HC Deb 11 December 1984 vol 69 cc902-3
11. Mr. Tom Cox

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the types of animal experiments carried out by his Department.

Mr. Lee

Experiments involving the use of animals conducted by the Ministry of Defence are mainly directed at developing defensive measures against chemical attack. The Soviet Union maintains substantial stocks of chemical weapons and it is essential that our forces are protected. It is also necessary to ensure protection against biological warfare. Other work includes medical studies, including the study of wounding, and the diagnosis of disease.

The use of live animals for experiments is governed by the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876. It has been the consistent policy of the Ministry of Defence to comply fully with the Act.

Mr. Cox

Is the Minister aware of the ever-increasing anxiety of the general public about the barbaric experiments on animals that the Department allows to be conducted? Is he further aware that it seems that it is only by persistent questioning in the House that he will begin to outline the experiments that are allowed? What efforts is his Department making to find alternative methods of experimentation, if he claims that it is so necessary, rather than using defenceless animals?

Mr. Lee

Porton Down takes the lead in considering alternatives. The vast majority of the population, and of hon. Members, and all our service men and women recognise the necessary work that is done at Porton Down.

Mr. Key

Does my hon. Friend agree that, despite the comments of Opposition Members, there is no equivocation on this subject, and that the growth of non-animal-based toxicity tests has been rapid in recent years and months? Does he further agree that the tragic incident in India has highlighted the need for toxicity tests on cyanide, which are paralleled by the work at Porton Down?

Mr. Lee

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend and am grateful for his support. We resent some of the innuendo, abuse and exaggeration about the work of Porton Down.