HC Deb 21 April 1986 vol 96 cc105-13
Mr. Mellor

I beg to move amendment No. 25, in page 10, line 28, leave out 'any' and insert 'a particular'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

With this it will be convenient to take amendments Nos. 28 and 29.

Mr. Mellor

This is another semantic amendment, but it is a useful one. It is intended to deal with the difficulties caused in our discussions by the concept of a series of regulated procedures for any purpose". Some people, including myself, have found the phrase difficult to interpret. I have been anxious for some clarification.

Our difficulty in drafting the Bill has been that, in moving from the concept of an experiment to the concept of a regulated procedure, we have had to try to define a project of work that would normally have been termed an experiment. The phrase a series of regulated procedures for any purpose is aimed at that. Perhaps, however, it gives the impression of a series without end. That would be quite wrong. It is not what we intend. To remedy that, we propose to insert the words "a particular" in place of the word "any" in clauses 14 and 15, so that the phrase will read a series of regulated procedures for a particular purpose", tying it down to the one purpose for which a project licence is granted. I commend those minor but helpful amendments to the House.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Corbett

I beg to move amendment No. 26, in page 10, line 30, at end insert `and (c) has been subjected to procedures involving substantial severity'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 27, in page 10, line 38, leave out from 'animal' to end of line 41.

Mr. Corbett

The House will recall that, when we debated this matter in Committee, there was a narrow vote—9 to 7—in favour of amending the Bill to permit reuse. I am sure that the House is grateful for a chance to give a view on this important matter. It was the most substantial alteration made to the Bill in Committee, and one that I personally regret. I accept the argument on reuse where the animal is under general anaesthetic throughout the further procedures, and not allowed to recover consciousness.

I wish that I had thought more clearly about this matter earlier. In my view, the whole clause is built on the wrong premise. It is not, in my view, the anaesthetic that is the vital point, but the severity of the initial procedure. Amendment No. 26 seeks to exclude animals experimented on at a considerable degree of severity. I believe that where that has happened it would be wrong to make an animal go through it all again.

Every animal's suffering is its own. Those of us who reluctantly accept the present need for experiment believe that one substantially severe procedure under anaesthetic is enough. That animal should then be allowed to recover—as some do—or to die with as much dignity as has been left to it.

One of the main arguments about re-use is that re-use under the terms of the Bill and under the qualifications in the guidance notes can save the lives of some animals. In other words, permitting re-use can stop even a single substantially severe procedure on animals that might otherwise be used. The supporters of that argument claim that about 5,000 animals a year—dogs, cats, and primates—might be saved; only "might be saved", because no one can be sure. With the rising cost of laboratory animals, some might argue that re-use may come down to a question of money.

9.30 pm

I can see the benefits of re-use especially for university research departments and, to a lesser extent, for some of the major commerical interests. I must say, however, that I do not believe that consideration of the costs of experiments in terms of the costs of the animals put through these procedures should be a consideration. It is not the proper responsibility of the House to put those concerns above the proper interests of the welfare of animals used in laboratories.

This is a matter above all else of morality and ethics.

Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)


Mr. Corbett

The hon. and learned Member says, "Humbug." I am only sorry, if my memory serves me correctly, that the hon. Gentleman was not present for the Second Reading debate or during the Committee stages. Now that he is present, I hope that he will pay the House the courtesy of listening.

This is a matter of morality and ethics. I therefore conclude that the Standing Committee was wrong and the House should reverse the decision taken in Committee and come down in favour of the animals. Most of us find experiments abhorrent but acknowledge the need for them in the search for cures and treatment for diseases such as muscular dystrophy, senile dementia, AIDS or the ten or more most common forms of cancer. I believe that one contribution at a level of substantial severity by an animal is sufficient. I will therefore vote for the amendment in the Lobby tonight.

Mr. Gale

We covered this ground carefully during the Committee stages of the Bill. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) knows that I respect his concern for the welfare of animals. He in turn, I believe, respects my concern. This is the one issue above all others upon which the Committee was divided across party lines. As my hon. Friend the Minister said, he took no side whatsoever in the Division on this matter in Committee, and that was a rare thing for him to do. The hon. Member for Erdington will recall that it was his hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller) who originally moved the amendment.

