HC Deb 17 June 1980 vol 986 cc1324-5
9. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he is satisfied that the experiments undertaken on live animals for purposes connected with defence at Porton Down are necessary and kept to the minimum ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Hayhoe

Yes. Experiments on live animals are needed for such matters as the development of protective measures against toxic agents, the investigation of the nature and treatment of injuries and for studies in connection with the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act. All such work takes full account of the desirability of using alternative means of testing whenever possible.

Mr. Chapman

I thank my hon. Friend for his considered reply. Will he confirm that his Department is under the same legal restraint as any other body concerning experiments on live animals? Because of the understandable public concern, will my hon. Friend assure us that there will be continuing close and personal ministerial surveillance of all experiments in his Department?

Mr. Hayhoe

Control is very strict. All experiments are conducted strictly in accordance with the requirements of the Cruelty to Animals Act, and are subject to Home Office inspection. Unannounced visits are frequently made by the Home Office inspectorate. I hope to visit Porton Down in the near future.

Sir Frederick Burden

Will my hon. Friend undertake to ensure that animals used for such purposes are specially bred and not bought from agencies that may have acquired animals that were originally kept as pets?

Mr. Hayhoe

May I first congratulate my hon. Friend? I shall write to him about his request, but I cannot give him a total assurance. A number of the animals used are specially bred for the purpose.

Miss Fookes

How many experiments are carried out in the course of a year?

Mr. Hayhoe

The latest figures show that about 25,000 animals were used in all the experiments at Porton Down in 1979.

Mr. Robert C. Brown

Does the Minister accept the implication in the question of the hon. Member for Gillingham (Sir F. Burden) that an animal specially bred for torture will not suffer as much as another animal?

Mr. Hayhoe

I do not believe that that was my hon. Friend's suggestion. I understood him to be submitting that we should not support those people whose methods of acquiring animals for experiment may be improper, and that every part of the process should be subject to the strictest control.