HC Deb 08 December 1977 vol 940 cc1642-4
Q2. Miss Fookes

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied with co-ordination between the Home Department, the Department of Education and Science, the Department of Health and Social Security and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in the development of alternatives to the use of live animals in experiments.

The Prime Minister


Miss Fookes

Is the Prime Minister aware that many of us are deeply concerned about the number of experiments carried out for routine purposes? Will he encourage Government Departments to stop dragging their feet on the issue of alternatives?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I am aware of the deep concern that is felt. Indeed, I share it, having reviewed—as a result of some of the hon. Lady's activities—what is going on in this field. I hope that the number of experiments can be cut down, and I shall certainly use what influence I have to ensure that Government Departments do so.

Mr. Corbett

May I urge my right hon. Friend among his other duties to give better attention to doing away with the very questionable LD50 test for which animals are used, particularly in view of the new and very proper legislation concerning health and safety at work? Will he encourage his right hon. Friends with responsibility for the various Departments to use their best efforts to find an acceptable alternative to these tests, which are open to growing scientific and medical questioning?

The Prime Minister

I understand that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has asked the advisory committee on the administration of the 1876 Act to study the LD50 test and to make recommendations. A report is expected in the course of the next year. When that report is made, we shall ensure that it is published so that conclusions can be drawn. It will then be for the Home Secretary to consider what action should be taken on this matter.

Mr. Burden

The public have been expressing greater concern year by year at the enormous growth in experiments. Will the Prime Minister give an undertaking that he is cognisant of the fact and that he will make every effort to ensure that the number of experiments is reduced rather than increased in the years ahead?

The Prime Minister

I would certainly like to see the introduction of substitutes to restrict the use of living animals in this way. The development of cell cultures in the matter of foot and mouth vaccine, for example, is an important advance. We must certainly bend all the efforts of Departments to seeing how much further we can go in this matter.

Mr. Hooky

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are very good scientific reasons for moving away from many of the animal experiments, since alternative techniques produce results which are scientifically more valid?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, I am. I hope that I have indicated that it would certainly be our policy and desire to move to alternatives to animal experiment as quickly as possible, and our efforts must be directed in that way.