In the Standing Committee I quoted from my speech on Second Reading: Mobilisation said, in its literature following the publication of the supplementary White Paper: 'After strong representation from animal rights groups the Government now proposes to forbid the re-use of animals … however, the issue of re-use may well re-surface because of strong pro-vivisection interests'."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 18 March 1986; c. 194.] As it did in Committee, so again. The issue has not resurfaced because of strong pro-vivisection interests; it has resurfaced in the interests of animal welfare. The hon. Member for Erdington and I are faced with the dilemma of deciding whether in our opinion—and this is in no way a party political issue—the permission by the Secretary of State under specified circumstances for the reuse of some animals will obviate the use of others. It is the considered opinion of the Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments—the all-party group which I have the privilege to chair—that that will be the case.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned 5,000 animals. I do not think that any of us would claim that as many as that are likely to be saved if the clause remains as drafted. I suggest, however, that if, by the re-use of fully anaesthetised animals, the life of one animal can be saved, we shall have achieved yet again what we seek to achieve throughout the Bill—first the diminution and then the total elimination of animal experimentation. If the matter is to be pressed to a Division, I strongly urge the House to accept the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for East Kilbride in Committee and to leave the clause as it now stands.

Mr. Fry

We discussed this in great detail in Committee. I made this point then and I make it again today. If clause 14 were taken in isolation, I would entirely agree with the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) and join him in the Lobby, but we must look at the Bill in its entirety. I ask the hon. Gentleman to consider clause 15, which provides:

Where a protected animal—

  1. (a) has been subjected to a series of regulated procedures for any purpose; and
  2. (b) at the conclusion of the series is suffering or likely to suffer adverse effects,
the person who applied those procedures, or the last of them. shall cause the animal to be immediately killed". Either that means that any animal suffering severely is to be put down at the end of the procedures or it does not. As I understand it, it means that the animal will be killed. Therefore, although I agree with the sentiments of the hon. Gentleman, I believe that his amendment is unnecessary because his worries are taken care of by clause 15. I do not accuse the hon. Gentleman of wasting the time of the House because this is an important issue, but I put that point to him in the hope that he will feel a little happier about the views of those of us who do not agree with him on the amendment.

Sir Dudley Smith

As was recognised in Committee, this is understandably an emotional subject, especially for people outside, and there is abhorrence at the idea of animals being brought back and subjected to what would almost certainly be a kind of torture, but we must look at the matter with a certain amount of scientific clarity to determine whether we have got it right.

The European convention, which we have signed, allows further experiments to take place on the same animal provided that it is subject to general anaesthesia throughout, from which it is not allowed to recover. Any animal anaesthetised for a procedure which is terminal, which means that it is to die, will not experience any suffering or distress.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry), I feel that it is more humane to reduce the number of animals used through this limited provision for re-use than to continue using more and more animals—provided that there is the very strong stipulation that the animal is fully anaesthetised and experiences no suffering whatever. I appreciate that this is repulsive to many people and it is unpalatable to those of us who are concerned with these matters, but it seems to me to be a contribution of sorts to reducing the number of animals used in experiments—with the guarantee that the animal concerned will not suffer as a result of future and unrelated procedures.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

I have considerable sympathy with the amendment and with the arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett). Like my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale), I hope that the elimination of the use of animals for experimental purposes is gradually approaching. It is certainly a goal for which all humane people should aim. I wonder whether it is legitmate to argue that, by permitting the re-use of animals, we are preventing the use of more animals, as has been suggested. I wonder how many animals would be saved from first use if re-use were permitted.

Sir Dudley Smith

The number is small and nobody would suggest otherwise, but it is a contribution in the right direction.

Mr. Greenway

There is something to be said for my hon. Friend's argument. It is a fine ethical and humane point that, if an animal has been subjected to major experimentation once, it should be allowed to go free. I rather go along with that view. I wonder how reasonable it is to use an animal, bring it back to full vigour and then use it again. That seems somewhat deplorable.

