised rôle.

Mr. Carlisle

Yes. I accept that the Littlewood Committee recommended that this should be done in advance of implementation of any of its other recommendations. I merely say that it is important to know exactly what the rôle of the Advisory Committee is to be before we decide whether lay members have a part in it. It is equally important to get agreement between the various conflicting interests concerned on what the reconstituted Advisory Committee's position should be.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham—I am using his speech to reply mainly to the various questions—and other hon. Members have asked about the size of the inspectorate. I am told that inspectors carry out regular inspections, usually without prior notice, of all registered premises. They are, therefore, in the nature of spot checks. The report of these visits is included in the annual return of experiments on living animals which is presented to Parliament each year. The number and type of experiments are analysed in the statistics contained in the annual report.

I appreciate that the present number of inspectors is not the number recommended by the Committee, but the Home Office do not at the moment believe that the 21 recommended by the Committee are in fact needed—as I say, the figure has been increased from eight to 13. We are of course keeping this under constant review, and we have to take into account, as any Government must, manpower resources and to justify the case for the use of additional people in any sphere. As I said in my opening speech, the ratio of inspectors and the number of licensees to inspectors is lower than it was at the time of the Report. We keep it under constant review to see whether there is a need for more inspectors. I assure hon. Members that it is not the shortage of suitable people which prevents us from appointing them.

Mr. Burden

If it is a question of money, I suggest that consideration be given to a charge for licences for commercial undertakings.

Mr. Carlisle

An example which immediately comes to mind, but which has nothing to do with the debate, is the control of gaming under the new Gaming Act, by which we finance the inspectors out of the money paid by those who use their services. I come fresh to this subject, and I do not know whether my hon. Friend's suggestion is novel, but it will be noted.

At the moment we feel that the ratio is such that the inspectors are carrying out their work adequately. But we shall continue to keep the matter under review.

Some hon. Members suggested the implementation of the recommendations by administrative action. In all 83 recommendations were made by the Committee for changes in the existing system of control. Some merely endorse the retention of existing controls and others are merely that statutory force should be given to controls now imposed administratively. The practice through the Home Office and the inspectors and others involved in vivisection has been in advance of minimum requirements by the law, and many of the recommendations are only to put into legislative form what is now the administrative practice. These recommendations account for nearly half the total. Many of the others would require legislation, but relatively few would make changes in the present practice while being capable of being put into effect administratively.

My hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston and my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham spoke of the conditions in which these animals are kept and suggested that the conditions were considerably worse than those in zoos and places of that nature. I cannot accept that. I remind the hon. Gentlemen that they will find that there are various references within the Report to the effect that the Committee was impressed by the standards of the accommodation in which the animals were kept.

Mr. Body

I was concerned with the fact that these animals were incarcerated, to my personal knowledge, often in cramped conditions.

Mr. Carlisle

Yes, but the point I wanted to make was that the Littlewood Committee said that it was greatly impressed by the conditions in which the animals were kept. The Chief Inspector has regularly said, in his annual report, that animals are satisfactorily accommodated and cared for. I reminded the House to begin with that I thought that it was important that we should ensure that no statement could be highlighted in such a way as to cause more concern than was necessary, and I thought it right, therefore, to remind the House of that finding by the Littlewood Committee.

I conclude with two general observations. First, I believe that everyone is anxious to see alternative methods where they can be successfully used. I have tried to point out that that is the view of those involved in the experiments just as much as those concerned with animal welfare. Secondly, I have no doubt that although to many people the idea of any form of experiment on living animals may cause distress, as a result of the experiments much human suffering is alleviated by medical advance and much suffering of individual human beings is avoided, and, equally, much of the advantage of that research accrues to the advantage of other animals.

We have had an extremely interesting debate. As I promised at the outset, the Home Secretary will take carefully into account all that has been said. I am glad that, even if it is six years after- wards, the Report has at last been debated.

Mr. Burden

The general restrictions imposed in the return of experiments say that the Secretary of State requires all experiments to be performed at a registered place, approved by him; that all licensees are required to record their experiments and to send returns within 14 days; and that each year a return of experiments performed during the year must be made and from time to time such other reports as may be required. To whom are they made? Who examines them? Could copies of the reports be laid in the Library?

Mr. Carlisle

If I understand aright, the report goes to the Home Office and the inspectorate. There is the Annual Report made to Parliament. If I have misunderstood the point of my hon. Friend's question I will see it in print and write to him on the matter.

Dr. Glyn

Could my hon. and learned Friend answer the point raised by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Lomas) and myself? This Report was completed in 1965. The question I put to him was: has he sufficient information in the Home Office about what has happened since to be able to implement legislation without having to hold another inquiry?

Mr. Carlisle

The consultations were held after the presentation of the Report. I think that it would be necessary to look again at some of the detailed recommendations and also to consult some of the bodies on the changes that have occurred in medical knowledge in the six years since the publication of the Report. It may be that that is a justification for the point of view put forward from both sides that no Royal Commission Report or Departmental Report ought to wait six years until it is debated in this House.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House takes note of the Report of the Littlewood Committee on Experiments on Animals (Command Paper No. 2641).

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