Mr. Gale

My hon. Friend suggests that an animal, once used, should be allowed to go free. I am sorry that he was not present when we discussed this matter extremely carefully in Committee. There is no question of the animals being allowed to go free. Beagles, for example, might be allowed to be found domestic homes, but there are far too many cats and dogs being put down each day in the Battersea home for there to be any reasonable prospect of these animals being set free.

Mr. Greenway

There might be times when animals can be released into their natural habitat or into domestic use, but I was speaking figuratively. Repeated use of an animal for experiments will diminish its resilience, however well it is brought back to health. I am not happy about that. I have considerable sympathy with the arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Erdington.

Mr. Livsey

It should be enough for an animal to be subjected to substantial severity once. It is undesirable that it should be used again. Amendment No. 26 is extremely humane. Animals that have been subjected to substantial pain should not be allowed to endure more suffering.

Mr. Mellor

I am grateful to those who have spoken. I shall try to emulate their brevity as this matter was considered fully in one of the most absorbing Committee debates in which I have been privileged to take part.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) understands that there is a technical flaw in amendment No 26, which means that he will not pursue it. We are really discussing amendment No. 27, which is the proposal to return the Bill to the state in which it came from the Lords by taking out the amendment proposed by the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Mr. Miller).

This is not a party issue. Indeed, a most interesting pattern of voting was established in Committee. I abstained for the perfectly honourable reason that I could see both sides of the argument, having held both views during the previous few months. I originally took the view, and the White Paper proposed, that there were significant savings to be made, especially among animals about which we are most troubled—man's companions, cats, dogs and primates—if, under careful arrangements and with proper safeguards, we permitted re-use. It seemed arbitrary that re-use was not permitted. It seemed that the only consequence of the ban on re-use when an animal had been under a general anaesthetic was that more cats, dogs and monkeys would have to be used. None of us want that and that is why the White Paper recommended a change in the law.

A barrage of complaints were received about that view. The Government's views were travestied by one or two campaigning organisations which suggested that we were anxious to remove protections, whereas our only wish was to minimise the number of animals being used humanely in experiments. It therefore seemed to me to be wrong that this proposal—significant though it was—should put into jeopardy the credibility of a Bill of such significance as the one that we are now discussing. For that reason, this proposal was not pursued in the second White Paper or in the Bill as published, and, despite considerable reservations expressed by a number of members of the other place, that was the basis on which the Bill arrived in this House.

9.45 pm

We had a debate in Committee and strong feelings were expressed based on a most cogent set of arguments advanced by FRAME. It posed the dilemma that the Bill unamended would make it possible for two healthy dogs to be given terminal anaesthesia in the same laboratory on the same day, the first because it had been previously used in a procedure that had required anaesthesia, and the second only for the reason that it would be illegal to carry out an experiment on the first dog in the interval between loss of consciousness and death. As a result, two dogs would die when only one need have done so. That argument carried the day in Committee, and that is the argument that is now being put to the House.

I thought it appropriate to play no part in the vote in Committee for the reasons that I have explained. But I believe that the Committee took a clear decision after careful debate. I see the force of the reasons why the Committee took that decision, and I commend that decision to the House, although I shall understand if other hon. Members feel the other way.

The key to the determination of the House might lie in the last matter that I wish to raise. Much will turn on the basis on which the rules are laid down as to when re-use is needed. Everyone on whichever side of the argument agrees that re-use must be permitted only under very stringent conditions. Even if the stringency of those conditions means that re-use is prohibited in some cases, that must be right because the concept of pin cushion mice or rats that have bits chopped off them day after day is unappealing. Although that lies in the realm of satire, we must be absolutely certain that it does not take place.

I bound myself in Committee to be sure that the Secretary of State would prepare rigorous guidelines for re-use. Those guidelines are now being finally determined. When they are, they will be put to the Animal Procedures Committee for its advice and they will then be put to the House and be subject to the negative resolution procedure.

It might assist the House if I read out the guidelines as presently drafted so that those who are concerned about this matter might see just how carefully and cautiously the Secretary of State proposes to exercise the discretion that the Committee has given him. The draft guidelines state:

The Home Secretary's consent is required before anybody can use again for a different purpose an animal which has previously been used in a series of procedures for some other purpose and during that series has been given a general anaesthetic from which it has been allowed to recover consciousness. The animal must not, at the end of the first series of procedures, be suffering or likely to suffer adverse effects. If re-use is permitted, the animal must be under general anaesthesia throughout the further procedures and not allowed to recover consciousness. All the subsequent procedures must be performed under general anaesthesia. Preparatory procedures, under local anaesthesia or without anaesthetic, are not allowed. A project licence applicant or project licence holder who wishes to apply for consent to the re-use of an animal in these circumstances should apply to the inspector. The inspector will consider all the factors that appear to him relevant before deciding whether or not to recommend to the Home Secretary that the application should be allowed. Any re-use will be permitted only if the animal has not suffered severe or lasting harm and is in a good state of general health, as certified by a veterinary surgeon. Avoidance of the use of further animals will be the sole criterion for permitting such re-use, and economic grounds or the convenience of licensees will not be allowable reasons. The Home Secretary will not allow any animal to be kept for an excessive time (normally more than 48 hours) between first and terminal use. Although permission may sometimes exceptionally be given for an animal to be moved from one scientific procedure establishment to another for re-use under terminal anaesthesia, under no circumstances would any such animal ever be allowed to be returned to a supplying establishment for re-distribution or re-sale. I hope that it has been helpful for the House to hear how seriously the Home Secretary takes the balanced judgment arrived at in Committee. On that basis, I hope that the House will feel able to keep faith with the decision of the Committee. On whatever side of the question hon. Members decide, I hope that they will understand that, although this is a narrow but significant point, the highest standards of welfare will be applied in operating this section of the Bill just as they will be applied in operating all other sections.

Mr. Corbett

I am grateful to the Minister for the way in which he dealt with this matter, although he will acknowledge that I am disappointed about his conclusions, especially in view of the narrow vote in Committee. It is unfortunate that we have neither more time nor more hon. Members wishing to debate what is for all hon. Members present and for many people outside the House a substantial issue. I understand and accept what the Minister read from the notes of guidance. To some extent, those notes meet some of our anxieties.

No hon. Member who has spoken in this short debate has claimed that the saving of animal life will be anything but small. That is the best guess that any hon. Member can make on either side of the argument. That is why I said, when I moved the amendment, that for me, and perhaps for other hon. Members, this essentially comes down to a moral and ethical judgment. It is not a matter of the anaesthetic and the fact that the animal does not recover from it. When an animal has been deeply anaesthetic and has gone through an experiment at a substantial level, what else do we have a right to expect that animal to do? In a nutshell, that is the reason why I ask my hon. and right hon. Friends to go into the Lobbies and vote for amendment No. 27.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment proposed, No. 27 in page 10, line 38, leave out from 'animal' to end of line 41.—[Mr. Corbett.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 109, Noes 188.

Division No. 149] [9.53 pm
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)
Alton, David Buchan, Norman
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Caborn, Richard
Barnett, Guy Campbell-Savours, Dale
Barron, Kevin Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Clarke, Thomas
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Clay, Robert
Bermingham, Gerald Clelland, David Gordon
Bidwell, Sydney Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S)
Boyes, Roland Corbett, Robin
Bray, Dr Jeremy Corbyn, Jeremy
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Craigen, J. M.
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Cunliffe, Lawrence
Dalyell, Tam McNamara, Kevin
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) McTaggart, Robert
Deakins, Eric McWilliam, John
Dixon, Donald Madden, Max
Dobson, Frank Marek, Dr John
Dormand, Jack Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Duffy, A. E. P. Maynard, Miss Joan
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Meadowcroft, Michael
Eadie, Alex Mikardo, Ian
Eastham, Ken Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Ewing, Harry O'Brien, William
Faulds, Andrew O'Neill, Martin
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Park, George
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) Patchett, Terry
Fisher, Mark Pike, Peter
Flannery, Martin Randall, Stuart
Foster, Derek Raynsford, Nick
Foulkes, George Redmond, Martin
Fraser, J. (Norwood) Richardson, Ms Jo
Freud, Clement Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Robertson, George
Godman, Dr Norman Rogers, Allan
Golding, John Sedgemore, Brian
Gourlay, Harry Sheerman, Barry
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Hancock, Michael Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
Harman, Ms Harriet Skinner, Dennis
Haynes, Frank Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Home Robertson, John Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Howells, Geraint Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Hoyle, Douglas Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Hughes, Dr Mark (Durham) Tinn, James
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Wallace, James
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Wareing, Robert
Kirkwood, Archy Weetch, Ken
Leadbitter, Ted Williams, Rt Hon A.
Leighton, Ronald
Livsey, Richard Tellers for the Ayes:
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Mr. Ray Powell and
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Mr. Ron Davies.
McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Aitken, Jonathan Churchill, W. S.
Alexander, Richard Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Amess, David Clegg, Sir Walter
Ancram, Michael Cockeram, Eric
Arnold, Tom Colvin, Michael
Ashby, David Crouch, David
Aspinwall, Jack Currie, Mrs Edwina
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Dicks, Terry
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Dover, Den
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Dunn, Robert
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Durant, Tony
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Eggar, Tim
Bellingham, Henry Eyre, Sir Reginald
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Fairbairn, Nicholas
Blackburn, John Fallon, Michael
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Farr, Sir John
Bottomley, Peter Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Fookes, Miss Janet
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Forman, Nigel
Bright, Graham Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Brinton, Tim Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Brooke, Hon Peter Freeman, Roger
Browne, John Fry, Peter
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Gale, Roger
Buck, Sir Antony Garel-Jones, Tristan
Budgen, Nick Goodhart, Sir Philip
Bulmer, Esmond Gow, Ian
Burt, Alistair Gower, Sir Raymond
Butcher, John Gregory, Conal
Butterfill, John Griffiths, Sir Eldon
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hampson, Dr Keith
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S) Hargreaves, Kenneth
Cash, William Hayes, J.
Chapman, Sydney Hayhoe, Rt Hon Barney
Chope, Christopher Heathcoat-Amory, David
Heddle, John Rhodes James, Robert
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Hind, Kenneth Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Holt, Richard Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Jackson, Robert Roe, Mrs Marion
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Rossi, Sir Hugh
Key, Robert Rowe, Andrew
King, Roger (B'ham N'field) Sackville, Hon Thomas
Lang, Ian Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Latham, Michael Sayeed, Jonathan
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Shelton, William (Streatham)
Lilley, Peter Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lloyd, Ian (Havant) Silvester, Fred
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Sims, Roger
Lord, Michael Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lyell, Nicholas Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
McCrindle, Robert Soames, Hon Nicholas
McCurley, Mrs Anna Speed, Keith
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire) Speller, Tony
McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury) Spencer, Derek
McQuarrie, Albert Squire, Robin
Madel, David Stanbrook, Ivor
Major, John Steen, Anthony
Malins, Humfrey Stern, Michael
Marlow, Antony Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Maude, Hon Francis Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Sumberg, David
Mayhew, Sir Patrick Taylor, John (Solihull)
Mellor, David Temple-Morris, Peter
Merchant, Piers Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Meyer, Sir Anthony Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Mitchell, David (Hants NW) Thornton, Malcolm
Moate, Roger Thurnham, Peter
Monro, Sir Hector Townend, John (Bridlington)
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Tracey, Richard
Moynihan, Hon C. Twinn, Dr Ian
Neale, Gerrard van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Needham, Richard Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Newton, Tony Viggers, Peter
Nicholls, Patrick Wainwright, R.
Norris, Steven Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Onslow, Cranley Walden, George
Ottaway, Richard Waller, Gary
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Warren, Kenneth
Patten, Christopher (Bath) Watson, John
Pawsey, James Watts, John
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian Whitfield, John
Pollock, Alexander Whitney, Raymond
Portillo, Michael Winterton, Mrs Ann
Powell, William (Corby) Winterton, Nicholas
Powley, John Wood, Timothy
Price, Sir David Yeo, Tim
Proctor, K. Harvey
Raffan, Keith Tellers for the Noes:
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Mr. Michael Neubert and
Rathbone, Tim Mr. Gerald Malone.

Question accordingly negatived.

It being after Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.